Page images
PDF
EPUB

nature everywhere. We feel a deep and gentle interest in our kind. In the common but mistaken sense ascribed to Shakespeare, one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” most naturally do we

weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that do rejoice." The acts and fortunes of an angel or a devil have not the hold on us, however they may strike us for the time, which those of a good or a bad man have ; and just because he is an angel or a devil and not a man. And, furthermore, the Bible is designed to give us patterns and warnings ; patterns of what we ought to be, and warnings against what we should avoid. Christ is a pattern; saints are patterns; all men, in so far as they are true and upright and merciful, are patterns. In them we see the applications and modes of working of spiritual and moral principles. We see them in our own conditions, exercising natures like ours and in circumstances like our own, contesting with our own evils, and guiding and strengthening men after the manner of our own necessities, sometimes defeated and sometimes victorious, as with ourselves. Similarity of condition is an essential element of a perfect example. Adaptation is as important as excellence ; indeed, in an example, adaptation is excellence, indispensable excellence. We need to see good and holy things, not only as desirable but attainable, and to see the way in which they may be attained. To tell men not only what God is, but what men have been; to set holiness before them as having been actually acquired and displayed by their fellows and predecessors; to put forth the virtues and graces of pure and losty principle as embodied in experience and action, and then to add, with the Apostle, “ These were men of like passions with yourselves,” this is the worth and force of history. We are by nature strongly imitative, and when called to imitato in the highest things those who are or have been in all chief respects like ourselves, the appeal is most likely to be effective. And so, in an opposite direction, with examples we should avoid. The misery of evil, and the danger of it, do not come home to us as when we behold them in our brethren. The sin which is in us takes advantage of every possibility of evading warnings. It is quick to detect and to employ discrepance. It can see differences afar off. Self-deception has no more common or plausible plea in neglecting the essence of example than unlikeness of forms. Self-confidence takes refuge from the pressure of admonitory instances in the slightest dissimilarity of circumstances. Hence the importance of having deterrent as well as attractive examples in our own nature and our own life. And hence the importance of history, and of the historical character of the Bible.

I think an argument for the divinity of the Bible might be derived from our subject. At any rate, it affords one of those incidental and subsidiary confirmations, which, combined together, are of great strength and worth. To those who accept the Bible as divine it furnishes a striking illustration of the kindness and wisdom of our heavenly Father, who has not only given us truth the most glorious and most necessary, but given it in a form most adapted to interest and impress us. He has come down to us, He has

dealt with us after the manner of men, and as He 'has '“ drawn us with bands of a man,” so He has taught us with lessons of a man. If the Bible so strongly appeals to our interest, it behoves the more to study it, and the greater is our blame if we neglect it. If we are alive to the charms of history elsewhere, shall we neglect it here, the oldest, most important, and most interesting of all histories ? Shall the fact that it is God's book, and that it concerns our salvation, blind us to excellence we can clearly enough see in other books?

And surely we may take a lesson from God. I doubt much if preaching is sufficiently historical, and still more if teaching is. We cannot, either with old or young, improve on the Divine method. If we have not narratives, let us make them ; if facts fail us, let us have recourse to fiction. We thus “catch men with guile." Christ got many an unwitting testimony by means of his parables, and Nathan did by a story what perhaps he had missed by a rebuke.

SHENKYN PENHYDD.

A STORY OF WELSH CHARACTER AND PREACHING.

SHENKYN and Shanko are the democratic forms of the more aristocratic Jenkyn. The pronunciation of the word Penhydd will probably puzzle you. “It is all consonants except the e. What an uncivilised word !" Very; and with Shenkyn in contact with it, more uncivilised still. The pronunciation, however, is neither difficult nor harsh. For “y” let us put ee, fand for "dd” th soft, then we have penheath. So much for the word. Now for its meaning. “Pen” is the Welsh for head, and “hydd" for hart; so that “Penhydd,” after all, means nothing more nor less than “ the hart's head” -a name given to a small farm-house, not many miles out of Neath, in Glamorganshire. Here, on the 16th September, 1752, a little stranger made his appearance, whom it pleased his parents to call Shenkyn. I cannot say of him that he was “ of noble race;" his whole history proves the contrary. But, though not noble by birth, Shenkyn, before his death, became a member of that family whose names are written in heaven.”. Were it not for his connection with that family, it is not likely that we should have heard anything at all about him.

1752 to 1807. These were the years during which Shenkyn lived, and it is necessary that we should have an idea of the times in order to form a just idea of the man.

The firmament of the English world was, to say the least of it, as bright with luminaries then as it is at present. Chatterton, the boy-poet, who “perished in his pride,” was born in the same year as Shenkyn,—the year in which “ the Rambler” died. Oliver Goldsmith published “ the Vicar of Wakefield,” in 1766, and ten years later, Gibbon gave. the world the first volume of “The Decline and Fall.” The echoes of George Whitfield's preaching were still lingering on the ears of thousands.

VOL. V.NEW SERIES.

с

1

John Wesley was growing old, but full of strength and vigour, while Robert Hall was just beginning to arouse with his fire the learned inhabitants of Cambridge.

But the mass of ignorance which stood between the Welsh and this bright light, cast over the length and breadth of the country dark and gloomy shadows. There was, it is true, some light in Wales----just enough to make the darkness perceptible. The bulk of the people were ignorant and superstitious, as may be seen from some of the incidents which we shall recite in giving a sketch of Shenkyn Penhydd.*

. In proportion to the thickness of the darkness, the first glimmerings of light are more or less perceptible. On a fine summer morning, when the days are longest, it may not be very easy to decide when the night ends and the day begins. But there is no difficulty in doing so during the long nights of winter. And thus the time, and mode of some men's conversion are far more distinctly marked than those of others. Paul could say: “At midday, 0 King, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun." The contrast between the darkness of Pharisaism and the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus was so great that Paul could not pass from the one into the other without being conscious of the fact. The case was similar with Shenkyn Penhydd.

In those days, when Methodism was young, men who had the gift of preaching, and some may be who had not, were in the habit of going about from place to place, sending before them their “publication ?? to announce their coming. Among those itinerants there was one very remarkable character called Evan Tyclai. Evan bore unmistakeable marks of the wilderness inside and out. The pony on which he rode was one of the mountain breed, more accustomed to grass' and hay than to oats. Its rider wore a home-made grey coat, corduroy breeches, which stopped short a little below the knee, and wooden shoes, fastened with brass buckles. His hat covered not only his head but his forehead, down to his eyebrows; and, as a preventative against cold, a red handkerchief thrown over his unshorn head covered his and was fastened under his chin. He studied his non-systematic theology on horseback; and it is said that when he rodo, his whole body as well as his mind was in perpetual motion. Such a strange character had, as might be expected, a style of preaching which was quite original. No text, no introduction, no heads, no “in conclusion.” To be compelled to stand in a pulpit would be to Evan a great inconvenience. “Staré loco nescit.Given the place where he stood when he began to speak, and you could never find out the place where he might stand when he finished. With a hugė stick in his hand, he would walk about the barn or the farm-house in which he held his service and speak now to one and then to another of the one thing needful. Many went to hear him merely out of curiosity'; and so

ears,

* The author of this sketch acknowledges with thanks his obligation for the facts contained therein to the very interesting Welsh Biography of Shenkyn Penhydd, by the Rev. Edward Matthews, of Cardiff.

did Shenkyn Penhydd. "I went," said he, speaking of the event, " with many others about the same age to hear the preacher, not with the object of receiving any spiritual good, but chiefly to be amused with his strange mode of speaking and conducting himself. After he had introduced the service by reading and prayer, he began to speak to us. I don't remember his text if he had one. His object was to arouse the sinner out of his spiritual sleep, and make him feel his great danger. He seemed to be speaking to some particular person among his hearers, whom he described as desperately wicked. I looked here and there, and then at the preacher, whose eyes were fixed steadfastly on me, while he went on describing the wicked man, and speaking of his doom. I believed that he referred to myself, and the sound of his fearful warnings followed me, filling my conscience with the terrors of heil. The preacher left me and I went home, but not as usual. Nothing could give me ease. For some time I made many attempts to work off the impressions, but they were all in vain.” 110

While Shenkyn was in this transition state, there happened to be a raffle one night at a place called Penrhiw, in the parish of Margam. The prize to be raffled for was a couple of geese. Shenkyn, thinking that the raffle and the jollity connected with it would pacify his uneasy conscience, went to try his luck with the dice, and it fell to his lot to carry home the geese. About midnight he left the company, and placing one of the geese under each arm began his way home. The geese, never over silent, were very noisy and restless after being disturbed at that unseasonable hour. For some time Shënkyn endured their screeches, now on the left and then on the right. But the night being dark, the road very difficult, and his companions growing more and more boisterous, he at last grew tired. : Had his mind been as usual, the geese would have been carried home safely enough. But, as it was, the thick darkness and the unearthly screeches worked together with a guilty conscience, and the burden became too heavy for him to bear it any longer. He threw down the geese, and fell there and then on his knees, crying aloud for mercy.

After this strange adventure with the geese, Shenkyn began to try other means to pacify his conscience. He resolved to lead a different life, and do his best to make the wicked man a good one. His efforts, however, were not attended with much success.it

We are not told how long this struggle continued, but some time after it had commenced, Mr. David Morris, the father of the Rev. Ebenezer Morris, came into the neighbourhood to preach. Shenkyn went to hear him. The sermon did not in the least degree diminish the sense of sinfulness which had been already produced by Evan Tyclai. He still saw that he was “the wicked man ” whom Evan had so powerfully pictured. But while Mr. Morris was preaching, the Spirit revealed to the soul of Shenkyn the glory of another whose brightness he had never seen before. He preached "peace by Jesus Christ," and the rough mountaineer cast himself, in all his roughness, into the arms of tho Refiner :

[ocr errors]

" Jesus, the Name that charms our fears,

That bids our sorrows cease; 'Tis music in the sinner's ears,

'Tis life, and health, and peace.”

And so did Shenkyn find it, though his whole life was a series of struggles. He fought "the good fight of faith"-sometimes physically as well as spiritually. He had a vivid imagination. The devil was, to his mind, a living stern reality, and his contests with his enemy are sometimes very amusing

Near the farm house in which he lived there was and still remains a quarry, and Shenkyn “oft-times resorted thither," as his Master to Gethsemane, to hold communion with God. When any matter of importance pressed upon his mind, he would suddenly leave the house and go alone to the quarry, so that at length whenever his friends lost him they knew where he' might be found. Here he prayed, and struggled, and fought many a battle with the devil. One might hear him at times as if he were fiercely quarrelling with some one whom he called a deceiver and a thief, and, not content with Welsh names only, a rascal and scoundrel. Those who knew him at length grew accustomed to these contests ; and when they heard Shenkyn indulg. ing in bad names, and exhausting his vocabulary of non-complimentary English epithets, they concluded that the devil and he were fighting a pitched battle in the quarry. Poor Satan! He generally came off the worse for the fight.

Shenkyn did not live by the Gospel. The small farm, called the Goitre, which he held, was not sufficient to maintain him and his family without a good deal of toil. He was a very early riser, and was generally up before any of his neighbours, especially during the spring and summer months. When he required lime for farming purposes, he was at the kiln before the lime-burner himself, which was, one morning, an occasion of a severe struggle between him and the devil. The lime was bought and sold by measure, according to the size of the cart. Shenkyn, being all alone at the kiln, felt a very strong desire to pile up the lime, so as to take home more than the usual and lawful quantity. His better nature reminded him that that would be stealing. “No, no," says Satan, "you need not call it stealing—it will only be good measure.” The conflict between Right and Wrong was rather hard. He piled up the cart; he filled every nook' and corner with lime until at last he felt satisfied with his load. When he was about to take away his “good measure," his heart smote bim. Who was it that tempted him to do this wrong

? Who but his old enemy the devil ? Then he would serve him out in his own coin. He jumped upon the cart, and threw down a large quantity of the lime, taking home much less than usual. When he had reached the top of the hill, between the kiln and the field, he placed a stone behind each wheel and went aside and prayed while the horses rested. In a short time he might be seen on the hill waving his hat above his head, and shouting, at the top of his voice, “ Victory !

« PreviousContinue »