'A Glorious Work in the World': Welsh Methodism and the International Evangelical Revival, 1735-1750

By David CERI Jones | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

In September 1751, Howel Harris (1714–73) set out on another of his extended visits to London, in the hope that he would be able to recapture some of the energy and fire that he felt he had lost. However, the circumstances in which he arrived in the city on this occasion were very different from those to which he had grown accustomed. There was no hero’s welcome at George Whitefield’s Tabernacle any longer and no crowded and expectant societies waiting to see him and hang upon his every word. A forlorn and dejected Harris, having recently been ostracized so publicly by his English and Welsh Methodist friends, had retreated to his home at Trefeca with only a small rump of supporters, while his old rival, Daniel Rowland (1711–90), had taken over the leadership of the revival in Wales. In his diary, Harris, now suddenly an outsider, tried to bestir himself by reminding himself of the heady days of the mid-1730s and 1740s when he, George Whitefield (1714–70) and John Wesley (1703–91) had stood at the apex of a genuinely international renewal movement that seemed, to them at least, to presage nothing less than the climax of the whole history of redemption. Harris therefore reminded himself of ‘ye Universality of this last awakeng among many nations, in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, America, Germany, France, Swedeland &c.’1 His ability to take such an all-embracing view of the evangelical revival was the result of his fifteen-year career as a revivalist, during which he had placed himself at the hub of a religious revival that was, in John Walsh’s memorable phrase, ‘an international and pan-Protestant phenomenon’.2

1 National Library of Wales, Calvinistic Methodist Archive, Howel Harris’s Diary (hereafter HHD) 152b: 9 September 1751.

2 John Walsh, ‘“Methodism” and the origins of English-speaking evangelicalism’, in Mark A. Noll, David W. Bebbington and George A. Rawlyk (eds), Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles, and Beyond 1700–1990 (New York, 1994), p. 20.

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