Staylittle (1859)

1859 Staylittle, Montgomeryshire.


This religious revival took place about 47 years ago [in 1850]. The small church of Staylittle had been lead to a grave and serious crisis. For close to 40 years it had the privilege of the sweet ministry of one of the quiet, godly giants, of the old stamp. The old minister Isaac was not distinguished for his mental abilities, but everyone acknowledged his uprightness, and his faithful efforts for the cause of Christ were evident to all. He often published booklets like: ‘Instruction for the youngest scholars in the Sabbath School’; ‘Jesus Christ the same; or an Essay on “Christ’s Unchangeableness,” by the Rev. J. Williams, Newtown, Baptist minister’; ‘A Brief History of the Baptists by one born and bred a Churchman’; ‘Considerations on the Soul and Eternity; with Reasons for Total abstinence from strong drink’ and others. He was the author of the first and fast of the above four booklets. He used to travel the country preaching and selling his books, which helped him support his family. The time came the diligent old hero to sleep, which was a cause of great sadness to the church. He used to lead and direct them in everything; but lo, their prophet and guide had been snatched from them. The church had low prospects; the members were disheartened, and the cause appeared to be on the point of dying. What would be the outcome?

Hush! there is a noise on the wind that a revival had broken out in Cardiganshire, just the other side of Plynlimon. The flame was kindled by a poor old insignificant minister and was fed by weeks of prayer meetings. What would the few brethren at Staylittle do? Most of them were little accustomed to arranging and holding public meetings. However, there was a young lad, Dafydd Vaughan, who in conversation with his father argued for holding a week of prayer meetings. The conversation bore fruit, and the matter went before the brethren, and a series of meetings was arranged, and father and son took a prominent part in them. There were earnest entreaties before the throne that week. Saturday came—the last evening of the series that had been arranged. They had been fishing all through the week without catching anything; they had cried out for rain to water the garden of the Lord, but there was no voice or anything as an answer. The Saturday night meeting was spent with the same results—no sound of an answer to their earnest entreaties. O grievous care! O hard test! Was God offended with them? Or was he unfaithful to his promise? Sunday went by in the same way, with no one remaining in the fellowship meeting. They prayed much more earnestly Monday night, but no answer. Tuesday night in the same way. Though there was a great yearning for the dawn, and thirst for rain, and desire for one soul at least to be converted, the Heavens were as brass, without one sign for good. The meeting ended and the people headed for their homes. They made their way slowly, talking along the way; some felt low and disheartened and were for giving the meetings up, others were a little more trusting and were for sticking at it. Suddenly, the sound of singing broke upon the ears of this company, and they remained, listening intently, for a long while. The singing was full of a living, heavenly melody; and they thought, judging by the sound, that the singing was above the chapel in Staylittle. They thought that some company or other had remained in the house of the old minister’s widow, and were singing there, yet they were surprised at the charm and melody of the praise they heard, and especially as some of them were just then half a mile from the chapel. But besides those who were at the prayer meeting, some who lived in the farms and cottages nearby heard the wonderful singing and were drawn out of their houses at 11 o’clock to listen to and wonder at it. The next day came, and the news went through the region of the strange singing the night before. The time of the Wednesday night prayer meeting came, and as the meeting started, there was proof that the Holy Spirit was there in his power and warmth. Everyone’s heart was aflame. The despair vanished, and the anxiety, and weakness that had overtaken the little flock. The powers of the world to come came to be felt among them. The waters had been dammed and dammed for days, and eventually, they fell with the fearfulness, power, and fulness of a flood. Everyone departed Wednesday night in very different spirits than they used to. The news went through the region of the wonderful meeting they had had in Stay’ on Wednesday, and the chapel was full Thursday night and had a great catch of souls. After this meeting after meeting was held with the same success and spiritual joy: the saints praising, the Spirit working, sinners yielding, and God receiving the praise. ‘And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

[E.K. Jones, Blodeu-Glwm Serch, sef Cofeb Fechan am y Diweddar Dafydd ac Elizabeth Vaughan, Lluest-y-Dduallt, Staylittle, Sir Drefaldwyn, Abermaw, 1897, pp.44-8; see also Seren Cymru (189?), pp.???]




WHILE reading the Rev. J. Morgan Jones’s straightforward and apposite paper on “Present Day Revivals” in the WELSH WEEKLY, my mind recurred quite naturally to an account I had heard of the Revivals of 40 or 50 years ago. My informant was an eye-and-heart witness of many of those remarkable phenomena; and he, like the Rev. J.M. Jones, testified to the almost entire absence of the human factor in the production of those sanctifying Pentecosts.

Forty-two or forty-three years ago one of these “old-fashioned” revivals broke out at a remote place called Staylittle. Staylittle is a small village of about a dozen cottages, a smithy, a shop (which is the emporium of the whole country for miles around), a school, a Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, and a Baptist Chapel. It is situated about mid-way between Llanidloes and Machynlleth, and nestles cosily in those lead-laden, rather barren hills of Montgomeryshire, with the twin peaks of Plynlimmon clearly in view. During the earlier part of the century the inhabitants of this rural village were fortunate in that their sanctuaries were near the main road that lead from North to South Wales, through the above towns. The old “Pilgrim Fathers,” that journeyed the length and breadth of our land, knew right well of the hearty hospitality of the people of Staylittle, and of their love of hearing the “old, old story,” and would always arrange to lodge a night in their midst, paying for their fare by preaching unto them of Christ and his love. The Baptist Church was founded there in the year 1805 and has held out through storm and sunshine until the present day. The country is very sparsely populated, still, the people will come from many miles around so that there is always found a fairly good congregation.

It was about the year 1850 that this quiet scene was disturbed by an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Baptist Church, which at that time numbered but a few members, had been blessed for many years with the ministry of a sturdy and sweet old patriarch of the old stamp. Loyal to the old truths according to his lights, well versed in doctrine; quiet, peaceful, and unobtrusive; he preached and prayed, wept and rejoiced, rebuked and cheered those under his modest charge for upwards of 38 years. He had not created any great stir in the church but had steadfastly and honestly performed his sacred duties. At last, the old prophet and leader died and was buried near the old sanctuary. The little Israel mourned his loss, and many feared that the cause would die with him. They could not realize their new responsibilities. One asked the other “What could they do?” “What would be the end?” Suddenly, when they were sore depressed and felt as if under the gloom of Gilboa, news reached them that a great revival had just broken out in some parts of Cardiganshire. The holy fire had been drawn down through the instrumentality of some poor and unknown rural pastor and had been fed by weeks of prayer meetings. Oh, how the weak church at Staylittle thirsted for a similar Baptism! They were anxious that the holy contagion should spread even unto them. But what were they to do? They were but few, and inexperienced in conducting public worship. The Gordian knot was broken; a lad of tender years pleaded with his father that they should hold a series of prayer meetings at the chapel; the matter was fully discussed, and prayed over at the family altar; it was further considered by the church, and, finally, they resolved to lay the matter before our Heavenly Father. Their souls were like the parched ground that waiteth the refreshing shower; they felt that God was all in all, and that of themselves they could do nothing.

Throughout the first week they wrestled and prayed. Saturday night came around but had brought no particular blessing. They had cast their nets throughout the week but had caught nothing. They felt severely tried. “Had the Lord forsaken them?” or, “Was He unfaithful to His promises?” These were the questions that some of them asked. Sunday came and went, but brought no answer. “What next,” each asked his brother; “shall we give up?” The heavens gave no sign of the rains they prayed and thirsted for. Another week of special prayer meetings was decided upon. Monday evening the church met; the prayers grew in their fervency and directness of appeal, but no answer. Tuesday evening they met again; all were full of the spirit of prayer, and were as watchmen waiting for the dawn; they were deeply anxious to see some soul turn to Christ; but heavenward all was silent and hard, without a sign for good. Once more they sang their closing hymn; once more was the benediction offered, and they scattered to their various homes. As they wended their way along the hill-slopes they conversed of the meetings and of the unpromising prospects before them. Some suggested that they should not continue their meetings; others wished to hold on for a while at least. Whilst they were thus conversing, a volume of sweet music falls upon their ears. They halt and hearken. The music was full of heavenly harmony, and each one fancied that the singing was right over the chapel they had just vacated. Each party thought that some of their friends had called in to see the aged widow of their late pastor (for she still lived close by the old chapel) and that they had stayed with her a while, and were singing some of their sacred hymns; yet they wondered at the living melody and charm of the music they heard, for some of the parties were then fully half a mile from the old meeting house. Homes were reached, and the morrow came; everyone spoke and enquired of the singing of the previous evening, but no clue was found of the singers, and all was enwrapped in mystery. Some had heard the singing from their homes and had gone into the open air to listen at eleven o’clock that night.

Before it had struck the hour of prayer, on that Wednesday evening, the little fraternity had assembled together. Soon the service was commenced, and from the beginning there were abundant proofs that the Holy Spirit was present in all His warmth and power. Every heart was “on fire.” All hopelessness, sadness, and weakness had disappeared. The “powers of the world to come” were in full play. The clouds had been silently gathering for many days until at last they broke, and the refreshing waters fell in abundance upon the parched soil below. Conversions were not numerous on this Wednesday evening, but on the morrow that wonderful service was the talk of the whole country. Thursday evening, long before the hour announced, the little chapel was crowded, the same fervency filled the hearts of the little band of Christians, and the same Divine Power was mightily at work. That evening a large number, many of them old warriors in the army of the Evil One, threw down their arms and expressed a warm and deep desire to join the army of the Cross. Evening after evening were these meetings held, and with like success; believers glorifying, the Spirit working, sinners surrendering, and God receiving the praise. Sturdy farmers, lowly peasants, rural artisans, of every age and sex, would congregate together in large numbers. Suddenly and unceremoniously their singing and praises would break forth; cold, stereotyped, human forms would be banished for the time, and the Holy Spirit would rule and arrange the whole service. Brethren and sisters were for the first time to give expression to the prayers of the congregation; others gave vent to their feelings in the responses and ejaculations; “Amen,” “Diolch Iddo,” and “Bendigedig,” were heard on all hands; tears, indicative of unutterable joy, coursed rapidly down the cheeks of many, while the tears of others were but the pearly harbingers of a changed life. Some ordinary member would stand up and offer a few words of exhortation. Though the speech was simple and void of display, every shaft, winged of the Spirit, would reach the heart. The whole audience is moved like a forest in the hurricane. The name of the Lord is praised by almost every mouth. Again the praises abate a little, and the clear, tremulous voice of some old sister is heard joyfully singing as follows: “Mae’n nefoedd ar y ddaear

Yr ochor hyn i’r bedd,

Wrth wel’d yr Arglwydd Iesu

Yn benaf yn y wledd.”

(’Tis heaven on earth, even this side of the grave, to behold the Lord Jesus the foremost one at the feast.)

The story sounded in my ears like a chapter from the history of the great Judean Pentecost, or of a scene of heaven. The hour for closing the service was long past. Away, time! All felt that the bonds of time were too limited to contain the kingdom of heaven. Let the clock strike and the sun sink into the abyss of darkness, the worshippers will continue their prayers and praises far into the night. But they have another duty to perform; the nets must be drawn in. An after-meeting is announced and the benediction is offered; many hearers have been touched; several retain their seats, while others, evidently deeply wounded, move slowly to the doors; there they linger and halt between two opinions; some of them return again into the chapel and admit themselves conquered at last. The brethren look around them and seeing such a large number of noble recruits, once more engage in prayer and praise, thanking the Lord for that further manifestation of His saving power and grace. Even again there are some of the wounded ones at the doors—theirs was a hard struggle. Some old Christian makes for the door and warmly invites them to give themselves entirely to Christ. They accept the invitation and take their places with the people of God. Their entrance is an effective sign for another hymn and another prayer of thanksgiving. But the service must be brought to an end; the congregation disperses, and they go in groups to their distant homes, singing praises unto the Lord as they go. The whole country for miles around is full of praise and song, and the very rocks and hills re-echo the gladsome sound. Would that we, in this cold and formal age, could have some such heavenly experiences.



(The Welsh Weekly (March 18, 1892) p.5)

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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