William Law.

A collection of letters on the most interesting and important subjects, and on several occasions. online

. (page 1 of 24)
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Law, William, 1686-1761.
A collection of letters on
the most interesting and




On the Mofl

Interefting and Important S u b j e c tSj


Several Occafions^



Printed for J. RICHARDSON, in -Pat^r^

Nojier-Row . 1760.

[ Price Two ShiKings. ]




R E A D E R.

THE Letters in this Colkaioa
having been experimentally
found of great private Benefit, the
confent of the Author has been ob-
tained to their being made Publick,
And as they contain a rich Treafure
of divine Truths, and come home
to the Bofoms of Men, comprehend-
ing the Fulnefs of Religion, and re-
folving a great Variety of important
Points, the Editors have great Plea-
fure, in being allowed to Publifh

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To Mr. y. L.

My dear and mo/l worthy Friend,

l^MM"^ O R fo I muft falute you, as having
Q F g long dwelt in my Heart under that
k.)§()§CjM( ^^^^> though perfonally unknown
to me. I fhall not trouble you with
apologizing for this long Silence, but fpeak
diredly to the Matters of yours, concerning
your Difficulty to join in any Church Com-^

8 Religion


Religion, or Church Communion is in
its true Nature, both external and internal^
which are thus united, and thus diftin-
guiilied ', the one is the outward Sign, the
other is the inward T^ruth iignified by it :
The one never was, nor ever can be, in
its true State, without the other.

The inward 'Ti^uth, or Church, is Ke-
generation, or the Life, Spirit, and Power
of Chrift, quickened and brought to life,
in the Soul.

The outward Sign, or Church, is that
outward Form, or manner of Life, that
bears full witnefs to the Truth of this re-
generated Life of Chrift, formed or revealed
in the Soul.

The inward Truth gives forth its outward
proper Manifeftations of itfelf, and thefe
Manifeftations bring forth the true outward
Church, and make it to be vijible, and out-
wardly known.

As thus, every thing in the inward Life,
and Spirit, and Will of Chrift, when it be-
comes living, dwelling and working in the
Spirit of our Minds, or inward Man, is
the inward Church, or Kingdom of God,
fet up within us : And every thing in the
outward Behaviour, and vilible Converfa-
tion of Chrift, whilft dwelling amongft
Men, when pradifed and followed by us,



in the Form and Manner of our Life,
makes us the Members of that outward
Church, which he fet up in this World.

Inwardly nothing lived in Christ, but the
fole Will of God, a p.^rpetual Regard to
his Glory, and one contirua! Defire of the
Salvation of all Mankind. When this
Spirit is in us, then are we^ irrjvardly one
with Chrift, and united to God through

Outwardly Chrift exercifed every kind of
Love, Kindnefs and Compaffion to the Souls
and Bodies of Men -, nothing was vilible in
the outward Form of his Life, but Hu-
mility and Lowlinefs of State in every fhape ;
a contented Want, or rather total Dif-
regard of all worldly Riches, Power, Eafe
or Pleafure -, a continual Meeknefs, Gentle-
nefs. Patience and Reiignation, not only
to the Will of God, bat to the haughty
Powers of the World, to the Perverfenefs,
and Contradiction of all the Evil and Ma-
lice of M'TDp and all the Hardfhips and
Troubles ox human Life : Now this, and
fuch like outward Beha'viour of Chrifl\, thus
feparate from, and contrary to the Spirit,
Wifdom and Way, of this World, v/as
that very outward Church, of which he
willed all Mankind to become vifible, and
living Members.- — And whoever in the Spi-

B 2 rit


rit of Chrift, lives in the outward Exercife
of thefe Virtues, lives as to himfelf in the
higheft Perfcdion of Chu7xh Vnity^ and is-
the true inw^ard and outward Chriflian.^ —
He is all that he can be, he hath all that
he can have, he doth all that he can do,
and enjoyeth all that he can enjoy, as a Mem-
ber of Chriil's Body, or Church in this

