A serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life



Download 2.2 Mb.
Page1/23
Date13.05.2016
Size2.2 Mb.
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   23


A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
Adapted to the State and Condition of
All Orders of Christians

By WILLIAM LAW, A.M. (1686-1761)

He that has ears to hear, let him hear. St. LUKE viii. 8.

And behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me. REV. xxii. 12.

LONDON: Printed for WILLIAM INNYS,

at the West End of St. Paul's.

MDCCXXIX.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Chapter 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Chapter 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Chapter 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Chapter 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Chapter 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Chapter 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Chapter 10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
Chapter 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
Chapter 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Chapter 13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
Chapter 14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
Chapter 15 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
Chapter 16 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
Chapter 17 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
Chapter 18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201
Chapter 19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
Chapter 20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235
Chapter 21 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 256
Chapter 22 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273
Chapter 23 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285
Chapter 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 298
Appendix A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310
Appendix B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325
Appendix C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327
Indexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 329

A SERIOUS CALL TO
A DEVOUT AND HOLY LIFE


CHAPTER I
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 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 only to pray 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 the same 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 prayers look wholly unto Him. So that unreasonable and

absurd ways of life, whether in labour or diversion, whether they

consume our time, or our money, are like unreasonable and absurd

prayers, and are as truly an offence unto God.


It is 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 labour 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 their devotion goes no farther 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 humour 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 [1] 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 humour or chance? why he is a

companion of the silliest people in their most silly pleasures? why he

is ready for every impertinent [2] entertainment and diversion? If you

were to ask him why there is no amusement too trifling 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 in foolish hatreds and

resentments against particular persons without considering that he is

to love everybody as himself? If you ask him why he never puts his

conversation, his time, and fortune, under the rules of religion?

Julius has no more to say for himself than the most disorderly person.

For the whole tenor of Scripture lies as directly against such a life,

as against debauchery and intemperance: he that lives such a course of

idleness and folly, lives no more according to the religion of Jesus

Christ, than he that lives in gluttony and intemperance.
If a man was to tell Julius that there was no occasion for so much

constancy at prayers, and that he might, without any harm to himself,

neglect the service of the Church, as the generality of people do,

Julius would think such a one to be no Christian, and that he ought to

avoid his company. But if a person only tells him, that he may live as

the generality of the world does, that he may enjoy himself as others

do, that he may spend his time and money as people of fashion do, that

he may conform to the follies and frailties of the generality, and

gratify his tempers and passions as most people do, Julius never

suspects that man to want a Christian spirit, or that he is doing the

devil's work. And if Julius was to read all the New Testament from the

beginning to the end, he would find his course of life condemned in

every page of it.
And indeed there cannot anything be imagined more absurd in itself,

than wise, and sublime, and heavenly prayers, added to a life of vanity

and folly, where neither labour nor diversions, neither time nor money,

are under the direction of the wisdom and heavenly tempers of our

prayers. If we were to see a man pretending to act wholly with regard

to God in everything that he did, that would neither spend time nor

money, nor take any labour or diversion, but so far as he could act

according to strict principles of reason and piety, and yet at the same

time neglect all prayer, whether public or private, should we not be

amazed at such a man, and wonder how he could have so much folly along

with so much religion?
Yet this is as reasonable as for any person to pretend to strictness in

devotion, to be careful of observing times and places of prayer, and

yet letting the rest of his life, his time and labour, his talents and

money, be disposed of without any regard to strict rules of piety and

devotion. For it is as great an absurdity to suppose holy prayers, and

Divine petitions, without a holiness of life suitable to them, as to

suppose a holy and Divine life without prayers.
Let anyone therefore think how easily he could confute a man that

pretended to great strictness of life without prayer, and the same

arguments will as plainly confute another, that pretends to strictness

of prayer, without carrying the same strictness into every other part

of life. For to be weak and foolish in spending our time and fortune,

is no greater a mistake, than to be weak and foolish in relation to our

prayers. And to allow ourselves in any ways of life that neither are,

nor can be offered to God, is the same irreligion, as to neglect our

prayers, or use them in such a manner as make them an offering unworthy

of God.
The short of the matter is this; either reason and religion prescribe

rules and ends to all the ordinary actions of our life, or they do not:

if they do, then it is as necessary to govern all our actions by those

rules, as it is necessary to worship God. For if religion teaches us

anything concerning eating and drinking, or spending our time and

money; if it teaches us how we are to use and contemn the world; if it

tells us what tempers we are to have in common life, how we are to be

disposed towards all people; how we are to behave towards the sick, the

poor, the old, the destitute; if it tells us whom we are to treat with

a particular love, whom we are to regard with a particular esteem; if

it tells us how we are to treat our enemies, and how we are to mortify

and deny ourselves; he must be very weak that can think these parts of

religion are not to be observed with as much exactness, as any

doctrines that relate to prayers.
It is very observable, that there is not one command in all the Gospel

for public worship; and perhaps it is a duty that is least insisted

upon in Scripture of any other. The frequent attendance at it is never

so much as mentioned in all the New Testament. Whereas that religion or

devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be

found in almost every verse of Scripture. Our blessed Saviour and His

Apostles are wholly taken up in doctrines that relate to common life.

