Llanidloes Association Meeting (1819)

Michael Roberts in Llanidloes April 1819

‘In that year that blessed Association at the Sign of the Red Lion, in Longbridge Street, when the holy zeal of the late Rev. Michael Roberts, of Pwllheli, was stirred. As he came from the chapel the first night of the Association, and hearing the swearing of the ungodly under the old Market Hall, his whole soul was consumed [?], so that he did not eat or give sleep to his eyelids before the ten o’clock meeting the next morning, when he and the Rev. Ebenezer Morris, Twrgwyn, were to preach. If I remember correctly, the Rev. John Prydderch, of Anglesey, began the meeting. I was a young ten-year-old boy, eager to see and hear all, more so than many of my contemporaries. I climbed up to the stage, where I could see the great congregation, and hear every word that the preachers said. After Mr Prydderch had begun, a small, pale, sickly-looking man got up, and with a shrill, penetrating voice, gave out this verse to sing: Mae dydd y farn yn dod ar frys, The day of judgment is hastening on,

Boed hyn yn hysbys ini, May this be known to us,

Pan orfydd pawb i roi ar g’oeddWhen all will have to publicly

O’u holl weithredoedd gyfri. Give account of all their works.

The voice, and posture, and grave countenance of the preacher as he said the verse, had created a fearful silence in the whole congregation. For some minutes the multitude did not rightly know what to do, whether to sing or to cry out, whether to stand or to flee. But somehow the verse was sung. Then the minister read as his text the 5th verse of the first Psalm: “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,” &c.; and after a few introductory sentences, he started to describe the terror of the judgment to the ungodly, and with such light and power, particularly when he came to the words of the Judge himself, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire’; he said the words two or three times so that to some measure it was like the day of judgment in the street. There were hundreds fainting with fear, and crying out, What shall we do to be saved; and I also, because of the fear of the place, expected that the judgment was about to appear. The minister was pleased to say before closing, that the door of the refuge was open, and he shouted with the same shrill voice, but by now indescribably more penetrating, and some heavenly tenderness having come to him - ‘Escape for thy life.’ The sentence could be heard at a great distance, and it was like a cry from another world. Amid much crying out he ended the most remarkable sermon, with regard to its effects, that I have ever heard. The Rev. Ebenezer Morris got up after him, but I do not even remember the text of that great man, and there was no hope of anyone regaining a hold of the congregation. As a consequence of that remarkable sermon, 150 came to the church in Llanidloes within a year, and Dr Thomas says in one of his writings that about a thousand souls were added to various churches as a result of the sermon. Everything changed in this town and the surrounding countryside after the Association. The King of Israel came to rule, and nothing was heard but talk about religion and another world.’ [Traeth. lii. (1898), pp. 334-5]

‘He was preaching on the road at ten in the morning, before Mr Ebenezer Morris. At first, the people appeared to be indifferent and restless; but they quickly became serious, so that the day of judgment wholly came in their feelings. The terror of God filled the place. Having described the ‘judgment’ with liveliness and seriousness, and power and great effectiveness, and portrayed the ‘ungodly’ losing in the test—failing ‘to stand’—and by this, having been filled with such fears, so that their faces grow pale, their knees tremble, and in fear, about to die, the preacher turns to the Judge, with his request,—’Mighty Jesus, refrain! do not say anything more to them! they are about to die, they cannot bear to hear anything more!’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘ I have one word more to say to them, and I must say it; and having said it, I will not say another after it ever again;’ and with that, there he is, with the solemn piercing voice he had, and as if with the authority of the Judge himself, shouting,—’DEPART FROM ME, ye cursed, INTO EVERLASTING FIRE,’ so that hundreds if not thousands, broke out at once crying out for their life. The sight was one of the most amazing ever seen, and one impossible to forget; and the circumstance unquestionably was the beginning of a completely new period in the history of hundreds of those who were there, of that ever out[?]. It is said that about a thousand people came to religion as a result of this sermon. He delivered the same sermon also in an old Narrow house, in Pennant, Eifionydd, with a similar influence and effects on Easter Monday the same year, as almost all who heard the sermon professed religion soon after.’ (MC ii. 364-6; Jones, Cofiant Michael Roberts, pp.68-71; T. Mordaf Pierce, Y Parchedig Humphrey Gwalchmai, pp.75-7; Y Gofadail Fethodistaidd, ii. pp. 231-7; Adgofion Hiraethog p.?; Humphrey Gwalchmai & notes of sermons at the Association: Y Drysorfa, lxxii. (1902), pp.125-9, 170-1; Owen Thomas’s account of MR preaching at Association: CJJ, pp.881-2).

