Foreword

The writings of William Law have been to me the key which unlocked the door into the true treasure chamber of what Paul called "the mystery of godliness." I had come some distance by grace through faith, both into the initial new birth experience and on into what is sometimes spoken of as "the second work of grace," "sanctification," "full salvation," or "enduement with power," by which Galatians 2:20 ("not I, but Christ lives in me") had become a transforming reality.

However, as Paul wrote to the "top line" saints of Ephesus, who already knew Christ in a saved and Spirit-filled relationship, they still needed "the eyes of their understanding to be enlightened," so William Law was the beginning of that enlightenment to me, carrying me into what I would daringly call the ultimate of understanding. Here at last was, in reality, what it is all about.

It was through extracts from his writings, authored by Andrew Murray, that I came to find William Law. I grew up under Andrew Murray. But here was a discovery. Murray must have felt the need of lifting the veil just a little into his own true sources of depth insights in "the way of God more perfectly." For William Law's unfoldings of the truth within the truth go way beyond any of Murray's published writings; and I think in the wisdom of God, Murray's commission was to interpret them in more readable and palatable form for the majority of God's people, who maybe are not meant to pursue to the ultimate.

As soon as a friend handed me Wholly for God, I scented the source of the river. That was about 35 years ago. I found Law difficult. His presentation of ultimate truth was too ultimate for me at first. Its concepts went more .deeply into "the nature of things" (one of Law's favorite terms) — who God is, who Christ is, who man is — than any mere surface understandings I already had, which had not before seemed surface to me.

Then I found that William Law himself was an illumined man only because he had come across the writings of the German cobbler, Jacob Boehme. William Law was a high church legalist, knowing nothing of grace. In his student days at Oxford, together with John Wesley, he belonged to a group called The Holy Club. Law, with his writing gift, then wrote what is considered an English classic on a level with The Imitation of Christ, which he called A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. This book offers the reader the hopeless ladder of good works to attain perfection. That was the only William Law that John Wesley knew, so after Wesley had his illumination in grace, he always regarded Law as someone to be avoided as ignorant of grace. He never knew the transformed Law.

Jacob Boehme's writings opened this whole new world of depth revelation to Law. Law is really the expositor in simpler form of Boehme's glowing, but sometimes almost unintelligible, outpourings. Jacob Boehme is, of course, acknowledged by all the great investigators of truth — scientists (Sir Isaac Newton owed some of his basic concepts on gravity to Boehme), philosophers. theologians — as one of the greatest "seers" of all time; yet always with the Scriptures as his ultimate source. I must admit that I have received more pure light from a few sayings of Boehme than from whole books other authors. However, he is difficult to understand and much goes beyond me, whereas anyone can read William Law, though there again it took time for me to soak into his glorious presentation of God as "the eternal will to all goodness," to the depth understanding of the Fall, wrath, atonement, and the total meaning of the new birth. You may not find it easy to follow through, even with this "Wholly for God", but oh what riches if you do! In William Law, Jacob Boehme, and some others, for me "the winter is passed; the time of the singing of the birds has come."

I am very thankful that Andrew Murray let us in on his secret springs, and that Bethany Fellowship has undertaken the reprinting of this choice volume.

Norman Grubb, International Secretary Emeritus of The Worldwide Evangelization Crusade



Introduction

A few words, first of all, to let my reader know what has given rise to the publication of this volume. Last winter, Dr. Whyte of Edinburgh gave a lecture on William Law, in which he directed attention to the treasures to be found in the writings of this almost forgotten, though, as he styles him, " quite incomparable author." With many others, I owe Dr. Whyte a debt of gratitude for this introduction to one of the most powerful and suggestive writers on the Christian life it has been my privilege to become acquainted with. The present volume is a proof of my high appreciation of his teaching, and my desire to let others share with me in the profit to be derived from it.

