Edmund Law

Edmund Law

Infobox bishopbiog
name =Edmund Law

religion =Church of England
See =Carlisle
Title =Bishop of Carlisle
Period = 1768–1787
Predecessor = Charles Lyttelton
Successor =John Douglas
ordination =
bishops =
post =
date of birth = 6 June 1703
place of birth =Cartmel, Lancashire
date of death = 1787
place of death =Dalston, Cumbria
Anglican Portal

Rt Rev Edmund Law (1703-1787) was a priest in the Church of England. He served as bishop of Carlisle from 1768-1787. He was said to be a great personal influence on the intellectual development of Richard Watson, Bishop of Landaff.

Law was born in the parish of Cartmel in Lancashire on 6 June 1703. The bishop's father, Edmund Law, descended from a family of yeomen or "statesmen", long settled at Askham in Westmoreland, was son of Edmund Law, of Carhullan and Measand (will dated 1689), by his wife Elizabeth Wright of Measand. The bishop's father was curate of Staveley-in-Cartmel, and master of a small school there from 1693 to 1742. He married at Kendal 29 November 1701 Patience Langbaine, of the parish of Kirkby-Kendal, who was buried in Cartmel Churchyard. He seems on his marriage to have settled on his wife's property at Buck Crag, about four miles from Staveley. [Cumb. and Westm. Antiq. Soc. Trans. vii. [new ser.] 108–9] There his only son, Edmund - the future bishop, was born. The boy, educated first at Cartmel school, and afterwards at the free grammar school at Kendal, went to St. John's College, Cambridge. He earned his B.A. in 1723. Soon elected fellow of Christ's College, he proceeded M.A. in 1727. He was always an earnest student. At Cambridge his chief friends were Dr. Waterland, master of Magdalene College, Dr. Jortin, and Dr. John Taylor, the editor of Demosthenes.


His first literary work was his "Essay on the Origin of Evil", a translation of Archbishop William King's "De Origine Mali", which Law illustrated with copious notes in 1731. In 1734, while still at Christ's College, he prepared, in conjunction with John Taylor, T. Johnson, and Sandys Hutchinson, an edition of R. Stephens's "Thesaurus Linguæ Latinæ", and in the same year appeared his "Enquiry into the Ideas of Space and Time", an attack upon à priori proofs of the existence of God, in answer to a work by John Jackson entitled "The Existence and Unity of God proved from his Nature and Attributes". In 1737, he was presented with the living of Greystoke in Cumberland, the gift of which at this time devolved on the university, and soon afterwards he married Mary, the daughter of John Christian of Unerigg in Cumberland. In 1743, he was made archdeacon of the diocese of Carlisle, and in 1746 he left Greystoke for Great Salkeld, the rectory of which was annexed to the archdeaconry.

The work by which he is perhaps best known, "Considerations on the State of the World with regard to the Theory of Religion", was published by him at Cambridge in 1745. The main idea of the book is that the human race has been, and is, through a process of divine education, gradually and continuously progressing in religion, natural or revealed, at the same rate as it progresses in all other knowledge. In his philosophical opinions he was an ardent disciple of John Locke, in politics he was a whig, and as a priest he represented the most latitudinarian position of the day, but his Christian belief was grounded firmly on the evidence of miracles [cf. Theory, ed. 1820, p. 65 n.] The "Theory of Religion" went through many editions, being subsequently enlarged with "Reflections on the Life and Character of Christ", and an "Appendix concerning the use of the words Soul and Spirit in the Holy Scripture". Another edition, with Paley's life of the author prefixed, was published by his son, George Henry Law, then bishop of Chester, in 1820. A German translation, made from the fifth enlarged edition, was printed at Leipzig in 1771.

In 1754, Law advocated in his public exercise for the degree of D.D. his favourite doctrine that the soul, which in his view was not naturally immortal, passed into a state of sleep between death and the resurrection. This theory met with much opposition; it was, however, defended by Archdeacon Blackburne. Law became Master of Peterhouse on 12 November 1754, [ [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=66643#s11 The colleges and halls - Peterhouse | British History Online ] ] and at the same time resigned his archdeaconry. In 1760, he was appointed librarian, or rather proto-bibliothecarius, of the university of Cambridge, an office created in 1721, and first filled by Dr. Conyers Middleton, and in 1764 he was made Knightbridge professor of moral philosophy. [LUARD, Cat. Grad. Cant. p. 623] In 1763, he was presented to the archdeaconry of Staffordshire and a prebend in Lichfield Cathedral by his former pupil, Frederick Cornwallis; he received a prebend in Lincoln Cathedral in 1764, and in 1767, a prebendal stall in Durham Cathedral through the influence of the Duke of Newcastle. In 1768, Law was recommended by the Duke of Grafton, then chancellor of the university, to the bishopric of Carlisle. His friend and biographer, Paley, declares that Law regarded his elevation as a satisfactory proof that decent freedom of inquiry was not discouraged.

