Standard Article

Law, William (1686–1761)

  1. Peter Lineham

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0795

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Lineham, P. 2011. Law, William (1686–1761). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


William Law was born into a prosperous family in King's Cliffe, Northamptonshire, England, in 1686. He entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1705, and graduated in 1708. He was ordained and elected to a fellowship at the university in 1711, but after offending the authorities in 1713, he declined to swear allegiance to George I in 1716 and was evicted from his fellowship. He thus became one of the Nonjurors, a group of separatist High Church Anglicans. He attacked Dr Benjamin Hoadly, the latitudinarian bishop, in his first publication, Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor (1717), insisting that church authority should be based on apostolicity. He wrote an attack on Mandeville's satire on Christian moral principles, Fable of the Bees, arguing that the moral sense could not be reduced to naturalistic logic. In 1726 he wrote a pamphlet attacking “Stage-Entertainment,” and in 1732 wrote a reply to the deist writer Matthew Tindal, The Case of Reason. About 1727 he was appointed as tutor to Edward Gibbon, the father of the classical historian, and lived at Putney until the death of Gibbon in 1736. He then returned to King's Cliffe for the rest of his life. His household included Mrs. Hutcheson and Hester Gibbon (the sister of his previous employer).


  • Law, William (1686–1761);
  • nonjurors, separatist high church anglicans;
  • defense of the oxford methodists;
  • law's christian perfection and serious call;
  • mystical theology