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BICENTARY COMMEMORATION OF THE ESTA- BLISHMENT OF THE DISSENTING INTERESTS AT BRYNM UVR AND BLAENAU GWENT. ON Sunday and Monday last, the 24th and 25th inst., very interesting serviecs were held at Rehoboth chapel, Bryn- mawr, at Berea, Nantyglo, and the old Blaenau Baptist chapel, Monmouthshire, to commemorate the establishment of the Dissenting interests, from which these congregations have taken their rise, in the year 1848. The weather on Sunday was very delightful, but exceedingly unpropitious on Monday, when it was proposed to hold services at the identical house (Gelli Greg) where the cause was first es- tablished. In consequence of this, the service was held at the Baptist chapol originally bmlt in 1715, for the Baptist portion of the original church. On an occasion so interest- ing, a brief notice of the different proceedings will be fully -espected by our readers. The name of Brynmawr has been rendered conspicuous of late by a commissioner and a clerical magistrate. It is a large village on the borders of Brecoashire and Monmouth- shire, with a population of above 5,000. The houses appear substantially built, and to be in a good condition. Much cannot be said in praise of the drainage and sanitary con- dition of tkis and other localities in the mining districts. Brynmawr, however, from its reclining position, could be easily drained. It has many large shops, a market hall, and a commodious school room. Among its extensive trad- ing establishments, that of John Jones, Esq., is probably the largest in Wales. Mr. Jones is an extensive merchant, and a gentleman of the most enterprising spirit, the architect of his own fortune, and the friend and benefactor of his coun- tryman. Mrs. Jong's family have been long connected with Welsh Dissent, she being the daughter of the late Rev. E. Davies, Hanover, and granddaughter of the late Rev. R. Harries, of Pwllheli. It is pleasing to see that the children have not forgotten the faith and conversation of the parents, and that generation after generation has continued to serve the Lord. The present Independent chapel was built in 1840, and is a very large and commodious building. The building ex- penses, exclusive of the materials of the old chapel erected in 1827, amounted to -01,292 2s. 2d., the whole of which has been paid since July, 1847. The present minister, the Rev. David Stephenson, was settled at Nantyglo in the year 1821, when the number of members was only 22. In 1827, the chapel at Nantyglo was abandoned, and the church re- moved to the one at Brynmawr. The members then amounted to 70. By 1832, they had increased to 250. The present number is upwards of 500, exclusive of about 130 members who attend at Berea, in the parish of Aberystruth, which was erected in 1842, at an expense of £ 250. Thus Mr. Stephenson has not only been engaged in building eiapels, but he has had the rare eminence of seeing them free from debt. May his last days be full of peace and suc- cess, and may his sun set with all the calmness of a sum- mer's eve The services on Sunday morning were introduced at Reho- both by Mr. Evan Jones, of Tredegtr. Two discourses were delivered by Itovs. D. Davies, of New Inn, and D. Williams, of Troedrhiwdalar. In the afternoon, Mr. Henry Evans, student, prayed; and Mr. Evan Jones delivered a discourse on the work, faith, and the end of the founders of Welsh Dis- s :nt. III the evening, the Rev. T. Jeffreys, of Penycae, intro- duced, and the Revs. Evan Rowlands, of Pontypool, and D. Williams, preached. Mr. Rowlands's discourse was well adapted to the subject of the day. His subject was the great results of small beginnings. It was one of the best we ever heard him deliver. At Berea, Mr. Rowlands preached in the morning, Mr. Williams, at two, and Mr. D. Davics, of Brecon College, and Mr. Davies, New Inn, in t're c reaing. On Mon- day morning, Mr. Davies, New Inn, preachc- I at nine. M my of the discourses were excellent, though not particularly ahpted for the purpose of the meeting. Notwithstanding the rainy weather on Monday, the meeting at Cwmtiilery was well attended. Gelli Grug is a small farm house at a distance of nearly half a mile. from the tramroad whLh. pisses through AHortillery. It appears to be in a good t¡te of preservation, aii-t has been probably often repaired ,¡Ún2C the eventful days of John ab John. Surrounded, as it must have been. then, by thick wood, and hedged in by the elevated^ hills, it must have looked as a place prepared for the worn m in the wilderness. In looking at its narrow dimensions, its low roof, and retired position, the contrast between it and the large edifice which we had attended the day before, power- fully affected our mind. There is no proud column or sculp- tural marUe to perpetuate the names and deeds of the fathers and founders but the fruit of their labour tells of their tears and prayers, their struggles and sufferings, though they have long taken their places in the assembly of the first born. Shortly after two o'clock, the party from Brynmawr and Nmtyglo reached the Baptist chapel, where they were received by the itevs. John Lewis, minister of the place, W. Thomas, Newport, and J. Edwards, Brynmawr. The building was well iii;ed, and the greatest interest seemed to prevail. The services were introduced by the Rev. Thomas Havard, of TVrlustaa, Breeonshire. Mr. Havard is the minister of an In- dependent church, formed in the year 1707. This congrega- tion originally belonged to the Troedrhiwdalar church, of which we will yet speak. On the motion of the Rev Wm. Thomas, of Newport, re- conded by the Rev. David Stephenson, D. S. Lewis, Esq., of Ebbw Vale, was voted to the chair. Mr. Lewis is the son of the late liev. Mr. Lewis, Llanfapley, and nephew of the late Rev. Walter Lewi" of Trediutan. His literary attainments arc extensive and varied. L1 former years he has been the ic competitor for many prizes both in prose and in poetry. Though possessing no small hereditary attachment Jar Nonconformity, he has studied the subject for himself, an.d ii remarkably well informed in regard to the interesting history ,i t'le Welsh Nonconformists. He has been for several years deacon of the Independent church at Rehoboth, and has well i llustrated in his own person the beneficial results which an in- ■teiligent aad principled layman can exer ise in the social and iu-oral impNVem2TH of the working classes. With a few such intelrgent deacous as Mr. Lewis, the churches in the iron districts would be among the most peaceable, active, and successful in Christendom. His speech on the present occasion was replete with interest, and as it embodied the fullest account that has et been given to the public of the rise and progress of Dissent in this district, we are happy in being able to furnish our readers with the following report of it. In taking the chair, Mr. Lewis said,It must be well known to you, my beloved country men, that I am not prepared, to ad- d re ;a you with a long speech to-day. On the present occasion, however, it would be quite improper for any one not to do what he can. It devolves upon me to put you in possession of certain facts connected with the rise and progress of religion in this place. i'erlmps our bicentary meeting ought to have been held a year or two earlier but in order to be accurate it has been delayed until the preseut time. The religious interest at Gelli Grug was eom- menctd by a person who had been a soldier under Oliver Crom- well, and who was born probably cither in this parish or in the oiie of Llanhiddel. His name was loan ab loan, for in that age the Welsh had not so far lost their nationality as to ui.siiiute the jlT. for the ab. He went by the good old name of toau ab loan (cheers). When he joined the Parliamentary army, probably little thought he should become a soldier in the army of the Lord Jesus Christ. The account which we have of his con- version is thi following He entered to a house accidentally tlier iii Kent or Essex, where he found a good Puritan minister, engaged ia addressing a few men and women. The soldier asked me minister why he preached to so few, and was answered that ll he did not preach, the out of the willl should try out, and the beam out of tie timber answer it. It is not quite certain -when lie returned to his native place but he did so probably after the taking of Raglan I Ca-.lle, which happened on the 19th of .tugast, 104.6, wh;M the Marquis of Worcester capitulated, and ,Sit Thomas Fairfax took possession of it. On his return here lie held meetings in his own Louse, and to show his regard fur the Puritans,, he suffered his beard to grow after their manner in those days. -Here he had good men to preach, and preached occa- sionally himself. Whether there had ever been preaching ia these neighbourhoods depends entirely on conjee ure. We have no- hiog mor-e toofTer than a probability. Pelh ii s the inhabitants .might. have heard the ministry of Mr. Wroth. That celebrated minister was born in the parish of Liai e eg, and was in due time presented to Llanfache*, by Sir Wm. Lewis, of the Van. It is p.-olsable, tl,.e-.efui-e,tlat he preached to the people of these parishes, as they were so contiguous to him. Mr„ Wrotli was converted in a singular manner. When he went to Llanfaehes, he was only a minister ia name, and he was not brought te a due sense of his position until a pa ticularly melancholy accident occurred. A gentleman of his acquaintance was engagpd m a lawsuit in Lon- don. He gai:.e.l his object, and was elated with joy. He sent hpme that he wo Id return on a particular diy, nd requested Sis friends to n eet him to c obrnte his triumph. Every prepara- ;r.oij was made to receive lkiii. These preparations e e carried •aa.iu hia own yesidwjee, and v..ere not thought complete t the clergyman of the parish should be present. Wroth was ac- cordingly invited, and as he was fond of music, he took his violin with him, with the melodious strains of which he delighted the company who expected the gentleman's arrival. When all ex- pected to congratulate him on his triumph, information came that the victor himself had been suddenly vanquished by death. Wroth was struck with terror, and proposed to engage in prayer. This was the first time, as he afterwards said, that he ever prayed in his life. After this he began to preach with great power and energy to all, and his ministry became so acceptable that many came from Bristol to hear him. The congregation at Gelli Grug was at first Piedo-Baptist, but soon after its formation a person of the name of Jenkins from Llanhiddel was baptized by immersion but this did not disturb the unity of the infant cause, and both parties worshipped together for some time. In the time of the Commonwealth, many notorious clergymen had been turned out from the churches, and many good men from among the Baptists, and other denominations, had been appointed their successors. The congregation at Gelli Grog were in communion with Mr. Henry Walters, of Newport, who officiated at llisca parish church for some time. In this manner they went on peaceably for several years. But the restoration soon brought about the dark day of Bartholomew. The 24th of August, 1662, was a day of terror, and its darkness reached the faithful few here. Mr. Henry Wal- ters was ejected rom Risca but he continued to visit Gelli Grug monthly. In Palmer's edition of Calamy's Nonconformist's Memorial, it is said that he had three churches in this country. The first undoubtedly was Llanfaches, which had been formed in 1639 the second Gelli Grug; and, in all probability, the third was Newport, as he resided at that place. Llanfaehes was the only church that had been formed before Gelli Grug, which was formed as I have said before, on the return of John ab John from the army, after the destruction of Ragland Castle, when one of the noblest libraries in Wales was destroyed. As there are some Welsh literati present, perhaps I may be allowed to refer to this fact. The celebrity of this library arose from the fact that the Marquis of Worcester had married the heiress of the Earls of Pembroke, who had formed an extensive collection of the most beautiful effusions of the Welsh bards. On this subject the late Iolo Morgauwg remarks, Long, very long, shall the curse of Welsh literature rest on the detestable name of Oliver Cromwell." After the restoration Mr. Walters continued to minister to this church for four or five years, when he died. After his death, one of his friends from the neighbourhood of Mynyddislwyn, a person of great respectability — Mr. Watkin Jones, who had assisted him in the time of the Commonwealth-was unanimously invited to become his successor in 1668. After some hesitation, he con- sented. Mr. Joshua Thomas, the Baptist historian, has here committed a mistake, by stating that the church at that time was a purely adult Baptist church. Mr. Edmund Jones, who had seen the invitation, and the names attached to it, states that it was at that time a mixed church, and that it continued so for two years after the time mentioned by Mr. Thomas. For o-ne time the yolitl f it inter, g: enjoyed peace, but soon the righteous law of the land gave their enemies power over them. There was one justice of the peace in particular who made himself very active in persecuting them. They were fol- lowed to the house, annoyed, and taken before him, when the utmost rigour of the law was applied to them. But on one occa- sion he went beyond the law, when it is said he was cast out of office, and subsequently died in poverty, a punishment not too lirrht for a persecutor of the people of God. In the year 1694, the members of this church, who lived in the parishes of Llanhiddel, Mynyddislwyn, and Bedwellty, joined together, and the chapel at Penymalll Was built but it does not appear that the original church at Gelli Grng ever administered the ordinance of the Lord's supper out of this parish until Rehoboth was built in 1827. It was about that time that one Jenkin John or John Jenkin per- suaded the Baptists to leave Gelli Grug, and form a separate interest at Ty Nest (Nest's house). The bone of contention was the differ- ence about the quantity of water to be used in the ordinance of Baptism. We (the Independents) were satisfied with the basin, and you (the Baptists) would not be satisfied with less than the river. But the two sepaiate interests were carried on in harmony as the fire of persecution extinguished the difference about water. After the death of Mr. Watkin Jones, the church at Penymain appointed IIIr. J. Harris his successor, who also took charge of the few brethren at Gelli Grug. The Baptists continued to commune at Nest's home, and the house of Watkiu Harry, Coed cae'r tylag. It does not appear that they were long before they re- moved from the house of Nest Llewelyn, who was sister to a Dr. Llewelyn, and a very pious woman. As they had no settled mi- nister, the ministers from Lla-iwenzirth were iii the habit of coming over to administer the ordinances. In the year 1099, Mr. Abel Morgan was invited, and he came in 1700. In 1711 he removed to Penpeck, in the State of Pennsylvania. Whilst there, he trans- lated the Baptistsljeoafessotn, of. faiih.tfor you formerly had such [ works) for the service of the Welsh' people there. But his princi- pal work was a Welsh Concordance. It was published by his brother, and dedicated to David Lloyd,. Esq., chief justice of Pennsylvania. He was succeeded here by Wm. Phillips, and John Parry. At this time the church at Penymain found that Mr. Harris had less grace than talent. He became addicted to drink, and they were obliged to dissolve all connexion with him. They were for a seasou without a minister; but as the number of preachers had increased by that time, they were well supplied. Among those who officiated were J. Miles, of Ilslon, an d chiefly J as. Davies, of Merthyr Tydfil, who is said to have been a very ta- lented man. At last they invited Mr. David Williams, anative of Carmarthenshire. Mr. Williams consented, and under his ministry the immortal old prophet, Mr. Edmund Jones, was received into church membership. Mr. Jones was admitted in 1721, and com- menced preaching in 1724. About the year 1725 it was a peace- able time on Dissenters, and the few brethren in this neighbour- hood found time to quarrel about the basin and the river, and this peaceable valley was agitated. These agitations of the water question must end, I presume, before the millenium, and if you take too much water, you must take less, and if we take too little we must take more (applause). In the skirmish that took place here, Edmund Jones led the Independents, and Miles Harry the Baptists. The old people at length disliked the warfare, and thought there was some difference between this spirit and what they had seen. Thsy ordered the you:tg leaders to desist, who, being better than the young men of the present age, obeyed (hear, hear, from Mr. Davies, New Inn). They also determined to go to Merthyr to settle the matter. After going thither they resolved to write down everything in which they agreed, before mentioning the subjects about which they disagreed. They then decided that there was to be no more discussion on the points of difference. In after years Providence brought the leaders to live together in the same neighbourhood. Miles Harry became minis- ter of the Baptist church, at Penygarn, Pontypool and Mr. Edmund Jones took charge of the brethren at Ebenczer. They thus became neighbours and friends. In 1738 Mr. Edmund Jones prevailed on that remarkable man, Howeil Harris, of Trevecca, to visit this neighbourhood. A great revival took place. The Independents at that time often met at Penyllwyn, and at Ty'n-y- Cui, just opposite the present Victoria works in BlJbw Vale. Mr. Edmund Jones was ordained as their minister, 111 1739, and he laboured there and in this valley for many years after his removal to Pontypool. The interest in this neighbourhood continued to be supplied at Gelli Grug, by the Penmain ministers. It appears it was not removed from Geili Grug before the commencement of the eighteenth century, when it was kept on at the house of Edward Davies. The history of his daughter's marriage to Mr. Jeremiah James is given by Mr. Edmund Jones. The Penymain church, after the death of Mr. Williams, invited Mr. Philip David to be its pastor. Mr. David was born in Ebbw Vale. Possibly this choice might have given offence to Mr. Edmund Jones, as lie. had been ordained before Mr. David, and be the cause of his removal to Pontypool. Soon after the visit of Howell Harris, five iH- dividuals, who afterwards became ministers, joined the church. The first was Mr. Philip David, the second was Mr. John Powell, who was born at Troedyrhiw, Llanelly. After assisting Mr, Edmund Jones for a time, he went to England, lost his health, returned to Wales, and became minister of Henllan. He was an ornament to the neighbourhood. Old Lewis Rees, of Mynydd- bach, was in the habit of saying that he was not ashamed to think of preaching except when he heard Powell. The third was Morgan John Lewis, who commenced his religious career with the Metho- dists, but afterwards took charge of an