I subscribe to a well known magazine called Christianity Today. It is a well written news magazine and very informative about theology, ministry and church politics. However, my primary complaint about CT is similar to my complaints about Christianity in general. The focus is almost exclusively about famous people who are clergy.
As well look back over the history of Christianity, a very large majority of its success is due not to famous clergy who became well spoken as leaders but to ordinary men and women who walked with God as mothers and fathers, Sunday school teachers, neighbors, friends, nurses and doctors, engineers and janitors. And some became involved in politics.
Today I am going to write about one such lay man whose conversion to Christ energized him to fight successfully in England for the freedom of slaves. He worked and prayed, talked and wrote, chatted and lectured to the point that the pro-slavers cried out in anger and his friends begged him to stop. But William Wilberforce persevered and the laws were finally changed in Great Britain ans slave trading was stopped.
Here is a bit of his biography.
William Wilberforce is perhaps the best known of the English abolitionists. He came from a prosperous merchant family of Kingston-upon-Hull, a North Sea port which saw little in the way of slave trading.
At twenty-one, the youngest age at which one could be so elected, he was elected to Parliament for his native town. Four years later he was again returned to Parliament, this time for the county seat of Yorkshire which was large and populous, and which therefore required an expensive election contest.
Wilberforce's early years in Parliament were not untypical for a young back-bencher. He was noted for his eloquence and charm, attributes no doubt enhanced by his considerable wealth, but he did not involve himself at first with any great cause.
A sudden conversion to evangelical Christianity in 1785 changed that and from then onwards he approached politics from a position of strict Christian morality. In 1786 he carried through the House of Commons a bill for amending criminal law which failed to pass the Lords, a pattern which was to be repeated during his abolitionist career.
The following year he founded the Proclamation Society which had as its aim the suppression of vice and the reformation of public manners. Later in 1787 he became, at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, the parliamentary leader of the abolition movement, although he did not officially join the Abolition Society until 1794.
Were Mr. Wilberforce alive in America today the ACLU and other radical left wing groups would be strongly condemning him for mixing religion with the government. I am sure we would be hearing over and over that "Wilberforce is a fundamentalist Christian who wants to set up a theocracy in America."
Lay Christians of an Evangelical or fundamentalist persuasion overcame slavery in England and in the USA. These Seasoned Believers became Seasoned Servants and touched society deeply in ways that brought economic, political and spiritual freedom. May God do it again in America.