I want to tell you about my favorite author: F. W. Boreham. If you asked him his profession, he would say he was a pastor; but he was superlative as a writer. You would think that I was joking if I told you that, when he was a child, a gypsy told his nanny that if she put a pen in his hand, he would never want for work. But it is a story that he laughed in recounting. He was among Charles Spurgeon’s last personally chosen students for his Bible school. When Charles’ brother, James Spurgeon, returned from New Zealand needing a replacement in those remote islands, Boreham accepted the charge. It was the start of a long life of ministry and writing in New Zealand and Australia.
In the early twentieth century, at a preachers’ conference, one preacher said of F. W. Boreham that his books were on all their shelves, his name was on all their lips, and his illustrations were in all their sermons. Many years later, in 1959, Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham, said that she had read almost all of his books and was in the process of acquiring and finishing the last few. While preaching in the area, Billy Graham made a special trip to visit this famous writer and preacher. Impeccable timing, as it turned out to be the last year of the author’s life.
Today writer and apologist Ravi Zacharias reads an essay by him everyday. That is, some call them essays; others call them sermons. They straddle the line between preaching and storytelling; they are deep enough to be studied by a trained philosopher, creative enough to captivate anyone in need of a great story, inspiring enough to satisfy any Christian thirsty for living water.
I suppose Boreham’s writings should speak for him, although several eminent men have spoken for him too. Spurgeon, one of the 19th century’s greatest preachers, and an Englishman; Billy Graham, one of the 20th century’s greatest evangelists, an American; and Ravi Zacharias, one of the 21st century’s greatest apologists, an Indian—they all tipped their hat to this writer. Because of his long life and early commitment to read a book every week, he seems to quote or reference every famous Christian of his time, including not only preachers, but missionaries, inventors, scientists, storytellers, and adventurers.
F. W. Boreham wrote over 2000 biographical articles for an Australia newspaper during his lifetime, many of which were put into his books. With 52 full-length books and dozens of booklets to his name, he was, until 1990, the most prolific religious writer in Australia’s history. Today his readers agree that no one else has such a knack for taking a commonplace topic or story, and zooming out his lens until, at the end of almost every essay, you gain a glimpse of Christ that impels you to worship. He also had an unparalleled way of saving his punchline until you thought it would never come.
If all this sounds like creative hyperbole to you, then consult his writings for yourself; and tell me if he has ever been beaten in his superlative skill to take an ordinary topic and point you to an extraordinary Savior.
Of course, I can’t forget the one who taught Boreham all he knew. The rabbi who wrote no books and died young, but awed the world by using everyday stories, untapped Scripture insights, God’s creation, or mere questions. He found his sermons in a coin, a fig tree, a highway robbery, a shepherd, the flowers, the birds, the harvest, the weather—and among his loftiest subjects, a meal including bread and wine. Following in the God-man’s footsteps, Frank William Boreham had a perfect ally and ample approval to point from the creation to the Creator.