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70

CHAPTER V.
MORGAN RHYS--DAVID WILLIAMS--BENJAMIN FRANCIS.

We are still in the eighteenth century; and we must linger in the romantic though little known Vale of Towy, to make the acquaintance of two more sacred poets of Wales. One of these is MORGAN RHYS, the story of whose life is almost entirely lost. We have, however, the memoir of his soul safely kept in his hymns and elegies. Being a contemporary and neighbour of David Jones and William Williams, he seems to have felt the stress and storm of the same religious conflict; and his devotion has very much of the same deep and fervent colour. He was influenced largely by the potent spirit of Griffith Jones, of Llanddowror, the Morning Star of the Great Revival; and for a time undertook the care of one of his Circulating Schools.

These schools were instituted to impart the simplest forms of elementary knowledge in country villages. After a schoolmaster had been for a while engaged in removing the dense ignorance of one district, he had to leave it for another; so the 'little knowledge' was scattered far and wide, 71 although in very small instalments. In the latter part of his life, Mr. Rhys established a stationary school on his own responsibility: most probably in order that he might have more of personal freedom in hig evangelistic work. For he was one of the band of Calvinistic Methodist itinerant preachers that rendered noble service in that age to the renaissance of national piety. His hymns reflect strongly the theological lights and shades of his day; when the human side of Redemption was to a very considerable extent ignored, so as to emphasize the divine side of it. The total depravity of man--the impossibility of salvation by means of legal obedience--the need of the atonement, and its sufficiency--these are the doctrines which his harp translates into song. When he once went to Williams, Pantycelyn, and read out to him one of his hymns, that master of sacred song told him that it contained the experience of a 'good Christian and a half.' His hymns reveal a mind dwelling much in pleasant melancholy, as in the shadow of leafy branches flecked with sunlight.

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