rebelling against low expectations

The Invincible Determination of Wilberforce and Buxton


Alex and I have long admired William Wilberforce for his tireless dedication in pursuing his holy ambition. One year after coming to Christ, Wilberforce wrote in his diary, “God Almighty has placed before me two great Objects, the Suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners.”

Over twenty years later, Wilberforce succeeded in abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire — but not slavery itself. As he continued to work towards emancipation for existing slaves, Wilberforce realized that the cause would need younger men to continue the work. So, in 1821 he asked Thomas Fowell Buxton (pictured above) to take over leadership of the campaign.

Buxton himself was an exceptional man, a strong Christian, and a dedicated abolitionist. For twelve years he served as leader of the abolition movement in the House of Commons — not only persevering, but succeeding. In 1833, slavery was officially abolished in the British Empire — one month after Wilberforce’s death.

This story is a remarkable tribute to both Wilberforce and Buxton. It’s a shame that more attention is not given to this successful “passing of the baton” between two generations — and to T.F. Buxton himself. From even my limited research, he seems to have much to teach us. Check out the following excerpt from John G. Edgar’s, “The Boyhood of Great Men,” which includes Buxton’s challenge to young men:

Buxton’s opinion seems to have been that a young man may become very much what he pleases, by working, studying, and struggling. He wrote: “The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between men, between the feeble and the powerful, is energy — invincible determination — & purpose once fixed, and then death or victory. That quality will do anything that can be done in this world; and no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities, will make a two-legged creature a man without it.”

Upon reading this quotation I wondered what might happen if each of us prayed that invincible determination would come to define our lives; that faithful perseverance would characterize each one of us as we serve over a lifetime in our families, churches, schools, and world. What might God do through a generation like that? What victories might He grant us? It seems worth thinking about. And praying for.

Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone be the Glory)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Amen. Both men were an incredible example of what God can accomplish through us whenever we do hard things. It’s like Philippians 4:13 says: ‘I can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who strengthens me.” Thanks for the post!

  • Amen. The movie Amazing Grace should have included that. It would have been amazing to see the fruits of their labor come to fruition. God is incredible.

  • Oh to have a cause that is so great and important that we have to pass on the work to someone else before we die! There are few people I can think of who have done anything similar to this. The first person who came to my mind is Dr. John R. Rice who founded The Sword of the Lord ministry. He worked into his 80’s and then another great man, Dr. Curtis Hudson took over.

    Mrs. White

  • How can I not have tears of joy when I hear of the grace God has given unto these men! I praise our great God for he loves both Jew and Gentile. As a guy with third-world ethnicity and a sinner saved by God himself, I pray that I only live a life worthy of the gospel for His fame, like these men.

    Thanks for that, guys… that was hot.

  • William Wilberforce worked in many different reforms of his society. He helped abolish the lottery, reform prison systems and factory life for workers, created the first Sunday Schools in Clapham, etc. While most people focus on the slave trade aspect alone, Wilberforce was a truly amazing man with great talent and passion for people.

    Great post. you taught me something I didn’t know about Wilberforce, and I just did a project on him last June.

  • Yeah, I did not project on him too, last year…
    He was quite interesting…just like Emily, i learned something new!

    and no I haven’t asked for that, but I will from now on!

  • Cool story.

    Proverbs 20:29 says,
    The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.

    Just thought I’d put that up, It’s a cool verse, and if you think about it, it goes with the post.

  • I think I am missing your point. It seems that Buxton gives the credit of making a man to “invincible determination” but that determination has no reference to God’s power. I think of Peter, the headstrong apostle. He had energy all right, but it was often misdirected. It wasn’t until he stopped trying to do stuff, and let God’s spirit use him that we really see his work advancing the kingdom of God. Energy doesn’t seem to be enough for God, though he promised to provide it to those who hope in him (Is 40:28-31).

  • Incredible! saw the movie and loved it, but I agree with nate. It’s so much fun for me to learn about people and events in history where weight is put on a young persons shoulders and they pull through for the honor and glory of God. It’s truly sad what has become of the “teenage” years and what they could and should be today. But the rebelution is constantly growing, and enlightening today’s “teenagers” on the significance of these years. Thanks guys.

  • In response to Carrie Joy, they say that nothing is stronger than human will, but human will alone doesn’t last forever. We need a higher power of determination that only god can provide – an invincible determination. At least, that’s my interpretation of it.

  • Wow,what a great post! it reminds me of the need to be helping my younger siblings be prepared to to take the baton someday,and I need to be sucessful in carrying it on as an example to them! God has blessed us with so many opportunities not only to influence our generation for Christ, but also future generations.And wow,I always think to ask God for what I want ,but what if I stopped to ask what things I could do for Him? I think it would be an incredible difference. As a big sister I am really careful about the influences on my life, because they spill inot my siblings lives.This blog is always so uplifting ,challenging,and encouraging that it is a refreshing alternative to all the junk the world offers! Thank you!

