To the Memory of William Wilberforce

Last Thursday night Emma and I were able to go along to a Media Pre-release screening of Amazing Grace, a film about the life of William Wilberforce. It was pretty exciting, got to sit in a little screening room at the State Theatre with Margaret Pomeranz and film-type people.
William Wilberforce Memorial WestminsterWilberforce was the key figure in the British movement to Abolish Slavery at the turn of the 19th century. He was a remarkable man, and someone to whom Australian evangelical Christians owe a great debt. Wilberforce’s influence in Parliament made sure that a chaplain was appointed to the First Fleet and the early Colony in Australia, and more importantly, that this Chaplain (Richard Johnson) was a godly evangelical Christian. Johnson’s initial ministry laid the foundation for the ongoing commitment to Biblical Christianity in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. (St Philip’s, the Church were I work, was founded by Richard Johnson.)

The film has been released to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Bill which abolished the Slave Trade throughout the British Empire, the 25th March 1807. I probably should note that the film is due for release towards the end of July.
Over the next few days I’ll write more about the film and more about the life of this remarkable man.

For now though, here’s the text of his Epitaph in Westminster Abbey.

“To the memory of William Wilberforce (born in Hull, August 24th 1759, died in London, July 29th 1833);
for nearly half a century a member of the House of Commons, and, for six parliaments during that period, one of the two representatives for Yorkshire.

In an age and country fertile in great and good men, he was among the foremost of those who fixed the character of their times;
because to high and various talents, to warm benevolence, and to universal candour, he added the abiding eloquence of a Christian life.

Eminent as he was in every department of public labour, and a leader in every work of charity, whether to relieve the temporal or the spiritual wants of his fellow-men, his name will ever be specially identified with those exertions which, by the blessing of God, removed from England the guilt of the African slave trade, and prepared the way for the abolition of slavery in every colony of the empire: in the prosecution of these objects he relied, not in vain, on God;
but in the progress he was called to endure great obloquy and great opposition: he outlived, however, all enmity;
and in the evening of his days, withdrew from public life and public observation to the bosom of his family.

Yet he died not unnoticed or forgotten by his country: the Peers and Commons of England, with the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker at their head, in solemn procession from their respective houses, carried him to his fitting place among the mighty dead around, here to repose: till, through the merits of Jesus Christ, his only redeemer and saviour, (whom, in his life and in his writings he had desired to glorify,) he shall rise in the resurrection of the just.”

I can’t wait to meet him…

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