The mystic and millennialist Morgan Llwyd (1619-1659) was a chaplain in the army of Oliver Cromwell, and later an Approver of ministers in Wales. His ‘Llythyr i’r Cymry Cariadus,’ translated here, is considered a seminal work of Welsh prose.
A Letter to the Beloved Welsh
Books are like springs, and teachers are now like many lights shining among men. Hear, oh beloved Welshman, this brief word of truth addressed to you in your own language.
Vanity is publishing many books; weariness is presenting many ideas; peril is making many speeches; discomfort is welcoming many souls; and folly is trying to answer all the reasons of men: but oh, man, seek to know your innermost heart, and to enter through the narrow gate.
Many are promoting themselves, but few are attaining eternal life; many are dreaming, and few are awake; many are striving, but few hit the mark; all of them talk about God, and boast of the works of their hands, without seeing how close God is to them, giving breath to all, and spiritual life to us.
Everyone here honours bats in the sunlight more than he honours eagles, raises the spirit of man above the spirit of God, follows his own candle without knowing the glorious sun in the heights.
And oh, oh, oh, that so many of my people, learned as well as ignorant, are living in the sieve of vanity, and in the bile of bitterness, reclining in the swaddling bands of untruth on the couch of Babylon, grazing in the devil’s meadows to the gorging of the flesh – without knowing the invisible God who made them, or the blessed God who bought them, or the loving God who beats at their doors to be let in and to stay with them.
But each of them gropes as though blind for the walls and for the light, and searches for something to enlighten his mind, to soothe his heart, and to cool the fervid passions within him, and lives as though on a strand, where the ebb and flow of flesh and blood attack without ceasing; and he little considers that he is on the edge of a cliff, on the precipice of eternity, slipping into the everlasting; but he sleeps as though between the paws of a cat, and mutters pleasantly to himself as he sleeps.
Someone says, If I could have an understanding of science, to see how the wheels of the world are turning, and to penetrate the abyss, I would be wise and happy among my people.
Another says, If I could recapture the seeds of youth, to try once again the fires of harlotry, I would have my wish. Another says, If everyone bowed to me as to God, I would be a lucky man. A fourth says, If I had the bowels of the earth in my chest and in my coffer, I would sleep soundly, and all would be well. Someone seeks to know the nature of the sun and moon, and aspects of the planets, and seeks to understand their revolutions; But, says another, more brute than man, if I had good food and strong drink and fine clothes, and store and peace and comfort, I would be content. And one, with a weary conscience, says, If only I were in the grave, in the womb of my first mother, she would shelter and hide me from damnation, and all the fretful life of man on earth. This man is dreaming, and says in his heart, If I could be a teacher, a minister, a doctor, a journeyman, a soldier, a lawyer, a magistrate or treasurer, or a notable and nobleman, I would be happier than ever before.
But oh, my countryman (for Welshman, I do not know your name, even though, by the grace of God, I can see your nature), not one of these people understands goodness, or follows godliness, or flies above the sun to the dweller in eternity, or sees, through faith, the rock that forged us; but they all seek the living among the dead; they look for the sun in the depths of the earth; and you desire the Rose of Sharon, but are unwilling to go into the garden and fetch it, and you perish on your feet while gazing over the wall.
You chase the wind and you eat the chaff, and the more you have of it, the more the discomfort grows in your bowels: lust has set upon you, and imprisoned you in its shackles. You eat the grass and dew with the beasts, and the power of the firmament rules you in the pride and darkness of Lucifer, the father and root of fallen angels and father of sin and temptation. You do not recognise, poor wretch, either yourself, your maker, or your redeemer: the heart of God is Christ. If only the Son were within your breast, he would drive out your sins, and consume your lusts, and fill your heart with the unearthly light of heavenly love, and with unspeakable joy. Your soul is the image and copy of God, and nothing can fill you but the image and fullness of the Most High: the Son of the Father, the Lamb of God, the First and the Last, the Well-spring of Life, the Beauty of Angels, the Ruler of Heaven, the Root of All Being, the Centre of Lights, the Father of Spirits, the Word of God, the Mason who laid out Heaven and Earth, the Light of Men, the Sun of the Scriptures, the Lover of Sinners, the Judge of Demons, the Fifth Monarch of the Earth, the ruler of men, sent by God. His one foot is in the sea, and his other is on the land. Whatever he wishes, it comes to pass, and whatever he starts he brings to completion, and cannot leave undone.
He has filled the mind of God, and God is an eternal mind, and a blessed and wonderful spirit. He is able to fill your mind also: already he is close to you constantly, in your seeing, in your hearing, in your touch and taste and smell, wherever you are, day and night. But you are far from him, you neither see him nor hear him, and even though he is always with you, you yet refuse to associate with him; you do not know how to lean on him, even though he holds you constantly in his arms, and even though God hears you always, you do not know how to say one word to him, within him and by his bosom.
Even though God cares for you, putting food in your mouth, and life in your body, and breath in your nostrils, and light in your mind, and impulse in your members, you can never think rightly about God in his Son, or the Son in his Spirit, or the Spirit in his word, or the word in your heart, or about your own heart inside you, or yourself in this world, or this world in God, or about God, who is blessed of himself.
You need to realise that the world you see is like the bark of a tree, or the crust of a loaf, or a bone among dogs; and that a spirit or essence in the creature joins with your nature and causes your desires, but beyond this natural life your spirit constantly runs or walks among angels. And beyond these is the infinite Trinity, the Father, the Word and the Spirit (who are the Will, the Delight, and the Strength of God, and these three things are one), and so far the mind of Man can see through the Spirit. But farthest and deepest is the root and foundation, in the joyful, immeasurable union of the Three, that no eye can look upon and no mind contain except his own.
