"Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce" by John Piper: A Review

Thus began a forty-five year investment in the politics of England. He began it as a late-night, party-loving, upper-class unbeliever. he was single and would stay that way happily until he was thirty-seven years old. Then he met Barbara on April 15, 1797. he fell immediately in love. Within eight days he proposed to her, and on May 30 they were married, about six weeks after they met – and stayed married until William died thirty-six years later. In the first eight years of their marriage they had four sons and two daughters. (28)

As I am typing this, the primary choices for the American presidency in the 2016 election is Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). I am unaware of a more depressing time to be a Christian voter on the national scene in America. The two candidates clearly lack any clear moral barometer. In light of that, it seemed appropriate to return to one of my favorite all-time politicians: William Wilberforce. I began by reading the short book by John Piper entitled Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce (download the book for free here) which is a great resource for those new to the British leader.

Wilberforce is best known for his work in abolishing both the slave trade and slavery in England. The abolition of slavery required a war and an executive order in America, but the work of leaders like Wilberforce accomplished the same without a single shot. Yet Wilberforce accomplished more than that. He was a man driven by his Christian faith. His political courage and the causes he fought for were the fruit of his robust theology. In a day were many politicians are either hesitant to embrace faith or are outright faithless, Wilberforce embrace the gospel openly and served his country well through it.

Piper’s brief book offers both a biography and theological treatment of his life and thought. It is precisely what one would expect from a pastor-theologian who is not a biographer or a historian. That is a not a critique of the book, but the reader should know what this volume is and is not. The origin of its pages come from a sermon preached by Piper available below.

The advantage of this approach is that Piper shows how deep Wilberforce’s theology was and how it shaped his life in a unique way. Historians get distracted by political and historical detail whereas Piper shows us how Wilberforce’s deep faith was the driving force behind all that he did.

The one critique I would have for the book would be his heavy reliance on John Pollock’s biography on him. The author does reference and quote other works, but Pollock dominates the pages. I would not recommend the same practice for any other author.

Nevertheless, this is a helpful introductory to a great man who was used mightily by God. Wilberforce loved Jesus and did not run from his vocation in that affection but understand that God called him to public service and that politics was his ministry. No doubt he fought the good fight and finished the race. Literally. The news of the abolition of the slaves came to him three days prior to his death. What an answer to his prayers!

For more:
“Seven Men” by Eric Metaxas: A Review
William Wilberforce and the End of Slavery: A Legacy of the Gospel

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