Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Boreham on Leaving a Useful Bequest

“Isaac dug again the wells of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them, and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.”
Genesis 26: 18

Isaac is not one of the Homeric figures of Bible history; indeed, there are only two things to be said about him. He was the son of his father; and he was the father of his son! He was the son of his father, and, as his father's son, he performed one of the most charming acts of filial devotion ever recorded. That is very beautiful. Isaac made up his mind that, though Abraham might be buried, Abraham should never die. Isaac was content to be Nobody in order that his father might be Everybody. He made his father's immortality the supreme aim of his own existence. He unstopped the wells that Abraham had dug.

Centuries afterwards Jesus rested on one of these wells, and uttered words of everlasting life to the woman of Samaria. Centuries later still, these self-same wells refreshed the exhausted troops of General Allenby [during the First World War].

Isaac made it possible for his father, Abraham, to lift a cup of cold water to the parched lips of spent wayfarers through countless generations. One of these wells is known as Jacob's well to this very day.

The world can only make real progress so far as each generation hands on to its successor, not only the intricacies and complexities that it has itself invented, but also the simplicities that have refreshed the hearts of people from time immemorial.

It is splendid for our generation to be able to bequeath to posterity the cinema, the radiogram, television, nuclear research. But with these we must hand on our English Bible, our family altar, our peaceful Sunday, or posterity may look upon our sensational bequest as a very doubtful gain. For these are the fountains that never fail.

F W Boreham, The Tide Comes In, pp 54-56.

Image: Jacob’s Well.

Boreham and His Sense of Place

Did F W Boreham feel himself an Englishman (he lived there until he was 24), a Kiwi (after his 10 years in the Shaky Isles) or an Aussie (by far the country where he lived for the greatest period of his life)?

The longevity of Boreham’s work as an editorialist gave an opportunity to track the changes in his theology of place. His earlier statements about belonging and his changing identity reflected his own struggles (and those of many of his readers) as an Englishman becoming at home in Australia.

His newspaper articles and later his autobiography reveal that the Australian soil and wattle tree (national symbol) had gradually won over his love and his children were growing up and marrying Australians.

His editorials on Australia Day and on Anzac themes, when he discussed the unique Australian values and the features that were typically Australian, best represented Boreham’s attempt to sketch a theology of place.

His frequent calls for the development of a unique Australian voice in literature and the arts were a vital element in naming what it meant to be Australian.

Geoff Pound

Image: Wattle flower.

Boreham on the Promise of Divine Guidance

“I will guide you with my eye.” Psalm 32:8

Many have come to adore the priceless boon of the divine guidance. When the time comes to move, He leads the way! If the time has come for striking camp and moving on, He always finds some perfectly simple and perfectly natural means of indicating His will.

He may not always give the Sign of the Fleece as He did to Gideon, or the Sign of the Flowers as He did to Aaron when He made the dry rod blossom; or the Sign of the Food as He did to Peter in his approach to the house of Cornelius; but by some sign, suited to the seeker and his special circumstances, God will find a means of directing those who earnestly desire His guidance. Some pillar of cloud will precede them in the daytime; some pillar of fire will blaze on their horizon in the night. To those who are willing to follow the gleam, there will always come a kindly light to lead.

‘I will guide you!’ He says. He even tells me how. ‘I will guide thee with mine eye!’

I have seen a noble dog sit at his master's feet, intently gazing into his master's eyes, for the faintest intimation of his will. The words obviously mean that I am to live very near to Him—in perfect accord with Him—my eyes riveted upon His.

And to those who enter into that rapt and sacred intimacy—such an intimacy as the disciples tasted in the Upper Room—the path that it is their wisdom and their happiness to tread will always be made unmistakably clear. ‘Arise, let us go hence!’

F W Boreham, Cliffs of Opal, pp 157-58.

Image: “I have seen a noble dog sit at his master's feet, intently gazing into his master's eyes, for the faintest intimation of his will.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Boreham on People who are Pure Gold

I had promised to lecture at an anniversary gathering of a church in one of the poorer suburbs. At the church door I was greeted by a singularly unattractive piece of humanity. He was a tall, gaunt, elderly man, somewhat bent at the boulders, bearded and wrinkled. In spite of the balmy evening, he was muffled up in a great-coat, obviously worn, not or comfort, but to conceal the clothes that it covered. He affected neither a collar nor a tie.

