Redes Sociais




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Chapter I

ONE of the proverbs of the Principality of which the subject of our history was a native runs to the effect that all nations have their brave men. The character of the renown these brave men acquire will depend upon the nature of the sphere in which their labours are exerted; and frequently, if not always, derives its tone as much from the exigencies of the time in which their lot has been cast as from the individual temperament of the men themselves.

Since the fall of their last brave Prince, Llewelyn, the military genius of the Cymry has found no national expression for itself, and indeed no expression at all except so far as the fighting portion of the Principality have given vent to their ardour under the banners of their conquerors, the English. Nor has the country for an almost equally long period been possessed of separate political organisations. Ecclesiastically, however, the case has been different. About a century and a half from the time we write, the heart of the nation was roused to such a pitch of religious fervour that from then till now the Welsh have been known, so far as they are known at all, as a people of extreme religious enthusiasm. The brave men of Wales have been, therefore, for the most part, [[@Page:2]]men of religion; and to the extent their names and labours have become identified with the aspirations of their people, aspirations which they themselves were the means of awakening, their courage has been displayed in the ranks of religious activity.

Foremost amongst the men of this class, and towering head and shoulders above all who went before or have come after, stands the name of Howell Harris. To him the movement alluded to owes its origin, and from the time he first appeared upon the stage with his fire and indomitable zeal, the awakening of the nation takes its date. He stands, therefore, preeminent amongst the benefactors of his country, and the very sound of his name has become amongst the people of his own nation the synonym for all that is brave and unconquerable, and of the nature of true heroism. It would not be an exaggeration to say that children have been spell-bound by the narratives of his gigantic deeds, that old men have lingered with fondness upon the memory of his fame, and that young men have pressed forward by the score to swell the ranks of the gospel ministry, excited to ambition and emulation, and supported amidst the difficulties of their calling, by the charms of his matchless renown.

Howell Harris, in fact, has been looked upon by the Welsh people as the special creation of the Almighty, he has been regarded as a comet flashed out suddenly into the darkness of a midnight sky; he is the Luther of Wales, the Elijah of the Principality, sent forth to level the fortifications of darkness, and himself as an army of chariots and horsemen to mow down the devotees of sin. None of his successors have been worthy to compare with him; and as for his predecessors, the popular imagination is so filled with Harris’s own dimensions that none of them are seen. Religious activity in Wales begins with him, and on the other side of him in the past the religious history of the nation sinks precipitately down into a dead monotonous plain. The late lamented Dr. Thomas [[@Page:3]]Rees, after labouring himself under the same erroneous views for many years,[1] has done much to dispel this misapprehension, and in his popular work, “The History of Protestant Nonconformity in Wales,” has marshalled before us, irrespective of the worthies of the Episcopal fold, a grand array of earnest and successful men who flourished before the time of Harris. Yet even Dr. Rees has failed to discover the reformer that can obscure the popularity of the subject of our remarks, and in spite of a trifling partiality for the sect to which he himself belonged, - a fault, by the way, to which all are liable, - has been constrained to leave the primacy in undisputed possession with the founder of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, by the admission that he was “the most successful preacher that ever ascended a platform or a pulpit in Wales,” and by the further admission, italicised by the Doctor himself, that “he was an extraordinary instrument raised by Providence, at an extraordinary time, to accomplish an extra-ordinary work.




Chapter II

HOWELL HARRIS was one of three brothers, the sons of Howell and Susanna Harris, and was born on the spot where the Calvinistic Methodist Theological College stands, at Trevecca, in the parish of Talgarth, Breconshire, on January 23rd, 1714. The family was originally from Carmarthenshire, but settled at Talgarth about the year 1700. Mr. Harris the elder possessed the small tenement at Trevecca where he lived, but was unable to afford his children any education beyond what was elementary. They inherited, however, from him or their mother, a degree of ability supported by the needful persistence that enabled each of the three, while differing from the other in disposition and pursuit, to distinguish himself in his particular sphere, and leave a name that is cherished with pride amongst the annals of their native county.

Joseph Harris, the eldest of the three, was born in the year 1702. When of proper age he was put to learn the trade of a blacksmith; but going early to London, and devoting himself to study, he was fortunate in obtaining a Government appointment at the Mint, and came to be esteemed by the learned and the great in his day. He married one of the daughters and heiresses of Thomas Jones, of Tredustan, Breconshire, by whom he had one only daughter, and died in the Tower of London, September 26th, 1764, aged 62, where his remains are deposited. A monumental tablet erected to his memory in the church at Talgarth mentions [[@Page:5]]that “his great abilities and unshaken integrity were uniformly directed to the good of his country, having by indefatigable attention gained the greatest proficiency in every branch of scientific knowledge. As an author he published several tracts on different subjects, invented many instruments, monuments of his mathematical genius; yet superior to the love of fame, he forbore having even his name engraven upon them. His political talents were well known to the ministers in power in his days, who failed not to improve on all the wise and learned ideas which greatness of mind; candour, with love of his country, led him to communicate.”

Thomas Harris, the second of the brothers, was born in the year 1705. He was brought up to the trade of a tailor. Imitating his brother in wishing to carve out his own fortune, he also made his way to the Metropolis, where he was welcomed, and employed by his uncle, Mr. Solomon Price, a master-tailor; and where, by his industry and jovial nature, he shot forward to prominence in the sartorial profession. He used to make visits to Paris in order to perfect himself in the mysteries of dandyism, and he had a keen scent for every advantage to his business. A humourous, adventure is said to have laid the foundation of his success. Mr. Chase, Mr. Price, Mr. Rigby, Mr. Forrester, and some others of the bacchanalian fraternity, had on one occasion refused to go home till morning, and even then were disporting themselves by breaking the windows in Mr. Harris’s neighbourhood. Perceiving the advantage of an acquaintance with those gentlemen, “he immediately joined the party in the sport, and assisted them in demolishing his own windows; after which he told them he knew the master of the house they were attacking - that he was a jolly fellow, kept an excellent bottle of wine in his cellar, and that he was determined to compel him to produce it if they would partake. The invitation was accepted; the wine was good, and their .associate ,was discovered, to be their host. His good [[@Page:6]]humour was never forgotten; from that moment his fortune was made - they not only employed him in his business themselves, but recommended him to their friends, and procured him contracts, by which means in a few years he was able to purchase the estates of Tregunter, Trevecca, and a property around them to the amount of £1000 per annum, or thereabouts; and here he retired to spend the remainder of his days.” He was Sheriff of Breconshire in 1768. The tablet in Talgarth Church, which records the memory of his brother, mentions further that “The remains of Thomas Harris, late of Tregunter in this parish, Esq., lie interred near this spot, who died September 23rd, 1782, aged 77, to the great loss of his neighbourhood, as in him the poor always found a most bountiful benefactor, his heart and mansion being ever open to the feelings of humanity, by relieving the distresses of the indigent.”[2] He devised the Tregunter estate, together with the bulk of his property, to Mrs. Hughes, the only daughter and heiress of his elder brother, Joseph Harris, from whom two of the leading families of the county of Brecknock at the present day are descended.

Howell Harris, the youngest of the three brothers, was destined and educated for the ministry of the Established Church - a stretch of ambition on the part of the father that severely taxed the domestic resources, for when Howell was fifteen years of age his brother Joseph desires to be excused from rendering assistance on the ground that he also was now drained by the enterprise of publishing a book, but promises to do all he can when the returns begin to flow in. The prospect of entering the Church of England ministry was particularly agreeable to the aspirations of young Howell, as affording the allurement of appearing before the world in a public capacity; but his prospects were suddenly darkened by the death of his father, which took place March [[@Page:7]]9th, 1730. Deprived by the same bereavement of paternal restraint, and having no serious friend to converse with, the pious reflections he had been more or less accustomed to from childhood gave way to more questionable thoughts, and he was soon carried away by the stream of vanity, pride, and youthful diversion. The gaiety of his manner and appearance within two years from his father’s death may be inferred from the following items, which at the beginning of 1732 he enumerates among his expenditures, namely: - pen-knife, peruke, razor, shirt-buttons, cane, buckles, hunting-whip, dancing, comb, seal, gloves, pen-knife, and tooth-pick. He had, however, an habitual conviction which never abandoned him in the midst of his frivolities, and he was wont to record, by a periodical or occasional confession, the faults of which he found himself guilty. This confession, which he began at the age of seventeen, and which covers many scores of closely written pages, is still extant amongst his manuscripts, and is a witness to the fairness of his scholarship, being written in a free and running hand, and with many abbreviations, according to his life-long habit, in the Latin language. His proficiency in this language is further proved by the marks and scorings with which he afterwards used to indicate the progress of his reading in the ponderous tomes of the Latin Fathers that still weigh down the shelves of the library at Trevecca College.

At the age of eighteen he was under the necessity of reducing his learning to practical value for his own maintenance, by opening a school at Trevecca. He continued at this occupation for about two years, when, through enlarged acquaintance with men of influence, and in particular through the kindness of his brother Joseph, the cloud that had settled on his hopes began to disperse, and the prospect began to clear; but before anything definite was arranged, an important event occurred. “While I was thus about entering more publicly on the stage of life,” he writes, “many providences [[@Page:8]]apparently concurring to raise me in the world, and while my corruptions grew thereby stronger and stronger, the Lord, was pleased to glorify his free grace in awakening me to a sense of the miserable state I was in, and had been in, though I knew it not.”

About the one-and-twentieth year of Howell’s age, on March 30th, 1735, being the Sunday before Easter, he was amongst the congregation in the church of his native parish, when the Rev. Pryce Davies, the incumbent, read out the usual warning for the celebration of the Holy Communion on the Sabbath following. Selecting for his exhortation the one appointed to be read in case he should find the people negligent in the observance (an intimation, by the way, that such negligence must have prevailed in the parish), the good clergyman began to use arguments proving the necessity of the Sacrament, and enlarging in the warmth and earnestness of his heart upon the form of words before him, exclaimed, “If you are not fit to come to the Lord’s Table, you are not fit to come to church, you are not fit to live, you are not fit to die.” Impressed by the solemnity of the words, young Harris began to reflect - formed a resolution to accede to the clergyman’s wishes; and as a measure of preparation, thought it needful to sever himself at once from all his outward, vanities, and further put his idea into immediate practice by effecting a reconciliation on his way home from Church with a neighbour with whom he was at variance - forgiving his neighbour’s fault, and making a frank acknowledgment of all his own. And thus unobtrusively took place the beginning of the change in the life of one of the most successful, instruments for producing similar changes in others that the Church of God in Wales has ever known. But it was only the beginning, and consisted so far of nothing but the resolve to amend the outward life, without any knowledge whatever of the need of an internal change to render the outward possible and permanent. “I knew not where to begin,” he says, “or what to do.”

[[@Page:9]]The following Sunday he appeared at the Church again; but in repeating the confession, - ”We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against Thy Divine Majesty, provoking most justly Thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable,” - there suddenly darted to his mind the conviction that his inward experience corresponded not with the gravity of the acknowledgment he was making: he found no inward grief at the remembrance of his sins, nor was their burden a heavy weight to his soul.

“I was convinced,” he says, “that it ought to be so; and finding it was not so, I perceived I was going to the Lord’s Table with a lie in my mouth, and was much inclined to withdraw, but quieted my mind with having determined to lead a new life; and in that resolution I received the pledges of God’s dying love. I then began to be more thoughtful and serious - was given to prayer, and strove to keep my heart and thoughts fixed on the Lord, but all in vain. Thus I went on for about a fortnight, until I almost lost my conviction. Providence, on the 20th of April, put a book in my hands, and I looked into the latter part of it as a help to self- examination; as soon as I began to read I was convinced that in every branch of my duty to my God, to myself, and to my neighbour, I had fallen short, and was guilty. I met the same evening with another book, written by Bryan Duppa,[3] on the Commandments, which made my conviction somewhat deeper. The more I read, the greater did the spiritual light shine into my mind; discovering the extent of the law of God, calling me to account not only for outward [[@Page:10]]gross sins, but for my looks, aims, and deeds - in all I had thought, said, or done. Then I saw clearly that if I was to be judged by that law, I was undone for ever.

