Thomas Charles of Bala (1755-1814)
When writing any biography it is useful to start with the background of the country in which the subject lived. As I have written about several Welsh men of God, I have written a summary of the religious state of Wales under ‘Revivals Wales’ on this website.
For information on Thomas Charles’ early life we have to rely on his journal and letters. His journal is prefixed by the motto, ‘All things work together for good.’ He was born October 14th, 1755 at Longmoor farm in the parish of Llanfihangel Abercywyn, but his father took over the tenancy of Pant Dwfn (The Deep Dingle) farm and the family moved there a few weeks following his birth. When he was ten or twelve his parents decided that he should go into the ministry. They sent him to school at Llanddowror, two miles from his home, for three or four years. While there he enjoyed listening to preachers and also reading the Bible and other good books. Initially, he had nobody to speak to about religious matters, but he then met a godly man, Rees Hugh. Charles began to visit Hugh who lived a couple of miles away, once or twice a week. He considered Hugh, a disciple of Griffith Jones (see this website), to be his father in Christ. At fourteen he went to the Academy at Carmarthen, where he immediately joined a Methodist society (see Revivals – Wales on this website for background on the growth of Methodism). During his time there he read a number of evangelical books. On January 20th, 1773 he went to hear Daniel Rowland (see this website) at New Chapel and on that day he was ‘born again.’ The effect of Rowland’s upon Charles was a heavenly state of mind which lasted in Charles for about six months during which time he was in a heavenly state of mind.
From this time Charles lived a life of faith. He recognised God’s hand in every event, attributing all good to His free Grace. He acknowledged his sins, depended wholly on strength from God and resigned himself wholly to the disposal of his Lord. In 1775 he went to Jesus College, Oxford where after about two years, he was able to experience something of relying on God to supply all his needs. All funds stopped from his family at a time when he owed the College £20; he decided that he would have to leave the College and begin to earn some money. Deep down he thought that God would resolve the situation. He did not believe that doors would have been opened to bring him to Oxford, just for them to close again in the middle of his studies. A few days later a gentleman asked him to dinner, gave him the £20 he needed and ensured that he could afford to finish his time at Oxford. This situation taught him to rely more on God.
In 1777 Charles spent the summer holidays with John Newton (see this website) at Olney. He wrote that his time with Newton was very valuable and exceeded his expectations. Spending several weeks in intimacy with someone of John Newton’s character was a great privilege and he learned a great deal. During his time at Oxford Charles was developing a closer relationship with Jesus; his heart was being influenced by divine Grace as God prepared him for what lay ahead. He was unusual for those times in that few at Oxford led the godly life Charles did. One student who did, was more open about his Methodist beliefs, and was consequently refused his degree at Brasenose. Persecution was strong at the centre of the Establishment. Methodists in the eighteenth century were really the same as the Reformers of the sixteenth century and the Puritans of the seventeenth. All put obedience to God at the centre of their lives; all sought an intimate relationship with Jesus and all believed in the Word of God. All were persecuted by the Established Church until late into the nineteenth century.
Charles was ordained deacon at Oxford in 1778. In a letter to a friend he writes, “My dear friend, this is the most awful and solemn time I have yet lived to see. My anxious thoughts about the holy function I have taken upon me, and the weighty work I am engaged in, frequently oppress my spirits very much.” Having been turned down for a curacy in Worcestershire, he was made curate of Sparkford in Somerset. His parish consisted of 41 houses and 230 people. Before taking up his position he went to stay with a friend in Bala, North Wales. During his five week stay they first did a tour of North Wales and then stayed at Llangeitho where they heard Rowland preach twice. He then visited his father’s farm. “I looked on those little corners of the house, and sequestered hedges in the fields, where my soul in former days struggled with God in prayer and obtained His blessing, with inexpressible pleasure. I could not but view those spots in which I enjoyed refreshing communion with God, as holy ground. My father’s farm wore the appearance of Paradise. The memory of the various blessings at different times enjoyed, filled my heart with joy and praise.” He preached at Llanvihangel and saw Rees Hugh for the last time.
His Journal really starts on his taking up his curacy; what has been in it so far has been a summary of his life to date, rather than a day to day recording of thoughts and events. From now on Charles’ journal is full of quotes from Scripture; full of his daily struggles to be a godly man; and of his experiences, high and low, with God. One entry summarises his thoughts at this time, “May my light so shine before men, that they, seeing my good works, may glorify my Father which is in heaven.” In May 1799 he was offered a more lucrative curacy, but he believed that God had placed him where he was and that he should finish his work there before moving on, even though he was not happy in his position. This was a very rare sentiment in those days as the majority of clergymen would choose their positions on the basis of comfort and money. The vicar was in financial straits and reduced his salary by £5 pa to £40 pa. Charles accepted this, but the following year he was told that he had to take a further cut of £10 pa. This made his salary virtually impossible to live on, but a friend, Rev Lucas, moved into a neighbouring parish and offered him help. He would go and live at Milborne-Port as his friend’s assistant, although there was no work to do, and he would be given the use of a horse to get him the eight miles to his parish. Charles accepted this offer and profited a lot from the advice and fellowship of his friend. He describes Mr Lucas as, “without exception, one of the most ingenious, sensible, learned and pious men that I ever met with.”
His parishioners had a great contempt for the Gospel and godly living. “Religion is a new and strange thing here, and operates variously according to the different tempers and interest of the persons who hear it. But most look upon it as something very bad, though they know not what it is; and they are exceedingly afraid of taking the infection.” In May 1780 Charles was ordained priest at Oxford. His journal and letters record the seriousness with which he took this step. There are several letters existing which he wrote to his future wife who lived in Bala; he probably met her on his visit there in 1778. Many of his letters are like short sermons and from them one can get an idea of his orthodox doctrine. This short biography is taken from ‘Memoir of the Rev T Charles’ by Edward Morgan, which quotes liberally from Charles’ journal and letters and is well worth reading for those who want to get a better understanding of the man. His letters to Miss Jones of Bala have very little in them about marriage, being mainly about spiritual instruction. However, in one letter he does pass on the advice of Newton that it is good for a minister to be married because the new feelings and experiences that he enjoys makes him more rounded, and therefore, better suited to communicate to parishioners.
In 1782 Charles was hoping for a position close to North Wales to be near Miss Jones. Her family would not countenance her leaving the area of Bala; in part because they loved her and did not want her to be far from them, but mainly because she was a good business woman. Her step father, as well as having a general store, was an itinerant preacher for the Wesleyan Methodists and often left Sarah in charge of store. In fact, he wanted to hand the whole business over to her. Charles applied for a curacy in Oswestry, on the border with Wales, but after some hope of securing the post, his hopes were dashed on the vicar realising that he had Methodist tendencies. He was pressed by Lady Huntingdon to take over her chapel in Bath, however he declined this offer as he did not think it was from the Lord because he was terribly busy in his parish at the time. For Lady Huntingdon to take an interest in him shows the quality of the man and that he had influential connections.
By this time Charles was looking after at least four parishes; Sparkford, North Barrow, Lovington and either South Barrow or Chilton Cantelo and in 1782 he was appointed to the permanent curacy of North Barrow. This extra work helped him financially and he was able to pay off debts that he had incurred at Oxford and save a little. He applied for another position, this time in North Wales, but he was not successful. He was desperate to get to Bala to marry Sarah and he finally left Milborne-Port in June 1783 with the hope of helping a friend in his ministry nearby. In August of that year he was finally married. His journal and letters during the five years at Sparkford are full of his inner struggles to maintain an intimacy with the Lord, but are sadly virtually devoid of anything relating to his ministry. He did say that he was satisfied with the work he did there, so one would think that several were saved. His friend Mr Lucas wrote to him a little later to report that a woman who had been a visitor at the vicarage, had gone home a changed person as a result of Charles’ and Lucas’ ministry. Neither of them had any idea that anything was happening to her at the time.
