A consistent Christian life William Law
he people portrayed in the Serious Call think they are Christians, but only two or three are prepared to live consistent Christian lives according to Christ’s standard. Could he stab them into knowledge of their state? Could he paint their portraits and invite them to read in them the measure of their unfaithfulness?
Julius, the formal Christian is very fearful of missing his prayers, and whom the parish consider to be sick if he is not in church. Caecus is the rich man, of good breeding and very fine parts and the embodiment of self-conceit. He no more suspects himself of pride than he suspects his wants of sense. Calidus the busy merchant lives in perpetual rush and whirl, that must have killed him long ago and resolves to leave town on Saturday and make Sunday a day of quiet and refreshment in the country.
Flavia would be a miracle of piety if she was as careful of her soul as she is of her body. Caelia, the grumbler, is an exhortation to contentment. Fulvius, the youth of leisured disorder, preaches the disciplined life. Mundanus, the successful man of business, teaches the necessity of heavenly mindedness. Susurrus, the unkind gossip, becomes an argument for the habit of kindly intercession.
But there are other char acters, which portray with great attractiveness the beauty of the Christian life, like Ouranius, the good and holy priest, full of the spirit of the Gospel, watching, labouring and praying for a poor country village. Every soul in it is as dear to him as himself, and he loves them all as he loves himself; because he prays for them all as often as he prays for himself. Cognatus is a sober clergyman of good repute in the world and well esteemed in his parish. All his parishioners would say; he is an honest man, and very notable at making a bargain. His overriding concern is to leave a sizeable sum of money he has raised from his two livings for his niece. Law then considers the many kind things that Cog natus might have done with his money, including paying his curate a living wage, and caring for his people as much as for the state of the markets, and finally ends: ‘Could it be said that a life thus governed by the spirit of the Gospel must be dull and melancholy, if compared with that of raising a fortune for a niece?’
The Serious Call is a direct attack on the pseudo -Christian life of the eighteenth century. ‘Would you know who is the greatest saint of the world?’ writes Law:
‘It is not he who prays most, or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God willeth’. ND
(From William Law’s Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life,
edited by Arthur Middleton)