The history of the Welsh Baptists by the laborious and judicious Rev. Joshua Thomas, of Leominster, mentions three churches only in North Wales, viz. Wresham, Cefa-by-chau, and Glynnceirog, in Denbighshire. All the rest have been gathered in last forty years. The first of these situated in Llangefni in the island of Anglesey, was founded June, 1779; of the means by which this was accomplished, and of subsequent events, I proceed to give a brief account.
The Rev. Joshua Thomas above mentioned, and William Williams, Esq. of Cardigan, were assisted by some liberal persons in London, in 1778, to send missionaries, or itinerants, from the Baptist churches in South Wales, to preach the gospel in the North, for the purpose of establishing the cause of Christ among them. I am informed, that two ministers were sent every month, or every two months, through Merionethshire and Caernarvonshire. Between the nearest Baptist church in South Wales and Anglesey, where the first church was planted, is 140 miles.
The ministers mostly employed in this work, whose names are as dear to the Baptists in North Wales, as those of Carey, Marshman, and Ward are to the converted in India, were, the Rev. David Evans, of Doleu, in Radnorshire, father of the present David Evans, who succeeded him in the pastoral office in that church. That venerable man laboured faithfully, and was taken to his rest many years since, much lamented by many. The following were not less faithful and diligent in their work; Rev. Timothy Thomas, pastor of the church at Aberduar, and brother to the Rev. Thomas Thomas, of Peckham. Rev. Zechariah Thomas his uncle. Rev. David Evans, now of Maerybullan, in Brecknockshire; who has made thirteen tours through the North. Rev. Daniel Davies, now pastor of the church at Llannelly. Rev. David Jones, then of Pontypool, one of the most celebrated and popular preachers of that age. Rev. Morgan Evans, of Paulyceln. Rev. Henry Davis, of Llangloffan. William Williams, Esq. of Cardigan, has also visited the North. It is recollected, that he preached under an old oak, in the vicinity
of Ebenezer, at Llangefni. All these were zealous and powerful preachers, and it pleased the Lord of the harvest to bless their labours. When they first visited the North, they were admitted into the meeting-houses of other denominations, but that was not long granted; therefore they preached in farm-houses: one of these was called Ffridd, and another Trevollevyn, in the neighbourhood of Llangefni. The effect of these labours were, that many were brought under strong convictions and concern about the salvation of their souls. As several of these were desirous of baptism, Mr. David Evans, of Doleu, on April 18, 1779, preached on the common of Rhosymeirch, from Acts, xxii. 16. “Arise and be baptized.” The congregation was very numerous, and Robert Williams, and William Edwards, were baptized; these were the first persons who were baptized within the last century in Anglesey. On June 5, in the same year, ten other persons were baptized at the same place, by Mr. David Saunders, of Aberduar. These were formed into a church in the following year by Mr. David Jones, of Pontypool, and Mr. Stephen Davis, of Caermarthenshire; and the Lord's-supper was administered to them in the farm-house called Trevollevyn. In 1780 this church, called Ebenezer, was received into the Baptist association, held at Llanwenarth, in Monmouthshire. Many others were baptized at this period by Messrs. Harries, Thomas, and Evans. All this, we are persuaded, was from the Lord, and it is marvellous in our eyes! The pastors of Ebenezer church have been, first, Mr. Seth Morris. He was. a native of Newcastle in Emlyn, Carmarthenshire, and had been educated at Bristol Academy: it is likely he settled here about 1783. On leaving Bristol he had preached in some of the English churches. In Wales he was accounted a man of sterling worth, and a zealous and powerful preacher. He was called home by his divine Master, in youth; and died, enjoying the infinite consolation of the Christian hope, which holds good even in the wreck of nature; he left a good savour behind him. He lies buried under the communion table, at the old meeting of Ebenezer; whence we expect he shall one day arise, by virtue of his reunion with Jesus, being clothed with the bloom of eternal youth.
Soon after Mr. Morris was settled, a young man, named Thomas Morris, from Pembrokeshire, visited them as an itinerant, who was requested to stay in Anglesey as an assistant. This measure proved a source of contention, disagreement, and division in the newly-formed church; and produced a wound which required more than ten years to heal it, besides a great deal of fasting and prayer. Mr. Thomas Morris soon left them, and went to America, where he died.
The second pastor of the church is Christmas Evans, a native of South Wales, in the parish of Llandysoil, in Cardiganshire: he settled here in 1790. At that time there was but one Baptist minister, whose name was Richard Michael; the soon after emigrated to America, and died soon after his landing. Except the meeting house at Llangefni, built in 1784, there was no other in North Wales, except at Wrexham and Glynnceirog, at the time
C. Evans settled among them; but since that, many churches have been formed, and meeting-houses for their use have been erected: viz. at Penear. meddi, Llangeod, Llanfair, Capelnewydd, Amlych, Llanrhyddlad, Llanfachreth, Holyhead, Capelgwyn, Bryndenkin, Llannerchymedd, Bangor, Cefn-faer, Garrestant. All these have been built within the last twenty years, and are paid for, excepting the four last mentioned. The old meeting at Llangefni, which held about 500 hearers, not being well built, was taken down in 1814, and a new one has been erected, which is capable of holding 1000 persons; this was opened in 1815. A new and enlarged meeting has been also built at Holyhead.
In the year 1814, a very pleasing revival took place in the church of Ebenezer, when eighty members were added in the course of a few months! The Lord was pleased, out of the abundance of his mercy, after much wrestling in prayer, and ardent longings after the enjoyment of divine influence, to bestow upon us the dew of heaven; which occasioned great awakenings, conviction, and concern, to take place among the people throughout many neighbourhoods in Anglesey. One remarkable instance is worth being recorded:
This relates to Mr. Hugh Jones, of Feillionen, who had filled the office of deacon of the church, with honour, almost from its first commencement. He was wise and discreet in his judgment; peaceful, soft, and tender in his disposition. At the beginning of the revival in July, 1814, on a Saturday evening, he was in a private meeting of the church, and was observed to pray and wrestle with God with much more than his usual importunity, ardour, and holy fervour; intreating the great Head of the church, in the language of his own promises, to pour out his Holy Spirit on the pastor and members of the church, and to carry on the work newly begun, like a spreading flame of fire throughout India, and the whole world. He prayed especially for the young converts, until all hearts were melting, and streams flowing from all our eyes; and a cordial Amen attended his requests, like hammers beating nails into a sure place. But little did we think, when sweetly melted under these flames of holy desire, that he who was expressing them, was to spend the next Lord's-day in the heavenly Jerusalem, among the spirits of just men made perfect. That night he retired to rest at an early hour, and rose again before the dawning of the day; but when the family rose soon after, to their great astonishment they found him upon his knees in a praying posture; but his soul, like the bird of Paradise, had escaped from its cage of clay, and sped its flight far above the sun, into the presence of his dear Jesus. It is presumed he commenced prayer, by intreating the blessing of God upon the work of the day; and ended it by bidding farewel[l] to the world, and sin and sorrow.
In surveying this account, it may be seen that the Lord has led us hitherto through the waste and howling wilderness. Great things we must acknowledge hath been done, though it is still the day of small things among us! but let none despise them. We still hope to be enabled to surmount our distresses, which indeed are very many: not by the strength of our own bow, but by the might, care, and shining of the face of the great Head of the church. Let Jesus be glorified! Let it be remarked, with what astonishing rapidity the gospel among us has spread during the last five years. In Carnarvonshire, during that time, meetinghouses have been built at Bhosehirwen, Llanhawrn, Galltdraetch, Phrollhely, and Gwrn; in Denbighshire, at Llanwrst, Llanwrydden, Llandydno, Llanufudd, Cefn-mawr, Llangollen, and Glynn-ceirog: also Denbigh, about seven years since.
It also deserves notice, that the spread of religion among us owes its origin to the labours of our dear brethren in South Wales. How much are we indebted to them as instruments; and how great our obligation to the Lord Jesus for sending his Spirit to bless his word amongst us! Still the cause wears a missionary aspect; we are breaking up and clearing new ground, and building an habitation to the Prince of Peace on the old estate of Satan and sin! Still are we greatly indebted to our dear brethren from the south, who come annually to our associations, from which incalculable good is done. May the Lord pour millions of blessings on their heads!
Llangefni – December 14, 1816.
[From The Baptist Magazine, 1817, pp. 55-57. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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