The Catholic Parish of
Saint John Henry Newman

 Covering most of East Leeds

A Good Life.

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Most of us will go through our lives trying to follow the example of Christ and sometimes failing miserably. When we die, we will have left nothing behind that will have changed the lives of millions of people, but the man in this week’s story certainly did.

William Wilberforce grew up as a child of privilege, wanting for nothing and attended Cambridge University. Two weeks after his twenty-first birthday he was elected to Parliament where he became a brilliant orator and politician. Then he met John Newton who was the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” A former slave captain, Newton had found Christ, repented of his old life and become a minister. Upon meeting Newton, seeds were sown in Wilberforce’s heart that was destined to change history. In 1787 Wilberforce initiated a campaign to make Great Britain aware of the atrocities of slavery and vote for its abolition. It was a fierce fight and besides politicians and industrialists, religious leaders who had their own slaves, vigorously opposed him.

From his deathbed John Wesley wrote to Wilberforce; “If God be you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Be not weary in doing! Go out in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery, shall vanish away before it.”

Wilberforce persevered because he knew what was at stake: the lives of millions of people. Finally, on February 23rd 1807, the Slave Trade Act outlawing traffic in slaves was passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 283 to 16. Twenty-six years later, near the end of the British Empire and shortly thereafter, it was also abolished in the United States of America.

How did all this happen? It was because one man decided to live by his principles of loving his fellow men. In St Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he says, “You my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love.”

Published Fri 26th Oct 2012 12:13:39

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