Select Page

Again an odd entry as I have heard the audiobook free for Thanksgiving from ChristianAudio

Piper, John. Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006.  As of May 2009, it is available online in pdf format for free from Piper’s Desiring God website.

Rev. Justin Lee Marple, Niagara Presbyterian Church, purchase this book from

Brief Overview of the Book (Theme, Perspective, Approach)
Piper aims to put the work of Member of Parliament William Wilberforce, largely credited with abolishing the slave trade and slavery in England itself, back into the context of his Christian faith.  He argues that we need to start with Wilberforce’s own book A Practical View of Christianity before we read biographies about him.  We need to begin with the central distinguishing doctrines of Christianity in order to transform society and politics.  Seeking joy was one of the important religious affections that drove him to endure.

Critique (strengths & weaknesses)
Piper has a real gift for telling the narrative of Wilberforce’s life and especially his conversion.  It is detailed and vivid, but brief.  The chapter on Wilberforce’s book is also very good.  In it Wilberforce explains the difference between nominal Christians and true Christians — justification by faith alone.  Nominal Christians tried to do good apart from Christ.  His work for the reformation of manners and the promotion of good works always kept in mind the theological.  The main weakness of the book is that it is so short.

Application (specific, shows just how valuable & relevant the book is)
The story of Wilberforce shows the providence of God (what is seemingly accidental) can use one person to great consequence.  Whenever we think that we cannot make a dramatic difference in society, we need to remember that God can use even just one person to do great things.  This is an important lesson because too often we are thinking what can I as one person possibly do about bringing jobs to Eastern Kentucky, or winning the war on drugs here, or ending the physical and sexual abuse of children here.  But God can use even just one of us to do His will.  Wilberforce never gave up and is a model of perseverance on an unpopular social justice topic just because the cause was just.  This was even though he was up against all powerful financial interests and very powerful people.  One important caveat here, Piper stresses that Wilberforce had many close friends that helped him keep going.  As Piper says, “A man can change his times, but he cannot alone.”  We need to pick one of these social justice issues and work for change, always exalting Christ as we do so.

Best Quotes

Wilberforce touched the world when he made goodness fashionable.

The nominal [Christian] pursued morality, holiness, sanctification, without first relying utterly on the free gift of justification and reconciliation by faith alone based on Christ’s blood and righteousness.

%d bloggers like this: