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The Story of William Wilberforce and His Campaign to End Slavery

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
July 29, 2022 3:05 am

The Story of William Wilberforce and His Campaign to End Slavery

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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July 29, 2022 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Eric Metaxas tells the story of the man who, perhaps more than any other, stirred the conscience of the world to see the horror and evil of slavery, William Wilberforce.

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This is Lee Habib, and this is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about everything here on this show, from the arts to sports, and from business to history, and everything in between, including your stories.

Send them to They're some of our favorites. Slavery to this day remains one of the ugliest blots in the long history of humanity.

It can be traced back as early as 4000 BC. The man who perhaps more than any other stirred the conscience of the world about this evil was William Wilberforce. His efforts helped bring liberty to untold millions, and his persistence and conviction influenced major change in thinking and the history of the world too. Eric Metaxas, the New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, and Amazing Grace. His biography, Amazing Grace, William Wilberforce and the heroic campaign to end slavery, was the official companion book to the feature film also titled Amazing Grace. We'd like to thank Eric Metaxas for allowing us to share his story with our listeners. And we're telling this story because on this day in 1833, William Wilberforce died. Here's Eric with a remarkable story of William Wilberforce. The story of Wilberforce is kind of funny because once you know the story, you're embarrassed you didn't know it before. And that happens to me over and over with the characters I write about that you think, this is so important.

How have I lived this long? And I've missed this because this is so important. Let's put it this way.

He's most famous. If you have heard anything about him, he is the man who in parliament in 1807 had the victory over the slave trade in the British empire, right? Now, a lot of people, you know, kind of like what's that was, it was the slave trade and slavery or whatever. Well, the slave trade, just to make it clear, it's, it's a really weird thing, right? Because in America we had slavery here. So you saw it in front of you, but in England they had a huge slave trade, but they didn't have any slaves in England. What they would do was they would send these ships from the four harbors or really was three of their major four harbors that and the ships would go down to the West coast of Africa, pick up their human cargo, and then they would take it across to the West Indies and all the sugar plantations were there. So they would then take the molasses and whatever back to England.

Nobody in England ever saw what was going on. They just knew that their economy's booming or whatever. Most English people didn't know that they're participating in a satanic slave trade. They just knew that the economy's good and we get sugar in our tea and, and that kind of stuff, you know? And so Wilberforce believed that if he ended the slave trade, slavery would go away. So let me just start at the beginning. He was born in 1759 into a family that really was wealthy.

They were merchants. But the funny thing when I tell the story and, and I have to say again, I didn't know this either, right? I'm not like a guy who knows a lot of stuff and he said, I think I'll write a book about this. I just knew that this man had led the battle to end the slave trade. So he's a hero. Okay, I'll write a book about him.

But when I wrote the book, I discovered all kinds of stuff I didn't know. For example, when he grew up in the middle part of the 1700s, okay, he's born in 1759. England was nominally Christian. Okay. Officially Christian. But do I need to tell you that if you have a booming slave trade, you're not that Christian. There are a lot of countries that are officially Christian that don't behave very Christian.

Okay. You could talk about Germany in the 30s. I wrote about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Germany was officially Lutheran, right? Well, everybody we're German, we're Lutheran. Great. Except they're not living it out. If you don't understand that, you know, hating Jews is not part of God's plan or speaking against Nazis, you know, if you don't get that, how Christian are you?

Okay. So a lot of people can be Christian in name only, or sometimes Christians are, are Christians more than a name only, but not nearly where God wants them to be. And so people can all reconcile all kinds of wicked behavior. But in England at this time, you could really say that they really were Christian in name only. When they said we're Christian, it means we're not Turks. We're not Muslims. We're not atheists. We're not Buddhists. We're not Jews. We're Christians.

Well, they didn't behave as Christians. Now the irony is that America today is not officially Christian. We're not officially anything, but I would say when you're not officially something, you have the freedom to really be Christian because when it's enforced by the government, you just go, well, you know, my birth certificate, it just says that I'm this and you know, and you don't, it's not, you don't own it.

