"The Spirit of Love", First Part

Exerpts From the Writings of William Law

For neither circumcision nor
uncircumcision counts for anything;
the only thing that matters
is a new creation!
**** Gal 6:15

The Spirit of Love, First Part

The following is an excerpt from an excellent book by Andrew Murray, "Wholly for God", consisting of selections from the writings of William Law. This exerpt is from his treatise, "The Spirit of Love, First Part". Buy your INEXPENSIVE books at one of these sites: Amazon, Alibris, Abebooks.

The Spirit of Love, the Universal Good

Now, nothing wills and works with God but the spirit of love because nothing else works in God Himself. The Almighty brought forth all nature for this only end -- that boundless love might have its infinity of height and depth to dwell and work in, and all the striving and working properties of nature are only to give essence and substance, life and strength, to the invisible hidden spirit of love, that it may come forth into outward activity and manifest its blessed powers -- that creatures born in the strength and out of the powers of nature might communicate the spirit of love and goodness, give and receive mutual delight and joy to and from one another. All below this state of love is a fall from the one life of God, and the only life in which the God of love can dwell. Partiality, self, mine, thine, etc., are tempers that can only belong to creatures that have lost the power, presence, and spirit of the universal good. They can have no place in heaven, nor can be anywhere, but because heaven is lost. Think not, therefore, that the spirit of pure, universal love, which is the one purity and perfection of heaven and all heavenly natures, has been, or can be, carried too high, or its absolute necessity too much asserted. For it admits of no degrees of higher or lower, and is not in being till it is absolutely pure and unmixed, no more than a line can be straight till it is absolutely free from all crookedness.

Love is of God

To return to our chief subject: The sum of all that has been said is this: All evil, be it what it will, all misery of every kind, is in its birth, working, and extent nothing else but nature left to itself and under the divided workings of its own hunger, wrath, and contrariety. Therefore, no possibility for the natural, earthly man to escape eternal hunger, wrath, and contrariety, but solely in the way as the gospel teaches, by denying and dying to self. On the other hand, all the goodness and perfection, all the happiness, glory, and joy that any intelligent, divine creature can be possessed of, is, and can be, from nothing else but the invisible, uncreated light and Spirit of God manifesting itself in the properties of the creaturely life, filling, blessing, and uniting them all in one love and joy of life.

Thus again: no possibility of man's attaining to any heavenly perfection and happiness, but only in the way of the gospel, by the union of the divine and human nature, by man's being born again from above of the Word and Spirit of God. There is no possibility of any other way, because there is nothing that can possibly change the first properties of life into a heavenly state but the presence, and working power of the Deity united with and working in them. And therefore the " Word was made flesh", and must of necessity be made flesh, if man is to have a heavenly nature.

Now, as all evil, sin, and misery have no beginning nor power of working, but in the manifestation of nature in its divided, contrary properties; so it is certain that man has nothing to turn to, seek or aspire after, but the lost spirit of love. Therefore it is that God only can be his Redeemer; because God only is love; and love can be nowhere else but in God, and where God dwells and works.

The Spirit of Love not a Notion, but a Nature

Now, the difficulty which you find in attaining this purity and universality of the spirit of love is because you seek for it, as I once told you, in the way of reasoning. You would be possessed of it only from a rational conviction of the fitness and amiableness of it. As this clear idea does not put you immediately into the real possession of it, your reason begins to waver, and suggests to you that it may be only a fine notion that has no ground but in the power of imagination. This sir, however, is all your own error, and as contrary to nature as if you would have your eyes do that which only your hands or feet can do for you. The spirit of love is a spirit of nature and life; and all the operations of nature and life are according to the working powers of nature. Every growth and degree of life can only arise in its own time and place from its proper cause, and as the genuine effect of it. Nature and life do nothing by chance or accidentally, but every thing in one, uniform way. Fire, air, and light do not proceed sometimes from one thing and sometimes from another; but wherever they are, they are always born in the same manner, and from the same working in the properties of nature. So, in like manner, love is an immutable birth, always proceeding from the same cause, and cannot be in existence till its own true parents have brought it forth.

