The Holy Spirit, Howell Harris and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ on Harris part 2)

Martyn Lloyd Jones, 'The Puritans and Their Successors' (1st edition)

Martyn Lloyd Jones, 'The Puritans and Their Successors' (1st edition)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that Howell Harris was one of the most extraordinary preachers in the history of the church. He deeply admired the evangelistic passion that characterised Harris’ life. Here, we continue to listen to the ‘Doctor’ as he was affectionately called, as he outlines what he considers to be the source of that passion. (Page numbers refer to Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans and their Successors, Banner of Truth Edition)

On Harris’ Baptism in the Spirit

Describing Harris’ experience some three weeks after his conversion, which we have already considered, Lloyd-Jones calls it ‘that crucial experience’.

‘To me, this is the key to the understanding of Howell Harris, as it is the key to the understanding of Revival.’ (p.290)

He goes on, ‘as I have always understood this man’s story, and as I still understand it more and more, you cannot explain him or understand him, or what happened through him, except in the light of this crucial experience of June 18th…What was it? To me, there is only one expression to use. It was the expression used by these men themselves and by their successors. It was a baptism ‘of fire’ or a ‘baptism of power’.’

The Doctor continues, ‘What I would emphasize particularly is that Harris was already converted, had already received forgiveness of sins, and he knew that he had it, and had been dancing in joy. But it was now just over three weeks later that he received this crucial experience which turned him into a flaming Evangelist.’ (p.290)

On Harris’ continuing experience of the Spirit as an example to us

Having recounted that Harris essentially celebrated this experience each year, he also emphasises how Harris was not content to merely rest in that one experience of the Spirit’s power but went on to seek more of Him.

‘This to him was the turning point, the crucial event that made him an Evangelist. It is essential to an understanding of Revival. We can further demonstrate this by showing that he had several repetitions of this experience…he also had similar experiences.’

Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘Another extract from his diary says, ‘In private society till two in the morning like a drunken man. Could say nothing but glory, glory for a long time.’ (p.292)

‘May 1749, ‘The Lord came, overpowering me with love like a mighty torrent that I could not withstand or reason against or doubt.’ (p.292)

‘Even in his ‘dying testimony’ as it is called, he says ‘that we are not to speak of what we have had from the Lord, but what we now have afresh from Him.’ This was of great concern to him. This great vital experience could be repeated…’ (p.293)

Has Lloyd-Jones become over-excited? Has the Doctor embraced some terrible Charismatic or Pentecostal doctrine? Or is he fully aware of the argument he is making and its implications. He explains emphatically:

‘There is always this distinction between receiving forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Ghost.’ (p. 292)

So, back in 1973 when he delivered the lecture from which I have quoted, Lloyd-Jones knew exactly what he was saying and why he was saying it.

He wanted us to learn from Harris that we might encounter the power of God as Harris did, in order that we might influence our generation as Harris did.

To read part one of Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris click here

To read the next post in this series click here

You can purchase ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Edwards: “We ought not to limit God where He has not limited himself!”

Expanding our Expectations of what God might do through His Church

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

There’s a somewhat tired caricature of the Reformed believer as an overly religious and narrow-minded fundamentalist.

Such a person supposedly takes solace in the Sovereignty of God in light of the failure of the message he proclaims. After all, it is supposed, not many are being converted because it’s ‘not the will of God’…so goes the caricature.

But actually, as we have seen already from the writing of Jonathan Edwards, an affectionate love for the doctrines of grace not only expands our view of the majesty of God (in His transcendence), but also includes real, passionate, personal experiences of God (in His immanence, His closeness).

And a Biblical view of the nature of  God both as the One who graciously forgives us and as the mighty Head of the Church, will enable us to believe Him for new and perhaps even greater seasons of blessing in the world, through the Church.

We can get nervous when we hear preachers telling us we could limit God, somehow restricting what He could or couldn’t do. That kind of talk grates on our understanding of God’s ultimate freeness and our ultimate dependance. Jonathan Edwards was not merely a theologian, He was directly involved in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Northampton, Mass in the early 1700s and was a witness to what appeared to be a rapid acceleration of normal evangelistic processes. Here’s his view on these things:

The Church’s Past Experience not the Ultimate Guide

‘What the church has been used to, is not a rule by which we are to judge; because there may be new and extraordinary works of God, and he has heretofore evidently wrought in an extraordinary manner.

He has brought to pass new things, strange works; and has wrought in such a manner as to surprise both men and angels. And as God has done thus in times past, so we have no reason to think but that he will do so still.’ (Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, from Edwards on Revival, Banner of Truth, p.89)

‘The Holy Spirit is sovereign in his operation; and we know that he uses a great variety; and we cannot tell how great a variety he may use, within the compass of the rules he himself has fixed.’

Don’t Limit God!
‘We ought not to limit God where he has not limited himself.’ (ibid p.89)
This reminds me of Martin Luther’s famous phrase, ‘Let God be God!’

Edwards is exhorting us not to settle and bring our expectations down to our past experience. Rather, we are to trust God for new initiatives and breakthroughs, and even new outpourings of the Spirit, in the mission.

May God continue to help you as you receive His grace in your own life and seek to serve others with life changing message of His mercy in Christ.
You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides