Revival of 1762

The Revival of 1762 and William Williams of Pantycelyn

R. Geraint Gruffydd

AS I thank the committee of the Revival Memorial Fund for their kind invitation to deliver this lecture, I must at the same time admit that I experienced more difficulty than usual in choosing a subject for the lecture.[D] Revivals have been such an important factor in the recent religious history of Wales that the field is an extremely luxuriant one with a variety of subjects suggesting themselves: the enigma of Evan Roberts's personality, for example, or the background to Richard Owen's thought, or the catalytic influence of 'Dafydd Morgan's Revival' on Welsh nonconformist life. Ultimately, however, I decided to go back to the beginnings of Welsh Methodism and to consider briefly what was perhaps the first distinct, fairly widespread revival in Welsh Methodist history, namely the Llangeitho Revival' of 1762-4. I did this because that revival, or rather the reaction to it, inspired William Williams of Pantycelyn—whom we rightly consider our greatest hymn-writer—to write a defence of revival, and the phenomena associated with it, which even today may give us cause to think. I need hardly say how indebted I am in that which follows to the pioneer work on Pantycelyn accomplished by the Rev. Gomer M. Roberts.

I mentioned the phenomena associated with the 1762-4 Revival. Some of these phenomena were, of course, well-known from the earliest dawn of the Methodist Awakening in 1735. Time and again Howel Harris records in his journal that, as he preached, 'the Lord came down', and people were visibly affected by his words. Sometimes they would weep and cry out in remorse for their sins and terror at the prospect of the coming Judgement. Sometimes they would shout for joy as they found themselves in possession of the proffered salvation in Jesus Christ — 'my voice was drowned by their cries and Hosannas . . . the Hallelujahs drowned all.' These phenomena, it seems, were especially apparent under the incomparable ministry of Daniel Rowland at Llangeitho and elsewhere. 'At seven of the morning', said George Whitefield in 1743, 'have I seen perhaps ten thousand from different parts, in the midst of sermon, crying "Gogoniant!" "Bendith!" ["Glory!" "Praise!"] — ready to leap for joy.'[1] The evidence of a kinsman of Rowland's in a letter of 1746 is similar, despite the fact that his standpoint is very different from that of Whitefield's:

While he was performing Divine Service, the people seemed to behave quietly and somewhat devoutly, but as they began to sing, I could hear a voice louder than all the rest crying out 'Rhowch foliant!' ['Give praise!'] and by and by another hollowing 'Rhowch glod!' ['Give honour!']. By this conduct (being yet a mere prelude in comparison of what ensued) I concluded that these two persons might be seized with a fit of the lunacy or frenzy. But as soon as this solemn part of the service was over, Mr. Rowland made a long extempore prayer before his sermon, which prayer, it seemed, worked so upon most part of the audience that some cried out in one corner, Rhowch glod!' others in different parts of the church bawled out as loud as possibly they could, 'Bendigedig, rhowch foliant!' ['Glorious, give praise!'] and so on, that there was such a noise and confusion through the whole church that I had much ado, though I stood nigh the minister, to make sense of anything he said. His preaching, again, flung almost the whole society into the greatest agitation and confusion possible: some cried, others laughed, the women pulled one another by the caps, embraced each other, capered like, where therk was any room, but the perfectionists continued as before their huzzas . . . Surely they are actual instances of perfect enthusiasm. Nay, I never saw greater instances of madness, even in Bedlam itself. [2]

Such manifestations of emotion were, as I have suggested, almost the normal concomitants of preaching and exhorting in the Heroic Age of Welsh Methodism, the fifteen years between 1735 and 1750, before the unhappy schism occurred between Howel Harris and his brethren, and spring turned into sere autumn.

That schism lasted for nine troubled years. Then, in 1759, came the first tentative steps towards reunion, and by 1763 the reunion was complete—or at least as complete as it was ever to be. The Revival of 1762 was both a harbinger of that reunion and a seal upon it. Our primary source of information concerning the revival is Drych yr Amseroedd ['The Mirror of the Times'], by Robert Jones of Rhos-lan, which did not appear until 1820 but which (apart from a certain vagueness with regard to dates) is a generally reliable chronicle, largely derived from oral testimony, of the first eighty years of Methodist history. This is what Robert Jones has to say—in translation—of the events of 1762:

About the year 1762, in the face of great unworthiness and baseness, God remembered His covenant, by visiting graciously a great number of sinners in several parts of Wales; the Sun of Righteousness arose on a great throng of those who sat in the land and shadow of death. In these summer-like days one might say: 'Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land'.

