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

By David CERI Jones | Go to book overview

‘THE POURING OUT OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD’: AN
INTERNATIONAL EVANGELICAL AWAKENING

The Welsh Methodist revival sprang from the same soil as the rest of the evangelical revival, and Wales was, significantly, the first part of the British Isles to boast an indigenous evangelical renewal movement. From its commencement in 1735 until its disruption following the schism between Howel Harris and Daniel Rowland in 1750, every aspect of the development of the Welsh revival took place in a context far wider than that prescribed by Wales’s own geographical boundaries. The revival in Wales had its immediate origins in the experience of the unordained Howel Harris, a schoolteacher from Talgarth near Brecon,1 and Daniel Rowland, a Church of England curate in the two parishes of Llangeitho and Nantcwnlle in north Cardiganshire.2 In 1735 both men experienced profound religious conversions that propelled them towards embarking upon highly dramatic preaching careers which quickly gained them a measure of fame and notoriety in their respective communities. Harris, ever conscious of his lay status, began his public ministry by reading the sermons of others in the homes of his immediate neighbours but soon developed a remarkable propensity for exhorting – an activity that he favoured over more formal preaching and which avoided the potential for embarrassment over his lack of clerical ordination. By the end of 1736, Harris had organized a small group of his most avid followers into a modest religious society at Y Wernos near Builth, and other similar groups followed quickly, so that by March 1739 he could boast that he had established a network of thirty religious societies in Breconshire3 over which he exercised almost dictatorial control. He had also begun to preach

1 The best studies of Harris’s early life and conversion are Geraint Tudur, Howell Harris: From Conversion to Separation, 1735–1750 (Cardiff, 2000), pp. 13–37; Eifion Evans, Howell Harris: Evangelist, 1714–1773 (Cardiff, 1974), pp. 1–10; and Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Howell Harris, 1714–1773: The Last Enthusiast (Cardiff, 1965).

2 For Daniel Rowland’s early development as a revivalist see Evans, Daniel Rowland, pp. 27–35 and D. J. Odwyn Jones, Daniel Rowland, Llangeitho (Llandysul, 1938).

3 Evans, Howell Harris, p. 22.

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