Review: When the Swans Fly High

Who: F. W. Boreham, British pastor and author of 49 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 list of his published works.)

Overview: This is a great book of essays, and very hard to obtain. It is definitely one of my favorite volumes from the pen of F. W. Boreham. Thanks to my collaborators, it is now available for Kindle.

“The Order of Melchizedek” illustrates in several ways the meaning of the somewhat enigmatic figure of Melchizedek in Hebrews: “without beginning of days or end of life” (Heb. 7:3).

“Rainbow Gold” compares the human longing for eternity to the search for the gold at the end of the rainbow.

“The Rainbow” speaks of the meaning of the biblical symbol of the rainbow in its several uses (Genesis, Ezekiel, and Revelation), and also tells the fascinating tale of a etiological myth about the rainbow among the Maori where Boreham spent his first pastorate. (On the rainbow, see also this fine passage from missionary Temple Gairdner.)

“A Pair of Spectacles” is about the tendency to see things, not through your own eyes, but through the eyes of the crowd.

Quotes:

“One of the highest forms of courage is cold-blooded courage, four-o’-clock-in-the-morning courage, the kind of courage that is born of no excitement, is witnessed by no spectators and evokes no cheers.”

“In his Areopagitica, John Milton says that a man may hold an orthodox creed and yet be the worst of heretics.”

“God committed to paper the choicest thoughts of His divine heart.”

“‘Come, wander with me,’ she said,
‘Into regions yet untrod;
And read what is still unread
In the manuscripts of God.'” (quoted from Longfellow in “A Midwinter Holiday”)

“Each man’s individuality is itself a message to mankind, a message which he, and he alone can faithfully deliver. And the whole art of life lies in giving such genuine and accurate and rational expression to that unique individuality of mine that, by the things that I do and the way in which I do them, men may receive a message from my Father that could have come to them in no other way.”

“He cares, we feel, for certain things—the making of worlds, the control of the universe, the destinies of mighty empires. But does He care for the individual soul with its individual needs? Does He care for Barbara with her passionate prayer for the boon of a quiet night? Does He care for John Ridd? Is He prepared, not only to steer the planets on their fiery courses, but to guide John’s heart amidst its complicated entanglements? Does He care for ordinary mortals? Does He care for me?” (“The Doll’s House”)

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