1791 Christmas Evans’ first preaching tour of the south. ‘After the Lord poured the spirit of the ministry upon him in Lleyn, he visited the churches in the south. He travelled on foot at the time: the small churches in Lleyn were not able to buy a horse for him, and there was no way he could buy a horse himself. On this trip he visited Aberystwyth, Newcastle Emlyn, Cardigan, Penyparc, Blaenywaun, and went down through Trefdraeth, Tabor, &c., in Pembrokeshire. The people began to be amazed at hearing such powerful doctrine from one they had not heard of before. An uncommon awakening took place in the places he travelled to this time. The people were shouting out and rejoicing wonderfully in Penrhyncoch, Aberystwyth, Castell Newydd, and Cardigan, Penyparc, &c. In had a great part in that revival, which it is likely, there has not since been in those areas, to such a great degree, and so general. I give the reader his own account of this remarkable revival, as he recollects in great detail, and in the blessed spirit that accompanied him. “I now felt a power in the word like a hammer breaking the rock, and not like rushes. I had a very powerful meeting at Cilfowyr, and also pleasant meetings in the regions of Cardigan and Blaenywaun. The work of conversion was progressing with so much power in those parts, that there were baptisms every month for a year or more, at Cilfowyr, Cardigan, Blaenywaun, Blaenffos, and Ebenezer, numbering 10, 12, 15, 16, 20, &c. persons. The chapels and burying-grounds were filled with people who crowded to hear me in the middle of harvest-time. In the evening I frequently preached in the open air, and the singing and rejoicing continued till broad daylight. Such a spirit of tenderness descended in the meetings upon the hearers that they wept in streams and cried out, so that you would believe that the whole multitude, men and women, had been melted by the power of the word of God, which was now like a sharp two-edged sword in its effect, piercing through the joints and marrow, and revealing to them their inner lusts. The hwyl followed me indoors and in the open air, so that preaching was a delight to me. The same people would gather to hear me fifteen or twenty times that year, in the counties of Cardigan, Pembroke, Carmarthen, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon. And this revival, especially in the districts of Cardigan and Pembrokeshire, inclined the whole country to think well of religion. The same heavenly breeze followed me down to Fishguard, Llangloffan, Little New-Castle, and Rhydwilym, where Mr Gabriel Rees was then a fervent preacher. There was such a tender spirit resting on the hearers from Tabor down to Middle-mill, that they wept, cried out, and trembled like the aspen leaf in the places of worship, and all this mingled with so much heavenly cheerfulness, that they seemed to wish to abide in that state of mind forever.”’ [CCE p.19-21; David Rhys Stephen, Memoirs of the Late Christmas Evans, of Wales, London, 1847, pp.27-8; D.M. Evans, Christmas Evans: A Memoir, London, 1863, pp.66-7; see also GCE i. cxxvii-cxxix & iii. 749-53]
1804-5 Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire. ‘MR OWEN JONES was the son of John and Elinor Jones. His father’s trade was a tanner, in Tywyn, Merionethshire. He was born on the 16th February in 1787. The following account of his youth is taken from the testimony of Mr John Jones, Pen y Park, near Tywyn, with whom he began his schooling. Mr Jones says the following about him. Owen Jones came to me at the school when he was about 7 or 8 years old. He was a lively child; quicker and stronger in his comprehending that was common in his contemporaries. He was a remarkable one for learning, and most obedient to the order and discipline of the school. He possessed a good memory, particularly for learning religious principles, which was a very strange thing in the area at that time. At the request of his master he would come to hear sermons, and the games and attractions of his company could not, at any time, stop him. He was good at remembering the texts he heard them preach on, and there is reason to believe that the religious principles did not wholly leave his mind. An old servant of mine (H.I.) used to say to him, if there were some change in you (thinking of a change of state) you would in all likelihood do great harm to the devil’s kingdom. One time I chastised him in the school for misbehaving, and he was afterwards asked, by one who knew him to be a favourite of the master, how he had come to be chastised? He replied, ‘I did what was wrong, and if he did not love me, he would not have chastised me. We concluded from his behaviour in school that he had been brought up obedient and proper by his parents. After being three or four years in the school with me he was sent for a while to an Academy in England. After he returned to Tywyn a teacher, who kept a free school in Tywyn, asked him to keep it for a few days in his place because he had been called away from home for a few days. He submitted to the request, and for those days kept the school in a lively and zealous way, and instructed the children at the close of the school according to the scheme of his old teacher. A short while after that he went to Aberystwyth to learn a trade as a saddler.
‘Sometime after he came to Aberystwyth, Mr Williams, the old minister, came to stay in that town for a few months. Everywhere he went he worked hard to set up and establish Sabbath schools. As he went through a district of this town called Trefechan one Sabbath afternoon, he saw some men, women and children idling their time above the lime-kilns. This was a common custom for many of them on the Lord’s day. This zealous man endeavoured to gather them together for two Sabbaths and to teach them a little himself. But as he had to leave the town before the third Sabbath, he went to a young lad, who was connected with a small school held in the Calvinistic Methodist chapel, to ask him to take care of the school instead of him. He immediately agreed to his request. But as he was afraid to attempt the work by himself, he went to Mr Owen Jones, who was his cousin, to ask for his help. He was not much more than 17 years old at the time and showed no particular signs of sobriety.
‘At the time neither of them had made any particular religious profession, yet they obediently began the school thinking there would be no one there after a Sabbath or two, and no one else thought otherwise. They and their work were looked upon with great contempt. But before a few weeks were up the school had grown remarkably: all the inhabitants of the place, old and young, from 2 years old to 80, came to the school, and soon gained the attention of the town in general, and many believers gave them every assistance and backing. Some offered the best rooms in their houses for the School. One man presented them with a load of coal to make a fire in the winter and contributed a large sum of money for them to have every kind of book suitable for the scholars. As a result of this generous assistance, the scholars increased greatly, and they attained no small fluency in singing.
‘Mr Owen Jones continued to keep the school every night of the week except Saturday, as soon as the workshop closed. The school was held in the evenings in various different houses in rotation, but each Sabbath afternoon in the place that they had as a School-house. So remarkable were the effects that many from every part of the town came to watch and hear the children singing, and Mr Jones instructing them. Without doubt, the mark of these means of grace are ever to be seen on many of the inhabitants of the town to this day, and there is no cause to doubt that they were a saving blessing to some.
‘Mr Jones used to pray in the school at that time, though he did not know of the importance of the work in the way that he did afterwards. And as he considered his unsuitability for the work, and the inconsistency of instructing and praying, and yet not having made a profession of religion, he was inclined to try to become a member of the Calvinistic Methodist society in that town. He and his companion were accepted as members of such a society at the same time. But Mr Jones showed no clear signs of a deep work upon him at that time. But about 3 or 4 months after that—when he had announced an evening to bid farewell to the scholars, as he intended to return home to his father in Tywyn—that was an evening the like of which had never been seen before or after in Aberystwyth; indeed, an evening that scores can never forget whilst they remain on this earth. This meeting was held in a poor [think of a better adjective] house. I have heard one testify that there was an extraordinarily sober appearance to the face of Mr Jones as he entered the house that time. After reading and singing, he went to prayer, and some powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell upon him and the children, everyone around them so that they completely forgot about visible things. His feelings were completely overcome, and everyone in the house cried out, and there was weeping all around him. The whole subject [neges] of his prayer was asking for his life and that of the children. Before he had proceeded very far, a general shout broke out from all throughout the house. Before the end of the meeting a large number of people had congregated so that the house was full, and everywhere around the doors. The influences were so strong on one woman that she went home to her house and left her children behind, having completely forgotten them.
‘Mr Jones did not leave the next day as he had intended, but he had a message from his father to stay a little longer in Aberystwyth. There were similar effects to some degree in each meeting while he remained there. The awakening quickly spread from the school to the chapel, and about 80 were added to the church at that time.
[The following lines are from a letter of the late Rev. Mr Thomas Charles of Bala, to the Editor of the Evangelical Magazine, which appeared in the Number for May 1805 [p.235], in which reference is made to the above revival.
‘SIR—I am happy to inform you, there is a very pleasing revival in some parts of Wales. At Aberystwyth, and in the adjacent parts, there are general and powerful awakenings among the young people and children. Some hundreds have joined the religious societies in those parts. I was there lately, at an Association of the Calvinistic Methodists, held at Aberystwyth. The concourse of people assembled on the occasion was computed to amount at least to 20,000. The sight to a religious mind was pleasing beyond expression! A stage was erected in an open common, for the convenience of addressing this vast multitude. Ten preachers, in the course of two days, delivered very animated and impressive. discourses to the most solemn, attentive, and affected congregations I ever saw. The preaching was evidently in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power. Hundreds of children, from eight years old and upwards, might be seen in the congregation, hearing the word with all the attention of the most devout Christian; and bathed in tears. This work first began at Aberystwyth, in the Sunday school there; in which two young men, under twenty years of age, were the teachers. Soon after the commencement of the school, both teachers and scholars came under serious impressions. This work prevails at present over a large district, fifty miles by twenty. In travelling the roads, it was pleasing to hear the ploughman and the driver of the team singing hymns whilst at their work. Nothing else was heard in all those parts. This I can testify, with satisfaction and joy.’]
About six weeks after the evening referred to, the time came for Mr Jones to leave Aberystwyth. On the day of his departure the children of the school, and some other men and women came to accompany him with singing and rejoicing along the road for more than a mile out of the town. They remained on the road for a long time unable to part, until he had to leave them of his own will, giving them averse of a hymn to sing along the way as they returned. Sure witnesses saw Mr Jones on his knees by the side of the road three times before he had gone a few miles from the place when he left those who had accompanied him. Thus he left Aberystwyth behind with sadness and loss.
One time, when Mr Jones was returning to Tywyn, by the time he reached the Dyfi peninsular it was too late for him to cross the river Dyfi that evening. Because of that he had to return and stay at a tavern. When he entered it he understood that the parlour was full of men who were drunk; singing and dancing, having been keeping a feast called a gwylmabsant that day. He sat in the kitchen, but his mind was too disturb to stay there long. He went out to lie in the loft, thinking he would have some peace there. But he became too sorrowful to stay there more than a short while. He reasoned within himself that if he could not stand for God against such sinful foolishness, there was no point him opening his mouth any more to warn sinners. He went back to the house, and having gained permission [?] from the woman of the house, went into them in the parlour and said that he had something to read to them for a few minutes. Some were surprised and others laughed together, and he read the 12th chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, making a few observations on each verse as he read. Then the old fiddler could be seen trying to hide his fiddle from view, and start to move towards the door, and escape outside. All appeared like those who had been conquered by shame. And as soon as he finished reading and making his observations, all hurried away without delay.
In the spring of 1805, Mr Owen Jones came to live in Llanidloes, in Montgomeryshire, to work at his trade. While he was there he lived in the house of one David Davies, pen y dref. The following account of his labour and success in this town and its environs was had from the son of the man referred to with whom he stayed, thus:-
‘Shortly after he came here, he started showing a delight [?] in keeping Sabbath schools, and meetings for instructing children; and quickly won himself the great affection of the children
‘ [John Hughes, Cofiant am y Diweddar Barch. Owen Jones, o’r Gelli, Swydd Drefaldwyn, Gweiniodog yr Efengyl ymhlith y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, ynghyd a Chan o Alar ar yr Achos, Caerlleon, 1830, pp.5-21]
‘Extract of a Letter from an Evangelical Clergyman in Wales.
‘SIR—I am happy to inform you, there is a very pleasing revival in some parts of Wales. At Aberystwyth, and in the adjacent parts, there are general and powerful awakenings among the young people and children. Some hundreds have joined the religious societies in those parts. I was there lately, at an Association of the Calvinistic Methodists, held at Aberystwyth. The concourse of people assembled on the occasion was computed to amount at least to 20,000. The sight to a religious mind was pleasing beyond expression! A stage was erected in an open common, for the convenience of addressing this vast multitude. Ten preachers, in the course of two days, delivered very animated and impressive. discourses to the most solemn, attentive, and affected congregations I ever saw. The preaching was evidently in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power. Hundreds of children, from eight years old and upwards, might be seen in the congregation, hearing the word with all the attention of the most devout Christian; and bathed in tears. This work first began at Aberystwyth, in the Sunday school there; in which two young men, under twenty years of age, were the teachers. Soon after the commencement of the school, both teachers and scholars came under serious impressions. This work prevails at present over a large district, fifty miles by twenty. In travelling the roads, it was pleasing to hear the ploughman and the driver of the team singing hymns whilst at their work. Nothing else was heard in all those parts. This I can testify, with satisfaction and joy.”
1810 Aberystwyth circuit. ‘Being a central and attractive town, the District meetings were frequently held there [Aberystwyth], and many were attended with great success. The old people used to refer to one in 1810 at which the power was so overwhelming that when Owen Davies gave out a hymn, the preacher and the large congregation could not sing, all were melted to tears and stood in awe in the immediate presence of God. As the result of that meeting a great wave of revival spread all over the neighbourhood. References are often made to a sermon preached on one of those great occasions by Robert Roberts [1810 on ?] and another by David Rogers [1811 on 1 Cor. 7:29,30], in each instance the result being a widespread work of grace.’ [Young, Origin of Methodism, pp.332-3; Yr Eurgrawn Wesleyaidd lvii. (1865), pp.30-31]
This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones
This is the Chapel of the 1804/5 Revival started by two young men in the Sunday School.