  • An invincible determination. I like that. I will be praying that we, our generation, could gain an invincible determination. I believe our generation is here on this earth for a specific reason and that we are going to accomplish something great. Thank you for the post! It is very inspiring!

    God Bless!

  • Invincible Determination.
    Invincible Determination would have the power to do anything.
    Invincible Determination can only come from God. (And expanding your comfort zone.)
    Invincible Determination is now going to be my short term goal.

  • I recently watched AMAZING GRACE (for the 2nd time)…too bad, there’s no mention of Buxton….

    The entry above is a good reminder… we really need to think about the next generation, not only ours…

    I’m reminded of Deuteronomy….The Israelites failed to do it….

    My desire for the next generation is to have that same invincible determination to faithfully teach Solid Truth that was passed on to them….

    it’s not only for my church, but for all believers around the world….

  • If God awakened these men to live out His glory, why can’t we? I believe our generation can and we will! And to PRAY for this Invincible Determination is what we must start! I am praying about that right now for all of us: Lord Jesus, You alone know our hearts, our desires to really live in You. Lord, You are our Strength and we can never have this invincible determination without Your Spirit working in us mightily. Lord, we ask for Your Spirit to enable us to do things more than we can imagine, just like what You did in William’s and Thomas’ lives. Humbly we rely on Your Spirit for we know that it is not by might nor by power but by Your Spirit alone who can do marvelous things in and through us. We desire this determination, not the kind that the world thinks about but the one that comes from You-Your Resurrection Power. We commit to you everything in us, including our strength and our right to ourselves. AMEN.

  • I’m a huge fan of Wilberforce, so it totally made my day to pop over here and find a post on him. 🙂
    Odd that, as much as I love Wilberforce, I’ve never heard of Buxton. The movie certainly doesn’t mention him, and I haven’t finished the one book I have on him (we own two; I just saw the other one yestreday.) I like that quote of his, though.
    That is definitely worth praying about! That would be amazing!
    Waiting to see what He does!

  • I love that phrase “invincible determination”! As i think about Buxton, i wonder what his life was like before he was handed that great task by Wilberforce. He certainly did not just wake up and find this great responsibility handed over to him. His view of determination must have led him to rise to the top after putting it into practice over many years of his life. I cant help but think of Jesus’ parable of the talents. Matthew 25:21- “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; i will put you in charge of many things.'” For now, when God’s plan for my life isnt clear, i can only have invincible determination for what He gives me. Determination to love my siblings when its hard, determination to not compromise my standards in the face of peer pressure, determination to get involved in my church, etc. For now, God hasnt directed me to the “big hard things” He wants me to do, but i trust He will if i continue to seek after Him with invincible determination. Hopefully all of that makes sense! 🙂

  • Too bad more Christian teens do not pray for invincible determination. I’ve prayed for someone to pass the baton to as a leave youth group, but no one in my youth group really seems to want to take responsiblity for anything. But God can still do stuff in people’s lives. Thanks for the post!

  • A perfect example of what can be done with good strong faith in GOD. I’m praying for more people to have strong, lasting faith and determination to end abortion and I pray it wil happen soon!

  • I agree, these guys were awesome! I became aware of all the issues with the slave trade after i watched amazing grace

  • How should we apply this concept of passing on our mission? Do we just pray for someone to come along? Or do we pair up with someone?

  • Awesome post! Buxton’s quote is really powerful. It really shows how there is no such thing as half-heartedly working for the Lord. When He calls us to something, we must endeavor to pursue it with “invincible determination.”

    “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive an inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” ~Colossians 3:23-24

    Thanks again for the great post!

  • The thing that struck me the most about this post was that even after just a year of
    really knowing the Lord he already knew what the Lord was going to use him for. He was
    completely confident in the fact that this was where the Lord was leading Him. And then
    instead of shrinking away because it was going to be hard, he took the baton that the Lord handed him and charged through the mass of struggles, and trials,and temptations, until he reached the feet of his precious savior.

    I think that this is part of the problem with our world today. God is trying to hand each of us a baton. All of which have some great and wonderful thing that we couldn’t even imagine hidden inside. But most of us are to busy with our normal, self pleasing lives, that we can’t even see it when He is waving it in front of our faces. He is calling each of us to recognize what is inside of the baton. He is calling each of us to pick it up, and run with it. Weather you are a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter. He has called you to something great! He has called you to something wonderful! Wont we pick up the baton and follow after Him?

    You can’t pass the baton until you pick it up.

