19th Century

Many of modern man's most cherished ideas were first thoroughly developed and widely held during the 19th century. The two most obvious are the scientific hypothesis of Evolution and Freud's theories of psychology, but there were many others—a deep trust in the power of technological progress to improve the lives of people and even in some sense to save them first took firm root in the middle of the century, for instance.

Perhaps the most unsettling idea that began to take shape between 1801 and 1900 was that which suggested human beings deserve material wealth and the leisure time to enjoy it. This isn't quite the message of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (authors of The Communist Manifesto), but Communist doctrine is, at least in its purest form, concerned with the material satisfaction of all strata of society.

It was during the 19th century that people began to turn more and more from rural employment and occupations toward city jobs, largely in the form of factory shift work. Now their income was the result of fulfilling specific tasks during specific periods of each day, and in their free time there was nothing to do but spend the money they'd earned—no cows to milk, no vegetables to pick, fewer meals to make wholly from scratch.

Poverty was still a problem, and most of the urban workers made far less than was equitable, but what were workers supposed to do once their shift was over and they'd gone home? Whether it was innocent or vile, they really only had one choice: to entertain themselves. Or so most of them seemed to think, filling the bars, theaters, rec halls, and coffee shops of the cities with reckless abandon and throwing down their cash for shows or booze.

Church leaders had a hard time controlling their congregations. There were frequent revivals across the Western world, calling for men and women to give up the bottle and other destructive vices, and to come to church for spiritual formation. But the churches became less and less full, both because fewer people saw any reason to attend, and because the faithful found the new legalistic human-centered preaching unpalatable and unbiblical.

So Charles Darwin's theory of Evolution and Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams were really just heirs to the growing naturalism, codifying things people already seemed to believe as evidenced by their behavior. If God wasn't real, where did people come from but from lesser life forms? And if the soul was an invention of theologians, where did our motivations and impulses come but from deep within our unconscious minds?

These were questions churchmen found it increasingly difficult to answer. And, on the heels of the Enlightenment skepticism of the 18th century, a growing number of professed Christian theologians began publishing treatises and books explaining the non-supernatural origins of the so-called Word of God, the fallacies and untruths found within its pages, and the silliness of supernaturalism and orthodox Christian doctrine.

It wasn't so much that these men had a particular vendetta against Christianity, at least not any more than anyone who rejects the Gospel as true and powerful and life-changing; it was simply that they'd been duped along with everyone else to believe this world is the only world, and that God is an idea rather than a person or entity.

In the end, Friedrich Nietzsche (definitely not a churchman in any sense) made the observation that everyone had been toying with, and formally proclaimed God to be dead. Where was he, after all? Man had accounted for all things through the doctrines of naturalism, and in Communism they had even developed the hope of human salvation, moral and material betterment through collective effort.

How did these ideas develop? How did the West go from generally churched and at least theist to atheist and materialist? The most basic answer is that, with the breaking up of the state churches as forms of political power came the disillusionment of many who attended those churches, so that they realized the benefits they were looking for at church could be found elsewhere.

If church is only a place to go because you must, or because there is something to be had from association with it or its leaders, then once you no longer have to go there and the clergy are therefore no longer powerful, you'll stop going. It's a pretty simple equation, really, and most people were able to figure it out quickly. So any doctrinal, ideological, or moral influence the church once had was dissolved, and people turned to humanism.

There were still Christians around, of course, but it stopped being politically expedient to call yourself a Christian, so the many who were not stopped filling the pews. Those who did put their faith in Jesus Christ soon realized they needed real biblical teaching, and they flooded the few places it could be found, untainted by humanism and materialism.

All this sounds pretty bleak, no doubt, but there were reasons to rejoice even in the increasingly dim 19th century. Two of the greatest Christian heroes of all time were active during this period, both of them Englishmen, and both of them fervently devoted to the true Gospel, its dissemination, and the cultivation of disciples.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon stayed in England, preaching at his huge Metropolitan Tabernacle to thousands of eager listeners, many of whom were starved for biblical preaching. He'd begun his career as a pastor at the tender age of 18, but till his death at the age of 57 he never stopped preaching and the fire of holy devotion never stopped burning within him.

His contemporary Hudson Taylor was early consumed by a desire to bring God's Word to China, and began medical studies at the age of 18 to prepare for missions work. There had been missionaries to the East before Taylor, but few worked as tirelessly or with as much sympathy for the people to whom he witnessed and preached as him.