For as Chrift was God and Man, come
down from Heaven, for no other end, but
fully to reftore the Union that was loft be-
twixt God and Man, fo Church Unity is, and
can be nothing elfe, but the Unity of this,
or that Man, or number of Men with God,
through the Power and Nature of Chrift.
And therefore it muft be the Truth, and the
whole Truth, that nothing more is required,
nor will any thing lefs be able, to make
any one a true Member of the 07ie Church of
. Chrift, out of which there is no Salvation,
and in which there is no Condemnation^
but only and folely his Conformity to, and
Union with the inward Spirit, and outward
Form of Chrift's Life and Behaviour in this
World. — This is the one Fold under one Shep-
herd ; though the Sheep are fcattered, or feed-
ing in Valiies, or on Mountains ever fo dif-
tant, or feparate from one another.



On the other hand, not only every un~
reafonable unjuft Adion, belt dons to whom
it will, not only every unkind, proud, v/rath-
ful, fcornful, difdainful inward Thought,
or outward Behaviour to any Perfon, but
every XJjircadinefs to do good of all Kinds,
to all that we can ; every Umvilliiignefs to
rejoice with them that rejoice, and to w^eep
with them that weep, and love our Neigh-
bour as ourfelves ; every Averfion to be in-
wardly all Love, and outwardly all Meek-
nefs, Gentlenefs, Courtify, and Condefcen-
tion in Words and Actions towards every
Creature, for w^hom Chrift died, makes
us SchiffnaticSy though we be ever . fo daily
gathered together, into one and the fame
Place, joining in one and the fame Form of
Creeds, Prayers and Praifes offered to God,
and is truly a leavings or breaking that
Church TJnity^ which makes us one with
Chrift, as our Head, and unites us with
Men, as the Members of his Body.

That the matter is thus ; that the true
Church Unify coniifbs in our walking as Chrift
walked, fully appears, as from many others,
fo from thefe plain Words of our Lord him-
felf : Te are not of this Worlds as I am not of
this Worlds but I have chofen you out of the
World, Therefore to have that Contrariety
Jo the World, which Chrift had, is the one

B 3 necefla^ry


neceiTary and full Proof of our being his,
of our belonging to him, and being one
with him.

Again, Abide m me^ a7id I in you^ if y^
abide in ?ne^ ye f}:all ajk what ye will, and it
jloall be done to you. If a Man abide 7iot in me^
he is cafljorth as a Branch withered, &c. For
without me ye can do nothing.

Therefore the one true Proof oi our be-
ing living Members qf Chrifl's Church on
Earth, or only dead Branches, fit for the
Fire, is nothing eife but our being, or not
being inwardly of that Spirit, and outward-
ly of that Behaviour, which Chrifl mani-
feftcd to the World.

Again, l^his is my Comraandfuent , that ye
love one another as 1 have loved you, and by
this fnall all Men know that ye are my Dijciples.

Therefore the true and fufficient Mark of
our outward Church Memberihip, is there
only, and fully, outwardly known, and
found in every Man, where the outward
Form of Chriil's loving Behaviour to all
Men, is outvv^ardly feen and known to be
in him. Tliefe and the like Paffages of
Chrift and his Apoilles (though quite over-
looked by moft modern Defenders of the one
Church) are the only Places that fpeak home
to the Truth, and Reality of Church



It may now be rcafonably alkcd, Vv'hat
is the divine Service^ or WorJJAp in this
Church ? For every Church mull have its
divine Service and Worfl^iip, which is the
Life, Strength, and Support of it.

