Law, Edmund

, bishop of Carlisle, was born in the parish of Cartmel in Lancashire, in 1703. His father, who was a clergyman, held a small chapel in that neighbourhood, but the family had been situated at Askham, in the county of Westmoreland. He was educated for some time at Cartmel school, afterwards at the free grammar-school at Kendal; from which he went, very well instructed ia the learning of grammar-schools, to St. John’s college, Cambridge. He took his bachelor’s degree in 1723, and soon after ‘was elected fellow of Christ’s-college in that university, where he took his master’s degree in 1727. During his residence here, he became known to the public by a translation of archbishop King’s (see William King) “Essay upon the Origin of Evil,” with copious notes; in which many metaphysical subjects, curious and interesting in their own nature, are treated of with great | ingenuity, learning, and novelty. To this work was prefixed, under the name of a “Preliminary Dissertation,” a very valuable piece written by Mr. Gay of Sidney-college. Our bishop always spoke of this gentleman in terms of the greatest respect. “In the Bible, and in the writings of Locke, no man,” he used to say, “was so well versed.

Mr. Law also, whilst at Christ’s-college, undertook and went through a very laborious part, in preparing for the press, an edition of “Stephens’s Thesaurus.” His acquaintance, during his first residence in the university, was principally with Dr. Waterland, the learned master of Magdalen-college; Dr. Jortin, a name known to every scholar; and Dr. Taylor, the editor of Demosthenes.

In 1737 he was presented by the university to the living of Graystock, in the county of Cumberland, a rectory of about 300l. a year. The advowson of this benefice belonged to the family of Howards of Graystock, but devolved to the university for this turn, by virtue of an act of parliament, which transfers to these two bodies the nomination to such benefices as appertain, at the time of the vacancy, to the patronage of a Roman catholic. The right, however, of the university was contested, and it was not until after a lawsuit of two years continuance, that Mr. Law was settled in his living. Soon after this he married Mary, the daughter of John Christian, esq. of Unerigg, in the county of Cumberland; a lady, whose character is remembered with tenderness and esteem by all who knew her. In 1743 he was promoted by sir George Fleming, bishop of Carlisle, to the archdeaconry of that diocese; and in 1746 went from Graystock to settle at Salkeld, a pleasant village upon the banks of the river Eden, the rectory of which is annexed to the archdeaconry; but he was not one of those who lose and forget themselves in the country. During his residence at Salkeld, he published “Considerations on the Theory of Religion” to which were subjoined, “Reflections on the Life and Character of Christ;” and an appendix concerning the use of the words soul and spirit in the Holy Scripture, and the state of the dead there described.

Dr. Keene held at this time with the bishopric of Chester, the mastership of Peter-house, in Cambridge. Desiring to leave the university, he procured Dr. Law to be elected to succeed him in that station. This took place in 1756, in which year Dr. Law resigned his archdeaconry | in favour of Mr. Eyre, a brother-in-law of Dr. Keene. Two years before this (the list of graduates says 1749) he had proceeded to his degree of D. D., in his public exercise for which, he defended the doctrine of what is usually called the “sleep of the soul,” a tenet to which we shall have occasion to revert hereafter. About 1760 he was appointed head librarian of the university; a situation which, as it procured an easy and quick access to books, was peculiarly agreeable to his taste and habits. Some time after this he was appointed casuistical professor. In 1762 he suffered an irreparable loss by the death of his wife; a loss in itself every way afflicting, and rendered more so by the situation of his family, which then consisted of eleven children, many of them very young. Some years afterwards he received several preferments, which were rather honourable expressions of regard from his friends, than of much advantage to his fortune. By Dr. Cornwallis, then bishop of Lichfield, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, xvho had been his pupil at Christcollege, he was appointed to the archdeaconry of Staffordshire, and to a prebend in the church of Lichfield. By his old acquaintance Dr. Green, bishop of Lincoln, he was made a prebendary of that church. But in 1767, by the intervention of the duke of Newcastle, to whose interest, in the memorable contest for the high stewardship of the university, he had adhered in opposition to some temptations, he obtained a stall in the church of Durham. The year after this, the duke of Grafton, who had a short time before been elected chancellor of the university, recommended the master of Peterhouse to his majesty for the bishopric of Carlisle. This recommendation was made, not only without solicitation on his part, or that of his friends, but without his knowledge, until the duke’s intention in his favour was signified to him by the archbishop.