It's not yours. So everybody in England says, I am a Christian because Christian, we have the church of England and the queen or the king is the defender of the faith. And so we're an officially Christian nation. But something happened in the previous century in the 1600s, there'd been some religious wars. And so the culture of England, not that it ever was tremendously Christian, but in the 18th century they began to retreat from robust faith of any kind. And the pulpits were preaching what you'd call French enlightenment rationalism, right?

French enlightenment rationalism means we believe in, you know, there's a God up there someplace, but we're not, we don't believe in Jesus and the Bible. So England is officially Christian, but they're not living it out at all. So we'll, before this is born in the middle of this century into a family that has a, has a good amount of money, but just like all the elites in particular in that century, they look down on anybody who had serious Christian faith. If you think about the 18th century, you have the great awakening because of the preaching of George Whitfield and because of the preaching of the Wesley brothers, John and Charles Wesley, you have this revival, but it's only among the poor mainly.

The elites look down on the poor and they look down on anybody who had serious Christian faith. In fact, they call them Methodist. They're sort of making fun of the fact that the Wesleys, when they got saved at Oxford university, they became, they became sort of so obsessed with religion and prayer and stuff that they said they're very methodical. So they made fun of them. They call them Methodists. And of course they eventually took it as a badge of honor. But the Brits also said, if you're really, you know, serious about God and all that stuff, you're an enthusiast, which is like saying a Holy roller, a Bible thumper, the whole culture looked down on it. So the elites were really hostile to any of this Christian faith.

And so throughout the culture, you don't have much Christian faith. And when we come back, the story of William Wilberforce with Eric Metaxas here on Our American Stories. Here at Our American Stories, we bring you inspiring stories of history, sports, business, faith, and love stories from a great and beautiful country that need to be told, but we can't do it without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love our stories in America, like we do, please go to our American and click the donate button.

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Simply go to or contact your local agent today. And we continue with our American stories and the story of William Wilberforce who died in this day in history in 1833. And now let's return to Eric Metaxas and the story of William Wilberforce. The elites were really hostile to any of this Christian faith.

And so throughout the culture, you don't have much Christian faith. So Wilberforce grows up in a family just like that. When he is about nine years old, his father dies and his mother gets very ill and the grandfather and the mother say, we need to send him to live with this aunt and uncle because she wasn't able to care for him. And so they sent him to live with this very wealthy aunt and uncle. They were so wealthy that, you know, the mother and the grandfather, that how could we go wrong sending them to, to them, this is going to be, you know, wonderful. Well, what they didn't know is that the aunt and uncle were Methodists, born again, evangelical, whatever you want to call it. In fact, not only that, they were so wealthy.

They were practically funding the entire Methodist movement. So they send this little boy off to live with them and he encounters this loving aunt and uncle and he comes to faith. He was very intelligent, very sensitive. And he comes to faith. He comes to love this aunt and uncle with all his heart and they love him like a son and John Newton who wrote the hymn, amazing grace. He was the slave trader who became a Christian and then became a preacher. He would visit this home and little Wilberforce thought of him like, like a father figure.

And so it's this wonderful time. But then the mother and the grandfather being classic elites of that day when they discovered this about two and a half years into this, they were horrified. It's like he'd been kidnapped by a cult. You know, those Christians, they're nuts. So they bring him back home and they are determined to scrub his soul clean of Methodism. They don't even let him go on Sundays to their Anglican church because he might hear the scriptures read.

And so they do everything they can. He tries to cling to his faith. This brilliant young man, he sends letters, secret letters via the maid to his aunt and uncle. He's trying to cling to his faith, but by the time he's 16 and goes off to Cambridge university, it's, it's really evaporated and he's become exactly what they hoped. You know, an intelligent, insouciant man about town, sophisticated knowing that, you know, the enthusiasts are just a way too much.

