Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boreham on ‘Such a Lovely Bite!’

I was out on the river in an open boat, fishing. It was a glorious sunny afternoon when we pushed off; the great hills around were at their greenest; and the only reminder vouchsafed to us that tomorrow is midwinter's day was the glitter of snow away on the top of the mountain. The water around us, reflecting the cloudless sky above, was a sea of sapphire, out of which our oars seemed to beat up pearls and silver.

Arrived at our favourite fishing grounds, we lay quietly at anchor, and for a while the sport was excellent. But, later on, things quietened down. The fish forsook us, or became too dainty for our blandishments. The sun went down over the massive ridges. A hint of evening brooded over us. The blue died out of the water, and the greenness vanished from the hills. Everything was grey and cold. As though to match the gloom around us, we ourselves grew silent. Conversation languished, and laughter was dead. We turned up the collars of our coats, and grimly bent over our lines. But the cod and the perch were proof against all our cajolery, and would not be enticed.

At length my hands grew so cold and numb that I could scarcely feel the line. My enthusiasm sank with the temperature, and I suggested, not without trepidation, that we should give it up. My companions assented to the abstract proposition; but, with that wistful half-expectancy so characteristic of anglers, did not at once commence to wind up their lines. I was, therefore, just on the point of setting them an example when one of them exclaimed excitedly, “Wait a second; I had such a lovely bite!” That was all; but it gave us a fresh lease of life. For half an hour we forgot the hardening cold and the deepening gloom, and chatted again as merrily as when we baited our hooks for the first time. It was a bite; that was all. But, oh, the thrill of a bite when patience is flagging and endurance ebbing out!

A Bite
It is because of a certain cynical tendency to deride the value of a bite that I have decided to spend the evening with my pen. “A bite!” says somebody, with a fine guffaw. “And what on earth is the good of a bite, I should like to know? A bite is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring! A bite is of no use for breakfast, dinner, tea, or supper! Bites can neither be fried nor boiled, measured nor weighed. A bite, indeed!’-and once more the cynic loses himself in laughter. That is all he knows about it, and it merely supplies us with another evidence of the superficiality of cynicism. The critic is sometimes right, but the cynic is never right; and the roar of laughter that I hear from the cynic's chair, as he talks about bites, is, therefore, rightly translated and interpreted, a kind of thunderous applause. Why, in some respects, a bite is better than a fish. Only very occasionally does a fish look as well on the bank or in the boat as it appeared to the excited imagination of the angler when he first felt the flutter on the line. I have caught thousands of fish in my time; but most of them I have dismissed from memory as soon as they went flapping into the basket. But some of the bites that I have had! I catch myself wondering now what beauteous monsters they can have been.
“Well, and how many did you catch?” I am regularly asked on my return.
“Oh, a couple of dozen or so; but, oh, I had such a bite!...”

And so on. It is the bite that lingers fondly in the memory, that haunts the fancy for days afterwards, and that rushes back upon the angler in his dreams.

Attributing Super Qualities to the Unrealized
The bite is always the biggest fish. There is something very charming—something of which the cynic knows nothing at all—about this propensity of ours to attribute superlative qualities to the unrealized. It is a species of philosophic chivalry. It is a courtesy that we extend to the unknown. We do not know whether the joys that never visited us were really great or small, so we gallantly allow them the benefit of the doubt. The geese that came waddling over the hill are geese, all of them, and as geese we write them down; but the geese that never came over the hill are swans every one, and no swans that we have fed beside the lake glided hither and thither half as gracefully.

F W Boreham, ‘Such a Lovely Bite!’ Mushrooms on the Moor (London: Charles H Kelly, 1915), 42-45.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Boreham on Christmas at Midsummer

Christmas is once more with us, although the migrants who have poured into Australia during the year may be pardoned if they find some little difficulty in recognising it.[1] To those who were reared in the older lands of the Northern Hemisphere, an Australian Christmas must always seem a weird, uncanny hotch-potch. Every Englishman settled in Australia cherishes in his heart a fond, though frantic, hope. He knows that it can never be realised; the stars in their courses are fighting against him; he is but crying for the moon. Yet, even though he be permitted to spend a hundred Summers beneath these sunnier skies, he will never quite relinquish that pleasing and passionate illusion.

He will steal furtively to the window every Christmas morning and will throw up the blinds to see if, at long last, his dream has all come true. How he would love to see the whole horizon a sheet of dazzling whiteness! He wants the snow; the graceful, fluttering snow; the deep and drifting snow; and, however long he lives, Christmas can never be Christmas to him without it. In his inmost heart he recognises that, in the nature of things, the old English Christmas can never be duplicated on Australian soil. The fireside frolics do not dovetail with the heyday of harvest-time. The things that pertain to the traditional Yuletide—the snowman in the garden and the snowballing on the street, the skating on the lake and the frosty walk to church; the snapdragons in the kitchen, and the ghost story in the flickering firelight—these, sigh for them as we may, can never fall within the range of Australian experience.

Christmas Is Christmas Under Any Stars
Yet it makes no difference. The yearning abides. Southey avers that, however long a man lives, the first 20 years of their life will always be the biggest half of it. The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts. The first two decades of our existence fasten upon our hearts sentiments and traditions that will dominate all our days. A man who has spent childhood and youth in the old lands of the north may come to Australia, may make himself perfectly at home here and win their way to happiness and prosperity. Yet whenever he beholds Father Christmas wiping the perspiration from his brow as he wanders among the roses and the strawberries of our fierce Australian mid-summer, he will feel secretly sorry for the good old man. He seems to be casting about for snowflakes and icicles and finding only cool drinks and ice creams.