They call us to renounce the world, and differ in every temper and way

of life, from the spirit and the way of the world: to renounce all its

goods, to fear none of its evils, to reject its joys, and have no value

for its happiness: to be as new-born babes, that are born into a new

state of things: to live as pilgrims in spiritual watching, in holy

fear, and heavenly aspiring after another life: to take up our daily

cross, to deny ourselves, to profess the blessedness of mourning, to

seek the blessedness of poverty of spirit: to forsake the pride and

vanity of riches, to take no thought for the morrow, to live in the

profoundest state of humility, to rejoice in worldly sufferings: to

reject the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of

life: to bear injuries, to forgive and bless our enemies, and to love

mankind as God loves them: to give up our whole hearts and affections

to God, and strive to enter through the strait gate into a life of

eternal glory.


This is the common devotion which our blessed Saviour taught, in order

to make it the common life of all Christians. Is it not therefore

exceeding strange that people should place so much piety in the

attendance upon public worship, concerning which there is not one

precept of our Lord's to be found, and yet neglect these common duties

of our ordinary life, which are commanded in every page of the Gospel?

I call these duties the devotion of our common life, because if they

are to be practised, they must be made parts of our common life; they

can have no place anywhere else.
If contempt of the world and heavenly affection is a necessary temper

of Christians, it is necessary that this temper appear in the whole

course of their lives, in their manner of using the world, because it

can have no place anywhere else. If self-denial be a condition of

salvation, all that would be saved must make it a part of their

ordinary life. If humility be a Christian duty, then the common life of

a Christian is to be a constant course of humility in all its kinds. If

poverty of spirit be necessary, it must be the spirit and temper of

every day of our lives. If we are to relieve the naked, the sick, and

the prisoner, it must be the common charity of our lives, as far as we

can render ourselves able to perform it. If we are to love our enemies,

we must make our common life a visible exercise and demonstration of

that love. If content and thankfulness, if the patient bearing of evil

be duties to God, they are the duties of every day, and in every

circumstance of our life. If we are to be wise and holy as the new-born

sons of God, we can no otherwise be so, but by renouncing everything

that is foolish and vain in every part of our common life. If we are to

be in Christ new creatures, we must show that we are so, by having new

ways of living in the world. If we are to follow Christ, it must be in

our common way of spending every day.


Thus it is in all the virtues and holy tempers of Christianity; they

are not ours unless they be the virtues and tempers of our ordinary

life. So that Christianity is so far from leaving us to live in the

common ways of life, conforming to the folly of customs, and gratifying

the passions and tempers which the spirit of the world delights in, it

is so far from indulging us in any of these things, that all its

virtues which it makes necessary to salvation are only so many ways of

living above and contrary to the world, in all the common actions of

our life. If our common life is not a common course of humility,

self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly

affection, we do not live the lives of Christians.
But yet though it is thus plain that this, and this alone, is

Christianity, a uniform, open, and visible practice of all these

virtues, yet it is as plain, that there is little or nothing of this to

be found, even amongst the better sort of people. You see them often at

Church, and pleased with fine preachers: but look into their lives, and

you see them just the same sort of people as others are, that make no

pretences to devotion. The difference that you find betwixt them, is

only the difference of their natural tempers. They have the same taste

of the world, the same worldly cares, and fears, and joys; they have

the same turn of mind, equally vain in their desires. You see the same

fondness for state and equipage, the same pride and vanity of dress,

the same self-love and indulgence, the same foolish friendships, and

groundless hatreds, the same levity of mind, and trifling spirit, the

same fondness for diversions, the same idle dispositions, and vain ways

of spending their time in visiting and conversation, as the rest of the

world, that make no pretences to devotion.


I do not mean this comparison, betwixt people seemingly good and

professed rakes, but betwixt people of sober lives. Let us take an

instance in two modest women: let it be supposed that one of them is

careful of times of devotion, and observes them through a sense of

duty, and that the other has no hearty concern about it, but is at

Church seldom or often, just as it happens. Now it is a very easy thing

to see this difference betwixt these persons. But when you have seen

this, can you find any farther difference betwixt them? Can you find

that their common life is of a different kind? Are not the tempers, and

customs, and manners of the one, of the same kind as of the other? Do

they live as if they belonged to different worlds, had different views

in their heads, and different rules and measures of all their actions?

