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VIDEO William Wilberforce you have not labored in vain

Antislavery politician

William Wilberforce

“So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the [slave] trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.”

In the late 1700s, when William Wilberforce was a teenager, English traders raided the African coast on the Gulf of Guinea, captured between 35,000 and 50,000 Africans a year, shipped them across the Atlantic, and sold them into slavery. It was a profitable business that many powerful people had become dependent upon. One publicist for the West Indies trade wrote, “The impossibility of doing without slaves in the West Indies will always prevent this traffic being dropped. The necessity, the absolute necessity, then, of carrying it on, must, since there is no other, be its excuse.”

By the late 1700s, the economics of slavery were so entrenched that only a handful of people thought anything could be done about it. That handful included William Wilberforce.

Taking on a purpose

This would have surprised those who knew Wilberforce as a young man. He grew up surrounded by wealth. He was a native of Hull and educated at St. John’s College at Cambridge. But he wasn’t a serious student. He later reflected, “As much pains were taken to make me idle as were ever taken to make me studious.” A neighbor at Cambridge added, “When he [Wilberforce] returned late in the evening to his rooms, he would summon me to join him…. He was so winning and amusing that I often sat up half the night with him, much to the detriment of my attendance at lectures the next day.”

Timeline
1735George Whitefield converted
1738John & Charles Wesley’s evangelical conversions
1742First production of Handel’s Messiah
1759William Wilberforce born
1833William Wilberforce dies
1840David Livingstone sails for Africa

Yet Wilberforce had political ambitions and, with his connections, managed to win election to Parliament in 1780, where he formed a lasting friendship with William Pitt, the future prime minister. But he later admitted, “The first years in Parliament I did nothing—nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object.”

But he began to reflect deeply on his life, which led to a period of intense sorrow. “I am sure that no human creature could suffer more than I did for some months,” he later wrote. His unnatural gloom lifted on Easter 1786, “amidst the general chorus with which all nature seems on such a morning to be swelling the song of praise and thanksgiving.” He had experienced a spiritual rebirth.

He abstained from alcohol and practiced rigorous self-examination as befit, he believed, a “serious” Christian. He abhorred the socializing that went along with politicking. He worried about “the temptations at the table,” the endless dinner parties, which he thought were full of vain and useless conversation: “[They] disqualify me for every useful purpose in life, waste my time, impair my health, fill my mind with thoughts of resistance before and self-condemnation afterwards.”

He began to see his life’s purpose: “My walk is a public one,” he wrote in his diary. “My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.”

In particular, two causes caught his attention. First, under the influence of Thomas Clarkson, he became absorbed with the issue of slavery. Later he wrote, “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.”

Wilberforce was initially optimistic, even naively so. He expressed “no doubt” about his chances of quick success. As early as 1789, he and Clarkson managed to have 12 resolutions against the slave trade introduced—only to be outmaneuvered on fine legal points. The pathway to abolition was blocked by vested interests, parliamentary filibustering, entrenched bigotry, international politics, slave unrest, personal sickness, and political fear. Other bills introduced by Wilberforce were defeated in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805.

When it became clear that Wilberforce was not going to let the issue die, pro-slavery forces targeted him. He was vilified; opponents spoke of “the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.” The opposition became so fierce, one friend feared that one day he would read about Wilberforce’s being “carbonated [broiled] by Indian planters, barbecued by African merchants, and eaten by Guinea captains.”

Prime minister of philanthropy

Slavery was only one cause that excited Wilberforce’s passions. His second great calling was for the “reformation of manners,” that is, morals. In early 1787, he conceived of a society that would work, as a royal proclamation put it, “for the encouragement of piety and virtue; and for the preventing of vice, profaneness, and immorality.” It eventually become known as the Society for the Suppression of Vice.

In fact, Wilberforce—dubbed “the prime minister of a cabinet of philanthropists”—was at one time active in support of 69 philanthropic causes. He gave away one-quarter of his annual income to the poor. He fought on behalf of chimney sweeps, single mothers, Sunday schools, orphans, and juvenile delinquents. He helped found parachurch groups like the Society for Bettering the Cause of the Poor, the Church Missionary Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the Antislavery Society.

In 1797, he settled at Clapham, where he became a prominent member of the “Clapham Sect,” a group of devout Christians of influence in government and business. That same year he wrote Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians—a scathing critique of comfortable Christianity that became a bestseller.

All this in spite of the fact that poor health plagued him his entire life, sometimes keeping him bedridden for weeks. During one such time in his late twenties, he wrote, “[I] am still a close prisoner, wholly unequal even to such a little business as I am now engaged in: add to which my eyes are so bad that I can scarce see how to direct my pen.”

