HOWARD, Henry (1859-1933)


HOWARD, Henry (1859-1933)
preacher
was born at Melbourne, on 21 January 1859, the son of Henry Howard and his wife Mary. His people were in comparatively poor circumstances, and Howard at first received only a primary education. When a youth he tried to speak at a church meeting and completely broke down. Next day he told the Rev. Dr Dare, the chairman of the meeting, that in view of his failure, he had resolved never to attempt public speaking again. Dr Dare replied, "I don't call that a failure, a real failure is when a man talks for an hour and says nothing". At 17 Howard became a local preacher in the Methodist Church, and in 1878 means were found to send him to Wesley College, Melbourne, with which the "Provisional Theological Institution for Victoria and Tasmania" was linked. This institution had been founded for the training of men for the Methodist ministry, and afterwards became part of Queen's College, one of the colleges affiliated with the university of Melbourne. In 1881 Howard was given his first charge at Warragul, and subsequently officiated at Hotham (North Melbourne), Merino, Toorak, Ballarat, and Kew. In 1902 he was appointed to the Pirie-street Methodist church at Adelaide. It was a large church capable of holding 1000 people, and for 19 years Howard filled it every Sunday, bringing to it many people from other churches who had been attracted by his preaching. Early in 1921 he went to England and for a time was in charge of the Hampstead Wesleyan Church. A period of lecturing and occasional preaching in America followed, and in 1926 his preaching at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian church, New York, attracted so much notice that he was asked to become its minister. He was 67 years of age but his preaching had lost none of its vigour, and his sermons were frequently reported in the New York press. His pastorate there was a great success. In 1931 he visited Australia, and celebrated the jubilee of his ministry by preaching at Warragul where he had begun it. Shortly after his return to America his health began to show signs of breaking down, an operation failed to give him relief, and he suffered much pain with great fortitude and unshaken faith. In June 1933 though obviously a very sick man he sailed to London to visit his sons, and died on 29 June 1933, two days after his arrival. He married in 1886 Sarah Jane Reynolds, who predeceased him. He was survived by three sons and a daughter. One of his sons, Stanford Howard, was South Australian Rhodes scholar in 1919, and was surgeon to the London general hospital at the time of his father's death. His daughter, Winifred Howard, was the author of The Vengeance of Fu Chang. Howard's works, based mostly on his sermons, include, The Raiment of the Soul (1907), The Summit of the Soul (1910), The Conning Tower of the Soul (1912), A Prince in the Making (1915), The Love that Lifts (1919), The Church Which is His Body (1923), The Peril of Power (1925), The Threshold (1926), Fast Hold on Faith (1927), The Beauty of Strength (1928), Where Wisdom Hides (1929), The Shepherd Psalm (1930), The Defeat of Fear (1931), Something Ere the End (1933). Of these The Raiment of the Soul and The Conning Tower of the Soul are possibly the best known. Howard's attitude to the discoveries of science was that they were manifestations of the divine in nature, and in the opening of his The Church Which is His Body he endeavours to apply the elementary principles of biology to the organized life of the Christian church.
Howard was a handsome man of over medium height, with a beautiful voice. Until his last illness he was full of energy and power. In private life his gifts of mimicry, his friendliness, his knowledge of the ways of common men, his sense of humour, his outspoken disdain of selfish wealth, intolerance, and bigotry, his sympathy with those who asked for advice, endeared him to all, and enabled him to work with his congregation as a happy family. He had no desire to be an ecclesiastical statesman, and his success as a preacher did not affect his basic humility. In his preaching he had a wealth of illustration, a fund of anecdote, a message of hope. He was a good extemporaneous speaker, but never relied on inspiration; his sermons were the result of much thinking and infinite pains. He could be outspoken when he felt the need. Towards the end of his life, when speaking at New York for the emergency unemployment fund, he said with great deliberation at the close of his appeal: "If these things do not interest you, then you can go to Hell, and may your money perish with you." But in general his words were a message of love, conveyed with a simplicity and absence of rhetoric that amounted to genius.
C. Irving Benson, A Century of Victorian Methodism; The Argus, Melbourne, 1, 3 and 10 July 1933; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 1 July 1933; The Times, 1 July 1933; The New York Times, 1 and 3 July 1933; The Spectator, Melbourne, 5 July 1933; E. Aye, The History of Wesley College; Who's Who in America, 1932-3; private information.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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