It's not for me. Well, while he is there at Cambridge, he becomes friends with William Pitt, the younger William Pitt, the elder is one of the great statesmen of that time, right? He was in the house of Lords, but he was a great political figure and he was training his young son, William Pitt, the younger to be a great statesman, you know, memorizing Latin phrases, you know, at his father's knee and stuff. So Wilberforce, he comes from this merchant background, but he meets William Pitt the younger and, and they start going together from Cambridge to London to visit the houses of parliament, to sit in the gallery and to watch the debates on the floor below and Wilberforce 18, 19 years old, is mesmerized by what's going on.

He thinks, I think I want a life in politics. Now, you know, you have to understand what was the debate going on at that time in the house of Lords that he was watching. Well, this is about 1776.

So this was about the fate of the colonies. I mean, this was historical and he says, I want to become a politician. So he graduates at the same time as, as friend William Pitt, the younger graduates and they immediately get elected to parliament and the two of them rocket up in the ranks of the political order in their early twenties. So that by the time William Pitt, the younger is 24 years old, he's elected prime minister of England. Now, William Pitt is prime minister, but his best friend Wilberforce also gets this incredibly powerful position and they become very powerful figures. They're members of all the top gentlemen's clubs and they're, pictures are in the papers. That's not true.

There was no photography. Okay. In 1780, I tricked you. Can you imagine he, all this comes to him and then one day he decides, because you know, the recess from parliament is months long. He wants to take a long vacation.

His mother's health, you know, was not so good. So they thought, oh, we need to go to the French and Italian Riviera's for the, for the climate. So this is a trip. Can you imagine to go from England all the way across the continent with, you know, horses with a coach to the Southern part of France is a vast journey.

Okay. So his mother was going to travel in a coach with her cousin and he was going to travel in a coach with a friend. So he picks a friend, the friend can't come.

And then he says, well, I need somebody to, you know, it's going to be very boring. So he stumbles on an old schoolmate who is my favorite character in the book, in the story. His name is Dr. Isaac Milner and Isaac Milner was a physical giant. I don't know how big he was, but he was everybody just, he was a giant of a man.

Now it becomes funnier when you think, well, before this was literally five foot two and at one point during his illness, he weighed 76 pounds. So he picks Milner. Now Milner was not just famous for being a giant. He was probably literally the smartest man in England at the time.

He was a, he had the location chair in the chemistry or physics, I forget, at Cambridge. Okay. Isaac Newton who invented calculus and Stephen Hawking who just passed away, you know, they have this lifetime appointment. So it's super smart people, smartest people in the world. So that's Isaac Milner. Okay.

So not only is this super genius, but he also was famous for being a teller of comic stories, funny stories. And so you think who could possibly be a better companion? And they decided, okay, we're going to go together. We're going to, we're going to take this trip across the continent. This is going to be months, you know, to get it, to get there and months to come back. So they go on the journey and when they're talking about everything, Wilberforce was a fascinating conversationalist himself and very witty. And they've gone just far enough that they can't turn back.

I don't know how far that is, 500 miles, something like that. And the subject of religion comes up and to Wilberforce's horror, Isaac Milner reveals that he is a Methodist and he kind of tries to crack some jokes to kind of bat it away. But Milner says, well, you know, no, no, no. I think, you know, you're, you're above that Mr. Wilberforce. I think, you know, if you'd like to have a serious conversation, we should. So they have a serious conversation and I always picture this giant Milner crushing Wilberforce's intellectual objections like walnuts in his big meaty paws, you know, and throwing the shells out the window as the, as the miles go by, he's just one by one and Wilberforce to his credit was intellectually honest. Okay.

Like a lot of people today would just be like, Hey, I don't care. Wilberforce thought if you're making the case and you're right, I'm stuck. And by the time of this trip ending, he knows that he's been wrong, that the Bible is true, that Jesus is his Lord and savior. There's no way out.

I'm in, it's true. But when he gets back to London, he's very bummed out because he knows the world in which he has been traveling. He's remember these five gentlemen's clubs where they stay out drinking and singing and gambling and joking till four and five in the morning. And that, that whole life he realized I can't do that anymore. I probably have to leave politics.

What am I going to do? He was not happy. So he goes to visit his old friend John Newton. Remember I said he, when he was a little boy, he befriended him.