How unreasonable would it be to begin to doubt whether strength and health of body were real things, or possible to be had, because you could not by the power of your reason take possession of them. Yet this is as well as to suspect the purity and perfection of love to be only a notion, because your reason cannot bring forth its birth in your soul. For reason has no more power of altering the life and properties of the soul than of altering the life and properties of the body. That, and that only, can cast devils and evil spirits out of the soul, that can say to the storm, "Be still," and to the leper, "Be you clean."

The birth of love is a form or state of life. Reason can no more alter or exalt any one property of life in the soul and bring it into its perfect state, than it can add one cubit to the stature of the body. The perfection of every life is no way possible to be had, but as every flower comes to its perfection, viz. from its own seed and root, and the various degrees of transmutation which must be gone through before the flower is found. It is strictly thus with the perfection of the soul -- All its properties of life must have their true natural birth and growth from one another. The first, as its seed and root, must have their natural change into an higher state; must, like the seed of the flower, pass through death into life, and be blessed with the fire and light and spirit of heaven, in the passage to it ; just as the seed passes through death into life, blessed by the fire and light and air of this world, till it reaches its last perfection, and becomes a beautiful, sweet-smelling flower. To think that the soul can attain its perfection any other way then by the change and exaltation of its first properties of life, just as the seed has its first properties changed and exalted till it comes to have its flower, is a total ignorance of the nature of things.

The Birth of Love

Hold it, therefore, for a certain truth, that you have no good come into your soul but only by the one way of a birth from above, from the entrance of the Deity into the properties of your own soulish life. Nature must be set right, its properties must enter into the process of a new birth, it must work to the production of light before the spirit of love can have a birth in it. For love is delight, and delight cannot arise in any creature till its nature is in delightful state, or is possessed of that in which it must rejoice.

This is the reason why God must become man -- it is because a birth of the Deity must be found in the soul, giving, to nature all that it wants, or the soul can never find itself in a delightful state, and only working with the spirit of love. For while the soul has only its natural life, it can only be in such a state as nature, without God, is in, viz. a mere hunger, want, contrariety, and strife for it knows not what.

Hence it is, that that which is called the wisdom, the honor, the honesty, and the religion of the natural man often does as much hurt to himself and others as his pride, ambition, self-love, envy, or revenge; and are subject to the same humor and caprice. It is because nature is no better in one motion than in another, nor can be so, till something supernatural is come into it.

We often charge men, both in Church and State, with changing their principles; but the charge is hasty; for no man ever did, nor can, change his principles, but by a birth from above. The natural, called in Scripture "the old man", is steadily the same in heart and spirit, in every thing he does, whatever variety of names may be given to his actions. For self can have no motion but what is selfish which way soever it goes, or whatever it does, either in Church or State. Be assured of this, that nature in every Man, whether he be learned or unlearned, is this very Self, and can be nothing else, till a birth of the Deity is brought forth in it. There is, therefore, no possibility of having the spirit of love, or any divine goodness, from any power of nature or working of reason. It can only be had in its own time and place; and its time and place is nowhere but where nature is overcome by a birth of the life of God in the properties of the soul. Thus you see the infallible truth and absolute necessity of Christian redemption; it is the most demonstrable thing in all nature.

The Deity must become man, take a birth in the fallen nature, be united to it, become the life of it, or the natural man must of all necessity be for ever and ever in the hell of his own hunger, anguish, contrariety and self-torment; and all for this plain reason, because nature is, and can be, nothing else but this variety of self-torment till the Deity is manifested and dwelling in it.

