Saturday, June 02, 2007

Griffith Jones, Llanddowror: 'Morning Star of the Revival'

As we saw with the career of John Pugh, before the coming of Revival, the Holy Spirit begins to work in the life and work of chosen individuals. In South Wales before 1904, this was through the evangelistic labours of John Pugh and the Joshua brothers. Before the coming of the Great Awakening in Wales, the Holy Spirit worked through Griffith Jones, Rector of Llanddowror. He not only preached the word, but was instrumental in giving the knowledge of reading to the people of Wales.

Griffith Jones was born in 1683, the fourth son of John ap Griffith of Cilrhedyn. He was baptised a year later, on 1 May 1684, two months after his father had been laid in the ground. His parents were Christians and were seen as serious. Beyond that, nothing is seriously known of them.

As a child, Griffith Jones was distinguished by a serious turn of mind. One of his eary biographers has stated that:

"A thirst for learning, joined with good natural Parts discovered itself in him very early by his frequent Application to Study when he was very young."

The Rev. John Evans, in a scurrilous publication, writes that Griffith Jones; 'was very wild, if not very wicked, and his particular Aversion to his Books and his School, gave his Father great Heartburning but no Hope[....]' According to Evans, Jones' father set him to watch swine, and it was while watching these pigs that young Griffith had a vision of Heaven and Hell. This story, while romantic, is seriously flawed, given the frequent mentions of Jones' father, who had been long in the grave. The story is an embellished and localised version of the parable of the Prodigal son.

What we do know about Griffith Jones is that he was a good and serious scholar, moving from the local school to the Grammar school at Carmarthen. Before this, he learned the skill of wood turning, a hobby that he continued to practice throughout his life. At this time, it was observed that the young man was not at ease in worldly company, preferring religious execises and contemplation. At some point, Griffith Jones felt the call to the ministry, and sought ordination. He was refused at forst, but at last accepted, and on 19 September 1708, Griffith Jones was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of St. David's. Just over a year later, he received Priest's orders at Abermarlais Chapel.

His first recorded post is that of curate of Llaugh arne, a town in Carm arthen shire now best known for its Dylan Thomas associations. As curate, Griffith Jones acquired a reputation as an evangelical preacher. David Jones (no relation) notes:

"To the scene of his labours, he brought no academical distinctions, not even a college degree; neither does it appear that he enjoyed the patronage of influential people. He had to rely for success upon his native talents, his devotion to duty, his trust in God, his lofty conception of the ministry, and the consecration of his gifts to its work."

Even in these early days in the ministry, Grifith Jones' sermons were mightily used to convict people in the parish of sin, and there was a general awakening under his ministry. This could not but attract the attention of prominent people in the area.



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