A Short Account of the Awakening, or Revival of Religion among the Calvinistic Methodists in Beddgelert in Caernarfonshire, which began in 1817.
This document was translated and re-printed by D. Geraint Jones in his excellent overview of Welsh revivals, 'Favoured With Frequent Revivals,' and is used here with his kind permission. The book is available from the Heath ChristianTrust, c/o 31, Whitchurch Road, cardiff, CF14 3JN.
Perhaps it would be useful for me in the first place to recall a little of the condition and appearance of our neighbourhood before the revival started here. There were here about 40 professing religion; and they had the privilege of keeping a house, and standing in the Lord’s house during the dark night, despite being childless. The cause was generally at a rather low ebb for years: but there was one excellent flower in our midst, that is brotherly love; unity of spirit, and a pulling together under the yoke in the lowest place. The work often appeared low and disheartening. No one had come to the private society for many years; but the few who were in it had the privilege of cleaving faithfully to the work until the wonderful dawn of God’s visitation of his people and cause.
Concerning the state of the inhabitants here generally: they boldly went on in their own ways, hard and headstrong under the sound of the ministry of the gospel. There was nothing as low in the minds of many of them as religion and its adherents. The gospel had not yet won the inhabitants here, (as in many regions) to judge that religion was best; they were satisfied to live as strangers to it.—This region was known to many ministers of the gospel as one of the hardest, most difficult places of all; so that it became a proverb with many, ‘Such and such a place is as hard as Beddgelert.’—But perhaps one thing that was observed by many at that time ought not to be forgotten, namely, when any religious cause was publicly put before them, such as asking their good will towards the cost of candles, &c; they would give to it beyond expectation every time.
Things were in a very low condition at this time, as there were no particular visitations such as a revival in all the churches throughout the whole of North Wales. But the grace of God was amazing in observing firstly such a region as this, in the midst of a dark night, when it could be said of Zion that no one sought for her—The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.
Now I will give a short account of a few surprising things that happened in the first year of the visitation, namely 1817. In January, the Lord visited the few people who were his, to such a degree, that it was easy and a delight to attend the means of grace, the private society, &c. The clouds were moved away to a great degree, so that some came to experience more than the usual joy of salvation.—In March, one man
came to the society who had not been there before, to the amazement and delight of many; and there were signs of the work of the Holy Spirit upon his soul.—About the beginning of the summer, two or three others came to us; which was cheering to the branch of the church here. By this time the ministry often advanced very powerfully, and the arrows stuck fast in the minds of many, and the inhabitants became more willing to hear the word than before; though as yet no one had broken out in rejoicing.
In August, on a Sabbath evening, when a certain minister of the word [Richard Williams, Bryn-engan] was speaking in Hafod-y-llan, on John 6:44, such power attended the message, that the word, to some degree, reached all the hearers: some cried out in view of their evil state by nature, other wept copiously; and still others rejoiced and wept at the same time, blessing God for letting them see and experience such a gracious visitation. After the sermon had ended, many sons and daughters failed to leave the place as usual for they had been greatly sobered. Many of them went to their homes without talking to each other as usual, even though many of them were going along the same road! But all were surprised and wondered, What was this?—the Sabbath after this, there was a prayer-meeting in the evening close to Hafod-y-llan, and there were two young girls two miles away undecided as to where to go to have the most fun; but one said to the other, ‘Let’s go to the prayer-meeting and have some fun listening to them shouting out.’—They came there, and went home shouting and crying out all along the road until midnight; and subsequently one of them has shown signs of true conversion.
About the end of August, and the beginning of September, many came to the church under powerful and awakening convictions.—About that time, a remarkable thing happened to one young girl as she was milking one of the cows. Some scripture came to her mind with such light and power that she had to cry out where she was, and she cried after she returned to the house, to the great surprise of the family as they heard and saw her. After this she experienced much of the joy of salvation; and until now has cheerfully continued with the work.
In September there was to be a fair here, and the Sunday before the Sunday School teachers warned the children and young people that if they had to go to the fair, that they should behave like those who belong to the Sunday School. At this, some of them began to weep and bow their heads and in a few minutes there was a loud cry throughout the School. Some of the old believers began leaping and rejoicing; others cried out, saying ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ All, the little children, and everyone, were weeping, and crying out; and each one that came to the chapel began weeping there. The outpouring at the beginning was so powerful that everyone had to confess that this was from the Lord, though surprising in the eyes of many. It was observed that there was only one in the whole School who did not have some manifest working of the Spirit upon them. But many were saved after this.—It was also observed that the greater part of the young people who had been in Hafod-y-llan on that previous Sabbath, and those who had been in the School that time, who were under particular influences, had the privilege of coming to the church of God, one after the other.
It would take too long to mention many instances of conversion. About the end of September and the beginning of October, various ministers from north and south, came here on their way to and from the annual Association at Pwllheli, and the Lord undoubtedly gave a fulness of blessing through them to many souls, which will never be forgotten. It seems that no one can remember anywhere where the working of the Spirit has been more strong through the means of grace, the convictions more powerful to awaken the conscience, and prick the heart, and the outpourings of the joy of salvation more extensive, and their effects more evident and lasting. But ‘Not unto us, not unto us O Lord, but to thy name’ belongs the praise and the ‘Glory.’
For several months afterwards there would be sometimes five or six, sometime eight or nine, coming to the private society at a time, under deep and clear influences, until over 200 were added to the church! That promise was fulfilled to us: The barren woman is made to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.’ It also had an effect on almost all the inhabitants so that it was difficult to meet anyone on the highway who did not mention something about the present revival. The work was also great in the house of God, and the workers unfitted for such a time; but God gave the elders of his house heart to be on the side of the work with all their might, and to love its growth and success. He also gave them to be of one mind in discipline and doctrine, and every important matter respecting the carrying on of the work. If there was a subject of contention, they decided the matter in a private meeting of the elders themselves, and at no time did one build up and the other tear down.
