At midnight when I would see lightening in the sky or the Northern Lights, my soul would be ready to burst my body with joy, being in hopes Christ was coming to judgment." So wrote Howel Harris, expressing the freshness of his delight in Christ after his conversion.
March, 1735 marked the beginning of his turn toward God. Although a divinity student, planning to enter the ministry, he had not experienced the life of Christ within him. On the contrary, he was a wild and inconsiderate youth, troubled by twitches of conscience, perhaps, but lacking the principle of spiritual life. Later he would say, "I can't reckon anyone safe until he has the indwelling of God in him."
But on this day, March 30, 1735, Pryce Davies, Vicar of Talgarth, preached a sermon upon the duty of partaking of the Lord's Supper. Little could Davies have anticipated the importance of that sermon. Howel was so moved that he resolved to change course and lead a new life. The following Sunday, April 6th of 1735, he partook of the Lord's Supper. But Howel's conversion was not yet complete.
God used a book to open Howel's eyes to his need for a savior. That book was Richard Allestree's The Whole Duty of Man. It brought Howel to a deep sense of sin and of his need to have a share in Christ. Partaking of the sacrament on April 20th, he experienced an assurance of pardon for all that he done wrong. Temptations followed. Finally on June 18, 1735, he discovered peace in the gospel assurance that God is unchanging. Howel described his new assurance as being "sealed." He felt compelled to tell others about God's kindness, and was sure doors would open to permit him to do so.
He began work at once by leading family devotions at home. Soon neighbors were joining him for prayer. After a term at Oxford, he returned home early in 1736 to begin spreading the gospel vigorously. God seemed to be with him. The results were amazing. "He found a nation slumbering; he left it awake," wrote H. Elvet Lewis.
Howel often preached five sermons a day. Gifted with a strong voice and a commanding personality, he displayed great earnestness in preaching against sin and warning of the judgment that is coming on all men. Within a few years, he had preached to the entire principality of Wales. Thousands who heard him became followers of Christ. Although never ordained, Howel Harris became a founder of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, and an inspiration to another notable evangelist--George Whitefield.
Hostile mobs and attempts on his life did not slow him down. Neither did rejection by the Church of England, which was uneasy with his enthusiasm. That he kept his enthusiasm all of his short life is confirmed by the diary he wrote. "I sang and triumphed all the way through the streets to the tower." He wept easily and longed for the work of the Holy Spirit in all men. "Seeing from the top of a hill the country and plain all before me, I was under such an influence that I could not help crying and pleading for all being filled with love."
- Dallimore, Arnold A.George Whitefield; Life and times of the great evangelist of the 18th century revival. London: Banner of Truth, 1970; especially pp. 233ff.
- Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity. Carmel, N.Y.: Guideposts, 1977.
- "Harris, Howel." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.
- "Harris, Howel(l)." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
- "Howel Harris." A Short History of Wales. htp://www.red4.co.uk/ebooks/shorthistory/howelharris.htm. enthusiast. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1965.
- Various books on the Countess of Huntingdon and internet articles.