Tag Archives: F. W. Boreham (1871-1959)

Pre-order The Whisper of God: Signature Edition

The Whisper of God: Signature Edition is now slated for a projected August 1 release, and you can pre-order it now for only $30! Like The Ships of Pearl and The Blue Flame, it will be a gorgeous cranberry cloth hardcover with a white dustjacket, replete with new notes explaining the author’s use of Scriptures, quotations, allusions, and dialect.

whisper-of-god-mockup

The Whisper of God: Signature Edition

Early bird (until June 10): $30 (no limits!) Pre-order special (June 11 to August 1): $35 After release: $40 Prices include $4.50 for shipping. Local pickup also available. If we receive less than 100 pre-orders by June 10, you will receive a full refund.

$34.50

Though The Whisper of God is definitely a fan favorite, it has been among the hardest to obtain in hardback. The original 1902 edition of The Whisper of God may be F. W. Boreham’s rarest volume. Only one U.S. library (at Fuller Theological Seminary) holds a copy of that edition. Back in the 1990s, someone reproduced about a hundred or so facsimiles, at over $100 a piece, and they sold like hotcakes; I’ve only ever seen one. Our affordable paperback reprint has been very popular; so popular, in fact, that we’ve decided it deserves an upgrade.

To pre-order The Whisper of God: Signature Edition, use the PayPal button below. We need 100 pre-orders to be able to print the book, but if we don’t receive enough pre-orders, we will simply refund your money.

We’ve also discounted the price on The Blue Flame: Signature Edition by 25%, so if you act now, you can get two new F. W. Boreham hardcover books for $30 apiece.

Want to pick up your copy in San Antonio or College Station? Use our contact page to let us know, and we’ll send you a different pre-order link.

New Boreham Reprints

After numerous delays, several Boreham titles are returning to print this month (May 2022), and they will all be for sale for $15 (shipping included) on eBay soon. These include:

Also, there are a number of other titles forthcoming:

  • The Home of the Echoes
  • Rubble and Roseleaves
  • The Crystal Pointers
  • The Nest of Spears
  • The Fiery Crags
  • A Temple of Topaz
  • The Ivory Spires
  • The Passing of John Broadbanks
  • A Faggot of Torches

The proofreading is complete for all of these books, but the delays have to do with issues with Amazon’s publishing platform. I am in the process of shifting my main store from Amazon to eBay. Amazon is taking a larger cut, so you will see prices rising on Amazon, but most or all will be available on eBay for only $15 (shipping included).

Unfortunately, Amazon’s Content Review has become very unpredictable, so that I won’t be adding any new Kindle editions, and the new Borehams going up will be distributed by Lulu.com, not Amazon. It is too much of a liability to create a wonderful ebook without knowing if Amazon will reject it.

The Lost Parables of F. W. Boreham

As I have been editing the F. W. Boreham Signature Edition series, I have learned almost everything anyone could want to know about which books, articles, and magazines Boreham used in the formation of his esssays. I have meticulously searched up his original sources, whenever available, using the best digital archives online: Google Books, the Internet Archive, Early English Books Online, and other more specialised sites, like Project Canterbury.

This has been no small undertaking. Take for instance, Boreham’s essay on John Woolman in A Faggot of Torches, the latest Boreham volume slated for re-release. Boreham quotes repeatedly from John Woolman’s journal: from John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1871 introduction; from Alexander Smellie’s 1898 introduction; and from Amelia Mott Gummere’s notes included with a 1922 edition of John Woolman’s journal. Several of the quotations are paraphrased or updated to make them more readable; nonetheless, it appears that he quoted from two or three different editions of the same book.

The side-effect of all this sleuth-work has been a trail of un-footnoted material—the narratives where Boreham is not quoting or paraphrasing from anyone. Frequently, Boreham based entire essays on classic or contemporary novels. But sometimes he tells stories that simply have no references. He artfully presents these stories such that we accept them as history. But I know Boreham and his library well enough, that I believe these are his hidden contributions to the world of fiction. They are the lost parables of F. W. Boreham.

Boreham’s Historical Fiction

The Love of Brother Pacificus (The Ivory Spires, I, IV)

“The Love of Brother Pacificus” is a tragic tale of unrequited love between Brother Pacificus, a monk, and Mary Selwyn. We can surmise that the story takes place around a medieval double monastery, but beyond this the narrative is not historically grounded. Pacificus leaves the Monastery of St. Bede’s, ashamed of his love for Mary; at the same time, Mary, impressed by Pacificus’ piety, joins the Convent of St. Cecilia.