It was a visitation not to be forgotten by many there at the time, though not all felt the breeze as others, yet they were brought to seek the same thing, namely Jesus Christ as Saviour. The outpourings were very powerful and effectual. They would often be in the chapel for six hours, and the subject of their song would be the certainty of the eternal covenant, amazement at the grace and love of God to lost mankind, and Jesus Christ and him crucified. Many of them would have between three and six miles to go to their homes, and often they went the whole way rejoicing until the valleys and rocks echoed around them. Yes, so powerful were the workings upon them, that if you went out of your house at night, you could hear some praying, others singing and praising God, until the whole region resounded.
I shall recount here some things to show how powerful the workings were at that time:—A son and a daughter were one Monday morning (after having feasted extensively on the delicacies of the house of God the previous day), coming together in a cart to the village. As they talked together about religion, their souls were kindled to praise the Lord, and thus they came four miles along the way, until they arrived at the village without ceasing their praises. Of this I was a witness, because I went out to meet them as I had heard the sound of their coming.
Beddgelert is known as a place where many gentlemen come from far in the summer, to see the Snowdonian mountains. And many of those who came at that time took much note of the rejoicing. Some were greatly amazed at seeing it, others judging it to be a kind of madness. But on one occasion, a wise gentleman came and observed very particularly the manner and appearance of those who were rejoicing for hours in the chapel. And after going to the Inn he asked what was the matter with the people, as they were weeping and laughing at the same time. ‘I have been’ he said ‘in many parts of the world: I have been in gaols and various places where there has been great sorrow; and also in feasts where there has been great joy: but I have never in my life previously seen anywhere anyone weeping and rejoicing at the same time except these people. Can someone tell me what is the matter with them and what is the cause?’ Someone answered him thus: They are weeping and lamenting because they have sinned against God, and therefore worthy of being in hell forever. At the same time they are rejoicing because God has planned a way of forgiving their sins, and making them fit to live with him forever, instead of damning them.’ The answer silenced and satisfied the gentleman greatly.
Various reliable witnesses have said that at that time they heard the sound of singing overhead, in the sky, several times and on different occasions, and some have been several hours listening to it. We are not determined what this is, but some think that the angels were singing and rejoicing.*
[*Though many believers are very incredulous concerning this, and persecutors of religion generally make great use of it as a subject of ridicule: yet, when you consider the number of believers and trustworthy people who bear unhesitating witness that they heard such a thing, in various and different counties in Wales, before or at the beginning of a powerful revival in such regions, it is difficult for us not to believe it? And why should it not be believed? Are there not scriptural examples of the praise of angels because of the salvation of men, even setting down the words of their hymn? (Luke 2:14) And as it says that there is ‘rejoicing among the angels of heaven over one sinner that repents,’ how much greater would their joy be when hundreds repent?—Let opposers and persecutors say what they will about this, it is certain that many in various parts of Wales are ready to go on oath before the justice in the most solemn manner, in order to confirm their testimony if asked.]
The revival continued particularly powerful and cheerful for three or four years; but gradually the breezes abated in some measure. That caused many to seek more diligently for the friend that sticketh closer than a brother; and many, even now, show signs that they fear God and flee from evil. But among so great a crowd that came to the church, some of them turned back, like Orpah, to their own gods; but not many as yet have turned back; and there is not much fear of it either: he who has kept them thus far, will keep them to the end. Some friends have died since the beginning of the revival. Some young girls departed this life not having ‘left their first love;’ and had given, before they died, clear testimony that they rested on God in Christ, and feared no evil in the valley of the shadow of death. Some old friends have departed this world (after being long with the work during the night) and the sun clearly shone upon them, and they left evident testimony behind that they rested on God in Christ as their eternal portion, which was a great strength and encouragement to the friends, young and old, that they left behind, to follow them in the footsteps of the flock.
I think that the little that has been said can be beneficial to keep in remembrance, for the age to come, the wonderful work of God in visiting lost sinners in the way of his grace and salvation. But I can only show a little in comparison to that which powerfully appeared at that time.— Before finishing, I will yet say a little of the way in which they were received into the church of God:—When they first came to offer themselves as members, they were simply asked their views and beliefs how they themselves stood spiritually in relation to God, and concerning their principles and spiritual experiences;—and if they believed, in accordance with the word of God, in the fall of man in Adam, and had also had the eyes of their understanding enlightened concerning the way of salvation, that is, the way planned by God in his grace to raise man through Jesus Christ, the second Adam—And there was occasion to believe that the Holy Spirit had been working on their soul to some degree, they were given permission by the church to stay there until there was time to speak with them again further. And when an appropriate time came, they were spoken with again concerning their spiritual state, and growth in their knowledge of themselves, and of God, and the way of his salvation. And if there was reason to believe that the Holy Spirit had begun a work in them, the permission of the church was asked for their acceptance as partakers of the ordinances of God’s house.**
[**We do not believe it necessary to rebaptise any after being received as church members; but after being received into the church their children have the right to baptism, and not before.]
And if the church accepts them, their names are written among the family; which is in accordance with the rule of the word of God: ‘The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there.’ Psalm 86:6. As I finish I am pleased to be able to say that the work looks cheerful, and there are signs that the Lord is advancing it, and continuing to give the light of his countenance upon his cause (and this sometimes in a more particularly clear way;) but many of us would be pleased to see him once again make bear his arm among us and in other places also, that his name might be glorified, and yet many more be saved.
Goleuad Cymru, iii. (1823), 5-7