Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Friday, September 29, 2006

Boreham on Nature As Silent Preacher

Silent Yet Articulate
F W Boreham viewed nature as a preacher of truth not in a brash or intrusive style but by being “silent yet articulate”.[1] An example of nature’s propensity to preach by hinting was the migratory instinct of birds, of which Boreham suggested that “we are all affected more than we know by forces that we cannot see” and by stirring up the human conscience to the “boundless, the illimitable, the eternal”.[2]

Signaling Through Semaphore
Symbolism was another of nature’s preaching techniques in which the compelling message of sacrifice could be conveyed through a red poppy[3] or one’s love of country could be declared through a sprig of wattle.[4] Recognizing nature’s preaching ability to transcend barriers of culture and language, Boreham asserted that the coming of the swallow[5] and the emergence of a green shoot from a dead husk[6] were examples of the way the “sublimest messages [were] semaphored” through “the language of gesture”.[7]

Saying It In Signals
Explaining further ‘the science of signals’, Boreham pointed to the fine homiletical tradition in which nature stood. Thus, he affirmed:

"Revelation makes it clear, that, even when Almighty God has something really vital to say, He says it in a language that requires no translation or interpretation. He says it in a way that all men everywhere can comprehend. “The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” No man can mistake the awful and profound significance of such a gesture. No man may be able to grasp the doctrine of the atonement; but where is the heart that does not respond to the mute eloquence of the Cross?"[8]

Saying It With Flowers
Nature’s preaching method, according to Boreham, was that of declaration rather than explanation, not the pronouncement of glib answers but the evocation of surprise, earnest questions and child-like wonder. Hence his statement about the human response to nature’s appeal: “We find ourselves saying to the seed and the soil what Tennyson said to the flower in the crannied wall; if we could understand what it is in the seed and in the soil that produces the ears of corn, we should know what God Himself is”.[9]

Geoff Pound

Image: “the migratory instinct of birds.”

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 20 August 1955.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 7 October 1939; Age, 22 November 1947.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 10 November 1923.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 10 November 1934; Age, 9 November 1946.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 16 March 1940.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 11 April 1941.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 20 August 1955.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 20 August 1955.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 20 October 1951.