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By A. W. Tozer / WingSpread / 1991
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Tozer has compiled many of the Church’s profound mystical voices that have given us beautiful poetry, songs, and words of praise. For Tozer, these evangelical mystics had “been brought by the gospel into intimate fellowship with the Godhead.” Tozer does not want these voices to be ignored or forgotten and has gathered them here “to make available to present-day Christians a rich spiritual heritage which the great number of [us] for various reasons do not now enjoy.” This is intended for the worshiper whose longing for God is true and yet lacks “the gift that would enable them to express their feelings adequately.” The hymns and poems Tozer has compiled are mystical in the sense that they are God-oriented—they begin with God, embrace the worshiping soul and return to God again. Among the voices chosen are Isaac Watts, Frederick William Faber, Christina Rossetti, Charles Wesley, Paul Gerhardt, Jeanne Marie de la Motte-Guyon, and Thomas More.
Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was born on a small farm in what is now Newburg, PA. His family moved to Akron, Ohio, when he was just a young boy. At the age of 17, Tozer heard a street preacher, responded to the calling of Christ, and began his lifelong pursuit of God. After becoming an active witness of Jesus as a lay preacher, he joined The Christian and Missionary Alliance and was soon serving as the pastor of West Virginia’s Alliance Church, in 1919. He transferred to the Southside Alliance Church in Chicago in 1928, and his ministry continued there for 31 years. During that time he preached on the Moody Bible Institute’s radio station. In the 1940s Tozer was invited to speak at Wheaton College, and seldom a year passed after World War II that he didn’t preach in the college’s Pierce Chapel. In 1950 he became the editor of The Alliance Life magazine and served in that capacity until his death.
Self-taught, with no formal Bible training, Tozer has been called a twentieth-century prophet within his own lifetime. Through years of diligent study and constant prayer, he sought the mind of God. A master craftsman in the use of the English language, he was able to write in a simple, cogent style the principles of truth he had learned. For Tozer, “there was no substitute for knowing God firsthand.” He wrote many of his books with one idea in mind—that his reader would achieve the heart’s true goal in God and maintain that relationship with Him.
Tozer moved to Toronto in 1959 and spent the final years of his life as the pastor of Avenue Road Church. He and his wife, Ada, lived a simple, non-materialistic lifestyle and let much of the royalties from his books go to those in need. The Tozers had seven children, six boys and one girl. James L. Snyder, said of Tozer that his “preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life. He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them.”