Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, April 21, 2007

F W Boreham: Theology Connecting with Human Need

F W Boreham wrote newspaper editorials in which he called for compassion and just laws for those disadvantaged by age, gender, disability and race. These articles reflected Boreham’s conviction that theology must connect with acts of freedom and justice. He said that a theology that was disconnected from human need was dead and, writing about the less fortunate in life, he contended, “The religion that has nothing to say to the hindmost is no religion for a world like this.”[1]

Not only did Boreham write articles that discussed the link between different activities of life and religion, but he also suggested connections between one part of life and another. His call to break out from one’s specialty and develop an all-roundedness stemmed from his belief about ‘life’s oneness.’ For instance, he drove this point home in a 1954 editorial when he declared:

"And life is one .… Each realm impinges upon the others, and everything in each stands related to everything in the universe. The philosopher must have eyes and ears for all things everywhere. He must study the ways of grubs but he must study also the ways of God. Eternity is not too vast nor microscopic atoms too small for his attention. Physical life is not too sordid for his research nor spiritual life too sublime. And if some things can only be perceived through a veil, indistinctly, that veil, like the tantalizing gossamer, must serve to pique the philosopher’s curiosity and lure him to his ultimate triumphs."[2]

In a world that is overly-compartmentalized and disconnected, Boreham called for his readers to recognize the integration that exists in life by valuing both the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘physical’, ‘grubs’ as well as ‘God,’ the ‘vast’ and the ‘small’, that which is perceived to be ‘sordid’ as well as that which is ‘sublime’.

Geoff Pound

Image: “He must study the ways of grubs but he must study also the ways of God.”

[1] F W Boreham, Mercury, 17 January 1948.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 9 January 1954.

F W Boreham on Communication that Connects

As F W Boreham matured and developed in his writing and preaching, his ability to forge connections between faith and all expressions of life became increasingly evident.

Dr Boreham was convinced that people needed a theology by which they might understand and cope with life. Preferring the word ‘philosophy’ over the term ‘theology’, he told his readers, “No man is fully equipped for the struggles of life unless he possesses a philosophy with which to face it.”[1]

Symbolic of his understanding that theology must connect with all areas of life, Boreham wrote editorials on such everyday topics as the philosophy of loss,[2] friendship,[3] change,[4] time,[5] play[6] and art.[7]

To drive home his contention that there must be no crack or cranny of life in which theology was irrelevant Boreham wrote on unusual subjects such as the philosophy of posture,[8] cosmetics,[9] cold steel,[10] ridicule[11] and window-dressing.[12]

Indicative of Boreham’s belief that theology must relate to all avenues of life he wrote articles on the ethics of criticism,[13] failure,[14] appetite,[15] feminine charm,[16] cutlery[17] and photography.[18] However, Boreham did not appear to have any master plan that mapped out the subjects that he would tackle and the topics with which he would seek to make theological connections.

F W Boreham’s everyday, pedestrian subjects conveyed his strong belief that useful theology is not remotely abstract but practical and down-to-earth, not exclusively spiritual but immersed in the humdrum, not reserved for privileged people or special occasions but accessible to everybody and at all times.

Geoff Pound

Image: Have you ever spoken about the deeper truths about cutlery?

[1] F W Boreham, Mercury, 7 July 1956.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 28 August 1943; Age, 8 September 1945.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 10 August 1957.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 1 March 1941.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 1 March 1941.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 7 December 1946.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 13 February 1926.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 8 June 1940.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 10 March 1956.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 29 April 1939; Age, 29 November 1947.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 27 June 1953.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 7 November 1923.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 4 August 1956.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 26 May 1934; Age, 13 April 1946.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 17 March 1956.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 24 November 1931.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 3 October 1953.
[18] Boreham, Mercury, 16 September 1950.

Friday, April 20, 2007

F W Boreham Shares His Greatest Secret

What was the secret to F W Boreham’s effectiveness as a communicator in print and in pulpit?

Writing and Speaking that Connects
The notion of ‘connection’ was at the heart of what Boreham was seeking to accomplish through his editorials, essays and sermons and this idea had childhood origins. He revealed that it was when his parents resolved their domestic dispute by drawing on their common faith that he learned about life’s interrelatedness.

