Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Boreham's Influence on Billy Graham

Billy Graham’s Visit to Australia
When Billy Graham visited Australia in 1959 he said the one person he wanted to meet was Dr F W Boreham, because of the influence the old man’s books had had upon his ministry. There is still some footage in the F W Boreham Heritage Centre at Whitley College showing the handsome American evangelist striding down the driveway at Fellows Street in Melbourne and meeting Mr and Mrs Boreham. An account of this encounter in relayed in the foreword to Boreham’s last book and is told by Sir Irving Benson who escorted the Grahams. Ruth Graham has a full collection of the Boreham books. Dr Graham asked F W Boreham to sit with him on the platform at the Melbourne Cricket ground but Boreham declined because of his failing health (he died two months later). They talked about communication styles and Billy knelt on the floor while the Doctor prayed for profitable meetings in Australia.

Long After I Have Lost All Trace
In his essay, "The House That Jack Built," F.W.Boreham wrote about the links in the chain that are influential yet whose connections are seldom seen. To illustrate their importance and to encourage readers to be faithful links, Boreham related the story of how Richard Baxter helped a person to conversion who in turn did the same until finally the baton of faith was passed to Queen Victoria. This truth made an impression on Dr. Billy Graham for during his evangelistic crusade in Sydney in 1959 he asked his host, Dr. Gordon Powell if he knew the story that Boreham had told about Baxter and the chain of faith. Powell remembered the story but not the reference so at the evangelist's request he wrote to F.W. Boreham. Gordon Powell received the following letter with the passage concerned torn from the book. It is dated 5 May 1959 and it reveals something of Boreham's ill health. The old man died on 18 May and it would seem that this is the last letter that F.W. Boreham wrote.

This letter is reprinted with permission of Gordon Powell. It is headed with the familiar address embossed at the top of the page:


My dear old friend,

Your request comes at a most unfortunate
moment. I am really ill and have had the doctor with me during the night.
Moreover, Mrs. Boreham & Stella have both survived major operations of
recent weeks. It has been a terrible time.

Under these conditions,
my memory has gone to pieces. But I fancy that the par you want is Drums of Dawn
p259. I enclose it.

I do hope that this is the reference you

Blessings on you and Billy Graham,

Rev. Sir Irving Benson once recalled how Billy Graham exemplified this truth in regard to his own role. Addressing in 1959 a gathering of nearly a thousand ministers in the Town Hall in St. Kilda, Melbourne, where Benson said there was 'some frostiness and perhaps a little bristling opposition' Graham began by saying, "I am always learning, changing and growing." There had been a welter of publicity focussing on the famous evangelist so in an effort to shift the emphasis where he believed it belonged he told of an episode from his boyhood days growing up on the farm in North Carolina:

"I [will] never forget the harvest dinners, with fried chicken and piles of
water melons. The chief guests were the eight harvesters. They had the first
helping. I used to think that my father, who had worked hard all spring and
summer, seemed the forgotten man at the feast. The harvesters only came to
handle the harvest he had worked hard to produce."

Applying the story and winning the hearts of his hearers, the evangelist said:

"I never claim to have led anybody to God- there have been many prayers and you have been working, preaching, serving faithfully for years-perhaps with little recognition or encouragement. I am only the harvester come to help you gather in the fruit of your own labor."[1]

Benson's newspaper article reporting this address lies folded in the book that Billy Graham autographed and gave to F.W.Boreham. [This book is in the Boreham Collection at Whitley College]. The old man would have loved that variation on the tidal theme because it pricks the bubble of those who claim undue credit, it encourages those who faithfully labour away from the spotlight and it is a fitting reminder to recognise with gratitude the unseen hand of God behind all effective and enduring ministry.

Long after I Myself am Dead and Forgotten
More than 100 years after Boreham wrote his first book, it is interesting to reflect on the fact that his books of sermons are still being read and reprinted. It is also instructive to note that 40 years after Boreham's death people still fondly recall his sermons and cherish his memory. Beneath the surface of the tide of influence are also the people whose lives have been touched for good in ways still to be discovered.

Geoff Pound

[1] Irving Benson, Billy Graham-the Harvester, xxxx 69