****** Exerpts From the Writings of William Law ******
I add four extracts from William Law, which bear more or less directly on the subject. Speaking of the fall, he says, -----
"I have thus shown the glory of mans original state in Paradise, and the lamentable change that the fall has brought upon him. From a divine and heavenly creature, he is so wretchedly changed as to have inwardly the nature and dark fire of the devils, and outwardly the nature of all the beasts; a slave of this outward world, living at all uncertainties amongst pains, fears, sorrows, and diseases, till his body is forced to be removed from our sight and hid in the earth.
The reason why even the most profligate persons do not fully know and perceive their souls to be in this miserable state, is because the soul, though thus fallen, is still united to the blood of a human body, and therefore the sweet and cheering light of the sun could reach the soul, and do that for it in some degree, and for some time, which it does to the darkness, sharpness, sourness, bitterness, and wrath, which is in outward nature; that is, it could enlighten, sweeten, and clear it in a certain degree. As this is not its own life, that is, it does not arise in the soul itself, but only reaches it by means of the body, so if the soul hath in this present time got no light of its own, when the death of the body breaks off its communion with the light of this world, the soul is left mere dark, raging fire, in the state of devils. If therefore the light of this world were to be at once extinguished, all human souls that are not in some real degree of regeneration would immediately find themselves to be nothing but the rage of fire and the horror of darkness.
Now, though the light and comfort of this outward world keeps even the worst of men from any constant, strong sensibility of that wrathful, fiery, dark, and self-tormenting nature, which is the very essence of every fallen, unregenerate soul, yet every man in the world has more or less frequent and strong intimations given him that so it is with him in the inmost ground of his soul. How many inventions are some people forced to have recourse to, to keep off a certain inward uneasiness which they are afraid of, and know not whence it comes. Alas, it is because there is a fallen spirit, a dark aching fire within them, which has never had its proper relief, and is trying to discover itself, and calling out for help at every cessation of worldly joy.
Why are some people, when under heavy disappointments or some great worldly shame, at the very brink of distraction, unable to bear themselves, and desirous of death of any kind ? It is because worldly light and comforts no longer acting sweetly upon the blood, the soul is left to its own dark, fiery, raging nature, and would destroy the body at any rate, rather than continue under such a sensibility of its own wrathful, self-tormenting fire.
Who has not at one time or other felt a sourness, wrath, selfishness, envy, and pride, which he could not tell what to do with or how to bear, rising up without his consent, casting a blackness over all his thoughts, and then as suddenly, going off again, either by the cheerfulness of sun and air, or some agreeable accident, and again at times as suddenly returning upon him? Sufficient indications are these to every man that there is a dark guest within him, concealed under the cover of flesh and blood, often lulled asleep by worldly light and amusements, yet such as will, in spite of everything, show itself, and which, if it have not its proper cure in this life, must be his torment in eternity. It was because of this hidden hell within us that our blessed Lord said when on earth, and says now to every soul, 'Come onto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' For as the soul is become this self-tormenting fire only because the birth of the Son of God was extinguished in it by our first parents, so there is no other possible remedy for it, either in heaven or earth, but by its coming to this Son of God to be born again of Him.
Oh, poor unbelievers, that content yourselves with this foundation of hell in your nature, or either seek for no salvation, or, what is worse, turn your backs with disregard on the One Only Savior that God Himself can help you to. Think not of saving yourselves -- it is no more in your power than to save the fallen spirits that are in hell. Talk not of the mercy and goodness of God. His mercy is indeed infinite, and His goodness above all conception; but then the infiniteness of it consists in this -- that He offered this Savior to mankind, because in the nature of things nothing less than this Savior could redeem them. Therefore, to choose to rely upon some other goodness of God beside that which He has offered to us in Jesus Christ is the most dreadful mistake that can befall any man, and must, if persevered in, leave him out of the possibility of any kind or degree of salvation. For as the Son of God is the brightness and glory of the Father, so no soul made in the likeness of God is capable of any degree of brightness and glory but so far as the birth of the Son of God is in it. Therefore, to reject this birth, to refuse this method of redemption, is to reject all the goodness that the Divine Nature itself hath for us." (1.)