What’s the Point of the Church?
He admitted that earlier he had appreciated the church. “Yet one thing puzzled me; I could see no utility in it at all. I used to wonder what end was served by it. It seemed so hopelessly remote from real life and from the pleasures and pursuits of the week”. After witnessing his parents’ pain and the way they eventually made reconciliation, Boreham exclaimed:

"It was here that I made my discovery. Here was the long-lost secret! Here was the connexion between religion on the one hand and real life on the other. I saw for the first time that there was a strong and subtle link between the services of the old grey church and the daily struggle in which my father and mother were so valiantly engaged. The discovery of that day took to itself all the elements of a great sensation. My eyes were opened; the whole world seemed changed. And among the big things of my little life the revelation of that memorable day stands out in bold and heroic relief."

This ‘big … revelation’ about ‘the connexion between religion … and real life’ provides a key to understanding Boreham’s theological approach in his editorial writings. In telling the stories of heroes, some triumph from history or a wonder from nature’s showcase, Boreham was seeking to facilitate in his reader a discovery of the way that the story from life connected with God.

Geoff Pound

Image: “there was a strong and subtle link between the services of the old grey church and the daily struggle.” This is the old grey [?] church—St. John’s Tunbridge Wells or did he have in mind the Immanuel Church that the Boreham family joined, that no longer exists?

[1] F W Boreham, My pilgrimage, 47-50.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The F W Boreham Approach: Urging Connections

In seeking to characterize F W Boreham’s style of writing and interweaving thoughts about God, the Boreham approach could be described as a theology urging connections.

The Cistercian writer Thomas Merton suggested the possibilities of the pen making divine-human connections when he said, “To write is to think and to live, even to pray.”[1]

On a similar tack, the Czech novelist Franz Kafka identified “writing as a form of prayer,”[2] a phrase interpreted by Melbourne journalist Deborah Forster to mean, “Writing … is a letter to infinity, a way of connecting to the world.”[3]

When Frank Boreham said, “I share it with all the world and all the ages,” he was not only expressing his jubilation at the opportunities of sharing his discoveries with his readers but hinting at the various connections that can be made through the act of writing.[4]

Geoff Pound

Image: “the various connections that can be made through the act of writing.”

[1] Thomas Merton, The intimate Merton: His life from his journals, eds. Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo (New York: Lion Publishing, 1999), 9.
[2] Frederick R Karl, Franz Kafka, representative man (New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1991), 644.
[3] Deborah Forster, ‘Hearing the prayer’, Age, 29 September 2001.
[4] F W Boreham, The golden milestone, 37.

F W Boreham and the Angel and the Iron Gate

Mary Whitbeck (see ‘F W Boreham: An Appreciation’), wrote to me this week and dropped a comment about how much she enjoyed Frank Boreham’s essay, ‘The Angel and the Iron Gate’.

I looked this essay up again and read it for my enrichment. I thought I would post it here for others to read this encouraging post-Easter reflection. Thanks for the commendation Mary:

F W Boreham.

IT is of no use arguing against an iron gate. There it stands-chained and padlocked, barred and bolted—right across your path, and you can neither coax nor cow it into yielding. So was it with Peter on the night of his miraculous escape from prison. 'Herod,' we are told, 'killed James with the sword, and, because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take Peter also.’ There he lay, ‘sleeping between two soldiers, bound with chains, whilst the keepers before the door kept the prison.' He expected that his next visitor would be the headsman; and whilst he waited for the executioner, there came an angel! This sort of thing happens fairly often. They are sitting round the fire, and the lady in the arm-chair is talking of her sailor-son.
`Ah!' she says, 'I haven't heard of him for over a year now, and I begin to think that I shall never hear again.'
There is a sharp ring at the bell. She starts.
`Something tells me,' she continues, ' that this is a message to say that the ship is lost, and that I shall never see my boy again.'
Even whilst she speaks the door is opened, and her last syllable is scarcely uttered before she is folded in the sailor's arms.

The principle holds true to the very end. It is a sick-room, and the pale wan face of the patient looks very weary.
`Oh, how I dread death!' she says; `I cannot bear to think that I must die.'
An hour later the door of the unseen opens to her, and there stands on the threshold, not Death, but Life Everlasting!
Peter very, very often waits for the executioner, and welcomes an angel.


