Last night, my husband and I, finally rented the movie "Amazing Grace." I usually enjoy movies of this nature and was intrigued by the passion Wilberforce had to endure such a continuous fight for something that didn't even directly affect him.
Amazing Grace tells the story of the remarkable life of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
He stood up for the sanctity of human life, and sought to convince the culture of the time that God made all men equal. Needless to say, I was impressed by his great endurance. At the core of his heroic life was a passionate twenty-year fight to abolish the British slave trade, a battle Wilberforce won in 1807, as well as efforts to abolish slavery itself in the British colonies, a victory achieved just three days before his death in 1833. Year after year after year, he presented his bill to Parliament, but to no avail. Yet he did not give up! So I was thinking he must have been relying on a greater source of strength to fight this fight. He must have had a deep faith in God, and was motivated by the Holy Spirit to continue on and I wanted to know more about his spiritual life. That part of his life was downplayed in the movie(which is no surprise!), but I was grateful that it was a key element that was kept in the story line of the movie. Naturally, my curiousity led to research him on google and I found a few interesting articles. One of the qualities that people wrote on regarding Wilberforce's character and his effect on people, was his joy! He was a fun lover of life, a playful father, especially for his day. His joy for life was contagious! Always humming or singing a song of praise or hymn. It sounds as if he were somewhat erractic and spontaneous. Full of free spiritedness, carefree and childlike....Ultimately, all this came from knowing Christ! (I suspect he had a deep intimate relationship with God, and such a joy in his own salvation that sustained his fervor in the years of fighting as well as induce him with desire to see the slaves experience freedom, as he must have felt in Christ from being set free from sin!) Anyway, this is a man I truly would have liked to have met! Here are a few snippets from his journalled writings, and other comments that I found. Wilberforce on joy:
"My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox Churchmen . . . is, that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes, and thus the injunction to rejoice, so strongly enforced in the New Testament, is practically neglected, and Religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air and not one of peace and hope and joy."
"The path of virtue is that also of real interest and of solid enjoyment." He sustained himself and swayed others by his joy. If a man can rob you of your joy, he can rob you of your usefulness. Wilberforce’s joy was indomitable and therefore he was a compelling Christian and politician all his life. This was the strong root of his endurance.
Wilberforce(a journalled prayer during hard times)
"Lord, thou knowest that no strength, wisdom or contrivance of human power can signify, or relieve me. It is in thy power alone to deliver me. I fly to thee for succor and support, O Lord let it come speedily; give me full proof of thy Almighty power; I am in great troubles, insurmountable by me; but to thee slight and inconsiderable; look upon me O Lord with compassion and mercy, and restore me to rest, quietness, and comfort, in the world, or in another by removing me hence into a state of peace and happiness. Amen."
The poet Robert Southey said, “I never saw any other man who seemed to enjoy such a perpetual serenity and sunshine of spirit. In conversing with him, you feel assured that there is no guile in him; that if ever there was a good man and happy man on earth, he was one.”
In 1818 Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of the famous romantic poet, wrote, “Though shattered in constitution and feeble in body he is as lively and animated as in the days of his youth.”
Joy in Christ was so crucial to living the Christian life and persevering in political justice that Wilberforce fought for it with relentless vigilance. “[The Christian’s] watch must thus during life know no termination, because the enemy will ever be at hand; so it must be the more close and vigilant, because he is nowhere free from danger, but is on every side open to attack.” Therefore, when we say that Wilberforce’s happiness was unshakable and undefeatable because it was beyond the reach of human vicissitudes, we don’t mean it was beyond struggle; we mean he had learned the secret of “the good fight” (1 Tim. 6:12), and that his embattled joy reasserted itself in and after every tumult in society and in the soul.
I am sure there is much more about Wilberforce that would be interesting to know and understand, and there are a number of books out there...in addition to Wilberforce's own writings.
I found out John Piper, wrote a book on the spiritual life of Wilberforce, I just might check it out...........