Slavery: Three Men and Their Passion to make a Difference
What do the names Zinzendorf, Wilberforce and Newton have in common? They each had a passion to right the wrongs forced on other human beings. The moments they experienced, led them to spend a life-time changing the world.
Slavery was a going business in the world. It brought big money and wealth to those who were in this trade. It brought tragedy to the black families around the world. Unless one walked in the shoes of two, white Moravian Christians who sold themselves into slavery for the purpose of ministering to the slaves, one would never know this existence.
Zinzendorf was German. Wilberforce and Newton were both English.
Starting with perhaps the most dramatic of stories, few may know the life of John Newton even though they have heard “Amazing Grace” in church, funerals and in the entertainment world.
Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship. In 1744, John sailed in such intolerable conditions on the man-of war, the H.M.S. Harwich, that he deserted. A public flogging occurred when he was captured and demoted from midshipman to a common seaman. He was sent into service on a slave ship that went to Sierra Leone. Being the servant of a slave trader, he was brutally abused. Fortunately, a sea-captain who knew his father, rescued him and he ultimately became the captain of his own slave ship.
The worst conditions imaginable were found on these ships of human cargo. When returning home to England through a violent storm, he recorded in his journal the moment that he experienced his “great deliverance“. It appeared that the ship would sink and all would be lost. He cried out, ” Lord have mercy on us!” He reflected on what he had said. However, God met him in the midst of the raging storm and brought him out of a life of slave trading into a life of faith. . The words that he wrote became a testimony to his life and the changes that God brought.
For twenty-six years, Wilberforce headed a campaign against British slave trade. His was the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone. Sometimes he was criticized for his efforts in anti-slavery abroad and not enough help to the socially deprived at home. However, he persisted. Just three days after Parliament abolished slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, Wilberforce died and was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Count Nikolaus Ludwig won Zinzendorf:
Fifty years before Wilberforce, a wealthy German visited a museum where he saw a painting of Christ. Under it were the words,” This I did for you. What will you do for me?” This was moment when he dedicated his life a service for Christ. A group of Moravians, who were at the time a Christian sect in the Czech Republic, asked to locate on his land. In 1727, a convent was formed; a twenty-four hour prayer circle begun, which lasted for 100 years. Wilberforce made friends with a former slave who had converted to Christianity. When Wilberforce died, he had organized missions throughout Europe, Greenland, and South Africa.
In the early settling of America, slaves made America prosper. Slaves worked the cotton fields and in other products. Slavery was not only in the South, but other parts of America. Many of our founding fathers owned slaves. Pictures were rare because no one wanted to advertise and document their dark trade . Some slaves were treated more humanly than others.
It wasn’t until later that President Lincoln decided the slave trade would be left to the British and others. He would enforce the law, largely ignored, against the trades of this sort. One of the most notorious slave traders in the USA was Nathanael Gordon of Maine. He was hung for his deeds as a trader in 1862. Here is an account of the conditions on one of his ships, which carried hundreds of men, women and children:
“The slaves were stowed so closely that during the entire voyage they appeared to be in great agony. The details are sickening, but as fair exponents of the result of this close stowing, we will but mention that running sores and cutaneous diseases of the most painful as well as contagious character infected the entire load. Decency was unthought of; privacy was simply impossible — nastiness and wretchedness reigned supreme. From such a state of affairs we are not surprised to learn that, during the passage of fifteen days, twenty-nine of the sufferers died, and were thrown overboard.”
At the end of the lives of Zinzendorf, Wilberforce and Newton, their contributions and work to change the laws around the world saved many human beings from the fate of slavery.
QUESTION: If it had not been for the lives of men like these, would we still have slave ships today?
Most school children have been taught about the EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION and President Lincoln in the USA. Do they know about these Christian men who helped change the plight of thousands? I think one knows the answer to this lack of education.
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home… Written by John Newton