Sitting alone in the vestry, it occurred to me that there must be more about this man than met the eye. I strolled around to the front door. ‘I have never been here before,’ I said, ‘and as I shall be expected presently to refer to the work that you are doing here, I should like to be shown over the premises.’ I could see that I had touched him in a tender spot. I could see that he was very fond and very proud of the place. I soon discovered, too, the cause of his embarrassment when we first met. ‘You must excuse me, sir,’ he said, turning up the collar of his great-coat, ‘but, you see, I have to go on duty at eleven o'clock. I work at night in the tramway tunnels under the streets, seeing that things are ready for the morning. There's no time to go home and change. I was half a mind not to come; but there are only two or three of us to keep the place going; the others are late getting home to their tea, and can't be here as soon as I can. ‘I didn't like to think that you might come and find no one here to meet you.’ I told him that it was very noble of him to come under such conditions. ‘Oh, don't say that, sir! You see, I was led to the Saviour here, over forty years ago. I wouldn't like to tell you what sort of a man I was in those days. But, I tell you, it made all the difference. And when I think of what the church has been to me these forty years, I feel I can't keep away when there's something to be done!'

Half an hour later I was listening to the secretary's report. It contained an appreciative reference to my friend at the door. ‘This church owes,’ the secretary said, ‘a debt it can never repay, to Mr. Walter Price.’ Just as the meeting was closing a piercing scream rang through the building, and a young fellow in an epileptic fit was carried out. ‘It was young Price,’ the chairman explained as soon as the meeting was closed. ‘He is terribly afflicted. It's a great trouble to his father. The poor old man has a heavy cross to carry.’ And I had blamed him for seeming gloomy and taciturn! As I passed to the vestry I saw the poor young fellow. ‘I was talking to your father just now,’ I said ‘and feel very thankful to have met him.’ ‘If you've been talking to my father, sir, you've been talking to the best man living. My father's all gold, sir, that's what he is, all gold!’ Gold! Gold! All gold!

F W Boreham, The Home of the Echoes, pp 32-34.

Image: All gold.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Review of Lover of Life by F W Boreham

It is good to see people enjoying the book, Lover of Life, and finding that it is resulting in some life changes and stimulating some questions.

You can read the review entitled, ‘Keep Reading’ at this link: Spirit of Adoption.

Geoff Pound

F W Boreham: An Appreciation by Leslie Church

In 1937 Epworth Press published a book entitled Day by Day with F W Boreham. It begins with the following appreciation to Boreham, by Leslie Church, a writer and the compiler of the daily Boreham excerpts.

F. W. Boreham: An Appreciation

To read the essays of Frank Boreham is to know him intimately, for he has bravely and generously worn his heart on his sleeve. Like all writers of strong personality he has transfigured common, homely speech, and given us back our simple, familiar words impressed with his own rich experience. In his books you may trace his intellectual, artistic and spiritual development, though he writes without any trace of egotism.

He was born at Tunbridge Wells and spent his childhood there. Before his tiny hands had learnt to write, he gave some hint of what his great work was to be. An old gipsy stopped his nurse and, looking gravely at the little child, said, `Mercy! Go home and tell his mother to put a pen in his hand, and he'll never want for a living'. The prophecy was to be fulfilled, though not by his own deliberate choice.

For some years he went to the Grosvenor United School at Tunbridge Wells, and when he was sixteen he came up to London. A course at the Metropolitan College prepared him for life in a city office. The gipsy woman was surely wrong. He had chosen commerce!

But London is a lonely place. The ‘awful, surging crowd’ near St. Paul's was like a great unfriendly sea tossing a solitary leaf. The sights and sounds of London alternately attracted and repelled him. He was conscious of a dreadful fascination and fear. A great loneliness brought him perilously near a sense of desolation. He was approaching a spiritual crisis, and the hunger in his heart for ‘Someone outside him-self’ was his warning. ‘I can only believe at that critical juncture,’ he says, ‘Christ had laid His mighty hand upon me and made me His own.’

