Law, William

( 1686-1761 )
   theologian and writer whose ideas contributed to early Methodism
   William Law, a minister in the Church of England who wrote several classics of Protestant spiritual literature, was born at King's Cliffe, Northamptonshire. He became a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and was ordained in 1711.
   When George I (of the House of Hanover) succeeded to the throne in 1714, Law felt unable to take the required oath of allegiance to the new Hanoverian dynasty. As a nonjuror, he was unable to work as a university instructor or a parish minister. He became a private tutor for historian Edward Gibbon. After 10 years he retired.
   Denied access to pulpit and lecture hall, Law turned to writing; he produced a series of books including Christian Perfection, the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of Prayer, and, his most influential, A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life (1728). The thesis of the Call is that God, though he forgives disobedience, calls us to obedience and to a life completely centered in him.
   Law's works were just being published as John Wesley was maturing and launching Methodism. He developed a great appreciation for Law's writings, especially his treatise on Christian Perfection, and recommended them to his preachers.
   Law died on April 9, 1761.
   Further reading:
   ■ William Law, The Life and Works of William Law, 10 vols. (London: Thoemmes Continuum, 2000); , A Practical Treatise upon Christian Perfection (London: William & John Innys, 1726); , A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. Adapted to the State and Condition of All Orders of Christians (London: William Innys, 1729)
   ■ Arthur Keith Walker, William Law: His Life and Work (London: SPCK, 1973).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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