When William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) was first elected to Parliament in 1780, he was not a Christian. His conversion, five years later, made an extraordinary difference in the way he approached his political work. As a relatively new believer, he set his heart toward the godly reformation of society, including the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
Nurtured by the ministry of the Clapham Church, he grew to extraordinary stature as a Christian, and in 1797, he published a theologically acute and instructive book, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians. In this selection from his journal, Wilberforce makes reference to the book and reveals his understanding that readers would hold him accountable to its standards.
This is a prayer he wrote in 1797 upon his return to London after his honeymoon. One can only imagine the magnificence of governmental bodies filled with officials who pray in this manner:
I go to prayer; may the grace of God give me repentance. Fix, O Lord, my natural volatility; let not Satan destroy or impair these impressions. I fall down before the cross of Christ, and would there implore pardon and find grace to help in this time of need. Let me use diligently and prudently to Thy glory all the powers and faculties Thou hast given me. Let me exhibit a bright specimen of the Christian character, and adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour in all things. Let me go forth remembering the vows of God which are upon me; remembering that all eyes will be surveying me from my book, my marriage, & c.; that my political station is most important, my means of doing good numerous and great; my cup full of blessings, spiritual above all. The times how critical! Death perhaps at hand. May God be with me for Christ’s sake.1
1 William Wilberforce, from his journal in 1797, quoted in Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1838), 221-222.