Neither the Monastery of St. Bede’s nor the Convent of St. Celicia refers to a real location. Probably Boreham’s intention is that the monastery was founded by Bede, and so this dates the story to the eighth century or the centuries that follow.

Again, “Selwyn” is the name of one of Boreham’s heroes, George Augustus Selwyn, whose biography Boreham wrote; and it is likely that he included this as Mary’s last name as a way of alluding to one of his heroes.

Enoch Stapleton (A Faggot of Torches, XII)

“Enoch Stapleton’s Text” tells the story of Enoch and Hannah Stapleton, who left Sussex to settle in Virginia in the eighteenth century. It is a chapter in A Faggot of Torches, which is slated to be reprinted this year. This book is in the Texts That Made History series, in which each essay recounts the impact of a single Scripture passage in someone’s life. Most of these are historical figures; only a few are characters from novels, such as Uncle Tom, Sim Paris, Hepsy Gipsy, and Robinson Crusoe—and in each of those, Boreham expressly tells us what novel he is drawing from. Enoch and Hannah Stapleton, then, are presented as historical figures.

In the story, the Stapletons travel on the Queen o’ the West and settle in a place called Newhampstead, on the Ohio River. A search will show that there were people by these names in colonial Virginia, but no record gives the level of detail that Boreham does. It appears that Boreham simply wrote this story himself.

Boreham couches the story of the Stapletons in true narratives found in colonial letters and in Bancroft’s History of the United States—but the main thrust of the story, as far as I know, is an original historical fiction.

Issachar and Ruth (In “Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Text,” A Faggot of Torches, XXII)

Woven into the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe—another installment from the Texts That Made History—is the story of Issachar and Ruth, first-century believers, a father and daughter. Boreham ties in a quotation from F. B. Meyer. But I have found no other record of these names used of first-century Christians in Rome.

Like the stories of the Stapletons (eighteenth-century Virginia) and Pacificus (medieval England), the story of Issachar and Ruth is framed around a specific time and place (first-century Rome), but is a creation of the author’s fertile imagination.

Boreham’s Modern Fiction

Blackadder Lane (The Blue Flame, II, IV)

For years, my favorite Boreham book has been The Blue Flame (1930). It has many stellar essays that draw heavily from literature:

  • “A Lovers’ Quarrel,” from Florence Barclay’s novel Mistress of Shenstone, 1910;
  • “The Raven,” from the famous poem by Edgar Allen Poe, 1845;
  • “The Treasure in Coward’s Castle,” drawing on A. E. W. Mason’s The Four Feathers, 1902;
  • “Leap Year,” drawing on Charles Lamb’s essay “Rejoicings upon the New Year’s Coming of Age” in The Last Essays of Elia, 1833.

Another essay, “Add! Add! Add!”, has an illustration about Handley Page’s plane being threatened by electrical failure. But in the true story, found in the Aerial Age Weekly for January 6, 1919, there is no mention of electrical failure. I am not sure if Boreham dramatised the story, or misread it, or it is just as likely that Boreham plucked the story from one of the many preaching magazines that he read. In any case, in the church, it has never been considered immoral to tell such parables with the intent of illustrating a spiritual truth.

But the story of “Blackadder Lane” is on another level—a full essay, grounded in late Victorian Lancashire, with first and last names, dialogue, and picturesque details. Boreham begins with an elaborate dramatic frame for how he heard the story of Blackadder Lane from a stranger on a railway journey in the late 1890s.

Blackadder Lane, she explained, was the darkest, dirtiest, and vilest quarter of the town. Decent people could only imagine what it was like, for decent people never went there.

F. W. Boreham, The Blue Flame

Blackadder Lane, of course, was transformed by a little girl named Dora Manning, who was a student at a boarding school at Preston (a city in Lancashire) and who was stirred by a revival at the Primitive Methodist Church. Knowing that “Blackadder Lane is a short cut from High Street to George Street,” she began to walk it nonchalantly with her friend, eventually resulting in a reversal of attitudes toward the decrepit neighbourhood.

The only problem is, there is no “Blackadder Lane” in Preston. English place names are remarkably well documented, and many of these records are digital; but a search for “Blackadder Lane” returns zero hits. It’s possible that Boreham dramatised a narrative he knew well; but I believe that it is simply a parable of his own creation. “High Street” and “George Street” are probably the most common street names in all of England—analogous to “Main Street” and “Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive” in the United States—and so including them also gives us nothing.

Let’s go to some fictional stories that relate to Boreham’s life and ministry down under.

Old Eternity (The Home of the Echoes, I, III)

One of my favorite essays in The Home of the Echoes (1921) is “Old Eternity.” The essay begins:

Old Eternity was a mystery—a fascinating but inscrutable mystery. What was his real name? Where did he come from? How did he live?