  • Pardon me for not joining in with Wilberforce’s political-correctness of abolishing slavery (something not absolutely condemned, but in fact regulated in the holy word of God–see Philemon, Ephesians, Colossions, and the 10th commandment, etc.). The historic Baptist position on slavery is worth consideration, particularly that of Southern Baptists.
    (See Richard Furman’s Exposition on Slavery, who was a contemporary of Wilberforce, and refers to him in his published historic message). Let’s put Wilberforce’s doctrine and innovations in one scale and the Bible in the other, and see which is weightier, while the world applauds the politically-correct.

    Neither was the Sunday School brought in without much debate, and questioned by many later as innovation, and separating the primary instruction of children from parents, which is their commanded duty–i.e. “fathers….bring your children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord”. Parents today DELEGATE almost exclusively the teaching of their own children to government schools and “Sunday School”, and “Youth Groups”, where primary indoctrination and questionable socialization actually takes place

    So where is “The Rebelution”, real revolution, in all this politically-correct, but Biblically Challenged, “invincible determination” of Biblically questionable ministries which now dominate modern Christianity, which has with them become largely impotent, if not distracted? These things agree so much with the WORLD that they hardly represent anything of a revolution–except to historic Christian doctrine and practice! Are we seeking worldly praise in highlighting these two men in pariticular? What is the motive, here, really?

    “Test every spirit”, we are commanded. Isn’t it time to do that instead? Now that would be Rebelutionary.

  • B Williams:
    I certainly agree on the Sunday school thing….and I think the issue with slavery is the treatment of the slaves which was, according to Biblical commandments, supposed to be vey fair ,kind , and just.The slave trade in England certainly did not line up with that standard.Also , in the Bible ,correct me if I’m wrong ,but I believe that after 7 years of service , the slaves were given a choice whether they wanted to be free or not . Being a slave during Wilberforce’s time meant terrible conditions and bondage for life. I’m really glad you brought that up though! You’re right…to often things sound good and we forget to think about them because they’re from a good source…no offense Alex and Brett , I love your ministry ,but it would be just as easy for you to make a mistake as anyone else.So , anyway , thanks for reminding us to think…..I think I will use invincible determination to remind myself not to let myself be a passive reader….at least not in the near future 🙂

  • p.s. as long as we’re “rebelutionizing” the world ,why not start with the church? who says all the extra church activities, sunday school , youth group ,etc. is a good idea? and why? is it even anywhere close to biblical? Anyway……just another important but very random thought 🙂

  • ♦ B Williams, EricaAnn: I don’t know if I understand correctly, but are you saying that slavery is okay?
    ♦ EricaAnn: I do agree about sunday school and youth group being unnecessary. My church finally got rid of all sunday school except for, I think, six and under. We still have a youth group, but I don’t go because my dad doesn’t like youth groups. I do attend a separate girls’ Bible study.
    ♦ A nyway, my church felt it was time to try and make life a little simpler by taking away Wed. services and doing things a little differently around the church. They do have ministry oppurtunities still; like this coming up Saturday, we’re giving away bottles of water at a W**-Mart in the area.
    ♦ So, B Williams and EricaAnn, could you more clearly define your comments above? Sorry if I sound very ignorant, but I’m confused and it seems to me that you think that slavery is biblically correct, even if it isn’t politically correct.
    ~Kay Morris♫

  • Sunday school and youth groups aren’t perhaps altogether necessary, but they are definitely useful tools to advance the Kingdom of God. Indeed, if you read a book called Pagan Christianity by Frank Biola and George Barna there are many practices of the church that come from less than biblical roots if you know what I mean. 🙂 But Sunday school started as an outreach to help evangelize and proclaim the Gospel and to further education.
    I admire Wilberforce and Buxton’s perserverance to their cause. 12 or 20 years seems like a really long time to me! They really had the big picture in mind when they set out to abolish slavery. I hope I can have the same confidence when I’m asked to do hard things and shoulder that kind of responsibility.

  • B. Williams: I’m not sure I understand exactly what your problem with Wilberforce and Buxton is. You seem to say that their work of abolishing slavery is somehow not in line with the Bible and that they were not following God’s will in doing it so we shouldn’t follow their example. You also say that their work was based in political-correctness. Actually, the reason that it took so long to get it done was because hardly anyone in the government agreed with it. I don’t see that as being politically correct. Year after year Wilberforce came back with a huge petition and he kept getting shot down. That is where he needed that “invincible determination”. As far as the Bible saying that slavery is okay, there is really no ground to stand on. The passages in the old testament where for Israel’s civil law a few THOUSAND years ago. The verses in the New Testament address a situation that existed in a pagan culture, but by no means condone it. There are also a few passages that explain how to get a divorce in the Pentateuch. Nobody claims that because of those passages God is saying it’s okay to get divorced. (See Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:31-32). I also echo EricaAnn in saying that in the old testament slaves were to be treated well. The slave trade in Wilberforce time was just horrific. The slaves were treated worse than animals. “Wilberforce’s doctrines and innovations”, at least in regard to the slave trade, are in line with God’s mandate to help the helpless, poor, and oppressed. The motive in highlighting these two men is not, as you say, “seeking worldly praise” but is instead to show an example of two godly men who persevered, went against the flow, and did hard things for God.

