Though exposed to evangelical Christianity as a boy, Wilberforce had turned against the idea by young adulthood. Following his election to Parliament he took an extended trip with an old friend, Isaac Milner, during which Wilberforce began to soften his feelings towards evangelical Christianity. The two studied and discussed The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, by Philip Doddridge. Upon his return Wilberforce determined that the only way he could find peace was through God. Now his only problem was whether or not politics and faith could be cohesive.
He sought out his friend from boyhood, John Newton, for counsel. Newton directed him to remain in politics, hoping, “…the Lord will make him a blessing both as a Christian and a statesman. How seldom to these characters coincide! But they are not incompatible.”
By Easter 1786, the “great change” was complete. He wrote, “I devoted myself for whatever might be the term of my future life, to the service of my God and Saviour.”
Image from A Journey Through the Life of William Wilberforce.