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Two New Novels by John J. Horn
September 25, 2012

It has been quite some time since Joshua or I (John) have updated this blog, but we've been quite busy in the interim. One of the projects I've been working on has just been released in the form of two new boys' adventure novels, published by Vision Forum.

If you've followed this blog, you should know that I'm passionate about solid, God-glorifying fiction which encourages manliness and involves action and adventure. I've been privileged over the years to write about R. M. Ballantyne, G. A. Henty, and other authors of boys' adventure fiction, and I'm now happy to join the ranks.

Both of these novels are stand-alone books, though you may see a few connections if you look closely, and both are set in the 1830s. It's a time of danger, unexplored territories, burgeoning technologies, Old World fighting tactics, and the ever-present need for manhood and courage.

The Boy Colonel: A Soldier Without a Name

The year is 1836. A mysterious young English soldier known as the "Boy Colonel" commands a crack regiment in the snowy wastelands of Siberia. No one knows his history. No one knows his name. The Cossacks want him dead -- but are they the only ones? It seems his worst enemy may wear an English uniform.

The Boy Colonel strives to perform his duty, but when that duty becomes mixed he must decide which sovereign is greater -- the king of England, or the God of the Bible. Treachery, intimidation, and deceit block his path. His choice of allegiance may mean the difference between life and death. Is he prepared to risk all to protect his loved ones?

Brothers at Arms: Treasure & Treachery in the Amazon

Lawrence and Chester Stoning are twins, but like Jacob and Esau of old they have little else in common. Lawrence is a realist, fascinated by the study of science, mathematics, and history, while Chester longs for the knightly adventures of chivalrous times past--hard-fought battles, gold-filled caves, damsels in distress.

When Chester's impetuosity engages the unlikely pair as bodyguards to a Spaniard and his beautiful ward Pacarina, the twins quickly realize that the 19th century calls for a chivalry of its own. Protecting Pacarina's secret leads all of them into the steaming jungles and dizzying mountains of Peru, a foreboding territory made all the more dangerous by Lawrence and Chester's strivings against each other. Can the twins learn to trust God and work together before it's too late? Or will they fall prey to the mysterious schemes of Pacarina's enemy -- an enemy they know nothing about?

Look interesting? Click here to purchase both books from Vision Forum. Drop me an email to let me know what you think, and spread the word to family and friends!

Tueri a Vulnere,


Posted by John Horn at 12:31 PM |

Happy 697th anniversary.
July 24, 2011

At Bannockburn arose a king
Whose valor would be known 'er more
Brave Bruce's boldness would be seen
A' setting right the Scottish scores
He gathered up the Scottish bands,
Without allowing cowards rest
And by example lead the Clans
And so restored old Scotland's crest.
Yes, thank the men who followed Bruce,
Without them surfs today we'd be
All hangin high in Edward's noose,
Instead of men remaining free.

"Wha, for Scotland's king and law, Freedom's sword will strongly draw, Freeman stand or Freeman fa', Let him on wi' me."

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 04:43 PM |

What Shall Workingmen Read?
January 04, 2011

A BTB reader recently sent me this article, first published in March of 1869 by the Manufacturer and Builder Magazine. Although I don't agree with everything the writer has to say, I think it's a thought-provoking and profitable look at the importance of what we read.

What Shall Workingmen Read?

For those who have the leisure to read much, the question of choice is not so important as it is to the laboring man. Of course, the mind is weakened and the character impaired by the perusal of immoral or even of trifling and worthless books; but this evil is not so great, if such literature only forms a small part of an omnivorous course of reading. We often meet people who read every thing, and nothing seems to do them any harm. It is true, that such persons get almost as little good as harm from their morbid activity in this direction. They do not digest what they read; they do not derive from it any stimulus to independent and fruitful thinking; and in proportion as they cram themselves with the opinions of others, they cease to have any of their own. The best thinkers are not the greediest readers. But on the other hand, those who are able from the nature of their occupations to read but little have double reason to make that little effective for good. To them the question, What shall I read? is one of vital importance. We do not propose to answer it with a cast-iron formula; rules of that kind are seldom applicable to individual cases. But a few general remarks and suggestions may throw light upon the matter, and aid the individual judgment in forming a decision.

First of all, we think it highly important to make some choice. A little reflection will show that the majority of people in this country do nothing of the kind. They read what they come across. They do not stop, in purchasing a book or drawing it from the circulating library, to compare it with some other, and decide which is preferable, or which should be read first in point of time. The principal exception to this rule is the case of romantic young people, who have just finished some exciting novel which leaves the hero neither married nor dead, according to the good old fashion, but promises a further development of his fate in a sequel; and this sequel they pursue with furious zeal, until they capture it. But in history, science, or any other branch of literature, there seems to be little thought of proper sequences. One reason for this general haphazard way of reading is the fact that this generation has been overwhelmed suddenly with the flood of cheap literature before the ways of the last generation have died out. Our fathers could not well choose what they would read. They read what books there might be on a single shelf in the family homestead, and what they could borrow from their neighbors. Great public libraries, and, still more great private libraries, were unknown to them. And now that even the poor man can have his selection for a dollar out of the whole range of English literature, he continues to do what his ancestors did - spend his dollar on the thing he happens upon, not the thing he seeks after.

