I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
From “ Then Sings My Soul …"
"I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say"
Horatius Bonar (1808 - 1889)
Anyone can work with adults, but it takes a special person to communicate with children. Among the early hymnists, none connected with youngsters better than Horatius Bonar, "the prince of Scottish hymnists."
Horatius was born in December 1808, one of eleven children. Two of his siblings -- John and Andrew -- also became outstanding preachers. After studying for the ministry at the University of Edinburgh and serving an internship at Leith, Horatius was ordained and began pastoring in Kelso. Later he moved to Edinburgh where he became one of Scotland's most famous pulpiteers. He began writing hymns while at Kelso, and many of them were especially for children. Later, in his church in Edinburgh where only the Scottish version of the Psalms were sung, only the children were allowed to sing his hymns. On one occasion in the adult services, two of his church leaders stormed out in protest when a hymn was announced. But the children never protested. They loved his visits to Sunday School when he would lead them in exuberant singing.
Horatius wrote, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" for his Sunday School children in 1846. He based his three verses on three wonderful promises of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, John 4:14 and John 8:12. The first half of each stanza echoes our Lord's promise, and the last half of each stanza frames our response. Where did his love for children come from? He and his wife had lost five of their children in rapid succession. But God gave him hundreds of children in his Sunday Schools. And that's not all...
Many years later, a surviving Bonar daughter was widowed and returned home to live with her parents. She had five young children. Writing to a friend, Horatius said, "God took five children from life some years ago, and He has given me another five to bring up for Him in my old age." Horatius was nearly 80 when he preached in his church for the last time. Among his last requests was that no biography of him be written. He wanted all the glory to be Christ's alone.
“I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My Breast."
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "I am this dark world's Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk, till travelling days are done.”