William Wilberforce is best known for his enduring fight against the British empire to first abolish the African slave trade, then outlaw slavery altogether. It encompassed almost 46 years of his life, from 1787 to 1833, ending in victory three days before his death.
What keeps a man fighting so long, when he meets defeat after defeat, for years on end? It was not political correctness or people-pleasing or social justice without a cause.
Wilberforce persevered for eternal reasons—first, to please God; second, to help mankind.
As Wilberforce would say: “You can’t endure in bearing fruit if you sever the root.”
He lived out Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In his fights for justice (more than just anti-slavery), he linked social good with eternal good.
John Piper, in his typical fashion, authors this book with clarity, stressing the main points so you can’t miss them, and sharing enough anecdotes about Wilberforce to keep it personal. He suggests you read Wilberforce’s own book first (The Practical View of Christianity a.k.a. Real Christianity) so you can understand the Biblical passion that made him tick. (It's helpful, but not a prerequisite. I’m on the last chapter—close enough? )
But even if you read nothing else by or about Wilberforce, read Piper’s Amazing Grace (free on-line). It’s enough to inspire you to make a difference where you are, in the time that you’re in, for as long as it takes.
Piper’s last paragraph sums up the bigger picture of Wilberforce's life to include us:
- 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
- Never be idle in doing good—that men may see our good deeds and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).