Interview footage of Martyn Lloyd Jones – and FREE sermons!

The cover of the MLJ memorial edition of The Banner of Truth magazine, May 1981

What has continually struck me about Martyn Lloyd-Jones, since first discovering him in the 80s, is the note of authority in his preaching. Not fundamentalism. Not arrogance. Not self-promoting bravado. Not self-centred supernatural experience. Authority – and particularly the authority of the Biblical text itself.

He spoke with such conviction in his generation, that, even allowing for some areas of disagreement, his message still strikes a clear note, and pierces the conscience today!

I find his preaching encouraging and uplifting, and inclusive:

‘It seems to me that the great trouble in the church today is that she’s not reaching the working classes. The majority of the members of our church were working class men.’ D Martyn Lloyd-Jones on his ministry years in Aberavon, Wales (from one of the interviews on this video).

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was loved by rich and poor, and acknowledged as making a significant contribution to the spiritual life of Great Britain.

The Queen greeting Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones

So the message this month is not really a message, but some video footage which traces his early ministry and introduction to London, interspersed with some television footage (you can spot a young Joan Bakewell in the mix too!)

Enjoy! Click on the photo below

Martyn Lloyd-Jones' television interview

or paste this into your browser:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TolCoC_44AQ
Free Sermons!
The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust has just announced that it is making its complete MLJ library available online free of charge (free registration).
Click either of the links below for your store:
http://www.mlj.org.uk/shop

http://www.mlj-usa.com/audiolibrary

There is a wealth of material there so don’t waste time!
Read Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ comments on Evangelist Howell Harris here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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Threatened at Gunpoint – The Methodist Revival Advances

(Methodism and the Mob Part 4)

John Cennick

Howell Harris did not only preach in Wales, of course, but ventured into England as well.

On one occasion he was preaching with fellow Methodist John Cennick in Swindon in Wiltshire, South West England.

Before long there was a strong reaction and considerable gang of trouble makers were out to stop these Evangelists from preaching.

Threatened with Guns
Cennick wrote, ‘The mob fired guns over our heads, holding the muzzles so near to our faces that Howell Harris and myself were both made as black as tinkers with the powder. We were not affrighted, but opened our breasts, telling them we were ready to lay down our lives.…

Splattered with Sewerage
‘Then they got dust out of the highway and covered us all over; and then they played an engine upon us, which they filled out of the stinking ditches.

‘While they played on brother Harris, I preached; and when they turned the engine upon me, he preached. This they continued till they spoiled the engine; and they threw whole buckets of water and mud over us.

‘After we left the town, they dressed up two images, called one Cennick and the other Harris, and then burnt them.

The home and family of the hospitable attacked
The next day they gathered about the home of Mr. Lawrence, who had received us, and broke all of his windows with stones, cut and wounded four of his family, and knocked down one of his daughters.’ (John Cennick, Memorable Passages relating to the Awakening in Wiltshire (unpublished, but referred to in Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press, p.142, and Christian History)

Pressing on until grace wins
Yet these heroes continued to proclaim the gospel message, overcoming the resistance and transforming the culture. If ever we needed an encouragement to persevere then here it is, in the heroism of the 18th Century Evangelists.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
© 2009 Lex Loizides

Howell Harris Gets Beaten up While Preaching

(Methodism and the Mob, Part 3)

Bala, in Wales. Not exactly a holiday destination for Howell Harris

The Evangelist preaches, is resisted, rejected and then covered in sewerage and beaten ruthlessly.

Hugh Hughes, in his biography of Harris describes one scene in Bala, Wales, in 1741. Howell Harris, the great pioneer of outdoor preaching during the Great Awakening, received a beating at the hands of violent men and women.

Suffering for Christ
Hughes writes, ‘The women were as fiendish as the men, for they besmeared him with mire, while their companions belaboured him with their fists and clubs, inflicting such wounds that his path could be marked in the street by the crimson stains of his blood.’

