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Lessons from William Wilberforce

TABLE
OF

CONTENTS

Click on the study title or article youd like to see: Study 1: A Passion for Social Change Article 1: Every Arrow Needs a Bow: William Wilberforce Study 2: HE SHALL OVERCOME Article 2: The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery Study 3: PICKING OUR BATTLES Article 3: The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery Study 4: Money and Vice Article 4: A Profitable Little Business Study 5: HOLY TEAMWORK Article 5: The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists Study 6: EXPLAINING FAITH WITH GRACE Article 6: A Politician Explains the Faith

LEADERS GUIDE - STUDY 1

A Passion for Social Change


Why is it so difficultand so importantfor Christians to work together for good? In the 19th century, radical political change came from an unlikely source. A young and sickly parliamentarian named William Wilberforce managed to bring the British slave trade to public attention and, before his death, achieve his goal: the abolition of slavery. But how was such change accomplished?

Lesson #1 Scripture: Nehemiah 1:111; Isaiah 61:1; Micah 6:18; Mark 2:112; Romans 12:921 Based on: Every Arrow Needs a Bow, by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998

A Passion for Social Change

LEADERS GUIDE Page 2

PART 1

Identify the Current Issue


Note to leader: Prior to the class, provide for each person the article Every Arrow Needs a Bow from CHRISTIANITY TODAY magazine (included at the end of this study).

Christians have different visions of how to transform the political structures of the world. Some argue that change needs to come from the top down, with righteous leaders and believers in positions of power. Imagine how thrilled many Christians were when Rwandas president Paul Kagame joined Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose-Driven Life, in proclaiming Rwanda the worlds first purpose-driven nation. Others believe that true political transformation swells from the ground upward, as average peoples work and prayers rev the engines of political change. Whether believers want to occupy political office or preach to it, all agree that the significance of the Christian message is anything but private. William Wilberforce and like-minded believers were committed to living the Christian life in public service both inside and outside government. As Christopher Hancock writes, Wilberforce helped form such broad ranging groups as the Society for Bettering the Cause of the Poor (1796), the Church Missionary Society (1799), the British and Foreign Bible Society (1806), the Africa Institution (1807), and the AntiSlavery Society (1823). His was a spiritual and social gospel that sought to bring good news to all aspects of peoples lives.

Discussion Starters

[Q] What kind of political change would you seek to accomplish with the gospel? [Q] Christianity is divided over how Christians ought to relate to civic powers. What does
your church teach?

[Q] People say that the two things not to mention in polite company are politics and religion.
How is the combination of politics and religion considered even more taboo in todays society? Give some examples of how the combination may make people feel uncomfortable or comforted.
PART 2

Discover the Eternal Principles


Teaching point one: Change begins with a broken heart.
The human brain is a wonderfully complex organ, processing different kinds of information in different areas. For example, the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and usually processes emotion. Scientists find ways to map where thoughts are processed, answering such questions as: Where is romantic love located? Its not actually your heart its the basal ganglia region of the brain. But have you ever noticed that some information, however important, never seems to register both intellectually and emotionally? The reality of poverty, war, and injustice in todays society can seem like trivia, information that remains disconnected from reality.

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A Passion for Social Change Wilberforces work to end slavery took him 46 yearsa lifetime of hard work, effort, and grief. But the momentum behind these monumental efforts began, not with intellectual facts, but with emotional reality: So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trades wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would; I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition. The desire to work for Gods kingdom must begin with a broken heart. Read Nehemiah 1:111.

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[Q] Living in comfort and security in the Persian capital, the Israelites problems in
Jerusalem must have seemed far away to Nehemiah. What do we learn from his reaction to their difficulties?

[Q] Note the wording of his prayer. How does Nehemiah see the Israelites problems in
relationship to his own? Christians often think of their own problems and personal sin as paramount. But Nehemiahs confession seems to focus less on individuals and more on community.

[Q] How can shifting my to we change the focus of the Christian life? [Q] In what ways is thinking about communal sin important for Christianity? What would be
the problem of focusing solely on communal sin? Leaders Note: We emphasizes that God came to save the world and that we have certain responsibilities to the world as Christians. However, my language helps Christians focus on their own mistakes and spiritual journeys, seeing Gods connection to the world as intensely personal as well. But either one without the other weakens the impact Christians can have. Nehemiah, as cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes, enjoyed stability and social status. And yet he asked permission to leave it all to return to Jerusalem to help rebuild the wall (Nehemiah 2).

[Q] When was you last time you focused on problems and issues that were not your own?
What was the result?

[Q] How can we learn to think of the worlds problems not as theirs but as ours? [Q] Before Nehemiah took any action to help his people, he sought God. Give an example of
how this approach can serve to check our own ambitions. Christians desire to help others is rooted in the fact that while we didnt deserve anything, Christ still died on the cross to save us from our sins. Think of someone you admire who has sacrificed much for others.

[Q] After doing something wonderful, was it hard for them to stay humble? How hard is it to
keep a broken heart like Nehemiahs for others once you start helping?

Teaching point two: Change is rooted in passion, not numbers.


Passion is sought in all corners of our society. In Donald Trumps book How to Get Rich, he advises people to Do what you love. No matter what you do, you have to be passionate about it. Internet gurus promote passion consultants to help people find their inner fire. Passion

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A Passion for Social Change University in San Francisco even promises to teach and certify people in living holistically passionate lives. As John Hart describes, passion is a potent tool for religion too: The great spiritual movements that have shaped societies and their political institutions have almost always been marked not so much by numbers, but by intensity. The First and Second Great Awakenings in American history were great not so much because of their size as because of the depth of change that awakened individuals sustained. For that matter, evil spiritual movements like Lenins and Hitlers follow the same model. For good or ill, small groups of highly committed individuals are the engines that drive revolutions. Wilberforce and his close community of friends drove a revolution of Christian social causes. At one point, he was active in 69 philanthropic causes, fighting for the welfare of single mothers, soldiers, animals, children, and orphans. Read Mark 2:112.

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[Q] The paralytic mans encounter with Jesus did not just happen on its own. Discuss all the
steps it likely took to make it happen. Who did the work? How did Jesus respond to these efforts?

[Q] Whose faith did Jesus see and reward? Note the wording in verse 5. What does this
suggest about what God values?

[Q] Some Christians argue that the churchs focus ought to be on saving souls rather than
improving peoples quality of life. How does this passage reflect Jesus priorities? Do you think it is an either/or equation? Read Isaiah 61:1. In the Book of Luke, Jesus applies these words to his own mission.

[Q] In your experience, what is the churchs track record in making this mission their
mandate?

[Q] Look at the action words in this passage. How do these actions require your passion?
Teaching point three: Ultimately, political transformation can never replace the transforming power of God.
In the philosopher Platos most famous work, he offers a blueprint for the perfect republic. Political leadership would require superior intellectual knowledge, not superior force. Each station in life would require special gifts, and harmony would rule the relationship between the state and the individual. Its tempting to think that having the right rules in place would create a great society and the world would operate like a well-oiled machine. But even if perfect laws were in place, as Hart describes:
the transforming power of God comes through love, not laws. As important as they are, just laws cannot substitute for a body politic that loves justice. Laws do not exercise jurisdiction over the soul, while love penetrates the soul. It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days, but someones soul, inspired and ablaze, wrote Boris Pasternak.

Read Micah 6:18. In these difficult days for the southern kingdom of Judah, Micah witnessed the moral and political decay of Gods chosen people. Alternating between oracles of hope and doom, Micah prophesied Gods judgment on Judah.

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A Passion for Social Change

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[Q] In this courtroom scene, what is the nature of Gods


judgment of his people?

[Q] How does Micah, serving as interlocutor, describe Gods desires for them?
During this time of crisis, refugees from the north flooded Jerusalem, overwhelming the city with countless poor and needy people.

[Q] What do you think God would want the Judeans to do based on this passage? [Q] Even in a society governed by perfect laws, why is it not enough to love justice? How do
Micahs words qualify and expand what He has showed you? Read Romans 12:921. Paul offers radical teaching on how believers are supposed to love.

[Q] Can these teachings be legislated? If so, which ones? If not, how does this passage
challenge us to know our work does not end with political transformation? Consider St. Ignatius of Loyolas famous prayer:
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight, and not to heed the wounds; to labor, and not to seek to rest; to give of myself and not to ask for reward, except the reward of knowing that I am doing your will.

[Q] How do these words form a prescription for love rather than a law to be followed?
PART THREE

Apply Your Findings


In the early 18th century, an unlikely religious group climbed to the height of economic and political power in the new colony of Pennsylvania. Quakers, whose commitment to plain dress, simple living, and pacifism made them cultural outsiders, suddenly found themselves with the ability and will to rule. At first, it seemed easy to be both a committed Quaker and a maker of public policy. As Pennsylvanias most important merchants, farmers, and politicians, it seemed right that they should spread Christs light into the broader culture. But politics soon demanded spiritual compromise. People began to call for the Quakerdominated government to fight Native Americans along Pennsylvanias increasingly volatile frontier, a clear violation of Quaker pacifism. Further, prosperity was making it harder to convince fellow Quakers to keep their clothing simple and their possessions few. As tensions between political office and religious life mounted, most Quakers resigned from politics. Some heralded their exodus as the preservation of religious purity, while others called it a loss for the state. With the Quakers gone, few remained to challenge the peddling of slaves and guns or military action against the Native Americans. The relationship of Christianity to political power is complicated by the reality of compromise. Politicians constantly barter and bargain for compromise on a variety of issues, while Christianity hopes to attain purity above all else. Wilberforce himself fought for a 10-hour work day and felt let down when he settled for 10 and a half.

[Q] When do you think it is better to compromise? What kinds of issues do you feel cant be
compromised?

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[Q] What actions could you or your church take to raise an


issue of concern to the political community?

[Q] What approaches have Christians taken in the past that show passion as well as love? [Q] Give some examples of how Christians have ruined their reputation by fighting for issues
at all costs. Action Point: The song Canticle of the Turning promises that God is ready to change the world. What great things do you wish would come about with your help?
Though I am small, my God, my all, You work great things in me. And Your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be. Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for You yearn You will show Your might, put the strong to flight for the world is about to turn.

Optional Activity: End your meeting by reciting together either St. Ignatius of Loyolas prayer or Canticle of the Turning. Study prepared by Kate Bowler, graduate student in religion at Duke University.

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Recommended Resources
ChristianBibleStudies.com -Christian Vision Project course The Church in Transition: The Journey of Existing Churches into the Emerging Culture, Tim Conder (Zondervan, 2006; 0310265711) The World Calling: The Churchs Witness in Politics and Society, Thomas Ogletree (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004; ISBN 0664228747) Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Eric Metaxas (HarperCollins, 2007; ISBN 0061173002) Real Christianity, William Wilberforce and Bob Beltz (Regal Books, 2007; ISBN 0830743111) William Wilberforce: The Freedom Fighter, Derek Bingham (Christian Focus Public, 1997; ISBN 1857923715; ISBN 1591603692) William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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ARTICLE

Every Arrow Needs a Bow: William Wilberforce


William Wilberforce and the Power of Community. By John Hart, for the study A Passion for Social Change.

Many political observers agree that at no other time in the past 30 years have Christians enjoyed so much political influence, yet suffered so much political frustration. Religious conservatives, who went to great lengths to secure a place at the table, now feel disappointed in the results and betrayed by those with whom they sit. James Dobson, for example, has seriously considered leaving the Republican party and taking his four million listeners with him. Despite the churchs vast investments in the political arena, Dobson and his cobelligerents say, our culture continues to spiral downward. Meanwhile, activists on the religious left are dismayed that increased access to the White House kaffeeklatsch has brought few concrete results for their own agenda. Perhaps this paradoxical state of access without success can draw our attention to a 28-year-old Member of Parliament who wrote in his diary: God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners [morals]. The year was 1787, and the young parliamentarian was William Wilberforce. His success in these two great objects is perhaps the most remarkable achievement of any single statesman. In 1787, the odds of Wilberforce, or anyone, abolishing the slave trade seemed miniscule. Public opinion and the economic self-interest of his own nation were overwhelmingly against him. The typical citizen considered slaves to be nothing more than property, and the trade was as entrenched in the economy of the British Empire as the military-industrial complex is in ours. To detach the British economy from slavery, thus cutting off the economic lifeblood of his constituents, would have seemed to pundits in 1787 a perfect way to commit political suicide. Ten days before his death, an elderly John Wesley wrote to the young Wilberforce: Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you. God was indeed with him. Wilberforce persisted through vicious insults and physical assaults before he miraculously succeeded in his crusade 46 years later, only three days before his own death. Wilberforces success in reforming the manners of England was equally astonishing. English culture in 1787 was similar to postmodern America in its callousness, indifference, and hedonism. The Empires cultural elite had made great strides in normalizing debauchery. Yet, somehow, Wilberforce made goodness fashionable through a series of imaginative efforts toward cultural renewal. His

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Every Arrow Needs a Bow: William Wilberforce biographer, John Pollock, credits him with establishing the Victorian virtues of character, morality, and justice. Wilberforces success can, in part, be credited to his enormous talents: his brilliance, wit, and soaring oratory. He could have become prime minister had he preferred party to mankind, notes one historian. However, another vital component to Wilberforces success was the support provided by his community of friends in the Clapham Fellowship. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone. In Clapham, a town a few miles south of London, Wilberforce and his closest friends lived together in community. Among those who lived in Clapham were spiritual advisors and colleagues in Parliament such as John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Henry Thornton, and their families. Their houses were joined by a garden that none of the families bothered to divide. Each family lived by an open-door policy and often strolled into one anothers homes uninvited. The families often shared meals together, housed guests, and watched their children play with one another. Overflowing joy marked their community life. The nephew of Henry Venn, one of the spiritual elders at Clapham, recalled his upbringing: These wise men never endeavored to mould our uninformed opinions into any particular mould. Indeed, it was needless for them to preach to us. Their lives spoke far more plainly and convincingly than any words. We saw their patience, cheerfulness, generosity, wisdom, and activity daily before us, and we knew and felt that all this was only the natural expression of hearts given to the service of God. There were at least three qualities of the Clapham Fellowship that contributed to their incredible success. First, they were radically committed to, and unified in, the person of Jesus Christ. Doug Holladay, former Reagan advisor and Wilberforce expert, notes how this principle set Wilberforce apart from his religious contemporaries: Rather than ascribing to lifeless dogma or dull, conventional religious thinking, Wilberforce and his colleagues were motivated by a robust personal belief in a living God who is concerned with individual human lives, justice, and the transformation of societies. Their intense focus on Jesus Christ also prevented denominational differences, not to mention personal ambition and ego, from dividing the community. The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesleys maxim: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ. Second, their intentional relationships with one another were their greatest resource. Their colleagues in Parliament described Wilberforce and his cohort as The Saints, a term that mixed derision and respect. The Saintsonce described as a meeting that never adjournedprovided one another strength, accountability, and

