May the Wilberforce Be With You
Honestly, I’m no expert on William Wilberforce. In fact, as a product of the American public school system, I knew very little of him until recently. Having only read a few brief articles and heard others speak on the man and his work, I am convinced that his work is worthy of admiration and, to some extent, emulation. He fought politically to end the slave trade. That sounds to be a worthy enough accomplishment to earn annual recognition and a prominent place in history books.
In all his good works, I still have some reservations about his influence. Based on this portion from a short bio:
Slavery was only one cause that excited Wilberforce’s passions. His second great calling was for the “reformation of manners,” that is, morals. In early 1787, he conceived of a society that would work, as a royal proclamation put it, “for the encouragement of piety and virtue; and for the preventing of vice, profaneness, and immorality.” It eventually become known as the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
I can’t but be convinced that he was an early proponent of the social tyranny that we refer to today as “political correctness” and perhaps even what some dub “social conservatism”. Like many modern proponents of these movements today, his heart may have been in the right place, but his puritanical approach, via government coercion, may have been dangerously close to an early form of utopian socialization.
I admire and respect William Wilberforce for his good works and activism. I believe he was a true servant of God who was given the “grace to defend the children of the poor, and” stood for “the cause of those who have no helper for the sake of Him who gave His life for us.” It’s only in the realm of political method that I would contend with his influence. In the realm of faith and works, he was a man of God, and his life reflected it. Unlike many modern liberals, he put his money where his mouth was and voluntarily gave a quarter of his annual income to the poor.
“Let Your continual mercy, O Lord, enkindle in Your Church the never-failing gift of love . . . following the example of Your servant William Wilberforce.”