Yet, after a very few years on this side of the planet, migrants discover to their delight that the joys of Christmas-tide are not restricted to any particular season of the year, nor are they bounded by the accidents of climate. Christmas is Christmas, whether it comes in Winter or in Summer, in drifts of snow or in a blaze of floral beauty. The lovely spirit of the thing remains the same, however its trappings and externals may change. Beneath scorching suns or amid glistening hoar frost, Christmas-time is the time when we all think a little more kindly of the people concerning whom we have cherished bitter thoughts. It is the time when we remember with a tug at the heart old friends whom we had almost forgotten. It is the time when we think of the poor, when we think of the children's stockings, when we think of each other, and think a good deal more of the pleasures that we can give than of the pleasures that we can get. Snow time or strawberry time, Christmas-time is Christmas-time.

The Yule Message Cosmopolitan And Perennial
And, after all, what have Summer or Winter, heat or cold, to do with the message that will be pealed by all the Christmas bells and carolled by all the Christmas choirs during the approaching festival? If Christmas means anything, it means that, at Bethlehem, heaven came palpitatingly close to earth. God so loved the world that He gave His Son. Humanity was bankrupt. As Matthew Arnold puts it, "on that old Pagan world disgust and secret loathing fell." Civilisation was played out. History seemed to be rushing towards the abyss. Wistful eyes turned in every conceivable direction in hope of finding a path to better things. Then, just as men were most tempted to yield to stark despair, the astonishment of the ages broke upon them. In the words of Dr. George Macdonald:

They all were looking for a King
To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam'st a tiny baby thing
That made a woman cry.

The shepherds heard the angels sing their Gloria in Excelsis; the wise men saw the beckoning star blaze in their gloomy sky; the significance of that Judean idyll gradually dawned upon the nations; the entire course of history was diverted into a new channel, a better day had dawned; men felt that the world could never be quite the same again.

The sublime happening of that first Christmas was not only an incarnation; it was the beginning of innumerable incarnations. As Angelus Silesius sings:

Though Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born,
If He's not born in me
My life is all forlorn.

Thus, the Incarnation multiplies itself a million-fold. The Manger becomes a casket in which all the jewels of divine revelation glitter with ever-growing lustre. Whether Christmas comes to us garlanded by icicles or rosebuds, its central significance and essential glory abide everlastingly the same.

F W Boreham, This Day with F W Boreham, 25 December 2007. (It first appeared in the Hobart Mercury, 23 December 1949.

Image: “The Manger becomes a casket in which all the jewels of divine revelation glitter with ever-growing lustre.”

[1] This editorial appears in the Hobart Mercury on December 23, 1949.

Boreham on the Magic of Christmas

It is difficult to believe that within the bounds of Christendom there breathes a soul so dead that no little trills of pleasurable sensation tingle through his nerves as he anticipates once more the pealing of the Christmas bells, the spreading of the Christmas feast, and all the fun and frolic incidental to the time-honoured occasion. There is a magnetism about Christmas that transforms everything and everybody. At Christmas each individual undergoes a mysterious and magical metamorphosis.

Is it because at Christmas more than at any other time, the divine impinges upon the human, and the human upon the divine? It is this intensely human and yet profoundly sublime element in the Christian revelation—an element that is all the more appealing because it is infused with mortal tenderness as well as with celestial authority—that will make the Christmas message particularly grateful as we keep the feast this year.

We are living in a worried world. To a worried world most festivals would constitute themselves a form of mockery. Yet nothing could be more soothing and strengthening to those who are feeling the pressure of the hour than the timely reminder that the Highest is not remote from the anxieties of the lowliest, but has, at Bethlehem, assumed our very flesh and blood in order that He may render Himself the more intelligible and approachable. Christmas sweetens and sanctifies the joys of the glad and ministers comfort to those with whom the world is going hardly.

Appeal To The Gregarious Instinct
Nor is this all. For a subsidiary, and scarcely less attractive factor comes into operation. Quite obviously, one of the most important ingredients in the composition of the Yuletide sentiment is the element of contagion. There is always a peculiar satisfaction in thinking what everybody is thinking, feeling what everybody is feeling, and doing what everybody is doing. We are gregarious creatures; we go in packs and herds; we unconsciously stimulate each other to joy and sorrow, to admiration and execration, to emotion and excitement.

It is easy to laugh when everybody is laughing; easy to weep when everybody is in tears. The most solitary and phlegmatic man cannot walk through a park on a public holiday in exactly the same temper in which he would traverse it on a day on which he has its lawns and lakes and avenues all to himself. In spite of himself, he is influenced by the carnival atmosphere, and imbibes something of the spirit of the occasion. For pleasure is highly infectious. The gladness of the multitude communicates itself, almost irresistibly, to the individual. This vital principle never wields its spell with greater force than at Christmas time.

Christmas Spirit Deeply Ingrained
If there is anything at all in the doctrine of heredity, it may reasonably be supposed that a certain reverence for the Christmas festival must, by this time, have become ingrained in the very warp and woof of our British breed. Miss Frances Power Cobbe, an eminent sociologist, used to say that it would take 10,000 years to produce a full-blooded atheist out of the scion of 40 generations of Christianity. That being so, what of the Christmas sentiment? Beneath whatever stars a Briton happens to dwell, the old emotions will creep back upon him in December. Men who recognise no special authority in the sublime origin of the Christmas faith, nevertheless find the sacred traditions clustering about the season too magnetic and too compelling to permit of their being disregarded.

With shepherds and with sages they turn wistful faces towards Bethlehem. They cannot close their ears to the angels' voices; they cannot shut their eyes to the beckoning star. The music of the Christmas bells vibrates through all human sensations, evoking a response from every breast. Humanity has a few noble traditions too stupendous and too sacred to be classified as the peculiar property of any class, clime, or creed; and the tender and inspiring reflections suggested by the return of the Christmas season stamp it as an integral portion of that priceless heritage.

F W Boreham, 'This Day With F W Boreham, 24 December.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Rills and Rivers of F.W. Boreham’s Preaching

This is an essay submitted by David Enticott to the Pacific Journal of Baptist Research (vol.2 no.2 2006.)

Gratitude is expressed for permission to publish the essay on this site.

