Wednesday, December 14, 2016

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Surgeon of Souls

             On December 22, 1899, newspapers in America and Great Britain announced that the famous evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, who had preached to thousands on both sides of the Atlantic, had died. The press had no reason to note the birth of a baby boy two days earlier to grocer Henry Lloyd-Jones and his wife Magdalene in Cardiff, South Wales. Yet that boy -- David Martyn Lloyd-Jones – would grow up to be one of the most influential voices in 20th century Christianity. Some would call him “the modern Moody,” and others, “the last of the Calvinistic preachers.”
            In 1905, the Great Welsh Revival, with its epicenter near Cardiff, was in its waning stages. But what occupied the heart of Henry and “Maggie” Lloyd-Jones was nostalgia for their native Cardiganshire. Henry sold his grocery store and house on Donald Street in Cardiff and moved his wife and three boys – Harold, Martyn, and Vincent – to their new home. There the family joined the Calvinistic Methodist chapel, whose pastor had no sympathy for the “emotionalism” of the revival. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones recalled:

“Our minister was a moral, legalistic man . . . I do not remember that he ever preached the Gospel, and none of us had any idea of the Gospel. He and the head deacon, John Rowlands, looked upon themselves as scholars. Neither had any sympathy for the revival of 1904-05 . . .” (Murray, 1982, 3)

            Still, young Martyn received a solid grounding in Christian theology through his catechetical studies, and he gained something else: pride in his Welsh identity. His parents had followed a tradition, carried over from his mother’s family, of speaking to the children in English, while conversing with each other in Welsh. After about a year in strongly Welsh-speaking Cardiganshire, Martyn pleaded with his schoolmates: “Speak Welsh to me – I’m a Welshman now!” (Murray, 1982, 5)
            And a Welshman he was, with the budding eloquence of the bards and the fiery conviction of the Welsh evangelists of old. But it would be many years before these gifts would find full fruition.
            Although the Lloyd-Jones brothers delighted in theological debate, their primary concern by their teenage years was for their careers. Martyn’s interest was in medicine. In 1914 financial failure forced Henry Lloyd-Jones to seek opportunities outside Wales, finally settling in London, where Martyn attended Marylebone Grammar School. At age sixteen Martyn was accepted into medical school at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where he distinguished himself, qualifying as Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, and M.D. Upon completion of his training, Martyn was offered the position of Chief Clinical Assistant to the renowned Royal Physician Sir Thomas Horder. He enthusiastically accepted.
            While he was distinguishing himself in the medical world, Martyn was also active in his local Calvinistic Methodist chapel at Charing Cross where his future wife, Bethan Phillips, also a medical student and daughter of a respected eye surgeon, attended.
            But another nearby chapel was about to have a profound influence on the direction of Martyn’s life. A certain Mrs. Brandon, a regular customer at Henry Jones’s dairy shop, invited the Lloyd-Joneses to attend services at Westminster Chapel in Buckingham Gate, where the dynamic preacher G. Campbell Morgan was pastor. Though Westminster Chapel was a short walk from their home, the Lloyd-Joneses were committed to their congregation at Charing Cross, where they could speak Welsh and sing Welsh hymns. Martyn did, however, attend Westminster on occasion, especially when the outstanding Welsh preacher Dr. Thomas Charles Williams was the visiting speaker. Scarcely could Martyn, aspiring to a medical career, have imagined that he would one day be successor to G. Campbell Morgan and preach at Westminster Chapel for nearly thirty years!
            In his mid-twenties, Martyn began to sense that all was not well in his spiritual life. Many factors in his life and in the world in general awakened him to the fact that the solution to the problems of mankind lay not in medicine, nor in politics. The problem was not in external factors but in the heart of man himself. This led to a startling personal conclusion: Though he had attended church all his life, read the Bible, taught Sunday school, and been esteemed a fine Christian by all, “[God] brought me to know that I was dead, ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ a slave to the world, and the flesh, and the devil . . . . My trouble was not only that I did things that were wrong, but that I myself was wrong at the very center of my being” (Murray, 1982, 64).    Through this awakening Martyn came to understand the magnitude of God’s grace and Christ’s full atonement for his sins. That time of spiritual crisis from 1923-24 changed the course of his life, though he did not yet realize just how greatly.
            On February 6, 1925, Martyn gave an address to the Literary and Debate Society titled “The Tragedy of Modern Wales,” in which he expressed his profound concern for the spiritual condition of the principality. “It is my love and my devotion to the Wales of the past that makes me talk about the tragedy of Modern Wales. . . . My waking hours are filled with thoughts about her, and in my dreams I cannot escape from her; indeed everything else seems to be relative and subsidiary” (Murray, 1982, 67). This address was given shortly after he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons, yet that honor paled before the calling he increasingly felt to minister to his Welsh people.
            In 1926, he proposed to Bethan Phillips, who had just received her medical degrees. She accepted, knowing full well that she would not be marrying an esteemed surgeon and medical researcher but a nonconformist minister, most likely of some small church in Wales. Martyn’s decision to leave the medical practice in favor of the ministry met with mixed reactions. His response was succinct:  “I gave up nothing. I received everything. I count it the highest honour God can confer on any man to call him to be a herald of the gospel.” (Murray, 1982, 150)
            In 1927, shortly after Martyn’s marriage to Bethan, the couple moved to Aberavon where Martyn began his ministry at the Forward Movement mission chapel in Sandfields, a rough, working-class area in which church attendance had fallen off severely. Novelist Rhys Davies, in his memoir, My Wales, describes the impact of Lloyd-Jones’s decision:

Dr. Lloyd-Jones first attracted celebrity by abandoning his prosperous Harley Street medical practice and going down to Wales as a full-time missionary in a poor Glamorganshire district. The romantic heart of Wales was touched: it was won when chapels all over the country invited him to prove his oratorical gifts in their pulpits. (Cited in Murray, 1982, 312)

            Attendance at the Forward Movement chapel in Sandfields grew rapidly, as did the reputation of the preacher who came to be known through Wales and eventually the whole Christian world as “The Doctor.” Requests for him to speak began to come from all parts of the U. K. and America, from various denominations. Lloyd-Jones became involved in campus ministry through Inter-Varsity Fellowship, speaking in universities in the U.K. and the United States. In December 1935 he addressed a capacity crowd at the Royal Albert Hall on the need for the proclamation and application of the great truths of the Bible.
            After a 1937 preaching tour in America, during which G. Campbell Morgan made a special effort to hear him preach, Lloyd-Jones had the strong impression that his ministry in Sandfields was coming to a close. So in the summer of 1938, Martyn accepted a call to serve as assistant pastor to the aging Morgan at Westminster Chapel, where he succeeded Morgan as senior pastor for thirty years. During those decades at Westminster, Lloyd-Jones’s fame as an outstanding expositor of Scripture grew and many volumes of his sermons became valued possessions of pastors and seminary students.
            In 1968, major cancer surgery curtailed his ministry and he devoted himself to conference speaking, counseling young ministers, and writing. The cancer returned in 1979 and his condition grew worse throughout the following year. In early 1981 he knew his departure was near. He instructed Bethan and his daughters: “Don’t pray for healing, don’t try to hold me back from the glory” (Fritzius, 2016). David Martyn Lloyd-Jones went to his glory on the most fitting day for any Welsh preacher: St. David’s Day, March 1, 1981. His legacy continues in the lives of countless preachers, Welsh and otherwise, who have been influenced by his sermons, lectures, and stalwart example.

Fritzius, J. M. (2016, January 5). Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). Retrieved from tlogical:
Murray, I. H. (1982). D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, 1899-1939. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust.
Murray, I. H. (1990). D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith, 1939-1981. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust.

First published in the Welsh-American newspaper Ninnau & Y Drych, March-April, 2016.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Howell Harris and the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists

            Only among the Welsh are the terms ‘Calvinistic’ and ‘Methodist’ mutually compatible. In America, the very mention of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists brings a chuckle of disbelief. That’s because nearly all branches of Methodism trace their origin to Anglican priests John and Charles Wesley, both staunch anti-Calvinists. Yet, three years before the Wesleys found peace with God, a bold evangelist in Wales was preaching to burgeoning crowds which he later organized into “Societies,” small groups of converts who met for mutual encouragement. Those Societies were the start of Methodism in Wales.
            Because the influence of Howell Harris and Daniel Rowland was so pervasive in Wales, the Methodist Societies there became strongly Calvinistic and were later considered to be synonymous with Presbyterianism. Ironically, Howell Harris was loyal to the Established (Anglican) Church before and after his conversion. In fact, he had harsh words for Dissenters, labeling them “a perverted and dangerously erroneous set of people.” Yet after he began his evangelistic ministry, he found more support from the Dissenters than from Anglican clerics, the latter preaching against him as “a false prophet” and “a deceiver.”
            Those who knew Howell Harris before his conversion would never have expected him to become an advocate of holiness. By his own testimony he had a combative temperament and was given to extreme vanity:

When I was at school, although small in stature, I was ever ready to fight, even with friends. I harboured hatred towards those who treated me shabbily, and despised those of my own family when I wore a new suit of clothes. I was skillful at lying to my mother, teacher, or anyone ill-treated by me, and crafty in framing excuses for breaking the Sabbath. (Harris, Autobiography)

            That all changed on Palm Sunday, 1735, when the twenty-one year old Harris heard the Vicar of Talgarth Church admonish the congregation: “If you are not fit to come to the Lord’s table, you are not fit to live, and you are not fit to die!” Harris was profoundly smitten by those words. “All my natural faculties were confounded in the shock,” he wrote. He began immediately to amend his ways, exercising religious duties faithfully and making restitution to those he had wronged. Yet he found no peace in his good works.
            As Whitsunday approached, Harris fasted from Thursday to Sunday, and he recorded all the sins he could remember from age four. During this agony of spirit, “he felt the strong urge to give himself to God” (Dallimore, 237). It was at last this abandonment of his own efforts and his trust in the complete atonement of Christ that brought peace and transformation to Howell Harris. “I knew that my sins were forgiven me . . . I was so deeply convinced that nothing could shake my assurance of it.” His old life of vainglory also vanished: “Now, the world and all thoughts of human applause and preferment were quite vanished from my sight.” (Autobiography)
            Harris wasted no time in sharing his new life with his “fellow sinners”. Finding no churches willing to accommodate his preaching, he took to the open air, which set a trend that was to be followed by Rowland, Whitefield, and later John Wesley. His extemporaneous preaching found a welcome response from multitudes across Wales, but it also stirred opposition from all ranks of society. Mobs, sometimes led by clergymen reviling him in the same coarse language as the common folk, accosted him, “flinging stones or anything they could lay their hands on.” Once while Harris was preaching from a second story window in Machynlleth, a crowd led by a lawyer, a clergyman, and “a gentleman” began hurling stones and swearing at him. “One of them discharged a pistol at me,” he recalled. “I received no hurt, but was obliged to go among them into the street, not expecting that I should escape alive . . . But my hour was not yet come.” (Autobiography)
            Despite the ill treatment he received from Anglican clergy, he remained loyal to the Established Church. He entered St. Mary’s Hall, Oxford, hoping to attain ordination, “but when I saw the irregularities and immoralities which surrounded me there, I became soon weary of the place.” He returned to Wales and resumed his itinerant preaching and teaching, in spite of Anglican rules against un-ordained religious teachers.

A strong necessity was laid upon me . . . I could not meet or travel with anybody, rich or poor, young or old, without speaking to them concerning  their souls. (Autobiography)

            Harris applied twice to the Anglican bishops for ordination, but was – not surprisingly – refused because of his Methodism. His denunciation of Established Church clergy trumpeted like Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees of His day:

Many who wear the cloth . . . what good they do I know not. Because I led some hundreds of ignorant people to a knowledge of what it means to be Christians, to live in peace and to exercise morality, I am called a madman by those who claim the office of enlightening the people who are in darkness.

            In 1752 Harris founded a Christian community after the Moravian model and called it Teulu Trefeca (The Trefeca Family), which later became Trevecca College. Harris died in 1773 at his home in Trefeca Fach and was buried nearby. It was reported that nearly 20,000 people attended his funeral.
            Harris’s open-air preaching not only inspired other revivalist preachers, such as George Whitefield, John Wesley, and American evangelist Samuel Davies, but it laid the foundation for the 19th- and 20th-century mass evangelism of D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham.

Dallimore, Arnold. George Whitefield, vol.1
Douglas, J. D. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church.
Harris, Howell. Autobiography. Kindle edition

(First Published in the Welsh-American newspaper Ninnau & Y Drych, May-June, 2016

