Andrew Bonar

I recently learned about a hero of the faith named Andrew Bonar. As I read about him, I found his life to be an encouragement to me and I hope his life will also be an encouragement for you.

Andrew Bonar was born on May 29, 1810, in Edinburgh, Scotland to James and Marjory Bonar. He was the youngest of seven brothers, one of whom was hymn-writer Horatius Bonar. His father died when he was just seven, which left his family with great financial hardship. Although surrounded by spiritual influences in his childhood, Bonar did not gain assurance of his salvation until he was 20 years old. From the beginning of his ministry, Bonar had a burden for preaching and prayer, “[It is] our duty to preach in faith, as well as prepare for preaching in faith. And then that in prayer the speaker ought to try to move the heart of God and not the feelings of man, and that I should be much more fervent in private prayer.”1

As a young man, Bonar became an assistant pastor and city missionary and eventually accepted a call to pastor the Presbyterian Church in Collace where he remained for 18 fruitful years. In 1848, he married Isabella Dickson in Edinburgh. Over the years they were blessed with six children. Sadly, shortly after the birth of their last child, Isabella went to be with the Lord. In 1856, Bonar became the pastor of a new church in Glasgow, Ireland, and remained there until his death in 1892. Forging the new church in Glasgow was difficult work for Bonar, but being a premillennialist, he joyfully preached about the return of Jesus Christ. A friend once asked Bonar how things were going in his new church, he replied, “Oh, we are looking for great things!” When his friend admonished him not to expect too much, Bonar answered, “We can never hope for too much!” 

Bonar’s diary, titled Andrew Bonar: Diary and Letters, was edited and published by his daughter Marjory. This book reveals inspiring aspects of Bonar’s devotional life with the Lord, providing deep insight into the heart and faith of a gracious man. Warren Wiersbe says of Bonar that, “he was able to accomplish much with people in public because he spent time with God in private.” Throughout his ministry, Bonar faithfully taught expositionally through the Bible and spent hours every day in prayer and meditating on Scripture. The indelible mark of his life and ministry was established through his intimate walk with his Saviour.

Let’s consider Andrew Bonar’s example of perseverance, faith, and hopeful prayer. During this time when we need hope in the midst of chaos, remember Bonar’s words, “We can never hope for too much!”

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2 ESV)

Bill Gemaehlich is the EVP/COO operations at Insight for Living Ministries

1Bonar, Marjory. 1894. Andrew A. Bonar: Diary and Letters. London: Hodder and Stoughton.