Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Conversion of Howell Harris 1: Conviction

Howell Harris was the son of a carpenter from Llangadog, which, one might observe, was no bad lineage. He was educated in the Dissenting Academy of Llywnllwyd, despite being a churchman. This, according to Gwynfor Evans, ‘gave a better education at that time than the old universities of England.’ Be that as it may, Harris was admitted to Oxford. He only lasted a week, although to the end of his days Harris would proudly declare that he was an Oxford Scholar.

With his education, Harris was able to set himself up as a schoolmaster at Trefecca (there are at least three correct spellings), in the parish of Talgarth, Breconshire. It was in the Church there, on Palm Sunday (30 March), 1735, that Howel Harris was convicted of sin. The Vicar, the Rev. Pryce Davies, was warning his congregation about the dangers of not receiving Holy Communion. In the course of his sermon, the Vicar exclaimed: ‘If you are not fit to come to the Lord’s Table, you are not fit to come to Church, you are not fit to live, nor fit to die.’

These words struck Howell Harris like a sledge-hammer. He decided there and then to leave all habits that he could not reconcile with the Word of God. On the way home from Church, he hurried to the house of a neighbour with whom he had a quarrel and would not leave until the issue was settled. He devoured devotional books and prayed fifteen times a day. It was not enough, however. Harris still felt the corruption in his own heart and did not know how to lose this burden.



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