Life and Spirit and Joy

From A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 14 (1728)

If you consider devotion only as a time of so much prayer, you may perhaps perform it though you live in this daily indulgence. But if you consider it as a state of the heart, as a lively fervor of the soul that is deeply affected with a sense of its own misery and infirmities and desiring the Spirit of God more than all things in the world, you will find that the spirit of indulgence and the spirit of prayer cannot subsist together. Mortification of all kinds is the very life and soul of piety, but he that has no so small a degree of it as to be able to be early at his prayers can have no reason to think that he has taken up his cross and is following Christ.

When you read in the Scriptures, you see a religion that is all life and spirit and joy in God, that supposes our souls risen from earthly desires and bodily indulgences to prepare for another body, another world, and other enjoyments. You see Christians represented as temples of the Holy Ghost, as children of the day, as candidates for an eternal crown, as watchful virgins that have their lamps always burning in expectation of the bridegroom. But can he be thought to have this joy in God, this care of eternity, this watchful spirit, who has not zeal enough to rise to his prayers?

When you look into the writings and lives of the first Christians, you see the same spirit that you see in the Scriptures. All is reality, life and action. Watching and prayers, self-denial and mortification, was the common business of their lives. From that time to this, there has been no person like them eminent for piety who has not like them been eminent for self-denial and mortification. This is the only royal way that leads to a kingdom.

William Law (1686-1761) was an English Anglican priest and spiritual writer. He lost his position as a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge when he refused to take an oath of allegiance to King George I, and worked for most of his life as a private tutor. He wrote a series of influential treatises on Christian discipleship and mysticism, urging a life of holiness. A Serious Call was his most influential work, and deeply influenced many later church leaders, especially John Wesley and John Keble. He is commemorated on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches on dates around his date of death, April 9.


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