A Newsletter of Opinion on Current Australian Christianity

Robert Harkness – 3

torrey and harkness

Robert’s spiritual conversion (“on a bicycle”) is interesting to examine.  Of course in hindsight we could say it seemed genuine because of his long-term commitment to the Torrey-Alexander missions.  But consider these developments in his trip to New Zealand with the team later in 1902.

Over several consecutive nights in one of the missions conducted, Reuben Torrey had preached several times but there had been no responses.  This was a most unusual occurrence so Torrey decided to temporarily stop the campaign and in its place call a “half night of prayer”  for forgiveness of hard-heartedness.  And, at the head of that event, he placed … young Robert Harkness.

Now one may question the wisdom of placing a young Christian in such an important leadership role, but the deed was done.  Robert assumed that a half night of prayer might last a few hours, but God had other ideas.  He started the meeting around 8 pm, at which several hundred attended, with a prayer that accused himself of failure to devote himself fully to God and His work.

That his prayer was genuine and contrite is quite clear because numerous people stood up and prayed similar prayers after him.  They blamed their own lack of faith and their lukewarmness.  They poured out their hearts and souls to the Lord and asked for His forgiveness … and, before they realised, the time had reached 3 am.  Finally the meeting broke up, not long before the mission was due to restart.  Grabbing a few hours rest, Robert headed back to the mission meeting.

That night, before Torrey had called for decisions for Christ, a man confessed Christ and many others followed him after the preaching of the sermon.  God had heard their solemn prayers, and the young man from Bendigo had realised the power of the prayer of forgiveness for a lukewarmness towards God’s word.  He dedicated his life completely to Christ and the way of the cross.

One can only assume that Robert’s heart was fully given over to the Lord in that one correspondent wrote later about his inspired playing:

“The marvellous playing of Robert Harkness, as he accompanied the immense volume of congregational singing [ed. there was no electrified amplification as yet] … aroused much interest among many lovers of music … Oftentimes it seemed as though the solitary grand piano was turned into a whole orchestra, as every part of its keyboard seemed to speak at once, from the deep rhythmic bass, which boomed like drums, to the flute-like tones of the upper notes, which floated in counter melodies above the swelling waves of eight thousand or more voices.”

NEXT ISSUE – Robert travels to Great Britain.

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