William Wilberforce’s Lesser Known Campaign

He became a convinced and a convicted Christian, through the witness of an old schoolmaster Isaac Milner and everything changed.

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” By “manners” he meant character and behaviour. We know that Wilberforce spent much time praying that his efforts at the abolition of the slave trade. But his journals show that his private prayers were also focused on growing in personal holiness as a Christian.

 

What should we pray for ourselves?

Perhaps we could take a lead from William Wilberforce. His early life was, by his own account, wasted away. On a whim, he stood for UK Parliament at the age of 21. He was elected partly because, as his friend William Pitt said, he had: “the greatest natural eloquence of all the men I ever knew.”

But his early years in Westminster were wasted. He later said of them: “The first years in Parliament I did nothing—nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object.”

But then he became a convinced and a convicted Christian, through the witness of an old schoolmaster Isaac Milner; and everything changed.

“Surely the principles of Christianity lead to action as well as meditation” — William Wilberforce

He found a new attitude to his wealth, his behaviour, and most importantly, his mission in life. We all know the role he played in the abolition of the slavery, but he had another, less well known mission. He later summed it up like this:

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”

By “manners” he meant character and behaviour. We know that Wilberforce spent much time praying that his efforts at the abolition of the slave trade. But his journals show that his private prayers were also focused on growing in personal holiness as a Christian. He said:

“Selfishness is one of the principal fruits of the corruption of human nature; and it is obvious that selfishness disposes us to over-rate our good qualities, and to overlook … our defects.”

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