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On-line at PTW: January 1, 1998
Last update: 
December 28, 2012

The Spirit of Love

by William Law

Part I.     In a Letter to a Friend. - 1752    
Part II.    In Three Dialogues. - 1754

Links to the On-line Manuscript

From:   {Notes and Materials}*

About William Law's The Spirit of Love.

The scope of William Law's The Spirit of Love is to clarify and proceed with the exposition that God is Love and that {true}Christianity is the religion of Love, and all its gifts and graces are the gifts and graces of Love, but in this continuation, Mr. Law's providential purpose is to meet and deal with the two main objections voiced by those who fail in their attempts to apply or practice this wondrous Love by their own efforts, and who are also confused by the apparent contradictions of the erroneous teaching of the false churches about the wrath of God as mentioned so often in the Scriptures.  The Spirit of Love is a formal and complete demonstation, that 1.) the Spirit of Love is not a dead notion, but a spirit of life, which only can arise in its own time and place, and from its own natural cause.  And 2.) that those expressions of Scripture which attribute the manifestation of wrath to God, are absolutely true, though there is no wrath in the Deity himself.

The following is Mr. Law's own statement of the case as regards the occasion for his writing of The Spirit of Love.  The reader may consider that the words of the author are addressed especially to him:

"You say, There is nothing in all my writings that has more affected you than that spirit of Love that breathes in them; and that you wish for nothing so much as to have a living sensibility of the power, life, and religion of Love.  But you have these two objections often rising in your mind:  First, that this doctrine of pure and universal Love may be too refined and imaginary; because you find, that however you like it, yet you cannot attain to it, or overcome all that in your nature which is contrary to it, do what you can; and so, you are only able to be an admirer of that Love which you cannot lay hold of.  Secondly, because you find so much said in Scripture of a righteousness and justice, a wrath and vengeance of God, that must be atoned and satisfied, &c., that though you are in love with that description of the Deity, which I have given, as a Being that is all Love, yet you have some doubt whether the Scripture will allow of it."

William Law published The Spirit of Love in two parts, again with a deliberate interval between them and a deliberate difference in their presentations.  The contents of the "First Part" of  The Spirit of Love, in a Letter to a Friend, deals with the first of the objections mentioned above by Mr. Law.

The "Second Part" of The Spirit of Love was published two years after the first.  Mr. Law, once again, composed his message in the form of Three Dialogues — that mode of presentation, again, being shown to set forth his subject to the best advantage.  

The Participants in the Dialogues are three: (1). our familiar wise sage, Theophilus, who receives two visitors.  The first of these is (2). his "Friend", Theogenes, to whom the "First Part" of The Spirit of Love had been written; (3). the second visitor is the eager companion of the first, and who is introduced by Theogenes as Eusebius, "a worthy curate {clergyman} from his neighborhood", who was anxious to hear the promised answer to the second objection as mentioned at the end of the "First Part". 

The answer of Theophilus to this second objection mentioned above is contained in the first and second dialogues, while the third dialogue consists of a practical evangelical application of the whole philosophy of God and nature, which were opened in the preceding treatises.

For modern readers:  Mr. Law wrote to a dear friend the following advice which we may well consider is also for those seekers from the 21st century who have the opportunity to partake of his writings.

"...my friend, take notice of this: no truths, however solid and well grounded, help you to any divine life, but so far as they are taught, nourished and strengthened, by an Unction from above; and that nothing more dries and extinguishes this heavenly Unction, than a talkative, reasoning temper, that is always catching at every opportunity of hearing or telling some religious matters.  You have found enough to prove to you, that all must be found in God manifested in the life of your soul."

From:   {Notes and Materials}*   

The Subjects of the "First Part" of The Spirit of Love, In a Letter to a Friend.  

