Thursday, March 15, 2007

John Pugh XIV: Apostolic Ministry

As the work expanded, it would have been easy for Pugh, as director of the the work, to have taken a back seat, allowing Seth Joshua and the staff of the halls to take the lion's share of the work. But that was not his way. Pugh was happiest when ministering among the people. His daughter, later a worker for the Forward Movement, described his practice and preaching:

"It was my father's custom to preach in one of the mission halls every Sunday evening.... He would sit quietly in their midst and take note of those around him, watching them with friendly eyes as they sat listening to the orchestra and organ."

When the service began, Pugh would rise from his seat and move to the platform. His sermons were simple, striking and gripping. Pugh's Christianity was not that Christianity which is wary of giving direct, personal appeals to sinners. Pugh had a voice of command which seemed to demand a personal response. A person might reject Pugh's message, but he could not pass it by. After the service, Pugh would speak with those concerned for their souls in a counselling room, a practice which is still kept up in at least one of the former Forward Movement churches.

Another secret of Pugh's success was his absolute trust in those he worked with. When one of his colleagues offered to undertake a task, Pugh trusted him. This tendency to believe the best of people could hurt Pugh, if people proved unworthy of that trust. However, it could also bring out the best in people.

While Pugh took on much of the burden of the work, this could not have taken place without the support of a number of wealthy men. John Cory of Duffryn House (pictured) and his brother, Richard, were generous supporters of good works in Wales. They had given generously to support the work with released prisoners and helped pay for the erection of halls for the Forward Movement. A Spirit-filled Christian, Cory saw his wealth as God's gift, and determined to return much of it to the giver. While Cory could have easily secured election to Parliament, he saw this as a distraction, while his work on the Council allowed him to interact with the locality he loved so much.

The other major backer was Edward Davies, Llandinam, son of David Davies, Wales' first millionaire. It was his backing which ensured that the Forward Movement was not still-born. As long as his money backed Pugh, Pugh was able to offend some who would rather have rested secure in Zion. Edward Davies tragically early death in 1898, aged 45, robbed Pugh of a friend as well as a supporter.
Crucial for the respectability of a movement which some condemned as 'fanatical,' was the support of a number of well-regarded men within Calvinistic Methodism, including the Principals of the three colleges, Thomas Charles Edwards (naturally), D. Charles Davies and Owen Prys, the last of whom would see the movement grow into middle age. These men recognised that the only lasting hope for the church was the raw mission work, the concentration of the atoning blood which flowed on Calvary, not a cross obscured by cut flowers and the like, reduced to a mere ornament, not the bough on which the Prince of Life was broken; 'The Crown of pain to three and thirty years.'
And, despite the words of the scoffers, the work was beginning to expand.



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