1714-1773. Welsh preacher. Born at Talgarth, Brecon, of humble parents, Harris intended at an early age to enter the ministry of the established church; for a time he supported himself as a schoolmaster, undergoing a vital conversion experience in 1735. He went to Oxford but spent only a week there, returning to Wales to begin a campaign of tireless evangelism. He aroused first the south by his stately appearance, powerful voice, and overwhelming passion, and though often threatened by mobs and magistrates he extended his activities with equal success to the north in 1739.
Though he must be regarded as the principal founder of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism and the greatest spiritual force in the principality of his day, Harris was shy and awkward in the presence of other evangelical leaders, and quarreled with both Rowland and Whitefield.* Many influences-Wesleyan, Moravian, and even Antinomian and Universalist-molded his thought, but he always remained loyal to the Church of England, and deplored any tendency to break away from it. But his excursions into theology are not impressive-he was a revivalist, not a systematizer, and scenes of wild enthusiasm accompanied his preaching. In 1752 he retired to a house at Trevecca Fach which he built up as a center for revivalist activity. He was supported by the Countess of Huntingdon who after 1768 sent her own students to train at Trevecca Isaf. Harris died in 1773, leaving behind a small number of very popular Welsh hymns and numerous letters and journals, some of which are still unpublished.