Humphrey Jones

Humphrey Jones (1832-1895), David Morgan (1814-1883) and the 1859 Revival

David Morgan was born at Bodcoll Mill, Devil’s Bridge, Cardiganshire in 1814. His parents were godly people and his father was a carpenter and miller. Morgan became a very skilful farmer, sawyer, miller, smith and tailor. In 1824 the family moved to Pontrhydygroes. He grew up righteously as a Calvinistic Methodist and when about twenty-two he was converted in a service at Cwmystwyth. He joined the church at Ysbytty Ystwyth and immediately became an active worker. He was empowered in a revival that came to the neighbourhood in 1841 and was encouraged to start preaching, but resisted. His mind was finally made up when he heard a popular preacher give a rather ineffective sermon and thought, “The glorious Gospel of the blessed God deserves to be preached better than that and I will try to do it.” Morgan was accepted as a preacher by the Llangeitho Association in 1848 and was ordained to administer the Sacraments at the Trevine Association in 1857.

Eifion Evans says of Morgan in his small book ‘Two Welsh Revivalists’ he was “a man whose spirituality was cast in a Calvinistic Methodist mould, preaching according to his ability and with the highest of ideals and examples before him, praying with the dimension of revival never far from his mind.”

To understand the beginning of the revival we have to look at the life of Humphrey Rowland Jones who was born in 1832 at Tre’r-ddol in Cardiganshire. At the age of fifteen he had a seventeen month period when he “came under a strong, disturbing and terrifying conviction.” He began to preach and many were converted through his fiery and tempestuous sermons. He was a Wesleyan Methodist and in 1854 he applied to the South Wales Wesleyan District Meeting for admission into the ministry. He was rejected, probably because finances were such that existing ministers were not being looked after, let alone new ones. Disappointed, he did not wait for better times, but went to join his parents who had emigrated to the United States. He joined the Episcopal Methodists and ministered among the Welsh in Wisconsin until 1856 when he left them to become an Independent minister. It appears that he had some success at his meetings; especially in Oneida, New York, where he reports 700 salvations.

A biography of Jones by Evan Isaac in 1859 describes his way of ministering. “He experienced what he preached; his sermon was an expression of his deep convictions and feelings. But his prayers were even more remarkable and more effective than his sermons. He had a solemn and striking personality, and on occasions his appeals were so electric that the congregations would be quite overcome.” Jones’ ministry was made easier because there was a national revival sweeping across America.

In 1857 Jeremiah Lamphier was about forty years old and acting as a missionary for the North Dutch Church in New York City. He had a passion to see people get converted and he used to hand out pamphlets and preach to this end, without much success. While walking the streets of New York the idea came to him to start a prayer meeting between mid-day and one o’clock at the North Dutch Church in Fulton Street, as that was the time that businessmen had off for lunch. The idea was to sing, pray, testify or do whatever was appropriate in that time, people being free to come and go as they pleased within that time period. The activities within the meeting were to be short and to the point; no one was allowed to speak for more than five minutes. The first meeting was on September 23rd, however nobody showed up for the first half hour, so Lamphier prayed on his own. Then one or two people arrived. At the second meeting twenty people were present. Lamphier was praying for more people and would tell people about the meeting as he went about his mission in the streets. The following week there were between thirty and forty and the meeting went so well that he decided to meet the following day.

Because of the numbers attending the meeting was moved to a larger room in the church. Lamphier’s diary records, “Attended the prayer-meeting at noon. A larger number present, and there was a spirit of re-consecration to the service of Christ, and a manifest desire to live near his cross.” The following day there were large numbers present and Lamphier reported that they were at “the very gate of heaven.” By October 13th he is writing in his diary that, “God’s Spirit was manifestly in our midst.” Numbers grew, the meetings multiplied and soon a great revival was spreading across the country.

