Silent Witness at Westminster Abbey, part 1
I recently had the opportunity to tour Westminster Abbey. I was struck by the grandeur , size, and beauty of the building. Just staring up at the ceiling took my breath away and made me want to lie down on the floor and gaze upward for hours. Of course, lying down on the floor of a formal cathedral could have appeared disrespectful so I opted to just strain my neck for as long as I could stand it.
I was also struck by how odd it seemed that so many people are buried underneath the church. While marveling at the physical beauty of the building, I also felt an undeniable sense of creepiness while stepping on what looked like tombstones. And then there’s the extra doze of the bizarre when reflecting on the names of some of the people buried in a church – Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, and D. H. Lawrence for example.
But three memorial stones made the trip more than worthwhile for me and have prompted me to pray for the thousands who pass through that building every year. Soon after entering the building, you can’t miss the large memorial to William Wilberforce. After shuffling along with the crowd, you come upon a stone telling of the missionary David Livingstone. And as the tour comes to an end in Poets’ Corner, after looking at reminders of William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and well over 100 other writers, musicians, and artists, you come upon the recently placed stone memorializing C. S. Lewis.
In this blog, I’ll point to the things carved in marble about Wilberforce. I’ll share about Livingstone and Lewis in subsequent blogs.
Take a look at the words written about Wilberforce on the statue of that great man:
“TO THE MEMORY OF WILLIAM WILBERFORCE (BORN IN HULL AUGUST 24th 1759, DIED IN LONDON JULY 29th 1833;) FOR NEARLY HALF A CENTURY A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, AND, FOR SIX PARLIAMENTS DURING THAT PERIOD, ONE OF THE TWO REPRESENTATIVES FOR YORKSHIRE. IN AN AGE AND COUNTRY FERTILE IN GREAT AND GOOD MEN, HE WAS AMONG THE FOREMOST OF THOSE WHO FIXED THE CHARACTER OF THEIR TIMES; BECAUSE TO HIGH AND VARIOUS TALENTS, TO WARM BENEVOLENCE, AND TO UNIVERSAL CANDOUR, HE ADDED THE ABIDING ELOQUENCE OF A CHRISTIAN LIFE. EMINENT AS HE WAS IN EVERY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC LABOUR, AND A LEADER IN EVERY WORK OF CHARITY, WHETHER TO RELIEVE THE TEMPORAL OR THE SPIRITUAL WANTS OF HIS FELLOW-MEN, HIS NAME WILL EVER BE SPECIALLY IDENTIFIED WITH THOSE EXERTIONS WHICH, BY THE BLESSING OF GOD, REMOVED FROM ENGLAND THE GUILT OF THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE, AND PREPARED THE WAY FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY IN EVERY COLONY OF THE EMPIRE: IN THE PROSECUTION OF THESE OBJECTS HE RELIED, NOT IN VAIN, ON GOD; BUT IN THE PROGRESS HE WAS CALLED TO ENDURE GREAT OBLOQUY AND GREAT OPPOSITION: HE OUTLIVED, HOWEVER, ALL ENMITY; AND IN THE EVENING OF HIS DAYS, WITHDREW FROM PUBLIC LIFE AND PUBLIC OBSERVATION TO THE BOSOM OF HIS FAMILY. YET HE DIED NOT UNNOTICED OR FORGOTTEN BY HIS COUNTRY: THE PEERS AND COMMONS OF ENGLAND, WITH THE LORD CHANCELLOR AND THE SPEAKER AT THEIR HEAD, IN SOLEMN PROCESSION FROM THEIR RESPECTIVE HOUSES, CARRIED HIM TO HIS FITTING PLACE AMONG THE MIGHTY DEAD AROUND, HERE TO REPOSE: TILL, THROUGH THE MERITS OF JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY REDEEMER AND SAVIOUR, (WHOM, IN HIS LIFE AND IN HIS WRITINGS HE HAD DESIRED TO GLORIFY,) HE SHALL RISE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST.”
Please join me in prayer for the many people who pass the statue of this great man. May God be pleased to point them to Wilberforce’s God and Savior.