This brief account of William Wilberforce's life is not intended to be a detailed biography as much as a glimpse at the secret of his great influence. In short, Wilberforce was utterly transformed by the grace of God and the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and was used mightily in bringing about the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. John Piper does a good job of keeping this transformation at the center of the biographical sketch he provides. Wilberforce's friendship with John Newton (the former slave trader who wrote "Amazing Grace") inspired the title of this book. Those looking for an expansive portrait of the life of Wilberforce will not find it here. Piper has actually included this material in a larger book entitled "The Roots of Endurance," which is volume 3 of "The Swans are Not Silent" series. Those pursuing a more complete portrayal of Wilberforce's life would be better served reading John Pollock's book entitled simply "Wilberforce," a work from which Piper draws heavily.
This book was a quick read about a man that I have come to admire by watching the movie Amazing Grace. The author did a good job of sharing about this man who loved the Lord and His people and spend his life showing it!
I have finished Piper's little book "Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce". It was excellent! You should look into getting some for evangelistic reasons, as people will be interested when you tell them that this is the 200th anniversary of the banning of the slave trade (by Britain).
The last two chapters were most captivating, as they looked into Wilberforce's contagious Christian joy and his beliefs on the importance of doctrine. The book is available to read for free online, and it would be well worth your time.
I would like to provide some excerpts here as I can't help but spread some wisdom from Wilberforce.
"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 privelege 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. [Wilberforce in response to someone expressing their mistrust of joy. (pg. 62 in "Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce", by Piper)]"
A Prayer during a season of darkness, when he was fighting for joy:
"Lord, thou knowest that no strength, wisdom or contrivance of human power can signify, or relieve me. It is 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. [pg. 64]"
"Pleasure and Religion are contradictory terms with the bulk of nominal Christians. [pg. 64]"
"[It is a] "fatal habit to consider Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines." [pg. 72]"
From Piper's conclusion to the book:
"Is it not remarkable that one of the greatest politicians of Britain and one of the most persevering public warriors for social justice should elevate doctrine so highly? Perhaps this is why the impact of the church today is as weak as it is. Those who are most passionate about being practical for the public good are often the least doctrinally interested or informed.
"Wilberforce would say: You can't endure in bearing fruit if you sever the root.
"...Wilberforce lived off the "great doctrines of the gospel,"....This is where he fed his joy....The joy of the Lord became his strength (Neh. 8:10). And in this strength he pressed on in the cause of abolishing the slave trade until he had the victory.
"Therefore, in all our zeal today for racial harmony, or the sanctity of human life, or the building of a moral culture, let us not forget these lessons: Never minimize the central place of God-centered, Christ-exalting doctrine; labor to be indomitably joyful in all that God is for us in Christ by trusting his great finished work; and never be idle in doing good--that men may see our good deeds and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16)."
I enjoyed the book. It was easy reading. I always enjoy reading essays and articles authored by John Piper. I wish the book was longer and more detailed. Maybe that was Piper's goal to pique my curiosity enough for me to dive into a more detailed biography on the life of William Wilberforce. If so, he succeeded. I will be buying a full biography and reading it this year.
John Piper has given us another gem. His biographical outline of the life of William Wilberforce is brief but incisive. The film on the life of this great parliamentarian which was released recently, is inspiring, but weak in explaining the Christian ethos which motivated Wilberforce and the other members of what is called the 'Clapham sect' (it was not made by Christians). Piper fills in what the book misses. He zeroes in on Wilberforce's evangelical convictions and explains the Biblical basis for his opposition to the slavery. In doing so he helps contemporary Christians to understand a very significant episode in recent history and the role evangelical believers played in changing the world for the betterment of all mankind. Highly recommended.