The following is an excerpt from a letter he wrote which explains what he was doing after his marriage. ‘I believe I told you that I was engaged to serve a church in this country (Llangynog). When I had served it for two Sundays, a long letter was sent to me, genteelly excusing my attendance for the future. Since that time, I have been assisting Mr Lloyd, who is but in a poor state of health. However, last Sunday, the whole parish, with two or three of the principal inhabitants at their head, came to me and accosted me in a rougher strain than I ever have been used to before. They insisted on my preaching no more in their church (Llandegla); for, they added; ‘you have cursed us enough already.’ I took every care that nothing but the plain simple truth should give offence; nor is there anything else laid to my charge.” We are not told what offended the parishioners, but I suspect Charles was telling them about the need to be born again and that attending church and taking Communion did not give you a ticket to heaven. Many like Charles were persecuted in the Established Church. He tried to find another position within the Anglican Church because he was a churchman and he would not leave it unless he was pushed out. From October to January 1784 he found a temporary position with his dear friend John Mayor in Shawbury in Shropshire. At the end of January he was given the curacy of Llanymawddwy, about fourteen miles south of Bala. He performed his duties here diligently and several were awakened and converted, but some complained to the rector about him, who subsequently sent Charles notice to quit. A petition was drawn up by those who liked his ministry, but it never got to the rector. He wrote, “attempts have been made by the great folks around Dinas, to stir up the parishioners against me; but in general without effect.” He left at the end of April.
Charles must have been very perplexed by this time. For someone who always wanted to be led by God he must have felt that each of these positions must have been the will of God and yet he was sacked three times in less than a year! He knew that he was called to work in Wales and wanted to be in the Established Church. So, although he did seek advice from friends, he continued to wait for the right position. He was desperate to find a church, not for the money, but so that he could serve God.
At this time he had a dream. It was the day of Judgement; he saw millions assembled before the Judge. What he noticed particularly was the trial (Matthew 25) of the idle and slothful servant. The Judge said “Take him, and bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Charles felt that this related to him and he was quite distressed about it. He had to do something, so he began to teach some children from Bala in his house on Sunday evenings. Since his house soon became too small for the number of children who wanted to be taught, the Calvinistic Methodists said he could use their chapel.
Sometime at the end of 1784 Charles began to preach for the Calvinistic Methodists; in December he was preaching at the Association meeting at Bent Uchal near Ruthin. He later wrote that he had plans to go to England to work, presumably because no position was offered him in Wales. But bit by bit he got so far into the itinerant work in Wales that he then could not leave it. In April 1785 he wrote that “The fields here all over the country are white for harvest. Fresh ground is daily gained. Whole neighbourhoods, where the word has been heretofore opposed, call aloud for the gospel. Thousands flock to hear: and many in different parts of the country, we have good reason to believe, are effectually called. Whilst the prospects here continue so promising, I cannot in conscience quit the field here and remove to another place.” It appears that the Lord needed to get him unemployed so as to lead him into his life’s work; getting him out of the Established Church so that he could work more broadly across the Principality. Charles was not the only lover of the Established Church to be forced out; Daniel Rowland was forced out of his parish and William Williams (see this website) of Pantycelyn was refused ordination as priest. There were others also who were rejected by the Church they loved.
Fifty years earlier Griffith Jones had noticed that most Welsh people could not read Welsh, so he began Circulating Schools. These were tremendously successful in teaching children and adults how to read the Bible, the Lords Prayer etc in Welsh. Jones died in 1761 and the great work was continued by Mrs Bevan until she died in 1772. Sadly, all the money that Mrs Bevan set aside in her will for the continuation of the schools was tied up in the courts for thirty years by a greedy relative and the schools died. Despite the many schools started by Jones, there were still many areas, particularly in North Wales, where the schools never visited, or hardly ever.
