Gyfylchi (1806)



1806 Dyffryn, Margam. ‘Another very powerful revival took place about the end of 1806, at Dyffryn, in the parish of Margam. I remember that I had been given a Publication to be in Gyfylchi Chapel on the morning of the Sabbath of the 11th of January in 1807, and at Dyffryn for 2, and Pyle in the night. When the time came I did not know that anything had begun; but that brother Richard James had been in a house in the neighbourhood, one evening the week before, and the fire had started there, and when I came to the Chapel on the Sabbath morning, it broke out there so that it was impossible to speak for many minutes, and by the time I went to Dyffryn I was in the middle of it, and the fire proceeded to Pyle that night. This revival was very powerful in each of those places, and many were added to the Societies, in particular very many young people of all ages, and it continued very fervent for a time. I had much spiritual comfort and delight in my soul with the Church at this season, and I have a yearning to see them happen again more often throughout or regions: they are greatly needed.’ [Bevan, Ychydig o Hanes, pp.13-14; Williams, Cofiant Hopkin Bevan, pp.41-2]

1806 Gyfylchi, Glamorganshire.

‘In the year 1806 Jones, Llangan preached [here] most fervently. We have a record of the conviction of two young girls called Elizabeth Jones and Jane Rees, who joined themselves to the church soon after that. Afterwards they used to be called by the old brother and preacher William Thomas of Pyle, ‘two sheaves of the firstfruits.’ They were acceptably received with great joy in the church, and doubtless ‘in the presence of the angels of God in heaven.’ The influence of the revival continued for a year at least, if not more.

According to the description we have, we believe that no where were more signs of divine influence ever seen on the spirits of men than in Gyfylchi Chapel during the year in question. There would be jumping and shouting of ‘gogoniant’ and ‘diolch iddo’ and similar expressions of praise in almost every religious meeting, and sometimes along the road as they returned home, so that the hills and valleys would echo. After being convicted and brought to see their sinfulness, and also having a view through faith of Jesus as Saviour, they devoted themselves in their own simple way to make known to others the good hope that had brought peace to their souls, and the peace that passes all understanding. After they had had a taste of the Salvation that will be forever, and come to understand the vastness and preciousness of the Righteousness without end, they could not but publish abroad the Saviour and compel others to come to him. ‘One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus.’ ‘Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Those who were convicted through the preaching were marked with the same spirit.

We have no doubt that this worthy spirit was responsible for so many preachers, or exhorters as they are called, having been raised up in different parts of the country, and breaking out in the period under view. And these exhorters corresponded to a great degree with the description given by Jesus of his followers, - ‘Ye are the salt of the earth.’ ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ [Matt. 5:13,14] Those that were shone in Gyfylchi reflected their light into the thoughts of their conscience, so that they were brought to understand and feel their true state as beings accountable to God for all their actions. Having received from them the light to their own souls, it was not possible for them not to talk about the Jesus as he had been set forth by God as Saviour. ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.’ The simple direction of those old exhorters every time was, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. ‘

It is not a difficult task for us, who have seen a number of the youngest children of the revival, and have heard them many times recollecting in warm spirits because of the fervency and intensity of the influence, to believe the fact; but it is very difficult, even for us, to describe to the reader in such a way as to give a correct and clear impression as to make him believe the fact and feel the influence of the Holy Spirit as he reads the account. We understand that the inhabitants of this part of the country were strong huntsmen and noted champions. Hunting and gaming was their work on holidays and the Sabbath, until the heavenly influences came. Very few of them used to go to church, except accompanying each other to the graveyard in Cwmafan. They spent the years of their life in striving to develop the abilities of the body, without at any time considering that it were better to develop mental abilities. The high point of their ambition was to perform in games [gorchest-gampau] that would make their names famous and to be praised throughout the neighbourhood. The favourite games of the young people and light-footed at that time was running, jumping, footing the black ball, and playing Bandy [or Bandy-stick]. The strong, powerful man, would set his mind on excelling in carrying large pieces of wood, and in throwing heavy things a long distance by strength of arm. And having had enough of even the games noted from morning to evening, the end of the day would be spent, as a rule, in drinking and drunkenness, and fighting each other, as a conclusion to the day’s work [trefnwaith].

