Heavenly Living

Who does not know that it is better to be pure and holy than to talk about purity and holiness? Who does not know that a man is to be reckoned no further pure or holy or just than as he is pure and holy and just in the common course of his life? If this be plain, then it is also plain that it is better to be holy than to have holy prayers.

Every sober reader will easily perceive that I don’t intend to lessen the true and great value of prayers, either public or private, but only to show him that they are certainly but a very slender part of devotion when compared to a devout life.

Bended knees, whilst you are clothed with pride; heavenly petitions, whilst you are hoarding up treasures upon earth; holy devotions, whilst you live in the follies of the world; prayers of meekness and charity, whilst your heart is the seat of spite and resentment; hours of prayer, whilst you give up days and years to idle diversions, impertinent visits, and foolish pleasures are as absurd, unacceptable service to God as forms of thanksgiving from a person that lives in repinings and discontent.

Unless the common course of our lives be according to the common spirit of our prayers, our prayers are so far from being a real or sufficient degree of devotion that they become an empty lip-labor or, what is worse, a notorious hypocrisy.

This may serve to convince us that all orders of people are to labor and aspire after the same utmost perfection of the Christian life.

As certain therefore as the same holiness of prayers requires the same holiness of life, so certain is it that all Christians are called to the same holiness of life.

A tradesman is not called to preach the gospel, but every tradesman is as much obliged to be devout, humble, holy, and heavenly minded in all the parts of his common life as a clergyman is obliged to be zealous, faithful, and laborious in all the parts of his profession.

All Christians, as Christians, have one and the same calling, to live according to the excellency of the Christian spirit and to make the sublime precepts of the gospel the rule and measure of all their tempers in common life. The one thing needful to one is the one thing needful to all.

For the Son of God did not come from above to add an external form of worship to the several ways of life that are in the world, and so to leave people to live as they did before in such tempers and enjoyments as the fashion and spirit of the world approves. But as He came down from heaven altogether divine and heavenly in His own nature, so it was to call mankind to a divine and heavenly life, to the highest change of their whole nature and temper, to be born again of the Holy Spirit, to walk in the wisdom and light and love of God and be like Him to the utmost of their power, to renounce all the most plausible ways of the world, whether of greatness, business, or pleasure, to a mortification of all their most agreeable passions, and to live in such wisdom and purity and holiness as might fit them to be glorious in the enjoyment of God to all eternity.

Whatever therefore is foolish, ridiculous, vain, or earthly, or sensual in the life of a Christian is something that ought not to be there; it is a spot and a defilement that must be washed away with tears of repentance. But if anything of this kind runs through the course of our whole life, if we allow ourselves in things that are either vain, foolish, or sensual, we renounce our profession.

For as sure as Jesus Christ was wisdom and holiness, as sure as He came to make us like Himself and to be baptized into His Spirit, so sure is it that none can be said to keep to their Christian profession but they who to the utmost of their power live a wise and holy and heavenly life. This and this alone is Christianity, a universal holiness in every part of life, a heavenly wisdom in all our actions, not conforming to the spirit and temper of the world.

William Law


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