Monday, October 09, 2006

More on Dolgellau and the 1859 Revival

Thanks to the efforts and advice of one Gerontius Cambrensis of Heath Evangelical Church, Cardiff, and one of our readers, it is now possible for me to continue with the story of Dolgellau. What follows is his translation of ‘Diwygiad Mawr 1859-60’ in Cymru, xii. (1897), by Edward Thomas (Idriswyn):

'By this time it was drawing to the close of 1859, and the churches had almost succumbed to despair, after doing, as they imagined, what they could to bring down the divine influence, yet everything around them was as normal – sinners as hard and bold as ever, and all the means [of grace] like Mount Gilboa, without dew or rain – not so much as a cloud the size of a man’s hand to be seen anywhere – it was as black as could be. But one Friday night, about the middle of October, after the seiat, on the way home it suddenly entered into the heads of some of the children, or rather boys, all under twelve years of age, to hold a prayer meeting on the Saturday night to ask the Great King to visit Dolgellau; and they swore not to say a word to anyone. And it should be observed that no one had given them permission to use the vestry, and the chapel house where the key was, was, of course kept by the most spiteful and hateful of men, particularly to children, that I have ever met; even so, when at about five o’clock on Saturday afternoon he was asked for the key to the vestry, he held it out to us with a cheerful face, without so much as asking a single thing.

'This in itself was something inexplicable, and he could hardly have been faulted, because the vestry contained scores of pounds worth of books and other things belonging to the chapel, like the valuable lamps that were used in the chapel before it had gas. Whatever, the key was obtained without the least sign of resistance – indeed, the old hand asked whether they had matches to light the gas, and the matter was turned around. Having locked the door and put a bung in the key hole and filled the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, so that no one who happened to pass could see a ray of light, they felt they were safe from the interference of any man, since the only window faced the graveyard, which was surrounded by rather high walls. Having read a chapter, no one was ready to pray, as it was something wholly foreign to each of the boys; and despite much urging of each other, not one of them possessed of enough courage to overcome his timidity and begin praying. Chapter after chapter was read, but no one obeyed; and the only thing that could be done to make the meeting something like a prayer-meeting was to all go on their knees while one of them read a Psalm, and so the meeting was concluded, but it be remembered, in full determination of meeting the next day, Sunday. It was a little easier in the second meeting, and by the third and fourth, almost all of them took part in them; but nothing out of the ordinary took place until the seventh day, namely Friday. As the walls of Jericho fell the seventh time the children of Israel encircled them, the seventh time that that handful of children met together, the wall fell, the clouds and darkness fled away, and a corner of the veil of the temple was lifted, and the Divine came in view. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, some overwhelming distress came over the children; some started crying out about the place; others shouted out as if something was killing them; and the rest escaped out through the window as if for their lives – the key was kept in the pocket of one of them every night – and over the graveyard walls like squirrels and home at a wild gallop shouting all the way, - ‘He’s come.’ And he had come, and that amongst and through a handful of little children; yes, he had come in all his power and glory – as much as a man can hold, however. One of the first to go in to them having opened the graveyard gate – through the window, be it remembered – was the Rev. Richard Roberts who lived nearby – a man who had little sympathy with children, and especially these, since he knew them only too well as ‘ysgol y capel’ children – namely the British School – which was held above the house he lived in, and his woollen mill was also near the school, – a man who only valued good works and right behaviour; and one who set little store by emotion. But, here’s the old godly minister starting to grow pale, standing amazed, dumbstruck, quaking, and breaking down and weeping like a child. As many of the boys appeared to be about to faint, Mr Roberts began to raise them to their feet, and comfort them, and having found the key in the pocket of one of them, they were persuaded to go home. This was about six o’clock, and the news of what had happened spread like wildfire through the town. A seiat was held that evening - and an amazing seiat it was; no one had anything to say, everyone was silent; ‘everyone’s heart was,’ as it is said, ‘in his throat,’ or rather, the heart was too full of emotion for the tongue to speak. Seriousness was written on everyone’s faces; and the minister, dear John Griffiths, said, ‘Give us a word Mr. Roberts, surely you’ve got something to say to us.’ ‘Mr Griffiths,’ said the old preacher, ‘if you’d been in a furnace as I have been tonight with those children, I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to say a single word.’ That heavy seiat ended, but everyone was very stubborn to leave, and having left, they loitered around the chapel talking about what had happened among the children; and eventually a number went to the vestry to hold a prayer-meeting. One or two tried to pray, but with great difficulty, it appeared as if there was something in their throats; afterwards someone gave out an old verse to sing:

Hwn yw’r Oen ar ben Calfaria
Aeth i’r lladdfa yn ein lle,

[This is the Lamb upon the top of Calvary who went to the slaughter in our place]

'and the Spirit descended; everyone’s tongue was loosed at once; some praying, some singing, and the rest praising until the town was roused. The room was filled and there were hundreds outside, many of whom partook of the feast that was going on inside. Thus it was for hours, until all were overcome by the warmth, and many were carried out who had fainted.'
You will notice that it was a hymn, and not the Lord's Prayer that was recited before the coming of revival. However, that occured after the events in the vestry, which caused the children to flee before the presence of a holy God, crying 'he is come.' This took place before six o'clock, and a seiat (experience meeting) was held to follow up the events in the evening, and it was here that the Spirit came again, and here the town was roused.
A full and proper account of the events in Dolgellau, digested and edited will appear in a couple of weeks.


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