Extract of a Letter from the Rev. D. Peter, Theological Tutor of the Academy at Carmarthen, to the Rev. Caleb Morris, London.
My Dear Sir,—It affords me the greatest pleasure, that I have it in my power to communicate to you, for the information of our religious friends in England, and other parts of the world, a brief account of the progress of the Redeemer’s kingdom in the Principality of Wales, and especially of the unusual revivals with which many of the Welsh churches have been favoured of late.
Few, perhaps, beyond the confines of the Principality are aware of the progress which the Gospel has made among all denominations of Christians in this part of Great Britain for the last fifty years. We have experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in some degree at various times, and we must say that the hand of the Lord is still stretched out in the salvation of many amongst us.
The number of ministers and chapels in the Principality is now double what it was half a century back, and the number of professing Christians of all denominations has increased more than three-fold during that period. Indeed I could name some churches among the Independents that have increased eight, ten, and twelve-fold in the number of members within the last thirty-five years. For you well know that some years back, it was not an unusual thing for many of our churches to receive ten, twenty, or thirty members to communion at a time and that for several successive months.
Fourteen years ago, when I was publishing my History of Religion in Wales, I found, from authentic documents, that there were then in the Principality 255 Independent Churches; 126 Baptist Churches; 343 Calvinistic Methodist Societies, and 205 Wesleyan Methodist Societies. The number of churches and societies at present is much greater.
Having given you some account of the state of religion in Wales, I now proceed to give you a particular account of the rise and progress of the great revival with which we have been blessed in South Wales for the last fifteen months. For some months previous to the revival, the greatest attention was paid to Sunday-schools throughout the country; religious meetings were more than usually numerous; the style of preaching more pointedly impressive; church discipline better attended to, and a greater degree of brotherly love prevailed in the churches.
To inform you of what I myself have witnessed, will be sufficient to show how the people are generally affected at those religious meetings where the revivals prevail. . . . . I have seen, on these occasions, some with bended knees, folded hands, and uplifted eyes, engaged in earnest prayer; others prostrated on the ground, agonizing under a sense of guilt; others praising God for the salvation of the Gospel. . . . . Much, perhaps, of what we see and hear at those religious meetings where the revivals prevail, may be the effect of enthusiasm; yet when we consider the moral change that is so visible in the temper and conduct of those who were before notoriously wicked and the religious awe which pervades all ranks in the towns, villages, and neighbourhoods where the revivals appear, we are compelled to acknowledge that the hand of the Lord is present, and that these revivals in South Wales are the effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The present revival in South Wales commenced among the Calvinistic Methodists at the village of Caio, in the county of Carmarthen, about the latter end of the year 1827, and was for some time confined to that religious body. Their meetings were blessed with an unusual degree of religious feeling; and on one occasion, a few individuals were so much affected that they cried out for mercy. They were joined by some religious characters, who were then convinced that their piety had been at too low an ebb, and thus the feeling became general in the neighbourhood. The most remarkable conversion, before the revival became general at that place, was that of a young man of the most abandoned character. . . . . While the minister was speaking of the sufferings of Christ, the perfection of his atonement, and his capability to save the chief of sinners, the reprobate servant was pierced to the heart and cried out in the most affecting manner for pardoning mercy and renewing grace.
In a little time after, the good work became more general until at length all denominations in the neighbourhood caught the flame. The worst of characters were conquered, and scoffers ceased to scoff. Methodists, Baptists, and Independents felt the heavenly flame. The revivals did not stop in that part of the country but soon appeared in a line from Cilycwm to Llanwrtyd, and even as far as Builth. Llandovery, Llandeilo, and many other places were visited in a similar manner. There were also great revivals in Glamorganshire, especially at Cwmllynfell, Neath, Morriston, Mynyddbach and Swansea. Mr Evans, of Mynyddbach, in December last, received above 200 persons to communion. During the last two months above 600 have been admitted to the fellowship of the Independent church at Morriston, including those on probation. The moral change which has already taken place in the neighbourhood of Swansea and Morriston is truly great. As a friend of mine was returning one evening, about a month back, from Llansamlet to Swansea, he could hear nothing on the road but singing of hymns and repeating portions of Scripture, even by those persons whom he had seen a few Sunday evenings before dancing and rioting. Instead of quarrelling and fighting as usual, they now return from their work in peace and harmony, congratulating each other on the great things which the Lord hath done for them.
