“In other words, offending God is the essential consideration, not killing man or imperiling a nation. That is what made Wilberforce tick. He was not a political pragmatist. He was a radically God-centered Christian who was a politician. And his true affections for God based on the ‘peculiar doctrines’ of Christianity were the roots of his endurance in the cause of justice”
John Piper: The Amazing Grace In The Life Of William Wilberforce
Life of William Wilberforce (1757-1833)
Against great obstacles William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian and a member of Parliament, fought for the abolition of the African slave trade and against slavery itself until they were both illegal in the British Empire.
William Wilberforce was an English politician who became the voice of the abolition movement in Parliament. He was a slightly built man, about five foot three in height, and suffered from bouts of bad health.
At the age of 21, Wilberforce was elected to Parliament. He was well suited to politics, as he was an extremely eloquent speaker and very witty. In 1783, he met James Ramsay and, for the first time, discussed slavery.
Around 1784-86, he underwent a gradual but 'intense religious conversion' whilst travelling with a friend. He considered leaving Parliament but his friend and mentor, John Newton, advised him againt this; so, instead, he decided to serve God in public life.
After his conversion to evangelical Christianity, he gave up his racehorse, gambling and attendance at clubs. His new beliefs affected his public life. Before, he had usually voted with Pitt but now he was guided by his conscience.
He and his evangelical friends were nicknamed "the Saints" by upper class circles but he won widespread respect. He championed many causes but it was the fight against the Slave Trade and slavery that he worked most tirelessly for. His interest was rekindled by a letter from Sir Charles Middleton, suggesting he should represent the cause in Parliament. William Pitt also encouraged him to take up the cause.
From 1789, Wilberforce regularly introduced bills in Parliament to ban the Slave Trade. He was fiercely opposed by those making fortunes from the trade, who used all kinds of delaying tactics.
The first time a bill was introduced, Wilberforce lost the debate by 163 votes to 88 but he never gave up. A bill to cease the trade was passed by the House of Commons in 1792 .
In his late 30's, Wilberforce married Barbara Spooner (also an evangelical Christian). He remained devoted to her throughout his life.
Finally on 25th March, 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished the Slave Trade in the British colonies. It was carried by 267 votes. The house rose to its feet and cheered wildly.
However, this was not a vote to abolish slavery as a whole throughout the Empire, just the trade in enslaved people. William Wilberforce continued to work for the abolition of all slavery within the British Colonies.
On the 26th July, 1833, the Abolition of Slavery bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. A messenger rushed to Wilberforce's house. They told him that slavery in British colonies would finally be abolished. Just three days later, on 29th July, William Wilberforce died.
About the book
John Piper concentrates in his book “The Amazing Grace In The Life Of William Wilberforce” on the essence of Wilberforce, in the cornerstone of his being and the truth that guided his personal and political life, his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior.
The actual events of his life are glanced through but what is found truly interesting are the reasons behind his actions.
For a person wanting to familiarize themselves with the historical events of Wilberforce’s life, his career in British Parliament or his role in the abolishment of slave trade and slavery in Britain this is not the book to do it.
This is the book for the person who wants to learn about the most important thing in Wilberforce’s life, his faith in God.
Many are aware of Wilberforce's role in bringing an end to slavery in Great Britain, but few have taken the time to examine the beliefs and motivations that spurred him on for decades.
In this concise volume, John Piper tells the story of how Wilberforce was transformed from an unbelieving, young politician into a radically God-centered Christian, and how his deep spirituality helped to change the moral outlook of a nation.
John Piper also tells us about the convictions that made Wilberforce the foremost opponent of slavery and slave trade at a moment when it was an unpopular choice and he was going against everyone else.
Even when it seemed impossible to ever happen.
In the book, Piper provides countless reports from both friends and enemies who received great encouragement from Wilberforce's company, and how his testimony of Christ was immediately evident even on his countenance.
As one of his political detractors once quipped, "His mirth is contagious, regularly transforming the devious and manipulative nature of the political environment."
Behind all his work was Wilberforce’s firm belief that God had put him into a special place in the society to be able to change it and its morals.
As he writes in his diary on Oct. 28, 1787,"God Almighty has placed before me two great objects, the Suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [morals]."
Wilberforce had the responsibility to fight for this change and follow the mandate God had given him.
Through his faithfulness thousands’ of people’s life was changed for better and huge injustice corrected.
"Therefore, in all our zeal today for racial harmony, or the sanctity of human life, or the building of a moral culture, let us not forget these lessons: Never minimize the central place of God-centered, Christ-exalting doctrine; labor to be indomitably joyful in all that God is for us in Christ by trusting his great finished work; and never be idle in doing good--that men may see our good deeds and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16)."
John Piper in last paragraph of “The Amazing Grace In The Life Of William Wilberforce”