One of My Favorite Journals

Andrew Bonar: Diary and Life by Andrew A. Bonar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Several years ago I was given this books as a gift from a dear friend and church member. I began to sip from Bonar’s cup over these years (diaries are best sipped), and then last month I decided to guzzle the remnants. The book is divided into two main parts: his diary and a brief biography. Both are excellent.

Reading a diary is not riveting, but neither is mining for diamonds – mostly you’re just whacking away at mundane earthiness until you uncover some precious gem. Bonar’s diary has not a few gems of encouragement, comfort, and examples of human behavior (which is something we don’t always associate with great ministers of the past).

In college, we were required to read the diary of David Brainerd, something which I am glad to have done. But Brainerd’s diary sometimes has the opposite of the intended effect when his example of godliness overwhelms the reader with feelings of desperate inadequacy. We feel we could never measure up to the standard set by Brainerd’s life-cut-short, even though we are blessed with three of four times the life span.

Bonar’s diary is different. He complains of his deficiencies, he reveals heartbreak, he grieves lost loved ones, but he always presses on. For years and years he presses on. Too many preachers today want the fast-paced hare to mark their ministry, but what we need are the faithful tortoises who continually take the next step in the right direction.

Edwards challenges us. Spurgeon inspires us. Brainerd convicts us. Bunyan enthralls us. But Bonar? He is with us in the trenches. Some luminaries are at the head of the company, doing exploits; others are next to us in the mud and blood of spiritual warfare as an ever-comforting reminder that our Savior also uses common people in mighty ways.

A few of my favorite excerpts:

“Saturday, April 4th [1857] – For nearly ten days past have been much hindered in prayer, and feel my strength hindered thereby. I must at once return through the Lord’s strength to not less than three hours a day spent in prayer and meditation upon the Word.”

“Friday 16th [August 1859] – Still instances of blessing, but Satan has tempted me to ingratitude by underrating these. Lord, enable me to take the position Thou puttest me in, however obscure.”

“December 3rd [1888] – …my fear is that there is some secret cause why the Lord does not use me more, and so I have been speaking to Him much about this matter.”

“November 24th [1888] …O that I had prayed a hundredfold more!”

And especially interesting is Bonar’s brief review of Brainerd’s diary:

“Reading Brainerd’s Life, it seemed to me that he did not hold fellowship with the living Saviour as he might have done, and did not see himself covered with Christ’s merits whereby God’s eye was turned away from his imperfections, corruptions, ignorance, failures, because the obedience of Christ was imputed to him. I would be like Brainerd every day, mourning and sad, if I did not see myself so covered with the obedience of Christ that the Father saw me in Him to be beautiful and attractive, because of the garment of righteousness.”

One more: writing to a Mr. Manson he said, “I rejoice with you [at tidings of revival]. I try my own soul by this test, – can I be as glad at this news as if my own parish had been the scene of wonders?”

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