1791 TC and revival at Bala.
“BALA, Dec. 7. 1791.
MY DEAR FRIEND—You enquire about the state of the churches in poor Wales. I have nothing but what is favourable to relate. We had, lately, a very comfortable association at Pwllhely; some thousands attended more than ever was seen there before. And here, in our town of Bala, for some time back, we have had a very great, powerful, and glorious outpouring of the Spirit of our God, on the people in general, especially young people. The state and welfare of the soul has become the general concern of the country. Scores of the wildest, and most inconsiderate of the people, have been awakened. Their convictions are very clear, powerful, and, in some individuals, very deep, till brought, for a time, to the brink of despair; their consolations also, which soon follow, are equally strong. A wild, vain young woman, of this town, was a singular instance of this; she had such a deep sense of her lost and helpless state, as to confine her to her bed for three weeks, where, in the greatest agony of soul-distress, she roared till her strength failed her. She hung, supported only by a slender thread of hope, over infinite and eternal misery, justly deserved. In this distressing situation, I found her, on my return from London; and a more awful case I never saw. The arrows of God stuck fast in her, and his hand pressed her sore, killing her to make her alive. And in his own good time, he graciously removed the bitter cup, and filled her soul with strong consolations, and joy unspeakable: he set his prisoner free, and gave her the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. 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.
This glorious work began on a Sunday afternoon, in the Chapel, where I preached twice that day, and cannot say, that there was anything particular in the ministry of that day, more than what I had often experienced among our dear people here. But, towards the close of the evening service, the Spirit of God seemed to work in a very powerful manner on the minds of great numbers present, who never appeared before to seek the Lord’s face; but now, there was a general and a loud crying, ‘What must I do to be saved,’ and, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ 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. And the very same night, a spirit of deep conviction, and serious concern fell upon whole congregations, in this neighbourhood, when calling upon the name of the Lord.
In the course of the following week, we had nothing but prayer-meetings, and general concern about eternal things swallowed up all other concerns. And a spirit of conviction spread so rapidly, that there was hardly a young person in the neighbourhood but began to enquire, What will become of me? The work has continued to go on ever since with unabated power and glory, spreading from one town to another, all around this part of the country. New conquests are gained every week, and new captives brought in. A dispensation so glorious, I never beheld, nor indeed expected to see in my day. In the course of [the] eight years I [have] laboured in this country, I have had frequent opportunities of seeing, and feeling also, much of the divine presence in the Lord’s work and ordinances, and great success attending the ministration of the word; but nothing to equal the present work. Whilst it stirs up the dormant enmity and rage of some, who continue the determined enemies of our God; yet the coming of the Lord amongst us has been with such majesty, glory, and irresistible power, that even his avowed enemies would be glad to hide themselves somewhere, from the brightness of his coming.
What number have been savingly wrought upon, time will reveal; there are hardly any here without some concern about their souls, but some feel a much deeper work than others. This revival of religion has put an end to all the merry meetings for dancing, singing with the harp, and every kind of sinful mirth, which used to be so prevalent amongst young people here. And a large fair, kept here a few days ago, the usual revelling, the sound of music, and vain singing, was not to be heard in any part of the town; a decency in the conduct, and sobriety in the countenances, of our country people, appeared the whole of that fair, which I never observed before; and by the united desire of hundreds, we assembled at the chapel that night, and enjoyed a most happy opportunity. I am well aware, that should the Rationalists, in England, hear of what is going forward in this country, they would consider the whole as wild enthusiasm, and the effects of overheated imagination; we deny not, but there may be dross mixed with the fine gold; but that this work is of God, we can no more doubt, than that light and heat proceed from the sun. We are willing to rest the credit of it upon the fruits of righteousness, which it produceth in rich abundance. And if the Lord God is graciously pleased to continue the work, as it has prevailed for some months past, for some months yet to come, the Devil’s kingdom will be in ruins in our neighbourhood.
Ride on! ride on! thou King of Glory, is the fervent cry of my soul day and night; and in this, I doubt not, but you will join me. I verily believe, the Lord means soon to give the kingdom of darkness a dreadful shake; for he takes off the pillars of it. Those who were the foremost in wickedness and rebellion, are now amongst the foremost in seeking for mercy and salvation in the blood of the Lamb. It is an easy and delightful work to preach the glorious Gospel here, in these days; for many are the fervent prayers, put up by the people, for the preacher; and they hear the word for eternity. Divine truths have their own infinite weight and importance in the minds of the people. Beams of divine light, together with irresistible energy, accompany every truth delivered. It is delightful, indeed, to see how the stoutest heart bent, and the hardest, melted down with fire from God’s altar; for the word comes in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and is made mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds. I bless God for these days, and would not have been without seeing what I now see in the land.—No; not for the world. And I am not without hopes, but these are dawnings of the promised millenium, and showers that precede the storm which will entirely overturn the kingdom of darkness. These are the blessed tidings which I have to relate to you, dear Brother, respecting poor Wales.
