Pwllheli (1813-1830)

1813 . . . There was great success to the work this year in our land; many were added to the Churches in various districts, particularly Llanllyfni, Clynog, Penygraig, Tymawr, Llanengan, Garn, Pwllheli, &c. About 30 were added to us in Penymount, and till now they are still keeping at it. December 25th, 1813.’ [Jones, Cofiant Michael Roberts, p.26]

‘There was a young man’ he says, ‘under twenty years of age, called Richard Hughes, a cobbler by calling, who was faithful unto death, which took place in Pwllheli some years ago, united to the religious cause, and very zealous for the school. He lived at Frondeg, with Evan Griffith, and Ellin his wife; and he took up the task when the old man was failing. There were no believers, apart from himself, who came to the school – he himself began and ended the school, and all the old believers stood at a distance. He had persuaded a few of the irreligious men who were able to read a little to become teachers; but not so much as one of them made a profession of religion except he himself! He began to keep teachers’ meetings with them. Having dealt with the circumstantial things concerning school, he would shortly begin to turn the conversation around to what they had read and the sermons they had listened to, so that their hearts burned within them, and the Spirit of the Lord worked together; and it was soon understood that there had been a great change in their manner of hearing and behaviour. The teachers’ meeting soon came to be thought of as a sort of private experience meeting; and for a long while afterwards they were considered as a sort of first step to religious profession; and no one of immoral life was suffered to be a teacher, and a member of these meetings. Up to this time there was nothing evident to be seen, only more of a spirit of hearing, and a greater earnestness in the appearance of the people: no one had newly sought for a place in the church.

Thus were things for some time; but on a certain Sabbath at two o’clock, Mr Richard Williams, Brynengan, was preaching, and such a powerful influence fell, that the whole congregation melted: strong men as if they had let themselves go, sighing and weeping, though there was no breaking out rejoicing; and indeed, they could not, because they were under Sinai, in sight of the smoke and fire. Never was there more proof of the ‘excellency of the power of God’ [text?] and not of the instrument than on this occasion. There was nothing in the talents of the preacher at that time to draw attention, though he was a faithful, useful, godly man according to his attainments; yet he was rather despised. But id men despised the meanness of the instrument, not so his great Master; and so it appeared on that occasion in an especial manner, that his mission was known by he himself [?]. The next week a large congregation came to seek a place in Zion; and the majority of them men of age. The fellowship would be held at eleven o’clock in the morning on a day in the middle of the week, and not often would any be absent, though many of them came from miles distant.

Soon afterwards great rejoicing broke out, which continued for many months; and the fellowship increased each week. Whole evenings were spent in the chapel, and along the roads, rejoicing, singing hymns, and indeed occasionally a sister would fair leap like the lame man at the gate of the temple after he was healed. When some of the congregation would leave, at the head of a path or at a crossroads prayer meetings would be held – the first at Rhyd-y-cynwr, another at Sarn-fellteyrn, and one or two others before the furthest ones left on their way to Tre-faesydd; and others in the same manner on the crossroad, towards Bryncroes, y Rhiw, and Rhoshirwaun.

Sometimes the preacher would scarce read his text, as it was with the late Rev. Thomas Jones of Llanpumpsaint. His companion had quiet before/preceding him; but as soon as Mr Jones arose and began to make some sweet and striking observations by way of introduction, a great shout broke out and he sat down without trying to say anything more; and there was rejoicing for hours. Sometimes it would clean continue from one meeting to another, or from one chapel to another. I remember that my father was once at it from Tymawr all the way home – about two miles away – and at home a long time at his supper, sometimes eating something, and sometimes rejoicing; and not stopping having gone to bed. O happy/dear days!! They were almost all adults/men of age – not children. There were only two boys among them – the writer, who at the time was nine years of age, and one other. Sometimes completely ungodly men were convicted by themselves, at their work in the middle of the fields. One ungodly youth, a servant in a farm, was breaking a load of gorse to grind it for the horses, as was the custom in that country, and he came to the house without the load of gorse, crying out for mercy, so that his cry was heard across the whole countryside, though he had given no consideration to religious things before. Those whose houses were far away would come to the school in the morning with food in their pockets in order to stay for the afternoon sermon, or to the sermon to stay for the prayer meeting in the evening. The time was used in each reading a verse and explaining it as best they could, or to read out loud Gurnall’s book, which book was always on the table in the loft or vestry, which had been given by some benefactors for the service of the chapel so to use. Almost all the inhabitants of Bryncroes and Mellteyrn, and part of the parishes of Penllech, Llangwnadl, Llaniestyn, and Rhiw, went to Tymawr at that time. Doubtless not everything at that time is to be praised; yea, there were many things connected with that revival that made many a one say ‘They are full of new wine’; but I have not seen, and I have seen many things too, one so free of the sad things that attributed to them in religious revivals as that revival in Tymawr, in 1811. It effects were more enduring, and fewer turned back, as a fruit of the revival was behind the Methodist cause in Tymawr for years afterwards. They are almost all gone now – only a few remain that have not been removed by death, and the Lord of the vineyard hurry its like again!’ [Parch. W Rowlands, Y Geiniogwerth, Ionawr 1851, pp.6-11 (NB Rowlands gives date of Ty Mawr revival as 1811. RJ & MR are united in 1813 being the date)]


