Merthyr Tydfil (1806-1829)

1806 Seion, Merthyr Tydfil. ‘Mr Rees Jones was born in the year 1779 in the parish of Llanwrtyd, Brecknockshire, of very poor parents, of whom he was deprived before he reached the age of five, and he and an elder brother were left orphans, and in poor circumstances; but he who is a Father to the orphan inclined an aunt of theirs to take Rees into her care. As she was a godly woman, and a member of the particular Baptist church at Pantycelyn, one can imagine that she was the means of fostering in his young mind the first principle of the Christian religion, which was purposed for him to recommend to others for the greater part of his short life.

The Lord was pleased to call him by his grace in an effectual way when he was about sixteen years old, and through this he made it clear to him that he was a chosen vessel. - Until then he had been unconcerned with the authority and goodness of God, like others of his contemporaries, but he was awakened from his insensitivity through a frightening providential event; the Almighty can effect his word through whatever means he wishes. One evening he saw a drunkard returning home sitting in a waggon, and he heard the next morning that the horse had lost its way, and it fell over a rocky place, and thus he had lost his life! This frightening circumstance, that death had met a man in such an ungodly state lead him to various earnest considerations, which, as one can imagine, was effectual in his true conversion, and from then on he professed and embraced religion, and continued throughout his life to so adorn it.

He put on the Lord Jesus by being baptised and joined the church of Christ at Capel Seion, Merthyr Tydfil. At this time he became a diligent hearer and carefully kept his place under the means of grace. He had learnt to read when a child through the kindness of his aunt, but he had almost forgotten it completely. He used all the time he could spare in growing in knowledge by reading the scriptures. After the church had been without a minister for some time and having prayed to God and taken counsel together, with one mind they gave a call to Mr Jones to fulfil all the ministry; as a result he was ordained to the important work on Christmas day 1804. On this occasion his uncle, the Rev. Morgan Evans of Pantycelyn, preached, and the Reverend James Lewis, Llanwenarth. He appeared to have considered the great importance of the office he took upon himself, that he was accountable for what was entrusted to him, foreseeing the delight of giving up such a high office joyfully, and not sadly, when he short term would come to an end.

He strove with additional earnestness to advance the prosperity of the church. He would preach, not only in the town, but also sometime three or four times during the week in various villages around Merthyr, and the Lord was pleased to bless his labour with great success. Several joined the church during the first year after he settled, and in the second 105 souls were added by baptism, besides 33 by restoration, the majority of whom were the fruit of his labour. ‘So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.’ Acts 19:20. ‘And the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied’ in Merthyr Tydfil ‘greatly.’ Acts 6:7.

The members were only few at the time of his ordination, and the church was also in a very lifeless state, but in a few years it grew to close to four hundred members, and became one of the most numerous churches in the principality. But with all the prosperity he continued to be the humble Rees Jones, and attributed all the work to Him works as he will by means of instruments that appear insufficient.

Having laboured [Seren Gomer viii. (1825), pp.287-9]

