William Wilberforce – inspires us to defend the weak
An MP at 21, Wilberforce could have followed the rest of his Cambridge peers in the privileged and comfortable life his wealthy background offered him. However, while living with relatives in Wimbledon, through the witness of his aunt, he became an evangelical Christian.
He wrestled with the same question many Christians face today – do I serve God in my workplace or leave to serve in full time Gospel Ministry? It was his old pastor and converted slave ship captain, John Newton, who encouraged him to ‘serve God where he was’.
Alongside his parliamentary duties, Wilberforce threw himself into the anti-slavery ‘abolitionist movement’ and began working with the Clapham Sect, a group of social reformers driven by Biblical convictions. He began to campaigned tirelessly for the end of the slave trade despite fierce opposition, public ridicule and huge social cost. He dedicated himself to two great political causes, ‘the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners [morals]’.
Through public awareness campaigns, pamphlets, books, rallies and petitions, public opinion was turned to see the slave trade for the evil, barbaric and inhumane enterprise it was. Pressed by Wilberforce, The Slave Trade Act of 1807 saw the abolition of the trade across the British Empire, with the Slavery Abolition Act following in 1833 granting freedom to previously enslaved people.
Wilberforce died just three days later, and was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey until he rises again in the glory of his saviour, Jesus Christ, when he returns.