John Newton heard the footsteps and looked up to greet the young man who stood before him.
William Wilberforce was weak and frail but he tried to stand straight in order to greet his former hero, John Newton. Wilberforce was thrown in the shadow of the strong and humble John Newton. But that didn’t discourage him from looking the man in the eye.
“A fine speech, a fine speech indeed.” Newton said, putting his hand on Wilberforce’s shoulders and guiding him toward the warm fire.
It hadn’t been long since Wilberforce had come to Newton for support in his new-found faith in Jesus Christ. It seemed Wilberforce had had a lot of questions to ask Newton. Wilberforce asked Newton if he should leave Parliament, which he’d been elected for at age 21.
Newton’s words were strong and filled with compassion for the young lamb before him: young Wilberforce. “Do not leave your position in Parliament. You would be deserting the calling that God has called you to.”1
So, with the words still stirring in him, Wilberforce moved forward with his plans to abolish the slave trade. And, after delivering a moving speech that aroused the attention of thousands, he returned to Newton for spiritual and moral support.
But, Wilberforce is not famous for his visits to Newton’s home. No, he has moved generations with his proposal to completely abolish the slave trade from a country that “the sun never set upon”.
Nonetheless, Wilberforce proposed his bill to the members of Parliament and they rejected it. He tried again the following year; they rejected it. He tried again the next year; rejected again. Then, he tried it again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again and again!
Finally, after nearly 30 years of fighting, the bill was passed and the British slave trade ended!
However, it did not end there. After 25 more years of endless work, he worked on passing a bill that outlawed slavery in all of the British colonies. And, when those 25 years ended, he passed the bill on June 26, 1833. This time, the victory was set in stone; they had won the fight against slavery in all British colonies!
“Thank God, that I have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give twenty million sterling for the abolition of slavery.”2 Wilberforce said, after getting the news, just three days before he died.
Wilberforce will forever be remembered for his faith, courage and unwavering compassion in the face of mountains of hate and anger.