Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Amazing Grace

Book: Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery
Author: Eric Metaxas
Edition: Paperback, 2007
Read: February 2013
297 pages
Rated: 3½  out of 5

There is 23 chapters spanning Wilberforce's life from birth to death. Metaxas makes the connection between Wilberforce's life and his Christianity. You wonder if Wilberforce had not become a Christin, would he had cared about ending slavery? Metaxas traces how Wilberforce's early influences caused him to be sympathetic towards evangelical Christianity, even if his mother and grandfather was not. Through his uncle and aunt he encountered a great many  mid-18th century great Christians. But this was not proper, so he was brought back and feel into the normal upper class English debauchery until going on a trip with Issac Milner who showed Wilberforce a different side of Christianity and brought him back.

Metaxas shows how Wilberforce thought about leaving politics but was convince by people like John Newton that was where God wanted him to be—in the battle. From there, Wilberforce fought for the rest of his life to bring the end of slavery and start goodness to England.

Table of Context:
  • Foreword
  • Introduction 
  • Little Wilberforce
  • Into the Wide World
  • Wilberforce Enters Parliament
  • The Great Change
  • Ye Must Be Born Again
  • The Second Great Object: The Reformation of Manners
  • The Proclamation Society  
  • The First Great Object: Abolishing the Slave Trade
  • The Zong Incident
  • Abolition or Bust
  • Round One
  • Round Two
  • The Good Fight
  • What Wilberforce Endured
  • Two Loves
  • Clapham's Golden Age
  • Domestic Life at Clapham  
  • Victory!
  • Beyond Abolition
  • India 
  • Enforcing Abolition
  • Peace and Troubles
  • The Last Battle
  • Epilogue 
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments 
  • Faith Discussion Guide 
One of the things which turned the fight against slavery was the abhorrent conditions which the slaves were kept—both in the slave ships and the plantations in the West Indies. One wonders about the success of the abolitionist if conditions were more humane? Would there have been a need for the abolitionists?

How Wilberforce engaged his opponents was with respect and facts. This is a far cry from today's dealing. Whom do I see working this way today? I do not recall anybody on either side of the aisle doing this. Certainly not Obama. I had hopes for Romney, but he fell into the same routine. Wilberforce brings to remembrance that we are to treat each other as Jesus would have. You wonder if this is what John Newton saw in Wilberforce—the ability to treat others as God would have them be treated.

Wilberforce did not relegate himself to just one task, but wanted to spread throughout England what it would be like to be a Christian nation. He called his twin drives was the abolition of slavery and the bringing about of manners. The manners he was speaking about had to do with morality and ethics rather than just courtesy. This spread from providing a sense of justice in the criminal justice system of the time to preventing cruelty in animals. Wilberforce understood how Christianity needed to be the leaven in society.

This leaves the question of what do I see around me which is abhorrent to God's eyes and how will I work to change things? This is the main take away for me from this book.

 Wilberforce is dynamic and powerful-powerful not in the sense of having the position of a king, but from his talents and his character. That is very evident from the book. But I did not find the writing having that magical quality which made me “fall in love” with Wilberforce. The book does want me to know more about the man—previous to reading this book, I had read Wilberforce's book, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.I found the book hard to read, but well worth it.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it is a good introduction. But I suspect one should dive in deeper to truly feel the magic of this life.

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: On August 24, 1759, William Wilberforce was born into a prosperous merchant family in the city of Hull.
  • Last Line: On that historic morning, as the sun rose, that new world was revealed at last as real, as having existed all along on the far side of the mountains through which William Wilberforce had been our guide.


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