In a little hall at White Square, Clapham, he met Mr. A. L. Leighton of the London City Mission. The purpose of the simple services he attended was, to him, an amazing revelation of life's possibilities. A door was opened; he looked out upon a new world. He saw the crowd no longer as an angry, pitiless sea but rather as a company of weary, anxious folk who needed Christ. Soon he learned to lead them to Him. The ledger and the day-book were no longer the boundaries of his life. It had seemed that he chose commerce; it was now obvious that God had chosen him.

In 1890 he spent his holidays helping in a mission to hop-pickers in Kent. The motley crowd in the hop-fields looked forbidding enough. He saw them as men and women needing a Saviour. At night they crowded into the tent, and raised their raucous voices in song. The hymns they chose showed the need they vaguely felt. The boy, released from the bondage of the office, felt the challenge of this strange crowd. Out of their need his first sermon was born.

He was seventeen years old when he preached for the first time. It was a strange utterance. The text was ‘To-day if you will hear His voice harden not your hearts’. As he recalled it, after many years, Dr. Boreham said, ‘It had no exordium, no exegesis, no divisions, no anything.... It began with the application!’ Yet the man who has become a famous preacher to three continents looks back, wistfully, to that first sermon. It thrilled with passion, and it was the expression of an intense yearning for the little congregation to which it was delivered.

For some time he had been writing spasmodically, and there was a half-suppressed desire to become an author. On the other hand there was a call to preach, and he could not refuse. It seemed as though the old gipsy woman had only been guessing! From an office stool he went to a theological college to train for the ministry.

When his course at Spurgeon's College was ended, he was sent in I894 to Mosgiel, a little Scottish settlement in New Zealand. It was the great formative period in his life. The people were shrewd but kindly. He was their first minister; they were his first charge. They taught him many things, and learnt more surely from him, the ways of God. ‘I spent twelve happy years among those simple but sturdy folks,’ he says, ‘learning at their hands to be a minister of the everlasting Gospel.’

Many writers have said that Mosgiel made Boreham, but it would be equally true to say that Boreham made Mosgiel. He rescued the people of those lonely farms from oblivion, and made them messengers to the whole world. Their strangely varied experiences challenged him almost every day with some new problem. At one moment he was comforting a felon on the gallows—at the next he was conveying the proposal of a bashful lover to his beloved! Into the intimacy of this long apprenticeship he has admitted us in his books—not that we might see what a fine fellow he is, but that we may share, with him, the treasure God gave him in those loving, needy hearts. If Frank Borcham was fortunate in his first pastorate, the people of Mosgiel were thrice-blessed in his coming. He had eyes that saw, cars that heard, and a heart that loved them into newness of life.

When he first arrived they came to meet him—a crowd of ‘stern old grizzled stalwarts’ looking with penetrating eyes at the boy who stepped shyly down to greet them. They were no keener in discernment than he—‘I soon discovered that behind countenances that were like granite cliffs there lay a vast wealth of human tenderness. They pitied my loneliness, for had not each of them crossed the same wide seas in the days of long ago? And deep down in their hearts I think that each man felt I had come to bury him, and the thought brought a new softness into all their breasts.’

After twelve years at Mosgiel he went to Hobart, Tasmania, where he began his second ministry, which was to last ten years. It was while he was at Hobart that he began to write his books. In 1916 he went to his third pastorate at Armadale, Melbourne. He was no longer a local figure; the pulpits of the world were open to him. There was a sanity about his outlook which appealed to the man in the street. There was a sympathy in his approach which won for him an increasing audience everywhere he went. ‘People want helping,’ he said, ‘and you don't help them by scolding them.’