In June 1858 Jones arrived back in Wales to spread the fire that he had received. Wales had had many revivals in the last hundred years, but Eifion Evans writes that the church was not in a good place. “For a year or two before 1859 among the Welsh churches there had been an increasing awareness of their low spiritual state. Prayer meeting were lifeless and weak, and the preaching, though orthodox, was ineffective.” He began his mission in his home town of Tre’r-ddol, with a week of prayer meetings and then he began to preach. Weeping converts came forward at every service. He spent five weeks there and services were packed. There were so many people around the chapel in the afternoons that it was difficult to drive a carriage down the street, and it was a similar scene at five in the morning. In August he ministered in Ystumtuen and 100 were converted. At this time a youth, who had resisted the powerful influence of God in the town, became ill and the doctors feared for his life. He was very depressed that he had not taken any action about what he had heard in church, and he longed for another opportunity. Surprisingly he recovered in time to go to one of the last meetings of the mission, but left without making a commitment. A few days later he had a relapse and died. He was heard to say, “The harvest is past and I am not saved.” During September Jones ministered in similar power at Mynydd-bach and towards the end of the month started a mission at Pontrhydygroes where he met David Morgan. Morgan had heard about the powerful meetings conducted by Jones, but he was somewhat sceptical. He was wary of Jones because he knew that Jones had the same idea as Charles Finney, the American revivalist, that revivals were the inevitable result of the strenuous efforts and fervent prayers of God’s people. Morgan did not agree with this comparatively modern idea; he knew that revivals were a result of God’s will and not man’s. Jones was also a Wesleyan and not a Calvinistic Methodist. Nevertheless, he went to hear Jones and came away troubled by the sermon he had heard about ‘not being hot or cold.’ He was unable to sleep, so he went to see Jones at his lodgings. Jones had been looking for a colleague to work with and he heard the Lord tell him that Morgan was the one. It was arranged that Jones would speak at Morgan’s home church at Ysbytty on the Sunday. Morgan suggested that they have united Wesleyan and Calvinistic prayer meetings. After the service Jones complained to the elders about the frigidity of the religious atmosphere and said, “Not one of you helped me with so much as an ‘Amen.’” The sermon had been about people in the church not being active enough in the Lord’s service, so someone replied, “It is very difficult for a man, when the ministry condemns him, to cry ‘Amen’ with it.” Filled with emotion the old man burst into tears and fell into his seat. Seeing this godly man convicted by the sermon, all were struck by an overwhelming wave of emotion.

Morgan had been feeling a mass of different emotions over the previous few days. He preached at the church in the evening and twice the following day at Llangurig, but there was still no power in his preaching. He had sought a powerful anointing of Holy Spirit for years and now it was within his grasp. Tuesday night he slept for some hours, but he woke up at 4.00 am, instantly conscious that some strange, mysterious change had come over him. He became aware with awe of a marvellous illumination of his faculties, especially of his memory. “I awoke about four in the morning, remembering everything of a religious nature I had ever learnt or heard.” In the future Morgan would interview all those who gave their lives to the Lord at a meeting, perhaps a hundred people, and he would later be able to declare their names, in the order that he had spoken to them, details of their spiritual circumstances and those of their families. Less than two years later he went to sleep and woke up with his memory back to normal.

This was the first of several visitations experienced by Morgan. There was another a month later in the mountains at Soar and on December 31st as he was coming home over Llanerchpentir Hill, “He was on the mountain for hours; whether in the body or whether out of the body, he hardly knew. Beyond a doubt he went through experiences unspeakable and full of glory.” His biographer (his son) writes that Morgan hardly ever mentioned these occasions, but he told a close friend that, “On this strange night on the hill he grasped and clung to the furze-bushes, because he seemed to feel some mystical force lifting him, as it were, body and soul from the earth.” He arrived home looking very strange and with dirty clothes. On being asked what happened, he replied, “I have been wrestling for the blessing, and I have received it.”

