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REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Ministerial Records; or, Brief Accounts of the Great Progress of Religion, under the Ministry of those Learned and Pious Ministers of God, the Rev. D. Rowlands, the Rev. W. Williams, and the Rev. D. Jonbs. By the Rev. E. Morgan, A.M. 12mo. Part I. pp. 178. Hughes, London.
The Rev. Daniel Rowlands was one of the founders of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Association. This Connexion commenced about the year 1735, and resulted from the itinerant labours of several pious ministers of the Established Church, who were aided in their efforts, for a revival of religion in the principality, by talented and zealous laymen; among whom Howel Harris, Esq., of Trevecca, occupied a most important station. In the year 1740, in consequence of the success which had crowned their labours, in the conversion of sinners, and the formation of religious societies, it was deemed advisable for the ministers and other members of the societies, thus raised, to meet together, periodically, for mutual advice and assistance in spreading the knowledge of Divine truth; accordingly, a meeting was held, at which the Rev. G. Whitfield assisted, and measures were adopted for the regular holding of similar meetings in future.
Mr. Rowlands was a native of Wales, and was born in the year 1713: when only twenty years of age he obtained ordination as a minister of the Establishment, for which purpose, it is said, he travelled on foot from Wales to London I When he entered upon his ministry he wa6 not savingly acquainted with the truth. He, however, derived instruction from the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Pugh, a dissenting minister, and also from a faithful sermon delivered by the Rev. G. Jones. Mr. Rowlands now resolved to renounce sin, and to become truly devoted to the service of God.
After this period, he began to preach in a way he never did before. Divine power accompanied his ministry, and hundreds cried aloud for mercy. Many remarkable instances of conversion occurred: from among those to which Mr. Morgan refers, we select the following :—
"A country squire of very loose and ungodly habits resided in that parish. He would go out with his hounds to hunt sometimes even on the Lord's day: and he went purposely, with some of his tenants, to hunt early that Sunday morning Rowlands was to preach there. However, he returned home before service time, and then prepared to go to church, with his companions in wickedness, in the most undaunted manner, for he had heard that some strange preacher was to be there that morning. He stood up in his pew, which was opposite the pulpit, in the most bold and independent manner possible, in order to put the minister out of countenance, as he thought. But Rowlands soon entered into his subject in his usual way, which was most awful and terrific, and the people were filled with astonishment and alarm. The consequence was, that the stout-hearted man began to blush, fear, and quake exceedingly. Had mount Sinai, in all its terrors, been exhibited before his eyes, as it was once to the Israelites, he could not have been more awakened and alarmed. The poor dejected broken-hearted man was obliged to come down as soon as he could, and sit in a corner of the pew, ashamed and confounded, hanging down his head, and weeping most bitterly. He went to Rowlands after the sermon was over, and confessed to him his great wickedness, and humbly entreated him to enter his house that day, and dine with him, which the servant of the Lord did. This reminds us very much of our Saviour's visit to Zaccheus' house, when he said, "This day is salvation come into this house." All this took place in the presence of servants and ungodly friends. He afterwards manifested by his life and conversation, a true change of heart, and regularly went to Llangeitho every sacrament Sunday at least."
A number of persons who attended Mr. Rowlands' ministry, having been brought under serious concern for the salvation of their souls, as early as the year 1737, he held private meetings, weekly, for their spiritual instruction: thus those who were submitting themselves to the grace of God, were separated and distinguished from others. Mr. Rowlands embraced every opportunity to preach the Gospel, not only in his own parish, but also out of doors in public places of resort, and over a wide extent of country. Such was the success attending his labours, that we are told, in 1742, he then and " for some time past had two thousand communicants in his church, and nearly all the lower part of Cardiganshire had become religious."
Mr. Rowlands presided, without interruption, for the period of fifty years over the general meetings of the ministers and representatives of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Connexion. He was specially endowed with gifts qualifying him to preside over his brethren, and they rejoiced in his labours among them. When those meetings were held, large companies of persons attended; "frequently amounting to ten, fifteen, and sometimes even to twenty thousand." The public services were, therefore, held in the open air; and on those occasions Mr. Rowlands usually preached,, once, if not twice. The following is given as a specimen of his mode of address on those occasions :—
"Brethren, let not your light be blown out by the storms of temptation. Let not the waters, which may rush upon you from the mouth of the great deep, so much as cool your zeal: and especially beware lest the tail of the old dragon should even be likely to disorder your ranks, or sweep you down from your orbits with the wandering stars. Suffer not the sun to fade your flowers, but to ripen your fruits. Let your graces resemble the waters of the sanctuary: as these rose in height, from the ancles to the knees, and from the knees to the loins, till at length they became deep enough to swim in, so let your graces be increased and multiplied. They may be weak at first, and hardly sufficient to keep you from sinking under your burdens. O let a sense of your weakness drive you near to God.