In the period of the revival under consideration, many of these harsh characters, yea, the most unconcerned characters, were seen to be tamed and levelled, and made those who were gentle, easy to entreat, full of religious life and fervour, very eager to meet together in the chapel, and to compel each other to pray together in the evening of the day, and to relate their feelings to one another, and to praise Jesus, whom they had heard the revivalists mention: that he had given himself to die in order to save men from being punished forever for their sins. ‘Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’ [Gal. 1:4-5] Very often these converts would be seen in the midst of spiritual brightness when listening to the sermon, or in the midst of enjoyment as they partook of the Lord’s Supper, getting up from the benches, leaping and praising God. They broke out with a joyful voice, and shouted, ‘Gogoniant! Bendigedig!’ from the depths of their heart. It was a strange thing to hear such characters as these confessing publicly with tears that they were sinners, and they would be lost forever had not God, of his great love and grace, saved them because of Jesus Christ. And if they truly believed these things how could theirs spirit be less than fervently moved as the remembered the Saviour’s death?

So the number of members multiplied, and with very warm religious feelings they were all more eager than ever for having church meetings where they could exhort one another to live godly. They all exhorted each other to ‘continue in the faith’ and to believe unfeignedly in Jesus Christ as Saviour. And furthermore the urged each other to raise an altar to God in each family, and to have public prayer at the hearth each morning and evening, and without excuse to constrain everyone pertaining to the family to join with them in this service. At this time hymns it became a common thing to treasure hymns in the memory, a thing on which great importance was laid in order to be able to join in the praise in the public meetings. This proved to be a most effectual and blessed thing, as many of the children of the revival came to believe, and not totally without foundation either, that the hymns had been composed under the influence of the inspiration of God. In those days a hymnbook was not to be seen in the hands of the congregation. If they were to be had, a large number would not have been able to read them. In order for the congregation to be able to sing the hymn together, or rather the verse, it was given out twice – the first time from start to finish without interruption; and the second time every two lines or rhyming couplet. And not infrequently there was doubling and trebling of the song, and that with hwyl and spiritual fervency. Indeed there was not much skill in their singing; at best, it was only sufficiently clumsy; yet, despite all its disarray [aflenwch], the singing was fervent, and ‘singing with the spirit.’ We have heard of some circumstances in which the congregation had divided into two parts, and it was not uncommon for one part to start the second line before the other part had finished the first. Worshipful singing was of more importance than musical singing. The understanding and the work were little insisted on [???]; the spirit was made almost the whole.

It is clear from the account that the Reverend David Jones, Llangan had felt an intense desire to work together with the Methodists from his early in his history, and continued to the end of his life thus to do though he remained and retained his place in the church as a priest. Together with Mr Jones another very famous priest came on to the field, the Re. William Howells, Llwynhelyg, near Cowbridge. This young man was curate to Mr Jones for years, and he was his curate in his last days. Mr Howells was of evident service to religion in Wales while he was in connection with Mr Jones. We have the following account of them both preaching together in the old Gyfylchi chapel: - ‘It should be noticed that Mr Howells preached sometimes on public occasions. He and his beloved friend, Jones of Llangan, were once appointed to preach at an anniversary meeting at the Episcopal Chapel, Gyfylchi, situated in the western part of Glamorganshire. Howells having modestly prefaced his discourse with an humble acknowledgment of his youth and inexperience, and expressing a hope that his venerable father who was to follow him would kindly correct any mistake into which he might fall, and cover any imperfection that might be found in his discourse, proceeded to deliver a sermon on the sayings of Christ in such a sublime style of theology that excited the admiration and deeply affected the feelings of a vast assemblage of well-informed Christians.’ It appears from what was related that Mr Jones, Llangan, and Mr Howells, Llwynhelig, were preaching together in Gyfylchi chapel. The young man who preached afterwards became the immortal ‘Howells, Long Acre.’ And each of them was in Gyfylchi preaching at different times during the period referred to above. Howells would come there himself on the communion Sabbath, though he was only a very young man. It was said to us that on some occasions he had more influence than did the good man who was above him in authority. It was related to us concerning one most remarkable meeting in his history in Gyfylchi. Whilst he was administering the holy supper, and declaring with eloquence and warmth the nature of Christ’s suffering as an atonement for sin, so that many of the communicants forgot themselves – jumping and praising – the cup and the bread fell from his hand to the ground, and then he folded his arms on his breast, and lifted his eyes to heaven, and said in an uncommonly earnest tone, ‘O great Lord, my nature cannot take any more!’

