Olchon Baptist Church, Wales
By Joshua Thomas, 1835
Olchon was a regular Baptist church in 1633. How long, it had been in existence before, we cannot tell. Their minister at that time was one of their own sons, of the name of Howell Vaughan, who took them by the hand, and fed them with knowledge and understanding. However, the increase of this church is one of the blessed effects of the circulation of the Bible in the Welsh language. The Welsh, as well as many other nations, had been for several hundred years without the Bible in their native tongue, except what might have been in manuscripts. There were few copies of it in Latin. Some part of the Scriptures was published in 1551; but the persecution under the reign of bloody Mary, put a stop to its circulation. Robert Farrar and Rawlins White, in Wales, as well as many others in England, were burnt to ashes for conscience' sake: the former suffered in the town of Carmarthen, and the latter near Cardiff, in the county of Glamorgan, South Wales. Bloody Mary died in 1558, and for the time being, the Roman or popish persecution died with her, and the whole Bible was ordered to be published in Welsh, by an act of parliament in 1563, under the superintendence of the Episcopal ministers or bishops of Llanelwy, Bangor, St. Dayids, and Hereford, translated by William Salesbury, who lived in the Cal-du, Llansanan parish, Denbighshire, North Wales. This was only for the churches, but the Bible for the use of the common people, was published in 1630, by Sir Thomas Middleton, of Wanncastle North Wales.
The Welsh nation had several copies of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, in manuscripts, after King Lucius made a profession of religion. Whether they had any before that period we know not; but most of them were burnt as well as their meeting-houses in that dreadful pagan persecution under the reign of Dioclesian; but in a short time afterwards, they were very liberally supplied -with a great many copies of the Bible in manuscript, by their countryman, the Emperor Constantino the Great. And we are rather of opinion, that soma of these valuable manuscripts might have escaped the fire of St. Austin and his followers.
In 1649, the effects of the gospel were so amazing, that it seemed as if a general revival was about to take place in mat part of the country. Many were converted to God, yielded obedience to his commands, and enlisted under the banner of the cross. Many more were concerned about the. things belonging to their eternal peace; inquired with tears in their eyes, "What they should de to' be saved;" while there were a great number on whose consciences the word appeared to make a serious impression. A considerable reformation of manners was evidently seen among those who never had made a public profession of religion. Many of their barbarous, heathenish, and most ungodly customs, were either entirely abolished, or in a great degree abandoned. About this time a Baptist meeting-house was built at Hay, a market-town about eight miles from Olchon, where the church generally met until the persecution, when they had to draw towards the Black Mountain, and worship God under the canopy of heaven, as we have observed already: Several branches of this church have been formed into distinct churches, which has reduced her to narrow bounds, but still she abides as a mother among many daughters. Many were the trials through which she passed; many were the afflictions wherewith she was afflicted; and many and severe were the persecutions which she endured.* Their next pastor was William Williams, a young man from Cilfowyr. He was regularly dismissed from his mother church, and was ordained at Olchon in 1731. He continued there about seven years, and then went to Maesyberllan, to assist their minister. In his last days, however, he was not a very acceptable preacher, but was considered a good man. He died in 1771.
In 1738, Jacoby Rees of Penyfay, was chosen pastor of this church. And about that time, John Powell, of Abergwessyn was baptized, and soon afterwards began to preach. He was a very gifted man, but there was something wrong in his conduct. However, he was very highly esteemed by many. He died in 1743. •Their pastor, J. Rees, having served them about seven years, left them and went to Blaenaugwent.
In 1745, Joshua Andrews, from Penygarn, engaged to supply them two Sabbaths in the month; and Joshua Thomas, the author of the History of the Baptists in Wales, the other two Sabbaths, till he went to Leominister, in 1754. About 1766, George Watkins, a member of the church, began to preach.
* See a short Biography of Ten of the Ministers of this Church.
He was ordained in 1773, and engaged to preach for them half his time, and Joshua Andrews supplied them the other half.
About this time, they had preaching «often near Capel-y-ffyn, in the house of a daughter of their late pastor, Thomas Watkins, . until they built a meeting-house, where a branch of the church now meets. The preaching has been held since, alternately, at Olchon and Capel-y-ffynn. They are not far distant, were it not that the almost impassable Black Mountain is between them.
Noah Delahay Symonds was a native of this region. He was baptized in the city of London, and returned to his father's house, and began to preach in this church in 1772. He went to Bristol College; was on probation for some time at Bovy-Tracy, in Devonshire. He removed from there to Bampton, in the same county, and was ordained there in 1777.
This church, though the oldest in Wales, is undoubtedly the weakest. May the Lord revive his work among them. The association has been held here in 1653, in 1754, and in 1770.
Olchon Ministers to the year 1770.
1. Howell Vaughan, ordained before 1640, the period of his death not known.
2. Thomas Watkins began to preach 1643; died 1694.
3. Walter Prosser began to preach 1644; time of his death unknown.
4. Thomas Parry was baptized 1641; died 1709.
5. John Rees Howell, baptized 1645; died 1692.
6. Howell Watkins, baptized 1645; died 1699.
7. Thomas John Williams; not known when he began to preach, nor when he died.
8. Thomas Price; unknown when he began to preach, and when he died.
9. Thomas Powell; not known when he began to preach, nor when he died.
10. John Gilbert; not known when he began to preach, nor when he died.
11. Joseph Price began to preach 1681; went to England; died 1721.
12. William Williams went to Maesyberllan; died 1771.
13. Jacob Rees went to Blaenaugwent; died 1772.
14. John Powell died 1743.
15. Joshua Andrews.
16. George Watkins.
17. Noah Delahay Symonds.
[Joshua Thomas / J. Davis, History of the Welsh Baptists, 1835, pp. 81-84; via Internet edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
Baptist History Homepage