There was a great difference between this revival and that which began at first through [the agency of] Mr. Harris: the mode of proceeding in that was sharp and very thunderous: but in this, as in the house of Cornelius long ago, great crowds magnified God without being able to cease, but sometimes leaping in jubilation as did David before the Ark. Sometimes whole nights were spent with a voice of joy and praise, as a multitude that kept holiday. I heard from a godly old woman that it lasted three days and three nights without a break in a place called LOn-fudr in Lljrn, Caernarfonshire, one crowd following the other: when some went home, others came in their place; and although they went to their homes for a while, they could stay there hardly any time before returning. When these powerful outpourings descended on several hundreds, if not thousands, throughout South Wales and Gwynedd, there arose much excitement and controversy concerning the matter; many were struck with amazement and said, 'What can this mean?' 'They are drunkards,' said some. Others said, 'They are mad', very like those [earlier scoffers] on the day of Pentecost long ago: but hardly anyone dared harm them, apart from making them a target for hostile tongues …

(It is noteworthy that it was on the day that Mr. W. Williams brought the hymn-book entitled Y Mor o Wydr ['The Sea of Glass'] to Llangeitho that the revival broke out, after the long winter which had enveloped the churches because of the schism which has already been mentioned.)[3]

If we are to accept the evidence of Robert Jones, the general course of events was something like this. Some time in 1762 (the book appeared late in 1761), William Williams brought his new collection of hymns, Caniadau y rhai sydd ar y Mor o Wydr ['The Songs of those who are on the Sea of Glass'], to Llangeitho. This great hymnal, with its deliberate emphasis on the mixed nature of the Christian's inward experience, triggered off an extensive revival which was characterized not only by gorfoledd — verbal expression of the joy of salvation—but also by singing and sometimes even by jumping and dancing. (There is some evidence that such singing and dancing had manifested themselves sporadically on previous occasions, but never before on such a scale as this.)[4] This revival was by no means confined to Llangeitho; rather, it spread to several parts of the country, including North Wales—the first time this had happened. Not unnaturally, the singing and dancing associated with the revival attracted a good deal of attention, much of it hostile, but the hostility remained verbal rather than physical. This, in outline, is the picture drawn by Robert Jones of Rhos-lan.

Howel Harris's journal for 1763, the year of the 'Reunion', generally confirms this picture. Several times, as Harris moves again amongst his old friends, he refers to the 'spirit of singing, rejoicing and leaping for joy' which characterized the revival. At first he thought that this excitement had begun through the agency of Daniel Rowland himself, but at the Llansawel Association of 3 August William Williams stated: 'till the Lord did come with these late showers of Revival, all was gone to nothing . . . this was not by any man, but by the Lord Himself, or by some of the meanest of all the exhorters'. One of these 'mean exhorters' may have been William Richard from whom Harris heard later in the year, 29 November, 'of the beginning of this last Revival in Cardiganshire, and how that word went through him when the first cried out at Llangeitho, "I will once more shake the heavens."' (A reference to Hebrews 12:26, 'Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.')[5] Whatever Daniel Rowland's exact role may have been in this revival (and unfortunately we cannot look to his early biographers for light on this matter because their chronology is so vague),[6] it is almost certain that he lost his curacies at Llangeitho and Nancwnlle as a result: probably during the summer of 1763.

On 13 June of that same summer a letter was sent from Llan-y-crwys, a village in northern Carmarthenshire, to the editor of Lloyd's Evening Post and British Chronicle, a London newspaper. The letter, or part of it, appeared in the 27-29 June issue of that paper:

There is here what some call a great Reformation in Religion among the Methodists, but the case is really this. They have a sort of rustic dance in their public worship, which they call religious dancing, in imitation of David's dancing before the Ark. Some of them strip off their clothes, crying out 'Hosannah" &c., in imitation of those that attended our Saviour when he rode into Jerusalem. They call this the glory of the latter day; and when any person speaks to them of their extravagance, the answer they give is, 'You have the mark of the enemy in your forehead!' Such is the delusion and uncharitableness of this people!

Exactly two months later John Wesley was in Carmarthen and received an account from a Mr. Evans (of whom nothing is known) of the commotion amongst the Methodists: Wesley's reaction was also negative as may be seen from this entry in his journal (27 August 1763):

Mr. Evans now gave me an account, from his own knowledge, of what has made a great noise in Wales: 'It is common in the congregations attended by Mr. W[illiam] W[illiams of Pantycelyn] and one or two other clergymen, after the preaching is over, for anyone that has a mind to give out a verse of a hymn. This they sing over and over with all their might, perhaps over thirty, yea forty times. Meanwhile the bodies of two or three, sometimes ten or twelve, are violently agitated; and they leap up and down, in all manner of postures, frequently for hours together.' I think there needs no great penetration to understand this. They are honest, upright men who really feel the love of God in their hearts. But they have little experience, either of the ways of God or the devices of Satan. So he serves himself of their simplicity in order to wear them out, and to bring a discredit on the work of God.

