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great men should put in an appearance. The one-eyed absurdity gave out his text, “And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh, through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight,” and began to preach in a stiff, awkward manner. Bat, by-and-by, he threw away his awkwardness as a man tosses aside a cumbroas garment, and the people soon found that a Welsh Orpheus had been brought to light. His mother-tongae was a lyre in his hand, and the strains he drew from it charmed the recliners from the hedges and the hungry from their refreshments. They crowded round him, and listened with the raptest attention, “Presently beneath some appalling stroke of words, numbers started to their feet, and in the pauses—if pauses were permitted, in the paragraphs—the ques. tion went, 'Who is this? Who have we here ? ' His words went rocking to and fro; he had caught the hwyl (the breath of inspiration), he had caught the people in it; he went swelling along at full sail. The people began to cry, Gogoniant !' (Glory!) 'Bendijedig !' (Blessed !). The excitement was at its highest, when, amidst the weeping and rejoicing of the mighty multitude, the preacher came to an end.” That preacher was Christmas Evans,* one of the greatest pulpit orators Wales (some would even say, or any other land) has ever known.
Called Christmas because born on Christmas-day, 1766, at a place called Esgairwen, Cardiganshire, the sabject of this biographical sketch had little to boast of in the accident of birth. His father, who was a shoemaker, dying while his son was yet a mere child, his widowed mother was left to struggle with a poverty that was almost destitution. A brother, who was a farmer, took Christmas off her hands, undertaking to feed and clothe him in return for service the boy could render him. James Lewis was a crael man and a drunkard withal, so that the six years his nephew spent with him were years of anqualified misery. Indeed, so neglected had the lad been, that at the age of seventeen, when he left his uncle's employment, he could not read a word, and knew next to nothing of moral and religious truth. Yet he had not been without the strivings of God's good Spirit, and when a revival of religion, like a tidal wave from the heavenly shores, broke upon the church at Llwynrhydowain, Christmas Evans was one of a number of young people who united themselves with the church.
" One of the fruits of this awakening,” he says, was the desire for reli. gious knowledge that fell upon as. Scarcely one person out of ten could, at this time and in those neighbourhoods, read at all, even
Christmas Evans: the Preacher of Wild Wales. By the Rev. Paxton Hood. Hodder and Stoughton.
in the language of the country. We bought Bibles and candles, and were accustomed to meet together in the evening in the barn of Penyralltfawr, and thus in about one month I was able to read the Bible in my mother tongae. I was vastly delighted with so much learning. This, however, did not satisfy me, but I borrowed books, and learnt a little English. Mr. Davies, my pastor, understood that I thirsted for knowledge, and took me to his school, where I stayed for six months. Here I went through the Latin grammar; but so low were my circumstances that I could stay there no longer.”
But a sadder misfortune than the want of cash befell bim at this time in the loss of his eye. Irritated by the religions profession, and the thirst for knowledge displayed by these young converts, a number of their former companions waylaid them at night. Christmas not only was beaten anmercifully, but some one struck him over the eye with a stick, completely destroying the sight. The night after he had a dream, and the visions of the night upon his bed troubled him. He thought that the Day of Judgment had come, and that he called out " Jesus, save me!” The Lord turned towards him saying, “It was thy intention to preach the Gospel, bat it is now too late, for the Day of Judgment is come.” When he awoke the dream had the effect of strengthening the desire he already had of becoming a preacher. The first time he preached, however-it was in a cottage, the starting point of many another preacher of renown-he does not show to much advantage. The sermon was taken from Beveridge's “ Thesarus Theologicas,” which a hearer discovering, nevertheless comforted himself with the conviction that the prayer was good as the sermon.
Had the good farmer been in the habit of reading books of prayer, perhaps he would also have discovered, what Evans afterwards confessed, that the prayer was committed to memory from a collection published by a certain Griffith Jones !
Nevertheless, the root of the matter was in the young man, and it grew so vigorously that it barst the bands theological of the church, which was very nearly Unitarian, with which he was connected. He was not only inspired with loftier views of the person and work of Christ, but he became a believer in adalt baptism. He was twenty years and six months old when he was baptized at Aberdare by the Rev. Timothy Thomas; a highly honoured but somewhat eccentric minister. He still went on preaching, but, as it were, only by constraint of love to souls. Every pulpit was entered in dread, so unconscious as yet was he of his powers. He fancied himself “ a mass of ignorance and sin,” and had no faith that he was able to speak to the edification of his hearers. Without the inestimable privilege of an intimate friend he was afraid to make known his thoughts and feelings to others lest they should think him a hypocrite. So, in loneliness and painfulness, upon hard knees of humility and self-abasement he slowly crept onwards to power.
While attending the Baptist Association of Maesyberllan, Brecknockshire, in 1790, Christmas Evans was persuaded to enter apon the ministry at Lleyn, an insignificant hamlet near Carnarvon Bay. He had no sooner put his hand to work, than his despondency gave place to a deep and an abiding joy in preaching the ansearchable riches of Christ. His ministry at Lleyn was very successful. He found the religious life of the place “ very cold and feeble,"bat he left it in the glow and strength of a religious revival. When almost worn out with his arduous labours, for he preached often five times during the Sabbath, besides walking twenty miles, he visited the " more remote parts of South Wales" in search of rest and recreation. This he found by walking the whole way and preaching in every town and village through which he passed. His fame preceded him wherever he went, so that thousands came to hear him preach, and when he returned to Lleyn, perhaps he was the most popular preacher of his day in Wales. The association meeting where he, “the one-eyed lad from the North,” the absurdity, supplied the place of the missing great men, pat the topstone on his reputation; he leapt into fame with one bound. Henceforward, to the day of his death, no great gathering was complete unless the prophet bard of Wales was there to throw the spell of inspired utterances apop the hearts of the multitude.
