The Origins and History of Methodism in Wales and the Borders

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Publisher Description

The Welsh reader has within his reach a most valuable history of Calvinistic Methodism, of the Baptist Churches, and of Congregationalism, but up to the present time, neither in Welsh nor English, has he an opportunity of knowing the origin and history of Wesleyan Methodism in Wales. It was this fact which, when urged upon the writer by leading Wesleyans and others outside the pale of Methodism, influenced him in undertaking this interesting and onerous task. It is our one desire in this volume to bring before the public the convictions and persecutions, the fidelity and courage, the joy and sorrow, the success and failure, of a noble band of men, who under Divine Providence were instrumental in the formation and growth of Wesleyan Methodism within and on the borders of the Principality.

Until recent times Wales was considered devoid of any special attraction except for the angler and the tourist. Popular opinion beyond the limits of the Principality affirmed that its literature was scanty, that its poetry was more weird than wise, that the eloquence of the pulpit was more extravagant than excellent, and that the inhabitants were more superstitious than intelligent. Nearer acquaintance with the country and people is dissipating these wrong impressions, and as the result it is discovered that, on the west coast of the island, there is a country whose religious life is as interesting as its scenery, whose literature keeps pace with the march of the times, whose poetry is as rich as its mines, whose music is as melodious as the minstrelsy of its words, and whose pulpit eloquence is as refreshing as its streams, and, like its mountains, though often rugged, is often grand.

‘It is not too much to say,’ said a modern writer, ‘that in that little land, during the last hundred years, midst its wild glens and sombre mountain shadows, its villages retreating into desolate moorlands, there have appeared such a succession and race of remarkable preachers as we suppose could not be equalled, in their own popular power over the hearts and minds of thousands, for their eminence and variety in any other country.’

History, wrote Carlyle, as it lies at the root of all science, is also the first distinct product of man’s spiritual nature, his earliest impression of what can be called thought. He further adds that religion is the chief fact with regard to man and nation.

During the present and in a smaller degree the past century, the leaders of the churches have been the ‘modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain,’ and the social, intellectual, and moral position of Wales to-day is the outer material result of thoughts and actions of the leaders of religious movements in Wales. The Welsh press, private schools, British, National, and Board Schools, and more recently the Theological and University Colleges, have been valuable auxiliaries; but those who know the Principality best will willingly admit that the pulpit and the Sunday schools have created the demand and prepared the way for the establishment of these institutions. The pulpit is still the greatest power in Wales. The Welsh people love preaching, and in hundreds of villages the anniversary, usually held on a week-day, is the greatest event of the year. In the work of reformation the pulpit has been the elevator and civilizer of the nation.

Many attempts have been made to account for the power of the Welsh pulpit. One finds the secret of this power in the natural temperament of the Celtic family, which we are told is more sensitive, more quickly and deeply wrought upon by the poetry of religion; a second contends that the Welsh language is better adapted as an instrument of public speech; while a third finds a reason in the weakness of the press, and other such rivals. In each of these explanations there may be a modicum of truth, but the real strength is found in the divine grace which stamps these preachers as the messengers of the Most High. The true prophets of the Welsh pulpit have wisely endeavoured to clothe abstract truths in the brightest garb of metaphor; they have earnestly sought the divine unction, and delivered their message out of burning hearts, with tongues as of fire, and they have conquered with God and man.

Theology, poetry, music, and philosophy have largely occupied the Welsh mind. The leading Welsh preachers have diligently and honestly studied the best books of other nations; they welcome new light, old and new theology. Higher criticism will be calmly considered, but almost without exception they hold to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity with unswerving loyalty.

CrossReach Publications

Religion & Spirituality
October 23
CrossReach Publications
PublishDrive Inc.

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