Charles was a great believer, as was Jones, in catechising the children. This involved testing children on their knowledge of the Bible and other Christian matters, in front of the congregation. He was to dedicate a significant portion of his time doing this in future years; but for now he found it difficult because they could not read. He wrote, ”Soon after I assumed care of the parish (Llanymawddwy), I attempted to instruct the rising generation, by catechising them every Sunday afternoon: but their not being able to read, I found a great obstacle to the progress of my work. This induced me to inquire into the state of the country, in this point of view. I soon found the poor people to be in general in the same state of ignorance.” Charles decided to resurrect the Circulating Schools and with the help of some friends he raised money to pay for a teacher who would go to a town and teach people to read in Welsh. He would stay for six or nine months and then move on to another town. He taught the master himself and then sent him on his way. By 1789 he had fifteen masters going around the country.
His next problem was school books. There were no books in existence, so he wrote three elementary books and two catechisms. Eventually, the number of masters grew to twenty, but then the number decreased as the demand for them declined due to the rise in Sunday Schools. Wherever the masters went they would leave a Sunday School behind to carry on the work. The teachers would come from the people who had been taught by the masters. Sunday Schools had been started in Gloucester by Robert Raikes in 1784 and there is a popular misconception that Charles started them without knowing of Raikes’ schools, but Charles did not start his Sunday Schools until 1787.
The masters were paid very little as available funds were not great; most of the money being raised voluntarily within the Calvinistic Methodist Societies. Anyway, Charles believed that a poor person could assimilate into a poor society more easily. Charles visited a place first and spoke to the main inhabitants about setting up a school. Then he would address the town/village, telling them about the need to learn to read the Bible. He would then send the master to the town and he would teach the children during the week and the adults on Sunday or at night. There was no charge for the teaching. The master was encouraged to live among the inhabitants to show them how a Christian lived and how they should live their lives. Charles would try to go to the town twice to catechise the children in public before the master moved on to another town.
There was a strong prejudice amongst the people that if their children learned to read Welsh, they could not learn English so well afterwards and also that if the children could read English, they would be able to read Welsh. These prejudices were shown to be false once children joined the schools. In fact the reading of Welsh lead to a great increase in those who learned English. Being able to read the Bible opened the door to many, creating a hunger to learn more; but as there were few Welsh books in print they turned to English books that covered all manner of subjects. There became a great demand for English schools. Charles estimated that twenty years later there were a hundred times more English books in Wales than there had been when he started the schools.
At the same time as progressing his work with the schools, Charles continued with his work as a minister. In 1791 revival came to Bala and he wrote about it in a letter dated December 7th of that year. “And here, in our town of Bala, for some time back, we have had a very great, powerful, and glorious out-pouring of the Spirit of God, on the people in general, especially young people. The state and welfare of the soul is become the general concern of the country. Scores of the wildest, and most inconsiderate of the people, have been awakened.” The revival began with a wild young woman being strongly convicted of her godless state, and after a big struggle, she gave her life to the Lord. “This case struck awe and terror into the minds of many; but still they were able to go on in their usual course, and no visible good effects appeared, till the first and second Sundays in October, which are weeks ever to be remembered by me.” Towards the end of his sermon in the evening service on the first Sunday, many started to cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” “And, about nine or ten o’clock at night, there was nothing to be heard from one end of the town to the other, but the cries and groans of people in distress of soul.” The revival spread quickly all around the surrounding area.