F. W. Boreham, The Home of the Echoes

Boreham recounts quite specifically meeting a hermit while on a hunting trip in Piripiki Gorge.

I extended my hand to take farewell of him.
‘But you haven’t told me your name!’ I said.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘I have no name; at least, I have no need of a name up here!’
‘Well,’ I replied, ‘if you don’t tell me a name, I shall have to give you one. I must have a name of some kind in my mind to associate with you!’
‘And what would you call me?’ he inquired.
‘I think,’ I said, remembering the observation which formed the climax of his philosophy, ‘I think I should call you Old Eternity!’
‘Capital!’ he replied, his eyes sparkling. ‘Call me Old Eternity! For eternity won’t seem long, you know; eternity won’t seem long!’

F. W. Boreham, The Home of the Echoes

The essay concludes with a hint as to the identity of the old hermit. Boreham says that John Broadbanks told him that Old Eternity had died. He states that some years later he found the following advertisement in a paper:

ANY PERSON possessing information as to the whereabout of Professor COURTNEY PENNINGTON, who lost his wife and children, and was himself badly injured in the great railway disaster at Taddington Junction, on March 3, 1871 …

There is a clue, here, though. March 3, 1871 is Boreham’s exact birthday; and Boreham himself was injured in a railway accident at the age of 15. He walked with difficulty for the rest of his life, but never wrote of the incident in his essays. Could it be that Old Eternity is a fantastic bundle of personal allusions? Could Boreham have done this in his other essays?

Crusty (The Crystal Pointers, I, IV)

Similar to Old Eternity, Crusty is a hermit of the extremely remote outback. Boreham goes far out of his way to describe how far he was from civilization when he met Crusty.

Crusty’s distinguishing characteristic is that he has refused all dealings with women due to an unrequited love, Mary Chambers. Mary had left Crusty high and dry and married another man, many years since. Crusty had only learned of her wedding a month later and a few towns over, when he read ut in a newspaper.

Like in “Old Eternity,” the story hinges on archival research! Boreham writes that the remains of Crusty’s love, Mary, had been discovered in a quarry; she had apparently died in a tragic accident, and all Crusty’s bitterness had been for nought. The “Mary Chambers” who married around that time had been an unrelated person. As Crusty learns the news, his heart slowly warms.

The story teaches us to avoid holding grudges, to think the best of people whenever possible, and that even the hardest heart can be healed. “Crusty” was such a beloved story, that it was even printed as a little board book.

A pattern is emerging here: lonely hermits, remote reaches down under, the tragedy of unrequited love, and unlikely reunions, reversals, and restorations. I can neither verify or deny the story of Crusty, but it smacks more of legend and parable than of a true story.

Conclusion

I have said nothing here about the many essays in which Boreham absolutely lets loose—talking paper, visits to distant planets, time travel, and paintings come to life. Those that come to mind are “The Congress of the Universe” (The Nest of Spears, II, VII) and “The Uttermost Star” (The Uttermost Star, I, I).

I have also had no time here to speak of the level-headed John Broadbanks, F. W. Boreham’s apparently-fictional best friend, who appears in perhaps dozens of essays. He is apparently a placeholder for fictional dialogues and adventures. If John Broadbanks is fictional, there is almost no telling which other characters are real and which are imaginary.

For my own part, I believe that Boreham was simply filling in parables as he thought necessary for good preaching and teaching. Boreham did not live in the Information Age. Jesus himself does not clarify whether the Parable of the Prodigal Son is a historical narrative or not; and truthfully, it matters nothing.

Other stories told by Boreham include far-fetched coincidences. This would be poor grounds for disbelieving them, unless they follow a pattern, like “Crusty” does. Take, for instance, “His Worship the Mayor” (The Uttermost Star, III, III), which hinges on a mayor being reunited with a long-lost son after decades. I can verify nothing about that story; but neither can I claim it is definitely false. To Boreham’s contemporaries, it may have clearly rang of fiction. I do not know. But it is almost immaterial for the genre in which Boreham dealt—if a parable teaches something true and real, it does not matter so much whether it is a fact-driven narrative couched in an airtight bibliography. I think Boreham’s generation understood that better than ours, and for that, I thank God.

