Real Christianity (1797) by William Wilberforce
This Christian classic is certainly among my top 10 favourite books beside the Bible and one that the Lord formatively used in my life. While written many years ago it is highly relevant for today.
Made more accessible by the paraphrase of Bob Beltz in 2006 (along with the release of the Song, “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone” and the movie about the abolitionist, Amazing Grace), this work is the best seller that helped end slavery in the British Empire.
Frustrated that the populace of a “Christian” nation wouldn’t support his appeals to end slavery, Wilberforce realized the reason, most were nominal. This can be seen in the historic and long title: A Practical View of the Prevailing System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity [emphasis added].
He knew he couldn’t change the direction of his country until the Lord had changed its heart:
"But fruitless will be all attempts to sustain, much more to revive, the fainting cause of morals unless you can in some degree restore the prevalence of Evangelical Christianity. It is in morals as in physics; unless a source of practical principles be elevated, it will be vain to attempt to make them flow on a high level in their future course… By all, therefore, who are studious of their country’s welfare…every effort should be used to revive the Christianity of our better days."
This is a helpful reminder for those Christians who still think the political process can deliver Canada—it cannot, only the Gospel can!
By his work Real Christianity, example, network and involvement in the Evangelical Revival, Wilberforce was a powerful figure in shaping a nation for Christ, a legacy still felt in many respects today.
Though Canada is a post-Christian nation, the problem of nominal Christianity persists. This book will help you recognize what nominal Christianity is as you contrast it with real Christianity.
Though our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, Christians ought to pray for their earthly country, its leaders, and ultimately its salvation. Did you know Canada used to be a Christian country, though now a conservative estimate is that only 3-4% are born again. In fact at the turn of the last century Ontario was one of the most Christianized lands in the world! Though there is cause to hope for brighter days, as it was Canada day this week it is relevant to look back to our Christian heritage as an encouragement to look forward.
Here are just three marks of our Christian past (point people to these when doing evangelism):
-Our coat of arms. Did you know the Latin saying on our coat of arms is taken from Ps 72:8 and expressed the Christian vision for Canada: Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae or "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." And don’t forget the cross at the top of her majesty’s crown!
-Our national anthem. Originally part of a larger Christian hymn, one line says it best: God keep our land glorious and free. It is God we need to look for to keep us glorious and free, a freedom and blessing which comes from faithfulness to the Gospel.
- Our Charter: While many forget this or dismiss this all together, the defining line of our Charter comes at the very beginning: Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.
Sadly today we can only beg God’s mercy (“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Pr 14:34). Any hope of future blessing can only be found in the Gospel re-reaching our land. Not that Canada would look the same in the past if this were so in the future, but we need to point people back to the founding person of Jesus Christ if we are to remain glorious and free: “ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jer 6:16)
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.