Recently I read a book by a Free Church Scottish divine from the turn of the last century. His name, Alexander Whyte. He wrote a book about Teresa of Avila. He called it an “appreciation”. This was a solid Presbyterian writing about a mystic from the Middle ages; two worlds apart, two theologies apart. This is a small portion of what he wrote:The pressing question with me is not the truth or the falsehood, the amount of reality or the amount of imagination in Teresa’s locutions and visions. The pressing question with me is this,—Why it is that I have nothing to show to myself at all like them. I think I could die for the truth of my Lord’s promise that both He and His Father will manifest Themselves to those who love Him and keep His words; but He never manifests Himself, to be called manifestation, to me. I am driven in sheer desperation to believe such testimonies and attainments as those of Teresa, if only to support my failing faith in the words of my Master. I had rather believe every syllable of Teresa’s so-staggering locutions and visions than be left to this, that ever since Paul and John went home to heaven our Lord’s greatest promises have been so many idle words. It is open to any man to scoff and sneer at Teresa’s extraordinary life of prayer, and at the manifestations of the Father and the Son that were made to her in her life of prayer, and some of her biographers and censors among ourselves have made good use of their opportunity. But I cannot any longer sit with them in the seat of the scorner, and I want you all to rise up and leave that evil seat also. Lord, how wilt Thou manifest Thyself in time to come to me? How shall I attain to that faith and to that love and to that obedience which shall secure to me the long-withheld presence and indwelling of the Father and the Son.
(Teresa, of Avila; Whyte, Alexander (2011-03-24). Santa Teresa an Appreciation: with some of the best passages of the Saint’s Writings (pp. 14-15). Kindle Edition.)
What I love about this book is that Whyte, despite his own background and theology, is open to be taught by others and their understanding and relationship with God. He doesn’t recant his own views but adds to them through his study of Teresa. That is an attitude and humility I would like to develop in myself. How often are we bound by denominational and theological fences only to blind ourselves to the wonderful understandings of God and His Word that others can bring.
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