Item description for William Law: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, The Spirit of Love (Classics of Western Spirituality) by Austin Warren, William Law & Paul Stanwood...
Overview Often called the greatest of the post-Reformation English mystics, Law's (1686-1761) writings, included in this volume, reflect his genius of literary style and religious devotion.
Publishers Description The most in-depth and scholarly panorama of Western spirituality ever attempted
In one series, the original writings of the universally acknowledged teachers of the Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Islamic and Native American traditions have been critically selected, translated and introduced by internationally recognized scholars and spiritual leaders.
The texts are first-rate, and the introductions are informative and reliable. The books will be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of every literate religious persons". -- The Christian Century
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Studio: Paulist Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.01" Width: 6" Height: 1.46" Weight: 1.6 lbs.
Release Date Jun 1, 1978
Publisher Paulist Press
Series Classics of Western Spirituality
ISBN 0809121441 ISBN13 9780809121441
Availability 0 units.
More About Austin Warren, William Law & Paul Stanwood
Reviews - What do customers think about William Law: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, The Spirit of Love (Classics of Western Spirituality)?
A great mystic of Anglican spirituality Oct 13, 2006
William Law is a great mystic who combined great spiritual insight with brilliant literary gifts. Aldous Huxley commended his work extremely highly, quoting Law abundantly in the 'Pereniall Philosophy' and describing his works as one of the finest in the English language.
Law grew up in a fairly religious environment and was set for a good career in the Anglican Church. A devout Protestant, from an early age Law's piety was noted by all who encountered him, and he was fondly remembered by the father of Edward Gibbon (who hired Law as a tutor for the family) as one of those rare men who carried out in deed what he claimed to believe.
This collection of Law's works contains his long book 'A serious call to a devout and holy life' and another work called the 'Spirit of Love', a dialogue based on Law's interpretation of the mystical visions of the German shoemaker, Jacob Boehme. The first work is a brilliant attack on all forms of Christian hypocrisy, ranging from inane gossiping to the seductions of earthly power and prestige to the traps of lust and money and the threats they pose to Christians from all walks of life. One of the most original ideas in Law's works is that all vocations, no matter how menial or of what type, can be good and holy in the sight of God; a key insight of other Protestant reformers like Luther and Calvin who were deeply concerned to stress that the good gifts of God are to be seen in all callings and in all people, in all areas of society, not just in monastic or clerical elites. However Law also recognised there is a deep danger in any worldly vocation that the constant temptations of ordinary life and of our own ego can very quickly and easily lead us into many forms of sinful behaviour and thought, which are in the end deeply destructive to our spirituality and our relationships with others.
Law as a great writer doesn't just talk in abstract ideas but makes his themes concrete through 'characters' he introduces in the Holy life, to represent the sincere Christian as opposed to the Christian who lapses into the temptations of the world. It is disturbing at how often you see yourself reflected in the Christian who succumbs to temptations, and how rarely you see yourself in the Christian who doesn't.
The Call was a deeply influential work, and had a strong influence on no less a figure than John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and also of the evangelical revival in England. However, Wesley came (perhaps understandably) to have deep reservations about Law's later mystical writings, and his enthusiasm for Boehme.
'The Spirit of Love' is a long dialogue which draws out Boehme's mystical themes, at least as interpreted by Law. The key is the love God has for the universe and all creatures (even fallen man) and that even though the Protestant emphasis on God's anger and wrath for sin are appropriate, these images reflect a deeper truth in that the Godhead is in actual fact entirely love, in essence as well as act. Even God's wrath or anger is in fact really God's love taken as pain, but it only occurs as pain because the creature is sinful and its will is turned away from God's will. In this sense Law's mysticism agrees with that in the Theologica Germanica, where perhaps even the devil would be saved in an instant if he turned from his self will to conforming with God's will.
Law seems to skip over other aspects of Boehme's strange mysticism, from Boehme's idea of God being an 'ungrund' or fathomless abyss, from which the Trinity and another figure called 'Sophia' (a female personification of divine wisdom), to Boehme's use of very obscure language borrowed from occult sources (especially alchemy and astrology) to try and work out the connections between the world of spirit and the created world. Nevertheless, there is strong merit in Law's focus on God's total and complete love for us, which can be obscured if we only see God's hatred and judgement for our sins in his actions and in the Bible. Law would like to remind us that even if God hates sin more than anything else, we can so easily reconcile ourselves to him by turning to his son, Christ, and once again being cleansed from our sin and our selfish will against God we can be restored to what God made us to be in the beginning.
Regardless of whether or not you would agree with Law's points, his works, especially the Call, contain many valuable warnings and lessons about the life of the spirit in the Christian context and well worth reading.