The London Missionary Society was established in 1795 and Charles supported its aims to bring the Word of God to ‘heathen’ nations. While he was on a trip to London he was sad that he was unable to make his annual visit to Newton, who was away, but he was excited that he had the opportunity to dine on board the ‘Duff’ merchant ship. While on board he had the thought that, “amidst all the hundreds of vessels I saw in the river, trading to different parts of the globe, carrying the perishing things of this world from one nation to another; there was one trading for heaven, engaged in conveying the everlasting Gospel to benighted heathens perishing for lack of knowledge. Perhaps it is the first vessel of any age of the world was ever solely so employed.” He not only collected money to support missionaries, but also published a Magazine, ‘Spiritual Treasury’, which reported on some of the missionary activities, together with some biographical sketches, accounts of revival in Wales and explanations of Scriptural passages. It was the first Magazine of its kind in Welsh.
In the autumn of 1799, as Charles was travelling over Mount Migneint on a freezing night, one of his hands got frost bite. He became dangerously ill and had to have his thumb amputated. A prayer meeting was called on his behalf. During this meeting it was noticed that one person prayed with particular fervour, several times repeating the same prayer; “Fifteen years more, O Lord. We beseech thee to add fifteen years more to the life of thy servant. And wilt thou not, O our God, give fifteen years more for the sake of thy church and thy cause.” It was reported that those present felt significant anointing on those words (the prayer was referring to Hezekiah’s prayer). Charles heard about this prayer and it made a deep impression on him. He later frequently mentioned it as a reason why he needed to make the most of the time he had left.
The last time he visited South Wales he told some that he would probably never visit them again because his fifteen years were nearly up. During the last year of his life he mentioned it several times to friends and his wife. It has crossed my mind that this could have been a self fulfilling prophecy over his life, like a curse; but on reflection Charles had such a close relationship with God that I believe he received a Word from the Lord about this. He talks about his illness in letters to friends and they re-emphasise his wonderful relationship with God. He writes about how he sometimes wanted to let go of life because the beauty of heaven was so close.
From time to time Charles had been helping a friend, the Rev’d Oliver, to look after his group of churches at Boughton and around Chester. Oliver too had been excluded from the Established Church because of his zeal and faithfulness, but had found useful employment outside the Church, leading many to the Lord. On Oliver’s death in 1800 Charles became Trustee of the churches. This responsibility added a great deal to his work. In 1803 he established a printing press in Bala which was used to print elementary books for the schools and his writings. In the eleven years until his death 320,000 books were printed on this press.
There had for the last several years been local and more widespread revivals in Wales that awakened people to the need to read the Word of God. Add to this the Sunday Schools that were teaching children and adults to read and you have a considerable demand for Bibles by people who mostly cannot afford to buy one. The situation in South Wales had been largely satisfied through Bibles supplied through the work of Griffith Jones and a Bible that was published by Peter Williams in 1770. However, North Wales did not receive many Bibles from these sources. The problem was recognised by Charles as early as 1787 and he tried, through his contacts, to get Bibles sent to Wales, but failed. In 1791 Thomas Jones of Northants visited Wales and noticed the extreme lack of Bibles and did much to try to solve the problem. He was in regular contact with Charles concerning this problem and in 1792 he contacted the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to ask for help. This Society had been the main source of supply of Bibles for Griffith Jones fifty years earlier, but on this occasion they did not think that there was a need for the Bibles and so refused to help. Thomas Jones went for help from his bishop. Through the bishop’s influence the Society finally agreed to publish in 1796, but for some reason the edition of 10,000 Bibles did not come out until 1799. The edition sold out immediately, although not a quarter of the demand was supplied. Jones, with the help of the bishop and other influential people tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Society to print more.
In December 1802 Charles made his annual trip to spend a few weeks ministering in Lady Huntingdon’s Chapel in North London, with the problem of the supply of Bibles much on his mind. One morning while he was thinking about the problem in bed, the thought occurred to him that it might be possible to form a Bible Society in London on a similar basis to the existing Tract Society, of which he was a member. He immediately got up, went to discuss this idea with some friends, and the idea was brought up at the next Tract Society meeting. Following extensive discussion, the idea was then adopted to print Bibles, not just for Wales, but also for the whole world. The success of the Bible Society was immense with 2.1 million Bibles being distributed between 1805 and 1827 and 3.1 million New Testaments, at a cost of £1.4 million.