Tokichi Ishii’s Text

This essay, summarizing the inspirational story of Tokichi Ishii, is one chapter in A Bundle of Torches, coming back to print in January 2022 in the newest addition to the F. W. Boreham Signature Series. The full story of Tokichi Ishii, A Gentleman in Prison (1922) will also be returning to print.  Ishii's remarkable story was first published in Japanese in 1919 under the title 聖徒となれる悪徒: 石井藤吉の懺悔と感想 ("The Scoundrel Who Became a Saint").  Editions followed in English (1922), Danish (1923), German (1924), Dutch (1925), Hungarian (1927), Chinese (1933), and Arabic (1980).

I

The spiritual pilgrimage of Tokichi Ishii is, Dr. Kelman declares, the strangest story in all the world. It is, he adds, one of our great religious classics. ‘There is in it something of the glamour of the Arabian Nights and something of the hellish nakedness of Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Horror. There is also the most realistic vision I have ever seen of Jesus Christ finding one of the lost. You see, as you read, the matchless tenderness of His eyes and the almighty power of the gentlest hands that ever drew a lost soul out of misery into peace.’

The story was first told in the saloon of the Empress of Russia. The cold winds swept across the sea, having a touch of the northern ice in them, and a group of passengers had gathered in a sheltered spot. They were relating to each other all kinds of experiences with which they had met. But, after a while, every narrative was overshadowed and driven into the oblivion of forgetfulness by the story that was told by Miss Caroline Macdonald, a quiet little Scottish lady. As soon as she had finished her amazing recital, everybody felt that they had been listening to one of the world’s most thrilling and absorbing romances. It is, as Mr. Fujiya Suzuki, M.P., says, just such a story as Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Tokichi Ishii is Jean Valjean over again, but Jean Valjean with a profound spiritual experience. Dr. Kelman, who was of the party on board the Empress of Russia, insisted that the story, which had already been published in Japanese, must be translated into Western tongues. And, as a consequence, here it is! It is worthy, as the publishers claim in their introductory note, to be cherished among the classical prison documents which are among the priceless treasures of the Christian Church. It is entitled A Gentleman in Prison; and he would be of cold blood and sluggish soul who could read it without deep emotion. Nor is its interest merely—or mainly—sentimental. ‘The most striking aspect of the book for many readers will be its psychology.’ Dr. Kelman declares, ‘One can imagine the glee with which Professor William James would have seized upon it and given it world-wide fame. The narrative discloses a true psychologist, full of curiosity about himself and bewildered by the masterless passions of his amazing soul.’ It has, too, a very high apologetic value. If I knew a man who had any doubt about the reality of religion, or about the existence of God, or about the eternal Deity of Jesus Christ, I would rather hand him a copy of A Gentleman in Prison than any volume of argument or of divinity that has ever been published. If A Gentleman in Prison did not scatter his scepticism, nothing would.

II

The book is dedicated To All in Every Land Who Have Never Had a Chance. Ishii certainly never had. He was born in heathenism; his father was an inveterate drunkard; his mother was the daughter of a Shinto priest. Up to the time of his death, he only knew two Christians; and he met them during the brief period of his last imprisonment, and after he himself had avowed his faith in Christ. At the age of thirteen he had to decide whether he would steal or starve. He resolved the problem in the way in which most of us, similarly situated, would have settled it. He stole. ‘This,’ he says, ‘was the beginning of my life of crime. As I look back now I realize keenly how easily a child is influenced by bad friends and surroundings.’ Stealing quickly led to gambling; gambling led to more stealing; and stealing and gambling together soon plunged him into prison. In prison he consorted with hardened criminals who laid themselves out to make the boy as callous as themselves. ‘The fact of the matter is,’ says Ishii, and he underlines the words, ‘the fact of the matter is that a prison is simply a school for learning crime.’ He was an apt pupil. During the years that followed, he committed one atrocity after another in the most shameless and audacious fashion. He spent most of his time in gaol; and, immediately upon his release, he committed some new felony or murder which once more brought the police upon his trail. And, on the twenty-ninth of April, 1915, his career of crime reached a hideous climax. He murdered the geisha girl who waited upon him at a tea-house near Tokyo. This, the most dastardly and dreadful of all his misdeeds, nevertheless had in it the germ that developed into better things.

III

Ishii crept away from the tea-house without leaving any clue that could lead to the conviction of the culprit. But, some time afterwards, when he was imprisoned on a later charge, he overheard his fellow-prisoners discussing the tea-house murder. A man named Komori, the lover of the girl, was, they said, being tried for the murder of the geisha. Within the grimy soul of Ishii a knight lay slumbering, and this startling news awoke him. ‘For a moment,’ Ishii says, ‘I could scarcely believe my ears. But upon enquiry I found that the men knew the facts, and that it was actually true that an innocent man—the lover of the dead girl—was on trial for her murder. I began to think. What must be the feeling and the suffering of this innocent Komori? What about his family and relatives? I shuddered to think of the agony that must have been theirs. I kept on thinking; and, at last, I decided to confess my guilt and save the innocent Komori.’