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Every Arrow Needs a Bow: William Wilberforce vision. Though they brought tremendous individual passion to their political causes, The Saints did not pursue their projects at the expense of their friendships. Former United States Senator Mark Hatfield writes that Wilberforce inspired him to reevaluate his career: One of the most compelling and encouraging characteristics I find in Wilberforces life was the early resolve to focus his legislative and personal agenda on building relationships, Hatfield writes. This took the place of power manipulation and legal machinations. In other words, he sought to continue the incarnation of the Word in loving acts of mercy, justice, and charity to those around himeven if they were his adversaries. If Christians in political life cannot be witnesses in this most basic manifestation of the living Word on a day-to-day basis, then the whole concept of public service is a mockery. Dr. Richard C. Halverson was also struck by this dimension of Wilberforces life: There is no limit, no limit, to what God Almighty can do through a group of two or three people who are committed to loving God and one another for life, Halverson preached on many occasions. And long after the history of all the big things that make the front pages are forgotten, what God has done through you and a few people will be history. Third, the Clapham Fellowship had a clearly defined vision for broad cultural engagement. I am in hopes that some good may come out of the Clapham system, Clapham resident and MP Henry Thornton wrote, with some understatement. Mr. Wilberforce is a candle that should not be hid under a bushel. The influence of his conversation is great and striking. Thornton, perhaps more than any other member of the group, understood that an individual who engages the culture apart from community is as impotent as a community that does not engage the culture, just as an arrow without a bow is as useless as a bow without an arrow. The group built on their disciplined commitment to love one another by combining their gifts in a corporate effort to engage society. Their brains could not be denied, even by those who sneered at their religion. They possessed between them an astonishing range of capacities: encyclopedic knowledge, a capacity for research, sparkling wit and literary style, business sagacity, foreign policy expertise, legal ability, oratory and parliamentary skill. No prime minister had such a cabinet as Wilberforce could summon to his assistance, Garth Lean writes in Gods Politician. Rather than creating a religious subculture, the group was a counterculture. They were far from a holy huddle. They understood that a person must understand ones times in order to impact ones times, and were masterful at navigating and impacting their culture. Christians who are active in the political arena ought to reassess their tactics in light of the Clapham Fellowships remarkable influence and faithfulness to Christ. For despite the well-publicized successes of the Christian Coalition and others, the church, and religious conservatives in particular, are probably at or near the zenith of their political power. Studies indicate that only 18 percent of Americans consider

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Every Arrow Needs a Bow: William Wilberforce themselves to be both devoutly religious and politically active. Such a relatively small number can only exercise so much leverage in the political process, and that leverage appears to be at its limit. We just dont have the numbers, says conservative political commentator Cal Thomas. One of the primary sources of discord among religious conservatives, in fact, is how to get more leverage out of a system that seems to be stuck. This battle pits purists like Dobson versus pragmatists like Ralph Reed. But the real danger for the church is not whether we will lose political leverage, but whether achieving a place at the table will reduce us to a political constituency alongside the National Rifle Association, Americans for Tax Reform, the Beer Wholesalers of America, and countless others. There is nothing wrong with the church functioning as a political constituency, but we can and should be more. Indeed, it is naive to think that the creation of a dominant Christian political constituencywere such a thing possiblewould renew American society, for two reasons. First, the great spiritual movements that have shaped societies and their political institutions have almost always been marked not so much by numbers, but by intensity. The First and Second Great Awakenings in American history were great not so much because of their size as because of the depth of change that awakened individuals sustained. For that matter, evil spiritual movements like Lenins and Hitlers follow the same model. For good or ill, small groups of highly committed individuals are the engines that drive revolutions. Wilberforce chose an intense commitment to a few rather than a loose commitment to many. Second, the transforming power of God comes through love, not laws. As important as they are, just laws cannot substitute for a body politic that loves justice. Laws do not exercise jurisdiction over the soul, while love penetrates the soul. It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days, but someones soul, inspired and ablaze, wrote Boris Pasternak. Wilberforce was such a soul. His consuming passion was serving and loving Jesus Christ. It is impossible to imagine Wilberforce conducting a poll before introducing his bill to abolish slavery. Obeying Christ was his primary mission; developing a winning political strategy was secondaryalthough he believed that with the support of the Creator he had already achieved a sufficient majority. Today it seems that many prominent political figures in the church are flirting with dreams of a political messiah, as if the incumbent Messiah were somehow lacking in power. In many respects, Wilberforce fits the profile of the political messiah so many long for. Yet Wilberforces political power did not come from the sources the church is increasingly embracing: parties, money, coalitions, image, lobbyists, a mobilized base, et cetera. His power came from Jesus Christ and a few lifelong friends. Another Wilberforce will not be raised up by traditional political engineering. Such attempts typically produce hollow clones who mirror one another in an embarrassing spectacle of political pandering. A genuine reformer, however, can be born out of a community of believers passionate about Jesus Christ. The stakes for our nation could

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Every Arrow Needs a Bow: William Wilberforce not be higher. The promises this generation embraces in the next century will greatly influence whether the coming decades will be a time of renewal or erosion. May we choose to be communitieslike the Clapham Fellowshipthat transform culture. John Hart, RQs Contributing Editor for Politics, works as an aide in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1994, he became the youngest writer ever to win the Amy Writing Award, for an article on Mother Teresas speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Every Arrow Needs a Bow, by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998

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LEADERS GUIDE - STUDY 2

He Shall Overcome
How does God accomplish big things through small, weak people? The story of anti-slavery activism in the United States centers on a few strong characterseloquent speakers like Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, violent visionaries like Nat Turner and John Brown, and fearless journalists like Elijah Lovejoy and William Lloyd Garrison. Before any of these crusaders ascended historys stage, however, a small and physically frail man in England had already struck a death-blow to bondage. William Wilberforce, as Christopher D. Hancock describes him in The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery, was blighted by weak and painful eyes, a stomach prone to colitis, and a body that for many years had to be held upright by a crude metal frame, and yet he spearheaded the effort to outlaw the human trade. John Wesley rightly assessed Wilberforces chances: Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Do our imperfections get in Gods way? What should Christians do when they face opposition? Is there anything faith cannot accomplish? We will explore these questions in this study.

Lesson #2 Scripture: Exodus 23; 1 Samuel 1:120; 2 Chronicles 32:922; Matthew 17:1420; Acts 22:3023:16; 2 Corinthians 12:710 Based on: The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery, by Christopher D. Hancock, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

He Shall Overcome
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LEADERS GUIDE

PART 1

Identify the Current Issue


Note to leader: Prior to the class, provide for each person the article The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery from CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY magazine (included at the end of this study).

The imperfect hero has become something of a clich in American culture. Indiana Jones was afraid of snakes. President John F. Kennedy cheated on his wife. William J. Bennett, author of The Book of Virtues, has a gambling problem. In some ways, these examples teach a truthevery human being, no matter how powerful or how glamorous, has flaws. Yet the clich usually communicates a profound untruth as well, for it tends to suggest either that flaws are necessary components of a complete personality or that strong character alone can prevail in any situation. It can be difficult for Christians to remember that all flaws stem from the Fall, while the power to triumph comes only from God.

Discussion starters:

[Q] Think of some movies, TV shows, or news stories that feature imperfect heroes. What
messages do these media constructs send about human nature?

[Q] What kind of portrait does Hancock paint of William Wilberforce? How would someone
like him fare in the world of contemporary politics?

[Q] Would you have voted for Wilberforce? Why or why not?
Optional Activity: As a large group, or in smaller groups, devise a campaign ad for Wilberforce. Would you highlight or downplay his physical infirmities? How much would you say about his faith? What slogan would you use? How do these choices reflect our contemporary notions of leadership and character?
PART 2

Discover the Eternal Principles


Teaching point one: Gods strength overcomes our weakness.
Physical infirmity has never disqualified people from serving God in important ways. For just two examples, read the stories of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:120) and Paul (2 Corinthians 12:710).

[Q] What was Hannahs infirmity? What caused it? [Q] When did Hannahs mood changebefore or after her infirmity was healed? What
changed her mood? Do you think she would have kept feeling this way even if she never bore a child?

[Q] Paul does not specify the nature of the thorn in his flesh, but scholars for centuries have
speculated that it might have been poor eyesight (see Galatians 4:1315) or another physical affliction. How does Paul deal with it?

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LEADERS GUIDE

[Q] How are physical afflictions similar to insults,


hardships, persecutions, and difficulties? How are they different? How is Gods power shown in all of these different kinds of challenges?

Teaching point two: Gods purpose overcomes our distractions.


A frail body was not Wilberforces only personal challenge. He also struggled with idleness, vanity, and temptations of the table. In this respect, his life bore similarities to the life of Moses, as we see in selected passages from Exodus 23.

[Q] Read Exodus 2:110. How did Moses upbringing differ from that of other Israelites? [Q] Read Exodus 2:1125. What were the strengths and weaknesses of Moses character at
this time in his life? How well did he use his time and talents?

[Q] Read Exodus 3:110. How did God get Moses attention? Why do you think God acted in
this dramatic way?

[Q] Read Exodus 3:1114. Why did Moses give God excuses? What defects or distractions did
these excuses expose? How did God respond?

Teaching point three: Gods support overcomes our enemies opposition.


In addition to personal issues, Wilberforce faced stiff opposition from other politicians and public figures. As Hancock put it, The pathway to abolition was fraught with difficulty. Vested interest, parliamentary filibustering, entrenched bigotry, international politics, slave unrest, personal sickness, and political fear all combined to frustrate the movement. It would take years before Wilberforce would see success. In this respect, Wilberforces life again resembled Pauls, for the apostle also faced high-powered hostility. Read Acts 22:3023:16.

[Q] What political forces collided in this passage?


Leaders Note: Remember that the Jews in 23:12 does not refer to all Jews, or even all Jews in the area. Paul was ethnically Jewish, as were his sister and her son. The writer of Acts uses the collective term to mean the Jewish leaders who opposed Christianity. It is not intended to be anti-Semitic.

[Q] What tactics did Paul use to navigate these dangerous waters? [Q] Where is Gods involvement evident in this passage?
Teaching point four: Gods power overcomes evil.
Skilled and persistent as he was, Wilberforce could never have beaten the entrenched wickedness of the slave trade without divine assistance. The business helped to bankroll Britains far-flung empire and dovetailed with the ideology of white superiority. In the United States, it took a long and incredibly bloody civil war to settle the question of slavery. Fortunately for Wilberforce (and all of us), God specializes in impossible odds. Read 2 Chronicles 32:922 and Matthew 17:1420.

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He Shall Overcome
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LEADERS GUIDE

[Q] In the 2 Chronicles passage, what reasons did the


people of Judah have for despair? What reasons did they have for hope?

[Q] By what means did God save the people of Judah? [Q] Does this story only tell us how God worked long ago, or does it shed light on how he
works today?

[Q] What is the nature of the evil opponent in the Matthew passage? By what means did God
vanquish it?

[Q] How do you understand Jesus statement about the mustard seed and the mountain?
Does the promise apply in all situations?
PART 3

Apply Your Findings


Probably none of us will be in a position to lead a crusade against a great social evil, but all of us can learn from the juxtaposition of Wilberforces weakness and Gods strength. The key is to acknowledge our shortcomings and maintain a vibrant sense of Gods limitless power.

[Q] Do physical challenges prevent you from serving God in any way? Is there anything you
can do to improve your health or get around your challenges? If not, can you imagine any way God might use your infirmity to proclaim his glory?

[Q] What distracts you from Gods purposes? How can you eliminate your distractions? [Q] Do you regularly encounter any people or institutions that work against Gods kingdom?
How can God help you in these encounters? Action Point: What problem in your lifeor in the worldseems impossible right now? How would a person with absolute confidence in Gods power approach the problem? How can you become like that person? Study prepared by Elesha Coffman, former managing editor of CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY magazine.

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He Shall Overcome
Page 5

LEADERS GUIDE

Recommended Resources
ChristianBibleStudies.com -Christian Vision Project course Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery , Eric Metaxas (HarperCollins, 2007; ISBN 0061173002) Real Christianity, William Wilberforce and Bob Beltz (Regal Books, 2007; ISBN 0830743111) William Wilberforce: The Freedom Fighter, Derek Bingham (Christian Focus Public, 1997; ISBN 1857923715) Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism, Christopher Leslie Brown (University of North Carolina Press, 2006; ISBN 0807856983) William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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ARTICLE

The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery


By Christopher D. Hancock, for the study He Shall Overcome.

The most malignant evil of the British Empire ceased largely because of the faith and persistence of William Wilberforce.

Today one of his full portraits hangs in a pub. Another in the same town, Cambridge, hangs in a hotel. Another still, in his old college, St. Johns. In each he peers at the world quizzically through small, bright eyes over a long, upturned nose. He was said to be the wittiest man in England, and the most religious (Madame de Stael), and one who possessed the greatest natural eloquence of all the men I ever met (William Pitt). When he spoke, another quipped, The shrimp became a whale (James Boswell). Historian G. M. Trevelyan called this shrimp the primary human agent for one of the turning events in the history of the world. Its hard to imagine that this man, with the gentle grin and the small, twisted body, could move the world in a new direction. Yet William Wilberforce did. Born on August 24, 1759, the third child of Robert and Elizabeth Wilberforce grew up surrounded by wealth. The Wilberforces had settled in Hull, England, at the beginning of the 1700s and made their wealth in the booming Baltic trade. When William was 9, his father died. The boy was sent to stay with his childless aunt and uncle, who were great friends of Mr. [George] Whitefield. They exposed their young charge to the evangelical preaching of John Newton, the ex-slave trader. Years later Wilberforce spoke of reverencing him as a parent when I was a child. Newtons immediate influence, however, was short lived. Fearing her son might be infected by the poison of Methodism, his mother brought him back to Hull and enrolled him at his grandfathers old school at Pockington near York. His education as a gentleman continued among the commercial aristocracy. He learned to play cards and sing and developed his gift of witty repartee. He later wrote, I was naturally a high-spirited boy and fiery. They [his friends] pushed me forward and made me talk a great deal and made me very vain. His grandfathers death in November 1774 left him richer still and more susceptible to the temptations of plenty. In October 1776, Wilberforce entered St. Johns College, Cambridge. His three years there were pleasant but unproductive. He had unlimited command of money and little academic pressure from his tutor.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery As much pains were taken to make me idle as were ever taken to make anyone studious, he later complained. His intellectual aspirations were no match for his passion for socializing. His neighbor, Thomas Gisborne, later recalled, When he [Wilberforce] returned late in the evening to his rooms, he would summon me to join him. He was so winning and amusing that I often sat up half the night with him, much to the detriment of my attendance at lectures the next day. Wilberforce graduated the same year as the hard-working William Pitt (future prime minister). Their friendship grew throughout 1779. Together they watched Parliament from the gallery and dreamed of political careers. In the summer of 1780, the ambitious Wilberforce stood for election as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull. He was only 21, and one of his opponents had powerful supporters. His chances of winning were slim. In the campaign, Wilberforce relied on his charm, energy, tact, and powers of persuasion, and in the end, he secured as many votes as his opponents combined. He was to remain an MP, for various constituencies, for another 45 years. The first years I was in Parliament, he later wrote, I did nothingnothing that is to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object. He frequented the exclusive clubs of St. James and acquired a reputation as a songster and wit who was professionally careless and inaccurate in method. His fertile mind flitted from topic to topic. His early speeches, though eloquent, lacked focus and passion. Starting in 1784, however, all that changed.