“The more I searched into the nature of things, the more I saw myself and others with whom I conversed to be on the broad road to destruction. I found myself to be void of spiritual life, ‘carnal, and sold under sin.’ I felt that I could no more believe, or mourn for my sins, than I could ascend to heaven. I then began to humble myself by fasting and by denying myself almost every temporal comfort, hoping thus to subdue the power of inward depravity. But as yet I knew nothing of the inward self-denial our Saviour enjoins, and I was ignorant of the blood of Christ as the only ‘Fountain opened for sin,’ and a total stranger to the life of faith; and therefore I was all the while in a lost state, and in danger of final destruction. Thus having no foundation I knew not the Saviour’s voice, till one day in prayer I felt a strong impression on my mind to give myself to God as I was, and to leave all to follow Him. But presently I felt a strong opposition to it, backed with reasons that if I would give myself to the Lord I should lose my liberty, and would then be not my own, or in my own power; but after a great conflict for some time I was made willing to bid adieu to all things temporal, and choose the Lord for my portion. I believe I was then effectually called to be a follower of the Lord, and had some inward satisfaction in my soul, but had no evidence of my acceptance with God till the following Whit-Sunday at the Sacrament.”




Chapter III

WHEN the following Whit-Sunday above alluded to, which was May 25th, 1735, arrived, the dread of uttering a falsehood in the presence of the Omniscient, by confessing to a sorrow which he knew was not real, had given place to another and more truthful experience. He had read in the meantime in a book, “that if he went to the sacrament simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ he would receive the forgiveness of all his sins;” and as the remembrance of those sins had now become truly grievous and the burden of them really intolerable, he put his trust in the Redeemer who had borne the burden in his place, was acquitted at the bar of justice and in his own conscience, and had the satisfaction of finding the evidence of his change in the true faith and peace, joy and watchfulness, hatred to sin and fear of offending God, that followed from it.

“I was then,” he writes, “delivered from a grievous temptation that had followed me ever since I had first given myself to the Lord. Before that time I never knew what inward trials and spiritual conflicts were, only now and then I had some uneasiness from an awakened conscience, which was quite different from those sore trials that I bore from atheistical thoughts that made my life a burden to me; for they came with such force and power on my mind that I could not withstand them. But at the Sacrament, by viewing my God on the cross, I was delivered from these temptations; now the world, and all thought of human applause and preferment, [[@Page:12]]were quite vanished from my sight; the spiritual world and eternity began, though as yet faintly, to appear; now I began to have other views and motives different from what I had; I felt some insatiable desires after the salvation of poor sinners; my heart longed for their being convinced of their sin and misery. I also found myself a stranger here; all my heart was drawn from the world and visible things, and was in pursuit of more valuable riches. I now began to be more happy, and could not help telling in going home from Church that Whit-Sunday that I knew my sins were forgiven me; though I had never heard anyone make that confession before, or say it could be obtained; but I was so deeply convinced that nothing could shake my assurance of it. However, I knew not whether I should continue in that state, having never conversed with any that had his face towards Zion, and who could instruct me in the ways of the Lord. This, however, was the cry of my soul - ‘Now or never! If God leaves thee now, and thou stiflest these convictions and blessings, thou art undone for ever!’ This fear of losing what I had then, kept me fasting, praying, and watching continually. Though I had peace with God, yet I was apprehensive of seeing any of my old companions, lest I should grow cold again. This also induced me to keep close to God in all duties, and to keep a strict watch over my spirit, heart, and lips; dreading all lightness of mind, and idle words, and foolish jesting, which I was so prone to by nature.”

“June 18th, 1735. Being in secret prayer, I felt suddenly my heart melting within me, like wax before the fire, with love to God my Saviour; and also felt, not only love and peace, but a longing to be dissolved and be with Christ, and there was a cry in my inmost soul which I was totally unacquainted with before, ‘Abba, Father! Abba, Father!’ I could not help calling God my Father; I knew that I was His child, and that He loved me and heard me. My soul being filled and satiated, cried, ‘It is enough; I am satisfied. Give [[@Page:13]]me strength, and I will follow Thee through fire and water!’ I could say I was happy indeed! There was in me a well of water springing up to everlasting life; and the love of God was shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost.

“Being still ignorant of God’s method of bringing the lost sons of Adam home to Himself, I did not know in scripture terms what I had now received; neither did I long retain this immediate fruition of God by His Spirit; for as I still kept school, waiting for my call from a near relative to go to Oxford, I felt some risings of anger in my heart towards one of the children. The enemy immediately accused me, and alleged that I had now forfeited all my happiness which I had just before enjoyed, and that I was fallen from grace, and therefore in a worse condition than ever. This gave me no small pain and confusion, and whilst I was in this agony, hating myself entirely for sinning against this good God, the Saviour of sinners, and grieving on account of the loss of that felicity I had enjoyed, I was ready to despond; but God pitied me, and sent that word home to my soul, “I change not.” That such words were scriptural I knew not, and was at a loss how to apply them to myself, until light broke in upon my soul to show me that my salvation did not depend upon my own faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ; so that though I was subject to change, yet because of His unchangeableness I was secure. Then was I entirely freed from all my fears, and found uninterrupted rest in the love and faithfulness of God my Saviour.

“I was all this while a total stranger to all controversies about religion; I only knew this, that God loved me, and would love me for His own name’s sake freely to the end. This made me love Him again, and study how to show my love to Him. I cannot express the comfort I now enjoyed in my soul, being continually favoured with the Divine presence, and having my conversation in, heaven. Now I could talk of nothing but spiritual things which, soon, brought contempt [[@Page:14]]upon me; I was daily derided by some and pitied by others some strove to terrify me, and others to allure me with counsel that savoured too much of the wisdom of this world to have any weight with me. All my study was now to show my gratitude to my God. But it grieved me still that I had neither seen nor heard of any in the country who seemed in earnest to work out his own salvation, or to have any saving knowledge of God in Christ; though I did not then so much as imagine that I should be useful, seeing not the least probability of it, but rather the contrary.

“I had frequent thoughts of hiding myself from my friends, dreading nothing more than to be known in the world. This made me actually drop my acquaintance with all ranks of people, and to reject offers that were made to raise my fortune in the world. I sold what I had and gave it to the poor, and amongst the rest such clothes as I thought too gay for a Christian. I saw by reading the Scriptures how dreadful it was not to take God at His word, and then I had power to rely entirely on His promise: ‘And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.’ Upon this promise I resigned my body and soul to His care for ever.

“From that time to the present I can say that my life has been a life of faith, pleading with Him that I wholly depended on His blessed promises. I daily find Him to be faithful, and they that trust in Him shall not be ashamed. But this appears as enthusiasm to flesh and blood; though we call God bur Father, own Him to be the disposer of all things, and acknowledge that His word is truth; yet we will not give Him that credit which we give to mortal, unfaithful man. This indeed appeared dreadful to me, and therefore I was determined to trust for ever on His blessed promise for my temporal blessings, as it is all my trust for eternal life. Thus in all my wants I had nowhere to apply but to the promise; and in that alone I must declare I have found enough.

[[@Page:15]]“In the light of God's Word, I saw also my own misery by nature; and consequently could not help seeing all that I had been acquainted with, of every rank and degree, going also, as I had done, in the broad way that leads to destruction. It very evidently appeared by the testimony of God’s Word, and the conduct of the people, that this was the case then, there being a general slumber all over the land. The generality of the people spent the Lord’s day contrary to the laws of God and man, it being by none rightly observed; neither had anyone whom I knew the true knowledge of that God whom we pretended to worship. No sooner was the worship over on the Lord’s day than the conduct of the people discovered that the heart was entirely alienated from all that was good. The remaining part of the day was spent in indulging the prevailing corruptions of nature: all family worship being entirely laid aside, except among some of the dissenters, while a universal deluge of swearing, lying, revelling and gaming, had overspread the country like a mighty torrent, and that without any notice taken of it, or a stop, so far as I had seen, being attempted to be put to it. Seeing thus rich and poor going as it were hand in hand in the broad way to ruin, my soul was stirred up within me. The ministers were the first that lay on my heart; I saw they were not in earnest, and did not appear to have any sense of their own danger, nor any feeling sense of the love of Christ. Their instructions, therefore, delivered in such an unfeeling and indifferent manner, seemed to have no effect upon any of the hearers. I had never seen one man awakened by the preaching in the country. This view of their darkness, indifference and deadness, made me - out of the abundance of my heart - speak to some of those with whom I was acquainted. But finding it had no effect, I betook myself to secret prayer and mourning, and engaged some others to pray with me, and the Lord again renewed my strength.

“Then I could not help making it my business to speak to [[@Page:16]]all I came near of their danger. Though I had but little knowledge of the way of salvation by faith, yet I was happy by feeling the blessedness of it in my heart. Death and judgment were my principal subjects of conversation, and the necessity of praying and receiving the sacrament. I began to set up family worship in my mother’s house, and on Sunday mornings some of the neighbours would come to hear me reading the lessons and psalms. The evenings I spent with a few private friends whose hearts the Lord had touched with some sense of their danger; and now the fire of God did so burn in my soul that I could not rest day or night without doing something for my God and Saviour; nor could I go with satisfaction to sleep if I had not done something for His glory during the day. Time was so precious that I knew not how to improve it entirely to the glory of God and the good of others. When alone I was taken up wholly in reading, praying, or writing. At the same time I continued to go on exhorting the poor people, and they flocked to hear me every Sunday evening. I soon became the public talk of the country; but I was carried as on wings through all my trials, both inward and outward; I was highly favoured indeed by the Friend of sinners, and was now quite another man. I feared nothing, though my life was in danger from the threats of such as loved darkness rather than light; yet I was not moved, but went on comfortably, little thinking all this while that I was at any time to be more public. Thus I spent that summer, 1735.”

We have now passed the first stage in Harris’s career, and have allowed the whole to be related in his own simple words. Some letters written by him to his brother Joseph, in London, who was now making arrangements for his going to Oxford, and with whom he was in constant correspondence, are a further indication of the state of his mind. The letters, hitherto unpublished, are involved in their construction, and lack the directness and force of his subsequent epistles; but they contain evidence of deep thoughtfulness, and while showing the [[@Page:17]]firm grasp which the verities of religion had taken in his soul, they betray at the same time the uncertainty of purpose and the melancholy broodings of one whose ambition and prospects had been rudely shaken by the incoming of a higher force. But without needless comment, here are the letters: -

“Talyllyn, May 2, 1735.

“Dear Brother (Joseph),

“I had the satisfaction of yours of the 24th. As I have no great matter of news, I shall desire leave to give you a sincere account of part of what at present is my private pain. What affects me most is the great abuse I made of precious time. To think of what can’t be redressed is a melancholy reflection. I have no more to say in my own behalf than that I have but little improvement to myself, nor did but the least good to others; nay, it is what I never studied nor thought a duty on me till late, further than to gain the approbation of my friends. My outward qualification has so far attracted my attention that I took but little pains for the inward, and I fear it is a rock that is destructive to many. I think there is no greater hindrance to complete happiness, and to mould a truly generous soul, than to study the good name and applause of others; for if that be the centre we aim at, we shall certainly suffer that monster flattery to come too near, which seems to me to be so much beneath a rational creature that if it is impossible to please the world without it only by a sincere and punctual execution of our duties, I shall before I embrace it bid the world adieu, and retreat to a corner where I shan’t be observed.

