We got a new book in the mail yesterday. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law. Wow. Once you get into his year 1700 dialogue its really an interesting read! It really makes you think, inspires you to use more of your brain.. Anyways this is what I wanted to share for today.
Let us suppose a person destitute of knowledge places somewhere alone in the midst of a variety of things that he didnt know how to use- that he has by him bread, wine, water, golden dust, iron chains, gravel, garments, and fire. Let it be supposed that in his thirst he puts golden dust into his eyes; that when his eyes smart he puts wine into his ears; that in his hunger, he puts gravel into his mouth; that in his pain, he loads himself with iron chains; that feeling cold, he puts his feet into the water; that being frightened at the fire, he runs away from it; that being weary, he makes a seat of bread. Let it be supposed that through his ignorance of the right use fo things that are about him he will vainly torment himself while he lives, and at last, die. Blinded with dust, choked by gravel, and loaded with irons. Let it be supposed that some good being came up to himand showed him the nature and use of all the things about him, and gave him such strict rules for using them as would certainly, if observed, make him happier for all that he had and deliver him from hunger, thirst and cold. Now could you with any reason affirm that those strict rules of using those things that were about him had rendered that poor man’s life dull and uncomfortable?
Now this in some measure is a representation of the strict rules of religion. They only relieve our ignorance, save us from tormenting ourselves, and teach us to use everything about us to our proper advantage. Man is placed in a world of a variety of things. His ignorance makes him to use many of them as the man who put dust in his eyes to relieve his thirst.
Religion, therefore, comes to his relief and gives him strict rules of using everything that is about him in order that he may always have the pleasure of receiving a right benefit from them. It tells him that although the world can do no more for him than satisfy the wants of the body, yet there is a much greater good prepared for the man than eating, drinking, and dressing; that it is yet invisible to his eyes, being too glorious for the apprehension of the flesh and blood, but reserved for him to enter upon as soon as this short life is over. It tells him that this state of glory will be given to all those who make a right use of the things of this present world.
Now can anyone say that the strictest rules of such a religion debar us from the comforts of life? If religion forbids all instances of revenge, it is because all revenge is of the nature of poison. If religion commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, it is because all degrees of love are degrees of happiness which strengthen, support the divine life of the soul. If religion has laws against laying up treasures on earth and commands us to be content with food and raiment, it is because every other use of the world is abusing it to our own vexation. If religion said, “Sell that thou hast and give to the poor,” it is because there is no other way of making ourselves happier by our riches.
If religion requires us to sometimes fast and to deny natural appetites, it is to lessen that struggle and war that is in our nature. It is to render our bodies fitter instruments of purity and more obedient to the good motions of divine grace. It is to dry up the springs of our passions that war against the soul, to cool the flame of our blood, and to render the mind more capable of divine meditations.
If religion commands us to live wholly unto God and to do all to his glory, it is because every other way is living wholly against ourselves and will end in shame and confusion of face.
How ignorant, therefore, are they of the nature of religion, of the nature of man, and the nature of God, who think a life of strict piety and devotion to God to be a dull, uncomfortable state-when it is so plain and certain that there is no comfort nor joy to be found in anything else!