Welsh Journals

Search over 450 titles and 1.2 million pages

AUGUST, 1878. THE CAMBRIAN REMEMBRANCER. AUGUST 3rd, 1878. The Wesleyan Methodists at Holywell — Noaccount of Nonconformist labours at Holywell would bo complete without a reference to this very earnest body of Christians. The service rendered to religion and morality by the followers of John Wesley is remarkable on many grounds. Mr Wesley was no sectary, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, nor did he leave the Church of England because he objected to her form of government, her connection with the State, her ritual, or her obser¬ vances, but Wholly because he longed for the salvation of souls. It is erroneous, however, to say that he over deplored the step lie had taken, and there are some indications in his later life which lead me to conclude that he rejoiced in having done so, and that be even believed a free church in this country was far preferable to any State controlled one. TIia Wesleyan body had become a power in England long before they paid much attention to Wales. Who of their preachers first visited Holywell is doubtful; for, looking upon the world as their parish, the Wesleyan ministers missed no opportu¬ nity of declaring their cherished doctrine of "free grace," and I have heard (but not on any very good authority), that they had preached within the parish of Holywell before the commencement of the present century. This is not unlikely, for Mr Owen Davies, a man of whom Denbighshire should bo more than proud, as a native of Wrexham, was appointed by | the Conference in 1789 one of their itinerant ministers. In 1794 lie was stationed at Chester for | a short time, and being an active-minded man, it is possible that be may have visited the neighbourhood of Holywell during'that time. In the year 1800 he was chosen to superintend a Welsh mission, and among the preachers ready to his hand for this glorious undertaking, Mr Edward Jones, Bathafarn,near Ruthin; Mr Richard Harrison, ofNorthop; and Mr John Bryan ("Bryan Bach"), must always be named as his chief lieutenants in this part of North Wale3. I have heard it stated upon un¬ questionable ai thority that the two former preached at Holywell in that very year, and in December of the same year the Rev John Hughes (best known as of Breco! ) did the same, the use of the Independent chapel being freely given to him for that purpose. This incident is deserving of mention,because atone time it was said that other Nonconformists had shown hostility to the Wesleyans. There was no hostility shown to them as Christians, but in that Calvinistic age the '; free grace "doctrine was looked upon With disfavour, and, no doubt, those who proclaimed it were looked upon as dangerous innovators. Prejudice, as we well know, will take a very firm hold of the mind; and so it was then, for the com¬ forting doctrine of "election" was being roughly assailed by these new comers. The very moderate Calvinism of Dr Edward Williams, of Rotherham, was not at all acceptable to many of the high-flyers, but " free grace" was a thing to be guarded against at all cost. I remember Mr Richard Bonner relating how, when he became a Wesleyan, one of the old school said to him, " 'Dydw i ddim yn leicio'r Welsh- lions yma, Dick bach; mae nwy'n gwadu cwymp oddiwrth ras, 'wel di." He explained to the good old soul who had said this to him that it was the Calvinists who did that, upon which she replied, " Wel! wel! Dick bach, 'dydw i ddim yn eu leicio nwy, doed a ddelo," and so it was prejudice that was far more opposed to the Wesleyans than any open hostility to them based upon reason. Mr Owen Davies, smarting somewhat under the effects of this prejudice, wisely judged that it was advisable to hire a room at Holywell, where the Wesleyans could proclaim their own views without c trending needlessly the more staid sentiments of other Christian people in the town, and my late friend, Mr William Rowlands, told me that the room thus secured was in the Antelope inn. They throve and prospered, for they soon found it necessary to secure a large barn for a meeting place, which having been com¬ fortably fitted up, became their regular place of worship until they were in a condition to build a chapel for themselves. This they did in 1808 or i 809,1 think, and from that time they must be looked upon as a well established Christian community at Holywell. 1 conclude that for all these years they were treated as a mission church, and supplied with preachers from sill parts of the country as occasion demanded. In 1812, however, Holywell became the centre of a regularly appointed circuit, and the Revs William bvans and William Jones were selected by the Con¬ ference for its ministers. I have before me a map of this circuit, and it is no exaggeration to say that it covered nearly the whole of Flintshire. It was no sinecure these good men had been appointed to, and to their honour be it said, they laboured as workmen who were neither afraid nor ashamed of their work. According to the Wesleyan system, these ministers in 1814 departed and made room for the Revs Ed¬ ward Jones and David Williams; in 1816, these again were replaced by the Revs Samuel Davies and Robert Owen, the latter in 1819 making way for the Rev Owen Jones, the former, in the following year, for another Rev Edward Jones, who was then joined by Mr R.chant Bonner. In proof of their success, I may mention that in 1813 they had -140 church members, in 1815 they built new chapels, at Bagillt and Halkin, and in .1820 their Sunday School system was all but perfection, and Holywell was fixed upon for the District .Meeting of the year, the president of the Conference and two past presidents being deputed lo at tend it.