Extract of a Letter from the Rev. D. Peter, Theological Tutor of the Academy at Carmarthen, to the Rev. Caleb Morris, London.
My Dear Sir,—It affords me the greatest pleasure, that I have it in my power to communicate to you, for the information of our religious friends in England, and other parts of the world, a brief account of the progress of the Redeemer’s kingdom in the Principality of Wales, and especially of the unusual revivals with which many of the Welsh churches have been favoured of late.Few, perhaps, beyond the confines of the Principality are aware of the progress which the Gospel has made among all denominations of Christians in this part of Great Britain for the last fifty years. We have experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in some degree at various times, and we must say that the hand of the Lord is still stretched out in the salvation of many amongst us.
The number of ministers and chapels in the Principality is now double what it was half a century back; and the number of professing Christians of all denominations has increased more than three-fold during that period. Indeed I could name some churches among the Independents that have increased eight, ten, and twelve-fold in the number of members within the last thirty-five years. For you well know that some years back, it was not an unusual thing for many of our churches to receive ten, twenty, or thirty members to communion at a time, and that for several successive months.Fourteen years ago, when I was publishing my History of Religion in Wales, I found, from authentic documents, that there were then in the Principality 255 Independent Churches; 126 Baptist Churches; 343 Calvinistic Methodist Societies, and 205 Wesleyan Methodist Societies. The number of churches and societies at present is much greater.
Having given you some account of the state of religion in Wales, I now proceed to give you a particular account of the rise and progress of the great revival with which we have been blessed in South Wales for the last fifteen months. For some months previous to the revival, the greatest attention was paid to Sunday-schools throughout the country; religious meetings were more than usually numerous; the style of preaching more pointedly impressive; church discipline better attended to, and a greater degree of brotherly love prevailed in the churches.To inform you of what I myself have witnessed, will be sufficient to show how the people are generally affected at those religious meetings where the revivals prevail. . . . . I have seen, on these occasions, some with bended knees, folded hands, and uplifted eyes, engaged in earnest prayer; others prostrated on the ground, agonizing under a sense of guilt; others praising God for the salvation of the Gospel. . . . . Much, perhaps, of what we see and hear at those religious meetings where the revivals prevail, may be the effect of enthusiasm; yet when we consider the moral change that is so visible in the temper and conduct of those who were before notoriously wicked, and the religious awe which pervades all ranks in the towns, villages, and neighbourhoods where the revivals appear, we are compelled to acknowledge that the hand of the Lord is present, and that these revivals in South Wales are the effect of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit.
The present revival in South Wales commenced among the Calvinistic Methodists at the village of Caio, in the county of Carmarthen, about the latter end of the year 1827, and was for some time confined to that religious body. Their meetings were blessed with an unusual degree of religious feeling; and on one occasion, a few individuals were so much affected that they cried out for mercy. They were joined by some religious characters, who were then convinced that their piety had been at too low an ebb, and thus the feeling became general in the neighbourhood. The most remarkable conversion, before the revival became general at that place, was that of a young man of the most abandoned character. . . . . While the minister was speaking of the sufferings of Christ, the perfection of his atonement, and his capability to save the chief of sinners, the reprobate servant was pierced to the heart, and cried out in the most affecting manner for pardoning mercy and renewing grace.In a little time after, the good work became more general, until at length all denominations in the neighbourhood caught the flame. The worst of characters were conquered, and scoffers ceased to scoff. Methodists, Baptists, and Independents felt the heavenly flame. The revivals did not stop in that part of the country, but soon appeared in a line from Cilycwm to Llanwrtyd, and even as far as Builth. Llandovery, Llandeilo, and many other places, were visited in a similar manner. There were also great revivals in Glamorganshire, especially at Cwmllynfell, Neath, Morriston, Mynyddbach and Swansea. Mr. Evans, of Mynyddbach, in December last, received above 200 persons to communion. During the last two months above 600 have been admitted to the fellowship of the Independent church at Morriston, including those on probation. The moral change which has already taken place in the neighbourhood of Swansea and Morriston is truly great. As a friend of mine was returning one evening, about a month back, from Llansamlet to Swansea, he could hear nothing on the road but singing of hymns and repeating portions of Scripture, even by those persons whom he had seen a few Sunday evenings before dancing and rioting. Instead of quarrelling and fighting as usual, they now return from their work in peace and harmony, congratulating each other on the great things which the Lord hath done for them.
I am not in possession of a correct account of the numbers added to the Baptist and Calvinistic Methodist churches; but you may depend on the correctness of the following list of additions made to the following Independent churches since the commencement of the revival:
Llandovery . . . . . 160 Hermon . . . . . . 110Gwynfe . . . . . . . 190 Llangadog. . . . 64
Sardis and Mydd- Bethlehem . . . . 60fai . . . . . . . . . 125 Abergorlech . . . . 26
Bethel, and two Llandeilo . . . . . . 84others . . . . . . 146 Siloam . . . . . . . 80
Beulah, and two Gwernogle . . . . 120others . . . . . . 148 Capel Isaac . . . . 78
Builth . . . . . . . . . 60 Salem . . . . . . . . 40Cwmwysg . . . . . . 50 Pant-teg and Pe-
Crugybar . . . . . . . 85 niel . . . . . . . 150Ffaldybrenin and Capel Noni . . . . . 23
Esgairdawe . . . 146 Cwmaman andTabor . . . . . . . . 102 another . . . . . 310 The general opinion is, that upwards of 3000 souls have been added to the churches of Christ (including all denominations) in South Wales, within the last year. There is at present, throughout South Wales, a general desire for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: and there are Union Monthly Prayer Meetings in various parts, for the outpouring of the Spirit, which are numerously attended. Indeed I have no doubt that many ministers and churches, besides those which I have mentioned, do already experience, in some degree, the outpouring of the Spirit. Great additions have been made to many Dissenting churches not mentioned in this letter, in the course of last year; and from the aspect of things throughout the country, we have every reason to hope that God will soon cause revivals to be general in Wales.—That you may enjoy much of the Divine presence, and great success in the ministry, is the sincere prayer of,
Dear Sir, yours, respectfully, &c.DAVID PETER.