ARTICLE Page 2

Birth of a Christian politician


In 1784, after his election as the MP for Yorkshire (one of the most coveted seats in the House of Commons), Wilberforce accompanied his sister Sally, his mother, and two of his cousins to the French Riviera (for the sake of Sallys health). He had also invited Isaac Milner, tutor at Queens College, Cambridge, an acquaintance. Though friends counted Wilber both religious and moral, had he known that Milners huge frame housed both a fine mathematical brain and a strong methodistical [evangelical] faith, it is unlikely he would have invited him. The combination was unimaginable in an English gentleman! Milners clear thought and winsome manner were effective advertisements for serious Christianity. Wilberforce had the quicker tongue, Milner the sharper mind. As they journeyed, they debated the evangelicalism of Wilberforces youth. Over the next months, Wilberforce read Philip Doddridges The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (1745) beside an open Bible. His reading and conversations with Milner convinced him of wealths emptiness, Christianitys truth, and his own failure to embrace its radical demands. Outwardly he looked ever confident, but inwardly he agonized. I was filled with sorrow, he wrote. I am sure that no human creature could suffer more than I did for some months.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery He considered withdrawing from public life for the sake of his faith. He confided in his friend Pitt, now prime minister. Pitt told him not to withdraw. With ten thousand doubts, he approached John Newton. The aging saint advised him, It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of his church and for the good of the nation. Wilberforces unnatural gloom finally lifted on Easter 1786, amidst the general chorus with which all nature seems on such a morning to be swelling the song of praise and thanksgiving. He believed his new life had begun. His sense of vocation began growing within. My walk is a public one, he wrote in his diary. My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me. He also increasingly felt the burden of his calling: A man who acts from the principles I profess, he later wrote, reflects that he is to give an account of his political conduct at the judgment seat of Christ.

ARTICLE Page 3

Finding his purpose


His diary for the summer of 1786 charts his painful search for greater discipline and a clearer vocation. He flitted between humanitarian and local causes, between parliamentary and national reform. He studied to correct his Cambridge indolence. He practiced abstinence from alcohol and rigorous self-examination as befit, he believed, a serious Christian. After one dinner with Pitt, he wrote in his diary about the temptations of the table, meaning the endless stream of dinner parties filled with vain and useless conversation. [They] disqualify me for every useful purpose in life, waste my time, impair my health, fill my mind with thoughts of resistance before and selfcondemnation afterwards. In early 1786, Wilberforce had been tentatively approached by friends who were committed abolitionists. They asked him to lead the parliamentary campaign for their cause. Even Pitt prodded him in this direction: Wilberforce, why dont you give notice of a motion on the subject of the slave trade? But Wilberforce hesitated. The slave trade in the late 1700s involved thousands of slaves, hundreds of ships, and millions of pounds; upon it depended the economies of Britain and much of Europe. Few were aware of the horrors of the so-called Middle Passage across the Atlantic, where an estimated one out of four slaves died. Some Englishmen, 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. Some presumed that slaves were a justifiable necessity or that they deserved their plight. For Wilberforce light began to dawn slowly during his 27th year. His diary for Sunday, October 28, 1787, shows with extraordinary clarity the fruit of prolonged study, prayer, and conversation. He realized the need for some reformer of the

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery nations morals, who should raise his voice in the high places of the land and do within the church and nearer the throne what Wesley has accomplished in the meeting and among the multitude. He also summed up what became his life mission: God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (i.e., morality). Later he reflected on his decision about slavery: So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trades wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would; I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.

ARTICLE Page 4

Enormous foes
Wilberforce was initially optimistic, naively so, and expressed no doubt of our success. He sought to stem the flow of slaves from Africa by international accord. The strength of his feelings and the support of prominent politicians like Pitt, Edmund Burke, and Charles Fox blinded him to the enormity of his task. From his deathbed, John Wesley wrote him, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? In May 1788, Wilberforce had recovered from another of his periodic bouts of illness to introduce a 12-point motion to Parliament indicting the trade. He and Thomas Clarkson (whom Wilberforce praised as central to the causes success) had thoroughly researched and now publicized the trades physical atrocities. But Parliament wanted to maintain the status quo, and the motion was defeated. The campaign and opposition intensified. Planters, businessmen, ship owners, traditionalists, and even the Crown opposed the movement. Many feared personal financial ruin and nationwide recession if the trade ceased. Wilberforce was vilified. Admiral Horatio Nelson castigated the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies. One of Wilberforces friends wrote fearing he would one day read of Wilberforce being carbonadoed [broiled] by West Indian planters, barbecued by African merchants, and eaten by Guinea captains. Wilberforces spirit was indomitable, his enthusiasm palpable. As the slave owners agent in Jamaica wrote, It is necessary to watch him, as he is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that enthusiastic spirit, which is so far from yielding that it grows more vigorous from blows. The pathway to abolition was fraught with difficulty. Vested interest, parliamentary filibustering, entrenched bigotry, international politics, slave unrest, personal sickness, and political fearall combined to frustrate the movement. It would take years before Wilberforce would see success.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery

ARTICLE Page 5

Prime minister of philanthropy


The cause of the slaves was not Wilberforces only concern. The second great object of Wilberforces life was the reformation of the nations morals. Early in 1787, he conceived of a society that would work, as a royal proclamation put it, for the encouragement of piety and virtue; and for the preventing of vice, profaneness, and immorality. It eventually became known as the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Enlisting support from leading figures in church and stateand King George III Wilberforce made private morality a matter of public concern. Laws restricting drinking, swearing, and gaming on Sundays were enforced. All loose and licentious prints, books, and publications were suppressed, including Thomas Paines The Age of Reason. Wilberforce was criticized for his priggish concerns, yet John Pollock, a recent biographer, wrote, The reformation of manners grew into Victorian virtues and Wilberforce touched the world when he made goodness fashionable. It has been estimated that Wilberforcedubbed the prime minister of a cabinet of philanthropistswas at one time active in support of 69 philanthropic causes. He gave away a fourth of his annual income to the poor. He also gave an annuity to Charles Wesleys widow from 1792 until her death in 1822. He fought the cause of climbing boys (chimney sweeps) and single mothers. He sought the welfare of soldiers, sailors, and animals, and established Sunday schools and orphanages for criminal poor children. His homes were havens for the marginalized and dispossessed. Targeting the powerful as the agents of change, Wilberforce made common cause with Hannah More, the evangelical playwright, whose Thoughts on the Manners of the Great appeared in 1787. To expect to reform the poor while the opulent are corrupt, she wrote, is to throw odors [perfume] on the stream while the springs are poisoned. Clapham, a leafy village south of London, became a base for a number of these influential people, who became known as the Clapham Sect. These bankers and diplomats, legislators, and businessmen shared a commitment to a godly life in public service. Their vital and practical Christianity expressed Wilberforces vision of an integrated evangelicalism committed to a spiritual and social gospel. The groups reputation for philanthropy and evangelical fervor spread. Warned one politician, I would counsel my lords and bishops to keep their eyes upon that holy village. Wilberforces public struggles and success must be set against the background of his private joys and pains.

The public mans private side


Wilberforces health was blighted by weak and painful eyes, a stomach prone to colitis, and a body that for many years had to be held upright by a crude metal frame. In his late 20s, he already wrote from his sickbed, [I] am still a close prisoner, wholly unequal even to such a little business as I am now engaged in: add to which my eyes

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery are so bad that I can scarce see to how to direct my pen. His gloomy doctor reported, That little fellow, with his calico guts, cannot possibly survive a twelve-month. He did, though in the process he became dependent on small doses of opium, the nearest thing to an effective pain killer and treatment for colitis known at the time. Wilberforce was aware of opiums dangers and was not easily persuaded to take it. After taking it for some time, he noticed that omitting his nighttime dose caused sickness, sweating, and sneezing in the morning. Opiums hallucinatory powers terrified him, and the depressions it caused virtually crippled him at times. His notebooks contain anguished prayers: I fly to thee for succor and support, O Lord, let it come speedily. I am in great troubles insurmountable by me. Look upon me, O Lord, with compassion and mercy, and restore me to rest, quietness, and comfort in the world, or in another by removing me hence into a state of happiness. In his later years, he showed the long-term effects of opium use, particularly listlessness and amnesia. His marriage to Barbara Spooner, in 1797, brought him much joy. On the other hand, the financial ineptitude of his oldest son in 1830 (reducing his parents to a peripatetic existence in their childrens homes) and the death of his second daughter in 1832 caused his final years to be overshadowed by grief and poverty. (In time three of his four sons became Roman Catholics, one an adversary of Lord Shaftesbury, Wilberforces successor in many ways.) Wilberforces life was not without criticism. Some see in his sons five-volume Life muted praise of both his evangelicalism and his parenting. Opponents of abolition bitterly denounced both his character and his cause. A Wimbledon man, Anthony Fearon, attempted blackmail (causing Wilberforce to write, At all events, he must not be permitted to publish), but the precise grounds are not known. Through all this, Wilberforce drew spiritual and intellectual strength from the Bible and the Puritans (such as Richard Baxter, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards), and built his evangelical faith on a mildly Calvinist foundation. Philip Doddridges Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul continued to shape his spirituality: daily self-examination, and extended times of prayer, regular Communions and fasting, morning and evening devotions, and times of solitude. He also paid careful attention to Gods providential provision in his life, the needs of others, and his own mortality. For all of Wilberforces appeal to real and vital Christianity, especially in his best-selling A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System Contrasted with Real Christianity (1797), he did not embrace a dull, joyless legalism. His personality alone was too lively for that. As he once wrote to a relative, My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox churchmen is that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes and religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air.

ARTICLE Page 6

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery

ARTICLE Page 7

Vocal until death


It is hard to comprehend the extent of Wilberforces labors and the scope of his achievement. He contributed to the Christianization of British India by securing chaplains to the East India Company and missionaries to India. He worked with Charles Simeon and others to secure parishes for evangelical clergy, thus shaping the future of the Church of England. He helped form a variety of parachurch groups: the Society for Bettering the Cause of the Poor (1796), the Church Missionary Society (1799), the British and Foreign Bible Society (1806), the Africa Institution (1807), and the Anti-Slavery Society (1823). But his greatest legacy remains his fight against the slave trade, which frustrated him for years. As early as 1789, he achieved some success in having 12 resolutions against the trade passedonly to be outmaneuvered on fine legal points. Another bill to abolish the trade was defeated in 1791 (by 163 to 88) because a slave uprising in Santo Domingo made MPs nervous about granting freedom to slaves. Further defeats followed in 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805. But Wilberforce persisted, and finally, on February 23, 1807, a political ruse by Lord Grenvilles more liberal administration (pointing out that the trade assisted Britains enemies) secured its abolition by 283 votes to 16. The House cheered. Wilberforce wept with joy. Wilberforce became a national hero overnight, and his opponents sharpened their knives. Lord Milton Lascelles spent no less than 200,000 to fight (unsuccessfully) against Wilberforce in the election in 1807. The next issue was ensuring that the abolition of the slave trade was enforced and that eventually slavery was abolished. This last goal took another 26 years, and Wilberforces health prevented him from continuing to the end. At age 62, he turned over parliamentary leadership of emancipation to Thomas Foxwell Buxton. But Wilberforce continued to play a role. In 1823 he published An Appeal to the Religion, Justice and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire on Behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies. Three months before his death he was found going out to war again, campaigning for abolitionist petitions to Parliament. He declared publicly, I had never thought to appear in public again, but it shall never be said that William Wilberforce is silent while the slaves require his help. On July 26, 1833, the final passage of the emancipation bill was insured when a committee of the House of Commons worked out key details. Three days later, Wilberforce died. Parliament continued working out details of the measure, and later Buxton wrote, On the very night on which we were successfully engaged in the House of Commons in passing the clause of the Act of Emancipation the spirit of our friend left the world. The day which was the termination of his labors was the termination of his life.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery Parliament overruled family preference and designated Westminster Abbey as the place for both his funeral and memorial. Parliamentary business was suspended. One MP recalled, The attendance was very great. The funeral itself, with the exception of the choir, was perfectly plain. The noblest and most fitting testimony to the estimation of the man. It is right that Wilberforce is remembered in a church; he was a churchman through and through. But the places where his portrait hangs in Cambridge are in their own ways also fitting. His walk was indeed in the world, though not of it. Christopher Hancock is vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England, and associate professor of systematic theology at Virginia Theological Seminary.
The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery, by Christopher D. Hancock, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

ARTICLE Page 8

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LEADERS GUIDE - STUDY 3

Picking Our Battles


Is every social sin a worthy cause for Christian activism? In the previous study, we looked at the challenges Wilberforce faced in his campaign to end slavery. But slavery was not the only social ill he fought. Wilberforce (and his Society for the Suppression of Vice) also engaged concerns ranging from poverty and child labor to drinking and Sabbath observance. At one point, Christopher Hancock writes, the reformer supported 69 different philanthropic enterprises, giving away one-fourth of his income. Yet these efforts earned him scorn as well as praise. An 1822 cartoon lampooned his crusade for morality, depicting him covering the private parts of a statue with his top hat. Even some contemporaries who sided with Wilberforce against slavery wished he would ease up on other issues. Do social ills matter to God? If so, are Christians called to fight them all? Or should we focus our efforts? We will explore these questions in this study.

Lesson #3 Scripture: Exodus 22:1628; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 16:23; Matthew 5:2730; 6:14; 10:516; John 18:3337; 2 Timothy 4:25; Titus 2:1114; Revelation 11:1518 Based on: The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery, by Christopher D. Hancock, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

Picking Our Battles

LEADERS GUIDE Page 2

PART 1

Identify the Current Issue


Note to leader: Prior to the class, provide for each person the article The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery from Christian History & Biography magazine (included at the end of this study).

Today, as in Wilberforces day, one persons moral crusade strikes another person as meddling. In 2002, when a member of Attorney General John Ashcrofts staff hid a bare-bosomed statue at the Justice Department behind a curtain, late-night talk shows had a field day. Conan OBrian mocked Ashcrofts supposed prudery by announcing, Today President Bush said he wants a ban on human cloning. Meanwhile, Attorney General Ashcroft said he wants a ban on making humans the old-fashioned way. Books warning of conservative Christian plans to create an American theocracy ratchet up the rhetoric but follow the same kind of thinking: Christians love rules, and they would love nothing more than to impose those rules on everyone else.