Christmas Evans had only spent two years at Lleyn when he received and accepted a call to serve the whole of the Baptist churches in the Island of Anglesea. Whatever induced him to decide on sach a sphere of service it certainly was not the stipend promised him. The present generation opens its eyes with wonder every time Goldsmith's line about the village parson is quoted who was “passing rich on forty pounds a year," bat what would it say to a salary of seventeen pounds being offered to the greatest preacher of his day? And yet for twenty years Christmas Evans never had more, and, what is perhaps stranger, never asked for more. When he arrived on horseback, with his wife behind him, at his new home that cold rough Christmas-day of 1792, he must have felt anything bat inspired. The chapel and tumble-down shanty which did duty for a manse siood on a bleak exposed piece of ground, while the houses were few and scattered. Speaking of the hat that so great a preacher stooped to enter and to call home, Mr. Hood says : “The stable for the horse or pony was a part of the establishment, or but very slightly separated from it; the farniture was very poor and scanty; a bed will sometimes compensate for the deprivations and toils of the day when the wearied limbs are stretched upon it, bat Christmas Evans could not, as James Montgomery has it, 'stretch the tired limbs and lay his head, upon his own delightful bed'; for one of his biographers says, the article on which the inmates, for some time after their settlement, rested at night, could be designated a bed only by courtesy; some of the boards having given way, a few stone (slabs did some necessary service. The door by which the preacher and his wife entered the cottage was rotted away, and the economical congregation saved the expense of a new door by nailing a tin plate across the bottom; the roof was so low that the master of the house, when he stood up, had to exercise more than his usual forethought and precaution." Yet in that room he and his cheerful wife spent many happy days, while it was
the study, the furnace, forge and anvil whence were wrought out those noble ideas, images, words, which made Christmas Evans a household name throughout the Principality." His library, as may be imagined, was neither a large nor a costly one, but he managed to make himself a fair Hebraist and so good a Grecian that he once silenced a clergyman and a University man who affected to despise his knowledge of Homer. There is all the more credit due to him that he had so much work of a harassing and engrossing character, and that he had not a brother minister nearer than one hundred and fifty miles.
The new pastor found the ten churches ander his charge very small, weak, and lakewarm. Coming in the spirit of an apostle among them, one of the first things he did was to appoint a day of fasting and prayer. To the rejoicing of his heart, a gracious revival of religion soon visited his flock. But this happy condition did not last long at the time. The Sandemanian controversy came as a blight upon the churches of Wales, and Anglesea did not escape its withering effects. Our preacher himself says, “The Sandemanian heresy affected me so far as to quench the spirit of prayer for the conversion of sinners, and it induced in my mind a greater regard for the smaller things of the kingdom of heaven than for the greater. I lost the strength which clothed my mind with zeal, confidence, and earnestness in the pulpit for the conversion of souls to Christ. My heart retrograded in a manner, and I could not realise the testimony of a good conscience.” Thanks to one man who stood fast in the hour of trial, Thomas Jones, a man mighty in the Scriptures and in force of argument, the atmosphere was cleared, at least for Christmas Evans. He re. newed his consecration, and the old joy and power returned. “Now, apparently strengthened as by a new spirit, with ' might in the inner man,' he laboured with renewed energy and zeal; and new and singular blessings descended apon his labours. In two years his ten preaching-places in Anglesea were increased to twenty, and six hundred converts were added to the church ander his own immediate care. It seemed as if the wilderness and the solitary place were glad for him, and the desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose." It was doubtless about the time that he preached his famous " Graveyard Sermon," which, through the medium of Dr. Raffles, first introduced the name of Christmas Evans to the religions world of England. This sermon, which had for its text Romans v. 15, would almost alone jastify his claim to be called the Bunyan of the Palpit. It is a lofty and sustained allegory of the world of sin compared to a great graveyard shut in by high walls and massive gates which no power could scale or open, save Jesas Christ the Redeemer of men. Any attempt to describe it would fail, and it is far too long to quote, but in spite of the theology which underlies it, we heartily commend all who can procure Mr. Hood's book to read it.
That a man possessing such apostolic zeal and overpowering eloquence should become by common consent the bishop of his denomination will not surprise os. Christmas Evans did not seek but yet he had the pre-eminence among his ministerial brethren. In all gatherings "he was usually at once not merely the nominal president but the presiding spirit." Familiar as he was with his brethren, and they were with him, such conventional handles to names as Mr. being, if not unknown, at least unrecognised, the anconsecrated and mitreless Bishop of Angleseа knew how to rule. “Affectionate familiarity,” says Mr. Hood,
" sometimes pays the penalty in diminished reverence, and in a subtraction from the respect due to a higher gift or superior position. Christmas appears to have been equal to this dilemma, and to have sustained with great natural dignity the post of moderator without surrendering his claim to the affection of his colleagues. In such & meeting some humble brother would rise to speak a second time, and, perhaps, not very pointedly to the qaestion; then the moderator in the palpit, gathering op his brows, would suddenly cut across the speaker with, 'William, my boy, you have spoken before; have done with it;' or, ‘Richard, bach, you have forgotten the question before the meeting; hold your tongne.' On one occasion a minister from South Wales , although a native of Anglesea, happening to be present, and rising evidently with the intention of speaking, Christmas, who suffered no introsion from the south into their northern organisation, instantly nipped the flowers of oratory by crying out, “Sit down, David ; sit down.” Entirely self-possessed and ready-witted, no one knew better than he how to put down the presumptuons or impudent brother.