Llanuwchllyn (1809-1839)

1809 Llanuwchllyn, Merionethshire. ‘In the year 1809, a revival broke out in Llanuwchllyn, as between 200 and 250 members were added to the church in the place. We think that this was a local revival, confined solely to Llanuwchllyn, for we have only been able to find out an imperfect list of revivals, that have the least right of being considered general ones, that one took place during the year 1809. The last one before it was in 1804, and the first one after it was in the year 1812. That at least is what the chronicle of the old people who study these things say, and who take it upon themselves to understand completely all their secrets, and all knowledge in relation to them. But we do not think that Llanuwchllyn has felt from the time of these visitations, more than other places felt from the time of their visitation. Each one in their own order. This revival was not only separate with regard to its location and time, but also with regard to its characteristics. It did not come through singing or rejoicing, but through swooning [fainting], and that as suddenly as a bolt of lightning out of a cloud. [Y Dysgedydd, xliii. (1864), pp.129-131]

‘A powerful revival broke out in the church about the year 1809, when about two hundred were added to the church. There was something uncommon connected with it. Men would fall down as slaughtered dead men without any warning as if the angel of death had touched them with the edge of his wing. Those thus pierced were taken out, and set apart until they revived, and no sooner had they come to themselves, they would sigh for mercy, or break out in rejoicing, praising God. Since he understood the consciences of men Dr Lewis chiefly dealt with them, yet, he was a ‘scribe that had been taught in the kingdom of heaven,’ as he was able to pour balm into the wounds of those pierced with conviction, and ‘speak a word in season to him that is weary.’ [Isa. 50:4] On one occasion there was a woman in this distressed state, and she would cry out plaintively in her distress, ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die,’ [Ezek. 18:4] and she would not be comforted by those who were around her. ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die’ was his continuous cry. In the end the Doctor arose, like the master of the assembly, and said like one who had authority, ‘Someone tell that woman there, people, “the soul that believeth, it shall live.”’ That soothed the wretch’s pain, she saw the door of salvation, and there was a great calm. During Dr Lewis’ stay in Llanuwchllyn the chapel was rebuilt, which made it much bigger, and a convenient house had been built next to the chapel, like one who had decided to live and die in the place. But at the end of 1811 he received an invitation from Wrexham to be minister there, and from the Congregational Board in London to be a teacher of the college, and he agreed to the inducement, and left Llanuwchllyn, where he had laboured for a long time with such comfort to himself and satisfaction to the whole church.’ [HEAC i. 415]

‘We refer to Margaret Thomas, but she is better known as “Pegws o’r Bala.” She was from Llanuwchllyn, and an old disciple of Dr George Lewis. She had her religious conversion in the wonderful revival at Llanuwchllyn in 1809. There was something uncommon connected with it. Men would fall down as slaughtered dead men without any warning as if the angel of death had touched them with the edge of his wing. Those thus pierced were taken out and set apart until they revived, and no sooner had they come to themselves, they would sigh for mercy, or break out in rejoicing. “Pegws” was among the most notable of them, and some characteristics of that revival followed her throughout her whole life. She was a big, strong, tall, bony woman, without any particular beauty to her, but the amiability [hawddgarwch] of grace had been set on her. He was aunt on his father’s side to Mr Robert Thomas (Ap Fychan), Bangor, Bala subsequently. Everyone called her ‘Pegws o’r Bala’, because she came from Bala; and there was no reproach in her being thus called, for there was no one there so respected by all in the place as her. Every conscience was convinced that ‘Pegws’ was a godly woman. Very often in times of revival and sometimes at other times would she break out rejoicing, and when she broke out she had such overflowing eloquence [lliferiant o ddawn] that the like has not often been heard. She would weave verses and hymns and sayings together, and between her melodious voice and her broken feelings [teimladau drylliog] there was hardly any that could withstand it.’ [HEAC v. 32]

‘In those years also there was a very great revival of religion there. My father had joined with religion a little before that. That revival began through the occasion of the death of a remarkably unconcerned young man in the neighbourhood. His face had a dreadful countenance after his death, and I remember the look of it even now. Great crying out broke out in his wake, and that influence spread through the countryside so that it was almost only religion and religious things that held the attention of people. The sound of singing and praise would be heard through the hills and valleys day and night.’ [E. Davies, Cofiant y diweddar Barch. Morris Roberts, Remsen, N.Y., pp.25-6]

1839 B W Chidlaw visit to Wales in October 1839, Llanuwchllyn Dec 1839:

‘WALES REVISITED. In 1839, while busy, happy, and blessed in my pastoral and Sunday-­school missionary work, my beloved mother, then over seventy years of age, blessed with health and vigour, received a pressing invitation from her aged brother, my uncle, to visit him in Wales: and, if I would accompany her, he would defray our expenses. She was anxious to go, but that I should go with her seemed impossible. Duty to such a mother, who had done so much for me, and to my church and family, placed me in great perplexity. Seeking Divine guidance, conferring with my church and loved ones, and casting my burden on the Lord, my decision was made: I would go, and return to my home and work as soon as possible.