Not long after the delivery of the lecture, a volume of selections was published, with the title Character and Characteristics of William Law, Nonjuror and Mystic. Selected and Arranged, with an Introduction by Alexander Whyte, DD. (Hodder & Stoughton.) I would not have thought of now publishing this volume, were it not that I hoped that the special point of view from which these extracts have been made would prove an attraction to some, and introduce Law to readers to whom the larger volume would never find its way. That point of view I have expressed in the title as, "The True Christian Life". I know of no writer who equals Law in the clearness and the force with which the claims of God on man are asserted. God is all; God must have all; God alone must work all: round these central truths all his teaching gathers. In their light he convicts the religious world of the hollowness and terrible self-deception of the Christianity it professes. He proves to the believer no less how little he has lived as one who is wholly devoted to God in every action of common life, how little he has made exalted and eminent piety, and devotion to God, his one study, in the same way that a man of the world does with his business. And what is more, in his later works he lays bare the root and source of all this evil in the unconquerable power of self, and shows how nothing but the mighty, immediate, and perpetual operation of God on the soul can give deliverance, and how nothing but the having the very spirit and humility, and love of the Lamb of God within can ever satisfy either God or our own heart. I feel confident that the teaching will be a stimulus and a strength to many.

William Law was born in 1686, and died in 1761, at the age of seventy-five. After completing his studies, he entered Holy Orders, and for five years held a Fellowship in Cambridge. At the end of that time, in 1716, he lost his Fellowship, owing to his refusal to take the oath of allegiance to (George I. His loss of all hope of preferment in the Church has been its great gain. The closing of the door to active work set him free for that life of contemplation and prayer of which we reap the fruit. His forsaking all for what he deemed faithfulness to conscience helped to intensify that separation from the world, and that wholehearted allegiance to God and His will for which he was to be such a witness and advocate.

His earliest books were controversial, 1717-1726, and at once gave him a name as an author. His first practical works were — A Practical Treatise upon Christian Perfection (1726) and A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1729). It is by the latter of these works that Law is best known. The first short paragraph of the book contains the text into the exposition and application of which the writer throws his whole soul: " Devotion is neither private nor public prayer; but prayers, whether private or public, are particular parts of devotion. Devotion signifies a life given, or devoted, to God!' Throughout the volume he never wearies of illustrating and applying the two statements of his text. He sees men deceiving themselves with the thought that prayer is devotion: he proves to them, that as words are less than actions, prayer is the least part of devotion: devotion consists in a life given up to God. And what this means, he puts in such a light, both from Scripture and the very nature of things, that every serious reader must confess that he has but little realized how wholly God expects us to live for Him, and how nothing less than a life with the spirit of Christ's commands and example animating us at all times and in every action is what God asks and accepts. The word " wholly unto God," which recurs unceasingly, is the keynote of the book.

As I have read and reread the first ten chapters of the book, and felt how difficult it is to realize, even intellectually, this absolute devotion to God, I have more than once thought that if a minister were to try and reproduce in his preaching their substance, the result would in more than one way be a surprise to him. He would be surprised to find how difficult it is to get a clear and full grasp of that high standard of living, which he cannot but admit is nothing more than what Christ demands. He would be surprised at his own want of success in conveying to his hearers the same impression of intense and entire devotion to God's will and pleasure as the one object of life. He would probably be surprised at discovering how, while he thought he had preached holiness and the imitation of Jesus Christ, he had given but a very faint impression of the unworldly, the heavenly life, which it is the duty of every Christian to lead. He would possibly be most of all surprised at finding how little his own life had really aimed at, not to say had attained, the true ideal, set before us in Christ Jesus.

It was not many years after the publication of this book that an event took place which exercised an unexpected influence on the life of Law. This was his becoming acquainted with the works of the German mystic, Jacob Boehme or Behmen. Though at first he found much in the writings of Behmen that appeared unintelligible, he came so completely under his influence that he gave himself up entirely to the study and the exposition of his teaching. The mystic element had always been strong in Law's nature. One of the chief marks of the mystic is, that he seeks to pierce through all the appearances of nature to the Great Being who lives and moves in it all. The Serious Call is proof of how Law had learnt to see God in every thing, and how he sought to bring men to let God in very deed be their All. Behmen taught Law what he had only faintly seen before, that God not only is All, and must have All, but that He alone must do All. In different works written after this time, between 1737 and 1740, the influence of Behmen was distinctly visible, and the substance of his teaching given.

