Grace in the Arts: F. W. Boreham: Essayist Extraordinaire -- By: James A. Townsend

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 14:1 (Spring 2001)
Article: Grace in the Arts: F. W. Boreham: Essayist Extraordinaire
Author: James A. Townsend


Grace in the Arts:
F. W. Boreham:
Essayist Extraordinaire

James A. Townsend

Elgin, Illinois

I. Introduction

The name of Boreham only rhymes with the word boredom. At that point the similarity ceases. The popular preacher Warren Wiersbe said: “It amazes me that my favorite biographical handbook, Who Was Who in Church History, mentions Caesar Borgia…but contains not one line about Frank W. Boreham.”1 In 1975 Ruth Graham aspired to read “one of F. W. Boreham’s books” that year, observing, “I have read all but two of his [forty-eight] books and read them for pure pleasure.”2 Alas, “there arose up a new [generation who]…knew not” F. W. Boreham, to borrow the wording of Exodus 1:8. In a preceding generation the moderator of the Church of Scotland could introduce Boreham as “the man whose name is on all our lips, whose books are on all our shelves and whose illustrations are in all our sermons.”3 When the young Billy Graham went to Australia to hold a crusade, he personally visited F. W. Boreham in what was to become the year of his death (1959).

This is the first article to appear under this section of this journal on the art form used by an essayist. An essay has its own characteristic contouring and fundamental features, so there is no reason that an essayist should not appear in this journal section, just as previously articles have appeared on novelists and on an opera singer.

Actually the precise genre of F. W. Boreham’s artistic medium is something of a hybrid. In a single verse the author of Hebrews called his written masterpiece a “word of exhortation” (which is the same expression in Greek as a sermon in Acts 13:15) and a “letter” (Heb 13:22). Therefore, I coined the term homiletter for describing the textual nature of the book of Hebrews. Similarly, what F. W. Boreham wrote was ordinarily not a sermon (especially for those drilled in the presentation of expository sermons from Scripture) and he might not even have labeled it a pure essay. However, his writings partook of the nature of a hybrid (like the book of Hebrews) in being sermonic essays, replete with insights for biblical preaching.

II. Personal Biography

One afternoon when F. W. Boreham was still a baby, his nurse carried him along the trail of an English countryside when a gypsy caravan appeare...

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