William Law


English Author, Cleric, Divine and Theological Writer, Important figure in the Latter Day Saint movement

Author Quotes

Consider yourself as always wrong, as having gone aside, and lost your right path, when any delight, desire, or trouble, is suffered to live in you that cannot be made a part of this prayer of the heart to God. For nothing so infallibly shows us the true state of our heart, as that which gives us either delight or trouble; for as our delight and trouble is, so is the state of our heart: if therefore you are carried away with any trouble or delight, that has not an immediate relation to your progress in the divine life, you may be assured your heart is not in its right state of prayer to God.

Hell is nothing else but nature departed or excluded from the beam of divine light.

Learn to live for your own sake and the service of God; and let nothing in the world be of any value with you but that which you can turn into a service to God, and a means of your future happiness.

Oh, plain, and easy, and simple way of salvation! Wanting no subtleties of art or science, no borrowed learning, no refinements of reason; but all done by the simple natural motion of every heart that truly longs after God. For no sooner is the finite desire of the creature in motion towards God, but the infinite desire of God is united with it, co-operates with it; and in this united desire of God and the creature is the salvation and life of the soul brought forth.

Separate creaturely life, as opposed to life in union with God, is only a life of various appetites, hungers, and wants, and cannot possibly be anything else. God Himself cannot make a creature to be in itself, or in its own nature, anything else but a state of emptiness. The highest life that is natural and creaturely can go no higher than this: it can only be a bare capacity for goodness and cannot possibly be a good and happy life but by the life of God dwelling in it and in union with it. And this is the two-fold life that, of all necessity, must be united in every good and happy and perfect creature.

They only renounce the world as they ought, who live in the midst of it without worldly tempers, who comply with their share in the offices of human life without complying with the spirit that reigneth in the world.

What could begin to deny self, if there were not something in man different from self?

Continuing a Lenten series on prayer: When a man has had so much benefit from the gospel, as to know his own misery, his want of a redeemer, who he is, and how is he to be found; there everything seems to be done, both to awaken and direct his prayer, and make it a true praying in and by the Spirit. For when the heart really pants and longs after God, its prayer is a praying, as moved and animated by the Spirit of God; it is the breath or inspiration of God, stirring, moving and opening itself in the heart. For though the early nature, our old man, can oblige or accustom himself to take heavenly words at certain times into his mouth, yet this is a certain truth, that nothing ever did, or can have the least desire or tendency to ascend to heaven, but that which came down from heaven; and therefore nothing in the heart can pray, aspire, and long after God, but the Spirit of God moving and stirring in it.

I desire nothing, I press nothing upon you, but to make the most of human life, and to aspire after perfection in whatever state of life you choose.

Let a clergyman but intend to please God in all his actions, as the happiest and best thing in the world, and then he will know that there is nothing noble in a clergyman but a burning zeal for the salvation of souls; nor anything poorer in his profession [than] idleness and a worldly spirit.

Others again, perhaps truly awakened by the Spirit of God to devote themselves wholly to piety and the service of God, yet making too much haste to have the glory of saints, the elements of fallen nature -- selfishness, envy, pride, and wrath -- could secretly go along with them. For to seek for eminence and significancy in grace is but like seeking for eminence and significancy in nature. And the old man can relish glory and distinction in religion as well as in common life, and will be content to undergo as many labors, pains, and self-denials for the sake of religious, as for the sake of secular glory.

Take away this measure from our dress and habits, and all is turned into such paint, and glitter, and ridiculous ornaments, as are a real shame to the wearer.

They, therefore, who are hasty in their devotions and think a little will do, are strangers both to the nature of devotion and the nature of man; they do not know that they are to learn to pray, and that prayer is to be learnt as they learn other things, by frequency, constancy, and perseverance.

Whatever littleness and vanity is to be observed in the minds of women, it is, like the cruelty of butchers, a temper that is wrought into them by that life which they are taught and accustomed to lead.

Covetousness, pride, and envy are not three different things, but only three different names for the restless workings of one and the same will or desire. Wrath, which is a fourth birth from these three, can have no existence till one or all of these three are contradicted, or have something done to them that is contrary to their will. These four properties generate their own torment. They have no outward cause, nor any inward power of altering themselves. And therefore all self or nature must be in this state until some supernatural good comes into it, or gets a birth in it. Whilst man indeed lives among the vanities of time, his covetousness, envy, pride, and wrath may be in a tolerable state, may hold him to a mixture of peace and trouble; they may have at times their gratifications as well as their torments. But when death has put an end to the vanity of all earthly cheats, the soul that is not born again of the Supernatural Word and Spirit of God, must find itself unavoidably devoured and shut up in its own insatiable, unchangeable, self-tormenting covetousness, envy, pride, and wrath.

If [we] have no chosen the kingdom of God [first], it will make in the end no difference what [we] have chosen instead.

Love has no errors, for all errors are the want for love.

Our hearts deceive us, because we leave them to themselves, are absent from them, taken up in outward rules and forms of living and praying. But this kind of praying, which takes all its thoughts and words only from the state of our hearts, makes it impossible for us to be strangers to ourselves. The strength of every sin, the power of every evil temper, the most secret workings of our hearts, the weakness of any or all our virtues, is with a noonday clearness forced to be seen, as soon as the heart is made our prayer book, and we pray nothing, but according to what we read, and find there.

The essences of our soul were a breath in God before they became a living soul, they lived in God before they lived in the created soul, and therefore the soul is a partaker of the eternity of God and can never cease to be.

Think upon the vanity and shortness of human life, and let death and eternity be often in your minds.

Whatever raises a levity of mind, a trifling spirit, renders the soul incapable of seeing, apprehending, and relishing the doctrines of piety.

Devotion signifies a life given, or devoted to God. He therefore is the devout man, who lives no longer to his own will, or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God, who considers God in everything, who serves God in everything, who makes all the parts of his common life, parts of piety, by doing everything in the name of God, and under such rules as are conformable to his Glory.

If I now want to add something of my own (i.e., inner assurances) to this faith, if this great and glorious faith is defective and saves me not till I can add my own sense and my own feeling to it at such a time or place, is not this saying in the plainest manner that faith alone cannot justify me? ... All I would say of these inward delights and enjoyments is this: they are not holiness, they are not piety, they are not perfection, but they are God's gracious allurements and calls to seek after holiness and spiritual perfection.

Man needs to be saved from his own wisdom as much as from his own righteousness, for they produce one and the same corruption.

Perhaps it may he found more easy to forget the language than to part entirely with those tempers which we learnt in misery.

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English Author, Cleric, Divine and Theological Writer, Important figure in the Latter Day Saint movement