It is this quality in Ishii that led Dr. Kelman to call the book A Gentleman in Prison. ‘At his worst,’ the doctor says, ‘he retains the pride and honour of a gentleman; and, in the supreme test, insists on dying to save an innocent man. Cruel as a tiger, he yet responds, like a charming little child, to any kindness shown him. In the midst of a career of systematic and outrageous vice, he sometimes acts in a spirit which many of the elect might envy.’

During the days that followed his confession, Ishii laboured ceaselessly to establish Komori’s innocence by proving his own guilt. Never in all the calendars of crime did a man work so hard to prove his innocence as Ishii worked to collect evidence that would secure his own conviction. To strengthen his case, he made a clean breast of all his offences; and owned frankly that he was the murderer of several victims whose deaths had been shrouded in impenetrable mystery.

The trial of Ishii for the murder of the geisha girl dragged on for days and months. It was one of the most baffling cases in the criminal records of Japan. At length Ishii was found Not Guilty. ‘I was greatly disheartened about this,’ he says, ‘for I knew that if I were acquitted the innocent Komori would suffer the penalty of the crime. I was so distressed about it that I could not sleep.’ He instructed his lawyer to leave no stone unturned in getting justice done. In accordance with the provisions of Japanese law, he appealed against his acquittal; the case was reheard in the Appeal Court; and Ishii—to his delight—was sentenced to death.

IV

Like everybody else, Miss Macdonald, who lived in Tokyo, was profoundly interested in the strange case, and determined, if possible, to visit Ishii in prison. ‘Early in the morning of New Year’s Day,’ Ishii says, ‘a special meal was brought me instead of the ordinary prison fare; and I was told that two ladies—Miss Macdonald and Miss West—had sent it. Who could these persons be? I had never heard of them before. There was no reason why I should receive anything from people I did not know, and I told the official that I could not accept the gift.’ The gaoler induced him, however, to reconsider his proud decision. ‘The food was sent to me during the first three days of the New Year. A few days later a New Testament was received from the same source; but I put it on the shelf and did not even look at it.’ In the end, however, the monotony of his prison life proved too much for his pride.

‘I took the New Testament down from the shelf,’ he says, ‘and, with no intention of seriously looking at it, I glanced at the beginning and then at the middle. I was casually turning over the pages when I came across a place that looked rather interesting.’ It was the passage that tells how Jesus set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem, although He knew that it was certain death to do so. The conception appealed to Ishii’s sense of daring, of gallantry, of adventure. He laid the book aside, but he resolved to dip into it again. When next he picked it up, it opened by chance at the story of the man who had a hundred sheep, and who, leaving the ninety and nine in the fold, went out into the mountains to search for that which was lost until he found it. Again Ishii was interested, though not quite as deeply as before. But he promised himself that he would give the little book a third trial. He did.

‘This time I read how Jesus was handed over to Pilate by His enemies, was tried unjustly and put to death by crucifixion. As I read this I began to think. Even I, hardened criminal that I was, thought it a shame that His enemies should have treated Him in that way. I went on, and my attention was next taken by these words: And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. I stopped. I was stabbed to the heart as if pierced by a five-inch nail. What did the verse reveal to me? Shall I call it the love of the heart of Christ? Shall I call it His compassion? I do not know what to call it. I only know that, with an unspeakably grateful heart, I believed. Through that simple sentence I was led into the whole of Christianity.’

On each of the following pages, Ishii harps upon his text. Every time he repeats it, it seems more wonderful to him. ‘The last words that a man utters,’ he says, ‘come from the depths of his soul; he does not die with a lie upon his lips. Jesus’ last words were: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do; and so I cannot but believe that they reveal His true heart.’

‘I wish to speak,’ he says again later, ‘of the greatest favour of all—the power of Christ, which cannot be measured by any of our standards. I have been more than twenty years in prison since I was nineteen years of age, and during that time I have known what it meant to endure suffering. I have passed through all sorts of experiences and have often been urged to repent of my sins. In spite of this, however, I did not repent, but, on the contrary, became more and more hardened. And then, by the power of that one word of Christ’s, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, my unspeakably hardened heart was changed, and I repented of all my crimes. Such power is not in man.’

