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When the question of his settlement at Carnarvon was being discussed at a ministerial association, a young coxcomb made bold to say to the venerable bishop, “ Yes, you had better go to Carnarvon; it is not likely your talents would suit, bat you might do excellently well at Carnarvon." All present were strack dumb with amazement, except Evans, who turned upon him that eye which, according to Robert Hall, "could light an army through a wilderness in a dark night,” and said, “ Aye, where hast thou come from? How long is it since thou did'st chip thy shell ?" “Such sentences as these," says his biographer, very truly, “must seem very strange,'even outré, to our temper, taste, and ideas of public meetings; but they furnish a very distinct idea of time, place, and circumstances, and give a not altogether unbeautiful picture of a state of society when, if politeness and culture had not attained their present eminence, there was a great deal of light and sweetness, however offensive it might seem to our intellectual Rimmels and Edisons."
If Christmas Evans had the zeal of an apostle, he also had the labours and trials of an apostle. During the whole period of his ministry in Anglesea a mighty incubus in the shape of chapel debts sat upon him, and refused to be dislodged by the most stapendous efforts on his part. As the people flocked to hear his message and sought to be formed into church-fellowship, the necessity of meeting-houses became very apparent. Little difficulty was found in obtaining loans or advances of money wherewith to build, but by-and-by the interest became a matter of grave concern. It would seem that, however eager the people were to hear him preach or to have places of Worship, they displayed little eagerness to relieve their leader from the impediments of money concerns. So long as the chapel was built Mr. Evans's flock seem not to have cared whether the interest was to be paid by whistling for it, or wrestling for it, by the man who was set over them in spiritual things. So the great preacher had to come down from the ministry of the Word and serve tables. No fewer than forty times during those Angleseа years did he travel from North to South Wales in the unpleasant but very necessary duty of begging money for specially pressing chapel debts. Though the contributions were generally small, and ministers and officers resented somewhat his too frequent visits on this errand, he generally succeeded in accomplishing the object for which he set out. The manner of making the collections, however, hardly agrees with our ideas of the fitness of things. A congregation of to-day would be shocked if Mr. Spurgeon or Mr. Beecher, after preaching one of their most stirring and eloquent masterpieces, came down from the pulpit and took up a position at the door, hat in hand, to
receive the offerings of the saints. Yet Christmas Evans always held the hat-it was his own, and as it saw all weathers and on occasion did service as a drinking-trough for his horse, its condition may be better imagined than described and when indisposed or overtired he had to delegate the duty to another, he always apologised, “lest it should seem that he had treated with inattention and disrespect those who had contributed to him of their love and kindness."
With all responsibility cast upon him we do not wonder that he felt at times " the care of all the churches " more than he could bear. Not only did he have to look after the debts of the chapels he had built himself for his people, but even of those which had been erected without his consent. “My anxiety,” he says, “ often moved me in the depths of the night to cry out unto God to preserve His cause from shame. God's promises to sustain His caose in the world greatly comforted me. I would search for the Divine promises to this effect, and plead them in prayer, antil I felt as confident as if every farthing had been paid.” It says well both for Christmas Evans's faith and heart that he bore so bravely and ancomplainingly the many trials and the thoughtless neglect of the people to which he was subjected. There is a class of people in the religious world whose hunger for sermons is only equal to their atter carelessness of the personal comfort or happiness of the preacher. There were many sach in Wales at this time, and they must have been veritable stakes in the flesh of our preacher. Once when preaching from home he received a fee less than that ordinarily given to the itinerant. Said an old dame, “ Well, Christmas, bach, you have given us a wonderful sermon, and I hope you will be paid at the resurrection.” To her the first preacher in Wales —“ Yes, yes, shan fach, no doubt of that; but what am I to do till I get there ? And there's the old white mare that carries me, what will she do ? For her there will be no resurrection." Yet poor in this world's goods as he was, he had often his sovereign or balf-sovereign to give to this good cause or that, while his richer fellow-Christians “satisfied their consciences with far inferior bequests."
Until nearly sixty years of age Christmas Evans laboured with comparative happiness in Anglesea, success crowning his efforts, and his reputation great. But a season of great trial was in store for him. First of all his beloved wife, Catherine, a trae helpmeet of such a man, devout, unassuming, hospitable, charitable in a wonderful degree, considering the income, and a good “housemother,” died, leaving his hearth desolate. This was in 1823, and at a time when he most wanted the sympathy and help that only a good wife can give." There were strong Diotrephesian troubles agitating the great preacher's life. The churches, too, which Christmas Evans had raised, and to which, by his earnest eloquence and active organising mind, he had given existence, grew restive and self-willed beneath his gnidance, refusing his advice with referenco to ministers he suggested, and inviting others, whose appointment be thought unwise." He had been raling elder, or bishop, so long that very possibly the old man had come to look upon his privileges and his pre-eminence as inalienable rights ; but, had it even been so, Christmas Evans had a right to expect better treatment from the children he had begotten in the faith. Referring to this period he wrote, “Nothing could preserve me in the cheerfulness and confidence ander these afflictions but the assurance of the faithfulness of Christ; I felt assured that I had much work yet to do, and that my ministry would be instrumental in bringing many sinners to God.” The brave old man thus bating not a jot of heart or hope forgot his troubles in the rapture of preaching, and longed more intensely than ever to save his fellow-men. Yet when an invitation came to him from the Baptist Church at Tonyvelin, in Caerphilly, he felt it to be his duty to accept it.
Christmas Evans was sixty-two when he started on the long and somewhat dangerous journey of two hundred miles to his new sphere of labour. Solitary as the journey was for the wifeless patriarch he yet enjoyed much of the presence of Christ, and made one of the covenants he was in the habit of making at important periods in bis history. Caerphilly at this time was only a poor village, but great was the excitement in the whole neighbourhood at his coming. The welcome he received from all denominations was enthusiastic in the extreme. “ Christmas Evans is come ! ” was the one absorbing piece of intelligence on the lips of young and old.
The old man's feelings may be imagined when he settled down in his new home without his beloved Catherine. When he spoke of getting a servant from the north he was earnestly advised to marry a certain lady who was possessed 'of a little means. It is said that the great preacher thought a moment, then, breaking into a cheerful laugh said, “ Ho, ho ! I tell you, brother, it is my firm opinion that I am never to have any property in the soil of this world until I have a grave.” At the same time he would seem to have taken the advice to heart, for he despatched a brother minister to Anglesea for his old servant, Mary Evans, and in a short time married her.
His popularity and power as a preacher, instead of waning, seemed rather to wax greater. “Caerphilly, the village in the valley,” writes Mr. Hood," became like a city set apon a hill; every Sabbath multitudes might be seen wending their way across the sur
rounding hills, in all directions. The homes of the neighbourhood rang and re-echoed with Christmas Evans's sermons; his morning sermon, especially, would be the subject of conversation in hundreds of homes many miles away that evening. The old dame with whom we drank our cup of tea in her pleasant cottage at Caerphilly, near forty years since, talked with tears of those old days. She said, 'We used to reckon things as they happened by Christmas Evans's sermons; people used to say, It must have happened then, because that was the time when Christmas Evans preached 'The Wedding Ring,' or 'The Seven Eyes,' or
some other sermon wbich had been quite a bookmark in the memory."
As for the preacher himself, his stay at Caerphilly was a happy one. Not only was he free from vexations church difficulties, bat he had society of a more congenial and helpful character. He was also able to borrow-buying was out of the question-books of the character his being revelled in, such as Pye Smith’s “ Scripture Testimony to the Messiah,” Beattie on "Truth," &c.; and what he read he digested and made his own. These were the days of few books, and we whose appetites are more than sated with the plethora of books that the press empties week by week at our feet, sometimes think of our fathers with a sigh of envy.
Whether or not Christmas Evans had looked upon Caerphilly as the scene of the closing labours of his life it was not to be so. At Carnarvon, to which he removed when sixty-seven years of
he was to yield op his spirit into the hand of a faithful Creator. “It might be thought that, after such a hard and exhaasting life of travel and toil, some plan might have been devised by which his last days should be passed in restfulness and peace; but it was not to be so. Throughout his life his had been up-hill work; no path of roses, no easy way; and, indeed, we usually know that such spheres are reserved for men wbo can carry nothing with them bat the weight of dignified dulness. Of every sphere, from his first settlement at Lleyn, we read, that the cause was in a prostrate condition; and so, here Christmas Evans appears to have been invited to take charge of the Carnarvon church because it consisted of about thirty members, chiefly of the lowest class, of course, quarrelling, and disunited.” The chapel was a fairly good one, but there was a debt on it of £800, a very large som in Wales at that time. The old man, however, does not seem to have been frightened by the debt ; it was only an old enemy be bad laid in the dost many a time in the past, and he was near to Anglesea, beloved still in spite of its treatment of its Prophet. As at Caerphilly bis appearance at Carnarvon created great excitement and joy. The people expected to find him bent with the infirmity of old age and the old charm of his speecb considerably gone, but when he appeared before the vast maltitude who had gathered in the open air to hear him they exclaimed, “Why, he does not seem at al .older! he looks more like a man of forty-five, than sixty-five or sixty-six.” As for his preaching, they found it to be richer and fuller than in the days of yore.
In spite of popularity the work at Carnarvon was the opposite of easy. The debt, of which a considerable sam still remained, was a crushing burden, and when the time came for it to be cleared off there was no alternative but that the pastor, with the snows of seventy winters as it were upon his head, must set out once more on a begging expedition. Most touching is the circular he addressed in the Welsh Magazine to his brethren before starting. It is well worth quoting.
“Dear Brethren,-We have received notice to pay up three hundred pounds. The term of the lease of life has expired in my case, even threescore and ten years, and I am very much afflicted. I have purposed to sacrifice myself to this object, though I am afraid I shall die on the journey, and I fear I shall not succeed in my errand for Christ. We have no source to which we can row repair but our own denomination in Wales, and brethren, and friends of other communities that may sympathise with us. Oh, brethren, pray with me for protection on the journey for strength and health this once, on occasion of my bidding[farewell to you all! pray for the light of the Lord's countenance upon me in preaching ; pray for His own glory, and that His key may open the hearts of the people, to contribute towards His cause in its present exigency. Oh, help us, brethren, when you see the old brother, after having been fifty-three years in the ministry, now, instead of being in the grave with his colleagues, or resting at home with three of them yet alive-brethren Lewis, of Llanwenarth ; Davies, of Velinvole; and Thomas, of Aberduare ;—when you see him coming with the farrows of death on his countenance, the flowers of the grave on his head, and his whole constitution gradually dissolving, having laboured fifty years in the ministry in the Baptist denomination. He comes to you with handreds of prayers, bubbling as it were, from the fountain of his heart, and with a mixture of fear and confidence. Oh, do not frown apon him ! he is afraid of your frown. Smile upon him, by contributing to his cause, this once for all. If you frown upon me, ministers and deacons, by intimating an irregular case I am afraid I shall sink into the
grave before returning home. This is my last sacrifice for the Redeemer's cause."
The grand old man with his crown of silver hairs was not frowned on, his case was not voted “irregular,” but he was received, instead, with the heartiest of welcomes, for his popularity