In or about 1777, our bishop gave to the public a handsome edition, in 3 vols. 4to, of the works of Mr. Locke, with a life of the author, and a preface. Mr. Locke’s writings and character he held in the highest esteem, and seems to have drawn from them many of his own principles; he was a disciple of that school. About the same time he published a tract which engaged some attention in the controversy concerning subscription; and he published new editions of his two principal works, with considerable additions, and some alterations. Besides the works | already mentioned, he published, in 1734 or 1735, a very ingenious “Inquiry into the Ideas of Space, Time,” &c. in which he combats the opinions of Dr. Clarke and his adherents on these subjects.

Dr. Law held the see of Carlisle almost nineteen years; during which time he twice only omitted spending the summer months in his diocese at the bishop’s residence at Hose Castle; a situation with which he was much pleased, not only on account of the natural beauty of the place, but because it restored him to the country, in which he had spent the best part of his life. In 1787 he paid this visit in a state of great weakness and exhaustion; and died at Rose about a month after his arrival there, on Aug. 14, and in the eighty-fourth year of his age.

The life of Dr. Law was a life of incessant reading: and thought, almost entirely directed to metaphysical and religious inquiries; but the tenet by which his name and writings are principally distinguished, is, “that Jesus Christ, at his second coming, will, by an act of his power, restore to life and consciousness the dead of the human species; who by their own nature, and without this interposition, would remain in the state of insensibility to which the death brought upon mankind by the sin of Adam had reduced them.” He interpreted literally that saying of St. Paul, I. Cor. xv. 21. “As by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” This opinion, Dr. Paley says, had no other effect upon his own mind, than to increase his reverence for Christianity, and for its divine founder. He retained it, as he did his other speculative opinions, without laying, as many are wont to do, an extravagant stress upon their importance, and without pretending to more certainty than the subject allowed of. No man formed his own conclusions with more freedom, or treated those of others with greater candour and equity. He never quarrelled with any person for differing from him, or considered that difference as a sufficient reason for questioning any man’s sincerity, or judging meanly of his understanding. He was zealously attached to religious liberty, because he thought that it leads to truth; yet from his heart he loved peace. But he did not perceive any repugnancy in these two things. There was nothing in his elevation to his bishopric which he spoke of with more pleasure, than its being a proof that decent freedom of inquiry was not discouraged. | He was a man of great softness 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; it preserved the same kind and composed aspect, truly indicating the calmness and benignity of his temper. He had an utter dislike of large and mixed companies. Next to his books, his chief satisfaction was in the serious conrersation of a literary companion, or in the company of a few friends. In this sort of society he would open his rnind with great unreservedness, and with a peculiar turn and sprightliness of expression. His person was low, but well formed; his complexion fair and delicate. Except occasional interruptions by the gout, he had for the greatest part of his life enjoyed good health; and when not confined by that distemper, was full of motion and activity. About nine years before his death, he’was greatly enfeebled by a severe attack of the gout, and in a short time after that, lost the use of one of his legs. Notwithstanding his fondness for exercise, he resigned himself to this change, not only without complaint, but without any sensible diminution of his cheerfulness and good humour. His fault was the general fault of retired and studious characters, too great a degree of inaction and facility in his public station. The modestj, or rather bashfulness of his nature, together with an extreme unwillingness to give pain, rendered him sometimes less firm and efficient in the administration of authority than was requisite. But it is the condition of human nature. There is an opposition between some virtues, which seldom permits them to subsist together in perfection. Bishop Law was interred in the cathedral of Carlisle, in which a handsome monument is erected to his memory. Of his family, his second son, John, bishop of Elphin, died in 1810; and his fourth son, Edward, is now lord Ellenborough, chief-justice of the king’s-bench. 1


Life by Dr. Paley, written for Hutchinson’s Hist. of Durham, and which we have not altered, although we are not of opinion that Dr. Law' tenets were all of the mere speculative and harmless kind.