The united meetings grew in the power of Holy Spirit. One Saturday night Jones and Morgan were walking home arm-in-arm, as usual, after a prayer meeting. It was the monthly pay-day for those working in the lead mines, a time renowned for drunkenness and riotous behaviour. They came to a public-house and found people fighting in the streets, swearing, drunk and everything else that accompanies excessive drinking. They went in, and with the landlord’s consent, they prayed for those present. On their knees with their eyes shut, they prayed fervently for the salvation of the people. On finishing they opened their eyes and found no one around except the landlord, who had not moved, and a man in a helpless condition. They went into the street and all was quiet; no one was around. After this success they decided to go to the next pub, but the news had preceded them and it was empty; as were the other two pubs in the town.

This incident gave the services an increased authority and prestige. Prayer meetings took place down the mines, in peoples’ homes and in the street. Children would pray together and people would pray as they walked along. The whole neighbourhood was affected; if one person in a household was saved, then it was likely that person would bring in the rest. For more than a month the revivalists concentrated on Ysbytty and Pontrhydygroes. By the end of the year there were two hundred adult converts out of a population of less than one thousand. From early November the revivalists visited churches in neighbouring villages.

The first was Tregaron which was only three miles from Llangeitho, where Daniel Rowland (see this website) ministered for so long. It was a hard place to minister because there had been so many revivals in the area over the years. Some viewed the new revivalists as ‘upstarts’; so it was not until the third evening that there were signs of blessing. An old lady of eighty, who found difficulty in walking owing to rheumatism, came briskly to the front and laid hands on a lame and decrepit deacon of seventy-two. This man stood up and vaulted over the high backed bench that separated him from the old lady, and the two of them began to leap and dance about.

The next meeting was in a nearby village, where Jones had to stop preaching because he and the congregation were weeping so much. A couple of hard meetings in different villages followed. At another place Morgan went to the local pub on the Saturday evening and asked if he could pray with the people. Consent was given and the Glory of God came. At the end of the prayers, the people left their drinks and went home. The church service the following morning did not have many people there, but all those from the pub meeting were there and they all came forward to give their lives to Jesus.

Around the middle of November the alliance between Jones and Morgan was amicably dissolved and they went off to minister in different places. On December 19th Jones began to minister at the Queen Street Wesleyan Chapel, however there were signs that not all was well. Jones would allow no preaching or singing; the meetings consisting of prayers and Scripture reading. For a season the chapel was crowded every night and many new converts sought membership of the church, but Jones refused them entry, on the grounds that the spiritual atmosphere of the church was not favourable for the nurture of new Christians. Because of the rigidity of the services, numbers began to drop. Earlyin June the leader began to think that Jones’ mind had become unbalanced. The climax came when Jones prophesied that Holy Spirit would descend on the chapel in visible form at 11 o’clock a certain morning. The chapel was packed with expectant people and at the designated time Jones, who was kneeling, raised his arms and said “He is coming! He is coming!” When nothing happened Jones ran to his rooms weeping.

What went wrong is not known. Perhaps the relationship Jones had with the Lord was not close enough, and he began to have difficult differentiating what was from the Lord and what was from his imagination. Leading a revival is an awesome responsibility and one that is dangerous to do alone. It is interesting that he felt that the Lord told him that Morgan would help him in the work, and yet within around seven weeks they had split up. If they had stayed together and worked as a team, respecting one another, it is probable that the enemy would not have got in and stopped Jones’ important ministry.

Humphrey Jones went into seclusion for about four years after this incident and then began ministering in the Aberystwyth circuit. In 1869 he had medical treatment and in 1871 returned to America, where he preached for some years before dying in 1895.

The revival gradually waned. By the end of 1860 the anointing had left Morgan. What an incredible thing to wake up one morning with the power of God on you and what a dreadful thing to wake up one morning and know that it has gone. The expectation of people would have been huge whenever Morgan went to preach; but he knew that the power was gone. How humbling. Not surprisingly this caused Morgan a lot of distress. He was still held in respect though and he ministered in his church until he died in 1883.

This biography was taken from ‘The ’59 Revival in Wales’ by J J Morgan and ‘The Two Welsh Revivalists’ by Eifion Evans

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