Political Milestones: 1700AD to 1800AD
This century was again dominated by European nations jostling for power, wealth and territory around the globe. The century started with four evenly matched European powers, but ended with the launching of the British Empire, the largest empire the world has ever seen…so far! It was also the era when the 2,000 European era of kings would begin to be overthrown by calls for “liberty, fraternity and equality” in the American and French Revolutions. The first secured the liberty of the most overtly Christian nation the world has ever seen. Ironically, the second unleashed two centuries of politically enforced atheism.
First, let’s talk about the rise of the British Empire. Two political events cemented its growth. First, the union of England, Scotland and Wales took place in 1707AD. This turned England into Britain, and laid a peaceful domestic platform for external growth. Second, Britain was the winner of the world’s first global war between European superpowers. The “Seven Years War” occurred between 1756-63AD with Spain, France, Russia, Austria and Sweden on one side. Britain, Prussia and Portugal were on the other. Costing 1.4 million lives, many battles were fought in North and South America, India, the Philippines and West Africa.
The main theatre of conflict was North America. Up to this point in time Britain controlled the eastern third of the continent, France the middle third and Spain the western third. By the wars end Britain controlled two thirds of North America. Britain also took all of France’s trading posts in India and it emerged as a more powerful force than even the Muslim Moghuls rulers of India. How different would today’s world be if France had won this war!
The increased costs to the British budget of the war in its American colony, combined with the awkward peace that came afterwards, led to crippling taxes for the American colonists. In 1776AD resentment to these tax burdens, combined with a lack of political representation in English parliament, resulted in the 13 North American colonies uniting and issuing a unilateral declaration of independence. Eight years of war followed and in 1783 the USA emerged as a free country.
Britain was now devoid of its primary overseas territory so started looking to Asia, the Pacific and Africa to express its growing economic and political power. One of the little known consequences of this defeat for Britain was the founding of a colony in the recently discovered eastern seaboard of Australia in 1788AD as an alternative destination for its ever-growing prison population. By the end of the century Britain controlled the world’s oceans, as well as South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Burma and many more overseas trading posts.
As losers of the Seven Year War, France turned its imperial ambitions back toward continental Europe. However, a despotic absolute monarch, a feudal economy, the high cost of helping the Americans humble Britain in the USA’s war of independence, poor harvests as a result of the 1783AD Mt Laki eruption in Iceland, and rampant religious corruption resulting from the extermination of the Protestants all took their toll on the nation. In 1789AD the Monarchy was overthrown by a violent peasant revolution. The king was executed and all Catholic Church property was seized. Anarchy reigned for years and civil order was only restored in 1799AD with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. From this point on socialists from all over the world would come to Paris to learn the art of revolution.
The expansion of Russia also continued at full speed under Peter the Great. Russia’s growing military power led to many borderland skirmishes and wars with Prussia and Sweden. By the end of the century Russia, though still largely a feudal society, was also a Pacific power with control of Alaska, and it now had a warm water port the Crimea peninsula. Russia was also instrumental in the fatal weakening of the Ottoman Empire, one of the many steps in the political humiliation of Islamic cultures that was now taking place across the world in the face of European imperialism.
This was also the century of great social and philosophical developments. Musical technology reached its zenith with the creation of the great orchestras of Europe. Men like Bach, Handel and Mozart were creating classical sounds the world still enjoys today. Science was bringing us knowledge of the natural world at a rapid pace. Commerce and trade now became a science themselves under the guidance of Adam Smith. The Industrial Revolution was being birthed and the first wave of it came out of Britain, symbolised by the invention of the steam engine in 1765AD. By 1800AD Britain was the factory, science lab, spiritual and cultural centre of the world. This enabled food production to soar so much that the world’s population grew by 50% to 900 million, the beginnings of a global population explosion. Enlightenment Philosophy was also becoming fashionable, with people like David Hume questioning any metaphysical belief rooted in a realm beyond what can be observed by the senses.