As the Pearl Street Sunday school Missionary Society were contributing for my support, I informed them of my purpose and asked if they would approve. Soon, I received a letter of consent from the secretary, Robert Aikman, Jr., and a kind invitation, when we reached New York, to make his father’s house on William street, our home “till you find a more unsafe one on the deep.” I showed this letter, beauti­ful in chirography, to one of our deacons, who said: “Well, that young man writes like cop­perplate. What a grand writing master he would make!” That young secretary is now the honoured pas­tor of the Presbyterian church of Madison, N.J., an able and faithful minister, having served God and his church over forty years. His bow abides in strength, and his eye is not dimmed. In May 1889, when I was a commissioner in the General Assembly at New York, I was invited to spend a Sabbath with him and his beloved people, a privilege I greatly enjoyed, a delight­ful reminder of our early days, and of the way the Lord had led us. Our Journey to New York—from Radnor to Sandusky, was in a wagon; thence, on a steamboat to Buffalo, and in a canal boat to Albany, and on the Hudson river we enjoyed a pleasant voyage to the city and were well received by our friends. After spending a few pleasant days in the city, visiting families connected with the Pearl Street church, addressing the Sunday school, and preaching on the Sabbath, laden with the benefactions of our kind friends, we embarked on the packet ship “Columbus,” and in twenty days reached Liverpool. The passage was on a stormy sea, and we suffered from the malady incident to such a voyage; but we soon recov­ered, and enjoyed sea life, beholding the wonders of the deep, and in the companionship of our fellow voyagers. A day on the coach brought us to Penlan, (the name of my uncle’s farm) and, after an absence of nearly twenty years, the aged brother and sister with joy of heart, met each other, and tears gave expression to the delight they experienced. It was now late in October. To return home in the winter seemed impracti­cable; so reluctantly, we abandoned our cherished purpose of returning to America soon and concluded to remain till spring. This ar­rangment was a sore disappointment. To be absent from my work and my family four or five months, and unemployed, filled my heart with heaviness, and I was in sore trouble. The quiet life in a Welsh farmhouse, with all its cheer and comfort, soon became monoto­nous, and my anxiety increased, lest I had run away from duty and displeased my heavenly Father, and it became a heavy burden on my heart, and I could find no relief. One day, my kind uncle said: “Cheer up and be happy. Come, go with me to Mivod,” a village a mile away. On our way, we met the splendid equipage of Lord Clive, of Powis castle. My venerable uncle uncovered his head, and bowed gracefully, while his American nephew stood like a statue, gazing on the nobleman in his coach and. four. My uncle inquired, “Why did you not take off your hat, and bow to Lord Clive?” “Why, uncle, his lordship paid no attention to us. In my country civilities are mutual; we are all of the nobility, and equal before the law. My elbow joint stiffened in America so that it cannot be used in that way.” He laughed heartily, and said: “I will have your elbow joint examined by my friend, the surgeon.” Reaching the village and the surgeon’s office, my coat was removed, and my elbow carefully examined, and the surgeon, pronounced it all right. My uncle explained the incident of our meeting Lord Clive, and my failure to pull off my hat, and the reason I gave for my conduct. The surgeon was amused, and said: “I wish every Welshman in our country had the same trouble in his elbow.” Both of the old gentle­men were radical in their politics, and greatly enjoyed the joke, and on the strength of it we had a very social tea drinking. In a few days, a minister called and invited me to accompany him to a conference of ministers in a neighbouring village. This kind offer I gladly accepted; it was light in a time of dark­ness, and a blessed relief to my mental depres­sion. Pleasant fellowship with the brethren, and participating in religious services, revived my fainting heart, and I felt that God had not cast me off. After the conference, the pastor of the church invited me to remain and assist him in special meetings which he desired to hold. Large con­gregations waited on God in the sanctuary, and evident tokens of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit were manifest. At the suggestion of the pastor, inquiry meetings were held after preaching, and at the close of four days’ ser­vices, thirty inquirers professed their faith in Jesus, desired to make a public profession and to enter the service of God. These labours and the blessed results were an uplift to my soul, and I could say, “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence,” Ps. 94:17. Now, my burden was removed, my spiritual skies were bright, the winter of my discontent was passed, and I could and did re­joice in the summer of God’s favour which I once more enjoyed. A PREACHING TOUR. According to the cus­tom prevailing in Wales, if an approved min­ister desired to make a preaching tour among the churches, some ministerial friend would arrange and forward the appointments, and thus prepare the way. This was done for me, and my uncle furnishing a “Merlin,” a mountain pony, I entered upon my itinerancy. The friend who made the arrangements for my trip went with me to the first appointment. It was in a country chapel, beautiful for situation among the mountains. The natural scenery filled me with admiration, beholding the works of God. The chapel crowded with hearers that “knew the joyful sound,” delighted to hear the gospel, prepared me for the service, and I enjoyed min­istering to them in spiritual things. It was the noon hour. With the pastor and my friend, we lunched in “ty y Capel” (the chapel house), where the itinerants were entertained, and in an adjoining stable his horse was fed. After this social hour, my friend left me in charge of the pastor of this church, who accompanied me to my next appointment, ten miles distant. In this way I had the guidance and company of a brother minister or a deacon all the time, a very pleasant and enjoyable feature of my journey. My appointments were generally in country chapels at noon and in villages or towns in the evening. The ministers and other brethren with whom I associated, were cordial, and ready to adopt when indications were favourable, the new measure I had introduced of hold­ing inquiry meetings after preaching. In several places, such opportunities were afforded, and from five to twenty inquirers would present themselves for conversation, prayer, and