1806 Salem, Merthyr Tydfil. ‘In the year 1806, a powerful revival broke out in many parts of Wales, and Merthyr Tydfil experienced the effects of the gracious visitation. 1807 Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire. ‘In the year 1803 the first association was held in Merthyr by the Methodists, and it is very likely that it was the first held by anyone. In this meeting there was the presence and service or Mr Jones, Llangan; Williams, Lledrod; Jones of Edern and Jones, Carmarthen. The meeting was crowned with excellence and great success, as the ministers were ‘baptised with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’ But if there was much success on the one hand, there was much wrath/indignation on the other. Strong resistance was kindled against this new thing among some who were estranged and at enmity to the work, and they vented their venom by pulling down the stage on which the preachers were to stand. This disgraceful task was done by night; but by the morning the religious friends had made good the want, so that there was no hindrance to the meeting. Referring to this foolish event, Mr Jones, Llangan would say, ‘Merthyr is ever Merthyr.’ The working together of the association referred to, with the effectual labour of the Sabbath school, in connection with the ministry of the word on the Sabbaths, brought about great success. The increase of the hearers and members necessitated them ‘extending their tents.’ The place was now too confined to meet in, and it needed to be enlarged. The chapel was therefore enlarged to 42 foot by 30. This house could contain 500 or more hearers. This occurred in about 1805. About two years after this the Lord visited his people with a lovely and powerful revival. When the Rev. Henry Jones, St Mellons, Monmouthshire, was preaching, powerful influences descended on the congregation, such had not occurred there before, and as a result a great number were added to the disciples. The Rev. Rowland Hill, London, visited Merthyr at the time of this awakening; and when that good man mentioned the blood, though in a foreign language, yet understood in part, a great number of the congregation broke out praising God in a heavenly hwyl; and this did not displease the gentleman, as he in all likelihood had been baptised to a great measure with the same spirit. The hearers went out into the street joyfully, blessing God for all that they had seen and heard.’ [MC iii. 78] ‘In the year 1803 the first revival took place, and a notable one it was in many respects. The cause of the revival in connection with this chapel [Pont-morlais] is not attributed to the efforts of any one man. No Spurgeon or Guinness roused from the dull track of ecstacy, but rather many ministers, more or less eminent, in connection with the cause, produced strong excitement by the powerful character of their preaching; and once strong, religious feeling, combined with great emotion and physical demonstrations, were awakened, the revival spread like an epidemic, touching here and there certain neighbourhoods, and in many creating most enduring effects. Sunday would come, the little chapel at Pontmorlais be opened, and strongly-marked interest discernable in every countenance. Scattered amidst the regular worshippers might be seen men who never bent the knee - many impelled by the same feelings of curiosity as lead the world to rush wherever there is something novel or strange to see or hear. The silence is broken; a hymn is sung, and sung again and again; then prayer and loud become the responses and moans. Again singing; and then men and women lost to everything but devotion, burst forth into sobbing, screaming. Some go into strange hysterics and are borne out, and the whole concourse closely wedded together - for the humble chapel has no pews - sways to and fro; and uplifted hands, and bonnets, and kerchiefs waving, rise above the tide of the excited human sea. “I do not think,” said an eye-witness, “that much permanent good was produced. Many of those who screamed out in the anguish of their mind, and showed the greatest penitence, did not join the chapel. They felt strongly at the time, but when the meeting was over the feeling was gone.” In one or two cases, however, men of the most violent and abandoned character were reclaimed. At one of the revivals a man was seen who had lead a bad life. He occasionally visited the chapel, but that was all. In all the relations of life, as a man, a husband, and a father, he was notoriously bad; but, at this special revival alluded to, his powerful frame was seen to be inwardly convulsed. “Like an elephant,” said our informant, “he was noticed to sink clumsily on his knees; his body agitated, his face wet, his hands clenched. They took him home, and from that day he dated his new birth, and became in every sense a worthy member of religion and of society.” For some years, between 1805 and 1810, the little chapel served in weekdays as a school. Mr Richard Lewis, uncle of Mr Rees Lewis, our townsman, kept a school there, first by himself, and afterwards in connection with a Mr Williams. The school was a good one; for Lewis, besides being a very pious man, was also clever. He was self-taught, but ingenious; made a binding press himself, and many other constructions, with the simplest of tools. There Mr Benjamin Martin, and other men who attained a good status in society received their education and did no discredit to the abilities of their school-masters. The first revival was mainly due to the Rev. Henry Jones, of Risca, a good man, though by no means of great talent. Our informant has well described him, and the description at once conveys a just idea of him, as being greater in feeling than ability. An association had been held here in the Castle field, then a great place for open-air meetings, and somewhat noted for the fine oak which grew in the middle - long since disappeared. After this association, which naturally prepared the public mind for a revival, this Henry Jones preached at Pontmorlais and aroused considerable emotion by the fervency of his discourse. At the close, a hymn was sung, given with great power, and the congregation were on the point of separating, when a little girl, daughter of Rowland Pugh, caught up the last line of the hymn and sang it with considerable spirit; others joined, the feeling aroused spread, and the first revival began. Very lately an old woman was borne to her long home who, in the early part of this century, was this little revivalist.’ [Charles Wilkins, The History of Merthyr Tydfil, pp.223-4]

1829 Zoar, Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire. ‘[B]ut in 1829 a powerful revival was had when many people were added to the Lord. It the August of that year, on one Communion Sabbath fifty-five members were received; and some still remember the dewy meetings that were enjoyed in those days.’ (HEAC ii. 261)

1829 Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire. ‘In the year 1829, the Lord visited his people in a special way by a powerful revival. An extensive outpouring of his Spirit was given, not only upon the different churches of Merthyr, but also on a great number of the churches of the whole of South Wales.The num (MC iii. 79-80; Wilkins, History of Merthyr Tydfil, pp.225-6)

Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding area were also greatly affected in 1829. All the non-conformist denominations receiving a portion of the blessing, and numerous additions to the membership of the churches were recorded. Whether this was a separate revival movement, or a result of the further spread of the main awakening, it is difficult to determine.

See HEAC, ii, p. 261; MC, iii, pp. 79-80; and HBNC, pp. 584 & 587 for further details.

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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