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Quotes by Horatius Bonar


Man’s dislike at God’s sovereignty arises from his suspicion of God’s heart… we are not always comfortable with the idea of being wholly at the disposal of God.


Christ “for us” is our justification (2Co 5:21). “Christ in us, and we in Christ,” is our holiness. The former is the external substitution; the latter, the internal energy or operation, taking its rise from the former, yet not to be confounded with it or substituted for it.


The road to the Kingdom is not so pleasant, and comfortable, and easy, and flowery, as many dream. It is not a bright sunny avenue of palms. It is not paved with triumph, though it is to end in victory. The termination is glory, honor, and immortality; but on the way, there is the thorn in the flesh, the sackcloth, and the cross. Recompense later; but labor here! Rest later; but weariness here! Joy and security later; but here endurance and watchfulness – the race, the battle, the burden, the stumbling block, and oftentimes the heavy heart.


Redeem the time: much of your progress depends on this. Be men of “method and punctuality”; waste no moments; have always something to do, and do it use up the little spaces of life, the little intervals between engagements.


“Man’s religion” does not deal honestly, either with God or with himself. He is obliged to give a much better representation of himself than the case warrants. He is obliged to profess to be what he thinks he ought to be, and what he supposes God wishes him to be. He practices deceit upon his own conscience; and he tries to practice the same deceit upon God. The whole of man’s religion may be said to be founded upon this dishonest dealing.


A believing man will be a zealous man. Faith makes a man zealous. Faith shows itself by zeal. Not by zeal for a party or a system or an opinion; but by zeal for Christ – zeal for His church – zeal for the carrying on of His work on earth.


If Christ be not the Substitute, He is nothing to the sinner. If He did not die as the Sin-bearer, He has died in vain. Let us not be deceived on this point, or misled by those who, when they announce Christ as the Deliverer, think they have preached the Gospel. If I throw a rope to a drowning man, I am a deliverer. But is Christ no more than that? If I cast myself into the sea, and risk my life to save another, I am a deliverer. But is Christ no more? Did He but risk His life? The very essence of Christ’s deliverance is the substitution of Himself for us, His life for ours. He did not come to risk His life; He came to die! He did not redeem us by a little loss, a little sacrifice, a little labor, a little suffering. “He redeemed us to God by his blood,” “the precious blood of Christ” (Rev 5:9; 1Pe 1:19). He gave all He had, even His life, for us.


Why not love the world?

1. Because the gain of it is the loss of the soul – Matthew 16:25.

2. Because its friendship is hatred to God – James 4:4.

3. Because it did not know Christ – John 1:10; 17:25.

4. Because it hates Christ – John 7:7; 15:18.

5. Because the Holy Spirit has forbidden us – 1 John 2:15.

6. Because Christ did not pray for it – John 17:9.

7. Because Christ’s people do not belong to it – John 17:16.

8. Because it will not receive the Spirit – John 14:27.

9. Because its Prince is Satan – John 13:31; 16:11.

10. Because Christ’s kingdom is not of it – John 18:36.

11. Because its wisdom is foolishness – 1 Corinthians 1:20.

12. Because its wisdom is ignorance – 1 Corinthians 1:21.

13. Because Christ does not belong to it – John 8:23.

14. Because it is condemned – 1 Corinthians 11:32.

15. Because the fashion of it will pass away – 1 Corinthians 7:31 .

16. Because it slew Christ – James 5:6; Matthew 21:39.

17. Because it is crucified to us – Galatians 6:14.

18. Because we are crucified to it – Galatians 6:14.

19. Because it is the seat of wickedness – 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 5:19.


The Gospel…is good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God – about [who] He is and what He did. He is the Word “made flesh” (Jn. 1:14). It is He whom the Father sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin” (Rom 8:3). He was lifted up (Jn. 12:32) and crucified – He died – He was buried – He rose again on the third day – He went up into heaven and sat down [at] the Father’s right hand (Eph 1:20) – He ever lives to make intercession for us (Rom 8:34). In these simple facts, which a child can understand, is contained the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.


[The Bible] will lead us into all truth. It will deliver us from the fermenting errors of the day. It will save us from the intellectual dreams of a vain philosophy, from the morally corrupted taste of a sensational literature, from the superficially attractive novelties of spiritual mysticism, from the pretentious sentimentalisms of men who soar above all creeds and abhor the name of “law,” from Broad Church-ism, and High Church-ism, and no Church-ism. It will lead us into light and love, into liberty and unity, imparting strength and gladness.


Free and warm reception into the divine favor is the strongest of all motives in leading a man to seek conformity to Him who has thus freely forgiven him all trespasses.


Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.


