« AnteriorContinuar »
First Part of The Spirit of Love.'
Fénélon and Madame Guyon in the preceding century, viz. that the doctrine of pure and universal love was too refined and imaginary for practical purposes; the other, that the description of the Deity as a Being that is all love seemed inconsistent with those passages of Holy Scripture which speak of a righteousness and justice, a wrath and vengeance of God that must be atoned and satisfied.
The answer to these objections forms the subject of this singularly beautiful treatise ; the first of them being answered in the first part, the second in the dialogues that follow. For the 'Spirit of Love' is composed on the same principle as the Spirit of Prayer ;' we have first a continuous essay, and then a series of conversations.
How Law would answer both of his friend's objections the reader will anticipate for himself. It is only necessary to observe that in the first part of the Spirit of Love,' he brings out more distinctly than elsewhere that striking feature of the later mysticism, its intense realisation of the analogy between the natural and the spiritual world. It is because they have lost the blessed spirit of love which alone makes the happiness and perfection of every power of nature, that not only all intelligent creatures, but all inanimate things, are in disorder. It is the spirit of love which must 'rectify all outward nature, and bring it back into that glassy sea of unity and purity in which S. John beheld the throne of God in the midst of it. For this glassy sea which the beloved apostle was blessed with the sight of, is the transparent, heavenly element, in which all the properties and powers of nature move and work in the unity and purity of the one will of God, only known as so many endless forms of triumphing Light and Love. For the strife of properties, of thick against thin, hard against soft, hot against cold, &c., had no existence till the angels fell—that is, till they turned from God, to work with nature.
'The Spirit of Love.
This is the original of all the strife, division, and materiality in the fallen world. And this glassy sea, this heavenly materiality shall one day be seen again. “The last universal fire must begin the deliverance of this material system, and fit everything to receive that Spirit of Light and Love which will bring all things back again to their first glassy sea, in which the Deity dwelleth, as in His throne. And thus, as the earthly fire turns flint into glass, so earth will become heaven, and the contrariety of four divided elements will become one transparent brightness of glory, as soon as the last fire shall have melted every grossness into its first undivided fluidity, for the light and love and majesty of God to be all in all in it. How easy and natural is it to suppose all that is earth and stones to be dissolved into water, the water to be changed into air, the air into æther, and the æther rarefied into light! Is there anything here impossible to be supposed ? And how near a step is the next, to suppose all this changed or exalted into that glassy sea, which was everywhere before the angels fell !'.
Whether every reader will find it so easy to conceive all this as Law supposed, may well be a question. To some it may appear all very wild and dreamy, while to others the thought may be suggested, that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy. But surely, whether we can follow Law in all his details or not this idea of the connection between the natural and the moral world, and especially of the salvation of Christ being applicable to both is a very grand and suggestive one ; and if such texts as that which Law loved to quote, ‘The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together,' taken in connection with its context, are to be understood literally, the general theory has more scriptural authority than some are apt to imagine.
The second part of the Spirit of Love' was not pub
'The Spirit of Love.'
lished until 1754, the delay being probably owing to a temporary weakness of eyesight from which Law was at this time suffering, and to which he alludes in several letters. It was written, as has been said, in the form of dialogues, the speakers being our old acquaintance, Theophilus, Theogenes (who represents the friend in answer to whom Law wrote the whole treatise), and Eusebius, 'a very valuable and worthy curate of my neighbourhood,' says Theogenes. It deals more fully than any other of Law's works with the doctrine of the Atonement-a doctrine which, it must be again repeated, formed a very cornerstone of Law's system. It was only against one particular theory of the Atonement-a theory which, to say the least of it, has certainly not been the universally accepted theory of the Catholic Church-that Làw objected. There was not one single expression in the Bible, or in the creeds of the Church, or in the liturgy, or articles, or any of the formularies of the Church of England, on the subject of the Atonement, to which Law would not have given his most unfeigned and hearty adherence. But as this question has been fully discussed in a preceding chapter, nothing further need be said.
See Ch. XIV. of this work.
Law on Warburton's 'Divine Legation.
LAW ON WARBURTON'S 'DIVINE LEGATION.'
MORE than three years elapsed before Law again appeared in print. During the interval he seems to have been a good deal occupied with the final settlement of the foundation of the schools and almshouses at King's Cliffe ; moreover, he may have thought it desirable to spare his cyes until some really important occasion called for the use of his pen. And, very characteristically, he did not consider that an attack made upon himself personally was such an occasion ; but he did consider that an attack upon his friend was. Wesley's pamphlet of 1756 was unanswered by Law, partly because Law thought that it answered itself, partly because he did not desire to be brought into antagonism with one who was trying, and trying successfully, to stem the torrent of vice and irreligion that was flooding the land, and partly because he always disliked defending himself personally. But it was a very different matter when his old friend Bishop Sherlock was attacked by men whose doctrines traversed Law's most deeply cherished convictions. Accordingly, in the spring of 1757, appeared A Short but Sufficient Confutation of the Rev. Dr. Warburton's Projected Defence (as he calls it) of Christianity, in his Divine Legation of Moses. In a Letter to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London.' The work which called forth this letter was not the · Divine Legation' itself, but a defence of it, by an
On the 'Divine Legation.'
anonymous author, against Bishop Sherlock, entitled, “A Free and Candid Examination of the Bishop of London's Sermons, &c.' Law; however, soon leaves the subordinate for the principal, and attacks, with marvellous keenness and vigour, the main positions of Warburton's famous work.
The debate, he declares, was betwixt Dr. Warburton on the one side, and the whole Christian Church of all ages on the other ;' and he undertakes to prove that (1) there is not in all the New Testament one single text which, either in the letter or the spirit, proves, or has the least tendency or design to prove, that the immortality of the soul, or its perpetual duration after the death of the body, was not an universal commonly received opinion, in and through every age of the world, from Adam to Christ; and (2), that this doctrine or belief of a future state was not designedly secreted, or industriously hidden, from the eyes of the people of God by Moses, neither by the types and figures of the law, nor by any other part of his writings.
It was no wonder that Law took up the subject warmly; because, if Warburton established his point, it is obvious that Law's whole system must fall to the ground. So much has been already said of Law's views on the Fall
i For the convenience of the unlearned reader it may be well to state that the argument of the ‘Divine Legation' is stated by Warburton himself in the following syllogisms :
I. Whatsoever Religion and Society have no future state for their support must be supported by an extraordinary Providence.
The Jewish Religion and Society had no future state for their support.
.:. The Jewish Religion and Society was supported by an extraordinary Providence.
II. It was universally believed by the ancients, on their common principles of legislation and wisdom, that whatsoever Religion and Society have no future state for their support must be supported by an extraordinary Providence.
Moses, skilled in all that legislation and wisdom, instituted the Jewish Religion and Society without a future state for its support.
... Moses, who taught, believed likewise that this Religion and Society was supported by an extraordinary Providence.