J Elias preaching at Pwllheli Association Sept 16 1831 (RE, Drys. ?,?; personal info Hugh Thomas in DCC p.325-6; Humphrey Prichard quoted in DCC p.326-7; Drys. 1850 p.110; also J E sermon notes)

J Elias preaching at Pwllheli Association Sept 16 1831:

‘This revival started rather differently to any other revival. It was a season of religious indifference; but there came a sudden and unexpected change. That saying is a perfect picture of this period,—’The earth sitteth still, and is at rest,’ but ‘ lo, there was a great earthquake.’ [Zechariah 1:11 & Revelation 6:12] Generally there are signs preceding each revival that the Lord is about to do a great work. That word is a description of the start of every revival generally, ‘Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.’ [Psalm 102:13,14] Zion is awakened and brought to feel because of the low state of religion, and to pray for its success. Its loved ones are brought to have mercy by seeing its low form and to pray for the salvation of the world. ‘For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.’ [Isaiah 66:8] But this revival came almost as suddenly as a flash of lightning. Where there is an answer to prayer, it can be said,—’I am sought of them that asked not for me: I am found of them that sought me not.’ [Isaiah 65:1] This took place under a sermon of the immemorial John Elias in the Pwllheli Association, at 2 o’ clock, September 16, in the year 1831, on Psalm 68:1:—’Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.’ There was such power agreeing with this sermon, that many thought the earth was quaking. We heard the old brother from Porthmadog,—Hugh Owen ‘Rhendy,—say of this sermon,—’John Elias preached that time in the Pwllheli Association until Caernarvonshire quaked by him and kcqigiyuo31tr8.’ The late Rev. Robert Ellis, Ysgoldy, was present in the meeting; and he has written his recollection of it in his own lively and striking way, and we believe that the reader will be pleased if we insert it here. ‘All eyes were on John Elias,’ said Mr Ellis, ‘when he arose and stood before the congregation, at once he is mastered. At least, as we saw and felt. All eyes were on Elias this time in the Pwllheli Association, when he stood before the great congregation, and read his text deliberately and audibly, awakening the consideration of the crowd that he had a message from God to proclaim, and that he himself felt enlivened from it; and the congregation needed to feel likewise before the end. Is not this always the secret of a successful preacher? When the preacher feels intensely, the hearers need must feel something. I pray thee, are there any notes of this remarkable [sermon] of Elias preserved by any? As far as I can remember, it happened, by applying his text to the present form of the land, with his incomparable eloquence, drawing a dark and grave description of the moral and religious form of the nation; the presumptuous and haughty sinning that was increasing and filling the land, and that in the light of the gospel, and that the evils were flowing outside breaking into the church as a flood, ‘the enemy coming in as a flood,’ and the discipline of the churches too weak to stop it, and because the Lord hid his face from them; and chastising his people because of their spiritual pride and self-sufficiency, leaving them to proceed with his work without his gracious assistance, as suggesting to them, ‘As you can do without me, I will go and return to my place, until you acknowledge you fault and seek my face; go ye as you are: preach, and teach, and succeed.’ Woe to us! said the remarkable preacher, succeed without God! succeed to fill the land with mockers, and the churches with hypocrites! No wonder, therefore, that those who hate him are so bold, and his enemies ask in scorn, ‘Where now is your God?’ So Elias preceeded with his dark description, using stirring sayings, and with his flowing eloquence carrying all before him. By this, here the great congregation had been possessed by a grave sadness, and shut up in darkness that bordered on despair. He asked often to himself, ‘Well, well, what will become of us?’ and the throng groaned under the burden of the message. After this, according to his custom, when his mind was fully stirred, and for striking some truths home, lo the preacher for a moment restrained himself; and everyone felt that

‘His refraining speaking

Was an interval of pleasant eloquence.’

