Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Boreham on the Need to Beware of First Appearances

Somebody has said that God must be very fond of commonplace folk—God makes so many of them. Life is full of dingy-looking places and shabby-looking people. But we shall do well to think the thing all over again before, on that ground, we exclude them from our affections and our confidence. As the years come and go we learn that the best and most satisfying springs are those from which, on their discovery, we expected least. Our most treasured friends are not always those with whom we fell in love at first sight.

In his wonderful Life of the Bee Maeterlinck tells us at least one thing to which we may do well to take heed. At one time, he says, it was almost impossible to introduce into a hive an alien queen. The myriad toilers would at once assume that she was an enemy, and set about her destruction. But now the apiarist introduces the new queen in an iron cage, with a door skillfully constructed of wax and honey. The bees immediately commence to gnaw their way through the door to murder the intruder; but, in the tedious process, they are compelled carefully to observe the royal prisoner. And, by the time that the waxen palisade is demolished, they have learned to love her; and they finish up by doing her homage and becoming her devoted slaves.

So true is it that the forbidding may eventually become the fascinating; the repulsive may end in the romantic; the prose may kindle into poetry; the sombre shadows may dissolve into radiant reality; the dingy lodgings may open to us dazzling horizons; life's mocking mirages often pass into most satisfying streams.

If it comes to attractive exteriors and enticing advertisements, theology cannot hold a candle to theatricals, nor prayer-meetings to picture-shows. But they have most radiant outlooks for all that.

And have we not somewhere read of One who is spoken of by those who are happy enough to know Him as the fairest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely? Yet, when first they saw Him, He was to them as a root out of a dry ground, having no beauty that they should desire Him!

F W Boreham, ‘Seaside Lodgings’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 126-127.

Image: “But now the apiarist introduces the new queen…”

Friday, September 21, 2007

Boreham on Comforting the Crushed

F W Boreham, in an essay on the insipid comments made by modern day ‘Job’s comforters’, shares a memorable experience from his childhood:

“We have no right to play with crushed spirits and breaking hearts. 'A person in distress,’ says John Foster, ‘has peculiarly a right not to be trifled with by the application of unadapted expedients; since insufficient consolations but mock him, and deceptive consolations betray him.’”

“I remember very vividly a circumstance of my childhood. It was my first introduction to the problem of human loss, and it profoundly affected me. I chanced to be standing, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, by the gates of the local infirmary. It was visiting day. As I watched the relatives arriving I was struck with the appearance of a big, brawny man from the country. He made no secret of his excitement. He had evidently counted the hours, and had spruced himself up like a village bridegroom for the occasion. He approached the porter: ‘I've come to see my wife, Martha Jennings,’ he said. The porter consulted a book, and then, with what seemed to me brutal abruptness, replied: ‘Martha Jennings is dead!’”

“I saw the bronzed face blanch; I saw the strong man stagger. I watched him as he clung to the iron palings for support, and bowed himself in a passion of weeping.”

“And then, as I stood there, good-natured people, pitying, essayed to comfort him. They rang the changes on the commonplaces. ‘Other friends remain !’ ‘Loss is common to the race!’ But it was of no use: ‘All vacant chaff well meant for grain.’” ….

“I have never entered the chamber of death in all the years of my ministry without recalling the tragedy I witnessed that Sunday afternoon.”

F W Boreham, ‘Ipecacuanha’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 114-115.

Image: “and bowed himself in a passion of weeping.”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Boreham on The Difference that Passion Plays

In an essay about falling in love and the impact that love has on a person or an artist, F W Boreham has this to say:

I was shown a most interesting letter [written by] an accomplished pianist concerning music and musicians…..The writer speaks of her acquaintance with a certain eminent pianist whose recitals crowd the most spacious auditoriums in Europe with ecstatic admirers. But, our correspondent goes on to say, there is just one thing lacking. This brilliant pianist is a lonely, taciturn man, and a certain coldness and aloofness steal into his play.

