This week, I will be off for my annual retreat. I shall be going to North Wales, to Gladstone’s Library. This wonderful place is in the tiny village of Hawarden, near Hawarden castle, the ancestral seat of William Gladstone, one of Queen Victoria’s great prime ministers.
Gladstone was a learned man, who amassed a vast collection of book, and bequeathed them to the clergy of Great Britain. The library building, which houses them was later provided from Gladstone’s will.
He was also a man of deep Christian faith. He reminds us that faith it is this-worldly and practical, as well as giving us hope for the next life. Following Jesus, Christians believe that we are to live and act to make this world a more just, better, kinder place – a vision which fired Gladstone through his long life. In one speech, he declared:
He who has united you together as human beings in the same flesh and blood, has bound you by the law of mutual love, …not limited by the shores of this island, not limited by the boundaries of Christian civilisation, [but passing] over the whole surface of the earth, and embraces the meanest along with the greatest in its wide scope.
Gladstone’s political convictions, rooted in faith, lead him to champion the Great Reform Act of 1832, which removed electoral abuse and vastly extended the right to vote.
Of course Christian views should never be imposed upon people through political institutions, but faith speaks for itself. It always has, and always will, inspire a vision of good community which feeds into our public life.