Uncertainty as to our relationship with God is one of the most enfeebling and dispiriting of things. It makes a man heartless. It takes the pith out of him. He cannot fight; he cannot run. He is easily dismayed and gives way. He can do nothing for God. But when we know that we are of God, we are vigorous, brave, invincible. There is no more quickening truth than this of assurance.


Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own poor performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.


Our changing years affect not Him with Whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day: Who is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. In a changing world, let us rejoice in this unchangeableness.


God chooses us, not because He foresees that we would choose Him, or that we would believe, but for the very opposite reason. He chooses us just because He foresees that we would neither choose Him nor believe of ourselves at all. Election proceeds not upon foreseen faith in us, but upon foreseen unbelief.


All error is, more or less, whether directly or indirectly, a misrepresentation of God’s character and a subversion of His revelation (Rev 22:18-19).


This thinking for one’s self independently of God and His revelation is not merely an evil, but a sin. Nay, it is a sin of more than common darkness – it is so audacious, so contemptuous towards God. It places man on a level with God or at least sets Divine truth and human opinion on the same footing. It strips the former of all innate authority, while it gives to the latter an authority to which it has no claim!… There can be no authority save that which is infallible and Divine, that is, God speaking to us directly in His Word.


1. A losing our first love – When iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold (Rev 2:4; Mat 24:12). The affections get dull and blunted.

2. Losing the edge of our conscience – The conscience ceases to be sensitive and tender. It does not shrink from sin as it used to do.

3. Callousness as to truth – We get so familiarized with truth that it ceases to affect us. It loses its power over us.

4. Insensibility to sin – Our own evils are not felt as they used to be; sin itself is not so hated and shunned as formerly.


Avoid works that jest with what is right or wrong, lest you unconsciously adopt a false test of truth and duty, namely, ridicule, and so become afraid to do right for right’s sake alone, dreading the world’s sneer and undervaluing a good conscience and the approving smile of God. Let your reading be always select; and whatever you read, begin with seeking God’s blessing on it. But see that your relish for the Bible be above every other enjoyment, and the moment you begin to feel greater relish for any other book, lay it down until you have sought deliverance from such a snare and obtained from the Holy Spirit an intenser relish, a keener appetite for the Word of God (Jer. 15:16; Psm. 19:7-10).


Not that you are to read no book but the Bible. All that is true and good is worth the reading, if you have time for it. All, if properly used, will help you in your study of the Scriptures. A Christian does not shut his eyes to the natural scenes of beauty spread around him. He does not cease to admire the hills, or plains, or rivers, or forests of earth because he has learned to love the God that made them; nor does he turn away from books of science or true poetry because he has discovered one book truer, more precious, and more poetical than all the rest together.


A believing man will be a humble man. He will think little and speak little about himself. True faith carries us above this pride, self-esteem, and vainglory… He will…refrain from giving prominence to self in any of his proceedings. His great object will be to hide self; and not only to forget it himself, but to make others forget it too. The man that is still proud, boastful, vainglorious, self-confident has good reason to suppose that he has never yet believed.


There is nothing so hardening as unbelief; and one great reason for this is, that there is nothing so deceitful. It does not look a great sin; nay, sometimes not like sin at all, but like modesty and humility. It pretends to be jealous for God, to be conscious of personal unworthiness, to be unfit to venture on a hope of acceptance. Thus, it deceives… It actually hides itself, lessens its own wickedness, veils its hatefulness under the name of humility. In all these ways, it contrives to destroy faith, to cherish itself, and so to harden the heart.


The love of God to us, and our love to Him, work together for producing holiness. Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.



The “Word” is the eternal name for the young Child of Bethlehem. He is so called because He is the revealer of the Father, the exponent of Godhead. He is so now; He was so in the days of his flesh; He has been so from eternity. The names Christ, Immanuel, Jesus, are His earthly ones; His names in time connected with His incarnate condition; but the names “Word” and “Son” are expressive of His eternal standing, His eternal relationship to the Father. What He was in time and on earth, that same He has been in heaven and from eternity. The glory which He had “before the world was” (John 17:5), and of which He “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7), was the glory of the eternal Word, the everlasting Son. As the eternal revealer of Godhead, the “brightness of Jehovah’s glory, and the express image of His person,” His name ever was THE WORD; as the declarer of the mind of God to man, His name is no less THE WORD, with this addition, “the Word made flesh.”


The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily [communion] with a crucified and risen Lord. All divine life, and all precious fruits of it, pardon, peace, and holiness, spring from the cross. All fancied sanctification which does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross is nothing better than Pharisaism. If we would be holy, we must get to the cross, and dwell there; else, notwithstanding all our labor, diligence, fasting, praying and good works, we shall be yet void of real sanctification, destitute of those humble, gracious tempers which accompany a clear view of the cross.