Then there follows an interval of nine years (1740-1749) during which he published nothing. He appears to have given himself to that intense contemplation and fellowship of the Unseen, which is the only way in which eternal things can come with their full power into the spirit, and can so impart themselves as real existences, that in what is spoken and written, the weight and the fire of the Eternal makes itself felt. One cannot but observe this in the works written by Law after this season of silence. They were — The Spirit of Prayer (Part I. in 1749 ; Part II., 1750); The Way to Divine Knowledge, preparatory to a new edition of the works of Behmen, 1752; The Spirit of Love (Part I., 1752; Part II., 1754). In all these books, though some of them are quite small, one feels that a man is speaking who does not deal with thoughts and conceptions of the truth, but in whom the vision of the spiritual world has been opened, and through whom the fire of the sanctuary sheds its light and warmth. One feels impelled to pause and read again, and to confess that, though the meaning be clear and plain, there is a something behind that draws us on to long for the full possession and experience. Of these later works. The Spirit of Prayer and The Spirit of Love, Dr. Whyte says: "Christopher Walton does not exaggerate one iota when he says that Law's readers will rise up from these books, saying, These are the two best books in the world! . . . I have laid down these books again and again, saying with Walton, 'In their way, and on their subjects, show me another two books like them in all the world.'"

Yet I fear that, with many who might be induced to begin reading them, it might happen as it did to me, when The Spirit of Prayer came into my hands some years ago, in regard to prayer, as it is ordinarily taught, I found absolutely nothing. Discussion in regard to the origin of nature and matter and sin, that were not at once easily apprehended, and that appeared to have no direct bearing on the subject of the book, deterred an unprepared reader, and the book was laid aside. And so I have thought it might be a help to give such extracts from these books, as would bring his more direct teaching on the spiritual life within the reach of all. It will, I am sure, be the means of leading some to get the original works, and study Law's teaching on the Kingdom of Grace in its deep and wondrous unity with the Kingdom of Nature.

The spiritual insight into the truth of God acquired by Law, under Behmen's guidance, made its influence very marked and felt on his practical teaching. The difference between The Serious Call and The Spirit of Prayer or The Spirit of Love is very great. The former is from beginning to end a plea for God, in which every duty of the Christian life is exhibited and insisted upon with the voice of authority, and the motives to obedience are urged with all-convincing argument. But there is one thing wanting. To the question of the struggling soul who feels its impotence, and asks for strength to cast aside its bonds, and fulfill what is demanded of it, he gives no answer. Of the power that comes to faith, nothing is directly said ; of the grace which the Holy Spirit works, mention is scarce made. In the later works the tone is entirely different. The utter corruption and impotence of our nature, the absolute necessity of a new birth as an operation of God's mighty power in the soul, the indwelling of Christ in us, are preached in demonstration of the Spirit and in power. And these are passages in which the nature, the simplicity, the necessity, the alone efficacy of faith as making us partakers of the life and power of Christ, are set forth with singular beauty. How deeply it was felt by some in Law's own day that there was something wanting in The Serious Call, is evident from what took place with John Wesley. His biography tells us that he had been some twelve years a minister before he found that salvation by faith of which he afterwards became such a preacher. During the years preceding what he counted his conversion, Wesley had frequent intercourse with Law, and looked up to him as a teacher. When brought to see how salvation is by faith alone, he wrote Law a letter, reproaching him for never having taught him this precious truth. Wesley tells him that for two years he had been preaching after the model of The Serious Call and Christian Perfection, and that the result had been to convince the people that the law of God was holy, but that when they attempted to fulfill it, they found themselves without power. And he asks Law, " Why did I scarce ever hear you name the name of Christ ? Never so as to ground anything upon faith in His blood."

Law answers: "You have had a great many conversations with me, and you never were with me for half an hour without my being large upon that very doctrine which you make me totally silent and ignorant of. ... I have been governed through all that I have written and done by these two common, unchangeable maxims of our Lord: 'Without Me you can do nothing! If any man will come after Me, or be My disciple, let him take up his cross and follow Me.'" These two texts were without doubt the spirit of all Law taught. Christian Perfection and The Serious Call are little else than an extended exposition of the second of the two. And as to the former, he did indeed insist upon the necessity of Divine aid. And yet we can quite understand how Wesley, when once he came to the light, could complain that Law had never pointed out to him the unique place that faith holds in God's plan of salvation. If we are to judge by his writings, Law, while holding that we are saved by faith, had not yet himself learnt what self is, and what the vanity is of all self-effort, and what the wondrous power of Christ is in him that believes. I have already alluded to the striking passages in his later works so infinitely beyond what he had ever written before.

