Sunday, December 19, 2010

Horatius Bonar

Horatius Bonar, whose birthday in 1808 we celebrate today, was one of a group of dissenting clergy who broke away from the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church in 1843. The worship tradition of both those Scottish churches was only to sing psalm paraphrases, so it seems unusual that Bonar became a prolific hymn writer whose texts were popular in many other denominations but not his own.

This text first appeared in his Hymns of Faith and Hope (1861), one of at least ten collections he pubished. I don't know if it has ever been sung as an Advent hymn but I think it could be, given its invitatory theme.

O Love that casts out fear,
O Love that casts out sin,
Tarry no more without,
But come and dwell within!

True sunlight of the soul,
Surround us as we go;
So shall our way be safe,
Our feet no wand'ring know.

Great Love of God, come in!
Wellspring of heav'nly peace;
O Living Water, come!
Spring up, and never cease.

Horatius Bonar, 1861
Henry T. Smart, 1881

Only last month the Free Church of Scotland voted to allow the singing of hymns and songs in addition to the psalms, and today, St. Peter's Church in Dundee held its first carol service, which is also the first in the denomination. This change is not without controversy, as at least one minister has chosen to leave over this decision, but many people undoubtedly think that it's about time this happened. At any rate, I expect that the hymns of Horatius Bonar will finally become more widely known in his own country.

One (Calendar) Year Ago: Horatius Bonar

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: Away with loyal hearts and true
Two (Liturgical) Years Ago: Great Gabriel sped on wings of light

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