Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Amazing Grace is an amazing movie, directed by Michael Apted. It tells the story of William Wilberforce, a man God used in abolishing slavery in the British Empire in the 1800s.

Wilberforce is played by Ioan Gruffudd, pictured here. The British-made film gives the viewer a seemingly accurate taste of what life was like in the late 1700s/early 1800s in England. Wilberforce is portrayed as a strong, passionate, lovable man caught up in revolutionary ideas that would bring about great change in the entire society.

Many Americans don’t pay much attention to history, especially in other countries. I did not realize that slavery was a major part of the British economy in those times, just as it was in the American South, maybe more so. I think many people know little to nothing about Wilberforce and slavery; we should know about these things. God works powerfully in history.

Slavery was officially abolished, although not in a real way, in England in 1807, although the British remained active in slave trading until 1833. William Wilberforce, a convert to evangelical Christianity, was the primary leader of the abolition movement in the British Parliament. Wilberforce often sought counsel with Olaudah Equiano, John Newton, and others during this fight. After devoting most of his adult life to fighting against slavery, he died three days after learning that the slave trade would finally be completely abolished by Parliament from Great Britain.

All his life, Wilberforce was dedicated to the prevention of cruelty; along with two other men, Richard Martin and Arthur Broome, he founded the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is said that he often took in sick or mistreated animals such as rabbits, dogs, and horses, invited into his home groups of poor and hungry people, and gave away most of his income to charities.

Wilberforce grew up as an orphan, and he was greatly influenced by his teacher and mentor John Newton. Newton encouraged and inspired Wilberforce in his fight against slavery.

Newton suffered guilt feelings for many years because he had commanded slave ships for years, and as a result of his experiences wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” which everybody has heard somewhere. Here is the epitaph on his gravestone, which he himself wrote (from this web site):

JOHN NEWTON, Clerk / Once an infidel and libertine / A servant of slaves in Africa, / Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour / JESUS CHRIST, / restored, pardoned, and ap­point­ed to preach / the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy. / He min­is­tered, / Near sixteen years in Ol­ney, in Bucks, / And twenty-eight years in this Church.

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