The Christian Book of Mystical Verse
The purpose of this book is to bring together in one convenient volume some of the best devotional verse the English language affords, and thus to make available to present day Christians a rich spiritual heritage which the greater number of them for various reasons do not now enjoy.
I have not hesitated to apply the term "mystical" to the material I have collected here, though I readily admit that fewer than half a dozen of the men and women who would be called true mystics in the strict classical sense will be found here. Such names as Eckhart, Ruysbroeck, John of the Cross, Teresa, Rolle, Tauler, Hilton, Francis of Assisi, for instance, are not represented in this volume at all. On the other hand the frequent appearance of such a man as Watts might cause the reader to lift a questioning eyebrow and ask, "Is Watts also among the mystics?"
Well, the answer must be, Of course he is, and so are John Newton and James Montgomery and Reginald Heber and Charles Wesley, as well as many others who might have balked at being called mystics but whose writings, nevertheless, reveal unmistakable traces of purest mysticism and are the better for it. And for that matter the same thing may be said of the inspired writings of such men as Moses and David and Isaiah and Daniel and Paul and John, the works of the latter showing more than traces of the mystical spirit, being indeed charged full with it.
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Aiden Wilson Tozer was born April 21, 1897, on a small farm among the spiny ridges of Western Pennsylvania. Within a few short years, Tozer, as he preferred to be called, would earn the reputation and title of a "20th-century prophet."
Able to express his thoughts in a simple but forceful manner, Tozer combined the power of God and the power of words to nourish hungry souls, pierce human hearts, and draw earthbound minds toward God.
When he was 15 years old, Tozer's family moved to Akron, Ohio. One afternoon as he walked home from his job at Goodyear, he overheard a street preacher say, "If you don't know how to be saved . . . just call on God." When he got home, he climbed the narrow stairs to the attic where, heeding the preacher's advice, Tozer was launched into a lifelong pursuit of God.
In 1919, without formal education, Tozer was called to pastor a small storefront church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. That humble beginning thrust him and his new wife Ada Cecelia Pfautz, into a 44-year ministry with The Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Thirty-one of those years were spent at Chicago's Southside Alliance Church. The congregation, captivated by Tozer's preaching, grew from 80 to 800.
In 1950 Tozer was elected editor of the Alliance Weekly now called aLife. The circulation doubled almost immediately. In the first editorial dated June 3, 1950, he set the tone: "It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that."
Tozer's forte was his prayer life which often found him walking the aisles of a sanctuary or lying face down on the floor. He noted, "As a man prays, so is he." To him the worship of God was paramount in his life and ministry. "His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life," comments Tozer biographer James L. Snyder. An earlier biographer noted, "He spent more time on his knees than at his desk."
Tozer's love for words also pervaded his family life. He quizzed his children on what they read and made up bedtime stories for them. "The thing I remember most about my father," reflects his daughter Rebecca, "was those marvelous stories he would tell."
Son Wendell, one of six boys born before the arrival of Rebecca, remembers that, "We all would rather be treated to the lilac switch by our mother than to have a talking-to by our dad."
Tozer's final years of ministry were spent at Avenue Road Church in Toronto, Canada. On May 12, 1963, his earthly pursuit of God ended when he died of a heart attack at age 66. In a small cemetery in Akron, Ohio, his tombstone bears this simple epitaph: "A Man of God."
Some wonder why Tozer's writings are as fresh today as when he was alive. It is because, as one friend commented, "He left the superficial, the obvious and the trivial for others to toss around. . . . [His] books reach deep into the heart."
Two of his most popular books, The Pursuit of God and Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, are available from Faithful Life Publishers. [FaithfulLifePublishers.com]
His humor, written and spoken, has been compared to that of Will Rogers--honest and homespun. Congregations could one moment be swept by gales of laughter and the next sit in a holy hush.
For almost 50 years, Tozer walked with God. Even though he is gone, he continues to speak, ministering to those who are eager to experience God. As someone put it, "This man makes you want to know and feel God."