"YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN"
~100 WELL - KNOWN
MEN IN ALL
RANKS OF LIFE
The Emancipator of the Slaves
WM. WILBERFORCE, of whom it was said that "he
touched life in a most unusual number of points,"
was on a tour on the Continent, along with ISAAC MILNER,
when the New Birth took place.
"He goes too far," said Wilberforce, speaking of a good
man. "Not a bit too far," returned Milner; and then
a discussion followed. After a while Wilberforce took up
a volume which had been given by Mr. Unwin, the friend
of Cowper, to one of their travelling companions. It was
"Dodderidge's Rise and Progress of Religion." "What
sort of a book is this?" asked Wilberforce. "The best
book in the world," returned his friend, and after a little
they began to read it together. An amount of interest
was awakened; and when his reason was convinced, then
at length his heart began to feel; and ere long he was
compelled to own that Isaac Milner was in the right.
The party remained abroad for many months, though
Wilberforce had to return home during the interval for a
short time on business. When they went back to England,
Milner and he travelled alone together from Nice, and the
Greek Testament was during that journey the main subject
of their earnest converse. Wilberforce had known its
great truths long before, while under his aunt's care; and
now back came all those thoughts and feelings which he
had so long put from him, until the recollection of his
wasted years, talents, and opportunities filled him with
bitter sorrow and remorse. "What folly, what madness
to live on in a state from which any sudden call out of this
world would consign him to endless misery!" he began
seriously to think. And then the base ingratitude of his
past life humbled him in the very dust. Gradually had
he come to feel thus; for his feelings of remorse deepened
as time went by, until for months together he fell into a
state of the greatest depression, of which many years
afterwards he said that "nothing which he had ever read
in the accounts of others exceeded what he himself had
felt." He had sinned against that Saviour who had died
for him; he had sinned, too, against much longsuffering
forbearance on the part of the Heavenly Father.
These thoughts weighed him down. After a time,
however, the freedom and fulness of the Gospel promises
went home to his heart, and gradually produced in him a
settled peace of conscience. Then very deliberately did he
dedicate himself to the service of the God and Saviour
whom he had so long neglected, and resolve to begin an
entirely new course of life.
Returning home in November, 1785, a new man,
changed in all his aims and aspirations from what he had
been, the transformation was manifest to all. It could
not be hid.
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