John Elias' Society (1793)

Elias was desperate to have fellowship with religious people, so he asked his parents if he could apply for a position as a farm hand with a Methodist preacher who was a farmer. His parents reluctantly allowed him to apply and he got the job. Pen-y-morfa was 14 miles away and he lived there under the care of the Methodist family. They would often talk on religious matters and would ask him why he was not in a church, but they never pressed him. One day in September 1793 they told Elias that they were going to the society meeting and he could come if he wanted to. He decided to go and followed them “weeping and trembling” to the society at Hendre Howell. “I was afraid the preachers would examine me very minutely, and that upon finding my experiences unsatisfactory, they would not receive me among them: but they, to my great astonishment, were very kind to me; I was received into the society, for which I longed for many years; and had often feared I should never obtain a place in the house of God!” For some time he feared that he would backslide and cause a terrible scandal, but slowly these fears subsided until eventually, they disappeared. Elias records, “There were very serious people at Hendre Howel, the community where I was admitted a member. They were humble minded, self-denying and broken-hearted Christians. They valued and loved the Lord Jesus greatly, and they were very glad to speak of His excellencies. I enjoyed great privileges, benefit and pleasure among them.” He was asked to teach at the night school that took place in different houses each evening and he was asked to read from the Bible at prayer meetings. One day an old man asked him to give a talk on the chapter he had read, and from then on Elias wanted to become a preacher. Soon after that a preacher failed to show up, so Elias was asked to preach and after that he was gradually led into the work of a regular preacher. He had a fire in him that made him speak of ‘justification by faith’ to his friends, family and even people he met on the road. He went into this work with great humility, not wanting to be presumptuous. As we have seen in his fears about not being good enough for the church; humility was part of his character. He did not want fame or admiration, he just wanted to lead sinners to Jesus and God can use a man like that. Elias was encouraged by the elders and other preachers to develop his gift; they recognised what he had in him and they helped him. I wish more pastors today would do this for their people; not just help potential preachers, but help in the development of the potential in all the people in their congregations.