How Mary Jones and Thomas Charles triggered a mission to the world

Posted in Blog, Mary Jones

My wife, Sheila, and I are looking forward to attending the opening of Mary Jones World at Llanycil, Bala, on Sunday 5 October 2014 – the bicentenary of the death of Thomas Charles from whom Mary received her Bible at the end of her long walk across Welsh mountains. Mary Jones World is the realisation of a dream Bible Society has been praying for – to see the story of Mary Jones and Thomas Charles told to a new generation. A new state-of-the-art visitor and education centre will give residents of Bala, Gwynedd and Wales the chance to learn about the Bible’s impact not only on the Welsh nation but the world. For a wider audience the centre will celebrate the birth of Bible Society which has grown from its roots in the foothills of the majestic Snowdonia National Park to nearly 150 Bible Societies around the world.

Today I am beginning to tell the story of how Mary Jones and Thomas Charles triggered a mission to the world.

In a twelfth-century church with an ancient lych-gate, a young couple exchanged their marriage vows. To the north-east loomed Cadair Idris mountain, while to the south-west the Dysynni river meandered through a broad valley joining the sea eight miles away close to the little town of Tywyn.  The year was 1783 and the happy couple had gathered with their relatives in St Michael’s church, Llanfihangel-y-Pennant in north Wales. Their names were entered in the parish register as “Jacob Jones of this Parish Bachelor and Mary Jones of this Parish Spinster”. Jacob was a weaver and he and his young bride set up their home first at Pen y Bryniau Mawr and then in a tiny cottage at Tyn’y-ddôl about half a mile from the church at Llanfihangel, Merionethshire (since 1974 Gwynedd).

Three months later, another wedding was celebrated twenty-five miles to the northeast in the town of Bala, when Thomas Charles married Sarah Jones. Although the bridegroom’s parents were not well to do, he had received a good education first at the grammar school in Carmarthen. At the age of seventeen, Thomas Charles had gone to Llangeitho, south of Aberystwyth, to hear one of the leaders of the eighteenth century Welsh revival speak. They called Llangeitho “Jerusalem” because newly converted or refreshed Christians were making their way there like pilgrims marching to Zion. The preacher, Daniel Rowland, formerly an Anglican curate, was a key figure in early Welsh Methodism. Charles never forgot hearing Rowland preach on 20 January 1773.

“It was a day to remember as long as I live,” Thomas Charles wrote. “Ever since the happy day I have lived in a new heaven and a new earth. The change a blind man who receives his sight experiences does not exceed the change I experienced in my mind. The truths exhibited to my view appeared, for a time, too wonderfully gracious to be believed. I could not believe for very joy. I had before some idea of gospel truths floating in my head – but they never powerfully and with Divine energy penetrated my heart till now.”

Next episode on this blog tomorrow.