“I have hitherto erred so far from the mark of true honour as most, but I always had naturally some struggling between honour and meanness, though I could never come to sufficient resolution to study what honour and a brave soul was, or to put the same in practice; but now I do most solemnly declare and willingly protest, that whatever friend I shan’t be able to please by a punctual observation of my duties without superficial [[@Page:18]]ceremonies, hypocricies, and approbation of whatever is said without the liberty of giving a contrary opinion without an affront or apology (which I take to be very hard on a man when he takes in hand to withstand a current lie), let my present happiness ever so much depend on that person whose friendship I am to retain by chains of formality, flattery, and servile approbation, I will throw off the yoke of that bondage from my conscience, and content myself with inward happiness since the other costs me so dear.

“I think a friend is, if such a person can be found, the greatest happiness we can enjoy here. But I have only an idea of it. I am in raptures when I read in Milton of the friendship between our first parents before self-designs came to the world. I almost utterly despair of having this gem in this world; I have tried often and as often been deceived, nor can I find one of my own way of thinking. Outward gaiety is the loadstone of the world. Be gay, you have friends enough; but be serious, you are a fool or melancholy. But I should think I have so much joy and uninterrupted pleasure that I am near being burst for want of a companion to partake; but there is an insurmountable obstacle in my way, namely, meanness of estate. Now the poor is so despicable that his- reasons must not be heard; nay, I believe we are near come to this, that a poor man won’t be admitted to have as rational a soul as the rich. But I think that happiness is come so far to my sight that I can say I am in hope of attaining it, though at the same time I never hope or wish - I do sincerely vow - to be rich. My riches are these: a friend, a book, a sufficient bulwark against poverty and the insults of the world, and an ability to entertain my friend. But I have several parts to act on the stage before I am to hope for these; and perhaps when I am just entering to my happiness I am knocked off, so that perhaps I am to be always swimming but never reaching the shore. I know I have not a sufficient share of those qualities to make a perfect friend, and that is the reason I so [[@Page:19]]much thirst for improvement. Not that I may some time or other be what is now called a great man; but a happy man - this is what would quench my thirst. But though defective, I am now in this point, - I have such an unquenchable desire of being accomplished in all the branches of the duties of a friend, that I firmly believe could I but find one so generously inclined as myself, and had so much true honour and contempt of other deficiencies, I should in conjunction with that friend be able to send you an entire picture of terrestrial happiness.”

“Talyllyn, May 23, 1735.

“Dear Brother,

“I received yours of the 13th instant, and I can’t help returning my sincere thanks for your care to me, and I hope I shall never forget my duty to you and all my benefactors. I sincerely told you some notions of mine in my last, and as I find yours not in contradiction I am encouraged to proceed.

“As the happiness of a friend is the greatest on earth, so the want of that blessing is the greatest want. Though mean my state and business, I assure you I complain of no other want but this; and there is no other motive that makes me in the least think those that are richer than myself happier than I, but that they have greater advantages to further this happiness and more opportunities to read and converse with their friends. It is my misfortune at present that I am obliged to be alone from morning till night. I can have no other than melancholy reflections, or think of the vanities I have seen. I cannot all day read, my spirits are almost wasted; and therefore this is the one great motive that makes me desirous of a change, with hopes of finding my friend. I never could find such a person among my equals; and if by favour and admittance I thought I saw those qualities I longed for in superiors, then fortune would stare me in the face, and when I had a mind to utter something, the fear of being termed a fool, designing or impudent, made me stifle my notions for fear of being disobliging; so that as I am in circumstances mean and [[@Page:20]]in soul generous, I think there is no concordance. My want of riches tells me to give over hoping for this jewel amongst the rich, and the ignorance in this point of honour and friendship amongst those with whom I could use that freedom which must be the liberty of friendship, makes me despair of ever finding my happiness; but since I think I am made without a like, let despair be my cure, my book my counsellor and companion, and my pen and paper those that shall partake of my notions; and if I shall be ever able to be serviceable to my country it shall share my ambition in acting a part in that. But I believe it must be in private, for retirement is my choice, nor will I willingly part with it, which makes me almost loath to part with my present poor business because it is a private one, and I am unobserved by the eye of envy, out of the reach of fortune, and I hope of the malicious eye of the world. But when I read our duty to do our part in the public good, I must resolve to leave this in order to get further qualifications for acting in the same.

“But I shall add one other sincere and I hope unshaken resolution of mine - that I will not pretend anything but what I sincerely think (which I fancy is no proper resolution for a publick man), nor study to make others think, judge or say of me any better than conscience tells me I deserve. Nor shall it ever be my study at all to make the world say well of me if it will not when I strictly observe my duty. Nor shall I study to gain the approbation of others by promises of self-interest or preferments; but those that I make my friends I will take some pains to please; and if I can retain the pleasure and good word of others with sincerity without adulation I shall be glad; if not, it shall not affect me. Let religion be my guide in all things, and devotion my delight, and I shall not err far from happiness though I have no friend; and let it be my study to make my conscience my friend, and then what difference is there to me between the censure and the applause of the world.

[[@Page:21]]“Were my notions known, everybody must acknowledge I am not of the common way of thinking; but when they are tossed by envy, pride, malice or disappointment I shall then see still the plainer the excellency of content, and the beauties of religion’s rules, which are all a firm rock to those that tread upon them.

“I thirst for improvement; but I have had such a notion of an Oxford life that I am in a strait what to do; but as you will conscientiously tender my future happiness, I will be entirely directed by your advice. But if I am the person to act, I desire you would consider me as you find me, for I hope and pray ever to remain in this strain, nor, as I shall endeavour to avoid the cause, must you or any other that shall think to correspond with me expect an apology, for my dead companion[4] shall be my correspondent, if I shan’t have this liberty of speaking freely and have something corroborating or contradicting in return.

“I don’t know whom I may meet in the world, for it is a large field; but I believe if I shall ever go from this country, as I have now but few friends, so I fancy I shall have fewer correspondents. You see I am pretty easy as to my going away; I am willing to go or stay according to direction.”

“June 6th, 1735.

“Dear Brother,

“I had the pleasure of yours on the 30th ult., last night, and I am very much obliged to you; but your not hearing from Mr. Harte since does not give me so much uneasiness as formerly less matters did. I am sorry you have mistaken me in my last. What you call melancholy, and what formerly seemed so to myself, appears now to me to be the best grounded seriousness, and not a far step from happiness, which I suppose is the centre of all human views, though sometimes we see ourselves mistaken in the road to it, for we generally think that riches is a direct road. But I differ from [[@Page:22]]this opinion, and I am heartily grieved that I am not such a person as may be permitted freely to speak or have my notions heard with attention; but since I am what I cannot help, and want rhetoric to convince others of the inexpressible treasure of solitude and retirement, sweetened with content, I will for the future contract my notions to the narrow compass of my own heart, and rather than part with it will endure those contemptible titles of melancholy, book-learned, fool; and I fancy did the gayest in the world once taste its dainties they would never long for another.

“You need not doubt the sincerity of such a style as this, for it carries no design or recommendation, if such were necessary; but if there is such a thing as sincerity, I most sincerely assure you it is my choice; nor were a splendid public life tendered to me should it ever stand in competition with a decent medium in private between poverty and riches: nay, I devoutly say it, I pray against ambition, which perhaps as it is so uncommon will hardly be credited. I don’t in the least fear or doubt of a livelihood, and such a one as a better Judge than man will see best. I hope I am designed for some publick good, nor shall I think any labour or pain too much for my qualifying me for such a work. But if I find no other approbation than human, I shall hardly think all qualifications sufficient. I pity poor mankind, and I hope my own heart is at last made steady and unshaken by the frowns or smiles of fortune. I hope the applause and censure of the world shall never touch me so near as it has. I fear that this softness and desire to be well thought of by others is what leads many otherwise very good men out of the way; or at least I think it was my case.

“I am not so melancholy as you imagine. I enjoy a treasure which indeed I know not how to communicate. Grief is almost a stranger. I would not exchange conditions with a great many that seem to be much happier than I am. It is not a lowness of spirit, but an alteration in notions and principles [[@Page:23]]and resolutions that makes me so applaud solitude and despise riches to excess. I have a great degree of what I could wish all had, - inward and undisturbed happiness, grounded I hope on true humility, and a well-founded hope which I trust will set me on such a footing that I shall be out of the reach of envy, contempt of poverty, and the deceitfulness of riches.

“As this is a very promising opportunity, so I hereby testify my eagerness to lay hold of it, and though I must for some time lose what gives me this present felicity, yet if ever I shall be settled in life it must not be on a publick footing. Let those who love to see and be seen lay hold of these illusions of Madam Fortune. Allow me so much seriousness as to deal honestly with my soul. It is to be lamented that (religion) is become so obsolete that he is a subject of ridicule who offers to talk of it anywhere but in the pulpit. But where are those of my way of thinking? I long to be acquainted with them; and if I found them I would sooner part with life than with such friends.

“You see I am unshaken in my resolution, and therefore don’t dissuade me, but direct me in this road. Never study to make me a publick man, for, if I be allowed to judge of myself, I assure you I never was designed for it. If there is anything worth observation in me (as I believe God imparts some talent extraordinary to most) it must be somewhere out of sight; and it shall always be my study, natural inclination assisting, to adorn the soul more than this mean despicable body.”

It may fairly be presumed from the relationship between these two correspondents that there was an amount of freedom in the letters of Howell which he would not have assumed towards a stranger; and while his affectionate disposition yearns for the secrecy of a sympathysing and reliable companion, he makes the most of his brother in that capacity.

[[@Page:24]]The tendency to retirement and the enconiums on solitude with which those early letters are replete, as well as the depreciation he casts upon the false estimates of the world and the projects of ambition, are probably the recoil of a proud and aspiring nature under the influence of deep religious conviction. He would naturally have delighted in popularity for its own sake; but now that the applause of the world had been eclipsed by the glory of a higher approval, he desires to render what service he can amidst the charms of obscurity; and hence the following anonymous letter, which, he sent the vicar of his parish.

“Aug. 16, 1735.

“Dear Sir,

“Having the happiness to be of the number of your auditors the zeal you express in the performance of your duty encouraged me to this recourse of communicating what I secretly wished I could more obviously have done long ago.

“I have the pleasure of finding some who are willing to join me in a strict observance of our duty, and have for some time sincerely endeavoured to practise those excellent doctrines we have from you, for which, as I have reason to say that God knows your labour with success here, so I firmly believe you will not lose your reward amongst the laborious pastors in heaven, whither I have with some others firmly vowed and resolved, by God’s help, in spite of all obstructions to direct our course. But finding our ignorance in the heavenly road and our weakness to be great, it made me presume to let you know a very great desire we have of communicating oftener - if your discretion thinks fit, once a month. That being with God’s blessing, and your pious endeavour, joined with our observation and performance of our part, the most and only effectual means to kindle this heavenly spark, which otherwise we experience is in danger to cool and die.

“I have some particular but very cogent reasons to add; but as they will be tedious and I hope not necessary, I shall [[@Page:25]]omit them. I hope that custom shan’t stand in competition with duty; and the granting this request will I hope extend its benefits further than we may imagine, and consequently be attended with inconceivable blessings to yourself.

“I shall with impatience wait the success of this, which instead of an apology has my prayers with it, which conclude this from, Reverend Sir,

“Your constant auditor,

“And sincere humble servant,


“P.S. - I hope you will excuse my not subscribing my name, there being I hope no need of questions. If praise be due, let it return to the Fountain. I shall add to your share in it too.”




