Recently I have picked up some new books (or should I say ‘old’ books) and it has started me off down some rabbit trails. In particular, the Diary of Andrew Bonar has alerted me to my lack of knowledge of this man of God: what I did know was that he had written the Memoir of Robert Murray McCheyne, definitely one of my heroes. Having said that, if challenged as to who wrote that amazing Memoir, I would probably have said Horatius Bonar, Andrew’s brother, and better known because he was a hymnwriter.
Happily, others have paid attention to Andrew Bonar – so far I have read only a handful of diary entries but they have already impressed me with his honesty, sincerity and passion. But the title of this ‘very occasional’ blog entry links to Andrew Bonar on the Tabernacle. I am interested in that partly because in our church a year or so back the men did some study on the Temple (rather than the tabernacle), and also recently I have been reading about the significance of goat’s hair in Song of Solomon. Andrew Bonar built a model of the tabernacle, springing just from an idea mentioned one day, and showed it to various people, and the effect it had was extraordinary:
The Badger-skin and the Goat-hair coverings. In the R.V. ‘badger-skin’ is ‘seal-skin,’ and in the margin, ‘porpoise-skin.’ One said about these, ‘I used to be content with the Badger-skin (mere shelter), but now I’m under the Goat’s-hair – delighting in the beauty put upon the justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed.’ Mr. T.B., from Holland, was particularly interested in the four coverings. ‘That’s my spiritual history. I first learned Christ as a covert from the storm, then His blood as a Substitute – the Ram-skin ; then His righteousness on me – the Goat’s-hair ; and then the royal dress – blue, purple, and scarlet ; our being made kings to God.’
Also, I read yesterday in lecture-form by Maurice Roberts a biography of Andrew Bonar which I enjoyed very much. What excites me about these men of God is their connection with the fountains of their day – for Bonar, D.L. Moody, and the Scottish revival of 1859-60. In particular I liked the ‘lessons learned’ that we are given at the end of the Lecture:
1. A survey of the life of this man of God reminds us that if we are to do anything worthwhile for our Saviour in this world we must be whole-hearted, entirely devoted to Him and jealous of our time, so that nothing be wasted. Men who are prayerful, spiritual and thirsting for fellowship with God in Christ will not live in vain. We cannot give ourselves the gifts which God has not given to us already. But we can use our talents to the utmost of our capacity. Bonar and M’Cheyne were in several ways different but in one thing they were identical men. They lived wholly for God and in the interests of eternal values.
2. Again, a lesson that comes home to us from the life of Bonar is that we should cultivate love one to another as Christians and we should have a sincere and a burning desire to see sinners saved and brought to Christ. Other things in the ministry may have their place. But there is no substitute in a minister for evangelistic zeal and passion to win the lost and to bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Bonar and M’Cheyne loved the Jewish people and sorrowed to think they were in darkness. Like Samuel Rutherford and many Puritans they cherished the confident hope that one day God would bring them to Christ as a nation. They would be grafted in again into their own olive tree, as Paul puts it. This prayer should be ours still today, and all the more so in that the Jews are now returning steadily to their ancestral homeland in Palestine and we have a still stronger hope that the day of their restoration is at hand. In that day, declares Christ, they will cry out, ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord’.
4. Life is short and death is sure. Those who are wise live well in the anticipation that very soon we must leave this scene of time and enter into eternity. Those who live well will die well. To live well means to live by the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His service. To die well is to be ready with Paul to say, ‘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 will give me in that day: and not to me only’. May God help to us all to hear these vital lessons so that we may all meet at last in that blessed land above.
Andrew Bonar is probably most famous for his comment (which I am especially alive to and wanting to avoid at the moment) that:
“One of the gravest perils which besets the ministry is a restless scattering of energies over an amazing multiplicity of interests which leaves no margin of time and of strength for receptive and absorbing communion with God.”