Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Boreham on The Lightning and the Dawn

I love what my friend, Paul Windsor, had to say on his blog this week (March 5, 2007) about The Lightning and the Dawn.

I did not pick up on his title as one inspired by F. W. Boreham but when I wrote to thank him for his thoughts he replied:

“You will be interested in the fact that the lightning/dawn idea was a Boreham one (I think). I am quite sure I read that ‘dawn’ idea in one of his books and experienced a burden lifted as I did so.”

I, too, have been greatly liberated by this thought that sometimes revelation comes to us as a Damascus Rd. experience and at other times it comes as it did to those on the Emmaus Rd. Being myself part of the Emmaus Rd. fraternity I have found this helpful, particularly at testimony time when it often seems that the only way God works is with lightning bolts that blind us and knock us off our horses.

If you’d like to read the entire Boreham essay and sermon here it is:



By F. W. Boreham

JUST as, in many homes, there hang companion pictures, so Jesus loved to present His parables in pairs. The Parable of the Mustard-seed and the Parable of the Leaven are obviously twins.
The kingdom is like mustard-seed which a man took... . The kingdom is like leaven which a woman took... .

Both point, in different ways, the same truth. Similarly, the Parable of the Treasure and the Parable of the Pearls are a pair, and both grew out of the selfsame custom. In the old days, before banks were dreamed of, an oriental magnate divided his wealth into three parts. The first part he secreted in some safe place, so that if he lost the other parts, it would still be available; with the second part he purchased diamonds or pearls, so that, if he were suddenly driven from his home, his possessions would be easily portable; and the third part he invested. The first and second of these partitions of wealth explain this pair of parables.


These two men—the man who found the treasure in the field and the man who sought the goodly pearls—represent two familiar types of character.

We all know these men—know them even by name. The one is Mr. Stay-at-Home: the other is Mr. Gad-about. The one finds his treasure in his own field: the other wanders over the world in search of his. They stand in striking contrast the one to the other; yet each is excellent in his own way. The one cleaves to the centre: the other reaches out to the circumference.

We all love the man who finds his sweetest happiness at home. His field, as in this case, may be only a rented field: the man in the parable has to sell all that he possesses to make it legally his own: but, to him, there is no place like it. He loves every blade of grass that grows there.

He represents the men who have no desire to wander. He goes through life crooning to himself that there is no place like home. No woman like his wife; no children like his children; no village like his village; no farm like his farm; no church like his church; no minister like his minister. We smile at his frailty; but it is a very lovable frailty; and, as in the parable, it invariably rewards him with wondrous treasure.

Moreover, it has meant much to the world at large. It is the foundation of all the finest patriotism. Civilization is based on the attachment of the peasant to the soil. An Englishman's love of England is, first of all, his love for that little bit of England in which he was born. Lecky, Macaulay, and all the great historians insist that the most heroic and chivalrous virtues have been displayed by men who were moved, not primarily by their devotion to an empire, but by their passionate fondness for a certain city or town. Men died for Athens rather than for Greece; for Florence rather than for Italy. All these men found their treasure in their own fields.

But the man who travels widely in search of his pearls also represents a type. If the first man represents a divine content, this man represents an equally divine discontent. He is the father of all adventurers, all discoverers, all inventors, all explorers. Take Livingstone, for example. It is just as well that most men are content to settle down to the task that lies nearest to them, working out their modest destinies without bothering their heads about the distant and the unexplored. But it is also well that each age contains a few adventurous spirits who feel themselves taunted and challenged and dared by the great unknown. They are restless and ill at ease as long as there is a sea uncharted, a mountain unclimbed, a desert uncrossed or a forest untracked. It is the most sublime form that curiosity ever assumes.

From the moment of his landing on African soil, Livingstone was haunted, night and day, by visions and voices that came to him from out of the undiscovered. He tried hard, and he tried repeatedly, to settle down to the life of an ordinary mission station. But it was impossible. The lure of the wilds fascinated him. He built three houses and left each of them as soon as it was built. The stories that the natives told of vast inland seas and of wild, tumultuous waters tantalized him beyond endurance. The instincts of the hydrographer tingled within him. He saw the three great rivers—the Nile, the Congo, and the Zambesi—emptying themselves into three separate oceans; and he convinced himself that the man who could solve the riddle of their sources would open up a new continent to the commerce and civilization of mankind. Like the merchant-man who sought the goodly pearls, he therefore became a nomad, a wanderer, a gipsy. The world has been wonderfully enriched by the lives of men who, like the man who found his treasure in his own field, have made the most of what they already have; but it also owes an incalculable debt to the men who, turning their backs on all that has been acquired, set out in search of fresh realms to conquer.


