The Golden Age of Hymns: Christian History Timeline

The Golden Age of Hymns

1702 Isaac Watts, “the liberator of the English hymn,” becomes Minister of Mark Lane Church in London

1703 John Wesley, Methodist leader and hymn translator/compiler, is born

1704 Johann A. Freylinghausen (son-in-law of August Francke) publishes hymnal for pietists

1705 Horae Lyricae, first published collection of Watts’s verse

1707 Isaac Watts’s landmark Hymns and Spiritual Songs; Charles Wesley, writer of thousands of hymns, born; as is Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, who founds a branch of Calvinistic Methodists and publishes more than 10 hymn collections

1709 Thomas Ken’s “Doxology” takes current form

c. 1710 New “piano e forte” instrument gains interest

1712 Cotton Mather publishes hymns by Watts in the colonies; Freylinghausen’s second hymnal

1715 Watts’s children’s hymnal, Divine Songs for Children

1717 William Williams, the “Isaac Watts of Wales,” is born; he writes more than 800 Welsh and 100 English hymns, among them “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

1719 Isaac Watts’s The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament

1721 First tunebooks for American singing schools

1722 Conflicts over “Regular ” singing (not lined—out) in some colonial churches; Count Zinzendorf founds refuge for the Moravians; his nearly 2,000 hymns and piety stir John Wesley, who translates one hymn as “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”

1729 Charles Wesley founds Holy Club at Oxford that gives rise to Methodism; Benjamin Franklin reprints Watts’s Psalms of David; Philip Doddridge, author of 400-plus hymns such as “Hark, the Glad Sound!” opens seminary

1734 John Cennick converted; an assistant to George Whitefield, he writes “Children of the Heavenly King”

1735 John and Charles Wesley sail to Georgia

1737 John Wesley prepares the Charlestown Collection of Psalms and Hymns—his first hymnal, the first published in North America, and the first of Church of England

1738 May 21, Charles Wesley’s conversion; May 24, John Wesley’s conversion; first American preaching tour of George Whitefield, who spreads Watts’s hymns

1739 Publication of the Wesleys’ Hymns and Sacred Poems

1742 Jonathan Edwards uses Watts’s hymns in his congregation; Wesleys’ Collection of Tunes As Used at the Foundry

1744 First Methodist general conference

1748 John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace!;” converted; Isaac Watts dies;

1749 Beginning of Calvinist-Arminian controversy between Whitefield and Wesley; Charles Wesley marries and publishes two-volume Hymns and Sacred Poems; papal encyclical points to dangers of instruments and theatricality

1753 George Whitefield publishes hymnal

1756 Charles Wesley’s last nationwide preaching tour

1760s Conflicts in colonial churches: Watts’s hymns vs. Psalms

1760 Martin Madan publishes hymnal; two volumes of Anne Steele’s Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional

1761 James Lyon’s Urania, important American tunebook

1764 John Newton takes parish in Olney

1766 Newport Collection, early American hymnal using several English authors

1769 Gerhard Tersteegen, German Reformed hymn writer, dies; John Wesley translated his hymns

1770s James Montgomery, author of “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” writing hymns

1770 George Whitefield dies; William Billings’s New-England Psalm-Singer, first all-American tunebook

1771 Last edition of Freylinghausen’s hymnbook; Wesley sends Francis Asbury to America

1776 Augustus Montague Toplady publishes hymnal including his “Rock of Ages”

1779 Anglican minister John Newton and poet William Cowper publish Olney Hymns, featuring “Amazing Grace;” and “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”

1780 John Wesley’s Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists

1783 Reginald Heber born, who later writes “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!”

1784 John Wesley outlines Sunday worship service for American Methodists

1787 John Rippon’s Baptist hymnal

1788 Charles Wesley dies

1790s African-American “spiritual” developing

1791 John Wesley, William Williams, and Countess of Huntingdon die

1797 Timothy Dwight revises Watts’s Psalms and Hymns

1799 Richard Allen ordained Bishop of AME church; 2 years later produces 1st black hymnal for it

Church and World Events

1701 Yale founded

1702 Anne Queen of England (to 1714)

1703 Delaware founded

1704 John Locke dies

1705 Philip Jacob Spener, leader of German pietism, dies;

1706 First American presbytery

1707 Bach’s first work

1711 Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism; 
Henry Melchior Muehlenberg, the “patriarch of American Lutheranism,” born

1714 Fahrenheit’s thermometer

1715 “Sun King” Louis XIV dies

1718 William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, dies; “Blackbeard” the pirate dies

1719 Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

1720 Theodore J. Frelinghuysen’s preaching in New Jersey helps spark Great Awakening

1723 J. S. Bach becomes cantor at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig

1724 Christianity banned in China

1725 Bering Straits discovered

1726 Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

1727 George II King of England (to 1760); Isaac Newton dies

1728 William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

1732 George Washington born; first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack

1733 Oglethorpe founds Savannah, Georgia

1740–41 The Great Awakening peaks

1741 American Presbyterians split into “Old Lights” and “New Lights” (to 1758); Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

1742 First performance of Handel’s Messiah; Jews expelled from Russia

1746 Princeton founded

1747 First German Reformed synod in America

1748 First Lutheran synod in America

1749 Fielding’s Tom Jones

1751 Diderot’s French Encyclopedia

1752 Franklin invents lightning conductor

1756 Mozart born

1759 Voltaire’s Candide; Handel dies

1760 George III King of England (to 1820)

1763 Treaty of Paris ends Seven-Years’ War

1766 Mason-Dixon Line

1767 Composer G. P. Telemann dies

1769 Junipero Serra founds San Diego; James Watt patents steam engine

1770 Beethoven born; “Boston Massacre”; James Hargreaves patents spinning jenny

1773 Boston Tea Party; Jesuits suppressed; Unitarian denomination forms; Jesuits suppressed

1775 American Revolution begins (to 1783)

1776 Declaration of Independence; Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of Roman Empire; Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations; Paine’s Common Sense

1781 British surrender at Yorktown; Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

1783 U.S. independence

1787 Constitutional Convention

1789 French Revolution; First U.S. Congress

1790 John Carroll first U.S. Catholic bishop

1790’s Height of slave trade

1791 Mozart dies; U.S. Bill of Rights; Goethe directs Weimar Court theater

1792 Birth of Charles G. Finney; William Carey founds Baptist Missionary Society

1798 Coleridge and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads heralds Romantic Age

By Paul Westermeyer

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #31 in 1991]

Dr. Paul Westermeyer is Professor of Church Music at Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul and author of The Church Musician (Harper & Row, 1988)
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