We’ve been spending some time looking at the conversion experience of the Welsh Evangelist Howell Harris.
Harris, through his tireless evangelistic work is credited with being the founder of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism. He also, through his example, helped launch George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers’ ministry of preaching in the fields.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (also a Welshman) spoke about him at the Puritan Conference in London in 1973 and emphasised not only Harris’ conversion but also the fact that he received ‘a baptism of power’ in the Holy Spirit. Lloyd-Jones believed this was the key to his evangelistic success.
Indeed, thousands came to Christ. The power of the Spirit in Harris’ life affected not only his willingness to speak but also his effectiveness in speaking. He talked about ‘the authority’ of God coming upon him and moving the hearers. He would wait for the ‘authority’ to come and then speak with greater freedom and power.
Lloyd-Jones last sermon
Lloyd-Jones also was deeply concerned for this subjective but vital aspect in his own preaching. The preached word was to come with authority.
I have friends who were at Barcombe Baptist Chapel, in East Sussex and heard Lloyd-Jones deliver his very last sermon. One told me how the Doctor started slowly and seemed to get going with some difficulty. But then, wondrously, it was as though a sudden power came upon him, that energised him and electrified the congregation. Suddenly all were awake and alert: God was speaking with authority through a man. Lloyd-Jones felt that in Harris’ case (where he would sense ‘the authority’ and then speak spontaneously without any notes or preparation and with powerful effect) it was close to the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12.
A first-hand gospel
For Harris, as well as Lloyd-Jones, this was a deeply prized token of God’s presence and favour both for him and his hearers. It had the effect of making the gospel ‘first-hand’, fresh, and immediately powerful.
Harris, describes this immediacy. He was more concerned with preaching an experienced Christ and the Spirit enabled him to do so: ‘That which I experienced, proved, and felt and saw and heard of the Word of Life, that also I proclaim.’ (quoted by MLJ in Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans and their Successors, Banner of Truth Edition p.296)
A bold man dies much loved by the people he served
Wales mourned when Harris died. A truly great and much loved hero had gone to glory. 20,000 people were present! The Countess of Huntingdon attended and wrote of the emotion that was too strong to suppress:
‘But amidst the sorrow and tears of the audience that thronged the building an interruption took place. The officiating clergyman, being unable to proceed on account of his emotion, handed the Prayer Book to another – that does not often happen – but the second clergyman also lost self-control and passed the book to a third, when he again by reason of the same cause was unable to go on; and thus in silence were the remains of the great man laid to rest in the chancel in the Parish Church at Talgarth, and in the same grave in which his wife had been buried a few years before’. (quoted by MLJ, ibid, p.301)
What about us?
Oh my dear friend, are you a Christian? Then go to God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you need to find a church near you try here as one option.
Have you been baptised in the Spirit? Why did you think it was just for you? There are multitudes all around you who do not know Christ. Are you going to leave them as you travel on your way to heaven? Are you not going to be stirred by God to get up and do something for Him that will help people find their way to Christ?
How long O Lord, before you pour out your Spirit once more upon your people and turn our nations to you?
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