We know that Christ gathers, defends and preserves church and will continue to do that until the end of world. One of the reasons to study church history is to detect the work of Christ in the past and drawing lessons for the present. Church history can be done in a cold and detached way. Without loss of objectivity it can also be done it a passionate.
We must never forget that objectivity is not the same as neutrality. Nobody is neutral with regard of Christ and the same is true with regard of the history of his church. Especially will written biography can show us the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians, while at the same time we can learn from their deficiencies and shortcomings. Several countries and regions have a very rich spiritual history. Among others this is true for Wales, one of the parts of the United Kingdom. Especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Wales was visited by God’s Spirit in a remarkable way.
In the nineteenth century John Morgan James, a Calvinist Methodist minister, and William Morgan, son of Calvinist Methodist minister, wrote two volumes in Welch in which they recorded the great works of God done in Wales. These volumes were appreciated very highly by the late dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones who was originally from Wales. They were continually in his hand.
Again and again he was spiritually refreshed by reading in them. John Aaron undertook the great job to translate these volumes in English and the Banner was willing to publish them under the title The Calvinist Methodist Fathers of Wales. Now a much greater public can benefit from them. We must congratulate both the translator and the publisher with this publication.
In the first volume we read of Griffith Jones. This Anglican clergyman must be considered the precursor of the Evangelical Revival in Wales. The two great names in the first period of the Revival were the clergyman Daniel Rowland and the exhorter Howell Harris. Their conversion is recorded. Daniel Rowland and Howel Harris were convinced Anglicans.
As a result of the Revival scores of so called societies of Methodists were formed in South Wales. The societies were distinctly understood to be part of the established church and every attempt at estranging them there from was sharply reproved; but persecution made their position anomalous. The Societies were served by exhorters who used to have an intenerating ministry.
In 1795, persecution led the Calvinist Methodists to take the first step towards separation from the Church of England. Heavy fines made it impossible for preachers in poor circumstances to continue without claiming the protection of the Toleration Act, and the meeting-houses had to be registered as dissenting chapels. In a large number of cases this had only been delayed by so constructing the houses that they were used both as dwellings and as chapels at one and the same time.
The lay element, with the help of Thomas Charles and a few other stalwarts, carried the matter through ordaining nine exhorters at Bala in June 1811, and thirteen at Llandilo in August. Thomas Charles was the man who took the initiative to form a Bible Society when he had met a poor young Welsh girl, named Mary Jones, who walked 26 miles to purchase a Bible from him at Bala.
The Revival influenced in first instance only South Wales. In due time, the transforming work of the Holy Spirit also affected North Wales. In North Wales men as Thomas Charles and John Elias were mightily used by God. In their second volume John Morgan James and William Morgan tell us this exciting story
The Methodist Revival was in fact not one revival but a succession of revivals, some being national in scope, many affecting a region and countless of local significance. The conversion Daniel Rowland and Howel Harris in 1735 can be seen as the starting point of the Revival. Doctrinal differences between Rowland and Harris ended up in a rupture of the Connection of Calvinist Methodist Societies. We must honestly say that Rowland was more mature in doctrinal respect than Harris.
Harris was sometimes led away by his emotions. It was a great blessing when as a result of a fresh awakening in 1762 the breach was healed. This year and the revival connected with can be seen as a landmark in the history of the Calvinist Methodists. Between 1762 and 1860 hardly a year passed without a visitation of God upon some district in Wales. John Morgan Jones and William Morgan provide us in their two volumes of The Calvinist Methodist Fathers of Wales with number of full biographies of Daniel Rowland, Howel Harris, Thomas Charles, John Elias and several others.
The strength of these Calvinist Methodists in the eighteenth century and also the greatest part of the nineteenth was that their Calvinism was not of an abstract, cold and pure intellectual nature. Their Calvinism was of an affectionate, passionate and experimental nature.
All Christians but especially ministers and students of the gospel ministry can profit by reading these volumes where the preaching of the gospel in demonstration of the Spirit and power is recorded. A preaching that was signally blessed by God. It many and many cases it was received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worked also in them that believed (See 1 Thes. 2:13).
John Morgan James and William Morgan, The Calvinist Methodist Fathers of Wales, two volumes, translated by John Aaron (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, UK 2008), hardcover 1522 p., price ₤32,- (ISBN 978-0-85151-997-5)