Christmas Evans' Chapel (1823)

This was Christmas Evans' Church and later, as a result of expansion the congregation moved to a building twenty yards to the right. He lived in the house to the left.

1826-7 Tonyfelin, Caerphilly, Glamorganshire, under Christmas Evans. ‘At this time, persons might be seen, every Lord’s-day morning, wending their way across the surrounding hills, in all directions, towards the quiet village of Caerphilly, to hear Christmas Evans. On their return, they detailed to their neighbours the wonderful things they had heard; and, throughout a large portion of the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth, Christmas Evans’s sermon in the morning would be the subject of conversation in hundreds of houses, at great distances, on the same evening. The power of his preaching was especially felt by the young people in and about the village, and not a few of the most determined votaries of pleasure submitted themselves to the authority of Christ, and became members of the church. About one hundred and forty persons were, in a short time, added to the number of the disciples; while confidence, buoyancy, and joy, was infused into the whole community.’ (Stephen, Memoir of Christmas Evans, p.115-6)

‘“On my way from Llangevni to Brynsiencyn, I felt such tenderness of heart, and that Christ’s presence was so near me, that as the coldness of my nature dissolved, I could not refrain from breaking out in supplications and tears. The wrestling lasted for some hours. I had strength given me to entrust myself and my ministry to Jesus Christ, with a con­fidence that raised me above all my troubles. I again entered into a covenant with God, which, however, I did not write. Unlike ‘the idol shepherd,’ mentioned in Zech. xi., I felt there was no I ‘sword’ of judgment upon my ‘right eye’ and my ‘right arm,’ viz., my spiritual light and the life and power of my preaching.”

In a dream, he beheld himself in a chapel like that of Caerphilly, and suspended from the roof there were many harps in green coverings, and somewhere in the background, the devil was anxiously surveying them, as if he trembled for the safety of his kingdom. The dreamer said: “I’ll reach down those heavenly harps,” and having taken of the cover­ings, he saw the ark of the covenant of the God of Israel, and upon it there was a Hebrew inscription in letters of gold. Then he cried out: “Bless the Lord, brethren, for He has visited us according to His promises and our prayers and expectations.”

He again addressed himself to his labours with great ardour and industry, and in his capacity as a stationary preacher surprised many with resources for which he had not hitherto obtained general credit; but the spirit and unction of his ministry, now “perfected by suffering,” especially wrought a wonderful impression. “I had heard,” he says, “that the churches in America were exceedingly pros­perous, and that great revivals had been called forth by persevering prayer. I considered that we had the same Spirit. The Spirit descended upon the church at Caerphilly, and we united to seek in the name of Christ an outpouring of Divine influence, to give success to the Gospel. In answer to our prayers, we received the same blessings as were vouchsafed to the American churches. In the course of two years, some hundred and forty members were added, by baptism, to the church.” This fact interpreted to him the vision of the harps.

Prospering once more in his ecclesiastical relations, he found himself in a chaos of domestic discomfort, out of which he was one of the last men to educe much beauty or order. He had taken up his abode in the chapel-house, and he was entrusted to a housekeeper who knew nothing about the mode of life to which he had been accustomed. In these circumstances, his friends suggested to him the desirableness of his marrying again; pointing out to him at the same time the wisdom of choosing a person who had some property to recommend her. The reply was, after a little reflection:. “Oh, oh! I tell you, brother, it is my firm opinion that I am never to have any property in the soil of this world until I have a grave. I shall then have my full share of it.” The chaos continued, and the preacher stood helpless in the midst of it, until one day a friend stepped in and found him in grave meditation, which he at length broke by saying: “I want a wife, you see; I want a wife.” “A wise thought, Mr. Evans, if you can be well suited; but who is she to be?” “They talk to me about Miss -, and tell me that she has money, but it isn’t money I want, but a wife.” “ Well, there is Mary, your old housekeeper; she knows more about your feelings and habits than any other person can do, and you know her: will she suit you?” “Aye, Mary—Mary, my old servant—aye, Mary is a good: and faithful woman.” The matter was, as far as it could be, then and there settled. A neighbouring minister undertook the long journey, with the help of the old horse, to North Wales, to secure the housekeeper for Christmas Evans, whom he soon married, and who took excellent care of him in his declining years. This marriage took place in Eglwysilian church, in the same parish, though not in the same edifice, as that in which Whitfield was married the second time, which last event is recorded among the honours of a chapel of ease near Caerphilly.