"Being called according to his purpose, and having experienced his love, you should invite your fellow-men to partake of your privileges, and taste your pleasures. Thus employed, you will not only be instruments in the hand of God, either to arouse them to a serious concern for their souls, or to build them up in the faith; but you will find that this labour of love is for your own good, and will advance your meetness for glory.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. Mankind have brazen foreheads, adamantine necks, and ribs of marble around their hearts;—they bleed not, they bend not, they blush not. Now the word is the hammer, which breaks the rock within them; and the Holy Spirit is the fire, which desolves and melts it. Though they stop their ears, like the deaf adders and refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, let him charm ever so wisely; yet some of these adders have been charmed by the word, and captivated by its pleasing enchantment. Their deaf ears have been unstopped by the heavenly carols. Their hearts have been opened, and the music of the Gospel hath thrilled through all their joints and marrow. Aaron's silver bells have ravished them. Now there are no songs like those of Sion. Now there is no pleasure like that of religion.
"St. Paul doth further enforce brotherly love, by a comparison drawn from the members of the body, which are, by the very constitution of the human frame, bound to assist one another upon every emergency. "Ye," saith he, "are the body of Christ, and members in particular." Now the members in the natural body have the same care one for another; and when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, and strive to remove the grievance. For instance, when the foot is hurt, the eyes examine the wound, the ears listen in order to hear what is most likely to cure it, and the hands are eager to apply the remedy that may be prescribed. And shall we who believe, be unconcerned about that which will certainly expose our brother to suffering, who is a part of ourselves? Or shall that which is sure to incommode him, sit easy upon us?
"You ought to reprove all offenders, without exception, unless you except those who resemble dogs in their ferocity, or swine in their perverseness. Yet all must not be treated in the same manner: some will be led, and not driven; and others will be driven, and not led. Elisha did more with a kiss than his servant could do with a staff. Beloved, if a kiss will do the business effectually, carry no teeth, I beseech you, in your tongues.
"Go to your brother in the spirit of meekness, and deal as tenderly with him as if you were going to lay a pledget in a deep wound. The feelings of nature are so delicate, especially in affliction, that they call for a downy, and not a leaden hand.
"The snuffers of the sanctuary were of pure gold; so ought he to be holy and unblameable in heart and life, who would nip vice in the bud, or bring to light the hidden works of darkness. A good man carries much authority with him, wherever he goes, and strikes a terror into the hearts of the guilty. Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man. Mark vi. 20. The devil was afraid to face Jesus and Paul, but he boldly fell upon the sons of Sceva and overcame them.—Let the charms of your holiness, as they shine in your whole deportment, not only attract your brother's notice, but captivate his esteem; not only allure him to respect your counsels, but to convince him that there is reality in the religion of Jesus Christ."
The monthly sacramental services held by Mr. Rowlands at Llangeitho were of a most extraordinary character; for many years, crowds regularly attended those services; persons came from all parts of the surrounding country. It is said, that some went fifty miles and upwards, on foot, to attend those services. A preparation meeting was held on Saturday, and four sermons were delivered on that day and the day following. The crowds were so great, that the Church could not contain them; Mr. Rowlands, therefore, usually preached from one of the church windows. A special holy unction attended those services;— those who came hungering and thirsting for the bread and water of life were refreshed; and the weariness of their bodies was not thought of, when they were so abundantly refreshed in their souls.
In 1751, a disagreement occurred between Mr. Rowlands and Howel Harris,—the latter, it is said, embraced some enthusiastic notions; and, perhaps, he was not dealt with as tenderly as was proper. A separation took place, and the results were most afflictive. How needful, it is for Christians, and especially Christian ministers and church officers, to take care that they fall not out by the way. Although Mr. Rowlands was so eminent and useful a minister, he was only a curate to his brother, and, it is said, he had only £10 a year for doing the entire duty. He was not, however, permitted to retain his curacy,—his labours, talents, zeal, and success, instead of securing to him the love and esteem of the clergy, excited their opposition; and the bishop took away the license by which he held the curacy. One day, when he was engaged in reading the prayers, two clergymen entered the church, bearing the bishop's mandate to silence him; upon his leaving the reading desk, they delivered the letter; and he was obliged to quit the church, and addressed his people outside the church-yard. The next year a large chapel was erected for him, in the neighbourhood, by his friends.
At this time, Mr. Rowlands was in very straitened circumstances, but the Lord whom he served interposed in a most remarkable manner in his behalf, raising him up a friend in the late philanthropise Mr. Thornton. For this purpose, a poor Welsh woman was employed by the Lord: the following is the touching account given in the work before us.
"This woman went to London for employment during the summer months and the fruit season; which is the practice of many of the poor people in Wales. She was providentially led to call and to seek for work at Mr. Thornton's, having heard that he was in want of persons for the garden?. The consequence was, that she was hired there, and sent to weed the garden. As this woman was careful of her soul, she enquired where she might obtain spiritual food. Having heard a good account of Komaine, she went to hear him on the Sunday; she was much pleased and edified with his preaching, and understanding that he had a lecture some evening in the week, she was anxious to hear him again. She told the gardener, when the day arrived, that she would be exceedingly obliged if he would have the kindness to allow her to give over working a little earlier in the evening, as she was very desirous to go to church to hear Romaine, and she would engage to redeem the time, by going to work earlier the following mornings. The gardener recommended her to apply herself to their master, being persuaded that as he was a good man, he would most likely grant her desire; he told her she might expect him in the garden such a time. The poor woman observed him coming in shortly afterwards. She made a courtesy to him as he was walking by her, and made so free as to solicit the favour of being set at liberty that evening, to attend Romaine's lecture, promising to redeem the time for his work. He said in reply that he was afraid she only wanted an opportunity to see the vanities of London. However at length he consented, assuring her at the same time that he would know if she did not go to church. The poor weman was very thankful, and went with all speed at the appointed time to St. Ann's, Blackfriars; and, to her no small joy and surprise, she saw her master at church also. Equally pleased was he to see his poor servant the Welch woman there. He went to her as he walked in the garden on the following morning, and said, " I was glad to see you last night at the lecture, do you like Romaine's preaching?" " Yes, greatly, Sir," she replied, "he makes me think very much of Wales; for we have a very great clergyman there, and we used to think there was not his equal anywhere." Thornton was much pleased with this account, and consequently entered into a free conversation with the good woman about her Welch minister. Then she told him with much pleasure, "how the Lord owned and blessed his ministry to the conversion of hundreds and thousands, and that many came every Sunday from a great distance to hear him; that even Wales itself was roused by his powerful preaching." Thornton's heart was delighted with this good news; he perceived that the woman was truly pious, and had reason to believe that her account was true, especially as he found upon enquiry that it was corroborated by the declarations of others. Thornton, under this persuasion, wrote to Rowlands, and formed an acquaintance with him. The consequence was, that Thornton became his greatest friend; for after ascertaining how things were going on in the principality, and that Rowlands was the means under God of very extensive usefulness to that part of the kingdoom, so enveloped in darkness and ignorance, he was most happy to assist and encourage him as much as possible.
"It is helieved that it was in this way, through Thornton's acquaintance, that Romaine heard so much of Rowlands- who about this time visited the metropolis and his friends there. In calling at Romaine's, he was told that he was engaged, However he came down-stairs presently, and that in a great hurry, and not knowing Rowlands, who was standing still by the door, he asked him, in his dry way, "What do you want here?" The other answered, in his laconic style, "And what have you to give?" Then said Romaine, "Who are you?" Upon this Rowlands mentioned his name. Then Romaine took him in his arms, exclaiming, " O great apostle of Walescome in."—Romaine met Rowlands another time at a bookseller's shop in Bristol. After saluting each other with great joy, Romaine accosted his Welch friend thus: "Why do you, the most excellent divine, come here to buy books; I thought you had the Spirit of God to study his word, and to compose your sermons?" Rowlands answered him thus: "I find that Romaine published lately so many excellent books, I suppose that it was on purpose that they should be read: and how are they to be procured, unless they are purchased at some bookseller's shop where they are on sale?"
The zeal manifested by Mr. Rowlands for the overthrow of Satan's empire procured him many enemies, and many plots were laid to effect his destruction, but out of them all the Lord delivered him. The accounts given by Mr. Morgan, concerning his trials and persecutions will be read with much interest. He continued to labour with unabated zeal and success for upwards of fifty years, — occasionally engaging in itinerating labours in both North and South Wales; Llangeitho, however, was the principal sphere of his labours. We are informed, that the attendance upon his ministry did not diminish, but was more attentive, large, and delightful towards the close of life, than formerly. That although so many thousands of people came together, none of them appeared light or trifling, but were most serious and sober. As such were the effects produced by his ministry, it must be important to know, by what means they were, under God, produced. On this topic, Mr. Morgan has adduced some important testimonies from some of Mr. Rowlands' cotemporaries. We give the following as a specimen, which is from the pen of a cotemporary, the Rev. John Davis :—
"Unembarrassed with worldly cares, and almost unconnected with the world, he lives above it, and is a striking emblem of primitive simplicity. His manner of life carries the mind many centuries back, and sets it down in the apostolic age. Such undissembled piety, and such unaffected integrity, are not the general characteristics of latter days. Wholly devoted to his Master's work, and treading in his steps, he goes about continually doing good. His audiences are very large wherever he preaches; and the stated number