John Smith (1616-1652)
Smith was a native of Achurch, near Oundle in Northamptonshire. He entered Emmanuel as a sizar in 1636, and was a pupil of Benjamin Whichcote, who also helped him financially in his student days. After graduating M.A. in 1644 he was "intruded" as a fellow of Queens', along with seven others from Emmanuel, "they having bine examined and approved by the Assembly of Divines sitting in Westminster.. .as fitt to be fellowes". Though thus favoured by Parliament as a Puritan he was not a political figure. He made a deep impression, both by his learning in theology and oriental languages and by his spirituality, among the Cambridge Platonists. He was a man of extreme modesty, and as a preacher able and ready to accommodate his language even to a rustic congregation. He died at the early age of thirty-five, of consumption, and was buried in the chapel of Queens' College, to which he bequeathed his library. The praise lavished on him by Simon Patrick (later Bishop of Ely) in his funeral sermon has been echoed by later readers of his Select Discourses (1660), published after his death by John Worthington. His writing was admired both for its depth of thought and its eloquence of style by S.T.Coleridge and by Matthew Arnold.
John Smith is here depicted holding a scroll inscribed: RENOVARI IN AGNITIONEM SECUNDUM IMAGINEM CREATOR IS - "renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col.iii.10). In the background to the left is shown the gate-tower of Queens' College, and to the right the Athenian Acropolis, to symbolise the background of Greek philosophy which infused the theology of the Cambridge Platonists.
William Law (1686-1761)
Born at Kingscliffe, Northamptonshire, Law came to Emmanuel in 1705 and was elected a fellow in 1711. He was a deeply conscientious Jacobite, and is said always to have worn a ring with a portrait of the Old Pretender. After the accession of George I he declined the oath of allegiance and abjuration, which meant he could no longer hold a College fellowship, nor, though in holy orders, any ecclesiastical benefice. Between 1727 and 1737 he lived mainly at Putney, in the Gibbon family, where he was at first tutor to Edward Gibbon, the father of the historian. He left in that family "the reputation of a worthy and pious man, who believed all that he professed, and practised all that he enjoined". Later he retired to his native Kingscliffe, together with Miss Hester Gibbon and Mrs Archibald Hutcheson, to a life of seclusion and good works. His charity was denied to none, and he erected and endowed almshouses and schools in the village. For all his saintliness he might never have been known much beyond Kingscliffe, had he not been a writer of unusual distinction. His book A Serious Call to a devout and Holy Life is a classic of English devotional literature, and exerted an immense influence. It has been acutely suggested that its power and stimulus derive both from Law's sensitive understanding of human character, and (especially in his own time, the Age of Reason) from his method of representing the un-godly life as not merely sinful, but ridiculous, as a degradation of human intellect and potential excellence. In his other books he entered effectively into philosophical and religious controversies of the day, and in his later years was much influenced by the German mystic Jacob Boehmen. But it is the Serious Call which is his most enduring monument. Of it, Gibbon the historian wrote: "If he finds a spark of piety in his reader's mind he will soon kindle it to a flame"; Samuel Johnson declared it "the best piece of parenetick divinity"; and John and Charles Wesley acknowledged the impulse it gave at a formative period of their lives towards their later evangelical work.
Law is depicted holding a scroll inscribed: CREDITE IN LUCEM UT FILII LUCIS SITIS - "Believe in the light, that ye may become sons of light" (John xii.36). In the background, to the right, is seen Kingscliffe church, with part of the Hall Yard House where Law lived; and to the left the Petrikirche at Görlitz in Oberlausitz, near where Jacob Boehmen was born.
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