Born 25 February 1767 at Bron-y-llan, Mochdre, Montgomeryshire. His parents were Evan and Mary Roberts (see under Roberts, George), members of the Independent congregation at Llanbryn-mair who attended a branch chapel at Aberhafesp. When he was 18 years of age he went to live with his elder sister at Llanbryn-mair, where he became a member of the church October 1786. In January 1790 he began to preach’ and the following March went, at his own expense, to the North Wales Academy at Oswestry which was at that time conducted by Edward Williams (1750 - 1813), where he remained until Whit Sunday, ‘trying to learn Latin.’ He then worked for some time on the same subject with Abraham Tibbott at Llanuwchllyn, and after that with Benjamin Jones at Pwllheli. In January 1791 the Congregational Board (London) agreed that he should be trained at their Academy free of charge, and he was duly admitted. In 1792 the Academy, now in charge of Jenkin Lewis, was moved to Wrexham where Roberts spent three years. Before finishing his course he was invited to assist Richard Tibbott at Llanbryn-mair; he began his work there January 1795 and was ordained 25 August 1796. On Tibbott's death he was elected in March 1798 to take charge of the church. In addition to that he undertook to keep a day school in a building attached to the Old Chapel, and continued this work until his eldest son, Samuel Roberts (‘S.R.’) came to assist him as joint minister in 1827. He lived in the chapel-house belonging to the Old Chapel until 1806, when he moved to Diosg farm, close by; here he experienced the arrogance and tyranny of the landlords and stewards of those days. However, his ministry prospered and his field of labour was extended to the furthest end of Carno and over to Llanerfyl. He succeeded to a rich inheritance in the history of Independency in this district, and made the most of his opportunities, so that it was not surprising that it came to be the ‘cradle of early Independency in Wales.’
His chief interest lay in theology, not in politics, and it was not long before the country came to know of the strength of his convictions. In those days, Wales was seething with doctrinal disputes, the fiercest of which was probably that between Calvinism and Arminianism. As a disciple of Dr. Edward Williams, John Roberts steered a middle course and entered the fray as an exponent of what was called the ‘New System,’ which held that it was not right to adopt either the Higher Calvinism on the one hand or the extremes of Arminianism on the other. In view of the stand he took, he was bitterly assailed by both parties but, as he was kind and courteous by nature, this did not perturb him. He wrote a great number of articles to the various periodicals to explain his point of view. Thomas Jones of Denbigh (1759 - 1820) entered the lists to oppose him, and, in reply, he published the book which was to become so celebrated and which was known (because of its covers) as ‘The Blue Book,’ Galwad Ddifrifol ar Ymofynwyr am y Gwirionedd i Ystyried Tystiolaeth yr Ysgrythyrau ynghylch Helaethrwydd Iawn Iesu Grist. Included in this there is an appendix containing articles to the same effect by six Independent ministers who supported him. He also published Galwad caredigol ar yr Arminiaid; Cyfarwyddiadau ac Anogaethau i Gredinwyr; A Friendly Address to the Arminians; Hanes Bywyd Lewis Rees; and some other books. He died 21 July 1834, and was buried in Llanbryn-mair parish churchyard.
Published date: 1959
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