‘Many imagined that his face shone like an angel. Then, raising his hand, and pointing/indicating with his finger, he raised his eyes to heaven, and at the top of his loud clear voice, he shouted, ‘LET GOD ARISE, LET HIS ENEMIES BE SCATTERED, LET THEM ALSO THAT HATE HIM FLEE BEFORE HIM!’ If the earth under the feet of the congregation did not quake, as some thought, Hell quaked! The powers of the world to come were in that speech. Grave feelings and quiet sighs of the thousands were released in the light of hope—ever eye was a fountain of tears—the Amens to the prayer where unnumbered, and the same way the thanks—thanks—thanks, in the face that there was still hope. Then the preacher proceeded further, in some superhuman eloquence, to describe what it was to the church—the world—and his enemies that hate him when God arose. He sought to describe with wondrous eloquence, with the prevailing influence on the great congregation, obliged because we were miserable failures. Eventually, the clear loud voice of the preacher was drowned by the joyful cry of the multitude. This powerful sermon was the means to bring a great number back to the churches at the time. And though the revival did not break out straight away, yet Mr Elias’ sermon was a blessed preparation for it. The religious people of Lleyn and Eifionydd saw and felt that it was necessary for God to give success to his work, and if it has ceased upon earth, it was not so in heaven. And they promised not to give him rest until he arose and had mercy upon Zion.’ It is said that the first to cry out during this remarkable sermon was that old faithful and correct elder, the late Hugh Thomas, Morfa Bychan, and afterwards of Borth, Porthmadog, who was grandfather on his father’s side to that young hopeful minister, the late Rev, H, Parry Thomas (I.) Birkenhead. Hugh Thomas was only a young boy of eighteen at the time, but remarkably wild and inconsiderate. He was, if we remember correctly, working in one of the farmhouses in the parish of Clynog; and it was the custom at that time, when it fell upon some young man to go into the militia of become a soldier, for a number of young boys, to collect amongst themselve a sum of money; and whoever was chosen to find/have the money, and go to wherever that had fallen upon him [?]. Hugh Thomas went to such a place, having received the money; and went to the Pwllheli Association an uncommon GAWR, thinking to GWARIO the money. But under the remarkable sermon he was taken hold of by it,—like a wild donkey when the month has taken hold of it. The grace of God said to him,—”Thus far, and no further.”As this sermon was so remarkable, it will not be uninteresting for the reader to have notes of it, written as it was heard, by an elder from Bwlchderwin of the name of Humphrey Prichard. Here are some of the sections and applications:—”I. That God and his cause have enemies. God’s enemies are enemies of his cause, and enemies of the cause of Christ are enemies of Christ himself,—Cain, Ishmael. All the false-believers of the world and all the unbelievers of the world are God’s enemies. II. God is sometimes as though asleep, withdrawn, and as a stranger in the land. God’s purpose in this is 1. To see what his enemies will do when let loose. 2. To see what his own people will do without him and that they might see their need of him; and also that he might make a name for himself in arising. Having withdrawn himself when his children were persecuted and burnt by all their persecutors and enemies. When the disciples cried out in the storm, Christ arose and soon stilled the sea. III. God has his time to arise and save his people. 1. When his enemies have become very arrogant and boastful in despising him. 2. God will arise when his people cry to him in distress of soul and mind. ‘Now will I arise, for the sighing of the needy.’ [Psalm 12:5]

“Applications.—I. The ark can do nothing except God is with it. This is clearly seen in the Word. The ark without God did not turn back the Jordan and pull down the forts, &c., but God with her. When God withdrew, behold the ark in the hands of the enemies; but when God came to it, lo, Dagon falls, the enemies are destroyed, and Israel is delivered. God would rather go after his ark to the land of the Philistines, than remain with it and adulterous priests bear it. II. God has to a great degree withdrawn from his people in these days. This is clear from a consideration of the presumptuous sins,—the slumbering and backslidden state of Christians of every denomination,—the hardness of those who hear the gospel,—the scarcity of living experience, and men close to God,—and indeed, the worldliness of preachers and pastors of God’s church. These things prove that God has withdrawn. ‘Let God arise.’ III. The duty of every godly man,—all the churches of God,—is to cry earnestly,—to plead irresistibly at the throne of grace that God would arise, in the face of the fact that we can do nothing without him. Nothing will save, or build up Zion, or subdue the enemies of God and his cause until he arise. God has withdrawn; our sins remain; God is as one asleep; we have driven him away and sinned his face away from us. But when God will arise, his ministers will arise; when God will arise, his church will arise; when God will arise, the dead will rise out of their graves, the ungodly will be saved. O! there will be a great change before his presence. As there is a promise let us argue it before the throne of grace. Let God arise. Thou wilt arise. Amen.” Notes of this sermon also a appear in Y Drysorfa, for the month of April 1850, tud. 110, written by the Rev. John Foulkes, Liverpool.