These statements in regard to the difference between the earlier and the later works of our author will account for my not having, in these selections, adhered to the chronological order. I thought that, in beginning with The Spirit of Love, and setting before my readers some of the ripest, richest fruit first, I would tempt them on to search for the tree on which that fruit grew. That tree they will find in The Spirit of Prayer, and its teaching on Regeneration and the Birth from Heaven. In the strength of the faith of what God will do, we may then go on to The Serious Call, with its solemn, heart-searching exposition of true Christianity. That book will teach us what the tending and pruning, the digging and dressing, is that is needed to enable the tree to grow and bring forth fruit to perfection.

This order is that which is found in more than one of the New Testament Epistles. The high state and calling of the Christian in Christ is first expounded; then the reader is led on into everyday life, and shown what are the conditions of the maintenance and enjoyment of the grace bestowed in Christ. Or, as we have it in Ephesians, the first half lifts us into the heavenly places with the life in the Holy Spirit; the second brings us down to the practical duties of life on earth, with its cares and duties. I am in hopes that even so, after the reader has been encouraged and quickened in the heavenly atmosphere of The Spirit of Love and Prayer, he will go down at the hand of The Serious Call into the valley of humiliation, to see what is still wanting in his life, spirit, and conduct, and to prove that the previous teaching of what God and faith can do indeed enable a man to live and love as God would have him do.

Law is known as a mystic. Dr. Whyte calls him the greatest of English mystics. The deeper insight into spiritual truth which his later works reveal, and the higher life of which they testify, he all attributes to the teaching of the great German mystic, as he calls him, "The heavenly illuminated and blessed man, Jacob Behmen."

That we be not, on the one hand, led unaware into error, nor, on the other, be prejudiced against truth by undue apprehension, it may be well for us to consider what this word "mystic " means.

In mysticism, as in everything human, there is an admixture of good and evil. Some writers give prominence to what they consider its errors and dangers, and count mysticism in principle to be untrue and unhealthy.

In the Preface to Vaughan's Hours with the Mystics, the author writes: "Mysticism, though an error, has been associated, for the most part, with a measure of truth so considerable, that its good has greatly outweighed its evil." The statement that what is at heart an error should effect so much more good than evil, cannot but strike one as somewhat strange. It would be surely more correct to say: "Mysticism, because it is at root a truth, its good has, not withstanding a considerable amount of error, greatly outweighed its evil." The writer of Hours with the Mystics would wish the word applied to the error in mysticism alone, and thinks that St. John ought not to be called a mystic. In this case, we should need another word to express that special element which is so marked a characteristic of the apostle.

"Others, looking at its good, which even, according to Vaughan, so greatly outweighs the evil, noticing how many of the noblest and holiest of us have breathed its spirit, and remembering what the wonderful attraction its teaching often has for the most earnest and thoughtful minds, maintain that there must be truth in its root-principle, and that its errors must be put to the account of human weakness, and the difficulties of the high problem with which it deals."

Lange says {Herzog-Schaff Cyclopcedia) : — "Mysticism has been defined as belief in an immediate and continuous communication between God and the soul, which may be established by means of certain peculiar religious exercises; as belief in an inner light, which may almost dispense with the written revelation." This definition identifies mysticism too closely with its extravagances, its more or less unsound developments, and overlooks that there is a mystical element in all true religion, both objectively in the revelation and subjectively in the faith. According to common acceptation, mysticism is simply a one-sided development of that element."

It is evident from what has just been said, that it is not easy to define what mysticism is. It is not a system of doctrine. It is found in all religious systems ; in heathenism and pantheism, as well as in Christianity. With the Church of Christ, it is not a sect or party -- every Church has its representatives. In every complete Christian character there is an element of mysticism. It is the outgrowth of a certain disposition or temperament, which ever seeks for the deepest ground or root of spiritual things.

The close connection between the words "mystic" and "mystery" will help us to understand what it means. In all religion, in all existence, there are hidden mysteries : for these the mystic has a natural affinity. In all the mysteries of revelation there is a human side, which the mind of man can master and reduce to a system.

There is another, the Divine side, which human reason cannot grasp or express, but which opens itself to the faith that, in contemplation and worship, lives in the Invisible. The mystic believes in a Divine light and power that comes on the soul that makes these its special object. The moment we attempt to formulate what the spiritual faculty is that receives this communication, in how far it may be counted a real revelation of God's Spirit, and what its relation to the inspired word, we come upon controverted ground. What we have said is enough to indicate very generally what distinguishes the mystic from the ordinary Christian.