In making a choice, it is to be borne in mind that one class of reading is stimulating and another is edifying. Both are necessary. In the first class we include novels, essays, magazines, and to some extent newspapers. These things arouse the mind to interest in particular subjects; but they do not train it in the knowledge of those subjects. On the other hand, what are called standard works in history, science, art, etc., are frequently but dry reading to those whose fancy has not been touched by the lighter productions of ephemeral literature. Some severe judges condemn light reading altogether. Their number is fast decreasing, however, and the other extreme is numerously represented by those who disdain every thing that is not popular in style. The bigotry of beef without mustard is giving place to the bigotry of mustard without beef.

Now, the man who has but little time to read should seek first of all to become interested in some worthy subject. If it be in the direction of natural science, so much the better. Nature rewards our study of her with immediate dividends of pleasure as well as profit. If his taste lead him to history, very well; the study of man is the noblest study of mankind. But having received the impulse, let him follow it, not fritter it away in receiving a new one to some other pursuit.

We think every workman should know something of the literature of his craft, but that is part of his work; and he should also, as a matter of recreation, follow some course of reading outside. This will keep his mind from becoming narrow and one-sided by too exclusive attention to his particular business.

One prevalent weakness in America is the inordinate reading of newspapers. This stimulates in all directions and rarely educates in any. We boast of having the largest dailies in the world, and not content with their mammoth pages, we multiply the nuisance of triple sheets, till the public spends half its waking hours in trying to keep up with the lightning press. Every man one meets has the morning paper bulging from his pocket. He wrestles with it in vain at breakfast; it is too much for him at lunch; it will intrude itself for supplementary consideration at dinner, and he will fall asleep in the evening over its last column, to wake in the morning and find another like it, but all unread, upon his doorstep. Yet no sensible man believes what he finds in the papers. What they give is news, not truth, and the publication of an erroneous statement on Monday, of its correction on Tuesday, and of editorial insinuations thereat on Wednesday, yields interesting matter for three days, whereas the truth would have been best served by silence, which, however, pays no dividends. The conductors of newspapers are scarcely to blame for this state of things. It is forced upon them by the public; men have come to demand not only the record, but also the gossip of the day. "On dit" is the "thus saith the Lord" of our modern oracles.

But most unfortunate of all, the metropolitan newspapers furnish editorials, essays, and reviews of high literary merit, in great abundance. The gossip can be dismissed by a skillful reader with a glance; but these erudite and brilliant articles seem to demand attention. Yet we must sorrowfully confess that they are not the safest basis for knowledge. They stimulate and interest, but do not train the mind.

We recommend to every man, but especially to the man of comparatively little business for reading, the following experiments. Let him choose a subject to which his taste inclines, and then select a standard book on that subject for study. Let him thoroughly master the acknowledged facts in the case, and, make up his own opinion about them. Let him learn by experience how to read up on the subject, and become gradually acquainted with its history and relations. We think he will find himself guided into a course of reading as agreeable as it is profitable.

There is an order of importance among subjects of study. Those which most intimately concern the physical and moral welfare of the individual, the family, and the State, claim a front rank. But no violence need be done to the natural inclinations. Let every man learn enough of these things to be a good workman, parent, and citizen, and then let him follow to greater degrees of accomplishment the branches he likes best.

Know something thoroughly, and you have unlocked the gate into the vast garden of universal knowledge. Failing to do this, you are perpetually making the circuit outside, and only gazing at the fruits that hang over the wall.

Thanks to Drake L. for sending me this article!

Tueri a vulnere,

John Horn

Posted by John Horn at 08:16 PM |

New Christian Adventure Movie in the Works!
October 18, 2010

While this website is dedicated to R. M. Ballantyne, I'm glad to take opportunities to highlight other books and movies that advance the same messages of Christian manhood and adventure. With this in mind, I've had the privilege to be somewhat involved in the production of a new God-glorifying action/adventure film, which has just been announced to the public. Please watch the trailer, posted below, and visit the website at!

Scions of Danger Teaser from NDFilmmaker on Vimeo.

Tueri a vulnere,


Posted by John Horn at 11:50 AM |

Wall Street Journal Says "Boys Should Read"
September 25, 2010

A fascinating Op-Ed was featured in The Wall Street Journal recently, written by Thomas Spence, who is the president of Spence Publishing Company, located in Dallas. It's quite interesting to read a somewhat secular perspective on the necessity of manly readership, the junk modern publishing houses churn out for their grossed audiences, and the role of video games and internet browsing in boys' lives. The item of most fascination to me was the statistics presented about the literacy gap between boys and girls and the one group it doesn't apply to: home-schoolers.

Click to read "How to Raise Boys Who Read."

Posted by John Horn at 08:27 AM |

Andrew Jackson: Steady Through Sorrow
March 29, 2010

Andrew Jackson is known for his Indian campaigns, the victorious battle of New Orleans, and two terms of presidency. His rugged exterior, noble heart, and fiery temper have all become legendary. What is not so well known is the sorrow-stricken childhood he experienced.

A month before Andrew Jackson, the famous soldier and politician was born, his father, also named Andrew Jackson, strained himself while at work on their farm and died. His wife was left with two boys, which quickly became three as Andy saw the light of his first day.

Jackson was born in the tumultuous year of 1767. The passions of American colonists mounted as the years rolled towards that glorious day in 1776 when our rights would be declared inviolable as a separate country from Great Britain. When fighting broke out, Andy's elder brother, Hugh, quickly entered the contest and was killed in battle against the redcoats. Passionate young Andrew, fully engaged in the feelings of his countrymen and devoted to American independence, joined the army as a courier in 1780 at the tender age of thirteen, along with his sixteen-year-old brother.

Andrew made himself useful carrying dispatches and orders along the southern roads from commander to commander. During one of the frequent British raids, he and his brother were captured and taken prisoners of war. When commanded to black the commanding officer's boots, Jackson refused, receiving a deep saber cut for his response. His brother was also wounded by the same soldier, after which both were placed in the rotting, fever-infested prison quarters at Camden, South Carolina.

Both lads became ill during their interment, and their brave mother, determining not to let her boys suffer alone, convinced the commanding British officer to let her nurse her sons. Eventually they were released, but Robert, Andrew's only remaining brother, died in quick succession as a result of is incarceration. As a final blow, Elizabeth Jackson also succumbed to the disease, leaving Andrew Jackson as the sole member of his family by the age of fourteen.

These times must have been very black indeed to a young boy just starting in life. However, he buckled to his tasks, and, endowed with a decent amount of capital from his father's estate, provided for himself. He could have wallowed in his misery, bemoaning his losses and feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he "girded up his loins" like a man, and set out on the rough road of life.

Although I don't agree with everything Andrew Jackson did, or believed in, he is an example of a young man who lived through tremendous hardship and grief without giving in. His will was inflexible, his sense of honor impeccable, his temper a glowing ember. However, he had an enormous love for children, and, although not blessed with any progeny, he played a father's role in many children's lives, including that of the famous Sam Houston. Remembering the pain as a child of lacking a father, Jackson filled this role to many of the children who grew up around his home.

Andrew Jackson is another example of an imperfect but noble man, who rose above the conditions in which he found himself, showing indomitable courage, unquenchable energy, and untarnished honor. It is my hope that we all will bear in mind his example!

Tutela ex Vulnero,


Posted by John Horn at 07:36 AM |

Why We Read Ballantyne
March 20, 2010

Why is it that we read R. M. Ballantyne?

Is it because we like fictional stories? Tales of adventure, and excitement? Partly. But is there something deeper? Something more worthwhile? I think so.

Ballantyne's books are more than just exciting adventure stories. They contain deeper, fuller, richer truths than what meets the eye on a cursory view. They are different than the vast majority of novels. What is that difference? His main characters are men.

Please allow me to clarify this statement. I don't mean that we glean inspiration from Ballantyne's works because his main characters are males. I mean that they are men. Strong, noble, manly men who present a firm brow to the world, and contain a sturdy set of shoulders capable of carrying their God-given portion of sorrows and joys. Not whimpering simpletons who spend all day playing video games and chatting with other simpletons on social networking sites.

Ballantyne's characters are physically hearty, having trained their bodies from youth to "be inured from childhood to trifling risks and slight dangers," as the author said. But, you ask, what's so different about Ballantyne's tales from other books? Jules Verne's characters are strong. Robert Louis Stevenson's fellows are hearty and active. Herman Melville's sailors can throw a harpoon with the best.

Herman Melville Herman Melville

All this is true. If Ballantyne's character development stopped with bodily strength, he would fit in with the authors already mentioned. But he doesn't. He goes deeper. Ballantyne goes to the heart and soul of a man. Melville's sailors have come to the "conclusion that a man's religion is one thing and this practical world quite another." (Moby-Dick) Verne leaves science to save the world, with a smattering of religious thought as an accompaniment. Stevenson doesn't quite know what to think regarding spiritual matters, therefore his characters dispense contrary and conflicting opinions.

Ballantyne is diametrically opposed to these view points. His men and boys "know whom they have believed," and are capable of defending their faith in great detail. They don't hold the opinion that each man should believe whatever he likes best. Instead, they are assured of the truth of God's word and earnestly endeavor to evangelize those around.

And so, let's give a huzzah for Ballantyne's manly men, his gospel message, and his inspirational books! Others can keep the video games.