Reflecting on his earliest years as an impressionable boy and adolescent in the nineteenth century, the Baptist minister and writer F.W.Boreham once commented that, “my life resembled a lake into which many rills and rivers were emptying themselves, yet which had no outlet for its ever-accumulating waters.”[1] In time, F.W.Boreham would find a means of expression, using the pulpits of the Mosgiel, Hobart and Armadale Baptist churches, and his pen to write editorials for the Otago Daily Times, the Hobart Mercury and the Melbourne Age, together with fifty-five devotional books. During his ministry at Hobart from 1906 to 1916 this outlet became well formed and clearly shaped through the landscape of Boreham’s life.[2] He had discovered a unique way of preaching and moulding his influences together.

This article will not be devoted to the development of Boreham’s polished preaching style, or his many essays and editorials, but rather will explore his rills and rivers. It will aim to examine the early factors that shaped F.W. Boreham’s preaching from his days in England and the discernable impact they had upon his early sermons. These formative years from his birth in 1871 to his leaving England in 1895 were to have a significant bearing on both the style and the content of his later preaching in New Zealand and Australia. Boreham believed that the first twenty years of his life left an indelible imprint upon him.[3]

The majority of the seventeen manuscripts used in this research were taken from a student pastorate that Boreham undertook at Theydon Bois, a small village outside of London, in 1893-4, but there are also sermons from 1891-2. These earlier sermons were delivered at the church near the Wandsworth Rd Railway Station, the Park Cresent Congregational Church in Clapham, Kenyon Baptist in Brixton and at Forest Row. These sermons provide a valuable cross-section of F.W.Boreham’s early ministry and reveal a variety of rills and rivers that were beginning to mould Boreham’s preaching style and substance. Some of these influences were evident from the beginning as controlling factors throughout the manuscripts. Others were more like rills- barely formed and just starting to take shape.

Frank William Boreham was born to Francis and Fanny Boreham on the 3rd of March 1871. He was raised in the village of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, which is located an hour’s train ride south of London. The captivating beauty of F.W.Boreham’s surroundings in the Kent of his childhood was to have an influence upon his preaching. He encountered nature in a variety of ways.

The experience of walking to church had just as profound an effect on him as did each service itself. It was a place to encounter God. His father Francis was a keen walker, and on many occasions he would find a new way to walk to the Sunday worship service. Each moment in nature was an experience to be savoured for the young F.W.Boreham.[4] It was sacramental, a place resonant with God and grandeur. The family also went out for walks on Saturdays. Francis[5] would season these hikes by means of using his “racy conversation about nature.”[6] The key was to observe one’s surroundings.

Later, when F.W.Boreham returned to Tunbridge Wells on a trip from New Zealand, he described its surrounds as follows:

“Its sylvan valleys, bespangled with primroses and bluebells and violets, its fragrant hedgerows aglow with the hawthorn and the honeysuckle; its exquisite parks carpeted with an infinite variety of ferns and flowers; its verdant and undulating common…its magnificent forests; its romantic walks; its arching avenues; its giant rocks and dainty mosses…”[7]

These are the notes of someone who as a child was an observer, who paid attention to his environment. However, although nature was an influence on his preaching, it did take time to develop. It was not so much that he referred to nature extensively throughout these manuscripts, as nature taught him to be curious.

Boreham valued the instinct of curiosity highly.[8] It was to become an invaluable tool both for the preparation and content of many sermons. He was able to gain spiritual merit or value from a simple phrase or word. His sermons sought to probe the hidden depths of spiritual matters.

The natural world gave Boreham a curious spirit. It was detailed and contained surprises that could be discovered around the next corner. For Boreham the scriptures held a similar kind of detail. He was able to take, and sometimes even twist, a single phrase or sentence from a text into several different meanings. He had a photographer’s eye for minutia, for hidden shapes and colours. Of course sometimes this would not exactly accord with what the text itself was saying. For example on the 10th of December 1893 he preached a sermon at Theydon Bois[9], which was based on a simple sentence of scripture: “Beware! Lest thou forget the Lord.” (Deut. 6:12). From these six words he constructed five points: “to forget God: is to miss the chief object of life, is Satan’s most subtle temptation, is to abandon hope, is to forget all that’s worth remembering, is impossible.”[10] One sentence had been not only expounded, but expanded as well, to cover a variety of topics. It had unfolded and opened up into new possibilities, like so many things in nature.

While Francis Boreham imparted to his son a love of nature, his mother gave him a passion for stories. Fanny Boreham revelled in tales from the Bible and beyond. As a storyteller, she had a profound influence upon her young son’s impressionable mind.[11] Every Sunday night Fanny would recount her tales around the fireplace. Here characters would come to life.

This regular Sunday night ritual fostered a deep love of storytelling in F.W.Boreham, that would later become a vital feature of his own preaching style. He saw his mother as a masterful story teller, who was able to hold her small audience spellbound. Faith and stories were linked for Boreham right from the very beginning. From his mother he learnt that stories were able to animate and inform faith- to give it life.[12]

F.W.Boreham often enjoyed introducing dramatic tales into his sermons. When he preached on the text that “there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ,”[13] he drew his listeners in by having them picture a courtroom setting. He summoned up the image of a hushed courtroom waiting for a verdict- guilty or not guilty. Every person in the court was on the edge of their seats. Satan stood as chief prosecutor, sins were the convicting evidence, the jury was each person’s conscience and the final sentence from the Judge was: “depart from me.” Even reading the manuscript it is easy to imagine the gavel being delicately poised above the judge’s head as he was about to deliver his verdict. Just at the moment of condemnation Christ entered the room to release the congregation from its “chains, fetters and manacles.”[14] They were to be free forever.

For a story to be effective, as well as being emotionally engaging, it must also draw a gripping conclusion. It needs suspense. F.W.Boreham’s court room tale gathered in momentum, like the pages of a murder mystery. It was a creative, fresh way of telling an old story. It rushed towards resolution. Boreham had learnt this art of animating a good story from his mother.

