|Among the famous sayings of the Church fathers none is better known
than Augustine's, "You have formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless
till they find rest in Thee."
The great saint states here in few words the origin and interior history
of the human race. God made us for Himself: that is the only explanation
that satisfies the heart of a thinking man, whatever his wild reason may
say. Should faulty education and perverse reasoning lead a man to conclude
otherwise, there is little that any Christian can do for him. For such
a man I have no message. My appeal is addressed to those who have been
previously taught in secret by the wisdom of God; I speak to thirsty hearts
whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them, and such
as they need no reasoned proof. Their restless hearts furnish all the proof
God formed us for Himself. The Shorter Catechism, "Agreed upon by the
Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster," as the old New-England Primer
has it, asks the ancient questions what and why and answers them in one
short sentence hardly matched in any uninspired work. "Question: What is
the chief End of Man? Answer: Man's chief End is to glorify God and enjoy
Him forever." With this agree the four and twenty elders who fall on their
faces to worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, saying, "Thou art worthy,
O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all
things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
God formed us for His pleasure, and so formed us that we as well as
He can in divine communion enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of kindred
personalities. He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life
from His smile. But we have been guilty of that "foul revolt" of which
Milton speaks when describing the rebellion of Satan and his hosts. We
have broken with God. We have ceased to obey Him or love Him and in guilt
and fear have fled as far as possible from His Presence.
Yet who can flee from His Presence when the heaven and the heaven of
heavens cannot contain Him? when as the wisdom of Solomon testifies, "the
Spirit of the Lord filleth the world?" The omnipresence of the Lord is
one thing, and is a solemn fact necessary to His perfection; the manifest
Presence is another thing altogether, and from that Presence we have fled,
like Adam, to hide among the trees of the garden, or like Peter to shrink
away crying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
So the life of man upon the earth is a life away from the Presence,
wrenched loose from that "blissful center" which is our right and proper
dwelling place, our first estate which we kept not, the loss of which is
the cause of our unceasing restlessness.
The whole work of God in redemption is to undo the tragic effects of
that foul revolt, and to bring us back again into right and eternal relationship
with Himself. This required that our sins be disposed of satisfactorily,
that a full reconciliation be effected and the way opened for us to return
again into conscious communion with God and to live again in the Presence
as before. Then by His prevenient working within us He moves us to return.
This first comes to our notice when our restless hearts feel a yearning
for the Presence of God and we say within ourselves, "I will arise and
go to my Father." That is the first step, and as the Chinese sage Lao-tze
has said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step."
The interior journey of the soul from the wilds of sin into the enjoyed
Presence of God is beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament tabernacle.
The returning sinner first entered the outer court where he offered a blood
sacrifice on the brazen altar and washed himself in the laver that stood
near it. Then through a veil he passed into the holy place where no natural
light could come, but the golden candlestick which spoke of Jesus the Light
of the World threw its soft glow over all. There also was the shewbread
to tell of Jesus, the Bread of Life, and the altar ,of incense, a figure
of unceasing prayer.
Though the worshipper had enjoyed so much, still he had not yet entered
the Presence of God. Another veil separated from the Holy of Holies where
above the mercy seat dwelt the very God Himself in awful and glorious manifestation.
While the tabernacle stood, only the high priest could enter there, and
that but once a year, with blood which he offered for his sins and the
sins of the people. It was this last veil which was rent when our Lord
gave up the ghost on Calvary, and the sacred writer explains that this
rending of the veil opened the way for every worshipper in the world to
come by the new and living way straight into the divine Presence.
Everything in the New Testament accords with this Old Testament picture.
Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies.
God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life
there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than
a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every
This Flame of the Presence was the beating heart of the Levitical order.
Without it all the appointments of the tabernacle were characters of some
unknown language; they had no meaning for Israel or for us. The greatest
fact of the tabernacle was that Jehovah was there; a Presence was waiting
within the veil. Similarly the Presence of God is the central fact of Chris'
tainity At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for
His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence.
That type of Christianity which happens now to be the vogue knows this
Presence only in theory. It fails to stress the Christian's privilege of
present realization. According to its teachings we are in the Presence
of God position, ally, and nothing is said about the need to experience
that Presence actually. The fiery urge that drove men like McCheyne is
wholly missing. And the present generation of Christians measures itself
by this imperfect rule. Ignoble contentment takes the place of burning
zeal. We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions and for the
most part we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal
Who is this within the veil who dwells in fiery manifestations? It is
none other than God Himself, "One God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven
and earth, and of all things visible and invisible," and "One Lord Jesus
Christ, the only begotten Son of God; begotten of His Father before all
worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; begotten, not
made; being of one substance with the Father," and "the Holy Ghost, the
Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who
with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified." Yet
this holy Trinity is One God, for "we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity
in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another
of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal and the majesty coeternaI." So
in part run the ancient creeds, and so the inspired Word declares.