V

What was it in that dying prayer that so affected Ishii? He was impressed by the possibilities of a cry from the Cross. And, indeed, those possibilities are appalling. Jesus was still the Son of God, and the hands that were nailed to the tree were the creators of both nails and tree. He could have asked His Father and immediately have received more than twelve legions of angels. When they taunted Him on His inability to save himself, He could have left the Cross in an instant, and, with angelic bands for His escort and heavenly music ringing in His ears, could have returned to His Father, leaving the world to its inevitable doom.

Or, without forsaking the work which He had set Himself to do, He might have called down fire from heaven upon His murderers. He might have cried ‘Father, destroy them!’ and withered them where they stood.

Or, without in any way acting inconsistently with His divine nature, He might have cried ‘Father, judge them: vengeance is Thine; do Thou repay!’

But, no! Father, forgive them, he prays, for they know not what they do. Did he scan those murderous faces, listen to their oaths and jests, and wonder what plea He could justly urge in extenuation of their awful deed? There was only one thing to be said on their behalf, and He discovered and presented that one plea. So skilful and masterly an Advocate is He who ever liveth to intercede for us! Forgive them, for they know not what they do! The plea in that prayer broke the heart of Ishii. It went to his soul, he says, like a five-inch nail.

VI

The New Testament of Ishii’s contains a striking statement which, during his last imprisonment, he may have noticed and pondered. It is to the effect that he that is in Christ Jesus is a new creation. It is the only phrase that can possibly convey an impression of the transformation that overcame Ishii. He became literally and actually, a new creation in Christ Jesus. He was made all over again. And, from his point of view, it seemed as if the world about him had been made all over again. ‘It was only after I came to prison,’ he says, ‘that I came to believe that man really has a soul. I will tell you how I came to see this. In the prison yard chrysanthemums have been planted to please the eyes of the inmates. When the season comes, they bear beautiful flowers, but in the winter they are nipped by the frost, and wither. Our outer eye tells us that the flowers are dead, but this is not the real truth. When the season returns the buds sprout once more and the beautiful flowers bloom again. And so I cannot but believe that if God in His mercy does not allow even the flowers to die, there surely is a soul in man which He intends shall live for ever.’ Here was fresh vision vouchsafed to the eyes of this new creation; and, in keeping with it, there was a new and radiant joy in his heart.
‘Today,’ he writes, in that wonderful journal that he kept all through his last imprisonment, ‘today I am sitting in my cell with no liberty to come and go, and yet I am far more contented than in the days of my freedom. In prison, with only poor coarse food to eat, I am more thankful than I ever was out in the world when I could get whatever food I wanted. In this narrow cell, nine feet by six, I am happier than if I were living in the largest house I ever saw. The joy of each day is very great. These things are all due to the grace and favour of Jesus.’ The Governor of the prison, Mr. Shirosuke Arima, heard of Ishii’s extraordinary bearing, and decided to visit him. ‘One day,’ he tells us, ‘I went to see Ishii in his cell and found him sitting bolt upright and looking very serious. My first glance showed him to be a powerfully built fellow, with heavy bushy eyebrows and a large flat nose. I could not help thinking that, if his heart were as rough as his exterior, one would have every right to fear him. But his eyes told a different story. They shone with a quiet beautiful light; his cheeks were clear and healthy looking, and his spirit was brimming over with gentleness. My heart went out to him with a great tenderness.’

Miss Macdonald was Ishii’s last visitor. ‘We both knew,’ she says, ‘that it might be the last time. I read to him words that were penned centuries ago; but as I stood there in a tiny cubby-hole, and talked to him across a passageway and through a wire screen, it seemed impossible to believe that they were not written for the very conditions that we faced there in that Japanese prison-house. “I have finished all my writing,” Ishii told me, “and my work is done. I am just waiting now to lay down this body of sin and go to Him.” I looked at him and his eyes were glowing with joy.’ He had not long to wait.

‘This morning,’ wrote the Buddhist chaplain, in sending Miss Macdonald Ishii’s journal and effects, ‘this morning Tokichi Ishii was executed at Tokyo prison. He faced death rejoicing greatly in the grace of God and with steadiness and quietness of heart. His last request was that you be told of his going, and be thanked for your many kindnesses. He has left his books and his manuscripts to you, and you will receive them at the prison office. His last words, which are in the form of a poem, he asked me to send to you. They are as follows:

My name is defiled,
My body dies in prison,
But my soul, purified,
Today returns to the City of God!

‘Ishii seemed to see nothing but the glory of the heavenly world to which he was going. Among the officials who stood by and saw the clear colour of his face and the courage with which he bore himself, there was no one but involuntarily paid him respect and honour.’ The Gentleman in Prison, released from the cage of his early conditions, and released from the prison bars that hedged him in in later years, was gloriously free at last!

