Monday, March 09, 2009

The 1859 Revival in Wales (Part 2)

A three-part series based on a talk given at one of our Wednesday evening Prayer Meetings. You might like to catch up with Part 1.

3. The Men God Used

There were two principal instruments of the 1859 Revival in Wales, Humphrey Jones and David Morgan.

Humphrey Jones

Jones was a native of Cardiganshire. He was converted at the age of sixteen after a period of prolonged conviction of sin. Soon he began to preach among the Wesleyan Methodists. By his own claim, hundreds of people were converted under his early preaching. This early success led him to apply for the Wesleyan ministry. But they turned him down. Resolved to preach come what may, in 1854 he emigrated to America. He spent a year preaching to Welsh settlers in New York before being ordained a deacon with the Episcopalian Methodists. Jones was then appointed missioner to the Welsh community in Wisconsin. However, after twelve months he severed his links with the Episcopalian Methodists. This gave him freedom to preach wherever he chose.

The power of the Spirit was evident in his preaching. There were remarkable meetings in Milwaukee, where forty-five people professed conversion. Under his preaching in Onedia, New York it is reported that seven hundred owned Jesus as their Saviour.

Jones was concerned to see the revival blessing spread to his native land, so in 1858 he returned to Wales, arriving in the June of that year. He began to preach on searching texts like Amos 6:1 and Revelation 3:16. Christians were humbled and the unconverted awakened. In a letter to the Welsh Herald newspaper he described what had been happening under his preaching in and around his home village of Tre'r-ddol in the summer of 1858,
"Fifty-one have been converted in this locality up to the present. This is regarded as a major revival in such a small congregation and in such a sparsely populated area. The revival continues. The movement has proved influential far and near... I believe that Wales is on the brink blessed things, and that revivals will be commonplace throughout the land." (Revival Comes to Wales, Eifion Evans, Evangelical Press of Wales, p. 48. All quotes where only a page number is given are from this title).

Jones was something of an unusual figure on the Welsh religious scene. He was a Wesleyan Methodist – an Arminian in a land dominated by Calvinistic Methodism. But it seems that the Lord was pleased to use the young preacher to prepare the ground for the 1859 revival.

David Morgan

David Morgan was a carpenter by trade. He was converted at the age of 21. Noticing the depth of feeling and rich quality of his prayers, people urged him to preach. In 1848 he was accepted as a ministerial candidate for the Llangeitho Association of the Calvinistic Methodists. But he refused to go to college for formal ministerial training. Morgan received his theological education by reading the old Puritans authors like Thomas Watson and John Owen. He was ultimately ordained in 1857.

It has to be said that Morgan was more than a little wary of the early revival meetings that had been occurring under the ministry of Humphrey Jones. But all that was to change when David Morgan heard Jones preach in Pont-rhyd-y-groes at the end of September, 1858. He spoke powerfully on Revelation 3:16. As he listened, David Morgan became aware of shortcomings in his ministry. The dire need of the church also pressed upon him. After the service, Morgan sought the preacher’s counsel. He was now convinced that the Holy Spirit was active in Jones’ ministry.
"They conversed for hours about the forlorn condition of Zion, and Mr. Jones insisted that it was due to the drowsiness and supineness of the watchmen on its walls. At last David Morgan said, 'There can be no harm in out attempting to rouse the churches of the religion; I am willing to do my best. We can do no mischief by holding prayer meetings, though there should be no more than man in it all'. 'You do that,' responded the other, 'and I will guarantee that God will be with you very soon'." (p. 52).

Deeply affected by Jones’ searching preaching and challenged by the news of what had been happening in New York, David Morgan began to pray in earnest for the blessing of God upon his ministry. Such was his concern on soul that he cancelled a preaching engagement on 3rd October and instead went to hear Humphrey Jones at Ysbyty Ystwyth. He spoke with great earnestness in Amos 6:1, but the congregation remained cold and unresponsive. In a church meeting after the service, Jones publicly rebuked the elders of the church,
"The preacher complained rather bitterly of the frigidity of the religious atmosphere, and turning to the elders, said, 'Not one of you helped me with so much as an "Amen".' One of them...rose and replied, 'It is very difficult for a man, when the ministry condemns him, to cry "Amen" with it.' Overcome by sudden feeling, the old man burst into tears, and fell into his seat as if in a swoon. he was a man of undoubted piety, and unfailing faithfulness in all departments of Christian work; and when he was heard acknowledging his guilt in the face of the sermon, the entire church was struck by an overwhelming wave of emotion, and, as if by a simultaneous impulse, every face was bowed low and bathed in tears." (p. 53).