It may help to prepare the way for reading these extracts from Law with profit, to mention some of the chief characteristics of his teaching, as they mark the true and healthy mysticism, from which the Church has nothing to fear, and a measure of which is necessary to a full and all-sided development of the gifts of the Spirit. As long as mysticism is regarded as a system which aims at making all whom it can reach into nothing but mystics, it is no wonder it should be looked on with apprehension. But if once it be understood that mystics have a special gift and calling in the body of Christ, that, like all specialists, their value consists in their devoting themselves to one side or sphere of the Divine life, thereby to benefit those who have not the same gift or calling, and that the result of what they attain must become the common property of those members of Christ's body whose talents point them to other parts of the great field of Christian life and duty, prejudice will be lessened, and the immense benefit acknowledged which the Church has from the presence and life of those who so intensely witness for the Unseen and Incomprehensible.

1. The great mystery of the universe is God. The mystic seeks for God. To know God, to realize God, to live here on earth in conscious fellowship with Him, to love God, is his highest aim. "That God may be all," is the truth to which all others are subordinate. The words of Scripture, "For whom are all things, and through whom are all things," stand in the very forefront of its theology. "For whom all." Whether it be in nature or grace, in time or eternity, all things exist only for God, as the medium through which He can show forth His power and goodness, and so be glorified in the beauty and happiness of His creatures. "And through whom all." All things glorify God only, because He alone works in them whatever is good and right. Just as these two truths hold in nature, so it is the one aim of religion to make them true in our lives. Man can have all for God as by faith he yields himself to expect all through God. To know and enjoy and honor God thus, must be the one object of existence; to aim at it and increasingly to attain to it, is true religion and true happiness. Law will wonderfully help us to realize this. His Serious Call will teach us what all for God means. His later books, what all through God can be to us.

2. The mystic insists especially on the truth that the organ by which God is to be known, is not the understanding but the heart; that only love can know God in truth. Man was made in the image of God. We know God first in His works. From these we rise to His attributes, and form our conceptions of how these constitute the perfection of Him we seek to know.

But behind and beyond these attributes there is the Infinite and Incomprehensible Being, who hides Himself in a light that is inaccessible. Even so there is in man, who was made in the image of God, an outer life of thoughts and feelings, of words and actions. From these we go inward to the powers from whence they come — the understanding, the affection, the will. But then behind these, there is the deep center of the soul, what Scripture speaks of as the spirit, and at times as the heart, in which life has its secret roots, where its hidden character is found, and from whence all the issues of life proceed. This is that inner hidden sanctuary of man's nature which corresponds to the mystery of the Divine Being, whose likeness he bears, and which God created specially for Himself to dwell in. This is that hidden depth which none but He who searches the hearts can fathom or know. This is the seat of that renewing of the Holy Spirit, in which the birth of the Divine life creates a man anew. Reason can form its conceptions, and frame its image of what God must be; but the Hidden, the incomprehensible One Himself, reason cannot touch. As He is in Himself, so His working in man: His dwelling and His dwelling-place in the heart are a mystery too.

One of the great reasons that our religion is so powerless, is that it is too much a thing of reason and sense. We place our dependence on the intellectual apprehensions of truth, and the influence these exert in stirring the feelings, the desires, and the will. But they cannot reach to the life, to the reality of God, both because they are in their nature unfitted for receiving God, and are darkened under the power of sin. Mysticism insists upon this — and presses unceasingly the cultivation of the spiritual faculty which retires within itself, and seeks in patient waiting for God by faith to open the deepest recesses of its being to His presence.

How true and yet how little understood what Law says: " Man's intellectual faculties are by the fall in a much worse state than his natural animal appetites, and want a much greater self-denial" {Character, 57).

"When the call of God to repentance first rises in your soul, you are to be retired, silent, passive, and humbly attentive to this new risen Light within you by wholly stopping, or disregarding the workings of your own will, reason, and judgment. It is because all these are false counselors, the sworn servants, bribed slaves of your fallen nature, they are all born and bred in the kingdom of self; and therefore if a new kingdom is to be set up in you if the operation of God is to have its effect in you all these natural powers of self are to be silenced and suppressed, till they have learned obedience and subjection to the Spirit of God' {Spirit of Prayer, § 28).

"If nothing can do any good, be any happiness or blessing but only God Himself in His holy Being, and if God cannot communicate Himself to you under a notion, or an idea of reason, but only as a degree of life, good, and blessing, born or brought to life in your soul, then you see that to give yourself up to reasoning and notional conceptions is to turn from God, and wander out of the way of all Divine communication" {Character, p. 224; see also pp. 185, 197).