Tutela ex Vulnero,


Posted by John Horn at 09:10 AM |

Manly Friendships
August 26, 2009

Today few illustrations of true, manly friendships exist, in part because our culture of gender equivalence has destroyed manhood, degenerating manliness into effeminacy. Biblical roles in society have been switched and perverted, to the detriment of that which is righteous. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." Isaiah 5:20.

History provides innumerable examples of strong, manly friendships and the impact they have on society, especially during times of hardship and crisis. A "manly friendship" does not simply signify a friendship between two men. Instead, a real "manly friendship" takes place between earnest men bent on building up and edifying each other in the Lord. One example is the beautiful friendship of David and Jonathan.

The Bible says that Jonathan and David's hearts were knit together. They became as one, firmly joined. Even though Jonathan was likely much older than David, they were true to each other in a companionship the likes of which are not often seen today.

Their relationship was beautiful. Several distinct and separate covenants were made between them, binding one to another. One of the most fascinating aspects of the friendship was Jonathan's response to the anointment of David as successor to Saul. As the son of Saul, King of Israel, Jonathan was heir to his father's throne. When the prophet Samuel, by the Lord's direction, annoited David as the next king of Israel, he changed the process of succession. Instead of becoming bitter and lashing back at David, as Saul did, Jonathan accepted the Lord's command, and protected his now endangered friend.

Friendships should be used to edify and build up both participants. Most modern Americans think of friends as people you "hang out" with, talk to about the latest movies, and try to be "cooler" than. True friends edify each other. They hold themselves accountable, discussing weighty and meaningful matters. Many modern relationships are short-lived, and then hung out to dry while the participants move on to other things. Loyalty is rarely seen.

In contrast, David mourned the death of Saul and Jonathan, the men he called father and brother, with a heart-felt emotion. His words dwelt entirely on the good Saul accomplished during his reign, and the prosperity Israel attained under his leadership. There was no bitterness for the years David spent running for his life from Saul and his soldiers.

Another example of manly friendship in critical times is the relationship of George Washington with his military staff and generals. During the long, hard years of the American War for Independence, Washington worked night and day with these men, learning their manifold strengths and weaknesses. In his letters, Washington referred to his staff as his "family," and they were fiercely loyal to their beloved general.

The Marquis de Lafayette was one of Washington's most trusted generals. This Frenchman was young enough to be the Commander-in-chief's son, and was treated much like one. Lafayette's bond was so strong that when his wife bore him a son, he named the child "Georges Washington" after his father-figure.

The Marquis was not the only general to have a deep friendship with Washington. Both Henry Knox and Nathaniel Greene loved and respected their commander, and were loved in return.Washington tenasciously backed his generals, always taking the blame of a lost battle or unsuccessful campaign upon his own shoulders. In 1776, Greene was in command at Fort Washington, a strategic position situated on the Hudson River. When this fort was captured by the British, public outrage rose against Greene, but Washington did not falter in his support for his friend. Notwithstanding Greene's loss of the fort, Washington kept him in his position of authority, and the General proved himself worthy of such trust in the crucial campaigns in the south.

We need to be careful with whom we have close friendships. Proverbs 22:24 says "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go." We cannot, and should not, be closely involved in the life of those who are not following God's Law. How can we edify each other if our friend is rejecting the very precepts of God's Word?

An example of the wrong type of friend is found in Esther chapter five, where Haman wishes to destroy Mordecai. The wicked ruler's friends counsel him to build a gallows in order to hang the faithful Jew. Instead, the Law of God triumphs and Haman is hung on the gallows built by his friends' advice.

So, what does this have to do with R. M. Ballantyne? Well, Ballantyne strove to make his characters manly men, and to involve them in manly friendships. My favorite example is the relationship between the three heroes of The Coral Island. Ralph, Peterkin, and Jack, are cast onto a deserted island where they must fend for themselves. Do you think they begin bewailing their unprotected condition, and complaining about their shipwreck? No!

The boys immediately begin to discover what resources are on hand, and to formulate a plan of action. Their personalities mesh perfectly. Jack, the eldest, has learned much by reading books, and knows how to build things. Ralph, next in age, is of a philosophic nature, and tends to keep his friends' schemes realistic. Peterkin, the youngest, is a humorous, lighthearted boy ready to try anything, and risk life and limb in the process.

Ballantyne's characters are not wimps. (In The Gorilla Hunters, he refers to a wimpy boy as a "muff"). His heroes are strong and courageous, as are their friends. In the book just mentiioned, the narrator, Ralph Rover, considers the subject of unmanly boys. He decides that "boys should be inured from childhood to trifling risks and light dangers of every possible order to strengthen their nervous system." Language such as this can not be found in children's novels today!

In conclusion, I would argue that who your friends are speaks much about your character. How do you want to be known? As an earnest, thoughtful man who participates in meaningful manly friendships? Or as a weak, effeminate man who participates in shallow, meaningless relationships?

Let us strive to be the first example. Jesus Christ himself when a young boy was found discussing issues with his elders, not employed in children's games and petty conversations. The men he took as his disciples were strong men, capable of learning deeply of his wisdom. Those who thought too much of worldly pleasures were left behind.

