Monday, July 31, 2006

The onebook meme

Jen_Est at Jenson's Blog has 'tagged' ourselves at Free St. George's in what seems to be a fun game. So, here goes:

1. One book that changed your life (other than the Bible):
The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson. It shook me out of a carnal self-confidence, convincing me that repentace is more than feeling.

2. One book you've read more than once:
The Last Hero by Leslie Charteris. The third of the Saint books, it ends with a supreme act of self-sacrifice by one of the Saint's confederates. He gives up everything for the happiness of his friends, the life of a foe and the peace of the world.

3. One book you'd want on a Desert Island:
Works of Richard Sibbes. A sweet divine who'd comfort me when I'm all alone.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Texas Baptist Crucible by James Spurgeon. A truly terrible tale of fundamentalism's wacky side.

5. One book that made you cry (or feel really sad):
Lower Than Vermin by Dornford Yates. A novel about the decline of the British Aristocracy which ends with the compulsory purchase of the loved estate. The last words: 'From him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken from him.'

6. One book that you wish had been written:
Alfred Thomas: A Biography of the first Lord Pontypridd. Biography of a notable Welsh Baptist and politician. I may get round to writing it someday.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Jean Harlow: an Intimate Biography by Irving Schulman. A libellous travesty.

8. One Book You're Currently Reading:
Works of Richard Sibbes volume one. Found all seven volumes on sale for £65.00. I proved unable to resist.

9. One Book you've been meaning to read:
A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace by John Ball. Puritan reprint I got through the post this morning.

10. Now tag five people:
Triablogue (which must be good for two); Fred Butler; Libbie; Jonathan Moorhead.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College VII

Following the decision of the College Committee that the four students were not in error it might have been thought that the row was over. This would have been to reckon without Professor Gibson’s fighting spirit. Gibson flatly refused to abide by their conclusions. He believed that, as a teacher appointed by the General Assembly, it was his duty to protect the doctrine of the Church. Certainly he would be remiss in his duty if he did not bring these heresies held by men who hoped to be Free Church ministers to the attention of the Church. Gibson published a pamphlet criticising the essays. In the pamphlet he also criticised the College Committee, stating that it was shielding the heretical students by raising prejudice against himself and the orthodox students. Suce a statement sounds harsh, but Gibson had good grounds for making it; the father of one of the heretical students, Mr. Archibald Henderson, was none other than Dr. James Henderson, convener of the College Committee. The personal interest was blatant.
So the College Committee passed the case to the General Assembly, the final court of appeal where there could be no such controversy over the outcome.
The Assembly took up the case on Tuesday 24th May, 18759 and spent all day and all night on the case. The final vote was not passed until half-past three in the morning on the 25th! No-one could say that the Assembly did not take the matter very seriously indeed. While the Assembly debate was firece, with James Begg as always supporting the conservative side, it was eventually decided to pass a motion that was more cautious than that of the College Committee. While the Assembly declared that it found no heresy in the essays it praised Gibson for his theological concern and his watching over the soundness of the students, while recommending that he deal more tenderly with any such cases that might arise in future. It also moved the four students in question to Edinburgh, where they would no be able to antagonise Dr, Gibson any more.
Gibson retired from the Glasgow College in 1871, and his place was taken by Professor Thomas M. Lindsay, whose biography of Luther is currently republished by Christian Focus. By this time Fairbairn had gone, to be replaced as principal by George Douglas and in his New Testament chair by Alexander Balmain Bruce. Hetherington had been replaced by Islay Burns, who himself would be replaced in 1872 by James S. Candlish, son of R.S. Candlish.
What these changes meant to the College we shall, God willing, see next time


Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College VI

Last time we saw how a division arose in the Free Church College, Glasgow, when some of Professor Gibson’s students disagreed with him on the matter of total depravity. It seemed that the matter had swiftly blown over, but at the end of the session 1857-8 Gibson set that class an essay entitled ‘The Scripture Doctrine of Human Depravity as affecting the Understanding, Will and Affections, with a special reference to chapter six, paragraph two of the Confession of Faith’. It was hardly a title to lull the students who disagreed with him into a sense of security. They felt that it was in fact intended simply as a test of orthodoxy for the class. In this they were not wrong.

Four essays were regarded by Gibson as objectionable. The four students in question went to the rest of the College Senate, who drew up a paper declaring that they found nothing in the men’s essays opposed to Scripture or the Confession, rightly understood. Gibson was not satisfied, but he accepted the paper as a basis for dealing with the four men.

On the last day of the session the Systematic Theology class wore a strange appearance. Gibson announced that he would read the paper prepared by the other professors in the second hour of the class, and in the first hour he would prepare the class by reading extracts from the offending essays. After the extracts from the essays Gibson read his comments on them explaining why they were unsound. No responses were allowed from the students.

The following day the Senate met and three of the four students (the other was abroad at the time) appeared before it. Gibson asked them to withdraw certain statements in the essays and the men refused. The conflict was to continue. The case was brought before the College Committee.

The doctrinal charge, while important, was not the only charge against the men. They had also been the most disruptive members of the class, making their distain for Gibson obvious.

The College Committee came to six conclusions in the case, three regarding the students and three regarding Professort Gibson. Regarding the students it was concluded first that the formation of parties among the students was to be deplored, second that the students in question did not hold erroneous doctrine, and thirdly that such disagreements between students and Professort were best dealt with by friendly conversation, not by heated controversy.

Regarding Professor Gibson it was concluded that he ought to be reminded rthat his primary duty was not to protect the doctrine of the Church but to instruct students, that it was neither necessary nor wise to engage in public criticism of individual esasays before the entire class, and that he ought to destroy the extracts he had made from the essays.

But Gibson would not let the matter rest. Next time, God willing, we shall see what Gibson did.


Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College V

The early professors of the Free Church College, Glasgow, were orthodox to a man, and in that they were representative of the Free Church of the Disruption. But among the younger men of the Free Church of Scotland new ideas were creeping in, mostly from Germany. These ideas caused concern among some of the professors, not least to Professor Gibson.
Due to the illness of Professor Hetherington, Gibson taught Systematic theology in addition to his Church History classes, and it was in connection with his second year Systematic Theology class that the trouble arose. It began early in the 1857-8 session with a debate in class over the nature and extent of the injury inflicted upon the intellectual powers of man by the fall. Gibson and the majority of the class agreed with the Westminster Confession but a small minority disagreed, not on Biblical grounds but upon philosophical.
The division in the class demonstrated by this became obvious when Gibson set them an essay on ‘The Unity of God’. It was Gibson’s custom to read students’ essays in class and to criticise them, individually, there. Usually the essays were given in simultaneously but in this base they were not. Gibson took the first essay and tore it apart, castigating the author for his unsound and dangerous views.
The man’s friends were stung into action and the class took sides, the minority writing against their professor and the majority writing in defence of his views.
The issue was how far the unaided reason of fallen men could comprehend the nature of God. While both sides admitted that creation and providence revealed the existence, power and goodness of God, Gibson and his supporters contended that the natural man could not recieve this truth due to the depravity of his heart, while his opponents contended that he was capable of recieving it. Gibson told them in no uncertain terms that this was to, in effect at least, deny the doctrine of human depravity.
The division grew as Gibson made very clear that he regarded the minority as being in dangerous error, preferring human philosophy to the Bible. The students appealed to Fairbairn, who brought the matter to be investigated by the Senate. It seemed the matter was at an end.
However it was not. What happened next deserves to be told and will, God willing, be told next time.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Conversion of Howell Harris 5: Assurance of Divine Love

On 18 June, at his home, Trefecca (pictured), Harris was granted a deeper glimpse of the love of Jesus. He recorded this in his diary:

"Being in secret prayerI suddenly felt my heart melting within me, like wax before the fire, with love to God my Saviour; and also felt, not only live and peace, but a longing to be dissolved and be with Christ, and there was a cry in my inmost soul which I was totally unacquainted with before, ‘Abba, Father, Abba, Father!’ I could not help calling God my Father; I knew that I was His child, and that He loved me and heard me. My soul being filled and satiated cried, ‘it is enough; I am satisfied. Give me strength and I will follow thee through fire and water!’ I could say I was happy indeed! There was in me a well of water springing up to everlasting life; and the love of God was shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost."

From the furnace of conviction and deep experience of the love of God, Howell Harris went out into the highways and by-ways, preaching his saviour to all, desiring that every man might know Jesus as he knew Him. Revival broke out soon after Harris’ conversion, and the man from Trefecca would be mightily used of God.


The Conversion of Howell Harris 4: A Sight of Calvary

On Whit-Sunday, 1735, Howell Harris went again to Communion. He had read in a book 'that if he went to the sacrament simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ he would receive the forgiveness of all his sins.’ Now, when he repeated the Confession, he felt every word of it in very depths of his being. As he came to Communion, Howell Harris was granted a sight of the Cross and his burden was lifted:

“I was then delivered from a grievous temptation that had followed me ever since I had first given myself to the Lord. Before that time I never knew what inward trials and spiritual conflicts were, only now and then I had some uneasiness from an awakened conscience, which was quite different from those sore trials that I bore from atheistical thoughts that made my life a burden to me; for they came with such force and power on my mind that I could not withstand them. But at the Sacrament, by viewing my God on the cross, I was delivered from these temptations; now the world, and all thought of human applause and preferment, were quite vanished from my sight; the spiritual world and eternity began, though as yet faintly, to appear; now I began to have other views and motives different from what I had; I felt some insatiable desires after the salvation of poor sinners; my heart longed for their being convinced of their sin and misery. […] I went home jumping with joy … I knew my sins were forgiven me.”


The Conversion of Howell Harris 3: The Slough of Despond

His failure to feel the seriousness of his sins in publicconfession shook Harris. In his diary, Harris recorded:

“I was convinced that it ought to be so; and finding it was not so, I perceived I was going to the Lord’s Table with a lie in my mouth, and was much inclined to withdraw, but quieted my mind with having determined to lead a new life; and in that resolution I received the pledges of God’s dying love. I then began to be more thoughtful and serious – I was given to prayer, and strove to keep my heart and thoughts fixed on the Lord, but all in vain. Thus I went on for about a fortnight, until I almost lost my conviction. Providence, on the 20th of April, put a book in my hands, and I looked into the latter part of it as a help to self-examination; as soon as I began to read I was convinced that in every branch of my duty to my God, to myself and to my neighbour, I had fallen short, and was guilty. […] The more I read, the greater did the spiritual light shine into my mind; discovering the extent of the law of God, calling me to account not only for outward gross sins, but for my looks, aims, and deeds – in all I had thought, said, or done. Then I saw clearly that if I was to be judged by that law, I was undone for ever.”

After wrestling in prayer, Howell Harris was granted some relief. However, he still felt himself to be quite lost and without Christ.


The Conversion of Howell Harris 2: Deeper Conviction

On Easter Day, Howell Harris returned to Talgarth Church (pictured). With the rest of the congregation, he repeated the general confession from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

But Harris felt nothing like the feeling of wretchedness which the Confession spoke of. ‘He found no inward grief at the remembrance of his sins, nor was their burden a heavy weight to his soul.’


The Conversion of Howell Harris 1: Conviction

Howell Harris was the son of a carpenter from Llangadog, which, one might observe, was no bad lineage. He was educated in the Dissenting Academy of Llywnllwyd, despite being a churchman. This, according to Gwynfor Evans, ‘gave a better education at that time than the old universities of England.’ Be that as it may, Harris was admitted to Oxford. He only lasted a week, although to the end of his days Harris would proudly declare that he was an Oxford Scholar.

With his education, Harris was able to set himself up as a schoolmaster at Trefecca (there are at least three correct spellings), in the parish of Talgarth, Breconshire. It was in the Church there, on Palm Sunday (30 March), 1735, that Howel Harris was convicted of sin. The Vicar, the Rev. Pryce Davies, was warning his congregation about the dangers of not receiving Holy Communion. In the course of his sermon, the Vicar exclaimed: ‘If you are not fit to come to the Lord’s Table, you are not fit to come to Church, you are not fit to live, nor fit to die.’

These words struck Howell Harris like a sledge-hammer. He decided there and then to leave all habits that he could not reconcile with the Word of God. On the way home from Church, he hurried to the house of a neighbour with whom he had a quarrel and would not leave until the issue was settled. He devoured devotional books and prayed fifteen times a day. It was not enough, however. Harris still felt the corruption in his own heart and did not know how to lose this burden.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Faith Once Delivered: Nantlais Williams. Seven. 'Good and Faithful Servant.'

Nantlais Williams retired as Minister of Bethany, Ammanford in 1944. He had spent his working life at the Chapel. The ambitious literary minister left behind a legacywhich he could hardly have anticipated in 1900, not only in the Confession of Faith, but in a faithful Church. His Chapel had experienced several movements of the Spirit. Awakened young people from Ammanford were a driving force in the formation of the Aberystwyth Evangelical Union, while Nantlais' son, Reinallt, was a lecturer at Swansea, and a driving force in the formation of the Evangelical Union at that University. Nantlais himself was a sought-after speaker for the Welsh Evangelical Unions.

After the breaking in of the Holy Spirit in 1904, Nantlais' life had changed completely. He had been used to warn the Presbyterian Church about their slide from orthodoxy. But most importantly, he had been a faithful pastor to his flock, equipping them in days of doctrinal slackness. He died in 1959, before the final descent of his beloved Presbyterian Church into apostacy, but after seeing young people from his own church play a part in the founding of the Evangelical Movement of Wales.

Tomorrow, if the Lord wills it, we shall be starting a series on the conversion of Howell Harris.


The Faith Once Delivered: Nantlais Williams. Six. The End of the Issue

Nantlais was far from happy with the draft Declaratory Articles, which would replace the 1823 Confession as the ultimate standard of Welsh Presbyterian belief. While they were vaguely Trnitarian, he was adamant that the substance of the 1823 Confession had to be preserved. References to the Virgin Birth of Christ, the substitutionary nature of the atonement, His resurrection (which had not been mentioned at all), and His Second Coming in glory had to be strengthened/included if Nantlais were to accept the Bill.

At the 1931 meetings of the Presbyterian General Assembly, Dr. E. O. Davies tried to persuade Nantlais that not all the missing doctrines were essential for the faith, although he, personally believed them. Nantlais was not persuaded, but E. O. Davies believed that so long as Nantlais was a lone voice in the widerness he could be brought roun, given time. But there were big names already lining up. Ellis W. Davies, elder and MP for Caernarfonshire, along with former Moderators Peter Hughes Griffiths and R. R. Roberts, took up Nantlais' case against the Declaratory Articles as they stood.

Davies was forced to climb down. At a private meeting, he agreed to insert references to the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement, the resurrection and the second coming of Christ. Nantlais, his concerns addressed, agreed to the new measure, and in 1932, both North and South Wales Associations agreed to the Bill. In the words of D. Densil Morgan, 'Although this development was not devoid of ambiguities, it was nevertheless a clear victory for the conservatives.'


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Faith Once Delivered: Nantlais Williams: Five. The Continuing Struggle

Predictably, Nantlais' forthrightness on the question of Confessional Reconstruction was not appreciated by everyone. Not only did theological liberals accuse him of being a reactionary, but orthodox ministers such as the Rev. John Thickens of Willesden Green, London, accused Nantlais of alarmism. The reconstruction exercise, he maintained, was not a liberal ploy: '[...] the subject under discussion at present', he maintained, 'is not whether the Confession of Faith should be abolished or changed, rather that the Connexion be afforded the right to preserve the Confession if it so desires.'

To say the least, Thickens was guilty of naiveté. When the final report appeared, it recommended that a Declaratory Act, modelled after the Church of Scotland articles be passed to take the place of the Confession as the ultimate standard. Described by D. Densil Morgan as 'much more succinct than the 1823 Confession', it was still larger than the Shorter Declaration on Faith and Practice. This was to be accompanied by an historical sketch of the life and doctrine of the Connexion, a staement affirming that Christ alone and not the state is the head of the Church and a statement affirming that the Connexion had the right to make further chages to the expression of its faith, provided these were in accordance with the 1823 Confession and the Word of God. Finally there was a paragraph committing the Presbyterian Church of Wales to inter-denominational co-operation and unity.

There was still a long way to go before these changes were accepted, and Nantlais would have his say in this process.


The Faith Once Delivered: Natlais Williams. Four. Constrained to Fight

E. O. Davies, Secretary to the Reconstruction Committee expressed his admiration for the Confession of Faith, assuring denominational conservatives that the Confession would not be abolished, but supplemented by a Shorter Declaration on Faith and Doctrine. In his own words:

'My own opinion [...] is that neither the Shorter Declaration nor any other statement which the Connexion may devise will ever replace the Confession of Faith. [...] Any further declaration made in the light of new-found knowledge and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit would only serve to augment and not supplant the present Confession of Faith.'

To Nantlais, such statements indicated that the Confession of Faith was to be downgraded to a mere ceremonial bauble. In a series of articles entitled Torri'r Rhaffau (cutting the ropes) published in the Presbyterian Newspaper Y Goleuad, in 1925 and later re-issued as a pamphlet, he criticised the process. While making it clear he was not opposed to confessional revision per se, if the object was to make the Confession more evangelical and scriptural. However, Nantlis was convinced that the liberals intended to use the process to move the Presbyterians away from Biblical truth towards rationalism. When liberals spoke of freedom, Nantlais responded that there were limits to freedom, the limits of God's revelation.

More, Nantlais understood that a confessional revision would mean that the liberals would cement their control over the denomination prior to an ecumenical process ending in a single united church which included Unitarians and Roman Catholics, possibly even other religions. With the 1823 Confession in place, this would be impossible, for the church's property would belong to the evangelicals if they stood outside. With a revised, latitudinarian confession, the Presbyterian Church of Wales would be dragged into Babylonian captivity. Freedom for the liberals meant slavery for the true people of God.


Monday, July 17, 2006

The Faith Once Delivered: Nanlais Williams. Three. Hold a goodly Confession

As we saw in our series on Tom Nefyn, the theology of the Calvinistic Methodist Church had slid from the orthodoxy of the 1823 Aberystwyth Confession of Faith. While men like Nefyn had gone far beyond the Confession, by the 1920s, most ministers in the Calvinistic Methodist Church were frankly embarrassed by their Confession. In 1870, Thomas Charles Edwards announced that 'High Calvinism' was dead in Wales, while we have already seen that the Calvinistic Methodist leaders, interrogated before the Disestablishment Commission, were unable to give full assent to the teachings of Calvinism. In 1914, one reviewer had observed that 'Calvin and Calvinism are familliar words in Wales. But the man himself is a stranger and his doctrine is almost unknown.'

In the latter part of 1923 and 1924, the North and South Wales Associations of the Calvinistic Methodist Church (which will from now on be referred to as the Presbyterian Church of Wales) saw calls for a new doctrinal standard. A 'Reconstruction Committee' was set up, its principal secretary being E. O. Davies, minister of Shilo Church, Llandudno, former Professor of Christian Doctrine at Bala College. Davies was a mild liberal. The question before the Committee was whether the Confession should be changed, but it was generally assumed that they would recommend a new confession.