  • I’d also like to chime in on the Sunday School/youth group topic. I agree that a youth groups today can be rather worldly. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with a youth group. If a youth group is a place where youth can come together and fellowship, worship God, and learn from God’s word then there is nothing unbiblical about it at all. Sunday School is a time of learning from God’s word in a way that is appropriate for the age group. It is in addition to the church service. I don’t see how additional and age appropriate teaching can be bad. B. Williams said that parents delegate teaching. Is this the fault of the parents or the Sunday School and Youth Group? The parents. Parental teaching, bible teaching Sunday School, and the worship service should combine because they are all used by God. That’s what I think and I hope that makes sense.

    In Christ,

  • Kay Morris:In the old testament, God gave the Israelites certain rules regarding slavery.He certainly did not command for it to be abolished , but He gave very clear rules as far as the treatment of slaves, and He also gave slaves the opportunity to choose after 7 years work to be free or remain slaves.Now , you have to understand , in Bible times , most slave trade wasn’t just randomly herding people up to sell into slavery, but most often people became slaves in payment of debts or wrongdoings.Of course, we are no longer under old testament law , and I am certainly not saying that I agree with slavery now , or even the previous slave trade in England. I think that treatment of human beings is absolutely inexcusable.However , I don’t think that the biblical version was wrong , but it is certainly not a needed thing today.I just want to be clear that I absolutely do not agree with slavery in today’s sense of the word , but I think that people need to be aware of the biblical version ,and for that time and the ancient societies , it was perfectly reasonable , but ,like so many other decent things, greed took over and created some very bad situations and ideas. Like anything else , if it had stayed the way God designed it , it would be perfectly fair , but it has obviously been taken way out of context and used for personal gain rather than a just punishment. Hope that clears things up! synopsis: biblical slavery,the way God intended it = good.Slavery for personal benefit,with unfair treatment,etc.= very,very bad…..very fine line,but I hope I explained it well enough to let you decide…look it up in the old testament…it’s an interesting study! I would be delighted to answer any other questions you have , and sorry I’m not very good at keeping things clear and simple 🙂

  • ♦ EricaAnn: Thank you for taking the time to explain what you meant to me. I understand exactly what you mean now. I think I can agree with you, now that I understand what you mean. I think that, within the right context, Biblical slavery would have been acceptable. Growing up in the deep South, however, the only type of slavery I have ever known of is the kind wrong enough to divide a country. I am so thankful that it has been abolished. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment. 🙂
    ~Kay Morris♫

  • Thanks for the encouragment. My youth group just got back from YFN. (Youth for the nations) They talked about modern day slavery and the sex trade and we were completley rocked. We’re going to start an anti slavery group to raise money for micro loans to help people feed hemselves. I’m reading your book right now and it’s a relly big encouragement to me. Thank you.

  • Incredible blog post!

    I watched Amazing grace (Movie about slave trade) and I honestly cried when I saw the living conditions that so many of those poor men, women and children were forced to live in, and how the sailors treated those girls! It’s awful!

    I’ve had such a craving in my heart lately to be doing more to serve God, yet I know that I can do that even if I don leave my own home!

    But a few months ago I began to realize somthing that I normaly looked past.

    Every time I go shopping, I buy a whole new wardrobe, and what do I do with all the clothing that still perfectly good but just no longer my style or size? I throw it out.

    And I began to think about how I’m sure allot of other people do that to.
    Yet, in other countries, so many chilrend do well to stay warm in the little clothing they do have.

    So then I thought “What if I were to collect all that clothing, then donate it all to children who could really use it?”

    I know that you dont have to leave home to serve God, but it just seems like unless I do MORE to serve Him, I’m useless!

    God Bless

  • Wow! Great post. What an amazing thing that I didn’t know about. God is so good, even when Wilberforce could not carry on the Lord gave him someone who could–PROVERBS 20:29–. I think this should have been told in Amazing Grace (which is like one of the best movies ever!!!). Don’t get me long I love the last scene as the vote of Parliament is revealed, but William is in that room, and he got to witness it. Oh Well. The Lord sure does to amazing things.

    Always in Christ,
    Grace Leigh

  • William Wilberforce is definetely an inspiration for me.

    I love your idea Alesia. 🙂 I pray that God will take that desire he put in your heart and turn into something world changing

    You sister in Christ
    Grace x 🙂

  • We stumbled over here different page and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking over your web page for a second time.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →