The Spirit of Prayer

Parts I & II

Excerpts from William Law

[Pryr-1.1-2] We are all of us, by Birth, the Offspring of God, more nearly related to him than we are to one another; for in him we live, and move, and have our Being. The first Man that was brought forth from God had the Breath and Spirit of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, breathed into him, and so he became a living Soul. Thus was our first Father born of God, descended from Him, and stood in Paradise in the Image and Likeness of God. He was the Image and Likeness of God, not with any Regard to his outward Shape or Form, for no Shape has any Likeness to God; but he was in the Image and Likeness of God, because the Holy Trinity had breathed their own Nature and Spirit into him. And as the Deity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are always in Heaven, and make Heaven to be everywhere, so this Spirit, breathed by them into Man, brought Heaven into Man along with it; and so Man was in Heaven, as well as on Earth, that is, in Paradise, which signifies an heavenly State, or Birth of Life.

[Pryr-1.1-3] Adam had all that Divine Nature, both as to an heavenly Spirit, and heavenly Body, which the Angels have. But as he was brought forth to be a Lord and Ruler of a new World, created out of the Chaos or Ruins of the Kingdom of fallen Angels; so it was necessary that he should also have the Nature of this new created World in himself, both as to its Spirit and Materiality. Hence it was, that he had a Body taken from this new created Earth, not such dead Earth as we now make Bricks of, but the blessed Earth of Paradise, that had the Powers of Heaven in it, out of which the Tree of Life itself could grow. Into the Nostrils of this outward Body, was the Breath or Spirit of this World breathed; and in this Spirit and Body of this World, did the inward celestial Spirit and Body of Adam dwell: it was the Medium or Means through which he was to have Commerce with this World, become visible to its Creatures, and rule over it and them. Thus stood our first Father; an Angel both as to Body and Spirit (as he will be again after the Resurrection) yet dwelling in a Body and Spirit taken from this new created World, which however was as inferior to him, as subject to him, as the Earth and all its Creatures were. It was no more alive in him, no more brought forth its Nature within him, than Satan and the Serpent were alive in him at his first Creation. And herein lay the Ground of Adam's Ignorance of Good and Evil; it was because his outward Body, and the outward World (in which alone was Good and Evil) could not discover their own Nature, or open their own Life within him, but were kept inactive by the Power and Life of the celestial Man within it. And this was Man's first and great Trial; a Trial not imposed upon him by the mere Will of God, or by Way of Experiment; but a Trial necessarily implied in the Nature of his State: He was created an Angel, both as to Body and Spirit; and this Angel stood in an outward Body, of the Nature of the outward World; and therefore, by the Nature of his State, he had his Trial, or Power of choosing, whether he would live as an Angel, using only his outward Body as a Means of opening the Wonders of the outward World to the Glory of his Creator; or whether he would turn his Desire to the opening of the bestial Life of the outward World in himself, for the Sake of knowing the Good and Evil that was in it. The Fact is certain, that he lusted after the Knowledge of this Good and Evil, and made use of the Means to obtain it. No sooner had he got this Knowledge, by the opening of the bestial Life and Sensibility within him, but in that Day, nay, in that Instant, he died; that is his heavenly Spirit with its heavenly Body were both extinguished in him; but his Soul, an immortal Fire that could not die, became a poor Slave in Prison of bestial Flesh and Blood. See here the Nature and Necessity of our Redemption; it is to redeem the first Angelic Nature that departed from Adam; it is to make that heavenly Spirit and Body which Adam lost, to be alive again in all the human Nature; and this is called Regeneration. See also the true Reason why only the Son, or eternal Word of God, could be our Redeemer; it is because he alone, by whom all Things were at first made, could be able to bring to Life again that celestial Spirit and Body which had departed from Adam. See also why our blessed Redeemer said, "Except a Man be born again of Water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." He must be born again of the Spirit, because Adam's first heavenly Spirit was lost: he must be born again of Water, because that heavenly Body which Adam lost, was formed out of the heavenly Materiality, which is called Water. Thus in the Revelation of St. John, the heavenly Materiality, out of which the Bodies of Angels and also of Adam were formed, is called a glassy Sea, as being the nearest and truest Representation of it that can be made to our Minds. The Necessity of our regaining our first heavenly Body, is the Necessity of our eating the Body and Blood of Christ. The Necessity of having again our first heavenly Spirit, is declared by the Necessity of our being Baptized by the Holy Ghost. Our Fall is nothing else, but the Falling of our Soul from this celestial Body and Spirit into a bestial Body and Spirit of this World. Our rising out of our fallen State, or Redemption, is nothing else but the regaining our first angelic Spirit and Body, which in Scripture is called our inward, or new Man, created again in Christ Jesus. See here, lastly, the true Ground of all the Mortifications of Flesh and Blood, required in the Gospel; it is because this bestial Life of this outward World should not have been opened in Man; it is his Separation from God, and Death to the Kingdom of Heaven; and therefore, all its Workings, Appetites, and Desires, are to be restrained and kept under, that the first heavenly Life, to which Adam died, may have Room to rise up in us.

[Pryr-1.1-4] But to return. That Adam was thus an Angel at his first Creation, dwelling in an outward Body and outward World, incapable of receiving any Impressions from them, and able to rule them at his Pleasure; that all outward Nature was a State of Life below him, in Subjection to him; that neither Sun, nor Stars, nor Fire, nor Water, nor Earth, nor Stones, could act upon him, or hurt him, is undeniably plain from hence; because his first and great Sin, which cost him his angelic Life, and took from him his Crown of Glory, consisted in this, that he lusted to know, and took the Means of knowing, what Good and Evil are in the bestial Life of this World: For this plainly demonstrates, that before his Sin, whilst he stood in the first State of his Creation, that he was an Angel in Nature and Power, that neither his own outward Body, nor any Part of outward Nature, had any Power in him or upon him; for had his own outward Body, or any Element of outward Nature, had any Power to act upon him, to make any Impressions, or raise any Sensations in him, he could not have been ignorant of Good and Evil in this World. Therefore, seeing that his eating of the forbidden Tree, was that alone which opened this Knowledge in him, it is a Demonstration, that in his first State he was in this World as an Angel, that was put into the Possession of it only to rule as a superior Being over it; that he was to have no Share of its Life and Nature, no Feeling of Good or Evil from it, but to act in it as a heavenly Artist, that had Power and Skill to open the Wonders of God in every Power of outward Nature. An Angel, we read, used at a certain Time to come down into a Pool at Jerusalem; the Water stirred by the Angel gave forth its Virtues, but the Angel felt no Impressions of Weight, or Cold from the Water. This is an Image of Adam's first Freedom from, and Power over all outward Nature. He could wherever he went, do as this Angel did, make every Element, and elementary Thing, discover all the Riches of God that were hidden in it, without feeling any Impressions of any kind from it. This was to have been the Work both of Adam and his Offspring, to make all the Creation show forth the Glory of God, to spread Paradise over all the Earth, till the Time came, that all the Good in this World was to be called back to its first State, and all the Evil in every Part left to be possessed by the Devil and his Angels. But since He fell from this first State into an Animal of this World, his Work is changed, and he must now labour with Sweat to till the cursed Earth, both for Himself and the Beasts upon it.

[Pryr-1.1-5] Let us now consider some plain and important Truths, that follow from what has been said above.

[Pryr-1.1-6] First, it is plain that the Sin and Fall of Adam did not consist in this, viz., that he had only committed a single Act of Disobedience, and so might have been just as He was before, if God had pleased to overlook this single Act of Disobedience, and not to have brought a Curse upon him and his Posterity for it.— Nothing of this is the Truth of the Matter, either on the Part of God, or on the Part of Man.

