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William Law

Law, William, 1686–1761, English clergyman, noted for his controversial, devotional, and mystical writings. One of the nonjurors, Law was deprived of his fellowship in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and lost all chances for advancement in the church. Unexcelled among the controversialists of his day, he was also a leading devotional writer. In the former role he wrote Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor (1717–19) in the Bangorian Controversy, and The Case of Reason (1731), in reply to Matthew Tindal, the deist. In the field of devotional writings, few books have been given so high a place as his Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728). Its influence was acknowledged by John Wesley. In The Spirit of Prayer (1750) and The Spirit of Love (1754) is discernible the influence of Law's study of Jakob Boehme, the mystic. Law's collected works (9 vol., 1753–76) were edited by G. B. Morgan in 1892–93.

See biography by J. H. Overton (1881); W. R. Inge, Studies of English Mystics (1906); S. Hobhouse, William Law and Eighteenth Century Quakerism (1927); J. B. Green, John Wesley and William Law (1945).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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