Friday, August 3, 2012

Intercessory Prayer, by William Law

William Law was born at Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire in 1686. In 1705 he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge; in 1711 he was elected fellow of his college and was ordained. He lived at Cambridge, teaching and taking occasional duty until the accession of George I in 1714, when his conscience forbade him to take the oaths of allegiance to the new government and of abjuration of the Stuarts. His Jacobitism had already been betrayed in a tripos speech. This brought him trouble: he was deprived of his fellowship and became a Non-Juror. 

For the next few years he is said to have been a curate in London. By 1727 he lived with Edward Gibbon (1666–1736) at Putney as tutor to his son Edward, father of the historian, who says that Law became the much-honoured friend and spiritual director of the whole family. In the same year he accompanied his pupil to Cambridge and lived with him as governor, in term time, for the next four years. His pupil then went abroad but Law was left at Putney, where he remained in Gibbon's house for more than 10 years, acting as a religious guide not only to the family but to a number of earnest-minded people who came to consult him, among whom were the two brothers John and Charles Wesley. The household was dispersed in 1737. 

Law was parted from his friends and in 1740 retired to Kings Cliffe, where he had inherited from his father a house and a small property. There he joined by two women, a Mrs Hutcheson, the rich widow of his old friend, who recommended her on his death-bed to place herself under Law's spiritual guidance, and Hester Gibbon, sister to his late pupil. This household continued for 21 years a life wholly given to devotion, study, charity, and spiritual direction until the death of Law on the 9 April 1761. 

Best-known of his earlier works are: A Treatise upon Christian Perfection, 1726, A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life, 1728, and An Appeal to All That Doubt the Truths of the Gospel

His later works include The Grounds and Reasons of Christian Regeneration, The Spirit of Prayer, The Way to Divine Knowledge, The Spirit of Love, and his last work, An Affectionate Address to the Clergy, which was sent to the printer just days before his death.

On the Necessity and Benefit of Intercession 
From Chapter XXI of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life  

The first followers of Christ seem to support all their love, and to maintain all their intercourse and correspondence, by mutual prayers for one another. 

St. Paul, whether he writes to churches or particular persons, shows his intercession to be perpetual for them, that they are the constant subject of his prayers. 

Thus to the Philippians, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy." [Phil. i. 3, 4] Here we see, not only a continual intercession, but performed with so much gladness, as shows that it was an exercise of love in which he highly rejoiced. 

His devotion had also the same care for particular persons, as appears by the following passages: "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers, with a pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day." [2 Tim. i. 3] How holy an acquaintance and friendship was this, how worthy of persons that were raised above the world, and related to one another, as new members of a kingdom of Heaven! 

Apostles and great saints did not only thus benefit and bless particular churches, and private persons; but they themselves also received graces from God by the prayers of others. Thus saith St. Paul to the Corinthians: "You also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf." [2 Cor. i. 11] 

This was the ancient friendship of Christians, uniting and cementing their hearts, not by worldly considerations, or human passions, but by the mutual communication of spiritual blessings, by prayers and thanksgivings to God for one another. 

It was this holy intercession that raised Christians to such a state of mutual love, as far exceeded all that had been praised and admired in human friendship. And when the same spirit of intercession is again in the world, when Christianity has the same power over the hearts of people that it then had, this holy friendship will be again in fashion, and Christians will be again the wonder of the world, for that exceeding love which they bear to one another. 

A frequent intercession with God, earnestly beseeching Him to forgive the sins of all mankind, to bless them with His providence, enlighten them with His Spirit, and bring them to everlasting happiness, is the divinest exercise that the heart of man can be engaged in. 

Be daily, therefore, on your knees, in a solemn deliberate performance of this devotion, praying for others in such forms, with such length, importunity, and earnestness, as you use for yourself; and you will find all little, ill-natured passions die away, your heart grow great and generous, delighting in the common happiness of others, as you used only to delight in your own . . . 


Paddy said...

I'm very fond of Law's 'A serious call' ... that you for this reminder of some of the wisdom it contains.

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