The Charity Schools, which are set up all over the country, are abundantly blessed of God; children that were aforetime, like jewels buried in rubbish, without seeing their worth, now shine with peculiar lustre. They flock, in great numbers, to hear the word; behave with all decency, and solemn attention; and many, under the age of twelve years, are deeply affected, astonished, and overpowered with divine truths, and their minds filled with nothing else day and night; of these things they talk when they lie down, and when they rise up.
All I relate are matters of facts, and have not exaggerated in the least degree; nor related but a small part of the whole. The Lord hath done, great things for us, and to his great name be all the praise!
[Timothy Priestley’s Christian’s Magazine, iii. (1792), pp. 58, quoted in LTC ii. 88-91]
‘“BALA, Jan. 26, 1792.
DEAR SIR—YOU may be perfectly satisfied about the authenticity of the account, which you have seen in the Christian’s Magazine, of a recent revival of religion here, at Bala. The account was written by myself, in a letter to an intimate friend in England, in the course of my correspondence with him, without any intention of its being ever published. However, what I have related there, is a matter of fact; and the work still continues its progress with great power and glory. New conquests are made, and fresh captives are continually brought in, and those in general, the most wild and abandoned that we had in the neighbourhood. I can hardly believe my eyes sometimes, when I see in our chapel those, who were the most faithful servants of Satan, weeping, in the greatest distress, under a sense of sin and danger, and crying out for mercy. But these are the pleasing objects with which our eyes are continually gratified.
This work here is,—1. A very gracious work. Grace abounds towards the chief of sinners, unsought for, unexpected, and unthought of.—2. It is a very powerful work. Convictions are deep and overpowering. All self-confidences, and vain hopes are powerfully and thoroughly demolished, and the sinner is left naked and helpless before infinite eternal misery. The evil of sin; the abounding of it also, both inward and outward; together with the infinite misery it justly deserves, in the most clear and overpowering light, are, at once, often, presented to the[ir] minds. Their consolations, in general, are strong consolations; which always proceed from a discovery, made to their souls, of Christ in the divine excellencies and dignities of his person, and glorious fullness, and freeness of his redemption.—3. In the language of inspiration, I may call it also, a ‘short work.’ There is little preparative work preceding. Convictions fly, like arrows from a strong well bent bow, and fasten at once, not unlike St. Paul’s when going to Damascus. I mean, this is the case frequently, though not always.—4. It is likewise a growing work. I do not mean, that it spreads wider and wider in the country, though that be the case; but it grows and thrives in the souls of those where it is begun. Indeed, here I have found great satisfaction. It is most pleasing and comfortable to observe, how those whom, at first, we perceived enveloped in great darkness, only full of fear and dreadful apprehensions of futurity, now enlightened in the truths, and established in the doctrines of the Gospel. When evangelical truths become the food of souls, and they desire them as the newborn babes do the breast, they must necessarily thrive and grow. Human, speculative knowledge, even of divine truths, freeze and starve the soul; whilst divine, experimental knowledge, warms, enlivens, and invigorates those, who are blessed with it from above. They then become not truths to talk of only, but to feed and live upon; and when we live on this living bread, we cannot but be lively and strong ourselves.—5. It is a pretty general work also, in this part of the country. I do not mean, that people in general are savingly wrought upon, but that numbers are so wrought upon, I have no doubt, in the different parts of this neighbourhood; and that the generality of our numerous hearers have their convictions in a greater or less degree.—I wish to add, and I hope you will join me in praying, that it may be,—6. A lasting work. I doubt not but it is so on the souls of many; but may the Lord continue, in his power and glory, still to carry it on amongst us, till Satan’s kingdom be entirely in ruins! Glorify God on our behalf, Dear Sir, and pray earnestly for us, that in such an awfully delightful season as this, we may be enabled so to conduct ourselves, as not to grieve the good Spirit of the Lord, and thereby cause him to withdraw himself from us. I dread that! Lord keep us!
Believe me, Dear Sir, that I rejoice to hear of you[r] prosperity and the welfare of your family. That the Lord would still crown your life with his continued blessing, and your labours with abundant success, is the sincerest prayer of,
Dear Sir, Your affectionate Brother, &c.