Much zeal is shown for the freedom of man’s will; little jealousy seems to be left for the freedom of God’s will. Men insist that it is unjust and tyrannical in God to control their wills, yet see nothing unjust, nothing proud, nothing Satanic in attempting to fetter and direct the will of God. Man, it seems, cannot have his own foolish will gratified, unless the all-wise God will consent to relinquish His! Such are some of the steps in the march of Atheism. Such are the preparations making in these last days by the wily usurper for dethroning the Eternal Jehovah.


We have come to a place in time where we measure the correctness of our plans simply by their seeming to contribute to our favorite aim. We estimate the soundness of our doctrine, not from its tendency to exalt and glorify God…but entirely by the apparent facility with which it enables us to get sinners to turn from their ways.     


The road is rugged, and the sun is hot. How can we be but weary? Here is grace for the weariness – grace which lifts us up and invigorates us; grace which keeps us from fainting by the way; grace which supplies us with manna from heaven, and with water from the smitten rock. We receive of this grace, and are revived. Our weariness of heart and limb departs. We need no other refreshment. This is enough. Whatever the way be – rough, gloomy, unpleasant – we press forward, knowing that the same grace that has already carried thousands through will do the same for us.


You are perplexed by the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and election. I wonder that any man believing in a God should be perplexed by these. For if there be a God, a King, eternal, immortal, and invisible, He cannot but be sovereign – and He cannot but do according to His own will and choose according to His own purpose. You may dislike these doctrines, but you can only get quit of them by denying altogether the existence of an infinitely wise, glorious, and powerful Being. God would not be God were He not thus absolutely sovereign in His present doings and His eternal pre-arrangements.


Be punctual and regular in all duties and engagements. Keep no man waiting. Be honest as to time, both with yourselves and others, lest you get into a state of chronic flurry and excitement; so destructive of peace and progress; so grieving to the Spirit, whose very nature is calmness and rest.


Be men! In courage; not cowards, turning our back on the foe, or giving way in danger, or reproach, or evil days. In solidity; not shifting or shadowy, but immoveable as the rock. In strength; as the man is, so is his strength. Be strong! In wisdom. Foolishness is with childhood, wisdom with manhood. Speak and act with wisdom, as men. In ripeness. The faculties of men are ripe, both for thinking and working. They speak ripe words, think ripe thoughts, plan and execute ripe things. In understanding be men! In all things – what you do, and what you refrain from doing, be men. Act the manly part – let nothing effeminate, luxurious, sickly, childish, puny, little, narrow be seen about you. Christianity makes men, not babes. Adorn the doctrine of Christ by your manliness. In the Church, in the world, in business, in conversation, in prosperity, and adversity, [act] like men! Let no man despise you; and let no man despise the Gospel because of you.


Be much alone with God. Do not put Him off with a quarter of an hour morning and evening. Take time to get thoroughly acquainted. Talk everything over with Him. Pour out every thought, feeling, wish, plan, and doubt to Him. He wants converse with His creatures. Shall His creatures not want converse with Him? He wants, not merely to be on “good terms” with you, if one may use man’s phrase, but to be intimate. Shall you decline the intimacy and be satisfied with mere acquaintance? What! Intimate with the world, with friends, with neighbors, but not with God? That would look ill indeed. Folly, to prefer the clay to the potter, the marble to the sculptor, this little earth and its lesser creatures to the mighty Maker of the universe, the great “All and in all!”


Grace burst forth spontaneously from the bosom of eternal love and rested not until it had removed every impediment and found its way to the sinner’s side, swelling round him in full flow. Grace does away the distance between the sinner and God, which sin had created. Grace meets the sinner on the spot where he stands; grace approaches him just as he is. Grace does not wait till there is something to attract it nor till a good reason is found in the sinner for its flowing to him… It was free, sovereign grace when it first thought of the sinner; it was free grace when it found and laid hold of him; and it is free grace when it hands him up into glory.


The object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth – all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain. The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, “Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay?”


He makes us to glory in tribulation: for this is the road by which all the former saints went to the kingdom; the way by which all are going now; the way by which the Master went during His sojourn here.


If you are Christians, be consistent. Be Christians out and out; Christians every hour, in every part. Beware of halfhearted discipleship, of compromise with evil, of conformity to the world, of trying to serve two masters – to walk in two ways, the narrow and the broad, at once. It will not do. Halfhearted Christianity will only dishonor God, while it makes you miserable.


There can be no grace when there is no sovereignty. Deny God’s right to choose whom He will and you deny His right to save whom He will. Deny His right to save whom He will and you deny that salvation is of grace. If salvation is made to hinge upon any merit or fitness in man, seen or foreseen, grace is at an end.

Recommended Books

God’s Way of Holiness

Horatius Bonar