He survived this and other bouts of debilitating illness with the help of opium, a new drug at the time, the affects of which were still unknown. Wilberforce soon became addicted, though opium’s hallucinatory powers terrified him, and the depressions it caused virtually crippled him at times.

When healthy, however, he was a persistent and effective politician, partly due to his natural charm and partly to his eloquence. His antislavery efforts finally bore fruit in 1807: Parliament abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. He then worked to ensure the slave trade laws were enforced and, finally, that slavery in the British Empire was abolished. Wilberforce’s health prevented him from leading the last charge, though he heard three days before he died that the final passage of the emancipation bill was ensured in committee.

Though some historians argue that Thomas Clarkson and others were just as important in the antislavery fight, Wilberforce in any account played a key role in, as historian G.M. Trevelyan put it, “one of the turning events in the history of the world.”

https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/activists/william-wilberforce.html


“You have not labored in vain”

After a crushing political defeat, William Wilberforce nearly gave up his fight to abolish the slave trade. But a life-changing letter from John Newton sent this Daniel back into the lion’s den.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-93/you-have-not-labored-in-vain.html


Amazing Grace movie trailer

Amazing Grace Ending: William Wilberforce & Slave Trade Act of 1807

 Amazing Grace – Soundtrack



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William Wilberforce Antislavery politician

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce was an English politician who became the voice of the abolition movement in Parliament. He was a slightly built man, about five foot three in height, and suffered from bouts of bad health.

He was born in Hull, into a rich merchant family. As a child, whilst living with his uncle in London, he was taken to hear John Newton preach. It made a great impression on him but he returned home and soon became part of fashionable society, attending the theatre and races, where he watched his own horse run.

He enrolled at Cambridge University and became friends with William Pitt. At the age of 21, Wilberforce was elected to Parliament.  He was well suited to politics, as he was an extremely eloquent speaker and very witty. In 1783, he met James Ramsay and, for the first time, discussed slavery. Around 1784-86, he underwent a gradual but ‘intense religious conversion’ whilst travelling with a friend. He considered leaving Parliament but his friend and mentor, John Newton, advised him againt this; so, instead, he decided to serve God in public life.

After his conversion to evangelical Christianity, he gave up his racehorse, gambling and attendance at clubs. Although a serious young man, he was still fun to be with and, despite some of his friends thinking his new found belief was a madness, a childhood friend remarked, “If this be madness, I hope that it will bite us all!”

His new beliefs affected his public life. Before, he had usually voted with Pitt but now he was guided by his conscience. He and his evangelical friends were nicknamed “the Saints” by upper class circles but he won widespread respect. He championed many causes but it was the fight against the Slave Trade and slavery that he worked most tirelessly for. His interest was rekindled by a letter from Sir Charles Middleton, suggesting he should represent the cause in Parliament. William Pitt also encouraged him to take up the cause.

In early 1787, Thomas Clarkson called upon Wilberforce with a copy of his Essay on Slavery. This was the first time the two men had met, and a collaboration was formed which lasted over fifty years. The skills of the two men complemented each other. Wilberforce was able to turn the vague sentiment amongst the more privileged in society, into real opposition and rise above party politics to obtain support from many in Parliament.

From 1789, Wilberforce regularly introduced bills in Parliament to ban the Slave Trade. He was fiercely opposed by those making fortunes from the trade, who used all kinds of delaying tactics. The first time a bill was introduced, Wilberforce lost the debate by 163 votes to 88 but he never gave up. A bill to cease the trade was passed by the House of Commons in 1792 – but with the amendment that the ban should be ‘gradual’, which those with an interest in the trade interpreted as ‘never’.

In his late 30’s, Wilberforce married Barbara Spooner (also an evangelical Christian). He remained devoted to her throughout his life.  Finally on 25th March, 1807, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished the Slave Trade in the British colonies. It was carried by 267 votes. The house rose to its feet and cheered wildly. (see Letter from Clarkson) 

However, this was not a vote to abolish slavery as a whole throughout the Empire, just the trade in enslaved people. William Wilberforce continued to work for the abolition of all slavery within the British Colonies. He joined the ‘Society for Gradual Abolition’ and, when the campaign intensified again in the 1820’s and 30′, he did as much as his failing health would allow. In 1821 he requested that Thomas Fowell Buxton take over the leadership of the campaign in the Commons and resigned his parliamentary seat in 1824, after a serious illness. By May, 1830, when two thousand people met in London at Freemasons’ Hall, Wilberforce was stooped with age and wearing a metal girdle to prevent him slumping.

