The second figure I wanted to highlight from Eric Metaxas book Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness was the great British Member of Parliament William Wilberforce. In case you are not familiar with this remarkable man (made more widely known through the film Amazing Grace), William grew up in Great Britain in the Late 18th Century. He was born into a social circle that was powerful yet (like the prevailing culture) was not seriously Christian. His family was nominally Christian at best. The upper tiers of society found Christianity unreasonable and embraced a Deistic view of God, with God becoming more of a life force than a personal Creator.
While young William was exposed to vibrant strain of Christianity called Methodism, his early faith soon became a distant memory. By age 16, he slid into the accepted social model of parties and a sophisticated lifestyle without the Wesleyan Evangelicalism. By age 24, he was a popular, wealthy (thanks to an inheritance), and a significant Member of Parliament (MP).
On a trip to the south of France, Wilberforce shared a carriage ride with an old friend from his youth, Isaac Milner. Milner was now the Lucasion Professor of Cambridge (once held by Sir Isaac Newton) and a famously engaging man. His brilliance and life giving nature easily drew Wilberforce into conversation of great depths. One topic on their trip was about Christians who still held onto the Resurrection as a true event and other beliefs that had fallen out of favor in the social circles of Wilberforce. Deep, honest conversation took place between the two sharp minded men and William was confronted with claims that he once held as true. Thanks to that carriage ride, the young MP would embrace the faith of his youth and would set his course to fundamentally reshaping the Western world.
Originally, William was confused on how to connect his faith with his profession in Parliament. After tortuously seeking to reconcile his rekindled faith with politics, he visited his old friend, the former slave captain turned pastor, John Newton. He sought counsel from Newton on this dilemma and the pastor gave him a surprising answer. Newton encouraged him to stay as a serious Christian within the hostile secular environment of Parliament and promote change there. Persuaded by Newton, William chose to stay in politics to serve God with his gifts.
What exactly did William do? After an epiphany, he wrote in his journal that “God Almighty has set before me two Great Objectives: the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners.”
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s grand conclusion to the life of William Wilberforce and how his robust faith stopped the slave trade.
What makes a man?
There has been a lot of ink spilt over that very question lately within Christian circles. There have been books, blog posts, and conferences centered on this question. Eric Metaxas grappled with this same question in his excellent book Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness and comes away with a concise answer- strong, sacrificial love.
To help demonstrate his points, Metaxas decided to tell stories about great men. In Seven Men, he highlighted the lives of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson. Metaxas’ storytelling skills are on high display in this book and he really could not get any better. Metaxas has a nice way of weaving together the narrative with life lessons that can be extracted from the situation. He could inform his readers without becoming too preachy.
Metaxas provided a much needed framework over the questions of masculinity within Christian circles. He advocated the need to identify manliness not with macho men who repair their own cars, but with men who loved sacrificially. He advocated that true manhood comes from sacrificial love and protecting the weak. After delineating what manliness looks like, Metaxas then provided seven examples of what this looks like. Using some familiar and some not so familiar, Metaxas provided a strong description of masculinity steeped in sacrificial love.
One of the aspects that I particularly enjoyed in his work is that he treated each character with a quality biography while also drawing out worthwhile character traits to admire. I walked away understanding each figure in his book a little bit better and have even picked up several new personal heroes. A great read for men and women alike!http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”