We can now understand why such high value is attached to the contemplative life, to stillness of soul,

and to the practice of the presence of God. It is as the insufficiency of our own powers of thought is deeply felt, and their activity is restrained, that the deeper the hidden powers of our nature can take their place, and faith can exercise its highest function as a faith of the operation of God, who raised Christ from the dead. The door is opened for God to become our inward life as truly as self has been our very inmost life.

3. Another point in which the mystic seeks to enter into the hidden mystery of God, is the nature of redemption. There are two views we find in Scripture, each the complement of the other. In the one, the simpler, more outward and objective, Christ as our representative did a certain work for us which He now in heaven applies to us. In the other, the knowledge of Him as an outward person and of His outward work is considered as but the means to an end, a preparation leading up to the inward experience to His indwelling in us. Law says, "A Christ not in us is the same as a Christ not ours", and opens up with wonderful clearness and power what this Christ in us and faith in Him means. He shows how, in the very nature of things, nothing less can restore that life of God which we lost in Adam, than a Christ whose life and disposition live in us as truly as that of Adam does.

If we ask what Christ in us means, his answer is, that that which constituted Him the Christ, made Him acceptable to God, and enabled Him to restore within us the perfection we lost, that that is what He must be in us. What constitutes Him the Lamb of God is His meekness, His humility, His resignation to God's will. And no faith in an outward Lamb of God, on the cross or on the throne, can possibly save us, except as it restores us to that humility before God, that resignation to His will, which is, whether in heaven or earth, the only possible way of entrance into God's presence.

"Our salvation consists wholly in being saved from ourselves, or from that which we are by nature. In the whole nature of things, nothing could be this salvation or Savior to us, but such an Humility of God as is beyond all expression."

"Every man has within him a redeeming power, the making of the heavenly life, called the Lamb of God. This is the great trial of human life, whether a man will give himself up to the meekness, the patience, the sweetness, the simplicity, the humility of the Lamb of God. This is the whole of the matter between God and the creature " {Character, pp. 57, 66).

"Death to self is a man's only entrance into the Church of Life, and nothing but God can give death to self. Self is an inward life, and God is an Inward Spirit of Life; therefore, nothing kills that which must be killed in us, or quickens that which must come to life in us, but the inward work of God in the soul, and the inward work of the soul in God. This is that mystic religion, which, though it has nothing in it but that same spirit, that same truth, and that same life, which always was and always must be the religion of all God's holy angels and saints in heaven, is by the wisdom of this world accounted to be madness" {Character, etc., p. 60; see also the very beautiful passage on the only way of dying to self being by receiving the patience, meekness, humility, and resignation to God's will which was in Christ Jesus into our hearts— Spirit of Love, Part II.).

It is just this element of mysticism that has formed its great attraction to those who truly thirst for God. Sin would be nothing if it were not sin in us, inspiring and ruling our inmost life. And Christ can not be a complete Savior until His indwelling and in-working be as real and full as that of sin. I am confident that there will be no thoughtful reader of Law, who really hungers for the bread of heaven, but will lay down the book with the grateful acknowledgment that he has a deeper insight into the real nature of Christ's work and indwelling, and a stronger hope of the attainment of what so often appeared to be beyond his reach.

4. Just one more of the special teachings of mysticism. It is summed up in the expression that we must come away out of the manifold to the simple, out of multiplicity to unity, from the circumference to the center. The thought runs through its whole system, and is the key to the right apprehension of much of its teaching.

This truth holds in reference to God. Until a soul learns to see how entirely God is the center of all, how God is to be met and found and enjoyed in every thing, so that nothing in heaven or earth can for one moment separate from Him, it never can have perfect rest. And rest in God is the first duty and the true bliss of the creature. You have Christians who devote themselves most diligently to the study of God's word, who are delighted with every new truth they discover, or every new light in which an old truth is set before them, and who yet scarce ever meet the one Divine Word, who speaks in power within them. You have others who are consumed with zeal and labor, and yet know not what it is through all to have their rest in God. We need to be brought from the circumference to the living center; there we shall be rested and refreshed, and endued with the power of a Divine strength to do our work in the power of the eternal world.

This truth holds in reference to sin. In Law's books we have a remarkable illustration of this, in the distinct advance to be seen in his teaching.

In The Serious Call, individual sins, whether of life or heart, are uncovered and exposed with convincing power. Nothing less than entire conformity to God's requirement and Christ's example is held up as our only standard, or hope of being found meet for admission to heaven. But there is nothing like the laying the ax to the root of the tree, the tracking of sin to its one source and beginning, as we have it in the later books. Behmen's teaching had opened up to him the meaning of the fall, and the entire corruption of human nature, and had shown him that there is but one deliverance from sin, and that is the deliverance from self. From all the manifold sins he had learnt to look to the one sin — incarnate self. He points out how the four elements of self or fallen nature — covetousness, envy, pride, wrath —"are tied together in one inseparable band; they mutually generate and are generated by each other ; they have but one common life, and must all of them live, or all die together" (The Spirit of Love, Part I.). "Self is the whole evil of fallen nature." "Self is the root, the tree, and the branches of all the evils of our fallen state." "Self is not only the seat and habitation, but the very life of sin; the works of the devil are all wrought in self; it is his peculiar workhouse ; and therefore Christ is not come as a Savior from sin, but so far as self is beaten down, and overcome in us " {Spirit of Prayer, § 32).

It is as the soul, in this light, is led to turn from the hopeless multiplicity of its sins, by which it has been distracted, to the one source of all, that it will learn how hopeless its efforts are, and see its need of a death to self in the death of Christ as its only hope.

This truth holds especially also in regard to faith. Law says {Spirit of Love, Part II.): "I would have you believe that the reason why you, or any one else, are for a long time vainly endeavoring after, and hardly ever attaining these first-rate virtues, is because you seek them in the way they are not to be found -- in a multiplicity of human rules, methods, and contrivances -- and not in that simplicity of faith in which those who applied to Christ immediately obtained that which they asked of Him."

It is as the soul is led to see that in God is the unity and center of the universe and of our life, and thus that sin is nothing but our having turned from this God to self, and that therefore our one need is the deliverance from self, that it will discover in Christ a new meaning, and will understand how in the very nature of things nothing can save us but the simplicity of faith. Christ becomes to us the man who lived the life of God for us in human nature, and who brings salvation from self by Himself being born into us, and giving us a life of God in which self is swallowed up as darkness is swallowed up in light. This life must be received; and to receive it nothing avails but a true desire and a simple faith.

Law makes clear that in the Christian life there are two stages — that of babes, and that of men; that in the earlier stage our great duty is to remove hindrances, and to prepare the way for God to set up His kingdom; and that it is only as we are faithful in the earlier stage that we shall be fitted for attaining the full out birth of the Divine life within us. "Now, this way of attaining goodness (by rules and precepts), though thus imperfect, is yet absolutely necessary in the nature of the thing, and must first have its time, work, and place in us. Yet it is only for a time, as the law was a schoolmaster to the gospel." All this effort is only to bring a man to such a total despair of all help, from human means, as to make him turn to God from whom alone life can come. Faith becomes the one thing needful. ''When the Virgin Mary conceived the birth of the Holy Jesus, all that she did toward it herself was only this single act of faith and resignation to God : 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord ; be it unto me according to your word.' This is all that we can do toward the conception of that new man that is to be born in ourselves. The truth is easily consented to. But this is not enough: it is to be apprehended in a deep, full, practical assurance, in such a manner as a man knows and believes that he did not create the stars, or cause life to rise up in himself. Then it is a belief that puts the soul into a right state, and that makes room for the operation of God upon it."

Oh, blessed simplicity of the Christian life ! May we all learn its blessed secret. Let God be all to us. Let Christ be all, as our way to God, as God working and dwelling in us. Let faith be all to us, the simple and unceasing turning of our souls to Christ Jesus; and out of the multiplicity of our strugglings and wanderings we shall by faith enter into the rest of God.

Just one word more in conclusion. There is a great deal in our modern habits of reading, and in our religious literature, that is not favorable to the cultivation of that habit of mind which is needed to read Law with pleasure or profit. Let me advise all those who hope by a cursory perusal to master his thoughts, to lay the book aside. But if we are prepared in quiet meditation to give time to the words of a man, who had, more than most, the powers of the invisible opened up to him and resting on him, to do their work in us, we shall, I am confident, be richly rewarded. And I am much mistaken if there will not be many of the readers of this volume who turn back time after time to dwell again on words, which, though they appear so simple and plain, yet will be increasingly felt to be full of the power of God and of eternity.

Andrew Murray, Wellington -- 31st October, 1893



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