[Pryr-1.1-7] Secondly, it is plain also, that the Command of God, not to lust after, and eat of the forbidden Tree, was not an arbitrary Command of God, given at Pleasure, or as a mere Trial of Man's Obedience; but was a most kind and loving Information given by the God of Love to his new-born Offspring, concerning the State He was in, with Regard to the outward World: Warning him to withdraw all Desire of entering into a Sensibility of its Good and Evil; because such Sensibility could not be had, without his immediate dying to that Divine and heavenly Life which he then enjoyed. "Eat not," says the God of Love, "of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, for in the Day thou eatest thereof you will surely die."

[Pryr-1.1-8] As if it had been said, "I have brought Thee into this Paradise, with such a Nature as the Angels have in Heaven. By the Order and Dignity of thy Creation, every Thing that lives and moves in this World is made subject to Thee, as to their Ruler. I have made Thee in thy outward Body of this World, to be for a Time a little lower than the Angels, till Thou hast brought forth a numerous Offspring, fit for that Kingdom which They have lost. The World around Thee, and the Life which is newly awakened in it, is much lower than Thou art; of a Nature quite inferior to thine. It is a gross, corruptible State of Things, that cannot stand long before me; but must for a while bear the Marks of those Creatures, which first made Evil to be known in the Creation. The Angels, that first inhabited this Region, where Thou art to bring forth a new Order of Beings, were great and powerful Spirits, highly endowed with the Riches and Powers of their Creator. Whilst they stood (as the Order of Creation requires) in Meekness and Resignation, under their Creator, nothing was impossible to them; there was no End of their glorious Powers throughout their whole Kingdom. Perpetual Scenes of Light, and Glory, and Beauty, were rising and changing through all the Height and Depth of their glassy Sea, merely at their Will and Pleasure. But finding what Wonders of Light and Glory they could perpetually bring forth; how all the Powers of Eternity, treasured up in their glassy Sea, unfolded themselves, and broke forth in ravishing Forms of Wonder and Delight, merely in Obedience to their Call; they began to admire and even adore themselves, and to fancy that there was some Infinity of Power hidden in themselves, which they supposed was kept under, and suppressed, by that Meekness, and Subjection to God, under which they acted. Fired and intoxicated with this proud Imagination, they boldly resolved, with all their eternal Energy and Strength, to take their Kingdom, with all its Glories, to themselves, by eternally abjuring all Meekness and Submission to God. No sooner did their eternal potent Desires fly in this Direction of a Revolt from God, but in the Swiftness of a Thought Heaven was lost; and they found themselves dark Spirits, stripped of all their Light and Glory. Instead of Rising up above God (as they hoped) by breaking off from Him, there was no End of their eternal Sinking into new Depths of Slavery, under their own self- tormenting Natures. As a Wheel going down a Mountain, that has no bottom, must continually keep on its Turning, so are they whirled down by the Impetuosity of their own wrong turned Wills, in a continual Descent from the Fountain of all Glory, into the bottomless Depths of their own dark, fiery, working Powers. In no Hell, but what their own natural Strength had awakened; bound in no Chains, but their own unbending, hardened Spirits; made such, by their renouncing, with all their eternal Strength, all Meekness, and Subjection to God. In that Moment, the beautiful Materiality of their Kingdom, their glassy Sea in which they dwelt, was by the wrathful rebellious Workings of these apostate Spirits broken all into Pieces, and became a black Lake, a horrible Chaos of Fire and Wrath, Thickness and Darkness, a Height and Depth of the confused, divided, fighting Properties of Nature. My creating Fiat stopped the Workings of these rebellious Spirits, by dividing the Ruins of their wasted Kingdom, into an Earth, a Sun, Stars, and separated Elements. Had not this Revolt of Angels brought forth that disordered Chaos, no such Materiality as this outward World is made of had ever been known. Gross compacted Earth, Stones, Rocks, wrathful Fire here, dead Water there, fighting Elements, with all their gross Vegetables and Animals, are Things not known in Eternity, and will be only seen in Time, till the great Designs are finished, for which Thou are brought forth in Paradise. And then, as a Fire awakened by the rebel Creature, began all the Disorders of Nature, and turned that glassy Sea into a Chaos, so a last Fire, kindled at my Word, shall thoroughly purge the Floor of this World. In those purifying Flames, the Sun, the Stars, the Air, the Earth and Water, shall part with all their Dross, Deadness, and Division, and all become again that first, heavenly Materiality, a glassy Sea of everlasting Light and Glory, in which Thou and thy Offspring shall sing Hallelujahs to all Eternity. Look not therefore, thou Child of Paradise, thou Son of Eternity, look not with a longing Eye after any Thing in this outward World. There are the Remains of the fallen Angels in it; Thou hast nothing to do in it, but as a Ruler over it. It stands before Thee, as a Mystery big with Wonders; and Thou, whilst an Angel in Paradise, hast Power to open and display them all. It stands not in thy Sphere of Existence; it is, as it were, but a Picture, and transitory Figure of Things; for all that is not Eternal, is but as an Image in a Glass, that seems to have a Reality, which it has not. The Life which springs up in this Figure of a World, in such an infinite Variety of Kinds and Degrees, is but as a Shadow; it is a Life of such Days and Years, as in Eternity have no Distinction from a Moment. It is a life of such Animals and Insects, as are without any Divine Sense, Capacity, or Feeling. Their Natures have nothing in them, but what I commanded this new modelled Chaos, this Order of Stars and fighting Elements, to bring forth.

[Pryr-1.1-9] "Now Adam, observe, I will open to Thee a great Mystery. The heavenly Materiality of the Angels' Kingdom before their Revolt was a glassy Sea, a Mirror of beauteous Forms, Figures, Virtues, Powers, Colours, and Sounds, which were perpetually springing up, appearing and changing in an infinite Variety, to the Manifestation of the Wonders of the Divine Nature, and to the Joy of all the Angelical Kingdom. This heavenly Materiality had its Fruits and Vegetables, much more real than any that grow in Time, but as different from the Grossness of the Fruits of this World, as the heavenly Body of an Angel is different from the Body of the grossest Beast upon Earth. In this angelical Kingdom, the one Element (which is now in four Parts) was then a fruitful Mother of Wonders, continually bringing forth new Forms and Figures of Life; not Animals, Beasts, or Insects, but beautiful Figures, and ideal Forms of the endless Divisibility, and Degrees of Life, which only broke forth as delightful Wonders of the Depth of the Riches of the Divine Nature, and to tune the Voices of Angels with Songs of Praise to the infinite Source of Life. And hence, O Adam, is that endless infinite Variety both of the Animal and Vegetable Life in this perishable World. For no Fruits or Vegetables could have sprung up in the divided Elements, but because they are the divided Parts of that one heavenly Materiality, or glassy Sea, in which angelical Fruits had formerly grown forth. No animal Life could have arose from Stars, Air, and Water, but because they are all of them the gross Remains of that one Element, in which the Figures and Images of Life had once risen up in such an infinite Variety of Degrees and Kinds. Hence it was, that when my creating Fiat spoke to these new ranged Stars, and Elements, and bid Life awake in them all according to its Kind, they all obeyed my Word, and every Property of Nature strove to bring forth, after the Kind and Manner as it had done in the Region of Eternity. This, my Son, is the Source and Original of all that infinite Variety, and Degrees of Life, both of Animals and Vegetables, in this World. It is because all outward Nature, being fallen from Heaven, must yet, as well as it can, do and work as it had done in Heaven.

[Pryr-1.1-10] "In Heaven, all Births and Growths, all Figures and spiritual Forms of Life, though infinite in Variety, are yet all of a heavenly Kind, and only so many Manifestations of the Goodness, Wisdom, Beauty, and Riches of the Divine Nature. But in this new modelled Chaos, where the Disorders that were raised by Lucifer are not wholly removed, but Evil and Good must stand in Strife, till the last purifying Fire, here every Kind and Degree of Life, like the World from whence it springs, is a Mixture of Good and Evil in its Birth.

