February 18, 2013

Amazing Grace in the life of William Wilberforce

This book, written by John Piper, is a short intro into the extraordinary life of William Wilberforce. It is broken up into these six chapters:

1. His Early Life
2. 'God Has Set Before Me Two Great Objects'
3. A Multitude of Christlike Causes
4. Extraordinary Endurance
5. The Deeper Root of Childlike Joy
6. The Gigantic Truths of the Gospel

Before the Civil War, which ended slavery in America, there was a brave man who fought for the freedom of the slave in England.

William Wilberforce was a member of the British Parliament between 1787-1833. He worked diligently for years to defeat slave trading as well as slavery in England and with God's help, he accomplished both.

Wilberforce said of his purpose in parliament:

"The grand object of my parliamentary existence...If it please God to know me so far may I be the instrument of stopping such a course of wickedness and cruelty as never before disgraced a Christian country."

John Piper says of Wilberforce:

"He was not a political pragmatist. He was a radically God-centered Christian who was a politician." 

Wilberforce was a wealthy man and when he became a Christian his view on money and power completely changed.

 Piper says here:

"One of the first manifestations of what he called 'the great change' - the conversion - was the contempt he felt for his wealth and the luxury he lived in...Seeds were sown almost immediately at the beginning of his Christian life, it seems, of the later passion to help the poor and to turn all his inherited wealth and his naturally high station into a means of blessing the oppressed."

Wilberforce said of riches:

"Considering them as in themselves, acceptable, but, from the infirmity of our nature, as highly dangerous possessions; and we are to value them chiefly not as instruments of luxury or splendor, but as affording the means of honoring our heavenly Benefactor, and lessening the miseries of mankind."

In the forward written by Jonathan Aithen, it states:

"The extraordinary tenacity he displayed over forty-six years of legislative warfare before the slave trade was abolished was an epic of Parliamentary perseverance."

Forty-six years! Now that is perseverance. What keep Wilberforce going? John Wesley (the great Methodist preacher) wrote to Wilberforce in 1791:

"Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of man and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you."

The book continues:

"...in 1800, on his forty-first birthday, as he rededicated himself to his calling, he prayed, 

'Oh Lord, purify my soul from all its stains. Warm my heart with the love of thee, animate my sluggish nature and fix my inconstancy, and volatility, that I may not be weary in well doing.' 

God answered that prayer, and the entire Western world may be glad that Wilberforce was granted constancy and perseverance in his labors, especially his endurance in the cause of justice against the sin of slavery and racism."

Piper talks about Wilberforce's source of joy which gave him the endurance to carry on in his fight. Saying here:

"There is a deeper root of Wilberforce's endurance than camaraderie. It is the root of childlike, child-loving, self-forgetting joy in Christ."

He later quotes Wilberforce:

"My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox churchmen...is, that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes, and thus the injunction to rejoice, so strongly enforced in the New Testament, is practically neglected, and Religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomily air and not one of peace and hope and joy."

How many people think of Christianity as a system of do's and don'ts? When in fact the gospel is full of peace, hope and joy!

Piper says here of what Wilberforce saw of the nominal Christians of his day:

"He saw that the nominal Christians of his day had the idea that 'morality is to be obtained by their own natural unassisted efforts: or if they admit some vague indistinct notion of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, it is unquestionably obvious on conversing with them that this does not constitute the main practical ground of their dependence.' They don't recognize what constitutes a true Christian - namely, his renouncing 'with indignation every idea of attaining it by his own strength. All his hopes of possessing it rest altogether on the divine assurances of the operation of the Holy Spirit, in those who cordially embrace the Gospel of Christ.'

Piper ends his book with the gospel and how Wilberforce lived his life by it. He ends it with this:

"The joy of the Lord became his strength (Neh. 8:10). And in this strength he pressed on in the cause of abolishing the slave trade until he had victory.

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)."

In 1807 slave trading was abolished, but it wasn't until 1833, 26 years later, that slavery itself was outlawed. Three months later Wilberforce went to be with the Lord. The mission God had called him too had been accomplished and now he is enjoying his reward. : )

Buy it HERE on Amazon


  1. The power of these quotes moved me to tears! Piper is one of my favorites. And Wilberforce is a man like no other. Having an African American daughter, His story of tenacity and perseverance really hits home. I love the line "Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of man and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you." God totally used this to speak to me today! Thanks for this powerful demonstration of the power, hope, & love of God.

  2. Loved that quote so much, just posted to my facebook! :) Thanks for UNITING! ~ jen

  3. Hi Jen, glad these quotes spoke to you! They are powerful. I cried when I read what John Wesley wrote to Wilberforce too. How encouraged he must have been from that letter!

  4. Hi Cathy, great review. Think I will be looking William Wilberforce up. Thanks for linking up on Winsome Wednesday and look forward to your being there again next week
    Be blessed

    1. Thanks Tracy! If you are interested there is a movie called 'Amazing Grace' which is based on William Wilberforce's life. It's one of my favorite movies. :)

  5. I too enjoyed this collection of quotes, loved the wisdom in between too.

  6. I find myself mindlessly singing the song taught to me as a child, "The joy of the Lord is my strength...." but when put in context here it reminds me what strength really is and what it can accomplish!

    So glad I was able to have this reminder today. Thank you so much! And so glad you linked up at Emily's place!

    1. Hi Brenna, that song went through my head too when I was reading theses passages from this book. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. What an interesting book, Cathy! Thanks so much for sharing with us. As someone from the UK, I know a little about William, but will be adding this book to my list of must read books.

    I found you through the Missional Women link up. If you would like to link up with mine every Thursday, you would be most welcome :)

  8. What a wonderful book! Thank you for letting me know about it, Cathy! I've seen the movie about Wilberforce's life and it absolutely touched me and spoke to me. I would love to know more about his life! I must have this book :)

    1. Hi Joanna, this is a great book to start with to learn more about Wilberforce. It was quite easy to read and enjoyable. Hope you enjoy it too. : )


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )