Chapter 3

It began with a disappointment. John Elias, the greatest preacher that many had ever heard, was coming to Tremadog. And, amid great excitement, plans were made for most of the folk from Beddgelert, Nantmor and Nant Gwynant to make the journey to hear him. Wil had heard that when Elias spoke, people would tremble and cry out.

He was a man of the Word and when he opened the Scriptures and preached he made the Bible come alive. His voice, it was said, was so powerful that he could make the building shake, and yet it was so sweet and gentle that sparrows would fly down from the trees to listen to him. And Wil was going to miss him!  At sixteen that seemed like the greatest tragedy ever – especially as Bronwen was going to hear the great man, and could talk of nothing else. Wil pleaded with his father – begged even – but he remained unmoved. With the sheep up on the hills, and thieves about, Wil had to help out with watching over them. He had to take his turn, and that was that. With much snorting, and sighing, and shouting, and slamming of doors, he accepted his fate.

On the following Sunday those who had not been able to make the trip to Tremadog, were in the kitchen of Hafod-y-Llan farm, where their meetings were held. Wil, along with the other young people, was in the adjoining milking room, from where they could see and hear. The farm kitchen was fairly big, and benches and chairs were gathered around the big table. There was a bench behind the table for the preacher to stand on so that he could be seen.

The conversation was all about the great John Elias, and how they were going to be missing such a great blessing. The preacher that day was Richard Williams from Brynengan, a solid Bible teacher, who had been to Nant Gwynant several times before. He was a good-humoured man, red-faced from working in the fields, who could be relied on to give a good, thought-provoking sermon. But he was not, and never would be, John Elias.

Once the service began it followed that comfortable format that was familiar to all in the congregation. Prayers were prayed; hymns were sung; the Bible was read. But there was a flatness that hung over the gathering.

Eventually, Richard Williams stood to speak. He announced, ‘My text for today is from the gospel of John, chapter 6 and verse 37 – ‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’’

As he began to speak the atmosphere changed, and Richard Williams changed with it. Somehow, to Wil’s eyes he seemed bigger, more imposing, than usual. And when he spoke, his voice seemed richer, fuller, more powerful. Oh! he may not have caused the building to shake or forced passing sparrows to stop and listen, but he certainly had the full attention of that congregation – including all the young people in the milking room, who were not always as reverent as they ought to be.

He spoke of the holiness of God; of how God was so different to us; of how we could not bear the sight of God in his holiness because of our sinfulness. It seemed that he wasn’t just talking about something, but was describing what people were experiencing in that room. It seemed that God, himself, was present there, and that He was speaking directly to them. And people were not just listening politely, silently. Some were crying out; some were groaning audibly; some were crying softly. Wil felt a weight, a heaviness in the very depths of his being that was threatening to overwhelm him, to crush him. He found himself moaning and sobbing because he knew that God was there in that farmhouse kitchen and that he was not worthy to be in God’s presence.

Then Richard Williams, with his voice breaking and tears in his eyes, and struggling to keep going, cried out, ‘God loves us with a deep, unfailing love. He wants to show us mercy. He wants to forgive us, to cleanse us, to set us free from our sin, and enable us to experience a relationship of love with Him, that He might raise us up on the Last Day.’

‘Come to Him,’ he said. ‘Come to Him now. Come with confidence. God loves you. He wants you to come and receive His love. His arms are open wide. Come! Come! Come! For He will not drive you away. He will not push you out. He will welcome you in. Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Come!’

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