William Wilberforce (One Person Makes A Difference)
“Do it with the strength God provides.” 1Pe 4:11 NIV
William Wilberforce grew up as a child of privilege, attending Cambridge University. Two weeks after his 21st birthday he was elected to Parliament, where he became a brilliant orator and politician.
Then he met John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” A former slave ship captain, Newton had found Christ, repented of his old life and become a minister. Upon meeting Newton, seeds were sown in Wilberforce’s heart that were destined to change history.
In 1787, Wilberforce initiated a campaign to make Great Britain aware of the atrocities of slavery and vote for its abolition. It was a fierce fight. Besides politicians and industrialists, religious leaders who had their own slaves opposed him.
From his deathbed John Wesley wrote to Wilberforce: “If God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O, be not weary in well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”
Wilberforce persevered because he knew what was at stake: the lives of millions of people. Finally, on February 23, 1807, the Slave Trade Act outlawing traffic in slaves was passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 283 to 16.
Twenty-six years later, near the end of Wilberforce’s life, slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire. Shortly thereafter, it was abolished in the United States.
How did it happen? Because one man decided to live by the principle, “Through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13 NKJV).
(The story of William Wilberforce and the attempt to end slavery in the United Kingdom is told in the 2007 file AMAZING GRACE.)
William Wilberforce’s biographer, Eric Metaxas, points out that the abolition of the British slave trade had even greater implications:
“We had suddenly entered a world in which we would never again ask whether it was our responsibility as a society to help the poor and suffering. We would only quibble about how…Once this idea was loosed upon the world, the world changed. Slavery and the slave trade would soon be largely abolished, but many lesser social evils would be abolished too. For the first time in history, groups sprang up for every possible social cause.”
That’s why Metaxas calls Wilberforce “The greatest social reformer in the history of the world.” Metaxas goes on to say: “The world he was born into in 1759 and the world he departed in 1833 were as different as lead and gold. Wilberforce presided over a social earthquake that rearranged the continents, and whose magnitude we are only now beginning to fully appreciate.”
During his first years in Parliament, Wilberforce wined and dined each night and was touted as the “the wittiest man in all of England.”
Looking back on it he wrote, “For the first years I was in Parliament I did nothing-nothing of any purpose.”
But in committing to Christ he discovered his life’s purpose. It was not about achieving personal greatness, but about serving others.
Today, go out of your way to help, bless and serve someone. If you do, when you get to the end of the day you’ll feel good about yourself. And God will feel good about you too!
– from a daily devotional