Famed British politician William Wilberforce thought about getting out of the “dirty world” of politics when he became a Christian, according to Eric Metaxas on his Breakpoint radio broadcast today, Monday, May 6. Fortunately, he decided to stay in politics and he changed the world as a result.
Wilberforce used his charismatic personality to earn a seat in Parliament at an early age. However, before he changed the world for the better, he ate, drank and gambled his nights away as a member of exlclusive social clubs. A member of the privileged class he probably would have felt right at home on the hit British period drama Downton Abbey.
In fact, he probably would’ve run in the same social circles as the family who inhabits Downton Abbey in the beautiful English countryside. He and the debonair Matthew Crawley and Lord Grantham probably would’ve probably “hung out” together.
But the happy-go-lucky, charming Wilberforce had an “on the road to Damascus” sort of transformation when he went on vacation with a friend by the name of Isaac Milner, a Christian believer. Serious discussions about faith ensued. The vacation did not turn out at all to be what Wilberforce had imagined it would be. Wilberforce became a follower of God and a disciple of Christ.
What should he do next though in the wake of this dramatic change in his inner core? Should he remain in the back-stabbing, smoke-filled rooms of politics or enter the ministry? He wondered if he couldn’t do a better job for Christ as a minister.
Wilberforce visited an old friend whose name today appears at the top of one of the classic hymns of all times…..Amazing Grace. John Newton was a former slave ship captain who had been somehow transformed into a hymn-writing preacher and evangelist. In other words he was a combination Billy Graham and George Beverly Shea.
One might expect a man like Newton who had immersed himself into a ministry of his own would encourage Wilberforce to follow his path. Instead, he advised him he might be able to do a lot of good in politics.
Later, Wilberforce would use his position in Parliament to fight child labor, alcoholism, animal cruelty, prostitution and slavery. These were all evils which permeated British society at the time.
Wilberforce lost many battles in the political realm over the next 20 years as he battled these evils on moral grounds in Parliament. He and his allies never surrrendered. In 1807 they succeeded in making the slave trade in England illegal.
Wilberforce became an extremely famous man, but more importantly he set an example of making goodness a respected goal at a time when the sun never set on the British Empire.
Any of my readers who want to read a worthwhile book about William Wilberforce should latch onto a copy of Eric Metaxas new book, “7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness.” Wilberforce is one of these seven men bestselling author Metaxas writes about in his book.
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