Mind your morals!

No doubt, immediately you think that I am going to commence a diatribe on today’s society and its rapid moral decline, but you would be wrong!

Rather I wish to show a different side to someone of whom you will have heard via history lessons at school. He has been described as our country’s ‘greatest reformer’, honest and good politician, devout Christian: William Wilberforce M.P. 

But first a bit of background to the man. Born on the 24 August 1759 in Hull, Yorkshire, William started life in a wealthy home. Later he became good friends with William Pitt the Younger, who became Prime Minister.  Wilberforce went into politics, becoming an M.P. at the age of 21, working tirelessly to bring about the end of the slave trade, first in Britain, and then throughout the Empire. He arrived in parliament as a self-seeking politician but whose life was to be changed dramatically. Having been brought up as a child partly by his uncle and aunt who were committed Christians, Wilberforce knew the Christian message but was not encouraged to pursue ‘religion’ by his mother. Instead, he was drawn away by gambling and attractions of a social life. Partly through the influence of John Newton, a slave trader turned Christian, Wilberforce came to know God for himself. 

He wrote in his diary:

God has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (i.e., morality)

I had no idea about his second aim. I discovered what a great concern he had, not only for slaves but also his fellow countrymen and women, young and old. He established schools for the deaf and the blind, lending libraries, trade schools and colleges.He helped found the National Gallery and the RSPCA; worked to prevent food shortages; was involved in over seventy charities; funded scientific research, the distribution of Bibles and the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ; he visited prisons and the sick, funded hospitals. Ashamed of his former gambling habits, later he was responsible for abolishing the National Lottery of his day. 

My favourite politician died on July 29, 1833, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The inscription on his large memorial statue concludes with:

‘…till through the merits of Jesus Christ, his only Redeemer and Saviour, (whom in this life and in his writings, he had desired to glorify,) he shall rise in the resurrection of the just’.

At only just over five feet tall, and probably suffering from painful ulcerative colitis during his life, William Wilberforce was a social giant of a man who loved and served his even greater Saviour, Jesus Christ. We may not have the means and start in life as Wilberforce, but should we not like him try to seek practical ways to help stem the moral decline of our land in our times whilst offering the gospel to all?