My Favorite Biography October 6, 2012

Many years ago I learned that reading biographies of great men and women was a good way to keep my own heart hungry for more of God’s blessing.  Well written biographies both instruct and inspire.  I have in my library many books that have been a tremendous blessing to me through the seasons of life.  One of those books is Borden of Yale.

When I was just a teenager, a summer intern who worked with our youth group gave me my first copy of the life of William Borden.  It was an old, hardback edition with very few pictures.  Perhaps that kept me from fully appreciating it at first.  Little did I realize the impact it would make on me as a young married man.

New Reprint of Borden of Yale

When I finally read the entire book I was 25 years of age.  The same age as William Borden when he died.  How could one young man, who only lived 25 years on this earth, be so fully given to God that we were still reading about him over 100 years later?

Borden was born November 1, 1887 to a very wealthy family.  He traveled the world and received the very best education.  Yet the defining moment of his short life came when he yielded all to Christ to become a missionary to the Muslims in China.  While studying language in Cairo, Egypt, Borden was taken seriously ill and died.

In the flyleaf of Borden’s Bible would be found three distinct entries: NO RESERVE.  NO RETREAT.  NO REGRETS.  This young man discovered the way to make his life count for eternity – to give it to God.

The book is full of wonderful nuggets.  Permit me to share just an example or two.  In William’s journal entries is found this thought:  “‘If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink.  He that believeth on me…out of him shall flow rivers of living water.’  Rivers, Jordans, but clear as crystal.  The proposition of the world is into, turning man into a Dead Sea.  The proposition of Jesus is out of.  Note that out of.”  Interestingly, this quote is found in a passing footnote.  Read the fine print!

While at Yale, Borden adopted two college mottos.  The first was placed in his room: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?  by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” Ps. 119:9.  The second was written on the fly-leaf of his New Testament:  “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”  Ps. 119:11.

William Borden was a man consumed with the Bible and consecrated to God.  What was the secret of such a life?  Allow Borden to speak for himself:  “Say ‘no’ to self, ‘yes’ to Jesus every time.  In every man’s heart there is a throne and a cross.  If Christ is on the throne, self is on the cross; and if self, even a little bit, is on the throne, Jesus is on the cross in that man’s heart…If Jesus is on the throne, you will go where He wants you to go.  Jesus on the throne glorifies any work or spot…”

While the world lamented a wasted life from their perspective, Borden had lived to invest in eternity.  In an obscure place in Cairo, Egypt there is a simple grave marking the place where Borden was buried.  His epitaph says it all: “Apart from Christ, there is no explanation of such a life.”

There is so much more in this powerful biography by Mrs. Howard Taylor.  Pastor Sexton had Crown Christian Publications to reprint Borden of Yale this year.  It is the newest of the “Crown Christian Classics” series and is very well done.  A few days ago I sent a new copy to the man who gave me my first.  I would like to give it to you as a recommendation and pray that you will find as much profit from it as I have.  “My favorite” is usually the thing I am studying or reading at the time, but this book has continued to help me long past my 25th birthday.  God help us all to make our life count.  Help us to remember that only a life of NO RESERVE and NO RETREAT can be a life of NO REGRETS.

You may order a copy of Borden of Yale by calling 1.877.AT CROWN or online at

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  1. Pastor Ashton Nelson on October 6, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    Bro. Pauley,
    In reponse to your tweet, I was going to share my favorite biography, yet it seems we share a common favorite. I too have been impressed deeply about Bro. Borden’s life and the idea that a young man can live totally devoted to God, and that God will use that life in ways he or we for that matter may never know. I enjoyed your post very much and thank you.

  2. Johnny Nix on October 8, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    I have always considered a favorite biography, John Jasper: The Unmatched Negro Philosopher and Preacher written by William Hatcher. It has always intrigued me every time I reread it.

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