Samuel Davies - Evangelist of Religious Liberty

             In a Presbyterian meeting house in Hanover County, Virginia, a bright young boy listened intently to the preacher, trying his best to absorb every word. He had too. For he knew that his mother and older sister would quiz him on the sermon during the carriage ride home. That boy would grow up to be the eloquent American patriot Patrick Henry, who would credit that influential preacher for much of his oratorical skill, as well as his view of liberty. That preacher was Samuel Davies, acclaimed as “the outstanding preacher of Colonial America” and “the animating soul of the whole dissenting interest in Virginia and North Carolina” (Sweet, 65).
            In the struggle for religious liberty in the American colonies, two Welshmen stand out: Roger Williams in New England (see Ninnau July-August 2015) and Samuel Davies in Virginia and North Carolina.
            Samuel Davies was born November 3, 1723, to David and Martha Davies, Welsh Baptists of New Castle County, Delaware. The Davieses were deeply religious, and Martha named her son after the prophet Samuel with the hope that he would enter the ministry. Yet when Samuel was of age, the Davieses lacked the finances for a university education, so they sent him to be tutored by the Rev. Samuel Blair in Blair’s academy in Faggs Manor, Pennsylvania. Blair’s institution was one of several disparagingly dubbed “log colleges.” The first so-called Log College was founded in 1735 by the Rev. William Tennent to educate his younger sons and other promising young men for the ministry, one of whom was Samuel Blair. After Blair assumed a pastorate in Chester County, Pennsylvania, he opened an academy similar to Tennent’s. Samuel Davies was to be his most renowned graduate and leader of The Great Awakening in the Southern Colonies, particularly in Virginia.
            The Anglican Church had held official status in Virginia since its founding, receiving tax support from the colonial legislature. Dissenting religious groups were tolerated, but their right to formal worship was effectively denied. In 1743, the colonial legislature of Virginia licensed Presbyterian “reading rooms” in Polegreen and three communities in and around Hanover County. Samuel Davies was commissioned as an evangelist to Virginia in February of 1747, and at age twenty-three he set out for the South with his bride of four months, Sarah (Kirkpatrick). Davies was determined to minister to folk of any denomination, preaching in dissenting communities and evangelizing wherever the opportunity arose.
            In September of 1747, tragedy struck: Sarah Davies died in childbirth only a month before their first anniversary. The loss hit Samuel so hard that he began to believe that he, too, always of frail health, might not have long to live. That thought drove Davies to redouble his evangelistic efforts. By 1748, Davies had set up his base of ministry in Hanover County, Virginia. In October of that year, he married Jane Holt from a prominent Williamsburg family. They would have six children together, one dying at birth.
            In the 1740’s, Davies was the only revivalistic – “New-light” or “New Side” – Presbyterian preacher in the county. There were, however, a few traditional – “Old Side” – Presbyterians, who presented little threat to the Established Church. Davies was determined to avoid conflict with the Established Church clergy, so his sermons were free of rancorous rhetoric or attacks on other denominations. He focused, instead, on careful exposition of Scripture and clear presentation of the Gospel. The strategy worked, much to the chagrin of the same Established clergy Davies had studiously avoided attacking. In 1752, Commissary William Dawson wrote the following to the Bishop of London:
The Dissenters were but an inconsiderable number before the late arrival of certain teachers from the northern colonies. . . . But since Mr. Davies has been allowed to officiate in so many places . . . there has been a great defection from our religious assemblies. The generality of his followers, I believe, were born and bred in our communion. (Cited in Sweet, 66)
            Davies would eventually establish seven Presbyterian congregations in five counties and win greater religious freedom for dissenters of all denominations.  Through his legal astuteness, he was able to secure in Virginia the application of England’s Toleration Act of 1689. His advocacy of the principles of the “free-born mind” or “liberty of conscience,” after the model of Roger Williams, eventually led to the establishment, after Davies’ death, of Virginia’s Declaration of Religious Rights (1776) and Statute for Religious Freedom (1786).
            Few colonialists, especially in the South, questioned the propriety of that “peculiar institution” of slavery, nor did Samuel Davies oppose it. He did, however, conduct a vigorous and extensive ministry to the slave population. Unlike the Baptist and Methodist missionaries who focused on a personal experience of salvation alone, Davies insisted that slaves be taught to read since an understanding and application of the Bible was essential to the Christian life. Davies himself estimated that he had ministered to over a thousand African slaves and had baptized hundreds. African converts were admitted into his congregations and were permitted to preach. He even wrote specific hymns for African ministry. The Negro spiritual, “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian in My Heart,” is believed to have been inspired, if not composed, by Samuel Davies.
            In 1753, Davies accompanied fellow Presbyterian minister Gilbert Tennent on an eleven-month fundraising tour of England and Scotland on behalf of the College of New Jersey, an outgrowth of Tennent’s Log College, during which Davies preached sixty-three times. The mission raised six thousand pounds, including a large contribution from the grandson of Oliver Cromwell.
            In 1759, Davies was offered the presidency of the College of New Jersey (which became Princeton University in 1898), succeeding Jonathan Edwards, who had died after only six weeks in office. At first Davies demurred, believing someone else more qualified, but he eventually accepted. Davies’s own tenure was also to be short. He died on February 4, 1761, at the age of 37.
            Few American ministers have had as much impact on the formation of the yet-to-be-founded United States of America as Samuel Davies. Davies influenced not only the eloquence, but also the principles of the noted orator and patriot Patrick Henry. Davies’ fight for religious liberty in the middle and southern colonies, formed the groundwork for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
            As for Davies’ spiritual contribution, historian William Sweet sums it up well: “Among the many prolific eighteenth-century preachers, few if any can be read more profitably today than Samuel Davies.” (Sweet, 70)

Sweet, William Warren. Revivalism in America. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1965.

First published in the Welsh American newspaper Ninnau & Y Drych, Sept-Oct 2016.