William Law (1686 – 9 April 1761) was a Church of England priest who lost his position at Emmanuel College, Cambridge when his conscience would not allow him to take the required oath of allegiance to the first Hanoverian monarch, George I. Law had previously given his allegiance to the House of Stuart and is sometimes considered a second-generation non-juror (an earlier generation of non-jurors included Thomas Ken). Thereafter, Law first continued as a simple priest (curate) and when that too became impossible without the required oath, Law taught privately, as well as wrote extensively. His personal integrity, as well as mystic and theological writing greatly influenced the evangelical movement of his day as well as Enlightenment thinkers such as the writer Dr Samuel Johnson and the historian Edward Gibbon. Law’s spiritual writings remain in print today.
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728), together with its predecessor, A Practical Treatise Upon Christian Perfection (1726), deeply influenced the chief actors in the great Evangelical revival. John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Henry Venn, Thomas Scott, and Thomas Adam all express their deep obligation to the author. The Serious Call also affected others deeply. Samuel Johnson, Gibbon, Lord Lyttelton and Bishop Home all spoke enthusiastically of its merits; and it is still the work by which its author is popularly known. It has high merits of style, being lucid and pointed to a degree.
CCEL provides the following description: “…Devotion signifies a life given, or devoted, to God.” So begins William Law’s Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. Originally published in 1729, Law’s book stands as a powerful challenge to Christians. Law teaches that if God is “our greatest good,” then the wisest way to live is to please God through a life of worship, adoration, and devotion. Since many fail to live this way, Law diagnoses why and suggests certain concrete practices as a remedy. Thus, no one interested in becoming more devout can ignore this dynamic book. Law’s call has encouraged several generations, and does not fail to encourage believers even today with a serious call to a devout and holy life.
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