Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Boreham on Sleep

Do You Sleep Well?
How many sermons have you heard on the subject of sleep? John Baillie wrote a great chapter on A Theology of Sleep. Victor Hugo had some wonderful lines and prayers on the same topic. As an indication of the way F W Boreham was keen to discover the connection between faith and all of life it is instructive to see how many times he addresses the subject of sleep.

‘Do You Sleep Well?’ Boreham said, “Is a most important question.” The spectacle of a person sleeping in the face of distress and calamity is very impressive. Boreham contends that one of the main reasons why missionaries go to peoples of other cultures is to teach them to sleep! This is one of the tasks of the church today as it has been throughout the centuries. “She [the church] has excelled in the production of heroic and magnificent sleepers. That is why I insist that every candidate for her membership should be searchingly questioned as to her ability to sleep.”

Sleep for Boreham was not only a sign of faith but an essential experience of renewal. He wrote:
“I believe in Sleepy Hollow. They may laugh at its repose who laughed at the
great souls who slumbered there; but I am convinced that, if I can learn its
restful secret, there will enter into my life a great and wonderful

Practicing the Boreham Nap
Frank Boreham practiced what he preached. Every day after lunch Frank and Stella (his wife) would go to bed. It was not just ‘forty winks’; it was a decent sleep for about an hour.

Once when I was conducting a Boreham Bus Tour in Melbourne I spoke about this insight and one of Boreham's nieces, who had often visited the Boreham household when she was young, added the following observation: “And they took all their clothes off too!" If couples in ministry want to keep their relationship fresh, and live a long life, what better start than by implementing the Boreham Nap!

Sleep On It
A recent scientific study in Amsterdam has concluded that “when it comes to making tough decisions- don’t sweat it, sleep on it.” The report is giving weight to the role of sleep and letting the unconscious mind churn through the options of a decision.

F W Boreham commended the inspirational and visionary benefits that came to him in his sleep:

“We invariably find ourselves richer on rising than we were on retiring.
Personally, I have spent most of my life scribbling. I have always found it a
mistake to attempt to complete a manuscript in one day. I like to do part of it
- enough to get the theme well on to my mind - and then go to bed with the work
half-done. I do not consciously review the matter during the night: yet I
invariably wake up with a batch of ideas that were not there the previous day.”

“I have always kept a notebook beside my bed in which to record, as soon as I opened my eyes, the treasure with which my plunge into oblivion had enriched me. How often a word or a phrase or a quotation eludes us overnight; but in the morning it seems to be standing in the gateway of consciousness awaiting us.”

Geoff Pound

F W Boreham, The Golden Milestone, 14-21.
F W Boreham, Ships of Pearl, 16.
‘Sleep on it ‑decision-makers told.’ BBC News, 17 February 2006.

Image: Frank and Stella Boreham's first home in Mosgiel, NZ

Friday, February 17, 2006

Boreham on the Crucial Element in Effective Communication

Boreham Encounters a Closed Door
Soon after his conversion to Jesus Christ F W Boreham sensed a conviction to use all his time in Christian work. After many interviews with Hudson Taylor about going to China, the old man invited him to tea and with great tact and gentleness pointed out the opportunities of doing effective missionary work at Home, for his injury would, according to Hudson Taylor, hamper him in a foreign country.

Ministry Starts at Home
Not daunted, Boreham took up preaching at the age of seventeen on the street corner in Clapham. His first sermon was on the text, "Today, if you hear God's voice, do not harden your hearts."

Maiden Sermon
Years later, having heard hundreds of sermons he said "This manuscript [his first sermon] easily the crudest of them all. From a theological and homiletical point of view, it has not one redeeming feature."[1] He went on however, to identify the dominant characteristic of that maiden sermon, that it throbbed with passion and this was due to the intensity and fervour of those men into whose company he had been thrown.

