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“For any ways of life, any employment of our talents, whether of our parts, our time, or money, that is not strictly according to the will of God, that is not for such ends as are suitable to his glory, are as great absurdities and failings as prayers that are not according to the will of God.”
Many of us who read Touchstone could be described as Christians who are concerned about the state of the Church. We value the historic faith and are inspired by the exhortation of the prophet Jeremiah to “stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” We are active in our churches and keep abreast of ecclesiastical events and current literature.
In the early eighteenth century, William Law described a person of similar interests in his book A Serious Call to the Devout and Holy Life. He called this person Eusebius and contrasted him with Leo, a generous, good-natured person who cares little for anything religious. As Mr. Law wrote: “Eusebius, on the other hand, has had many early impressions of religion, and buys books of devotion. He can talk of all the feasts and fasts of the Church, and knows the names of most men that have been eminent for piety. You never hear him swear, or make a loose jest; and when he talks of religion, he talks of it as a matter of the last [i.e., utmost] concern.”
Eusebius, I submit, would make a good Touchstone reader. However, he is not given accolades by Mr. Law. “Here you see,” he continues, “that one person has religion enough, according to the way of the world, to be reckoned a pious Christian, and the other is so far from all appearance of religion, that he may fairly be reckoned a Heathen; and yet if you look into their common life; if you examine their chief and ruling tempers in the greatest articles of life, or the greatest doctrines of Christianity, you will not find the least difference imaginable.”
The “greatest doctrines of Christianity” that Law refers to are not positions on women’s ordination, the infallibility of Scripture, or even abortion. They are more fundamental than that.
“Now if you consider Leo and Eusebius,” he adds, “you will find them exactly alike, seeking, using, and enjoying, all that can be got in this world in the same manner, and for the same ends. You will find that riches, prosperity, pleasures, indulgences, state equipages, and honor, are just as much the happiness of Eusebius as they are of Leo. And yet, if Christianity has not changed a man’s mind and temper with relation to these things, what can we say that it has done for him?”
Of course, William Law is not condemning Eusebius for his interests in the Church. Such things are well and good. He is rather arguing that a devout Christian should be of a different mind and have a completely different orientation than his unbelieving neighbor. Concern about the state of the Church is noble, but we are called to devote our lives to Jesus. Anything that distracts us from that is superfluous.
“Law is not condemning Eusebius for his interests in the Church. . . . He is rather arguing that a devout Christian should be of a different mind and have a completely different orientation than his unbelieving neighbor.”