During the next few moments Peter scarcely knew whether he was in the body or out of the body. Was he alive or was he dead? Was he waking or was he dreaming? `He wist not that it was true which was done by the angel, but thought he saw a vision.' He walked like a man with his head in the clouds. Doors were opening; chains were falling; he seemed to be living in a land of enchantment, a world of magic. But the iron gate put an end to all illusion. `They came to the iron gate,' and, as I said a moment ago, an iron gate is a very difficult thing to argue with. The iron gate represents the return to reality. After our most radiant spiritual experiences we come abruptly to the humdrum and the commonplace. It was Mary's Sunday evening out. Mary, you must know, is a housemaid in a big boarding establishment, and her life is by no means an easy one. But Mary is also a member of the Church. On Sunday she was in her favourite seat. Perhaps it was that she was specially hungry for some uplifting word, or perhaps it was that the message was peculiarly suitable to her condition; but, be that as it may, the service that night seemed to carry poor Mary to the very gate of heaven. The Communion Service that followed completed her ecstasy, and Mary seemed scarcely to touch the pavement with her feet as she hurried home. She fell asleep crooning to herself the hymn with which the service closed

O Love, that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

She knew nothing more until, in the chilly dark of the morning, the alarm clock screamed at her to jump up, clean the cold front steps, dust the great silent rooms, and light the copper-fire. `And she came to the iron gate.' There come points in life at which poetry merges into the severest prose; romance yields to reality; the miracle of the open prison is succeeded by the menace of the iron gate.


As long as Peter had an iron gate before him, he had an angel beside him. It was not until the iron gate had been safely negotiated that 'forthwith the angel departed from him.' Mary made a mistake when she fancied that she had left all the glory behind her. The angel is with us more often than we think. A devout Jew, in bidding you farewell, will always use a plural pronoun. And if you ask for whom, besides yourself, his blessing is intended, he will reply that it is for you and for the angel over your shoulder. We are too fond of fancying that the angel is only with us when the chains are miraculously falling from off our feet, and when the doors are miraculously opening before our faces. We are too slow to believe that the angel is still by our side when we emerge into the night and come to the iron gate. It is a very ancient heathen superstition. `There came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus with the Lord, because the Syrians have said, "The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys," therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.' We are always assuming that He is the God of the mountaintops, and that He leaves us to thread the darksome valleys alone; and our assumption is a cruel and unjust one. As long as Peter had an iron gate before him, he had an angel beside him.


The converse, however, is equally true. As long as Peter had an angel beside him, he had an iron gate ahead of him. Angels do not walk by our sides for fun. 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?' If there is an angel by my side, depend upon it, there is work that only an angel can do in front of me. Mary’s radiant experience that Sunday evening was directly and intimately related with the brazen yell of the alarm clock on Monday morning. It was not intended as a mere temporary elevation of the spirit, but as an assurance of a gracious presence—a presence that should never be withdrawn as long as a need existed. It is part of the infinite pathos of life that we misinterpret our visions. Jacob beheld his staircase leading from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. And straightway, as he prepared to leave, he began to say good-bye to the angels! 'Surely,' he exclaimed, 'the Lord is in this place! How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! And he called the name of that place Bethel!' And thus he missed the whole meaning of the beatific vision. The vision was to warn him of the perils that awaited him, and to assure him that 'behold, I am with thee in all places whither thou goest.'
`All places!' said the Vision.
"This place! this place! THIS PLACE!' said Jacob.
And so he journeyed on towards his iron gate, pitifully ignorant of the meaning of the golden dream. Life's ecstasies are warnings, premonitions, danger-signals. Even in the experience of the Holiest, the open heavens and the voice from the excellent glory immediately preceded the grim struggle with the tempter in the wilderness. Paul had his vision; he saw the Man of Macedonia; and he followed the gleam—to bonds, stripes, and imprisonment. Bunyan knew what he was doing when he placed the Palace Beautiful, with all its sweet hospitalities and delightful ministries, immediately before that dark Valley of Humiliation in which Christian struggled with Apollyon. When we hear angels' voices speaking, when we find our fetters falling, when we see our jail doors opening, be very sure that outside, outside, there is a dark night and an iron gate!


But there is always this about it. Although the radiant vision is a premonition of the coming struggle, it is also an augury concerning that struggle. Opening doors are an earnest of opening gates. It is inconceivable that I shall be miraculously delivered from my dungeon, with its guards and its chains, and then be baulked by an iron gate out there in the blackness of the night. It is inconceivable that here, at the Communion Service, God should draw so near to the spirit of this young housemaid, and then leave her to face alone the drudgery of Monday morning. If Mary is half as wise as I take her to be, she will answer the scream of the clock with a song. She went to bed singing; why not get up singing? She crooned to herself on retiring the hymn that had followed her from the Communion Table. Let her sing in the morning quite another tune:

His love, in time past, forbids me to think
He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through.