Let us be men, prepared for our high calling!

Tutela ex Vulnero,


Posted by John Horn at 11:16 AM |

Once More Into the Breach!
August 09, 2009

Ballantyne the Brave Advances With a New Editor and a Renewed Vision


In 2002, while attending a homeschool convention with my father, I acquired two good condition 19th century editions of The Coral Island and Martin Rattler from an "old book" vendor. Over the next week I devoured them. I had been reading the works of G.A. Henty for a while already. And I saw similarities in that both authors spoke to many of the values and principles my father had emphasized in our home - manhood, Christian virtue, and dominion - and did so in the context of thought-provoking, globe-trekking stories. Thus began my love affair with the boys adventure novels of R.M. Ballantyne. These two editions remain among my favorite R.M.B. books. I doubt that will change.

As we entered the 21st century the book market had clearly veered away from really substantial and meaty works for young men. Many of the best classics of authors, like Ballantyne, Henty, and Verne, had fallen out of favor -- and out of print. I believed (and still do) that something had to happen to reverse this trend.

Step one was getting this type of book back in print. My father and I talked about this a lot, but it was not until April of 2007 that we were able to see this dream become a reality when Vision Forum began to republish beautifully bound editions of R.M. Ballantyne's works. Ballantyne was the man that Robert Louis Stevenson described as "Ballantyne the brave" and Ballantyne was one of the men whom England, and all the world, had been inspired by in the 19th century.

The outcome was a very classy set of ten of Ballantyne's books. As the popularity of Ballantyne's novels began to grow, so did the number of books that we republished. By mid 2008, we had a total of twenty "Ballantyne books" in print! And, God willing, many more will follow.

Beginning the process of getting the books back in print was a giant step towards raising the awareness of the importance of great Christian boys' literature. But more was needed. There needed to be a place where young men could learn more about this type of literature, its authors, and the importance of manly literature.

<center>R.M.B. at age 22</center>
R.M.B. at age 22

In January of 2008, my father and I were sitting at a restaurant in Colorado when we hatched the plan for At that point I only had a vague idea of the many possibilities for a Christian-boys'-literary-website. Over the course of the next two months, Dad helped to shape my vision and plan for a future website as we began to collect information about manly historical fiction and our own Robert Michael Ballantyne. By April of 2008, we had laid out a vision for project "Ballantyne the Brave." Thanks to the help of a great design team, some needed input from fellow Ballantyne enthusiasts, and a lot of preparatory work, we were able to officially launch the website May 14, 2008.

The mission of the site was this:

  1. To speak to the importance of Christian adventure literature for boys so that we can encourage a revival of Christian virtues, manly aspirations and godly character qualities with the present generation.
  2. To introduce today's generation of boys to the writings of Christian fiction/adventure writers such as Ballantyne, Kingston, etc., and to continue to speak to the importance of the more well known authors like Henty, Stevenson, and Verne.
  3. To fight against the modern stream of articles, ideas, and actions which criticize the 19th century's overt Christianity in literature.
  4. To write about vigorous manhood and to expel "wimpiness" from the young men of our modern age of effeminacy.

My father and I believe that there are so many unhealthy things competing for the attention of young men in today's world. The Bible exhorts boys to "quit themselves like men", to "gird up their loins like men", and to be about the business of manly endeavors. But our culture seems to perpetually point boys of the modern generation to frivolity, love of self and entertainment for entertainments sake. Few young men find themselves around the type of men and books that prepare them to be future leaders or future men. The result is a generation of weak boys who lack focus and vision.

Another problem is that too many people are fearful about presenting manly, Christian stories to young men. It is not just secular publishers but also Christians who have lost the vision to train boys up to be manly. In the absence of good preaching, good examples and good literature, many boys are taught by our culture to believe that effeminacy and wimpiness are virtues. This is wrong! Something must be done to reverse this trend. And that is why BTB was founded.

Over the last three years much has been accomplished towards this goal. The site was launched, books have been republished, articles have been written, and the site has had a steady stream of questions and comments. It has been tremendous to see so many young men and ladies around the world catch the vision for manly men and feminine women. What a great time to be in the process of fighting for Christ!

My father has made it a point to emphasize that success in any endeavor requires mentorship, and it requires training successors. From the beginning, it was our hope that we would be able to model this principle at BTB by finding a steady line of capable and professional young men of strong character and clear vision to perpetuate the mission of bold manhood. I am happy to say that God has blessed this vision by sending John Horn to assume the role of Managing Editor to With this post, I will be officially passing the torch to him.

<center>John Horn</center>
John Horn

John Horn, is a friend and a first rate chap who shares the vision for both Henty and Ballantyne. As Managing Editor, John will be responsible for overseeing the site. He will be writing blogs, posting articles, and answering questions. John is the best person I know for this role. He has spent untold hours researching R.M. Ballantyne and has even been in contact with the Hudson's Bay Company to gather further information about Ballantyne's time in Canada. John is also an expert on Henty, having read 60+ of his books over the last seven years. Like myself John has read and enjoyed many other great historical authors of fiction and non-fiction, including J. F. Cooper, Jules Verne, and R.L. Stevenson.

