William Wilberforce: Statesman, Politician, and Humble Servant of Christ

This month marks the 200th Anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in England, a remarkable achievement brought about by a Christian statesman and politician, William Wilberforce (1759-1833). On February 23, 1807, the British House of Commons passed the bill abolishing the slave trade by a vote of 283-16, amid cheers and a standing ovation for Wilberforce, who sat in his seat and wept. Nearly every year since 1787 he had sponsored a bill to abolish the slave trade, but he had never had enough votes to see it pass.

What drove Wilberforce in his tireless efforts in the abolition movement? His Christian faith. In 1785, after long resisting the efforts of his friends, he gave his life to Christ. He considered leaving politics and going into the ministry, but John Newton, the pastor and author of the hymn Amazing Grace, convinced him to stay in the House of Commons and glorify God through his political work. Wilberforce dedicated his career and his considerable fortune to Christ. He believed that all men were equal under God, often quoting Acts 17:26, "God hath made of one blood all nations of men." During his 50 years of public service, he followed his convictions, even when politically costly. He died a few days after the slave trade had been abolished throughout the British colonies.

February 23 also marks the opening of Amazing Grace, the movie about Wilberforce's life and his relationship with John Newton. From director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough, Coal Miner's Daughter), the film promises to be a great reminder that faith and social action go together, and that equality under the law for all people has Biblical foundations. This LeaderU special focus looks at the life and motivation of Wilberforce, as well as the Civil Rights movement and how it is related to Christian principles.

Feature Articles

Humble Courage
Dr. Marvin Olasky
Dr. Olasky examines the character of William Wilberforce and how those qualities drove him to change society for good.

William Wilberforce
Kevin Belmonte
In this article, Belmonte, co-author of William Wilberfoce: a Hero for Humanity, examines Wilberforce's life and impact on history.

Amazing Grace Movie Review: A lover and a fighter
Priya Abraham
Amazing Grace shows Wilberforce as devout Christian and shrewd politician

Amazing Grace Movie: Lessons for Todays Politicians
Rusty Wright
What lessons can today's politicians learn from the life of William Wilberforce? Rusty Wright offers some important insights into this question.

Hearing God's Call
Chuck Colson
Wilberforce heard God's call and responded. Chuck Colson examines Wilberforce's life and its implications regarding the false dichotomy between sacred and secular work.

Today's Wilberforces
Dr. Marvin Olasky
Who are the Wilberforces, and what are the slave trades of today? Dr. Olasky examines these questions.

Related Resources

The Color of Christianity: Faith and the Civil Rights Movement
This classic LeaderU Special Focus discusses the role of Christian faith in the civil rights movement. Articles include "The Faith of Rosa Parks," and an address by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Truth about Jesus
Charles Gilmer
Is Christianity really just a "white man's religion"?

Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals, and Political Welfare
John Piper
Pastor John Piper examines William Wilberforce's book "A Practical View of Christianity." (Offsite link)