The voice of the angel, the falling of fetters, and the opening of doors are all designed to brace us for the dark night and the iron gate.


`The iron gate opened to them.' Of course it did. Who could suppose that the prison doors had been opened by angel's hands, only that the prisoner might be caught like a rat in a trap outside? `The iron gate opened to them of its own accord.' It did look like it. During my twelve years at Mosgiel, I often went through the great woollen factory. The machines were marvelous—simply marvellous. As you watched the needles slip in and out, or stood beside the loom and saw the pattern grow, it really looked as though the things were bewitched. They seemed to be doing it all 'of their own accord.' But one day the manager said, 'Would you care to see the power-house?' And he took me away from the busy looms to another building altogether, and there I saw the huge engines that drove everything. Neither looms nor needles really work 'of their own accord.' Nor do iron gates. A few minutes after the gates had opened, and the angel had vanished, Peter `came to the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, where many were gathered together praying.' And then Peter understood by what power the iron gates had opened, just as I understood, when I saw the engine-room, how the great looms worked.

The prayer-meeting may not be artistic. For the matter of that I saw very little in the power room of the factory that appealed to the sense of the aesthetic within me; but when angels visit prisons, and iron gates swing open of their own accord, there must be a driving-force at work somewhere. And Peter only discovered it when he suddenly broke in upon a midnight prayer-meeting.

F W Boreham, ‘The Angel and the Iron Gate’ Faces in the Fire (London: Charles H Kelly, 1916), 89-97.

Image: An Iron Gate. You will have to imagine the angel!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Boreham Book Distributors

Check out the notice on the New Books by F W Boreham site to read the current list of distributors.

Geoff Pound

Image: Lover of Life covers.

Monday, April 16, 2007

F W Boreham: An Appreciation

In response to the posting on my favorite Boreham lines, Mary Whitbeck wrote to me and said:

“I read the FWB Blog regularly & appreciate so much all you post on the subject and the pictures too.”

“Perhaps my introduction to Boreham books goes back to before your birth—judging by your pictures you have posted—how about late 1942 when I listened to my Canadian Grandma read "a chapter of Boreham" at her dining room table to the family? My collection started by their kindness to me—now up to 40 plus Mr. Crago's books. My friend Dr. Warren Wiersbe was a real help in reaching that.”

“Thank you so much for the BLOG and all you are doing to make the books/material available. I could say a lot about favorite chapters--concepts. Here's a chapter I think just super—‘The Angel and the Iron Gate’, in Faces in the Fire.”

Another FWB lover,

Mary Whitbeck

You might like to read more of Mary’s fascinating story in:
A Rainbow Every Day Part One
A Rainbow Every Day Part Two

I wonder if any readers of this Boreham blog site go back earlier than Mary in terms of their acquaintance with F W Boreham and his books? If so, I’d love to hear your reflections or even if your acquaintance is not so long.

Geoff Pound

Image: Boreham Books

Geoff Pound and the Finale of the Boreham Interview

This posting concludes the interview I had recently with an American journalist:

What do you do for a living?
My wife is supporting me while I kick start a new career as a freelance writer, teacher, conference speaker and a consultant. For some things I get paid but more often than not I try to work as a volunteer in countries where the resources are not great.

Lyn and I decided that when our children were off our hands that we would like to lend our support to people who are not well off financially. In this last year I have worked in India, Indonesia and I have recently returned from time in a Karen refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border. I find these opportunities to be very rewarding and I learn much from my experiences with people who are poor and oppressed.

On the side I write a few blogs including:
Experiencing the Emirates
Stories for Speakers and Writers and
Reviewing Books and Movies

Where are you located and what is your job title?
My wife teaches English to Emirati men at a tertiary College so we are living in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.

Lyn’s employer calls people like me a ‘trailing spouse’! I love this tag and the imagery and this term might provide the title for one of my forthcoming books—‘Tales of a Trailing Spouse’.

I generally refer to myself as a freelance writer and a consultant. To refer to myself as a ‘volunteer’ is something many in this neck of the woods cannot get their minds around. To work for nothing and not have an office that I go to, a business card, an important title or a salary are things that bamboozle most people but I am feeling stretched and I love the work that I do.

Geoff Pound

Image: Picture of Lyn (my wife), our granddaughter (Lily) and myself.

