Frederick Brotherton Meyer Preacher and Writer

Frederick Brotherton Meyer died on March 28, 1929, at the age of 82.   This well-known preacher ministered worldwide, although his pulpit was in London.

Meyer was born in London on April 8, 1847 and became a Baptist pastor and English evangelist

While pastoring at Priory Street Baptist Church in York in 1872 Meyer met American evangelist Dwight L Moody, whom he befriended and promoted to other churches in England.

In 1895 Meyer took the pulpit at Christ Church in Lambeth. Within two years he grew the congregation from 100 to over 2,000 regularly attending. After fifteen years in that pulpit he began to travel and preach at conferences and evangelistic services.

Evangelistic tours took him to South Africa and Asia and he visited the USA and Canada several times.

From 1904-1905 he served as president of the National Federation of Free Churches.

He crusaded for temperance work, for homeless children, and other social problems.  He was president of the World Sunday-School Unions, president of Christian Endeavour, and founder of a missionary training college. He is credited with closing nearly 500 brothels and he worked to rehabilitate former prisoners.

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Many a time he spoke at Keswick conventions.  In 1923 he visited Australia (met in Melbourne by Dr F W Boreham), where he preached to crowded meetings.

Alexander Gammie describes him as “a lightweight evangelist”- no pulpit thumping, no raised voice, no wild gestures, no dancing around the platform – but he quietly, yet powerfully “held aloft a winsome Saviour.  Everything was intimate, tender and appealing.”

Through his 77 books, F B Meyer led a multitude of believers into a closer walk with the Lord.  Whilst no great pulpit orator, his saintly life gave power to the message.

The day prior to his death he said:  “I ought to be in Heaven now.  I have settled all my affairs and there is nothing to wait for.  I can’t understand it.”  And thus he departed to be with Christ, which is far better.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Henry Drummond and The Greatest Thing

Henry Drummond died, on March 11, 1897. Professor Henry Drummond was no friend of Biblical Fundamentalism.

Drummond was born in Scotland in 1851 and became a man of varied talents. He was at various times an evangelist, lecturer in natural science, ordained minister, Professor of Theology, explorer, geologist and author. He did not receive an academic degree, yet he ascended to academic posts.

His 1883 book, “Natural Law in the Spiritual World”, sold 70,000 copies in its first five years and made his name famous. After surveying southern and central Africa for the African Lakes Company he produced another popular text, “Tropical Africa”. And his work, “The Ascent of Man” was also widely read. That book helped promote the evolutionary cause as it argued for the survival of the fittest, a thesis previously maintained by Professor John Fiske.

In 1890 Drummond travelled to Australia and in 1893 he was in Chicago, USA.

Drummond was a gifted evangelist who assisted Dwight L Moody’s revival campaigns for two years.

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In Moody‘s early Northfield Bible Conferences he invited Drummond to speak.  “But later he refused to have him back!  Moody was not ashamed to take a stand for theological truth.  Drummond was one of the most effective public speakers of the era, and to cancel him from the Northfield program took genuine courage” (History of Fundamentalism, by E. Dollar, page 80).

Although coming from a godly Presbyterian home and trained “in an evangelical family”, and despite the fact that he was tremendously impressed by Moody and Sankey, he became a leading Liberal theologian, Professor in the Free Church of Scotland, and an ardent defender of the evolutionary hypothesis.

R.E. Day, in his excellent biography of Moody, Bush Aglow, says that “Drummond was one of the vanguard of men, amiable, attractive, to whom no-one could deny the name Christian, who nevertheless helped write ‘Ichabod‘ over 20th century Zion” (page 207). Drummond was particularly influential over the thinking of younger men who looked up to him.

Why, then, did Donald Prout include him in his Christian history notes?  Because in 1874 Drummond wrote a small book that has become a classic in Christian literature – The Greatest Thing in the World, a study of I Corinthians 13.

“So long as time shall last, The Greatest Thing in the World will be a high peak on the skyline of devotional literature” (ibid, page 209). That book sold 12 million copies, dwarfing the success of all his other works put together.

When Drummond died due to poor health at the age of 46, on 11 March, 1897, Moody “cried like a child.  ‘He was the most Christ-like man I ever met.  I never saw a fault in him,’ he said over and over through his sobs” (Moody without Sankey, by J. Pollock, page 258).

(It is to be noted that the Henry Drummond of this article is not to be confused with Henry Drummond (1780-1860), who was founder of the Catholic Apostolic, or Irvingite, Church).

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Frank William Boreham Australian Preacher

Frank William Boreham was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England on March 3, 1871. He was one of ten children and his birth coincided with the end of the Franco-Prussian War. He said in later life that “Salvoes of artillery and peals of bells echoed across Europe on the morning of my birth.”

His biographer, T. Howard Crago, tells the odd story of a gipsy woman who gazed into the child’s face when he was but four months old and said to the nurse-girl, “Tell his mother to put a pen in his hand and he’ll never want for a living.”  It may well be that the telling of this story by mother to son in after years inspired F.W.B. to become a best-selling author.  His 46 volumes and numerous small booklets have become collector’s items.  Kregal Publications (USA) recently republished his “Great Text Series” under the title “Life Verses”.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Fortunate is the pastor who gets to know and love the writings of Boreham” (Walking with the Giants, page 153).
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Boreham heard the great American preacher Dwight L Moody during his youth and that may have influenced his ideas of compelling preaching.

At the age of 14 he was to lose his right foot in a railway accident. During his long stay in hospital a Roman Catholic nurse broadened his understanding of the broader faith community.

Two years later (with an artificial foot) we find him living and working in London and attending a non-conformist church where he was converted, and “from now on,” his biographer tells us, “his interests and activities were to centre increasingly in Christian things.”

He was baptised, Easter Tuesday 1890, applied for training in Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College (“the last student that Spurgeon personally selected”), and after graduation headed ‘down under’ … first to New Zealand to pastor the Baptist Church at Mosgiel, Dunedin, from March 1895.

It was in Dunedin that Boreham began his writing career, providing religious content for the local newspaper. Other pastorates took him to Hobart (Tasmania) and Armadale and Kew (Victoria).

Nearly 50 books came from his pen.  He also wrote as a regular Saturday columnist for “The Age” newspaper in Melbourne.

Dr Boreham wrote reflections on Biblical stories, homespun parables, and reflections on the best works of others, such as Catherine Booth, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Abraham Lincoln. Boreham gave over one hundred addresses in that latter category.

“Thousands of copies of his books were sold every year.  He was well known on radio.  Christ was always central to his ministry” (20th Century Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 66).

But Boreham was not only gifted with the pen. Many of his books are simply documentations of his messages which were hugely popular as live presentations.

T Howard Crago reported that Boreham’s address titled ‘The Other Side of the Hill’ (a variation of which was entitled ‘The Sunny Side of the Ranges’), was preached 80 times and an address titled ‘The House that Jack Built’ was given 140 times to churches which requested Dr Boreham to give this lecture as a community fund raiser.

Boreham’s earlier works tended to be long-winded, until, as is said of his later writings “the terse Boreham” had arrived. Following criticism for his excessive wordiness, Boreham worked hard to achieve a simple and flowing style. That done, his books became internationally popular.

So powerful were Boreham’s written sermons that some people doubted that Boreham could preach such wonderful messages to the standard they are written. Dr James Hastings, editor of the Dictionary of the Bible, noted that “Mr. Boreham is an artist. Every sermon is constructed. Every thought is in its place, and appropriately expressed. And there are no marks left in the constructing. To the literary student, as to the average reader of sermons, every sermon is literature.” The question of Boreham’s preaching was answered by Howard Crago, saying, “The fact was, of course, that each of these sermons was preached from memory in almost the exact words in which it was printed”.

