I have finished Piper’s little book Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce. It was excellent! You should look into getting some for evangelistic reasons, as people will be interested when you tell them that this is the 200th anniversary of the banning of the slave trade (by Britain).
The last two chapters were most captivating, as they looked into Wilberforce’s contagious Christian joy and his beliefs on the importance of doctrine. Again, the book is available to read for free online, and it would be well worth your time.
I would like to provide some excerpts here as I can’t help but spread some wisdom from Wilberforce.
My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox Churchmen…is, that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privelege and hopes, and thus the injunction to rejoice, so strongly enforced in the New Testament, is practically neglected, and Religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air and not one of peace and hope and joy. [Wilberforce in response to someone expressing their mistrust of joy. (pg. 62 in Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce, by Piper)]
A Prayer during a season of darkness, when he was fighting for joy:
Lord, thou knowest that no strength, wisdom or contrivance of human power can signify, or relieve me. It is thy power alone to deliver me. I fly to thee for succor and support, O Lord let it come speedily; give me full proof of thy Almighty power; I am in great troubles, insurmountable by me; but to thee slight and inconsiderable; look upon me O Lord with compassion and mercy, and restore me to rest, quietness, and comfort, in the world, or in another by removing me hence into a state of peace and happiness. Amen. [pg. 64]
Pleasure and Religion are contradictory terms with the bulk of nominal Christians. [pg. 64]
[It is a] “fatal habit to consider Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines.” [pg. 72]
From Piper’s conclusion to the book:
Is it not remarkable that one of the greatest politicians of Britain and one of the most persevering public warriors for social justice should elevate doctrine so highly? Perhaps this is why the impact of the church today is as weak as it is. Those who are most passionate about being practical for the public good are often the least doctrinally interested or informed. Wilberforce would say: You can’t endure in bearing fruit if you sever the root.
…Wilberforce lived off the “great doctrines of the gospel,”….This is where he fed his joy….The joy of the Lord became his strength (Neh. 8:10). And in this strength he pressed on in the cause of abolishing the slave trade until he had the victory.
Therefore, in all our zeal today for racial harmony, or the sanctity of human life, or the building of a moral culture, let us not forget these lessons: Never minimize the central place of God-centered, Christ-exalting doctrine; labor to be indomitably joyful in all that God is for us in Christ by trusting his great finished work; and never be idle in doing good—that men may see our good deeds and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).