Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas. HarperOne. 320 pages. 2007. Audiobook read by Johnny Heller.
Eric Metaxas is one of my favorite authors. Of the four books of his that I have read, three have been biographies. His 2013 book Seven Men: And Their Secrets of Greatness features a much shorter biography of Wilberforce than provided here. This book was the official tie-in book to the 2006 film Amazing Grace, which was made to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Parliament’s anti-slave trade legislation.
This book tells the amazing story of the man who was responsible for first the abolition of the slave trade in Britain and ultimately the abolishment of slavery there altogether. Metaxas tells Wilberforce’s story weaving in a number of characters such as John Newton (who would see him as a son), John Wesley, Henry Thornton (his cousin and closest friend), William Pitt (who would become the youngest Prime Minister at 24 years of age), Granville Sharp, Charles Middleton, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah Moore (a popular writer), and many, many more.
Wilberforce changed history, but is largely forgotten today. Metaxas gives us a detailed look at the life of who he refers to as perhaps the greatest social reformer the world has known. At the height of his political career, God would get ahold of Wilberforce and change his life.
Wilberforce began his political career in 1780 when he was elected to Parliament at age 21. His social standing improved, resulting in him being invited to many social clubs, where he would show off his excellent singing voice and enjoy drinking and dancing. Wilberforce would later look at these years as years he wasted. He would use his powerful voice to become a great orator.
Wilberforce went through a gradual conversion experience, much like Augustine, rather than the sudden conversion of the Apostle Paul. Thinking that he needed to go into full-time Christian ministry, Wilberforce felt he would need to leave politics. But John Newton and William Pitt would encourage him to stay in Parliament and use his influence to do good, which he agreed to do.
After being born again, he would have new attitudes about money and time. He resigned from all five of the social clubs he belonged to. He returned to Methodism to the chagrin of his mother.
Wilberforce’s focus would become twofold: the suppression of the slave trade, and the reformation of manners (habits or attitudes). British society at that time was vulgar and violent. Twenty-five percent of the unmarried women were involved in prostitution. Wilberforce wished to bring self-respect and civility into the society.
Wilberforce would come to the point where he felt that abolition was the cause God was calling him to devote his life to. His work to abolish the slave trade would take 26 years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. During this time he would receive many death threats.
In 1797 Wilberforce would publish a book on the Christian faith and the state of what it was in British society. The 37 year old Wilberforce would meet 20 year old Barbara Spooner, 20 and newly serious about religion. They were married less than a month after meeting and would go on to have six children.
Wilberforce stood only 5’3”, and suffered from lifelong stomach problems, resulting in him using opium much of his adult life. His deteriorating health (eyesight, curvature of the spine, etc.), would lead him to appoint Thomas Buxton to take the lead in the emancipation fight. Wilberforce announced his retirement in 1825.
Among Wilberforce’s many other accomplishments was leading the crusade against cruelty to animals, British missionary work in India and the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone. Wilberforce would give away much money over his lifetime – to help the poor, etc. At the end of his life he was nearly destitute. He and Barbara would end his life without a home of his own, living with their sons, both ministers.
Emancipation was finally approved just three days before Wilberforce’s death with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. A year later 800,000 slaves would be freed as a result.
I encourage you to read this well-written book about the little man who has made such a big difference in history.
- New Rosaria Butterfield Book. Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ will be released July 1. You can pre-order now.
- A Martyn Lloyd-Jones Reading Guide. Jeff Robinson provides a helpful guide to reading various collections of Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons and other books about his life and ministry.
- Galatians: Selections from Martin Luther. R.J. Grunewald announces the launch of a new eBook that he’s been designing and editing in order to share for free with the world – Galatians: Selections from Martin Luther.
- 125 Free Christian e-books. Check out this excellent selection of free e-books, including several from John Piper and R.C. Sproul.
Reading Together Week 6
David Platt, author of Radical, has written an important new book. So important, I believe, that rather than doing one book review, I’m reviewing the content chapter by chapter. Note, all of Platt’s royalties from this book will go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.
Each chapter concludes by offering some initial suggestions for practical requests you can pray in light of these issues, potential ways you might engage culture with the gospel, and biblical truths we must proclaim regarding every one of these issues. These suggestions will also direct you to a website www.counterculturebook.com/resources, where you can explore more specific steps you might take.
This week we look at Chapter 6: A Profound Mystery: The Gospel and Marriage
- Census figures project that nearly half of all first marriages will end in divorce and that’s if men and women even decide to marry. The number of cohabiting couples in our culture has nearly quadrupled over the last thirty years as more and more singles postpone or put aside marriage altogether.
- Behold the beauty of God’s design for man, woman, and marriage. Two dignified people, both molded in the image of their Maker.
- Two diverse people, uniquely designed to complement each other. A male and a female fashioned by God to form one flesh, a physical bond between two bodies where the deepest point of union is found at the greatest point of difference. A matrimony marked by unity in diversity, equality with variety, and personal satisfaction through shared consummation.
- God created the marriage relationship to point to a greater reality. From the moment marriage was instituted, God aimed to give the world an illustration of the gospel.
- Marriage, according to Ephesians 5, pictures Christ and the church.
- God designs husbands to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the church in the way they relate to their wives, and God designs wives to be a reflection of the church’s love for Christ in the way they relate to their husbands.
- One of the effects of sin in Genesis 3 is the tendency for a man to rule his wife in a forceful and oppressive way that denigrates woman’s equal dignity with him.
- One of the primary reasons why submission and headship are such unpopular and uncomfortable terms for us today—because we’ve seen the dangerous ways these ideas have been exploited.
- Husbands, love your wives not because of who they are, but because of who Christ is. He loves them deeply, and our responsibility is to reflect his love.
- Husbands, realize what is at stake here: you and I are representing Christ to a watching world in the way we love our wives.
- What pictures are our marriages giving to our culture about Christ’s relationship with his church?
- God’s Word is subtly yet clearly pointing out that God has created women with a unique need to be loved and men with a unique need to be respected.
- Wives, see yourselves in a complementary, not competitive, relationship with your husband. Yield to leadership in love, knowing that you are representing the church’s relationship to Christ. If you disrespect your husband, you show the world that the church has no respect for Christ.
- If you are single, for the sake of the gospel, don’t sleep around with any man or woman who is not your husband or wife.
- All of this is good for us. It is good for husbands to lay down their lives for their wives, and in losing their lives, to find them, just as Jesus promised (see Matthew 10:38-39). Moreover, it is good for wives to receive this love and respect their husbands. I have yet to meet a wife who didn’t want to follow a husband who was sacrificially loving and serving her. Finally, it is good for a single man and a single woman to join together in a supernatural union that God designed to satisfy them both. Yet as long as they remain single (which may be their entire lives, as it was for Christ and has been for many Christians throughout history), it is good to maximize such singleness through purity before God and with a passion to spread the gospel.
- For these reasons, it is altogether right to be grieved about the redefinition of marriage in our culture. So-called “same-sex marriage” is now recognized as a legitimate entity in the eyes of our government. Such a designation by a government, however, does not change the definition God has established. The only true marriage in God’s eyes remains the exclusive, permanent union of a man and a woman, even as our Supreme Court and state legislatures deliberately defy this reality. Without question, we are living in momentous days—momentous in devastating ways.
- Ultimately, we do not look to any court or government to define marriage. God has already done that, and his definition cannot be eradicated by a vote of legislators or the opinions of Supreme Court justices. The Supreme Judge of creation has already defined this term once and for all.