Thursday, May 11, 2017

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

 This is how I read a lot of the non fiction I review.  I try to be a good steward of my body and exercise but I must confess that stationary machines are sooo boring!  I'm also able to knock out a lot of my non fiction reading list this way.

Annnnd....I am listening to Pour le Piano L.95 Movement 1:  Prelude by Claude Debussy.  I have really been on a French music kick lately and I haven't even begun to post my travelogue about my visit to Paris last December.  This particular performance on youtube is by Arthur Rubenstein in his old age when he suffered from Macular Degeneration and only had peripheral vision.  Rather amazing isn't he?

But enough about me.  My latest review:

Amazing GraceAmazing Grace by Eric Metaxas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the life story of William Wilberforce, the man who devoted his life to ending the slave trade.

Eric Metaxas gives us a thorough outline of Wilberforce's life.

Wilberforce was born to wealthy parents and was as religious as your average English citizen. Which is another way of saying, he was not religious at all. Of course, every good English citizen belonged to the Church of England, that was only civilized. But to actually apply any of the fundamental attributes of Christianity as prescribed in the Bible, well, that's the sort of thing those "fanatical, radical Methodists" did. Funny that Methodists were once considered fanatical.

Wilberforce lived a privileged life that was filled with drinking, gambling and all sorts of parties. He bought his position in Parliament with lavish expenditures on those in positions to vote for him.

He became close friends with William Pitt, the future Prime Minister. At some point in his political career he underwent a spiritual rebirth. This no doubt had to do with his friendships with some of the "radical Methodists" who influenced his life, including an aunt and uncle whom he once lived with as a child.

Thomas Clarkson, a major abolitionist, also influenced Wilberforce and through him, became aware of the horrors of the slave trade.

Metaxas' book takes the reader through Wilberforce's life, people of influence, marriage, sickly heatlh and his lifelong struggle fighting the slave trade.

One of the most amazing things the book describes is the fight slave traders gave, the waffling of politicians and the indifference of the English people against one of the worst and grossest exhibitions of man's inhumanity to man.

Most harrowing are the descriptions of how Africans were treated as they sailed the Middle Passage (route from Africa to America). It's not for the faint of heart.

The political backdrop of the American and also the French revolutions give context as to why the struggle was as long as it was. He also writes about the corruption of King George's progeny who were more interested in emptying the Royal coffers on wine and women than any humanitarian endeavors.

Not only was Wilberforce concerned for the African people but also for the poor in England. He championed the cause of the down and outcast in his own country. It seems heartless to us today but the contemporary attitude of the time was to leave the poor alone and it was no one's duty to help them.

Again, the Methodists created the soup kitchens and did their best to pass laws that would require more humanitarian living conditions for England's poor. This was derided by the rest of the country. This is evident even in certain writers such as Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Both lampoon Missionaries and Evangelical Christians in their novels.

For those interested in history and the life of one of our greatest heroes (in my opinion), this is an excellent resource.

View all my reviews


  1. This is one of the books on my reading list and movie list. Eric metaxas is so good. I enjoy his talks on YouTube as well. Excellent review. Have you read any of his other books?

    1. Hi RamblingMother. Why am I only now seeing your comment on my blog? Sorry to be so late in responding.

      I read Metaxas every day because I get his newsletter in my e mail, which I always enjoy. Really his Bonhoeffer biography is superb. I liked it even better than the Wilberforce one.

  2. The best thing I learned from reading this book was Wilberforce's perseverance and impact. His campaign to expose the evil of the slave trade and slavery overall took his whole career, and continued long after his death. His story is certainly encouraging. Makes me think that there is still hope for mankind.

    1. Hi Ruth. As Christians the book of Revelation tells us the ultimate outcome, even though things are going to get worse before they get better. So we live with hope.

      In the meantime, like Wilberforce, we can continue to fight the good fight. His life encourages me so much because he fought against such odds, his position was unpopular and he must have felt alone. It's easy for us to look back and see how monstrous the majority's view was, but when you're in the middle of it, I bet you can despair.

      Wilberforce shows us that it is OK to side with the unpopular side if it is on the side of justice.

    2. I felt that, too! He had so many opportunities, year after year, to give up. And he must have questioned himself dozens of times: why am I doing this? It is obviously not working!!!! But that is what gives me hope for mankind - that there are still men and women out there willing to stand up for what is right and good without ever giving up. Most of them we don't hear or read about. They are silently working all the time. I should say, though, hope for politicians. Then again, that was another time and place. We need to more Wilberforces in America.

    3. Ruth: I agree. We need more Wilberforces. You have inspired me to research and see if there are any such "unsung heroes" around today that we are not hearing about.

  3. Great commentary on this book Sharon.

    I would like to read this. As for it not being for the faint of heart unfortunately there are a lot of things that are a part of history that this is true of. Though I sometimes struggle when reading about these things, I think that it is necessary to do so.

    I also thinking of reading biography of Metaxas's Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    I also using exercise equipment. Sometimes it helps to keep me motivated :)

    1. HI Brian! After reading Amazing Grace I have been looking for a good book about the Middle Passage, even though I know it will be heart breaking. As you say, it is necessary to learn of these things.

      I have also read Bonhoeffer by Metaxas. It is excellent. In fact, I liked it better even than Amazing Grace. A very powerful and insightful bio of Bonhoeffer.

      Hope you enjoy your weekend. It's rainy down here. Good for a weekend read.

  4. I've read Bonhoeffer but not Wilberforce. I probably should read the bio I laready have on my shelf - Wiliam Wilberforce: A Hero of Humanity by Kevin Belmonte. He also edited Wilberforce's 'A Practical View of Christianity' which is also on my shelf, unread. I really shouldn't buy any more books. I can identify so well with your little bio at the top of your blog!!

    1. Hi Carol. I know exactly what you mean. My husband and I have a little agreement. We have made a pact that I cannot buy another book until I read the ones I already own. We make occasional exceptions but mostly I am trying to truck through my very long TBR pile-or I should say mountain.

      And with fellow bloggers as yourself it is hard not to want to buy when they review books that sound so good.

      As for Wilberforce's book on Christianity: an updated version is definitely preferable. I read the original and Wilberforce is soooooooo wordy (the title kind of says it all.)

    2. I tend to read with my feelings - as in I feel like reading something lighter or I don't feel like a historical title at the moment etc. A good thing about trying to get through the pile of books you already have is that it does force you out of the zone you are in. I often randomly pick up books 2 hand because something has attracted me to them & they're not always the type of book I'd normally gravitate to. Glad I got the non wordy version of Wilberforce!

    3. I tend to read with my feelings - as in I feel like reading something lighter or I don't feel like a historical title at the moment etc. A good thing about trying to get through the pile of books you already have is that it does force you out of the zone you are in. I often randomly pick up books 2 hand because something has attracted me to them & they're not always the type of book I'd normally gravitate to. Glad I got the non wordy version of Wilberforce!

    4. Carol: my current rule of thumb is serious books during the week and fun stuff like mysteries on the weekend.

      This has stretched out my reading of Atlas Shrugged considerably and even though it is Friday I may break my rule just to get through the last chapters which have become somewhat agonizing in their tedium.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.