Discussion starters:

[Q] Have non-Christians (or even more liberal Christians) ever accused you of being too fussy
about morals or complained about evangelicals having a sinister political agenda? When and where did this confrontation take place? How did you respond? Optional Activity: Ask two group members to act out a confrontation about morality in one of the following settings: a) Co-workers discussing gay marriage b) Neighbors chatting about student behavior at a local college c) A volunteer attempting to collect sponsorships for a pro-life fundraiser

[Q] What practices might a modern-day Society for the Suppression of Vice attempt to
prohibit? What response would a modern legislator proposing such a society receive? Why would the modern legislator face even stiffer opposition than Wilberforce did?

[Q] How do you understand the term theocracy? Is such a government possible? Desirable?
Why or why not?
PART 2

Discover the Eternal Principles


Teaching point one: God takes an interest in all social questions.
Wilberforce correctly believed that Gods will and his Word speak to every situation. The Book of Leviticus, for example, gives guidance on topics as disparate as sexual purity, land ownership, skin diseases, and the eradication of mildew. Read Exodus 22:1628, which distills some of Gods ethical instructions to his people.

[Q] According to these verses, with what areas of life does God seem especially concerned?
How does this list compare with Wilberforces concerns?

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Picking Our Battles

LEADERS GUIDE Page 3

[Q] Some elements of this passage appear archaic (the


bride-price for virgins, sorceress, alien, etc.). Do all of the regulations have relevance today? (Matthew 5:1720 may be helpful here.)

[Q] The New Testament is widely regarded as being less legalistic than the Old, but read
Matthew 5:2730. What, according to Jesus, is the relationship between his teachings and the Judaic code? Do Jesus words support the efforts of those who would, say, cover the private parts of a statue? Why or why not? The preceding could suggest that Christians have every right, perhaps even a divine responsibility, to enforce biblical ethics universally. But other parts of Scripture introduce significant caveats.

Teaching point two: Motive matters.


Augustine (354430), in a discussion of the ethics of violence, wrote, What is here required is not a bodily action, but an inward disposition. The sacred seat of virtue is the heart. The same teaching pertains to the ethics of activism. No social work, however efficacious, is truly an act of Christian charity unless it proceeds from God-honoring motives. Read the distinction Scripture makes in 1 Chronicles 28:9, Proverbs 16:23, and Matthew 6:14.

[Q] How are motives, actions, and results related in the two Old Testament passages?
The Matthew passage says more about method than motive, but motive can be discerned by reading between the lines.

[Q] What drives philanthropists who announce their work with trumpets? What drives those
who give in secret?

[Q] Is it possible to discern the motives of activists who ask for our money or support? Is it
even possible always to discern our own motives when we attempt to help others?

[Q] Brainstorm about all of the reasons someone might have for campaigning against vice. Do
you think the opposition to Wilberforces moral campaigns in any way reflects upon his motives? Why or why not?

Teaching point three: Not everyone wants our help.


Wilberforces Society for the Suppression of Vice considered the manners of all Britons its business. This ambition has some scriptural precedent. Jesus certainly offered Christians an expansive vision of their mission. His last words on earth, recorded in Acts 1:8, recognized no boundaries: you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Yet even Jesus acknowledged that some places, and some people, would remain closed to ministry. Read Matthew 10:516, a complicated passage that seemingly restricts the field of Christian labor.

[Q] To whom does Jesus instruct the twelve to minister? From whom does he instruct the
twelve to walk away?

[Q] How do you understand worthy (v. 11) and deserving (v. 13) in light of the overall
message of the gospelthat salvation comes only through Gods unmerited grace? In this passage, Jesus instructs the twelve to speak only to Jews, but elsewhere (as in Acts 1:8) Jesus explicitly sends his followers beyond Israels borders.

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Picking Our Battles

LEADERS GUIDE Page 4

[Q] Does this discrepancy indicate that the instructions to


the twelve apply only to that initial mission? In other words, is the guidance about shaking the dust off ones feet even valid for us today?

[Q] Read 2 Timothy 4:25. How do Pauls instructions to Timothy compare to Jesus
instructions to the twelve on the subject of ministry to the unreceptive?

[Q] How are Christians to regard those with itching ears who will not listen to the truth? Do
we have a responsibility to or for them beyond preaching the gospel in season and out of season?

Teaching point four: We cannot fix the world.


Christians have chafed against this limitation since the first days of the faith. The crowds at Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the disciples who could not understand why Jesus had to dieall of them assumed that the coming of the Lord would immediately restructure life on earth. Yet Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Augustine explored this dilemma extensively in his monumental work City of God. To describe the contours of Jesus kingdom, he used the metaphor of two cities animated by two different loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The goals and rewards of the earthly city are entirely terrestrial; people who recognize only earthly citizenship do not revere God and will not enter heaven. By contrast, heavens citizens sojourn for a time on earth but never lose sight of their God or their ultimate destination. The best-case interaction between the two cities in the present, according to Augustine, is not the subjugation of earth by heaven but peace between the two on the basis of shared objectives. Only at the end of time will the City of God reign over all. In other words, Gods people are not called to create a worldwide realm of perfection. Nor are Gods people called to oppose outsiders at every turn. Sometimes Christians and nonChristians can work together to, for example, avert war or address poverty. At other times, Christians must disagree with non-Christians and attempt to cultivate holiness apart from society. The knowledge that the world will never be pure until Christ comes again, coupled with the knowledge that even Christians grasp only parts of the mind of God, engenders humility. We cannot fix the world.

[Q] Read John 18:3337. How do Pilates and Jesus notions of kingdom differ? How would
subjects of an earthly kingdom serve Jesus (v. 36)? How are subjects of Jesus otherworldly kingdom to serve him (v. 37)?

[Q] Read Titus 2:1114. Who is meant by all men (v. 11), us (v. 12), and a people (v. 14)?
How are we (v. 13) to be distinguished from other people?

[Q] What does it mean to say no to worldly passions and ungodliness (v. 12)? [Q] Does saying no restrict only our own behavior, or does it extend to our families, churches,
neighborhoods, and society? For example, in the context of the entire passage, is this saying we should refuse to rent a pornographic video, or petition the city council to shut down a seamy video store?

[Q] Read Revelation 11:1518. How and when will the kingdom of the world and the kingdom
of Christ (Augustines two cities) reconcile? What will be their relationship up to that point?

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Picking Our Battles


PART 3

LEADERS GUIDE Page 5

Apply Your Findings


The Bible is not a voters guide, naming every candidate and cause worthy of our support. However, biblical principles and the examples of Christians like Augustine and Wilberforce who have gone before us, shed abundant light on moral matters. Even so, determining what God calls Christians to do in general is only a beginning. The question of figuring out where we fit into this work remains.

[Q] How many charitable causes do you support? Which social ills do they target? Does this
list reflect your understanding of Gods priorities in the world?

[Q] What motives animate your participationor non-participationin charitable work? Are
these motives godly?

[Q] How does your church determine how to spend its missions budget or which local
ministries to partner with? If you dont know, meet with a church leader to find out. Action Point: When Jesus told Pilate, My kingdom is not of this world, he referred back to John18:10, when Peter overzealously cut off the ear of the high priests servant. What thoughts, words, or deeds in your life might elicit such a reminder from Jesus? Study prepared by Elesha Coffman, former managing editor of CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY magazine.

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Picking Our Battles

LEADERS GUIDE Page 6

Recommended Resources
ChristianBibleStudies.com -Christian Vision Project course John T. McGreevy, Virtuous Like Us? Books & Culture, May/June 2006 (http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2006/003/6.19.html) Real Christianity, William Wilberforce and Bob Beltz (Regal Books, 2007; ISBN 0830743111) The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, Ronald Sider (Baker, 2005; ISBN 0801065410) City of God, Augustine (Strang, 2004; ISBN 0140448942) William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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ARTICLE

The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery


By Christopher D. Hancock, for the study Picking Our Battles.

The most malignant evil of the British Empire ceased largely because of the faith and persistence of William Wilberforce.

Today one of his full portraits hangs in a pub. Another in the same town, Cambridge, hangs in a hotel. Another still, in his old college, St. Johns. In each he peers at the world quizzically through small, bright eyes over a long, upturned nose. He was said to be the wittiest man in England, and the most religious (Madame de Stael), and one who possessed the greatest natural eloquence of all the men I ever met (William Pitt). When he spoke, another quipped, The shrimp became a whale (James Boswell). Historian G. M. Trevelyan called this shrimp the primary human agent for one of the turning events in the history of the world. Its hard to imagine that this man, with the gentle grin and the small, twisted body could move the world in a new direction. Yet William Wilberforce did. Born on August 24, 1759, the third child of Robert and Elizabeth Wilberforce grew up surrounded by wealth. The Wilberforces had settled in Hull, England, at the beginning of the 1700s and made their wealth in the booming Baltic trade. When William was 9, his father died. The boy was sent to stay with his childless aunt and uncle, who were great friends of Mr. [George] Whitefield. They exposed their young charge to the evangelical preaching of John Newton, the ex-slave trader. Years later Wilberforce spoke of reverencing him as a parent when I was a child. Newtons immediate influence, however, was short lived. Fearing her son might be infected by the poison of Methodism, his mother brought him back to Hull and enrolled him at his grandfathers old school at Pockington near York. His education as a gentleman continued among the commercial aristocracy. He learned to play cards and sing and developed his gift of witty repartee. He later wrote, I was naturally a high-spirited boy and fiery. They [his friends] pushed me forward and made me talk a great deal and made me very vain. His grandfathers death in November 1774 left him richer still and more susceptible to the temptations of plenty. In October 1776, Wilberforce entered St. Johns College, Cambridge. His three years there were pleasant but unproductive. He had unlimited command of money and little academic pressure from his tutor.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery As much pains were taken to make me idle as were ever taken to make anyone studious, he later complained. His intellectual aspirations were no match for his passion for socializing. His neighbor, Thomas Gisborne, later recalled, When he [Wilberforce] returned late in the evening to his rooms, he would summon me to join him. He was so winning and amusing that I often sat up half the night with him, much to the detriment of my attendance at lectures the next day. Wilberforce graduated the same year as the hard-working William Pitt (future prime minister). Their friendship grew throughout 1779. Together they watched Parliament from the gallery and dreamed of political careers. In the summer of 1780, the ambitious Wilberforce stood for election as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull. He was only 21, and one of his opponents had powerful supporters. His chances of winning were slim. In the campaign, Wilberforce relied on his charm, energy, tact, and powers of persuasion, and in the end, he secured as many votes as his opponents combined. He was to remain an MP, for various constituencies, for another 45 years. The first years I was in Parliament, he later wrote, I did nothingnothing that is to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object. He frequented the exclusive clubs of St. James and acquired a reputation as a songster and wit who was professionally careless and inaccurate in method. His fertile mind flitted from topic to topic. His early speeches, though eloquent, lacked focus and passion. Starting in 1784, however, all that changed.

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Birth of a Christian politician


In 1784, after his election as the MP for Yorkshire (one of the most coveted seats in the House of Commons), Wilberforce accompanied his sister Sally, his mother, and two of his cousins to the French Riviera (for the sake of Sallys health). He had also invited Isaac Milner, tutor at Queens College, Cambridge, an acquaintance. Though friends counted Wilber both religious and moral, had he known that Milners huge frame housed both a fine mathematical brain and a strong methodistical [evangelical] faith, it is unlikely he would have invited him. The combination was unimaginable in an English gentleman! Milners clear thought and winsome manner were effective advertisements for serious Christianity. Wilberforce had the quicker tongue, Milner the sharper mind. As they journeyed, they debated the evangelicalism of Wilberforces youth. Over the next months, Wilberforce read Philip Doddridges The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (1745) beside an open Bible. His reading and conversations with Milner convinced him of wealths emptiness, Christianitys truth, and his own failure to embrace its radical demands. Outwardly he looked ever confident, but inwardly he agonized. I was filled with sorrow, he wrote. I am sure that no human creature could suffer more than I did for some months.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery He considered withdrawing from public life for the sake of his faith. He confided in his friend Pitt, now prime minister. Pitt told him not to withdraw. With ten thousand doubts, he approached John Newton. The aging saint advised him, It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of his church and for the good of the nation. Wilberforces unnatural gloom finally lifted on Easter 1786, amidst the general chorus with which all nature seems on such a morning to be swelling the song of praise and thanksgiving. He believed his new life had begun. His sense of vocation began growing within. My walk is a public one, he wrote in his diary. My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me. He also increasingly felt the burden of his calling: A man who acts from the principles I profess, he later wrote, reflects that he is to give an account of his political conduct at the judgment seat of Christ.

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Finding his purpose


His diary for the summer of 1786 charts his painful search for greater discipline and a clearer vocation. He flitted between humanitarian and local causes, between parliamentary and national reform. He studied to correct his Cambridge indolence. He practiced abstinence from alcohol and rigorous self-examination as befit, he believed, a serious Christian. After one dinner with Pitt, he wrote in his diary about the temptations of the table, meaning the endless stream of dinner parties filled with vain and useless conversation. [They] disqualify me for every useful purpose in life, waste my time, impair my health, fill my mind with thoughts of resistance before and selfcondemnation afterwards. In early 1786, Wilberforce had been tentatively approached by friends who were committed abolitionists. They asked him to lead the parliamentary campaign for their cause. Even Pitt prodded him in this direction: Wilberforce, why dont you give notice of a motion on the subject of the slave trade? But Wilberforce hesitated. The slave trade in the late 1700s involved thousands of slaves, hundreds of ships, and millions of pounds; upon it depended the economies of Britain and much of Europe. Few were aware of the horrors of the so-called Middle Passage across the Atlantic, where an estimated one out of four slaves died. Some Englishmen, 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. Some presumed that slaves were a justifiable necessity or that they deserved their plight. For Wilberforce light began to dawn slowly during his 27th year. His diary for Sunday, October 28, 1787 shows with extraordinary clarity the fruit of prolonged study, prayer, and conversation. He realized the need for some reformer of the

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery nations morals, who should raise his voice in the high places of the land and do within the church and nearer the throne what Wesley has accomplished in the meeting and among the multitude. He also summed up what became his life mission: God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (i.e., morality). Later he reflected on his decision about slavery: So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trades wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would; I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.