Independent Church about three miles from Pontypool, which must be the Church which now assembles at New Inn. Of the fourth, Thomas Lewis, we have no account and the fifth, Evan Harry, became minister of the Baptist Church in this neighbourhood. The Baptists prevailed here about the beginning of the 18th century, and the Indepen- dents weie obliged to leave, having lost eleven of their members, I who had joined the Baptists. This happened under the useful ministry uf Enoch Francis. lie was the father of Benjamin Francis, whose poetical strains oftert delight the pilgrims of Zion. Joshua Thomas, d Trewen, in his elegy, speaks highly of his character and talents, and on his death he says- ".Medoddochaht hyd'Olelioa" a Blaenau Gweat blin yw e'gwedd." The history of the ministers that followed him here is well known to you, so that I need not take up your time in detailing it. I now proceed to resume the history of the IndependentCtmrch Mr. Phillip David continued minister to the Church in Ebbw Vale, but a season of declension took place, when they were 11 uc'i re- Liuced. Afcer .he reinoyal of Mr. Joues to Pcnty^ori, ha con- I tinued '.0 come monthly to this valley until the year 1764, when he took the charge of the little band which assembled at Penllwyn, where Thomas John Thomas lived. They afterwards removed to Solomon's house, where they continued to assemble for many years. When Mr. Edmund Jones took their charge, they were only eleven in number. In 1779,'when he wrote the history of thiii parish, they had increased to 22. One of his assistants here was David Thomas, Nantmelyn. David was not a great preacher, but he was a prince in prayer. He had thoroughly convinced Mr. Edmund Jones that he was a Christian, which was no very easy task. One Saturday night he was keeping a preparatory meeting with the few friends at Solomon's house, he said, I am getting old, and it will be very rainy this night month, and therefore I cannot come here. It will be the best plan to ordain David Nant- melyn—let us pray," and so David was ordained at once. So far as the New Testament ordination was concerned, his ordination was as valid as if an archbishop's hand had rested on his head. Strange to say it did rain at the time mentioned, and the ordi- nance was administered by David Thomas, who continued faithful through life. When Mr. Edmund Jones failed, Mr. David Thomas of Penymain came over to assist them. He was well known to many of you. He was an Independent, but when his son joined the Baptist Church in this place, he rejoiced at the good news. What he desired was to see in him the evidence of his being a Christian. In 1820, a chapel was built at Nantyglo, to which the Church removed from Solomon's house. I will not add to the details which I have already laid before you, but there are a few general incidents to which I wish to refer in conclusion. One of them is the conversion of John James Watkin. This person had been a captain in the Royalist army, and after the defeat of Charles I., he lived in privacy. At the restoration, however, he thought the time had come for him to lift up his head. He then wore his regimentals, and went about girded with his sword. It appears that he was an expert gladiator, and that scarcely any one could touch him. It is said that he stabbed the grandfather of Mr. Edmund Jones under the ribs near to Blaenau church. One time he heard that Mr. Jenkin Jones was to preach at Gelli Grug, and he determined to kill him. With this intention he proceeded to Ras-y-glo. When Mr. Jones advanced, he took off his hat, and bowed politely to him. As the Irishman said, after his companion had been shot, whilst he bowed, Nobody ever lost by politeness," so this act of Mr. Jones touched th3 heart of the old captain. He thought it a pity to kill a person of such gentlemanly bearing, and he immediately determined to go and hear him. He then followed him, taking care to stop at every turn lest he should come in sight, and frighten him. At length he came to Gelli Grug, where we may be sure his appear- ance caused much consternation. All present very probably thought of fines and imprisonment, and the rigour of Justice Baker, of Abergavenny. They were soon relieved, however, by seeing him shedding tears. He became a soldier in the army of Christ, and remained so through life. One of the first preachers that visited this neighbourhood was Walter Cradoc, a name well known through Wales. On his eject- ment from Cardiff, he travelled through the principality, and preached with great success. Vavasor Powell was convened by W. Cradoc, and turned afterwards to the Baptists. He laboured much, and ultimately died in prison for preaching at Merthyr Tydfil. Jenkin Jones, already mentioned, Morgan Lloyd, of North Wales, the author of" Llyfr y tri aderyn," and Mr. Henry