Chapter IV

THE reader will have observed in the foregoing chapter the various stages in the progress of Harris’s conversion, from the first desire to amend his ways down through the period of asceticism and self-mortification, and on to the time when he was delivered from all his fears and found uninterrupted rest in the love and faithfulness of God his Saviour. It will also have been noticed how the divine light which shone into his soul, and made him sensible of his own misery, revealed to him the spiritual destitution and danger of all with whom he was acquainted of every rank and degree; and how the compassion he felt for souls, intensifying as it went along, became in the space of a few short weeks so absorbing a passion that it burned within him like ‘the fire of God,’ and gave him no rest day or night. The scene of spiritual destitution also that met his gaze, and which evoked all his ardour, has been already partly described by himself, and needs no further remark here than to mention that it was the same as that which characterized the remainder of the kingdom at this benighted period; with this difference only, that on account of the English services which had been thrust upon many a Welsh parish, the ignorance was more dense, the darkness deeper, and the wickedness more appalling.

In the beginning of November, 1735, the kindness of friends, and in particular that of his brother Joseph, enabled Harris to complete his arrangements for going to Oxford. He entered at St. Mary’s Hall, under the tuition of Mr. Hart. A [[@Page:27]]letter from Mr. Joseph Harris, dated London, January 24th, 1736, reveals the dependent condition of Howell, as well as the happy relation that existed between him and his brother. “You’ll find in this box,” he writes, “an old suit of mine which my brother has altered for you, with two pairs of breeches belonging to it; also my old leather breeches. These may do you a good deal of service for common wear, either in the country or at Oxford.” After mentioning other articles of apparel sent by his brother Thomas, and a book on navigation, - which it may be presumed, from the fact that he desired Howell to keep it for his sake, had recently been published by himself, - he goes on to weightier matters, and concludes in a glowing passage on the need of charity and benevolence as well as other moral and pious duties, and cautions his brother amongst other evils to “beware of enthusiasm.”

The tendency of collegiate life at Oxford about this time to cure the last-named distemper has been aptly depicted by Mr. John Wesley. According to him, the University contained those who were often “more pernicious than open libertines, - men who retained something of outward decency and nothing else; who seriously idle away the whole day, and repeatedly revel till midnight; and if not drunken themselves, yet encouraging and applauding those that are so; who have no more of the form than of the power of godliness; and though they do pretty often drop in at the public prayers, coming after the most solemn part is over, yet expressly disowning any obligation to attend.”[5]

It had been the earnest aim of Mr. John Wesley to influence for good the young men under his charge at the University, and to imbue them with the love of study. It was the rigid system and perseverance with which he and his associates apportioned their time to the duties of reading and religion that had obtained for them in the first instance the nickname [[@Page:28]]of Methodists. It would have been well, possibly, for Harris in some respects if he had come in contact with Wesley. He and his brother Charles had, however, now taken their departure for Georgia, and nearly the whole of that small but earnest band of religionists of which they had been the centre were dispersed in various directions. Young Harris, however, needed not their protection against the allurements of the place. He had left his home already possessed of a counter and more powerful attraction in his love for devotional exercises. “Having now,” he says, “no taste for the entertainments at Oxford, I spent the greater part of my time in secret prayers or in public worship. My friends were now in hopes I should be effectually cured of my enthusiasm, as they called it; but the Lord Jesus had now got possession of my heart, so that notwithstanding the promising prospect before me, having had the promise to be admitted as sub-tutor at a great school, and a benefice of £140 per annum by a certain gentleman; and although I was encompassed with fair prospects, yet when I saw the irregularities and immoralities which surrounded me there, I became soon weary of the place and cried to God to deliver me from thence; and thus after keeping that term I was again brought to my dear friends in Wales.”

The first concern of Harris on quitting the University was to resume the religious labours that had been interrupted. The zeal with which he prosecuted his task is still a matter of tradition, and shows how deep the fire had burned into his soul. He went from house to house in his own and the neighbouring parishes, he accosted the people he met on the road, he crossed over hedges to speak to a solitary toiler at the plough or the harrow; and when he conducted his work in a more public way, “the people began to assemble by vast numbers, so that the houses wherein we met could not contain them. The word was attended with such power that many on the spot cried out to God for the pardon of their sins; and such [[@Page:29]]as lived in malice confessed their sins, making peace with each other, and appeared in concern about their eternal state. Family worship was set up in many houses, and the churches as far as I had gone were crowded, and likewise the Lord’s table.”

It was an inspiring sight to see a young man thus cast his prospects to the wind, and returning to the solitude of the Welsh mountains and valleys for the purpose of awakening a nation asleep in sin; but the success of his efforts aroused hostility. The populace began to revile and persecute; the magistrates foamed, and threatened him and such as received him into their houses with all the penalties of the Conventicle Act; and the clergy, indignant at the interference of a layman in what they considered their exclusive domain, did all in their power to discourage him in his work, as may be seen from the following disheartening letter from the vicar of his own parish, which he received February, 1736.

“Sir, - When first I was informed that you took upon you to instruct your neighbours at Trefecca on a particular occasion - I mean of the nature of the Sacrament, and enforce their duty by reading a chapter out of that excellent book, ‘The whole Duty of Man,’ I thought it proceeded from a pious and charitable disposition. But since you are advanced as far as to have your public lectures from house to house, and even within the limits of the church, it is full time to let you know the sin and penalty you incur by so doing. The office you have freely undertaken belongs not to the laity any further than privately in their own families; and if you will be pleased to take your Bible in hand, you will there find the heavy judgments which God inflicted upon the sacrilege and impiety of those who audaciously presumed to invade the office ministerial. If you will consult the histories of this as well as other nations, you will see the dismal and lamentable effects of a factious zeal and a puritanical sanctity: for it is an easy matter to seduce ignorant and illiterate people, and by cunning [[@Page:30]]insinuations from house to house, induce them to embrace what tenets you please. I have yet one heavy crime to lay to your charge, which is this: - that after you have expatiated, upon a Sunday, upon the ‘Whole Duty of Man,’ to your auditors, which in my opinion, is wrote in so plain and intelligible a manner that it is incapable of paraphrase, unless it be to obscure and confound the author’s meaning, you concluded with a long extemporary prayer, with repetitions, tautologies, etc. Pray consider how odiously this savours of fanaticism and hypocrisy. What I have already said will, I hope, dissuade you for the future from such practices. But if the admonition of your minister will not prevail, I will acquaint your brother of it; and if you will persist in your way, I must acquaint my diocesan of it, which will prove an immoveable obstruction to your ever getting into Holy Orders; for your continuance in it will give me, as well as others, just reason to conclude that your intellectuals are not sound.

“I am your well-wisher, and assured humble servant,

“P. Davies.”

“P.S. - I have herewith sent you Mr. Nelson,[6] and by seriously weighing what is there said of the sacred function, as you will see marked in Ember Week, you will be convinced of your error.”

“To Mr. Howell Harris, at Trefecca.”

The foregoing letter from the pen of the Rev. Pryce Davies, Harris’s own spiritual father, must not be confounded with that bitter persecution which arises from hatred of goodness. The worthy vicar’s remonstrance was made in the interest of church order, and, apart from a trifling acerbity of manner, contains no greater evil than a misapprehension of the motives by which his young parishioner was actuated. It was Harris’s set purpose to devote his life to the service of God in the ministry of the Established Church; and as the convictions he had passed through had given him a new and clearer insight [[@Page:31]]to the nature of ministerial work, he saw nothing reprovable in devoting the time he was waiting to preliminary practice.

Had he remained in the position of a layman, or even had he entered upon his course from a total disregard of order and propriety, his action would justly have fallen under censure. But he had from the beginning the profoundest veneration for the office of the ministry, and when the time arrived he repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, sought to be admitted to its ranks. Mr. Theophilus Jones, the historian of Harris’s native county, was uncertain whether Harris was denied ordination on the score of his eccentricities, or whether he was deficient in classical learning. Mr. Whitfield maintains that he was rejected on the false pretence of non-canonical age; but as the application was renewed when the objection to youth could no longer be urged, and Mr. Whitfield himself bears witness to his qualifications, his non-success must be assigned to another reason. The Vicar of Talgarth’s letter partly supplies that reason, by its threat to place an immoveable barrier in the way of Harris’s ordination; and the reason is supplied in full, by the fact that the Rev. Daniel Rowlands and the Rev. William Williams were thrust out of their curacies for the same enthusiasm as that of which Harris was guilty.

Mr. Joseph Harris, the brother to whom Mr. Pryce Davies threatens further to write, was by no means an approver of the methods of Howell; but his affection towards him was never disturbed. In March, 1736, he wrote to Trevecca requesting Howell to engage a young man for him in the capacity of a servant; the answer incidentally reveals the deplorable moral condition of the neighbourhood, by the admission that most of the young men of the place were tainted with some vice or other. But it serves another purpose. It brings out the writer in the character of a lover; and in connection therewith we have, not only the ambition of a consciously able and aspiring youth in conflict with religious duty, but we have [[@Page:32]]this fiery enthusiast, who afterwards quailed not at the menaces of raging mobs, turned speechless in the presence of the damsel by whom he was smitten. “God,” he writes, “has done great things for you; and I see some things in myself much above my birth. I hope God may yet frame my brother Thomas again, as He has been pleased to do me, and make him yet great and happy. My happiness is in myself. The private joys of a religious life are rather conceivable than to be described. That, with content, and the satisfaction I enjoy in the society and favour of - makes me easy amidst many waves that beat upon me. The reformation of so many people has drawn upon me the envy of some mean narrow- thinking parsons, though none that know me, who endeavour to disturb my peace as much as they can, and seem already to dread the piety and true Christian zeal of one, who being not guilty of their practices may not be afraid to expose them in time, if thereby any good can be done. I have the satisfaction to tell you that comes nearest in my opinion of any I converse with of that sex to myself. I was there last week one night, and greatest part of two days, but still had the former awe upon me and could speak nothing.”

The romantic little incident of being in love is one of which the reader has already possibly had a suspicion; but as it was only a passing emotion, and does not recur until some years are gone over in his history, we return to his religious conviction. This was the only principle that was permanent and abiding; and as it went on increasing in depth, it set him with greater determination upon those aggressive measures that evoked the full hostility of the opposing powers.

“The opposition encountered,” Mr. Harris tells us, “put some stop for a short time to the work of the Revival; yet it could not extinguish the flame that was kindled. Though fear kept many back, yet such as were drawn by the divine attraction could not be affrighted; and I continued still to meet those secretly, and also the following spring I continued in going [[@Page:33]]from house to house as before, speaking to all that were inclined to hear me. By this time I had gained acquaintance with several Dissenters, who kindly received me to their houses. In this manner I went on till advised by a particular friend, the latter end of the summer in 1736, to set up a school at Trevecca, which I did, but removed from thence to the parish church. By this means a great many young persons had laid hold of this opportunity, and came to be further instructed in the way of salvation; but oh, with a bleeding heart I now think of many of them, seeing they were likely to end in the flesh, after they had well begun in the spirit.” The school which Howell Harris was induced to set up was established under the auspices of the Rev. Griffith Jones, whom it is necessary now to introduce. He was born of nonconformist parents in the parish of Cilrhedyn, Carmarthenshire, in the year 1684, and after being educated at the grammar school of his county town was ordained a deacon by Bishop Bull in 1708, and priest in the following year. He was admitted by all to have been the greatest preacher of his day in the whole of the Principality, being an orator of effective and splendid power. The churches he served became crowded with hearers, and he often received invitations to preach in distant parts, contriving to make his excursions during the festive seasons, with the design of counteracting the wakes and vanity fairs, and other impious gatherings that were held at those times. He has left an undying name as the author of many valuable works; but his chief title to the gratitude of posterity rests upon an institution he devised for the diffusion of education in Wales, still known under the name of the “Welsh Circulating School.” His plan in the conduct of those schools was to engage a number of masters and then distribute them in different directions over the country. The duty of these men was to teach the people to read the Scriptures in the Welsh language, to catechize them, to instruct them in psalmody, and to promote their religious [[@Page:34]]advancement by every means in their power; “passing on to fresh districts when their purpose was accomplished, and revisiting their former localities when the necessity of the case demanded. These schools, which were begun in 1730, increased to such an extent that in 1746 they were 116 in number, and 215 in the year 1760.”[7] They were further so interlaced in their influence with the great Welsh Revival that each of the movements is indebted for a large amount of its prosperity to the assistance derived from the other; and while we find a reformation of manners and an increase in communicants attributed in one place to the preaching of Harris, we find a similar result ascribed in another to the influence of Mr. Griffith Jones’s schools.

In the summer of 1736 young Harris paid this remarkable man a visit at Llanddowror. On returning to his home he opens his academy, and on the 8th October writes to inform Mr. Jones of his decided success. Young Harris received many books from Mr. Jones for gratuitous distribution; but from bills and other papers addressed to Mr. Howell Harris, Schoolmaster, Trevecca, it would seem that the school was principally one of private adventure. Amongst the books enumerated on the bills are Bibles, copies of “The whole Duty of Man,” the “Imitatio Christi,” by Thomas à Kempis, Church Catechisms, Virgil, Terence, Dialogues in Greek, as well as books of a more elementary character suitable for the use of children.

The school young Harris kept was not the only means he availed himself of to spread the work of the revival. The latter end of the year a man went about, probably one of the more humble of Mr. Griffith Jones’s itinerant schoolmasters, to instruct young people to sing psalms. “This gave me another opportunity,” writes Harris, “to show my love to my dear fellow-sinners; for the people being met to learn and to hear him sing, there was no objection made any more than to [[@Page:35]]assemblies met for cock-fighting or dancing. I laid hold of this opportunity. When he had done teaching them to sing, I would give them a word of exhortation, and thereby many were brought under convictions, and many religious societies were by these means formed. I began in imitation of the societies which Dr. Woodward gave an account of in a little treatise he wrote on that head, there being as yet no other societies of the kind in England or Wales, the English Methodists not being as yet heard of, though the Lord was now, as I found afterward, working on some of them in Oxford and elsewhere.”

The societies mentioned by Dr. Josiah Woodward belonged to the Established Church. They had done considerable good, but as they were confined to the Metropolis and had now sunk into lifelessness and insignificance they were unknown to Harris, so that the idea of establishing them in the Principality was, excepting so far as Woodward suggested the plan, an original thought. Their object was to associate in religious fellowship the men and women who had been brought under conviction by Harris’s ministry, and who from the opposition of the time were exposed to the same persecution. The earliest of these societies, which may be regarded as the first-fruits of Welsh Methodism, and of all Methodism, being formed three years before Mr. Wesley adopted a similar plan, was founded by Harris at Erwood, a distance of eight miles from his own home. A similar step was pursued on May 21, 1739, by Rev. James Hervey, M.A., one of the Oxford Methodists, when he established a society at Bideford, “by no means,” he writes, “in contradistinction to the Established Church, but in dutiful conformity to her. Woodward’s rules we purpose punctually to observe, reading his exhortations distinctly and solemnly; offering up his prayers humbly and reverently; only with this difference, that some edifying book be substituted in the room of religious talk, not because we disapprove of religious conference, but [[@Page:36]]because we think ourselves scarcely capable of managing it with regularity, propriety, and order.” In the societies founded by Harris the religious conference and talk was duly observed, and from then to the present day the societies have been conducted with regularity, propriety, and order, and with much edification to thousands of christians.

The step thus taken in advance was not likely to abate the spirit of antagonism. “But when I was thus exposed to all kinds of opposition, though I saw no proper steps which I could securely take, yet the way was again opened. But I was threatened that I should be silenced. However, the beginning of the following summer, in 1737, a gentleman in Radnorshire sent for me to discourse at his house. This stirred the curiosity of some of the better sort of people to come to hear me; whilst others in conversing with me had their prejudices much removed, and others were convinced. I had reason to believe the Lord would bless my labours. Though I still continued to keep school, yet I went out every night to such places where I was sent for, and did the same on the holy-days and on the Sabbath, until at last, about the latter end of this year, I was turned out of my school. This conduced to enlarge my sphere; for after this I readily complied with every invitation, and went wherever I was sent for by day and night, discoursing generally three or four and sometimes five and six times a day to crowded auditories.”

The pedagogic period of Harris’s life was now at an end. But the schoolmaster was not immediately merged into the religious reformer; he continued to take the deepest interest in education, and as the itinerant life he now commenced was favourable to a knowledge of the requirements of other neighbourhoods he soon became an active coadjutor with the Rev. Griffith Jones, and an intermediary between that clergyman and those who had no acquaintance with him, receiving from one direction an appeal for his influence in obtaining some of Mr. Jones’s grant, and from another - as we find from several [[@Page:37]]letters still preserved at Trevecca - imploring appeals for employment in the capacity of teachers.

Mr. Harris had now emerged into the full blaze of public notice; but immediately in his wake, if not indeed side by side with him, stopping when he stopped and moving when he moved, there stalked the demon of opposition. He was loaded with calumnies from all quarters. Magistrates threatened, and the clergy denounced him from their pulpits as a false prophet and deceiver; the mob also was active, and would lie in wait for him with intentions of mischief. But nothing damped his ardour; for, according to his own expression, he “was carried as on the wings of an eagle triumphantly above all.”

Amongst the early opponents of Harris, and indeed amongst his early conquests, being in fact one of the most distinguished of his converts, may be mentioned Mr. Marmaduke Gwynn, of the Garth, Breconshire, one of the lords of the upper part of the county. Howell Harris was expected to the neighbourhood, and Mr. Gwynn “being alarmed at the reports he had heard respecting him, determined, as a magistrate, to put an end to his proceedings. Supposing he held the tenets maliciously ascribed to the Independent Dissenters in the time of Oliver Cromwell, and regarding him as an incendiary in Church and State, Mr. Gwynn prepared himself for an open attack; but said to his lady in going out, ‘I will hear the man myself before I commit him.’ Accordingly he made one of the congregation, eagerly waiting to lay hold of anything that might be construed into a charge against the preacher. He had also the Riot Act in his pocket, which he was prepared to read and thus disperse the people. Harris’s sermon, however, was so truly evangelical, so calculated to arouse the careless, to alarm the wicked, and to encourage the penitent, and his manner so zealous and affectionate, that Mr. Gwynn thought he resembled one of the Apostles. He was so convinced of the purity of his doctrines, and of the [[@Page:38]]benevolence of his motives, that at the end of the discourse he went up to him, shook him by the hand, told him how much he had been misled by slanderous reports, avowed the intentions he had formed of committing him, asked his pardon, and, to the amazement of the assembly, entreated him to accompany him back to Garth to supper. Mrs. Gwynn was a woman of superior understanding, but under strong prejudices of birth and fortune. She was one of six heiresses each of whom had £30,000 for her portion, and had married into suitable families of high descent and splendour. She was a violent enemy to all Dissenters; and when her husband returned, introducing Harris, a man of inferior rank, an innovator in the Church, and as she suspected, a rebel against the King; and when she heard Mr. Gwynn himself in the presence of his whole family entreat his forgiveness, acknowledge his error, and pay him as much respect as he would a bishop, she thought her dear husband must have lost his senses, and in grief and consternation she quitted the room, nor would return to it until after supper when Harris had departed. Nothing, however, could alter the opinion Mr. Gwynn had formed, or remove his attachment to the preacher. His daughter Sarah, afterwards the wife of the Rev. Charles Wesley, also entered into the views of her father. She delighted to accompany him to hear Harris; her mind was open to receive the truth, and she was particularly benefitted by his discourses. Her piety and religious profession, therefore, exposed her to the raillery of her gay brothers and sisters; and her partiality to Harris incurred the displeasure of her mother, who passed much of her time in tears at the supposed infatuation of her family. Nor was she reconciled to Methodism until she had perused the ‘Appeals’ of Mr. John Wesley, and heard the character of the two brothers from some of their colleagues at Oxford, which convinced her that their intentions must be good. Until then she would not hear Harris; but afterwards her [[@Page:39]]remaining prejudices were entirely removed. The authority and countenance of Mr. Gwynn and his family now became highly important to the cause of religion. Regardless of public and private censure he openly stood up in Harris’s defence, and made use of his extensive influence in promoting the spread of the Gospel.”[8]

The labours of Harris at this time would probably awaken misgiving even in those who were not unfavourable to his aims. Were they merely the vagaries of a disordered brain? or, assuming them to be genuine, were they soon likely to expend his fervour and leave him in greater obscurity than before? Regarded, however, in the light of subsequent events, his early career stands out as simply heroic. He had renounced, not the pleasures of sin merely, but the legitimate safety and aspirations of the average Christian, and had marched forth alone amidst his native mountains and valleys encountering the most violent hatred, and aiming only at one result - the reformation of the country from the abuses of sin.

The truths required for this purpose must of necessity be of an alarming character; and the person who undertakes to enforce them must possess every needful qualification. The preaching of Howell Harris at this time was full of alarm, and he himself was fitted to give effective utterance to the truths he had embraced. His temperament was warm and his frame like that of an athlete, and his hatred of sin such that when he stormed men writhed under the streams of his wrath. “I took no particular texts,” he says, “but discoursed freely as the Lord gave me utterance. The gift I had received was as yet to convince the conscience of sin.”

A contemporary writes of him in the following terms: “About those years (1735-7) Mr. Howell Harris began to go out in Breconshire to exhort his neighbours concerning the interests of their souls. He soon grew in gifts and knowledge, and went out to other counties. Vast numbers of young [[@Page:40]]people and others in Wales were then quite irreligious, and used to hold meetings for dancing, intemperate drinking, and to amuse themselves with various wicked practices. These almost all reckoned themselves as members of the Church of England. When Mr. Harris began to traverse the country he thundered most awfully against cursers, swearers, drunkards, fighters, liars, Sabbath-breakers, etc., and as it were scattered sparks of the fire of hell amongst them. He would exhort in dwelling-houses, fields, and wherever he could get people together to hear him; as Mr. Walter Craddock, Mr, Vavasor Powell, and others had done in Wales a hundred years before. But this was quite a new thing in our days, and its novelty attracted large multitudes to hear.”[9]

The result of these unauthorised and bitterly opposed proceedings was that a general reformation began to appear in several counties. Public diversions became unfashionable, religion became the common talk of the people, places of worship were everywhere crowded, and the religious societies were increased in number.

The following letter will show the spirit by which Harris was at this time actuated.

“August 26th, 1737.

“To A. W.

“When I opened the paper you gave me I was confounded at the goodness thereof, and notwithstanding the constant hurry I have been in, which has caused me to drop correspondence with many dear and valuable friends, the particular tenderness I find within me for your salvation has made me resolve to rob myself of my sleep to-night in order to send my sentiments to you, looking to heaven, to that great King who sees the words on paper and the motives that induce me to write, for a blessing on these lines to have the desired effect of being a means to further your eternal bliss, as I am sure I shall soon, for the race is but short, appear before Christ’s [[@Page:41]]throne; and I do not know how soon I may have to meet His messengers.

