William Law

William Law

William Law (1686 – 9 April 1761) was a Church of England priest who lost his position at Emmanuel College, Cambridge when his conscience would not allow him to take the required oath of allegiance to the first Hanoverian monarch, George I. Thereafter, Law first continued as a simple priest (curate) and when that too became impossible without the required oath, Law taught privately, as well as wrote extensively. His personal integrity, as well as mystic and theological writing greatly influenced the evangelical movement of his day, as well as Enlightenment thinkers such as the writer Dr. Samuel Johnson and the historian Edward Gibbon.

Law’s spiritual writings remain in print today. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728), together with its predecessor, A Practical Treatise Upon Christian Perfection (1726), deeply influenced the chief actors in the great Evangelical revival. John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Henry Venn, Thomas Scott, and Thomas Adam all express their deep obligation to the author. His writing is anthologised by various denominations, including in the Classics of Western Spirituality series by the Catholic Paulist Press. In his later years, Law became an admirer of Jakob Böhme, the German Christian mystic. From his meeting with the works of Böhme, about 1734, mysticism appeared in his works.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Law

Excerpts from his writings:

“If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.”

“God smiles when we praise and thank Him continually. Few things feel better than receiving heartfelt praise and appreciation from someone else. God loves it, too. An amazing thing happens when we offer praise and thanksgiving to God. When we give God enjoyment, our own hearts are filled with joy.”

“Everything in nature, is descended out that which is eternal, and stands as a visible outbirth of it, so when we know how to separate out the grossness, death, and darkness from it, we find it in its eternal state.”

“Receive every day as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life.”

“There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.”

“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it. Could you therefore work miracles, you could not do more for yourself than by this thankful spirit, for it turns all that it touches into happiness.”

“The merit of persons is to be no rule of our charity, but we are to do acts of kindness to those that least deserve it.”

“We must alter our lives in order to alter our hearts, for it is impossible to live one way and pray another.”

“Humility is nothing else but a right judgment of ourselves.”

“Devotion signifies a life given, or devoted to God. He therefore is the devout man, who lives no longer to his own will, or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God, who considers God in everything, who serves God in everything, who makes all the parts of his common life, parts of piety, by doing everything in the name of God, and under such rules as are conformable to his Glory.”

“The Spirit of Love, wherever it is, is its own blessing and happiness, because it is the truth and reality of God in the soul; and therefore is in the same joy of life, and is the same good to itself everywhere and on every occasion. Would you know the blessing of all blessings? It is this God of Love dwelling in your soul, and killing every root of bitterness, which is the pain and torment of every earthly, selfish love. For all wants are satisfied, all disorders of nature are removed, no life is any longer a burden, every day is a day of peace, everything you meet becomes a help to you, because everything you see or do is all done in the sweet, gentle element of Love.”

“I cannot tell you how much I love you. But that which of all things I have most at heart, with regard to you, is the real progress of your soul in the divine life. Heaven seems to be awakened in you. It is a tender plant. It requires stillness, meekness, and the unity of the heart, totally given up to the unknown workings of the Spirit of God, which will do all its work in the calm soul, that has no hunger or desire but to escape out of the mire of its earthly life into its lost union and life in God. I mention this, out of a fear of your giving in to an eagerness about many things, which, though seemingly innocent, yet divide and weaken the workings of the divine life within you.”

“Now the Spirit of Love has this Original: God, as considered in himself in his Holy Being, before any thing is brought forth by him or out of him, is only an eternal Will to all Goodness. This is the one eternal immutable God, that from Eternity to Eternity changeth not, that can be neither more nor less nor any thing else but an eternal Will to all the Goodness that is in himself, and can come from him. The Creation of ever so many Worlds or Systems of Creatures adds nothing to, nor takes any thing from this immutable God. He always was and always will be the same immutable Will to all Goodness. So that as certainly as he is the Creator, so certainly is he the Blesser of every created Thing, and can give nothing but Blessing, Goodness, and Happiness from himself because he has in himself nothing else to give. It is much more possible for the Sun to give forth Darkness, than for God to do, or be, or give forth anything but Blessing and Goodness. Now this is the Ground and Original of the Spirit of Love in the Creature; it is and must be a Will to all Goodness, and you have not the Spirit of Love till you have this Will to all Goodness at all Times and on all Occasions. You may indeed do many Works of Love and delight in them, especially at such Times as they are not inconvenient to you, or contradictory to your State or Temper or Occurrences in Life. But the Spirit of Love is not in you till it is the Spirit of your Life, till you live freely, willingly, and universally according to it. For every Spirit acts with Freedom and Universality according to what it is. It needs no command to live its own Life, or be what it is, no more than you need bid Wrath be wrathful. And therefore when Love is the Spirit of your Life, it will have the Freedom and Universality of a Spirit; it will always live and work in Love, not because of This or That, Here or There, but because the Spirit of Love can only love, wherever it is or goes or whatever is done to it. As the Sparks know no Motion but that of flying upwards, whether it be in the Darkness of the Night or in the Light of the Day, so the Spirit of Love is always in the same Course; it knows no Difference of Time, Place, or Persons, but whether it gives or forgives, bears or forbears, it is equally doing its own delightful Work, equally blessed from itself. For the Spirit of Love, wherever it is, is its own Blessing and Happiness because it is the Truth and Reality of God in the Soul, and therefore is in the same Joy of Life and is the same Good to itself, everywhere and on every Occasion.”

