Law, William

Law, William an eminent English nonjuring divine and able religious writer of the mystic school of the last century, was born at Kingscliffe, Northamptonshire, in 1686, and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he took his degree of M.A. in 1712, and became fellow in 1713. Shortly after this he began to preach, but was obliged to quit the ministry, and also to give up his fellowship, on the accession of George I in 1714, because of his refusal to take the required oath. He now became tutor to his relative and friend, Edward Gibbon, father of the historian, who speaks of his piety and talents with unusual warmth. Later, two of his friends, Miss Hester Gibbon, sister of his pupil, and Mrs. Hutcheson, widow of a London barrister, having resolved to retire from the world, and devote themselves to works of charity and a religious life, selected Law for their almoner and instructor. He accepted the position, and the three parties settled in a house at Kingscliffe, where Law died, April 9, 1761. Law's writings are tinged with what is commonly called mysticism, as he became an ardent follower of the noted mystic, Jacob Bohme. His principal work, and, indeed, one of the best books of the kind, is his Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1729), a treatise that first awakened the religious sensibilities of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who speaks of it in high terms, and from which the brothers Wesley also derived much advantage. Next to the Serious Call, his most important works are his answer to Mandeille's able of the Bees (published in 1724, republished. with an introduction by the Reverend F.D. Maurice, in 1844), his letters to the bishop of Bangor, The Way to Knowledge, and The Spirit of Love. A collective edition of his works was published at London in 9 volumes, 8vo in 1762. It has fallen to the lot of but few English writers to elicit such general comment and commendation as has been the fortune of William Law. The rationalistic Gibbon, the liberal Macaulay, the pious John Wesley, and the morose Sam. Johnson, all were of one mind in their praise of William Law. See Richard Tighe, Life and Writings Of William Law (1813, 8vo); Lond. Gent. Mag. volume 70; Theol. Eclectic, Jan. 1868; Contemporary Review, October 1867; Christiaen Examiner, 1869, page 157; Chambers, Cyclopo. 5; Allibone, Dict. of British and American Authors, 2:1065 sq.

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