John Elias' Home and Shop (1799-1830)

In 1799 Elias was asked to go and minister in Anglesey; an island, 29 miles long and 22 miles wide. His biographer talks about the great corruption and immorality that was all over the island and particularly highlights sex before marriage, drunkenness and wrecking ships on the coast. It was also the centre for Druidism. I am a little confused by the strong line taken by Morgan over this, because Christmas Evans had been ministering very powerfully in Anglesey for seven years by the time Elias arrived; his ministry must have had some affect on the community. It is amazing that this small area of Wales was blessed by two giants of their time. From the biographies I have read of Elias and Evans there is no discussion of how their ministries related to one another. Morgan says that Elias’ ‘preaching became the most attracting in the island’ and does not even mention Evans, who some believe was the greatest preacher that Wales has ever produced. They laboured together in the same area for over 25 years, and yet the only mention of them being to together that I can find is that they enjoyed listening to one another preach. Anglesey is not very big and several local revivals hit the island in their time. Even though the revivals were in different denominations; would they not have spilled over into other churches? The big difference in their ministries is Evans spent a lot of time pastoring as well as preaching, whereas Elias was just an itinerant preacher. Amongst Methodists the pastoring was done by the elders within their weekly societies; leaving the itinerant preachers to concentrate on what they were gifted in. Elias reported that on his arriving in Anglesey there were few chapels and few societies, but there were some very godly people in them and Holy Spirit was with them. His presence there through his energy, enthusiasm and talents stirred up these people so that they became more useful to the Body of Christ. As a result the chapels were strengthened and expanded and the society on the island began to change. He preached in the evenings as well as on Sunday, mostly in houses, as chapels were so few. He recalls, “Many I believe were saved by God through His infinite Mercy. I used to preach often to a great concourse of people, even in solitary places, such as the side of a mountain, sea shore and the way side.” At the end of his ministry in Anglesey he looked back on the 40 years there and noted that 44 chapels had been built in that time and some of them were large. It is interesting to compare the huge difficulty Christmas Evans had to finance the building of Baptist chapels in Anglesey with Elias’s comparative ease. In February 1799 Elias married Elizabeth and they settled in Llanfechell where she lived. He had spent much time in praying for the right wife and the Lord gave him a pious and conscientious woman. They had four children, only two survived infancy. His son and daughter were brought up in a disciplined, godly way; with Elias taking a lot of time to ensure that they had the right Christian education. It appears that he had a blessed marriage and a happy family. In the early years of his marriage he was worried about their finances, for he only had a small shop selling general goods. He was concerned that he might not be able to pay his debts and God would be dishonoured by his witness. However, God answered his prayers and they got by. Despite their lowly situation, they would entertain visiting preachers and still look after the destitute when they came for help. After a few years their business improved and they were able to live comfortably enough. He had no time to read or to study because of the time the business took up, so his wife took over much of the business work to free him for his ministry. She had therefore the home, the business and the children to look after and she did an exceptional job. Their son wrote, “My mother endeavoured to take all the cares of the house and business on herself, so that father’s mind should not be disturbed. She would not give way to any consideration to slacken her exertions, but would significantly waive her hand, saying ‘his concerns are far more important than those of the shop.’ Her labours in the world were exertions for the Gospel. This was her language in the midst of her business, ‘Behold thy handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the minister of my God.’” In her final illness in 1828 she overheard her children talking about calling their father back from a ministry trip as they were worried about their mother’s health. She told them, “No, by no means; for what is my life to the cause he is engaged in.” A remarkable woman.