“If Reason seems to have any Power against Religion, it is only where Religion is become a dead Form, has lost its true State, and is dwindled into Opinion; and when this is the Case, that Religion stands only as a well-grounded Opinion, then indeed it is always liable to be shaken; either by having its own Credibility lessened, or that of a contrary Opinion increased. But when Religion is that which it should be, not a Notion or Opinion, but a real Life growing up in God, then Reason has just as much power to stop its Course, as the barking Dog to stop the Course of the Moon. For true and genuine Religion is Nature, is Life, and the Working of Life; and therefore, wherever it is, Reason has no more Power over it, than over the Roots that grow secretly in the Earth, or the Life that is working in the highest Heavens. If therefore you are afraid of Reason hurting your Religion, it is a Sign, that your Religion is not yet as it should be, is not a self-evident Growth of Nature and Life within you, but has much of mere Opinion in it.”

“Man needs to be Saved from his own Wisdom as much as from his own Righteousness, for they produce one and the same corruption. Nothing saves a man from his own righteousness, but that which delivers him from his own wisdom.”

“We have no spiritual need except for a restoration of the divine nature in us. And if this be true, then nothing can be our salvation except that which brings us into a right relationship with God, making us partakers of the divine nature in such a manner and degree as we need. But to reason about life cannot communicate it to the soul, nor can a religion of rational notions and opinions logically deduced from Scripture words bring the reality of the gospel into our lives. Do we not see sinners of all sorts, and men under the power of every corrupt passion, equally zealous for such a religion? How is it then that Christian leaders spend so much time reasoning about Scripture doctrines, and yet remain so blind to the obvious fact that filling the head with right notions of Christ can never give to the heart the reality of His Spirit and life? For logical reasoning about Scripture words and doctrines will do no more to remove pride, hypocrisy, envy, or malice from the soul of man, than logical reasoning about geometry. The one leaves man as empty of the life of God in Christ as the other. Yet the church is filled with professing Christians whose faith has never gone beyond a conviction that the words of Scripture are true. They believe in the Christ of the Bible, but do not know Him personally. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is sound doctrine to their minds, but their lives are empty of His manifest power either to overcome the power of sin within, or to convert others to Christ. Though many are zealous to preach the gospel, yet instead of bringing men to Christ, they seek to reason them into a trust in their own learned opinions about Scripture doctrines. In contrast to Paul, their gospel is in word only, without the demonstration and power of the Spirit. Nor can they see their need of the Holy Spirit to fill them with Christ, and then to overflow through them in rivers of living water to others, because reason tells them that they are sound in the letter of doctrine.”

“Men are not in hell because God is angry with them. They are in wrath and darkness because they have done to the light, which infinitely flows forth from God, as that man does to the light who puts out his own eyes.”

“So that Christianity is so far from leaving us to live in the common ways of life, conforming to the folly of customs, and gratifying the passions and tempers which the spirit of the world delights in, it is so far from indulging us in any of these things, that all its virtues which it makes necessary to salvation are only so many ways of living above and contrary to the world, in all the common actions of our life. If our common life is not a common course of humility, self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly affection, we do not live the lives of Christians.”

“Now if you will stop here and ask yourself why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.”

“He that is endeavouring to subdue, and root out of his mind,all those passions of pride,envy and ambition,which religion opposes, is doing more to make himself happy, even in this life than he that is contriving means to indulge them.”

“You can have no greater sign of confirmed pride than when you think you are humble enough.”

“For God is Love, yea, all Love, and so all Love, that nothing but Love can come from him; and the Christian Religion is nothing else but an open, full Manifestation of the universal Love towards all Mankind. As the Light of the Sun has only one common Nature towards all Objects that can receive it, so God has only one common Nature of Goodness towards all created Nature, breaking forth in infinite Flames of Love, upon every Part of the Creation, and calling everything to the highest Happiness it is capable of.”

