Hymn Story: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

Horatius Bonar was a Scottish minister and writer who lived throughout the majority of the 19th Century.  He is described as a “most gifted and influential” minister.

Bonar wrote the lyrics to I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say while he was pastoring the Presbyterian church at Kelso, Scotland, which lies along the Scottish borders. The hymn was intended to be used by children as a way to teach the truths of the life and work of Jesus Christ.

Horatius Bonar

The hymn was first published in 1846.

Horatius Bonar was born on December 19, 1808 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was one of eleven children.

He married Jane Catherine Lundie in 1843. 

Bonar wrote over 600 hymns throughout his life. He also published several volumes of poetry.

Some of his other hymns included All Praise to Him Who Built the Hills, I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, A Few More Years Shall Roll, Come Lord and tarry not, and O Love of God How Strong and True.          

He came from a long line of ministers who served the Church of Scotland for 364 years.  Two of his brothers were also ministers and a son became a minister of the Church of Scotland.

He died on July 31, 1889 and was buried beside his wife, who passed away thirteen years earlier.

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say is often considered to be his finest hymn.

John B. Dykes composed the music for this hymn.

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