God's Man Through and Through - William Borden In the early years of the 20th century two men died within a year of each other. Both deaths were noted by newspapers around the world. Both claimed to be committed followers of Jesus Christ. Both were fabulously wealthy. Both lives had moved and affected scores of others. But there were striking differences. . One of the men, J. P. Morgan died at seventy-five years of age having accumulated over 100 million dollars of personal worth during his lifetime. The other man died in his 25th year and left behind the remainder of a personal fortune inherited as the heir to the Borden milk dynasty. Unlike Morgan, his will left most of what remained of his fortune to the work of Christ in addition to what had already been given to God’s work during his lifetime. One of the many memorial services commemorating his life was observed at Moody Church where he had been a member. A friend who attended wrote these words to his mother:
2 Chronicles 16:9 has been in my mind ever since Friday evening. God is ever intently looking for those whose hearts are right toward Him, that in and through them He may “show himself strong.” And oh, the joy of his heart when He finds such a one!” As William grew in knowledge of God, he lived up to that knowledge; as he learned more of God’s will, he obeyed that will. He followed the Lord wholly. As with absorbing interest the great company listened to what God had wrought, one could not but feel that the fire of a holy purpose was lighted in the hearts of some of those young men and women.
The life in question was that of William Whiting Borden, a young wealthy American who had given away most of the large fortune he had inherited and had dedicated himself to the work of the Gospel as a missionary to the Muslim communities in China. His name and his story are still familiar to many, and though his life and service to Christ were cut short in his 25th year, his story continues to stimulate others to Christian ministry. Perhaps the most familiar account of his life is Mrs. Howard Taylor’s Borden of Yale. It is still in print and can be obtained from Bethany House Publishers in Minneapolis, MN. The book is well written and moves the reader quickly to the pertinent spiritual points of Borden’s life. It is brief enough to be read in an afternoon but thorough enough to be remembered for a lifetime. My heart was stirred as I read each chapter and I found myself agreeing with the words of Kenneth Taylor who wrote the forward to the book.
“This book you have in your hands, Borden of Yale, changed the course of my life. I read it one Sunday afternoon during a college vacation, now so many years ago, at a time when I was filled with selfish ambitions and, conversely, a list of negative goals – things I certainly did not want as careers. At the top of this list was being a missionary. . . . Spiritually speaking, had it not been for this book, my life would have been a spiritual shambles.”
Born November 1, 1887 Borden was raised in Chicago by Christian parents. Even as a very young boy, William had an unusual interest in God’s Word and came to Christ at an early age. After finishing his initial education at The Hill School, Borden embarked on a journey around the world. Stirred by the pervasive spiritual darkness he witnessed first hand in places like Japan and China, he wrote to his mother and expressed that God had called him to give his life to reach the lost in foreign lands. Upon returning to America, Borden enrolled at Yale in the Fall of 1905. During his student years he threw himself into his studies, college life, and spiritual service to others. He was an excellent student, an above average athlete, and was involved in starting both a student prayer meeting and a rescue mission for the homeless. After his death many of his classmates from Yale expressed gratitude for the impact his life made on theirs. After graduating from Yale, Borden was accepted at Princeton Seminary where he began preparing in earnest to go abroad and reach the Muslims in China for the Gospel. He was accepted as a candidate by the China Inland Mission during his second year at Princeton. During and immediately after his seminary years, William took every opportunity to speak on behalf of his beloved Student Volunteer Movement and influenced many to give themselves to foreign missions.
In 1913 Borden departed for Cairo, Egypt where he planned to study Arabic in order to better reach the Muslims he was hoping to win in China. Upon arriving he took up residence at the local Y.M.C.A. and immediately sought out a Bible study going on for Moslem foreigners from all over the world. Imagine his joy to meet a student from the very province in China he was hoping to reach. His enthusiasm and his commitment to the cause of Christ were contagious and he labored tirelessly to advance the cause of Christ in Egypt while he prepared to go to China. However, in April of 1913 just months after arriving at Cairo, he contracted a severe case of spinal meningitis and within weeks went home to be with Christ. His mother and family arrived in Cairo hours after his death and were able to be in attendance with the small group that met for his funeral. Borden committed all his wealth to the cause of Christ and had spared no reserves for himself. He set his face toward China and there was no turning back. It is certain that upon hearing Christ’s “well-done” Borden had no regrets for how he had invested his life and wealth.
As I finished the final page, I found myself stirred by the example of a young man I never had the opportunity to meet or hear speak. Yet the story of his life and joyful sacrifice for Christ communicated a passion and commitment that convicted me almost a century after his death. Nor was my response unique. Others have been deeply stirred for Christ by the story of his life in general and by its recounting in this book in particular. Ken Taylor introduced the book and perhaps his words can best conclude this review.
“God may not use this particular book to help you in the same way it helped me, but by whatever means, I pray that you will come to the same conclusion I did, that the path of God is the only path for you.”