Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals, and the Political Welfare – Excerpted introduction from a biography on the life of William Wilberforce by John Piper
“If you want to understand and appreciate The Life and Labor of William Wilberforce, one of the wisest things you can do is to read his own book, A Practical View of Christianity first, and then read biographies. The book was published in 1797 when Wilberforce was 37 years old and had been a member of the British Parliament already for 16 years. The book proved incredibly popular for the time. It went through five printings in six months and was translated into five foreign languages. The book makes crystal clear what drives Wilberforce as a person and a politician. And if you don’t see it first in his book, chances are you may not find it clearly in the biographies.
What made Wilberforce tick was a profound Biblical allegiance to what he called the “peculiar doctrines” of Christianity. These, he said, give rise, in turn, to true affections – what we might call “passion” or “emotions” – for spiritual things, which, in turn, break the power of pride and greed and fear, and then lead to transformed morals which, in turn, lead to the political welfare of the nation. He said, “If . . . a principle of true Religion [i.e., true Christianity] should . . . gain ground, there is no estimating the effects on public morals, and the consequent influence on our political welfare.”