Some stories had more life than others, as well. The ones F.W.Boreham remembered were those that moved him emotionally. He wrote that when his mother spoke of the cross she could bring him to tears.[15] Emotion became an important way of telling the story.

These strong feelings were particularly contained in the story of Jesus’ death. Four days before leaving for New Zealand F.W.Boreham preached at the Tunbridge Wells Tabernacle.[16] The title of his address was “who bore our sins.” Time and again throughout his message he used the story of the cross. He spoke of Jesus’ burden in carrying the cross and of his thirst. The congregation was taken to Calvary and Gethsemane. The story of the cross was not just dramatic, for Boreham it was the central story of faith. It was the believer’s manifesto and continued to have an impact upon his early preaching. It was his central motif.

The cross was also positive and laden with hope. The gospel story had resolution. At this stage of his ministry Boreham loved a story with a happy ending, like those that his mother told around the fire at Wroxton Lodge. When he reflected back on these tales he said that they were drawn from an age of “chivalry and…gold,” and were “remote and rainbow-tinted.”[17]

This desire for rainbow-flecked tales, coloured Boreham’s reading of the Bible and his presentation of it in his sermons. Stories of triumph, rather than tragedy, from the Scriptures sat more comfortably with him. As a result, Boreham was not always faithful in his interpretation of a given text. For example, when he preached on Ezekiel chapters 1 to 3 he spoke of what it meant to serve God effectively. His final point was the “secret of successful service.”[18] However, he had little in his manuscript about the cost of service, which is the major thrust of the passage itself. There is no mention in Boreham’s manuscript of sermon topics about how “briers and thorns” would surround Ezekiel or that the prophet would “dwell among scorpions.”[19] Instead Boreham skipped these verses of tragedy and trial. He rushed ahead to chapter 3 verse 14 that contains a vision of God’s glory. While Boreham finished by speaking of how faithful service could be successful, in this sermon he brushed over some important themes in the text itself.[20] At times in these earlier manuscripts Boreham was afraid of speaking the hard word to his congregation or of detailing a message that in any way could be construed as being negative. He wanted a certain type of story- one with a happy ending.

George Jones and the Emmanuel Church
F. W. Boreham’s preaching was also cultivated by factors outside of his family home at Upper Grosvenor Road. He was influenced by the context and the faith of those around him. The village of Tunbridge Wells had a strong evangelical heritage.[21] The names of streets and sites around the town, such as Mount Sion and Mount Ephraim, bore out this vibrant Christian past.[22] Francis and Fanny Boreham lived out this heritage by attending the St John’s Church and later the Emmanuel Church on Mount Ephraim, near the family home of Wroxton Lodge.

During his years in Tunbridge Wells from 1871 to 1887, F.W.Boreham’s minister was Rev. George Jones, who served at the Emmanuel Church from 1849 to 1888. Boreham’s impressions of church were not always favourable under George Jones’ leadership.

F.W.Boreham struggled to see a purpose in the preaching of his church minister. He reflected that the sermons at Emmanuel under Jones’ tenure “seemed so hopelessly remote from real life and from the pleasures and pursuits of the week.” [23] He continued that he was not able to detect much application or purpose in many of the messages that he heard at the Emmanuel Church.

This desire to have a practical purpose and to be useful was a driving force in F.W.Boreham’s sermons in England. He wanted his messages to make sense and to have a clear application. The earliest sermons from Boreham’s time in England have little biblical context. Instead he was nearly always anxious to get to the main point and apply the biblical narrative to real life.

At times this stress on usefulness would be at the expense of mentioning God. The first sermon with a structure centred on God was given in Christmas 1893.[24] Up until this point Boreham’s sermons looked at the “we” of the congregation. There are many examples of this, throughout his topic headings, such as: “we are to have life, we are to enjoy newness of life, we are to walk in newness of life.”[25] Boreham was desperate to connect with his listeners and to give them simple, clear and achievable applications.

His earliest efforts from 1891 to 1893 might be labelled: leaves from a manual on Christian living. Here Boreham explored how Christians should: serve, walk in newness of life, be saved, know the Lord, remember God, live out the fruits of the Spirit and speak. These topics were useful and practical, but they were not always accurate exegetically. They were concerned with the issue of right living and holiness.

Dwight L. Moody and Evangelistic Preaching
The visit of Dwight L. Moody (1837-99) to Tunbridge Wells had a profound influence on F.W.Boreham.[26] In contrast to the preaching of George Jones and others at the Emmanuel Church, Boreham found Moody’s sermon easy to understand and to apply. [27] Dwight L. Moody was the child of a bricklayer and his language was plain and direct.[28] His stories moved Boreham. The American evangelist’s mood changed with the content of his sermon. Boreham recalled that: “he became sometimes impassioned and sometimes pathetic.”[29] This was preaching not as a lecture, but more as a performance. The goal was conversion.

The impact was that Moody’s sermon contained much of the evangelistic theology, which was adopted by F.W.Boreham. For example in one sermon Moody stated that: “As I was coming along the street today I thought that if I could only impress upon you all that we have come to a vineyard, to reap and to gather.”[30] Moody’s sermons, at times, lacked Biblical content and context and were more based on personal experiences. He drew from a strong atonement theology that saw the world as being “diseased.”[31]

F.W. Boreham trawled Dwight L.Moody’s preaching style and content. He shared Moody’s conviction that the goal of a sermon was to bring people to the point of conversion. In a series of lectures on the subject of preaching F.W.Boreham extolled ministers to:

“Keep fresh in your memory the details of your own conversion: revive as frequently and vividly as possible the recollection of every conversion brought about by your ministry…and inflame your devotion at least once a week by reading some classic record of a notable conversion.”[32]

This focus had a profound impact on Boreham’s sermons. On two occasions prior to Christmas in 1892 and 1893 he chose to preach on the topic of salvation, rather than focus exclusively on the details of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. In 1892 at Forest Row while he began by exploring the details of the angelic declaration,[33] his understanding of this cry was related to the whole ministry of Christ, not just his birth or incarnation. Here the text was used to apply to the death of Christ on the cross. This address was loaded with the crucifixion, from the beginning to the end. At the start Boreham said that the incarnation was “only surpassed by Calvary.”[34] His emphasis on evangelism was all-encompassing.

Theological themes came into sharper focus during his final months at Theydon Bois. He spoke of sin on a variety of occasions. He tackled the theme of eschatology in a message delivered at Theydon Bois on June 17, 1894.[35] In this sermon the stress was on offering instruction about Christ’s second coming. This address provided a number of details about Boreham’s eschatology.

In his later manuscripts, from 1894-5, Boreham also did not seem to be as conscious of the need to connect immediately with the congregation. Instead, headings within each sermon often came directly from the Biblical text. For example, in a message on Christ stilling the storm at sea,[36] he spoke of “ the alarm of the disciples, the action of the master and the result.” In this way the application could be drawn directly from the passage itself.

This reflected one other development in his overall style during this time, which took shape during 1894. It was that he became increasingly able to combine his two main themes: right teaching and right living. In a sermon with an eschatological theme,[37] he started by providing his teaching on the essence of Christ’s return. He finished with a note of application by speaking about the implications of his coming, for each person. In a sermon delivered first in late 1894 he started by looking at the cross theologically,[38] but then closed by asking every Christian to treasure what Christ had done for them. In these sermons he was able to move from what he saw as right teaching to right living, to draw his application from his understanding of a given text.

London- New Preaching Models.
When F.W.Boreham came to London at just sixteen years of age in 1887, he found it to be both thrilling and terrifying. He was overwhelmed by the sheer mass of people in the capital. This led to a crisis of identity,[39] which he sought to resolve both by finding a deeper faith and looking to strong Christian examples of successful ministers.

F.W.Boreham was converted shortly after arriving in London. Although he had undoubtedly experienced God at Tunbridge Wells,[40] he was to credit his shift away from the family home as bringing about significant development in his faith. It represented his spiritual awakening.

It also gave him the chance to learn from a number of powerful and well- known Christian leaders. His mind was impressionable.[41] He sought out other preaching models, to supplement Dwight L.Moody’s influence upon him. One of the first in London to leave such a stamp was F.B.Meyer (1847-1929.) Meyer had a profound impact upon Boreham’s life.[42] In particular, Boreham was taken by Meyer’s practical emphasis on holiness.

F.W.Boreham enjoyed Meyer’s preaching because he captured his attention and his feelings.[43] Meyer would use his emotions throughout his Bible classes. At times he would leave his seat and exclaim: “O my brothers, I want you always to remember this!”[44] Boreham joined one of Meyer’s classes with hundreds of others. The topics were closely related to F.B. Meyer’s own spiritual experiences. There was a practical undertone to his preaching. Meyer argued that God’s word should be applied to “each individual in the audience.”[45]

Another person to leave an imprint on the young preacher’s sensitive mind was Dr Joseph Parker (1830-1902), who spoke regularly at the City Temple Thursday Service in London. The lure was again the attractiveness and emotion of the speaker. Parker impacted his audience. Boreham did see faults in Parker and his pronounced preaching style, but he also learnt from him. [46]

Parker’s specific legacy for Boreham’s preaching was that he taught him the value of re-iterating what he said.[47] Repetition was imperative to Parker both within the same sermon and in terms of delivering the same sermon twice.

Right from the very beginning this technique of repetition had a marked effect on F.W.Boreham. He was concerned with repeating his main themes, so as to drive his point home. For example, in the earliest sermon from 1891, Boreham formulated six headings all around the theme of service. These were: the basis, attitude, enticement, authority, spirit and secret of service, for every Christian. [48] This duplication within the delivered sermon itself would have made the point clear to the congregation at Wandsworth Road. It gave Boreham a sharp focus. Such a concern for repetition is consistent in a number of sermons from this period.

The reason for highlighting certain words and themes over and again was simple. Boreham believed that every sermon or form of verbal communication had a certain degree of “leakage.”[49] That is, the hearers would only capture a limited portion of what was being said and because of this the pulpit was the place for ideas to be stressed and repeated. He agreed with Parker that the more that a preacher’s content was re-affirmed, the more the congregation would retain it.

C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a further preaching model from his early time in London. Spurgeon’s reputation as a thorough and informative teacher of the Scriptures was well established, but he did not captivate F.W. Boreham. He never felt fully engaged with what Spurgeon was saying.[50] In Boreham’s eyes, Spurgeon lacked the raw emotion, drama and performance of Moody, Meyer, and Parker. His presence was not so much compelling as rational and eloquent.[51]

One key platform for Spurgeon’s messages was that, in his own words, they “should have real teaching in them and their doctrine should be solid, substantial and abundant.”[52] This left Boreham feeling dry and concluding that the fires of passion in Spurgeon’s preaching had diminished, as he reached the end of his career at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.[53]

Despite these misgivings, some of Boreham’s later sermons from this period indicate a similarity to Spurgeon’s style of drawing application from the main theological point of a text.[54] He also shared Spurgeon’s stress on evangelism, and the cross. Like Spurgeon, Boreham preached from a variety of texts each week and they both preached from single passages.

A common thread running through each of Boreham’s preaching models, like Spurgeon, was that they all sought to bring about change in their listeners’ lives. This was also a driving factor behind Boreham’s sermons and influences, as well. For example, his stress on usefulness, evangelistic theology and repetition were all designed so that his sermons would have an impact upon his congregation. His desire was that his sermons should be remembered.

Spurgeon’s College.
The influence of F.W.Boreham’s preaching models was consolidated by the period that he spent in theological training. After his baptism in 1890, Boreham was encouraged to apply for Spurgeon’s at the insistence of his Minister, Rev. James Douglas. He started college on 9th of August 1892. Together with the experience of working as the Student Pastor of Theydon Bois it was to have a significant influence on his preaching, in a variety of ways.