[Pryr-1.1-11] "Therefore, my Son, be content with thy angelical Nature, be content, as an Angel in Paradise, to eat Angels' Food, and to rule over this mixed, imperfect, and perishing World, without partaking of its corruptible, impure, and perishing Nature. Lust not to know how the Animals feel the Evil and Good which this Life affords them; for if Thou couldst feel what they feel, Thou must be as they are; Thou canst not have their Sensibility, unless Thou hast their Nature: thou canst not at once be an Angel and an earthly Animal. If the bestial Life is raised up in Thee, the same Instant the heavenly Birth of thy Nature must die in Thee. Therefore turn away thy Lust and Imagination from a Tree, that can only help Thee to the Knowledge of such Good and Evil, as belongs only to the Animals of this outward World; for nothing but the bestial Nature can receive Good or Evil from the Stars and Elements; they have no Power, but over that Life which proceeds from them. Eat therefore only the Food of Paradise; be content with Angels' Bread; for if Thou eatest of this Tree, it will unavoidably awaken and open the bestial Life within Thee; and in that Moment, all that is heavenly must die, and cease to have any Power in thee. And Thou must fall into a Slavery for Life, under the divided fighting Powers of Stars and Elements. Stripped of thy angelical Garment, that hid thy outward Body under its Glory, Thou wilt become more naked than any Beast upon Earth, be forced to seek from Beasts a Covering, to hide thee from the Sight of thine own Eyes. A shameful, fearful, sickly, wanting, suffering, and distressed Heir of the same speedy Death in the Dust of the Earth, as the poor Beasts, whom Thou wilt thus have made to be thy Brethren."

[Pryr-1.1-12] This Paraphrase I leave to the Reflection of the Reader, and proceed to show,

[Pryr-1.1-13] Thirdly, that the Misery, Distress, and woeful Condition, which Adam by his Transgression brought upon Himself, and all his Posterity, was not the Effect of any severe vindictive Wrath in God, calling for Justice to his offended Sovereignty, and inflicting Pains and Punishments suitable to the Greatness of his just Indignation, and Anger at the disobedient Creature.

[Pryr-1.1-14] If Adam, contrary to the Will of God, and for the Sake of some new-fancied Knowledge, had broken both his own Legs, and put out both his Eyes, could it with any Show of Truth and Reason have been said, that God, in the Severity of his Wrath at so heinous an Offense, had punished Adam with Lameness and Blindness? And if it be further supposed, that God seeing Adam lying in this lame and blind Condition, came and spoke kindly to him, informing him of a Secret of Love, which He had in Heaven, which He promised to send him immediately by his highest Messenger of Love; assuring him, that by the Use of this heavenly Secret or Divine Power, his Legs and Eyes should, in some Course of Time, be infallibly restored to him, even in a better State than they were in at the first; must it not be still more unreasonable and absurd, to charge anything of this Lameness and Blindness upon a Wrath in God kindled against Adam? Nay, is it not clear, in the Highest Degree, that in all this Matter Adam had nothing from God, but the Overflowings of mere Love and Goodness, and that he had no Lameness and Blindness, but from his own voluntary Acts upon himself?