It is only fair to add that when Wesley later met with not dissimilar phenomena among his own followers in Derbyshire, he was somewhat more cautious in his strictures![7]

I should like to summon two further witnesses of the events of 1762-4, both of them Dissenting ministers, and both hostile. The first is David Lloyd, the Arian minister of Llwynrhydowen church in the parish of Llandysul. In a letter to his brother, dated 27 April 1764, he wrote as follows (and here once again the main emphasis is placed on the singing and dancing—or the 'capering', as David Lloyd puts it):

The Methodists, after having kept quiet for several years, have of late been very active. Their number increases, and their wild pranks are beyond description. The worship of the day being over, they have kept together in the place whole nights, singing, capering, bawling, fainting, thumping and a variety of other exercises. The whole country for many miles round have crowded to see such strange sights [8]

The second Dissenting witness I should like to summon is

Thomas Morgan, a Glamorganshire man who in 1763 became minister of the nonconformist church at Morley in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Thomas Morgan's evidence is particularly valuable since it refers to North Wales and confirms that which Robert Jones of Rhos-lan says about the effect of the revival in Llyn—although Thomas Morgan views that effect in a very different light from Robert Jones. Here is part of his own summary of a letter which he wrote 13 March 1764:

By a letter from R[ober]t Hughes to Jane Wilson giving an account of the present practices of the Methodists in Llyn (in praise of the work, &c.), it appears to all true and serious Christians that they are stark mad, and given up to a spirit of delusion, to the great disgrace and scandal of Christianity. May the Lord pity the poor Dissenters there! I am afraid some of them will fall away, by that strong wind of temptation.

And in a letter which he wrote three days later to an aunt, Thomas Morgan continued to harp on the same subject: 'The Methodists in Caernarvonshire stark mad, etc.' [9]

The attitude of the two Dissenting ministers, David Lloyd and Thomas Morgan, to the stirring events of 1762-4 fairly represents the opinion of the majority of their Dissenting brethren together with the vast majority of the clergy in the Established Church — and probably the opinion of the populace at large also. The practice of jumping in response to the Word preached, a practice which began in 1762, persisted well into the last century in many parts of Wales; and the people who practised it—known as 'Welsh Jumpers' to distinguish them from their few English counterparts—were regarded with a mixture of derision and contempt by their more worldly neighbours. Soon the 'Jumpers' became something of a tourist attraction, and well-bred young Englishmen doing the fashionable tour of Wales at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth would attend meetings of the 'Jumpers' in order to record their impressions in their journals or even on the pages of the Gentleman's Magazine.[10] These, as always, had their Welsh imitators, such as Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Pritchard, the author of that interesting novel, The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shein Catti (Aberystwyth, 1626), who once referred in a poem[11] to

[The] jumping fanatics, whose dolorous yell

Remind of the fabled vile orgies of hell!

The 'Jumpers' even found their way inside the covers of ecclesiastical reference books, such as those of Charles Buck and John Evans, Islington, where it is suggested that jumping formed an essential part of their worship. And indeed, if one looks today in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church one finds under the catchword 'Jumpers' the following entry:

A nickname of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, from their former custom of 'leaping for joy' at their meetings.

It is probably true that the majority of 'Jumpers' were Calvinistic Methodists, but not all: the practice spread to the other denominations as they too became imbued with the spirit of Methodism. A fascinating late glimpse of the practice is afforded by John Lewis (Ap Cledan) in a narrative of the Llanilar Association of 1851. In that Association Lewis Edwards had preached with exceptional fervour on the majesty of God and the congregation's emotions had been deeply stirred; after him William Roberts of Amlwch preached, briefly, and gave out Wewyddion braf a ddaeth i'n bro' ['Good news has come to our land'] as the closing hymn:

As they sang 'Caiff carcharorion fynd yn rhydd' ['Prisoners shall be set free'], they were indeed set free. Yes, set radically free. Such excitement, such jumping and exulting I never saw either before or since! Old men and old women clasping each other's hands and leaping like roe deer. Many of these were from the neighbourhood of Mynydd Llyn Eiddwen and Llangeitho. I knew them by their dress. Many of them wore clogs. They jumped wonderfully in their clogs. I can offer no explanation for this except that the new nature in them must have been drawing them upwards in a most powerful manner. I have seen praise before this and after this, but jumping and leaping this time only. Oh! what a relief it was for thousands to give vent to the spiritual energy which was in their breasts. Some weeping, some singing, others exulting and very many doing this while 'leaping and praising God'. This was a meeting to be remembered for ever! [12]

And all this—the singing as well as the jumping—began with the Llangeitho Revival of 1762-4.

It is to the everlasting credit of the Methodist Fathers, including Thomas Charles, that they refused to condemn these extraordinary expressions of emotion which first became part of the Welsh Methodist scene in 1762. These Fathers were mostly clergymen who had received a classical education of sorts and it is probable that their instinctive reaction to all these expressions of emotion would have been to designate them as excess and fanaticism and to do their best to stamp them out forthwith. They never, to my knowledge, attempted to evoke these expressions of emotion deliberately, but neither did they condemn them. Indeed, when pressed, they were willing to defend them. And it is with the earliest of these defences, that of William Williams of Pantycelyn, that I want to remain for a while.