And many evangelicals felt that any revision of the Confession of Faith would have the effect of loosening the denomination's standards, allowing liberalism a free rein.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Faith Once Delivered: Nantlais Williams. Two. Flames of Revival

The newly-converted Minister of Bethany, Ammanford had no time to rest. The Church found itself in the centre of the revival in Carmarthenshire. Rather than following Evan Roberts (pictured) in itinerating, Nantlais decided to remain in his church to disciple the new converts. In the words of R. Tudur Jones, his intention was '[...] to turn the initial emotionalism into spiritual discipline.' [Faith and the Crisis of a Nation, p.308] Although a new convert himself, Nantlais found that the Holy Spirit equipped him for this task. The result was a congregation equipped to weather the storms that were coming.

From this point on, Nantlais ended his association with Welsh literary competitions and writing poetry for its own sake. His works were hymns and religious prose. He was concerned to live for God, not for self. The Holy Spirit had taken the literary Minister, concerned for his own reputation had become an officer in the army of King Jesus.

The result of the Revival for Nantlais was new life, a revived ministry in Ammanford, and a wider ministry as editor of the Welsh-Language magazine Yr Efengylydd (The Evangelist) from 1916, the only evangelical publication in Welsh for much of the first half of the twentith century. As a result of this, Nantlais was to become drawn into the inter-war struggle for the soul of the Calvinistic Methodist Church.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College. IV

The Free Church College, Glasgow, officially began on Tuesday, 4th November 1856. That day the Free Presbytery of Glasgow met in Free St. Matthew's Church to induct Professors Fairbairn and Gibson into their chairs. Fairbairn gave his inaugural address, and it was intimated that Professor Gibson would give his inaugural lecture in a building in Thistle Street formerly occupied by a training school. The following week regular lectures would begin in the same building. Five second-year students from Glasgow who had been at New College elected to complete the remaining two years of their course at the new Glasgow college, while either twenty or twenty-three students (we do not know why there should be confusion, but there is) entered the College. Rev. George C.M. Douglas of Bridge of Weir was engaged to conduct the Hebrew classes, beginning an association with the college that was to continue until 1902.
In 1857 the Assembly appointed two more professors. Mr. Douglas was appointed to the Chair of Old Testament Language and Literature, and Dr. William M. Hetherington, the historian of the Westminster Assembly, was appointed Professor of Apologetics, indicating a focus that was to distinguish the College for many decades. Dr. Hetherington also taught Systematic Theology, but sadly ill health would severely curtail his usefulness in his post.
Meanwhile building work was progressing rapidly. The Assembly on 1857 was informed that the building was externally complete apart from to soaring Campanile and the two smaller towers on the College Church. Internally work was progressing rapidly, and the building would be ready for the next session. While the Campanile proved more expensive than had been anticipated, its cost was paid by extra funds provided by the Memorialists.
The two new professors were inducted by a Presbytery meeting in Glasgow's Free St. George's (no relation) on 29th October 1857, and the opening ceremony of the College buildings was held on Wednesday, 4th November. The Moderator spoke, and Principal Fairbairn delivered an address outlining his ideas of a sound theological education. The building was complete apart from the belvedere atop the campanile, from which students and professors would be able to survey Glasgow. While the campanile undoubtedly adds presence and completeness to the College buildings, we are not entirely sure what it was for. Did Principal Fairbairn have an office in it? We would like to think so!
Next time, God willing, we shall see how students and professors fared when allegations of heresy were in the air!


Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College. III

The Assembly of 1856 had decided that the Free Church College, Glasgow, should open for students in November of that year. For that to be possible, however, it was necessary for them to appoint professors. The principal's office ame first, and it was decided that the best man for the job was Dr. Patrick Fairbairn. Dr. Fairbairn is not unknown to those who study the Reformed theology (which we are persuaded is also the Biblical). His The Interpretation of Prophecy in the handsome hardcover edition published by the Banner of Truth graces the shelves of many a Reformed man, Dr. Peter Masters republishes Fairbairn's Ezekiel, and his Typology is to be seen on the shelves of the Tabernacle Bookshop. No less a man than Dr. James White has greeted with joy the republication of Fairbairn's Hermeneutical Manual (under the title Opening Scripture). In short, Fairbairn is Sound. A brilliant man, he ministered for a long time in Orkney, teaching himself Hebrew in the long winter nights.
Fairbairn's Chair in the College was New Testament Language and Literature. His Hermeneutical Manual gives an insight as to his teaching methods.
For the Chair of Church History the Assembly chose James Gibson, then a minister in Glasgow, and for the Chair of Old Testament James M'Cosh, then of Belfast. While Fairbairn and Gibson accepted the appointments, McCosh declined. Later he was to become President of Princeton University. This meant that the college, intended to be second after New College, Edinburgh, would have to start with only two professors and interim provision for the teaching of Hebrew.
Meanwhile, on 18th August 1856, the foundation stone of the Free Church College, Glasgow, was laid by Rev. Thomas M'Crie the Younger, son of the biographer of John Knox and author of the Sketches of Scottish Church History (Republished by Free Presbyterian Publications as The Story of the Scottish Church), who was Moderator of the Assembly that year. In his address he spoke of the College as "an institution which promises to be a centre of illumination to the country at large."

God willing, next time we shall look at the Commencement of the College


Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College. II

In 1856 Glasgow was a large and growing city. It held its place as Scotland's second city and rejoiced in its motto of 'Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word'. It was the year in which Glasgow's art collection was begun. Glasgow was flourishing, and the leading Free Churchmen of the city looked in dismay at their own lack of a College. Something had to be done.
It was done, in 1855, but not by the Free Church. A group of Glasgow businessmen and professional men presented a Memorial to the 1855 Free Church General Assembly offering to build and endow, entirely at their own expense, a college for the training of Free Church ministers in Glasgow. The Assembly were no longer able to drag their feet, and they accepted the offer.
Unfettered by committees the Glasgow Memorialists went to work quickly. Before the next General Assembly they had acquired a site for the College and plans had been drawn up by the architect selected, a Glasgow Architect called Charles Wilson. Wilson's design was in the Italianate style, dominated by a soaring Campanile or tower. The building was to provide four class-rooms with private rooms for the professors, a public hall and a library. Dr. William Clark, leader of the Memorialists, also gave a church, adjoining the college and designed by the same architect, on condition that fifty seats be reserved for the use of students.
The buildings would not be ready until late in 1857, but the Memorialists petitioned the Assembly with the suggestion that Professors should be appointed and classes begin, in rented accomodation, in 1856. The Assembly agreed, and so 1856, 150 years ago, is the official date of the founding of Free Church College, Glasgow.
Next time, God willing, we shall take a look at the early faculty, and at the progress of the College.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Faith Once Delivered: Nantlais Williams: One. The New Birth

Last Lord's Day evening, the Pastor was forced to speak in the after-meeting due to unforseen circumstances. He chose to speak on his call to the ministry. In the course of his words, Mr. Hughes mentioned that some men are called to the ministry before being converted. Before the lynch-mob is formed, I should be quick to point out that he went on to say that the Holy Spirit will convert the man if he is truly called of God.

