The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 3/19

Posted on | March 19, 2016 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 3/19

Scripture reading: Hebrews 13:1–2

The Reformation of Manners

I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. . . . (Ephesians 4:1)

 

As a young man 28 years of age, William Wilberforce (1759–1833) had a passionate desire to know God’s will for his life. Why was he here? What was his purpose in life? In the fall of 1787, after much prayer and soul searching he came to understand what he believed was God’s great mission for him to accomplish. He wrote in his diary: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”

What was that again? The “reformation of manners”? I understand and applaud the fact that he felt called by God as a member of Parliament to rise up and work to put an end to the evil of slavery. Amen! But the reformation of manners? What is that all about? In his excellent biography on Wilberforce, Amazing Grace, Eric Metaxas comments on this second “great objective” that Wilberforce believed God had set before him.

To our modern ears, the phrase “reformation of manners” sounds merely quaint, but what Wilberforce meant by the phrase was different from what we think when we hear it. By “manners” he did not mean anything having to do with etiquette but rather what we would call “habits” or “attitudes”; there was also a distinctly moral aspect to his use of the phrase, though not in the puritanical sense. He wished to bring civility and self-respect into a society that had long since spiraled down into vice and misery.

As a Christian in politics, Wilberforce felt that his great mission in life was to work against the depravity, corruption, and perverse behaviors that characterized so much of eighteenth century British culture. Slavery was the worst—but not the only—illustration of such moral decadence. Other examples of societal decay were things like drunkenness, profanity, prostitution, child trafficking, public executions, cruelty to animals, inhumane working conditions, and disrespect for the Lord’s Day. Wilberforce devoted his life to working to improve the moral climate of his generation. What a blessing his influence was to England and the world!

I don’t know about you but I feel our nation today is in dire need of a “reformation of manners.” Just as in Wilberforce’s day with the question of slavery, some moral issues are certainly weightier than others (for example: abortion and homosexuality). But this must not blind us to the fact that we must also address numerous other instances of moral and social decay all around us: vulgar language, alcohol abuse, inappropriate dress, road rage, violence in sports, lewd behaviors, pornography, gambling, course jokes, crudeness in entertainment, treatment of women, taking the Lord’s name in vain, respect for Sunday, etc. Where are the modern-day Wilberforces who will stand up against the decadent “manners” so prevalent in our generation?

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, for- giving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love. (Ephesians 4:31–5:1)

 

The greatest thing a man can do for his Heavenly Father

is to be kind to some of his other children.—Henry Drummond

 

point to ponder What can you do today to promote civility and kindness?

prayer focus The ability to “walk in love” in all day-to-day interactions.

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