Every day a student of the College would be expected to deliver a sermon that was critiqued by fellow students and faculty.[55] When Boreham undertook this exercise he was complimented for his style of delivery and for the “light and popular touch about his utterances.”[56] However, his presentations were not seen as being without fault. In particular, students said that his high-pitched voice and monotonous delivery required further work.[57] It is impossible to gauge from the manuscripts whether Boreham made these changes in his manner and delivery. What can be shown is that during his time at Spurgeon’s College his reference to stories and his use of theology, did change markedly. Both became more detailed. This was in keeping with the overall movement of his sermons from 1892.

A vital part of College training was the discussion of sermon plans and outlines.[58] Boreham’s earliest manuscripts were simple, outlining just one or two main points and filling them out with three or four illustrations. After completing training at Spurgeon’s College, the last sermon that he preached in England was far more detailed. It had a greater emotional direction and the impact of it was heightened as Boreham went along. It was loaded with atonement theology[59] and finished with a poem by W.E.Aytoun. He had carried out the plan for sermon outlines given to him at Spurgeon’s.

Another decisive influence from Spurgeon’s was the lecturer Dr A.T.Pierson. Boreham loved Pierson’s unmistakeable sense of enthusiasm. In part, he was taken by Pierson’s energetic delivery.[60] He was also impressed by his attitude. He commented in My Pilgrimage that Pierson was dubbed M.R. by his students. This was because any topic that he addressed was considered to be “most remarkable.”[61] The impact of this was that it led Boreham to see the importance of stressing vital subjects. They were to be emphasised as well as repeated.

For Boreham the emotion involved in highlighting a vital point was always the hook to draw him in to a sermon or lecture. The mood was just as important as the material. This was evident when F.W.Boreham and a group of students went to hear Pierson preach and were amazed that he could retain the interest of six or seven thousand people at a time.[62]

This sense of issuing a superlative mood and emphasising certain points was not lost on Boreham. Many of his sermon headings from this period were laden with exclamation marks such as: “Beware! Lest thou forget the Lord,”[63] “Peace! Be still,”[64] “Behold the King’s Spear!”[65] or “Behold! I come quickly.”[66]

Through much of his ministry, and influenced by models such as A.T.Pierson, Boreham endeavoured to maintain his energy and emotion in the pulpit. Towards the end of his time at Theydon Bois Boreham’s sermons did become more emotional. As he began engaging with theological rather than practical topics, the emotional pitch of his sermons seemed to shift as well. Themes such as Christ’s second coming were laden with feeling.[67]

For Boreham, the cross remained the deepest place of emotion. In his last sermon on English soil at Tunbridge Wells, Boreham concluded by speaking of what the cross meant for each of his listeners.[68] It was a passionate appeal. He wanted the Christian to value it, the unconcerned to know that they were treading under the foot of the Son of God and the anxious to be comforted that Christ had borne their sins.[69] The increased emotional pitch of these sermons may have reflected Boreham’s own conflicting feelings about leaving home for the uncertain territory of Mosgiel in New Zealand. He had left his friends, his family and his wife- to-be, Stella, back in England. In his autobiography, F.W.Boreham makes little mention of the anguish that he may have experienced prior to leaving home. The only hint of it may be in these sermon manuscripts.[70] In his final English sermons it may have been Boreham’s own anxiety, rather than A.T.Pierson’s influence that led to such a strong sentimental undertone.

Ministry Experiences and Confidence
One reason for F.W.Boreham being so impressionable and influenced by his preaching models and Spurgeon’s College was that his confidence was not fully developed. Instead of finding his own unique outlet as a way of preaching, he looked to other ministers and lecturers as his examples. He sought guidance from those who he perceived had achieved a degree of spiritual influence and success. Boreham’s belief in his ability as a preacher was not yet fully formed.

When he was first invited to preach at the Park Cresent Congregational Church in Clapham for five months in 1892, Boreham said the experience was like: “a soldier… who found himself in the frontline totally unarmed and unequipped.”[71] Regardless of his own perceived limitations and lack of confidence, Boreham continued to preach. He became the student pastor at Theydon Bois, a small village in Essex located around twenty five kilometres north of London, on the 2nd of August 1893.[72] There are some hints of his self-assurance developing during this era. For example, when a service was held to celebrate the successful fund raising venture that enabled the congregation to purchase a new organ, Boreham spoke on the life of Robert Moffat. The topic was Daybreak in Darkest Africa.[73] The message was accompanied by a picture that Boreham had completed with crayon and paper.

This unique and original approach suggests that Boreham grew in self-belief over his early years, through experiences such as ministering at the Park Cresent Congregational Church or the Theydon Bois Baptist Church. His sermons also became more audacious, direct and creative. It is interesting to contrast a sermon given in 1894 with that from 1910 on the same text.[74] In 1894 his sermon centred on the theme “A word fitly spoken.” The headings were: “The word spoken should always fit the speaker and the hearer, fit words must be fitly spoken, some words rarely or never fit.” When he delivered this message at Hobart in 1910 his theme had been changed to “Lips like Lilies.” This was a much more adventurous and imaginative approach to the same text. Over the space of sixteen years Boreham’s confidence had developed to the point where he could launch out in his own unique style. Creative sermons like Daybreak in Darkest Africa would no longer be anomalies. There were also some signs of his confidence continuing to develop during this period.

While limited at first, Boreham became better equipped at telling people the whole story behind a passage. His sermons were more direct. For example, when speaking from Revelation he said that one of the reasons for Christ’s return was “vengeance” on those who had not accepted his cross in faith.[75] He was also able to preach in 1894 on “a way of salvation” and a “way of damnation.”[76] These themes suggest that while Boreham was not yet able to bring the full range of his inventive talents to a text, he was learning to share a hard word with his congregation. This would be a slow process that would take years to complete. When Boreham arrived at his placement in Mosgiel in New Zealand, in 1895, he still commented on how “ridiculously young and inexperienced”[77] he felt.

Conclusion: A Derivative or Distinctive Preacher?
The main factors shaping F.W.Boreham’s early sermons were derived from other prominent ministers. Boreham’s distinct voice was muted and shackled. He looked to his ministry models for a pattern to follow. His sermons were useful in a way that F.B. Meyer’s were direct pleas for holy living, drew on rhetorical devices from Joseph Parker and contained the heavy evangelistic tone of Dwight L.Moody. They also bore similarities to C.H.Spurgeon’s preaching, in terms of his selecting a one off text each week and drawing points of application from the theology imbedded in a given passage. These rivers of influence were therefore largely derived from other sources. They were flowing from places far from home. While F.W.Boreham had found an outlet for his faith through preaching, he was largely speaking through the voice of different ministers.

It was his experience at Spurgeon’s College that slowly developed Boreham’s original approach. For in time, it would be the secondary influences that would replace the primary ones in his preaching. The rills would become rivers. In this way, Boreham’s sermons would be remembered for their: pervasive use of nature, creatively crafted words and focus on history and biography.

These small, distinctive notes were just beginning to be heard in his sermons from 1891 to 1895, as his confidence grew. His life, ministry and preaching would be a work in progress, as it is for each of us. F.W.Boreham once wrote that: “each person on the planet is a novelty, is absolutely unique.” He continued that each person “sees as nobody else sees.” Therefore they must “paint or preach or pray or write as nobody else does.”[78] They must be themselves, but this takes time.

For F.W.Boreham it would not be until he reached Hobart in 1906 that he learnt to preach in a way that was not derived from Parker or Spurgeon, Moody or Meyer. Here he used material and a manner that was more in keeping with his Tunbridge Wells upbringing. At Hobart he could allow nature or his own creative application of the Scriptures to sing through a sermon. It is only with time that we can learn to paint or preach or pray or write as nobody else does. It is only with confidence that the outlet of our lives can flow in its own unique direction.

David Enticott.
F W Boreham's Postcard of Theydon Bois, England, home of his wife, Stella and place where he had a student pastorate while at Spurgeon's College.

Frank William Boreham (1871-1959) had a significant influence on Baptist churches throughout New Zealand and Australia. He was a noted essayist, author and minister, who served Baptist churches in Mosgiel (NZ), Hobart (Tas, Aust.) and Armadale (Vic, Aust.)

This article is devoted to examining Boreham’s earliest sermon manuscripts, taken from a collection held by the Baptist Union of Victoria. No other scholarly research has been done to date on these works. The sermons derive from Boreham’s period as a minister in England from 1891 to 1894, prior to him leaving for New Zealand in 1895. These sermons were delivered at a variety of locations around London, such as: Brixton and Theydon Bois. The task of this research has been to examine what kind of influences were prevalent in the manuscripts.

The paper finds that the following factors shaped Boreham’s early preaching: a love of nature and stories, a desire to be practical, a strongly evangelistic theology, ministry models such as F.B.Meyer, Joseph Parker and C.H.Spurgeon, training at Spurgeon’s College and experience as a Student Minister at Theydon Bois.

The conclusion drawn is that at this early stage, Boreham had not yet found a way to bring his distinctive personality and preaching style into his messages. It would not be until F.W.Boreham started his ministry in New Zealand and Australia that he would allow his unique voice to be shared from the pulpit.