As a case in point, he mentioned Bethany Chapel, Ammanford and its minister in the early years of the twentieth century, W. 'Nantlais' Williams. An orthodox Calvinistic Methodist, he was as yet unconverted when called to Bethany in 1900 from Trefeca College. A man of immense literary talents, he took part in the eisteddfodau and loved to adorn his sermons with literary motifs.

Until the 1904-5 Revival, his great ambition was to become a successful, popular preacher and poet. But in November 1904, Joseph Jenkins, Minister at New Quay, Ceredigion, came to Bethany, Ammanford came to speak in the town. Nantlais preached on the Holy Spirit the Sunday before Jenkins' arrival, but he knew nothing of the new birth. The week following, he became dreadfully aware of his unregenerate state. He spent a whole night pleading before God, but to no avail. In the Saturday night meeting, however, the Spirit came, and he could not help singing. The Holy Spirit had come to live in his heart. From here, Nantlais will tell his own story:
After going home, and sitting down, quite quietly and soberly, I saw that it was
through believing thatsalvation comes to us, not through effort and anguish in
all-night prayer on my part, but through the effort of someone else for me in
the Garden and on the Cross; yes, through leaning upon Him and His bloody sweat
and dying agony. Oh! What a relief. What peace! I believed, because the ways of
life were unmistakably revealed to me. Well! well! so simple, so near! So plain!
So free! The way of salvation is so endearing in its conditions! ... Such a pity
that its simplicity is so great an obstacle to the wise and the intelligent, and

God was not finished with the talented minister. He had great works prepared for


The Church & Young People 6: A Word on 'Methods'

I had meant yesterday's post to be the last in this series on 'The Church and Young People,' but a comment from jen_est caused me to ponder her very important questions:

1."Do you think that being in a church-going society does affect the way we do these things?"

It is important to realise that neither Sandfields nor Heath were located in areas where church-going was 'normal.' They were mission churches. The worldly activities they turned away from were the result of a society which saw church-going as a social activity. People were going to Church, especially the meetingsin the week, for social reasons. When entertainment fashions changed, the churches emptied. The same was true of youth meetings, as we saw in our third example. That said, Sunday-school was then seen as normal, and there was greater general Bible knowledge than there is today. The Church must deal with the cultural context in which it finds itself, although not in such a way as to compromise the Gospel.

2. "Had MLJ or JWOwen lived in say, China, where Evangelical Christianity is persecuted, would they have adopted any of these "methods"?"

We should note that Martyn Lloyd-Jones distrusted methods. Had he been allowed his way, he would have discontinued all meetings apart from the Lord's Day meetings, the Bible Study and the Prayer-Meeting, relying on the Holy Spirit alone. J. W. Owen's work, with its emphasis on Christian fellowship, was designed to deepen Christian fellowship, in the tradition of the Calvinistic Methodist 'Experience Meeting'. While it is impossible to know how a thing might translate into a different cultural setting, it seems to me that a Christ-centred youth work, dependent on the Holy Spirit is more easily transferable than activities heavily dependent on culture.

However, in the final analysis, the Church of Christ does not advance by methods, but by the Holy Spirit. Both J. W. Owen and Martyn Lloyd-Jones were aware of this, and would have confessed that without Him they would have achieved nothing. And we must bear this in mind today, as we seek to reach out to an increasingly God-hating world.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Church & Young People 5: Concluding Thoughts

I have presented three examples of the attempts to churches to dealwith young people. Lloyd-Jones at Sandfields ended the membership candidates' meeting, believing that this was producing false conversions, and expected young people to take a full part in the normal activities of the Church. J. W. Owen at Heath re-orientated the activities of young people towards spiritual, rather than material things, the centrepiece being a fellowship meeting on Saturday evenings for prayer and testimony. Portland Street Congregational Church provided leisure activities for their young people. What conclusions can be drawn from our study?

While Lloyd-Jones ended young peoples' activities, I am not sure that this was not over-reaction. Having been received into membership at Llangeitho while yet unconverted, Lloyd-Jones was only too aware of the danger of producing false professions, as well as the danger of falling prey to modern psychological techniques. While Lloyd-Jones could do this, however, it seems to me that J. W. Owen's answer was closer to being correct. Young people could organise games outside the church's time, but the church's provision was focussed on things that are above. Even if Portland Street's table tennis table and billiards table had not been deserted for pop records, it is impossible to imagine games and hikes producing pastors, missionaries and evangelists, or even regenerated church members.

The desertion of the games provided by Portland Street must also be examined. The deacons had provided what they felt young people wanted. And, while that fashion lasted, the rooms were full. However, once the fashion changed, the rooms emptied. All youth work has its ups and downs, but we can be assured of this one thing. The Holy Spirit will never go out of fashion, and it is He that must be truly leader of our young people.


Monday, July 10, 2006

The Church & Young People 4: Portland Street Congregational Church

In this series on the Church and Young People, I have thus far looked at the attempts of two Calvinistic Methodist Churches to deal with the slide towards an emphasis on entertainment and recreation in their work amongst young people. In this section, I intend to present a church which continued down the road of recreation and entertainment. That Church was Portland Street English Congregational Church, Aberystwyth.

Founded in 1866 to cater for the growing English presence in the town, the church was anxious to secure its future by retaining its youth. In November 1924, a 'Young People's Society' was formed. Meeting every Monday evening, the programme was decided by the young people themselves. To start with, the meetings consisted of singing and games, but later lectures and devotional meetings were added. Mixed dancing was allowed by the deacons for the group's socials. This Society continued until the outbreak of war in 1939 forced its dissolution.

In the early 1960s, a further attempt was made to attract young people. In the words of local historian and member, W. J. Lewis:

'Time and money were spent on equipping one of the basement rooms for table
tennis and another for billiards. Hikes and other activities were arranged and
for a while the movement thrived. Then came the pop song, record sessions, and
the twist, and the basement rooms were soon almost deserted, but the club is
still in existence (W.J Lewis, The English Congregational Church, Portland
Street, Aberystwyth 1866-1966,

The club is no longer in existence, Portland Street Church having amalgamated with St. David's Presbyterian Church in Bath Street. The basement rooms are now used by a theatre company, while the church building is a doctor's surgery.