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Enormous foes
Wilberforce was initially optimistic, naively so, and expressed no doubt of our success. He sought to stem the flow of slaves from Africa by international accord. The strength of his feelings and the support of prominent politicians like Pitt, Edmund Burke, and Charles Fox blinded him to the enormity of his task. From his deathbed, John Wesley wrote him, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? In May 1788, Wilberforce had recovered from another of his periodic bouts of illness to introduce a 12-point motion to Parliament indicting the trade. He and Thomas Clarkson (whom Wilberforce praised as central to the causes success) had thoroughly researched and now publicized the trades physical atrocities. But Parliament wanted to maintain the status quo, and the motion was defeated. The campaign and opposition intensified. Planters, businessmen, ship owners, traditionalists, and even the Crown opposed the movement. Many feared personal financial ruin and nationwide recession if the trade ceased. Wilberforce was vilified. Admiral Horatio Nelson castigated the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies. One of Wilberforces friends wrote fearing he would one day read of Wilberforce being carbonadoed [broiled] by West Indian planters, barbecued by African merchants, and eaten by Guinea captains. Wilberforces spirit was indomitable, his enthusiasm palpable. As the slave owners agent in Jamaica wrote, It is necessary to watch him, as he is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that enthusiastic spirit, which is so far from yielding that it grows more vigorous from blows. The pathway to abolition was fraught with difficulty. Vested interest, parliamentary filibustering, entrenched bigotry, international politics, slave unrest, personal sickness, and political fearall combined to frustrate the movement. It would take years before Wilberforce would see success.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery

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Prime minister of philanthropy


The cause of the slaves was not Wilberforces only concern. The second great object of Wilberforces life was the reformation of the nations morals. Early in 1787, he conceived of a society that would work, as a royal proclamation put it, for the encouragement of piety and virtue; and for the preventing of vice, profaneness, and immorality. It eventually became known as the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Enlisting support from leading figures in church and stateand King George III Wilberforce made private morality a matter of public concern. Laws restricting drinking, swearing, and gaming on Sundays were enforced. All loose and licentious prints, books, and publications were suppressed, including Thomas Paines The Age of Reason. Wilberforce was criticized for his priggish concerns, yet John Pollock, a recent biographer, wrote, The reformation of manners grew into Victorian virtues and Wilberforce touched the world when he made goodness fashionable. It has been estimated that Wilberforcedubbed the prime minister of a cabinet of philanthropistswas at one time active in support of 69 philanthropic causes. He gave away a fourth of his annual income to the poor. He also gave an annuity to Charles Wesleys widow from 1792 until her death in 1822. He fought the cause of climbing boys (chimney sweeps) and single mothers. He sought the welfare of soldiers, sailors, and animals, and established Sunday schools and orphanages for criminal poor children. His homes were havens for the marginalized and dispossessed. Targeting the powerful as the agents of change, Wilberforce made common cause with Hannah More, the evangelical playwright, whose Thoughts on the Manners of the Great appeared in 1787. To expect to reform the poor while the opulent are corrupt, she wrote, is to throw odors [perfume] on the stream while the springs are poisoned. Clapham, a leafy village south of London, became a base for a number of these influential people, who became known as the Clapham Sect. These bankers and diplomats, legislators, and businessmen shared a commitment to a godly life in public service. Their vital and practical Christianity expressed Wilberforces vision of an integrated evangelicalism committed to a spiritual and social gospel. The groups reputation for philanthropy and evangelical fervor spread. Warned one politician, I would counsel my lords and bishops to keep their eyes upon that holy village. Wilberforces public struggles and success must be set against the background of his private joys and pains.

The public mans private side


Wilberforces health was blighted by weak and painful eyes, a stomach prone to colitis, and a body that for many years had to be held upright by a crude metal frame. In his late 20s, he already wrote from his sickbed, [I] am still a close prisoner, wholly unequal even to such a little business as I am now engaged in: add to which my eyes

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery are so bad that I can scarce see to how to direct my pen. His gloomy doctor reported, That little fellow, with his calico guts, cannot possibly survive a twelve-month. He did, though in the process he became dependent on small doses of opium, the nearest thing to an effective pain killer and treatment for colitis known at the time. Wilberforce was aware of opiums dangers and was not easily persuaded to take it. After taking it for some time, he noticed that omitting his nighttime dose caused sickness, sweating, and sneezing in the morning. Opiums hallucinatory powers terrified him, and the depressions it caused virtually crippled him at times. His notebooks contain anguished prayers: I fly to thee for succor and support, O Lord, let it come speedily. I am in great troubles insurmountable by me. Look upon me, O Lord, with compassion and mercy, and restore me to rest, quietness, and comfort in the world, or in another by removing me hence into a state of happiness. In his later years, he showed the long-term effects of opium use, particularly listlessness and amnesia. His marriage to Barbara Spooner, in 1797, brought him much joy. On the other hand, the financial ineptitude of his oldest son in 1830 (reducing his parents to a peripatetic existence in their childrens homes) and the death of his second daughter in 1832 caused his final years to be overshadowed by grief and poverty. (In time three of his four sons became Roman Catholics, one an adversary of Lord Shaftesbury, Wilberforces successor in many ways.) Wilberforces life was not without criticism. Some see in his sons five-volume Life muted praise of both his evangelicalism and his parenting. Opponents of abolition bitterly denounced both his character and his cause. A Wimbledon man, Anthony Fearon, attempted blackmail (causing Wilberforce to write, At all events, he must not be permitted to publish), but the precise grounds are not known. Through all this, Wilberforce drew spiritual and intellectual strength from the Bible and the Puritans (such as Richard Baxter, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards), and built his evangelical faith on a mildly Calvinist foundation. Philip Doddridges Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul continued to shape his spirituality: daily self-examination, and extended times of prayer, regular Communions and fasting, morning and evening devotions, and times of solitude. He also paid careful attention to Gods providential provision in his life, the needs of others, and his own mortality. For all of Wilberforces appeal to real and vital Christianity, especially in his best-selling A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System Contrasted with Real Christianity (1797), he did not embrace a dull, joyless legalism. His personality alone was too lively for that. As he once wrote to a relative, My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox churchmen is that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes and religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery

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Vocal until death


It is hard to comprehend the extent of Wilberforces labors and the scope of his achievement. He contributed to the Christianization of British India by securing chaplains to the East India Company and missionaries to India. He worked with Charles Simeon and others to secure parishes for evangelical clergy, thus shaping the future of the Church of England. He helped form a variety of parachurch groups: the Society for Bettering the Cause of the Poor (1796), the Church Missionary Society (1799), the British and Foreign Bible Society (1806), the Africa Institution (1807), and the Anti-Slavery Society (1823). But his greatest legacy remains his fight against the slave trade, which frustrated him for years. As early as 1789, he achieved some success in having 12 resolutions against the trade passedonly to be outmaneuvered on fine legal points. Another bill to abolish the trade was defeated in 1791 (by 163 to 88) because a slave uprising in Santo Domingo made MPs nervous about granting freedom to slaves. Further defeats followed in 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805. But Wilberforce persisted, and finally, on February 23, 1807, a political ruse by Lord Grenvilles more liberal administration (pointing out that the trade assisted Britains enemies) secured its abolition by 283 votes to 16. The House cheered. Wilberforce wept with joy. Wilberforce became a national hero overnight, and his opponents sharpened their knives. Lord Milton Lascelles spent no less than 200,000 to fight (unsuccessfully) against Wilberforce in the election in 1807. The next issue was ensuring that the abolition of the slave trade was enforced and that eventually slavery was abolished. This last goal took another 26 years, and Wilberforces health prevented him from continuing to the end. At age 62, he turned over parliamentary leadership of emancipation to Thomas Foxwell Buxton. But Wilberforce continued to play a role. In 1823 he published An Appeal to the Religion, Justice and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire on Behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies. Three months before his death he was found going out to war again, campaigning for abolitionist petitions to Parliament. He declared publicly, I had never thought to appear in public again, but it shall never be said that William Wilberforce is silent while the slaves require his help. On July 26, 1833, the final passage of the emancipation bill was insured when a committee of the House of Commons worked out key details. Three days later, Wilberforce died. Parliament continued working out details of the measure, and later Buxton wrote, On the very night on which we were successfully engaged in the House of Commons in passing the clause of the Act of Emancipation the spirit of our friend left the world. The day which was the termination of his labors was the termination of his life.

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The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery Parliament overruled family preference and designated Westminster Abbey as the place for both his funeral and memorial. Parliamentary business was suspended. One MP recalled, The attendance was very great. The funeral itself, with the exception of the choir, was perfectly plain. The noblest and most fitting testimony to the estimation of the man. It is right that Wilberforce is remembered in a church; he was a churchman through and through. But the places where his portrait hangs in Cambridge are in their own ways also fitting. His walk was indeed in the world, though not of it. Christopher Hancock is vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England, and associate professor of systematic theology at Virginia Theological Seminary.
The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery, by Christopher D. Hancock, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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LEADERS GUIDE - STUDY 4

Money and Vice


Money can pull us away from God. With the rise of prosperity theology and the popularity of teachings about religion and money, Jesus and cash seem to be an inseparable and controversial duo. Though money can undoubtedly be used to further Gods kingdom, what happens when money pulls us away from God? What does the love of money do to Christians? Using the example of William Wilberforce, this study examines the way money can pervert Gods intentions for us.

Lesson #4 Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:1, 411; Amos 5:1115, 2124; 6:17; Matthew 6:24; 19:1630 Based on: The Shrimp Who Stopped Slavery, by Christopher Hancock, CHRISTIAN HISTORY 53 and A Profitable Little Business, by Mark Galli, CHRISTIAN HISTORY 53

Money and Vice

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PART 1

Identify the Current Issue


Note to leader: Prior to the class, provide for each person the article A Profitable Little Business from CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY magazine (included at the end of this study).

John Newton awoke in a panic. The ship in which he was crossing the North Atlantic met a fierce storm, filled with water, and threatened to sink. He frantically prayed to God for deliverance, and though the ship recovered, Newton was never the same. He reached English shores convinced of his conversion to Christianity. This young man turned from vices like gambling, drinking, and profanity and counted himself, as his tombstone describes, as an infidel and libertine preserved, restored and pardoned by God. His spiritual insight continues to inspire countless Christians through the hundreds of hymns he wrote, including the unforgettable Amazing Grace:
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound) That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now Im found, Was blind, but now I see.

Incredibly, the song that so clearly demonstrates the story of sin, conviction, and Christian salvation was penned by the captain of a slave ship. Though Newtons conversion to Christianity softened his treatment of the slaves aboard his ship, he actively participated in the suffering and enslavement of fellow human beings. It was only in 1754, six years after his initial conversion, that Newton left the slave trade and stopped accepting profits from the purchase of captured peoples. While Newton would later join the ranks of William Wilberforce and others in halting the slave trade, his long-standing failure to see the evil work of his own hands remains a challenge to Christians today. How do money and the desire to make a living blind us to the consequences of our actions? It is tempting to think that people who sin as greatly as John Newton had in slaving could not have been Christians. Otherwise, how could they have overlooked this evil? Newton could easily have replied that few Christians were speaking out against slavery, so why should he?

Discussion Starters

[Q] Why do you think it is so difficult for Christians to follow God when it demands
unpopular actions?

[Q] What kinds of evils do you think we as North Americans may overlook for the sake of
convenience?

[Q] Newtons story reveals one of the hardest things to give up for Godmoney and
livelihood. Have you or anyone you know had to sacrifice like this for God?

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Money and Vice Optional Activity: Read or sing through the remaining lyrics of Amazing Grace. Newton wrote that he was blind but now I see.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear, The hour I first believed! Through many dangers, toils and snares, We have already come; Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures. Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease; I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, The sun forbear to shine; But God, who calld me here below, Will be forever mine.

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How do you think God grants moral vision and clarity to believers? All at once? Bit by bit? What do you think changed Newtons mind? Leaders Note: Participants may be interested in knowing that it was the preaching and fellowship of Christians like George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Charles Wesley that changed his mind.
PART 2

Discover the Eternal Principles


Teaching point one: Love of money can easily overshadow love of God.
Life without God is ruled by self-centeredness. In secular life, it is natural and expected to grab all life can offer. But when God takes over a believers life, all other things must take a back seat including the almighty dollar. As Christopher Hancock illustrates in Wilberforces life, that sacrifice is rarely easy. His reading and conversations with [Methodist acquaintance Isaac] Milner convinced him of wealths emptiness, Christianitys truth, and his own failure to embrace its radical demands. Outwardly he looked ever confident, but inwardly he agonized. I was filled with sorrow, he wrote. I am sure that no human creature could suffer more than I did for some months. It is not clear the degree to which Wilberforce renounced money altogether, but he clearly saw its power and hold over him as paling in comparison to the love of God. Read Matthew 19:1630.

[Q] What does the rich mans response to Jesus challenge say about his priorities?

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Money and Vice

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[Q] Matthews gospel preaches a radical inversion. The


people who give away everything will find themselves fulfilled in heaven, while those who have plenty on earth might have nothing in the next life. What about the many of us who are in the middle, having neither everything nor nothing? What do you think Jesus requires of us?

[Q] Read Matthew 6:24. Reading this verse in light of the story of the rich young man, which
Master was he serving? Why do you think the choice is so stark?

[Q] While few are as wealthy as Wilberforce, most North Americans still maintain households
that are far more lavish than they need. In the United States, the middle class holds the world record for having the largest homes, most appliances, and most cars. In 2005, new homes, on average, were around 2,500 square feet. Which of the following statements do you think best reflects a godly use of money:

Christians should give all they have to the poor. Christians should give their tithe to the church and spend the rest at their discretion. Christians should give their tithe to the church and give additional money to the
poor.

There are no hard and fast rules for Christians and money. Money is a blessing that springs from our faithfulness. Other
Why did you choose this statement? How might it affect your behavior? How can you support it scripturally?

Teaching point two: Love of money creates lies about ourselves.


Shopaholic retail therapy North Americans are no strangers to making themselves feel better through purchases. Advertisers spend millions of dollars each year, banking on the fact that material possessions change the way we feel about ourselves. Money is wrapped up in what we tell ourselves about who we are, what were worth, and what we deserve. But the love of money tells a pernicious lie about who we are. It tells us that we can determine our worth and value by the amount of money we have. We lose the ability to see ourselves as God does, as fearfully and wonderfully made, even without a dime to our name. Read Ecclesiastes 2:1, 411. The author of Ecclesiastes speaks as one who has had everything, and yet he laments, all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind (1:11).

[Q] According to these verses, how did he hope to achieve satisfaction? How do you think his
conclusions can be dramatically countercultural in our day?

[Q] Compare this passage with Wilberforces realization of the emptiness of wealth. What do
these two figures have in common?

Teaching point three: Love of money creates lies about others.


Money divides. It separates people into classeslower, middle, and upper. It establishes similarities and differences of lifestyle with the people around us. But most importantly, it largely defines how society assigns an individuals worth.

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Money and Vice Few people may open the door for a man who appears homeless, yet the red carpet is rolled out for the person exiting a limo. For Wilberforce, this connection between money and human value was the greatest obstacle to overcome. An article by William Baker argues that Wilberforce attacked the multi-million-dollar slave trade industry by attacking the lie at its very corethat black peoples value as human beings was determined by the price at which they could be bought and sold. He fiercely asserted the full humanity of Africans, maintaining that to consider them otherwise was to violate Gods precepts. Read Amos 5:1115, 2124, and 6:17. In the Book of Amos, the humble shepherd of Tekoa came to Israel to announce Gods condemnation of their sin. Israel, like the British Empire of Wilberforces day, enjoyed new political and military power. Both nations were certain of the fervor of their religion, the strength of their military, and the prosperity of their economy. But with financial abundance came a seeping corruption. Perhaps, like John Newton, the Israelites could testify to a strong religious experience and commitment to God. Amos does not accuse them of not being religious, but rather of blindness to what that should mean.

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[Q] According to these passages, what did the Israelites offer to God? How was it different
from what God expected?

[Q] Prosperity, might, and religiosity seem like a nations dream come true. Why do you think
these advantages corroded Gods desires for them?

[Q] Americans are particularly proud of their deep religiosity, global power, and prosperity.
Do you see any parallels between Gods message for the Israelites and Gods opinion of the United States? Why or why not? How do you think North American Christians can safeguard against Israels excesses?
PART THREE

Apply Your Findings


When the radical abolitionist movement crossed the Atlantic Ocean and faced the new American continent, it met stiff opposition. But a generation of young ministers, many of whom were Baptists and Methodists, indefatigably swept the land proclaiming the gospel and the evils of slavery. Most faced ridicule, some even deadly hostility, as they sacrificed respectability and societal praise for a brash, unpopular message. But a generation after these denominations sacrificed life and limb for this radical gospel, new believers felt more willing to compromise. Former prohibitions against churches admitting slave-holding members gradually softened. Soon there were no prohibitions at all, causing some denominations to split between those supporting and those opposing slavery. The allure of compromise over slavery was seen everywhere. Surely, some reasoned, the spread of the gospel must take precedent over political issues like slavery. Think, said others, of what the money from rich slaveholders could do for our churches and for the gospel. Even the slaveholders need the gospel, some concluded, and to turn them away would be a missed opportunity. Turning from Gods precepts often does not take one swift step, but the slow compromise of a thousand qualifications. The prophetic voice of the church during the early days of the American Republic faded from a shout to a whisper in less than a generation. But it did not happen all at once. The lure of respectability and resources pulled countless churches into a Faustian bargain, causing them to lose sight of Gods moral vision.

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Money and Vice Simple issues of right or wrong get infinitely more complicated when money is involved. For example, in an increasingly globalized world, most consumers gladly buy inexpensive goods, even if they come from a foreign market. But how many of us want to know if our new T-shirt or remote control was made by children, by mothers working 14-hour days, or by workers without unions or rights? Sweatshop labor is a complicated issue, but how much more complicated does it feel when our wallets are involved?

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[Q] Name some other contemporary issues Christians face that are complicated by money.
Are prophetic voices speaking out on these issues, or does compromise rule the day? William Wilberforce had to convince his audience that the issues he was fighting for were important, even if they were neither politically expedient nor economically easy. No reason was good enough, he believed, to contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God.

[Q] How hard is it to be that certain? What issues do you think Christians should fight for
with the same no-matter-what attitude? The love of money is hardly new. But the new globalized world order holds a strange contradiction. Powerful countries and multinational corporations have the power to make lasting and dramatic changes, and yet the realities of those consequences still feel far away to the average North American. For example, some Internet providers have recently decided to give information to the Chinese government about dissidents within China in exchange for enormous business contracts and profits. The promise of millions of new Chinese customers tantalized American companies, and so they gave up information that allowed Chinese officials to root out and prosecute rebels within their own borders. Sadly, these rebels include people pressing for human rights, members of non-recognized religious groups, and even Christian leaders who hold underground church services. Action Point: Most of Wilberforces fellow Christians remained silent about business deals that took place far, far away. Can you think of any issues we should be speaking up about today? Study prepared by Kate Bowler, graduate student in religion at Duke University.

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Recommended Resources
ChristianBibleStudies.com -Christian Vision Project course The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives , Dallas Willard (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991; ISBN 0060694424) God and Mammon: Protestants, Money and the Market, 17901860, Mark Noll (Oxford University Press, 2001; ISBN 0195148010) The Church in Transition: The Journey of Existing Churches into the Emerging Culture, Tim Conder (Zondervan, 2006; ISBN 0310265711) Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery , Eric Metaxas (HarperCollins, 2007; ISBN 0061173002) Real Christianity, William Wilberforce and Bob Beltz (Regal Books, 2007; ISBN 0830743111) William Wilberforce: The Freedom Fighter, Derek Bingham (Christian Focus Public, 1997; ISBN 1857923715) William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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ARTICLE

A Profitable Little Business


The tragic economics of the slave trade. By Mark Galli, for the study Money and Vice.

In the 1400s, Europe began discovering the great mass of Africa beyond the vast Sahara. At the end of the century, it also discovered the Americas. Little did it know that the two land masses would become so inextricably bound. For the next two centuries, European superpowers planted a chain of European colonies from New England to the West Indies to Brazil. Such places seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of sugar, tobacco, silver, and gold. Visions of great wealth danced before the superpowers eyesprovided they could find the labor to exploit the situation. They soon concluded that such labor could not be found in the Americas. The redskins in the North refused to abandon a nomadic lifestyle based on hunting to pick cotton on white mens plantations. The natives of Central and South America didnt seem physically capable of the work their conquerors expected of them. Yet somehow, civilized Europe was determined to have its sweets, tobacco, and other exotic commodities.

20 black slaves
The solution came from Portuguese traders who had found something in Africa besides gold. In 1440 the first cargo brought to Lisbon by the first European company for the exploitation of West Africa consisted of 20 black slaves. The Portuguese concluded that if blacks could work in Portugal, they could work in Brazil. To the Portuguese, these Africans were simple, childlike folk, docile, inured to tropical heat, strong, toughthey seemed to have been created for the special needs of colonial planters. Nor was it particularly difficult or dangerous to get them. In fact, they could be gotten more easily than gold or ivory. So, in due course, men, women, and children of West Africa were bundled across the ocean not just by the Portuguese but by all of Europes superpowers, and not in tens or hundreds, but in thousands and tens of thousands. Life and commerce in the Americas had been saved, so to speak, by a transfusion of blood from Africa. From 1660 onward, the expansion of the slave trade was steadily encouraged by English statesmen as a key factor in the countrys commercial and naval strength. Forts were built on the African Gold Coast, from Cape Verde to the Gulf of Guinea, and in 1713 a treaty with Spain transferred from French to English merchants the

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A Profitable Little Business notorious Asiento, the monopoly of the supply of slaves to the Spanish colonies. The trade grew quickly. By the early 1700s, English traders dumped about 25,000 Africans on the other side of the Atlantic every year. By about 1770, it had risen to 50,000, half of what all Europe exported. By 1787 the numbers were down, but Britain was still the European leader in transports, with 38,000 slaves annually (France was second with 31,000).

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Season of terror
The season of the coming of the slave ships was a season of terror and violence all along the Gold Coast, or hunting-ground, as the traders called it. The slaves were obtained in three ways: by seizure, by purchase from professional traders, or by barter with a chief. If the slave ship visited an unfrequented part of the coast, or if inhabitants could be taken by surprise, a sudden armed landing was made and Africans were kidnapped. The meanest treachery was regarded by some slave captains as legitimate business practice. On one occasion, the British military Governor of Goree was entertaining a party of over a hundred nativesmen, women, and childrenwho were thoroughly enjoying themselves in dance and song. Three slave captains with him suggested that the whole party be seized and carried off to their ships. They claimed that a former governor, on a similar occasion, had consented to just such an act. Professional traders were mostly Arabs of old-established firms, which had carried on the traffic in the heart of Africa for ages past. They captured their slaves in the interior and brought them to the coast for sale. A deal with a native chief was the easiest and most productive method. British agents were sent to the interior with orders to encourage the chieftains by brandy and gunpowder to go to war and make slaves. A chief was rarely found who could hold out against such encouragement. The usual result: the chief ordered his soldiers to round up a neighboring village at night and bring back all the captives. Sometimes, if his greed were desperate, a chief sold his own subjects into slavery. If there were raids, then there were reprisals. Chief went to war with chief and tribe with tribe. Victory meant wealth, and defeat meant slavery. With their holds filled by one means or another with living cargo, slave ships set sail for the West. Peace, at least for a season, settled down again on West Africa. But villages lay wrecked and empty among the neglected corn, and childless parents and orphaned children grieved.

The miserable passage


The sufferings of Africans had only begun. The voyage to the West Indies could take three or four weeks, or more in unfavorable weather. The route to the West Indies

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A Profitable Little Business was entirely within the tropical belt. For the slaves in the small sailing ships, this Middle Passage was an inferno. The bigger the cargo, the bigger the profit. A boat of 100 to 150 tons could carry 300 to 600 slaves. Five feet of space separated the decks. Male slaves were laid on the floor and on shelves, manacled together in pairs, sometimes so closely packed they had to lie on their sides in sultry heat and rank air. Abruptly torn from their homes, wholly unused to the sea, they lay terrified by the mystery of what was to become of them. They were fed the coarsest food. Numbers fell ill. Dysentery was rife. In fine weather, they would be taken on deck for a time and forced to dance in their chains, for exercise, while their quarters below were cleaned. In rough weather, they had to remain below. Conditions in a severe Atlantic gale of some days duration would multiply their sufferings. It is a wonder that only up to a quarter of the slaves died on the voyage. But it is not a wonder that sometimes an African, temporarily released from his fetters, would leap into the sea. Women and children were not chained together or packed so closely. But the women were regularly exposed to sailors lust and children to sailors cruelty. John Newton often told about a mate who threw a child overboard because it moaned at night in its mothers arms and kept him awake. (Ironically, the slaves were not the only sufferers. Brutal treatment of crews was more or less a regular part of the sailors life at sea. Add to that the inescapable disease on such ships, and we can understand why the death-rate among the white men engaged in the slave trade was far higher than in any other merchant service. We can also understand why, at times, captains of slave ships had to seize young British men from the street or from gambling parlors and force them to crew on slave ships.) Toward the end of the voyage, slaves were examined and prepared for sale. Wounds were doctored and, as far as possible, concealed. But all traces of the Middle Passage could not always be removed. Agents reports at the ports in the early records are full of complaints: The parcel of negroes were very mean. Very bad, being much abused. These included some little boys and dying negroes. Strong men were singly and quickly disposed of at good pricesas much as 40 apiecebut the sick and injured would be lumped with women and children in a batch and sold off at a discountsuch were called refuse. Then began the next chapter in a life of servitude.

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Vested interests
All Englishmen in the 1700s, whatever their faults, were not devilishly cruel. How could they tolerate this state of affairs? First, the harsh facts of slavery were not widely known. Second, the public knew as little and cared as little about Africans as Indians. It demanded an unusual effort of imagination to comprehend the sufferings of remote foreigners.

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A Profitable Little Business But why did the leaders of church and state, many of whom knew very well what was going on, do nothing? First, the slave trade was a profitable business. Liverpool slavers, for instance, between 1783 and 1793, carried over 300,000 slaves to the West Indies, sold them for over 15,000,000, and pocketed a net profit of 30 percent. The productivity of the West Indies was on the line. The impossibility of doing without slaves in the West Indies, wrote a London publicist in 1764, will always prevent this traffic being dropped. The necessity, the absolute necessity, then, of carrying it on, must, since there is no other, be its excuse. Second, there were reasons of state. If Britain withdrew from so large a field in the slave trade, it would put her maritime strength, at least compared with her European rivals, in jeopardy. Besides, any interference with the trade by England would arouse the bitterest resentment in the colonies. It was also argued that filling-up the islands with slaves would keep them more loyal to the mother countrylest they become like those tiresome New England colonies, which developed into little democracies of white men with English notions of political freedom. And so the slave agents, colonial planters, naval officers, and officials of state became a powerful vested interest. These West Indians became a formidable body in politics and society, and it would be a bold man who would face their influence and wrath. But the silence of consent did not remain unbroken. No sooner had the trade firmly established itself and the vested interests felt secure than individual protesters began to make themselves heard. Mark Galli is editor of CHRISTIAN HISTORY. This article is an adaptation of a chapter from Reginald Couplands Wilberforce (Collins, 1945).
A Profitable Little Business, by Mark Galli, CHRISTIAN HISTORY 53

ARTICLE Page 4

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LEADERS GUIDE - STUDY 5

Holy Teamwork
Why is it so difficultand importantfor Christians to work together for good? Imagine a neighborhood where houses back onto a common garden where children play, and neighbors regularly visit each other unannounced. Imagine further that these neighbors share an evangelical faith and hold each other spiritually accountable in all aspects of their lives. Idyllic, but not out of the realm of possibility, right? Now imagine that this neighborhood includes some of the richest and best-connected people in the worlds most powerful nation. You have just envisioned the Clapham Sect, the group of aristocratic activists with whom William Wilberforce pursued his social projects. Though they came from different backgrounds and had divergent opinions on some spiritual matters, they pulled together to accomplish great things. Whats so special about Christian collectives? How can very different people unite in purpose? What pitfalls must Christian groups look out for? We will explore these questions in this study.

Lesson #5 Scripture: 1 Chronicles 11:1019; Matthew 4:1822; Mark 2:1317; John 18:1516; Acts 6:17; 15:111; Philippians 2:14; Titus 3:17 Based on: The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists, by Bruce Hindmarsh, CHRISTIAN HISTORY 53

Holy Teamwork

LEADERS GUIDE Page 2

PART 1

Identify the Current Issue


Note to leader: Prior to the class, provide for each person the article The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists from CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY magazine (included at the end of this study).

American Christians are all too familiar with stories of churches splitting over such small matters as the appearance of a drum set in the sanctuary or the choice of flooring for a new multi-purpose room. Christian coalitions (political and otherwise) have proven to be just as fractious. American denominations splintered over slavery in the 1860s and over modernism in the 1920s. Fundamentalists who left their denominations in the early 20th century abandoned new organizations as quickly as they founded them. In recent years, conservative radio personality James Dobson has threatened to leave the Republican Party and take his listeners with him, while David Kuo, the former deputy director of President Bushs Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, has written an expose of that office and now urges evangelicals to fast from politics. The joke that won a religious humor contest in Britain in 2005 elicits both grins and groans of recognition:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: Stop. Dont do it. Why shouldnt I? he asked. Well, theres so much to live for! Like what? Are you religious? He said: Yes. I said: Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist? Christian. Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant? Protestant. Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist? Baptist. Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? Baptist Church of God. Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God? Reformed Baptist Church of God. Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?

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Holy Teamwork
Reformation of 1915. He said: Reformed Baptist Church of God,

LEADERS GUIDE Page 3

I said: Die, heretic scum, and pushed him off.

Discussion starters:
Optional Activity: Devise a version of the bridge joke for your religious tradition.

[Q] Do you think Christians are especially prone to infighting? Are some kinds of Christians
more fractious than others?

[Q] What disagreements threaten your current church, or threatened churches you have
attended in the past?

