William Wilberforce and Legacy

One aspect of modern-day slavery that I’m studying this semester is how the slave trade and abolition movement throughout history shape how we view slavery today. This week, I’m reading Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. It’s blowing me away. If there ever was anyone who understood the full scope of social justice, it was Wilberforce. He was the man who said, "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners." And if there ever was a politician who lived a life worth emulating, it was Wilberforce.

I’ve seen the movie Amazing Grace, but there is so much about Wilberforce that I didn’t know. His early life, filled with a mixture of sorrow and frivolousness, shaped much of the man he became. His brief but deep exposure to Christianity through his aunt and uncle (through whom he first met John Newton, who penned the hymn), the efforts of his mother and grandfather to squelch their influence, and his gradual return to frivolity through his teen years also had a profound impact. It was during his time at Cambridge that he met William Pitt and developed an interest in politics.

Right now, I’m reading about his conversion, or, “the Great Change,” as he called it. Wilberforce was a man who understood that, in order to believe and profess Christianity, he needed to act. His life had to match his words, or else his words were worthless. It was the influence of Pitt and Newton that helped him understand that he could, indeed, serve God and his fellow man as a politician. He pioneered much of what we now know of as social justice.

Wilberforce’s story is rich. It’s full of truth, a truth that Metaxas clearly and skillfully communicates. There’s no way I can do it justice in a blog post. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Especially if you’re interested in the social justice movement, but even if you’re not, take some time to read it. And yes, you’ll probably be hearing more from me as I finish reading and processing through it as well.