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

By David CERI Jones | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 1750

By 1750 the Welsh Methodists’ expectation that the evangelical revival would usher in the millennial reign of Christ had been replaced by fears that the revival was in grave danger and that its future was far from secure. This can be seen particularly clearly in the Welsh Methodists’ relations with the wider evangelical community. Between 1739 and 1750 Howel Harris had been the focus of their interaction with the wider evangelical revival. Capitalizing on his friendship with George Whitefield, he had introduced them to this evangelical community and had publicized the Welsh awakening at every conceivable opportunity. Although much of this activity had occurred on Harris’s initiative, he had been able to transmit his infectious enthusiasm to many of his followers. In this way the rank-and-file members of the Welsh revival discovered a whole range of ways in which they could participate in the collective understanding of the experience of revival and engage with a community that had far wider boundaries than their own immediate localities. Yet by the late 1740s Welsh participation in this vibrant community was under threat. Its chief supporter in Wales, Howel Harris, had become the focus of considerable controversy. When he was eventually dismissed from the leadership of the English revival at the beginning of 1750 and was ousted from his position in Wales later that same year, the international communications network in Wales atrophied. Daniel Rowland, as has been pointed out, had never accorded it the same priority as Harris, and without Harris’s network of contacts many ‘ordinary’ Welsh Methodists lost much of their interest in the wider movement, as they became engrossed in the struggle for their own survival.

Harris had finally accepted the leadership of English Calvinistic Methodism in April 1749, after having deputized for Whitefield for the previous four years. Prospects for the revival initially seemed good. In July, Harris testified to a renewal of his

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