The Church & Young People 3: Heath, Cardiff

Like Bethlehem, Sandfields, Heath Church, Cardiff, was founded by the Forward Movement of the Calvinistic Methodists. The building illustrated was erected in 1906. Like Sandfields, the church had passed through testing times in the 1920s, when the church had experienced financial difficulties, coupled with a period of three years without a pastor, which ended in May 1930 with the induction of J. W. Owen, a former missionary with the China Inland Mission.

Like Dr. Lloyd-Jones, J. W. Owen was anxious to uphold high spiritual principles, worried about the growth of social and recreational activities, which had come to overshadow the spiritual witness of the Church (Leighton Hargest (ed.), Holding Forth the Word of Life (cardiff, 2000), p.19. While Lloyd-Jones had discontinued activities for young people, the work of J. W. Owen saw a new wind blowing through the work among young people.

During J. W. Owen's ministry, the Manse in Allensbank Road was used as the meeting place for the 'Penrhyn Circle' (J. W. Owen had been Pastor at Penryn Bay before his call to Cardiff). This was a meeting 'of young people for prayer, testimony and fellowship (Hargest, Holding Forth, p.20).' The result of this was a spiritual awakening in which many young people were greatly blessed and enabled for Christian service, at home and overseas. The Saturday Manse meeting would resume under the Ministry of W. Vernon Higham and see similar fruits. Today, under Wyn Hughes, the meeting, led by Keith Batstone is smaller than it has been in the past, but it continues, and with it, the blessing of God.

We have looked at two options for young people's work. The first, under Lloyd-Jones, saw young people treated as nothing special, part of Lloyd-Jones' belief that young people were being sought in a worldly way. J. W. Owen belived that young people should fellowship together in order to grow spiritually. Tomorrow, we shall look at the third option, the one away from which Lloyd-Jones and J. W. Owen had turned.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Church & Young People 2: Sandfields

Bethlehem Forward Movement Mission was founded in 1897 by John Pugh's Forward Movement, an organisation for the evangelisation of the unreached English-speaking masses of South Wales. Built in the rapidly expanding town of Aberavon, it was designed to minister to the souls of ordinary men and women. By 1927, the Mission had gone through seven pastors and one 'evangelist', with varied results. The work among young people had come to be conformed to the pattern of the world, with an amateur dramatic group, football team and all of what had become the normal features of young people's work in inter-war nonconformity.

It was to this situation that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones came in February of 1927, an object of some curiosity due his decision to leave his medical career for the ministry. Among his first actions was to discontinue the meeting for young people wishing to join the church. Lloyd-Jones felt that this was spiritually unprofitable, leading to the confusion of conversion with Church membership, and both with coming into teenage years. This, Lloyd-Jones believed, led to a wrong concentration upon 'the young people' to the exclusion of those 'old in sin.' "Concentration upon the young", he declared, "is a large part of the genius and success of Roman Catholicism, but surely it is the very antithesis of the genius of Protestantism. It is one thing to produce a religious man - men can do that - but it takes the power of God in Jesus Christ to produce a Christian man, and there is no limit to that power."

The stage in the church hall was sold to the YMCA, as the amateur dramatics were discontinued, along with the Band of Hope, a young people's organisation devoted to teetotalism. Lloyd-Jones wanted no distractions from Christ, whether in entertainment or morality. The result was at first the awakening of the Church, then a revival which touched the district, men and women being saved out of deep sin. Although all means for attracting those who had no interest in 'Church' had been dropped, the Church grew by the preaching of the Word alone.

On Monday, we shall be looking at another Forward Movement Mission, Heath Hall in Cardiff, and the reforms to the young people's meeting undertaken by the Rev. J. W. Owen. Tonight and tomorrow I shall be worshipping where he and they worshipped, enjoying the benefits of the faithfulness of the people of Heath Evangelical Church.


Friday, July 07, 2006

The Church and Young People 1: 'To Whom Shall We Go?'

In the past few weeks, I have become acutely aware of a problem facing the Church in the modern age. The problem of what to do with young people. Children are dealt with in Sunday-School, as has been the case for many a long year. However, there is a problem, throughout the Western World, Children who have gone through Sunday School drop out of the Church as young people. In an attempt to hold onto them, churches have organised activities for them.

However, some disquiet has been raised about the content of activities. Are they too worldly, youth leaders acting as though they were running a secular youth group? Or are they designed without consideration for the special needs of young people?

In this series, I shall be examining the responses of four Welsh churches to this question. My focus will be on the upper end of the 'Youth' category, what was once meant by a 'Youth', that is, a person on the cusp of adulthood, as it is here in particular that serious falling away can take place. We shall start with a famous example, Bethlehem Forward Movement Church, Sandfields, Aberavon.


Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 11: Final thoughts

This final post on Tom Nefyn is illustrated with perhaps the most solemn sight in Wales today. A closed chapel. This one is in Colwyn Bay, but the image could be duplicated all over Wales. Tom Nefyn's case, which effectively embarrassed the Presbyterian Church of Wales (Calvinistic Methodists) into dropping all pretence at discipline. In my previous post, I examined the general lessons that may be learned from the case.

Tom Nefyn did not empty his chapel. In fact, his ministry at Ebenezer, Tumble, brought members back into the church. If we were to judge Tom Nefyn by results, we should, like his church, have to support him. This is another reason why our faith must be firmly grounded in doctrine.

However, while Nefyn's preaching was dramatic, and his social activism endeared him to many in the Tumble area, his broader ministry was less successful. This is best illustrated by the August 1928 'Keswick in Wales' Conference at Llandrindod Wells. The third encounter between the two men saw them scheduled opposite one another. Iain Murray describes a 'buzz' of excitement at Sunday Breakfast, Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones was astonished to be told that: 'If we believed in betting, the people would be betting!'

The two men met and conversed politely before their respective preaching engagements. Tom Nefyn, preaching at the Albert Hall, preached an extreme liberal sermon before a large congregation, in which the former evangelist ridiculed both the deity of Christ and His resurrection. Lloyd Jones, preaching to an equally
large congregation, preached the old, old story. In the evening, the Albert Hall was half-empty, while the chapel in which Lloyd-Jones preached was packed to the rafters, even the pulpit stairs having to be pressed into service as extra seats!

Remembering this, the Carmarthenshire Presbytery, seeking to calm the situation after Tom Nefyn's excommunication, invited Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to preach at a special meeting in Water-Street Church, Carmarthen on the last Thursday in September. For fifty-one years, this continued, with the same preacher. Among those affected by the preaching over these years was the Rev. Dafydd Morris, minister of the Evangelical Church in Carmarthen. Even in the darkest moments of the Church's history, God has his people and his prophets. One of the effects of the Tom Nefyn controversy is the Church in the old Presbyterian College, and its witness.

Further reading:
Gwyn Davies, A Light in the Land: Christianity in Wales 200-2000 (Bryntirion). Short, popular account.

Noel Gibbard: Taught to Serve: The History of Barry and Bryntirion Colleges (Bryntirion). This book describes the development of the work begun at Porth.

Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years (Banner of Truth). This contains an excellent account of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism between the wars I have read.

D. Densil Morgan, The Span of the Cross: Christian Religion and Society in Wales 1914-2000 (University of Wales Press). The fullest modern account of the Tom Nefyn Controversy is to be found on pp.122-8. Sadly, this book is written from an explicitly anti-evangelical viewpoint.

Robert Pope, Building Jerusalem: Nonconformity, Labour and the Social Question in Wales, 1906-1939 (University of Wales). Tom Nefyn is featured prominently in this book.

Robert Pope, Seeking God's Kingdom: The Nonconformist Social Gospel in Wales 1906-1939 (University of Wales Press). Similar to the above, equally, this book is more sympathetic than Densil Morgan.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 10: Closing thoughts

We shall end where we began, in a room in the former United Theological College, looking out on the sea. The College closed in 2002, and is now offices and accomodation. What happened is part of the Tom Nefyn story. It is now my intention to draw some conclusions:

1. Simply because a man proves to be a good preacher does not mean that he is immune to the effects of liberalism. Tom Nefyn remained to the end a powerful preacher, but had become simply a 'dramatic reciter', to quote Iain Murray. Even his attendance at Porth had not armed Nefyn against the effects of liberal professors.

2. The effect of liberal theological teaching can be far in excess of the liberalism of the lecturers. Tom Nefyn, as we have seen, came to hold doctrines that shocked even his lecturers. Taught to view the Bible as no more than a human document, Nefyn spilled into out-and-out Socinianism, despite the fact that his teachers stopped short (Equally, we must admit that others can pass through liberal colleges and seminaries without bad effects, such as William Vernon Higham, former Minister of Heath Church, Cardiff).

3. Attempts to enforce Church discipline against heretical teachers will always be portrayed as an 'inquisition' by the world. The Presbyterian Church of Wales, a denomination with a confession of faith, was perfectly within its rights to discipline Tom Nefyn, whatever the opinion of his church. He was not an Independent, unlike his most prominent defender, John Morgan Jones. Had Tom Nefyn wanted to minister in a Church with loose doctrine, as we have seen, he could have.

4. In Church discipline of heretical teachers, the church involved must show backbone. The controversy over Tom Nefyn left the church so traumatised that no further stand over heresy would be taken. The descent of the Presbyterian Church from Calvinism to rationalism was slowed, it was not ended.

5. Either denominations must exercise discipline firmly, or doom themselves to become rationalist sects.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 9: The end of the Road

The Tumble congregation had decided to face down the Presbyterian Church, declaring that they had the right to entertain a minister who disagreed with the standards of their denomination. Having seen Tom Nefyn given every chance to recant had not softened their attitude. Whatever they expected, it was not what actually happened. The local Presbtery met on 2 October 1929 and voted to dissolve the church at Tumble. When they arrived at their chapel on Sunday 7 October, the congregation found themselves locked out. The presbytery officials told them that they had all been excommunicated. Only those willing to give their personal assent to the Confession of Faith and the rules of the Denomination would be allowed back.

The congregation refused, instead purchasing land for a new meeting house. The building would become Llain y Delyn, home to the 'Tumble Christian Fellowship,' a non-denominational congregation without a Confession of Faith, where the only standard would be the commitment to a 'quest' for truth. Naturally, the congregation's first choice for minister was their exiled hero, Tom Nefyn, who had returned to his native Caernarfonshire with his wife.

Much to the dismay of his former flock, Nefyn refused. In March 1931, he was received back into the Presbyterian Church of Wales. A year later, he was reinstated in the ministry. For the rest of his life, Tom Nefyn would fulfil an obscure pastoral ministry in rural North Wales. His former flock could only view his progress with bitter disillusionment, while for the Presbyterian Church, the experience proved so traumatic that they would never try a minister for heresy again.

We shall conclude tomorrow with a few final thoughts on what may be learned from this unhappy episode.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning From History 8: Coming to Judgement

Tom Nefyn's response to Treherbert was to offer his resignation to the congregation at Ebenezer, Tumble. In his letter, he took a truculent tone, declaring: "It is evident that antiquated theological forms are considered more important than a forward-looking humanity." The congregation refused to accept his resignation and resolved to stand by him. John Morgan Jones, Principal of the Independent (Congregationalist) Bala-Bangor College, editor of the Student CHristian Movement Magazine Yr Efrydydd, attacked the Presbyterians for 'persecuting' Williams.

At the Nantegaredig Association, Tom Nefyn was belligerent. Asked by the Moderator, Peter Hughes Griffiths whether he accepted the standards of the Presbyterian Church, Williams asked exactly what those standards were. Hughes Griffiths ignored him, assuming that Nefyn should have read them, and repeated the Treherbert decision, requiring William to resign from the Presbyterian Ministry if he no longer agreed with the creeds. Tom Nefyn replied that he repudiated the decision and would not willingly resign.

Owen Prys stepped in to seal the doom of his former student. He moved a resolution to suspend Nefyn from the ministry, which passed almost unanimously. Tom Nefyn was to leave Tumble by 9 September, 1929.

On his return to Tumble, Nefyn was treated like a martyr. He was offered pastorates where he would be free to hold his heterodox opinions, but decided to remain in the Presbyterian Church. His congregation supported him, the five remaining elders and 215 members resolving that "the attitude of the Association toward Tom Nefyn will decide the attitude of the undersigned towards Welsh [Calvinistic] Methodism."

What would that attitude be?


Monday, July 03, 2006

Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College. I

In the past we have often dealt with figures who taught at the Free Church College, Glasgow. James Denney, James Orr, Henry Drummond and Alexander Balmain Bruce were all professors there. So we thought it fitting to do a series about that institution, all the more so since it was 150 years ago that it was founded.
It had been intended at the time of the Disruption in 1843 that the Free Church, as an ‘alternative’ national church, had to have at least three colleges in order to adequately provide an educated ministry. In the first Assembly of the Free Church, Dr. David Welsh, retiring Moderator, said that three colleges would be needed, each with a staff of at least four professors. However, owing to the need to provide first of all churches and manses for the congregations of the church, the Free Church started with just one college, New College, Edinburgh. In Aberdeen and Glasgow provision was made for instruction of students by able ministers so that such students only needed one or two winters in Edinburgh to complete their course.
But, as often happens with emergency measures, the Free Church got used to having only one college and when the Aberdeen College was seriously proposed in 1845 there was serious opposition. By 1851, however, the controversy was over and the Assembly accepted that, in principle, there ought to be colleges in Glasgow and Aberdeen. It took another four years for anything to be done about a Glasgow College.

Next time, God willing, we shall see what was done.

Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 7: The Relucant Battle Line

As he read Tom Nefyn's personal account of his beliefs, Owen Prys despaired. But he had a job to do. After compiling his report, listing the heresies contained in Y Ffordd yr Edrychaf ar Bethau, he presented it to the Treherbert Association (meeting) of the Presbyterian Church of Wales.

The report concluded that Tom Nefyn's beliefs were: 'fundamentally opposed to the standards of our Connexion and to the historical faith of the Christian Church.' Modernists and liberals across the denominations had protested that it was 'persecution' to expect a minister to abide by the standards of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Sir John Herbert Lewis (pictured), former MP, Government Minister, and prominent Calvinistic Methodist layman, however, had assured Prys that the majority of informed members of the Presbyterian Church were with the Connexion's authorities 'the Corff'. Owen Prys was very grateful, declaring that:
'I never undertook a more difficult task. On the one hand I have a thorough
dislike of anything like a heresy-hunt, and along with that I have a very kindly
feeling towards Tom and expected much from him. But unfortunately he put the
sasiwn [Association] in a corner by insisting that he should be judged by his
declaration, which is far more extreme than he realises, I feel sure. I have no
sympathy with fundamentalism, but this mixture of Unitarianism, Pantheism and
rationalism would deprive us of a Gospel altogether.'

Tom Nefyn was given a year in which to mend his ways or resign from his charge. By the time of the Nantgaredig Association ofAugust 1929 (Morgan's date, Robert Pope gives it as 1928), it had become clear, however, that Tom Nefyn had no intention of doing either. Although Owen Prys had not desired it, a battle for the Gospel was about to be fought. But would the trumpet give a certain sound?


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 6: A matter of Principle

The Presbyterian Church was careful to show fairness to the accused minister. After all, the complainants were elders who had resigned from his Church. Accordingly, the man charged with investigating Tom Nefyn (pictured later in life) was Dr. Owen Prys, Principal of the Theological College at Aberystwyth, a man personally familiar with, and sympathetic to, the accused. Prys suggested that Tom Nefyn take a Sabbatical in order to consider the Church's Confession of Faith, believing that 'Nefyn' would accept the substance of the confession, even if he could not accept every jot and tittle.

Tom Nefyn refused, and in October, 1927, he write a letter to the London Association, where, as we have seen, he preached at the ordination of Dr. Lloyd-Jones, demanding that he be tried on the content of his belief. To help the authorities, he included a forty-page booklet called Y Ffordd yr Edrychaf ar Bethau ('The Way I Look at Things'). Most of this was taken up with an exposition of doctrine. This demonstrated that he was an advanced modernist.

While Tom Nefyn would adopt the air of a martyr, the contents of this document demonstrated beyond all doubt that he was completely at odds with the Confession of Faith. In his view, God was immanent in the world, being defined impersonally as the 'great spirit that seeks to realise itself in the expression and life of the world' [p.11], 'Creative Mind' and 'Eternal Mind', the force that energised the evolutionary spirit.

The Trinity was rejected on the grounds that: 'To speak of three Persons in the Godhead means sacrificing true unity'. The supernatural element was dismissed as a mere fancy, Christ's miracles being allegorised out of existence on the grounds of modern 'science.'

On the Incarnation, Tom Nefyn denied almost everything. Christ was to be considered divine only in terms of his knowledge of the divine spark 9ideal humanity) inside every man, a knowledge he shared with other 'teachers.' The atonement was to be understood solely in terms of moral influence [p.17], and the resurrection was the disciples' "early method of declaring the victory and lasting value of Christ's personality, ... it was a Jewish way of emphasising the conquest of life and goodness of Jesus over sin and destruction."

Reading this, Owen Prys' heart fell. There could be no doubt that his former student was guilty as charged.


Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 5: A liberal Ministry

Tumble is located in the Gwendraeth valley of eastern Carmarthenshire, on the edge of the South Wales coalfield. It was here that Tom Nefyn arrived in 1925, being formally inducted in 1926. At this time, 'Nefyn' was a left-leaning preacher, still possessed of the dramatic preaching style of his itinerant, evangelical days.

He enjoyed some notable success in his early months, winning the respect of his flock and the community. Such was his appeal that Tom Nefyn was able to bring back into the Church a number of young men who had left Chapel for left-wing politics. This was not due to Gospel preaching, however, but his preaching of Socialism from the pulpit.

His left-wing politics and preaching of the 'Social Gospel', especially during the period of the General Strike of 1926, increased the new minister's popularity. His main focus was not the care of souls, but the care of bodies. Tom Nefyn campaigned fervently against slum housing, doing a thorough survey of the housing belonging to the Coal Company in Tumble and sending his findings to the management. Asked whether such campaigning was appropriate work for a ministry, Tom Nefyn replied '[...] that the building of an impressive Chapel to worship God while the worshippers lived in slum condidtions was nothing but 'empty worship.' (Robert Pope, Building Jerusalem (1998), p.209). But Tom Nefyn was not simply a political preacher. When offered the Labour Party nomination for Cardiganshire, he turned it down. Rather, he believed that Gospel work was practical work. To allow him to speak in his own words:

"... devotion without responsiblity is not enough; prayer without work is not
enough; the Father's satisfaction on the Mount of Transfiguration is not enough
without satisfying the father of the epileptic boy on the plain."

Swift recourse to the Bible reveals that Tom Nefyn's exposition to be troubling, committed to naturalistic philosophy (the boy was demon-possessed, according to Christ), and distorting the passage (Jesus rebuked his disciples for their unbelief, and in Mark's Gospel states that Prayer and fasting were necessary to expel the demon). In an address to the London Association in October 1927, in which Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was ordained, Tom Nefyn spoke of Christ as an ideal which all men should seek to follow in order to live a fulfilled life.

By this time, there was disquiet in the Presbyterian Church of Wales over Tom Nefyn, indeed, he was under investigation. Four elders had resigned over his unorthodox style of worship, commitment to left-wing politics, and his theology. The complaints were referred to the South Wales Association in June 1927.

We shall see, next time, what the investigation revealed. and I warn you, it wasn't pretty.