The creation of the Bible Society brings out the extreme modesty of the man. Even though he was the main instigator of the project, Charles never even mentions his part in it when publishing an account of how it came into being. Another example of his modesty is seen in his letters about the revival that came to Bala; nowhere does he give any indication that he was the principal mover in the wonderful move of Holy Spirit that came to the area. There is no doubt that Charles was a godly, righteous man who remained in close touch all his life with the God he loved.
The British and Foreign Bible Society was formed at a meeting in London in March 1804. Charles was in Wales, but there were three hundred people present from all denominations, with Granville Sharp in the chair. £700 was immediately donated to supply Bibles to those who could not afford one. Charles exerted all his influence to raise money for this cause. He writes, “their zeal and eagerness in the good cause surpass everything I have ever before witnessed. On several occasions we have been obliged to check their liberality, and take half of what they offered, being what we thought they ought to give. Great joy prevails universally at the thought that poor heathens are likely soon to be in the possession of a Bible, and you never hear a prayer put up without the petition for the Bible Society and heathen nations.” 20,000 Bibles and 5,000 New Testaments were published for Wales in 1806. An eye-witness records the joy when the first Bibles arrived. “When the arrival of the cart was announced, which carried the first sacred load, the Welsh peasants went out in crowds to meet it, welcomed it as the Israelites did the ark of old; drew it into the town, and eagerly bore off every copy as rapidly as they could be dispersed. The young people were to be seen consuming the whole night in reading it. Labourers carried it with them to the fields, that they might enjoy it during the intervals of their labour, and lose no opportunity of becoming acquainted with its sacred truths.” For his work in this area Charles was made Honorary Life Governor of the Society. Within four years over 60,000 Bibles and 45,000 New Testaments were distributed in Wales.
In 1803 Charles began his work on a Scriptural Dictionary in Welsh. This took eight years to complete and it is amazing that he was able to accomplish it with all the other responsibilities he had. The etymon of every Welsh word is given, and usually the corresponding word in Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
In 1807 he was invited, with three others, to go to Ireland to advise the church there on the best method of educating the Irish people; either through English or through the Irish language. They went around the country in pairs for a month and then reported on their findings. It was a pretty depressing situation they found; not one person they spoke to could read Irish. He thought that Circulating Charity Schools such as those set up by Griffith Jones (see this website) seventy years earlier in Wales, would be successful. He commented that many parts of Wales in Jones’ time were as dark as the Ireland he toured. According to their recommendations Schools were set up, teachers employed to teach the people to read in the Irish language and Bibles were printed in Irish; but no preachers were appointed who could preach in Irish. The success of Jones’ and Charles’ schools came on the back of the revivals that took place all over Wales, over a long time period. People were awakened with a strong desire to read the Bible. Without a similar move of God in Ireland, the schools were unlikely to be as effective.
Charles’ friend and co-worker, Thomas Jones, wrote a ‘Memoir’ of his life soon after he died and Edward Morgan’s biography of Charles uses the ‘Memoir’ as a major source for his work. Jones tells a story that on one of several trips to Liverpool, Charles was sitting on the ferry when he found out that his luggage had been put on another boat. Because of this Charles changed boats and later discovered that the boat he had originally sat on sank and everyone had died.
Charles would sometimes travel to England and do a small tour, preaching in English and Welsh. He would go to Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, and Chester. There were two churches in Liverpool and both would be full when he visited; one with 3,000 and the other with 2,000 people. He would travel around Wales, catechising hundreds of children at a time in front of thousands of people. The work of the schools was prospering greatly and he had great expectations of even more fruit. He wrote that in some districts all were engaged in learning the scriptures.
