Monthly Archives: August 2016

A. W. Tozer Narrow Mansions

Any list of the spiritually great must include Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. A hundred informed men who might vote on who were the mightiest Christians since Paul would be likely to differ widely, but it is safe to assume that every one of them would mention Augustine. So great was he, intellectually and spiritually.

The ages have known how great a Christian Augustine was, but apparently he himself did not know. At the beginning of his famous devotion work, the Confessions, he says, “Narrow is the mansion of any soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in.” This was spoken in utter sincerity, and it may give us a hint of the secret of his greatness.

Augustine’s vision of God was so tremendous that his own little capacity to receive seemed to him intolerably restricted. God was to him so vast, so worldfilling, that no temple could contain Him, no shrine enclose Him. He fills heaven and the heaven of heavens, and the world itself is too mall to receive Him. And when Augustine looked within his own heart he saw only narrowness and constriction; and it made him sick. “Enlarge Thou it!” was the involuntary cry of his soul.

How vastly different is this from the self-satisfied spirit we see everywhere these days. To be saved appears to be the highest ambition of most Christians today. To have eternal life and know it is the highest aspiration of many. Here they begin and here thy end. Around this one theme they build their narrow temples, and in these cramped confines they sing their congratulatory songs and offer their cheery thanks.

The widest thing in the universe is not space; it is the potential capacity of the human heart. Being made in the image of God it is capable of almost unlimited extension in all directions. And one of the world’s worst tragedies is that we allow our hearts to shrink until there is room for little beside ourselves. Wordsworth lamented the fact that as we get older our world grows smaller and the “light that never was on land or sea” dims slowly down and goes out at last.

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.
But he behold the light and whence it flows.

At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

Of all persons Christians should have the largest hearts; to them the narrowing of the heart should be an unthinkable calamity. They should seek for inner enlargement till their outward dimension gives no hint of the vastness within. To be great outwardly and small with in is a kind of hypocrisy, but the modesty that hides a spacious interior under a simple exterior must be most pleasing to God.

One of the most stinging criticisms made against Christians is that their minds are narrow and their hearts small. Most of this is probably unfair and untrue, but that it can be made at all is sufficient cause for serious heart searching and prayer. Godliness suggests godlikeness, and to be Godlike is certainly to be magnanimous. God enfolds the world in His heart and contains the created universe. Restricted sympathies make us unlike God, and the bravest thing we can do is to admit it. Nothing is so futile as trying to defend our moral introversion against the sharp eyes of the world. We should remove the ground of the criticism rather than deny it.

Paul was a little man with a vast interior life; his great heart was often wounded by the narrowness of his disciples. The Christians at Corinth especially gave him much pain because of their inward constrictions. The sight of their shrunken souls hurt him too much, and he once burst out in a cry of mingled indignation and love,”our mouth is open unto you, O Corinthians,our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own afflictions. Now for a recompense in like kind (I speak as unto my children), b ye also enlarged” (2 Cor 6:11-13 R.V.).

If any wonder how they can enlarge their hearts we hasten to tell them that they cannot do it. Paul said, “Be ye also enlarged,” but he did not say, “Enlarge yourselves.” That they could not do. Only God can work in the heart. The Architect and builder of the soul alone can build it anew after the cyclone of sin has gone over it and left only one small room standing.

We may expect a wondrous enlargement if we surrender our hearts to God and ask Him to begin to work within us. And who knows what He can do if we take our hands off and let Him work? “How knowest thou what nobility God has bestowed on human nature,” asks Meister Eckhart, “what perfections yet uncatalogued, aye, ye undiscovered?

And one singular characteristic of the enlarging life is that it is quietly unaware of itself. The largest heart is likely to be heart praying, “Narrow is the mansion of my soul. Enlarge Thou it.”

A. W. Tozer Narrow Mansions is from Alliance Weekly 31 October 1951

A. W. Tozer Autumn Winds Are Blowing Again

Autumn Winds Are Blowing Again is from Alliance Weekly 17 October 1951

The fall of the year brings with it a world of emotions as rich and varied as the notes of an organ. The spring is more stimulating and fuller of expectation, but there is about the fall a quiet strength which the spring lacks. It is not a wonder that so many serious-minded people love the fall,

“When the sound of dropping nuts is heard, though all the trees are still,
And winkle in the smoky light the waters of the rill.”

To the farmer the first signs of autumn bring a warm sense of well-being. He no longer wonders whether his crops will turn out well. The full shocks of corn, the yellow pumpkins smiling between the, the high-piled hay mows and the full silos assure him that God’s summer has been good to him and his work has been rewarded.

It’s about this time of year, too, that a goodly number of men become strangely affected and begin to look off across the fields with an eager light in their eyes. For hunting season will soon be in, and the sound of gunfire and the baying of dogs will make sweet music over the hills and across the meadows. Not everyone hears this call out of the blue mists and the briar patches, but those who do need no one to interpret. They respond like the wild duck to the migratory instinct. After the first few days of absent-mindedness they may be seen searching about for their old hunting coat or carefully polishing up thier favorite gun, while the smell of fine oil mingles with the fragrance of burning leaves everywhere.

That’s the fall for some people. And who would say that it’s not good? Maybe it’s one of the few innocent things left in the world now

The womenfolk are not likely to be affected these fall days the same as the men, but neither can they wholly escape the spell of autumn. In the country the landscape is afire with color as the oak and the maple put on their last display of beauty before they go to sleep for the long winter. And those women who live pent-up in great cities may still enjoy something of the wonder of nature, if in nothing else than the sight of asters in the park or in a touch of goldenrod along the path in some chance vacant lot between the buildings.

