The Expansion of Evangelical Millennialism, 1789–1880



The uneasy postmillennial consensus, which evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic had struggled to develop throughout the long eighteenth century, could not be sustained, and Charles Wesley’s was not the only motion of dissent.1 In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a series of revolutions shook the ancien regime and, with it, the eschato-logical assumptions that had been based on expectations of its continuing social beneficence. The American war of independence (1775–83) and a succession of European revolutions and rebellions, beginning in France (1789–99) and progressing to Ireland (1798), Serbia (1804–17) and beyond, advanced upon a secular but often quietly postmillennial confidence in the inevitable ascent of religious and political liberty, which was sometimes believed to be divinely provided and which was at other times articulated in the vocabulary of Enlightenment scepticism or Romantic nationalism.2 These events scuttled the assumption that, as one of the period’s most celebrated conservatives put it, ‘whatever is, is right.’3 In the Atlantic world, these revolutions could be both driven by and simultaneously undermining of the certainties of millennial belief, and the evidence of social fragmentation that they provided, which evangelicals continued to trace into the middle decades of the nineteenth century, drove many believers towards a systemic rethinking of eschatological hope.4


Nineteenth Century Literal Interpretation Political Liberty Ancien Regime Atlantic World 
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Copyright information

© Crawford Gribben 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trinity College DublinIreland

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