en­couragement to enter upon a religious life. I found that the pastors and revived church members could carry on the good work thus begun. This encouraged me in preaching and holding these after meetings. My hearers were well taught in Divine truth in the Sunday-­school, and by their pastors, and I felt that I was sowing the seed of the Word in good and prepared soil, that these awakened souls would be well cared for, gathered into the fold of Christ, and nurtured for a steadfast, useful and happy Christian life. My appointments allowed me to spend two days in Bala, my native vil­lage. I preached twice in the chapel, where my parents worshipped God, and where I was baptized, and received in my early childhood my first religious impressions and loved my Saviour. LLANUWCHLLYN: A WONDERFUL REVIVAL. The last Sabbath of 1839 my appointments were at the old chapel of Llanuwchllyn, six miles from Bala. This was one of the largest and oldest Nonconforming churches in Wales. The pastor, Rev. Michael Jones, an able, learned, and earnest servant of God and his church, had charge of several outlying congregations among the mountains, which also enjoyed the labours of itinerants and lay preachers, but Mr Jones was their pastor and administered the ordi­nances. This faithful minister was tried by difficul­ties in his church. For several years there had been serious troubles, the ways of Zion lan­guished, and litigation ensued. In the mean­time the pastor continued his faithful labours. Deprived of the old chapel, he cared for the flock, holding meetings in farmhouses, and in the summer in the open air on the hillsides. Recently, the civil court decided in his favour: that, with his adherents, a majority of the con­gregation, they should reoccupy the house of the Lord that their fathers had built. This was the dawn of a better day, discord ceased, and the voice of the “turtle” was again heard in the land. The re-occupancy of the old chapel in October was celebrated by a large gathering of ministers, and two days spent in praise, prayer and preaching. These memorial ser­vices awakened a deep religious interest in the congregation, and prepared the way of the Lord to visit, and abundantly to bless his people. Saturday I spent at the home of the pastor, with his interesting family, and friends that called on me to talk about their relatives in Ohio, and the kingdom of Christ in America. After dinner, Mr Jones left to meet his ap­pointments for the Sabbath, leaving me to sup­ply his pulpit. The Sabbath was a bright and mild winter day and my surroundings were delightful. The chapel stood on the shore of Llyn Tegid, a charming lake, and the lofty peaks of Aran and Arenig mountains overshadowed it. Amid these wonderful works of the God of nature and of redemption, I walked to the sanctuary, trusting in his gracious promises for the aid I so much needed for the services of the day. The forenoon and afternoon meetings passed, but no special interest developed among my hearers crowding the chapel to its full capacity, and I felt depressed and discouraged. In leaving the chapel, a plain, middle-aged man, a farmer, invited me to tea, saying: “It is not far, and I would like your company.” His conversation, seasoned with grace, cheered me, and the burden of his soul in regard to the salvation of sinners was very encouraging and helpful in relieving me of my discouragement. Introduced to his wife and family, I was es­corted into a cosy parlour, with a peat fire on the hearth. After tea, I sat meditating and prepar­ing for the evening meeting, when a young woman came to the room, and, with diffidence, said: “I would like to speak to you.” “Certainly, my young friend, let me hear from you.” “I am informed that you hold private meet­ings after preaching, and converse personally with those that attend;” adding, with evident emotion, “If you will hold such a meeting to­night, many will accept, and come out on the Lord’s side.” Her unaffected manner and her message made a profound impression on my mind. It was a revelation of faithfulness in duty, and interest in the salvation of souls, that filled my soul and inspired my fainting heart for the evening service. Another Helper. As I entered the chapel yard, a man desired to speak to me. Frequently people would accost me, to inquire if I knew their relatives in America, or concerning the country. I said to this man, “If you wish to see me, call Monday morning at the parsonage, and I will be glad to talk to you.” He replied, “O, sir, that is not what I want. Here are my two sons, anxious to have a word from you in regard to their personal salvation.” Clasping the hands of these stalwart young men, I gave them a word of encouragement to trust in Jesus, and to follow him. With very unusual feelings, subdued and trustful, I entered the crowded chapel. The pulpit steps were occupied, but as I approached they were vacated, and, with a tremor of soul I found my way to the place where I was to speak in the name of the Lord. The singing indicated a fervour and spirit that I had not observed before, and, during prayer, many earnest “Amens” reached my ears. To my mind and soul, these things had “the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees,” 2 Sam. 5:24, and a glimpse of “a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand,” 1 Kings 18:44. My discourse was founded on the text, “Give glory to the Lord your God, before he causes darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light, he turns it into the shadow of death and make it gross darkness,” Jer. 13:16. I endeavoured to unfold the duty enjoined—the time to discharge it—and an earnest appeal now to accept Christ and confess him before men,—to glorify God as penitents at the cross—sinners saved by grace, and not in the darkness and doom of the impenitent and godless, under the wrath of God forever. A solemn stillness pervaded the audi­ence, and, instead of a public prayer and a hymn of praise, I said that we would spend five minutes in silent thought and prayer, seeking the convincing and converting power of the Holy Spirit, to fill the chapel and every unconverted heart. I then took my seat, my soul overwhelmed within me, longing for the manifestation of the power and glory of God in the sanctuary, and in the salvation of precious souls. Before the five minutes of silence had expired, it was broken by the strong cry in the rear of the chapel, “O, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,” followed by outbursts of ejaculatory prayer, and weeping all over the congregation. The valley of dry bones was evidently pervaded by the life-giving Spirit of the God of salvation. The five minutes had now expired. The house of the Lord was indeed a Bochim, and the place of his feet glorious. I announced