John Wesley and the 18th Century World: Timeline

The word that best characterizes John Wesley’s life is faith, which became the means to almost superhuman efforts in evangelizing, in promoting good works of every kind, and in organizing men and women for a life of fulfillment through Jesus Christ. Indefatigable energy and boundless hope led him through a time of persecution to a time of nation-wide recognition. Through it all he remained humble and wholly dedicated to God’s work through men.

All of Europe legislated or fought wars to clarify lines of monarchial succession as either Protestant (as England) or Catholic (as Austria). The English government added a Prime Minister to guarantee the people’s rights under the Hanoverian Succession. Everywhere serfdom was being abolished and slavery coming under attack. England came to dominate the seas and pave the way for Empire. America was the first of two great late-century revolutionary centers; the other was France.

Inventions and advances in all the sciences thrust the world into a new age. Discovery was still advancing too with the voyages of Cook. The evangelism of Whitefield and Wesley struggled against Deism and atheism. Where the century led France to divisive revolution, it led England to a new appreciation of the universe in Romanticism.

John Wesley

1703 John Wesley born

1707 Charles Wesley born

1709 Rescued from a fire at Epworth Rectory “a brand plucked from the burning”

1714 Admitted to Charterhouse School

1720 John Wesley to Oxford

1725 Ordained deacon and friendship with “Veranese”

1726 Elected fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford

1727 Takes up assistant pastorale of Wroote, Lines

1729 Returns to Oxford, takes over leadership of Holy Club

1735 Death of father Samuel. John and Charles leave for Georgia

1737 Friendship with Sophy Hopkey. John departs from America

1738 John Wesley’s “conversion” Wednesday, May 24

1739 Wesley’s first open-air sermon modeled after the style of George Whitefield

1740 Separates from Moravians

1741 Preaches in South Wales for first time

1742 Preaches in the north of England for the first time with Charles. They establish an orphanage and Sunday School

1744 First Methodist Conference at the Foundry, division of the country into Methodist districts

1746 Wesley founds a dispensary for the poor

1747 Preaches in Ireland for first time (first of 42 trips). Publishes Primitive Physic

1749 Officiates at wedding of Charles Wesley and Sarah Gwynne. His friendship with Grace Murray

1751 John marries Mrs. Vazeille. Preaches in Scotland for first time (first of 22 trips)

1755 Separation of John Wesley from his wife

1768 Opening of Methodist Chapel in New York Founding of Lady Huntington’s College of Trevecca.

1771 Francis Asbury, later known as the “Wesley of America” sails across the Atlantic for America

1775 John Wesley publishes A Calm Address to Our American Colonies, urging obedience to Britain

1778 Opening of City Road Chapel, London

1781 Death of Wesley’s wife

1783 John Wesley visits Holland

1784 John Wesley ordains Thomas Coke and others for work in America which eventually and unintentionally leads to break with the Anglican Church: “ordination is separation”

1787 Richard Allen forms African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia

1788 March 29, Charles Wesley dies

1791 March 2, John Wesley dies

World Events

1698 Jeremy Collier successfully attacks immorality and profaneness on the English stage

1699 Captain Kidd buries treasure near New York

1701 Act of Settlement establishes Protestant Hanoverian succession in Britain

1702 Anne Queen of England (to 1714)

1702 Cotton Mather publishes Ecclesiastical History of New England

1703 Jonathan Edwards, New England puritan divine, born

1704 Isaac Newton publishes Optics, latest in succession of influential works on physics—he dominates Oxfordian thought through the century

1705 Edmund Halley correctly predicts the return of the comet seen in 1682

1707 Act of Union uniting England and Scotland under name Great Britain

1707 Isaac Watts’ Hymns and Spiritual Songs—Watts is most prolific hymnwriter in England before Charles Wesley

1709 Steele’s The Tatler and The Spectator with writing by Addison, gentlemen’s newspaper with commentary on news and literary and art criticism. Wesley records reading them later.

