Item description for A Serious Call to a Devout & Holy Life, adapted to the State & Condition of all Orders of Christians (Works of William Law, vol. 4) by William Law...
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Born in 1924, William Sloane Coffin, Jr.'s young life of wealth and comfort was suddenly rearranged by the death of his father in 1933. A series of moves led mother and children first to California and then to Europe. As a boy, Coffin's first ambition was to be a concert pianist. In Paris he was able to study with Nadia Boulanger and later in Geneva met Ignacy Paderewski. When World War II erupted, the family returned to the United States, and Coffin attended Phillips Academy in Andover, graduating into an army uniform. As an officer he used his linguistic skills in intelligence work. After the war he attended Yale University, alma mater to his father and grandfather, and later studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York City with Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Uncertain of a calling to the ministry, he left Union for the newly organized CIA and was assigned to Europe. He eventually settled on a career as a minister and returned to Yale as chaplain, where he held the university pulpit for seventeen years. During the 1960s and 1970s a great thirst for social justice energized Coffin, and he led vigorous protests against both the evils of segregation and the Vietnam War. He has remained a social activist and protester to this day. From 1977 to 1987 Coffin was pastor of Riverside Church in Manhattan. From this pulpit, his well-earned fame as a preacher of great power and conviction spread nationwide. No one in 1983 who heard him preach the eulogy for his son, Alex, shortly after he died in an auto accident, could ever doubt either his courage or the depth of his confidence in the abiding presence of God's grace. Reverend Coffin currently lives a life of active retirement in Strafford, Vermont John F. Thorton is a literary agent, former book editor, and the coeditor, with Katharine Washburn, of Dumbing Down (1996) and Tongues of Angels, Tongues of Men: A Book of Sermons (1999). He lives in New York City. Susan B. Varenne is a New York City high-school teacher with a strong avocational interest in and wide experience of spiritual literature (M.A., The University of Chicago Divinity School; Ph. D., Columbia University).
William Law was born in 1686 and died in 1761.
William Law has published or released items in the following series...
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An amazing spirit Mar 8, 2007
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.
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.