It is anfwered : TJoat no Man can call
Chrifl Lordy but by the Holy Ghoji, There-
fore nothing is, or can be a divine Service
in that Church, which has Chrifl: lor its
Lord, but what has the Holy Spirit for its
Beginner, Doer, and Finiilier. tor if it be
certain that no one can own Chrift as his
Lord, but by the Holy Spirit, then it mufl
be equally certain, that no one can ferve or
worfliip God through Chrift his Lord, in
any other Way, Help, Power or Means,
but fo far as it is all done, in, and by the
Power of the fame Holy Spirit, Whatfo-
ever is born of the Fleili is Flefh ; that is,
whatfoever proceeds from, or is done by the
natural Powers of Man, from his Birth of
Flefli and Blood, is meerly human, earthly,
and corrupt, and can no more do any thing
that is heavenly, or perform a Service or
worfhip that is divine, than our prefent
Flefh and Blood can enter into the King-
dom of Heaven. Thus faith the Apoflle,
Te are not in the Flejh^ but in the Spirit^ if
Jo be^ the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. Now
if any Man hath not the Spirit of Chrifl he

B4 h


is none of his. And confequcntly if not his>
he can perform no divine Service to him.
Nor can any Worfliip ceafe to be car-
nal, or become divine, but by its bet-
ing all that it is, and doing all that it doth,
by the Power, and Prefence of Chrift
dwelling in our Souls, and helping us by
his Holy Spirit to cry in Truth and Reality,
Abba Father.

The New Teftament never calls us to do,
or offer^ or allows any thing to be done or
offered to God, as a divine Service, or Worv
fhip, but what is done in the Truth, and
Reality of Faith, of Hope, of Love, and
Obedience to God.

But through all theNewTeftaraent,no Faith,
no Hope, no Love is allowed to bie true,
and godly, but only that Faith, that Hope,
&c. which folely proceeds from, and is the
t'ruit of the Holy Spirit, living, dwelling,
and working in our whole Heart, and Soul,
and Spirit.

This Spirituality of the Chriftlan Reli-
gion, is the Reafon why it was firft preached
to the World under the Nan^e of the King-
dom of pod, becaufe under this new Dif-
penfationj freed from Veils, Shadows and
Figures of good Things abfent or to come,
God himfelf is manifefled, ruling in us and
.over us^ as an ejfential Light of pur Lives,



as an indnjoelling Word of Power, as a life^
giving Spirit within us, forming us by a
new Birth, to become a chofen Generation^
a royal Priejihood^ to offer fpiritiial Sacrifices
to God^ through a new and living Way which
Chrifi hath confecrated for us. The Truth
and Peffedlion of which State, is plainly fet
forth by the following Prayer of Chrift, viz.
7hat they all may be one^ as thou Father art
in me^ and I in thee^ that they alfo may he
one in us — / in them and thou in me^ that they
be made perfeB in one, and that the Love
wherewith thou hafi; loved me^ may be in themy
and I in them. Now for the Truth and Cer-
tainty of this fpiritual Kingdom, in which
are only fpiritual Worfhippers baptized from
above, into an Union, and Communion
with Father, Son, and Holy Ghoft, through
the myfterious Union of God and Man in
the one Mediator Jefus Chrifi ; for the
Truth, I fay, of this fpiritual State of Chrifti-
anity, we have the plaineft Words of Chrifi,
exprefHy declaring that the 'Jerujalem Ser-
'Dice, and confequently every Thing, or Ser-
vice that has the Nature of it, was to have
its End in the Eflabliihment of his Church.
Believe me^ faith he, the Hour cometh whe?i
ye Jhall neither in this Mountain^ nor yet at
Jerufalemy worjhip the Father : But the Hour
fometh (ind now is^ when the true Worjhippers



JhallworJJjjp the Father in Spirit and in Truth:
For the Father feeketh fuch to worfiip him.

Therefore it muft be certain in the higheft
degree, that Chrift cannot, nor could fet up
any other kind of Worfhip, or Worfloippers,
but fuch as the Father feeketh ; becaufe he
and his Father were one, both in Will and
Work. And the Reafon and Neceffity of
this kind of Worfhip, is added by Chrift in
the following Words, God is a Spirit^ and
they that worfhip him, 7j2u[i worJJAp him in
Spirit and i?2 Truth.