These two men represent two types of spiritual experience. The man who found his treasure in the field represents the people who enter the Kingdom of God without seeking it: the man who found the pearl of great price represents the people who enter the Kingdom as a result of a long and patient and tireless quest. The man who turned up the gold with his ploughshare had never once thought of treasure; the man who wandered about the world in search of pearls had thought of nothing else.

The first of these men represents the class to which Paul belonged. Whilst, in persecuting mood, he made his way to Damascus, `suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven and he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying' And so on. It came upon him as abruptly as a flash of lightning. It is often so. Men plough their common fields as ploughmen should, and the hidden gold appears! Shepherds are watching sheep as shepherds should; and, suddenly, they hear the angels sing! Scientists are watching stars as scientists should, and all at once they see the star that leads to the Light of the World! Fishermen are fishing as fishermen should, when, all unexpectedly, a Stranger comes down to the shore who bids them leave their nets and fish for men! A Customs officer goes down to his office, and, whilst seated at his desk, hears the resistless challenge of discipleship, the clarion call of destiny! The man who faithfully follows his allotted path may at any moment find other worlds impinging upon this! He may turn a bend of the dusty road and find himself face to face with the glory ineffable! Like crocuses that peep up through the snow, life's golden romances burst through our most frigid commonplaces! In the most unlikely places the hidden hoards lie buried.

The second of these men represents the class to which Bunyan belonged. Both in The Pilgrim's Progress and in Grace Abounding the way of salvation is a long and tortuous one. Mr. Spurgeon used to tell of an old fish-wife who, staggering home with her load of fish, was confronted by a youthful evangelist who saw an opportunity of dropping a word in season. 'Ah!' he exclaimed, `here you are coming along with your burden on your back; let me ask you if you have got another burden, a spiritual burden.' `What!' she asked, `do you mean that burden in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress? Because if you do, young man, I got rid of it many years ago, probably before you were born. But I went a better way to work than the pilgrim did. The evangelist that John Bunyan talks about was one of your parsons that did not preach the Gospel, for he said, "Keep that light in thine eye, and run to the wicket gate." Why, man alive! that was not the place for him to run to. He should have said, "Do you see that Cross? Run there at once!" But instead of that, he sent the poor pilgrim to the wicket gate first, and much good he got by going there. He got tumbling into the dough, and was like to have been killed by it.' `But did not you,' the young man asked, `go through any slough of despond?' `Yes, I did, but I found it a great deal easier going through with my burden off than with it on my back.'

In telling the story, Mr. Spurgeon used to say that `the old woman was quite right. John Bunyan put the getting rid of the burden too far off from the commencement of the pilgrimage. If he meant to show what usually happens, he was right; but if he meant to show what ought to have happened, he was wrong'. That is precisely the point. There are those to whom salvation comes like a flash of lightning and there are those to whom it comes like a gradual dawn. And the two men in this pair of companion parables represent those two classes.


These two men represent two types of conversion.

In the one case there is the joy of a great surprise. I do not know how long it took to make the world. I only know that it can be made all over again in twenty seconds. If you have any doubt about it, ask this man—the hero of the Master's treasure story. You should have seen him just ten seconds before the ploughshare scattered the coins all over the freshly turned furrow; and you should have seen him ten seconds afterwards. Ten seconds before, life was as drab as drab could be. He was pursuing the same old round, following the same old dreary routine. Same old field; same old furrows; same old oxen; same old plough! Up and down, round and round; it was as monotonous as anything could be. And then, just as he was wondering how much longer it must last, there was a jolt and a swirl and a glint and a glitter, and the soft brown sods were all sprinkled with gleaming gold! He stoops and finds that there is more and more and more! So swiftly does the romantic emerge upon the commonplace!

In the other case there is the rapture of ultimate success. The long, long quest is over: the pearl of great price has been found!

In one respect they are both alike. Each sells all that he has—the one to buy the field, and the other to buy the pearl. And each parts joyfully with his old possessions. Augustine tells how, in the days before his conversion, he surveyed all the delights that he would be compelled to surrender if he became a Christian: and then he describes the ecstasy with which, on finding the Saviour, he parted with them all. It is true that, in order to enjoy the Father's home, the prodigal must surrender his husks; it is true that, in order to enjoy the life of a free man, the prisoner must give up his chains. But, amidst the gladness of his home-coming, what prodigal ever sighed for the poor satisfactions of the far country? And, amidst the luxuries of liberty, what prisoner hankers for his cell? The treasure found in the field, and the pearl of great price, compensate a thousand-fold for all that must be sacrificed in order to secure them.

F.W. Boreham, ‘The Lightning and The Dawn,’ Boulevards of Paradise (London: The Epworth Press, 1944), 172-177.

Image: Photo taken by FWB at Wedge Bay, Tasmania. In the moonlight. Approaching the dawn.