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

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‘A Fire was Kindled in my Soul’ – Howell Harris and Revival

Howell Harris
Howell Harris

We’ve seen that Howell Harris, the man who pioneered outdoor preaching in the 1700’s, was spurred on to a preaching ministry by a direct infilling of the Holy Spirit.

He saw the Spirit’s anointing as the source of his authority to preach and bring multitudes to Christ – even though he was angrily opposed by clergymen and violent mobs.

But he writes, ‘A fire was kindled in my soul and I was clothed with power…I could have spoken to the King were he within my reach – such power and authority did I feel in my soul…I lifted up my voice with authority…’ (Quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Banner of Truth, Vol 1. P.240)

Waiting for the Spirit’s Power

He began by simply going from house to house and reading from a book. When he felt the power of the Spirit filling him he would preach, but still as though he were reading.

Eventually, as the Spirit fell upon him with such power he began to preach freely, often without any particular preparation and often with a sweeping power that affected all who listened. He referred to this as ‘the gale descending’. Houses became too small to contain the hearers. And so he began preaching in fields, and at town fairs.

Dallimore writes, ‘Because he was unordained, Harris refused to practice any kind of formal sermonisation, and stood before his congregations without a prepared message.

He looked to God for wisdom and power and as he began to speak his soul took fire and his speech became like a mighty torrent and rushed forth with tremendous conviction.’

Scorching hot from the Preacher’s heart

‘It was said, ‘The words flowed scorching hot from the preacher’s heart’, and ‘He would go on thus, pouring out old things and new for two, three or even four hours. Indeed, we have instances of his services continuing without a break for six hours.’

This work was mightily used of God. Harris ranged over a wide area of South Wales, and held meetings anywhere and at any time till the whole countryside became conscious of his condemnation of sin.

Under the power of the Holy Spirit hearts were broken, and it was not uncommon for people to come under such conviction that they would cry aloud to God for mercy while he preached.

Hundreds were converted – among them some of the most notorious sinners – and Harris made plans for their upbuilding by organizing them into societies.’ (ibid, p.241-242)

2500 miles on foot!

Harris himself kept detailed accounts of his meetings and his experiences of the Spirit in his diaries and was able to record that he had walked more than 2500 miles between meetings in Wales in just two years!

His passion for evangelism and his breathtaking success in bringing thousands to Christ became a stimulus to Whitefield and others. He was so popular in Wales that at his funeral the Countess of Huntingdon recorded that no fewer than 20,000 people gathered at his funeral.

A Voice in the Wilderness

But, back in the late 1730’s, as multitudes in Wales were gathering to hear him, as the ‘ordained’ clergy opposed him, Howell Harris, almost a voice in the wilderness, wondered ‘There must be some worthy men in the world of the same mind as myself!’  (ibid p.234)

Indeed, God had not only saved this pioneer preacher in Wales. In the year of Harris’s conversion Daniel Rowland had also come to Christ, so had George Whitefield and John Cennick. Thus God had sovereignly saved four of the men who were to be used mightily in the Great Awakening. 1735 was a vintage year!

The Wesleys’ conversions soon followed and a prayer meeting took place on January 1st 1739 that was to be the launch of a revival movement that would shake Britain and America.

These men had experienced individual outpourings of the Spirit, now the Spirit was to come upon them as they gathered together!

More next time…

To read Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Fire in the Fields – Howell Harris cuts the Gospel Loose!

 

Howell Harris
Howell Harris

 

After the rediscovery of Justification by Faith and the key doctrine of the New Birth the genius of the 18th Century Awakening was outdoor evangelistic preaching!

That may not sound very radical to us but in those days church was confined to…well, church! Church buildings were the legitimate context for church services and the few that gathered did so without making any noise or disturbing the culture outside.

There was, however, one Welshman who arose to shake up the status quo. Born in 1714 and born again in 1735 (the same year as Whitefield), Howell Harris could not stay silent!

In fact, Harris would not shut up! He had a job as a schoolmaster, but had not yet gone on to University or to ordination in the Church of England in Wales. Later on, he was rejected for both.

The failure of legalism and the triumph of faith

His youth was filled with rebellion and he lamented, ‘no one told me that I was on the way to hell.’ (Richard Bennett, Howell Harris and the Dawn of Revival, Evangelical Press of Wales, p.16)

Bennett tells us that ‘the majority of the clergy were content to leave their parishioners to live just as they pleased.’ (ibid p.19)

But in 1735 Harris became powerfully convicted of his sinfulness and then, like George Whitefield, launched into a highly legalistic and superstitious set of ritual and religion that brought no relief whatsoever. He later described it as ‘being in hell for five weeks’ (ibid p.25)

Finally, as he was taking communion one Sunday, he was enabled to ‘believe that I was receiving pardon on account of that blood.’ He describes the freedom that followed: ‘I lost my burden. I went home leaping for joy, and I said to my neighbour…I know my sins have been forgiven!’ (ibid p.26)

Baptism in the Spirit

He was truly set free and yet his soul yearned for more. About three weeks later he experienced what many would describe as a ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and this truly marked him out and empowered him for service.

While not quoting Harris verbatim (which is disappointing) Bennett conveys Harris’ experience: ‘when he was at…the sacred spot where he had given himself to God, God now gave Himself to him…The richest biblical terms are heaped one on another in an attempt to give expression to his experience at that time. He was cleansed from all his idols, and the love of God was shed abroad in his heart. Christ had come in previously, but now He began to sup with him; now he received the Spirit of adoption…’ (ibid p.27)

Harris himself tells us the result: ‘I devoted myself to exhorting everyone I met to flee from the wrath to come!’ (ibid p.36)

Rejected by men

In 1736 he offered himself as a candidate for ordination within the Church of England but it had become known that Harris was already preaching evangelistically (Harris preferred to call his preaching ‘exhorting’ or ‘reading’ out of deference to the fact that only ordained clergy were really authorised to ‘preach’).

This unofficial preaching was considered inappropriate. Preaching to the people in streets, and at fairs and in homes was irregular and unrefined. Not the dignified behaviour for a potential vicar, or priest of the Church of England. His application was rejected.

His brother was keen to try and get him to Oxford so that he might be ordained after having obtained a degree. But things were moving way too fast for the hero of the Welsh awakening: ‘I could not rest, but must go to the utmost of my ability to exhort. I could not meet or travel with anybody, rich or poor, young or old, without speaking to them of religion and concerning their souls.’ (ibid p. 41)

What is the source of your authority?

The question for Harris, and one that troubled him for much of his life, was this: ‘What is the source of your authority?’ – not ordained by the establishment church, not having obtained a degree, therefore unrecognised by both English religion and English academia, was the power of the Holy Spirit really enough to authorise this young man to preach?

And could that young man really awaken a nation and bring his people to Christ? And could that young man really begin a preaching phenomena that released the gospel from the confines of religious walls to actually impact and shape the surrounding culture?

Oh yes! The answer is yes!

The source of authority was the word of God and the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God calling him to the work, but I must refrain.

Read more about Howell Harris here

© 2009 Lex Loizides