THE RHONDDA VALLEY.
PERHAPS here we have had the most remarkably universal awakening to the things of eternity by a whole population that the Mission has as yet been privileged to see. The following from the Western Mail of March 4th was the first of a series of accounts contained in that paper.
"RELIGIOUS REVIVAL IN THE RHONDDA VALLEY.
"THE 'SALVATION ARMY' AT WORK.
"The upper portion of the Rhondda Valley, that is the portion between Ystrad Railway Station and Blaenrhondda, is in a ferment in consequence of a remarkable religious revival which has taken place in all the chapels in the district. The public houses are almost totally abandoned, and nearly the whole of the population are seen_nightly crowding into the chapels to attend prayer meetings. And the religious enthusiasm which characterises those meetings is most extraordinary, reminding one of the great revivals which we have heard described by our fathers as having taken place in South Wales some 40 years ago. Some people are inclined no doubt to make merry over these enthusiastic religious gatherings, but it can be safely said that those so inclined have never attended one of the meetings. It is recorded that the great Rowland Hill once felt so strongly against those meetings, especially against the 'Jumping' which took place in them, as likely to scandalise religion, that he visited one of the Welsh chapels which had gained notoriety by the religious enthusiasm of its members for the express purpose of persuading them to exercise more self-control. It is said, however, that Mr Hill himself became as enthusiastic and as demonstrative as the others during the service be had come to control. Now, the religious revival in the Rhondda Valley manifests itself among all denominations. Indeed, the question of sect appears to have been lost sight of altogether. Hundreds of people, many of them notorious profligates, have enrolled themselves as members of the churches. Men who a few weeks ago were frequently seen reeling about the Rhondda roads are now seen nightly offering up prayers in the presence of the many hundreds who crowd the chapels. Nor is this enthusiasm confined to what is termed the lower orders, but men of cultivated intellect are seen among them as demonstrative as the rest.
"The revival was brought about through the instrumentality of a young English lady, named Miss Kate Shepherd, whose age, according to the Welsh journals is between 17 and 18 years. She came to the valley unknown. Posters headed 'The Army of Salvation,' were distributed through the valley, announcing that she would preach at Shiloh on a certain evening. She did preach and from that moment the enthusiasm has been increasing daily. Shiloh, which, by the way, is the building in which the police court is held, is crammed, and hundreds are unable to gain admission each time she holds her meeting. She stands on the platform occupied on Mondays by the stipendiary magistrate, to address each congregation. The following is given as a specimen of the addresses she delivers:- 'My dear friends, I thank God that He has saved me, pardoned my sins, and given me that peace that passeth understanding. I likewise thank Him for enabling me once more to appear in His sanctuary to warn poor sinners to flee from the wrath to come. Jesus is willing to save you all, if you but come to Him to ask for pardon. He will wash you in His blood - His precious blood- blood that was shed for you all. Come, then, tonight, you drunkards, you blasphemers, you wife-beaters, you Sabbath-breakers; come tonight. It may be too late tomorrow. Hell maybe waiting to receive you. Oh, come to Jesus, you poor drunkard! Oh, He is waiting with outstretched arms! Blessed be His name, He died for you. His spirit will strengthen you. You shall experience the new birth, without which none can be saved. Oh, come! Oh, come!' She will then commence singing with much sweetness-
Five bleeding wounds He bears, Received on Calvary ;
They pour effectual prayers, They strongly plead for me;
Forgive him, oh forgive they cry, Nor let the ransomed sinners die.
My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child, I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh, And Father, Abba, Father, cry.
The whole of the vast congregation joining in the singing. At its close the congregation take up a Welsh hymn
"On Monday afternoon I attended a Welsh prayer meeting in the vestry of Moriah Chapel, Pentre, by young Welsh miners and hauliers. When I entered a Welsh miner, about twenty years of age, was reading in Welsh the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He read it most impressively. He then gave out a Welsh hymn, which was sung in the old Welsh fashion, the latter portion of it being repeated over and over again. One young man after the other then engaged in prayer, each remarkable for its simple eloquence. After each prayer a hymn was sung. Then came an address by an old man, who referred with enthusiasm to the fact that 'God had again visited his people.' At the close of this address, a Welsh hymn was sung by the young men seated. It is said that on Sunday afternoon thousands of men and women walked in procession through the valley singing Welsh and English hymns, while in another part of the valley, near Ystrad Station, standing on the embankment, by the side of the road, Miss Shepherd addressed a throng of 3,000 people, who manifested a remarkable religious feeling. The Treherbert public hall is nightly crammed at the religious services held there. At Noddfa Chapel, Treorchy, is said to have been witnessed an extraordinary scene. This is the largest chapel in the valley, and it was crowded. Moriah, ]erusalem, Nebo, Bethlehem chapels, and others, also were the scenes of immense excitement. Nothing like it was witnessed in the district before, and nothing else is spoken about throughout the valleys.'
We give further extracts from the same paper on March 10th:-
'On Sunday afternoon, proceeding up the road towards Pentre, a little before two o'clock, I could hear the sound of a multitude singing hymns some distance ahead, and shortly afterwards a vast throng filling the road came in sight. At the head of the procession walked Miss Shepherd, a young lady, neatly dressed, of prepossessing appearance, and evidently not more than. 18 years of age. She had an air of modesty but seemed thoroughly in earnest in the task of leading the singing. Very many of the men walking behind her wore white rosettes in their coats. The hymn that they were singing at the moment I met them was-
I am a pilgrim bound for glory; I am a pilgrim going home;
Come and hear me tell my story; All that love the Saviour, come.
In this way the procession walked towards Heofach, the crowd becoming larger as it_advanced. Occasionally the sweet voice of the young lady was heard starting another tune or hymn, followed instantly by the crowd. The words she struck up first after the above were 'Rock of Ages'.
It was most touching to hear and see the young maiden lifting up her hand, and, with religious enthusiasm, singing the above words. Many, standing at their doors as the procession passed, were in tears."
Having reached their destination, Miss Shepherd and her companions ascended into a cart, and Miss Shepherd gave out a hymn, which was sung with enthusiasm by the vast throng, between 3,000 and 4,000 in number. Then followed prayers in Welsh and in English. Then addresses by some young men, followed by an address by Miss Shepherd."
From a leading article on the work on the same date we take the following: -
"Of course, we should prefer-if that were possible-that the change thus wrought was more rational in its origin, more deliberative in process, and grounded upon a fuller and more serious appreciation of the truths of Chnstiau1ty. But we must take human nature as we find it and whether the evangelist be Miss SHEPHERD or anybody else, rejoice at any movement which promises to make men and women better husbands and wives, more loving towards one another and more just and forbearing towards their neighbours. From this point of view the Church may look upon proceedings like those now taking place in the Rhondda Valley, not only without jealousy but even with sympathy.''
In a lengthy account, in which a short history of the Mission is given, in the same paper on 12th March, we find this:-
'It is stated that when the·'Army of Salvation' first 'marched' into the Valley of the Rhondda a month ago, even religious people were inclined to condemn it as a burlesque upon religion. The placards announcing when the 'army' would appear, and 'open fire along the line,' were the subject of general merriment. But the object the promoter of the mission had in view, namely, exciting interest in the movement, was fully attained, and greatly enhanced when it was discovered that the ' army' consisted of three young maidens, like the three graces of classic lore; and the manhood of the whole district has been attracted to hear what the three lasses have to say. lt appears that at first the authorities of large and beautiful chapels in this part of the valley were reluctant to place their chapels at the disposal of Miss Shepherd, fearing the' roughs' who crowded to hear her would damage the 'varnish ' with which the temple is adorned. The 'varnish,' however, has been forgotten, and every chapel door is now open for her and her 'roughs'; and the movement daily increases in popularity."'
"Meeting of Night Workmen- ' A Penitent who had been to College.'
(fROM OUR PENTRE CORRESPONDENT.)
"On Tuesday morning Miss Shepherd held a meeting, at 10 o'clock, for the benefit of the night workmen, who are unable to attend her evening services. There were over 200 able-bodied men present, the majority being of the very lowest order. No sight could be more pleasing than to see this young lady exhort and advise this motley gathering as to their future welfare until the whole audience was in tears. Some thirty of the number narrated their religious experiences. Some of the speakers were, a few weeks ago, notorious blackguards. One stated: 'I have been known, and have been a prize-fighter, and have gone to fight many battles to the hillsides for a crown, but, dear friends, I am here to tell you that I will still be a prizefighter, and will be, by the help of God, to the end of my days, but not for earthly prizes or crowns, but for the crown of glory, which, by the help of God, I mean to wear.' Another man stated: 'I have to tell you that I never felt happier in my life, and this morning after I came from work I read a chapter and prayed for an hour and a half, and dear friends, I feel happier at my work. Everything seems to go better; my wife seems pleasanter, and the children don't know what to make of my change; and, I thank God, He will keep me to the mark of my high calling.' Another speaker went on as follows: 'Dear friends, I am not much of a scholar, but I have been to college, but not to Oxford or Cambridge, but to the House of Correction at Cardiff; and you know, dear friends, Mr. Gwilym Williams never sent people there without they done something; but one Sunday I was in the gaol chapel, and I heard the preacher talk about the ninety and nine sheep that were safe in the fold, and of the one that was astray. I didn't think much of it then, but, 0 Lord, since Miss Shepherd has been talking to me, I found I was the lost sheep, but now I am happy to tell you I am in the fold. Come all of you the same; Jesus will take you in.' The entire proceedings were characterised by great fervour."
And Inter still, here is an account of
"Extraordinary Case of Conversion.-Infidel Literature Publicly Burnt."
Our Pentre correspondent writes: "An extraordinary case of conversion has taken place at Treherbert, which is attributed to the preaching of Mr Hayter, the 'Hallelujah Pitman.' A man who has spent a lifetime as a stiff-necked scoffer of religion, and who used his utmost talent to spread his infidel doctrines, was brought to a knowledge of his sins last week and stated before a crowded congregation that, by the help of God, he would burn the whole of the infidel books in his possession. Mr Hayter then said, 'And by the help of God I will be there tomorrow to witness it.' On the following morning, a number of people met to witness the joyful event, and prior to dispersing held a prayer-meeting upon the spot where the books were burnt. At Moriah Baptist Chapel 18 persons were admitted as members of that church, through baptism, by the Rev. Mr. Davies, on Sunday."
The agent of a large colliery firm in the Valley, in a private letter, says: The great work is still going on: the mighty grace of God is wonderfully displayed in subduing the most vile and hardened sinners. There are now upwards of 300 of the most hopeless converted. We sing and we pray and speak to the anxious hearers, and we stand as Moses at the Red Sea and see the salvation of the Lord, how He opens the hearts of giants in sin.
Last Saturday night just when we were about casting the net, there is no doubt that the devil went into an awful rage for a man cried the gallery was coming down. The poor people were struck with great terror, breaking and opening the windows and jumping out and many fainting with fear. Poor Miss Shepherd and myself were standing on the platform and we cried to the Lord to save us, and so great a mercy I never witnessed for we were all saved. We plucked up enough courage to carry on and seven souls were brought in in spite of all.
"At ten o'clock Miss Shepherd appeared, and we formed a strong army and marched through the streets, and having had prayers, then entered the chapel and enjoyed the Lord heartily. In the afternoon we were out in the open air, where there were from five to six thousand assembled. This again was a very glorious meeting. Last night the net was thrown and twenty-five were found there.
Space prevents us giving more. Both at Pentre and Treherbert the universal topic of conversation is 'Salvation." In the pits, on the hills, the road, in the cottages and in the railway carriages, men and women are talking of the mighty wonders wrought and the marvellous scenes that have been witnessed. In one solitary instance, there is silence and comparative desolation - the public houses are deserted, drinking is forgotten, except drinking in the water of life.
From. 'The Salvationist', April 1879, pages 90-94.
Such a crowd as one only sees now and then in a lifetime. A fair fight to get inside the doors, and then too closely packed to move, and yet too uncomfortable to stand still. However, they did stand or sit or something for two hours or more. And God blessed us together. Oh, what a wonderful spirit of hearing there is in these valleys. I have just heard that some writer has been saying in a Welsh paper that all Wales is, like Bartimeus, sitting by the wayside waiting, and listening for the tramp of the coming of the Salvation Army.
From, 'The Salvationist', November 1879, page 286.
This was a report from William Booth. Clearly things were stillmoving here - further reports can be seen in 'The War Cry' that began in January 1880.