Death of William Williams and Revival
1839 Wern. ‘His friends entertained sanguine hopes that the summer (of 1839) might rally him and his beloved daughter; but in this they were disappointed, for she rapidly declined and sunk, while he was made to suffer from the renewal of his cough and illness. He continued however to discharge his ministerial duties and to pay occasional visits to his brethren and the churches in Wales, till towards the close of the summer.
About the end of August, his physician told him, that he must leave Liverpool, and return to the Principality, otherwise neither he nor his daughter must expect to live much longer. His attachment to the church and congregation at the tabernacle was very strong, and theirs to him increased daily; but now it became necessary to dissolve the union, however intimate. The path of duty was obvious enough to both parties. The consequence was, that he resigned his charge at Liverpool, after three years of indefatigable and successful labour, interrupted only by ill health.
On finding that Mr Williams had been compelled to return to Wales, the churches at Wern and Rhos, who had been destitute of a pastor since he left them, sent him an affectionate invitation to spend the remainder of his days among the people whom he had so long and so faithfully served. He accepted their invitation – came over to Wales – and took a house next to the one he had occupied previous to his removal to Liverpool.
On Sabbath evening, the 20th of October, 1839, he preached his farewell sermon, to a crowded and mournful congregation. Contrary to all expectation, he was very lively and animated and preached for considerably more than an hour with uncommon facility. Touching was the sight of the congregation, as they smiled their approbation through tears of sorrow. Doubtless, there were many there, who heard him under the foreboding impression, that they should never see his face nor hear his voice again, and they could have “wept sore and fallen on his neck and kissed him,” as the Ephesians did when they took their leave of Paul.
When he had been in Wales a few weeks, there was a manifest improvement in his health. He said he felt himself gaining strength daily, and that he was nearly as strong as before his illness, but his dear Elizabeth grew rapidly weaker. And alas! his own improvement was only like the momentary lighting down of the sun between two thick dark clouds on a showery day in autumn.
A great revival had taken place at Wern, a little time previous to his leaving Liverpool, and that afforded him inexpressible delight. Shortly after his return to his former charge, he invited the writer, and Mr Jones, of Ruthin, to assist him at a meeting which was to be held at Wern; and that was the last public meeting he ever attended, though he preached several times afterwards. His prayers and addresses on this occasion were very impressive and affecting. In the church meeting, which was held in the evening after the public service, he could not suppress his feelings while addressing the young converts. “I see here,” he said, “many faces that I feared I should never see in the Church of God. For years did I aim at the conversion of some of you, – but to no purpose. I expended what wisdom and talent I possessed in endeavouring to reach and gain your hearts, but in vain. I was compelled to leave you – unconverted; but I have been spared to see you, I trust, return to God. It is like a dream to me to see some of you. Oh, how thankful ought I to be that I am permitted to see what I do to-night.” This was sometime towards the end of November.
His health continued promising and improving till the twentieth of December, on the evening of which he was cheerfully conversing with his friend and former neighbour, Mr. Jones, of Minsterly, when, on coughing, he burst a blood vessel. It happened fortunately that the medical attendant, (Dr Lewis, of Wrexham,) was in the house at the time, having come over to visit Miss Williams, who was by this time very ill and confined to her bed. Dr Lewis put him to bed and gave strict orders that he should be kept perfectly quiet, and not be allowed to move or speak. This blow proved fatal in its consequences. From that day he gave up all thoughts of recovery. Oh, how uncertain and liable to disappointments are all earthly hopes! The expectations of Mr Williams and his numerous anxious friends were nipped in the bud by the breath of one poisonous breeze.
He rallied a little after this, so as to be able to leave his bed and come down-stairs, but not sufficiently to afford the slightest hope of recovery.
From this time he and his daughter, as he observed to her one day, appeared to be running with contending footsteps to be first at the goal.
The following account of them was taken from the “Dysgedydd” for May 1840.
“It appears they were so much in the habit of conversing about death and heaven, that they were able to refer to these subjects with unruffled composure, and to rejoice in the prospect of ‘being absent from the body’ and ‘present with the Lord,’ which they believed to be ‘far better.’ Every morning, as soon as he was up, found Mr W. by the bedside of his dying daughter, enquiring how she had passed the night. ‘Well, Eliza,’ he asked on one occasion, ‘how are you this morning?’ ‘Very weak, father,’ was the answer. ‘We are both on the race-course,’ said he – ‘which of us do you suppose will reach the goal first?’ ‘Oh! I shall, father – I think you have more work to do yet.’ ‘No,’ he replied, – ‘I think my work is nearly over.’ ‘It may be so, but I still think I shall be the first to depart.’ ‘Perhaps,’ he observed, ‘it is best it should be so, for I am more able to bear the blow.’ – ‘But,’ he continued, ‘do you long to see the end of the journey?’ ‘Oh from my heart!’ was the reply. ‘Why?’ ‘Because I shall see many of my old friends – and my mother – and above all I shall see Jesus.’ ‘Ah! well then, tell them I am coming.’“
Mr Williams and his daughter were evidently fast ripening for heaven; and, according to the expectation of both, she was the first to reach the goal. Her last days were full of peace. “Peace! peace!” were her last words; and she “entered into peace and rested in her bed” on the twenty-first of February, 1840, in her twenty-second year. She was buried in her mother’s grave.
We must now return to the father, whom we shall find hastening rapidly after her, growing daily weaker and weaker in body, but brighter and brighter in character. The “days of his warfare” are about to close, – and the “change” for which he “waits” he shall soon experience.
One day Mr Pearce, of Wrexham, came to visit him. He had just been “setting his house in order.” On being asked how he was by Mr P., he replied, “I have now quite done with earth – henceforth nothing for me but heaven.”
The nearer he approached death and heaven, the more deeply was he concerned about the souls of men and the cause of the Redeemer. The powerful revivals with which the churches were visited at that time filled his heart with joy and gratitude. “Last February, (writes the Rev. B. W. Chidlaw, of America,) I paid him a visit when on a tour through a part of my native country, but there was no prospect that he would ever recover. There was a great awakening then in the churches of Wern and Rhos, and hosts were pressing into the kingdom of heaven, but he was not able to leave his room. Referring to his inability to be among the people, he said to me with deep feeling while his soul was full of heaven, ‘Here I am like a disabled huntsman – I hear the horn but cannot follow. My heart is with them, and God grant that all their efforts to save souls may be crowned with great success. If the same spirit which animates the ministers and churches now had been infused into them twenty years ago, we should have been to-day singing the songs of victory.’“
About five weeks before his death, a revival meeting was held at Rhos, in which “the powers of the world to come” were felt in an uncommon degree, so that numbers “came weeping to ask the way to Zion.” He felt the deepest anxiety about this meeting, to which he sent repeated messages in the course of the day, in order to encourage his ministerial brethren and the church in their work, – to assure them that, though “absent from them in body, he was present with them in spirit;” and to beg an interest in their prayers on behalf of himself and his children. The following morning, the writer, accompanied by his friend Jones, of Ruthin, went to see him. He had risen and was sitting by the fire. The Rev. W. Griffiths, of Holyhead, and Joseph Jones, Esq., of Liverpool, were also present. We shall never forget his look when we entered the room. When he saw us he stood up – his face, into which his whole soul, intellect, and feeling appeared to have risen, shining like an angel’s, while in his eyes mingled the fire with the gushing tear. We wept together. “O my dear brethren,” he exclaimed, “how delighted I am to see you return from the battlefield; – you won a glorious victory yesterday while I was here like a disabled soldier, within sound of the battle but unable to engage in it. O how I longed to be with you, but it pleased my captain to dispose of me otherwise. He laid me aside, but he did it with the most considerate kindness, for he ‘has not taken my crown’ from me, nor cast me to the dunghill. If five and twenty years ago, I had possessed the spirit and feelings I have now, O how much more good might I have done! I had time, talents, and influence, with which, had they been rightly employed, I could have agitated the whole Principality: but alas! I too much trifled with them – and it is a wonder that the great master did not spurn me from his presence as a ‘vessel wherein is no pleasure.’“
“Oh!” said one of us, “we long and hope to see you once more on the field.” “There is very little likelihood of that,” he replied; “but if there were, I trust I should be a far more efficient soldier than I have ever yet been.”
His dear Elizabeth was at this time on the confines of the “valley,” and we accompanied him to her room, but she could only sweetly smile on us, which sufficiently indicated her placid state of mind. After commending her to God in a short prayer, we prepared to depart: and, oh! – sacred moments! giving us a look which it is impossible to describe, he said, “Well, it is possible – and indeed probable, that we are about to part for the last time – but if we are never to see one another’s faces again in this world, let us adjure each other on this spot and at this moment that we will meet in heaven.” Indeed “the place was very dreadful!” He spoke with an emphasis and solemnity which created feelings far too deep for tears to express.
We saw him once more when we found him very much reduced and too feeble to converse with us, but cheerful and composed in his mind; so we took our leave of him for the last time and departed. We thought that his feeling then was, “from henceforth let no man trouble me.”
One night he was heard sighing deeply when Mrs Edwards (formerly of Cadwgan, who proved a kind nurse to him and his daughter during their illness) approached the bed to enquire the cause. “The interests of immortal souls!” was his reply. “Is there nothing that you can do, Mrs Edwards,” he asked, “to save souls?” “Perhaps I could do more,” she answered, “if I were more ‘in the light.’“ “Yes, yes,” he replied, “more in the light as to their value.”
On Monday evening, the sixteenth of March, he requested to see the deacons of Wern and Rhos, when he conversed with them for some time about the affairs of the two churches and gave them several counsels and directions. Soon after they were gone, his mind was observed to wander, and about nine o’clock next morning, Williams of Wern had ceased to live. He died on the 17th of March, 1840, in the 59th year of his age.
On the 25th, there assembled a very large number of friends to evince the last mark of respect by following his mortal remains to their “long home.”
Before the corpse was removed from the house, the Rev. Arthur (now Dr.) Jones, of Bangor, read and prayed, as did also the Rev. Dr Raffles, of Liverpool. The procession then moved towards Wern Chapel, where, after the Rev. S. Roberts, M.A., of Llanbrynmair, had read and prayed, the Rev. Messrs. Pearce, of Wrexham, Jones, of Llanuwchllyn, and Jones, of Dolgellau, briefly addressed the congregation.
Short addresses were also delivered at the grave, by the brethren Rees, of Denbigh, and the Rev. Dr Raffles and a prayer was offered up by an old friend of the deceased, Mr Roberts, of Tanyclawdd, a Calvinistic Methodist Minister. There were present at least thirty-five ministers. On the following Sabbath, funeral sermons were preached for him by nearly all the ministers who attended his burial as well as by several others. Rees, of Denbigh, preached at Wern and Rhos, to large and sorrowing congregations, from 2 Sam. i. 19 – “The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places: how are the mighty fallen!” [William Rees, Memoirs of the late Rev. W. Williams, of Wern, trans. J. R. Jones, (London, 1846),pp.62-70; also W. Rees, Cofiant y Diweddar Barch. W. Williams, o’r Wern, Llanelli 1842, pp.44-50; David Samuel Jones, Cofiant Darluniadol y Parchedig William Williams, o’r Wern, Dolgellau , pp.336-48; source???; see DCC p.353-4)
Caernarfonshire (sources???; see DCC p.354)
This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones
Would you please contact us if you know where these meetings took place?