[Q] In which coalitions or cooperative groups does your church participate? [Q] Which coalitions or cooperative groups do you personally support? [Q] Do you ever find yourself working side by side with someone you strongly disagree with?
Does that bother you? Why or why not?
PART 2

Discover the Eternal Principles


Teaching point one: Groups accomplish what individuals cannot.
Wilberforces major projectsthe abolition of slavery and the reformation of British manners were simply too big for one man to tackle. Henry Thorntons financial gifts, Granville Sharps legal mind, John Venns organizational genius, Hannah Mores literary talents, and Zachary Macaulays research skills all helped Wilberforces society-shaping dreams become reality. Wilberforce needed them the way David needed his mighty men and the early church needed the seven in Acts 6. Read 1 Chronicles 11:1019.

[Q] How did the mighty men contribute to Davids success? [Q] Why do you think the mighty men are mentioned only once or twice, while David
dominates large sections of the Bible? Read Acts 6:17.

[Q] Why did the Twelve select additional leaders for the early church? On what basis were
these men selected?

[Q] What might have happened to the early church if the Twelve had tried to manage
everything themselves?

Teaching point two: In healthy groups, differences build strength.


Though they were all white, wealthy, and politically progressive, the members of the Clapham Sect were not clones. Granville Sharp was older than the others, had inherited no money, and pursued some quirky religious ideas and practices. John Venn was the only full-time minister

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Holy Teamwork in the group. Hannah More was female, and she did not live in Clapham. Though these differences surely provoked disagreements over the years, they did not prevent cooperation. Rather, the distinct talents and backgrounds of the Saints contributed to their collective success, as the distinct talents and backgrounds of Jesus disciples strengthened their ministry. Read Matthew 4:1822. Jesus calling of fishermen is often cited as proof that background does not matter for servants of Godeven the lowliest person can become great in Gods kingdom. Yet the years of hauling in fish must have shaped the character of these first disciples.

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[Q] How did life on the Sea of Galilee prepare Peter, Andrew, James, and John for ministry? [Q] Read Mark 2:1317. What assets and liabilities did Levi (also called Matthew) bring to the
Twelve? How might any member(s) of the Clapham Sect have brought similar assets and liabilities?

[Q] Read John 18:1516. The other disciple here, as in many other places in this book, is
John himself. How was Johns background useful in this situation? How might it have been useful in other situations?

Teaching point three: Groups must not lose sight of the outside world.
Hindmarsh notes that the Saints received a fair amount of criticism, some of it earned. A primary complaint was that Wilberforces team spent too much time trying to solve other peoples problems and not enough time pondering their own failures. Hannah Mores statement about her poor students typifies this attitude: They have so little common sense, and so little sensibility, that we are obliged to beat into their heads continually the good we are doing to them. The insularity of the Clapham Sect likely contributed to this condescending attitude toward the lower classes. People who are always surrounded by their peers struggle to sympathize with people who are different. Numerous Scriptures give us resources to deal with this typical human failing. Read Acts 15:111.

[Q] Why were some Christians in these verses passing judgment on other believers?
Leaders Note: Judea (v. 1) was a region populated by a high percentage of ethnic Jews; the Pharisees (v. 5) were a conservative Jewish sect.

[Q] What convinced the council to be lenient toward the new Christians? [Q] What might have led the Clapham Sect to be more understanding toward people who
didnt share their privileged lifestyle?

[Q] Read Philippians 2:14. Which commands in this passage did the Clapham Sect fulfill?
Which did they fall short on?

[Q] Read Titus 3:17. Again, which portions of this passage did the Clapham Sect get right,
and which portions did they forget?

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Holy Teamwork
PART 3

LEADERS GUIDE Page 5

Apply Your Findings


In 1995, sociologist Robert Putnam caught Americas attention with Bowling Alone, a book about the decline in civic involvement. Putnam wrote, Television, two-career families, suburban sprawl, generational changes in valuesthese and other changes in American society have meant that fewer and fewer of us find that the League of Women Voters, or the United Way, or the Shriners, or the monthly bridge club, or even a Sunday picnic with friends fits the way we have come to live. Our growing social-capital deficit threatens educational performance, safe neighborhoods, equitable tax collection, democratic responsiveness, everyday honesty, and even our health and happiness. In 2003 he followed up this warning with Better Together, a profile of groups that have successfully re-engaged people with each other and their communities. Atomized society holds especially grave dangers for Christians, who are designed to work together (we are the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:1231) and cannot grow Gods kingdom without reaching out to others. The Clapham Sect offers vital lessons in what to doand not to doas we seek to strengthen the ties that bind us.

[Q] What one area of personal growth could a Christian group help you with? [Q] What local or global goal do you need the assistance of your brothers and sisters in Christ
to accomplish?

[Q] What unique gifts and experiences do you bring to Christian service? What other kinds of
gifts and experiences might balance you out and enhance your effectiveness? Action Point: Do you regularly interact with people whose needs you try to meet through Christian service, or is your interaction limited to monetary and prayer support? If you do not have regular personal contact with needy people, what might you be missing? Determine what you could do to connect with others to grow and effect change. Study prepared by Elesha Coffman, former managing editor of CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY magazine.

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Holy Teamwork

LEADERS GUIDE Page 6

Recommended Resources
ChristianBibleStudies.com -Christian Vision Project course John Hart, Every Arrow Needs a Bow: William Wilberforce and the Power of Community, re:generation quarterly, July 1, 1998 Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam (Simon & Schuster, 2001; ISBN 0743203046) A Practical View of Christianity, William Wilberforce (Hendrickson Christian Classics; ISBN 1598561227) Community 101, Gilbert Bilezikian (Zondervan, 1997; ISBN 0310217415) William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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ARTICLE

The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists


By Bruce Hindmarsh, for the study Holy Teamwork.

The Clapham Sect was one of the most elite and effective bands of Christian social reformersever.

When after much struggle and effort, the abolition bill passed in 1807, William Wilberforce said to his friend Henry Thornton, Well, Henry, what shall we abolish next? The comment illustrates Wilberforces innate optimism, but the we also reveals something. Though he was probably the greatest social reformer of the 1800s, he never worked alone. When he was converted to evangelical faith in 1785, Wilberforce soon found himself at the center of a group of wellconnected and well-heeled individuals. This group, called the Clapham Sect, combined their considerable talents, religious zeal, and optimism in a concerted campaign of national reform. And in large measure, they succeeded. Here are some of the leading members and what they accomplished as individuals and as a group.

Henry Thornton (17601815) Financial genius


Whenever a new cause was championed by the Clapham friends, and a society organized to carry it out, Henry Thornton was the one who gave practical business advice and financial support. He was almost sure to be asked to be the treasurer. After his conversion, Wilberforce had retreated to the mansion of Henrys father, John Thornton, who lived in Clapham. Wilberforce soon became fast friends with Henry. Henry purchased his own house at Clapham in 1792, and he and Wilberforce lived there together as bachelors for five years. Later, when each had married and established his own family, they lived as neighbors on the same estate. It was around Wilberforce and Thornton that the sect gradually formed. Henry, like his father, was a highly successful merchant banker. He had a superb mind for abstract economics, and his business savvy was matched by a liberal generosity. He gave away six-sevenths of his income before he was married and more than a third of it afterward. Probably his greatest personal efforts were expended in directing the affairs of the Sierra Leone Company, a Clapham-inspired enterprise to establish a colony of freed slaves in West Africa.

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The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists Thornton was a Member of Parliament for many years, but he never neglected his domestic duties. He conducted regular family worship, and a volume of his family prayers was published after his death.

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Granville Sharp (17351813) Self-taught radical


Unlike most of his younger friends at Clapham, Granville Sharp had no inherited wealth and had to work to support himself. But work seemed to come easy to Sharp. While working away at law, he taught himself Hebrew so he could defend Christianity to a Jew, and then Greek, to oppose an infidel skeptic. Sharp was older than most of the other associates of Wilberforce and more loosely associated with Clapham. But he had pioneered in the early efforts against slavery and helped recruit Wilberforce to the cause. When Wilberforce was still a child, without any legal training, Sharp had singlehandedly overturned the legal opinion of the majority of the most eminent judges in England. Sharp happened upon a slave in London who had been cruelly beaten and abandoned by his West Indian master. Sharp took up the slaves case and achieved, in this case and others, many legal precedents, including the famous 1772 ruling which essentially declared that any slave who set foot in English territory had become free. Sharp had his share of eccentricities. He rose at dawn to sing Psalms in Hebrew to the accompaniment of his harp. He was also keenly interested in the prophetic parts of Scripture. He once gained an audience with the prominent statesman Charles Fox and proceeded to explain to him why Napoleon should be identified with the little horn in Daniel. His political views were more radical than those of most Claphamites, but with them he ardently supported many religious and philanthropic causes. The Sierra Leone experiment was begun at his initiative. He was also one of the founders of the Sunday School Society, the Bible Society, and the Society for Promoting the Conversion of Jews.

John Venn (17591813) Addicted to doing good


John Venn once lamented that a drawback of entering heaven might be the lost opportunities to do good: There will be no sick to visit, no naked to clothe, no afflicted to relieve, no weak to succor, no faint to encourage, nor corrupt to rebuke or profligate to reclaim. In 1792, through the patronage of John Thornton, Venn became rector of the parish church in Clapham. He quickly became a spiritual guide to the group, joined in their deliberations, and even led several causes.

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The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists Venn set up one of the first organized systems of parish visitation, conducted confirmation classes, and formed the Society for Bettering the Conditions of the Poor. With friends he financially supported six local schools and took pride that every child in Clapham could receive a free educationan unusual achievement in that day. He saw to it that the parish was vaccinated against smallpox, having his own family vaccinated first as an example. On the national scene, Venn was the prime mover behind the Church Missionary Society. As founding chairman in 1799, he set it on its influential course as a thoroughly Anglican and evangelical enterprise in foreign missions.

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Hannah More (17451833) Petticoat bishop


Because of Hannah Mores determined religious activism, one of her opponents once called her a bishop in petticoats. Although she lived far from Clapham, in Somerset, More had the closest of links with Wilberforce, Thornton, and their friends. As a young woman, More moved in some of the most fashionable intellectual circles in London, and included the actor David Garrick and Samuel Johnson among her friends. She soon earned a reputation as a successful poet and playwright. After becoming a serious Christian in the 1780s, she sought to win her high society friends to her views. She took pen in hand, and her Thoughts on the Manners of the Great (1788) became a best seller. Yet Mores most significant work was as an educator and writer on behalf of the lower classes. Prompted by Wilberforce, she and her sister began to work among the poor in the Mendip Hills, south of Bristol. With financial help from Thornton, she soon had over 500 children organized in schools across an area of some 75 square miles. This became the most well-known venture in religious and popular education supported by the Clapham Sect. More believed the laboring classes needed inexpensive and edifying material to read (among other reasons, so they would not become engrossed in irreligious and politically inflammatory tracts). So she wrote a series of Cheap Repository Tracts, which sold at a penny or half-penny a piece and were subsidized by Thornton. Within a year, over two million had been sold.

Zachary Macaulay (1768 1838) Walking encyclopedia


If any of the Clapham Sect were in doubt about a fact or figure, they used to say, Look it up in Macaulay. Such was Zachary Macaulays reputation for doing research. Macaulay, as an estate manager in the West Indies, quickly became disgusted with Jamaican slavery. He returned to England in 1792only to be selected as the Clapham choice to turn around the fortunes of Sierra Leone. For six years as governor, his

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The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists administration was plagued by threats of insurrection, harassment by slave-trading interests, and marauding French squadrons before he could bring some order and prosperity to the colony. He did not seek the most comfortable means to return to England. He somehow talked his way onto a slave shipto collect eyewitness evidence of the horrific conditions of the Middle Passage from Africa to the West Indies. In England Macaulay became a one-man research department for all Clapham causes, and especially for the cause of abolition. With an almost photographic memory, he tirelessly gathered facts, sifted evidence, digested parliamentary papers, and submitted all to powerful analysis. It became a dictum that Macaulay could be quoted verbatim on the floor of the House of Commons without fear of contradiction. His energies were not exhausted by the antislavery cause. He was the first major editor of the influential Christian Observer, which began in 1802 and quickly became the chief organ of Anglican evangelical piety. He was a member of 23 philanthropic and religious societies and on the governing committee of nine.

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Democratic paternalists
The list of influential Claphamites could easily be expanded to include James Stephen, Charles Grant, and John Shore. There was also the indefatigable Thomas Clarkson, one of the key, if forgotten, British abolitionists. He once searched systematically through every ship in England, port after port, in order to find a sailor whom he thought could provide evidence against slavery. (Clarkson found him in the 57th ship.) At Cambridge there was the knot of students and clergy who surrounded the famous preacher Charles Simeon. They embodied the Clapham Sects attempt to evangelicalize the Church of England from within. In spite of the profusion of good people and good works, the Clapham Sect has received criticism, some of it just. To be sure, they were paternalists. Hannah More once said of her poor students, They have so little common sense, and so little sensibility, that we are obliged to beat into their heads continually the good we are doing to them. Aghast at the irreligion and violence of the French Revolution, the well-to-do at Clapham abhorred many democratic reforms. They supported several repressive measures designed to stave off revolution by keeping political agitators in check including the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, a violent breakup of a mass meeting about parliamentary reform in which 11 people died. The Clapham Sect has also been criticized for being more concerned for moral reform among the poor than the rich. One critic said Wilberforces Society for the Suppression of Vice should be renamed The Society for the Suppression of Vice among Those with Less Than 500 a Year. Yet the views of the Clapham Sect were more liberal than was typical for people of their station. Wilberforce often rebuked the sins of the rich and powerful. His

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The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists friendship with William Pitt, the prime minister, was strained by Wilberforces public denunciation of dueling (a sin of the aristocratic class) in the wake of Pitts well-known duel with a political enemy. Moreover their religious and humanitarian ideals helped bring about a more egalitarian society. The message of salvation for all, the rhetoric of antislavery, and the call for individual responsibility helped move England toward democratic reforms. The Clapham Sect pioneered techniques of mobilizing public opinion that have become commonplace in democracies. They exploited the media outlets of the day: lectures, billboards, newspapers, and pamphlets. They made effective use of voluntary societies and unprecedented use of petitions to exert public pressure on Parliament. Wilberforce and his colleagues were remarkably shrewd and skilled in tactical politics, that is, networking. Nobody could gladhand at a dinner party as did Wilberforce. While keeping a reputation for unsullied integrity, and establishing their independence from vested interests and partisan loyalties, the Saints happily cooperated where they could and built limited coalitions. They once noted they were happy to work with the celebrated orator Richard Sheridan, whether [he was] drunk or sober.

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The Wilberforce Sect?


If Wilberforce never worked alone, the Clapham Sect couldnt work without Wilberforce. When Wilberforce died in 1833, the group lost its animating center. The causes he and his friends had championed would go on, and the moral and spiritual influence they exerted would continue to be felt, but the Clapham Sect would be no more. It was a phenomenon of one generation. This was a sect that gathered less around Clapham than it did around Wilberforce himself. Bruce Hindmarsh is a visiting research fellow at Oxford University and author of John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1996).
The Gallery: Aristocratic Activists, by Bruce Hindmarsh, CHRISTIAN HISTORY 53

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LEADERS GUIDE - STUDY 6

Explaining Faith with Grace


How can we be bold in our faith while still showing grace? William Wilberforce burst onto the 19th-century British political scene with strong opinions about the role of Christianity in the abolition of slavery. It was an issue that few Christians in Christian England wanted to address. But Wilberforce managed to raise this most controversial opinion in a way that made people perk up and listen, as opposed to retreat to defensiveness. How do we maintain a public witness to the gospel with boldness and grace?

