Christ As Us
The Coming Mighty Wind
Bill Oberdorf's Letter
The Real Pentecost
Progressing to Pentecost
He Is Risen...
Bill Oberdorf's Letter
"O inestimable Truths! precious Mysteries, of the Love of God, enough to split the hardest Rock of the most obdurate Heart...!"
A spiritual biography of William Law
WILLIAM LAW (1686-1761) was an Anglican clergyman, barred from the pulpit for refusing an oath of allegiance to King George the First. He served as tutor to the historian Edward Gibbon, who spoke highly of Law despite the latter's admiration for “the incomprehensible visions of Jacob Behmen.”
Law was not the first Englishman to discover Jacob Boehme. The German theosopher was already known to Dissenters like the Quakers and various “Behmenist” societies such as the Philadelphians. But he probably has done more than any other to promote Boehme in the English-speaking world, and was himself a penetrating mystic and masterful stylist.
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
" was and unfortunately remains Wiliam Law's most popular work. But, while the book established his reputation as a master of English prose, it is, frankly, the worst kind of priestcraft. Norman Grubb, a great admirer of Law, explains, “Law was at that time a legalistic idealist, knowing nothing of grace through faith, and in that stage of experience wrote his best-known book, A Serious Call, which is straight Christian standards of living with no inkling of how to live them.”
Around the age of fifty Law discovered the works of Jacob Boehme and Law's High Church religion was shaken to the ground.
“When I first began to read Behmen’s book, it put me into a perfect sweat. But as I discerned sound truths and the glimmering of a deep ground and sense even in the passages not then clearly intelligible to me, and found myself, as it were, strongly prompted in my heart to dig in these writings, I followed this impulse with continual aspirations and persistent prayer to God for His help and divine illumination, if I was called to understand them. By reading in this manner again and again, and from time to time, I perceived that my heart felt well, and my understanding opened gradually; till at length I found what a treasure was hid in this field.”
He set aside his pen and devoted 8 years to the study of Jacob Boehme. He leaves no record of the spiritual epiphany he experienced at this time, but by the time he resumed writing his doctrine had undergone a total transformation. The leaden legalism of his previous writing was transmuted to words of pure Spirit, like this passage from Christian Regeneration:
"Some People have an Idea, or Notion of the Christian Religion, as if God was thereby declared so full of Wrath against fallen Man, that nothing but the Blood of his only begotten Son could satisfy his Vengeance.
Nay, some have gone such Lengths of Wickedness, as to assert that God had by immutable Decrees reprobated, and rejected a great Part of the Race of Adam, to an inevitable Damnation, to show forth and magnify the Glory of his Justice.
But these are miserable Mistakers of the Divine Nature, and miserable Reproachers of his great Love, and Goodness in the Christian Dispensation.
For God is Love, yea, all Love, and so all Love, that nothing but Love can come from him; and the Christian Religion is nothing else but an open, full Manifestation of the universal Love towards all Mankind.
As the Light of the Sun has only one common Nature towards all Objects that can receive it, so God has only one common Nature of Goodness towards all created Nature, breaking forth in infinite Flames of Love, upon every Part of the Creation, and calling everything to the highest Happiness it is capable of.
God so loved Man, when his Fall was foreseen, that he chose him to Salvation in Christ Jesus, before the Foundation of the World. When Man was actually fallen, God was so without all Wrath towards him, so full of Love for him, that he sent his only begotten Son into the World to redeem him. Therefore God has no Nature towards Man, but Love, and all that he does to Man, is Love.
There is no Wrath that stands between God and us, but what is awakened in the dark Fire of our own fallen Nature; and to quench this Wrath, and not his own, God gave his only begotten Son to be made Man. God has no more Wrath in himself now, than he had before the Creation, when he had only himself to love. The precious Blood of his Son was not poured out to pacify himself (who in himself had no Nature towards man but Love), but it was poured out, to quench the Wrath, and Fire of the fallen Soul, and kindle in it a Birth of Light, and Love. (See Spirit of Love, part ii, p. 50, &c.)
As man lives, and moves, and has his Being in the Divine Nature, and is supported by it, whether his Nature be good or bad; so the Wrath of Man, which was awakened in the dark Fire of his fallen Nature, may, in a certain Sense, be called the Wrath of God, as Hell itself may be said to be in God, because nothing can be out of his Immensity; yet this Hell, is not God, but the dark Habitation of the Devil. And this Wrath which may be called the Wrath of God, is not God, but the fiery Wrath of the fallen Soul.
And it was solely to quench this Wrath, awakened in the human Soul, that the Blood of the Son of God was necessary, because nothing but a Life and a Birth, derived from him into the human Soul, could change this darkened Root of a self-tormenting Fire, into an amiable Image of the holy Trinity, as it was at first created.
This was the Wrath, Vengeance, and vindictive Justice that wanted to be satisfied, in order to our Salvation; it was the Wrath and Fire of Nature and Creature kindled only in itself, by its departing from true Resignation, and Obedience to God.