Behind the veil is God, that God after Whom the world, with strange
inconsistency, has felt, "if haply they might find Him." He has discovered
Himself to some extent in nature, but more perfectly in the Incarnation;
now He waits to show Himself in ravishing fulness to the humble of soul
and the pure in heart.
The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the, Church
is famishing for want of His Presence. The instant cure of most of our
religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience,
to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This
would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be
enlarged. This would burn away the impurities from our lives as the bugs
and fungi were burned away by the fire that dwelt in the bush.
What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is eternal, which means that He antedates
time and is wholly independent of it. Time began in Him and will end in
Him. To it He pays no tribute and from it He suffers no change. He is immutable,
which means that He has never changed and can never change in any smallest
measure. To change He would need to go from better to worse or from worse
to better. He cannot do either, for being perfect He cannot become more
perfect, and if He were to become less perfect He would be less than God.
He is omniscient, which means that He knows in one free and effortless
act all matter, all spirit, all relationships, all events. He has no past
and He has no future. He is, and none of the limiting and qualifying terms
used of creatures can apply to Him. Love and mercy and righteousness are
His, and holiness so ineffable that no comparisons or s figures will avail
to express it. Only fire can give even a remote conception of it. In fire
He appeared at the burning bush; in the pillar of fire He dwelt through
all the long wilderness journey. The fire that glowed between the wings
of the cherubim in the holy place was called the "shekinah," the Presence,
through the years of Israel's glory, and when the Old had given place to
the New, He came at Pentecost as a fiery flame and rested upon each disciple.
Spinoza wrote of the intellectual love of God, and he had a measure
of truth there; but the highest love of God is not intellectual, it is
spiritual. God is spirit and only the spirit of man can know Him really.
In the deep spirit of a man the fire must glow or his love is not the true
love of God. The great of the Kingdom have been those who loved God more
than others did. We all know who they have been and gladly pay tribute
to the depths and sincerity of their devotion. We have but to pause for
a moment and their names come trooping past us smelling of myrrh and aloes
and cassia out of the ivory palaces.
Frederick Faber was one whose soul panted after God as the roe pants
after the water brook, and the measure in which God revealed Himself to
his seeking heart set the good man's whole life afire with a burning adoration
rivaling that of the seraphim before the throne. His love for God extended
to the three Persons of the Godhead equally, yet he seemed to feel for
each One a special kind of love reserved for Him alone. Of God the Father
Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name;
Earth has no higher bliss.
Father of Jesus, love's reward!
What rapture will it be,
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,
And gaze and gaze on Thee
His love for the Person of Christ was so intense that it threatened
to consume him; it burned within him as a sweet and holy madness and flowed
from his lips like molten gold. In one of his sermons he says, "Wherever
we turn in the church of God, there is Jesus. He is the beginning, middle
and end of everything to us .... There is nothing good, nothing holy, nothing
beautiful, nothing joyous which He is not to a His servants. No one need
be poor, because, if he chooses, he can have Jesus for his own property
and possession. No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the joy of heaven,
and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can exaggerate about
many things; but we can never exaggerate our obligation to Jesus, or the
compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. All our lives long
we might talk of Jesus, and yet we should never come to an end of the sweet
things that might be said of Him. Eternity will not be long enough to learn
all He is, or to praise Him for all He has done, but then, that matters
not; for we shall be always with Him, and we desire nothing more." And
addressing our Lord directly he says to Him:
I love Thee so, I know not how
My transports to control;
Thy love is like a burning fire
Within my very soul.
Faber's blazing love extended also to the Holy Spirit. Not only in his
theology did he acknowledge His deity and full equality with the Father
and the Son, but he celebrated it constantly in his songs and in his prayers.
He literally pressed his forehead to the ground in his eager fervid worship
of the Third Person of the Godhead. In one of his great hymns to the Holy
Spirit he sums up his burning devotion thus:
O Spirit, beautiful and dread!
My heart is fit to break
With love of all Thy tenderness
For us poor sinners' sake.