Oh, my countryman, search for the light of God in your mind. Seek the well of understanding, and drink from it frequently. Why do you not turn to the God who created you? How long will you continue to sell your soul, gaining nothing but emptiness? Why must you think like a pig or a mole, burrowing after futility? How long will the slang of the flesh and the jargon of Hell be heard on your lips? How long will your face be the picture of an angry animal, surly, resentful, unruly and cunning? Have you not heard that where the tree leans, there it will fall, and where the tree falls, there it must lie forever? Do not throw these thoughts aside in laughter and derision, for they will return to you, and rise inside you like a bitter fire at the end. God is merciful, but you are ruthless towards your own soul. Why do I write to you, but to wake you in time and bring you to mercy? Why should this letter, written in love, be a witness against you on the last day? Tell yourself, you who are reading these words: the life of man on earth is short; eternity is endless. The soul is precious; transgression is bitter. The law is heavy; the curse is cruel; the bottomless pit is a terrible place. The earth is a dung-heap; Beelzebub, the prince of the dung-heap, seeks restlessly for your soul. Man is deceitful; the gate is narrow; the New Birth is a mystery. The mind is dark, and the heart deceitful. The will is stubborn, the heart crafty. The judge is mighty; his judgement endures. The earth is empty; its people are grass. Pride is odious, folly malicious. The strongest are weak, the noblest empty. The most gifted are base, but blessed are those who deny themselves, and forsake the world for the fellowship of the Father and Son. For God is love; Christ is gain; his spirit is sweet; his zeal is hidden; his word is true; his ways are perfect; his counsel is profound; his day is great; his glance is piercing; his arm is strong, and his bosom is paradise. His children are happy, but his enemies find madness. His thoughts are inescapable; his patience is long; his gospel is mighty; and it is wonderful how he cares for his own. And I have no doubt that many of my people are loved by God, and that he lays a bright crown before them. Oh, Welshman, seek it, and leave everything for its sake, and if you fly to the bosom of the heavenly Father, you will be like him in love, purity, wisdom, long-suffering, life, peace, strength and heavenly brightness.
Outstanding men, the descendants of old Jacob, are ready to rise out of the earth, and for this they descend from Heaven. The well-springs of the eternal sea are breaking out in them, and neither the world, nor the flesh nor the devil can shut them out, or keep them under the earth. They have defeated the three worlds (the inner, the outer and the one that lies beyond); they seek to be doves in the temple of God, and on them the Three Names are written. On them may be read the name of the heavenly Father (the immortal King) and the heavenly Mother (the New Jerusalem and the angelic nature) and the heavenly Brother, Christ (before whom the mid-day sun is nothing but dark sackcloth), and as for their new name only a few people know it. With them Paradise is found, and the tree of life, and the ark of the covenant, and the secret manna, and the invisible world which endures forever, hidden beyond our own.
Do not throw these words to the dogs. The food of swine is acorns, but the spiritual understand and are sustained by the bread of life. But the wise will be separated from the foolish maidens, and a loud voice will proclaim: ‘Those who are foul will always be foul, and those purblind mockers will be blind forever. But the righteous will believe, and with their own eyes they will see Jesus enthroned in his glory. And all the idols will fall before him, and the nations will bow before the Fifth Monarch like the sons of Israel to Joseph, just as the holy scriptures said long ago.’
Then the earth shall be filled with knowledge, justice, unity and integrity, righteousness and glory as the waters fill the sea. These things are close – they are at the door – and in our lifetime we shall see them. Already the wheel of creation is turning, and it will turn yet faster as the days go by.
If you do not believe, you will not taste the fullness of God, and you will be trodden underfoot as happened to the man in the port of Samaria; but if you believe that these days are beginning, according to all the prophecies there have been since the world began, then look up. Stand firm. See the salvation of God. Be patient. Watch your footsteps. Do not say that light is darkness, or that bitterness is sweet, or you will be struck down by God. Seek God in your own heart, for none shall see God but those that find him there. Stick to your post, and adhere to wise people. Ask God to show you who they are, and where his sheep find their evening pasture. Come out of the butcher-house and bitterness of the evil one, and live joyfully in love. Do not walk in the tavern of devils, or in the palaces of the flesh, but pray for knowledge, and wisdom, your kinswoman, and they will be given to you. Cast yourself upon God in prayer, and accept no refusal from him. You need to beat on Jehovah’s door, and in time he will surely open it. And if men mock you, leave those dogs to bark at the moon, and continue with what you are doing. Do not ask for many opinions, but see that you know and do the will of the Almighty Master, and deny yourself to follow the Lord.
Finally, brother, perhaps you understand none of these things at first hearing. In that case read them again and again, until you get a better taste of God’s kingdom, and taste and think of that which will endure when all the world is in flames.
This is the first letter I have sent you so hurriedly in print, and I hope it will not be the last since I have many more things to say to you, if God permits and directs. I truly love you, whoever you are, and by God’s will I am spending my life on your behalf, and seeking the face and light of Him who lost the blind children of Adam, and I have Him in Christ the Emmanuel, and offer Him to you. I live in the hope of Israel, and long to see the time when the dawn will break, and the sun will rise over Britain. Awake! awake! awake! and walk as children of light, and accept this greeting from above through the hand of your neighbour.