William Wilberforce makes clear his intended audience are readers who perceive themselves to be Christians, people who attend church on a regular basis. Remember this book was first published in the early nineteenth century when the majority in Great Britain felt peer pressure to attend church on a regular basis. The book is a call for introspection: How will you face God after you leave this earth. The author makes distinction between the cultural Christian and to what he considers an authentic Christian. What constitutes authentic religion and authentic faith? Expresses a desire that Christians should have desire to know the scripture and have the ability to defend their Faith. Does one have a desire to be well educated over having a godly knowledge of the bible? Does one's desire for a place in society determines behavior and thought or does one's desire to grow closer to God? Wilberforce is critical of Christians who call Faith a private matter. As if it is something to be kept to oneself and not for public declaration. Does the individual feel this way because he is insecure in his knowledge of the bible, insecurity about his ability to defend his thoughts, or lack of faith in his stated belief? The author makes a distinction between being a moral person and a Christian, A moral person tries to do good things and avoid doing bad things. A standard set up by man not God.
Wilberforce argues that many a Christian have a misperception about the nature of God and the nature of sin, therefore they do not perceive oneself correctly before God. Christians do not take Satan serious and do not take sin serious. One finds oneself belittle their own guilt and not acknowledging the importance of the cross. The author lists the essentials of the Christian Faith:
Jesus came to earth to live as a human being, to suffer through the humiliations of being man as if he were a sinner, to die as if he were a sinner, to rise from the dead - so we can come with confidence to come to God for forgiveness for ones sins.
Jesus did not die on the cross so God the Father could have a more tolerant perspective about sin. Man is still worthy of hell. Man without repentance is doomed. Salvation is not about living a more ethical life. Salvation only comes from having an emotional response to a correct knowledge of one's own accountability to God and His hatred of sin. One is dependent on Jesus to avoid the punishment of sin. Behavior through the Holy Spirit will improve after conversion of Faith, but in way does the believer merit salvation.
Wilberforce goes to great lengths to express what it means to put God first in contrast an earthly attempt to be a good person, self-effort attempt to serve God, and a life lead by the Holy Spirit. Does one take doctrine serious; does one take the teachings of the bible to heart? Do you love God more than the acceptance of man? This perspective will effect how one budgets his time, use his Sunday. Does one grudgingly go to church then use the rest of the day for leisure or business? How does one study God's word, how does one worship?
The author goes into detail distinguish between man directed behavior and God directed behavior. A good reputation seeking God's will is something to seek, but one should be provoked to sinful anger or violence when one slanders you as a hypocrite. It is not the approval of man a Christian seeks, but the approval of God. Revenge and/or hate should not be a Christian response to slander or lies about ones Christian walk.
Wilberforce makes a case for a weaken nation because less people are authentic Christians. I find this regrettable because it seems to contradict his thesis about why someone should be an authentic Christian. The Author completes the book with a plea for the Christian to have a self examination of his Christian walk.
Yes, his efforts to end the slave trade and the movie Amazing Grace are two major factors in me seeking out this book.