"Yet the Love that brought forth the existence of all things changes not through the fall of its creatures, but is continually at work to bring back all fallen nature and creature. All that passes for a time between God and His fallen creature is but one and the same thing, working for one and the same end, and though this is called 'wrath', and that called 'punishment', 'curse', and 'death', it is all from the beginning to the end nothing but the work of the first creating Love, and means nothing else, and does nothing else, but those works of purifying fire, which must and alone can burn away all that dark evil which separates the creature from its first-created union with God. God's providence, from the fall to the restitution of All things, is doing the same thing as when He said to the dark chaos of fallen nature, 'Let there be light.' He still says, and will continue saying, the same thing, till there is no evil of darkness left in nature and creature. God creating, God illuminating, God sanctifying, God threatening and punishing, God forgiving and redeeming, are all but one and the same essential, immutable, never ceasing working of the Divine Nature. That in God, which illuminates and glorifies saints and angels in heaven, is that very same working of the Divine Nature, which wounds, pains, punishes, and purifies, sinners upon earth. Every number of destroyed sinners, whether thrown by Noah's flood or Sodom's brimstone into the terrible furnace of a life insensible of anything but new forms of misery until the judgment day, must through the all-working, all-redeeming love of God, which never ceases, come at last to know that they had lost and have found again such a God of love as this.
If long and long ages of fiery pain and tormenting darkness fall to the share of many or most of God's apostate creatures, they will last no longer than till the great fire of God has melted all arrogance into humility, and all that is self has died in the bloody sweat and all-saving cross of Christ, which will never give up its redeeming power till sin and sinners have no more a name among the creatures of God. If long ages hereafter can only do that, for a soul departing this life under a load of sins, which days and nights might have done for a most hardened Pharaoh or a most wicked Nero while in the body, it is because, when flesh and blood are taken from it, the soul has only the strong apostate nature of fallen angels, which must have its place in that blackness of darkness of a fiery wrath that burns in them and in their kingdom.
To prevent this and make us children of the resurrection, Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, came into the world, and died, and rose again for us. Does not this speak plainly enough what it was that man lost by his fall, namely, the birth of the Son of God in his soul? Therefore, it was that the Son of God alone, and He only by the cross, could be man's Redeemer." (2.)
"For in very deed, the new birth is a new man, whether Christ for us, or Christ in us, which is formed by the Divine Word. This new man is 'he that is born of God and cannot Sin,' because he has no sin in his nature. This is 'he that overcometh the world,' because he is of a divine nature, and is both contrary to the world and above it. This is he who can alone 'love his brother as himself,' because the love of God abideth in him.
The old, natural man is of this world, and enlightened only with the light of this world. He is shut up in his own envy, pride, and wrath, and can only escape from these by the cross of Christ, that is by dying with Him. This is the 'self' that our Savior calls on us to deny --- this is the 'self' that we are to 'hate' and 'lose', that the kingdom of God may come in us, that is, that Gods will may be done in us. All other sacrifices that we make, whether of worldly goods, honors, or pleasures, are but small matters compared to that death of self, spiritual as well as natural, which must be made before our regeneration hath its perfect work." (3.)
"Let no one, therefore, take offense at the opening of this mystery, as if it brought anything new into religion; for it has nothing new in it. It alters no point of gospel-doctrine, but only sets each article of the old Christian faith upon its true ground, pressing nothing more than this --- namely the necessity, if we would be saved, of the opening of the life of God within us, and of a death to that life of self which keeps us far from God. Suffer me therefore, once more, to beseech you, as I have so often said, not to receive this mystery as a mere notion, nor, as the world has for the most part done with the Bible, to make it a matter of opinion or speculation. This and every other doctrine is useless, and worse than useless, unless it teaches that Truth can have no real entrance into you except so far as you die to self and to your earthly nature. The gospel says all this to you in the plainest words, and the mystery only shows you that the whole system of the universe says the same thing. To be a true student or disciple of the mystery is to be a disciple of Christ; for it calls you to nothing but the gospel, and wherever it enters, either into the height or depth of nature, it is only to confirm those words of Christ, 'He that followeth me not, walketh in darkness,' and 'Unless a man deny himself, and forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.' This is the philosophy opened in this mystery. It is not to lead you after itself, but to compel you by every truth of nature to turn to Christ, as the one Way, the one Truth, the one Life and Salvation of the soul; not as notionally apprehended or historically known, but as experimentally found, living, speaking, and working, in your soul. Read as long or as much as you will of this mystery, it is all labor lost, if you intend anything else by it, or would be anything else from it, but a man dead to sin and to the world, that you may live unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (4.)
