Project Augustine

Chapter 23: To Make the World Protestant (1700 – 1914) – Part II





Describe the policy missionaries from England had with Hindus and Muslims in India.  Describe the events that led up to the Great Indian Rebellion (aka The First Indian War of Independence) and the impact it left for Christian missionary efforts there.


It’s fascinating back then that it was one thing to bring God’s light to those with no religion but it was not God’s will to change the religion of a country. This thought was voiced by High Churchman Bishop Samuel Horsely.  Ultimately, the attempt to convert India was one of the worst setbacks for missions.


The Honorable East India Company governed British India and kept the peace by respecting India’s native religions and customs for the most part.  Protestant pressure in England forced them to open up India to missions which partly led up to the Great Indian Rebellion which united Muslims and Hindus against British rule.  Ironically, it strengthened Hindu identity with self-reflection and pride so successfully that in the West, there was a growing interest and popularity of Hinduism.





Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1864

A scene of the Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1864


The Taiping Rebellion was a massive civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, against the ruling Manchu Qing dynasty. It was a millenarian movement led by Hong Xiuquan, who announced that he had received visions, in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus. At least 20 million people died, mainly civilians, in one of the deadliest military conflicts in history.


China, under the Qing Dynasty in the mid-19th century, suffered a series of natural disasters, economic problems, and defeats at the hands of the Western powers; in particular, the humiliating defeat in 1842 by the United Kingdom in the First Opium War. The Qing government, led by ethnic Manchus, were seen by much of the Chinese population, comprising mainly Han Chinese, as an ineffective and corrupt regime. Anti-Manchu sentiment was strongest in the south among the laboring classes and it was these disaffected who flocked to join the charismatic leader Hong Xiuquan, a member of the Hakka community, a Han-Chinese sub-group that inhabited southern China, They had arrived in the Southern Song dynasty too late to acquire the best land, and were engaged in land feuds with the natives.


Hong Xiuquan (1814 – 1864)

Hong Xiuquan (1814 – 1864)

In 1837, Hong Xiuquan several times failed to pass the imperial examinations (of those who attempted the examinations, only about 5 percent passed), which consequently denied him access to the ranks of the ruling scholarly elite. Hong experienced a lengthy illness and then after spending many days in bed, he recovered with a changed personality. His cousin Li Ching-fang noticed the pamphlet Hong had received from a Protestant Christian missionary in 1836 after his failed attempt at the imperial examination on a bookshelf inside Hong’s house. After reading it Li suggested that Hong should read the material. After studying the material, Hong Xiuquan claimed that the illness he had following his imperial examinations was in fact a vision to the effect that he was the younger brother of Jesus, who was sent to rid China of the “devils,” including both the corrupt Manchu rulers and the teachings of Confucius. After this vision, he felt it was his duty to spread his interpretation of Christianity and overthrow Manchu rule. Hong’s associate Yang Xiuqing was a former firewood merchant from Guangxi, who claimed to be able to act as a voice of God, in order to direct the people and gain political power. American Baptist missionary Issachar Jacox Roberts became a teacher and an adviser to Hong.


The sect’s power grew in the late 1840s, initially by suppressing groups of bandits and pirates. Persecution by Qing authorities spurred the movement into a guerilla rebellion and then into widespread, bloody civil war.


Hong established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom with its capital at Nanjing. The Kingdom’s army controlled large parts of southern China, at its height ruling about 30 million people. The rebel agenda included social reforms such as shared “property in common”, equality for women, and the replacement of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religion with their form of Christianity. Because of their refusal to wear the queue, Taiping combatants were nicknamed “Longhairs”.


In 1853 Hong Xiuquan withdrew from active control of policies and administration, ruling exclusively by written proclamations that often had religious content. Hong disagreed with Yang Xiuqing in certain matters of policy and became increasingly suspicious of Yang’s ambitions, his extensive network and spies, and his declarations when “speaking as God”. Yang and his family were put to death by Hong’s followers in 1856, followed by the killing of troops loyal to Yang.


With their leader largely out of the picture, Taiping delegates tried to widen their popular support with the Chinese middle classes and forge alliances with European powers, but failed on both counts. The Europeans decided to stay neutral. Inside China the rebellion faced resistance from the traditionalist middle class because of the rebels’ hostility to Chinese customs and Confucian values. The land-owning upper class, unsettled by the Taipings’ peasant mannerisms and their policy of strict separation of the sexes, even for married couples, sided with government forces and their Western allies.


In 1859 Hong Rengan, a cousin of Hong Xiuquan, joined the Taiping forces in Nanjing and was given considerable power by Hong Xiuquan. He developed an ambitious plan to expand the Kingdom’s boundaries. In 1860 the Taiping rebels were successful in taking Hangzhou and Suzhou to the east but failed to take Shanghai, which marked the beginning of the decline of the Kingdom.

In 1864 Hong Xiuquan declared that God would defend Nanjing, but in June 1864, with Qing imperial forces approaching, he died of food poisoning as a consequence of eating wild vegetables when the city ran low on food supplies. He was sick for 20 days before succumbing and a few days after his death Qing forces took the city. His body was buried in the former Ming Imperial Palace where it was later exhumed on orders of Zeng Guofan to verify his death, and then cremated. Hong’s ashes were later blasted out of a cannon in order to ensure that his remains have no resting place as eternal punishment for the uprising.


Four months before the fall of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Hong Xiuquan abdicated in favour of Hong Tianguifu, his eldest son, who was 15 years old. The younger Hong was inexperienced and powerless, so the Kingdom was quickly destroyed when Nanjing fell in July 1864 to the imperial armies after protracted street-by-street fighting. Most of the Taiping princes were executed by Qing forces in Nanjing.


