The Conscience of a Nation
By Rich Santoro
The 700 Club
(All quotes are from the Bristol Bay Productions film, Amazing Grace.)
At the turn of the 19th century, British politician William Wilberforce used politics and prayer to abolish Britain’s slave trade. In 1780, William Wilberforce was elected to Britain’s parliament. He was only 21-years-old.
“We’re too young to realize certain things are impossible.”
With the release of the film Amazing Grace, the world learned of Wilberforce’s faith and driving passion.
“You’ll not drown out the voice of the people!”
When he became a Christian five years after his election, he felt God commissioned him to lead the fight against slavery.
“Remember, God made all men equal.”
At that time, Britain was one of the world’s chief suppliers of African slaves.
Slavery was a highly profitable business, deeply entrenched in the economy. British colonies depended on slave labor and Britain depended on the financial success of the colonies.
In 1788, Wilberforce introduced his first parliamentary bill to outlaw the slave trade. It was resoundingly defeated.
Wilberforce was ridiculed for his stand and carried on the battle almost alone. He was encouraged by a few friends: men like John Newton, former slave ship owner and author of the hymn, Amazing Grace.
John Wesley also wrote Wilberforce, telling him to keep his trust in God:
“Unless God has raised you up for this… you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God is with you, who can be against you?”
But more than the encouragement of friends, it was Wilberforce’s private devotions and deep prayer life that sustained him as his anti-slavery bills were defeated year after year.
“Surely the principles of Christianity must be put into action?”
“Allow me to meditate on it before I take action.”
He wrote: “I fly to thee for… support, oh Lord. I am in great troubles, insurmountable by me but to thee, slight and inconsiderable. Look upon me, oh Lord, with compassion and mercy.”
Wilberforce worked tirelessly to collect evidence of the cruelty of the slave trade, and to amass public sympathy for his cause.
Decades of hard work and persistent prayer paid off.
Finally, in March, 1807, parliament passed Wilberforce’s bill outlawing the slave trade.
After his death William Wilberforce was referred to as “The Conscience of the Nation.”
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