“Since I have spent so much of the flower of my time in vanity and folly, I hold myself obligated now to do all I can to undeceive poor mankind, that are kept from real and solid happiness and pleasure in looking at the outside of things. It is greater satisfaction to me than perhaps you will easily believe, to see that you have gone on so far, and I hope you will not be hindered by any enemy, spiritual or temporal, from going on until we shall meet where no enemy shall disturb our rest. But ere we reach there, what enemies have we to encounter! O! how easily may we be deceived with false hopes, and drop to eternal misery, while we flatter ourselves with ungrounded hopes of belonging to His heavenly choir; but of that glorious multitude we cannot warrantably hope to be until we are first made holy by the Spirit of God, to obtain which, as He is freely given to such as seek Him, so it is our chief business to wait upon God as frequently as possible in private; and when we find at any time the heart made tender, to retire to prayer, lest by refusing to obey such calls we may call and not be heard.

“But while this must be chiefly attended to, we must not be ashamed to own our glorious King and His cause in public. If we deny Him, He will likewise deny us when we stand before Him. O! what a heart-breaking thought this is. Let us consider now how we may be guilty of it. Is it not when we act contrary to God’s rule, ‘Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them;’ ‘be not conformed to this world’? And is it not because we are weak, and unwilling to bear the ignominious but noble titles of saints, fools, etc., in following Christ? Let us, therefore, present our petitions continually to our Captain (who though we cannot see Him with eyes of flesh, yet sees and watches over us), for Christian courage and resolution, guided by a clear and true knowledge of the Scriptures, as well as by [[@Page:42]]prudence and humility. Let us be true to His cause, and then whatever mountains of impossibilities the flesh sets before our eyes, soon will He remove them all. When I read of the zeal of the primitive Christians and of what they suffered; and when I consider the great diligence of some Christians now living with whom I am acquainted, that day and night they watch, strive, fast and pray, and yet fear on account of the straightness of the gate - O! I cannot help begging a share of your addresses to heaven for more renewing grace, else where shall I appear, seeing that I am so fruitless. Pardon my freedom with you, if, when I see the deceit of my own heart and my weakness to resist temptation, I write thus to you to quicken your zeal and to animate your courage to resist all enemies. Oh! that we had faith to see what a glorious Captain ours is; what noble honours He has to bestow on all His faithful servants; what a glorious company there is awaiting us, if we use the few moments we have to fit ourselves through grace for their enjoyments. Oh, what music is there! what seraphic joys and everlasting pleasures are there! O! how should not our souls be rather longing to be there, than take up with such transitory, false, deluding pleasures as are here. Methinks, if I were not afraid of tiring you, the fear lest you should be deceived by the toys of the world and come short at last, would supply me with matter enough to write till morning. The station you are in exposes you to greater temptations than those who move in lower spheres; but if you will once test what true godliness is, and see the need of Jesus Christ, and have your eye fixed on and surrender your affections to Him, it will then be an easy matter to renounce the ridicule and revilings of the world. What an honour it will be to be crowned before the face of those blind persons who now ridicule! Between what the world calls pleasure, and true solid joys, there is in reality a partition wall. May we taste the sweetness which is in the love of Christ. It is His love that makes us see the difference [[@Page:43]]between this world, with all its pleasures, honours and enjoyment, and another; and this would consequently incline us to despise the present so far as it is a hindrance to future bliss. If we attend to what the world speaks of us, it will, if not entirely hinder us, yet very much slacken our pace: but let us not look behind, lest we become like Lot’s wife. Rather let us look before us, and seriously consider what thoughts we shall have of worldly applause and advantages, when we are overtaken by death, when these eyes of dust grow dim, and the soul be about to enter into eternity. O! who can express or conceive the terrors our souls will then feel, if for want of striving in good earnest in time we shall sink into eternal misery, after we had stood so fair a chance to escape it. On the other hand, if we remain faithful to our great King, the pleasures we shall then enjoy our hearts cannot now conceive. If we are so pleased now to hear of the joys of heaven, - joys which words cannot express, - what raptures shall not the soul experience when at last, having with great difficulty escaped the wiles of the devil, the deceit of the heart, the carnal desires of the flesh, the false pleasures of the world, with the great hindrances daily met with from friends and enemies, she sees herself in the arms of her beloved Saviour. I blush and tremble with fear, on account of my own impurity and unfitness to partake of such heavenly joys, lest having exhorted others I myself should fall short. O! the heavens are not clear in His sight! No wonder, therefore, that He gives us such strict charges to strive against all hindrances, to mortify our inward impurities that prevent His dwelling within us.

“We have indeed occasion enough to fast and to humble ourselves to the lowest degree, be it ever so grievous to our corrupt nature to do so, for our past sins and negligences, - that we ever slighted His calls and lived in ignorance of Him so long, as well as for our present reluctance to obey Him. I am confounded at the thought of our indifference in a matter [[@Page:44]]of so much weight, - suffering ourselves to be led away by shame lest we should be called singular, and by laziness with the things of God. O! what shall we say to the Judge when He shall appear before men and angels, and declare how often by His word, by examples of His judgment, by promises, threats, and admonitions, He has called and invited us. O I that we would truly weigh these and a thousand such-like considerations! It would be the means to awaken us from our slumber, and induce us voluntarily to enlist under Christ’s banner, and fight His battles fully, zealously, wisely, and resolutely; which, that you may attain to, is my sincere desire and hearty prayer.”

“Howell Harris.”




Chapter V

IN ascribing the great revival in Wales to the instrumentality of Howell Harris, it must be borne in mind that the honour does not belong to him in so exclusive a sense as to shut out all others from participation; nor does it belong to him in so pre-eminent a degree as to leave him without a rival in the claim for the leading position. In priority of time, as well as in the fearless intrepidity of his character, the palm undoubtedly belongs to Harris; but the Rev. Daniel Rowlands, of Llangeitho, in Cardiganshire, whose name will frequently occur in the course of these pages, is regarded equally with Harris as the founder of Welsh Methodism; and for reasons which will eventually appear, his memory is still more affectionately cherished by a considerable part of the denomination to which the movement gave rise.

No revival of religion would be worthy of the name if, like the contents of a water-spout, it simply inundated a solitary spot, while it left the remainder of the land in a state of desolation. The Methodist revival may rather be likened to the wide-spread falling of a copious dew. Certainly the dew, as with the fleece of old, was more concentrated upon some than others, but the country at large participated of the blessing; and so far as Wales, with which the present history has to do, was concerned, the soil had been prepared by the labours of the Rev. Griffith Jones.

On one occasion Mr. Jones preached in the parish church [[@Page:46]]of Llanddewi-brefi, Cardiganshire, to a large congregation, amongst which was the Rev. Daniel Rowlands, of Llangeitho, already alluded to. Mr. Rowlands was at this time a young clergyman of twenty-four years of age, and though admittedly a stranger to the spiritual authority of religion, was an attractive preacher, having been moved to air his ability by no higher motive than envy at the larger congregations that attended the services of a well-known Nonconformist minister of his neighbourhood, the pious and talented Mr. Philip Pugh. Planting himself in the church at Llanddewi-brefi in front of Mr. Jones in an attitude of carelessness, and with an expression of cynicism that was calculated to discompose, the preacher was moved in the midst of his earnestness to interject a prayer on his behalf, beseeching the Almighty to make him an instrument for good in the salvation of souls. So well directed was the shaft that the haughty young clergyman was effectively brought down, and from that moment became a preacher of such unfeigned earnestness and commanding power as to obscure the fame of Mr. Griffith Jones himself, and pressed forward to undisputed possession of the summit of eminence amongst the preachers of the Principality. He threw himself heartily into the work of the revival, and in pursuance of a course that occurred to his own mind, without any knowledge of what Mr. Harris was doing, began to form his converts into societies. “As for the other minister, and great man of God, Mr. Daniel Rowlands,” writes Howell Harris, “he was awakened about the same time as myself, in another part of Wales, namely in Cardiganshire, where, by reason of there being but little correspondence between that county and Breconshire, he went on gradually growing in gifts and power without knowing anything of me, or myself knowing anything of him; until by providence, in the year 1737, I came to hear him in Devynock Church, in the upper part of our county, where upon hearing the sermon and seeing the gifts given him, and the amazing power and authority [[@Page:47]]with which he spoke, and the effects it had upon the people, I was made indeed thankful, and my heart burned with love to God and to him. Here began my acquaintance with him, and to all eternity it shall not end.

“This proved the first means of my going to Cardiganshire, where, on hearing more of his doctrine and character, I grew more in love with him; and from that time to this, having been favoured with many glorious opportunities of sitting under his ministry to the great benefit of my soul, I am obliged to admire more and more the wonderful work of God in him. As he has been so blessed to thousands in several counties, and is more and more owned of God in calling in and building up the lambs of Christ, so it cannot be expected he should escape the malice of the enemy, which he vents upon him in all ways he is permitted, inventing all manner of lies; but in such a manner is the Lord with him that I believe the dragon trembles the way he goes. Though I have been now favoured with hearing, and reading the works of many of God’s ministers, I do not know, so far as I am capable of judging, that I have known any so favoured with gifts and powers; such a penetrating light to the spirit of the Scriptures to set forth the mystery of Godliness and the glory of Christ. And though he has been often charged with errors, yet the Eternal Spirit has so led him to all truth, and so saved him from falling to any error, that his ministry is, I believe, now one of the greatest blessings that the church of God in this part of the world enjoys. Many counties partake this blessing, he being indefatigable in going about, and I believe seldom, if ever, opens his mouth without a great blessing attending. This is not for a while, but has continued to my knowledge for nearly seven years. All who are able, that have had eyes to distinguish, flock to his ministry, and congregate from all parties and counties - there being often in his congregations and communions persons from eight different counties at the same time. The visible effects on [[@Page:48]]the people under the word and after, as well as the lives and conversations of them that are wrought upon, prove to such as have spiritual eyes, and do not shut them against conviction, that God is there in an uncommon manner.”

Another of the Welsh reformers who was indebted to the piety and example of Mr. Griffith Jones was a young clergyman of delicate frame but determined spirit, of the name of Howell Davies. Mr. Davies had been assisted by Mr. Jones in his preparation for the ministry, and when the day of his ordination arrived, his friend and father in Christ bespoke the prayers of the congregation in his favour. Those prayers seem not only to have been offered, but answered, for in a short time the young minister went forth in the spirit and power of Elias, and attracted thousands by his ministry. He also became acquainted with Harris and Rowlands, and though he retained his benefice in Pembrokeshire to the time of his death, in March, 1770, he was deeply imbued with the spirit of the revival, and itinerated far and near as a Methodist clergyman.

The Rev. W. Williams, of Pant-y-celyn, was also a co-adjutor with Harris in the work of the revival; and if not socially was at any rate religiously the most distinguished of Harris’s converts. He had been destined by his parents for the medical profession, and at the time of his change was pursuing his studies under the tuition of Mr. Vavasor Griffiths, at Llwynllwyd, near Hay, in Breconshire. Having heard of the extraordinary young reformer from Trevecca, whose fame was now beginning to fill the land, he went over to Talgarth on a Sunday morning to hear him. Tradition affirms that it was the custom of Harris at this time, in virtue of the freehold of his father’s grave, to preach from the tombstone when the service was over, his congregation comprising not only the attendants just issuing from the church, but multitudes from surrounding districts as well. Whether he observed that custom on the morning in question is doubtful, [[@Page:49]]but the sermon was unusually terrifying, and made a deep and lasting impression on Williams’s mind. “It was a morning," he writes many years after, “which I shall always remember, for it was then I heard the voice of heaven; I was apprehended as if by a warrant from on high.” The result of the change was that Williams renounced the pursuit of medicine, and resolved upon devoting himself to serve religion. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of St. David’s in 1740, and after serving in the Establishment for three years, was deprived of his license on account of his irregular zeal; and from that moment to the day of his death was an itinerant Methodist preacher. His sermons were of a mellow and edifying character, and sometimes rose to eloquence; but the chief service he rendered the revival, and the Principality at large, was by the extraordinary number of his hymns, the variety and excellence of which have won for him the designation of “The sweet singer of Wales.”