Spiritual Milestones: 1700AD to 1800AD
In 1705AD a new era also dawned in the Kingdom of God. For the first time since the Protestant Reformation some two centuries earlier, and probably for a thousand years, true Christians in Europe and America began to understand the Great Commission and God’s heart for those in the four corners of the world who did not know Jesus. It started quietly enough with two evangelical Lutheran missionaries being sent to Goa in India in 1706AD by the King of Denmark. They learnt the language, adapted to the customs, converted souls and fought for lower caste justice.
Next, in 1727AD, a little band of believers who had escaped the Jesuit-led destruction of the Moravian church in Bohemia experienced a powerful visitation from the Holy Spirit. They were then inspired by the above-mentioned Danish missionaries to begin reaching souls outside Europe. This tiny community sent missionaries to the Caribbean in 1732AD, Suriname in 1735AD, northern Russia in 1736AD, Ghana, South Africa & New York USA in 1737AD, Sri Lanka in 1738AD, and Labrador in 1750AD. In the hundred years from 1727AD this Moravian church sent out over 2,000 missionaries, all backed with a century of non-stop, 24 hour prayer. A new era in world history had begun and their prayers were about to be answered in a way none of them could imagine.
Soon after becoming a true Christian at an Moravian prayer meeting in 1732AD, John and Charles Wesley started a holiness club in Oxford. This small group quickly turned into a full scale evangelical reform movement within the spiritually barren Church of England, both at home and in its colonies. Travelling over 250,000 miles on horseback and delivering over 40,000 sermons, Wesley saw millions come into the Kingdom of God. He always organised them into small house churches and set up leadership structures similar to the New Testament model. This became known as Methodism. It soon parted ways from the deadness of the Anglican Church and grew exponentially. What began as spiritual renewal quickly turned into social reform on a massive scale. John Wesley is now regarded as the greatest Englishman of the 18th Century and rightly so.
One of the attendees at the Oxford Holiness club was George Whitefield, who took the message of salvation to the streets and open air for the first time, and with great effect. Soon he was preaching to tens of thousands at a time. In 1737AD made the first of seven trips to America. A prayer-focused revival had just broken out in New England under the ministry of Jonathon Edwards so the timing was perfect. It is estimated Whitefield preached over 18,000 times to between 10 and 15 million people in his lifetime. Although he didn’t leave a disciplined church behind as Wesley did, the revival he started in America lasted 50 years and completely transformed nearly every Protestant denomination in the colonies, while the Catholic churches were completely untouched. Evangelical faith became the largest spiritual, social and political influence in North America, and played no small part in creating a culturally democratic American nationalism in the lead up to the American Revolution.
Back in the UK, late in the century other Protestants finally decided to start reaching out to the lost. In 1792AD William Carey, a Baptist missionary sailed for Calcutta. In 1799AD the Anglican Church, now full of Methodist evangelicals, established its own missions agency.
The Moravians, the Wesley brothers, George Whitefield and Jonathon Edwards, and other lesser known leaders together laid the blueprint for the modern global evangelical and Pentecostal movements. In this respect they spiritually and socially transformed the modern world, taking Christianity away from politics, corruption and wars, and into hearts, the home, workplace, legal system, educational institutions. For the first time since the New Testament era, global growth in true Christianity was occurring on the back of intense prayer for the lost. The second great era of a global free market for souls had arrived. The era of state supported Christianity that began with Constantine in 312AD would now drift slowly into the history books.
However, in other parts of the world things were not going so well for the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Catholic Christianity was stagnating across the world in line with the decline of its Spanish masters. Catholicism was banned in China in 1716AD. In addition, the number of nominal Catholics in both India and Sri Lanka dropped by over 80% million. The Catholic Church then lost all its property, finances and privileges in the French Revolution, a blow from which it never recovered.
Orthodox Christians were also being violently persecuted throughout the Ottoman Empire, with many being forced to convert to Islam in the Balkans. In Arabia an ominous agreement was made in 1744AD between the extremist and doctrinaire Wahhabi sect and the house of Saud to mutually defend each other and fight back against European Imperialism. This would eventually lead to the rise of extremist Jihad movements all over the Islamic world in the late 20th century.