Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

I have enjoyed John Piper’s character studies immensely. This one is no exception. Amazing Grace is a book that every Christian should read. It is an easy read that captures the heart and mind of the William Wilberforce, who led Great Britain to finally make buying, selling, and owning slaves illegal.

After seeing the film, I immediately read this book to check the score for accuracy. There are other books on Wilberforce’s life that I have particularly appreciated, but Piper captures the highlights in a heartwarming way. As you read, you will see the characteristics of a great and persistent leader among God’s flock.

One of the points that is so clear as you read is Wilberforce’s insistence that Christian morals cannot be separated from Christian doctrines. His criticism of Britain at that time was just that. People were trying to separate or dichotomize their morals and doctrines, which does not work. He personified a Christian with a distinct biblical world and life view. He could not practice the dualistic philosophy that separated the sacred from the secular.

Wilberforce was greatly impacted by the life and testimony of John Newton, a former slave trader whom God transformed into a preacher of the Gospel. Wilberforce referred to him as “old Newton,” a mentor and a friend.

In the introduction, Jonathan Aitken said, “So if the question is asked, who planted the first seed of the Christian faith in the heart and mind of William Wilberforce, John Newton would be the most likely nomination.” Newton challenged Wilberforce not to give up in his attempt to abolish slavery and effect doctrinally sound morality in England. I like one of Piper’s paragraph headings calling Wilberforce, “a politician with a passion for pure doctrine.” One incident highlighted in the book is critical. At one point in Wilberforce’s life, he was entertaining the notion of leaving Parliament and entering the ministry. In sharing that with his old friend Newton, the response was, “It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation.” Piper’s comments describing this incident are powerful: “When one thinks what hung in the balance in that moment of counsel, one marvels at the magnitude of some small occasions in view of what Wilberforce would accomplish for the cause of abolition.” Wilberforce was obviously a cultural reformer because he was committed to a kingdom perspective. He wrote in his diary on October 28, 1787, “God Almighty has placed before me two great Objects, the Suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [morals].”

While this book is an easy read, it is powerfully challenging. It will bless your soul and encourage you not to give up on the things that God has placed on your heart.

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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