‘The enemy continued to persecute him…striking him with sticks and with staves, until overcome with exhaustion, he fell to the ground…They still abused him, though prostrate…’ (Hugh J Hughes Life of Howell Harris, p.142-3, quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press)

Empowered by the Spirit
Describing his resilience at another similar time of violent reaction, Harris wrote, ‘Had bullets been shot at me, I felt I should not move. Mob raged. Voice lifted up, and though by the power going with the words my head almost went to pieces, such was my zeal that I cried, ‘I’ll preach Christ till to pieces I fall!’ (ibid p.142)

Peter wrote, ‘But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ (1 Peter 4:13-14)

Certainly Harris was conscious of the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him at such times. John Wesley also reports a similar experience of peace in the midst of sometimes violent storms.

While it may be difficult for us to imagine that the pleasure and power of God might rest upon us at a time of persecution, nevertheless those who have suffered prove the promise of Scripture to be true.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2

© 2009 Lex Loizides

A Whole Town Gathers to Hear John Wesley

A whole town hears Jesus
In Mark 1:32-34 we read an account of Jesus preaching in Capernaum. There had been a very public power encounter in the meeting earlier in the day. A man had screamed out during the service.

But rather than allow the disruption to frighten the people and jeopardise the evangelistic situation, Jesus exercised great leadership, taking authority over the evil spirit, casting it out and refocusing the peoples’ attention to him.

In the evening, we are told, the whole town came to Jesus, bringing their sick and troubled loved-ones to be healed.

A whole town hears Wesley
John Wesley tells us in his journal, that in the amazing year of 1739 he had a similar experience. He may not have fully realised the impact of the Welsh preachers like Howell Harris who had been diligently preaching across Wales for several years before Wesley’s visit, but nevertheless, Wesley’s time there was impressive.

In October he preached in Cardiff and writes,

‘At six almost the whole town (I was informed) came together, to whom I explained the six last Beatitudes;

‘but my heart was so enlarged, I knew not how to give over, so that we continued three hours.

‘O may the seed they have received, have its fruit unto holiness, and in the end, everlasting life!’ (John Wesley Journals, Baker edition, p. 233-4)

Whole towns today
There are parts of the world today where whole towns are being impacted with the gospel. We’ll come to that in due time. What about your town? If you cannot preach you can pray.

If you are not sure what your contribution should be you can at least know that you should join a local church and help build it for the benefit of the community where God has placed you. Click here for help.

If whole towns gathered 2000 years ago, and 270 years ago, whole towns can gather now, surely?

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Whitefield and Harris in Bristol – some further observations

Believers Baptism in the 18th Century
Believers Baptism in the 18th Century

Honouring Christian Leaders from other Church Backgrounds

Whitefield’s friendship with Howell Harris proved to be strategic in a number of ways. Firstly, he began preaching the gospel to massive audiences in the fields. As Whitefield once remarked of Harris, ‘I follow him!’

But due to Harris’ rejection by the Church of England and his friendship with leaders from other church groupings, Whitefield began to meet many other Christian leaders of real weight and authority. Reading his journals, he gives the ‘dissenters’ (non CofE) equal standing with those from the traditional Church.

That openness to evangelical leaders from other church backgrounds was to prove pivotal in Whitefield’s ministry in America (and Scotland) and has been a healthy feature of Evangelists that have followed in Whitefield’s footsteps.

Writing of the Welsh ministers Harris introduced him to, he says, ‘They have many burning and shining lights among both the Dissenting and Church ministers…so that there is a most comfortable prospect of the spreading of the Gospel in Wales.’ (George Whitefield’s Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p.231)

We would do well to follow these Evangelists’ example as we seek to see churches planted and the gospel extended around the world.

Whitefield’s gracious leadership before Wesley fully enters the work

One of the frustrating factors for those who know the history of this period is the oft-repeated and incorrect impression that John Wesley was acknowledged as the leader of the new movement at this point.

This simply wasn’t the case. We shall see how Wesley’s formidable preaching and organisational gifts certainly did establish him as the clear leader in Whitefield’s absence. But at this point Wesley, though older in years, and though leading the Society at Oxford, was actually following Whitefield, even as Whitefield was following Harris!

Wesley sent Whitefield a letter about this time in which he excitedly spoke of meetings attended by crowds of two or sometimes three hundred (p.224). Those numbers were not inconsiderable, but he was apparently unaware that Whitefield was preaching out of doors to crowds of 10,000 and 14,000!