Bishop of Carlisle

In 1774, the bishop published anonymously an outspoken declaration in favour of religious toleration in a pamphlet entitled "Considerations on the Propriety of requiring Subscription to Articles of Faith". It was suggested by a petition presented to parliament in 1772, by Archdeacon Blackburne and others for the abolition of subscription, and Law argued that it was unreasonable to impose upon a clergyman in any church more than a promise to comply with its liturgy, rites, and offices, without exacting any profession of such minister's present belief, still less any promise of constant belief, in particular doctrines. The publication was attacked by Dr. Randolph of Oxford, and defended by "A Friend of Religious Liberty" in a tract attributed by some to Paley, and said to have been his first literary production. In 1777, the bishop published an edition of the "Works of Locke", in 4 vols., with a preface and a life of the author. Law also published several sermons. His interleaved Bible, with many manuscript notes, is preserved in the British Museum.

Death and legacy

He died at Rose Castle, in Dalston, Cumbria on 14 August 1787, in his eighty-fifth year. He was buried in the Carlisle Cathedral, where the inscription on his monument commemorates his zeal alike for Christian truth and Christian liberty, adding "religionem simplicem et incorruptam nisi salva libertate stare non posse arbitratus." His biographer, who knew him well, describes the bishop as "a man of great softnesse of manners, and of the mildest and most tranquil disposition. His voice was never raised above its ordinary pitch. His countenance seemed never to have been ruffled."

Law's wife predeceased him in 1772, leaving eight sons and four daughters. His eldest son, Edmund, died a young man; their four younger sons were John Law, bishop of Elphin, Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough, George Henry Law, bishop of Bath and Wells, and Thomas Law.

The bishop's portrait was three times painted by Romney: in 1777 for Sir Thomas Rumbolt; in 1783 for Dr. John Law, then bishop of Clonfert; and a half-length, without his robes, in 1787 for Edward Law, afterwards lord Ellenborough. [Memoirs of G. Romney, by Rev. J. Romney, 1830, pp. 188, 189]

See also

*List of bishops of Carlisle


* W. Paley, A short memoir of the life of Edmund Law (1800)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Edmund Law Lushington — Dr. Edmund Law Lushington was born on 10 January 1811 in Park House, Kent, England.He was the son of Edmund Henry Lushington (Bencher of the Inner Temple, Puisne Judge in Ceylon, Chairman and Chief Commissioner of the Colonial Audit Board, Master …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund Law Rogers Jr. — infobox actor birthdate=birth date|1850|7|1 birthplace=Baltimore, Maryland deathdate=death date and age|1893|12|19|1850|7|1 othername=Leslie Edmunds occupation=Stage actorEdmund Law Rogers, also known under the pseudonym Leslie Edmunds, was a… …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund H. Bennett — Edmund Hatch Bennett (April 6, 1824 January 2, 1898) was born in Manchester, Vermont, and served as a lawyer, judge, mayor, and Dean of Boston University School of Law. Family and education Conrad Reno in his memoir of New England judges recorded …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund Muskie — Edmund Sixtus Ed Muskie 58th United States Secretary of State In office May 8, 1980 – January 20, 1981 President Jimmy Carter Deputy Warren Christopher …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund Allen Meredith — (7 October 1817 ndash; 2 January 1899) was a Canadian politician and Principal of McGill University from 1846 to 1853. Early Life Born at Ardtrea, Co. Tyrone on 7 October, 1817, he was the fourth son of The Rev. Thomas Meredith (1777 1819) D.D.,… …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund Wilson, Sr. — Edmund Wilson, Sr. (December 15, 1863 – May 15, 1923) was an American lawyer who served as the Attorney General of New Jersey from 1908 until 1914. He was the father of literary critic Edmund Wilson. Wilson was born in Shrewsbury, New Jersey in… …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund Bonner —     Edmund Bonner     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Edmund Bonner     Bishop of London, b. about 1500; d. 1569. He was the son of Edmund Bonner, a sawyer of Potter s Henley in Worcestershire, England, and Elizabeth Frodsham. Doubt was cast on his… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March — Edmund de Mortimer, 5th Earl of March and 7th Earl of Ulster (6 November 1391 ndash; 18 January 1425)Tout, T. F. (1894)] was, while a young child, briefly heir presumptive to King Richard II of England.FamilyEdmund was son of Roger Mortimer, 4th… …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund Curll — ( c. 1675 December 11, 1747) was an English bookseller and publisher. His name has become synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity. Curll rose from poverty to wealth through his… …   Wikipedia

  • Edmund Dulac — (born Edmond Dulac , October 22, 1882 ndash; May 25, 1953Beetles, Ch.: [http://www.chrisbeetles.com/pictures/artists/Dulac Edmund/Dulac Edmund.htm Edmund Dulac] . URL last accessed 2007 11 24.] ) was a French book illustrator prominent during the …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.