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Vol I No. 1
Theology & Liturgy

William Law: The Spirit of Love, ii.

by William J. Martin

Look at all the Variety of Creatures; they are what they are for this only End, that in their infinite Variety, Degrees, and Capacities, they may be as so many speaking Figures, living Forms of the manifold Riches and Powers of Nature, as so many Sounds and Voices, Preachers, and Trumpets, giving Glory and Praise and Thanksgiving to that Deity of Love which gives Life to all Nature and Creature.

The Spirit of Love: ii. i. 4, William Law

There is a strange suggestion that the finite creation holds within itself the infinite secrets of God. Here, of course, infinite simply means a number of finite truths that is beyond our counting. That it is beyond your numbering means simply that we can never stop discovering the truths about nature…at least as long as we shall live. It is a wonderful finite attempt at imitating the infinite! But see how nature is another Book of Revelation like the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures reveal the infinite truths awaiting discovery concerning man’s relationship with God. Nature or creation contains similar infinite truths about things other than man. Nature longs to be given a voice. She longs to have the truth that she contains within herself revealed and articulated through the reason and word of man. Man alone is able to lend a voice to the creation. Nature is silent in herself but is given the opportunity to speak through sounds, voices, preachers, and trumpets found in the language that the mind of man elicits from her. The newfound articulation begins with primitive sounds and noises. Next, there comes a voice or audible impression. In following, there is a sermon or preacher of it all. Finally, there is music or trumpets. Man begins with what is crude in sense perception, refines the impression in imagination, develops a knowledge of it in reason, and then sings out its truth through spirit. The process itself is an act of praise because what has begun with God is now returned to Him through the whole of human nature –beginning with the body, moving into the soul, and then rising up into the spirit. God has given all life to the creation and now she finds meaning and even beauty through man’s articulation of the truth, beauty, and goodness found in her! The senses move and inform the imagination; the imagination feeds the mind; the mind inspires the heart. The whole of the creation is experienced fully as man uses his whole being to discover and describe God’s truth in creation. That the secrets are identified as infinite truths means that there is always more of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness to be found and appreciated in man’s thankful heart.

For every Creature of unfallen Nature, call it by what name you Will, has its Form, and Power, and State, and Place in Nature, for no other End, but to open and enjoy, to manifest and rejoice in some Share of the Love, and Happiness, and Goodness of the Deity, as springing forth in the boundless Height and Depth of Nature.

Ibid, ii. i. 5

Man is fallen. Nature is not. Nature is made to reveal the creature’s purpose and end, i.e. to reveal and manifest God. Nature is made to enjoy and rejoice in God, which is to say that it praises and lauds the Maker in the acts of realizing its ends and finding perfections. Of course, such perfections are imperfect imitations of God’s own being. When the imposed laws of Nature move creatures to find imperfect perfection the creature is said to show forth love, happiness, and the goodness of Deity. The love of God is expressed in the multifarious forms of creaturely life that exist singularly and in relation to one another. The happiness of God is revealed in the creatures’ abilities to strive towards perfecting their forms in matter in order to become substances. The goodness of God is manifested in the creature’s instinctive submission to God-given laws. Each creature in particular and all in general disclose the care of God, the joy of God, and the ordered discipline of the Divine Nature. God’s love moves all things, takes joy in so doing, and brings them all to their appointed good end.

Now this is the one Will and Work of God in and through all Nature and Creature. From Eternity to Eternity he can will and intend nothing toward them, in them, or by them, but the Communication of various Degrees of his own Love, Goodness, and Happiness to them, according to their State, and Place, and Capacity in Nature. This is God’s unchangeable Disposition toward the Creature; He can be nothing else but all Goodness toward it, because he can be nothing toward the Creature but that which he is, and was, and ever shall be in Himself.

Ibid, ii. i. 6

In the creation and preservation of all things, God reveals His nature –to each a degree of His Love, Happiness, and Goodness. Each reveals the attributes of God according to a limited and particular finite capacity. A rock reveals the love, goodness, and happiness of God by revealing mere being that must be moved in order to be changed or altered. A tree reveals the love, goodness, and happiness of God by manifesting being and then the power of reproduction and begetting. Mere being now becomes reproductive being. Birds and fish reveal the reproductive capacity through the separate but combined efforts of male and female. Animals reveal the same but in coming together. Man too reproduces but adds love and reason to the mixture and then ascends into an intellectual imitation of God’s thinking. God is only Goodness toward every kind of creature by degrees in each state, place, and capacity. God is only Goodness because He is Goodness. His Goodness lends itself to each form of finite goodness. So creatures derive not only their being from God but also their respective goodness, which is the perfection of form and the actualization of substance.