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But all were not able to use St. Paul's expedient in
William Williams often found immunity in his hymns, for like Luther--and like Charles Wesley among the Cornwall sea-robbers—he caught up the popular glees and ballad-refrains of the street and market and his wife sang their music to his words. It is true many of these old Welsh airs were minors, like “Elvg" and "Babel” (a significant name in English) ard would not be classed as “glees” in any other country—always excepting Scotlandbut they had time swing, and their mode and style were catchy to a Welsh multitude. In fact many of these uncopyrigid bits of musical vernacular were appropriated by the hymnbook makers, and christened with sucta titles as “Pembroke," "Arabia,” “Brymgfryd,” “Cwyfan,” “Thydian,” and the two mentioned above.
It was the time when Whitefield and the Wesleys were sweeping the fingdom with their conquering eloquence, and Hopell Harris (their fellowstudent at Oxford) had sided with the conservative wing of the Gospel Reformation workers, and become a “Whitfield Methodis.." The Welsh Methodists, ad exemplum, marcher with this Calvinistic branch-as they do today. Cach division had its Christian bard. Charles Wesley could put regenerating power into sweet, poetic lyves, and William Williams' lyrical preaching made the Bible a travelling pulpit. The great “Beibl Pet Wil*Acts 22:25.
liams" with its commentaries in Welsh, since so long reverenced and cherished in provincial families, was not published till 1770, and for many the printed Word was far to seek.* But the gospel minstrels carried the Word with them. Some of the long hymns contained nearly a whole body of divinity.
The Welsh learn their hymns by heart, as they do the Bible—a habit inherited from those old days of scarcity, when memory served pious people instead of print-so that a Welsh prayer-meeting is never embarrassed by a lack of books. An anecdote illustrates this characteristic readiness. In February, 1797, when Napoleon's name was a terror to England, the French landed some troops near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. Mounted heralds spread the news through Wales, and in the village of Rhydybont, Cardiganshire, the fright nearly broke up a religious meeting; but one brave woman, Nancy Jones, stopped a panic by singing this stanza of one of Thomas Williams' hymns,
Diuw os wyt am ddybenu'r bya.
If Thou wouldst end the world, O Lord,
From every part Thine own, *As an incident contributory to the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society, the story has been often repeated of the little girl who wept when she missed her Catechism appointment, and told Thomas Charles of Bala that the bad weather was the cause of it, for she had to walk seven miles to find a Bible every time she prepared her lessons. See page 380.
Send out Thy Word from pole to pole,
And, after that come down.
Nancy Jones would have been a useful member of the "Singing Sisters” band, so efficient a century or more afterwards.
The tunes of the Reformation under the “Methodist Fathers” continued far down the century to be the country airs of the nation, and reverberations of the great spiritual movement were heard in their rude music in the mountain-born revival led by Jack Edward Watkin in 1779 and in the local awakenings of 1791 and 1817. Later in the 19th century new hymns, and many of the old, found new tunes, made for their sake or imported from England and America.
The sanctified gift of song helped to make 1829 a year of jubilee in South Wales, nor was the same aid wanting during the plague in 1831, when the famous Presbyterian preacher, John Elias,* won nearly a whole county to Christ.
An accession of temperance hymns in Wales followed the spread of the “Washingtonian" movement on the other side of the Atlantic in 1840, and began a moral reformation in the county of Merioneth that resulted in a spiritual one, and added to the churches several thousand converts, scarcely any of whom fell away.
*Those who read his biography will call him the "Seraphic John Elias."
His name was John Jones when he was admitted a member of the presbytery. What followed is a commentary on the embarrassing frequency of a common name, nowhere realized so universally as it is in Wales.
“What is his father's name?" asked the moderator when John Jones was announced.
"Elias Jones," was the answer.
"Then call the young man John Elias," said the speaker, “otherwise we shall by and by have nobody but John Joneses."
And “John Elias" it remained.
The revival of 1851-2 was a local one, but was believed by many to have been inspired by a celestial antiphony. The remarkable sounds were either a miracle or a psychic wonder born of the intense imagination of a sensitive race. A few pious people in a small village of Montgomeryshire had been making special prayer for an outpouring of the spirit, but after a week of meetings with no sign of the result hoped for, they were returning to their homes, discouraged, when they heard strains of sweet music in the sky. They stopped in amazement, but the beautiful singing went on—voices as of a choir invisible, indistinct but melodious, in the air far above the roof of the chapel they had just left. Next day, when the astonished worshippers told the story, numbers in the district said they had heard the same sounds. Some had gone out at eleven o'clock to listen, and thought that angels must be singing. Whatever the music meant, the good brethren's and sisters' little meetings became crowded very soon after, and the longed-for out-pouring came mightily upon the neighborhood. Hundreds from all parts flocked to the churches, all ages joining in the prayers and hymns and testimonies, and a harvest of glad believers followed a series of meetings “led by the Holy Ghost.”
The sounds in the sky were never explained; but the belief that God sent His angels to sing an answer to the anxious prayers of those pious brethren and sisters did no one any harm.
Whether this event in Montgomeryshire was a preparation for what took place six or seven years later is a suggestive question only, but when the wave of spiritual power from the great American revival of 1857–8 reached England, its first messenger to Wales, Rev. H. R. Jones, a Wesleyan, had only to drop the spark that “lit a prairie fire.” The reformation, chiefly under the leadership of Mr. Jones and Rev. David Morgan, a Presbyterian, with their singing bands, was general and lasting, hundreds of still robust and active Christians today dating their new birth from the Pentecost of 1859 and its ingathering of eighty thousand souls.
A favorite hymn of that revival was the penitential cry,–
O'th flaem, o Dduw! 'r wy'n dyfod, -in the seven-six metre so much la ved in Wales.
Unto Thy presence coming,
O God, far off I stand: "A sinner" is my title,
No other I demand. For mercy I am seeking
For mercy still shall cry; Deny me not Thy mercy; O grant it or I die!
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