Monday, May 01, 2023

William Wilberforce - Purpose in life

All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

It is important that we find a purpose in life, an overarching aim that supersedes everything else. In the eighteenth century, at the age of twenty-five, a young man came to faith in Christ and knew that his life’s work was to serve God. He was a politician and served in the Houses of Parliament as an M.P..  His initial thought was to give up politics and become a church minister but was persuaded that God could find work for him to do in the political arena.

That man, hardly known today, became instrumental in helping to transform British society and relieve the misery of many millions of people. He continually faced opposition for his efforts and was constantly vilified by enemies with vested interests in what he was determined to abolish. Twice he was waylaid and physically assaulted, his injuries did not lead to death, but many of his friends and supporters wondered whether he would one day be assassinated. It seems that God protected him and made sure he lived until his life’s work was completed and the aim fulfilled.

He was not a tall man and certainly was not strong. In fact he was quite unhealthy and it was not helped by having to work late at night in the House of Commons when speeches and votes were being taken and the place was cold, draughty and smoke filled from oil lamps and candles. Yet his determination was strong and his character was sensitive and caring to those in need. He became patron or active supporter of sixty-nine different charitable organisations and was described as “the Washington of humanity”. The idea of that statement seems to be that as George Washington, largely by the strength of his own determined character, led the American revolution so this man by the strength of his determined character brought about a social revolution for mankind.

The man was William Wilberforce and one evening in his London home  in 1787 he sat down to read and study his notes, papers and letters by candlelight. He had been asked to propose a new bill into the House of Commons called “The Abolition of the Slave Trade”.  He knew his speech would be controversial because slavery and the slave trade was a highly profitable business in those days and though many thought it was nasty and inhumane, few people in the business world, though it could or should be stopped. Money and profit greatly outweighed any considerations of kindness or care. So Wilberforce knew that he and his friends had a serious uphill battle to change the law of the land.

He was always a powerful and persuasive speaker and especially in the ‘bear pit’ of the House of Commons and the next day he spoke and said that his research had led him to conclusions and in his words, “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 abolition.” This became the main object of his life and someone wrote that the speech was “a key moment in British and world history.”

It took more than one speech to obtain the objective and the battle was long and hard. Evil people do not give up their hold on power easily but eventually and just before he died Wilberforce had achieved the end of the slave trade in the British Empire and eventually the rest of the Western world was to follow Britain’s lead. He knew that all people are equally loved by God, that all need the same Saviour and all should worship freely the God who loves them and sent his Son to be their Saviour.  Such truths are still absolutely relevant for us today.

Messages with Meaning (09/04/22)
Written by Paul Young

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