Thomas Charles' Grave (1814)

Charles became ill in 1812 and never fully recovered. The work of the Sunday schools was progressing well. He wrote at this time, “the Sunday Schools increase exceedingly, both in number and in the progress they make in learning. Adults, as well as children everywhere crowd into them; their attention is great, and their attention sober and pleasing, and some join our churches continually.” In 1813 the Bible Society decided to publish a new edition of the Welsh Bible and Charles resolved to edit it; despite his health and his other activities. He was determined to live to see the completion of this task, “and then, I shall willingly lay down my head and die.” He saw its completion and then set himself to produce a Scriptural Concordance in Welsh, but this he did not complete. From the spring of 1814 Charles’ health declined substantially until he died on October 5th 1814; he was buried at Llanecil parish church. His dear wife, who was also ailing; died just nineteen days later.

Thomas Charles of Bala was a great man. John Elias (see this website) wrote about him in 1840, shortly before his own death. “The Rev. T. Charles was a wise, kind, and faithful leader and guide in those delightful meetings (Associations). Yea, he was a ruler of God’s appointment to us. There were none that coveted his place or wished to take his chair. He was always ready to introduce useful things to our notice; things appertaining to doctrine or discipline, and he used to state them to the brethren in a wise, wise proper and delightful manner. He would encourage the brethren to give their sentiments on the subject under consideration; he would assist the weak, and teach and rectify the deficient and confused.”

The most significant aspect of his character was the love that was in him. He had spent his life in relationship with his Saviour and the closer we get to Jesus, the more like Him we become. People noticed this in him. He was not really a very good preacher, but people recognised the presence of God on him they received into their hearts the words about salvation that came out of his mouth. The love of God was in him and he poured it out wherever he went. He often gave away his coat when he came across someone on the road who could not afford one to keep warm. His schools were born out of love and compassion for the people of Wales. His drive to bring thousands of Bibles into Wales was born out of that same love. We have already seen that he was a man of great humility; without this God could not have used him so powerfully. He was a man of significant intellect as his Bible Dictionary, his Welsh catechisms, his school books and his editorial work on the Bible attest. His familiarity with the Bible was so great that in his later years, scarcely a sentence would come from his mouth without a scriptural reference.

The many successes in Charles’ life did not come without opposition. His attempts to live a life close to God was not easy; he constantly struggled to live the godly and righteous life he desired and was often trying to suppress the fallen man in him. He had so much opposition from the Established Church that, in the end, he had to leave and join the Methodists. Many opposed his schools, but in the end he and his God triumphed over his enemies and Wales was transformed. He wrote about what made him happy. “The only happiness to be obtained in this world consists of doing good to the souls and bodies of our fellow-creatures.” What would the United Kingdom be like if more of us believed and acted on this sentiment? Thomas Charles was just a man who had a God-given vision; he was not different from any of us, he just stepped out with determination to turn that vision into reality.