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William Law (1686-1761)

William Law was the son of a Northamptonshire grocer. He was educated at Emmanuel College Cambridge and was elected to a fellowship in 1711, the same year that he was ordained into the Anglican ministry. Law was a fervent supporter of the Stuart claim to the throne and refused to take the oath of alleigance to King George I upon his accession in 1714.

Law was a prolific writer and talented controversialist. He is best known for his series of treatises on Christian Perfection, the first of which appeared in 1726. These had a tremendous influence on the early evangelicals.

In 1727 Law was appointed tutor to Edward Gibbon, father of the famous historian. He made a favourable impression on the Gibbon family and remained in residence at their home in Putney after his charge left college and went on a tour of

Law left Putney in the late 1730s and moved first to Somerset Gardens, near the Strand in London, and then in 1740 to his native village of King's Cliffe. Law had established a Girls' school there in 1727 and in 1745 a wealthy admirer Mrs Hutchinson added a school for boys. Hutchinson and another gentlewoman Miss Hester Gibbon settled close by King's Cliffe and devoted their substantial private incomes to carrying out Law's instructions regarding charitable giving, as set out in one of his best-known works a 'Serious Call' published in 1728. Alms houses were also added to the community and it became a magnet for destitute people from miles around — much to the chagrin of some of Law's neighbours.

Law continued his writing, authoring for example an attack on Bishop Warburton in 1757. He died after a short illness in April 1761.

Source: Dictionary of National Biography

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