Mill St Congregational Church (1772)

FROM the fact of the revival having become so general in this county (Merionethshire), it is no easy matter to make a selection of illustrative facts and statements out of the materials at our disposal. We will begin with the mountainous districts, and then give instances from some of the towns.

On the 2d of November 1859, the Rev. D Edwards, rector of Festiniog and Maentwrog, thus writes :

" My DEAR FRIEND,—You will doubtless be pleased to learn that the religious movement which has been taking place in various parts of the world at the present time has at length reached the parishes of Festiniog and Maentwrog. About three weeks ago a few young men from Bettws-y­-coed came to work in the Festiniog slate-quarries. They were in deep concern about the state of their souls. They came on Monday morning, and their deep distress was observed by several of the quarrymen. They followed their work in this state of mind, occasionally weeping on account of their lost condition as guilty sinners before God. After dinner the following day they were observed by some working people making their way to the top of the hill. Immediately they were followed by all the workmen in that quarry, being about five hundred in number. They halted on the summit of the mountain, and on that spot, under the

"The revival has been making progress ever since. Our church members, both at Festiniog and Maentwrog, have nearly doubled. When I speak thus of what is doing at these churches, you are to understand that things equally interesting are taking place at all the chapels around us, and perhaps more so in some of them. By far the greater part of the population are become members," &c.

In a communication, dated February 3, 1860, addressed to the Rev. John Venn of Hereford, the same writer enters into further particulars:— " FESTINIOG RECTORY, TAN-Y-BWLCH,

" January 3, 1860.

" REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,—The revival in this neighbourhood has been steadily progressing since it broke out about the beginning of last October. There was before that time a considerable difference in the state of feeling among all denominations of Dissenters, as well as the Church people, in these two parishes, even since last August. There was more unction in the prayers and the preaching, more unity among Christians, and a readiness to converse on religious matters generally. Prayer-meetings were multiplied, and held in the open air amongst the quarrymen. Every now and then, some in them would break out and cry for mercy. Several were added to the church during this time. There was great warmth and fervour felt in almost every service held during the months of August and September, but the flame was not kindled till that great meeting on the mountain mentioned in my letter to Mr Phillips. Ever since then, there is hardly a religious meeting of any kind where you do not see the most powerful effects produced on the souls of almost all that attend them. I may say that the revival actually commenced among the quarrymen through the instrumentality of those two young men from Bettws-y-Coed, but there had evidently been a preparatory work going on about here in the hearts of hundreds since last summer. Having heard so much of the revival in Cardiganshire, my native county, I went in May last, for a fortnight, to visit my friends in the neighbourhood of Aberystwyth. Having closely examined the revival there, and having made all inquiries about its origin and progress in that locality, I gathered that the principal means blessed of God to create and carry it on was PRAYER, and especially the prayers of the new converts. When I came home, I related to my dear people at Maentwrog as much as I could recollect of what I saw and heard of the revival in Cardiganshire, and begged of them to join me in establishing a weekly meet­ing for the special purpose of praying for a large outpour­ing of the Holy Spirit. The very recital in these meetings of what I witnessed in Cardiganshire created a stir among my people, and a great many attended the prayer-meeting for a few times; they, however, cooled down again into their former state of apathy. In September, rumours came that the revival had broken out about Carnarvon and Llanberis slate-quarries. This caused us almost to despair, and ask each other, Can it be possible that God will over­look us, and not respond to our prayers? "After this we determined to pray more earnestly than ever, and it was not long before we witnessed a new feel­ing pervading our 'public meetings, and a few came to join the church. Such was the state of things at Festiniog and Maentwrog before the revival broke out. We were kept suspended between hope and fear till we heard its sound like a mighty wind among the slate-quarries. "With regard to its character and the blessed effects it has already produced, I do not know what to say or where to begin. It is singular that the greatest sinners, and the most profligate, were amongst those that were first con­vinced and converted. When these were present in the means of grace, especially in the prayer-meetings, a sense of awful condemnation and an agonising dread of God's wrath seemed to overwhelm them, so that they were forced to cry aloud for mercy. Sometimes they would fall down on their knees, and, one after the other, pray of their own accord for five or ten minutes; others, again, seeing and hearing these, were so deeply affected that there would be nothing clone, seen, or heard, but loud sobbing, weeping and wailing, by all present. Again, perhaps a brother would attempt to pray, but his feelings would soon be so overpowered that he would be obliged to sit down, or rather, as was the case with many, fall down on their faces, to try to suppress their feelings. Sometimes you could hear half-a-dozen pray at the same time, in an under-tone, quite unconscious of each other. It is the broken prayers of the most abandoned characters, confessing their sins and cry­ing for mercy in their simple and childlike language, that affect the people most. I will defy the hardest and the most callous sinner to remain five minutes within hearing of these prayers without being melted into tears. In fact, they are not prayers, but the broken accents and the agon­ising groans of souls, held, as it were, over the flames of hell. You can easily tell from the character of the prayers whether the petitioner has found peace or not. When the law has done its work with them, and the Saviour found, we might almost say that their prayers are ended; it is then all thanksgiving and praise. "The blessed result of this revival is astonishing: where there was before much bigotry, bickering, and unpleasant feeling between different parties, there is nothing now but co-operation, love, and zeal, all seeming anxious to rival each other in their efforts to save the few unconverted that remain, and who are afraid to come near our religious meetings, lest they should be seized with conviction, and made uneasy about their souls. “I do not believe that there was a worse place than the village of Maentwrog for its size within the principality. It was notorious for drunkenness and revelry, Sabbath- breaking and swearing, &c. You could hear the school children in passing, when playing together, using the foul language learnt of their parents at home, and that often with oaths and curses; but now these children hold prayer-meetings together. Where there is a group of houses, they assemble at one of them, and hold meetings, at which they read, sing, and pray together, sometimes for hours. Young men, from fifteen to twenty years old, are full of fire; they often meet to pray together in private houses after the public prayer-meeting is over, and continue to pray often till midnight, and sometimes till three and four o'clock in the morning. Women, also, have their prayer-meetings by themselves, and they are as warm in it as the men." The following letter is from the Rev. R. Killin, incum­bent of St David's, Festiniog, dated Feb. 14, 1860 :

"With much pleasure I comply with your wishes, to give you all the interesting information I can about the wonder­ful revival with which we have been lately blessed in this favoured locality. I shall confine myself to it, as it bears upon my own congregations, and the general effects upon the community at large, and, therefore, shall say nothing of what took place in the chapels, further than to state, that in its general aspect it is similar in every place of worship in the neighbourhood, and that the work carried on in each contributes to the religious and social welfare of the community.

"In order to give you a correct idea of the work, I must lead you back to the beginning of the year 1859. Hearing at that time of what was taking place in Ame­rica, South Wales, and Ireland, weekly prayer - meetings were held for the outpouring of the Spirit upon us in this neighbourhood. These have continued to the present time. They have been well attended from the beginning, and a blessing seems to rest upon them. Indeed, a deep feeling seemed to pervade the whole neighbourhood during last winter and the following spring, until the general elections took place in May, which dried up our spirits for a time, though we continued our meetings. On the 7th of Sep­tember the annual services took place at my church. The effect produced upon the over-crowded congregations assembled together was very solemn and affecting; many were in tears, being unable to restrain their feelings, and I believe that indelible impressions were made on many a careless soul. Between the 7th of September and the 10th of October, when the revival broke out like a torrent which carries everything before it, the deepest feeling was mani­fested in my congregations; many were bathed in tears every Sunday, and as many as fifteen persons joined the church as communicants. I ought to have mentioned that prayer-meetings were held in sonic of the quarries twice a week, during the dinner hour, last summer and autumn, at one of which, held on the 4th of October, I had the pleasure to assist, accompanied by the rector of Festiniog. The following Sunday was a memorable day here, in many respects. A large open-air prayer-meeting was held in one of the quarries, which deeply affected many.

