A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. Adapted to the State and Condition of all Orders of Christians.
Law, William.

London: Printed for William Innys, at the West End of St. Paul's, 1729. First edition. Some light foxing, mostly marginal. A very good copy. Contemporary paneled calf, neatly rebacked. Gilt-ruled spine with red morocco label. Octavo. [2], vi, 499, [5, advert (Item ID: 15922)


It is the Serious Call, a plea for the return to the practice of private individual piety, in an unadorned, lucid and deeply moving style, on which his reputation chiefly stands. Its peculiar force is difficult to convey; authorities as different as Gibbon, Lord Lyttelton and George Whitefield spoke enthusiastically of it. Samuel Johnson attributed to it his first attention to religion. But the most significant testimony is that of John Wesley, who reaped where Law had sown. Writing after they had parted company, he said: 'it will hardly be excelled, if it be equalled, in the English language, either for beauty of expression or for justice and depth of thought'" (Printing and the Mind of Man).

Boswell quotes Johnson as saying, "When at Oxford I took up Law's Serious Call to a Holy Life, expecting to find a dull book (as such books generally are), and perhaps to laugh at it. But I found Law quite an overmatch for me: and this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest of religion, after I became capable of rational inquiry". P.M.M. 187.

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