They hadn't seen him in all these years. And I imagine John Newton had been praying for him. Can you imagine that this guy that you knew back then has drifted away from the faith and now he's one of the most powerful people in England. So he goes like Nicodemus secretly to meet John Newton to ask him, what do I do?

But he didn't want people to see him going there because he was so famous at this point that if people see him going there, they're going to know something's up. So he goes there secretly and John Newton says to him, I think God would call you to bring him into politics and to let him use you as a top political figure for his purposes in history at this time. Wilberforce to his credit accepts this and he says, even though it's going to be hard, even though I'm going to be mocked by these elites, I believe this is God.

And so he decides to stay in politics, but he's going to pray and study the scripture and other books about Lord, what would you have me do? So two years into his faith, he writes in his journal 20 famous words. I don't remember what they are, but there's 20 of them. Just, just kidding. I do. So basically he writes these words in his diary and these are the 20 words he says, God almighty has set before me two great objects. Okay. God has set before me.

He didn't say this is my idea. He believes that the Lord has called him to these two great objects of his life. The suppression of the slave trade, which was basically impossible. And if that's not enough, the reformation of manners or morals or culture, which is you could describe it as, Oh, and, and everything else. And my goodness, what a storyteller we have on hand, the great Eric Metaxas. We continue with this great story here on Our American Stories. And we continue here with Our American Stories and the story of William Wilberforce who died on this day in history in 1833. And by the way, we tell the story of British history because periodically what happens across the pond is either happening here or will soon happen here and vice versa. And of course, the abolition movement here in this country in the 19th century was spawned in large part by Christians. And indeed they were pursuing the same kind of justice that Wilberforce was pursuing. And that in their estimation was God's justice.

And now let's return to the story. The untold story in too many of our schools and colleges of William Wilberforce. I don't think I shared the statistics, but it was such a broken culture that you don't just have this abomination called slavery and the slave trade. You also have a lack of Christian worldview evident in everything.

Nobody cared for the poor. Imagine living in a world today, we argue about how to care for the poor, not whether. We all know, of course, we're supposed to do something to help people who are struggling. The question is what? Imagine living in a time where everybody says, no, we're not.

And we don't even give it a thought. The reason you're poor is because you made bad decisions and tough luck. It's not my problem. And the reason I'm rich is because God likes me and he's blessed me. Imagine having that worldview. That is the opposite of a Christian worldview.

Is it not? God tells us we are blessed to be a blessing. If God has given you anything, time, money, talent, good looks, doesn't matter what it is. If it's good and he gave it to you, he gave it to you for his purposes. So imagine living in a world where nobody knows that. Living in a world where everybody says this, whatever I have, that's good.

It's for me. So Wilberforce grows up in a world like that. He becomes a Christian and the first thing he sees through his Christian eyes is the slave trade is evil.

Okay. Is God calling me to that? Well, two years into this faith, he realizes God is calling me in parliament to be a voice in politics for this issue. There had been a lot of serious Christians, Methodists born again, believers who knew this was an issue, but they had no political power.

They're praying for a figure in parliament. So Wilberforce steps up, says yes, but then the everything else is the brokenness of the culture beyond the horror of the slave trade. There was child labor, little kids working six, seven years old in dangerous conditions, 14 hours a day. Imagine that kind of a poverty where there's no rules against that. Alcoholism was utterly rampant in that culture on a level we can't even imagine.

Some of you might be familiar with the Hogarth prince of gin alley. I mean, these people just absolutely lost in poverty and misery, dying of young ages of all kinds of diseases, unable to raise their kids. This was absolutely endemic in this culture. 25% of all the women in London who were single were prostitutes. What does it tell you about the men in that culture? The average age of the prostitutes was 16.

That's the average age. When Wilberforce becomes a Christian and sees through God's eyes, he sees all this and he realizes God is calling me to step up, to use my talent, the power he's, he's allowed me to have my abilities, my networks, friends that I know to work for God's purposes. So he writes this in his journal. The other fact, if you want to know how sick the culture was, Wilberforce said, this culture is so far away from God, even though we call ourselves officially Christian. He said he wanted to make goodness fashionable. In other words, it was fashionable.