Dying to Self the only Way to the Life of God

Now, Sir, you see also the absolute Necessity of the Gospel-Doctrine of the Cross, viz., of dying to Self, as the one only Way to Life in God. This Cross, or Dying to Self, is the one Morality that does Man any Good. Fancy as many Rules as you will of modeling the moral Behavior of Man, they all do nothing, because they leave Nature still alive, and therefore can only help a Man to a feigned, hypocritical Art of concealing his own inward Evil, and seeming to be not under its Power. And the Reason why it must be so is plain; it is because Nature is not possible to be reformed; it is immutable in its Workings and must be always as it is, and never any better or worse, than its own untaught Workings are. It can no more change from Evil to Good, than Darkness can Work itself into Light. The one Work therefore of Morality is the one Doctrine of the Cross, viz., to resist and deny Nature, that a supernatural Power or Divine Goodness, may take Possession of it, and bring a new Light into it.

In a Word, there are, in all the Possibility of Things, but two States, or Forms of Life; the one is Nature, and the other is God manifested in Nature; and as God and Nature are both within you, so you have it in your Power to live and work with which you will; but are under a Necessity of doing either the one or the other. There is no standing still, Life goes on, and is always bringing forth its Realities, which Way soever it goes. You have seen, that the Properties of Nature are, and can be, nothing else in their own Life, but a restless Hunger, Disquiet, and blind Strife for they know not what, till the Property of Light and Love has got Possession of them. Now when you see this, you see the true State of every natural Man, whether he be Caesar or Cato, whether he gloriously murders others or only stabs himself; blind Nature does all the Work, and must be the Doer of it, till the Christ of God is born in him. For the Life of Man can be nothing else but a Hunger of Covetousness, a Rising up of Pride, Envy, and Wrath, a medley of contrary Passions, doing and undoing it knows not what because these Workings are essential to the Properties of Nature; they must be always hungering, and working one against another, striving to be above one another, and all this in Blindness, till the Light of God has helped them to one common Good, in which they all willingly unite, rest, and rejoice. In a Word, Goodness is only a Sound and Virtue a mere Strife of natural Passions, till the Spirit of Love is the Breath of every Thing that lives and moves in the Heart. For Love is the one only Blessing and Goodness, and God of Nature; and you have no true Religion, are no Worshiper of the one true God, but in and by that Spirit of Love, which is God himself living and working in you.

Theophilus. — Covetousness, envy, pride, and wrath are the four elements of self, or nature, or hell, all of them inseparable from it. And the reason why it must be thus, and cannot be otherwise, is because the natural life of the creature is brought forth for the participation of some high, supernatural good in the Creator. But it could have no fitness or possible capacity to receive such good, unless it was in itself both an extremity of want and an extremity of desire of some high good. When, therefore, this natural life is deprived of or fallen from God, it can be nothing else in itself but an extremity of want continually desiring, and an extremity of desire continually wanting. And hence it is that its whole life can be nothing else but a plague and torment of covetousness, envy, pride, and wrath, all which is precisely nature, self, or hell.

Now covetousness, pride, and envy are not three different things, but only three different names for the restless workings of one and the same will or desire, which, as it differently torments itself, takes these different names, for nothing is in any of them but the working of a restless desire; and all this because the natural life of the creature can do nothing else but work as a desire. And therefore, when fallen from God, its three first births, and which are quite inseparable from it, are covetousness, envy, and Pride; it must covet, because it is a desire proceeding from want; it must envy, because it is a desire turned to self; it must assume and arrogate, because it is a desire founded on a real want of exaltation, or a higher state.

Now wrath, which is a fourth birth from these three, can have no existence till some or all of these three are contradicted, or have something done to them that is contrary to their will; and then it is that wrath is necessarily born, and not till then.

And thus you see, in the highest degree of certainty, what nature or self is as to its essential constituent parts. It is the three aforementioned, inseparable properties of a desire, thrown into a fourth of wrath that can never cease, because their will can never be gratified. For these four properties generate one another, and therefore generate their own torment. They have no outward cause nor any inward power of altering themselves. And, therefore, all self, or nature, must be in this state till some supernatural good comes into it, or gets a birth in it. And, therefore, every pain or disorder in the mind or body of any intelligent creature is an undeniable proof that it is in a fallen state, and has lost that supernatural good for which it was created. So certain a truth is the fallen state of all mankind. And here lies the absolute, indispensable necessity of the one Christian redemption. Till fallen man is born again from above, till such a supernatural birth is brought forth in him, by the eternal word and Spirit of God, he can have no possible escape or deliverance from these four elements of self or hell.

