Summary: Jesus Christ set his face like a flint as He went toward Jerusalem for the final hours.
l. INTRODUCTION – WILLIAM WILBERFORCE
Before the slavery battle was fought in America, it was fought in England, where it was bloodless but it was also long and arduous. In the thick of the fighting was a champion named William Wilberforce. He was an unlikely battler, because at five feet tall he didn’t scare anyone.
Probably because of his size Wilberforce enjoyed being the life of the party, the class clown, the quick wit, the happy-go-lucky guy. When he was twenty-one he was elected to Parliament because he outspent his opponents, because he had no enemies yet, and because no one thought he would make any waves.
About four years later, Wilberforce realized how empty that his life was, and after a friend introduced him to the Bible, he was converted. But as a new Christian he did not know what to do with his life. He thought maybe he should withdraw from the world, but he decided to ask a respected friend for advice. He chose John Newton, the former slave trader and writer of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” Newton by this time was a 60 year man and pastor in London. Newton surprised the young politician by urging him to stay in the political arena. “The Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation.” Newton also inspired him to fight the slave trade.
Afterward, Wilberforce wrote in his journal: “Almighty God has set before me two objectives: the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” In 1787 he launched his crusade. For two decades he proposed the abolition of the slave trade, but over and over again businessmen backed up their position with money and defeated the proposals. Once an opponent argued, “Abolition would instantly annihilate a trade which annually employs upwards of 5,500 sailors, upwards of 160 ships, and whose exports amount to 800,000 pounds sterling.”
Wilberforce endured defeat after defeat, sometimes coming so close to victory that he could almost taste it. Those repeated losses left Wilberforce feeling depressed, wondering if he could keep up the fight any longer. At such a time he received a letter from the Methodist leader, John Wesley. It was probably one of the last letters that John Wesley, then in his eighties, ever wrote. “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils,” Wesley wrote. “But if God be for you who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God.”
“Be not weary in well-doing.” Those were the words that Wilberforce needed to hear. And so he continued to make resolutions each year until finally, in 1807, the tide turned. When the votes were counted, the House voted 283 to 16 in favor of abolishing the slave trade. As biographer John Pollock tells it, “The House rose almost to a man and turned towards Wilberforce in a burst of Parliamentary cheers. Suddenly above the roar of ‘hear, hear’ . . . three hurrahs echoed and echoed while he sat, head bowed, tears streaming down his face.”