It was the cool thing to be bad, right? We see that in our culture, right? We, what do we call it? We go, well, he's a player. Okay. Who was the leading figure in the land in this time? It was the man who was going to be King George the fourth.

Okay. The eldest son of King George the third was the Prince of Wales. Who's going to be the King. He was famous for being immoral. So in that culture, the greatest guy there is, who's going to be the King, that's how he behaved. So Wilberforce says, I've got an uphill climb. He says, I want to make goodness fashionable, not that kind of behavior. I want to make goodness fashionable.

I want people to know that doing good is the right thing. So he's facing all of this. He's born again. And the first thing, of course, the thing that he's most famous for is this huge battle for the slave trade. And he fights and fights and fights.

He fights for 18 years. It's a brutal battle. If you read the book, honestly, you realize that if God doesn't call you to the battle, you know, the enemy will just chew you up. You need to know this is God's battle. You need to know I'm here to obey, not to win. I play to win, but I ultimately am here to obey God because Jesus obeyed God and he was nailed to a tree. Bon Hoffer obeyed God and he was hanged. It's not about winning. It's about obeying God. If you obey God, you already won.

Wilberforce does win, but the battle is unbelievable. He obeys God. He does everything. And in 1807, he gets this grand victory. After many years, he also had a health issues, ulcerative colitis. And I mean, he really struggled, but he knew God has called me to this battle, but he also knew God had called him to the battle of the reformation of manners of culture, whatever. And he oversaw the transformation of this culture through all kinds of little groups. He basically was able to speak to the elites of the time and that, you know, a wealthy woman with nothing really to do was suddenly now thinking that, Oh, why don't I get together with the other wealthy women and, and, and we can do something for the poor.

They began to get this idea in these elite circles that we need to do something for those who can't help themselves. He had a group of friends around him. I call them the Clapham circle. Sometimes they're called the Clapham saints or whatever.

But one of this group was John Thornton. He was the, the head of the bank of England. He was one of the wealthiest people in Europe. He decides to use his money for God's purposes.

And so he builds a couple of houses so that these people, he invites them, why don't you live, we'll live in a kind of community and we'll pray together in the mornings and we'll, we'll meet together and we'll be part of what God can do in England. It's an amazing story really of how many different people got involved. One of my favorite figures I mentioned, Isaac Millner. There's a woman named Hannah Moore and she's one of the great figures of this era. She's a literary figure.

She was friends with the famous actors, David Garrick and the, the famous poets and the famous painters, Josh Reynolds. She was part of that world and she like Wilberforce had a heart for God and she's thinking, and how can God use me? And the Lord used her in her giftings. And one of the most amazing things she did was she said, you know, I've been writing all these books and poems and stuff. I need to write literature for poor people who don't know how to live stories that help them like morality stories to help them think about their lives. And then she founded a Sunday school because the rural poor were getting zero education.

And she said, I'm going to start educating them and educating them in the things of God. So you have all these different characters who have different pieces of this and they start to fan out through the culture and they start to change things. So you have this huge victory in 1807, but Wilberforce went on to either lead or be a part of innumerable social reforms. Oz Guinness, my dear friend who really introduced me to the life of Wilberforce, considers Wilberforce the greatest social reformer in history. Now, all that he did, he did because of Jesus, because he understands Jesus changes everything.

He does. I don't just get saved and about saving other people. We get saved, but then we're still here. We don't go straight to heaven.

What are we supposed to do? We'll save other people. Yeah.

Yeah. That's part of it, but we're supposed to also serve God in our gifts and, and care for the poor care for the slaves. If you say, Oh, I just want to preach the gospel.

I don't want to get involved in politics or whatever you think. Well, you don't care about the slaves rotting in the hold of a slave ship. If you don't care about them, you are missing Jesus and his heart. And what gospel are you going to preach? And so Bonhoeffer gets that, right? He says, I'm not just going to pray.

I'm going to get involved in the plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler because millions of people are being murdered. And when we come back, we're going to hear more from this remarkable storyteller and you're listening to Eric Metaxas tell the story of William Wilberforce. And this should be taught in every school.

Of course it's not. And that's why we tell you the stories that we tell you because no one else is telling them. When we come back more of the life of William Wilberforce, this is our American Stories. And we return to our American Stories and the story of William Wilberforce told by one of America's great storytellers and writers, Eric Metaxas.

Let's pick up with Eric where he last left off. So Wilberforce after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, he gets involved in all these other things. One of them is abolition itself because they saw as time passed that the abolition of the slave trade is not ending slavery. And so he gets involved in abolition. Another thing he did, which there's a chapter in my book, he should be famous for this too.

Most people don't even know this. He considered it next to the slavery issue the most important thing he ever did. And this might sound odd at first, but it was to get missionaries into India. Think of this, the British were making tons of money in India, but they were not concerned about the lives of the Indians.

They just thought, let's just go there and we'll make our money. And we don't have any responsibilities. Well, Wilberforce says, yes, you do. Wilberforce would read in the paper how in India, when usually a wealthy man dies, he's burned on a funeral pyre. His body is burned on a funeral pyre. And along with his body burned on the funeral pyre, his living widow is burned to death on the funeral pyre.

Wilberforce would read this and be outraged and say, we are there. We are English people are there in India making tons of money of them. Do we not have a responsibility to help these women and to tell them that we don't care what your customs are. By the way, in England, we have a custom. When you do that to a woman, we hang you to death.

You have your customs. We are going to bring our values, our Western Christian values that you don't murder a woman because her husband died. We're going to bring these values. He said, we need missionaries there. And of course the business interests, nothing changes.

They're making a lot of money. They didn't want missionaries there because they said, if missionaries come here to India, they're going to, they're going to mess up a good thing. We got a good thing going on. There were there, you know, there were men there that would have, you know, five or six teenage wives hanging out.

I don't want missionaries coming here. Wilberforce fought and fought, but by the time he died in 1833, you're on the verge of what's called the Victorian era. The Victorian era is famous for what? Morality. It became what he had prayed for. He made goodness fashionable. So by the time he dies, everybody in England knows if I have something, probably I'm supposed to do something good with it. Now, can you imagine we live in a day today where everybody knows that?

Why do we know that? We know that, and this is what's incredible to me is because William Wilberforce and his group of friends managed to import these gospel ideas into the mainstream of the culture and they did it so successfully that it became part of the warp and woof of Western culture so that anybody in the West today knows slavery is wrong, racism is wrong. If there are people suffering in poverty or this or that, we have some obligation to do something. The social conscience. Can you imagine living in a world with no social conscience? Wilberforce brought the idea of helping the poor and all this into the mainstream.

So today, as I said, we argue about how to do it, not whether to do it. He was on his deathbed, by the way, when he received word, this was his last day of consciousness. A young member of parliament in 1833 comes to the bed of Wilberforce to tell him today in parliament, we have just voted to outlaw slavery, not the slave trade, which was defeated in 1807, but in 1833 to defeat slavery and wipe it out in all of the British empire.

Can you imagine that the Lord gave him this victory on his deathbed and hours before he slips into unconsciousness, his life changed things so dramatically because everybody today has a social conscience. We can't even imagine a world without it. So we don't even think about the guy who kind of made it happen. We're like, what are you talking about?

That's like the guy who made oxygen happen. It's always been here. Like I don't even know.

I don't even know what you're talking about. We can't imagine it because this happened over 200 years ago or roughly 200 years ago, but it's been part of the West ever since. We know that we're blessed to be a blessing. Every atheist, every agnostic, we all know this stuff. Where did it come from? Came from the gospel of Jesus Christ and it was not brought into the mainstream of culture until William Wilberforce was called by God to do those things.

Before I close, I just want to tell you a couple of things that he did that were part of how he was able to do this. I mentioned that you have to be called. Sometimes people would just call to be a good spouse, a good father, good mother.

