Almost everyone is familiar with the song Amazing Grace, the wonderful old hymn written by John Newton. What many folks don’t know is that John Newton was the captain of a ship that transported slaves from Africa to the British West Indies. He was a hard man, even at a young age, but by the amazing grace of God, he became a contrite, repentant sinner. He went on to become a well known pastor to, among others, William Wilberforce, the great Member of Parliament who God used to change 18th century England from a miserable, barbaric state to a civilized nation dependent on God. Among his many endeavors and achievements was his success in leading a campaign that ended the British slave trade and led to emancipation of all slaves in the British Empire. His was the kind of Christian leadership this nation dearly needs today.
I knew just a little bit about Wilberforce after watching the movie, Amazing Grace (watch movie trailer at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6Cv5P9H9qU). I was interested in learning more about William Wilberforce, so I read the book by the same name, written by Eric Metaxas. This book provides a more in-depth understanding of William Wilberforce, his life, his motivation, and his endeavors. It also serves to give the reader a better understanding of the situation in England in the 18th century. In fact, I found Amazing Grace to be a very encouraging book. I did not previously realize just how depraved and low British society (both the rich and poor) had sunk by the time Wilberforce and his good friend, William Pitt (the younger) came to power. England was truly a mean, ugly society that William Wilberforce was born into in 1759. But I don’t want to tell the entire story, just encourage you to read Amazing Grace.
Like any book, it’s not without its faults and shortcomings. The author, especially about halfway into the book, strays from the story and adds a few of his own biases and personal opinions, but in spite of that, this book is an important read. If it affects you as it did me, you’ll come away encouraged by what my friend calls “Irish Sympathy.” He defines “Irish Sympathy” as being encouraged when you realize that others are facing greater problems and in worse shape than you are. Indeed 18th century England certainly qualifies as a situation much, much worse than we are facing today. With the hand of God behind us, we can accomplish anything.The book, Amazing Grace, is available in paperback (HarperOne, an imprint of Harper Collins) via www.amazon.com. And, if you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly encourage you to view it. It’s as powerful and inspiring as the book.