was nearly over and the deacon sat in the armchair before the fire. The
young ministerial student had preached well - a little too modern,
perhaps, but well - and had left the village to tramp over the mountain to
school had been that afternoon stimulating. A youngster from a farm a mile
away had thrown out a challenge: “You have been a deacon for forty
years. What good has religion done to the LIan?“
question was raised at tea and the ministerial had spoken in the same
doubtful tone as the youth from the farm.
good, indeed, had religion done to the LIan? Here was a challenge over
which the deacon would have to ponder, and that quiet hour on Sunday night
between supper and bed-time seemed to him fitted to be devoted to a
meditation on his forty years in the “set fawr.”
his efforts in the village been worthwhile? He had been a
fighter—sincere, almost fanatical— against the taverns. Many a dash
had he had against the innkeepers: many a battle for the sobriety and
morality of the Llan. Had they availed? He had struggled for the deepening
of religious life in the village. Had that struggle availed?
deacon decided to journey back forty years and to compare the Llan of the
‘eighties and the ‘nineties with that of today. He would draw a
balance sheet of the losses and achievements in that period. What of the
losses? He thought of the preachers of the last century. What giants they
were I Men whose words shook the souls of their congregation. Men who
terrified you with their dignity as they stood in the pulpit. Men whose
theology was based on years of deep thought. Men of philosophy. Men who
stood firm by their dogmas and their doctrines. Those were the preachers
of yesterday. And they knew that a sermon was a sermon. None of your
snippety little chats, but a full-blooded hour’s dissertation at least.
At the “cyfarfod misol” there used to be two sermons instead of the
one they had nowadays—thundering sermons, with a powerful “hwyl.”
a downfall there had been in the preachers, thought the deacon. Instead of
the giants whose philosophy and dignity made them objects of awe, you had
young preachers who were more egoistical, more self-controlled, more
confident, and who thought they knew everything. These youths of today
neglected theology, they scorned dogmas, they were not firm in their
beliefs, and had given up the “hwyl” for a quiet reasoning which
affected the head but left the heart untouched.
thought that half-an-hour was quite long enough for the sermon, and you
never felt that spiritual uplifting after you had listened to them.
the deacon thought. What of the Sunday school? he next asked himself. He
was perturbed about this side of his religious life. Whereas forty years
ago there were 130 members of the Sunday school, now there were only 50.
The children recited less; they did not know their Bible at all
thoroughly. Perhaps they were taught a more practical religion today, but,
reflected the deacon, what is the use of practical religion without dogma
and without a foundation of theology?
deacon grew depressed. He thought that religion was failing. That belief
in God was disappearing. He looked round for guidance to the pictures of
the Nonconformist giants on the walls. Was there no consolation?
deacon searched for the achievements and he brightened. What of temperance
and morality? He recollected the terror with which Saturday night in the
LIan inspired him. On that evening of the week rowdyism descended upon the
the fighting I Many of the farm labourers only came in to the LIan to
fight. How they would rush madly at their enemies I To what bloodshed the
feuds would lead! It was no boxing match but a savage struggle. That was
the Welsh villager’s Saturday night forty years ago, thought the deacon.
Where was the fighting today? At nine o’clock there was hardly a sound
on the town square. Many taverns had been closed. The Sun had become a
temperance hotel. The fairs were no longer the cat-and-dog fights of forty
thought the deacon, the Llan is better. Why? And when did this happen?
mind went back to 1904-5, to the Revival. It was then that the great
change had come. It had been for the Llan the most stirring time of its
history. The chapels had filled to overflowing, and the taverns had been
neglected. The Revival had brought the victory of religion and morality
over the evil forces of disorder.
deacon looked at the clock. It was midnight. He rose slowly. He was a
happier man. He felt that his forty years’ struggle in the LIan had seen
a revolution in the habits of the villagers. They might not know their
Bible so thoroughly as they used to, but they had become peaceful,
God-fearing citizens, leading lives of order and morality. As the deacon
climbed the stairs he smiled and thought, “When those youths ask me what
religion has done for the Llan, what a thundering reply I shall be able to
January 5th, 1934.