You know, Wilberforce, I have not the slightest idea what that man has been talking about

There is a well-known story which seems to me to supply a perfect illustration of this point. It concerns two great men, William Wilberforce the leader in the movement for the abolition of slavery, and William Pitt the Younger, one time Prime Minister of Britain. They were both brilliant men, they were both politicians, and they were very great friends. But William Wilberforce was converted and became a Christian, while William Pitt, like so many others, was but a formal Christian. William Wilberforce was very much concerned about his friend. He loved him as a man and was greatly concerned about his soul. He was most anxious therefore that Pitt should go with him to listen to a certain preacher, a London clergyman of the Church of England named Richard Cecil. Cecil was a great evangelical preacher, and Wilberforce delighted in his ministry, so he was ever trying to persuade Pitt to go with him to listen to Cecil. At long last Pitt agreed to do so. Wilberforce was delighted and they went together to a service. Richard Cecil was at his best, preaching in his most spiritual and elevated and exalted manner. Wilberforce was enjoying himself, and feeling lifted up into the very heavens. He could not imagine anything better, anything more enjoyable, anything more wonderful; and he was wondering what was happening to his friend William Pitt, the Prime Minister. Well, he was not left long in a state of uncertainty as to what had been happening, because, before they were even out of the building Pitt turned to Wilberforce and said, `You know, Wilberforce, I have not the slightest idea what that man has been talking about’. And he hadn’t, of course. As a man can be tone deaf to music, all who are not Christians are tone deaf to the spiritual. That which was ravishing the mind and the heart of Wilberforce conveyed nothing to Pitt. He was bored, he could not follow it, he could not understand it, he did not know what it was about. A man of great brilliance, a man of great culture, a man of great intellectual ability, but all that does not help l `The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (I Corinthians 2: 14). Richard Cecil might as well have been preaching to a dead man. The dead cannot appreciate these things, neither could William Pitt. He himself confessed it. It is not what Wilberforce says about him; it is what he said about himself.

Martin Lloyd-Jones, Romans 8:5-17, p.10

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