And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for there they blessed the Lord: therefore the name of the same place was called Berachah unto this day.
(2 Chronicles 20:26)
It was my pleasure once again to accompany some of the members of your church on this year’s historical trip.We managed to visit numerous historical venues and interesting destinations all over Pembrokeshire whilst the Rev. R.B.Higham gave us an insight into the lives of two men.Two very different men, but in a way – very closely associated. Both were servants of God, touched by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and blessed in their work. In fact, they both belonged to the Anglican denomination, yet their convictions were based on the Calvinistic Methodism that shaped our small country in both eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.They were the Rev. David Jones Llangan and David Howell,Dean of St.David. (Those of you,who came on the trip in 2007,will remember our visit to Llanllwni church outside Lampeter where we heard of David Jones’ early life.)
Our first stop was at Goodwick near Fishguard.This famous town is tucked quite neatly among the twists and turns of the Pembrokeshire coastline. Before arriving, the rain seemed to hover with a tedious look, but as we passed through Fishguard,we couldn’t have asked for better weather.Our lunch was held in the Fishguard Bay hotel – a beautiful setting on the slopes looking down on the sands of Goodwick.The lunch was good once again with prompt service and satisfied individuals.
We only drove for a few hundred yards for our next stop.The church named ‘Berachah’ stood quite near to the hotel where we took our lunch.The secretary welcomed us into the chapel where we were to hear of the events of the Fishguard invasion and the part that the Rev.David Jones Llangan played in it. Mr Higham referred to the unusual name carved into the head of this chapel. Berachah means the ‘Valley of Blessing’ where Jehoshaphat the King overcame the enemy with the aid of the King of Kings.What name could be more appropriate for this setting!
This was the era of change in the world.The French Revolutionary wars 1792-1799 had begun.An invasion had been planned and tried in 1796 but bad weather intervened and it was soon aborted. Hoche, the French commander, was very determined; therefore in February 1797, four large ships sailed for Goodwick sands in the preparation for the invasion of Britain.The initial plan was to take Bristol and then march to Liverpool: but, weather intervened again and they were swept toward the wild waters of Wales.
(One must admit, the Lord has protected us as a nation from foreign invasion! His usage of weather is truly the evidence of his intervening mercy, not only on this occasion but also during the Spanish Armada of 1588.)We all know the popular story of the Welsh women with their red cloaks that drove fear into the troops of France.The news about the invasion spread like wildfire in the countryside.The Rev. Griffith Hughes was preaching at Llanybydder and he was shaking so much, that he could not bring himself to preach. But a woman, called Nansi Jones cried out: “Don’t bother about the French. Our God is stronger than the French altogether. If it is that we should die, let’s die singing a hymn!” Before long the chapel sang with all its might. David Jones wrote in his diary that day:“Arrived at nine in the morn.At Kilcyfeth, then went about eleven home and about four p.m. saw the French surrender.”
His part in the invasion was more than mere observation – he proposed a sermon be given on the sands yearly in the remembrance of the Lord’s work there. (It continued for many years until it became a secular affair with the military.) He preached to the people focusing on God’s mercy.Anyway the Chapel was built thirty years later as a memorial chapel for the Lord’s deliverance. David Jones ‘The Angel of Llangan’ didn’t originate from Pembrokeshire. He was born in a village near the parish named Aberceiliog to a farmer and his wife in the year 1736.The parents had intended to send their oldest son to the clergy and the younger would remain home.Yet the providence of God intervened.Young David had a dreadful accident; he fell into a tub of boiling milk in one of the outer buildings of the farm. He was very close to death but thankfully he survived. But the accident led to the parents directing the older son to take care of the farm and the younger, David, to become a clergyman. He later wrote in his diary: “I carry the mark of my calling on my back.”
He was educated and became a prominent figure in revival.He travelledWales preaching three or four sermons a day;wherever he stopped he attracted hundreds in tiny hamlets.He played a key role in the withdrawal of the Methodists from the Church of England.He Himself refused, though, believing that the church could be revived from within.He knew many of the giants of faith, especially William Williams who described him as a man that melts rocks with his warmth, and makes the hardest oak trees bend like reeds in the wind. He was definitely a giant of our faith and, fortunately, when the time came to separate from the church he had died.He never had to decide whether to stay or leave. Jones was also a founding member of the London Missionary society and it was he who preached the sermon at the funeral of the renowned Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.He lived in Manorowen, travelling regularly between here and Llangan where he remained as Rector until his death in 1810.
On hearing the history of this great man,we sang two hymns and then prepared for our next stop at the graveyard of Manorowen. He died in the house opposite to this graveyard that lies on the road between Fishguard and St.Davids.We parked the bus on a hideous bend and then began our search for his grave.We found the tomb nestled in the claws of ivy with an oak tree growing from under it.The grass was long and one could only make out the faint lines:
“Here lies entombed beneath the clod A sinner washed in Jesus’ blood, He fought the fight and gained a glorious crown, And now he reigns triumphant in the skies.”
The state of this great man’s tomb highlights the total ignorance our land has to its real giants.We must pray that the Lord would descend once more, and give us a season of refreshment, even a slight resemblance of the atmosphere that they were blessed with in the days of the Rev.David Jones Llangan. I was pleased that the secretary of Berachah (who accompanied us) was so disgusted by the state of the grave that he was going to go in person and see the vicar the very next day.
The tower of St. David’s cathedral greeted us as we entered the smallest of cities.We were to hear of another, less well known giant, in the pews of this Presbyterian chapel near to the cathedral. His name was David Howell 1831-1903. It is interesting to note that the spiritual life of David Howell also began at Llangan.Although David Jones had died in 1810, a great number of his converts were still alive when Howell was born. As a young man he saw many old men weeping whenever the name of the great Jones of Llangan was mentioned. So the evangelical ministry was still a ‘living’ tradition in Glamorgan.
In 1811, the Methodists founded the new Calvinistic Methodist chapels because the Bishops declined the Methodist ‘lay men’ for ordination preferring education and breeding to the true calling of God.His father was a Methodist, whereas his grandmother remained a staunch Anglican.The late Rev. David Jones founded Salem, Pencoed: this is where his father became a deacon.Therefore his grandmother taught him all the great Welsh hymns and warned him of the evils of the world, while his father took him to the chapel,where he would have heard the powerful ministry of the nineteenth century. Both would have a great influence on him.
He married Ann Powell, although he was only nineteen and she sixteen. The source of this young marriage was that a child was conceived out of wedlock. Although it would become a happy marriage, this would haunt him forever. His wife’s social background lacked the advantages of his own, and this would eventually prevent him from becoming a bishop.He was converted quite soon after the embarrassing affair with Ann. He came under the influence of a Rev. John Griffiths who was the Vicar of Llangan. He was a good man, an able preacher; he loved all things Welsh, and was a great promoter of temperance. He befriended the lad and saw the potential in him of becoming a preacher.
It was not long before Howell became a great evangelical preacher within the Church of Wales.He becameVicar of St. Johns Cardiff.He transformed the church – from two hundred attendants to a thousand. Instead of two weekly meetings, there were now thirteen. Before, there were two hundred children – it grew to a thousand, seven hundred and fifty five.His popularity caused jealousy within the diocese.The Bishop of St.Asaph moaned of David Howell: “lack of social position and of narrow religious views.”We praise God for his ‘narrowness’! Howell was used in the 1859 revival where he gained a reputation as a ‘powerful and eloquent evangelical preacher.’ The powerful revival ran through Wales sweeping aside all barriers.The Holy Spirit led church and chapel to unite in joint prayer meetings. In 1875,Howell was called to Wrexham – this of course caused a great sadness throughout Cardiff with the loss of a great man.He took over at the great parish church of St.Giles. One of the reasons he was chosen was due to his bilingual ability. He believed that the Church had failed to show sympathy to the Welsh language, and in spite of opposition, he fought ‘tooth and nail’ to give the Welsh language its rightful place in Church services.
In 1897, Howell was appointed Dean of St. Davids.He preached here and was faithful until he became ill.The last sermon he preached in the cathedral was:“Christ the Light of theWorld.” David Howell died after a five-day illness at the age of seventy-two in the year 1903. Before he died he wrote that a great revival would soon come toWales where the church and chapel would work together. Sadly he never lived to see it the following year.He was a great man who stood for what he believed in. He saw the need of the Spirit in the preaching of the gospel.He loved the Lord, the country that nurtured him and gave him the language he loved. Sadly, for some reason, people have forgotten about Dean David Howell. But his legacy lived on and one might argue that it was he that became the father of the 1904 revival declaring the coming of the Lord.
Afterward, we were able to spend some time around St.Davids itself. I’m sure everybody had cream teas and coffees before sleeping on the road back to Cardiff. I slept on the way home anyway! We thank God that he has blessed our land with true men, inspired by his Spirit.We must pray that he would cast his light upon us once more in these dark and desolate days.