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November 03, 2008


angela almond

My favourite Bonar story [I do SO want it to be true!] is that he longed for Christ's return, and each night as he closed the curtains, he would look up at the stars and say "Maybe tonight, Lord?" and each morning as he opened them, he would look out at the dawn and say "Maybe today, Lord?"

I love that hymn too, and your vintage hymn book.


Jim Gordon

Hi Angela. Thanks for dropping in and for your comments.
Horatius Bonar was a convinced premillenial and his anticipation of Christ's return is pervasive in his hymns. The desire to be elsewhere than this world, to be with Christ, made much of his spirituality world-denying, and such views persist in some forms of Evangelicalism which have no vision of the Gospel as transformative of human culture. Nevertheless the doctrine of the imminent return for people like Bonar in the second half of the 19th Century, created urgency in mission, impatience with cultural change and social justice, and gave Christian hope a perspective that looked beyond a doomed world to life in heaven. So Bonar's anticipations of heaven in the future and elsewhere can be very moving - his dismissal of the value of the present world and here and now make it hard to see how the Gospel can be earthed in the realities of our human existence.
I think it is one of the tasks of Evangelical theology to retain a strong view of the second coming of Christ, not as a discincentive to work in the world, but as one of its most powerful motives, and not as a devaluing of God's creation but as a way of expressing God's promise to restore, redeem and renew it.

angela almond

Thanks Jim - I really appreciate your final paragraph - I have been a little concerned by some blog postings by my friends in the US who see the imminent rapture as a reason to ignore global warming and other issues.
Another 19th century evangelical, the elderly Lord Shaftesbury, was asked how he had managed to achieve so much social reform in one lifetime and he said "I live and work each day as if the Lord might come back tomorrow"

Mark Elliott

Hi Jim

Long time no see. I thought someone told me last year you were writing a book 'Scottish Spirituality'. Ian Bradley and I are about to co-teach an eponynmous module at St Andrews and I wanted to know when your book might be out--if you have any idea. All the best with it.
Mark Elliott


Thanks for the excellent article on Horatius Bonar, and for including his beautiful communion hymn. Today is the 201st anniversary of his birth, and you've provided a fitting and articulate tribute.

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