In all his ministry he has been strengthened by the understanding comradeship of his wife. In the early days of his first charge, Miss Stella Cottee, the daughter of John Cottee of Theydon Bois, came out to New Zealand to fulfil her promise to marry him. The gracious lady who became mistress of the little manse, set amongst the quiet farms and homesteads of Mosgiel, has endeared herself to her husband's vast circle of hearers and readers. She has been the guide to the philosopher, and the mother of his five children. All his service has been enriched by her radiant personality. ‘I want to scatter benedictions as thickly as autumn leaves,’ he said to a Sydney audience, and she has helped him towards his heart's desire.

For forty-three years in New Zealand, Tasmania and Australia he has preached the gospel, and almost every English-speaking land has heard his spoken word. Even so, it has been the ministry of his pen which has exerted the largest and most permanent influence. He was astonished to discover, when in Hobart, that he had not finally to abandon the writing of books because he had entered the Christian ministry. Indeed, in the exercise of that ministry—in preparation and intellectual discipline as well as in countless human contacts—he was being prepared for the new task. In twenty-five years he has written over thirty books, and maintained a consistent style and a freshness of outlook which is remarkable.

It is as an essayist that he is so widely known. Many people have described themselves by that term without considering its proper definition—‘An essay’, according to A. C. Benson, ‘is a thing which someone does himself; and the point of the essay is not the subject ... but the charm of personality.’ Whether one accepts Mr. Benson's view or not, it is certain that in Dr. Boreham's writing one is conscious of that charm. His reveries are personal—‘Says I to myself, says I’. At the same time one is conscious that this ‘thinking aloud’ is not accidental or aimless. He shares his experiences and emotions with his readers, and they are thrilled because their own experience has ready points of contact.

He is a spectator of life but he is never an unconcerned spectator. For Boreham, life is more than a pageant; it is a school and sometimes a battlefield.

He sees into the soul of things. For him there is always the element of romance in homespun.

The simple dignity of friendliness is in every approach. He is never pompous or overbearing.

His criticism is honest but kindly. The new humour with its biting cynicism does not appeal to him. There is often a smile upon his face as he watches life go by, but there is nothing ill-natured or arrogant in his description. He is never ‘the Superior Person’.

His work tells you that he is in love with life. It is all worth while and he is determined to help you to see it is lovable. That is why he finds many a diamond, glinting in the sun, as he walks a long, monotonous road. Such men are never bored, nor do they bore their readers.

He is a pilgrim, not a tramp—a homely philosopher with a passion for souls. In his search for truth he has ransacked the world of books, yet, as someone has wisely said, he remains a man of one Book. In so far as he is an anthologist he is original and purposeful. That is why he so often reveals in his use of quotation deeper truths than the writers themselves realized. All books arc commentaries on the central message of the Book.

If you meet him you will see a pair of kindly eyes—the eyes of an interpreter and critic—but you will find, in a moment, that he has been looking for the best in you, not the worst. That is why he discovers a great secret—that man may be taught to love beauty and truth and goodness, by being brought to look upon them. In this method Dr. Boreham is not to be classed with many modern essayists, who appear to take a morbid delight in cavalcades of ugliness. There are those who will argue that such parades are justifiable, yet more men are stirred to a crusade against ugliness, falsehood and evil by seeing the reality of their opposites. That was certainly the way of the Master, who showed men what they might be at their best, and left them suddenly conscious of the tremendous contrast.

The essayist who is content with reverie as an end in itself may reveal nothing more than himself, when the last page is written. In all Dr. Boreham's books there is one increasing purpose, so that at the end we are standing by his side before the Risen Lord.

During his ministry at Mosgiel he formed a lasting friendship with his neighbour, John Broadbanks, the minister of Silverstream. In his last book, he described the passing of John and reminds us of David Copperfield's wistful recollection of Agnes: ‘So may thy face be by me when I close my life indeed: so may I, when realities are melting from me like the shadows which I now dismiss, still find thee near me, pointing upward!’

That is how one feels as one reads the last page. It is a great achievement to have written thirty books which have all pointed upward. This kindly philosopher has trudged many a mile with countless readers, but he has helped every one to be a better pilgrim, and with him they have learned to climb.

Source: Leslie F Church, Day by Day with F W Boreham (London: The Epworth Press, 1937) 9-17.