Whitefield himself says, ‘I now preach to ten times more people than I should if I had been confined to the churches…Every day I am invited to fresh places.’ (p.233)

Wesley, on seeing Whitefield in action, soon abandoned his stuffy sense of decorum and bravely became a great evangelistic preacher in his own right.

23,000 gather to hear George Whitefield in Bristol!

But before Wesley arrived in Bristol to see the work that Whitefield began, Whitefield himself broke yet another attendance record: ‘Sun Mar 25. Preached at Hannam to a larger congregation than ever, and again in the afternoon to upwards (as was computed) of 23,000 people…Oh may God speak to them by His Spirit.’ (p.238)

Joy in the Holy Spirit

A recurring feature of Whitefield’s beautifully written Journals is the joy he experienced when the Holy Spirit came upon him. Constantly serving those who came to hear him, he speaks of his wages being joy!

‘Mon Mar 26. After I had done [preaching to about 1000], I went to a Christian house, where many waited for me. At my return home, my Master paid me my wages: for my soul was filled with an intenseness of love, and I knew what it is not only to have righteousness and peace, but joy in the Holy Ghost. This is my continual food.’ (p.239)

While we must always remember that our joy is ultimately in our salvation (Luke 10:20) we must also fully embrace the outpoured love of God into our souls as we experience the joy of serving Christ in our generation.

You can purchase Whitefield resources here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield Meets Howell Harris

George Whitefield Preaching in the Fields
George Whitefield Preaching in the Fields

Whitefield imitates Harris’ freedom

Howell Harris, the Welsh Evangelist was a shining example to others in the 18th Century.

His work was effective on a massive scale, and thousands came to Christ in Wales.

George Whitefield had been in touch by letter and had already begun to imitate his faith by preaching outside normal church services and buildings.

This new style of preaching was effective for Whitefield too. And he was able to report huge numbers coming to hear him preach in the fields of Bristol:

14,000 people gather to hear Whitefield

‘Sunday 4 March. At four in the afternoon, I went to the mount on Rose Green, and preached to above fourteen thousand souls, and so good was my God, that all could hear.

‘I think it was worth while to come many miles to see such a sight. I spoke, with great freedom…’ (George Whitefield’s Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p.226)

During February and March Whitefield preached from a wall, from the steps of a house, from a table, on a bowling green, and from the Judges Seat in the local Town Hall!

Whitefield on Harris: A Burning and Shining Light!

At last, in March 1739, these two great servants of God finally met.

‘After I came from [preaching in the Judges] Seat, I was much refreshed with the sight of my dear Brother Howell Harris, whom, though I knew not in person, I have long since loved in…Christ, and have often felt my soul drawn out in prayer in his behalf.

‘A burning and shining light has he been in those parts; a Barrier against profaneness and immorality, and an indefatigable promoter of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

‘He is now about twenty five years of age. Twice he has applied (being every way qualified) for holy orders; but was refused, under a false pretence, that he was not of age.

‘About a Month ago he offered himself again, but was put off. Upon this, he was, and is still resolved to go on in his work…

Harris’ zeal, courage and generosity of spirit

‘For these three years…he has discoursed almost twice every day for three or four hours together…

‘Many alehouse people, fiddlers, harpers etc sadly cry out against him for spoiling their business.

‘He has been made the subject of numbers of sermons, has been threatened with public prosecutions, and had Constables sent to apprehend him.

‘But God has blessed him with inflexible courage; instantaneous strength has been communicated to him from above; and he still continues to go on from conquering to conquer.

Harris was willing to work with all true Believers

‘He is of a most catholic Spirit, loves all that love our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, he is [described] by Bigots as a Dissenter.

‘…Many call, and own him as their spiritual Father, and, I believe, would lay down their Lives for his sake.

‘He discourses generally in a Field; but at other times in a house, from a wall, a table, or any thing else. He has established nearly thirty Societies in South Wales, and still his sphere of action is enlarged daily. He is full of faith, and the Holy Ghost.

Catching the Fire!

‘When I first saw him, my heart was knit closely to him. I wanted to catch some of his fire, and gave him the right hand of fellowship with my whole heart.

‘After I had saluted him…we spent the remainder of the evening in taking sweet council together, and telling one another what God had done for our souls.

‘My heart was still drawn out towards him more and more. A divine and strong sympathy seemed to be between us, and I was resolved to promote his interest with all my might.

