Rowland Hugh Pritchard Gives us Hyfrydol

Rowland Hugh Pritchard (also spelt Prichard) was born in Graienyn (near Bala), North Wales, on January 14, 1811.

From his earliest days music was the main interest of his life. And even before he was twenty years of age he had composed many melodies, including the one found in most hymnals to this day. Even during his last illness … in 1887… he was still jotting down tunes that came to him.

In 1844, Pritchard published Cyfailly Cantorion (The Singer’s Friend), a song book for children.

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During his lifetime he was a choir conductor in the local church, and he published a book of his own original tunes. Rowland Pritchard lives on in his grand tune, Hyfrydol, to which we usually sing the words ‘Come, Thou long expected Jesus’ or ‘I will Sing the Wondrous Story’ or ‘Jesus, what a Friend for Sinners’. Hyfrydol was used for a Welsh hymn written by William Williams, the sweet singer of Wales (see posting for January 11, 2008)

Pritchard’s hymns were published in a number of collections and, in 1914, they were published in The Daily Mail when Welsh politician Lloyd George was at the height of his popularity and, consequently, there was a demand for singing Welsh tunes in meetings he was addressing.

Seven years before his death Pritchard began working (he was 70 years of age at the time!) as a loom-tender’s assistant at the Welsh Flannel Manufacturing Company. And when death came, the head of the firm paid his funeral expenses.

He died January 25, 1887, in Holywell, North Wales.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

William Williams the Sweet Singer of Wales

William Williams, Welsh Hymn writer, died on January 11, 1791, having “trod the verge of Jordan and landed safe on Canaan’s side”.

William Williams stands foremost among Welsh hymn writers. But he was more than that.

Williams was born in 1717 and his father was a ruling elder in the Cefnarthen Independent church. His education at Llwyn-llwyd Academy was to prepare him to be a doctor. However, while he was there he heard Howel Harris preach in Talgarth churchyard and Williams was thus soundly converted.

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He joined the Established Church and was ordained deacon in 1740, then later became a friend of George Whitefield and the Calvinistic Methodists. The result was that the Bishop refused to ordain him to full ‘holy orders’.

So he became an itinerant preacher. All of Wales became his parish as he travelled “95,000 miles in the next 43 years” (Gospel in Hymns by A. Bailey, page 108).

In 1748 he married Mary Francis and went to live at his mother’s old home, Pantycelyn. Thus he came to be known as ‘Williams of Pantycelyn’.

Time and time again he was attacked by mobs. At Cardinganshire they beat him “within an inch of his life” … but Williams continued preaching and singing the Gospel.

Church historians refer to him as “the sweet singer of Wales” and of the 800 hymns he wrote many are still on the lips of worshippers to this day. Most well-known is:
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land …

Williams was the chief hymn-writer of the Methodist awakening in Wales and the popularity of his hymns accounts for much of the success of Welsh Methodism. His hymns not only impacted the nation’s religious life but they also made a valuable contribution to the literary culture of his day.

He was also a prolific writer and translator. From 1744-1791 Williams’ name appears on nearly 90 books and booklets. He wrote extensive poetry and prose and translated many English works into this native Welsh tongue. He was Wales’ first romantic poet and, as such, therefore exercised considerable influence on his contemporaries and successors.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Henry Morton Stanley Finds Dr Livingstone

Henry Morton Stanley said his famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume!” on November 10, 1871, in the heart of Africa, at Ujiji. The meeting is recorded in Stanley’s own book, How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa (page 331).

Stanley is described as an “illegitimate son of Britain’s industrial masses”. Stanley was born John Rowlands on 28 January 1841 in Denbigh, Wales. His parents were not married so he was brought up in a workhouse.

In 1859, he left Britain for a new life in America, settling in New Orleans where he was befriended by a merchant named Henry Stanley. Rowlands took Stanley’s name as his own. Stanley fought for the Confederate army, was wounded, and taken prisoner during the Civil War. It is reported that he then fought on the Union side. Following the war he worked as a sailor and journalist.

In 1867 Stanley became special correspondent for the New York Herald. At that time the unexplored reaches of the world fascinated readers and so the paper decided to make much out of the disappearance of Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who had not been heard from since 1866. Stanley was sent to Africa in 1869 by the newspaper editor to find Livingstone and report if he had found the source of the Nile. Regular dispatches to the paper built up the drama of the search for the readers back home.