Review: The Whisper of God

Rating: ★★★★

Author: F. W. Boreham, British pastor and author of more than 50 books. He spent most of his life pastoring in New Zealand and Australia. (See the article “Who Is F. W. Boreham?”)

Genre: Sermons.

Overview:

The Whisper of God (1902) might not include Boreham’s best sermons, but they are very different in style from his other books. Most of Boreham’s books straddle the boundary between essays and sermons; here, there is little doubt that we are dealing with sermons. In spite of the difference of genre, there are some real gems here.

Boreham always excelled at making biblical material accessible and interesting. In the course of his sermons, he brings out a number of fascinating and unusual anecdotes from the lore of Christian biography. He brings out the long-forgotten stories of Girolamo Savonarola, W. C. Burns, Joseph Neesima, and others.

He also quotes, not only from theologians, but from classic novels by Dickens, poems by Dora Greenwell, Washington Gladden, and others.

We can see here the beginnings of the creativity and voracious reading that characterized his career.

The titular sermon, “The Whisper of God”, is one of the best things he ever wrote and worth the price of the book.

God with all His omnipotence at His disposal never wastes anything. He never sends a flood if a shower will do; never sends a fortune if a shilling will do; never sends an army if a man will do. And He never thunders if a whisper will do.

“Left-Handed Warriors” deals with a number of interesting themes that were lifelong favorites with Boreham: unity in diversity, forgetfulness, and “the law of compensation”. (Boreham also wrote about “Being Left-Handed” in The Silver Shadow (1918).)

If you have never read any Boreham, I would recommend starting with one of his more typical books of essays, like The Blue Flame, The Uttermost Star, or Ships of Pearl. But if you are just looking for something a little different from those, you may be blessed by reading The Whisper of God.

Review: Nuggets of Romance

Author: F. W. Boreham, British pastor and author of 49 books and thousands of articles. He spent most of his life pastoring in New Zealand and Australia. (See our article “Who Is F. W. Boreham?”)

Overview:

Nuggets of Romance (2016) is a collection of never-before-published articles by F. W. Boreham. During his lifetime, Boreham published thousands of newspaper articles, many of them biographical. In putting together his books, he focused on drawing together the longer articles and sermonic materials that would be edifying to believers.

The articles here are mostly biographical, not devotional. There is a change in audience; we get to hear Boreham addressing a different crowd than he did on Sundays. Nonetheless, we still have here the classic voice of Boreham—a man keenly interested in bringing eternal truth out the histories and destinies of famous people.

Nuggets of Romance is a relaxing read. The essays are short and cover a litany of famous persons: Samuel Johnson (lexicographer), William Caxton (printing press), Thomas Carlyle (historian), Charles Darwin (naturalist), Edward Gibbon (historian), Christopher Wren (architect), Jules Verne (science fiction novelist), Lord Lister (surgeon, innovator of antiseptics), Victor Hugo (novelist), and many others. My favorites were those about Harriet Beecher Stowe, Victor Hugo, Lord Lister, and William Caxton.

Lord Lister, for instance, practically invented modern medicine by working towards sanitizing operation rooms to prevent infections. Wikipedia says that he “revolutionised surgery throughout the world” and calls him “the father of modern surgery”. Obviously, he eventually received a peerage for his contributions to public health. But this was an honor granted to him after many years of his ideas being generally rejected. Few believed that something invisible or infinitesimal was the cause of post-surgical infections; at the time, there were a variety of incorrect ideas about how these infections occurred and spread. This is an important story with bearing on our present day, seldom mentioned.

Many of the famous people covered here had important contributions all but forgotten by modern readers. Some of them, like Jules Verne or Lord Lister, experienced long periods of failure or obscurity before finally being recognized for their work. Boreham briefly and compellingly brings out these ironies.

A few articles are purely devotional, like “Pastels of Sound,” which was wonderfully reminiscent of the old sermon “The Whisper of God.”

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Review: The Home of the Echoes

Rating: ★★★★★

Who: F. W. Boreham, British pastor and author of more than 50 books. He spent most of his life pastoring in New Zealand and Australia. (See the article “Who Is F. W. Boreham?”)

Genre: On Boreham’s spiritual essays: F. W. Boreham is difficult to place into a genre. A reviewer wrote in Preacher’s Magazine, “There is only one Boreham.” His writing is a mix of essay writing and what I call “literary preaching”—preaching that is intensely informed by both Christian and classic literature. In the main body of his work (“classic Boreham”), some chapters were originally sermons; others were culled from his 3000 biographical essays. In any case, most of his 49 books are a goldmine of suitable (if light) devotional reading. (See my guide to his published works.)

