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Discussion Forum : Revivals And Church History : Howell Harris, revival, and the outpouring of the Spirit

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Joined: 2010/12/7
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"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11

 Howell Harris, revival, and the outpouring of the Spirit

"...what is revival? Revival is an outpouring of the Spirit of God. It is a kind of repetition of Pentecost. It is the Spirit descending upon people. This needs to be emphasized in this present age. For we have been told so much recently by some that every man at regeneration receives the baptism of the Spirit, and all he has to do after that is to surrender to what he has already. But revival does not come as a result of a man surrendering to what he already has; it is the Spirit being poured out upon him, descending upon him, as happened on the day of Pentecost...

We come.. to that crucial experience, to which I have referred, which took place on June 18th 1735, when he was in the tower of the church at Llangasty. To me, this is the key to the understanding of Howell Harris, as it is the key to the understanding of Revival. I am amazed that both Dr. Geoffrey Nuttall and Professor Buick Knox make no reference to this at all. Others deal with it in a very cursory manner too - they just slip it in as one of the facts and one of the events - but as I have always understood this man's story, and as I still understand it more and more, you cannot explain him or understand him, or what happened through him, except in the light of this crucial experience of June 18th.

Here let me recommend the little book published by the Banner of Truth a number of years back. It is called The Early Life of Howell Harris by Richard Bennett - in the original Welsh it isThe Dawn of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism. Bennett gives an excellent account of this crucial experience. What was it? To me, there is only one expression to use. It was the expression used by these men themselves and by their successors. It was a baptism 'of fire' or a 'baptism of power'.

What I would emphasize particularly is that Harris was already converted, had already received forgiveness of sins, and he knew that he had it, and had been dancing in joy. But it was now just over three weeks later that he received this crucial experience which turned him into a flaming evangelist. What was it? This is how he describes what happened as he was there sitting in the tower and reading and praying: 'Suddenly I felt my heart melting within me like wax before a fire, and love to God for my Saviour. I felt also not only love and peace, but a longing to die and to be with Christ. Then there came a cry into my soul within that I had never known before - Abba, Father! I could do nothing but call God my Father. I knew that I was His child, and He loved me and was listening to me. My mind was satisfied and I cried out, Now I am satisfied! Give me strength and I will follow Thee through water and fire'.

As Richard Bennett says, 'Doubtless the experience of forgiveness in Talgarth church was sweet. Yet it left a feeling of further need in his soul which he could not define. But when he was at secret prayer in Llangasty church, God now gave Himself to him. He was there cleansed from all his idols, and the love of God was shed abroad in his heart. Christ had come in previously, but now He began to sup with him; now he received the Spirit of adoption, teaching him to cry "Abba, Father," and with it a desire to depart and be with Christ. All his fears vanished for months and pure love took their place'.

That is the account of this crucial experience; and I emphasize that it was the crucial experience. I do so by showing how Harris keeps on referring to it. He never forgot it. It was the biggest and most momentous event in his life. If you read his diaries or extracts from them, you will find that when he comes to June 18th he generally refers to what happened to him in Llangasty church. It is to this he points back rather than to what happened on Whit Sunday in the month of May.

For instance, in 1739 he writes in his diary on this date, 'The love of God was shed in my heart four years ago to give myself to God'. Again in 1746, 'A day to me mentorable. This day 11 years ago I was sealed to the day of redemption'. Again, 'Had a seal through reading Revelation 21: 7. Oh! sweet day. I had this before in Llangasty church of old, but through yielding to sin and carelessness and being curbed by almost-christians, and because it was not given through a Scriptural promise I fell again into doubts'. On June 29th, 1763 he seems a bit confused with his dates, but he writes, 'This day 28 years ago I was (when I did not seek it as I had never heard of it) sealed by the Spirit of adoption and feeling that I loved God with all my heart, that I was in God and He in me. I longed to be dissolved and to be with my own dear Father'.

Another very interesting reference in his diaries - not to his own experience but to an experience of a little maid - must be quoted in this connection. 'The Lord revealed Himself to her in an amazing manner for some hours, so that she was lost in His love that she knew not where she was. Sinking to nothing in the discovery of his majesty and glory in Jesus Christ her eternal portion, and by the uncommon earnestness the Spirit gave her to pray for the church, she thought an uncommon work on the earth. Many such instances of the outpouring of the Spirit have we among us'.

If you read extracts from his diaries you will find that this is his constant emphasis, this to him was the turning-point, the crucial event that made him an evangelist, it is essential to an understanding of Revival. We can further demonstrate this by showing that he had several repetitions of this, refers to it, and reminds himself of it, or the date brings it back to him, he also had similar experiences. Richard referring to events in 1736 says, 'He speaks again and again of a spiritual feast which he enjoyed about this time on Grwyne Fechan mountain while returning home from Cwm Ian, for he seemed to see God so smiling upon him that his heart was near to bursting under the powerful influences of divine love. The place became a holy mountain for him ever afterwards.' Although his body was weak and aching, and though he could eat nothing, the realities of the spiritual world appeared so naked to his mind throughout the time, that his weak body was clothed with unparalleled power, so that his very appearance dispelled all opposition.

Another extract from his diary says, 'In private society till two in the morning like a drunken man. Could say nothing but glory, glory, for a long time. Who can write all the Lord did here?' In 1747, 'God came down as He used in Wales and our hearts did burn within us'. This was in London. He has a reference then to Lady Huntingdon, 'Hearing her declaring her sentiments of the new birth, and all she insists on from the bishops is the necessity of knowing forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Ghost'. May 1749, 'The Lord came, overpowering me with love like a mighty, torrent that I could not withstand or reason against or doubt'. There is always this distinction between receiving forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Ghost; in other words, the difference between what happened to him on Whit Sunday 1735 and what happened to him on June 18th in the same year."

- Martin Lloyd-Jones

 2015/7/29 12:20Profile

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