Mission Driven Stories: William Wilberforce

“William Wilberforce knew if he discovered a truth to his satisfaction he would have no choice but to embrace it and act upon it.” ~Eric Metaxas

William Wilberforce began life as the son of wealthy merchants. Attractive, charming, funny and sweet, he was the favorite of all who knew him. As a youth he experienced a short conversion and attempted to live as a Christian. But when all those around him discouraged and dissuaded him from following the faithful path, he eventually put religion behind him and learned to enjoy all the luxuries wealth and position could buy him. 

Yet, because of his commitment to complete intellectual honesty, when the opportunity opened to him several years later to learn thoroughly about the tenets, principles and governing values of Christianity, he took it. The result was a deep and permanent conversion, and a commitment to living fully as he believed a faithful Christian should. For the rest of his life, he would give all he had–his wealth, his time, his gifts, his money and his love–to the “two great objects” God had placed on his heart: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.

Although most popularly known for his abolition of the slave trade and slavery, and eventually the complete emancipation of all British slaves, the “reformation of manners” was an even greater legacy. In fact, it is not commonly known that the way people in the West today think and believe about philanthropy and charity can be traced directly back to Wilberforce and his group of fellow Christians.  

Join Audrey this week as she shares the power of the Bible and Christian living, and its ability to not only change one man but to empowered him change the society in which he lived.

Listener’s Guide:

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast. 

6:32        The Most Important Thing Wilberforce Did
8:01        The Importance of the Bible for Wilberforce
10:00     The Character of Wilberforce

11:37       Early Life – Wealth, Health, Temperament
14:37      Father’s Death-His Uncle and Aunt-The Problem of Religion
20:14      College and the Wasted Years
22:47      William Pitt and Politics     
25:08     Conversion
28:05     What to Do Next
30:35      Do I Stay in Parliament
33:05      Living a Principled Life
39:11       Turning His Will to God and Moving Forward
42:13      How to Love God
43:16      Advancing Philanthropy    
48:10     Gratitude in All Circumstances   
50:25     Cheddar Gorge

Quotes from this episode:

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit..” ~The Holy Bible, John 15: 2

Of his years to maintain his faith in his youth: “The religious impressions which I gained at Wimbledon continued for a considerable time, but my friends spared no pains to stifle them. I might say that no pious parent ever labored more to impress a beloved child with sentiments of piety than they did to give me a taste of the world and its diversions.” ~William Wilberforce

For the rest of his life, he struggled terribly with self-discipline and always attributed this weakness to his wasted and feckless years at Pocklington and Cambridge.” ~Eric Metaxas

Of his character: “He knew if he discovered a truth to his satisfaction he would have no choice but to embrace it and act upon it.” ~Eric Metaxas

After his conversion: “It was not so much the fear of punishment by which I was affected as a sense of my great sinfulness in having so long neglected the unspeakable mercies of my God and Saviour; and such was the effect which this thought produced, that for months I was in a state of the deepest depression, from strong convictions of my guilt.” ~Eric Metaxas

“When Wilberforce returned to the House of Commons in 1786, he was a different man…He had lived for so long for his own ambition, that to live for God, as he now longed to do, was a foreign and strange proposition and would take time to sort out. Two changes manifested themselves right away: the first was a new attitude toward money, the second toward time…All that was his—his wealth, his talents, his time—was not really his. It all belonged to God and had been given him to use for God’s purposes and according to God’s will.” ~Eric Metaxas

“To endeavor from this moment to amend my plan for time. I hope to live more than heretofore to God’s glory and my fellow-creatures’ good.” ~William Wilberforce

“For the next twelve summers, until his marriage, he would spend one or two months at some country home, assiduously studying nine or ten hours alone each day.” ~Eric Metaxas

“Wilberforce was an undisciplined mess who had gotten where he was precisely and only because of the raw talent he possessed…All of this was shown to him now in these months; he saw, so to speak, the full horror of himself. God, in His mercy, had allowed Wilberforce to see himself as he truly was, and it was crushing. But Wilberforce knew God didn’t mean to end there. On the other side of the worst of who he was, if he dared face that worst, was a God who would help him overcome his faults and do great things, the very things for which He had created him. It was not too late.” ~Eric Metaxas

“God almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” ~William Wilberforce

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