I am not in possession of a correct account of the numbers added to the Baptist and Calvinistic Methodist churches, but you may depend on the correctness of the following list of additions made to the following Independent churches since the commencement of the revival:
Llandovery . . . . . 160 Hermon . . . . . . 110
Gwynfe . . . . . . . 190 Llangadog. . . . 64
Sardis and Mydd- Bethlehem . . . . 60
fai . . . . . . . . . 125 Abergorlech . . . . 26
Bethel, and two Llandeilo . . . . . . 84
others . . . . . . 146 Siloam . . . . . . . 80
Beulah, and two Gwernogle . . . . 120
others . . . . . . 148 Capel Isaac . . . . 78
Builth . . . . . . . . . 60 Salem . . . . . . . . 40
Cwmwysg . . . . . . 50 Pant-teg and Pe-
Crugybar . . . . . . . 85 niel . . . . . . . 150
Ffaldybrenin and Capel Noni . . . . . 23
Esgairdawe . . . 146 Cwmaman and
Tabor . . . . . . . . 102 another . . . . . 310 The general opinion is, that upwards of 3000 souls have been added to the churches of Christ (including all denominations) in South Wales, within the last year. There is at present, throughout South Wales, a general desire for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: and there are Union Monthly Prayer Meetings in various parts, for the outpouring of the Spirit, which are numerously attended. Indeed I have no doubt that many ministers and churches, besides those which I have mentioned, do already experience, in some degree, the outpouring of the Spirit. Great additions have been made to many Dissenting churches not mentioned in this letter, in the course of last year; and from the aspect of things throughout the country, we have every reason to hope that God will soon cause revivals to be general in Wales.—That you may enjoy much of the Divine presence, and great success in the ministry is the sincere prayer of,
Dear Sir, yours, respectfully, &c.
Carmarthen, Feb. 7, 1829.’ [Congregational Magazine, xii (April 1829), pp.224-5; also reprinted in New Baptist Miscellany, May 1829, pp.205-6, and in Henry Foster Burder, Pastoral Discourses on Revivals of Religion, London 1829, pp.103-6. NB All place names in the above letter from David Peter have been modernised]
Account given in the journal of William Griffiths, Apostle of the Gower:
14 Sab. This afternoon I returned from Builth Association after a fortnight’s absence – I preached in my way up at Ynysfach, Bontneδfechan, Ystradfellte, Brecon – remained at Builth two days and preached the last evening before Mr Charles which closed the whole of this association – All the meetings, private & public were attended with a Divine unction – the public meeting at 6 o clock the second morning was the most lively as it regarded the common feelings of the people – at the close of this they broke out all over the chapel in one voice of praying & rejoicing –
In my way home I preached at Merthyr Cynnog, Llanfihangel, Pentrefelin, Llandilo, Trecastle, Llandovery, Kilcwm, Pantycelyn (Mr Williams’s funeral) Cayo, Llansawel, Talley, Llansadwrn, Llangadock, Llandilo, Hendre, County canover [???] – in all the above places (except the two last & Pentrefelin & Trecastle) there is, just now a wonderful revival going forward, which spreads wider & wider every week, and has reached many other places that I could not visit – It is much like a great river overflowing all its banks, or a mighty cloud full of rain & the shower falling more general & copious, than any thing ever remembered before in those parts – It first began in Cayo & Kilcwm, but is now spread to more than 20 different societies, and over more than 40 miles of the country between Carmarthenshire & Breconshire – most all these societies have received very large additions of new members, since the commencement of it about 4 months ago – by a rough calculation from one of our preachers, I understood that the number between all the societies, already amounts to about 2500 – It is also in some districts as powerful with other denominations – the whole country where this is going on is wonderfully altered, – the people appear serious, with a degree of solemn cheerfulness & meekness, wherever you meet them – The children are converted by scores – & are anxious themselves to attend all the means of grace – hundreds of them weep under the word – most of the young people of both sexes have joined the societies & are very tender hearted, few of them can hear a sermon to the end without being overpowered with their feelings – many of the old professors have been wonderfully refreshed – & most of the places have very frequently of late been filled with shouts of praise for hours together –’ [NLW William Griffiths MS 3 (Journal for Sept. 1827 - July 1829)]
Prayer meetings in London and other places for the further outpouring of the Holy Spirit late in 1828 (Dysg. viii. (1829), pp.54-5)