The nature and perfection of the Spirit of Love.  •   No man can participate in this Spirit until he lives freely, willingly, and universally according to it.  •   Its indispensable necessity as the means of union between God and man.   •   The state of nature and of man as deprived of the Spirit of Love, by reason of the fall.   •   The process of its recovery by purification.   •    The fundamental reason of this process opened out in a description of nature and its seven properties.   •   The similitude of these properties in the nature and being of man.   •   All evil — the consequence of nature working in self, or in a state of separation from God.   •   All good — the power and presence of the super-natural Deity, dwelling and working in the properties of nature.   •   How his presence and the birth of the Spirit of Love, are the same thing.   •   Being a Spirit of Life, it can rise in one only way and from one only cause.   •   Its birth, by the kindling of eternal fire, and consequent transmutation of the life.   •   Hence the truth and necessity of the Christian redemption, and the doctrine of the Cross.


The "First Part" of The Spirit of Love, In a Letter to a Friend, was published in 1752 within a few months of the publishing of The Way to Divine Knowledge.  This "First Part" of The Spirit of Love was also identified as "an Appendix to the "The Spirit of Prayer" when it first appeared as a Tract.


From:   {Notes and Materials}*   

The Subjects of the "Second Part" of The Spirit of Love.

First Dialogue. — The Deity - an infinite ocean of pure overflowing love and joy.   •   All nature and creature brought forth to manifest and rejoice in this love and happiness.   •   Nothing can be in God which is not infinite and eternal.   •   What wrath is in itself.   •   It can be nowhere but in nature, and that in a state of disorder.   •   The origin of wrath and evil,  the same.   •   In man at the disunion of his twofold life, of God and nature.   •   All man's salvation and good from the manifestation of the life of God in the soul.   •   Perpetual inspiration essential to a life of goodness.   •   The ground of salvation, the inspoken word or seed of the divine nature.   •   This, the subject of all revealed dispensations.   •   The earthly self to be resisted and renounced.   •   Wrath ascribed to God, because the creature has changed its state in nature, therefore must experience God as manifest in nature.   •    How wrath originates in nature though this a manifestation of the Deity.    •   God and nature distinguished.    •    Wrath kindled by the will of the creature, when it breaks or loses the union of the seven heavenly properties.     •   The Deity a governing love and wisdom always seeking the restoration of lapsed nature and creature.   •   The texts of Scripture confine the working of wrath to the powers of nature.   •     Vengeance not allowed to man because that a working with fallen nature.    •    Only to God who is supernatural; that is to the love of God, (to overcome it.)

Second Dialogue. — The atonement of the Divine wrath or justice, and the extinguishing of sin in the creature, only different expressions for one and the same thing.   •    The analogy of Scripture teaches this.    •   The atonement, the one work of regeneration, rightly understood.    •    The suffering and death of Christ, the gracious effects of divine love and goodness.    •   In what sense the justice or righteousness of God is satisfied thereby.   •   Man's original righteousness, his law.   •    No peace, till this be perfectly restored.   •    God's being all love does not abate the force of the Scripture pronouncements of eternal torments and punishments to those who live and die in sin.   •   The popular doctrine of the vicarious suffering of Christ, erroneous; opening a door to superstition or to infidelity.    •    Christ's suffering and dying, nothing else but Christ conquering and overcoming all the false good and hellish evil of the fallen state of man.    •    His resurrection and ascension into heaven, though great in themselves, and necessary parts of our deliverance, were but the consequences and effects of his suffering death—his entering into possession of what he had obtained by them.   •   No wrath in God, no fictitious atonement, no folly of debtor and creditor, no suffering for sufferings' sake; but a Christ suffering and dying, as the same victory over death and hell, as when he rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven.   •   The necessity and efficacy of the sufferings and death of Christ, as that which gave him power to become a common father of life to all that died in Adam.   •    Only acceptable to the love of God on that account.   •   How we, by virtue of Christ's complete process in us, have victory over all the evils of our fallen state and shall rise to the glory of Christ—the heirs of God.     •    The Bible to be studied in this simple, adorable light.  

