F W Boreham's Conversion and Call to Mission
The Portals of Janus - Ships of Pearl - Epworth - 1935. P. 31.
As a boy of sixteen, I left home and made my way to London. Happily for me, I immediately experienced a profound spiritual crisis—a crisis that moved me to the very depth of my being. I can only believe that, at that critical juncture, Christ laid His mighty hand upon me and made me His own. The first understanding friends
that I then made were a group of city missionaries.
Inviting me to their mission halls and their open air meetings, they sometimes permitted me to speak. The radiant experience though which I had passed in solitude seeming to me so wonderful, my soul literally ached for some avenue of expression, and these mission
gatherings provided it.
Shall I ever forget a night in the slums of Westminster, when, at the city missionary's request, I kneeled with two men who had been reduced to contrition as a result of his message? It was my first attempt to lead a fellowman to Christ. The missionary himself soon came to my assistance. In broken accent I heard these two men pray; I saw them rise, and, with shining faces, set off home to live new lives there. I do not think I closed my eyes that night; I was thrilled through and through.
This weird sermon, my first, was preached at one of those mission services. It is the immature effort of a young man in a hurry—a young man in a tremendous hurry to get to close grips with his hearers. In spite of all it's crudities and absurdities, it throbs with passion. I know where I caught that fire. Having been infected, at that most impressionable stage of my career, by the apostolic intensity and spiritual fervour of those good men of God into whose company I was providentially thrown, I was aflame with their evangelistic zeal. And looking back across the years, I like to think
that this raw and callow youth away at the other end of life was in such deadly earnest.
He goes the wrong way about it; but you cannot read three lines of the manuscript without feeling that he is desperately eager to arrest and capture men.
"Oh, is not this a solemn matter between yourselves and God? Will you not hear His voice? Indeed, have you not already heard it? Perhaps in the hour of need, perhaps in the time of trouble, perhaps in a moment of great joy, you have heard His voice pleading within. But what has followed? You hardened your heart." It was based upon the text, "Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Hebrews 3:7-19).
And so on. the whole thing is set in this high key. It stresses the way in which the Saviour speaks from the Cross; it emphasizes the
doom that must overtake those who harden their hearts to the end; and it pleads for instant contrition and faith. The Oh with which it opens is repeated continually. When David Garrick heard George Whitefield preach, he said that he would give a thousand pounds to be able to say Oh as Whitefield said it. I have often felt similarly concerning those youthful Oh's of mine. An intense yearning is the dominant characteristic of this old manuscript; and in my best moments, I catch myself praying that something of that early craving may endure to the end of the chapter.
If the angler were to recapture the rapture with which he landed his first fish, it would intensify immeasurably the pleasure of his sport, but it would not, of necessity, increase the proficiency of his angling. But if the preacher could recapture the passion of his youth so that it transfused and irradiated the skill that has come with learning and the deftness that has come with experience, it would multiply a hundred-fold the joys of his ministry and would render it, at the same time, a hundred times more effective.
"F. W. Boreham is the man whose name is on all our lips, whose books are on our shelves and whose illustrations are in all our sermons." Presbyterian Annual Assembly, Scotland, 1930's