Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wilbur Wilberforce (abolitionist, moral reformer) 30 July 2013


William Wilberforce, (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833), politician, abolitionist

            Wilberforce was born in Yorkshire, England and became an independent MP (Member of Parliament) for Yorkshire in 1780.  In 1784, he became an evangelical Christian resulting in deep lifestyle changes, and a concern for reform.  This change was not easy for him as “religious enthusiasm” was frowned upon by society at this time. 
            Indeed he considered leaving public and political life, and consulted with John Newton (former slave trader and author of Amazing Grace.  Newton and William Pitt convince Wilberforce to continue in Parliament, which he did, with a new zeal for Christianity and for Christian ethics, both in public and private.  He was very conservative (unlike many evangelicals of his time) and focused on issues such as keeping the Sabbath and eradication of immorality through education and reform. 
            In 1783 Wilberforce was exposed to the true conditions of slavery.  IN 1787 the abolitionists asked Wilberforce to introduce a bill to abolish the slave trade.  This began a colabortation between Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson that was to endure for fifty years.  Wilberforce agreed in principle but wished to consult with William Pitt(Prime Minister) who encouraged him.  Wilberforce decided to fight the immoral and unchristian slave trade, and to reform the morals of the land.
            A committee of Anglicans and Quakers was founded to abolish the slaver trade (they felt slavery itself would vanish in time after the abolition of the slave trade.)  The committee started the first massive human rights campaign, and soon was organized internationally.  William Pitt began the campagne in Parliament to end the slave trade in 1788.  Wilberforce continued the fight until 1807, when the bill was finally signed by the sovereign, eliminating the British slave trade.   During this time Pitt helped begin the colony of Sierra Leone, where all men regardless of race could live together in equality, and from where British naval forces could attack the slave trade.   
            Among other things that Wilberforce supported, politically, financially or both were: Catholic Emancipation, prison reform, restricting capitol punishment, Sunday Schools, getting rid of rotten boroughs, the SPCA, opposed dueling, the Church Missionary Society, Missionaries for India,  and others.
One month after his death, slavery was abolished in the British Empire, and the government approved paying twenty million Pounds to the slave owners for the freedom of their slaves.
            Amongst Wilberforce’s writings was A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes of This Country Contrasted With Real Christianity, which called for a revival of New Testament Christianity in Britain. 
            Wilberforce is buried in Westminster Abbey, near his friend, William  Pitt.

God of the Covenant, your word inspires us to live in relationship to your call. Help us to follow the example of William Wilberforce, that we may constantly defend the poor, help those with no helper, and seek the kingdom.  Through Yeshuah who freed us from the slavery to our sins we pray.  Amen.  (white)

Recommended:  Amazing Grace, available on Netflix.

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