Therefore if Chrift had not only 2indJolely
fet up this Truth of fpirituai Worftiip, he
had been but another Mofes, and thoug a bet^
ter Teacher, yet ftill but as a Schoolmafter, to
fome higher State of Religion, that was yet
wanted, and mufi be revealed, if fo be that Man
was to be reftored to his true State of Life, U-
nion, and Happinefs in and with the divine
Nature. For as God is a Spirit, and our Life
is fpirituai, fo no religious Worfhip can be in
its true Perfedtion, or bring us into the PofTef-
lion of our higheft Good, till it raifes all that
is Spirit and Life in us, into Union and Com-^
tnunion with Spirit and Life in God.

If it fhould here be afked. How we are to
become and continue Worfliippers of the
Father in Spirit and Truth ? It is anfwered ^
AH confifts in turning inwards^ in Attention



to that, which is daily and hourly ftirring,
living, and working in our Hearts.

Now though the Scripture no where gives
this Diredtion in thefe very Words^ yet, iince
it is faid in Scripture, that God dwelleth
not in Temples made with Hands, but in
the Temple of our Hearts, fmce the King-
dom of God is faid to be within us, and
not to come with outward Obfervation, but
to be in us, as a fecret, living Seed of the
incorruptible Word -, iince our Hearts is
our whole Life, and we are faid to live, and
move, and have our Being in God, it is di-
redlly telling us that we are to turn inwards^
if we would turn to, and find God.

It is diredly telling us, that in what man-
ner we are within, as the Worfliip is done
there, fo is God in fuch manner within us ;
and that he is no otherwife our God, our
Life, our Reft and Happinefs, than io far
as the Working of our Hearts, is a willing
and chufing, a hungering and thirfting to
find, feel and enjoy the Life-giving Power
of his holy Prefence in our Souls.

To be inwardly therefore attentive to
God, fhewing the Good and the Evil, dif-
tinguiChing the Light from the Darknefs in
our own Souls \ to liften to the Voice of
his ever /peaking Word^ and to watch the
jM^ovings of his ever fan^lifying Spirit with-


in us, waiting and longing in the Spirit of
Prayer, of Faith and Hope, of Love and Re-
fignation, to be inwardly quickened and re-
vived in the Image, and according to the Like-
nefs of that Son, in whom he is well pleafed,
is the worfhipping of God with our whole
Heart and Soul, in Spirit and in Truth.

It is living to God, in and through the
Power of Chrift, as he lived ; it is praying
with him, and by his Spirit, that continual
Prayer which he always had, whether fpeak-
ing to the Multitude, or healing their Di-
feafes, or alone by himfelf in the Stillnefs
of Nights, and Lonelinefs of Mountains.
For this inward Prayer, in which the whole
Heart, and Soul, and Spirit, loves, wor-
ihips, and applies to a God, not abfent or
diftant, but to a Trinity of Goodnefs and
Mercy, of Light and Ivove, of Glory and
Majefty, dwelling, and working within us,
willing and defiring to do all that in the
Temple of our Hearts, which is done and
always doing in his own Temple in Heaven,
is a Prayer, that only needs outward Words
for the fake of others , and of which it may
be faid, as Chrift laid: Father ^ I knew that
thou always hearejl me^ hut becaufe of the
People^ which Jia?id by ^ 1 faid it,

I begin to apprehend, worthy Sir, that
you will think I am gQne too far about^ and



not come clofe enough to the Matter in
hand. But I hope it is not fo : I have gone
through all that I have faid, only to fhew,
that Church Unity or Communion, is not
a matter that depends on any particular So-
ciety, or outward Thing, but is compleat,
or dcfedlive, in fuch degree, as we live in
Unity with, or Contrariety to the inward
Spirit and outward Example of Chrift.
For no Union fignifies any thing to us, or
our Salvation, but Union with God, through
Chrift, and nothing unites us to Chrift, or
makes us to be his, but his Holy Spirit
dwelling, and working inwardly and out-
wardly in us, as it did in him.

This is the only Church Unity, that con-
cerns the Confcience, and when we are in
this Unity, we are in Union with Chrift,
and with every one who is united to him,
hov/ever diftant, or feparated from us, by
human Inclofures.

