William Wilberforce and the ‘Necessary Evil’


Today is the 185th anniversary of a monumental achievement brought about by a great man of faith. In fact, Chuck Colson called him his hero, and he’s mine too.

In late 18th and early 19th century, slavery was considered a “necessary evil.” As Historian Christopher D. Hancock wrote, the slave trade “involved thousands of slaves, hundreds of ships, and millions of pounds [sterling]; upon it depended the economies of Britain and much of Europe.

“Some Englishmen,” he continued, “including John Wesley and Thomas Clarkson, had taken steps to mitigate the evil. Yet few in England shared the abolitionists’ sense that slavery was a great social evil.”

Another historian, Richard Pierard, said that abolitionists were viewed as dangerous radicals, akin to the revolutionaries wreaking havoc in France.

Into this dark milieu stepped the English parliamentarian William Wilberforce, a true giant of the faith, who lived from 1759 to 1833.

After his dramatic conversion to Jesus Christ in 1785, the heretofore unfocused Wilberforce made three consequential decisions that ended up changing the world: first, stay in politics, at a time when conventional wisdom held that politics was too dirty a business for Christians; second, work for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain; and, third, work for moral reformation in society. Wilberforce was a moral revolutionary in a nation that was, morally speaking, scraping bottom.

These decisions went against the grain and would cost the sometimes-sickly man his health and his good, aristocratic name. But rather than retreat to the seclusion of the cloister or the security of an obscure pulpit, Wilberforce decided that God had called him to apply his Christian worldview and principles “for such a time as this.”

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SOURCE: The Christian Post, Eric Metaxas And Stan Guthrie