In January 1871 Stanley reached Zanzibar and then proceeded to Lake Tanganyika. Livingstone was last known to be in that vicinity and it was there, in November 1871, that Stanley found the sick explorer. Approaching the lone white man Stanley stretched out his hand and said, “Dr Livingstone, I presume!” Stanley’s eloquent reports on his fabulous expedition made as famous as the man he had found.

For four months Stanley lived with the great missionary, and he gives this assessment: “His religion is not of the theoretical kind, but it is a constant, earnest, sincere practice. It is neither demonstrative nor loud, but manifests itself in a quiet, practical way and is always at work… His gentleness never forsakes him; his hopefulness never deserts him. No harassing anxieties, distraction of mind, long separation from home or kindred, can make him complain. He thinks ‘all will come out right at last’, he has such faith in the goodness of Providence” (page 351).

Providence was the term for God’s care, used almost universally in previous generations.

Following Livingstone’s death in 1873, Stanley continued Livingstone’s exploration of the region, funded by the Herald and a British newspaper. Vast reaches of central Africa were explored by Stanley and he traveled the length of the Lualaba and Congo Rivers, reaching the Atlantic in August 1877. The later described his epic journey in ‘Through the Dark Continent’ (1878).

Stanley saw great potential for developing the Congo region but could not get British support for his plans. King Leopold II of Belgium was eager to tap Africa’s wealth and so in 1879, with Leopold’s support, Stanley returned to Africa where he built roads to open the lower Congo to commerce. He employed widespread use of forced labour and other brutal means to accomplish his work. Livingstone would not have approved.

French interests in the region competed with the Belgiums and helped bring about the Berlin Conference (1884-5) in which European nations sorted out their competing colonial claims in Africa. Stanley’s efforts paved the way for the creation of the Congo Free State, privately owned by Leopold.

Stanley returned to Europe and in 1890 married and then began a worldwide lecture tour, capitalizing on his international fame. He became MP for Lambeth in south London, serving from 1895 to 1900. He was knighted in 1899. He died in London on 10 May 1904.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Matthew Henry Gives Us His Grand Commentary

This is the day that Matthew Henry was born in a Welsh farmhouse in Shropshire, England, close to the border of England and Wales, in 1662.

His father, Philip, had been ejected from his church for refusing to ‘bow the knee’ to the king’s demands. His non-conformist views would not allow him to recognize the king as “Head of the Church” nor be compelled to use the Prayer Book. Submitting to ordination by a bishop was also anathema to him.

Along with nearly two thousand other ministers, Philip Henry had refused to submit to the Act of Uniformity, which had come into effect on 24 August 1662 and was radically opposed to all that Puritans like Henry stood for.

So young Matthew grew up in a godly home where Christian principles and conscience were adhered to – regardless of the consequences.

Matthew apparently suffered from a weak constitution during his childhood. But what he lacked in physical health he made up for in spiritual vigour. There is credible evidence that he could read the Scriptures when only three years old. His conversion took place before he turned eleven. Ion Henry’s words, one of his father’s sermons ‘melted’ him and caused him to ‘enquire after Christ’.

Taught at first by his father, an excellent educator, Matthew gained further education from nonconformist schools and at one time studied law. But he kept his focus on the ministry calling, taking occasion to preach where ever he could. The dissenters of Chester liked what they heard and invited him to be their minister.

Henry began his ministry with Presbyterian ordination on 9 May, 1687. Over the course of the next two decades his Chester congregation increased to more than 350 members. Not surprisingly, his success as a pastor caused other churches to seek him as their minister.

His first wife died in childbirth, in 1689. The following year he wed Mary Warburton – and all three children born to them died in infancy.

For 25 years he ministered at Chester. After rejecting many calls by other churches he finally chose to pastor a dissenting church in Hackney, London, so he could be closer to printers, in view of the large commentary he was composing.

Ill health plagued him. He suffered from diabetes and repeated attacks of kidney stones.

In June, 1714, while on a preaching tour of Cheshire, he was thrown from his horse and taken to the house of a nearby parson, where he died the following morning, 22 June, 1714, aged 52.

While Henry wrote a number of worthy works, his memory lives on in his monumental Commentary, The Exposition of the Old and New Testaments. Henry had begun this massive work in November 1704. By the time of his death ten years later, the project had got as far as the end of the book of Acts. It would be finished by a number of ministers after his death.

The commentary is quintessentially Puritan. It focuses on biblical spirituality and is alert to the need to glorify God in the whole of life. It is also chock-full of the terse and piquant aphorisms that the Puritans delighted to use to penetrate the hearts of their hearers and readers. Here are a few examples:
‘God’s grace can save souls without preaching, but our preaching cannot save them without God’s grace, and that grace must be sought by prayer’ (on Ezekiel 37:1-14).

‘Ministers may be serving Christ, and promoting the great ends of their ministry, by writing good letters, as well as by preaching good sermons’ (on Acts 18:7-11).

‘It is easier to build temples than to be temples to God’ (on 2 Chronicles 24:1-14).

‘The pleasures of sense are puddle-water; spiritual delights are rock water, so pure, so clear, so refreshing — rivers of pleasure’ (on Exodus 17:1-7).

‘The beauty of holiness is that which the grave, that consumes all other beauty, cannot touch, or do any damage to’ (on Psalm 49:6-14).

George Whitefield, we are told, read Henry’s commentary through four times … on his knees!

Spurgeon speaks of Matthew Henry’s Commentary as “first among the mighty” – and recommends that every minister of the gospel should read it through “once at least”.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was so moved by Henry’s comments on Leviticus 8:35 that he based one of his most famous hymns on them. Henry had written: ‘we have every one of us a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, needful duty to be done, our generation to serve; and it must be our daily duty to keep this charge, for it is the charge of the Lord our Master, who will shortly call us to an account about it’. Gripped by this comment, Wesley sat down to write “A charge to keep I have”.

One does not have to agree with everything this great Puritan said to be blessed indeed by his Scriptural reflections.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Thomas Charles Births a Bible Society

This is the day that Thomas Charles was born in Wales. It was 1756.

Despite a Christian upbringing, it was not until the age of 17, when he heard Daniel Rowlands expounding Hebrews 4:15, that “he was conscious of a real conversion of heart”. It was 20 January, 1773.

It is interesting to note that there seems to be a ‘time’ for certain things, as Solomon tells us. Thomas Charles lived at a ‘time’ of evangelism, Sunday Schools and the birth of Bible Societies.

Ordained as a Church of England curate (21 May, 1780), he soon fell foul of his parishioners for “giving free instruction to children after Vespers. His rector considered this to be such a shocking innovation that he was at once dismissed” (Sweet Singers of Wales, by H. Lewis, page 55). It is probably true to say that his evangelical preaching had something to do with the dismissal also!

He joined the Calvinistic Methodist and commenced ministering in the town of Bala. From henceforth he would be known as “Charles of Bala”.

He travelled extensively around Wales, giving birth to the first Sunday-Schools Wales had ever known. It was a time of extensive revival in Wales, but there was a shortage of Bibles. Rev Charles sold Welsh language Bibles to meet the need.

Rev Charles was visited by a 15 year-old lass who had walked 27 miles to obtain a Bible from him. Mary Jones had saved her own money to buy the Bible and then walked the miles to obtain it. Charles had just sold his last copy, but was so impressed with Mary’s diligence that he gave it to her anyway, telling her the other buyer would just have to wait.

Charles visited the Religious Tract Society in London in 1802 and pleaded with them for Scriptures. The Society had to turn him away. Providing bibles just was not in their job description. As the members discussed the request, the Rev. Joseph Hughes said, “a society might be formed for the purpose–and if for Wales, why not for the Kingdom; why not for the whole world?”

Mary Jones’ devotion to possess a copy of God’s Word prompted the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society on March 7, 1804, spearheaded by the Rev. Thomas Charles.

This was the first of many Bible Societies which took the Word of God to the nations. 69 other Bible organizations formed in just ten years. The British and Foreign Bible Society funded such diverse translation work as William Carey, Morrison’s Chinese Bible, Henry Martyn’s Persian translation, a Mohawk gospel of John and a translation for the Pacific islands of Rarotonga.

Rev Thomas Charles continued his evangelistic work. During one of his itinerant preaching tours he nearly lost his life in the intense cold. Frostbitten and racked with fever his life was in imminent danger. One old Christian – thinking apparently of Hezekiah – prayed that 15 years would be added to Brother Charles’ life (II Kings 20:6).

Remarkably, it was just 15 years later, on 5 October, 1814, that Thomas Charles said, “There is refuge,” and passed into his Saviour’s presence.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.