that the public service was closed and that a society or inquiry meeting would be held, and earnestly invited 3all who were convinced of their sin and were seeking salvation to remain. I dismissed the congregation with the usual benediction, but no one went out. The tide was evidently rising, manifested in sobs and tears, and the outcry of many for mercy and the forgiveness of sin. Again, I dismissed the audience, but there was no movement for the doors. I knew not what to do; the place and the scenes around me were awful, because of the presence of the Lord, coming out of his hiding place of power to magnify his great Name in the bestowment of his love, in the awakening and converting grace so gloriously bestowed. I had never before such an experi­ence of awe, solemnity, and helplessness, and I knew not what to do or say. On the steps of the pulpit an aged man was seated, and I could reach his shoulder. I secured his attention, and inquired, “Are you a deacon?” He replied that he was. Then, I asked him what to do. With evident emotion, he replied: “The Lord of glory is in his sanctuary, and blessed be his holy name.” This reply, gushing (in the grand old Welsh language) from the full heart of this old dis­ciple, revealed that his soul enjoyed the Divine presence, but it afforded no relief for my embar­rassment. With difficulty I made my way down the crowded steps of the pulpit and found another deacon, but he was high up on the mount and wept like a child, and knew not what to do. In the midst of the slain of the Lord, and the joy of salvation welling up in the hearts of his people, I asked someone to offer prayer. This was done, and, while the suppliant was pouring out his soul before the mercy seat, agonizing in prayer, others cried aloud for mercy, and some, in thanksgiving, loudly praised the Lord. After some time silence was restored, and I addressed the inquirers. While I was speaking, a man fell on his knees, praying fervently for pardon and peace with God. His prayer intensified the feeling of the people so that I inquired who he was. I was told that he was a hard­ened scoffer, the last man in that community who would be expected thus to bow before the Lord, confess his sins, and seek salvation through the crucified one. When he closed his earnest prayer, sometimes broken and incoherent, but evidently sincere and humble, in the midst of much excitement I requested the people to sing a precious old hymn. This was done with the spirit cer­tainly, and the last verse repeated over and over. At the close of this hallelujah song, there followed an abatement of excitement. I asked all who that night having sought and found the Saviour, and had decided, by the grace of God, to serve him; and all who were seeking salvation to stand up. One hundred and fifty thus indi­cated what the Lord had done for them. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes,” Ps. 118:23. As I was to leave the next day to meet an appointment ten miles distant, and feeling anx­ious to linger a little longer on this battlefield of Zion and to have personal conversation with these converts and inquirers, I announced a meeting at six o’clock the next morning, and at a late hour the congregation dispersed. When we reached the home of the pastor, he had just returned from the labours of the day. His daughter, quite excited, told him of our wonderful meeting, and that her brother, sister, and two domestics had remained in the society and a great many others. The father was amazed and blessed the name of the Lord for such joyous tidings. After some conversation about the six o’clock meeting, he said: “Your prayer and conference meeting is all right, but it is two hours before daylight. We never had a meeting at such an early hour, and the people will not be there. However, I will go and see; but you go to your chamber and rest.” “Father,” said the daughter, “if you had been there last night you would not say so. The people will be there, and we will all go.” At five o’clock we were all up, and after our tea and toast, and family worship, we left for the chapel, a mile distant. As we walked, we could see lanterns in all directions and found the chapel well filled. The cloud that rested on us the night before, was over us still, and the shower of mercy still descended, watering the garden of the Lord, and refreshing pastor and people. Three hours were spent in prayer and praise, instructing inquirers, encouraging the babes in Christ, and in thanksgiving to God for this gracious visitation. The way of the Lord had been prepared. For several months, the more spiritual and faithful members of the church had been anx­iously concerned about the low state of religion in the church, and the prevailing neglect of religion in the congregation. The recent re­union of the divided church, and the meeting that celebrated its consummation, and the re­occupancy of the chapel, was the dawn of a day of blessing. The young woman, whose mes­sage, as a live coal from the altar, glowed in the heart of the preacher, did much to bring the blessing. In the farmhouse, there served a true and aged Christian, mighty in faith and prayer, who always believed and said that God would not forget his church, but surely bring deliverance. The faithful and unremitting labours of the pastor, teaching the people and watching for souls through the long years of spiritual declension and strife, now yielded an abundant harvest. These and other agencies were at work, preparing the way for the preacher from America, who, by a way he knew not, was led to Llanuwchllyn, to participate in this wonder­ful work of grace, and to rejoice in what the Lord did for his people. Fifty Years Afterwards. In 1889, while attend­ing the World’s Sunday school Convention in London, representing the American Sunday­-School Union, I was invited to visit this old battlefield of Zion, where, half a century ago, such a glorious victory had been won for Christ and his church. The old chapel had given way for a new and larger structure, the church and Sunday school were prosperous, and though the old pastor had died, his successor, Rev. David Roberts, supplied his place; the deacons and nearly all of the members of the church had departed, but the cause remained well establish­ed and advancing. At the close of my sermon, the pastor said nearly all of the two hundred and fifty converts in the revival fifty years ago, had emigrated to distant parts of the world or had fallen asleep in Jesus. A few of them yet remained and were present, and he would be pleased to have them take the hand of the servant of God now with them, whose labour God had so eminently blessed fifty years ago. In response, several aged men and women greeted me cordially, rejoicing in all that God had done for us. . .

