1797 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. Inscribed First Edition of One of the Most Important Books in Christian History.
1797 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. Inscribed First Edition of One of the Most Important Books in Christian History.
1797 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. Inscribed First Edition of One of the Most Important Books in Christian History.
1797 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. Inscribed First Edition of One of the Most Important Books in Christian History.
1797 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. Inscribed First Edition of One of the Most Important Books in Christian History.
1797 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. Inscribed First Edition of One of the Most Important Books in Christian History.

1797 WILLIAM WILBERFORCE. Inscribed First Edition of One of the Most Important Books in Christian History.

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What a wonderful item. By now, for those acquainted with Church history anyway, the story is something of a commonplace. The power of books is displayed in the history of Wilberforce's classic text.

Traveling all the way back in time to the puritan era, a young Richard Baxter picked up Richards Sibbes' 1630 classic The Bruised Reed. There he found Christ and became a Christian. In time, Baxter himself penned his Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live. It was an instrument of grace in the life of one Philip Doddriddge. And Doddridge found Christ. Doddridge then penned The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. And, you guessed it, this was the text that was used of God to seal William Wilberforce's evangelical conversion. Next in line was Wilberforce's own work, presented here in its true first edition, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious Systm of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. And this text was used to awaken a generation of nominal Christians not only to Christ, but the greatest philanthropic, missionary, and justice movement the Western Church has ever seen. 

The present copy is inscribed in the hand of William Wilberforce, simply, From the Author. It was presented to an important young merchant named, William Bental*. Bental himself invented a new steam powered mill that was used in England and exported to Africa, which lessened the practical demand for some forms of slavery. We can only assume Wilberforce saw the gift as a strategic move, to not only bring Bental to a living appreciation for the work of Christ, but for Bental to then leverage his influence as a merchant and innovator to further exert pressure against the slave trade. 

We have never handled nor seen another first edition, inscribed copy of this most historically important text. 

Wilberforce, William. A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in the Country. Contrasted with Real Christianity. London. T. Cadell. 1797. 490pp + Index + Errata.

Original half green morocco with marbled boards. Some rubbing, but very attractive, freshly consolidated and polished, and sound. Just through at morocco corners. Bental's original bookplate on the pastedown. Some foxing at prelims, otherwise crisp and clean with only the most sporadic spot of foxing. A wonderful piece of history. 

*See Portraits of a Merchant Family, by T. P. Benthall.