Robert Jones, Rhoslan on revival: ‘It was, as you know, in the past years, generally low and pressing on the countries and the towns; but presently, the Lord has pleasantly smiled upon our kingdom in the way of his providence. The prices of animals and almost everything concerning them are going up; which loudly calls for thanksgiving and obedience to God, and true humiliation before him. Instead of that, every kind of disgraceful sin is unashamedly and with brazen face raising its head; such as pride, drunkenness, prejudice, and lack of love [anghariad], and adultery like a destructive plague, has overrun the lands, and that in the face of the greatest privileges that there have been in any age among the Welsh: the Sabbath Schools, and the frequent preaching of the gospel, together with a multitude [amledd] of mercies which fill the lands. It is high time to ask, as Moses asked to rebellious Israel long ago, ‘Is this **** - Is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?’ (Deut. 32:6) It is evident that religion is at a low ebb when the wild beasts of the sins mentioned above, and many like ones, are crawling around shamelessly, like as the Psalmist said, ‘He ****’ [text?] There has never been more need in my lifetime to awake and cry out with the prophet, ‘Revive thy work in the midst of the years.’ [Hab. 3:2] There is one unspeakable privilege that continues in its strength even to this day for us and our children: ‘And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications.’ [Zech. 12:10] It is amazing even to angels that our Heavenly Father is so generous as to pour out something so precious as his Holy Spirit! Not just drops but an outpouring is promised here. It also shows that our state is most wretched, and our need unspeakably great, that nothing less than an outpouring is sufficient to extinguish the fire of guilt that is like a burning fire in the conscience, and that nothing less would completely cleanse those so loathsome and unclean that they have no clean spot, and make them whiter than snow.’ (Goleuad Cymru, vi. (1829), pp.240-1)
Robert Jones, Rhoslan on revival: ‘It was, as you know, in the past years, generally low and pressing on the countries and the towns; but presently, the Lord has pleasantly smiled upon our kingdom in the way of his providence. The prices of animals, and almost everything concerning them are going up; which loudly calls for thanksgiving and obedience to God, and true humiliation before him. Instead of that, every kind of disgraceful sin is unashamedly and with brazen face raising its head; such as pride, drunkenness, prejudice, and lack of love [anghariad], and adultery like a destructive plague, has overrun the lands, and that in the face of the greatest privileges that there have been in any age among the Welsh: the Sabbath Schools, and the frequent preaching of the gospel, together with a multitude [amledd] of mercies which fill the lands. It is high time to ask, as Moses asked to rebellious Israel long ago, ‘Is this **** - Is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?’ (Deut. 32:6) It is evident that religion is at a low ebb when the wild beasts of the sins mentioned above, and many like ones, are crawling around shamelessly, like as the Psalmist said, ‘He ****’ [text?] There has never been more need in my lifetime to awake and cry out with the prophet, ‘Revive thy work in the midst of the years.’ [Hab. 3:2] There is one unspeakable privilege that continues in its strength even to this day for us and our children: ‘And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications.’ [Zech. 12:10] It is amazing even to angels that our Heavenly Father is so generous as to pour out something so precious as his Holy Spirit! Not just drops but an outpouring is promised here. It also shows that our state is most wretched, and our need unspeakably great, that nothing less than an outpouring is sufficient to extinguish the fire of guilt that are like a burning fire in the conscience, and that nothing less would completely cleanse those so loathsome and unclean that they have no clean spot, and make them whiter than snow.’ (Goleuad Cymru, vi. (1829), pp.240-1)
1849 South Wales. Thomas Rees’s account:
THE GREAT REVIVAL IN SOUTH WALES IN 1849.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN WITNESS.
Some months ago, on the suggestion of my excellent friend, Mr Joseph Maybery, of Llanelly, I wrote to the ministers of those churches which were most signally blessed with these awakenings, for the numbers added to their churches during the year, intimating my intention of publishing the account in one of the periodicals. The following is a list of as many of the churches as furnished me with the numbers added to them. If you will insert it in the CHRISTIAN WITNESS, it will undoubtedly be pondered over with gratification. by thousands of your pious readers, and will also be transmitted to future generations as a memorial of the gracious dealings of God with our highlyprivileged nation:-
Churches Numbers added Ministers
in 1849 Capel Sion, Glais 66 Ditto.
Hebron, Clydach 109 T. Thomas.
Glandwr 156 Ditto.
Libanus, Morriston 185 Vacant.
Horeb, ditto 163 T. Davies.
Alltwen and Pantteg 400 P. Griffiths.
Ebenezer, Swansea 87 E. Jacob.
Zion Chapel, ditto 150 T. Davies.
Zoar, ditto 115 R. Rees.
Canaan Chapel, ditto 60 E. Watkins.
Bethel, Llansamlet 72 Ditto.
The foregoing list is, of course, imperfect, as it scarcely contains one-half of the churches which were blessed by the wonderful revival of last year. It is supposed that from 1,200 to 1,500 persons were added to the nine Congregational churches in the parish of Merthyr Tydvil, and at least 1,000 to the churches in Carmarthenshire besides those in the above list, such as Llandovery, Llangadock, Llandilo, Carmarthen, Llanelly, &c.
One very peculiar feature of this wonderful movement was the great numbers of converts who pressed together, at the same time, to the anxious meetings. In some localities meetings for conversing with the awakened were held every evening throughout the week, and sometimes oftener; and from twenty to thirty individuals were examined at each meeting. Mr Hughes, of Dowlais, gave the right hand of fellowship to two hundred and forty persons the same Sabbath morning, on their admission to the Lord’s Supper; and your correspondent had the soulcheering gratification of doing the same to two hundred and ten on the 28th of October last.
These gracious visitations of the Spirit of God were not confined to the Congregational churches. Some thousands were added to the Baptist churches in the counties of Monmouth and Glamorgan, and great numbers joined the Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodist Societies in some localities.
Many good warmhearted old Christians had their doubts of the reality of these movements, because they were not attended by loud cries, promiscuous singing, jumping, &c., as some former revivals were; but the audible groans of hundreds and the floods of tears shed under the preaching of the word, clearly manifested some strong inward feelings, which the eloquence or the schemes of man could not effect; and what is still a more convincing proof that it was a work of the Spirit of God, the thousands of young converts, with comparatively rare exceptions, are walking worthy of their holy profession.
It will be readily acknowledged that the terrible visitation of the Cholera was principally the means of arousing the attention of our hearers to consider seriously the important truths with which they were already theoretically acquainted; but who will venture to deny that the Lord had mercifully ordained this awful scourge as the means of accomplishing his gracious purpose of saving thousands?
The mighty movements are not felt now as they were eight or nine months ago in any place, but things wear a very encouraging aspect. Almost all the churches are peaceful; the attendance on the means of grace is unparalleled in the history of religion amongst us; our youth manifest great thirst for religious knowledge; our Sabbathschools are very flourishing; a number of pious and talented young men are preparing for the ministry; and many of the young ministers who were ordained within the last six years are very active and promising.
The Welsh is now one of the most religious nations on the face of the earth. Ninetenths of the middle and working classes are either professors of religion or constant attendants on the means of grace. Evangelical religion in Wales has the public opinion decidedly in its favour. But, alas! we are, as a nation, after all, very far from what we ought to be. Sin and Satan are still amongst us, and the time is not yet come for the people of God to take their rest. May the Spirit of the lord continue to pour his blessings upon us, and may his mighty power be felt amongst the millions of England, and throughout the whole wide world!
I am, Dear Sir,
Yours in the bonds of the Gospel,
Beaufort, near Abergavenny,
May 7, 1850.’
(The Christian Witness, vii (1850), pp.315-6, reprinted in Rees, Miscellaneous Papers, pp.93-6)
‘The year 1849 was a year of singular judgments and mercies to the inhabitants of South Wales. That terrible pestilence, cholera, swept hundreds away in a few weeks, and by the Divine blessing which attended the awful visitation, thousands were brought to think of their ways and turn to the Lord. All the places of worship in the manufacturing districts of the counties of Monmouth and Glamorgan for some months during the summer and autumn were overcrowded. Multitudes who had not been seen at any place of worship during the previous ten or fifteen years, became regular attendants for a time; and though many of them, when the pestilence ceased, returned to their former evil habits, still a large number of that class have been thoroughly changed, and continue to this day to attend the house of God. Most of those who were regular hearers before then joined the churches. No less than 9,139 were added to 67 Independent churches in the counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, Brecknock, and Caermarthen, in the course of three or four months. Many feared that an unusual number of relapses would follow this sudden increase, but their fears were not realized to nearly the extent it was apprehended.’ (HPNW p.430)
This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones
Would you please contact us if you know where these meetings took place?