Crucial Element in Effective Communication
Fifty years and many sermons later he found himself even in his best moments praying that that essential quality of passion and conviction might endure with him to the end.[2] When asked what had been the keynote of his ministry he had no hesitation in saying it was the evangelistic note.

Geoff Pound

Image: Clapham Street

[1] F.W. Boreham, My Pilgrimage p80
[2] Ibid, p81

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Boreham on Breaking Down Suspicion

Living Amid Prejudice
It is easy to develop unfair perceptions and unrealistic suspicions of people of other denominations, faiths and attitudes. This is a story of the way F W Boreham developed an appreciation for Roman Catholics at a time when there was great antipathy between Protestants and Catholics. He lived in NZ and Australia in a period when many of his ministerial colleagues gave lectures and wrote tracts about those people who were different and were to be avoided and opposed!

Broken Limb
When he finished school, Frank Boreham worked as a clerk in a Brick Company near Tunbridge Wells and here his absent mindedness [see earlier posting-Boreham on Cultivating Absent-Mindedness, 7 February 2006] cost him dearly. It was his job to record the carriages of bricks before the trains pulled away. One Saturday, Frank stood in front of a lever and as the engine drew across the points, the rails flung the lever forward and hurled Frank under the wheels of the train. The wonder was not that he was so badly smashed but that he was lifted out alive. He lost his right leg from his knee down and he had all sorts of complications as he lay in hospital for the next five months.

Broken Heart
Throughout his life Boreham walked with a limp. He broke that leg three times and it gave him enormous pain. But something happened in that hospital that changed him for life. Boreham fell in love with a nurse. What complicated things was that she was a full blooded Catholic and he was a young convinced Protestant. What made it even more difficult was that he was only 14 and she was over 40!! But he said, "To my dying day I shall never forget the face that in hours of anguish and delirium seemed to me like the face of an angel. We both cried when we said goodbye to each other and whenever I been tempted to a too vigorous criticism of Roman Catholicism I have been confronted by the imperishable memory of Sister Kathleen. She would have thought it heaven to lay down her life for her Church- or her patients.

Ecumenical Spirit
It is interesting to see as an outcome of this experience that one of the hallmarks of Boreham's ministry was his ecumenical spirit. He preached in many denominations in Melbourne and in his retirement, Scots Church was the place Dr. Boreham served as lunch hour preacher for 18 years until the age of 84! He often wrote of his debt to Catholics- friends, the saints and hymn writers.

Lesson in the Limp
Like Jacob, every step he took would have reminded F W Boreham of the day he lost his leg and the love and lessons he learned from Sister Kathleen about breaking down prejudice.

Geoff Pound

F W Boreham, The Silver Shadow, 234
F W Boreham, Nest of Spears, 146f

Photo: F W Boreham with colleagues in Mosgiel, NZ. FWB is the one on the right.

Boreham on Finding Time for Yourself

Reference has earlier been made [12 February 2006] in this blog site to the way Dr Boreham overcommitted himself in his first years of ministry. Giving the ordination charge to a young minister F W Boreham emphasized what became a recurring theme in his very productive ministry:

Find time for yourself. Feel it no shame at proper periods to be doing nothing.
Make seasons for leisure and for recreation. Climb the hills; scour the valleys;
row on the river; stroll along the beach. Cultivate the friendship of the fields
and the ferns and the flowers. Laugh with the young folk and romp with little
children. Be at your ease. Let the mind swing into an easy balance, a natural
poise, an attitude of perfect repose. The restless soul, eternally doing
something, never accomplishes anything. It is the person who can sometimes be at
rest who produces the finest work in the long run. Find time for yourself!

Geoff Pound

Source: F W Boreham, Drums of Dawn, 62

Photo by F W Boreham of his wife and two girls. Location probably Taieri Mouth, near Dunedin, NZ, a favourite place for Boreham and his family to have time for themselves.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Boreham on Finding Focus

Early in his ministry Boreham was preaching a couple of times a week, accepting invitations to speak in the nearby city and throughout NZ. He was a weekly contributor to two papers and he was appointed to various committees. His life was hectic!

After one very busy week when he was reflecting on how good life was, Stella [his wife] said, "I have been so lonely. And when I have seen other men coming home of an evening and playing with their little ones, my heart has ached for ours. And then when you said that the week you have spent with us was one of the happiest you had ever had, it was more than I could bear."

When Frank listened to this confession, he realised that a river can be widened until it is so shallow and incapable of navigation. He saw that a ministry is better narrow and deep. So he resolved that night to only do the work to which his people had called him and to take on other things only when convinced it would be wrong not to do so. Refusing invitations and coming off committees meant that he, his family and his church were so much better.

Geoff Pound

Photo: Stella and Frank Boreham

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

Boreham's Influence on Gordon Moyes

The Rev. Dr. Gordon Moyes (and now parliamentarian) has served as Superintendent of Australia's largest church, the Wesley Mission in Sydney. In this capacity he has spoken to more people with the gospel message through national weekly television and radio than any other Australian preacher. Gordon is another person who has been touched by the Boreham influence:

"For as long as I can remember, Dr. F.W.Boreham was part of my life. I was first introduced to his books as a primary school student.... As a teenage preacher I used his books to gain ideas for sermons which- unbelievably today-were aimed at teenage audiences!"

"...I have read scores of his books. Over the years I have collected his works and have had some books which very serious collectors desperately wanted....Each week, in a very busy life, I take time to sit and read something for no other reason than the sake of my own soul- I read one of C.H.Spurgeon's sermons, I read a chapter in one of Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, or a chapter from F.W.Boreham....All of these great preachers of the past are far too wordy for today and too dated even to use some quotes in contemporary communication. But they are still right for my soul. I must take their concerns and insights and translate them into contemporary speech."

"There are many thousands of people who now receive my written sermons each week throughout Australia and overseas and I know many preachers have used my material that I have originally published. I rejoice in that. After all, Dr. Boreham helped me on my journey. I praise God for his life and influence."[1]

[1] Letter from Gordon Moyes to Geoff Pound 7th May 1996

Boreham on Personal Influence

"I set in motion a tide of influence, and it goes on spreading and growing long
after I have lost all trace of it- long after I myself am dead and
F.W. Boreham, The Drums of Dawn

A Tide of Influence
F.W. Boreham once remarked how he rarely returned home from a Sunday of worship services to report to his wife that someone had become a Christian in response to his preaching ministry that day. However, he was for ever amazed at the many times people said to him, "That sermon that you preached ten years ago was the means by which God turned my life around!" Such is the mystery of preaching, writing, personal conversation and practical service. People say or do something that at the time seems small and ordinary yet through an invisible and often lengthy process of maturing there emerges something that is profound and transforming. This conviction offers hope to every person when they realise the significant part they can play in the total purposes of God.

And It Goes on Spreading
Sometimes we may intend some thoughtful gesture in the hope that it will bring positive good into a person's life. For example, Doctor Boreham was a prolific letter writer and he did this in the hope that it would bring some cheer. The New Zealand missionary, Bob Alcorn was the recipient of such encouragement when he was on his way to serve in East Pakistan. Recalling his meeting with Boreham when passing through Melbourne one Sunday he wrote:

"I was a fan of his and had a lot of his books. I met him on Sunday 20th
November at the Collins Street Baptist Church. He preached a sermon that I
remembered having read in one of his books. I waited on the steps and met him
when he left. We had a good yarn. He had been interested in the New Zealand
Baptist Missionary Service while in Mosgiel and had always had a keen interest
in the Australian Baptist Missionary Society....A year later, he sent me a book
inscribed, 'Remembering our meeting in Melbourne, 20th November, 1949.' I really appreciated his gesture. He was an extremely well known and respected person, while I at that point was just moving towards greatness!"[1]

[1] Letter from Rev. Robert Alcorn to Geoff Pound, February 1996

Geoff Pound