“All possible goodness that either can be named, or is nameless, was in God from all eternity, and must to all eternity be inseparable from him; it can be nowhere but where God is. As therefore before God created anything, it was certainly true that there was but one that was good, so it is just the same truth, after God has created innumerable hosts of blessed and holy and heavenly beings, that there is but one that is good, and that is God.
All that can be called goodness, holiness, divine tempers, heavenly affections, in the creatures, are no more their own, or the growth of their created powers, than they were their own before they were created. But all that is called divine goodness and virtue in the creature is nothing else, but the one goodness of God manifesting a birth and discovery of itself in the creature, according as its created nature is fitted to receive it. This is the unalterable state between God and the creature. Goodness for ever and ever can only belong to God, as essential to him and inseparable from him, as his own unity.”

“But now, if all that is divine, great, glorious, and happy, in the spirits, tempers, operations, and enjoyments of the creature, is only so much of the greatness, glory, majesty, and blessedness of God, dwelling in it, and giving forth various births of his own triune life, light, and love, in and through the manifold forms and capacities of the creature to receive them, then we may infallibly see the true ground and nature of all true religion, and when and how we may be said to fulfill all our religious duty to God. For the creature’s true religion, is its rendering to God all that is God’s, it is its true continual acknowledging all that which it is, and has, and enjoys, in and from God. This is the one true religion of all intelligent creatures, whether in heaven, or on earth; for as they all have but one and the same relation to God, so though ever so different in their several births, states or offices, they all have but one and the same true religion, or right behavior towards God. Now the one relation, which is the ground of all true religion, and is one and the same between God and all intelligent creatures, is this, it is a total unalterable dependence upon God, an immediate continual receiving of every kind, and degree of goodness, blessing and happiness, that ever was, or can be found in them, from God alone. The highest angel has nothing of its own that it can offer unto God, no more light, love, purity, perfection, and glorious hallelujahs, that spring from itself, or its own powers, than the poorest creature upon earth. Could the angel see a spark of wisdom, goodness, or excellence, as coming from, or belonging to itself, its place in heaven would be lost, as sure as Lucifer lost his. But they are ever abiding flames of pure love, always ascending up to and uniting with God, for this reason, because the wisdom, the power, the glory, the majesty, the love, and goodness of God alone, is all that they see, and feel, and know, either within or without themselves. Songs of praise to their heavenly Father are their ravishing delight, because they see, and know, and feel, that it is the breath and Spirit of their heavenly Father that sings and rejoices in them. Their adoration in spirit and in truth never ceases, because they never cease to acknowledge the ALL of God; the ALL of God in the whole creation. This is the one religion of heaven, and nothing else is the truth of religion on earth.”

“‘Except a man be born again of the Spirit, he cannot see or enter into the kingdom of God.’ Therefore the new birth from above, or of the Spirit, is that alone which gives true knowledge and perception of that which is the kingdom of God. The history may relate truths enough about it; but the kingdom of God, being nothing else but the power and presence of God, dwelling and ruling in our souls, this can only manifest itself, and can manifest itself to nothing in man but to the new birth. For everything else in man is deaf and dumb and blind to the kingdom of God; but when that which died in Adam is made alive again by the quickening Spirit from above, this being the birth which came at first from God, and a partaker of the divine nature, this knows, and enjoys the kingdom of God.”

But lamentable as this is, the letter of scripture has been so long the usurped province of school-critics, and learned reasoners making their markets of it, that the difference between literal, notional, and living divine knowledge, is almost quite lost in the Christian world. So that if any awakened souls are here or there found among Christians, who think that more must be known of God, of Christ, and the powers of the world to come, than every scholar can know by reading the letter of scripture, immediately the cry of enthusiasm, whether they be priests, or people, is sent after them. A procedure, which could only have some excuse, if these critics could first prove, that the apostle’s text ought to be thus read, ‘The spirit killeth, but the letter giveth life.'”

“Show me a man whose heart has no desire, or prayer in it, but to love God with his whole soul and spirit, and his neighbor as himself, and then you have shown me the man who knows Christ, and is known of him; the best and wisest man in the world, in whom the first paradisaical wisdom and goodness are come to life. Not a single precept in the gospel, but is the precept of his own heart, and the joy of that new-born heavenly love which is the life and light of his soul. In this man, all that came from the old serpent is trod under his feet, not a spark of self, of pride, of wrath, of envy, of covetousness, or worldly wisdom, can have the least abode in him, because that love, which fulfilleth the whole Law and the prophets, that love which is God and Christ, both in angels and men, is the love that gives birth, and life, and growth to everything that is either thought, or word, or action in him. And if he has no share or part with foolish errors, cannot be tossed about with every wind of doctrine, it is because, to be always governed by this love, is the same thing as to be always taught of God.”

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About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, and our lazy dog, Amos, in a lovely little mountain town called Paradise, situated on the ridge of the Little Grand Canyon, in the Northern California Sierra Nevadas. I have several other sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: https://westernmystics.wordpress.com/ Free Transliterations of Spiritual Texts: http://freetransliterations1.blogspot.com/ Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: https://spiritguidesparrow.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
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