I come now to conlider the Church under
another, and more common Idea of it,
namely as external, aod about which, all
the Chriftian World is at enmity, ftrife, and

After Chriftianity had been a few Ages in
the World, it became national, and ob-
tained the Protedlion, and Patronage of
the Princes of this World.



Hence it was enriched with many Gifts
and Privileges, and flrengthened by Powers,
that were foreign to the Nature of it -, and
Church-men, beginning to quarrel about
Chriftian Dodtrines, were fupported in their
Strife and Divifion from one another, by
the temporal Powers^ under which they

This State of the Church hath continued
to this Day, where almoft every Age hath
multiplied the Number of divided Churches,
brought forth, by the Union of the civil
and ecclefiailical Power.

This State therefore of external Churches,
hath the Nature of Things merely human y
and is fubjedt to fuch Alterationsy Changes^
and Corruptions^ as the Forms and Revo-
lutions of temporal Government all over
the World. And therefore the private
Chriftian, who, as fuch, is a Member of a
Kingdom, that is not of this World, has
little or no Concern in it.

Without entering into the Merits of di-
vided Churches, which I fhall not do here,
or any where elfe 3 Thus much I think,
may with Truth be affirmed, that where the
Church and the State are incorporated, and
under one and the fame Power, all the evil
Pafllons, corrupt Views, and worldly In-
terefts, v/liich form and transform, turn



and overturn all outward Things, muft be
expefted often to come to pafs, as well in
the Church, as in the State, with which it
is united.

But as private Chriftians have no Power,
or Call to govern the World, or fet up
Thrones according to the Principles of Truth
and Righteoufnefs, but are by the Spirit of
the Gofpel obliged to lubmit to, and be con-
tented with that ftate of Government, good
or bad, under which the Providence of God
has placed them, fo are they in like manner,
to exercife a patient Submiffion, and Refig-
nation under fuch an imperfect State of the
outward Church, which Providence has not
prevented, and only to take care, to be in-
wardly found fuch Worfliippers in Spirit and
in Truth, as the Father feeketh.

I mean not by this, as fome have done,
that any Evil however great in the Beginning,
or continuing of ufurped Power, either in the
Church or State, lofes its evil Nature, and
may be called right and good, as foon as Pro-
vidence has fuffered it to become fuccefsful.

No, by no means. Succefs, though always
to be owned to have God's Permiffion, leaves
all things in their own Nature, neither Good
becaufe fuccefsful, nor Bad, becaufe defeated
and fuppreffed.



The Wickednefs of the Jews confpiring
and effefting the Death of Chrift, was not
only permitted, but fuitable to the Dcfigns
of Providence, in the Redemption of Man-
kind. — But that the evil Nature of their
Wickednefs did not lofe its Guilt, becaufe
fuffered by God to befuccefsful, but ftill con-
tinues, is plain from the Curie of God ftill
abiding upon it to this day.

The Duty of private Chriftians, with re-
gard to Providence in fuch Cafes, is not to
call that Good which before was Evil, or that
Evil which before was Good, but patiently to
fuffer, and humbly acquiefce under all that
bad outward Courfe of Things, either in
Church or State, which the Providence of
God has not thought fit to prevent, and that
for thefe Reafons : Firji^ as fully knowing
that all Things muft work together for good,
to thofe who love God ; Secondly^ as pioufly
believing that in all fuccefsful Wickednefs,
whether of Princes againft their People, or of
People againft their Princes, there is always
fo?nething hid under it, which in its way and
degree^ will like the iuccefsful Wickednefs of
tlie Jews towards Chrift, help forward that
Salvation, for which Chrift hath laid down
his Life,

Who can fay, what a Good, and Bleffing,
the Chriftian World had been deprived of,



had the righteous Providence of God not
permitted the Princes of the heathen World,
to make fuch bloody Havock of the firfl

