1599) William Wilberforce

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By Eric Metaxas and Stan Guthrie, http://www.breakpoint.org, August 24, 2017

     English parliamentarian William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a true giant of the faith.  After his dramatic conversion to Jesus in 1785, Wilberforce made three consequential decisions that changed the world: first, to stay in politics, at a time when the conventional wisdom held that politics was too dirty a business for Christians; second, to work for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain; and third, to work for what he called “the reformation of manners” in a society that was scraping bottom morally.

     So, how bad was it?  Well, besides the dehumanizing brutality of the slave trade, British society in the late 1700s and early 1800s was reeling from rampant alcoholism, horrible child labor abuses, prostitution, and even mistreatment of animals through “pastimes” such as bear-baiting.  If you think today’s American degradation sets some kind of record, look at the pre-Victorian era in England.

     Wilberforce had his work cut out for him—and, work he did.  Tirelessly.  He could not stand idly by and see the image of God in abused in anyone.  His fiercely unpopular crusade against the slave trade ravaged his health and cost him politically.  He endured verbal assaults and was even challenged to a duel by an angry slave-ship captain.

     But Wilberforce didn’t stop there.  He fought for prison reform and founded or supported over 60 charities.  He founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and he championed the British and Foreign Bible Society.

     Western culture needs men and women like William Wilberforce, whose faith was translated into persistent action.  Certainly we need to be reminded that all of us, no matter our race or religion, are equal in dignity, and that racism and other forms of bigotry are an obscenity in God’s world.  Wilberforce never wavered on this point and was a brave and sometimes lonely voice that fought against the spiral of silence in a corrupted culture.

     Yes, Wilberforce was a fighter, but he had the faith to fight differently.  He even treated his enemies with decency and respect.  And he often worked with those who disagreed with him on other issues.  For him, politics wasn’t simply about “winning.”  It was about seeing what others could not see and standing up for the glory of God and the good of his neighbors— even those who were bound in chains and carried away from home in the dank bowels of a slave ship.

     William Wilberforce, though born 258 years ago August 24th, remains a man for our time: a time when racism slithers back into our national discourse, political polarization takes over, and when the culture seems headed for the abyss.  While we can’t bring Wilberforce back, we can celebrate and emulate him.

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I am disturbed when I see the majority of so-called Christians having such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess.  Faith is a subject of such importance that we should not ignore it because of the distractions or the hectic pace of our lives.

Life as we know it, with all its ups and downs, will soon be over.  We all will give an accounting to God of how we have lived.

–William Wilberforce

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Romans 12:1-2  —  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God— this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

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Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

–Frances Havergal, 1874