Maurice, of Merthyr, were among the subsequent visitors. So also was the noble Ambrase Mostyn, who was descended from the Mostyns of North Wales. He attempted to preach at the Blaenau church, and Itras refused. He then stood on the stile at the top of the churchyard, but some person'front up the yew trees, and threw down upon him a shower of d a 1 hedge- hogs, and other putrid animals. The persons that did so were rich at the time; they became poor before the time of Mr. Edmund Jones. In conclusion, allow me to express my hope that the time will come when a similar union to that which existed here will prevail among the people of God generally. When the unity of Chris- tians will become more apparent, the religion of Christ will rule in every heart, and his people snail go on prosperous with his cause. This is the spirit that ought to govern us it wai the spirit that established this interest; and if, as I believe, departed spirits are cognisant of earthly affairs, no doubt the fathers and founders ofth.s cause look with delight over the golden bulwarks of heaven on the unity which prevails here to-day. Let this be an earnest of what is to follow (Mr. Lewis resumed his seat amidst great applause.) Rev. E. Rowlands, Pontypool, said that religion had produced an impression, and a very great impression, on this district. The labour was difficult at first, for at the end of the first twenty years of its history there were only thirty members. But those members were very. united. They loved each other dearly. One of them, in telling a stranger how much they loved each other, said, "I will call on mv ru^jo-hbour,vi-hn yonuur TlelULU 01 ne anu iiuip rae, ana: ne will immediately come." He did so, and the good man instantaneously obeyed the order. He hoped that the same kindness and honesty which had ever distinguished the Welsh people would continue in the locality (applause). The Rev. J. Elwarcls; Brynmawr, made a few remarks on the interest which had been excited by this meeting. There were many points of resemblance between the history of this Church and that of Christianity in its early days. Christianity was but ,.I y weak at first, but it became strong and great. So was this Church, but it has now become a great tree and the birds of the air lodge in the branches thereof. The Rev. David Williams, Troedrhiwdalar, delivered an animated address, in which he glanced at the early rise and progress of Christianity in the world and in this island in par- ticular. He then passed over in rapid review the early days of Puritanism and Nonconformity, and narrated many interesting events connected with his own experience. As we cannot report his speech at length this week, we defer it till our next in the hope of being able to do justice to him then. Rev. D. Davies, New Iun, stated that he felt himself bound to attend these services, as the first minister of the church over which he presided Morgan John Lewis—was originally a member of the Dissenting interest in this neighbourhood. Perhaps all were not aware how that good man met his death. After preaching one Sunday, he went to sleep to a farm house. A military officer, from the neighbourhood of Pontypool, fol- lowed him thither, and when he awoke he found his persecutor with his sword drawn, standing at his bedside. The fright was so great that he never recovered from its effects. The Rev. W. Thomas, of Newport, formerly minister of the Blaenau Gwent church, and son of the hte Rev. David Thomas. Penymain, related some amusing incidents of the views of his father in regard to baptism by immersion, and then made se- vered remarks 011 the history of this church, and 011 the efforts generally made by all denominations to propagate Christianity and striptural knowledge. He remembered the first Sunday-school that had been established in the place. He also remembered a generation of ministers that had entirely passed away, and con- cluded by repeating the description given of the moral condition of Wales by Williams, of Pantycclyn, in his elegy on Howell Harris. Mr. Evan Jones, of Tredegar, then delivered a short address on the social, moral, and spiritual advantages which its Dissent has conferred upon Wales. The Rev. John Lewis, minister of the chapel, expressed his plea- sure that he lived in a neighbourhood where the gospel was preached so early. The Rev. D. Stephenson, in an interesting address, proposed a vote of thanks to the chairman, which was seconded by Mr. Davies, New Inn, with the request that he would publish his opening speech. This was carried unanimously, and the Rev. D. Williams concluded the services by prayer. In the evening the Rev. T. Havard preached at Berea, and the Revs. Thomas Rees, Llanelly, and D. Williams, at Rehoboth.













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