In addition to the foregoing there were a few amongst the Nonconformist ministers who drank of the spirit of the revival, and helped to further the movement. The foremost position is undeniably due to the godly and laborious Edmund Jones, Independent minister, of Pontypool. He early co-operated with Harris, and survived him in the work for many years. It was by his invitation that Harris first exhorted in Monmouthshire in the spring of 1738. The visit gave great offence to Mr. David Perrott, incumbent of the parishes of Bedwellty and Mynyddislwyn. He wrote to express his surprise at the liberty taken in coming to his curacies, and warned Harris to recede, “or expect along with the person or persons who had sent for him that just resentment due for such unlawful practices.”

The reformer gave no heed to the warning, but went on his way. At a short distance from one of the churches was a small elevation known as Tudor’s Mound, concerning which a superstition existed, that a storm of thunder and lightning [[@Page:50]]would ensue the moment the mound was disturbed. This place was the rallying point for all the reckless youths of the neighbourhood, and was the centre of sport at the time Mr. Harris took his stand upon it to deliver his message. He reproved and denounced with unmerciful severity the revels of the day; but so besotted in ignorance were his hearers that the only conception they had of the sermon was that something terrible would happen if they did not alter their ways. It had however the desired effect. It filled them with alarm; they thought the mound was already in convulsions and the ground trembling beneath their feet. From that moment the games and wicked practices of the place vanished so entirely that the enemies of Harris could only account for his influence by putting it down to the power of enchantment.

During this his first excursion into Monmouthshire, Howell Harris was instrumental in reclaiming Philip Davies, who became a Nonconformist pastor; also Thomas Lewis and Morgan John Lewis, who took a similar course after labouring for years with the Methodists as exhorters. He visited this neighbourhood again about the end of the year; but his annoyance arose this time from another source. It came from those whom the Rev. Lewis Rees, wrote of as “the uneasy people, the Anabaptists,”[10] The opposition of the Anabaptists was possibly an echo of the violent baptismal controversy that had been carried on some years before, and to which the decadence of spiritual religion in the South Wales counties was in some measure due. The divine breath was however now begining to pass over the country, and under the influence of its warmth we soon found members from the various sections of the Christian Church blending together to an extent not known before, and hardly known since.

There were a few other Nonconformist ministers besides Mr. Edmund Jones who rendered assistance. Unable to [[@Page:51]]cope with the wide-spread degeneracy, yet being good and worthy men, they hailed with joy the appearance of anyone who dared the task. One of them was Mr. David Williams, pastor of the Presbyterian Churches at Cardiff, and Watford near Caerphilly. He invited Harris to his neighbourhood, and hoped and prayed, engaging others to do the same, that a visit from him would turn to good account. Mr. Harris complied with the request, and went to Bwlchycwm and Maesdiofal during the Whitsun week of 1738. A short time afterwards he was expected at Aberdare, Llanwonno, Llantrisant, and St. Nicholas, but was prevented by illness, much to the disappointment of the crowds who were anxious to hear him. This is the first indisposition we meet with in the history of Harris; but it is the begining of a series of illnesses that we shall have to record before recounting a total breakdown; and it may be regarded as the first premonition of those limits to human strength and power of endurance which it was the custom of his life to entirely overlook. The Rev. David Williams, another dissenting minister, sent him by one of Harris’s own converts a letter of sympathy, dated June 12th, 1738. After mentioning that his non-appearance “had the more raised the desires and longings of thousands of souls,” he goes on to describe the effect of a visit that Harris had previously made. Mr. Williams’s plain words are more to the point than any rhetorical description of Harris’s popularity at this period, and are, with one or two letters that follow, the most convincing proof of the effects of his tornado-like ministry.

“The two days’ service with us,” he says, “has been attended with marvellous success. The churches and meetings are crowded; Sabbath-breaking goes down, it is looked upon as a very abominable thing; dancing has been much interrupted; profane swearing and cock-fighting are exclaimed against. But you do not imagine that the devil is mute and still. No, he both speaks and acts; but I think there seems [[@Page:52]]to be more against him than for him in this part of the country. Your friends are more numerous than your adversaries; you are preached against in some places, but it turns to the reproach of them who attempt it. The devil is a lying spirit in the mouth of some to calumniate you to some of the gentry, in order to stir them up against you; and God is pleased again to remove the charge. Upon the whole I cannot forbear thinking, without any partiality, but that your coming here was from God; and that God himself, in the might and power of His Spirit, was pleased to come with you. I hope your useful life will be prolonged, and that God, by casting you down, is preparing you for greater service; and hope you will not lay down or alter your course while God thus visibly owns you. When Satan has failed of his end in ridiculing and threatening by his own devoted servants, who knows but that he may transform himself into an angel of light, and put some good and religious people upon dissuading of you, which the subtle serpent cannot but know to be the most effective way of working with you? But I pray God you may be taught to discern him in what way soever he acts. I hope that as soon as God shall restore you to health and strength, you will come to the places above mentioned; whether it be harvest time or any other time I think it will make not much difference, because people are so eager of hearing you. I intended to meet you as it was agreed upon, and had four or five places fixed upon to propose to you that wanted your service, were desirous of it, and also convenient; which I shall set before you when I shall next see you, which I hope shall not be long before you come to the above places. I hope you will think the account I have now given you to contain in it much the same voice as St. Paul heard in a vision, ‘Come over to Macedonia, and help us.’ If you are able to write, please do it with the bearer. My parents and all the family give their love and service to you, and pray for the restoration of your health, and the continuance of your [[@Page:53]]usefulness, as also does your very sincere friend and most humble servant,

David Williams,”

Two days after the date of the foregoing letter, Mr. Williams wrote again. “I hope,” he says, “you recover and get strength continually. You are very much expected in these parts, and I hope you have growing inclinations to come. Here are still visible good effects of the late visit you made us. The last week of this instant, or the first beginning of the next, will be very convenient. The places in view, besides those that have been disappointed, are Llanedarn (from St. Nicholas there), thence to Machen, or Bassalleg, either of the two, as those concerned shall think most convenient; thence to our parish, where we shall think it most convenient. We talk of the bearer’s house, but do not give him any absolute promise, that we may be at liberty to choose a more convenient place if we can. I am afraid the bearer, who has been a wild man, feels none of the pangs of the new birth: has such a flash, but hardly knows why? If you can have an opportunity, please talk close and home to him upon the nature of repentance and resignation. He lost opportunities which perhaps might have been of service to him. When you come here, I beg leave to dispose of you for two nights. The one will be near the gentlewoman’s house I talked to you about, where I expect she will meet you; and the other is in a needful place, where you will be met by young people, some of whom have been wrought upon by what they heard from you, and still hopefully retain the impressions. I intend to have a meeting with some friends, but privately, to pray for the Divine assistance and blessing. I should have told you that you are expected from our parish to Gellygaer. The curate, who called the other night at our house, is for promoting it all he can; though he may act a little behind the curtains, being now about to receive priest’s orders. He is the friendliest of all the clergy hereabout, [[@Page:54]]preaches with much life, and endeavours to do all the good he can in the parish. I would not advise you to anything prejudicial to the cause, which I hope I can say I have at heart, but I may tell you that you need not be so shy of conversing with Dissenters in these parts as in some other places, for, blessed be God, prejudice is falling off more and more here.

“Please to write by the bearer and fix the time. I earnestly desire a share in your prayers. I am sensible of the workings of the same enemy, self, which you complain much of, and which I fear more than the devil himself. That the God who inclined you to go thus abroad, and kept you from the cursed effects of Satan, and his agents’ malice, may do so still, and abundantly prosper your sincere and honest endeavours, are and shall be the real and fervent prayers of, dear sir, your most affectionate friend and humble servant,

“David Williams.”

To the same purpose, as indicative of the effects of Harris’s preaching, are one or two letters he received about this time from Mr. Henry Davies, minister of the dissenting church at Blaengwrach, in the vale of Neath. Mr. Davies in his first letter expresses sympathy with Harris in his illness, and his pity at the disappointment of the ‘many thousands’ who had longed for his coming to the places appointed; and then in the second, under date July 28th, 1738, he says, “Loving and dear Brother, - Within this fortnight I have written to you before. That serious, zealous, and pious man, Mr. William Thomas, clergyman at Lantwit-juxta-Neath, is very desirous to see and to have your company. He came purposely to hear you at the Abbey, but was disappointed and many thousands more. He was reproved by a bitter clergyman who lives at Neath. The clergy are divided one against another in our parts. A captain of the cock matches, who heard you at Bettws, promises never to follow that wicked game any [[@Page:55]]longer, and another dux omnium malorum, near the seaside, cut off the heads of his fighting birds when he went home after he heard you. I have seen him last Lord’s Day, and he appears a serious hearer. He invited me to his house. The praise is due to God alone. I find there is much reformation in many since you have been this way, which calls loudly upon you to come again as soon as possible. A great gentleman’s lady, a lawyer below us, is very much for coming to hear you, and he is contrary. I believe the devil has lost some skilful soldiers, who have enlisted themselves to be faithful soldiers under the great captain, our Lord Jesus. Remember me dearly to Mr. William Herbert, and all enquiring Christian friends. Oh pray that there would be more cannon sent to batter down the towers of Satan. I beg the help of your prayers and praises, and that the Lord would give more faith, humility, patience, and holy zeal. I love and long to see you.

“I rest your sincere friend, brother, and servant,

“Henry Davies.”

“P.S. - Favour me with a letter when you receive this, and let me know when you will come to our parts, and how the work of our great and good master, Jesus Christ, prospers in yours. Oh continue in prayer for your poor brother. I desire you to procure Mr. Griffith Jones’s letters from Mr. Rowlands, and if you can, prevail with him to come to these parts to preach the everlasting gospel. I shall endeavour to have a letter of consent from one of our clergy if he will come. Give my love and service to him.”

This last letter, and the postscript in particular, affords striking evidence, not only of the reforms effected by the ministry of Harris, but of the tendency of a religious awakening to merge every outward distinction into one high purpose and aim. The writer of the letter, Mr. Henry Davies, continued for many years on the friendliest terms with Harris, [[@Page:56]]and in one of his letters we find him desiring “your interest for a Welsh School near Aberpergwm.” Mr. Harris about this time received other invitations from the Rev. James Davies, of Merthyr Tydvil, and from the Rev. Vavasor Griffiths, of Radnorshire; but the testimonies to the work he was now accomplishing must be closed with the following two or three short communications.

“Pwllypant, Oct. 17th, 1738.

“Dear Sir, - I hope this will find you well. The bearer has been very wild, but has reformed exceedingly. Since he heard you last in our parish he frequents every meeting about, both upon week-nights as well as Lord’s Day. Meetings here are crowded. There be sixteen that have bespoke communion next time at Cardiff. Doors are opening in places not expected. Please to send me four or five hundred of Mr. Jones’s last book, and two or three hundred of the first. We have a Welsh School going up. I have no time or convenience to draw up a formal petition to Mr. Jones, but if he will trust me with twenty shillings a quarter, for one half-year, it will be sincerely disposed of this way in the most prudent manner I shall be capable of. They are this way pretty eager to learn. Yours, etc.,

“David Williams”

“Pwllypant, Nov. 17th, 1738.