RETURNING HOME. On our departure from Wales early in April 1840, a large body of Congregational ministers gave me a reception at Trefynon (Holy well,) where I was to take a steamer for Liverpool. These kind brethren presented me with an engrossed address in Welsh and English, acknowledging the hand of the Lord in my visit and labours, and com­mending me to the guidance and loving care of God in all my future life.

From the chapel, where a delightful com­munion service had been held, a procession of ministers and communicants was formed, together with a choir singing Welsh hymns. We marched to the dock, and standing on the wheel-house, I bid farewell to the throng on the shore. After a few days in Liverpool, my aged mother with eighty young men and women and a few families, all from Wales, having charter­ed the second cabin, comfortably furnished, of the ship “Caroline Augusta,” we sailed for (New York, had a pleasant passage, and, as nearly all these Welsh people were religious, we had daily religious service, Sunday-school and preaching every Sabbath. My aged mother enjoyed her visit, and returned safely to her home in Radnor, Ohio, lived a useful, happy life, and peacefully depart­ed July 25, 1851, aged 80 years; and with my honored father, sleeps in Jesus, in the Radnor cemetery, till the day of immortal awakening and the re-union in heaven.’ [B.W. Chidlaw, The Story of My Life, Philadelphia, 1890, pp.94-110, 112; see also DCC p.353; The Christian Witness, xii (1855), pp.19-20]

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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