Geoff Pound Speaks about Publishing Boreham Books

This is a further posting of recent interview questions and my answers:

How and when did you get involved in this publishing process?
Many of F W Boreham’s books have gone out of print. I became a focus for some Boreham activities and I often received requests for Boreham books. Those books that were available often were selling for exorbitant prices. Two of his books regularly sell on eBay for $500 each. I know of two complete collections that were sold in the USA for $20,000. I was concerned that Boreham books had become collector’s items by people who probably did not even read them but whose trading pushed the prices way beyond the reach of the ordinary person.

How did you meet up with Michael Dalton?
Michael Dalton
wrote to me about his passion for the books by F W Boreham. Over the years we have written to each other many times and he sells Boreham books along with many other titles.

In the last two years we began discussing how our dream for Boreham books to be accessible to readers at realistic prices might become a reality and this hope led to the establishment of the John Broadbanks Publishing Company (named after a fictional character in Boreham’s books).

You guys have never met in person, and Michael said there are some funny stories about how people can't believe you haven't met.
We have been separated by hundreds of miles but our enthusiasm for Boreham books and our publishing project has welded us together as a fantastic unit.

Can you tell me about some of those times?
Nothing specific but people marvel at all we have achieved when we have never seen each other nor spoken on the phone. This says something about our commitment to this shared vision and the wonders of email communication.

What is your role in the publishing process?
My role has mainly been in selecting material and writing forewords and introductions. Michael is a good writer but he excels at the publishing end of the process and negotiating with printers and artists. We have complementary gifts and we make decisions together. It has been great that as the publishing project has become known, especially through regular postings on The Official F W Boreham Blogsite, other people have offered to do proof reading, cover designs, oversee the distribution of books in America and Australia/New Zealand and give finance to fund the publishing costs.

What are some of the struggles or triumphs you have had during the process?
For Michael and me this project is a sideline to our other work. We would love to be full time on the writing and publishing projects.

What do you hope to accomplish by publishing these books?
We simply want to get as many of the F W Boreham books back in print. The new book Lover of Life is the first one. We are not only republishing out of print books but repackaging some of the Boreham material. Next to come off the printing press is a new book that contains The Best Stories of F W Boreham. Following that is a book on The Best Essays and Sermons of F W Boreham.

Long-term goals - mass publishing and distribution to bookstores?
The republishing and repackaging of Boreham books will be an important step along the way but interest in the life and writing of F W Boreham is building, especially in Australia where he lived for so long and in the USA.

I get enquiries about Boreham books and Boreham matters every week from people all over the world. I am discovering that some readers of the Boreham Blog site are from China and I am waiting for someone from the Chinese speaking world to put their hands up and work with us on translating and publishing Boreham books into Mandarin or Cantonese.

Geoff Pound

Image: Geoff Pound in Florence, Italy

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Geoff Pound and His Favorite Boreham Quotes

In a recent interview with a journalist I was asked this question:

What are some of your favorite Boreham lines or messages?
He was eternally curious and interested about anything and everything which are important qualities for writers and speakers.

F W Boreham throughout his life called for people to take “adventures of the mind” in order to “keep the mind fresh and vigorous and healthy” and said, “Like a dog on a country road, the mind must poke into as many holes as it can.”

As a preacher and writer he was very conscious about style. In this regard he encouraged people not to mimic other people but to be yourself. Be the communicator you are intended to be. He once wrote:

“Let no preacher preach in a certain way simply because he fancies that it is in that particular way that preachers are expected to preach.... Let each painter, each preacher, each person whose duty it is to write a newspaper article or pray, realize that his view of God and of Man and of the Universe is essentially an individualistic view. He sees as nobody else sees. He must therefore paint or preach or pray or write as nobody else does. He must be himself: must see with his own eyes and utter that vision in the terms of his own personality. He must, as Rudyard Kipling would have said, paint the thing as he sees it for the God of things as they are. And, expressing his naked and transparent soul by means of his palette, his pulpit or his pen, he will find sooner or later—sooner rather than later—that truth, like wisdom, is justified of all her children.”

F W Boreham’s fifty-five books were mostly published by Epworth Press and the manager of this publishing company, in commenting on the thousands of Boreham books that they printed said that Boreham was ‘their best catch since John Wesley’.

At a large international conference of ministers in Edinburgh in 1936 F W Boreham was the keynote speaker. He was introduced in these words: “His name is on all our lips, his books are on all our shelves and his illustrations are in all our sermons.”

Geoff Pound

Image: “Like a dog on a country road, the mind must poke into as many holes as it can.”