Horatius Bonar Wrote Hymns as well as Poems
I once heard a preacher pontificate that his countryman, Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), wrote only poems, not hymns. This ignorant statement was absolutely wrong. Bonar did, in fact, write some poetry that he intended only for devotional reading and/or for himself, and no doubt some people attempted to set those poems to music. But, over the course of several decades of work, Bonar himself published:
- Hymns of Faith and Hope (1857) – 115 hymns
- Hymns of Faith and Hope (1861), volume 2– 123 hymns
Shortly after this he was asked to assist in the preparation of the English Presbyterian Hymnbook, for which he wrote three hymns. Then there were other collections:
- Hymns of Faith and Hope (1866) volume 3 – 100 hymns and 47 psalms
- Hymns of the Nativity and Other Pieces (1879)
- Communion Hymns (1881) – 30 hymns
Clearly, hymns that were authored specifically for the English Presbyterian Hymnal and Communion Hymns were written for congregational singing (as were, in fact, the three volumes of Hymns of Faith and Hope mentioned above). Bonar has been called, “the prince of Scottish hymnwriters.” That would be an ironic honor had he never intended to write hymns, would it not?
In 1904, Bonar’s son (Horatius N. Bonar) published a collection of his father’s best hymns in a volume called HYMNS by Horatius Bonar (a copy of which I am privileged to own). The Foreword in this volume outlines the information provided above.
(This is the second in a series of short articles correcting errors heard in pulpits and in conversations about church music. We hope these will be helpful in arming and aiding people who are interested in truth.)