This transition not only allows us to see our vision press forward, but it paves the way for me to move on to some important new projects and responsibilities which build on the very foundational message communicated at BTB. I will be continuing on as Director for BTB. This means that I will remain involved. But in the future my work will be more in an advisory role. You can expect articles and comments from me to continue, but with less frequency since John will be overseeing the day to day as Managing Editor. This is a very exciting time for BTB, and we hope to be establishing a tradition of passing the torch on to different young men in future years.

John's mission is to take to the next level - that means expanding the scope of our discussion to other authors, to more in-depth research and to even more thought-provoking commentary. Over the next year, John will be posting about different aspects of Ballantyne's character, and we will both be writing on complimentary authors like Kingston, Henty and others. We also want to have more hard-hitting commentary on subjects of importance to boys in the modern day. We hope to receive more book reviews, and more commentary on 19th century literature from our readers.

We also want this website to provide a helpful forum for discussion with our readers. But that means getting feedback, commentary and letters from you. We love to hear from you, so please keep writing. If you have thoughtful articles, book reviews interesting questions, or even helpful comments, send them in. The more comments and thoughts you send in, the more we can post.

The last year has been a great opportunity for me to hone my writing, reading, and comprehension skills. I have loved helping my father communicate the message of Christian boyhood through writing. Meeting so many interesting people from around the world and talking about books and ideas which have been so important in my life has also been great. This has been an excellent experience for me to begin speaking to the subject of Christian manhood and to talk about some of my favorite things. All of this makes me very grateful to the Lord for granting this wonderful opportunity, and it makes me thankful to you for your interest and readership in this important project.

As Shakespeare declared through the mouth of the great Henry V, we are headed "Once more into the breach!" Praise the Lord for a new year of adventures, battles and opportunities. For myself, I am really looking forward to all the great new projects which I will be working on over the next year. And I definitely plan to keep up with all things Ballantyne and Henty!

Once more into the breach,
Joshua Titus

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 06:13 PM |

Gallantry on The Field of Battle.
July 17, 2009

At a recent gathering of heroes and heroines from the past a number of gallant and noble young warriors came together under the banner of gentlemanliness, manhood, and bravery and decided to practice and grow accustomed to the manly arts. One of these arts is the art of fencing, swordplay, or whatsoever one deigns to call it.

At this gathering a number of combats came up whereupon these gentlemen plied nobly for honor and for right. I have one such of these events recorded below. I am sure that many of you will find this interesting.

Joshua Titus

P.S. I would bring to attention, as a question has been broached, that, in fact, using a knife, blade, or dagger in open or single combat is a part of the rules and not against classical swordplay rules. JT

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 08:40 PM |

The Son of God Goes Forth to War
May 18, 2009

The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.

The martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave,
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save;
Like Him, with pardon on his tongue
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
Who follows in his train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame:
They met the tyrant's brandished steel,
The lion's gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Saviour's throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed:
They climbed the steep ascent of heav'n
Through peril, toil and pain:
O God, to us may grace be giv'n
To follow in their train.

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 11:21 AM |

Some Thoughts on the Motto "Victory or Death!" On the Anniversary of the Travis Letter.
February 24, 2009

On this day, one hundred seventy three years, one of the great figures in Texas history penned the words "Victory or Death."

For William Barrett Travis, the defense of the Alamo may have been a desperate cause, but he believed it was his duty to the people of Texas, for whom he was fighting.

Travis lost. Everyone died.

One hundred seventy three years later, some might ask, " Was Travis right?" Was he right to make "Victory or Death!" his motto and lead 189 men to their deaths? Was this declaration the mark of heroic bravery or fool-hearty recklessness? Is it ever time to give up?

Some of you who have emailed me may have noticed that, in addition to the motto Alba Gu Bra, I sometimes use "Victory or Death!" ("Buaidh No Bas" in Gaelic.) This battle cry was not only used by Travis, but has also been sounded for generations in war and peace, going back hundreds of years in almost every country.

The essence of the motto "Victory or Death!" is a simple proposition: It is important for men to be willing to lay down their lives for a godly cause. Or, very simply, "I will fight to the death for what is right and nothing this side of death will stop me!"

When properly applied in the right context, "Victory or Death!" is a message of manhood, self-sacrifice, and courage that should inspire all Christian men because it is a biblical message. There really are battles worth fighting for.

After noting a comment I posted that "G.A. Henty boys are not wimps or saps," a reader of emailed me, questioning whether it is really so bad to be wimpy.

He asked how anyone could biblically justify the "intense physical violence and bloodshed" which some Henty boys experience on the battlefield. Stating that courage is not shown in "conquest or dominion,", he closed by saying,

I am left to wonder: what is God's biblical idea of manhood and courage? Is it defending your name, your family, your religion, or your country? Or is it something deeper than that, a man who knows the Truth, believes the Truth, proclaims the Truth, and is willing to give all that he holds dear in the defense and maintaining of it?

Reflecting on these questions, I thought, what sort of man would question defending your name, family, religion, and country? Is it not clear in the Bible that we are to to live with a sword in one hand and a trowel in another as Nehemiah did, and say with him, "Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses!" [Neh. 4:14]

To be a man who "knows the Truth, believes the Truth, proclaims the Truth, and is willing to give all that he holds dear in the defense" of the 'Truth', I must defend my family, religion, and country in obedience to the Scripture, which is the only "Truth!" I might even go so far as to say that in certain situations, I must defend my name and honor to uphold that very same "Truth."

Another verse this gentleman included in his email was the famous, "Put up again thy sword into [its] place: for they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt. 26:52) quote. What he didn't include was an equally important verse, also spoken by Jesus while on the earth, "... he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." (Luke 22:36) I think it should be clear here that Jesus is not condemning owning weapons or even being ready to fight. Rather, in the Mathew 26:52 verse, he is pointing out that it was time for the fulfillment of his duty (on the Cross), not time to start chopping folks' ears off.

Going back to the idea of "Victory or Death," if you are going to fight for something (I mean literal battle), it better be worth dying over. Biblically, it seems that, if you are not fighting for victory, you are fighting for defeat, and that means the loss of whatever it is that you are fighting for. If you are fighting for your family, home, religion, or even honor, you can't afford to lose. That's part of the reason why it is so important to only have biblical warfare. Don't start a war if you aren't going to really try and win it. (And don't chop off anyone ears unless it is time for battle.) Choose your battles carefully.

So, what about Travis?

Here in Texas, when you hear someone refer to the motto "Victory or Death!" it's a pretty safe thing to guess that they are referring to the words of W.B.Travis at the famous Battle of the Alamo.

Let's review the facts:

<center>Col. Travis</center>
Col. Travis
Travis was the second highest ranking officer at the Alamo after Col. Neill who left before the final battle, transferring his command to Travis. On the day after the siege began, Travis wrote a letter to "The People of Texas and All Americans in the World." In the letter he announced his need for volunteers to defend the Alamo. He also declared that he would "never surrender or retreat!" He ended his famous appeal with the words, "Victory or Death!" On February 24, 1836, one hundred seventy three years ago today, Col. Travis penned these important words.

Travis could have tried to surrender the Alamo. He could have tried to flee with his men. But he didn't. Instead Travis stood and held his ground, knowing that short of a near-impossible victory, he and everyone of his men would lose their lives.

Travis drew a line in the sand and offered every man in the Alamo an "honorable" way out of this death trap. Out of 190 men, only one crossed that line.

Each of those men died. But they sent a message to the world that Texans would not surrender their homes, their families, or their freedom. They also held the Alamo long enough to set things in motion for the men who would ultimately defeat the Santa Anna. If it weren't for the Alamo defenders who refused to flee or surrender, there might not be a Texas today.

I am grateful for Travis' cry of "Victory or Death!" As a Texan, I am especially thankful for those men who gave their lives for what they believed was worth dying for: freedom. They believed their cause was just, and they were right.

Of course, modern man is uncomfortable with statements like "Victory or Death." It is too dogmatic, too uncompromising, too unrealistic. But the problem is not with the statement. The problem is with modern man.

There is a time when Christian men must be willing to say, "I will fight, to the death, for what is right and nothing this side of death will stop me!" Whether it was Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty or give me Death" speech, Colonel Travis' letter from the Alamo, or even the echo of William Wallace's battle cries, you can feel the sentiment coming through that they will fight to the death for victory and never give up.

I believe that it is our duty to take this message, and particularly Travis's closing line, and "never surrender or retreat" when we are on the Lord's side. Even in times of great angst and trouble, when our country is in distress, it is our duty not to give up, but to fight to defend our families, religion, and country. And ultimately the honor of the "Truth." To live well, we must realize that some things are worth dying for.

The film Braveheart popularized another important motto: "Every man dies. Not every man truly lives." Behind this sentiment is the belief that only those who are willing to lay down their lives in a meaningful cause have something worth living for.

Travis would have agreed.

So, was Travis right to declare "Victory or Death" in the face of almost certain immediate disaster?

I believe he was. The simple fact is this: His death purchased Texas' independence. My state, my community, my family, and I continue to benefit from his sacrifice.

Travis was right. So was Patrick Henry. And Nehemiah. And the Scots. And George Washington fighting for our national freedom. And so are all the martyrs and defenders of Godly causes through all time who lose their life in service for the Lord, living out "Victory or Death!"

"Buaidh No Bas." -JT

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 09:42 AM |

Boys Wanted
January 28, 2009

A friend of mine sent this to me a while ago. I think this is a very good poem. As young men we should really take what this poem is saying to heart and act upon it because, as the poem states, "... from your future efforts, boys, comes a nation's destiny." I wish I knew who wrote it, because, It really reminds me of Henty's quote about true heroism.

