Posted by: rcottrill | December 19, 2010

Today in 1808 – Horatius Bonar Born

Horatius Bonar was a Scottish pastor, and a renowned evangelical preacher. He also had a major part in organizing the Free Church of Scotland. Bonar, known as “the prince of Scottish hymn writers,” also produced some 600 hymns. (For more, see the second item under Today in 1865.)  Examples of his work:

Go, Labour On
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
I Lay My Sins on Jesus
No, Not Despairingly
Not What These Hands Have Done
Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face

The last of these, a Communion hymn, was written at the request of Horatius Bonar’s brother John, the pastor of St. Andrews’ Free Church, Greenock, Scotland. Once each year, Horatius went to visit, and assisted his brother at the Lord’s Supper. It was for such a service in October of 1855 that Horatius Bonar supplied this beautiful hymn. The original had 10 stanzas, but here is a sampling. (You are permitted a “Wow!” when you get to the end!)

Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen;
Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon Thee lean.

This is the hour of banquet and of song;
This is the heavenly table spread for me;
Here let me feast, and feasting, still prolong
The hallowed hour of fellowship with Thee.

Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Here drink with Thee the royal wine of heaven;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.

Mine is the sin, but Thine the righteousness:
Mine is the guilt, but Thine the cleansing blood;
Here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace;
Thy Blood, Thy righteousness, O Lord my God!

Feast after feast thus comes and passes by;
Yet, passing, points to the glad feast above,
Giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy,
The Lamb’s great bridal feast of bliss and love.

Here is a beautiful choral arrangement of this hymn–by a very fine church choir.

(2) Today in 1860 – Frank Graeff Born
Frank Ellsworth Graeff was a Methodist pastor who served several churches in the area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Widely known and beloved, he was called the “Sunshine Minister” because of his encouraging optimism and simple faith. He also wrote 200 hymn texts and a book of fiction called The Minister’s Twins.

In spite of Graeff’s sunny disposition, he faced many hardships in his life. It was while enduring a particularly severe trial that he penned the words of the only song of his that remains in common use, Does Jesus Care? Each stanza raises the question in connection with some trial. Then, the refrain provides the resounding answer of faith.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?

Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Saviour cares.

Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?


  1. I love Horatius Bonar’s hymn poetry.

    Well-written music can tremendously enhance the words of a hymn; two of Rev. Bonar’s hymns are good examples of this reality:

    1. “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” set to VOX DILECTI, by John B. Dykes (one of my favorite hymn composers). With the first two lines in a minor key (describing one’s sad, before-Christ estate), then changing to a major key (describing Christ’s answer to man’s dilemma), Mr. Dykes provides a masterful and matchless setting for these words. I know of only 3 verses to this hymn.

    2. “Not What My Hands Have Done,” set to LEOMINSTER, by George William Martin, is a more recent favorite. It’s not your ordinary 1, 4, 5 chord pattern! In the last line (not easy to play!) every chord is a joy to listen to as the music rises and falls in perfect harmony with the words. If I may be so bold as to suggest an alternate title for this hymn, I would call it “Salvation is of the Lord” — Jonah 2:9.
    The 1991 Trinity Hymnal has 5 verses. Are there any more “out there”?

    • Thanks for your input. And yes, I agree about the two hymns you mention. Both are excellent. “Not What These Hands Have Done” has only the 5 stanzas. But “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” has one more–the last:

      I heard the voice of Jesus say, “My Father’s house above
      Has many mansions; I’ve a place prepared for you in love.”
      I trust in Jesus—in that house, according to His Word,
      Redeemed by grace, my soul shall live forever with the Lord.

      As you say, Vox Dilecti suits the text, lifting us from the expression of need (for rest, refreshment, and light) in a minor key to the provision of the Lord in a major. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ tune Kingsfold is good too–all in a minor key. When I’ve done the piece as a solo, I’ve somtimes used Vox Dilecti, and other times the melody of “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.”

  2. My favorite verse of “Here O My Lord..” is the one that begins, “Mine is the sin but thine the righteousness…”

    If we sing this hymn in church, I make sure that verse is utilized.

    Missing verses from “Here, O My Lord…” as found in Lutheran Service Book (text: public domain).


    …And all my weariness upon Thee lean.

    Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
    Here drink with Thee the royal wine of heaven;
    Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
    Here taste afresh the calm of sins forgiven.


    …Thy Blood, Thy righteousness, O Lord my God!

    Too soon we rise, the vessels disappear;
    The feast, though not the love, is past and gone;
    The bread and wine remove, but THou art here;
    Nearer than ever; still my shield and sun.

    • Thanks for both comments. I agree about the stanza of Bonar’s hymn that you specially like. The gospel clear and simple! As for Moody, our adult Bible class is studying the Sermon on the Mount just now. For their interest, I brought an old recording (late 1800’s) of Dwight Moody reading the Beatitudes. Great champion of the faith!

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