This defence was written in the form of two pamphlets.[13] The first appeared in 1762, entitled

Llythyr Martha Philopur at y Parchedig Philo Evangelius ei Hathro. Yn mynegi iddo ei phrofiad, a'r testunau hynny o'r Ysgrythur a ddaeth i'w chof, i gadarnhau y gwaith rhyfeddol ac anghynefin o eiddo'r Arglwydd, a ymddangosodd ar eneidiau lluoedd o bobl yn Sir Aberteifi, ac sydd yr awron yn tannu ar lled i eglwysi cymdogaethol.

which might be translated 'The letter of Martha Philopur to the Reverend Philo Evangelius her Teacher. Relating to him her experience and those texts of Scripture which came to her memory, to confirm that wonderful and strange work of the Lord's which appeared upon the souls of multitudes of people in Cardiganshire, and which is now spreading abroad into neighbouring churches'. The second pamphlet, which appeared in the following year, is simply entitled Ateb PhiloEvangelius i Martha Philopur ['The Reply of Philo-Evangelius to Martha Philopur']. These pamphlets are the first original prose writings of Williams to appear. When he wrote them he was between 45 and 46 years of age and at the height of his powers. They reveal that he was indisputably a prose- writer of the first order although, characteristically, careless of detail. But it is with the contents of the pamphlets rather than their style that we are concerned for the present. In the first pamphlet, Martha Philopur, who represents the Methodist convert, tells Philo-Evangelius, who represents the Methodist exhorter or clergyman, how her conversion came about. She describes the agonies she suffered under conviction of sin and the overwhelming joy of knowing that her sins were forgiven. In the glow of this joy she had often praised God publicly and even leapt in exultation. (There follows an exceptionally fine passage describing how her whole personality was exalted in the surge of this experience.) Now, as a result of the revival, this same joy had been shared by thousands of others. 'A new work is in progress; since it began hosts are being convicted.' But some opposed this work and this causes Martha to search the Scriptures in order to test the validity both of her own experience and actions and of those of her friends. She cites sixteen texts or groups of texts from the Old Testament and the New, which confirm her in her belief that it is proper for those who have tasted salvation to express their gratitude by crying out, by singing their praise to God, by clapping their hands and even by jumping for joy. Had not King David, for example, danced before the Ark and rebuked Michal, Saul's daughter, for mocking him for doing so (2 Sam. 6:20-3)? Finally Martha asks Philo-Evangelius whether he approves of her exegesis.

In his reply Philo-Evangelius criticises Martha's letter on account of its brevity but excuses her on the grounds that she is, after all, only a woman! He does not intend defending any error, but (in his opinion) God never works in the world without Satan interfering. Mae cymysg yn y cyfan is yr haul ['There is a commixture in all things under the sun —an epigram worthy of Morgan Llwyd, that great Puritan prose-writer, himself. This commixture comes about not only because of Satan's wiles but also because the excitement of the revival affects hypocrites as well as saints ('the sound of the wind comes to the ears of the hypocrites also, and works somewhat upon their natural passions; and then they are like a ship before the wind, without any ballast but under full sail, in danger of being broken upon the rocks or driven into havens to which they do not belong'); another reason for the commixture is that the natural passions may supplant the spiritual even in the saints. But this commixture does not mean that God is not genuinely at work, as He had been in the recent revival even though the mode of that revival was entirely new. There follows a fine description, which I wish I had time to quote at length, of the spiritual deadness of the land before the revival and its spiritual vitality afterwards —and that in both North and South Wales. O hafddydd! fe ddaeth, fe ddaeth! ['O summer's day! it has come, it has come!'] Why should anyone oppose the revival solely on account of the exceptional manifestations of emotion associated with it, especially those who previously had prayed fervently for its coming? Then Philo-Evangelius tries to justify those manifestations rationally: it is natural for lovers to praise their loved ones; it is fitting that our bodies, including our tongues, should be at God's service; it is fitting that we should be bold in that service; and it is natural, since emotions affect bodily actions, that 'people who are full of the love of God should sing, praise, leap for joy, laugh aloud and sound out praise to God'. From the appeal to reason Philo-Evangelius turns to the evidence of the Scriptures and alludes to the outward means used to arouse religious emotion under the Old Dispensation, in contrast with the inward action of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. Then follows a brief outline of church history (the orthodox Protestant version as established by the Centuriators of Magdeburg in the sixteenth century) in which the Welsh Awakening of 1735/8 is placed in its world context and the sad effects of the schism of 1750 stressed. Then came the Revival of 1762: 'God was its sole author; and it is the same as that which has been from the days of the Apostles until now'. Although Philo-Evangelius concedes that some of the singing and jumping associated with the revival may have been produced by 'the heat of natural passions rather than the fulness of the Spirit of God', yet he dismisses brusquely those professors of religion who were prepared to condemn the revival unconditionally on account of the singing and leaping. Their trouble, he says, is this: 'their religion is in their understanding only, and has never ascended into their hearts . . . With the heart man believes unto righteousness; that men have believed some form of doctrine, however true that may be, if the principles which he has received with his understanding have not become rooted in his heart, so that he loves the Son of God, rejoices in His salvation, denies himself, takes up his cross, follows the Lamb through all his tribulations, then his knowledge only serves to puff him up'. Such people feel more at home in the company of worldlings than in that of true believes. And here we have one of the little cameos in which Williams delights. Pneumaticus (a man full of the Spirit) preaches, and the effects associated with the revival follow: singing, leaping and even prostration. 'The place all that time was full of the presence of God'. But there is in the congregation a gentleman named Formalistus and his wife Florida (occasional auditors at the Methodist meetings), and they are highly offended. Away they go to take tea with the Vicar, to gossip about their neighbours and, of course, eloquently to condemn the 'hypocrites' in the meeting house. Then, after tea, they accompany the Vicar to church, to Evening Prayer, where they respond with unction to the Vicar's exhortation (from the Book of Common Prayer) that the people should praise God, and rejoice in Him and even clap hands and sing His praises with shouts of joy — exactly those things which the 'hypocrites' in the meeting house had been practising. 'O Martha! Martha!' says Philo  Evangelius, 'there is a hundred times more of hate towards the Son of God than there is of love towards Him'. Finally Philo-Evangelius stresses that it is not by outward signs alone that he judges the revival to be essentially a work of God. In the first instance, the people affected by it are thoroughly reformed in their way of life. Secondly, they are fervent for, not the secondary or erroneous doctrines, but 'for the primary doctrines regarding salvation', and particularly the doctrine of free grace. Thirdly, they are impeccably orthodox in their view of Christ's person. And lastly, they and they alone were suffering persecution at that time—even the Quakers were left in peace! This leads Philo-Evangelius to warn Martha to expect 'a bitter winter after such a comfortable summer as this' and that the love of many would grow cold. 'Despite all this God will stand by His people .. . Those who fall shall He raise to better things, those who stand shall fear: both will sing together'. In a kind of postscript, directed specifically at the Dissenters, Williams translates— rather badly—a short passage justifying what may be called 'holy disorder' at a time of revival from the pamphlet by Jonathan Edwards, the revivalist and great theologian from New England, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, which first appeared in 1741.