Boys Wanted

Boys of spirit, boys of will,
Boys of muscle, brain and power,
Fit to cope with anything,
These are wanted every hour.

Not the weak and whining drones,
Who all troubles magnify;
Not the watchword of "I can't,"
But the nobler one, "I'll try."

Do whate'er you have to do
With a true and earnest zeal;
Bend your sinews to the task,
"Put your shoulders to the wheel."

Though your duty may be hard,
Look not on it as an ill;
If it be an honest task,
Do it with an honest will.

In the workshop, on the farm,
At the desk, where'er you be,
From your future efforts, boys,
Comes a nation's destiny.

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 12:40 PM |

A Call to Return to the Days of Manly Men
December 12, 2008

One thing that has been emphasized many times at this blog is the importance of Manliness.

As has been said so many times, the culture of bold, Christian manhood is under attack. That means that the example of heroes who go into battle to help others is now being questioned by modern day, effeminate wimps. (I say wimps because I don't even deign to call many modern "males" men.) They have their own great commission, and it includes their belief that it is their mission, above all else, to destroy such vestiges of Christendom as manliness and to "wimpify" the nations.

It is our mission to "Teach all nations . . . teaching them to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matt 28:19-20) This is a command to teach, live, and work in direct opposition to these 'modern-day wimpy men.' I believe that part of "teaching the nations" is setting out examples of true manhood. That's why this website is dedicated to manly authors like Ballantyne and Henty.

Matt Chancey in Nairobi

I believe that one example of true manliness is a good friend of the Phillips family named Mr. Matthew Chancey. Right now Mr. Chancey is in Nairobi with my Uncle, Brad Phillips, helping and ministering to the Sudanese people. Not only does he help and comfort the Christians, he also brings Bibles to give to the Muslims.

Currently Mr. Chancey is on the docket for "Man of the Year" on the Old Spice Art of Manliness website. (Caveat: I do not support everything on Art of Manliness, furthermore I do not know the full content, and advise all readers to show good judgment and discernment when visiting AoM.) He was nominated by his wife, Mrs. Jennie Chancey, who wrote a truly stunning report on why her husband should be Man of the Year. Everyone should read her amazing tribute to her husband. The best way to know if someone is truly great (or manly) is to listen to what his wife says about him, and anyone who read Mrs. Chancey's essay sees just how much she thinks of her husband.

Here are a couple of key points about Mr. Chancey that I appreciate and that make him an example of a true man:

  1. Proverbs 20:11 says "It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right." Mr. Chancey is only 32, yet he has eight children and has accomplished many great things because when he was a young man he began digging into the world of law and politics, and set his hand to the plow and put his back into honoring Christ as a teenager.

  2. Theodore Roosevelt said "It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger." As was already noted, Mr. Chancey is in Africa right now being a "doer of deeds" and not just sitting back or saying "how the fight ought to be fought."

  3. Often you can really know a manly man by his enemies. Overseas, the enemies of Mr. Chancey and his coworkers at the Persecution Project include Islamic jihadists, like the janja weed, who murder men, women, and children, and hate efforts to rescue the Sudanese people with the Gospel and practical supplies. Here in the U.S., Mr. Chancey's enemies include homosexual activists and hateful feminists who despise Mr. Chancey's manly resolve and convictions. (Mark 13:13--"And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. ...) Even his enemies show him to be a real man.

  4. He reads the works of G.A. Henty to his family. What more need be said?

Mr. Chancey with Sudanese friends Mr. Chancey with Sudanese friends

To sum up: Mr. Chancey is one of the manliest men I know and has set an example that we should take note of. He is an honoring man, a dutiful man, and a true friend.

Now it is our turn to honor a Biblical and Henty-esq man, to tell the world what type of men we set before us as examples, and as my friend Nathaniel Darnell pointed out:

As George Washington once called upon his country, we must now call upon ourselves to "raise a standard which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God." We must raise the standard of true Christian manliness so that others will gather to that righteous standard. Supporting Matthew Chancey candidacy is a terrific way to raise such a standard.

And give Biblical manhood a podium for the world to see.

So, I encourage all of you to immediately vote for Matt Chancey as the Man of the Year. In some ways, I look on Mr. Chancey's nomination as David standing up against Goliath. In this case though, it is Mr. Chancey (as David) standing up against the Goliath of effeminate men and preparing to chop off the head of that monster. With only two days left, please Vote now! As one of my friends said, "Matt is clearly the most awesomly manly man to choose from." But even more than that, it is time to raise up more examples for the modern generation of men like King David, William Wallace, and G.A. Genty.

Also, please pray for the gospel to reach the Muslims and animists who are in the Sudan. Mr. Chancey and my Uncle Brad always take in many Arabic Bibles, and the Muslims are grateful for any gifts, so pray for God's blessing on their work in the Sudan.

Now, VOTE!

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 01:34 PM |

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