Over many years some members of the Calvinistic Methodist movement had wanted to split away from the Established Church and form their own denomination, but the leaders always resisted this. In the early years of the nineteenth century the pressure grew. The problem was that the revivals up to this time had added greatly to the Methodists, but the number of ordained ministers, like Charles, were very few, causing many to go to the Anglican church for Holy Communion. The people wanted to go to their own ministers for Communion and to get their children baptised, so in 1810 Charles announced at an Association meeting in Bala that he consented to the request to set apart a number of preachers to do ministerial work. He had opposed this idea for many years, but eventually realised that there was a pressing need to do this.
Charles became ill in 1812 and never fully recovered. The work of the Sunday schools was progressing well. He wrote at this time, “the Sunday Schools increase exceedingly, both in number and in the progress they make in learning. Adults, as well as children everywhere crowd into them; their attention is great, and their attention sober and pleasing, and some join our churches continually.” In 1813 the Bible Society decided to publish a new edition of the Welsh Bible and Charles resolved to edit it; despite his health and his other activities. He was determined to live to see the completion of this task, “and then, I shall willingly lay down my head and die.” He saw its completion and then set himself to produce a Scriptural Concordance in Welsh, but this he did not complete. From the spring of 1814 Charles’ health declined substantially until he died on October 5th, 1814; he was buried at Llanecil parish church. His dear wife, who was also ailing; died just nineteen days later.
Thomas Charles of Bala was a great man. John Elias (see this website) wrote about him in 1840, shortly before his own death. “The Rev. T. Charles was a wise, kind, and faithful leader and guide in those delightful meetings (Associations). Yea, he was a ruler of God’s appointment to us. There were none that coveted his place, or wished to take his chair. He was always ready to introduce useful things to our notice; things appertaining to doctrine or discipline, and he used to state them to the brethren in a wise, wise proper and delightful manner. He would encourage the brethren to give their sentiments on the subject under consideration; he would assist the weak, and teach and rectify the deficient and confused.”
The most significant aspect of his character was the love that was in him. He had spent his life in relationship with his Saviour and the closer we get to Jesus, the more like Him we become. People noticed this in him. He was not really a very good preacher, but people recognised the presence of God on him they received into their hearts the words about salvation that came out of his mouth. The love of God was in him and he poured it out wherever he went. He often gave away his coat when he came across someone on the road who could not afford one to keep warm. His schools were born out of love and compassion for the people of Wales. His drive to bring thousands of Bibles into Wales was born out of that same love. We have already seen that he was a man of great humility; without this God could not have used him so powerfully. He was a man of significant intellect as his Bible Dictionary, his Welsh catechisms, his school books and his editorial work on the Bible attest. His familiarity with the Bible was so great that in his later years, scarcely a sentence would come from his mouth without a scriptural reference.
The many successes in Charles’ life did not come without opposition. His attempts to live a life close to God was not easy; he constantly struggled to live the godly and righteous life he desired and was often trying to suppress the fallen man in him. He had so much opposition from the Established Church that, in the end, he had to leave and join the Methodists. Many opposed his schools, but in the end he and his God triumphed over his enemies and Wales was transformed. He wrote about what made him happy. “The only happiness to be obtained in this world consists of doing good to the souls and bodies of our fellow-creatures.” What would the United Kingdom be like if more of us believed and acted on this sentiment? Thomas Charles was just a man who had a God-given vision; he was not different from any of us, he just stepped out with determination to turn that vision into reality.
This biography was taken from ‘Memoir of the Rev T Charles’ by Edward Morgan, published in 1831; which itself is taken from a Memoir written by a friend and colleague of Thomas Charles, Thomas Jones of Ruthin, which was written soon after Charles’ death.
Additional information was taken from ‘The Life of the Rev Thomas Charles of Bala’, Volumes I and II, by D E Jenkins, published 1908. This is in three volumes of around 600 pages each describing the life of Charles in great detail.