Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1)
After decades of working diligently toward his life’s goal, William Wilberforce witnessed the British Parliament vote to abolish the slave trade in 1807. Twenty-six years later, in 1833, Parliament would vote for full emancipation, freeing slaves throughout the British Empire. Wilberforce received the glorious news on his deathbed and went home to be with the Lord three days later.
The British people credited Wilberforce as the man chiefly responsible for the historic event, but Wilberforce was quick to deflect the glory back to God, recognizing that he was merely an instrument in the hands of his Maker.
When the nation was on the cusp of abolishing the slave trade in 1807, Wilberforce wrote, “How popular Abolition is just now! God can turn the hearts of men.” God undoubtedly used Wilberforce’s once-in-a-generation skills as an orator to...
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
When we are engaged in the work God has called us to do in the world, some level of persecution is inevitable. For William Wilberforce, who had chosen to make abolition of the powerful slave trade the “Great Object” of his life, the persecution was intense.
Wilberforce had every reason to be afraid for his life. During his decades-long fight to end slavery, multiple slave-ship captains threatened Wilberforce’s life. One even challenged him to a duel. As one of his biographers wrote, Wilberforce “seriously believed he was likely to die violently when some enemy of abolition made good on one of the several threats he had received since becoming the cause’s chiefest champion.”
Thank God Wilberforce was surrounded by other believers who encouraged him to fear God more than man. On his deathbed,...
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4–7)
Prior to Christ, the only object of Wilberforce’s work was his own glory. But upon his conversion, Wilberforce began asking questions about what God was up to in the world and how he might leverage his vocation to join in his Savior’s mission.
But where was Wilberforce to start? Britain had so many wrongs that needed to be righted: prolific prostitution, the orphan crisis, poverty, and of course the slave trade, which Wilberforce described as “that hideous traffic, so disgraceful to the British character.”
Wilberforce knew that he needed to focus intensely on one or two causes in Parliament in order to make the most...
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16)
After William Wilberforce’s conversion to Christianity at the age of 26, his “Great Change” led to immediate and practical changes in two areas of his life: how he spent his money and time.
In the words of one of his biographers, “Before ‘the Great Change,’ Wilberforce had reckoned his money and time his own, to do with as he pleased….But suddenly he knew that this could no longer be the case. The Scriptures were plain and could not be gainsaid on this most basic point: all that was his—his wealth, his talents, his time—was not really his. It all belonged to God and had been given to him to use for God’s purposes and according to God’s will.”
While Wilberforce’s relationship with money changed greatly post-conversion, the way he managed his time...
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
William Wilberforce was easily one of the most productive people of all time.
First elected to British Parliament in 1780 at the age of 21, Wilberforce was a boy king. At one point in his life, he was officially linked to 69 separate social reform groups throughout Great Britain. Oh yeah, and he was the man chiefly responsible for abolishing slavery across the British Empire and eventually the world. As one of Wilberforce’s biographers said, “It’s difficult to escape the verdict that William Wilberforce was simply the greatest social reformer in the history of the world.”
Early in his career, Wilberforce was ambitious for all the wrong things, namely the accumulation of power, wealth, and privilege. But his ambition was transformed when he submitted his life to the lordship of Jesus Christ at the age...