That's more than enough. It's not about saving the world. Wilberforce did what God called him to do humbly.

So that's important. The second thing is that Wilberforce had a humility that he was able to love his enemies. Wilberforce knew that apart from the grace of God, I'm on the other side of this battle. So I can't get all cocky and, you know, morally superior because why am I on the right side of the battle?

I didn't work my way here. The Lord by revelation gave me the gift of seeing what I was blind to before. So he had a humility and a love in the way that he dealt with his opponents.

That is very powerful. Wilberforce was able to speak to the people on the fence with a grace that a lot of them were able to change their minds because of how he communicated. He had the ability because of his wit and sarcasm to wipe the floor with his opponents. When he became a Christian, he no longer did that, even though he could, he didn't do it. There was a grace to him. Wilberforce also understood that I need to have people around me for him. It was this Clapham circle, people, brothers and sisters who are with me on the journey, maybe not doing exactly what I'm doing, but encouraging me, praying with me.

He would say that it's this friends in Clapham. He never could have done what he did, but then in a way, the final point is that he was willing to work with his enemies. In other words, there were people in parliament who were, you know, dissolute swine.

Okay. People who were womanizers and drunkards and all this kind of stuff. Wilberforce said, I will work with you if we can help end the slave trade because I care more about the suffering slaves than I do about my reputation. Wilberforce said, I care about the slave and if I'm going to have to break bread with sinners, Oh, incidentally, someone who's a hero of mine, Jesus of Nazareth broke bread with sinners.

So maybe it's okay to break bread with sinners. If you don't care about those slaves, it's very easy to say, I'm not going to work with the Charles Fox in parliament. He's a horribly immoral person, but if you care about the slaves, you care about the people suffering, you say, well, I know that I'm morally no different than Charles Fox. Maybe I can be an influence on him.

I will not let him be an influence on me, but if he will work with me on this issue, of course I will work with him. That takes humility. And it also takes perspective that Jesus was reviled by the religious leaders of his day for hanging out with tax collectors who are the scum of the earth and sinners and drunkards and whatever. That's why Wilberforce is such a hero of mine. Not because he accomplished these things, but because he accomplished them by obeying God and by giving us a model in life, in history, a real model. I'm not like, you know, blowing smoke here. This is all true.

And this is just the peaks of the mountains here. But that one life submitted to God can sometimes be just so dramatically effective that it's an inspiration to each of us. And you've been listening to Eric Metaxas, one life submitted to God.

My goodness, what a difference it can make. And we know this from our story of Martin Luther King, not Dr. Martin Luther King. The arrow we did was on Reverend Martin Luther King. And it was his faith that animated everything he did. And it was the Bible that animated everything he did. And you don't need to be a Christian or a Jew or an atheist or an agnostic not to know that that was the reality of King's life and the impact he had on America in the 20th century.

Perhaps no other man had the impact King had. And we thank Eric Metaxas for just a remarkable piece of writing and storytelling. And Amazing Grace is one heck of a book and one heck of a movie, a great movie for the family to watch. And again, we tell these stories because no one else does. And you've got to ask yourself or wonder why schools don't teach this story.

That's for you to ponder. And my goodness that just days before he died, that Wilberforce learned that not only had he abolished the slave trade, he had impacted the decision of the British Parliament to abolish slavery in its entirety in all of the British Empire. And the reason we tell this story about this British man is his impact on the American colonies and the American continent, because the impact his life had on Christians in this country is inestimable. And my goodness, the abolition movement. Well, we know that it was Christians who drove that in the north, and it was their faith that drove it in the north. And these are stories that need to be told. These are stories we love telling here on Our American Stories. We're blessed to be a blessing, Eric Metaxas said. And by the way that we are now all of us talking about the poor, faith people are not faith people. All good people today think and talk about how to help the poor. But before Wilberforce, this just wasn't common. It was seen poverty as a series of bad choices the poor person made, and that mercy and grace need not be shown. The story of William Wilberforce died on this day in history in 1833. Here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-17 05:21:23 / 2023-02-17 05:36:51 / 15

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