We are not much given to moralizing on natural objects, but who can fail to notice the parallel between God’s great lovely world and the little tribes of flesh and blood who inhabit it? Is it not plain that every human being runs through the same stages as the seasons? Spring, the time of childhood and youth when all the world is big with promise, a promise which the later years invariably fail to keep. Summer, the period of full power when life multiplies and it is hard to believe that it can ever end. Autumn, with its repose after toil, a gracious tapering off of our fuller powers, a kindly preparation for our longer rest. Winter, when the leaves have dropped away and the last sign of life has disappeared. Then only faith remains to assure us that there will be for us a bright tomorrow.

To the man out of Christ, the fall of the year, in spite of its many charms, must surely bring with it a deep and hidden terror. For it speaks of the approaching end, the time when it may be said, “The summer is ended, and we are not saved.” It would be good indeed if the autumn winds could preach to the lost soul of the brevity of life and the long winter ahead.

The true Christian will not be saddened by the winds that herald the approach of winter. Like the wise ant he has made his preparation, and while the gusty tempest howls over him, he will sleep sweet in Christ while the circle of the heavens moves on toward the consummation of all things of which Moses and the prophets have spoken.

Happy man who knows that everything is well with him and that he will be among the blessed in that day when the breath of Jesus, like a breeze of spring, shall stir the sleeping dead to life again after the long night.

A. W. Tozer Autumn Winds Are Blowing Again is from Alliance Weekly 17 October 1951

A. W. Tozer True Service

Any serious-minded Christian may at some time find himself wondering whether the service he is giving to God is the best it could be. He may even have times of doubting, and fear that his toil is fruitless and his life empty.

This is not as bad as it sounds, and may actually prove to be an excellent thing for him–if he knows how to use it.

Christian service, like every other phase of religion, can become a very hollow affair. The church has marked out certain work and approved it as service acceptable to God, and for the most part the church has been right. But it should be kept in mind that it is not the kind or quantity of work that makes it true service–it is the quality.

Before the judgment seat of Christ, very little will be heard of numbers or size; moral quality is about all that will matter then. If we are wise we will give attention now to the quality of our service; it is obvious that it will be too late to do anything about it when the service is ended and the account rendered up.

The great weight of exhortation these days is in the direction of zeal and activity. “Let’s get going” is the favorite watchword for gospel workers, with the result that everyone feels ashamed to sit down and think. But it will pay to do it, nevertheless.

It would be a shock to most of us to learn just what God thinks of our breathless activity, and a greater shock to many to find out the true quality of our service as God sees it. For not all religious activity is accepted of God, not even when it appears to produce results and get things done. The Lord seeth not as man seeth.

Christian service, to be accepted of God, must be fresh and sincere. Whatever is done out of habit is not approved; anything done in a perfunctory manner is below the level of quality expected of us. The careless song, the sermon preached for no higher reason than because it is Sunday again, the tithe tossed into the plate, the testimony given because it seems the thing to do–not one of these will stand up under the searching eyes of God.
In Christian service motive is everything, for it is motive that gives to every moral act its final quality.

A. W. Tozer True Service is from Alliance Weekly 10 October 1951

A. W. Tozer Who Is In Debt To Whom?

The life Ideal was described by the apostle in the Book of Acts: “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep.”

We submit that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to improve upon this. It embraces the whole sphere of religion, appearing as it does in its three directions: God, the individual, society. Within that simple triangle all possible human activities are carried on. To each of us there can be but these three dimensions: God, myself, others. Beyond this we cannot go, nor should we even attempt to go. If we serve God according to His own will, and in doing so serve our generation, we shall have accomplished all that is possible for any human being.

David was smart enough to serve God and his generation before he fell asleep. To fall asleep before we have served our generation is nothing short of tragic. It is good to sleep at last, as all our honored fathers have done, but it is a moral calamity to sleep without having first labored to bless the world. No man has any right to die until he has put mankind in debt to him. No man has any moral right to lie down on the earth till he has wrought to take something of the earth out of the hearts of men, till he has helped to free men from the tyranny of that same earth and pointed them to that kingdom that will abide after the heavens and the earth are no more.

David’s religion had social implications, but he was no mere do-gooder, no patcher-upper of the world’s hurts. All his service was rendered according to the will of God. It was the divine quality in his ministry that made it immortal. Many good deeds may be done whose final effects will not be lasting. A sick man laboring to cure the ills of another sick man may be a moving sight, but it can hardly be a reassuring one, for both will die at last. But the service that can bring the healing touch of God into human life is infinitely to be preferred to any other. It is the will of God that brings eternity into human toil.

We should remember that if we are to serve our generation we must get at it right away, for our generation will not be around long. Isaac Watts wrote:

Time, like an ever rolling stream
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

A great woe in the heart of Dr. Simpson was the number of persons who died each day. he could never quite get free from the terrible thought that his generation was passing away, for the most part unevangelized. One would need to go far and find anything so deeply affecting, so solemn, so awesome and wonderful as the chorus of his Missionary Cry, “They’re passing, passing fast away, in thousands day by day.” The grief of the Holy Ghost is in it.

We are all born in debt to the world, and that debt increases as we grow older. If we are wise in the Spirit, we shall see to it that we turn the tables and put the world in debt to us. This we can do only by serving our generation by the will of God before it is too late.

A. W. Tozer Who Is In Debt To Whom? is from Alliance Weekly 10 October 1951