But fuppofe Errors of the following
Kind got into the Church, viz, i. The Scrip-
ture Baptifm of the whole Body under
Water, only as it were mimicked, by Mat-
tering a few Drops of Water on a new-born
Child's Face. 2. The Supper of the Lord
in one Church, held to be Bread and Wine
changed into the real Fiefh and Blood of
Chrift : In another, as Bread and Wine, not
changed into, but liibftantially united with
the real Fiefh and Blood of Chrift : In
another, mere Bread and Wine, only made
Memorials of the Body and Blood of Chrift.
In one Church this, in another that Form
and Manner of Confecration held to be
effential ; in another, all Prieftly Confecra-
tion rejedled, as rank Superftition. 3. Sup-
pofe the original Apoftolical Conftitution of
Church AJfemblies^ where all meet together,
that all in their turns, might prophecy one by
me^ that all might learn^ and all be comforted^
fhould in fome Churches be fo chanp-ed,
that all praying, fpeaking or prophecying,
as from the Power, and Prefence of Chrift
amongft them, was quite prohibited j where

C gne


one and the fame long, tedious, humanly
contrived Form of Worfhip, is daily, from
Year's end to Year's end, to be read by one,
who is become their only Speaker and In-
ftruftor, not becaufe he alone is daily full
of Faith and of the Holy Ghoft, but be-
caufe he is either hired to that Office, or be-
caufe, by fome means or other, the Church
and Church-yard are become his Freehold.
Is not fuch a State of Church Affemblies,
in full contrariety to the firft Affemblies,
and to the Apoftle's Injunftion ^ quench not
the Spirit:, ^^fp^fi ^^^ Propefyings ? 4. Sup-
pofe again, that in the fettled Service of the
Church, certain Prayers and Petitions, not
according to Truth and Righteoufnefs, or
fuitable to the Goodnefs of the Evangelical
Spirit, are read, as Prayers for Succefs in
unchriftian Wars, Prayers for the Deftruc-
tion of our Chriftian Brethren, called our
Enemies, Thanfgivings for the violent
Slaughter and fuccefsful killing of Man-
kind : When thefe are made Parts of the
Church Service, are we in Obedience to the
Providence of God, fufFering Things in
Church Affemblies to come to this pafs, to
unite and bear a Part in fuch Church Service ?
My Anfwer to all this, ihall be only per-
fonal ; that is, what I would do myfelf, in
tliefe fuppofed Cafes. ]

Firfi, ^


Firji^ As to any Defedts, Mutilation, or
Variations In the outward Form, and Per-
formance of Baptifm and the Supper of the
Lord in the Church, I am under little, or
no Concern about them ; and that for this
very good Reafon, — Becaule all that is in-
wardly meant, taught, or intended by them,
as the Life, Spirit, and full Benefit of them,
is fubjedl to no human Power, is wholly
tran failed between God and myfelf, and
cannot be taken from me, by any Alteration
made by Man, in the outward Celebration
of them.

If the Church, in my Baptifm, (hould
Iprinkle a little Milk, or Wine, inflead of
Water, upon my Face, it would be no de-
fective Baptifm to me, if I had all that in-
ward Difpoiition of Repentance, of Faith
in Chrift, to be born again of Him, which
was meant, figured, and implied by fuch
Immerfion into Water, as was the firft

The fame may be faid of the Supper
of the Lord, however altered, or varied in
its outward Manner from what it was at firft,
if the inward Truth, pointed at by it, is
in me, is loved and adhered to by me, I
have all the Benefit that was meant; or
could be had by it, w^hen it was kept to

Ca a


a Tittle in the fame outward Form, in which
the iirft Church ufed it.

And therefore the outward Celebration of
thefe Sacraments is reverenced by me, where-
ever they are obferved, as {landing in the
fame Place, and iignificant of the fame in-
ward Bleffing, as in their firft Inftitution.

As to the forementioned fuppofed Prayers,
though I am prefent when they are read in
the Church, I neither make, nor need I
make them, any more my own Prayers^

Online LibraryWilliam LawA collection of letters on the most interesting and important subjects, and on several occasions. → online text (page 1 of 24)