“My very dear Friend, - Things have a comfortable aspect here at present. Praying societies go up everywhere. Seventeen have been admitted to communion last time; more have been proposed. We have a large Welsh School, in which praying is come to be fashionable, and have a mind to put another up. It will be a great kindness if Mr. Jones will be pleased to bestow something of his bounty here. I don’t see any of the clergy hereabout will act, save Mr. Thomas, of Gellygarw, whose wife and others of his people have been lately to hear me, and in return thereof many of our people [[@Page:57]]go to hear him next Lord’s Day. They have lately put up a sermon at Whitchurch to oppose us; and endeavour to make the people believe it is the house of God, and that His presence and blessing can be expected nowhere else. I propose it, not only as my own earnest desire, but that also of many besides, to have a visit from you about Christmas; I do not mean you should stand out publick at that time of the year. Pray get me six hundred more of Mr. Jones’s second book with all the speed you can. Send me as many as you have with the bearer. Present my humble service to Mr. Jones. Pray let me know what sort of Bibles those are which Mr. Jones has the offer of. Have they contents and marginal references? Yours, etc.,

“David Williams.”

“Pwllypant, Feb. 7th, 1739.

“Dear Sir, - Three societies now going on not far from Cardiff. The society in Cardiff present their love and service. We have received nine to our communion since you were here; and about so many more propose. I hope God has work for you to do in this country in the spring-time, more especially in Monmouthshire. There are calls for you; one by Newport town, all Welsh; the other by another town, Caerleon. I am their messenger to you. The societies meet at our house on Friday for prayer.

“David Williams.”

The foregoing letters are important as revealing the early catholicity of Harris’s spirit, and as showing the acclaim with which an undoubted man of God was hailed by the pious amongst all sects. Earnest churchmen rallied around him; whilst the zealous amongst the nonconformists offered up their prayers on his behalf, invited him to their several localities, and as a crowning acknowledgment of his undoubted right, in virtue of an inward impulse only, to reclaim the erring and reform the country, were pleased in their letters to dignify [[@Page:58]]him with a ministerial title, and address him as the Rev. Howell Harris.

In the meantime his converts were becoming numerous and his correspondents increasing. The following letters, showing the experience of his own heart, were written about this time.

“Trevecca, Oct. 24th, 1738.

“To Mr. H. G.”

“Dear Christian Friend, - I received your savoury letter last night, in which you make me see a cause for trembling and blushing in that you ask the advice and prayer of one so unfit for both. Oh that we could think of ourselves and others as we really are, vile and blind creatures. Oh that God would empty us of ourselves, and fill us with clearer sight and nobler ideas of His dear Son; how little would everything appear to us then; how sweet would revilings sound in our ears, while our eyes would be fixed on Jesus crucified. What are we that we should be counted worthy to suffer for His sake? Surely this is an honour which is above the reach of the carnal world, and which the King of heaven confers on but a few. Oh how humbly, then, should we lie at His feet admiring His free electing love, if in the least He distinguishes such poor vile worms as we are. Surely none stand in need of the prayers of prevailing saints as much as I do; therefore I desire that you would strive for me, that I may gain the conquest over self, my grand enemy, - that I may lie lower at my Saviour’s feet, accounting it my greatest honour if I should be thought worthy to be reviled for His sake.

“I hope you are admitted to have some cherishing smiles from Jesus. These will sweeten every affliction, temper all crosses, and season all the bitterest portions to us. Our dear Saviour is never dearer than when the battle is hottest. When enemies frown, ridicule, and threaten, - Oh, then, when the soul is humbled, the old man trampled under foot, and [[@Page:59]]faith kept in close exercise, how sweet is the private associating of sincere Christian soldiers who join together to send up hearty cries at the throne of grace! To have a fresh sight of the Captain will animate fainting souls. Oh! that we were laid low enough in the dust, and truly unbottomed of self; then could enemies without be little hindrance to us. But the great and willing Captain of salvation knows best how to marshal His army and exercise His soldiers. What we need examine most carefully is whether we are really and entirely His. I find a most deceitful heart within me, - now owning Him and promising great things, but which on trial will fail or betray me. I hope the main business of our acquaintance at home and abroad shall be to no other end but to encourage, caution, and try each other, that at last we may meet with the rest of the Lord’s faithful servants. Surely there are rewards enough to make amends in a few moments for the labours, fatigues, crosses, persecutions, and troubles of many ages spent here. Let us hold on our way then, since we are assured we have such a Captain who will never leave us, and being also assured our labours are not in vain in the Lord. Oh, how greatly doth my soul rejoice that God should own you in such a particular manner as to make your house His palace for feeding His little ones, and yourself a father to the babes now left to the jaws of lions were it not for an invisible hand. I hope you will by no means drop it, if you reap any benefit by meeting together, for fear of that poor worm, man. I rather fear the policy of Satan working on the inward man. Pray think when you meet in future of the poor little flock hereabouts, and receive the sincere love and most affectionate wishes of your sincere friend in Christ,

“Howell Harris.”

“Trevecca, Nov. 21, 1738.

“To Mr. M. P., in Bristol.

“Dear Brother in Christ, - I am so hurried about that I can hardly spare time according to my wish to correspond [[@Page:60]]with my dearest friends. But now I have stolen a few minutes to send you this letter, and wish that it may meet you near the gates of the New Jerusalem, ravished with the sight of Jesu’s infinite love. Oh that we could aim more at His glory here below, having our eyes and ears shut to the things of the world and the flesh. Oh that we had more of His humble, sincere, loving, and innocent spirit and nature; and that we could keep more close to Him, so that we should know more of Him, and be kept more tenderly affected towards His people, and be more humbly and prudently zealous and spiritually bold to stand up for Him against the raging villains and torrents of sin. Pray let us strengthen each other against this villain and enemy of souls, self. So likewise let us mutually assist each other to stir up our drowsy spirits so to talk, think of, and speak to this glorious Prince of Peace as is becoming in us towards so faithful, tender and loving, condescending and merciful a God and Redeemer. Let us not only act as moral men, but by our meek and innocent behaviour and mortifications, let us also convince the world that we have really our affections set on things above ([[Col. iii. 1 >> Col 3:1]], [[2>> Col 3:2]], [[5 >> Col 3:5]], [[13 >> Col 3:13]]). Oh that we were all love to this dear Jesus; and also more heavenly, more on the wings of faith and less on the ground. All our conversation should be in heaven, for there is our dear Jesus. Oh let us not delight in any thing or place wherein we may not hope to meet our sweet Lord. Oh that we may know Him more; then would our hearts be drawn into more ardent desires after Him; we should be more lively and vigorous to labour for Him, and more cheerful to suffer and undergo all the hardships we should meet with in following Him. What would sufferings, ridicule, losses, hunger, and even death itself be while His Spirit assists us? When you are drawn nearest to the Throne, or go into the Presence Chamber, I beg you would think of me as one that am very ignorant of the word of God, and very negligent. I fear I have never learnt well to be [[@Page:61]]quite unbottomed of self; nor am I yet able to do all clearly to the glory of Him to whom all the glory is due. But my dear Redeemer has done wonderfully for me; yet I find it very difficult to come from under, the covenant of works to that of grace; but this is yet within His power to accomplish or bring about. I have had some benefit from reading the “Sincere Convert,” and Bunyan’s “Law and Grace.”

“I find Satan, by a spirit of bigotry in all parties as well as with us, has affected to do great mischief in many places among Christ’s little flock, to embitter their spirit against others of a different persuasion, and diverting their thoughts from the substance to the shadow of religion. Oh how should our souls rejoice that our days are reforming days. There is a hopeful prospect in some places that would rejoice your soul. We have several societies, in this and other counties, of young people meeting together to pray and converse. Some are of a year’s standing and some more. The clergy have opposed us, but God hath awakened some and made them able ministers of His truth.

“You have heard of the Rev. Mr. Griffith Jones, of Carmarthenshire; and the Rev. Mr. Rowlands, of Cardiganshire; and some other clergymen in this county who preach Christ powerfully. There is also in these parts a Baptist preacher that God has owned very much, together with some other dissenting ministers.

“Thus I have given you a hint how our King’s interest prospers in Wales. Oh pray heartily in private and public that conviction may end in true conversion, and that we should not rest till we have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and increase in all the increase of God.

“I am, your most affectionate, hearty well-wisher,

“Howell Harris.”




Chapter VI

THE countenance accorded Howell Harris in the prosecution of his work by the godly of all sects was undoubtedly a source of consolation; but it failed, notwithstanding his unflagging activity, to allay a certain uneasiness which he had concerning the rightfulness of his itinerant and unauthorized method of procedure; and it must have been an additional comfort whenever a new voice came to cheer him in his work. Such a comfort was now forthcoming. “About this time,” he writes, “I heard by a friend that came from London of a young clergyman, namely, Mr. Whitfield, that preached four times a day and was much blessed. On hearing this my heart was united to him in such a manner that I never felt the like connection with anyone before; but yet I had not the least prospect of ever seeing him, being informed that he had gone beyond the sea, it being his first voyage to America. But about the end of 1738 I was agreeably surprised by a letter from him. He having providentially heard of me, wrote to encourage me to go on.” The letter Mr. Whitfield sent was dated London, December 2otK, 1738, and was to the following effect:

“My Dear Brother, - Though I am unknown to you in person, yet I have long been united to you in spirit, and have been rejoiced to hear how the good pleasure of the Lord hath prospered in your hands. Go on, my dear brother, go on; be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might; and [[@Page:63]]the spirit of Christ and of glory shall rest upon you most effectually; which has opened, and is still opening doors before you, for preaching the everlasting Gospel. There have been and will be many adversaries; yet be not afraid. He that sent you will assist, comfort, and protect you, and make you more than conqueror through His great love. I am a living monument of this truth; for the divine strength has been often magnified in my weakness; I have tasted that the Lord is gracious; I have felt His power; and from mine own experience can say that, in doing or suffering the will of Jesus Christ there is great reward. Blessed be His holy name, there seems to be a great out-pouring of the spirit in London; and we walk in the comfort of the Holy Ghost and are edified. You see, my dear brother, the freedom I have taken in writing to you; if you would favour me with a line or two by way of answer you would really rejoice both me and many others; why should we not tell one another what God has done for our souls? My dear brother, I love you in the bowels of Jesus Christ, and wish you may be the spiritual father of thousands, and shine as the sun in the firmament in the kingdom of our heavenly Father. My hearty love to Mr. Jones. Oh, how shall I joy to meet you at the judgment-seat of Christ. How could you honour- me, if you could send a line to your affectionate, though unworthy brother in Christ,

“George Whitfield.”

To the foregoing warm-hearted salutation Mr. Harris sent the following reply:

“Glamorgan, Jan. 8th, 1739.

“Dear Brother, - I was most agreeably surprised last night by a letter from you. The character you bear, the spirit that is seen and felt in your work, and the close union of my soul to yours will not allow me to use any apology in my return to you. Though this is the first time of our correspondence, yet I can assure you I am no stranger to you. [[@Page:64]]When I first heard of you, and your labours, and success, my soul was united to you, and engaged to send addresses to heaven on your behalf. When I read your diary I had some uncommon influence of the divine presence shining on my poor soul almost continually, and my soul was in an uncommon manner drawn out on your account; but I little thought our good Lord and Master intended I should ever see your handwriting. I hope we shall be taught more and more to admire the wonderful goodness of God in his acts of free grace. Surely no person is under such obligation to advance the glory of free grace as this poor prodigal. But alas, how little sense of all his wonderful blessings is in my soul! Pray for me that my heart may b