Wednesday, 6 August 2014

William Law's A Serious Call

Before Singer’s Pond there was William Law and the pond of the covetous man:

Again: if you should see a man that had a large pond of water, yet living in continual thirst, not suffering himself to drink half a draught, for fear of lessening his pond; if you should see him wasting his time and strength, in fetching more water to his pond; always thirsty, yet always carrying a bucket of water in his hand, watching early and late to catch the drops of rain, gaping after every cloud, and running greedily into every mire and mud, in hopes of water, and always studying how to make every ditch empty itself into his pond: if you should see him grow grey and old in these anxious labours, and at last end a careful, thirsty life, by falling into his own pond; would you not say that such a one was not only the author of all his own disquiets, but was foolish enough to be reckoned amongst idiots and madmen? But yet foolish and absurd as this character is, it does not represent half the follies, and absurd disquiets, of the covetous man.
(from Chap.XI of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life)

I am finding the reading not of the cheeriest but mighty sobering. Certainly one does not get much of ‘a note of joy in the liturgy’. Like the Imitation of which he was fond it is slightly bleak. There is a suspicion of ‘ananda’ deficit. Samuel Johnson though he felt that no non-juror could reason and that Law was lost in the reveries of Boehme still was affected by ‘A Call’ when he picked it up at Oxford expecting to have a laugh.

In the ‘old religion’ Law would have been a natural monk complaining of a lack of rigour and denouncing spare sandals. I propose to myself a regular homeopathic dose to drive out the humour of worldliness that afflicts me as a member of ‘the better class of people’.

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