Despite the groundswell of public opinion, Parliament still refused to ban slavery, until parliamentary reform removed many of its supporters. Despite this, it was still not clear that Parliament would act. Wilberforce wrote a last petition. The Parliamentary debate lasted three months. On the 26th July, 1833, the Abolition of Slavery bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. A messenger rushed to Wilberforce’s house. They told him that slavery in British colonies would finally be abolished. Just three days later, on 29th July, William Wilberforce died.

Hear extract  1 from Wilberforce 1789 speech to the house
Hear extract  2 from Wilberforce 1789 speech to the house
Hear extract  3 from Wilberforce 1789 speech to the house

VIDEO A Tale of Two Revolutions

May 10, 2019 by Dr Jerry Newcombe

Could a contrast between the American Revolution and the French Revolution be relevant to today’s conflicts? I think so. The attempt to demote historic icons, like George Washington, is a case in point.

George Washington grew up as a gentleman farmer in Virginia and was a fourth generation slave-owner. But by the end of his life, he had decided slavery was immoral and so at his death, he freed his slaves and made provision for them.

But in our day—where the alleged “right to not be offended” often seems to trump the constitutional right to free speech—some are calling for images of George Washington to be torn down, like statues of Confederates.

The dailywire.com (5/2/19) reports on how “George Washington High School” in Northern California is contemplating tearing down two 1930’s panels featuring George Washington because the pair of murals allegedly “traumatizes students and community members.”

This is in San Francisco, so the outcome seems likely.

How long will our historical iconoclasm last? The cultural Marxists are working overtime to cut Americans off from our history.

I believe that despite his flaws, including being a slave-owner, there are many heroic aspects of our first president. Dr. Peter Lillback and I wrote, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, which puts all this in context. Recently we discussed Washington and slavery.

Our founders fought the American Revolution, led by Washington, so that we could enjoy our God-given rights. Though slow in coming, recognition of those God-given rights eventually gave the slaves their freedom. What is happening in the culture wars today is a revival of the French Revolution, which waged war against God.

France in 1789 fought against injustice, even in the church; but their godless “cure” ended up being worse than the disease. The French Revolution was anti-God and pro-tyranny—leading to death in the streets. The American Revolution was pro-God and pro-freedom.

America’s founders mentioned God four times in the Declaration of Independence. They identified King George III’s tyranny as illegitimate—because he was violating our God-given rights. The founders, with a firm reliance on the Lord, laid down “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” in support for their declaration as a new nation.

When George Washington first read the Declaration to his troops, one of his first acts was to hire Christian chaplains—systematically, throughout the army. He felt that if we were to win this war, it would only be with God’s help.

And he and the other colonists felt that God did help. To paraphrase Washington in his First Inaugural Address, no people should be more grateful to the Lord than we Americans because God aided us at every step to become an independent nation.

Consider a few further contrasts between the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Our framers signed the Constitution in “the year of our Lord” 1787. The French Revolutionaries got rid of the Christian calendar; and so they declared 1791 as Year 1 of their new non-Christian calendar.

The French Revolutionaries desecrated Notre Dame Cathedral, disallowing Christian worship there and placed a half-naked woman on the altar, calling her “Reason,” whom they worshiped.

In contrast, our founders hired Christian chaplains for the military and also for the House and Senate. Since there weren’t enough church buildings in Washington, D. C., they held Christian worship services in the Capitol building. Presidents Jefferson and Madison attended those services.

The French Revolution eventually consumed its own. Since then, France has had 17 different governments, while the U.S. still lives under one—the Constitution.

I predict that today’s social justice warriors, who are consuming our past heroes, will one day be consumed themselves by future revolutionaries. Future generations could look back at us and say things like:

“You had 4D sonograms documenting the humanity of the unborn and yet you allowed millions of abortions on demand?”

or

“Science has documented genuine differences between men and women, yet you allowed boys who claimed to be girls to compete and dominate in sports, winning valuable scholarships?”

Every generation has its flaws and blind spots. Our generation has yet to recognize its own.

Slavery was evil. Thank God for those strong Christians who defeated it. Thank God for William Wilberforce’s Christian anti-slavery crusade, which took him about five decades to complete. That crusade inspired abolition here in America. Interestingly, in his day, Wilberforce was sometimes called “the George Washington of Humanity.” Both men worked hard to liberate others.

Slavery has plagued humanity from the beginning of time and can even be found in some places today, places where the gospel of Christ has no sway.

Too bad the children of the French Revolution are rising up today to cut us off from our past heroes. There is a reason Washington continues to be a hero to millions. Enough with the historical revisionism.

###

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 31 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback)   djkm.org  @newcombejerry      www.jerrynewcombe.com

 

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