LETTERS OF JOHN ELIAS 1774-1841
REVIVAL OF RELIGION
Llanfechell 26 October 1822
I am going to Dolgelley Association today. I am very glad to hear that you go on so comfortably in the new chapel. I hope all things will continue pleasant till it is finished; and that the Lord will shew His approbation of the work, pouring His Holy Spirit on the means of grace, blessing the preaching of the Gospel for the salvation of many sinners.
The revival goes on very delightfully in this island. The kindness of the Lord towards us is wonderful. His visits and the convictions under the Word are truly powerful. Very wild and hardened sinners are alarmed and converted; multitudes are made willing in the day of Christ’s power. I have had the privilege of receiving hundreds into church-communion. I received one hundred at once in a certain place; in another place fifty, in another thirty, and in another thirty, and many in several other places. Besides, other ministers have received a great many into the church. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. Indeed the church in our country is ready to cry out in wonder, asking, ‘Who begat these? and from whence came these?’ Let not my brethren in London be discouraged; God is the same with you.
REVIVAL OF RELIGION Fron 10 February 1832
The news I have to communicate now is delightful and heart-cheering, especially in these evil and perilous times, and when so much bad news comes from every part of the world. I am very happy to inform you that there is a very great revival at Nebo, near Amlwch; more than fifty have been already added to the church there, in a short time. The most ungodly in the neighbourhood have been alarmed and soberised. The pillars of the kingdom of Satan have been thrown down and shattered, not by the pestilence, but through the Gospel. Now, instead of the laughter and idle talk in the corners of the chapel, the sighing of the penitent, the groans of the convinced, are heard; yea, most earnest prayers and hearty thanksgivings ascend to heaven. O! most delightful change. O! may it enhance and spread throughout all the Principality. The glorious work of grace in converting sinners is going on in other places; souls were added to the church at Pare, Gorslwyd and Pen-gorffwysfa,’ and many were received to the society at Bethesda, and some at Llanfechell. Great rejoicing took place one night at W. Parry’s premises at Llanfechell, when Mr. W. Roberts of Llannerch-y-medd, was preaching there: W. Morris and Ellen, formerly of the old shop, as well as others, entered2 the church. Very powerful
revivals are carried on in several parts of Caernarvonshire, such as Llanystumdwy, Brynengan, and other places! It will be a wonderful thing if Wales should be favoured with such gracious operations as these, instead of the awful judgments that afflict many countries these days!
Oh may we long more earnestly and ardently for the gracious visitations of the Lord to our country and neighbourhoods, but especially to our own souls. I hope, my dear Phoebe, that you, my dear child, are not destitute of these delightful visits of heaven these days. May the Lord speak to your precious soul as you read His holy Word, and as you hear the preaching of the Gospel; and may you draw near to Him as a Father, through the blood of Christ; yea, may you come boldly to the throne of grace, to receive grace and mercy to help you in the time of need: help in need as wanted, according to circumstances and necessities, and in time, that is quite enough; no more is required. It is most profitable to take every trial and burden unto the Lord, to set before Him all your complaints, and to cast all your care upon Him, for He careth in a very kind and tender manner for us. We may safely entrust Him with the concerns of our bodies and souls, our temporal and eternal interests. He is very kind and pitiful, and ready to hear different cases of distress; able to bear all our burdens, to relieve all our wants, and wise to lead us through the intricate wilderness, and guide us safely to the end of the journey.
ANXIETY FOR THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL
Llanfechell 28 March 1828
I feel anxious to send you a few lines, observing that Easter and the yearly meetings are drawing nigh, remembering that I had the privilege of being with you at each Easter of the last three years. I should be happy to hear that the Lord has rent the heavens, and descended among the Welsh in Jewin Street,3 and that the mountains have melted before him. May the preaching in your Association this year, be in ‘manifesation of the Spirit, and with much power’! May the weapons of the warfare be powerful through God to the pulling down of strongholds’. The castles there are strong, and stand up yet against the Lord and His Christ! Satan, the strong man armed, stands up against the Gospel, and keeps his possession of sinners! Ignorance, thoughtlessness, carnality, worldly-mindedness, and a legal spirit, are like strong castles, and it is by these that Satan, the world, and sin keep possession of men, and stand up against the success of the Gospel.
