Andrew Bonar: A Great Man of God

by Bernard R. DeRemer

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)Pastor, author, and editor Andrew Bonar (1810-1892) was the brother of hymn writer Horatius Bonar, and a close friend of the preacher Robert Murray McCheyne. "He lived and labored at a critical time in the church in Scotland and God used him in wonderful ways to uphold His truth and build His people."

Born in Edinburgh, he grew up surrounded by spiritual influences, yet not until he was 20 and in college did he come to the assurance of salvation.

He was an assistant pastor and city missionary. Called to the Presbyterian Church in Collage, he was ordained and remained there for 18 fruitful years.

In 1843 many left the established Church because of its modernist tendencies and founded the Free Church. Bonar preached in a tent until the congregation "which had forfeited its property could build a new place of worship."

Next, Bonar became pastor of a new church in a needy area of Glasgow, where he spent the remainder of his life. That small work grew "to a congregation of more than 1,000 members, with a strong Sunday school program and evangelistic outreach to the city. The work was difficult, but Bonar preached the Word and trusted God for great things."

Bonar had a marvelous sense of humor. One child called him "the minister with the laughing face."

His pastoral work emphasized visitation. "There is a blessing resting on visits," he once wrote to a pastor friend. "What else is fitted to make us know the state of our flocks?" Usually he visited from 1 to 5 p.m., "walking great distances to bring encouragement and help to his beloved people."

Warren Wiersbe commends Bonar's Diary and Life because of its record of the author's interior life. "He was able to accomplish much with men in public because he spent time with God in private. There are scores of references . . . to prayer, meditation, and self-examination."

"As he was writing Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms, he noted in his diary, I distinctly see now that sometimes Satan's chief way of prevailing against me is by throwing in my way a great deal of half literary work, half biblical."

Bonar was pleased when the University of Edinburgh granted him a Doctor of Divinity degree. But when he became moderator of the Free Church Assembly, he said, "How far down our church has come when it asks such as me to take this office!"

Wiersbe lists these as among his favorites of Bonar's "spiritual sayings":

"The best part of Christian work is that part which only God sees."

"If the Father has the kingdom ready for us, He will take care of us on the way."

"Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle."

"God likes to see His people shut up to this, that there is no hope but in prayer. Herein lies the Church's power against the world."

"Love is the motive and joy the strength for work."

"We have got more from Paul's prison-house than from his visit to the third heaven."

"Many want salvation but do not want the Savior."

In later years, Bonar's strength gradually began to fail though he continued in ministry as much as possible. After only two days of illness, he went home to glory on December 30, 1892.


Victorious Christians You Should Know, by Warren W. Wiersbe; excerpts used by permission.

Bernard R. DeRemer, in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps, has chronicled
the lives of dozens of God's choice leaders across recent centuries.

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