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William Law: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, The Spirit of Love (Classics of Western Spirituality) Paperback – June 1, 1978

4.5 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

William Law, the 18th-century Anglican priest who heavily influenced the theology of John and Charles Wesley, lambastes pious hypocrisy and the corruption of the church in A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, the latest reissue in Vintage's Spiritual Classics series. Law's prose is fresh and vivid as he illustrates the holy Christian life as one lived wholly for God. His thoughts on prayer, personal holiness and service to the poor will resonate with many contemporary readers.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"If Mr. Law finds a spark of piety in a reader's mind, he will soon kindle it into a flame." —Edward Gibbon --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback)
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press (June 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809121441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809121441
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book when I heard Jack Hayford mention it during one of his sermons. Given the title and era in which it was written, I expected it to contain some pretty weighty material about Christian living. I was not disappointed.
In this book, Law challenges the reader to respond to his "serious call" (and he was very serious when he wrote it) to devout living. The author makes a very solid case for this approach to Christian living for two main reasons. First, he is dead right about most topics he covers. His main point is that many Christians (I fall into this category) take for granted what God has done for us. There is no higher call than to love and serve Him. Yet we do not place as much value on spending time in devotion (prayer, reading scripture, praising, worshiping, serving) to God as we should. Instead we lived unbalanced lives in which God has a secondary role, instead being the primary focus of our existence.
Secondly, as another reviewer mentioned, his message is as relevant today, if not more so, than when it was written. We live in a day were modesty and pious living are completely ignored. It was refreshing to read a book which calls Christians to a much higher standard - we should not crave the things of this world. It is something I have struggled with, and continue to struggle with everyday that I live in overly abundant America. This book has helped me regain a more proper perspective on the importance of living for God (and what that means) versus living for the world.
I highly recommend this book to any Christian looking for a well written resource about living a life devoted to God. Law provides a lot of deep thought about the subject, and practical ways to try and live it out. At times, he goes a little bit too much into legalism for my taste, but overall he is on the mark with his approach and logic for his "serious call".
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Format: Paperback
I read this book because Hannah Hurnard, author of Hind's Feet on High Places and other allegorical and devotional works, credits it with revolutionizing her spiritual life. Law exhorts Christians to offer all aspects of one's life and work as holy to God - work, finances, relationships, worship, prayer, etc. He reminds us of the Christian virtues of love, humility, peace, simplicity and conforming ourselves to God's will. This is a work which should not be forgotten or neglected by modern Christians.
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Format: Paperback
This "edited" version is a great disappointment. William Law's elegant prose has been dumbed down for "reading comprehension," and is dull as a junior high civics textbook. In Chapter VII, which talks about Miranda and Flavia, Flavia has been omitted. Presumably to keep everything "positive." The very spirit of truth so eloquently championed by Law in HIS book has been made a mockery of, because there are no warning labels to tell us that some anonymous hack has tampered with his text. O tempora, o mores! This book doesn't even deserve one star.
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Format: Paperback
William Law was one of the great mystics, clerics, and educators of the Church of England. Born in 1686, he was educated at Cambridge, eventually taking a teaching position there in addition to being ordained in the Church of England. He lost his position at Cambridge for being a Non-Juror (the Church of England being a state religion, clerics and others are required to swear oaths of allegiance to the monarch, and this Law could not do with regard to George I). He wrote the first work, `A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life', one of his best-known works, while in retirement as tutor in the Gibbon household (he was tutor to the father of the historian noted for the work on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) in the 1720s.. He wrote the second, much shorter work, `The Spirit of Love,' in 1750s.
The first is a major work of spiritual practice, rightly deserving the description as a `classic' or `masterpiece'. For a course we teach at my seminary, this book is on the list of spiritual classics one may choose to use for inspiration and spiritual reflection, and for good reason. Influenced by Law's readings from other mystics such as Thomas a Kempis, Johann Tauler and others, this book is full of mystic insight and practical wisdom. It was popular from the start, and remains an enduring classic of post-Reformation spirituality.
Law has a fairly ecumenical audience, though he is not without controversy. Law is very much a man of the church, and of a high-liturgy and sacramental church at that, thus some Protestants may find difficulty with some of his unstated but very present assumptions. Law resists bibliolatry, does not accept the doctrine of Calvin of a complete corrupt humanity, and never assumes to try to prove the existence of God, taking that for granted.
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Format: Paperback
This is the most challenging book I have ever read on following the teachings of Christ practically in every day living. The conviction was so fierce that it was hard to get through the first chapter. His words bear so much truth it motivates you to want to be more like Christ himself.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For putting us in a fitting frame of mind, for impressing upon us the deeper things of the faith, for shaking folly off, for directing our gaze heavenward, this book is worthy of being called "a classic in the realm of Christian literature".

I first read about "Serious Call" in a biography of Samuel Johnson. That brilliant man, who gave us our first important dictionary of the English language, was deeply convicted by it. If such a clear thinker as he, an unbeliever, found it compelling, it must be good! And indeed, it is. Very good.

My "but" is that having read more of his work, I realize that Law had some strange beliefs. Therefore I cannot fully endorse him as a teacher. These beliefs are, for example, expressed in The Grounds and Reasons of Christian Regeneration Or the New Birth. And his error is also revealed, in my view, in the rigid and unrealistic prayer regime that he recommends. (He would deny that it is unrealistic.) Otherwise, however, "Serious Call" is largely free from teachings that would mislead, and Law does show with lucid argument and from the scriptures why "extremeness" is the true Christian way; by this he would mean extreme charity, humility and meekness, trust in God, self-denial, and shunning the ways of the world. Some of his memorable sayings:

"The fuller of pride any one is himself, the more impatient will he be at the smallest instances of it in other people."

"The best way for any one to know how much he ought to aspire after holiness, is to consider, not how much will make his present life easy, but to ask himself, how much he thinks will make him easy at the hour of death.
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