A Few Thoughts Concerning John Elias
John Elias (1774-1841) was one of the eminent preachers of Wales, greatly used by God. Amazing are some of the accounts of his ministry. This fine biography of Edward Morgan first appeared in 1844 and was first reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust in 1973, and has recently been reprinted. Nothing but good can come of the reappearance of these excellent books; we hope there are more to come. On first reading the biography of John Elias over twenty-five years ago we jotted down the following thoughts. We believe they are just as relevant today.
We solemnly feel that the vital thing lacking in our churches today is POWER, the power of God. We have been much struck by some of the sayings of that remarkable Welsh preacher, John Elias (1774-1841). One would almost think he was alive today, viewing some of our solemn scenes. John Elias was a man who had seen wonderful days of spiritual prosperity in his youth. Thousands had gathered to hear his preaching, and there had been a marked outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The lives of the people had been eminent in godliness and grace. But at the end of his life he saw a decline. One striking thing that he said just before he died was to this effect: Ministers today say exactly the same things as they did fifty years ago, they use the identical words, but there are not the same effects. The very same things are requested at the prayer meetings as fifty years ago, but the same answers are not received, and so the asking goes on without any solemn concern that the answers are not being received. How true of us! He felt that the godly men of old (naming Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris and Thomas Charles) would not have recognised them as belonging to their family. We might take up the strain and wonder what Gadsby, Warburton and Kershaw would have thought of us. We speak the same language; but where is the power?
John Elias adds:
We stand in need of those fresh, powerful manifestations from heaven. We are, alas! accustomed to go on with the service of God in human strength; praying, hearing and preaching in that way! We are so lukewarm, without the light and the power of the Spirit! We neither feel nor see others experiencing His powerful operations! It is not often that unbelievers may, when they come to our congregations, cry out, ‘God is of a truth among you.’ And, alas! there is hut little lamentation on that account!
We would pray earnestly for more power in our preaching. To quote John Elias again:
Ministers seem often satisfied with having freedom to speak, and seeing many hearing them with attention and delight; but alas! without experiencing the effects of the power promised to attend the ministry of the gospel, the power necessary to produce a saving change in the sinner1 The ministry neither alarms, terrifies nor disturbs ungodly persons who sit under it…No experimental, thoughtful Christian can deny that God has withdrawn Himself from us, as to the particular operations of His Spirit and the especial manifestation of His grace.
To quote John Elias once more:
There is but little thirst for the gracious and powerful visitations of God, and also, the prayers for these blessings are weak and cold…Is there not reason to fear that the prayers of many of us are merely customary and formal, asking many things without feeling the need of them? We seldom inquire whether our prayers are answered; and if not, what hinders them? Do we avoid indulging in those thoughts or practices that hinder and mar our prayers? Are we indifferent as to the aid of the Spirit in prayer? 0 seek His face – His face; seek Him with all your heart! There are many in the church, I believe, who have seen better days, but they sleep heavily now.
To quote John Elias for the last time:
It is difficult to judge by the fruits of hundreds of professors that they are godly! There are signs of worldly-mindedness in many of the aged. In others there is a lack of principle in doing righteousness. The young people conform to the world, following its ways and foolish fashion. Others delight in wrangling disputes, and foolish and unprofitable questions. There is a multitude of mixed people lusting after the things of Egypt – hankering after the expressions and the baser things of other denominations and religious parties. They delight in swimming in the stream of the spirit of the age in things political and religious.
The book, ‘John Elias: Life, Letters and Essays,’ was written by Edward Morgan; (hardback; 417 pages; price £14.50; published by the Banner of Truth Trust, and obtainable from Christian bookshops.) The Apostle John wrote much concerning “love to the brethren,” and surely one aspect of this love is to delight in reading the lives of those who have gone before. “I am a companion of all them that fear Thee,” wrote the psalmist.
The above article was written in the July ‘Gospel Standard’ and reprinted here by permission of the editor, Ben Ramsbottom.
Life, Letters and Essays
John Elias (1774-1841) was one of the eminent preachers of Wales, greatly used by God. Amazing are some of the accounts of his ministry. This fine biography of Edward Morgan first appeared in 1844 and was first reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust in 1973, and has recently been reprinted. Nothing but good can […]
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