The Spirit of Love, First Part


The following is an excerpt from an excellent book by Andrew Murray, "Wholly for God", consisting of selections from the writings of William Law. This exerpt is from his treatise, "The Spirit of Love, First Part"

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The Spirit of Love, the Universal Good

Now, nothing wills and works with God but the spirit of love because nothing else works in God Himself. The Almighty brought forth all nature for this only end -- that boundless love might have its infinity of height and depth to dwell and work in, and all the striving and working properties of nature are only to give essence and substance, life and strength, to the invisible hidden spirit of love, that it may come forth into outward activity and manifest its blessed powers -- that creatures born in the strength and out of the powers of nature might communicate the spirit of love and goodness, give and receive mutual delight and joy to and from one another. All below this state of love is a fall from the one life of God, and the only life in which the God of love can dwell. Partiality, self, mine, thine, etc., are tempers that can only belong to creatures that have lost the power, presence, and spirit of the universal good. They can have no place in heaven, nor can be anywhere, but because heaven is lost. Think not, therefore, that the spirit of pure, universal love, which is the one purity and perfection of heaven and all heavenly natures, has been, or can be, carried too high, or its absolute necessity too much asserted. For it admits of no degrees of higher or lower, and is not in being till it is absolutely pure and unmixed, no more than a line can be straight till it is absolutely free from all crookedness.

Love is of God

To return to our chief subject: The sum of all that has been said is this: All evil, be it what it will, all misery of every kind, is in its birth, working, and extent nothing else but nature left to itself and under the divided workings of its own hunger, wrath, and contrariety. Therefore, no possibility for the natural, earthly man to escape eternal hunger, wrath, and contrariety, but solely in the way as the gospel teaches, by denying and dying to self. On the other hand, all the goodness and perfection, all the happiness, glory, and joy that any intelligent, divine creature can be possessed of, is, and can be, from nothing else but the invisible, uncreated light and Spirit of God manifesting itself in the properties of the creaturely life, filling, blessing, and uniting them all in one love and joy of life.

Thus again: no possibility of man's attaining to any heavenly perfection and happiness, but only in the way of the gospel, by the union of the divine and human nature, by man's being born again from above of the Word and Spirit of God. There is no possibility of any other way, because there is nothing that can possibly change the first properties of life into a heavenly state but the presence, and working power of the Deity united with and working in them. And therefore the " Word was made flesh", and must of necessity be made flesh, if man is to have a heavenly nature.

Now, as all evil, sin, and misery have no beginning nor power of working, but in the manifestation of nature in its divided, contrary properties; so it is certain that man has nothing to turn to, seek or aspire after, but the lost spirit of love. Therefore it is that God only can be his Redeemer; because God only is love; and love can be nowhere else but in God, and where God dwells and works.

The Spirit of Love not a Notion, but a Nature

Now, the difficulty which you find in attaining this purity and universality of the spirit of love is because you seek for it, as I once told you, in the way of reasoning. You would be possessed of it only from a rational conviction of the fitness and amiableness of it. As this clear idea does not put you immediately into the real possession of it, your reason begins to waver, and suggests to you that it may be only a fine notion that has no ground but in the power of imagination. This sir, however, is all your own error, and as contrary to nature as if you would have your eyes do that which only your hands or feet can do for you. The spirit of love is a spirit of nature and life; and all the operations of nature and life are according to the working powers of nature. Every growth and degree of life can only arise in its own time and place from its proper cause, and as the genuine effect of it. Nature and life do nothing by chance or accidentally, but every thing in one, uniform way. Fire, air, and light do not proceed sometimes from one thing and sometimes from another; but wherever they are, they are always born in the same manner, and from the same working in the properties of nature. So, in like manner, love is an immutable birth, always proceeding from the same cause, and cannot be in existence till its own true parents have brought it forth.

How unreasonable would it be to begin to doubt whether strength and health of body were real things, or possible to be had, because you could not by the power of your reason take possession of them. Yet this is as well as to suspect the purity and perfection of love to be only a notion, because your reason cannot bring forth its birth in your soul. For reason has no more power of altering the life and properties of the soul than of altering the life and properties of the body. That, and that only, can cast devils and evil spirits out of the soul, that can say to the storm, "Be still," and to the leper, "Be you clean."

The birth of love is a form or state of life. Reason can no more alter or exalt any one property of life in the soul and bring it into its perfect state, than it can add one cubit to the stature of the body. The perfection of every life is no way possible to be had, but as every flower comes to its perfection, viz. from its own seed and root, and the various degrees of transmutation which must be gone through before the flower is found. It is strictly thus with the perfection of the soul -- All its properties of life must have their true natural birth and growth from one another. The first, as its seed and root, must have their natural change into an higher state; must, like the seed of the flower, pass through death into life, and be blessed with the fire and light and spirit of heaven, in the passage to it ; just as the seed passes through death into life, blessed by the fire and light and air of this world, till it reaches its last perfection, and becomes a beautiful, sweet-smelling flower. To think that the soul can attain its perfection any other way then by the change and exaltation of its first properties of life, just as the seed has its first properties changed and exalted till it comes to have its flower, is a total ignorance of the nature of things.

The Birth of Love

Hold it, therefore, for a certain truth, that you have no good come into your soul but only by the one way of a birth from above, from the entrance of the Deity into the properties of your own soulish life. Nature must be set right, its properties must enter into the process of a new birth, it must work to the production of light before the spirit of love can have a birth in it. For love is delight, and delight cannot arise in any creature till its nature is in delightful state, or is possessed of that in which it must rejoice.

This is the reason why God must become man -- it is because a birth of the Deity must be found in the soul, giving, to nature all that it wants, or the soul can never find itself in a delightful state, and only working with the spirit of love. For while the soul has only its natural life, it can only be in such a state as nature, without God, is in, viz. a mere hunger, want, contrariety, and strife for it knows not what.

Hence it is, that that which is called the wisdom, the honor, the honesty, and the religion of the natural man often does as much hurt to himself and others as his pride, ambition, self-love, envy, or revenge; and are subject to the same humor and caprice. It is because nature is no better in one motion than in another, nor can be so, till something supernatural is come into it.

We often charge men, both in Church and State, with changing their principles; but the charge is hasty; for no man ever did, nor can, change his principles, but by a birth from above. The natural, called in Scripture "the old man", is steadily the same in heart and spirit, in every thing he does, whatever variety of names may be given to his actions. For self can have no motion but what is selfish which way soever it goes, or whatever it does, either in Church or State. Be assured of this, that nature in every Man, whether he be learned or unlearned, is this very Self, and can be nothing else, till a birth of the Deity is brought forth in it. There is, therefore, no possibility of having the spirit of love, or any divine goodness, from any power of nature or working of reason. It can only be had in its own time and place; and its time and place is nowhere but where nature is overcome by a birth of the life of God in the properties of the soul. Thus you see the infallible truth and absolute necessity of Christian redemption; it is the most demonstrable thing in all nature.

The Deity must become man, take a birth in the fallen nature, be united to it, become the life of it, or the natural man must of all necessity be for ever and ever in the hell of his own hunger, anguish, contrariety and self-torment; and all for this plain reason, because nature is, and can be, nothing else but this variety of self-torment till the Deity is manifested and dwelling in it.

Dying to Self the only Way to the Life of God

Now, sir, you see also the absolute necessity of the gospel doctrine of the cross, viz. of dying to self as the one, only way to life in God. This cross, or dying to self, is the one morality that does man any good. Fancy as many rules as you will of modeling the moral behavior of man; they all do nothing because they leave nature still alive, and therefore can only help a man to a feigned, hypocritical art of concealing his own inward evil, and seeming be not under its power. The reason why it must be so is plain -- it is because nature is not possible to be reformed; it is immutable in its workings, and must be always as it is, and never any better or worse than its own, untaught workings are. It can no more change from evil to good than darkness can work itself into light. The one work, therefore, of morality is the one, doctrine of the cross, viz. to resist and deny nature, that a supernatural power or divine goodness may take possession of it, and bring a new light into it.

In a word, there are, in all the possibility of things, but two states or forms of life -- the one is nature and the other is God manifested in nature; and as God and nature are both within you, so you have it in your power to live and work with which you will, but are under a necessity of doing either the one or the other. There is no standing still; life goes on, and is always bringing forth its realities, which way soever it goes

In a word, goodness is only a sound, and virtue a mere strife of natural passions, till the spirit of love is the breath of everything that lives and moves in the heart. For love is the one only blessing and goodness and God of nature; and you have no true religion, are no worshipper of the one true God, but in and by that Spirit of love which is God Himself living and working in you.


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