Ministers of the Gospel are the soldiers employed by Christ, the King of glory, to fight against those powerful enemies, and to attack the strong fortifications. The Gospel succeeds by no carnal weapon; it is by no earthly sword, neither by any human learning, gifts, or reasons that the castles are to be cast down, and men to be taken out of the possession of these enemies. The Word of God is the sword, the bow and arrow in this warfare. And it is through God that the weapons are strong, effectual, and successful to cast down the towers, and to deliver men out of the power and possession of their strong enemies. It is by the secret and powerful operations of the Spirit.
Satan is not afraid of the soldiers, though they are armed, or of the knowledge or gifts of any preacher; but he is afraid of the presence of God, the leader of the true army. As the Philistines cried out, ‘Woe to us, God is come to the camp’, so a cry would be made in hell, and a great alarm in the regiment of Satan, if God should be pleased to appear among you at the Association. ‘The weapons are strong through God’ only. The sermons are powerful when He speaks and manifests Himself: the Word goeth forth with power. Then the castles -thoughtlessness, unbelief, carnal reasons, love of empty pleasures -will come down, as the strongholds of Jericho formerly. And sinners that are kept in bondage by sin and Satan will come out of their prisons – ‘the snare is broken.’
O that God would manifest Himself among the hundreds that hear the Word there, who have hitherto lived in their sins and in the possession of Satan! Dear friends, are you free from the blood of the ungodly multitude that hear the Word in your chapel? Do you pray as often and as earnestly as you should for the presence of the Lord in your assemblies, that He would own and bless His Word? Let every one in the church examine himself, and see whether there be anything in him that grieves the Spirit, and causes God to withdraw far away from His people? May you that grow old in age and profession take care that you do not wax rusty and stiff in your experiences, living in a backsliding spirit, strangers to communion with God, unconcerned about divine things, and indisposed to glorify Him! It is very painful that any that profess that they are going to heaven, and as they think draw near the much-desired haven, should become more worldly-minded, and as they approach the confines of the world of spirits, should become more carnal! O strive that you may in your old age bring forth fruit, and be fat and flourishing,’ Psalm 93.14! Oh! young people, take care that ye be not light and trifling in your religion, spending the morning of your age, the summer of your life, without the power of religion and the fellowship of God. O strive that ye may experience the peace and joy that are in true religion, and enjoy the feast of the Gospel! If you should but have these blessings, you would not feel any disposition to taste the poor enjoyments of worldly people, and you will not be buried in the graves of lust and sin. Let every one of you be laborious in the vineyard if the Lord, according to his state and situation, during the period of his life. Let each examine himself. Is there anything I may do for God that is not attempted? If so, let his hand lay hold of it immediately, for there is no work nor device in the grave.
Teachers of the Sunday School, is there anything more that ye may do? Is there no room for you to be more spiritual in your conversation with those that are under your care? Could you not say a few words respecting the evil of sin, the miserable state of a person without Christ, the dreadful situation of those that die in their sins? then of the glory of Christ, and the great privileges of those that believe in Him? Leave off every conversation that tends to excite curiosity, or leads to pedantry or self-conceit. Let all your conversation tend to the salvation of souls, to their sanctification and consolation. Remember the little children, for few parents bring up their children as Christians ought to do. Have compassion on the rising generation, and give them a religious education in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, until their parents are awakened to a sense of their duty. O that they may be soon aroused before their death cometh! May the glory of the Lord appear among you all! and when you draw nigh to God, remember me, the poorest of your brethren, and your servant for Christ.
SPIRITUAL DECLENSIONS Shrewsbury 16 February 1805
I was glad to receive a letter from you, though you complain of bad news. The world consists of a great mixture of things; we cannot therefore expect good news always; and praised be God, all is not bad which we hear. There is much room to fear that the bad tidings of many falls will be heard, because many have been received into the Church without evident signs and proofs that a gracious change ever took place in them. It is therefore to be feared that some event will soon shew them to the world in their true colours.
The children of God themselves have become very lethargic and unguarded, and have grieved and provoked the Lord greatly, therefore they are weak and unstable under temptations. When I consider the .lumbering state of the Church, I wonder that so few shameful falls occur. The infinite goodness of God hath preserved us hitherto, though we were very often deficient in the duty of watchfulness. No doubt it was for His name’s sake He led us through many and great dangers, and He will guide us till death. I think, as you have mentioned, that the Lord permits some to fall into open sins, by way of punishment for trifling with secret sins. O that we may hate sin yet more, because it is sin and so odious. If we detest one sin because it is an offence against God, we hate every sin on the same ground; for all sins are alike in their nature against a holy God.
I often apprehend that at the present time the true fear of God is scarce amongst us. The fear of the Lord is a most valuable treasure in the Church: the dread of sin is in its very nature, and a renunciation of it is sure to follow it always. ‘The fear of the Lord is clean.’ Those that truly fear God, do not allow themselves the things that others are pleased to indulge in. ‘But so did not I,’ said Nehemiah, ‘because of the fear of God.’ (Chapter 5.15.) And the true Christian cannot live as the hypocrite, on account of God’s fear in his heart. He fears grieving and offending Him, and bringing reproach on His name and cause here in the world. Besides, the man that truly fears the Lord not only takes care that his conduct is becoming before men, but also that his spirit should be in a suitable frame before God. He is not only anxious to fulfil outward duties, but also that his soul should act properly in them. The corruption of his heart distresses him more than all the infirmities of his life; for when his conduct is tolerably fair, the depravity of his soul is then the same; yea, it is with him wherever he goes; and there is no hope of full deliverance till death. This corruption grieves the Christian in two ways:
1 Its inclinations to sinful actions. It is true the merciful Lord keeps believers all their lives from falling into them; yet inclinations to them are a continual source of grief and uneasiness to Christians, and they cannot be perfectly happy and comfortable until their sinful inclinations are entirely destroyed. Praised be God for preventing our evil inclinations from breaking out into deeds, and thanks be to Him for implanting in us a nature and dispositions that are contrary to them! And indeed those holy inclinations which oppose corruption bear through the infinite mercy the sway now, and they shall have full possession of the soul presently. Thanked be the Lord, the morning is drawing near when we shall be free from all corruptions for ever, and come forth as conquerors into the mansions of bliss! Welcome, delightful morning!
2 The sinful attitude, frame, and disposition of our souls towards God is a constant cause of sorrow to us. Our sinful, narrow, or hard thoughts of God;
a cold heart towards Him; inability of abiding in His fellowship, are very painful. O that we had more free and elevated thoughts of God, and more warm and tender affections towards Him! And O that our spirits would cleave more to Him in every condition, and would abide longer in communion with Him! O that we had more of His holy, lovely image on us in the world! We shall have it perfect before long.
The way to obtain these inestimable mercies is by communion and intercourse with the blessed Mediator. Saving virtues and effects come from Him to the poor soul that obtains a believing view of Him. If the woman that had the issue of blood was healed in her body by touching the hem of His garment, how much more shall a poor soul be saved and healed through embracing the Saviour by faith! O what influences go out of Him to such! There is an unfathomable ocean of all grace, virtue, and glory in Him. Even the angels of heaven never saw the utmost of them. Yea, saints and angels never can have an insight into the whole of these mysteries. Even a view of Christ has already turned death back. There is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. The sight of Him will at once make us perfectly whole. He can keep you from falling and present you faultless before the throne. To be faultless! O! infinite wonder! sinful dust faultless! Will it not be wonderful, dear sister, that such as we who are, as it were, oceans of corruption, should become altogether pure! Doubtless He that loved us and washed us should have the praise for ever.