Christians know and believe the Holy Spirit is active in every age, turning men's hearts from their own self-absorption and sin to true communion with the Holy Trinity, and men like Spurgeon and Taylor prove this was so even in the darkness of the 19th century. Men will always run from the Father, and they will always invent new ways of doing so, but He will always have His way and effectually draw all those He calls.

In our own 21st century, in so many ways the direct result of ideas taking shape in the 19th century, we are to be no less vigilant in our spread of the Gospel and our devotion to righteousness and theknowledge of God. The ideas of naturalism and materialism have become thoroughly entrenched, but the power of theGospel is greater than any human philosophy, and is our only hope in this or any other age.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

Did you find this review helpful?
608 Items found Print
Active Filters: 4th grade (Ages 9-10)
Abe Lincoln Goes to Washington
by Cheryl Harness
from National Geographic
Picture Book Biography for 2nd-4th grade
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$6.76 $4.00 (1 in stock)
Abraham Lincoln
Heroes of History
by Geoff & Janet Benge
from Emerald Books
Biography for 4th-7th grade
in Heroes of History (Location: BIO-BENGE)
$8.49
Abraham Lincoln
by Clara Ingram Judson
from Sterling Publishing Co.
Biography for 3rd-7th grade
1951 Newbery Honor Book
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
Abraham Lincoln
In Their Own Words
by George Sullivan
from Scholastic Inc.
Biography for 3rd-4th grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: CLE-BIO)
$1.00 (1 in stock)
Abraham Lincoln
by Tanya Lee Stone
from DK Children
for 4th-8th grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: CLE-BIO)
$2.00 (2 in stock)
Abraham Lincoln
by Edgar & Ingri D'Aulaire
75th Anniversary Edition from Beautiful Feet Books
Picture Book Biography for 3rd-6th grade
1940 Caldecott Medal winner
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$15.26
Abraham Lincoln - Coloring Book
Dover Coloring Books
by A. G. Smith
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Dover Coloring Books (Location: COL-DOV)
$2.99
Across the Wide & Lonesome Prairie
Dear America
by Kristiana Gregory
from Scholastic Inc.
Fictional historical journal for 3rd-6th grade
in Dear America Books (Location: SER-DEAR)
$5.00 (2 in stock)
Addy Learns a Lesson
by Connie Porter
from American Girl
for 4th-6th grade
in American Girl (Location: SER-AMGIRL)
$2.40 (1 in stock)
Adoniram Judson
Christian Heroes: Then & Now
by Geoff & Janet Benge
from YWAM Publishing
Biography for 4th-7th grade
in Christian Heroes: Then and Now (Location: BIO-BENGE)
$8.49
Adoniram Judson: A Grand Purpose
by Renee Meloche
from YWAM Publishing
for 2nd-4th grade
in Heroes for Young Readers (Location: BIO-HERO)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Lewis and Clark
by Ormonde de Kay, Jr.
from Random House
for 2nd-5th grade
in Step Up Books (Location: VIN-STEP)
Adventures of Lewis and Clark
by John Bakeless
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Lewis & Clark (Location: HISA-19L&C)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Munford: Munford Meets Lewis & Clark
by Jamie Aramini
from Geography Matters
for 2nd-4th grade
in Lewis & Clark (Location: HISA-19L&C)
$5.00 (2 in stock)
Alamo All Stars
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #6
by Nathan Hale
from Amulet Books
for 3rd-8th grade
in Comic Books & Graphic Novels (Location: FIC-COMIC)
$11.89
Alexander Graham Bell
by Elizabeth MacLeod
from Kids Can Press
Biography for 3rd-6th grade
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$6.76
Alexander Graham Bell
by Elizabeth MacLeod
from Scholastic Inc.
Biography for 3rd-6th grade
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$2.80 (1 in stock)
All Through the Ages
by Christine Miller
3rd edition from Nothing New Press
World History Reference for All grades
in World History Reference (Location: HISRF-WO)
Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad
by Marlene Targ Brill
from First Avenue Editions
for 3rd-5th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
Amazing Impossible Erie Canal
by Cheryl Harness
from Aladdin Paperbacks
Historical Non-Fiction for 3rd-6th grade
in Western Expansion (1800-1898) (Location: HISA-19WES)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
American History for Young Students II
by Michelle Miller
from TruthQuest History
History Curriculum for 1st-5th grade
Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks
in TruthQuest History (Location: HISCUR-TQ)
$24.95 $17.50 (1 in stock)
