This is the day that … Howell Harris died, in 1773, “loyal to the last to the church whose sacraments he had been denied. His funeral was attended by 20,000 people.”
He was born in Wales on 23 January 1714, and early in life he decided to become a Church of England clergyman.
By the age of 17 he was “playing cards and drinking, dice-playing and gossiping,” and by his own confession, living “like a hypocrite.”
But on Palm Sunday, 1735, the vicar of the church he attended said: “If you are not fit to come to the Lord’s Table, you are not fit to come to church, not fit to live, not fit to die.” Thus began his pilgrimage to the Father’s House, and on 25 May of that same year he was able to rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven.
Although he became a member of the Established Church, he was never an ordained clergyman, and the more he sought the friendship of his non-Anglican brethren the more his church parted company with him.
He is remembered as the founder of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church, and a remarkable revivalist. Thousands gathered to hear his open-air preaching. “Two thousand people once stood two hours in drenching rain unable to tear themselves away from the spell of Harris’ eloquence.”
It was he who influenced George Whitefield to take his pulpit to the fields.
At times he was subjected to the fury of mobs – especially at Bala in 1741. At Caerleon the angry crowd attacked, and Harris’ fellow preacher was blinded in one eye.
Arnold Dallimore describes him as “the greatest Welshman of that day and, indeed, as among the greatest men that Wales ever produced” (Biography of G. Whitefield, Volume 1, page 246).
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.