Starting in 1828, or rather the end of 1827, and continuing for the next couple of years a widespread revival movement occurred that is generally known as the Carmarthenshire revival, though it was not confined to that county, as it spread to most of the counties of south Wales. At the same time a number of separate revivals were experienced in several of the northern counties. The accounts of the revival are also more numerous, enabling the course of the revival to be traced in more detail.
It has often been said that the revival commenced in the summer of 1828,but its source is to be traced back to the end of the previous year. Writing to a ministerial colleague in London in February 1829 David Peter, Carmarthen, details the rise and progress of the revival:
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.
Thomas Rees for instance, see HPNW, p. 429.
Congregational Magazine, xii (1829), pp. 224-225.
1827-30 Carmarthenshire Revival. General accounts: ‘The memorable revival which commenced in Caermarthenshire in the summer of 1828, and soon spread over the whole Principality, continued unabated to the close of the year 1830. We find in the “History of the Antipædobaptist Associations,” that 6,642 were added to the churches of that denomination during those years. That being by far the smallest of the three leading denominations, we may safely estimate the additions to the Independent and Calvinistic Methodist churches at 20,000; and if the increase of the Wesleyan Societies was proportionate, the churches of the four denominations had above 30,000 members added to them during the years 182830. Hundreds of those converted in this revival continue to this day to adorn their profession, and a large number of new interests then formed in different localities are lasting memorials of that gracious visitation.’ (HPNW p.429)
‘GOOD NEWS FROM WALES; OR, ACCOUNTS OF REVIVALS.
____ NO. I.
REVIVALS of religion being now happily the subject of so much inquiry among Christians, and forming so prominent a part of their prayers, I have great pleasure in communicating to you intelligence, which will, I am sure, gladden the heart of all those who long and pray for the prosperity of Zion. It is the substance of a letter which I have received from a gentleman in South Wales, who has taken considerable pains to collect the information with which he favours me, and on which you may place the fullest reliance as to authenticity and correctness.
With esteem, believe me, dear Sir,
Very sincerely yours,
Bristol, DAVID DAVIES.
Jan.10, 1829. About the commencement of the year 1828, a remarkable revival of religion manifested itself at a place called Caio, in the upper part of the county of Carmarthen, which soon spread itself to the adjoining congregations, of Kilcwyn, Pannau, Llansadwrn, Llansawel, Landovery, &c. In the course of the year, the addition of members to these and other congregations or churches in the same county, including a few on the borders of Breconshire, have been – to the Calvinistic Methodists, upwards of 1800; to the Independents, 1450; and to the Baptists, 445. The increased number of additions to the Independent churches is confined, in this statement, to the county of Carmarthen; but it adds, that their churches in the county of Brecon have also been highly favoured by an increase of members: how many, has not been ascertained. This revival continues, even to this day, to break out in other places in the above mentioned counties; and within the last two or three months, Glamorganshire, too, has partaken of the glorious outpouring; for in this short period, at a place called Morriston, in the neighbourhood of Swansea, 250 have joined the Calvinistic Methodists, and about an equal number have been united to the Independents. It is still extending powerfully and has lately visited Swansea, Neath, Lansamlet, and other places in that county. It is the Lord’s doing and is wonderful in their eyes.
Wales, at different periods, has had revivals, which have been the means, in the hand of the Almighty, to cause many a barren spot to teem with verdure, and the wilderness to blossom as the rose. In this revival, there has been considerably less of that violence of gesticulation or jumping, for which the poor Welsh have subjected themselves to the censure of their more quiet English brethren. Still, the silence of devotion has frequently been broken by the loud sighs of such as were under conviction, and by the psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, which would escape from others, even while the preacher was delivering his message, when the Holy Spirit showed them and made them feel, that there was a way of salvation, even to such sinful wretches as they now saw themselves to be. With all this, there is much weeping and praising God with uplifted hands.
In former revivals, frequent instances have been known of children being persecuted by their ungodly parents, or wives by their husbands, or husbands by their wives, for joining themselves to the Christian Societies; but now instances have occurred of young people, under the influence of convictions, having, by the advice of religious friends, asked their parents whether they would give their consent to their joining a Christian church; and they have cheerfully granted them leave with the tears gushing from their eyes, and grieving that they themselves were not similarly affected. Nothing is known as very particular or extraordinary preceding this wonderful visitation. Prayer meetings were regularly held in most of the favoured churches; generally early on the Sabbath, morning, and one night in the week besides, where many an earnest supplication was made to a throne of grace for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In these places great attention has also been paid to the Sunday-schools, where not only children have been taught to read, but young people, also, have been instructed in the doctrines of the Gospel. At these schools, catechisms on some of the most important doctrines and duties have been committed to memory by those who attended, together with large portions of the Holy Scriptures; and hundreds of psalms and chapters have been publicly repeated by them, either at the school, or as a substitute to the minister’s perusal of a chapter, at the commencement of public worship. These, however, are not held up as causes, but rather as signs or precursors, of the gracious intention of that Spirit who worketh how he pleases, when he pleases, and where he pleases. Is there not in this account an encouragement to Christians to give Jehovah no rest, until the whole of Britain, yea, the world at large, be filled with the knowledge of God? 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 outpouring 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 . . . . . . 110
Gwynfe . . . . . . . 190 Llangadog. . . . 64
Sardis and Mydd- Bethlehem . . . . 60
fai . . . . . . . . . 125 Abergorlech . . . . 26
Bethel, and two Llandeilo . . . . . . 84
others . . . . . . 146 Siloam . . . . . . . 80
Beulah, and two Gwernogle . . . . 120
others . . . . . . 148 Capel Isaac . . . . 78
Builth . . . . . . . . . 60 Salem . . . . . . . . 40
Cwmwysg . . . . . . 50 Pant-teg and Pe-
Crugybar . . . . . . . 85 niel . . . . . . . 150
Ffaldybrenin and Capel Noni . . . . . 23
Esgairdawe . . . 146 Cwmaman and
Tabor . . . . . . . . 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.
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:
14 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)] This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones
There were several revivals in Caio which can be seen from this plaque that shows the rebuildings of the chapel.