Tuesday Hymns: “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who came from a long line of Presbyterian ministers. He and his brothers, John and Andrew, studied under Thomas Chalmers at the University of Edinburgh, and were all a part of the founding of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Bonar wrote over 600 hymns primarily for use in his mission work in a poverty stricken area called, Leith, and has often been called “the prince of Scottish hymn-writers.” He, as many in his day experienced great sorrow, having five children die in infancy, yet was strengthened to carry on by the sufficient grace of his Savior. He continued his work as a pastor in spite of deteriorating health well into his 70s, and preached his last sermon in Edinburgh at the age of 80.

Last Sunday we sang my favorite Bonar hymn, Not What My Hands Have Done, which points to the finished work of Christ as our only hope of salvation.

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul; Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole. Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God; Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, Oh Lord, can speak to me of grace; Your power alone, Oh Son of God, can all my sin erase; No other work but Yours, no other blood will do; No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, Oh Christ can ease this weight of sin; Thy blood alone, Oh Lamb of God can give me peace within. Thy love to me, Oh God, Not mine, Oh Lord, to Thee, can rid me of my dark unrest, and set my spirit free.

And I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine; And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine. His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

And I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and light; He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy, my light. Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives; I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

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3 Comments

  1. rpcbmt said,

    July 29, 2009 at 3:36 PM

    actually we sang “Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ.” But they do say much the same thing.

    – to whom, save Thee, who canst alone from sin atone, Lord, shall I flee?

    Perhaps this Sunday we should sing Not What my Hands Have Done and we can call you a prophet! :^)

    • cliftonr said,

      July 29, 2009 at 3:49 PM

      You are correct…I wrote this on Monday night so it had been a full 30+ hours since we sang on Sunday morning…I hope I didn’t sing “Not What MY Hands Have Done” while everyone else was singing “Thy Works, Not MIne, O Christ.” (Dementia is a terrible thing to waste)

      • cliftonr said,

        August 5, 2009 at 2:32 PM

        By the way, the following Sunday we did sing “Not What My Hands Have Done” and I must admit I grinned when I opened to that page in the hymn book.


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