[1] F.W.Boreham, My Pilgrimage: An Autobiography (London: The Epworth Press, 1940), 70. The style used throughout this essay for references to books and articles in the footnotes and bibliography has been taken from: Pam Peters, The Cambridge Australian English Style Guide (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) and John Grossman, The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors and Publishers. 14th edition. (Chicago: The Chicago University Press, 1993.) The style used for sermon manuscripts is taken from: Lawrence D.McIntosh, A Style Manual for the Presentation of Papers and Theses in Religion and Theology (Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, 1994), 70.
[2] Boreham said that: “It was at Hobart that I found myself. From the moment at which I entered the pulpit for the first time I realized that I was preaching with a confidence and an enjoyment that made my ministry a perfect revelry.” In: Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 183.
[3] Boreham wrote that “Southey used to say… however long a man’s life, the first twenty years are by far the bigger half of it.” In: Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 91.
[4] He wrote that: “We always set out…in a perfect fever of curiosity and every step of the way was made brimful of interest.” In: F.W.Boreham, The Other Side of the Hill (London: The Epworth Press, 1917), 113.
[5]His Father worked in a local legal firm and the family grew up in relative comfort. Their home at 134 Upper Grosvener Road had eight rooms and two stories. Crago, The Story, 19.
[6] Crago, The Story, 21.
[7] FW Boreham, Loose Leaves: From The Journal of my Voyage Round the World (Mosgiel: “Taieri Advocate” Office, 1902), 44.
[8] Boreham commented that “the world owes more than it can ever acknowledge to the instinct of curiosity, and so do I.” In: F.W.Boreham, The Home of the Echoes (London: The Epworth Press, 1921), 25.
[9] F.W.Boreham. 1893. “Beware! Lest thou forget the Lord.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 10 December, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[10] Boreham, “Beware!”
[11] In this regard F.W.Boreham shared something in common with one of his models for ministry, George Augustus Selwyn, an early Bishop in New Zealand. In his biography on Selwyn, Boreham commented that “it is altogether impossible to exaggerate the importance, as an essential element in the formation of his character, of those early conversations between mother and son.” She fired him with “apostolic passion and dauntless devotion.” In: F.W.Boreham, George Augustus Selwyn: Pioneer Bishop of New Zealand (London: SW Partridge & Co. Ltd., 1911 )23
[12] Some of these stories stayed with Boreham for the rest of his life. He wrote for example that “the conception of the cross that is always in my mind in preaching and in writing is the conception that took shape within me at the fireside in those days of long ago” Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 30.
[13] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “No condemnation.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 20 May, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[14] Boreham, “No condemnation.”.
[15] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 30.
[16] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “Who bore our sins.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 2 December, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[17] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 26.
[18] F.W.Boreham. 1891. “Some secrets of successful service.” Sermon, Wandsworth, United Kingdom, 20 December, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[19] The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments- Translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesty’s special command (London: The Cambridge University Press.) In each of these sermon manuscripts Boreham cited from the King James Version of the Bible.
[20] The Holy Bible.
[21] The Archbishop of Canterbury remarked in 1888 that “Tunbridge Wells was a kind of sacred city… They looked upon it from without as a kind of modern Jerusalem.” As cited in: Alan Savage, Royal Tunbridge Wells: A History of a Spa Town. Revised by Charlie Bell (Tunbridge Wells: Oast Books, 1995), 151.
[22] Crago, The Story, 17.
[23] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 47.
[24] F.W.Boreham. 1893. “A Saviour and a great one”, Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 24 December, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[25] F.W.Boreham. 1892. “Walk in the newness of life” Sermon, Clapham, United Kingdom, 12 June, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[26] He later recalled Moody’s visit to Tunbridge Wells by writing that he could still picture “The temporary platform on which he stood; the great black crowd; the languor of the sultry summer’s day, the smell of the grass; the American twang in the preacher’s voice; the text; the line of reasoning; the telling illustrations and above all, the passionate appeal- those all come back to me.” In: FW Boreham, The Uttermost Star and Other Gleams of Fancy (London: The Epworth Press, 1919), 179.
[27] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 51.
[28] F.L.Cross and E.A.Livingstone (ed’s), The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 1110.
[29] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 52.
[30] Dwight L.Moody, The Best of all his Works (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 14.
[31] Moody, The Best, 15.
[32] In: F.W.Boreham, The Bevan Lectures, “The Preacher’s Aim”, The Australian Christian World, Vol.XLII- No.28, Melbourne, July 10, 1931, 8.
[33] The statement was “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men,” In: F.W.Boreham. 1892. “Christmas Sermon.” Sermon, Forest Row, United Kingdom, Christmas 1892 (no exact date provided), Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[34] Boreham, “Christmas Sermon.”
[35] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “Behold! I come quickly.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 17 June, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[36] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “Peace! Be still.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 10 June, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[37] Boreham, “Behold! I come quickly.”
[38] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “Who bore our sins.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 2 December, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[39] Boreham wrote that: “London took my breath away. It appalled me. I had never imagined such pushing, jostling multitudes. I remember standing in the heart of the world’s metropolis, under the very shadow of St Paul’s, and shivering in the thick of the crowd at my own utter loneliness.” In: Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 58-9.
[40] He even felt something of God’s presence was symbolised by the tower at his church. He said that “I was awed by a dim, subconscious sense of the vast, the sublime, the infinite that towered above me.” In: F.W.Boreham, The Other Side, 114.
[41] Boreham reflecting back on this stage said that: “My mind must have been as impressionable as a sensitive plate. The least thing swept me off my feet.” In: Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 61.
[42] One example of this is that F.B. Meyer wrote the Introduction to Boreham’s first book. In: F.W.Boreham, Won to Glory: A Review of the 24th Chapter of Genesis (London: Marshall Brothers, 1891).
[43] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 65.
[44] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 65.
[45] F.B.Meyer, Expository Preaching: Plans and Methods (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1954), 73.
[46] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 98.
[47] Boreham commented that Dr Parker “taught me- as also did Dr Meyer- the high art of repeating myself.” In: Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 98.
[48] Boreham, “Some secrets.”
[49] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 100. Boreham listed the causes of leakage as being: “the acoustic properties of the building, the ears of the congregation, sultry conditions” and that “minds will wander.”
[50] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 64.
[51] Frank W.Boreham, Arrows of Desire: A Book of Essays (London: Epworth Press, 1951), 99.
[52] C.H.Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1954), 70.
[53] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 64.
[54] There are numerous examples of this in Spurgeon’s Sermon Notes. In a sermon on Lot’s wife for example, he made the point that Lot lingered. Drawing from the text he reminded his congregation that “when our worldly occupation is incessant and takes up most of our thoughts, we are hindered from decision.” In: C.H.Spurgeon, My Sermon-Notes. Genesis to Proverbs. A Selection from Outlines of Discourses Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1887), 9.
[55] Boreham noted in My Pilgrimage that this was the usual custom for each week.
[56] Crago, The Story, 50.
[57] Crago, The Story, 50.
[58] Ian M.Randall. A School of the Prophets. 150 years of Spurgeon’s College. (London: Spurgeon’s College, 2005), 18.
[59] In this sermon Boreham stated that “Sin must be punished, sin and men are inseparable” but that “he (Christ) bore the reproach of sins”. In: F.W.Boreham, “Who bore.”
[60] In My Pilgrimage Boreham asserted of AT Pierson that “he magnetized us all.” Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 94.
[61] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 94.
[62] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 94.
[63] Boreham, “Beware! Lest thou”.
[64] Boreham, “Peace!”.
[65]F.W.Boreham. 1894. “Behold the King’s Spear!” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 11 November, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[66] Boreham, “Behold! I come quickly.”
[67] Boreham, “Behold! I come quickly.”
[68] Boreham, “Who bore our sins.”
[69] Boreham, “Who bore our sins.”
[70] T.Howard Crago did mention this sense of uncertainty in his biography of Boreham, as he wrote of “the pain of wrenching himself away from all he held dear.” In: Crago, The Story, 63.
[71] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 90
[72] Crago, The Story, 51.
[73] Crago, The Story, 53
[74] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “A word fitly spoken.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 4 February, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[75] Boreham, “Behold! I come quickly.”
[76] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “Salvation or Damnation.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 25 November, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[77] Boreham, My Pilgrimage, 115.
[78] These quotations are taken from: F.W.Boreham, I Forgot to Say (London: The Epworth Press, 1939), 133.