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William Law: Selections from a Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (HarperCollins Spiritual Classics Series)

Overview

William Law (1686–1761) was an Anglican priest who specialized in providing spiritual direction. This occupation led his writings to be concrete and specific, yet profound and filled with rich insights. His best known piece, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, has inspired countless generations and deeply influenced the English religious revivals. The selections here offer practical spiritual direction for those seeking a meaningful life of prayer and devotion.

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Overview

William Law (1686–1761) was an Anglican priest who specialized in providing spiritual direction. This occupation led his writings to be concrete and specific, yet profound and filled with rich insights. His best known piece, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, has inspired countless generations and deeply influenced the English religious revivals. The selections here offer practical spiritual direction for those seeking a meaningful life of prayer and devotion.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

The HarperCollins Spiritual Classics series presents short, accessible introductions to the foundational works that shaped Western religious thought and culture. This series seeks to find new readers for these dynamic spiritual voices — voices that have changed lives throughout the centuries and still can today.

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First Chapter

William Law
Selections from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

Chapter One

Concerning the Nature and Extent of Christian Devotion

Devotion is neither private nor public prayer, but prayers whether private or public are particular parts or instances of devotion. Devotion signifies a life given or devoted to God.

He therefore is the devout man who lives no longer to his own will, or to 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.

We readily acknowledge that God alone is to be the rule and measure of our prayers, that in them we are to look wholly unto him and act wholly for him, that we are to pray only in such a manner for such things and such ends as are suitable to his glory.

Now let anyone but find out the reason why he is to be thus strictly pious in his prayers and he will find just as strong a reason to be as strictly pious in all the other parts of his life. For there is not the least shadow of a reason why we should make God the rule and measure of our prayers, why we should then look wholly unto him and pray according to his will, but what equally proves it necessary for us to look wholly unto God, and make him the rule and measure of all the other actions of our life. For any ways of life -- any employment of our talents, whether of our parts, our time, or money, that is not strictly according to the will of God, that is not for such ends as are suitable to his glory -- are as great absurdities and failings as prayers that are not according to the will of God. For there is no other reason why our prayers should be according to the will of God, why they should have nothing in them but what is wise and holy and heavenly, there is no other reason for this but that our lives may be of the same nature, full of the same wisdom, holiness, and heavenly tempers that we may live unto God in the same spirit that we pray unto him.Were it not our strict duty to live by reason, to devote all the actions of our lives to God, were it not absolutely necessary to walk before him in wisdom and holiness and all heavenly conversation, doing everything in his name and for his glory, there would be no excellency or wisdom in the most heavenly prayers. Nay, such prayers would be absurdities; they would be like prayers for wings when it was no part of our duty to fly.

As sure therefore as there is any wisdom in praying for the Spirit of God, so sure is it that we are to make that Spirit the rule of all our actions; as sure as it is our duty to look wholly unto God in our prayers, so sure is it that it is our duty to live wholly unto God in our lives. But we can no more be said to live unto God unless we live unto him in all the ordinary actions of our life, unless he be the rule and measure of all our ways, than we can be said to pray unto God unless our prayer look wholly unto him. So that unreasonable and absurd ways of life, whether in labor or diversion, whether they consume our time or our money, are like unreasonable and absurd prayers and are as truly an offense unto God.

'Tis for want of knowing, or at least considering this, that we see such a mixture of ridicule in the lives of many people.You see them strict as to some times and places of devotion, but when the service of the church is over, they are but like those that seldom or never come there. In their way of life, their manner of spending their time and money, in their cares and fears, in their pleasures and indulgences, in their labor and diversions, they are like the rest of the world.This makes the loose part of the world generally make a jest of those that are devout, because they see that their devotion goes no further than their prayers, and that when they are over they live no more unto God till the time of prayer returns again, but live by the same humor and fancy and in as full an enjoyment of all the follies of life as other people. This is the reason why they are the jest and scorn of careless and worldly people -- not because they are really devoted to God, but because they appear to have no other devotion but that of occasional prayers.

Julius is very fearful of missing prayers; all the parish supposes Julius to be sick if he is not at church. But if you were to ask him why he spends the rest of his time by humor and chance? Why he is a companion of the silliest people in their most silly pleasures? Why he is ready for every impertinent entertainment and diversion? If you were to ask him why there is no amusement too tri- fling to please him? Why he is busy at all balls and assemblies? Why he gives himself up to an idle gossiping conversation? Why he lives in foolish friendships and fondness for particular persons that neither want nor deserve any particular kindness? Why he allows himself foolish hatreds and resentments against particular persons without considering that he is to love everybody as himself?

William Law
Selections from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
. Copyright © by Tony HarperCollins Spiritual Classics. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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