While man indeed lives amoung the vanities of time, his covetousness, envy, pride, and wrath may be in a tolerable state, may help him to a mixture of peace and trouble; they may have at times their gratifications as well as their torments. But when death has put an end to the vanity of all earthly cheats, the soul that is not born again of the supernatural word and Spirit of God must find itself unavoidably devoured or shut up in its own insatiable, unchangeable, self-tormenting covetousness, envy, pride, and wrath.

Oh, Theogenes, that I had power from God to take those dreadful scales from the eyes of every deist, which hinder him from seeing and feeling the infinite importance of this most certain truth !

Theogenes: Enough of all Reason. But as to Covetousness, I thank God, I cannot charge myself with it, it has no Power over me, nay I naturally abhor it. And I also now clearly see, why I have been so long struggling in vain against other selfish Tempers.

Theophilus: Permit me, my Friend, to remove your Mistake. Had Covetousness, no Power over you, you could have no other selfish Tempers to struggle against. They are all dead, as soon as Covetousness has done working in you. You take Covetousness to relate only to the Wealth of this World. But this is but one single Branch of it, its Nature is as large as Desire, and wherever selfish Desire is, there is all the evil Nature of Covetousness.

Now Envy, Pride, Hatred, or Wrath, can have no Possibility of Existence in you, but because there is some selfish Desire alive in you, that is not satisfied, not gratified, but resisted or disappointed. And therefore so long as any selfish Tempers, whether of Envy, Uneasiness, Complaint, Pride, or Wrath, are alive in you, you have the fullest Proof, that all these Tempers are born and bred in and from your own Covetousness, that is, from that same selfish bad Desire, which when it is turned to the Wealth of this World is called Covetousness. For all these four Elements of Self, or fallen Nature, are tied together in one inseparable Band, they mutually generate, and are generated from one another, they have but one common Life, and must all of them live, or all die together. This may show you again the absolute Necessity of our one simple and certain Way of dying to Self, and the absolute Insufficiency of all human Means whatever to effect it.

For consider only this, that to be angry at our own Anger, to be ashamed of our own Pride, and strongly resolve not to be weak, is the Upshot of all human Endeavours; and yet all this is rather the Life, than the Death of Self. There is no Help, but from a total Despair of all human Help. When a Man is brought to such an inward full Conviction, as to have no more Hope from all human Means, than he hopes to see with his Hands, or hear with his Feet, then it is, that he is truly prepared to die to Self, that is, to give up all Thoughts of having or doing any Thing that is good, in any other Way but that of a meek, humble, patient, total Resignation of himself to God. All that we do before this Conviction, is in great Ignorance of ourselves, and full of Weakness and Impurity. Let our Zeal be ever so wonderful, yet if it begins sooner, or proceeds further, or to any other Matter, or in any other Way, than as it is led and guided by this Conviction, it is full of Delusion. No Repentance, however long or laborious, is Conversion to God, till it falls into this State. For God must do all, or all is nothing; but God cannot do all, till all is expected from Him; and all is not expected from Him, till by a true and good Despair of every human Help, we have no Hope, or Trust, or Longing after any Thing but a patient, meek, humble, total Resignation to God.

Now, my dear Friends, I have brought you to the very Place for which I desired this Day's Conversation; which was, to set your Feet upon sure Ground, with Regard to the Spirit of Love. For all that Variety of Matters through which we have passed, has been only a Variety of Proofs, that the Spirit of Divine Love can have no Place, or Possibility of Birth in any fallen Creature, till it wills and chooses to be dead to all Self, in a patient, meek, humble Resignation to the good Power and Mercy of God.

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