A Glorious Spiritual Classic for All Time! Oct 29, 2004
This timeless classic by William Law is for anyone in search of God. I have read it again and again. It is full of encouraging words, gems of wisdom, and biblical insight that satisfies the intellect as well as the soul!
An amazing spirit... Feb 26, 2004
William Law was one of the great mystics, clerics, and educators of the Church of England. Born in 1686, he was educated at Cambridge, eventually taking a teaching position there in addition to being ordained in the Church of England. He lost his position at Cambridge for being a Non-Juror (the Church of England being a state religion, clerics and others are required to swear oaths of allegiance to the monarch, and this Law could not do with regard to George I). He wrote the first work, `A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life', one of his best-known works, while in retirement as tutor in the Gibbon household (he was tutor to the father of the historian noted for the work on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) in the 1720s.. He wrote the second, much shorter work, `The Spirit of Love,' in 1750s.
The first is a major work of spiritual practice, rightly deserving the description as a `classic' or `masterpiece'. For a course we teach at my seminary, this book is on the list of spiritual classics one may choose to use for inspiration and spiritual reflection, and for good reason. Influenced by Law's readings from other mystics such as Thomas a Kempis, Johann Tauler and others, this book is full of mystic insight and practical wisdom. It was popular from the start, and remains an enduring classic of post-Reformation spirituality.
Law has a fairly ecumenical audience, though he is not without controversy. Law is very much a man of the church, and of a high-liturgy and sacramental church at that, thus some Protestants may find difficulty with some of his unstated but very present assumptions. Law resists bibliolatry, does not accept the doctrine of Calvin of a complete corrupt humanity, and never assumes to try to prove the existence of God, taking that for granted. It is interesting, in our post-Christendom world, that Law is more widely read than ever before, given that it would seem there is much concern about whether or not there is a God, and often those of a more mystical mindset shy away from mysticism so firmly influenced by ecclesial structures.
Law's work in `The Serious Call' takes the form of 24 chapters, each one beginning with a simple spiritual rule, observation or proposition. Sometimes these can take a directive form as a spiritual practice - some chapters, for example, recommend prayer at certain times of day (chapter 16 recommends 9 a.m., chapter 20 recommends 12 noon, etc.) and prescribes the content and the manner of the prayers. Some work from a proposition (chapter 13 - that any life, full of vanity or even more humble, will ultimately show misery and emptiness) and some work from proclamation and argument (chapter 24, of the excellency and greatness of a devout spirit). `Devotion signifies a life given or devoted to God,' Law writes in the beginning. This devotion is not just church work (although it involves that), and not just prayer (although it involves that, too), but is an entire life given over to God, and as such can be something all can do, not just clerics, mystics and monastics.
Unlike `A Serious Call', the second work contained here, `The Spirit of Love', can be very difficult reading, as there is no organising principle similar to the logical progression of the earlier work. It is done in a dialogue form, in the shape of letters, and better known according to the editors in piece-meal collections of highlights or selected passages, given Law's general lack of method and organisation of texts later in his life. However, there are those who love `The Spirit of Love' and proclaim it to be Law's best work, particularly for his identification of the wrath of God as something that separates us from God, but is in fact not to be found in God, but in us. Our redemption and reconciliation with God requires our removing this wrath and embracing the divine love always freely offered.
The editions here are fairly standard, authoritative ones. The history of Law's work in print is laid out, and selection reasoning is given in the introductory material, which also includes (as do all of the Paulist Press editions of this wonderful series) biographical information (not just simple historical, but also spiritual biographical information), textual notes, and other information of interest.
Beatific Jun 25, 2002
To find a man like William Law in 17th century England is as unexpected as finding a violet blooming in the Arctic. It's almost beyond anyone's powers to fully describe the beauty, benevolence, and wisdom--and good solid sense--of his spiritual advice. Consider instead the character of those who have praised him: there's Samuel Johnson, who took up Law in a frivolous mood in his youth and found himself nearly bowled over; or closer to our own age, C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley. The most memorable parts of the _Serious_Call_ are those where Law (following the model of Theophrastus's _Characters_) describes several spiritual types and how their natures relate to the pursuit of the devout life. The _Spirit_of_Love_ is a later work, written after Law had been influenced by the German mystic Behmen; if you're not acquainted with Christian mysticism, it might be hard to follow. But do not miss Law's account of the Atonement, particularly if you're one who has always felt scandalized by the "blood sacrifice" theology emphasized in traditional Protestantism.
A Challenging Book on Truly Following Christ Oct 2, 1999
This is the most challenging book I have ever read on following the teachings of Christ practically in every day living. The conviction was so fierce that it was hard to get through the first chapter. His words bear so much truth it motivates you to want to be more like Christ himself.