Andrew Bonar

Andrew Bonar


"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:
and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
2 Timothy 4:7,8

St.Andrew's Saltire

Andrew Bonar's homeland
Loch Tay

St.Andrew's Saltire

On May 29Andrew Alexander Bonar is born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
He is the seventh son of James and Marjory Bonar. When he is 11 years old, his father dies, but his elder brother James helps his mother to look after the family.
1815(Battle of Waterloo)
Andrew goes to Edinburgh High School, and the Rector says he is "the best Latin scholar" who has ever been there during his time. He develops a love of Greek as well, and of Hebrew. He is quiet and loves to study, and writes a 'History of the Rabbits'. In 1825 he gains the Dux Gold Medal of the High School, and says nothing about it when he gets home. He produces it only when his mother asks who had got it. A typical early example of his modesty.
He starts writing his diary on 21st August: "About this time I thought of marking occasionally my thoughts and God's dealings." For the next two years his main complaint is that he is not saved. "I am still without Christ and without hope. I have no hatred of sin; I seek Christ with little ardour, rather because not happy in the world than because of anything else."
1830 (World's first passenger steam railway - Liverpool and Manchester)
At the end of this year he reads William Guthrie's 'Saving Interest' and begins to hope that he really has 'believed on the Lord Jesus'. He writes to his brother John asking him for advice. On 26 December he is then examined in the faith by Dr. Jones and is admitted as a communicant.
His first Communion is on 9th January. He writes: "I sought beforehand that at this season I might get more love to the souls of men, more understanding of the Word of God, and more power to keep my thoughts from wandering. I felt little excitement, but much calmness at the Table. I believe I have got increase of power to look at God".
In the same year he also enters the Divinity Hall. He had kept back from this until he was in Christ, and that meant he waited two years.
Addition of Document signed by Andrew Bonar On Saturday 19th November he and several others start the 'Exegetical Society' at 6.30 A.M. "It is to meet for the purpose of Biblical Criticism, begun and concluded with prayer ; in some sort a prayer-meeting over our studies in the Bible. The members of this society included among others Robert Murray M'Cheyne. A document signed by them can be seen on a separate page.
1832 (First Reform Act in Parliament)
1833 (Britain abolishes slavery)

Having finished his studies, he starts pastoral work on trial in Jedburgh in July. His first sermon, prepared with much anxiety and care, is on Isaiah 55:1-3 on 5th of July.
The Thursday of the following week is Fast-Day of the Church of Scotland, and he preaches to the prisoners in Jail in the morning and at Fendyhall in the evening. He writes: "Between sermons meditated on the evils of sin".
He is engaged as a missionary assistant to Dr. Robert Smith Candlish in St.George's, Edinburgh. There is an interesting letter from him to Mr. Maclagan in 1874, about some of his experiences here.
New On 20th September he is ordained at Collace in Perthshire. As soon as he awakes in the morning, he reads the confession of sins for ministers and preachers, drawn up by the Assembly in 1661 and applies it to himself. He writes: "O that Isaiah 11:1-9 may be fulfilled to me, that I may be like Christ, daily His witness, His Spirit of wisdom and understanding teaching me the Scriptures".
He mentions that among those present are Robert M'Cheyne, his closest friend. An old friend and minister says to him: "Remember, it is a remark of old and experienced men, that very few men, and very few ministers, keep up to the end the edge that was on their spirit at the first."

Collace church and manse
Collace Church and Manse (1865 map)
For separate page of photographs and information click here.

1839(Photography becomes public in Britain)
In March he receives a letter appointing him to go to the Jews in Europe and Palestine, together with M'Cheyne, Wodrow and Dr. Black. (Rev. Dr. Keith took the place of Wodrow).
He is very vexed at having to leave his people behind for six months, and his people are alarmed at being left without a shepherd. (One old woman, when told he would go to Egypt first and then to Palestine, held up her hands and exclaimed, 'Oh, then, we'll no see him again for forty years!')
From 21st March until November 22ndhe is away.
1840 (Introduction of penny post in Britain)
There have been instances of revival, and he writes: "I felt uncommonly overawed in preaching to-day, just in reading the words of my text, Isaiah 6: 'Holy, holy, holy,' and for a few minutes the same feeling seemed to prevail throughout the church. I think it was the Spirit resting on me". At the end of June, another entry in his diary reads: "Several people much impressed, several in tears".
The book Narrative of a mission of inquiry to the Jews From the Church of Scotland in 1839 is published, which he has written together with Robert Murray M'Cheyne.

On Saturday 25th Marchhe writes: "This afternoon about five o'clock, a message has just come to tell me of Robert M'Cheyne's death. Never, never yet in all my life have I felt anything like this. It is a blow to myself, to his people, to the Church of Christ in Scotland. O Lord, work, for Thine own glory's sake. Arise, O Lord, the godly ceaseth and the faithful fail. My heart is sore. It makes me feel death near myself now....There was no friend whom I loved like him."
After he has been to Dundee, he writes: "During prayer, the cries and lamentations of the people resounded through the church, as if their hearts were bursting.......and when I gazed upon Robert's face, I cannot tell what agony it was to think he was away. His face as he lay, was so calm, so expressive, [with] the very indentation that used to mark it when he spoke. Oh, it is bitter!"
Almost every year afterwards he remembers M'Cheyne's death and writes about it in his diary. It had affected him very deeply. A few months later he writes: "I dreamed two nights ago that I was at the side of his coffin again, and woke in tears."
When he visits the grave in July, he feels very strongly that "More nearness to God is what we need, more retirement, more prayer, more fellowship."
In September of the same year, he begins to write Robert M'Cheyne's Memoir, which fills up all his leisure time. He finishes it in December.
This year is also the year of the 'Disruption', when about half the ministers and members of the Church of Scotland leave, and form the 'Free Church'. In May, the building of a new church is begun in Kinrossie, and in November it is opened.
A diary entry on March 4th: "The Memoir of Robert M'Cheyne is now just about to appear. O that it may be blessed!"
A few weeks later he writes: "Several of us are to observe Monday as a season Of special prayer and fasting to ask blessing on the Memoir, and the raising up of many holy men."
In August, as he has done before, he visits a synagogue for worship: "Jewish synagogue; it moves my compassion deeply."
In October he finishes his notes on Leviticusand makes it ready for the press. "Praise the Lord, who alone can bless it."

Kinrossie church and manse
The new Free Church and Manse at Kinrossie (map 1865)
 Bonar at age 35
Andrew Bonar at age 35

His marriage to Isabella Dickson is on the 4th of April and they move to the new Manse of the Free Church.
October 19th: "At a few minutes past one the servant hastily knocked at the door of my study to tell me that I had got a little daughter (Isabella). Praise to the Lord!"
A few weeks later he finds a letter waiting "which told me the good tidings of a soul saved through reading my Commentary on Leviticus - the captain of a steamer in the Thames. My soul has been as glad ever since as I was at the birth of my little daughter."
1851 (Crystal Palace built in London for the Great Exhibition in May of that year.)
27th September: "'Thou preventest us with the blessings of Thy goodness.' Scarcely had we time to be anxious to-day when the Lord sent us a little boy. 'Bless the Lord, O my soul.'"
December 23rd: "Before seven o'clock this morning another little girl (Marjory) was sent us by the Lord. O how many mercies may be crowded into the short space of a few hours!"

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April 2001 - updated 12 January 2017