We do not know for sure in which year the Methodists held the annual meeting referred to above, but we know that Mr Howells, Llwynhelig, was born the year after the Methodists built their chapel at Gyfylchi. In the English extract above, the reader can see that the building in which he preached was called the ‘Episcopal Chapel, Gyfylchi’.

There was thirty years between the opening of the Methodist Chapel in Gyfylchi in the year 1777 and when the fervent and effectual revival broke out in the year 1806 under a sermon of Jones, Llangan, in Gyfylchi. We believe that sometime after that there was the yearly meeting under consideration. Six years after the revival had started the religious influence was exceptionally warm in this part of the county.

It is clear that at this time the religious state of our nation was very low, not only in the environs of Gyfylchi, butin the whole diocese, previous to the revivals that followed the beginnings of the Methodist Connexion. Of God’s mercy things have changed greatly for the better by the present day. We count it an honour and a privilege to be members of this Connexion, which has done so much towards cultivating and religionizing the rising age. In the period under view the fire of the religious revival was kindled in Neath, Dyffryn Tai Bach, Pyle, together with various surrounding places. The places mentioned were the earliest religious causes established in these parts, and with the support of the Calvinistic Methodists. As a result of that Gyfylchi became a place of note, and was considered, not only because it was the cause that had been started before them, but also because it was in a central position.’ [Griffith Thomas, Lloffyn olaf o faes hynafiaethau: Capel Gyfylchi, ger Pontrhydyfen, Port Talbot, Treorchy, [1899], pp.53-62]

‘A LOOK AT THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RELIGIOUS MEMBERS OF THE PERIOD.

We shall confine our notes on this chiefly to the girls and women. We shall begin with Betti Llewelyn, Pontrhydyfen. She was born in 1785, in a remote and ANGHYGYRCH called Fforch-dwn-uchaf. This house stands in the armpit of one of the mountains that lie to the north-east, and the place where the remains of the old chapel under view stands. We have been led to understand that she was won to listen to the preaching of the gospel very early, but how early we do not know. She used to say that it was under a sermon of Jones, Llangan, in 1806, that that never to be forgotten change took place. She was received as a member of Gyfylchi Chapel by Shencyn Thomas, Penhydd. That respected hero was sixty years old on the 16th of September of that year, namely 1806. Her name at that time was Elizabeth James. She said that the text of the reverend gentleman from Llangan was, ‘For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.’ [Rom. 7:8-9] The matter, she said, was the part the law takes in convicting the sinner. We remember when very young that this most essential and necessary matter being brought to attention when receiving new members to the church in Pontrhydyfen. We heard the old elder William Rees, Penrhys Fach, asking an old man [or man in age] on his being received for the first time into the church – ‘Do you know something of being slain by the law?’ This was not an uncommon question in the Methodist churches sixty years ago. We will not polish anything of Betti Llewelyn’s statement of the never to be forgotten occasion, which she described many times having escaped from it safely through him. And the following is her description of her feelings on the occasion when she came under conviction: - ‘I felt myself guilty in the face of God’s law. The fear of death, judgment and the eternal world had completely overpowered [llethu] me in hopelessness forever, without knowing where to go or what to do in order to find deliverance and relief from my strange and acute affliction. But thanks be forever,’ she said, ‘I felt myself in the midst of a light concerning my cause between me and the law, by my having a clear and unmistaken view of Jesus Christ and his infinite merit. I could imagine I saw and heard him asking the law personally on my behalf, and saying, ‘If thou art owed anything, count it to me’ “Who,” she said, “could not shout out ‘Gogoniant,’ in everlasting thanks to him for releasing me from the damnation that was shown by the preacher before my mind at the time. Before going out of the meeting I felt that I had been reconciled to God, and that my relationship to him and the law had changed forever. She often used to say that that fact had been assured to her many times during her life - ‘There will never be any change in the relationship, as a consequence of which there remains no condemnation.” [Thomas, Lloffyn olaf pp.71-]

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones


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