That is a rather bare summary of Williams's defence of the phenomena associated with the Revival of 1762-4. On many counts it is a remarkable piece of work, although brief. Its debt to Jonathan Edwards is certainly greater than is implied by the postscript alone. Of the works written by Edwards on revival, Williams was familiar not only with the Distinguishing Marks but also with A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton and the Neighbouring Towns and Villages (1736) and with Some Thoughts concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New-England (1742). To my knowledge, Williams was not familiar with Edwards's masterpiece on this subject, A Treatise concerning Religious Affections (1746) [14] Jonathan Edwards was not only the greatest thinker of the Methodist Awakening in any country, he was also the first theologian seriously to consider the theology of revival as a phenomenon of church life.[15] It says much for Williams's theological acumen that he perceived Edwards's importance in this respect—although it is only fair to remember that close relationships obtained, through both visits and correspondence, between the Revivalists of the Old World and those of the New (Scotland and the Erskine brothers would probably have been the link in this case). From Edwards, as well as from his own experience, Williams learned of the importance of revival as an instrument of God's purpose for His church. From Edwards he learned also that revival is always a mixed or disfigured work of God—but God's work nevertheless. He may have gone further than Edwards in his justification of the manifestations of emotion associated with revival, possibly because these manifestations were more prominent in Wales than in New England— although it is interesting to remember that Edwards's wife Barbara, to whose experience (without naming her) he devotes a whole section in Some Thoughts concerning the Present Revival, sometimes felt constrained to jump for joy when meditating on God's grace:

Animal nature was often in a great emotion or agitation, and the soul so overcome with admiration, and a kind of omnipotent joy, as to cause the person, unavoidably, to leap with all the might, with joy and mighty exultation.[16]

The Llythyr and Ateb were not the only apologies which Williams wrote for the phenomena associated with revival. In 1764, in an elegy for the Rev. Lewis Lewis of Llanddeiniol — one of the remarkable collection of elegies he wrote in celebration of his fellow-workers in the Awakening, the bardd teulu ('household poet') of the new Heroic Age— Williams made a point of asking the dead man whether singing and dancing were acceptable in heaven, and received a strongly affirmative answer.[17] Twenty years later, at a time of renewed religious excitement, an anonymous 'gentleman' (possibly another William Williams, a Dissenting minister and Justice of the Peace from Pembrokeshire but living in Cardigan) wrote a poem deploring the antics of the enthusiasts, and Williams replied with a long poem—some 276 lines—in which he strongly rebukes the 'gentleman' for his ignorance of the scriptural precedents for the behaviour which he condemned.[18] At about the same time, possibly to the same 'gentleman', Williams wrote a shorter poem on the same theme, which concludes with the following unecumenical stanzas:

Paham danodi ddawnsio

O flaen y delyn fawr?

Fel 'r oedd yr hen broffwydi,

'R un Ysbryd sydd yn awr!

Plant trythyll Eglwys Loegr,

'R un ysbryd a thydi,

Sy'n torri'r hais a jigo

Rownd pedwar a rownd tri.

Why dost object to dancing

The stringed harp before?

The selfsame Spirit moves us

As with the seers of yore!

It is the Church of England,

Her wayward sons like thee,

Who strain their ribs with jigging

A fourstep round and three.

Am hynny taw, ddyn ynfyd,

Cymer y Beibl mawr

A darllen ef yn fanwl

A'th ddeulin ar y llawr.

Cei weled, [d]i, fod crefydd,

Pan fo hi o'th fewn yn dan

Yn peri [i]'r corff gydseinio,

Fel ag 'bu rhai o'th fla'n. [19]

So, foolish man, stop railing

And take the sacred Book

And read with care its pages,

Go pray within thy nook.

Thou'lt see that true religion

When once it warms thy soul

Soon has thy frame responding,

As with the saints of old.

Trans. Edmund T. Owen

Finally, John Owen of Thrussington records an anecdote or illustration of Williams's which touches upon the same theme, but with the emphasis this time on the danger of self-deceit amongst people whose emotions had been deeply touched—although it is not suggested for a moment that deep emotions in themselves are a sign of hypocrisy:

It is said that on one occasion, a respectable person remonstrated with Williams on the subject [namely the practice of leaping], and endeavoured to persuade him to discountenance the practice, alleging that it was very unbecoming, and that many who had engaged in it had been known to have afterwards fallen away and become wholly irreligious. After having listened attentively to what this gentleman had to say, Williams spoke to him somewhat in this manner:

'There were three people, two men and i woman, living on the side of the same hill, who began the world nearly at the same time. Their names were Evan, Thomas and Betty. When they went there to live, each of them borrowed a hundred pounds. They thought that they could in time by thrift and industry be able to repay this money: but instead of being successful, the three were very unfortunate. And in course of time they were threatened with law: and at last the bailiffs came upon Evan to put him in prison. And as he was going with them, they passed by the house of Sir John Goodman, who lived on the other side of the hill: and they met Sir John himself. "Well," said he, "where are you going, Evan?" Evan respectfully replied and said, "Oh, Sir John, I am obliged to go to prison for debt. It is just, it is right, I confess; for I owe the money: but I have no hope of repaying it." "Indeed, indeed," said Sir John, "I am very sorry for you: but how much is your debt?" "A hundred pounds," said Evan, "and the costs." Then Sir John said, "I will pay thy debt, Evan, and the costs too"; and turning to the bailiffs, he said, "Let him go, I will be answerable for him." Evan of course felt more than he could well express; and having thanked Sir John in the best manner he could, he returned home. Having reached the top of the hill above his house, he stopped and cried out with all his might, "Thanks, thanks to Sir John Goodman!" Betty heard him and wondered greatly. She however went up to him, and enquired the reason: and when he told her what Sir John had done for him, she also joined him and shouted, "Thanks to Sir John Goodman!" Soon after they were observed by Thomas. He also went up to know the cause: and when it was told him, he could not do otherwise than exclaim with them, "Thanks, thanks, thanks, to Sir John Goodman!" But in course of a short time the demand for the money was made on Thomas and Betty, and as they had nothing to pay, they were apprehended and put in prison, and there they both died. Though they joined Evan in rejoicing, they never applied to Sir John Goodman.'[20]

Parallel with his defence of the phenomena associated with revival, Williams also mounted an attack on the opposing standpoint of John Glass and Robert Sandeman, two Scots who were a thorn in the side of the Methodist movement during the sixties, particularly during the period 1763-6. Sandeman taught that faith—the faith which justifies—is nothing more than a bare intellectual assent to the truths of the Gospel, involving neither the will nor the emotions.[21] This concept was entirely repugnant to Williams and he fought against it with all his might—and he was no mean fighter! In an elegy he wrote in 1766 he declares himself (with his tongue very much in his cheek, 1 should say) tired of the fray and desirous only of a quiet, happy place to which he may retreat:

Nefol nyth, hyfryd byth, tawel a dirgel,

Maes o stwr y byd a'r rhyfel,

Terfysg Sandeman a'r cythrel![22]

Heavenly nest, sweet, hidden, peaceful,

Far from madding crowd and battle,

Noise of Sandeman and devil!

Trans. Edmund T. Owen

Although Williams was undoubtedly the chief defender of the Welsh 'Jumpers' from 1762 onwards, he was not the only one. Even an occasional Independent like Dafydd Jones of Caeo, and an occasional Baptist like Christmas Evans, were prepared to join the ranks of the defenders. [23] More important from our point of view is the fact that both Daniel Rowland and Howel Harris substantially agreed with Williams. Nathaniel Rowland once told John Owen of some correspondence which his father had had with John Thornton, a rich Englishman and a member of William Romaine's congregation in London (it was he who offered Rowland the Rectory of Newport, Pembs., in 1769). 'Thornton did not like the jumping and had repeatedly urged Rowland to condemn the practice. At length Rowland answered:

You English blame us, the Welsh, and speak against us and say 'Jumpers! Jumpers!' But we, the Welsh, have something also to allege against you, and we most justly say of you, 'Sleepers! Sleepers!' [24]

This silenced Mr. John Thornton! Finally Howel Harris, preaching at Llansawel on 16 February 1763 spoke as follows:

This work of singing, if God comes in this way for a time for some wise purpose, who will hinder Him? His saving and usual way is to come without any outward appearance, calmly, quietly and still. If a man was in Carmarthen jail for debt, and never hoped to come from there, and beyond expectation a relative from the East Indies, hearing of his circumstances, would come and pay his debt and release him, would you blame him much if he could not contain himself for some time, but did leap as David before the Ark? Would you not excuse him? The case here is beyond this! [25]

It is doubtful, however, whether Harris was ever as whole-hearted in his endorsement of the 'Jumpers' as Williams. Some years later (13 February 1770) he was to confess, 'I do not understand these outward frames of jumping.'[26] The tradition of Harris's Family at Trefeca was on the whole opposed to too blatant a manifestation of emotion, which is presumably why Williams called the Family defaid . . . oerion, hesbion, sych ['cold, barren, dry . . . sheep'] in his elegy for Harris.[27]

Has the Revival of 1762 and the controversy which followed it any relevance for us today? I believe that it certainly raises some pertinent questions. In the first instance it causes us to ask ourselves whether we believe with William Williams and Jonathan Edwards that revivals have a central place in God's purpose for His church; in the words of Edwards that 'the work of redemption in its effect has mainly been carried on by remarkable communications of the Spirit of God'[28], that is, by revivals. Thomas Charles, the architect of the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion, certainly believed this fervently: he wrote these words in 1792:

I am persuaded that, unless we are favoured with frequent revivals, and a strong powerful work of the Spirit of God, we shall in a great degree degenerate and have only a 'name to live': religion will soon lose its vigour; the ministry will hardly retain its lustre and glory; and iniquity will of consequence abound.[29]

Do we agree with him, or are we among those who trust in chariots and horses rather than in the name—and power—of the Lord our God? We may agree with him without having to believe that any future revival will be exactly like any revival of the past, or that revival will necessarily solve all our problems—indeed, it would certainly bring fresh problems in its wake, since all revivals, as Jonathan Edwards continually stresses, are mixed works of God's Spirit.

Secondly, the Revival of 1762 raises in an accute form the whole question of the role of the emotions in religious life. Whereas Edwards and Williams would deny absolutely that strong emotions are in themselves evidence of genuine faith—and indeed supply tests for assessing such emotions— yet both would expect true faith to give rise to strong emotions. 'True religion, in great part, consists in the affections,' said Jonathan Edwards in his Treatise.[30]  And as we have seen, Williams went so far as to justify manifestations of emotion which may appear to us, in our Laodicean state, to be quite ludicrous. Why are strong emotions so rare among us? Is it simply because, as Dr. Geoffrey Nuttall seems to suggest in his brilliant little book on Howel Harris, that we no longer 'believe that we are lost without Christ or delivered by Him'?[31] Or is it because we are in the grip of a kind of practical Sandemanianism, a crass over-intellectualism which stifles emotion at source and grieves the Spirit? This may indeed be a greater hindrance to the work of God among us than our present state of theological anarchy and our tragic abandonment of the great tradition of moderate Calvinism in which we were nurtured as a Connexion. I think, were I to hear one day that one of our congregations had started to weep spontaneously in a meeting, that I might start jumping for joy myself!

If we come to believe that revival may, after all, be the only effective answer to our problem, the only practical thing we can do is to pray. Revivals are at God's disposal; they are not man-made. Edwards in particular lays great stress on persistent prayer for revival.

It is very apparent from the word of God, that He is wont often to try the faith and patience of His people, when crying to Him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought for a season; and not only so, but at first to cause an increase of dark appearances. And yet He, without fail, at last succeeds those who continue instant in prayer, with all perseverance, and 'will not let Him go except He blesses'.[32]

If we learn to pray like this, perhaps we too, in our time, may yet be able to say as William Williams of Pantycelyn was able to say in 1763: O hafddydd! fe ddaeth, fe ddaeth! summer's day! it has come, it has come!'].


D. The 1904 Revival Memorial Lecture of the Presbyterian Church of Wales delivered in English at the Association of the East (at Aberystwyth) and in Welsh at the Associations of the South (at Carmarthen) and the North (at Bala) during 1969. The Welsh version of the lecture appeared in Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, Vols. LIV:3 and LV:1. The lecture was also delivered in English as the Annual Historical Lecture at the Ministers' Conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales in June 1969. I regret I have been unable to incorporate references to more recent work in the field. My thanks are due to Mr. and Mrs. E. Wyn James for their labours in preparing the text of the lecture for the press.

1. John Gillies, Memoirs of the Life of . . . George Whitefield (London, 1772), p.131n.; quoted by Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Howel Harris, 1714-1773: The Last Enthusiast (Cardiff, 1965), p.56. The language and punctuation of all quotations have been standardized.

2. J. H. Davies, 'Daniel Rowland: Contemporary Descriptions (1746 and I 835)', Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, i (1916), p.54.

3. Drych yr Amseroedd, Robert Jones, Rhos-lan, ed. G. M. Ashton (Cardiff, 1958), pp.84-6; with the last paragraph, compare Trysorfa, ii (1809-13), p.450. For a discussion on Robert Jones as a historian, see J. E. Caerwyn Williams, 'Robert Jones, Rhos-lan: yr Hanesydd', Transactions of the Caernarvonshire Historical Society, xxiv (1963), pp.153-95.

4. See note 2 above, and also Howell Harris, Reformer and Soldier (1714-1773), ed. Tom Beynon (Caernarfon, 1958), p.157.

5. ibid., pp .187-9,209.

6. John Owen of Thrussington, in his A Memoir of the Rev. Daniel Rowlands (London, 1840), makes mention of a number of revival episodes in Rowland's life which could easily be connected with the commotion of 1762-4; but one cannot be sure.

7. The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, ed. N. Curnock (London, 1909-16), v, pp.27-8; vii, pp.I 52-3.

8. Lloyd Letters (1754-1796), ed. G. Eyre Evans (Aberystwyth, 1908), p.52.

9. NLW, MS. 5453C; quoted in R. T. Jenkins, Yng Nghysgod Trefeca (Caernarfon, 1968), p.48. It may be worth adding that the names of some of those involved in the revival in Caernarfonshire at this time were preserved by oral tradition and recorded during the last century: William Owen of Bodlas near Garn Fadrun, who during the time of the excitement at LOn-fudr—alluded to by Robert Jones—spent the whole of the three days and three nights in chapel, returning home only for meals; Catherine Prichard of Clynnog, who was the first to commence jumping in Caernarfonshire, so that the word went around that a woman from Clynnog had lost her senses while listening to the Methodist preaching; and also the two evangelical clergymen, Richard Nanney of Clynnog, whose faith revived as his years declined—he died 1767—and Evan Hughes, 'Hughes Fawr', curate of Llaniestyn, Llandegwning and Penllech in Lljui between 1762 and 1764. See Henry Hughes, Hanes Diwygiadau Crefyddol Cymru (Caernarfon, [1906]), pp. 149-50,153-4.

10. D. E. Jenkins, The Life of the Rev. Thomas Charles (Denbigh, 1908), ii, pp.360-84.

11. Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, ii (1916-17), P.64.

12. ibid., xxiv (1939), pp.38-9.

13. A convenient reprint of both is available in Gweithiau William Williams Pantycelyn, vol. ii, ed. Garfield H. Hughes (Cardiff, 1967), and has been used here.

14. ibid., p.31 (it is the Faithful Narrative which is praised by 'Dr. Watts, and Dr. Guise'); Gomer M. Roberts, Y Per Ganiedydd, i (Aberystwyth, 1949), p.85. I am grateful to the Rev. D. Elwyn Edwards, our chief authority on the influence of Edwards in Wales, for confirming that he also knows of no reference to the Treatise by Williams.

15. J. I. Packer, 'Jonathan Edwards and the Theology of Revival', Increasing in the Knowledge of God: Papers read at the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, 20th and 21st December, 1960 (London, 1961), pp.13-28.

16. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. E. Hickman (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), i, p.376.

17. Gweithiau Williams Pant-y-celyn, ed. N. Cynhafal Jones (Holywell and Newport, 1887-91), i, pp.448-59.

18. ibid., pp.619-26.

19. Quoted (and modernized) from Cambridge University Library Add. MS. 6172 in order to compare that version with the one from NLW Add. MS. 269A, quoted by Gomer M. Roberts, Y Per Ganiedydd, ii (Aberystwyth, 1958), pp.I 64-5.

20. op. cit., pp.206-7.

21. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 'Sandemanianism', Profitable for Doctrine and Reproof [Puritan Conference Report, 1967] (London, 1968), pp.54-71.

22. Gomer M. Roberts, op. cit., i, p.145 (the verse is omitted in Cynhafal Jones's edition!).

23. Gomer M. Roberts, Dafydd Jones o Gaeo (Aberystwyth, 1948), pp.30-31; Henry Hughes, op.cit., pp.240-8.

24. John Owen, op. cit., pp.85-6. [It is interesting to note in this context the opposition of another prominent English evangelical, the Rev. Rowland Hill (1744-1833), to the practice of jumping. In The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley (vol. v, p.2'7), the following foot-note is to be found: "Let us have no more of this mummery and nonsense," said Rowland Hill when the Jumpers commenced their antics in one of his services in Wales.'—Ed.]

25. Tom Beynon, op. cit., p.157.

26. Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, xxix (1944), p.47.

27. cf. Gomer M. Roberts, Bywyd a Gwaith Peter Williams (Cardiff, 1943), pp.49-50.

28. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, i, p.539; see J. I. Packer, op. cit., pp.24-25.

29. D. E. Jenkins, op. cit., ii, p.98.

30. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, i, p.237.

31. op. cit., p.47.

32. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ii, p.312; see J. I. Packer, op. cit., pp.27-8.