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Welshmen Known in London.-XII.…


Welshmen Known in London.-XII. The Rev. W. Pedr Williams. IT is a commonplace that a large number of JL the brightest ornaments of the London pulpit of to-day, in the Congregational pulpit especially, are Welshmen. And it would not be difficult to give several reasons why it is so. The Welsh, like other branches of the Celtic family, possess natural eloquence of a very high order, as well as that nervous sympathetic temperament which is so essential to successful oratory. And in addition to this, the Welsh people have had generations of train- ing in theology, training that has made them not only familiar with the facts of Christianity, but has also put those facts into their very blood. So that it is no wonder that the sons of Gwalia are able to hold their own everywhere in the pulpit. Among the men from Wales who have made their names known and respected in all religious circles in London, the Rev. W. Pedr Williams stands in the very front rank. For seventeen years he has held one of the most important pastorates in the Metropolis, and none but the experienced can know what a tax on a man's resources are the claims of such a position as he has filled. Judging from the manner in which some people deal with nationality, it is doubtful whether we shall be allowed to claim Mr. Pedr Williams as a Welshman. According to the latest standard he is An Englishman of Welsh Extraction, for he was born at Ince, in Lancashire, on the twenty-eighth of June, 1862, and spent the first four years of his life between that town and Manchester. Notwithstanding those incidents he comes from a pure Welsh, or to be quite accurate, a pure Celtic stock. There is a dash of Irish blood in him, for either his grandmother or great grandmother on the maternal side was of Irish descent. He had the misfortune to lose both his parents when very young, and at four years of age was taken charge of by his grandparents, who lived in Holywell, in Flint- shire. There he was educated at a Grammar School, and was afterwards sent to the Liverpool Institute. Very early in life he was the subject of religious convictions, and when eleven years of age he joined the Welsh Congregational Church in Heol-y-capel, under the pastorate of the Rev. David Oliver. To this day, Mr. Williams speaks of his old pastor in terms of high esteem and grateful recollection. He has many other pleasant memories connected with Holywell, one of them being in connection with a literary society. It was at the meetings of that institution that he made his first attempts at public speaking, and his remarkable gifts in that direction soon attracted notice. He him- self became conscious of his talents, so that when his pastor and the church of which he was a member, and of which his grandfather had been a deacon for forty years, expressed a wish that he should enter the ministry, he found that their desire and his own concurred. After a preparatory course of training he Entered Brecon College in 1881, where he spent about three years. During those years his preaching powers attracted considerable notice, and before the usual period of studentship was concluded he had been invited to undertake the pastorate of the English Church at Troedyrhiw. Much against the wishes of those who cannot see that there is no rule without an exception he accepted the invitation, and in 1884 he was ordained. But THE REV. W. PEDR WILLIAMS. the Troedyrhiw pastorate was only preparatory. The field there was too narrow for a man of Mr. Pedr Williams' gifts. Early in 1885, he went to the Old Tabernacle, Bristol, and there he soon made his mark and rapidly climbed the ladder of popularity. That church had shared the fate of city churches in general by its members having left to take up their residence in the more inviting suburbs. There was the time-honoured sanctuary with its almost empty pews. But he believed that there were plenty of people left in the city of Bristol to fill the Tabernacle to overflowing, and in a very short time it was seen that he had not believed in vain. Before many months had passed not only were the pews filled, but also the aisles from end to end. It became a common saying in Bristol, If you want to get standing room in the Tabernacle, you must be there before the doors are open, for in a few minutes afterwards you will have no chance." During those years he used often to lecture on Sunday afternoons at the Colston Hall, and seldom would he be without an audience of between 3,000 and 4,000 people. Removal to London. Such popularity as that of Mr. Pedr Williams in Bristol could not be hidden. London heard the fame of the young Welshman, and as it always does in such cases, drew him to her own service. On the first Sunday in 1889, he begun his pastorate at the Lower Clapton Congrega- tional Church. There he found a strong congregation and a large sphere for work, and as already stated he has "held the fort" for seventeen years, endearing himself to his people more and more, and winning additional fame continually as a preacher of rare order and power. The limits of this sketch does not allow the analysing of his gifts, but he is undoubtedly A Great Orator. He possesses a magnificent voice, of great strength and compass, and can express all the feelings that move him excellently as he desires. His command of the English language is extraordinary. All its wealth is at his call. His choice words suggest very careful preparation. On one occasion at the close of a speech that had struck every one who listened to it by the beauty of expression, he was asked for his manuscript. But he had only a few hints on a half sheet of notepaper." Then there is in him holy fervour, a passion for God and the good of man. And above all he is a man with a message. He understands the needs of the human soul, and knows how to satisfy them. No wonder the services of such a man to preach and to lecture are in great demand. Some of his lectures have been delivered hun- dreds of times. He has often appeared on the platform of the Congregational Union (as well as on political and temperance platforms). But popular as he is, and widely as he travels, he does not neglect his own people. Every week regularly he devotes one afternoon, and often two, to pastoral visitation. He is alive to the claims of home above all others. Much to the regret of a very large circle of friends and admirers, London is going to lose the services of this eloquent preacher. For some time he has been drawn towards the Colonies. More than once churches in South Africa have approached him, being convinced that he is the kind of man that is wanted there if the English element in that country is to be retained for Christ. When the invitation came from the most prominent Congregational Church in Durban, he felt that he could resist no longer. He saw there an opportunity for Christian work on a large scale which he dare not disregard. Mr. Williams will carry with him to his new sphere the best wishes of all those who have been under the spell of his eloquence.