The Taiping Rebellion was the first instance of total war in modern China. Almost every citizen of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was given military training and conscripted into the army to fight against Qing imperial forces. During this conflict both sides tried to deprive each other of resources to continue the war and it became standard practice to destroy agricultural areas, butcher the population of cities and in general exact a brutal price from captured enemy lands in order to drastically weaken the opposition’s war effort. This war was total in the sense that civilians on both sides participated to a significant extent in the war effort and in the sense that armies on both sides waged war on the civilian population as well as military forces. This resulted in massive civilian death toll with some 600 cities destroyed and other bloody policies resulting.




Discuss the rise of Pentecostalism in America.  What are its major beliefs?  What is dispensationalism and how is it related to the Second Coming of Christ?  What is the ‘Rapture‘ and how did this belief come about?  How did the ‘charismatic’ movement come about from Pentecostalism?


Pentecostal healing worship service

Pentecostal healing worship service



There seems to be a regular or cyclical pattern throughout Christian history: it often moves from periods of revival to stagnation and back to revival again. The specific reasons varies from age to age, but the nature of those revivals is remarkably similar- they all seek a renew the inner life of an individual’s personal faith. In the decades after the Civil War in America, a new religious movement began that became a major influence upon the American religious landscape – Pentecostalism.


Types of Pentecostalism have been seen throughout history, with a strong emphasis on the direct role of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and exorcism. The movement’s name refers to Acts 2 in the New Testament when the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit during the time of the Jewish feast of Pentecost. They ‘began to speak in other tongues’ (Acts 2:4) and could speak in every language represented to the crowd of pilgrims who had gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.


Much of the roots of Pentecostalism sprang around 1800 when a ‘Holiness’ movement emerged out of early Methodist teaching that proclaimed that the Holy Spirit could bring about an intense experience of holiness or sanctification into the everyday life of any believing Christian. (loc. 17745) John Fletcher (1729 – 1785), a Swiss Anglican priest who became a leading Methodist, was the first person to popularize the importance of being ‘baptized with the Holy Ghost’. Also, the active American revivalist Mrs. Phoebe Palmer (1807 – 1874) further developed these themes into a doctrine of ‘entire’ or instant sanctification. (loc. 17749) Many Reformed Christians, many of whom had followed Jonathan Edwards, were also fascinated by the idea of the ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ or ‘Second Blessing’, but their Reformed tradition made them very wary of Wesleyan Holiness teaching about the possibility of Christian perfection. (loc. 17753) Around 1900, ‘speaking in tongues’ (glossolalia) began to play a major role among Pentecostal churches where believers began uttering unrecognizable messages to the uninitiated, and expressing praise or worship to those within the community. (loc. 17777) Holiness evangelist Charles Parham (1873 – 1929) oversaw the first instance of speaking in tongues in 1901. Pentecostals would make this into a ‘Third Blessing’ that would be beyond the first two of conversion and sanctification. (loc. 17793) According to MacCulloch, Parham’s work would be left in the shadows because many considered him to be a blatant white racist as well as a homosexual. (loc. 17801) A former African Methodist minister, William Seymour (1870 – 1922), after meeting with Parham in Houston, went to Lost Angeles in 1906 where he led a three-year revival at the Azusa Street Mission[1], which is usually acclaimed as the launchpad of modern Pentecostalism. (loc. 17798)


Cyrus I. Scofield (1843 – 1921) was an evangelical from Michigan who helped establish the Central American Mission. He published an annotated study Bible in 1909 called the Scofield Reference Bible (that is still widely used today) that provided the most thorough description of ‘dispensationalism’; this theory states that the history of the world is divided into seven stages, the last of which precedes the Last Judgment. The key to this final stage is a series of recognizable signs of the coming end, such as the establishment of the state of Israel. MacCulloch describes the self-styled ‘Catholic Apostolic Church’ which first developed a series of ‘dispensations’ that would culminate in Christ’s Second Coming before the millennium. (loc. 17757)


Former Irish Anglican priest, John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882), became deeply interested in dispensationalism and made two very important assertions about millenarianism. First, he looked at Matthew 24:36-44 and interpreted Jesus’ prophecy of a ‘Rapture’ where one man would be taken and one man left – essentially, all true believers would be taken up by God up into the sky to be saved from a great tribulation that would occur. Second, Darby asserted that Christ would return to reveal the final mystery during the Rapture and lead the saints in the last thousand years. This eschatological position would later come to be called ‘premillennialism’. It contrasted deeply with the notion of human progress and optimism that the Enlightenment encouraged. Instead, it ‘stressed division and separation within society, to gather in the elect, and its frostiness to Enlightenment projects of social reform’. (loc. 17768)


An offshoot of the Pentecostal movement would create ‘charismatic’ groups within some older churches. ‘Charisma’ means a gift of grace – in this case, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Many charismatics believe that the power of the Holy Spirit has been sorely neglected in traditional Christianity. Worship often takes the form of speaking in tongues, faith healing, prophecy, and the ritual of ‘laying on of hands’ on a person in order to pass on the Holy Spirit. In 2008, one quarter of Protestant Churches in the U.S. claimed to be charismatic.[2]


Like evangelicals, Pentecostals place a great emphasis on personal conversion and the reality of heaven and hell, which then subsequently led to a concern with converting as many people as possible. Since many of these movements believe that the end of the world is coming soon, they have placed a great need to go on missions and gather as many converts as possible all across the globe. Its focus on the spiritual world full of angels, demons, and spirits has made Pentecostalism very appealing in places with spirit-influenced religious traditions and cultures such as Africa, South America, aborigines in Australia, and Native Americans in North America. In many cases, these people have taken their own initiative, heard the Spirit speaking to them and developed their own missionary movements.



[1] Parham was known to be hostile to this movement. (loc. 17801)






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