William Law, born in 1686, became a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1711, but in 1714, at the death of Queen Anne, he became a non-Juror: that is to say, he found himself unable to take the required oath of allegiance to the Hanoverian dynasty (who had replaced the Stuart dynasty) as the lawful rulers of the United Kingdom, and was accordingly ineligible to serve as a university teacher or parish minister. He became for ten years a private tutor in the family of the historian Edward Gibbon (who, despite his generally cynical attitude toward all things Christian, invariably wrote of Law with respect and admiration), and then retired to his native King’s Cliffe. Forbidden the use of the pulpit and the lecture-hall, he preached through his books. Among these, Perfection, the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of Prayer, and, best-known of all, A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life, published in 1728. The thesis of this last book is that God does not merely forgive our disobedience, he calls us to obedience, and to a life completely centered in Him. He says: “If you will here stop and ask yourself why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but because you never thoroughly intended it.”
John Wesley calls it one of three books which accounted for his first “explicit resolve to be all devoted to God.” Later, when denying, in response to a question, that Methodism was founded on Law’s writings, he added that “Methodists carefully read these books and were greatly profitted by them.” In 1744 he published extracts from the Serious Call, thereby introducing it to a wider audience than it already had. About eighteen months before his death, he called it “a treatise which will hardly be excelled, if it be equalled, either for beauty of expression or for depth of thought.”
Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Henry Venn, William Wilberforce, and Thomas Scott each described reading the book as a major turning-point in his life. All in all, there were few leaders of the English Evangelical movement on whom it did not have a profound influence.
But the book THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT is for all Christians. The want of our religion is that there is too little personal dealing with God. Our faith stands more in the wisdom of men than in the power of God. There is no need so crying as that believers be taught how to meet with God, to tarry and to dwell with Him. This the Holy Spirit alone can do. But this book can be as a voice in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight A HIGHWAY FOR OUR GOD. It has brought so much light and blessing to myself, that I cannot but urge all who long for a deeper life to listen to its instructions. The one need of our churches, of our life, and our work, is, the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit. That one promise of the Father through His blessed Son is the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit. Shall we not say that the one cry of our heart and the one study of our life shall be, how to live in such simple, absolute dependence upon God, that the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit may be our blessed portion.
That God may visit His Church, and fill all His saints with His Holy Spirit, is my fervent prayer.
ANDREW MURRAY. WIMBLEDON, 4th December 1895.