Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Black History Month: John Henry Newton, Part III

I gave a presentation at my church where I portrayed John Henry Newton, the slave ship captain turned Anglican priest and abolitionist who wrote Amazing Grace. Here is Part 3.

I spent 16 years at my first call. Pastoral care and preaching were my specialties. The church had to add on to its structure in order to accommodate those who came to hear me preach.

From there I accepted a call to a parish in London. It was there where I met William Wilberforce. William was a young Member of Parliament and a recent convert to evangelical Christianity. Politics being what they are, William sensed a conflict between his newfound faith and his vocation. I encouraged him to remain in his vocation and serve God right where he was.

It was through William Wilberforce that I began to reconsider my attitude towards slavery and the slave trade industry. You see, I was 25 when I had my conversion experience, but it was not until I was 63 that I published a pamphlet that detailed the horrors of the slave trade industry and repented of my actions so many years ago. The Holy Spirit worked both an initial conversion as well as a continuing renewal throughout my life.

From that time on, I worked with my friend William Wilberforce to abolish slavery in England. Slavery wasn’t just a means to get cheap labor, it was an industry. And undoing an industry is challenging to say the least.

William and I persevered, though. Remember, he was a Member of Parliament. He used his influence there and forged partnerships with many people across England’s many political parties. In 1807 Parliament passed what it called, “An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.” Today’s history books call it the Slave Trade Act of 1807. That was in March. I passed away in December of that year at the age of 82.