And then the writer of our letter mentions the name of a woman pianist. That name is a household word in musical circles the wide world over; and the writer says that, to her personal knowledge, this illustrious lady one day laid her hand on the shoulder of the brilliant young performer, and said: “Will you let me tell you, my boy, that your playing lacks one thing. So far you have missed the greatest thing in the world. And, unless you fall in love, there will always be a certain cold perfection about your music. Unless you come to love another human being passionately and unselfishly, you will never touch human hearts as deeply as you might.”

Now I have confessed that when I read the letter in the presence of the person to whom it was addressed, I felt myself a pilgrim in a foreign clime, as much abroad as an Esquimaux in Italy….I asked my friend, “Did not imagination count for something?”

“Well,” replied he, “the singular thing is that the writer of the letter was a pupil of the illustrious woman pianist to whom she refers. One day, at the conclusion of a lesson, the pupil looked up into the face of her teacher and told her that she had a secret to reveal. “I know you have,” replied the instructor, “although it is no secret.” The girl told of her engagement. “Yes,” answered the teacher, “but it is not quite new; it is some time ago!” “That is so, but however did you know?” “I noticed the difference in your playing at once, and I have observed the change ever since. I was wondering when you were going to tell me!”

Boreham concludes, “It is worth thinking about, partly because the same sort of thing is to be met with in other realms than in that of music.”

F W Boreham, ‘On Falling in Love’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 105-107.

Image: “I noticed the difference in your playing at once…”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Boreham on the Intermediate Stage

In a sermon entitled, ‘The Tireless Trudge’, F W Boreham writes about the most difficult phase of any endeavor:

It is the intermediate stage that tests the mettle of the man. It is the long, fatiguing trudge out of sight of both starting-point and destination that puts the heaviest strain on heart and brain….

Two cases come to mind. I know a man whose whole delight was in his boy—a little fellow of six or so. Then, suddenly, like lamps blown out by a sudden gust, the lad's eyes failed him, and he was blind. The father was the recipient of scores of touchingly sympathetic letters. All sorts of people called. Kindly references were made in press and pulpit. The man had no idea until that moment that he had so many friends. All the world seemed to be paying homage to his sorrow. That was the beginning.

After many years the boy had been taught to interpret the world again by means of his remaining senses. There was nothing he could not do. He earned his own living, and his sightlessness seemed no real hindrance to him. That was the end.

But the father told me that the strain of it all came between these two. There came a time when the postman brought no cheering letters. Friends uttered no heartening words. The world had transferred his boy's blindness into the realm of the normal and the commonplace. Nobody noticed. But in the home the little fellow staggered about, and his parents' hearts ached for him. What was to become of him? It was during those intervening years lying between the first crushing blow and the final relief that the real strain came. That was by far the worst stretch of the road.

I knew a woman. Without a moment's warning she was plunged into widowhood, and left to battle for her five little children and herself. There was an extraordinary outburst of affectionate sympathy on the part of all who knew her. Then came the funeral. After that the world went on its way again as though nothing had happened. That was the beginning. After the years, the battle had been well fought and well won. The children had been clothed, educated, and placed in positions of usefulness and honour. That was the end.

But my widowed friend told me that she did not forget when the world forgot. Every morning her grief woke up with her. And every night it followed her to her rest. Every day, as she struggled for her little ones, the haunting question tortured her: What would become of them if sickness or death seized upon her? That was the killing time. That intermediate stretch was the worst part of the desolate way.

As it is with individuals, so it is with great causes. A crusade is launched amidst vituperation, derision, and execration. And there is enough fight in most of us to lend a certain enjoyment to the very bitterness of antagonism. And at last the self-same movement is crowned with triumph. But the real inwardness of the struggle lies midway.

William Wilberforce used to say that he was less dismayed by the storm that broke upon him when first he pleaded the cause of the slave than by the 'long lull' that followed when the country accepted his principles, but did nothing to hasten their realization.

F W Boreham, ‘The Tireless Trudge’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 73-75.

Image: "But the real inwardness of the struggle lies midway."