The revival period having passed away, difficulties arose which soon brought to an end the career of Christmas Evans at Caerphilly. He came into collision with some of “the pillars of the church,” and was so rudely shaken that he decided to remove. With his previous habits and the diaconal nature as it is sometimes constituted, these conflicts were all but inevitable. The two years of this pastorate are thus reviewed: “I never spent a short time more comfort­ably, as the ark of God had appeared there, and the harmony of some hundred and forty harps had been heard among us. I would gladly have spent my days there but was not permitted to do so on account of some things respecting which I was not to blame, but assuredly some others were. It would not be wise to mention them. I still love many of the brethren and sisters there, and wish them prosperity, and desire that neither their faults nor my own may appear against us in the day of judgment; but that we may be graciously brought to confess our sins upon the earth, where the fountain of forgiveness has been opened.”’ (Evans, Christmas Evans, pp.227-9)

‘Some secret arrangement had been prepared for him, a little before he left Anglesey, to receive a call to be a minister of the Baptist church in Caerphilly, in Glamorganshire. He began his journey ---, in the year 1826, about the sixtieth year of his life. When he was on his journey from Llangefni, his old home, and going towards Brynsiencyn, on his sorrowful departure from his brethren in Anglesey, he experienced great tenderness of mind, and the presence of Christ as if by his side, until he broke out loud in cryings and supplications, until all lukewarmness had been dissolved, which struggle continued for some hours. He had strength to give himself and his ministry to the care of Jesus Christ, in a confidence that raised him above his afflictions. It is evident (according to an entry in his diary) that he made a covenant with God at that time, and devoted himself to Christ for the certainty of all. This covenant has not been written down, as far as I can see. This is the second particular covenant which he commemorated between himself and God in Christ.


Caerphilly, Nov. 20, 1826

DEAR FRIEND,—I have had it in mind to send a few lines to you to let you know how things have turned out here. Griffith Davies is here being treated by Dr Edwards, of the same ailment as Harris, Swansea, and most unlikely to get better: having been obliged to give up the people in Dowlais, Merthyr. I have never been so comfortable as I am since I came here. There is a going in all the trees here. I have received 7 backsliders, and 36 new converts. I have baptised twice since I have been here. The first time I baptised 8, and the second time 12. I have 16 in the ‘fellowship’ to be baptised next time, and signs of many more. In the village of Caerphilly and the neighbourhood of Bedwas the breeze is blowing. Evan Jones and John Roberts, of Cowbridge, have been baptising. I live by the chapel where you were, and there Jane Lewis serves me for her food, without any wages. The old brothers and sisters are as if they had been boiled in fresh oil—remembering days of the right hand of the Most High 25 yr. ago, when the dawn was upon you here. There is no jumping or rejoicing here, only great weeping, and much singing. The meeting house has become too small at the end of the last two months. Brethren from other churches throng here on the Sabbaths, particularly at the end of the month, from Bassaleg, Beulah, Pontypridd, Casbach, Lisvane, Hengoed, Cardiff, and Gwauntreoda [now Ararat, Whitchurch]. I have never seen a time of such coming and going [lit. as much of going in things]. The Sabbath School fills the house. I preach twice on the Sabbath—and twice in the week—and in the monthly and quarterly meetings round about. My health if fairly middling; only that I have broken one of my legs—but it gives no pain, and is mending quickly. The places where I preach every month in the neighbourhood are: the house of Llewelyn Bedwas, Mr. Jenkins’ house, from the parish of Rudry, a wealthy man, who has had a mighty conversion to sobriety since he has been here, and is a constant hearer, but has not yet come to the ‘fellowship’—but he is willing to have a sermon in his house every month. Another place is close to Taffs Well—and in the Meeting House every Thursday night. All these places are an advantage to me as there is no reason for me to go out into the open air in a sweat after preaching in them. This is most comfortable for an old man.

The faces of Cat. and Mary Llewelyn shine with heavenly oil—it is amazing to them to see the old heavenly days they had 25 yr. ago under your ministry. They have a gentle and thankful look. There is not hardly a meeting, though they are almost every night, they miss, that they are not in them. Mr Jones o’r Bont has given almost enough straw to feed the horse this scarce year for feed. It is very likely that the little will become a thousand, and the vile a strong nation, in this place. They were three score three months ago; they are now over a hundred. This is wonderful in our eyes: and counting those in the ‘fellowship’ that have not been baptised. This is the great goodness of God towards me, when I was at the edge of the pit, about to fall into affliction and trouble. The three boys of John the fuller, and their mother have joined us,—John himself had come Tuesday night. Daniel and Eliza, children of Evan David; Sali, wife of Thomas Davies; daughter of Morgan the Coachman, namely Pegi; daughter of David Lewis Wilkins and her husband; son and daughter of Thos. Jenkins who live by the chapel of the parish and came there from Llanwinio—the parents are old friends of yours, and Independents also; Morgan, son of Richard Evans; Thomas, servant at Ty-isaf, Bedwas; Daniel, son of Thos. Lewis, Bedwas; John, son of Joe Price; Tom Hary; daughter of Edward Morgan, Pwllypant; daughter of Thos. Salathiel; old Edmund Lewis; maid of Mrs Evans; daughter of Edmund Lewis the cobbler; Thos. John Naylor; Wm. Richards the carpenter; Miles has come back from the Corph. I have given the names of those you knew, as this ought to be pleasant to you. Mr Hughes of Groeswen has been sick the whole time that I have been here, but his face is getting better now.

We live the best we can here of the part of prejudice. It is alive here with the present baptising, but while the breeze is working it is not able to prevent the work going on, no more than the little dog can stop the moon by barking. I do not possess the least inclination to return to Anglesey. (GCE i. clxx-clxxiii)

(CCE p.51-2; Stephen, Memoir of Christmas Evans, pp.114-6; HBNC p.635)

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones