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TO THE EIGHTH EDITION.
MR. LAW's SERIOUS CALL TO A HOLY AND DEVOUT LIFE, is a book; almost universally known and admired by every friend to piety and virtue. The following TREATISE upon Christian PERFECTION, a work written with the same spirit, is perhaps less known, but requires only to be known to be equally admired. It will be a sufficient recommendation of it to many to say, that it was a favourite with the late learned and pious Bishop Horne, who knowing well how to distinguish good from evil wherever he met with it, would not reject the truly valuable practical writings of Mr. Law, on account of the errors into which he had fallen in other respects.
Mr. Jones, in his life of this amiable prelate, p. 74, says, “Mr. Horne having entered upon his first Hebrew studies, not without an ardent piety, he was ready to lay hold of every thing that might advance him in the knowledge and practice of the Christian life. He accordingly made himself well acquainted with the serious, practical writings of the Rev. William Law, which, I believe, were first recommended to him by Mr. Hamilton, afterwards Archdeacon of Raphoe, in Ireland, or by the Rev. Dr. Patten, of Corpus Christi College. He conformed himself in many respects to the strictness of Mr. Law's rules of devotion; but without any danger of falling, as so many did, after
Mr. Law's example, into the stupendous reveries of Jacob Behmen, the German theosophist. From this he was effectually secured by his attachment to the doctrines and forms of the primitive church, in which he was well grounded by the writings of Leslie, and also the primitive fathers, some of which were become familiar to him, and very highly esteemed. But being sensible how easy it was for many of those who took their piety from Mr. Law, to take his errors along with it, he drew up a very useful paper, for the security of such persons as might not have judgment enough to distinguish properly, under the title of Cautions to the Readers of Mr. Law: and excellent they are for the purpose intended : they show the goodness of his heart, and the soundness of his judgment.”
As a farther proof of the estimation in which Bishop Horne held this book, much of the argument in his discourse on the Diuty of Self-denial, vol. III. disc. vii. is taken from chap. vi. vii. and viji.; and in some places he has either copied, or was sufficiently conversant with it to quote from memory.
« This self-denial is the chief and most general exercise of the Christian life, and is the very forın and substance of every virtue; for so far as we deny our natural tempers, so far we seem to be advanced in virtue. We are so far humble, as we deny ourselves in the instances of pride ; so far heavenly-minded, as we deny our earthly inclinations; so far charitable as we deny our tempers of self-love. and envy; and so in every virtue, it seems to have its chief foundation in the denial of some corrupt temper of our natures.” Law, p. 143.
“ For this reason it is, that self-denial is become, as it were the form and substance of every virtue ; for so far as
we deny our natural corrupt tempers, so far we seem to advance in virtue. We are so far humble, for instance, as we deny ourselves in the instances of pride; so far heavenly-minded, as we deny our earthly inclinations; so far charitable, as we deny our tempers of self-love and envy; so far temperate and pure, as we deny those appetites which, if indulged, would render us otherwise; and thus every virtue seems to have its chief foundation in the denial of some corrupt temper of our nature,” Horne, vol. III. p. 134.
“ Let me desire you, when you are dressed for a play, to read over our Saviour's divine Sermon on the Mount before you go; try whether your soul is full of the spirit that is there taught; examine whether you then feel in your heart such a love of the Scripture, as to love those conditions of blessedness that are there described-Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Law, p. 255.
“ If therefore we find ourselves engaged in any habits of life, in a course of any indulgences and enjoyments, any pleasures and diversions which prevent the formation of these tempers in us, and tend to strengthen and confirm their opposites, in such instances it will undoubtedly be expedient to practise self-denial. When we return home in the evening, before we retire to our rest, let us sometimes, for the experiment's sake, only read over the twelve first verses of our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, and observe how our mind stands affected towards them. If at any time we are in doubt concerning a particular employment, or amusement, instead of enquiring nicely into the sawfulness of it, and whether there be in Scripture any special prohibition of it, the shorter and safer way is, to ask
oneself whether it be agreeable to the general spirit of Christianity, whether it tend to beget and increase in us all the holy tempers of that divine religion, or to suppress and extinguish them.” Horne, p. 139.
“ The difference between the same man full and fasting, is almost the difference of two persons; a man, that in the morning finds himself fit for any meditations, is, after a full meal, changed into another creature, fit only for idle amusements, or the yawnings of an animal. He has not only created a dulness of his soul, but has perverted its taste; for he can be pleased with a romance or impertinent history, at the same time that he has no relish for a book of devotion that requires less attention.” Law, p. 138.
“ The heat and heaviness caused in the body by repletion, induce, for the time, an uneasiness and duluess on the soul; nay what is more extraordinary, even vitiate and deprave its taste. The intellectual, moral, or spiritual truths, which, after the light repast of the morning, were relishing as the patriarch’s savoury meat, are now become tasteless as the white of an egg. The man has contracted a temporary indifference, at least, if not an aversion, towards every thing that is wise, and great, and good. His faculties are not equal to any thing higher than a newspaper, or a novel, or a conversation more trifling than either; and a very few sentences in the religious way would infallibly send him to sleep. In short, there is not more difference between any two men, than between the same man, when full and when fasting" Horne, p. 142..
Let'these passages suffice. Reader! thou hast obtained this book; when thou hast read it, meditate upon it, read it again-recommend it to thy friend, and bid him, when i