In the next couple of weeks in our blog series, we are going to be looking at Christianity in everyday living. The goal of this series is to zoom into every day matters (i.e. driving, music, social justice) in our world, on a street level from a practical point, with biblical wisdom. In introduction to the series this week, we are going to flash back to the 1700’s and consider William Wilberforce.
William Wilberforce was born into a prominent family in 1759. His parents had no understanding of Christianity. Due to his father’s death and mother’s illness, he went to live with an uncle and aunt. This godly couple introduced him to a number of Christians. While he was a student at St. John’s College, Cambridge, he was popular but worldly. Shortly after graduation he was elected to Parliament. Wilberforce was well fitted for this vocation with his oratorical skills, outgoing personality and logical thinking. Yet, a key element that should be the foundation for all political thought was still to come.
On a long trip to Cambridge, Wilberforce was accompanied by a Christian friend. Through long conversations, gospel seed was sown and soon bore fruit in his conversion. Encouraged to continue in his vocation by John Newton, Wilberforce began to live out Christianity in and outside the doors of Parliament. He openly sought to apply public policy in view of Christianity.
His goals were not thwarted by the dread of insurmountable foes, the possibility of a lengthy fight, or the fear of being misquoted by his opponents. He began his anti-slavery fight in 1789. Amazingly, the victory he desired was not won until 1833. He fought for twenty years to get Britain to introduce Christian missions into India.
Standing for Truth
Wilberforce was not simply concerned with laws being passed. He wanted to see consistent change in his countrymen’s character. In writing, conversation, philanthropic endeavours, and by example, he sought to stress the importance of living life in view of God’s word, beginning with the necessity of conversion. His political standpoints often came at great cost. Even in this he showed the importance of standing on ultimate truth without fear of temporary loss.
Wilberforce’s family life was marked by humility and love. This was vividly highlighted when he resigned his Parliament seat to spend more time with his children. He exemplified spiritual leadership in teaching family members daily from Scripture and in seeking to regularly observe the Lord’s Day.
In our culture, Christianity is ebbing on many fronts. It is enlightening and encouraging to read of the impact individual Christians have made, by God’s grace, in bygone days.
Wilberforce was a sinner saved by grace. He was not concerned about being politically correct or keeping his Christianity private. These are great reminders for modern believers.
I would recommend that you read William Wilberforce’s only book: A Practical View of Christianity. It is most important to observe how God has worked through His people to bring change in society. It should motivate readers and their families to consistently stand, both in public and private, on the knowledge that God will accomplish His purposes in His time.
“But no man has a right to be idle. Not to speak of that great work which we all have to accomplish, and surely the whole attention of a short and precarious life is not more than an eternal interest may well require; where is it that, in such a world as this, health, and leisure, and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate?” William Wilberforce
Hero for Humanity: A Biography of William Wilberforce by Kevin Belmonte
A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System by William Wilberforce