When Adam and Eve went trembling behind the Trees, through Fear and Dread of God, it was only this Wrath of God awakened in them; it was a Terror, and Horror, and Shivering of Nature, that arose up in themselves, because the Divine Life, the Birth of the Son of God, which is the Brightness and Joy of the Soul, was departed from it, and had left it, to feel its own poor miserable State without it. And this may well enough be called the Wrath, and Justice of God upon them, because it was a Punishment, or painful State of the Soul, that necessarily followed their revolting from God.
But still there was no Wrath, or painful Sensation, that wanted to be appeased, or satisfied, but in Nature and Creature; it was only the Wrath of fallen Nature, that wanted to be changed, into its first State of Peace and Love. When God spoke to them, he spoke only Love; Adam, where art thou? And he called him, only to comfort him with a promised Redemption, through a Seed of the Woman, a Spark of the word of Life which should reign in him, and his Posterity, till all Enemies were under their Feet. God therefore is all Love, and nothing but Love and Goodness can come from him. He is as far from Anger in himself, as from Pain and Darkness. But when the fallen Soul of Man, had awakened in itself, a wrathful, self-tormenting Fire, which could never be put out by itself, which could never be relieved by the natural Power of any Creature whatsoever, then the Son of God, by a Love, greater than that which created the World, became Man, and gave his own Blood, and Life into the fallen Soul, that it might through his Life in it, be raised, quickened, and born again into its first State of inward Peace and Delight, Glory and Perfection, never to be lost any more. O inestimable Truths! precious Mysteries, of the Love of God, enough to split the hardest Rock of the most obdurate Heart, that is but able to receive one Glimpse of them! Can the World resist such Love as this?
The "new" William Law drew a wider readership than ever but inevitably drew fire from the guardians of orthodoxy. To the astonishment of all, the once-upright churchman struck at the heart of Catholic/Protestant Christianity by repudiating the central doctrines of substitutionary atonement and transactional salvation.
"God was in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world to himself," that is, taking away from man every property, or power of evil, that kept him in a state of separation from God. Thus it was, and to this end, that "God was in Christ Jesus" in his whole process.
Unreasonably therefore have our scholastic systems of the gospel, separated the sacrifice of Christ's death, from the other parts of his process, and considered it as something chiefly done with regard to God, to alter, or atone an infinite wrath, that was raised in God against fallen man, which infinity of just vengeance, or vindictive justice, must have devoured the sinner, unless an infinite satisfaction had been made to it, by the death of Christ.
All this is in the grossest ignorance of God, of the reason and ground, and effects of Christ's death, and in full contradiction to the express letter of scripture. For there we are told, that God is love, and that the infinity of his love was that alone, which showed itself towards fallen man, and wanted to have satisfaction done to it; which love-desire could not be fulfilled, could not be satisfied with anything less than man's full deliverance from all the evil of his fallen state.
That love, which has the infinity of God, nay, which is God himself, was so immutably great towards man, though fallen from him, "that he spared not his only begotten Son"; and why did he not spare him? It was because nothing but the incarnate life of his eternal Son, passing through all the miserable states of lost man, could regenerate his first divine life in him.
Can you possibly be told this, in stronger words than these, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son"; how did he give him? Why, in his whole process. And to what end did he give him? Why, "that all who believe in him, might not perish, but have everlasting life."
Away then with the superstitious dream, of an infinite wrath in God towards poor fallen man, which could never cease, till an infinite satisfaction was made to it. All scripture denies it, and the light of nature abhors it. The birth, the life, the death of Christ, though so different things, have but one and the same operation, and that operation is solely in man, to drive all evil out of his fallen nature, and delight the heart of God, that desires his salvation. God is love, and has no other will towards man, but the will of love. That love, which from itself began the creation of an holy Adam, from itself began the redemption of a fallen Adam. The death of Christ was a sacrifice from the love of God the Son towards man, to overcome thereby that damnable death, which, otherwise, every son of Adam must have died; it was a sacrifice offered to the same love, in God the Father; a sacrifice, equally loved and desired by both of them, because, in the nature of the thing, as absolutely necessary to alter and overcome that evil, which belonged to man's state of death, as the incarnation of the WORD, was absolutely necessary in the nature of the thing, to make man to be alive again in God.
Law's loudest critic was his wayward disciple, John Wesley, founder of Methodism.
It is often claimed that Wesley was an admirer of Boehme and required all Methodists to read his books. This is incorrect. Wesley labeled his books "stark, staring nonsense" and Boehme himself a "Demonosopher." He did, however, acknowledge that JB was a "good man." So Boehme was a morally upright demoniac. So much for the Wesleyan analysis.
Three years after his death in 1761, the first of four volumes of the "William Law edition" of The Works of Jacob Behmen was published (which incited another round of attacks from Wesley). The collection proved to be his greatest legacy.
His books were rescued from obscurity in 1896 when South African evangelist evangelist Andrew Murray published his "A Humble, Earnest and Affectionate Address to the Clergy" under the title "You Will Receive Power", and it was revived again in the late 20th century by Norman Grubb.
Norman Grubb writes concerning Law
In writing various forewords by the kind request of authors, I have never felt so honored as by now being asked to write one on a book by William Law. The reason is that it was an epoch in my life, about thirty years ago, when a friend gave me Wholly for God, extracts from William Law's writings compiled by Andrew Murray. I too, like Dave Hunt, was nicely and delightedly “caught” by the fact that it was an Andrew Murray production, who, though not quite my prime favorite as with Dave, certainly meant to me that it would be a reliable book on the Life in the Spirit.
But I had no idea what I was getting into! As soon as I started, I found Law difficult to follow. His magnificent English was in the longer and more involved sentences of his generation; but that was a triviality compared to the tremendous inward insights I began to have. Here at last was a writer who took me to ultimate foundations and a totality of understanding which I had long been seeking. I drank and have been drinking ever since.
I found there were two William Laws: the one who wrote that classic The Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, but who at that stage did not know more than a Christ to be imitated rather than the Christ imparted; and for that reason John Wesley always had a negative opinion of Law, because Wesley only knew him as the author of that legalistic book in Wesley's unenlightened and Holy Club days.
But then Law tells many times in his other writings how he later met with the works of Jacob Boehme, the cobbler of Gorlitz, Germany ('the blessed Behmen” as Law called him), through Boehme the midday sun of God's revelation of Christ shone into Law; and while Boehme, as an illiterate shoemaker, could not put his inner insights into coherent German (and his translators into English have the same difficulty), William Law could and did reproduce the essence of Boehme in Law's matchless Spirit of Love and Spirit of Prayer (recently published in England by James Clarke).
I had not previously read this one,
The Power of the Spirit
, which I am so glad Dave Hunt has now produced for us. I go all the way with it. It is a magnificent uncompromising declaration of the only and absolute basis to and meaning of True Life. What that basis is readers will soon find out. It is equally a ruthless yet necessary tearing away of the false and subtle forms of what we fallen humans pretend to be life, and often in its most religious and “Christian” clothing. It is glorious to see the only foundation of all truth driven home to our hearts and minds in inescapable hammer blows of living logic. In a way this book is a preparatio evangelica, preparing the way for the more detailed expositions of the very structure of eternal truth, as Law sees it in its Biblical basis, though in such expositions, as Dave Hunt says, we do not have completely to follow any man.
from the intro to "The Power of the Spirit" by William Law, edited by Dave Hunt
Law's Influence Upon Andrew Murray
“I do not know where to find anywhere else the same clear and powerful statement of the truth which the Church needs at the present day. I have tried to read or consult every book I knew of, that treats of the work of the Holy Spirit, and nowhere have I met with anything that brings the truth of our dependence on the continual leading of the Spirit, and the assurance that that leading can be enjoyed without interruption, so home to the heart as this teaching ...which I believe to be entirely scriptural, and to supply what many are looking for that I venture to recommend it.” — “I cannot say how much I owe to this volume...” — “I confess that in all my reading , I have never found anyone who has so helped me in understanding the Scripture truth of the work of the Holy Spirit.
And it is because I know of no one who has put certain aspects of needed truth with the same clearness, that I cannot but think that he is a messenger from God to call His church to give the blessed Spirit the place of honour that belongs to Him.”
from the introduction to "Wholly for God, excerpts from William Law", edited by Andrew Murray
From "The Power of the Spirit"
... "a failure to realize that our salvation can only be worked out by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit forming the very life of Christ within the redeemed heart, has placed the Christian church today in the same apostasy that characterized the Jewish nation. And it has occurred for one and the same reason. The Jews refused Him who was the substance and fulfilling of all that was taught in their Law and Prophets. The Christian church is in a fallen state for the same rejection of the Holy Spirit, who was given to be the power and fulfilling of all that was promised by the gospel. And just as the Pharisees' rejection of Christ was under a profession of faith in the Messianic Scriptures, so church leaders today reject the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit in the name of sound doctrine.
The Holy Spirit's coming was no less to fulfill the gospel than Christ's coming was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. As all types and figures in the Law were but empty shadows without the coming of Christ, so the New Testament is but dead letter without the Holy Spirit in redeemed men as the living power of a full salvation. This is clear from these words, “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. But if I go away, I will send him unto you.” Without the cross and resurrection, Christ could not have “gone away.” These antecedent events made possible His ascension, for it was “by his own blood that he entered into the presence of God for us.” Thus the coming of the Holy Spirit, being the fruit of Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension, is essential to the fulfillment of the salvation Christ procured.
Where the Holy Spirit is not honored as the one through whom the whole life and power of gospel salvation is to be effected, it is no wonder that Christians have no more of the reality of the gospel than the Jews had of the purity of the Law. It could not be otherwise than that the same lusts and vices which prospered among apostate Jews should break forth with as much strength in fallen Christendom. For the New Testament without the coming of the Holy Spirit in power over self, sin, and the devil is no better a help to heaven than the Old Testament without the coming of the Messiah. Need any more be said to demonstrate the truth that the one thing absolutely essential to man's salvation is the Spirit of God living and working in the spirit of man? And while we still cling to a religion that does not acknowledge this, it is a full Proof that we are not yet in that redeemed state of Union with God which is intended by the gospel."
For in-depth resources concerning William Law visit