[Timothy Priestley’s Christian’s Magazine, iii. (1792), pp. 957, quoted in LTC ii. 93-5] “DEAR SIR—Continual absence from home, about my divine Master’s business, is the only reason of my not answering your kind letter sooner. This will form to you a sufficient apology. By this time, perhaps, you have seen, in Priestley’s Magazine, another letter respecting the work here. That it is a work of God I am not left to doubt in the least degree: it carries along with it every scriptural satisfactory evidence that we can possibly desire; such as deep conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; great reformation of manners; great love for, and delight in, the word of God, in prayer, in spiritual conversation, and Divine ordinances. These, in particular, among young people, occupy the place and employ the time that was spent in vain diversions and amusements. No harps, but the golden harps which St. John speaks of, have been played upon in this neighbourhood, for several months past. The craft is not only in danger, but entirely destroyed and abolished. The little stone has broke in pieces and consumed all those ensnaring hinderances. But I am far from expecting that all those who have experienced Divine influences are savingly wrought upon, and soundly converted. If that were the case, all the country would be converted; for, at one time, there were very few in it but what felt an awful impression, from the hand of God, upon their minds, producing foreboding fears respecting their future existence in another world. It was a most solemn time indeed! I never saw a livelier picture of the state of people’s minds in the day of judgment, according to their respective conditions. That awful dispensation lasted but few weeks, but the ministration of the word is still lively and powerful; and fresh awakenings take place, though not so numerous as at first. Perhaps it will not be known till the judgment day how many of these new converts are actually brought into a state of salvation, nor who they are; but, hitherto, we have every reason to be thankful for the good profession they continue to make. Among so many there must be a great variety, and we may have better hopes of some than others, but hitherto none have ‘turned away from feeding beside the Shepherd’s tent.’ As to the further spread of the work, the prospect, in our country, in general, is very pleasing. In Carnarvonshire and Anglesea congregations are very numerous and very large. Thousands flock together at the sound of the gospel trumpet and hear with great earnestness and attention. Awakenings, also, are frequent; but as to any extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit, there is none at present, but in two places besides this neighbourhood; and, in those places, it does not carry with it the strong marks of power irresistible and convincing demonstration which has attended it here. The report of what was going on here has awakened the attention of all the country, filled the churches everywhere with a spirit of thanksgiving and prayer. I have hardly a doubt but it will spread: the beginning was so glorious that I cannot suppose but it precedes great things. The churches everywhere are, if I may so say, in labour; and I cannot but expect that a ‘manchild is to be born.’ They are prepared; they are praying; they are waiting and longing for his coming. He has, indeed, already done great things in this principality. Within these fifty years there have been five or six very great awakenings: a land of darkness and of the shadow of death hath seen [a] great light: but oh, may we live to see still greater things! Your saying ‘that a similar revival took place in your country about fifty years ago,’ enkindled a spirit of prayer in me for the return of your jubilee. I am persuaded, that unless we are favoured with frequent revivals, and a strong, powerful work of the Spirit of God, we shall, in a great degree, degenerate, and have only a ‘name to live:’ religion will soon lose its vigour; the ministry will hardly retain its lustre and glory; and iniquity will, of consequence, abound. I am far from supposing this to be the case in your country; I am only speaking of the thing itself. Scotland, I know, has, in ages past, been a most highly favoured country: I hope it still continues so, but I am perfectly ignorant of the present state of religion in it. May the good Lord hasten that blessed time when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ! I beg my love to all Christian friends with you. I beg an interest in all your prayers. Blessed be God that I have an Advocate with the Father! He sees, commiserates, and can succour and relieve as necessity requires. From this joyful consideration alone proceeds my resolution and courage to go on. You may well suppose, that whilst God is amongst us Satan is not asleep: he is alive, and going about, with his usual diabolical disposition. In the church, or out of the church, he is always plotting some mischief. I would wish to be watchfully observing all his motions and machinations. The God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly. I am your unworthy companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,
And your obedient humble servant,
BALA, May 2nd, 1792.”