The Birth of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism?

‘Accordingly we took an Account of the several Societies, and agreed on such Measures as seemed most conducive to promote the common interest of our Lord.

‘After much comfortable and encouraging Discourse with each other, we kneeled down and prayed…

‘This done, we eat a little Supper, and then, after singing a Hymn, we went to Bed, praising and blessing God for bringing us Face to Face.

‘I doubt not but Satan envied our Happiness. But, I hope, by the help of God we shall make his Kingdom shake.

God loves to do great things by weak instruments, that the power may be of God, and not of man.’ (ibid p.228-230)

For Whitefield, meeting Harris and a cluster of non-Anglican preachers was to prove a turning point. But an equally significant turning point was about to take place for the burgeoning evangelical movement: John Wesley was due to arrive in Bristol and participate in the work.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Holy Spirit and Authority in Preaching (MLJ on Harris part 4)

Howell Harris
Howell Harris

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

Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris part 1

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors

‘Harris is one of the great heroic figures in the Christian Church, and his story is truly an astonishing one.’ Lloyd-Jones (1973)

Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest evangelical teachers of the 20th Century. Few would argue with that. His powerful and faithful teaching ministry both in Wales (1927-1938) and later in London (1939-1968) has continued to inspire leaders and movements around the world.

Leading evangelical preachers such as J.I. Packer and Terry Virgo were powerfully impacted by his passionate expository style of preaching. His was a voice of authority and certainty in an increasingly wishy-washy church context.

In 1950 Packer and others urged Lloyd-Jones to begin a regular teaching conference on the importance of the Puritans and the Puritan movement. Papers were delivered followed by robust discussion chaired (and adjudicated?) by Lloyd-Jones himself.

Lloyd-Jones lectured on many subjects during the conferences (called first, The Puritan and, later, The Westminster Conference).

In 1959 he preached on ‘Revival: An historical and Theological Survey’, in 1964 on ‘John Calvin and George Whitefield’, in 1972 on ‘John Knox – The Founder of Puritanism’ and in 1973 on ‘Howell Harris and Revival’.

It is to this particular lecture that we now turn our attention. We’ve seen something of Harris’ amazing influence in Wales and we shall go on to see his continuing influence in England through the preaching methods of George Whitefield (Harris also pastored Whitefield’s London church in his absence). But what does ‘The Doctor’, as Lloyd-Jones was affectionately called, say of Harris?

Lloyd-Jones’ excellent lectures have been published by the Banner of Truth Trust (the publishing company he helped form) under the title ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’. Page numbers refer to that edition.

On Harris’ conversion

Lloyd-Jones mentions the phrase that was to have such an impact on Harris. He had been in church when, during an announcement for communion, the Minister had said, ‘If you are not fit to take Communion you are not fit to pray, and if you are not fit to pray you are not fit to live, and if you are not fit to live you are not fit to die.’

Lloyd-Jones remarks, ‘These words hit this thoughtless schoolmaster with great force…I emphasise this incident because it reminds us of one of the amazing things about being a servant of God. You can bring people to conviction of sin even through an announcement! You never know what God is going to use; your asides are sometimes more important than your prepared statements.’ (p.285)

On the descending of the Spirit as a definition of Revival

Of particular interest is that Lloyd-Jones emphasises Harris’ encounter with the Holy Spirit as the key experience of his ministry.

This is typical of Lloyd-Jones who was frankly fed up of what he saw as a misunderstanding of the dynamic role of the Holy Spirit which was then prevalent amongst Reformed teachers and preachers. Happily, things have normalised in our day but it was different then and a post conversion experience of the Spirit needed to be constantly emphasised.

Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘What is revival?  Revival is an outpouring of the Spirit of God. It is a kind of repetition of Pentecost. It is the Spirit descending upon people.

This needs to be emphasised in this present age. For we have been told so much recently by some that every man at regeneration receives the baptism of the Spirit, and all he has to do after that is to surrender to what he has already.

But revival does not come as a result of a man surrendering to what he already has; it is the Spirit being poured upon him, descending upon him, as happened on the day of Pentecost.’ (p.289)

To read the Part Two click here

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

© 2009 Lex Loizides

‘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