The Nature of Christian Experience: The Great Awakening in Wales -- By: Eifion Evans
RAR 11:3 (Summer 2002) p. 74
The Nature of Christian Experience: The Great Awakening in Wales
From the earliest days of the great revival in Wales in the eighteenth century, comparisons were made with the Great Awakening in New England. Jonathan Edwards’ Narrative of Surprising Conversions had appeared in England in 1737, and a copy of it was being shared by the Welsh leaders, Daniel Rowland and Howel Harris, in the following year. They were joined in their appreciation of Edwards by their fellow worker, William Williams, who wrote in 1745 of Edwards’ Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England, that it was the “best book I have seen to that purpose, it gave me more light in some things.”1 As the revival progressed, Rowland was to be the preacher, Harris the organizer, and Williams the writer, along with many others whom God used at the time. Through their joint labors, under the blessing of God, the work prospered by the careful application of biblical principles with regard to its spread and consolidation. One of their chief concerns was to examine, monitor, and promote the experiences of those who professed faith in Christ. In this respect the work of Edwards assisted them greatly.
Few would deny that a definition of genuine Christian experience, and of the means of its solid nature, is important. In revival, the task becomes even more necessary and urgent, for although its essential nature is always the same, with vast
RAR 11:3 (Summer 2002) p. 75
numbers under religious impressions and the Satanic counterfeit inevitably rampant, such times of extraordinary spiritual activity demand immediate attention and acute biblical proficiency. In our day, too, the matter has priority, since there is much confusion in the midst of contemporary psychological, psychosomatic, and quasi-religious phenomena. While biblical standards allow variety in true Christian experience, they do not concede validity to all spiritual responses, however Christian the context may be. Consequently, a study of the provision made by the leaders of the Great Awakening in their day may also be salutary and profitable in ours.
In Wales it was William Williams who excelled in the matter of providing spiritual counsel. Let me introduce him to you. He is known chiefly as a hymnwriter, and his hymn, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” is sung all over the world. Born in 1717 and converted at the age of 21 under the open-air preaching of Howel Harris, he was ordained a clergyman in 1740. Three years later his revival activities brought upon him the opposition of the Anglican Church authorities, and he joined the emerging Welsh Calvinistic Methodist...
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