American History for Young Students III
by Michelle Miller
from TruthQuest History
History Curriculum for 1st-6th grade
Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks
in TruthQuest History (Location: HISCUR-TQ)
$29.95 $20.00 (2 in stock)
American History Stories Volume 3
by Mara L. Pratt
from Yesterday's Classics
for 3rd-6th grade
in Yesterday's Classics (Location: FIC-YC)
$8.96
American History Stories Volume 4
by Mara L. Pratt
from Yesterday's Classics
for 3rd-6th grade
in Yesterday's Classics (Location: FIC-YC)
$8.96
American Pioneer Family - Paper Dolls
by Tom Tierney
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-5th grade
in Dover Paper Dolls (Location: COL-DOLL)
$8.95
American Plague
by Jim Murphy
from Clarion Books
for 4th-8th grade
2004 Newbery Honor Book
in 19th Century America (Location: HISA-19C)
Amistad - Coloring Book
Dover Coloring Books
by Peter F. Copeland
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Dover Coloring Books (Location: COL-DOV)
$2.96
Amy Carmichael: Rescuing the Children
Heroes for Young Readers
by Renee Taft Meloche
from YWAM Publishing
Biography for 2nd-4th grade
in Heroes for Young Readers (Location: BIO-HERO)
$4.50 (1 in stock)
Annie Oakley: Young Marksman
Childhood of Famous Americans
by Ellen Wilson
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 3rd-6th grade
in Childhood of Famous Americans (Location: BIO-COFA)
$6.79 $3.20 (1 in stock)
Annotated Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett, edited by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina
Annotated from W. W. Norton and Co.
Realistic Fiction for 4th-9th grade
in Realistic Fiction (Location: FIC-REA)
$29.75 $19.20 (1 in stock)
Antique Locomotives - Coloring Book
Dover Coloring Books
by Tre Tryckare Company
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Dover Coloring Books (Location: COL-DOV)
$3.74
Appomattox
by Burke Davis
from HarperCollins
for 4th-6th grade
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: HISA-19CW)
$3.50 (1 in stock)
Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky
by Faith Ringgold
from Dragonfly Books
for 3rd-5th grade
in Slavery & the Underground Railroad (Location: HISA-19SL)
Ballad of Lucy Whipple
by Karen Cushman
from HarperCollins
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$5.09
Ballad of the Civil War
by Mary Stolz
from Scholastic Inc.
for 3rd-6th grade
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: HISA-19CW)
$2.40 (1 in stock)
Ballad of the Civil War
by Mary Stolz
from Scholastic Inc.
for 2nd-4th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$1.60 (1 in stock)
Battle of Seattle
by Douglas Bond
from P&R Publishing
for 4th-9th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
Bears of Blue River
by Charles Major
from CreateSpace
for 3rd-7th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Before the Gold Rush
from McClelland & Stewart Limited
for 4th-6th grade
in Gilded Age (1865-1918) (Location: HISA-19GI)
$3.50 (1 in stock)
Behind Rebel Lines
by Seymour Reit
from Graphia
for 4th-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$5.10
Benjamin Bonneville, Soldier-Explorer
from Julian Messner
for 4th-8th grade
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$4.80 (1 in stock)
Betsy and the Emperor
by Staton Rabin
from Simon and Schuster
for 4th-7th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.64
Betsy and the Emperor
by Staton Rabin
from Simon Pulse
for 4th-7th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Big Annie of Calumet
by Jerry Stanley
1st edition
for 4th-7th grade
in Industrialization & Organized Labor (Location: HISA-19IND)
$9.00 (1 in stock)
Big Annie of Calumet
by Jerry Stanley
from Hampton-Brown
for 4th-8th grade
in Industrialization & Organized Labor (Location: HISA-19IND)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Big Book of Cowboys
by Holling Clancy Holling
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 3rd-8th grade
in Cowboys & Cattlemen (Location: HISA-19CO)
Big Book of the Old West to Color
by Peter F. Copeland, et al.
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Dover Coloring Books (Location: COL-DOV)
$6.71
Billy Yank - Coloring Book
by Alan Archambault
from Bellerophon Books
Coloring Book for 4th-8th grade
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: HISA-19CW)
$4.95 $3.50 (1 in stock)
Bite of the Gold Bug
by Barthe DeClements
from Puffin Books
for 4th-6th grade
in Gilded Age (1865-1918) (Location: HISA-19GI)
$4.99 $2.00 (3 in stock)
Black Beauty
Classics for Young Readers
by Anna Sewell
from P&R Publishing
Realistic Animal Stories for 4th-8th grade
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$6.79
12345678910111213