Two hundred years ago, Parliament abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire. John Piper has written this biographical sketch about William Wilberforce, the Christian statesman and Member of Parliament who was instrumental in ending the terrible traffic in African slaves within the Empire. This is more, however, than simply a political biography of a great man. Piper writes about the Christian faith that motivated Wilberforce’s long fight against slavery. This valuable book is for both teens and adults.
In 2007 the film “Amazing Grace” introduced many people to William Wilberforce, a Christian and member of the British Parliament who fought for the ending of the slave trade and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire for almost 46 years (1787-1833). The movie gives an impressive summary of Wilberforce’s life and a glimpse of England in the 19th century. However, movies generally do a very poor job of explaining the story behind the story. What was behind Wilberforce’s heroic efforts?
Piper explains that Wilberforce was motivated by profound biblical allegiance to the “peculiar doctrines” of Christianity. These “peculiar doctrines” gave birth to practical deeds. And what were these doctrines? They included the doctrines of human depravity, divine judgment, the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, justification by faith alone, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and the practical necessity that Christian bear fruit. The truth of the gospel is that which breaks the power of sin and allows the Christian to have true affection for spiritual things. Only when the heart is aflame with righteousness can there be a battle against unrighteousness. Wilberforce understood that a pragmatic approach to life is not sufficient. The heart of right and wrong must be determined in terms of offense to God not the offense it may cause to man or to a nation
After laying this important theological foundation, Piper discusses the life and causes of Wilberforce. At one point he was involved in 69 different causes. Wilberforce accomplished much through much sacrifice and personal suffering. His strength came in knowing and savoring the truth of Christ and the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Hopefully it is clear by now that although the movie “Amazing Grace” is a very good movie, as movies go, it will not give you what is most important in understanding the life of Wilberforce. If you want to understand Wilberforce’s life, first Read Piper’s book. Then follow Piper’s recommendation that you read Wilberforce’s book, A Practical View of Christianity. Then read some of the biographies of Wilberforce. Finally, maybe watch the movie, “Amazing Grace.”
Foreword by Jonathan Aitken, a biographer of John Newton
Introduction: Enduring for the cause
1. His Early Life
2. “God Has Set Before Me Two Great Objects”
3. A Multitude of Christlike Causes
4. Extraordinary Endurance
5. The Deeper Root of Childlike Joy
6. The Gigantic Truths of the Gospel
Book, 76 pages
Author: John Piper
Publication Date: 2007