David Morgan preached on the following Monday, but his ministry still lacked power. On the Tuesday night however, something strange and remarkable happened to him. As the preacher’s son explains,
"He retired to his rest as his usual time on Tuesday evening, and slept for some hours. He awoke about 4 a.m., and was instantly conscious that some strange, mysterious change had come over him. He became aware with awe of a marvellous illumination of his faculties, especially of his memory. 'I awoke about four in the morning.' said he himself, 'remembering everything of a religious nature that I had ever learnt or heard'." ( p. 54).
Congregations soon became aware that Morgan's ministry was attended with fresh power. In his intercessory prayers he seemed to be able to remember the names of hundreds of people and recall the details of their spiritual condition. Which absent-minded preacher would not wish for such a gift? He began to co-operate closely with Humphrey Jones and they held preaching meetings together. Churches were stirred and challenged, and sinners saved as they proclaimed the Word of God with power and convicion. There was now a real expectation that the Lord was about to do greater things. In once service in late November 1859 David Morgan cried out in prayer,
"We thank Thee, O Lord, that there are indications of a rising cloud. It is but a little one, like a man's hand, but it is a cloud and it arises from the sea. Let the whole sky grow black! Let the whole sky grow black! LET THE WHOLE SKY GROW BLACK!" (p. 58).

By the end of December 1858, Morgan was already exercising a powerful awakening ministry. Let me give you two instances of this, one concerning his personal work and another of his preaching at that time. He urged an old stone-breaker to accompany him to a prayer meeting. The man refused his invitation, complaining that he would loose sixpence in pay if he had an hour off work. Morgan offered to give him a sixpenny bit if he came with him. The worker angrily rejected this offer saying, "I don't want your sixpence or your service". At this, the preacher insisted on praying for the old man. "You have a soul worth more than the world, in danger of eternal death." said Morgan before dropping to his knees and praying that God would melt the heart of the sin-hardened rebel. "Stop! Stop!" said the old man, grasping Morgan by the arm, "I'll come with you." And so he did. The aged worker remained behind for an after-meeting. David Morgan asked him what he wanted to which he replied, "Mercy for my poor soul. I have grown too old for Victoria (he was a discharged old soldier), but perhaps Jesus Christ will enrol me in His army and succor my poor soul."
On 23rd December, Morgan ministered at Pen-llwyn and his preaching had a marked prophetic quality,
"In the middle of his sermon he startled his audience by suddenly exclaiming, 'If any of you tonight deny the deity of the Son, I have nothing better to tell you than what Morgan Howell, Newport, shouted on Lampeter bridge, "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. He became poor when He came to Bethlehem; tell me, when was He rich?"' This remark was utterly irrelevant to the preacher's subjects matter, and no one could conjecture whence it came, and wither it went. Thy mystery was solved in the after-meeting, for among the converts were three Unitarians...whose presence in the service was quite accidental, and certainly unknown to the preacher." (p. 62-63).

Daivd Morgan preached at Devil’s Bridge on New Year’s Day, 1859 (the dramatic waterfall at Devil's Bridge is featured at the top of the post). A veteran minister described the event,
"The evening service was terrible. So near was the revivalist to his God that none could gaze steadfastly at him. Many of the hearers swooned. On the way home I dared not break the silence for miles. Towards midnight I ventured to say, 'Didn't we have blessed meetings, Mr. Morgan?' 'Yes.' he replied; and after a pause, added, 'The Lord would give us great things if He could only trust us'. 'What do you mean?' I asked. 'If he could only trust us not to steal the glory for ourselves.' Then the midnight air rang with his cry, at the top of his voice, 'Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory'." (p 69-70).
So these were the men God used to light the fires of the 1859 revival in Wales. Humphrey Jones and David Morgan were mighty in prayer, powerful in preaching and jealous for God's glory. May the Lord raise up men of like calibre to awaken the churches in our day.


Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for your blog. I stumbled upon it quite accidenlty but am glad that I did. I have been to Wales 4 times now on mission trips and we learned about the 1904=05 Welsh Revival but never the 1859 Revival. The people and the country captured my heart and I miss it there dearly. I pray that God will once again send His Spirit to move among the people in Wales.

David Hunt said...

Greetings from Brisbane, Australia. Thank you for this helpful article. I read "The Welsh Revival" by Thomas Phillips 21 years ago and was blessed by it. But your article gave me extra insight into the ministries of Humphrey Jones & David Morgan. Yes, may God bring revival in our day. But perhaps the issue is, are we willing to surrender ourselves so completely to Him that He can use us? Would we be willing to renounce certain things (eg. watching foolish comedies & movies) in order to be more greatly used, or will we refuse to let go? Oh to live more like the Puritans.

Unknown said...

thank you for writing on the men who labored for revival. It is such an inspiration for me. I don't think I would have been blessed this this had I not read your blog. Thank you for it and please write more.

Ken from Mandurah Australia said...

I am reading a David Martyn LLoyd Jones book (Joy Unspeakable) and for some reason felt impelled to investigate some of the preachers he mentions. First, John Tauler, then Savonarola, followed in quick succession by Thomas Goodwin, John Livingstone, William Guthrie and now Humphrey Jones and David Morgan. Now, what's all that about? God obviously has some purpose in it.