[Pryr-1.1-15] This is a simple, but clear Representation of the Case, how Matters stood betwixt God and our first Father, when by his own Act and Deed he extinguished that Divine Life, in which God had created him. Adam had no more Hurt, no more Evil done to Him, at his Fall, than the very Nature of his own Action brought along with it upon himself. He lusted to have the Sensibility of that Good and Evil, which the Beasts of this World have. He was told, that it could not be had without the Loss of his heavenly Life; because such Loss was as necessarily implied in the Nature of the Thing itself, as Blindness is implied in the Extinction of the Eyes. However, he ventured to make the Trial, and chose to eat of That, which could and did open this Sensibility of earthly Good and Evil in him. No sooner was this Sensibility opened in him, but he found it to be a Subjection and Slavery to all outward Nature, to Heat and Cold, to Pains and Sickness, Horror of Mind, disturbed Passions, Misery, and Fears of Death. Which is in other Words only saying, that he found it to be an Extinction of that Divine, angelical Nature, which till then had kept him insensible and incapable of any hurtful Impressions, from any or all the Powers of this World. Therefore, to charge his miserable State, as a Punishment inflicted upon him by the severe Wrath of an incensed God, is the same Absurdity as in the former supposed Lameness and Blindness. Because the whole Nature of all that miserable Change, both as to Body and Soul, which then came upon him, was neither more, nor less, than what was necessarily implied in that which he chose to do to himself. And therefore it had nothing of the Nature of a Punishment inflicted from without, but was only that which his own Action had done in and to himself: Just as the Man that puts out his own Eyes, has only that Darkness and Blindness, which his own Action has brought forth in himself.

[Pryr-1.1-16] From this short, yet plain and true Account of this Matter, we are at once delivered from a Load of Difficulties that have been raised about the Fall of Man, and Original Sin. It has been a great Question, How the Goodness of God could punish so small and single an Act of Disobedience in Adam, with so great a Punishment? Here the Sovereignty of God has been appealed to, and has set the Matter right; and from this Sovereignty, thus asserted, came forth the Systems of absolute Election, and absolute Reprobation. But for our Comfort it appears, that the Question here put concerns neither God nor Man, that it relates not at all to the Matter, and has no Existence, but in the Brains of those that formed it. For the Action in which Adam's Sin consisted, was such an Act, as in itself implied all that miserable Change that came upon him, and so was not a small, or single Act of Disobedience, nor had the least Punishment, of any kind, inflicted by God upon it. All that God did on this Transgression was mere Love, Compassion, and Relief administered to it. All the Sovereignty that God here showed, was a Sovereignty of Love to the fallen Creature. So that all the Volumes on this Question may be laid aside, as quite beside the Point. Another, and the greatest Question of all, and which Divines of all Sorts have been ever solving, and yet never have solved, is this: How it can consist with the Goodness of God, to impute the Sin of Adam to all his Posterity? But here, to our Comfort again, it may be said, that this Question is equally a vain Fiction with the other, and has nothing to do with the Procedure of God towards Mankind. For there is no Imputation of the Sin of Adam to his Posterity, and so no Foundation for a Dispute upon it. How absurd would it be to say, that God imputes the Nature, or the Body and Soul of Adam to his Posterity? for have they not the Nature of Adam by a natural Birth from him, and not by Imputation from God? Now this is all the Sin that Adam's Posterity have from him, they have only their Flesh and Blood, their Body and Soul from him, by a Birth from him, and not imputed to them from God. Instead therefore of the former Question, which is quite beside the Matter, it should have been asked thus, How it was consistent with the Goodness of God, that Adam could not generate Children of a Nature and Kind quite superior to himself? This is the only Question that can be asked with relation to God; and yet it is a Question whose Absurdity confutes itself. For the only Reason why Sin is found in all the Sons of Adam, is this, it is because Adam of earthly Flesh and Blood, cannot bring forth a holy Angel out of himself, but must beget children of the same Nature and Condition with himself. And therefore here again it may be truly said, that all the laborious Volumes on God's imputing Adam's Sin to his Posterity, ought to be considered as waste Paper.{See Appeal to all that Doubt, &c., page 198. Letter to the Bishop of London, page 70.}

[Pryr-1.1-19] But to return, and consider further the Nature of Adam's Fall, We have seen that it consisted of no arbitrary Punishment inflicted on him by a Wrath raised in God, but was only such a State of Misery, as his own Action necessarily brought upon him. Let us now see what happened to his Soul, a little more distinctly, and how it differed from what it was before his Fall, in its heavenly State.

Download an eBook containing "The Collected Works of William Law" by clicking [ Here ].