Overview:

The Home of the Echoes is another great book of Boreham sermons, from the period when he was at his prime. My favorites were “The Magic Mirror,” on looking away from self to Christ (see quote below), and “Breaking-Up,” on the end of a school term and separating from treasured friends.

Quotes:

SECOND-HAND THINGS:

“A gregarious religious is essentially a precarious religion. . . . She simply went with the rest; she followed the crowd; her faith was a second-hand faith. . . .
The young prophet had to choose between his own first-hand vision and the elder prophet’s second-hand one.” (loc. 137-141)

“I was hastening on to eternal destruction when the great tremendous God met me like a lion in the way.” (John Haime, Lives of Early Methodist Preachers, qtd. in loc. 156)

THE KINGFISHER:

“What are mountains for but to be climbed? What are oceans for but to be sailed? What are rivers for but to be crossed?” (loc. 204)

“[John Milton’s] only gleam of comfort lay in the fact that he had written, during his last year of eyesight, a pamphlet on the Civil War! ‘He could not foresee,’ his biographer remarks, ‘that in less than ten years his pamphlet would be [obsolete] and only be mentioned because it had been written by the author of Paradise Lost.” (loc. 193)

DOCTOR DIGNITY:

“He had too much respect for his dignity to stand on it.”

THE MAGIC MIRROR:

“[Richard] Baxter is a past-master in the art of self-examination. . . . Writing toward the close of his life, he makes a significant and instructive confession. ‘I was once,’ he says, ‘wont to meditate most on my own heart, and to dwell all at home, and look little higher; I was always poring either on my sins or wants, or examining my sincerity; but now, though I am greatly convinced of the need of heart-acquaintance and employment, yet I see more need of a higher work; and that I should look oftener upon Christ, and God, and heaven, than upon my own heart. At home I can find many distempers to trouble me, and some evidences of my peace, but it is above that I must find matter of delight and joy and love and peace itself. Therefore, I would have one thought at home upon myself and sins, and many thoughts above upon the high and amiable and beautifying things.’” (loc. 1609-1613)


This review was written in November 2015. I wrote this review using the Kindle version of the book.

Review: The Arrows of Desire

Rating: ★★★★★

Who: F. W. Boreham, British pastor and author of more than 50 books. He spent most of his life pastoring in New Zealand and Australia. (See the article “Who Is F. W. Boreham?”)

Genre: On Boreham’s spiritual essays: F. W. Boreham is difficult to place into a genre. A reviewer wrote in Preacher’s Magazine, “There is only one Boreham.” His writing is a mix of essay writing and what I call “literary preaching”—preaching that is intensely informed by both Christian and classic literature. In the main body of his work (“classic Boreham”), some chapters were originally sermons; others were culled from his 3000 biographical essays. In any case, most of his 49 books are a goldmine of suitable (if light) devotional reading. (See my guide to his published works.)

Overview:

This is a sought-after book of essays, and came highly recommended.

After his so-called retirement, many of Boreham’s shorter articles were collected into full volumes. This includes Boulevards of Paradise, The Arrows of Desire, Dreams at Sunset, The Tide Comes In, and The Last Milestone; all of these books consist of somewhat shorter articles than Boreham’s earlier volumes of essays.

Meat:

There are several great adventure and missions stories in this volume. About twenty of the articles were biographical. Sometimes Boreham would repeat biographical anecdotes from famous people; but some of the stories in this book were unique material that clearly required extensive reading and research.

It has been about ten years since I read this book, but I distinctly remember the following essays:

“Flying Fingers” (about Isaac Pitman)

“The Whale’s Tooth” (about missions in Polynesia)

“The Conquest of the Braves” (about John Eliot)

“On the Road to Yemen” (about Ion Keith-Falconer)

All of these are seldom-referenced stories, and in my voluminous reading in Christian biography and missions, I have hardly come across a reference to any of the essays as told above. These are the treasures of Boreham’s great depth and breadth of reading.

Bones:

In Boreham’s short articles, which were often culled from newspaper articles, not all subject matter was spiritual, so a few of the stories are lacking in any spiritual application. That is always a disappointment when you have limited time and are using Boreham’s books as devotional reading. Fortunately, though, the occasional interesting-but-not-so-spiritual essay is the exception and not the rule.

God never sends a man into the world without first preparing the world for his coming. He even gives our parents a few months’ notice so that they may have everything ready.

The quote comes from “Dinna Forget Spurgeon!”, one of the chapters in Ships of Pearl by F. W. Boreham. Find out how you can help us bring this book back to print by visiting our Kickstarter page.