Some young people broke out rejoicing, in a prayer-meeting held amongst themselves in one of the chapels. There was an unusual solemnity of feeling in church, and some of my people assembled in a cottage afterwards and held a prayer- meeting, which continued until midnight. The week following will be remembered as long as we live; three prayer-meetings were held on a mountain, on successive days, at which the quarrymen attended; and prayer-meet­ings were held in every place of worship every night in the week when scores of people joined the different denomina­tions of Christians. From that time to the present, I have not spent more than one evening at home, but have been constantly employed in some religious meeting or other, such as cottage-lectures, communicants'-meetings, prayer- meetings, &c., and you will readily believe that I have enjoyed the season greatly. At first I overworked myself a little, but on the whole, I have been wonderfully sup­ported, both in body and mind.

"During the last five months, about sixty persons have been added to the number of my communicants, many of whom manifest the greatest anxiety for their souls, and have the clearest views of the gospel scheme of salvation. Many of the old communicants are so changed for the better, that they are quite different men from what they were. I never heard such prayers be­fore, although I have been accustomed to prayer-meet­ings from my early days, under Archdeacon Hughes, of Aberystwyth. The earnestness, humility, sense of their own weakness, the clear perception of Christ as their only refuge, and of the Spirit's influence as their support, guide, and consolation, is beyond anything I ever witnessed before. It is very probable that there is much chaff among the wheat now, as well as at other times; but that there are many sincere Christians among the converts, I have no more doubt than I doubt my own existence. What is most remarkable in them, is their childlike simplicity, their value of the Word of God and prayer, and the precious­ness of the Saviour to them; indeed, I can conscientiously say, that never, since the commencement of my ministry, have I seen men so earnest—they seem to take the king­dom of heaven by force."

The Rev. J. Jones, Independent minister at Maentwrog, corroborates the statements made in the preceding letters. He gives the particulars of a remarkable open-air prayer- meeting, convened by handbill, to which no name was at­tached, and states that many of the converts date their first serious impressions from that meeting. More than two hun­dred persons, out of a comparatively small population, have been added to the various churches. Sleepy professors have been thoroughly awakened, many drunkards have become sober, blasphemers now pray, and the self-righteous are seen weeping on account of their sins. Many strange and wonder­ful things have been wrought, and the hearers at the various places of worship are become professors of religion, and in their outward conduct give evidence that they are changed in heart by the Spirit of God. Very few indeed remain uninfluenced by this revival. The general character of our village and parish is greatly changed. The majority of the people are now religious.—The letter is concluded with the following statement: “We have many noted examples of prayers offered by parents on behalf of their children, children on behalf of their parents, husbands on behalf of their wives, and wives on behalf of their husbands, being answered. I heard one man saying, with tears in his eyes, that he believed his wife prayed much for him, and that he was saved in answer to her prayers."

Before we leave this portion of the country it may be satisfactory to give extracts from a letter received recently from the Rev. R. Parry, a minister amongst the Calvinistic Methodists at Festiniog:

"A true revival has taken place here. No power but that of the Holy Ghost could have produced such changes as we see in many persons in this neighbourhood. All classes have, to some extent, partaken of the effects of the revival. The spirits of the old professors are softened thoroughly—they have been brought to a warmer climate, their prayers are more fervent and importunate. The young people who had been brought up religiously from their childhood, have been awakened to see and feel that they are sinners, and to seek the truth in earnest. Hard­ened sinners have been reclaimed, drunkards made sober, and swearers turned into praying men; men who were as dark and careless as the brutes, have been brought to seek religion, and are much in prayer. Nothing has caused me so much surprise as to hear these men engage in prayer. They pray so scripturally and earnestly, that I am con­strained to believe that they are taught by the Spirit of God. All those who have joined the several churches in this locality, still continue steadfast in their profession. Indeed, I know but very few who have gone back; and, according to present appearances, all are likely to continue faithful unto death. Perhaps we may be disappointed, but we do all in our power to look after them and lead them to the green pastures. The heavenly fire has not left us yet, and our prayer is that it may remain."

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

Additional Information

Where the Congregational Church used to be.

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