Have they not the same goods and evils? Are they not pleased and

displeased in the same manner, and for the same things? Do they not

live in the same course of life? does one seem to be of this world,

looking at the things that are temporal, and the other to be of another

world, looking wholly at the things that are eternal? Does the one live

in pleasure, delighting herself in show or dress, and the other live in

self-denial and mortification, renouncing everything that looks like

vanity, either of person, dress, or carriage? Does the one follow

public diversions, and trifle away her time in idle visits, and corrupt

conversation, and does the other study all the arts of improving her

time, living in prayer and watching, and such good works as may make

all her time turn to her advantage, and be placed to her account at the

last day? Is the one careless of expense, and glad to be able to adorn

herself with every costly ornament of dress, and does the other

consider her fortune as a talent given her by God, which is to be

improved religiously, and no more to be spent on vain and needless

ornaments than it is to be buried in the earth? Where must you look, to

find one person of religion differing in this manner, from another that

has none? And yet if they do not differ in these things which are here

related, can it with any sense be said, the one is a good Christian,

and the other not?
Take another instance amongst the men? Leo [3] has a great deal of good

nature, has kept what they call good company, hates everything that is

false and base, is very generous and brave to his friends; but has

concerned himself so little with religion that he hardly knows the

difference betwixt a Jew and a Christian.
Eusebius, [4] on the other hand, has had early impressions of religion,

and buys books of devotion. He can talk of all the feasts and fasts of

the Church, and knows the names of most men that have been eminent for

piety. You never hear him swear, or make a loose jest; and when he

talks of religion, he talks of it as of a matter of the last concern.
Here you see, that one person has religion enough, according to the way

of the world, to be reckoned a pious Christian, and the other is so far

from all appearance of religion, that he may fairly be reckoned a

heathen; and yet if you look into their common life; if you examine

their chief and ruling tempers in the greatest articles of life, or the

greatest doctrines of Christianity, you will not find the least

difference imaginable.
Consider them with regard to the use of the world, because that is what

everybody can see.


Now to have right notions and tempers with relation to this world, is

as essential to religion as it have right notions of God. And it is as

possible for a man to worship a crocodile, and yet be a pious man, as

to have his affections set upon this world, and yet be a good

Christian.
But now if you consider Leo and Eusebius in this respect, you will find

them exactly alike, seeking, using, and enjoying, all that can be got

in this world in the same manner, and for the same ends. You will find

that riches, prosperity, pleasures, indulgences, state equipages, and

honour, are just as much the happiness of Eusebius as they are of Leo.

And yet if Christianity has not changed a man's mind and temper with

relation to these things, what can we say that it has done for him? For

if the doctrines of Christianity were practised, they would make a man

as different from other people, as to all worldly tempers, sensual

pleasures, and the pride of life, as a wise man is different from a

natural [5] ; it would be as easy a thing to know a Christian by his

outward course of life, as it is now difficult to find anybody that

lives it. For it is notorious that Christians are now not only like

other men in their frailties and infirmities, this might be in some

degree excusable, but the complaint is, they are like heathens in all

the main and chief articles of their lives. They enjoy the world, and

live every day in the same tempers, and the same designs, and the same

indulgences, as they did who knew not God, nor of any happiness in

another life. Everybody that is capable of any reflection, must have

observed, that this is generally the state even of devout people,

whether men or women. You may see them different from other people, so

far as to times and places of prayer, but generally like the rest of

the world in all the other parts of their lives: that is, adding

Christian devotion to a heathen life. I have the authority of our

blessed Saviour for this remark, where He says, "Take no thought,

saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal

shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek."

[Matt. vi. 31, 32] But if to be thus affected even with the necessary

things of this life, shows that we are not yet of a Christian spirit,

but are like the heathens, surely to enjoy the vanity and folly of the

world as they did, to be like them in the main chief tempers of our

lives, in self-love and indulgence, in sensual pleasures and

diversions, in the vanity of dress, the love of show and greatness, or

any other gaudy distinctions of fortune, is a much greater sign of an

heathen temper. And, consequently, they who add devotion to such a

life, must be said to pray as Christians, but live as heathens.

__________________________________________________________________
[1] Julius: the suggestion is, that Caesar is the worldly power as

opposed to God.

[2] impertinent=unsuitable, incongruous, uncongenial.

[3] Leo, the lion probably suggesting the favourite of Society.

[4] Eusebius, pious in the Ecclesiastical sense, as the name of the

first Church historian, but without reference to that historian's

character. cf. Eusebia.

[5] a natural, i.e. an idiot.





Share with your friends:
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   23




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page