‘One of the first places, if not the first of all, to feel the effects of this sermon and to be touched by this revival was the Brynengan region, as in every revival. As referred to previously, there is hardly any revival since the beginnings of Methodism that this region has not extensively experienced. After referring to it previously in this work, we have come to understand that there was another great revival here, namely the revival of the years 1798-1802. In the biography of Pedr Fardd’s sister, of the name of Margaret Hughes, in Cyfaill, America, who was married to Michael Roberts’ first cousin, namely Robert Hughes, Tuhwnt-I’r-mynydd, it says that she came to the seiat as one of the first in the revival, in the year 1800, in the spring. Her biography was done by her husband, who was, like the whole family, a very gifted and talented man, and was his father’s brother’s uncle to the Rev. J. Michael Hughes, America. It is clear that she was a remarkably godly and virtuous woman. Thus it speaks of her in her biography,—”In her early years she lived next to Brynengan chapel. She was very kind to God’s cause. Many times she would mend shirts during the night for poor preachers on their travels, and sharing with them besides, but she never mentioned that; but there are sufficient witnesses even in America who know of it.” These few sentences speak volumes about this good woman. And we do not ask anyone’s pardon for going a little out of the way in order to bring attention to it.’

1831 Revival in Brynengan. Revival frequently called the ‘Brynengan Revival’. Robert Dafydd, having reached the age of 82, started praying that he might see a revival before he died, and had his desire. He had a remarkable sermon at this time on the text ‘But I will visit you again’ (John 16:22), which shows that this was his whole heart and desire. This was the subject of his private prayers each day for two years. He went to his room each day with this errand in particular. He also had a corner of his garden when he would go and do this. Many times his family and neighbours heard him wrestling with this request with God. He used to name the farmhouses in the neighbourhood in his prayers, and pray that the Lord would save their occupants. “Thou knowest, O Lord, that there are some houses here, where those that worshipped thee have died, and the old family altars have been cast down. O my Father, let me see one more revival before I die; let me see my neighbours in their dozens turn their faces towards thy house, going and weeping; and if I do, I will be content to die the minute thou dost will.” The Lord heard his prayer. He lived to see 140 seeking a place in the house of God in Brynengan. When the first of that number came, Robert Dafydd said, as in a spirit of prophecy, - ‘He is Gad, a multitude is coming.’ He was a young red-headed boy, full of life and mischief. At the beginning of the revival Henry Ress, Shrewsbury at that time preached in Brynengan with energy and vigour. So energetically that his sweat flowed in streams down his cheeks. He paused at times to catch his breath. During one of these pauses the red-headed boy gave an uncommon shout, and the first occasion he had he went to the church meeting. The seiat was held in Brynengan at 11 o’clock on Tuesday. He asked his master’s permission to go. He was the first-fruit of the revival. After this Robert Dafydd prayed ‘O Lord, let me live another year to bring up these children.’ This request was granted his also, and he lived a further two years. He conversed with a great number of these converts and cared for them as if they were his own children. If they exhibited no signs of having been ‘under Sinai’ he was very doubtful about them.’ (DCC pp.327-331; see also Henry Hughes, Robert Dafydd, Brynengan, pp.78-87; MC ii. 152)

Shortly after [Henry Rees meeting] a prayer meeting was held in a house called Pensarn uchaf. A fervent old woman called Mari Rhisiart, Pensarn, and a young girl, a feeble woman and a weak child, could not stop themselves crying out in this meeting. Then, gripping her two sticks, she went out into the open field to meet Morgan Howells, who had been preaching at Brynengan and collecting for his chapel in Newport. “Here’s your shilling,” she said, “towards bringing the ark its area[?]” The story of the old woman did much to increase Morgan Howells’ collection. The feeling deepened continually until the start of January 1832. Thomas Owen, Llangefni, had been announced to preach there on Sunday 8 January 1832; but someone had made a mistake, and he came at the end of the week. During the prayer meeting that was held in place of the meeting very uncommon rejoicing broke out. A few days later John Peter, Bala, preached there, on the words, “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” And such was the fear and trembling that had taken hold of all in the place, one general cry went up, and the preacher could only speak for a few minutes. The revival proceeded through the winter and following spring with great power and spread to all the churches of Eifionydd. (Hughes, Robert Dafydd, Brynengan, pp.82-3)

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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