wilberforce on the wasted life

if you have never read about the life of william wilberforce (1759-1833), you are missing out. if ever a life was unwasted, it was his. he is best known for his 20-year struggle to abolish great britain’s african slave trade, but there is so much more to his life story. (john piper has a great message on wilberforce, “peculiar doctrines, public morals, and the political welfare: reflections on the life and labor of william wilberforce,” which is essentially a short biogpraphy. and wilberforce is also the subject of a chapter in the book, “the roots of endurance: invincible perseverance in the lives of john newton, charles simeon, and william wilberforce,” which you can purchase or read on-line for free. of course, there was also a movie about his life, “amazing grace,” which came out in 2007 in recognition of the 200 year anniversary of the vote in the british paraliament that finally put an end to great britain’s african salve trade on march 25, 1807.)

today i read the following post by lukas naugle on the desiring god blog, which is a great reminder of the relevance of wilberforce and his passion to not waste his life. even now, some 175 years later, his words should awaken us to the reality of the danger that we face every day as we are tempted to coast along in our cozy, comfortable, carefree lifestyles. 

here’s how lukas naugle put it in his blog: 

In 1797, William Wilberforce wrote “A Practical View of Christianity,” in which he addressed the defective nature of the Christianity many middle and upper class people in England professed. Here is an excerpt that sounds as if it could have been written about today. It makes plain that affluence has a consistent effect on Christians in every age.

“Yet thus life rolls away with too many of us in a course of shapeless idleness. Its recreations constitute its chief business…amusements are multiplied, and combined, and varied, to fill up the void of a listless and languid life; and by the judicious use of these different resources, there is often a kind of sober settled plan of domestic dissipation, in which with all imaginable decency year after year wears away in unprofitable vacancy. Even old age often finds us pacing in the same round of amusements which our early youth had tracked out.”

Individually, let’s pray, plan, and live in such a way that no one could use his words to describe our lives:

·         “shapeless idleness”

·         “listless and languid”

·         “domestic dissipation”

·         “unprofitable vacancy”

Collectively, let’s pray, plan, and live so that affluent American Christianity does not devolve into “a system of decent selfishness…a system scarcely more to be abjured for its impiety, than to be abhorred for its cold insensibility to the opportunities of diffusing happiness.”

by the way, before you get the idea that wilberforce was probably boring and a bit too serious for your taste, and before you think all this talk about the unstained and unwasted life sounds a bit too serious as well, let me share with you how james stephen described wilberforce:

“Being himself amused and interested by everything, whatever he said became amusing or interesting…His presence was as fatal to dullness as to immorality. His mirth was as irresistible as the first laughter of childhood.”

doesn’t sound boring to me. sounds like somebody i would love to be around. how about you? read his biography and you will discover that the unstained and unwasted life is definitely unboring!

wilberforce quotations

“No man has a right to be idle. Where is it that in such a world as this [that] health, and leisure, and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate?” 

“Oh Lord, purify my soul from all its stains. Warm my heart with the love of thee, animate my sluggish nature and fix my inconstancy, and volatility, that I may not grow weary in well doing.” (prayer on his 41st birthday in 1800)

“We can scarcely indeed look into any part of the sacred volume without meeting abundant proofs, that it is the religion of the Affections which God particularly requires…Joy…is enjoined on us as our bounden duty and commended to us as our acceptable worship…A cold…unfeeling heart is represented as highly criminal.”


~ by david on May 17, 2008.

One Response to “wilberforce on the wasted life”

  1. this post reminds me of a prayer i read once (can’t remember the author) where the man basically plead with God to lift him out of the misty lowlands where he had dwelt for so long.

    God is stirring hearts…and it is exciting!

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