Image: Modern day Mosgiel.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Frank Boreham’s Prescription for Stress

Immensity is magnificent medicine ... We lose life's shallow worries in the vision of unplumbed depths.

In Florence Barclay's Rosary the heroine, in the crisis of her life, determined to consult her physician: and, after having realized the fearful strain to which her nerves had been subjected, he exclaimed: ‘Here is a prescription for you! See a few big things!’ He urged her to go out west, and see the stupendous Falls of Niagara, to go out east and see the Great Pyramid. ‘Go for the big things,’ he said; ‘you will like to remember, when you are bothering about pouring water in and out of tea-cups. "Niagara is flowing still!"'

John Bunyan says, ‘Upon a day the good providence of God called me to Bedford, to work at my calling, and in one of the streets of that town I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door, in the sun, talking about the things of God. I heard, but understood not, for they were far above, out of my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts; they talked how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, and comforted, and supported' ... ‘The things of God—far above—out of my reach.’

The soul of the poor tinker was tired of the microscopic and hungry for the majestic. He craved ‘a tonic of big things,’ and the talk of the four poor women sitting in the sun was like a banquet to his famished spirit.

There are times when we get so tired of the plain; we love to get among the mountains. The soul makes its own pilgrimage among great, rugged, snow-clad ranges. She loves the peaks that pierce the sky; she enjoys ‘the tonic of big things’.

Frank Boreham, The Luggage of Life, pp 178-81.

Image: ‘See the stupendous Falls of Niagara.’

F W Boreham: 'Please Shut the Gate!'

This excerpt was written by F W Boreham and it comes from his book, The Silver Shadow.

“Forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”- Philippians 3: 13-14

It was at Criccieth; and Mr. Lloyd George was playing golf. It happened that, after a round, he and a friend had to cross some fields in which cattle were grazing. ‘I was so eager to catch every word that fell from his lips,’ explains his companion, ‘that I failed to close one of the gates through which we passed.’ But Lloyd George noticed it, paused, went back and carefully shut and latched the gate. They resumed their walk.

‘Do you remember old Dr. ____________ ?’ he asked, mentioning a local worthy not long deceased. ‘When he was on his deathbed a clergyman went to him and asked him if there was anything he would like to say or any message he wanted to deliver. "No," answered the doctor, "except that through life I think I have always closed the gates behind me!"'

There is, I fancy, a good deal in that. I had in my congregation at Mosgiel a little old man of singular serenity of countenance and sweetness of disposition. Nothing seemed to ruffle his faith or disturb the perfect tranquility of his spirit. One evening, in the early Autumn, he came down to the manse to bring me a basket of freshly gathered fruit. We sat for a while chatting. It was an hour for confidence, and he opened his heart to me. I asked him how he accounted for the calm which seemed a perpetual rebuke to our fretfulness and worry. He would not at first admit that he possessed any features that distinguished him from the rest of us. But I pressed my point, and at length he said, ‘Well. I'll tell you this. I've always made it a rule that when I've shut the door, I've shut the door!'

Source: F W Boreham, The Silver Shadow, pp 109-10.

Image: Bamboo Gate

Monday, May 14, 2007

F W Boreham on Nationhood

F W Boreham wrote a theology of nationhood which was an extension of his concern for the public arena. In reaching beyond the personal and individualistic Boreham issued calls for the stewardship of resources, the care of the environment and the fostering of a national spirit.

His editorials on the monarchy and the British Empire were intended to help Boreham’s readers to acknowledge their heritage and sense an international connectedness. Unfortunately, these statements were often laden with blind patriotism and imperialistic fervor and were devoid of any significant critique.

Geoff Pound

Image: Many nationalities.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Boreham on Being Explicitly Christian

The editorials where F W Boreham most clearly dealt with Christian character and ethics were found in his statements about human uniqueness, his celebration of ‘nonentities’ and his concern for the disadvantaged.

Boreham’s editorials on subjects of education, justice and inclusivity featured educationalists and workers for freedom and human rights. These editorials illustrated the way that his theology of human living had public dimensions that went beyond the level of individual citizenship.

Geoff Pound

Image: “His concern for the disadvantaged.”