Thursday, 29 July 2010

Wilberforce's 'A Practical View' - Get to Know the Classics this Monday night

It's Federal Election season in Australia, and one of the issues that has already arisen is the relevance of 'religion' (or irreligion!) to political policy and action. How timely - for this coming Monday night my topic in Get to Know the Classics is William Wilberforce and his A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes of This Country Contrasted With Real Christianity published in 1797.

OK: the title is not pithy, but the topic is vital. How should evangelical Christians act on their personal Christian convictions when they reach the 'public square'? We know that Wilberforce - 'the conscience of England' in his time - did act, and left a lasting legacy. Having studied his life and times in the last few weeks, it seems clear to me that the world in which we live today would not be as it is, but for God's work through this man, and the other like-minded men and women who surrounded him.

Could it be that Wilberforce and his book might still have something to say to us - even to challenge us - in our own day?

Here are some quotations from Wilberforce and others about his intentions and achievements in A Practical View.

'The subject is of infinite importance; do not let it be driven out of our minds by the rush of life and the empty pleasures. Soon this present scene, with all its cares and gaieties, will be rolled away, and we will all stand before God’s judgment seat’ (Romans 14:10). This awful consideration prompts the writer to express himself with greater freedom and justifiable frankness, and will, he trusts, secure him a serious and patient reading.

'If what is stated appears needlessly austere and rigid, the writer would ask not to be condemned, without a fair examination as to whether or not his statements accord with Scripture' [William Wilberforce, Introduction as printed in the 1885 edition]

'I deem it the most valuable and important publication of the present age… I shall be glad to look to you (at least to your book)… to strengthen my motives for running the uncertain remainder of my race with alacrity.' [John Newton]

'[A Practical View has given me]… unspeakable comfort… If I live, I shall thank Wilberforce for having sent such a book into the world.' [Edmund Burke having spent most of his final two days reading it]

[For the first time I] understood the vital character of personal religion, the corruption of the human heart and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ' [Legh Richmond, leading evangelical, about his reading of the book when he was a somewhat worldly curate on the Isle of Wight]

The story of Wilberforce is both inspiring and instructive, and my goal for Monday night is to give you a hearty feed of both.

1 comment:

John McClean said...

Sounds great. Looking forward to it.