William Wilberforce’s two great objects
- The Repression of Slave Trade
- The Reformation of the Culture
This is part two of my posts about from Eric Metaxas’ lecture about William Wilberforce. For part one just scroll down a page.
The movie Amazing Grace brought William Wilberforce back to our attention his work for abolishing the slave trade. His work for the Reformation of Culture should not go unnoticed either. By Reformation of Culture, Mextaxas said, “he meant everything else.” He worked for the renewal and reformation of all of culture.
Wilberforce was not only a powerful politician but he was very influential in the culture. Remember, he said, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects…” He definitely felt called of God to work for renewal of his culture from a biblical worldview.
After 20 brutal years of politics, Wilberforce was finally successful in the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. It was not just the slave traders and the politicians they had bought that were arrayed against him. He battled demonic powers. “Finally, receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty strength. Put on all the armor that God supplies. In this way you can take a stand against the devil’s strategies. This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world.” (Ephesians 6:10–12, GW)
A biblical worldview is how one sees the world (culture) and how one lives or behaves in this world. If Christianity is just doctrine it affects us, but Christianity is a person, Jesus Christ, and Christ changes us! Wilberforce loved his enemies as Christ taught us. He had a grace about him that was steeped in love. He knew that faith was more than just what was right and wrong.
Although he fought passionately, he worked with people on both sides of the aisle. The way you approached an issue had to look and smell like Jesus Christ too. He was known for possessing a sarcastic and cutting wit. He had the power to sweep his opponents under the rug. When he became a Christian he bridled that. It was important to set a Christ like tone. He worked with Charles Fox (http://bit.ly/LIYnCd) knowing that like Fox, Wilberforce too was a sinner.
Humility was as much a reason for his ability to prevail as much as anything else. He was first and foremost a Christian and secondly a member of his political party. Dueling was popular in Great Britain at this time. He was offended by it, thought it was selfish and took a bold stand against it. His dear friend Pitt had consented to a duel. He spoke about it knowing it would hurt his friend but had to speak out.
The lesson here for us is you cannot get into bed with one political party. There are people on both sides of the aisle who are thinking Christians. Speaking truth consistently and humbly gives us credibility.
[At this point I asked Metaxas who were politicians today that spoke with the grace of Wilberforce. He immediately named three. Frank Wolfe, Rick Santorium and Mike Huckabee.]
Wilberforce’s health suffered tremendously. At age 48 he was already an old man. He received constant death threats.
He became a leader in vast way. Working from a biblical worldview along with the Clapham Sect for a godly view on government, poverty, crime, prison reform, and world missions. In London around this time 25% of all single women were prostitutes. The average age of these women was only sixteen. Drunkenness was an enormous public menace. For the rich it was claret and for the poor it was gin.
At one point his name was on the role of 69 societies helping or needing attention.
At a later time, I’ll write about the Clapham Sect. It’s questionable whether Wilberforce would have been as successful if wasn’t for the Clapham Sect. Would any of us be able to achieve anything of temporal or eternal importance if it wasn’t for our partnership with others?
Three days before he dies, Wilberforce is told that slavery has been abolished in Great Britain.
When he dies in 1833 the culture has changed dramatically. Great Britain has gone from a profoundly broken culture to the point where it is now “fashionable” to do good. The idea of using your wealth to help the poor, to help the indigent, it was the beginning of the Victorian Era.
John Wesley wrote these words to Wilberforce just a few days before he died, “Certainly what you are doing is impossible, but if God be for you nothing is impossible.”
“[Jesus] replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”” (Luke 18:27, NLT)
I’d recommend Eric’s book to you Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery for your Summer Reading. It will be inspirational lakeside reading or by the campfire at night. Do you remember President George H. W. Bush’s speech about a thousand points of light? Imagine what our world will be like as each of us participate becoming salt and light, loving and forgiving, working tirelessly for the glory of God and the good of our communities. Many years ago, I read how the least influential among us will influence at least five people to be just like us. Your influence is much greater than you imagine. Boldly approach God’s throne of grace and ask him to use you. The rewards are great! Hey, I believe in you! But of far more importance is God is working in you to will and do his good pleasure! Peace!
Questions to Consider
- Do you have a Biblical Worldview?
- Do you know what God has set before you?
- Are able to distinguish truth from half-truths, disinformation, labeling etc?
- Can you work with people from both sides of the aisle politically with the grace and love of Jesus? Other religions who share public and private values?
- Where are you making a bold public stand for the good of your community locally? How will your community be better for your having lived in it?
- What kind of heroes are you telling your children about?