Monday, April 9, 2012

William Law, Nonjuror

William Law died on April 9, 1761. He was one of the second wave of Non-Jurors in the Church of England. The first wave, those who refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy to William and Mary after James II was deposed in 1689, included Thomas Ken and the Archbishop of Canterbury. This second wave included those who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the new Hanoverian dynasty, specifically to King George I, Lutheran Elector of Hanover. According to this website:

William Law, born in 1686, became a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1711, but in 1714, at the death of Queen Anne, he became a non-Juror: that is to say, he found himself unable to take the required oath of allegiance to the Hanoverian dynasty (who had replaced the Stuart dynasty) as the lawful rulers of the United Kingdom, and was accordingly ineligible to serve as a university teacher or parish minister. He became for ten years a private tutor in the family of the historian Edward Gibbon (who, despite his generally cynical attitude toward all things Christian, invariably wrote of Law with respect and admiration), and then retired to his native King's Cliffe. Forbidden the use of the pulpit and the lecture-hall, he preached through his books. These include Christian Perfection, The Spirit of Love, The Spirit of Prayer, and, best-known of all, A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life, published in 1728. The thesis of this last book is that God does not merely forgive our disobedience, he calls us to obedience, and to a life completely centered in Him. He says: "If you will here stop and ask yourself why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but because you never thoroughly intended it."

The latter book was very influential--guiding Samuel Johnson, John and Charles Wesley, and William Wilberforce to lives of service and devotion. More here.

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