[Robert Phillip, The Life, Times, and Missionary Enterprises of the Rev. John Campbell, pp.147-8, quoted in LTC ii. 97-9] “DEAR SIR—Your favour dated Nov. 24 came duly to hand. I must beg your pardon for being so slow in writing to you, but your kindness has furnished me with the only apology which I can make, viz., my very many avocations; which are so numerous, and crowding upon me daily, that I have not the time to pay proper attention to friends which I could wish. I have no doubt but you will, as my other valuable friends do, indulge me with a free pardon without any more apology. As to the present state of religion in this country, through distinguishing and unspeakable mercy I have nothing to complain of; unless I complain of myself, for which there is abundant cause. In the course of the last year the almighty power of the gospel has been most gloriously manifested in different parts of our country. I think the country in general never presented a more promising aspect. Last spring there was a very great and general awakening through a very large and populous district in Carnarvonshire; in the space of three months some hundreds were brought under concern about their souls. I was last month through that part of the country, and the prospect still continues delightful indeed. Oh, my dear Sir, it is a melodious sound,—yes, in the ears of Deity himself, to hear poor perishing sinners by scores crying out, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ but this was the sound I heard, in almost every opportunity, as I lately passed through that part of the country. The subjects of this work are much the same as here at Bala, children and young people, from eight or ten to thirty; the effects also on the country at large are very similar to those I described as attending the work at Bala,—a general reformation of morals; the most diligent attendance on the means of grace, private and public; thirst after divine knowledge, such as is practical and spiritual, &c., &c. The sound of the gospel brings heaven to their thirsty souls, whilst the miserable captives of sin and Satan are set at liberty. Here at Bala through mercy we still go on well, and have much cause for thankfulness; though not favoured with the wonderful scenes we were gratified with this time two years, most of those of whom we had any degree of satisfaction as to a work of deep conviction on their minds, and not only terror for the moment, have stood their ground amazingly well; we have lost very few of them; and many, respecting whom we had no satisfaction at first, have come on well; at first, perhaps, only a little terrified; yet, being in that fright, and brought to attend the preaching of the word, they have been gradually enlightened and wrought upon, and are now hopeful members of our church. There is a work going on still among us, though not so powerful as at the period above alluded to; we are continually increasing, and our congregations continue as large, if not larger than ever; and at times the word seems to have wonderful effect. I must add also, though with sorrow, that a great many who have felt most powerful supernatural workings upon their minds have entirely lost them, and are quite fallen off; they will yet come to hear, but hearing is all. Some even of them have had a second visit from the Lord, more effectual than at first, and we have received them again with joy. We have had many instances of young children, who had once experienced those powerful workings on their minds, after having for a season entirely lost them, have had them again renewed, and are now in the church, comforting our hearts with very promising hopes. I must not omit informing you that one great means of promoting the work of God among our young are the circulating CHARITY SCHOOLS, which have been supported among us for these nine years, past; they are supported entirely by subscriptions and charitable donations of friends of the gospel. We have now about twenty schoolmasters, employed in five different counties, to each of whom we pay ten pounds per annum; they are entirely at our disposal, and we move them from place to place all over the country and teach all that will attend them, rich or poor, gratis. Half a year we find sufficient to teach a child of moderate capacity to read the Bible well in the Welsh language. The only intention of these schools is to teach children to read their own language, and to instruct them in the first principles of religion, and to endeavour to impress their minds with a sense of the importance of divine truths. It is impossible to express the blessing which has attended these little seminaries and still continues to attend them. I visit them myself and catechise the children publicly. Sometimes the congregation has been so large on these catechetical occasions, that I have been obliged to perform the whole service in the open air. I have drawn up a little form comprehending the first principles of Christianity, according to which they are instructed. In some of the schools we have had general awakenings among the children; they have been a great means of soberizing the minds of young people, drawing their attention to the Bible; it gives them a taste for reading, and the next step will be to attend preaching, which is seldom without some effect on their minds. We take care that the teachers are men of piety and zeal for the conversion of sinners. We have but one only point in view in these institutions; that is, the salvation of their souls. We endeavour to bring this point into their view in all its infinite importance, as far surpassing all other matters whatsoever. This is what we aim to do; but, alas! how little would all avail, were it not for the powerful agency of the blessed Spirit. Blessed be the Lord, we see him evidently and gloriously at work among us; never more so than at the present time, taking the country at large. Bless the Lord in our behalf, and pray for a continuance of his loving kindness.
I am, dear Sir, Your affectionate and unworthy servant,
BALA, Jan. 8, 1794.
P.S.—Pardon the incoherency of this letter, being written at different intervals. My love to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our common Friend. O what a Friend!! Blessed be God for him: he is our all. Who would not serve him, and live to him? He deserves more than we can do to eternity. Give my love to all that love him, and may their number increase.”
1812 Bala district. ‘Hundreds of children and young people have joined the societies this year. On the 27th September, the children and young people from an extensive part of the land were publicly catechised in our chapel in Bala. I never saw such an affecting sight. They were hardly able to give their answers as they were overcome with weeping, and the whole congregation was possessed by the same feelings. All these young people had experienced religious impressions on their minds during the last nine months, and a thorough change has taken place in all their behaviour. The Lord made a deep and enduring impression on their minds. As they recited scriptures that set out the misery of the ungodly who die in their sins, they wept bitterly.’ [Y Trysorfa p.???]
This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones
This is where the thousands who came for the Association meetings would gather.