Tuesday, February 27, 2007

John Pugh III: In the School of the Prophets

The years after 1860, saw the growth of the idea that a man had to be educated at a theological college in order to enter the minstry. Men like John Elias and Howell Harris would have been rejected by their own church. And so John Pugh had to spend three years there, graduating in 1872.

The college he attended, Trevecca College, had once been the home of Howell Harris. One of fellow students, John Hughes, later recalled Pugh's hearty athleticism. He was a 'character,' always ready with a word of cheer and a peal of laughter. Of his studies, Hughes recalled:

"He gave no promise of scholarship, nor of originality in the field of theology, but he was at the time, as he continued to be, the real evangelist with obvious popular gifts, which eminently qualified him for the work of his life."

While Pugh was good friends with Thomas Charles Edwards, he had no time for the sort of scholarship which obstructed or obscured the way to the Saviour's side. At one Sermon Criticism class, Pugh listened to one of his fellow students give a learned discourse that many of his fellow students praised for its beauty and elegance. When Principal Howells asked Pugh for his opinion, the evangelist replied:
"The diction was polished and the periods well rounded and all that: but I hope our brother is not going to preach that sermon to any congregation, for it has one fatal defect - it will never save a single soul!"
John Pugh did not despise learning, but recognised that learning can be positively harmful, if it is not baptised by the Holy Spirit. He was a good student, and used his three years in college to cultivate contacts with the leaders of Calvinistic Methodism, contacts he would later use when seeking to evangelise the masses of South Wales.
On his graduation in 1872, Pugh had no lack of calls. He was bilingual and his preaching had already been greatly owned of God. John Pugh could have chosen a well-established, respectable chapel. Instead, he chose the mining town of Tredegar, Monmouthshire. It was typical of the man that he chose the area where the need was greatest, not where he might be comfortable.



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