I have risked the tedium of quotation that I might show by pointed example
what I have set out to say, viz., that God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly
and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself,
meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and
deep as that nature is. Such worship as Faber knew (and he is but one of
a great company which no man can number) can never come from a mere doctrinal
knowledge of God. Hearts that are "fit to break" with love for the Godhead
are those who have been in the Presence and have looked with opened eye
upon the majesty of Deity. Men of the breaking hearts had a quality about
them not known to or understood by common men. They habitually spoke with
spiritual authority. They had been in the Presence of God and they reported
what they saw there. They were prophets, riot scribes, for the scribe tells
us what he has read, and the prophet tells what he has seen.
The distinction is not an imaginary one. Between the scribe who has
read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the
sea. We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where
are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but
the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the
veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet,
thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy
Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.
With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus' flesh, with nothing on
God's side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do
we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never
enter at all to look upon God? We hear the Bridegroom say, "Let me see
thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy
countenance is comely." We sense that the call is for us, but still we
fail to draw near, and the years pass and we grow old and tired in the
outer courts of the tabernacle. What doth hinder us?
The answer usually given, simply that we are "cold," will not explain
all the facts. There is something more serious than coldness of heart,
something that may be back of that coldness and be the cause of its existence.
What is it? What but the presence of a veil in our hearts? a veil not taken
away as the first veil was, but which remains there still shutting out
the light and hiding the face of God from us. It is the veil of our fleshly
fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated.
It is the closewoven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged,
of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we
have never brought to the judgment of the cross. It is not too mysterious,
this opaque veil, nor is it hard to identify. We have but to look in our
own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it
may be, but there nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective
block to our spiritual progress.
This veil is not a beautiful thing and it is not a thing about which
we commonly care to talk, but I am addressing the thirsting souls who are
determined to follow God, and I know they will not turn back because t
the way leads temporarily through the blackened hills. The urge of God
within them will assure their continuing the pursuit. They will face the
facts however unpleasant and endure the cross for the joy set before them.
So I am bold to name the threads out of which this inner veil is woven.
It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins
of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we
are and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.
To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, selfpity,
self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host
of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part
of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused
upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism,
selfpromotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles
of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for
many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a
cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite
for popularity in some sections of the Church visible. Promoting self under
the guise of pro- 3 moting Christ is currently so common as to excite little
One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man's
depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness
of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins; but p,
it does not work out that way. Self can litre unrebuked at the very altar.
It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by
what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the Reformers and preach eloquently
the creed of salvation by grace, and gain strength by its efforts. To tell
all the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at
home in a Bible Conference than in a tavern. Our very state of longing
after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and
Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God Z from us. It can
be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. As
well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of
God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its
-deadly work within- us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment.
We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like
that through which our Saviour passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate.
Let us remember: when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking
in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in
actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that
veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient,
quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to
touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us
and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death
no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender
stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet
that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to
every man to set him free.
Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in hope ourselves to
rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and
trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon
it crucified. But we must be careful to distinguish lazy "acceptance" from
the real work of God. We must insist upon the work being done. We dare
not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion. That is to imitate
Saul and spare the best of the sheep and the oxen.
Insist that the work be done in very truth and it will be done. The
cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep
its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is
finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory
and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away
and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the
Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the
ways o f man. Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness o f
life. Rend the veil o f our self-life from the top down as Thou didst rend
the veil o f the Temple. We would draw near in full assurance o f faith.
W e would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that
we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter T by heaven to dwell with
Thee there. In Jesus' name, Amen.
[Excerpt from The
Pursuit of God, Chapter 3, originally published in 1948, by A.
W. Tozer. In the public domain.]
Aiden Wilson Tozer (April
21, 1897 - May 12, 1963) was an American Christian pastor, preacher, author,
magazine editor, Bible conference speaker, and spiritual mentor. For his
work, he received two honorary doctorate degrees.
Among the more than 40 books
that he authored, at least two are regarded as Christian classics: The
Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress
on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with
Living a simple and non-materialistic
lifestyle, he and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, never owned a car, preferring
bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author,
Tozer signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need.
Tozer had seven children,
six boys and one girl. He was buried in Ellet Cemetery, Akron, Ohio, with
a simple epitaph marking his grave: "A. W. Tozer - A Man of God."
Prayer was of vital personal
importance for Tozer. "His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions
of his prayer life," comments his biographer, James L. Snyder, in the book,
Pursuit of God: The Life Of A.W. Tozer. "He had the ability to make
his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them,"