The movement that occurred a few months later at the end of April of 1819 in Llanidloes was far more numerically fruitful than what had begun at Llanbryn-mair and district. It was occasioned by the Calvinistic Methodist Association held there at which Michael Roberts preached his famous sermon on Psalm 1:5. William Rees (Hiraethog) described the events as follows:

 The afternoon of the first day of the association his mind was grieved in seeing a number of young men and women, that had come to the town to the meeting, in a wild and wanton manner along the streets, particularly after a meeting that evening. Having gone to his lodgings, he withdrew to his bedroom, and was not seen until the next day. He was to preach at ten that morning. His text was Psalm i. 5: “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.” As he began to speak, it felt as if the powers of the world to come were pressing on the congregation in an awful manner and increasing in power and influence to the very end. That venerable old man Mr. Cleaton, as he related the account to me, said that that was the most powerful meeting he remembered ever being in during his life: the whole multitude was as if it had been pressed that it could not move, or cry out, or hardly breathe, he said. Ebenezer Morris was to preach after him, but even that giant of a preacher did not want to attempt to. He made a few applications in a few words and closed in prayer. The influence of that sermon proceeded through the surrounding countryside. Mr Cleaton said that he subsequently happened to find out that at least fifteen hundred souls had been added to the churches in those parts,[1]all of whom attributed their conversions to what they experienced under that sermon. The sermon of Michael Roberts at Llanidloes was of a kind most similar to the sermon of Simon Peter at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost that we have an account of. The number of converts through it, as far as can be judged, was fully half the number converted through Peter’s sermon. An effect of withdrawing to the mountain the previous night, we think, was the fiery brightness that shone in the face of his ministry that morning.[2]

The membership of the Calvinistic Methodist chapel at Llanidloes more than doubled in a few months, and the people poured in to hear the gospel from every valley round the town. It was necessary to have a still larger place for the congregation, and without delay it was arranged to take down the chapel, and to build a larger one.[3]

     The task of pastoring the recent converts fell on the shoulders on Humphrey Gwalchmai. Mordaf Pierce relates that

this remarkable meeting was the start of a new period in the religion of the whole land, and Mr Gwalchmai had a work that delighted his heart, namely, receiving converts almost every week for many years, and succouring those who because of their wounds had come to the church seeking medicine. He was ready to sacrifice everything to gather, and keep together the fearful flock. He held special seiats for the converts, and went to their homes near and far to gently instruct them. He lost nights of sleep because of this work, and it so taxed him that it greatly impaired his health for a time.[4]

[1]Others judged it to be a thousand, for example, Owen Thomas in CJJ, pp. 881-2.

[2]Adgofion Hiraethogpp. 45-47. Other accounts of this meeting are given in MC, ii, 364-6; Traeth.lii. (1898), pp. 334-5; Pierce, Humphrey Gwalchmai, pp. 75-78; Jones, Cofiant Michael Roberts,pp. 68-71; J.T. Davies, A Souvenir (In English an Welsh) of the Centenary on April 29th, 39th & May 1st, 1919, of the Association Held at Llanidloes, the End of April, 1819, when Michael Roberts of Pwllheli, Preached near the Red Lion with such Power that over a Thousand People were Brought to Seek Salvation, (Llanidloes, [1919]). An outline of the sermon appeared in Y Gofadail Fethodistaidd, ii, pp. 231-7. Humphrey Gwalchmai’s notes of the sermons at the Association appeared in Drys., lxxii. (1902), pp. 125-9, 170-1.

[3]T. Mordaf Pierce, Humphrey Gwalchmai, p. 47.

[4]Ibid., pp. 75-78.

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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