Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Monday, February 26, 2007

Boreham on Surprise Power

In writing about a certain lack in many sermons, F W Boreham says:

"Half the art of life lies in possessing effective explosives and in knowing how to use them.

Surprise in the Wild
In the best of his books, Jack London tells us that the secret of White Fang's success in fighting other dogs was his power of surprise. `When dogs fight there are usually preliminaries—snarlings and bristlings, and stiff-legged struttings. But White Fang omitted these. He gave no warning of his intention. He rushed in and snapped and slashed on the instant, without notice, before his foe could prepare to meet him. Thus he exhibited the value of surprise. A dog taken off its guard, its shoulder slashed open, or its ear ripped in ribbons before it knew what was happening, was a dog half whipped.'

Power to Startle
Here is the strategy of surprise in the wild. Has it nothing to teach me? I think it has. I remember going for a walk one evening in New Zealand, many years ago, with a minister whose name was at one time famous throughout the world. I was just beginning then, and was hungry for ideas. I shall never forget that, towards the close of our conversation, my companion stopped, looked me full in the face, and exclaimed with tremendous emphasis, 'Keep up your surprise-power, my dear fellow; the pulpit must never, never lose its power of startling people!' I have very often since recalled that memorable walk; and the farther I leave the episode across the years behind me the more the truth of that fine saying gains upon my heart.

Lacking Sting
Let me suggest a really great question. Is it enough for a preacher to preach the truth? In a place where I was quite unknown, I turned into a church one day and enjoyed the rare luxury of hearing another man preach. But, much as I appreciated the experience, I found, when I came out, that the preacher had started a rather curious line of thought. He was a very gracious man; it was a genuine pleasure to have seen and heard him. And yet there seemed to be a something lacking. The sermon was absolutely without surprise. Every sentence was splendidly true, and yet not a single sentence startled me. There was no sting in it. I seemed to have heard it all over and over and over again; I could even see what was coming. Surely it is the preacher's duty to give the truth such a setting, and present it in such a way, that the oldest truths will appear newer than the latest sensations. He must arouse me from my torpor; he must compel me to open my eyes and pull myself together; he must make me sit up and think. `Keep up your surprise-power, my dear fellow,' said my companion that evening in the bush, speaking out of his long and rich experience. ‘The pulpit,' he said, 'must never, never lose its power of startling people!' The preacher, that is to say, must keep up his stock of explosives. The Bishop of London declared the other day that the Church is suffering from too much 'dearly beloved brethren.' She would be better judiciously to mix it with a few bombshells.

Recapturing Wonder
If only I can renew the romance of my childhood, and recapture that early sense of wonder, the world will suddenly become as marvellous as the prince's palace in the fairy stories, and the ministry of the Church will become life's most sensational sensation."

F W Boreham, ‘The Baby Among the Bombshells’, Faces in the Fire (London: Charles H Kelly, 1916), 20-23.

Image: Explosions.