Login
Vol I No. 1
Daily Thought

William Law: Address to the Clergy xxix, xxx

by William J. Martin

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

[Addr-29] Now this middle Way has neither Scripture nor sense in it; for an occasional Influence or Concurrence is as absurd, as an occasional God, and necessarily Supposes such a God. For an occasional influence of the Spirit upon us supposes an occasional Absence of the Spirit from us.

Christianity is not an occasional religion. It calls forth every fiber of human nature to fight the good fight of faith. ‘Occasional Christians’ are no Christians at all. It is tantamount to saying that a man might be an ‘occasional man’. It is absurd because through Christ alone man is reconciled to God the Father and to his fellow man. In other words, through Christ alone can man become a true man or the man that God intended for him to be. The man who occasionally accepts the influences of the Holy Spirit in similar fashion occasionally rejects them. In such a condition, man is double minded and thus caught in the very problem that Christ has come to overturn and redress. Man was created by God for Himself. If this is not the incentive and motivation for all of man’s thoughts, words, and works, man is occasionally related to God.

For there could be no such Thing, unless God was sometimes with us, and sometimes not, sometimes doing us good, as the inward God of our Life, and sometimes doing us no good at all, but leaving us to be good from ourselves. — Occasional Influence necessarily implies all this blasphemous Absurdity.

The Christian always recognizes God’s presence and strives to discern His will. God is omnipresent. But God is also omnibenevolent. There never is a time when God’s being is not one with His will for us. His nature is to desire our redemption and progressive well-becoming in Jesus Christ. Should we accept God’s will sometimes and at other times reject it would be tantamount to saying that God’s will is sometimes useful but at other times meddlesome. Such is acme of blasphemous absurdity. A part time God is as damnable as a part time Christian. The former will be found to be a projection of man’s reason onto the Godhead, and thus no God at all.

Again, this middle way of an occasional Influence and Assistance necessarily supposes, that there is something of man’s own that is good, or the Holy Spirit of God neither would, nor could assist or cooperate with it. But if there was any Thing good in Man for God to assist and cooperate with, besides the SEED of his own Divine Nature, or his own WORD of Life striving to bruise the Serpent’s Nature within us, it could not be true, that there is only one that is good, and that is God. And were there any Goodness in Creatures, either in Heaven, or on Earth, but the one Goodness of the Divine Nature, living, working, manifesting itself in them, as its created Instruments, then good Creatures, both in Heaven and on Earth, would have something else to adore, besides, or along with God.

It should be clear that God alone is good. Any goodness that is found in the creation is His Goodness or the Goodness of the Divine Nature working upon and manifesting Itself through them. Every creature is good in so far as it derives its goodness from God. So to say that the creature is good without God is the height of absurdity since the creature derives its goodness from its Maker and Redeemer. Now goodness is chiefly concerned with the creature’s final cause or the purpose for which it exists. A creature then imitates God in so far as it participates in God’s goodness to realize its end or telos. Now all creatures by realizing their ends adore or worship God. God alone is adored because His goodness alone brings the creature to perfection of its nature.

For Goodness, be it where it will, is adorable for itself, and because it is Goodness; if therefore any Degree of it belonged to the Creature, it ought to have a share of that same Adoration that is paid to the Creator.— Therefore, if to believe that Nothing godly can be alive in us, but what has all its Life from the Spirit of God living and breathing in us, if to look Solely to it, and depend wholly upon it, both for the Beginning, and Growth of every Thought and Desire that can be holy and good in us, be proud rank Enthusiasm, then it must be the same Enthusiasm to own but one God.

That the creature persists in life is a sign that it participates in God’s goodness. That the rational creature sees that it depends solely on God for its being leads it then to rely upon it likewise for its wellbeing. For the merely existing rational being to be made better, he must rely upon God alone. God’s Goodness makes a creature better or makes it capable of realizing its end. To rely upon ourselves or someone or something other than God for our betterment is the height of absurdity and imbecility.

For he that owns more goodness than one, owns more Gods than one. And he that believes he can have any good in him, but the one Goodness of God, manifesting itself in him, and through him, owns more goodness than one. But if it be true, that God and Goodness cannot be divided, then it must be a Truth for ever and ever, that so much of Good, so much of God, must be in the Creature.

God has never intended anything other than that His Word and Spirit might be alive in the rational creature. To say this means that God intended for His Word to be made flesh and to dwell in us from the beginning of the creation. God and His Goodness are one nature and reality. God intends to be alive in us through His Word and by His Spirit. His Word is His intention and His Spirit is the power that actualizes it in human life. His Word is His Will and the Spirit ensures it rule and governance in human life.

[Addr-30] And here lies the true unchangeable Distinction between God, and Nature, and the Natural Creature. Nature and Creature are only for the outward manifestation of the inward invisible unapproachable Powers of God; they can rise no higher, nor be anything else in themselves, but as Temples, Habitations, or Instruments, in which the Supernatural God can, and does manifest himself in various Degrees, bringing forth Creatures to be good with his own Goodness, to love and adore him with his own Spirit of Love, for ever singing Praises to the Divine Nature by That which they partake of it.

God indwells all creatures by making His Word flesh in them. From inanimate, through vegetative, to sensitive, and finally in rational creatures, God’s Word is made flesh as His Spirit animates and perfects the creature. Through His own Goodness creatures are made good or realize their ends. In so far as they realize their ends, they love and adore Him with His own Spirit of Love. Now human beings are called to take this Word in their flesh into the realm of spiritual perfection and sanctification. Man can be perfected in the Word and by the Spirit only in so far as he wills to embrace the Grace of God.

This is the Religion of Divine Inspiration, which being interpreted, is Immanuel or God within us. Every Thing short of this, is short of that Religion which worships God in Spirit and in Truth. And every religious Trust or Confidence in any Thing, but the Divine Operation within us, is but a sort of Image-Worship, which though it may deny the Form, yet retains the Power thereof in the Heart. And he that places any religious Safety in theological Decisions, Scholastic Points, in particular Doctrines and Opinions, that must be held about the scripture Words of Faith, Justification, Sanctification, Election, and Reprobation, so far departs from the true Worship of the Living God within him, and Sets up an Idol of Notions to be worshipped, if not instead of, yet along with him.

Theological definitions are given to us to help us better cherish and treasure the operation of the Word made flesh within us. If they should be hoisted above the work of God’s Word in our hearts by His Holy Spirit, they smack of that idolatry that would place knowledge above virtue. To know something about God is one thing, but to apply the truth known to human life via an act of will is quite another. Idolatry is a great danger to philosophers and theologians; for they imagine that their knowledge will save them. Quite the contrary, their submission to the Divine Truth by way of virtuous and godly living alone will reconcile them to God.

And I believe it may be taken for a certain Truth, that every Society of Christians, whose Religion stands upon this Ground, however ardent, laborious, and good their zeal may seem to be in such Matters, yet in spite of all, sooner or later, it will be found that Nature is at the Bottom, and that a selfish, earthly, overbearing Pride in their own Definitions and Doctrines of Words, will by Degrees creep up to the same Height, and become that same fleshly Wisdom, doing those very same Things, which they exclaim against in Popes, Cardinals, and Jesuits. Nor can it possibly be otherwise. For a letter-learned zeal has but one Nature wherever it is, it can only do that for Christians, which it did for Jews. As it anciently brought forth Scribes, Pharisees, Hypocrites, and Crucifiers of Christ, as it afterwards brought forth Heresies, Schisms, Popes, papal Decrees, Images, Anathemas, Transubstantiations, so in Protestant countries it will be doing the same Thing, only with other materials; Images of wood and Clay, will only be given up for Images of Doctrines; Grace and Works, imputed sin, and imputed Righteousness, Election and Reprobation, will have their Synods of Dort, as truly evangelical, as any Council of Trent.

The potential idolatry of theology is a very great danger indeed. It has led some otherwise earnest Christians to become the most vicious and unkind of men. It has moved great doctors of the churches to such a degree of judgmental condescension that the Grace of God has been erased clean from the memories of souls that once sought salvation. Theology is meant to open the mind to wonder and the will to submission. Theology is given that men might adore and worship God to the point of earnest surrender to His will in Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Theology that does not lead to a radical in-othering, where man dies and God comes alive, is no theology worth having. Hell is full of theologians and doctors whose subtle wit and refined reason have been wasted on division rather than unity, on reason rather than faith, and on nature rather than Grace. Theology should teach us about the unearned, undeserfved, and unmerited Grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. Theology should remind us too that to have this Grace we must lose ourselves in order to find ourselves through a goodness that is not our own.

©wjsmartin