Lesson #6 Scripture: Proverbs 17:2728; 18:4, 67; Matthew 25:1430; 1 Corinthians 7:1724; Galatians 5:1626 Based on: A Politician Explains the Faith, by Kevin Belmonte, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

Explaining Faith with Grace

LEADERS GUIDE Page 2

PART 1

Identify the Current Issue


Note to leader: Prior to the class, provide for each person the article A Politician Explains the Faith from CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY magazine (included at the end of this study).

History does not lack for wild ways in which Christians have tried to draw attention to the gospel. Christians have noted that stirring a little curiosity can go a long way to bring people to faith. In Diane Winstons book Red Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of The Salvation Army, she notes that the Salvation Armys strength lay in its ability to be part of street life. People would approach what they thought was a circus or variety show, only to find it was a gospel presentation. Famed Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson preached across America using her Gospel Car. She would drive into town, wait for people to gather around her provocative vehicle marked Jesus is coming soonGet Ready, and then stand on the back seat and preach. A modern incarnation of these attention-grabbing techniques is documented in Timothy Beals book Roadside Religion. He photographed and attended Christian roadside attractions such as the Golgotha Fun Park in Kentucky, Gods Ark of Safety in Maryland, and the worlds largest 10 Commandments in North Carolina. The draw of even these more ostentatious attempts can be found in my mothers own remarks after having visited the giant stone 10 commandments: I was expecting to be entertained but it was actually quite moving. The working assumption of many Christians seems to be that you never know what touches people, so try to spread the word in the way you know how. But what does it take to try? William Wilberforce, as a politician, had a lot to lose when he spoke out about faith. He longed to explain the great change in his life to his fellow politicians, but he had become the champion of unpopular causes. He wanted to abolish the bread and butter of the British Empire, the slave trade, and tell a country full of professed Christians that it was their godly duty to do so. It must have occurred to him that people might laugh at him, sneer at his efforts, or find his reasoning unsound. Wilberforce published his Christian manifesto, A Practical View of Christianity, in spite of the fact that he might have lost respectability, political clout, or even friends. Wilberforce used the platform of his political office to draw attention to his personal religious convictions, regardless of the sacrifices that may have entailed.

Discussion Starters
Generation X and those who have followed are often described as cynicalwanting movies that are slick, sarcastic, and clever, ideas that reflect complications and nuanceand they pride themselves on not being fooled by anything.

[Q] How has their cynicism changed the way this generation seeks to share the gospel? What
are the advantages and disadvantages? Theodore Roosevelt once said: It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

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Explaining Faith with Grace

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[Q] Discuss the role of the critic in Christianity. Is this


statement an appropriate challenge to Christians to share their faith? When is it appropriate to be the one who hangs back?

[Q] Which of the following statements do you think best reflects your willingness to share the
gospel:

I feel timid and uncertain. Im not sure I want to risk much to tell people. I dont feel that I act boldly, but I try to share the gospel in my own way. I feel fairly comfortable talking about Christianity to others, but I am not comfortable with more overt
displays of Christian proselytizing.

I feel like I do everything in my power to get attention for the gospel! Other
Why did you choose this statement? What factors have influenced you to choose that approach? Optional Activity: Ask two group members to act out an evangelistic conversation set at work, the local park, or a gathering of extended family.
PART 2

Discover the Eternal Principles


Teaching point one: God uses who you are now to share the gospel.
It is easy to see why people would listen to someone like Wilberforce. As a wealthy political celebrity, getting an audience was not his problem. But his decision to stay in politics was still plagued with doubt. As Christopher Hancock describes:
He considered withdrawing from public life for the sake of his faith. He confided in his friend Pitt, now prime minister. Pitt told him not to withdraw. With ten thousand doubts, he approached John Newton. The aging saint advised him, It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of his church and for the good of the nation.

Wilberforce questioned whether or not his status as politician could or would be used by God. But whether you are a homemaker, a friend, a coworker or an acquaintance, God calls you to use your vocation, your calling, for his purposes. Read 1 Corinthians 7:1724. This passage is imbedded in a broader discussion of celibacy and marriage, but also applies to ones circumstances in life.

[Q] What does Paul want people to remember about their station in life?
Some have argued that passages like these commit Christians to a kind of complacency. Stay as you are, it seems to say. Others argue that Paul empowers people, showing that everyday people do not have to change to be used by God.

[Q] How does this passage encourage a person to trust that God can use them as they are? [Q] Why is it not an excuse for complacency?

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Teaching point two: Effective witness requires careful effort.


Christians like miracle stories. We like it when Gods presence is a surprise and a wonder or when our own actions and prayers have results we could not have anticipated. But little of Gods work on earth comes out of nowhereit usually involves the slow and painstaking efforts of people of faith. Early in his career, Wilberforce had strong feelings about the cause of abolition. But as Thomas Clarkson remarked upon first meeting him, I found the subjects of slavery and the slave-trade deeply impressed on his heart, but of the slave-trade especially, he had very little knowledge in detail. Strong feelings without careful work would have yielded few constructive outcomes. Wilberforce committed himself to make a case of such damning proof that no honest man could resist the force of it. He gathered information from merchants, British officers, and sailors, descriptions of slave ships, and even wrote to African leaders to get their testimony. Once the case was made, convincing other members of government took the rest of his life. Forty-six years after he began his efforts, and just three days before his death, the Act of Emancipation of slaves finally passed into law. Though it took years of effort, Wilberforce and fellow abolitionists witnessed the miracle they were looking for. Read Matthew 25:1430.

[Q] What did the master want from the people he trusted? Why do you think he was so
angry?

[Q] This parable clearly presupposes that the master (God) has expectations for the gifts he
gives. What do you think matters moreability, effort, or both? What did Wilberforce have?

[Q] In the comic strip and movie Spiderman, Uncle Ben tells the young superhero, Peter
Parker, that with great power comes great responsibility. If you were speaking to a new Christian, what kind of responsibility would you entrust to him or her? Read Proverbs 17: 2728; 18:4, 67. The theme of the wise person and the fool forms a common refrain throughout Proverbs.

[Q] What practical guidance can you gather from these sayings in deciding how to share the
gospel?

Teaching point three: Offer your vulnerability alongside your certainty.


Wilberforce offered a message that was unequivocal. He proclaimed the gospel with great force and conviction. However, he was careful not to mistake the gospel for a battering ram. He tempered his message with humor, engaging examples, and charity toward other sources. As such, Kevin Belmonte explains, a Practical View was anything but dry and dull. Like [C. S.] Lewis, Wilberforce had an ability to cogently engage the arguments advanced by those opposed to Christianity. To be a powerful witness, certainty alone is not enough. Wilberforce was careful to soften his message with an appropriate humility and humanity. As messengers of Gods Word, Christians have plenty to say. But how quick are they to listen, carefully engage, and be generous toward their enemies? Certainty without vulnerability obscures the fact that we are all broken vessels, able to carry the gospel only by Gods grace.

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Explaining Faith with Grace Read Galatians 5:1626. Pauls message to the Jewish Christians of the Galatian church challenged them to be free in Christ. They would have to let go of the desire to initiate new converts into Jewish customs and make people in their own image. But they would have to take on an even headier tasklife by the Spirit.

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[Q] What do you think seemed harder to follow: Pauls list of prohibitions or his list of
characteristics exhibited by the Spirit?

[Q] If Pauls message were a prescription for how to share the gospel, how would Christians
appear to non-Christians?
PART THREE

Apply Your Findings


The question of how to share the message of Christianity continues to divide believers. Some focus on visibly setting themselves apart from the crowd with Christian T-shirts, W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets, or other identifiers. When one high school banned religious content on clothing, a Christian group came up with T-shirts that said: I love cheeses. Say it three times quickly and youll see what they wanted to tell the world. Other people focus on collective action. The Mennonite Central Committee, for example, has a chain of stores called Ten Thousand Villages that proffers the Christian message alongside fairtrade items to the public. Whether it is prayer with a friend or for the world, Christians must continue to realize that their words and deeds matter. As in Wilberforces day, we live in a world burdened by sin and systems of injustice. According to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, 27 million people are still enslaved globally. Incredibly, 15,00018,000 people are trafficked into the United States, often forced to work as prostitutes or laborers in hotels, restaurants, or private homes. Christian witness, no matter what the approach, asks us to look at the world with eyes wide open. We must see it as it is created, broken, in needand transform it by being who God has called us to be.

[Q] Compare Wilberforces encounter with slavery with the slavery in existence today. How
does todays invisible system of slavery make it more or less difficult to take action? Leaders Note: It might be more difficult in that it is hard to know who to help, as the people are usually kept in secret. However, it may be easier in that peoples attitude toward slavery is radically different.

[Q] Do you think Christians should emphasize saving souls or bringing social justice? What
does your denomination teach? Think of some examples where Christians can do both. Action Point: Name some systems of injustice that continue to plague the world today. Does the size and scope discourage you? How can Wilberforces example encourage Christians to think big and act big? Name some things you can begin to do to battle injustice. Study prepared by Kate Bowler, graduate student in religion at Duke University.

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Recommended Resources
ChristianBibleStudies.com -Christian Vision Project course For guidelines on how to evangelize, see InterVarsitys Code for Christian Evangelists http://www.intervarsity.org/slj/fa00/fa00_code_of_ethics.html Visit the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), for more information on the anti-trafficking movement in the United States. http://www.castla.org Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith, Timothy K. Beal (Beacon Press, 2005; ISBN 0807010626) Red Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army, Diane Winston (Harvard University Press, 1999; ISBN 0674867068) The Church in Transition: The Journey of Existing Churches into the Emerging Culture, Tim Conder (Zondervan, 2006; 0310265711) Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Eric Metaxas (HarperCollins, 2007; ISBN 0061173002) Real Christianity, William Wilberforce and Bob Beltz (Regal Books, 2007; ISBN 0830743111) William Wilberforce: The Freedom Fighter, Derek Bingham (Christian Focus Public, 1997; ISBN 1857923715) William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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ARTICLE

A Politician Explains the Faith

One hundred fifty years before C. S. Lewis, William Wilberforce wrote the Mere Christianity of his time. By Kevin Belmonte, for the study Explaining Faith with Grace.

On September 8, 1947, C. S. Lewiss stature as an apologist was established when he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. The accompanying article declared him to be one of the most influential spokesmen for Christianity in the Englishspeaking world. The intervening years have only added to the belief that Lewis was the greatest apologist of the 20th century, and millions of lives have been changed by reading his Mere Christianity. In 1797, 150 years before Lewis appeared on the cover of Time, the English anti-slavery reformer William Wilberforce published the Mere Christianity of his time: A Practical View of Christianity. As with Lewis book, A Practical View eventually sold millions of copies. Like Lewis, Wilberforce had a gift for setting forth what biographer John Pollock calls the intellectual heart of Christianity. Wilberforce asked unbelievers one plain question that was hard to dismiss. It led many readers to reconsider their preconceptions about Christianity.
If Christianity be not in [your] estimation true, yet is there not at least a presumption in its favour sufficient to entitle it to a serious examination; from its having been embraced, (and that not blindly and implicitly, but upon full inquiry and deep consideration,) by Bacon and Milton, and Locke and Newton, and much the greater part of those, who, by the reach of their understandings, or the extent of their knowledge, and by the freedom of their minds, and their daring to combat existing prejudices, have called forth the respect and admiration of mankind?

Such questions had a profound effect on the Scottish philosopher Thomas Chalmers. About the year 1811, he wrote, I had Wilberforces View put into my hands, and, as I got on in reading it, I felt myself on the eve of a great revolution in all my opinions about Christianity. Many years later, Chalmers expressed his profound indebtedness to Wilberforce: May that book which spoke so powerfully to myself, and has spoken powerfully to thousands, represent you to future generations, and be the instrument of converting many who are yet unborn. Chalmers words proved prescient. In 1798, A Practical View made its way to a young curate just assuming his ministerial duties on the Isle of Wight: Legh Richmond. After reading it, he sought mercy at the cross of the Saviour.

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A Politician Explains the Faith Richmond later wrote The Dairymans Daughter, one of the highest-selling works of the 19th century. It told the story of Elizabeth Wallbridge, a young woman of deep faith who faced the prospect of death with great fortitude. By 1849, over 4 million copies, in 19 languages, had been sold. One copy had a profound effect on the young Queen Victoria, who made a pilgrimage to Elizabeth Wallbridges grave.

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A tract for his friends


The genesis of A Practical View is compelling. In 1789, when the French Revolution began, Wilberforce wished to write a small tract that would set out the first principles of his faith. Busy as he was as a member of Parliament, he felt he would have little time to come alongside his friends in the House of Commons, as he longed to, to explain how Christianity had worked what he called the great change in his life. This tract would do collectively what he could not hope to do with each of his friends one by one: explain why he had embraced Christianity. Wilberforce, like C. S. Lewis, took some of his cues from another writer who lived in revolutionary times: the Puritan Richard Baxter, who was the first to write about mere Christianity. Wilberforce repeatedly cited Baxter. He classed Baxter among the brightest ornaments of the church of England, and considered his works a treasury of Christian wisdom. Slowly, arduously, Wilberforce snatched whatever time he could during parliamentary recesses to work on his book. At times he despaired of ever finishing it. But his effort was amply rewarded. When A Practical View was published in early April 1797, it took London by storm. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to read what was then unheard of: a work of apologetics by a politician. Eminently rational in the truth-claims it advanced, A Practical View was anything but dry and dull. Like Lewis, Wilberforce had an ability to cogently engage the arguments advanced by those opposed to Christianity. He was then able, as was Lewis, to deftly and decisively turn the tables. Yet he did so with an ever-present charity. In five days, A Practical Views initial print run of 500 copies was gone. It went through five editions in six months; and was eventually translated into several languages. It exercised a profound influence over the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Historian Sir Leslie Stephen, father of the novelist Virginia Woolf, called A Practical View the manifesto of the evangelical movement. In later years, Wilberforce could recall no more touching instance of the books reception than what it meant to Edmund Burke when he received a copy shortly before his death. Burke, one of the greatest political theorists in history, spent much of the two last days of his life having A Practical View read to him. Near the end, he summoned his physician Dr. Laurence, and said: Tell Wilberforce that I have derived much comfort from it, and that if I live I will thank him for having sent such a book into the world.

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A Politician Explains the Faith Writer and historian Kevin Belmonte was the 2003 recipient of The John Pollock Award for Christian Biography for his book Hero for Humanity: A Biography of William Wilberforce.
A Politician Explains the Faith, by Kevin Belmonte, CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY 53

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