One account of Rev Boreham’s preaching says, “Boreham came-spoke-and conquered! He spoke for an hour; but the minutes passed by on shimmering wings. He speaks quite as well as he writes-the voice is strong and sweet; ringing, yet winning, and the word lives in the message. ‘The House That Jack Built’ was a brilliant drama, staged and performed by the author. And his control of the audience! A happy and original introduction; apposite stories from history, science, and romance, related with telling effect; soft touches on the varying notes of the human soul, making it tremble with childlike laughter, and then a sudden chord of richer music with concentrated and arresting power-while the listener perceives God through smiles.”

Rev F W Boreham notionally retired in 1928 at age 57, but continued to preach and write. He died in Melbourne almost thirty years later, on May 18, 1959. Not long before Boreham’s death, in early 1959, evangelist Dr Billy Graham sought Boreham out, in deference to his extensive and popular writings.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Horatio Gates Spafford Turns Tragedy into Song

This is the day that Horatio Gates Spafford was born in New York State, in 1828.

He was to become a well known Christian businessman in Chicago; professor of medical jurisprudence at Chicago Medical College; director of a Presbyterian theological seminary; and active in the YMCA. He was a close friend of Moody and Sankey.

The young lawyer moved to Chicago to start a legal business. In 1861 he married Anna Tuben Larssen and they established a prosperous home. Anna bore Spafford a son and four daughters. Horatio junior, however, died of scarlet fever in 1870, aged four. Apart from their business income Spafford had built up a sizable property portfolio.

The Great Chicago Fire swept through the city on 8-10 October 1871, killing 250 people and rendering 90,000 homeless, destroying about a third of the city. While the Spaffords sustained significant personal loss, Horatio and Anna worked tirelessly for two years to help the victims put their lives back together.

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody based his worldwide ministry in Chicago and the Spaffords were good friends of Moody and his ministry. In 1873 they decided to travel to England to participate in the Moody/Sankey revival meetings there, before touring continental Europe.

The family of six travelled to New York to board their ship. Horatio was called back to Chicago by last-minute business obligations, but he saw no reason for the entire family to delay their travel, so he sent his family on ahead, planning to join them as soon as he could.

Anna Spafford, the couple’s four daughters, the children’s governess and two others in their party boarded the French steamship Ville du Havre on 22 November 1873, along with 307 other passengers and crew. At about 2 am on 22 November 1873, in the eastern North Atlantic, the Ville du Havre collided with the British iron clipper Loch Earn, then sank in a mere 12 minutes. 226 people perished, including the four Spafford daughters. Survivors were taken to Cardiff, Wales, where Anna Spafford cabled her husband on 1 December 1873 with the following devastating message: “Saved alone. What shall I do.” Horatio Spafford took the next available ship to join his wife.

It was two years later that Horatio Spafford wrote one of our great gospel songs:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows, like sea billows, roll –
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say:
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The daughters had all been converted in Moody-Sankey meetings shortly before their deaths.

Ira Sankey, who incorporated this gospel song into his Sacred Songs and Solos, writes: “In 1876, when we (Moody and Sankey) returned to Chicago, I was entertained in the home of Mr and Mrs Spafford for a number of weeks. During that time Mr Spafford wrote the hymn ‘It is well with my soul’, in commemoration of the deaths of his children. P.P. Bliss composed the music and sang it for the first time at Farwell Hall” (My Life …, by I. Sankey, page 191).

Once reunited, Horatio and Anna Spafford returned to Chicago, and by 1880, they had another daughter, Bertha, and another son, also called Horatio. This son, too, died in infancy of scarlet fever.

The Spaffords also had another daughter, Grace, born in Chicago in January 1881. When Grace was just seven months old, the Spaffords moved to the Holy Land in August 1881. They helped to found a group called the American Colony in Jerusalem, with the mission to serve the poor.

Sometime during the 1880s, in Jerusalem, Horatio Spafford suffered a mental illness that caused him to believe that he was the second Messiah.

There he died of malaria on 16 October, 1888, at the age of 60. He is buried in Jerusalem.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.