Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wilberforce & salvation!

There is a famous story from the days following the Great Awakening. It concerns two prominent men of that day, William Wilberforce, the member of Parliament who was so instrumental in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire and his friend, William Pitt, the younger, who was once Prime Minister of Britain.

Now Wilberforce had become a devout Christian and Pitt was a Christian only in the nominal, formal sense. One common among the upper classes in Britain in those days. But, notwithstanding this difference in viewpoint, the two refined gentlemen remained personal friends.

But, as Christians will be, Wilberforce was concerned for his friend and wanted him to find Jesus Christ. After many attempts, Wilberforce finally prevailed upon Pitt to accompany him to hear the renowned evangelical preacher, Richard Cecil. Cecil was a gospel luminary in that second generation of Awakening men, a good friend of John Newton.

So the two men went along to the service. According to Wilberforce, Cecil was at his very best that day and preached the gospel in a most powerful and elevating way. Wilberforce himself was carried away by the sermon and wondered the whole time what his friend Pitt was thinking as he heard this masterful presentation of salvation in Christ.

Well, he didn't have long to wait before finding out. As they were still making their way out of the building after the service, Pitt turned to his friend and said, "You know, Wilberforce, I haven't the slightest idea what that man has been talking about." And, of course, he didn't. He couldn't grasp it. It made no sense to him. What was light and life and the plainest sense to Wilberforce was so much confusion and silliness to Pitt.

But the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (see 1 Cor. 2.14). Indeed, it is this fact that explains why, in the Bible, no one is ever surprised by unbelief. Jesus never was. Paul never was. Unbelief is mankind's natural state and it will never be surmounted unless the Holy Spirit works.

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