Henllan (1840)

1840 Henllan, Carmarthenshire.

‘“October 3, 1859.

“HENLLAN.—DEAR SIR,—The Lord has not been pleased to visit us with those rare and powerful influences that some churches in the principality have lately enjoyed. But we are cheered by indications that the way of the Lord is prepared, and that ‘the Lord whom we seek shall suddenly come to his temple.’

“Before I can give you an intelligible account of the present Spiritual state of the Church at Henllan, I must be permitted to refer briefly to two preceding Revivals, as it is, in a great measure, their combined results.

“The first to which I allude occurred in the year 1840. Its characteristic principles and developments may be given in very few words. As dense darkness precedes daylight, so it was with this Revival. The churches were roused from a long and deep slumber, by the stirring lectures and sermons of the Rev. Mr Finney. The pulpit acquired a new power. It was marked by great plainness, pungency, and earnestness. Prayer­-meetings also were organized, on the principles recom­mended by the great Revivalist, with a view to pro­duce strong, striking, and instantaneous impressions. I shall just give you an idea of their character. The neighbourhood was divided into districts, and a weekly prayer-meeting was held in each district; with a view to render them more effective by avoiding vague and aimless prayers, the ‘hearers’ were divided into classes, as ‘the children of believing parents;’ ‘children of unbelieving parents;’ ‘unbelieving husbands of believing wives,’ etc., etc. A certain class was made the special subject of prayer, and at the end of each meeting it was announced what class was to be the­ subject of prayer in the next. Appropriate addresses were intermingled with the prayers, urging the duty of immediate repentance, and the danger of delay. Care was taken in selecting suitable hymns to aid the effect of the other exercises. All legitimate means, physical and moral, that could be thought of, were employed to arrest the attention, and­ awaken the conscience. And it was observed that several persons out of the classes that were made special subjects of prayer, appeared in the next church meeting as candidates for admission.

“Another feature in this Revival was the organization of female prayer-meetings. These, of course, made a great sensation in the neighbourhood by their novelty and were the means of unfolding gifts and powers in the minds of those that attended them, of which they were unconscious. I have reasons to believe that they were the means of raising the standard of female influence in the Church and the family.

“The most correct taste could find nothing to censure in the manner in which they were conducted. They were very edifying. The prayers were distinguished by pathos, fervour, and beauty of diction. They were not strictly confined to devotional exercises. A text of Scripture, or a practical or experimental subject, was proposed for conversation in every meeting. The Revival of religious feeling in the Church, the conversion of the world, and the reformation of the neighbourhood from those social habits that disfigure and debase our national character were the objects aimed at. The Church was excited; great numbers of the young, with a sprinkling of hoary heads, were added to its communion; and means were employed to promote temper­ance and chastity. The excitement gradually subsided, a reaction took place; the Church sank into a state of torpor; many of the new converts were dismissed—more remained like withered trees, without signs of vitality; the prayer-meetings gradually decayed; and within a few months, I found it impossible to resist the conviction that the spiritual tone of the Church, on the whole, was not elevated, nor the moral character of the neighbourhood improved. The fruit bore no proportion to the blossoms. While I thus say, I would not be understood as insinuating a doubt respecting the Divine character of the influences that so powerfully moved us; neither do I doubt the genuine conversion of great numbers. Many undoubtedly gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto his people, by the will of God.

“But the disappointment was overruled for good. It suggested reflections that prepared the way for a Revival of a higher type. The most thoughtful and pious members of the church began to inquire in a prayerful and impartial spirit into the causes that prevented the realization of their hopes, and several were supposed to be discovered. In the first place, it was obvious that the real character of the impressions produced by stirring scenes and striking representations on a people very susceptible by temperament and habit was not understood. The emotion of horror was often confounded with moral conviction and sympathetic joys and sorrow with genuine sorrow for sin and joys of salvation. As a rule, the convictions, when genuine, were not deep. Those that experienced a profound and painful sense of the guilt of sin and its misery were few. The soul was not deeply pierced, and the remedy could not penetrate into the roots of the spiritual disease. Besides, there were a great many that did not clearly distinguish between joining the Church, and ‘coming to Christ;’ between inward religion and outward profession. And, it was felt that great firmness and wisdom are required to check the tendency of these to make a public profession of religion under the influence of superficial impressions. An undercurrent of such reflections was flowing silently widening and deepening daily, under the hard crust of indifference that covered the Church.

“When I speak of excited feelings, perhaps I ought to guard the English reader from supposing that the Revival was attended with jumping, shouting, yelling, and other semicivilized modes of expressing the religious emotions. No; the flow of thought and feeling was calm, unattended with any noise.”’ (Extract of a letter of Joshua Lewis in Evan Davies, Revivals in Wales: Facts and Correspondence Supplied by Pastors of the Welsh Churches, London, 1859, pp.20-23)

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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