The Way of Salvation
For since the one only work of Christ as your Redeemer is only this -- to take from the earthly life of flesh and blood its usurped power, and to raise the smothered spark of heaven out of its state of death into a powerful, governing life of the whole man -- your one only work also, under your Redeemer, is fully known. You have the utmost certainty what you are to do, where you are to seek, and in what are to find your salvation.
What you are to do
All that you have to do, or can do, is to oppose, resist and as far as you can to renounce the evil tempers and workings of your own earthly nature. You are under the power of no other enemy, are held in no other captivity, and want no other deliverance but from the power of your own earthly self. This the one murderer of the divine life within you. It your own Cain that murders your own Abel. Now every thing that your earthly nature does is under the influence of self-will, self-love, and self-seeking -- whether it carries you to laudable or blamable practices, all is done in the nature and spirit of Cain and only helps you to such goodness as when Cain slew his brother. For every action and motion of self has the spirit of Antichrist, and murders the divine life within you.
Judge not therefore of yourself by considering how many of those things you do which divines and moralists call virtue and goodness, nor how much you abstain from those things which they call sin and vice.
Daily and hourly, in every step that you take, see to the spirit that is within you, whether it be heaven or earth that guides you. Judge every thing to be sin and Satan, in which your earthly nature, own love, or self-seeking has any share of life in you -- nor think that any goodness is brought to life in you, but so far as it is an actual death to the pride, the vanity, the wrath, and selfish tempers of your fallen, earthly life.
Where you are to seek your Salvation
Again, here you see where and how you are to seek your salvation -- not in taking up your traveling staff or crossing the seas to find out a new Luther or a new Calvin, to clothe yourself with their opinions. No !! The oracle is at home that always and only speaks the truth to you, because nothing is your truth but that good and that evil which is yours within you. For salvation or damnation is no outward thing that is brought into you from without, but is only that which springs up within you as the birth and state of your own life. What you are in yourself, what is doing in yourself, is all that can be either your salvation or damnation.
For all that is our good, and all that is our bad, has no place nor power but within us. Again, nothing that we do is bad, but for this reason -- because it resists the power and working of God within us. Likewise, nothing that we do can be good but because it conforms to the Spirit of God within us. Therefore, as all that can be good and all that can be evil in us necessarily supposes a God working within us, you have the utmost certainty that God, salvation, and the kingdom of heaven are nowhere to be sought or found but within you. Also, that all outward religion, from the fall of man to this day, is not for itself, but merely for the sake of an inward and divine life which was lost when Adam died his first death in Paradise. Therefor it may well be said that, "circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing," because nothing is wanting, and therefore nothing can be available, but the new creature, called out of its captivity under the death and darkness of flesh and blood, into the light, life, and perfection of its first creation.
In what you are to find your Salvation
Thus also you have the fullest proof in what your salvation precisely consists. Not in any historic faith, or knowledge of any thing absent or distant from you -- not in any variety of restraints, rules, and methods of practicing virtues -- not in any formality of opinion about faith and works, repentance, forgiveness of sins, or justification and sanctification -- not in any truth or righteousness that you can have from yourself nor from the best of men or books. It is rather wholly and solely in the life of God or Christ of God -- quickened and born again in you -- or, in other words, in the restoration and perfect union of the first twofold life in the humanity. (5)
(1.) Grounds of Christian Regeneration, pps 11-15.
(2.) Address to the Clergy, pps 171-173, slightly abridged.
(3.) Grounds of Christian Regeneration, pps 69 and 99.
(4.) Way to Divine Knowledge, pps 255-258, abridged.
(5.)Taken from "Wholly for God", by Andrew Murray -- Selections from the writings of William Law, "The Spirit of Love, Second Part"
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