This must be the case of all fallen Christendom, as well popish as Protestant, till single men, and churches, know, confess, and firmly adhere to this one scripture truth, which the blessed Behmen prefixed as a motto to most of his epistles, viz., “That our salvation is in the life of Jesus Christ in us.” And that, because this alone was the divine perfection of man before he fell, and will be his perfection when he is one with Christ in heaven. Everything besides this, or that is not solely aiming at and essentially leading to it, is but mere Babel in all sects and divisions of Christians, living to themselves, and their own old man under a seeming holiness of Christian strife and contention about scripture works. But this truth of truths, fully possessed, and firmly adhered to, brings God and man together, puts an end to every Lo here, and Lo there, and turns the whole faith of man to a Christ that can nowhere be a savior to him, but as essentially born in the inmost spirit of his soul, nor possible to be born there by any other means, but the immediate inspiration and working power of the Holy Spirit within him. To this man alone all scripture gives daily edification; the words of Christ and his apostles fall like a fire into him. And what is it that they kindle there? Not notions, not itching ears, nor rambling desires after new and new expounders of them, but a holy flame of love, to be always with, always attending to, that Christ and his Holy Spirit within him, which alone can make him to be and do all that, which the words of Christ and his apostles have taught. For there is no possibility of being like-minded with Christ in anything that he taught, or having the truth of one Christian virtue, but by the nature and Spirit of Christ become essentially living in us. Read all our savior’s divine sermon from the mount, consent to the goodness of every part of it, yet the time of practicing it will never come, till you have a new nature from Christ, and are as vitally in him, and he in you, as the vine in the branch, and the branch in the vine. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” is a divine truth, but will do us no divine good, unless we receive it as saying neither more nor less, than “Blessed are they that are born again of the Spirit, for they alone can see God.” For no blessedness, either of truth or life, can be found either in men or angels, but where the Spirit and life of God is essentially born within them. And all men or churches, not placing all in the life, light, and guidance of the Holy Spirit of Christ, but pretending to act in the name, and for the glory of God, from opinions which their logic and learning have collected from scripture words, or from what a Calvin, an Arminius, a Socinus, or some smaller name, has told them to be right or wrong, all such, are but where the apostles were, when “by the way there was a strife among them who should be the greatest.” And how much soever they may say, and boast of their great zeal for truth, and the only glory of God, yet their own open notorious behavior towards one another, is proof enough, that the great strife amongst them is, which shall be the greatest sect, or have the largest number of followers. A strife, from the same root, and just as useful to Christianity, as that of the carnal apostles, who should be the greatest. For not numbers of men, or kingdoms professing Christianity, but numbers redeemed from the death of Adam to the life of Christ are the glory of the Christian church. And in whatever national Christianity anything else is meant or sought after, by the profession of the gospel, but a new heavenly life, through the mediatorial nature and Spirit of the eternal Son of God, born in the fallen soul, wherever this spirituality of the gospel-redemption is denied or overlooked, there the spirit of self, of satanic and worldly subtlety, will be church and priest, and supreme power, in all that is called religion.
William Law, “Address 31”, An Humble, Affectionate, and Earnest Address to the Clergy
The tower of Babel is a story in Genesis about humans’ language being confounded, and then scattered to the ends of the earth. While God himself did the scattering back then, because of the people’s wrong motivations for building, Jesus in John 17 expressed wishes that all may be one.
William Law (1686-1761) saw something of church conflict as he twice lost his position in the church due to inability to sign oaths of loyalty to a king. He offers the perfect recipe for church unity: the life of Jesus in us. Not creeds or rites or anything else. He write: “Everything besides this, or that is not solely aiming at and essentially leading to it, is but mere Babel in all sects and divisions of Christians, living to themselves, and their own old man under a seeming holiness of Christian strife and contention about scripture works.” How much of our denominational strife (and perhaps especially the strife of “non-denominationalists” against everyone else) is merely the striving of the old man (Adam) and “living to ourselves”?
I hope that this blog can help rekindle some of this unity. I have a thumb drive with over 200 books of sermons. I purposely sought out national, racial, denominational diversity, from Jesuits to anti-popists, African Americans to slaveholders. As I search for a meaningful passage for each word, I’m largely able to ignore the author’s names as I look down the list. I hope to select that which is spiritually and socially edifying.
PRAYER: Dear God, we thank you for the witness of William Law. Put an end to our Babel of “principled” stands against our brothers. Remind us that you were not happy when “there was a strife among them who should be the greatest.” Help us to see this divisiveness as carnal and “the spirit of self, of satanic and worldly subtlety.” Let it all be about you, Jesus. AMEN.