1710 Leibnitz’s influential statement “God created the best of all possible worlds” ridiculed later in Voltaire’sCandide

1712 Last execution for witchcraft in England

1713 Scriblerian (literary) Club formed in London by Swift, Pope, Congreve, others. Samuel, John Wesley’s brother is friend of them.

1713 Treaty of Utrecht ends War of Spanish Succession

1713 Completion of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

1714 George I King of England (to 1727)—speaks no English

1715 First Jacobite uprising in Scotland. Catholic attempt to take over Britain through Scotland

1716 Christian religious teaching prohibited in China

1717 Inoculation against smallpox introduced into England by Lady Mary Wortley Montague

1719 Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

1720 Great South Sea Bubble, financial scheme that ruined many great bankers, especially in France

1721 Robert Walpole is Britain’s first Prime Minister (to 1742)

1722 Herrnhut founded as Moravian settlement in Saxony by Count von Zinzendorf

1726 Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

1727 George II King of England (to 1760)

1728 William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. Law was John Wesley’s mentor for ten years

1731 Expulsion of Protestants from Salzburg

1732 George Washington born

1732 Threshing machine developed by Michael Menzies

1735 Sale of spirits prohibited in Gerogia (to 1738)

1736 English statutes on witchcraft repealed

1737 Cruden’s Concordance to the Bible.

1737 Carolus Linnaeus produces the first classification of plants by genus and species

1742 Handel’s Messiah

1742 Voltaire, renowned atheist and biting satirist, publishes play Mahomet the Prophet

1743 Thomas Jefferson born

1745 The ‘Forty Five,’ second Jacobite uprising in Scotland and Ireland (see 1715)

1748 David Hume's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding sets the tone of rational philosophy for the rest of the century

1749 Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones depicts farm, city, and prison life at mid-century

1750 Johann Sebastian Bach dies

1752 Benjamin Franklin invents lightning conductor

1755 Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, a landmark of lexicography

1755 Great earthquake of Lisbon kills 30,000 people

1755 French and Indian War begins in America (to 1763)

1756 Mozart born

1756 Mayonnaise first made by Duc de Richlieu

1760 First British school for deaf and dumb opened in Edinburgh

1760 George III King of England (to 1820)

1762 Jean Jacques Rosseau’s Social Contract revolutionizes political theory and later influences American Declaration of Independence and Constitution

1763 Peace of Paris among Britain, France and Spain ends Seven Years War. Britain gains Canada and virtually all land east of Mississippi River

(1763–1774) James Watt’s improved design of the steam engine heralds the industrial age

1764 James Hargreaves invents Spinning Jenny

1767 World’s first public piano concert


1768 Captain James Cook discovers Australia

1770 Benjamin West’s painting The Death of Wolf, a celebration of contemporary heroism

1771 Carl Scheele discovers oxygen

1773 Pope Clement XIV suppresses Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who have become economically and politically powerful

1773 Boston Tea Party

1775 George III releases women and children from bondage in Britain’s coal and salt mines

1775 Christianity introduced in Korea

1776 American Declaration of Independance

1777 Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, landmark work of capitalism

1778Modern flush toilet invented

1779 Franz Anto Mesmer’s pseudoscientific experiments in “mesmerizing” with the power of the eye

1779 War of Bavarian Succession ends with Peace of Teschen

1780 Robert Raikes establishes a Sunday School in Gloucester

1781 American War of Independence ends with surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown

1783 First Successful hot air balloon

1784 Shaker leader Mother Ann Leedies at Waterviliet, New Yourk

1785 Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire completed, claims that Christianity caused the fall of a great culture

1787 William Wilberforce, 28, begins agitating against slavery in the British colonies

1789 French Revolution begins with storming of Bastille

1792 Denmark is first country to prohibit slave trade

1792 Eli Whitney, 27, invents Cotton Gin, as result, US cotton production jumps from 140,000 pounds in 1791 to 35 million pounds in 1800

1793 Worship of God abolished in France in extremes of French Revolution

1794 Reign of Terror in France

1798 Napoleon Bonaparte leads French Army into Egypt

1798 S.T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads with “Romantic Manifesto" in Preface to 1800 Second Edition forms basis of Romantic Age to come

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #2 in 1983]

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