How Wilberforce Changed the World – by Eliezer Gonzalez

Aug 28, 2015 1834

WHM146809 Portrait of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), 1794 (oil on canvas) by Hickel, Anton (1745-98) oil on canvas © Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, UK German, out of copyright

William Wilberforce (1759–1833)

It is popular among some anti-Christian circles to attack religion, and especially Christianity, as a regressive force in society and civilization. The truth is that the freedom to hold even those views was won by Christians for all, because they applied Christian principles as their standard.

In fact, without Christianity, we would not have the society and the freedoms we have in the West at all. The case in point is William Wilberforce, who almost singlehandedly put a stop to the vile British slave trade.

Charles Colson, of Prison Fellowship, says that “to speak of Wilberforce is to speak of biblical worldview in action.” Wilberforce was a young man and a member of parliament, and when he came to Christ, he proposed to leave office and become a minister of the gospel. However William Pitt, a future Prime Minister of Great Britain, wrote to him and argued that, “Surely the principles as well as the practice of Christianity are simple and lead not to meditation only, but to action.”

It wasn’t that the mood in Britain was for ending the slave trade. Wilberforce’s crusade against the slave trade was fiercely unpopular. Wilberforce lost his health and suffered politically, even being viewed as a traitor during the time of the French Revolution. Wilberforce wrote about the impossibility of his giving up the struggle against slavery, stating that, “a man who fears God is not at liberty” to do so.

What many people don’t know about are the other contributions that Wilberforce made to society. He founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the British and Foreign Bible Society, was instrumental in prison reform, and founded or was a leader in sixty charities.

Slavery existed in Western Europe from before the Roman Empire until it was abolished due to William Wilberforce’s efforts. It was abolished because of his commitment to Christianity.

I wonder what our society would be like if we still legally allowed slavery, and cruelty to animals, without prison reform, and without freedom of speech and the notion of universal human rights. Yes, those last two comes straight out of Christianity as well.

Charles Colson says,

I believe that as we come to understand the depth of our own Christian worldview, it forces us not into a life merely of contemplation, but to one of action. We cannot know God more without being moved to love others more—and to care passionately about justice, mercy, and truth.

Jesus Christ was a man of action, and so must we be.

– Eliezer Gonzalez

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