These three phrases have long been rumored to be found scribbled on the inside of William Borden’s Bible after his death. Many fanciful versions of this story are told, even by famous preachers such as John MacArthur, Tim Keller, and Billy Graham.
The basic plot is that Borden recorded each phrase in his Bible at a pivotal point in his journey:
“No Reserve” when he forsook his wealth to become a missionary,
“No Retreat” as pressure arose to remain in America,
“No Regrets” from his deathbed after falling ill in Egypt.
A simple online search reveals that much has been made of these now-iconic phrases. However, there is no evidence that Borden ever wrote those words himself, and many of the accounts have twisted his testimony almost beyond recognition.
The only place where these phrases are actually found in connection to the life of William Whiting Borden is in this definitive biography. The myths seem to have originated from a clever turn of phrase by his biographer.
In summarizing the life and testimony of her subject, Mrs. Taylor wrote the following words:
“No reserve, no retreat, no regrets had any place in Borden’s consecration to God.”
Some may be disappointed to discover that there is not more to this story. However, I would argue that Mrs. Taylor’s words carry even greater weight than if Borden himself had written them.
It’s one thing to declare one’s own consecration to Christ, dedication to the mission, and sacrificial love for others. It is quite another for an impartial observer to study your life and draw those conclusions based on the actual evidence of your words, actions, and relationships.
So no, Borden did not write those words. Mrs. Taylor, however, did carefully choose them to describe his life. And as her book clearly shows, she was not mistaken.
B. F. Westen, Editor
P.S. In the message that follows, I give an overview of the life and legacy of William Borden, and then talk about the unique connection that Borden’s beloved Gansu Province has with my home state of Oklahoma…