Third Dialogue. — The practical ground of the Spirit of Love.   •   The good and amiable of this natural life easily mistaken (by mere reasoners and transcendentalists) for the spirit of divine love in the soul.   •   The danger of this delusion.   •   The doctrine, and the Spirit of Love itself, two very different things.    •   How we are to acquire the Spirit of Love.   •   The Scripture doctrine of election and reprobation, in its ground.   •   The figures under which it is represented.   •   Nothing elected but the seed of the New Man, or heavenly birth within us; all else reprobated to death.    •    Two ways of induction into virtue and goodness.   •   One by rules and precepts, the other by the Spirit itself, born in the soul; the former must precede the latter.   •   What Divine love is, and its effects within us.   •   All that we are and have from Adam as fallen, must be given up, if the birth of divine love is to be brought forth in us.    •   All our natural contrariety to divine love must be lost and swallowed up in it, as darkness in the light.   •   This, the state of the first man, previous to the fall.   •   Concerning darkness and light.   •   The priority and glory of light; in itself invisible, and only known by possessing darkness or substantiality.   •   Light immaterial; though materiality always with visible light.   •   All nature and creature as such, darkness, and therefore can only work according to the powers of darkness.    •    Nothing evil or tormenting but that which nature or self does.   •   Self or nature, the three properties of desire thrown into a fourth of wrath, through the loss of their only (supernatural) good.     •    No possible deliverance from self, but by the new birth of God in the soul.    •   Desire, the ground of life, and all sensibility of life.   •   How this manifests in outward nature, by attraction with its essential properties.   •   The relations of the visible world and all its productions to the invisible, and hellish world.    •    The way of abolishing all evil, or the art of dying to self.   •   God must be and do all; the state of heart that this perfect conviction of truth induces.    •    The results of a true practical conformity to this conviction, or the Spirit of Prayer.     •   The 'marriage of the Lamb' or birth of the Spirit of Love.   •   The one simple way to attain it, as here shown, the one infallible way, because the will is the leader of the creaturely life.   •   Christ having obtained an infinite power over the human nature, must sooner or later see all enemies under his feet—all subdued to LOVE.

These subjects are not only treated in the strictly argumentative manner and captivating diction peculiar to the author's gift, but they are all along elucidated from Scripture, so as to demonstrate the exact conformity of their philosophical development with the genuine gospel, and with the simple experimental matter of fact as regards personal regeneration, and conversion of the soul to God.  The range and scope of these subjects is of course much more extensive than that of adulterated evangelical truth as commonly taught and expressed, and their presentation is worthy of that universal procedure which must have been the true origin of things; and which, indeed, have been collaterally demonstrated by their applications in the Newtonian philosophy, and, as the basis of all modern enlightened sciences as well as medicine.

The "Second Part" of The Spirit of Love, In Dialogues, was published in 1754.

* Much of the above text was gleaned from the preserved work of Christopher Walton, author of:
Notes and Materials for an Adequate Biography of The Celebrated Divine and
Theosopher, William Law
Published in London -1854 {otherwise referred to on this page as Notes and Materials}.



Links to the On-line Manuscript

The HTML reproduction of the 1752 edition of Part I, and the 1754 edition of Part II of these manuscripts
is rather large; therefore we have chosen to break them into segments to make downloading
faster for those who have problems with large files.

The Spirit of Love:  The First Part
In a Letter to a Friend
.      [Segment 1 of 4]
The Spirit of Love:  The Second Part
Dialogue 1
.                      [Segment 2 of 4]
Dialogue 2.                      [Segment 3 of 4]
Dialogue 3.                      [Segment 4 of 4]

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PTW's 1998 HTML, on-line version of William Law's The Spirit of Love, Part I & Part II was derived using (with permission) Warner White’s painstakingly transcribed ASCII electronic text  (produced in 1995 by White, who worked from the modernized 1974 George Olms Verlag [Hildesheim NewYork] edition of The Works of the Reverend William Law).   PTW volunteers added the formatting and emphatic use to return each manuscript to its "close-to-original" look and content, just as they were published in the 1752 edition of Part I and an 1893 reprint of the 1754 edition of Part II. Typographical errors, changed and omitted text that were discovered in White’s version have also been corrected as well.  Except for the numbering [in square brackets] of the paragraphs (which did not appear in the original),  the on-line rendering here at Pass the WORD is a reproduction of the much older, unedited 1752 and 1754 editions. 


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