Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Where the flames of revival once burned

Wales is a beautiful country with a remarkable Christian history. For years I have thrilled to exciting stories of bringing Bibles to Bala.

I have marvelled at tales of some of the great preachers. (Thomas Charles heard Daniel Rowland preach on Heb 4:15. "I had such a view of Christ as our High Priest, of His love, compassion, power, and all-sufficiency, as filled my soul with astonishment - with joy unspeakable and full of glory," he said. "My mind was overwhelmed and overpowered with amazement. . . I could not believe for very joy. The glorious scenes that opened to my eyes will abundantly satisfy my soul millions of years hence in the contemplation of them. Often walking in the fields I looked up to heaven with joy and called that my home, at the same time ardently longing for the appearance of the glorious Saviour to take me forever to Himself.")

I have been inspired by tales of the Welsh revival in the early 20th century, when miners sang hymns as they worked, public houses closed for lack of business, young people held meetings every night lasting for hours and something like 150,000 were converted and added to the churches.

I have been blessed by tales of how Rees Howells and his team of 120 prayer warriors prayed for victory detail by detail three times a day through the Second World War, being rewarded with miraculous answers to prayer.

It was all brought back to my mind by a news item. One of the earliest Bibles published in Welsh, translated by Bishop William Morgan in the 1580s, has been purchased, largely by the National Trust, and delivered to the house where he was born, near the village of Penmachno, in Snowdonia.

In 1563 Parliament was prevailed upon to pass a law requiring that the Bible and Prayer Book be translated into Welsh by 1567. The New Testament and the Prayer Book were translated by that time, largely the work of William Salesbury, but the translations were flawed.

William Morgan appears to have taken it upon himself to translate the whole Bible from its original languages around 1578. It took him nine years. His Bible was a superb translation, and was commonly used until the late 20th century. It set the standard for the Welsh language, much as the King James Version did for English.

To my mind, it doesn't seem long since there was a Bible on the Welsh dresser in almost every farmhouse in Wales - but churchgoing has considerably decreased in the principality, particularly among young people.  One commentator dared to suggest that before we've done there might not be more churchgoers in Wales than an average attendance at Chelsea's football stadium at Stamford Bridge.

Is it possible that the flames of revival could burn again right across the nation?

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