Carmarthen, Feb. 7, 1829.’ [Congregational Magazine, xii (April 1829), pp.224-5; also reprinted in New Baptist Miscellany, May 1829, pp.205-6, and in Henry Foster Burder, Pastoral Discourses on Revivals of Religion, London 1829, pp.103-6. NB All place names in the above letter from David Peter have been modernised]Account given in the journal of William Griffiths, Apostle of the Gower:
‘June 182814 Sab. This afternoon I returned from Builth Association after a fortnight’s absence – I preached in my way up at Ynysfach, Bontneδfechan, Ystradfellte, Brecon – remained at Builth two days and preached the last evening before Mr Charles which closed the whole of this association – All the meetings, private & public were attended with a Divine unction – the public meeting at 6 o clock the second morning was the most lively as it regarded the common feelings of the people – at the close of this they broke out all over the chapel in one voice of praying & rejoicing –
In my way home I preached at Merthyr Cynnog, Llanfihangel, Pentrefelin, Llandilo, Trecastle, Llandovery, Kilcwm, Pantycelyn (Mr Williams’s funeral) Cayo, Llansawel, Talley, Llansadwrn, Llangadock, Llandilo, Hendre, County canover [???] – in all the above places (except the two last & Pentrefelin & Trecastle) there is, just now a wonderful revival going forward, which spreads wider & wider every week, and has reached many other places that I could not visit – It is much like a great river overflowing all its banks, or a mighty cloud full of rain & the shower falling more general & copious, than any thing ever remembered before in those parts – It first began in Cayo & Kilcwm, but is now spread to more than 20 different societies, and over more than 40 miles of the country between Carmarthenshire & Breconshire – most all these societies have received very large additions of new members, since the commencement of it about 4 months ago – by a rough calculation from one of our preachers, I understood that the number between all the societies, already amounts to about 2500 – It is also in some districts as powerful with other denominations – the whole country where this is going on is wonderfully altered, – the people appear serious, with a degree of solemn cheerfulness & meekness, wherever you meet them – The children are converted by scores – & are anxious themselves to attend all the means of grace – hundreds of them weep under the word – most of the young people of both sexes have joined the societies & are very tender hearted, few of them can hear a sermon to the end without being overpowered with their feelings – many of the old professors have been wonderfully refreshed – & most of the places have very frequently of late been filled with shouts of praise for hours together –’ [NLW William Griffiths MS 3 (Journal for Sept. 1827 - July 1829)]Prayer meetings in London and other places for the further outpouring of the Holy Spirit late in 1828 (Dysg. viii. (1829), pp.54-5)
Robert Jones, Rhoslan on revival: ‘It was, as you know, in the past years, generally low and pressing on the countries and the towns; but presently, the Lord has pleasantly smiled upon our kingdom in the way of his providence. The prices of animals, and almost everything concerning them, are going up; which loudly calls for thanksgiving and obedience to God, and true humiliation before him. Instead of that, every kind of disgraceful sin is unashamedly and with brazen face raising its head; such as pride, drunkenness, prejudice, and lack of love [anghariad], and adultery like a destructive plague, has overrun the lands, and that in the face of the greatest privileges that there have been in any age among the Welsh: the Sabbath Schools, and the frequent preaching of the gospel, together with a multitude [amledd] of mercies which fill the lands. It is high time to ask, as Moses asked to rebellious Israel long ago, ‘Is this **** - Is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?’ (Deut. 32:6) It is evident that religion is at a low ebb when the wild beasts of the sins mentioned above, and many like ones, are crawling around shamelessly, like as the Psalmist said, ‘He ****’ [text?] There has never been more need in my lifetime to awake and cry out with the prophet, ‘Revive thy work in the midst of the years.’ [Hab. 3:2] There is one unspeakable privilege that continues in its strength even to this day for us and our children: ‘And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications.’ [Zech. 12:10] It is amazing even to angels that out Heavenly Father is so generous as to pour out something so precious as his Holy Spirit! Not just drops but an outpouring is promised here. It also shows that our state is most wretched, and our need unspeakably great, that nothing less than an outpouring is sufficient to extinguish the fire of guilt that are like a burning fire in the conscience, and that nothing less would completely cleanse those so loathsome and unclean that they have no clean spot, and make them whiter than snow.’ (Goleuad Cymru, vi. (1829), pp.240-1)1828 Capel Isaac. There was great success to the church in Capel Isaac (I.) in this revival. Friday night, July 18, 1828, after an effective prayer of Mr Jones, Gwynfe, a fellowship meeting was announced and over thirty remained for it. From then on three or four fellowship meetings would be held each week for many weeks and between ten and twenty would newly come to each of them. At that time in six or eight months between 250 and 300 were added to the church. Before four years had passed six of the children of this revival had been raised up to preach, and they were useful in the ministry for many years.’ [HEAC, iii. 532] And at least two of them were among the foremost preachers of their age, namely the Revs. William Williams, Llandeilo, and Dr Thomas Rees, Swansea. List of 40 preachers raised in Capel Isaac. [HEAC, iii. 534-7; see also account in John Thomas, Cofiant y Parch. T. Rees, D.D. Abertawy, Dolgellau, 1888, pp.43-8) This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones