This book contains some vivid pen sketches of seven of the principal leaders that were used during the Welsh Revival:
R. B. Jones
W. W. Lewis
W. S. Jones
A helpful, if small, contribution to the revival literature of the period.
We have include 3 of the 10 chapters
“AND how shall they preach except they be sent?” (The Apostle Paul).
The preacher is the ambassador of Eternity in the court of Time. In the court but not of it. His authority is eternity, his headquarters the realm of the eternal verities. His only concern is to permeate the court of time with the atmosphere of the eternal. He receives power and inspiration for his tremendous task from beyond the confines of the temporal. Is it meet to congratulate a preacher for a timely sermon? Ought not his messages to be as breezes from the eternal hills? All the great preachers of the church are the products of the spiritual realm, from John Chrysostom, Wycliffe, Savonarola, and Knox, down to our own day. When the church becomes enamoured of the Delilahs of time, and succumbs to the overtures of the temporal, then follows a period of spiritual stagnation and the desert wind withers her spiritual life. “Awake, O North wind and come thou South, blow upon my garden.” And with the winds of heaven comes the prophet. Spiritual revivals always produce men with the outstanding message. The Reformation gave birth to Luther, Calvin and Knox whose message shook political and Papal thrones to their foundation. As the late Professor Richard Morris tersely put it— “Martin Luther with his clarion blast shook the Papacy to its very foundations.”
The same sentiment was voiced by the late Rev. Joseph Jenkins concerning Calvin—“A man with eternity as his platform, and hell becoming pale before his message.” When the hour of God struck during the third decade of the eighteenth century, the trumpet blast of the Wesleys, Whitfield, Rowland, Harris, and Williams echoed through Great Britain and a nation changed in a day. The Church realised the inadequacy of the altar when the pulpit was devoid of the prophetic voice. During the absence of the prophet the people rise up to play and dance before the golden calf sponsored by the weakness of the priesthood. God speaks from the mount of His Revelation and then the prophet arrives. What is true of the church universal is true of the Church of God in our beloved Wales, a land exalted unto Heaven where great preaching is concerned. Of Wales it can be said as of Bethlehem—“And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not least among the princes of Judah.”
As we glance back across the centuries and retrace our meditations from the day of our patron saint, such names as Penry, Walter Caradog, Vavasor Powell, Wroth, Erbury, John Elias, Christmas Evans, and Williams y Wern, remind us as a nation of our terrific responsibility in the light of God’s gifts to us in saintly leaders. What thrills and pathos are ours when we read the heart-pleadings of the young John Penry for Welsh preachers, men who could help the people of Wales to explore the riches of God’s word in the vernacular! What a treasure he left to his four little daughters in bequeathing four New Testaments (his sole property)—what a gold mine! The only answer the church gave to Penry was the reading of homilies. But the eternal throne had greater blessings in preparation for Wales. Griffith Jones, Llanddowror with his evangelical preaching and his circulating schools may be regarded as the morning star of the eighteenth century revival in Wales.
“In the fullness of time, God sent His trumpeters through the land—Howell Harris of Trevecca saw his own sinful state and wonderful Saviour during Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday 1735.” After that wonderful vision which is the first and foremost equipment of a great preacher, the whole of Wales experienced his thunder and lightning. And what of Daniel Rowland, Llangeitho, who began his career as a curate to his elder brother and ended as a curate to his own son? In one feature he was different from his fellow revivalists. From the remotest parts of the Principality they flocked to Llangeitho year after year to the monthly communion, a congregation between 1500 and 2500. Rowland dwelt on the terrors of Sinai until people felt in their very bones their hopelessness. Then with angelic voice and countenance he would hold up the cross, and with tears of joy and repentance their jubilant notes would resound through the Vale of Aeron. One remarkable thing on the day of his funeral was the presence of 100 preachers who were his sons in the faith. The Reverend William Williams, the sweet singer of Wales, preserved the rich fruits of the great awakening in his wonderful hymns. Ben Bowen, the young poetic genius who died after crossing the threshold of the twentieth century, maintained that the flowers of the Vale of Towy were so soaked with the dew of hymnology that they would never wither.
“Ni wywa blodau Dyffryn Tywi mwy,
Mae gwlith emynau Cymru arnynt hwy.”
In the wake of Harris, Rowland, and Williams came the commentator Peter Williams, who succeeded better in commending the Word than in commenting upon it. He experienced conversion under the ministry of the Rev. George Whitfield. His marginal notes on the Bible created a little stir. He was accused of Sabellianism. One of his contemporaries suggested for that reason the urn of Sabellius was often shaken in his presence. Yet he was a mighty man of God, a fire for the salvation of souls. Peter Williams’s Bible is still a monument to his literary labours and Water Street Chapel, Carmarthen, a reminder of his care for his converts.
With the passing of the eighteenth century God did not forget Wales. Some historians testify that the Principality had revivals every decade until 1859. The giants in intellect, eloquence and grace, John Elias, William Williams, and Christmas Evans were products of revivals. In them the Welsh pulpit realised the value and power of drama, poetry, and philosophy sanctified. In their wake followed the Beddgelert revival, the channel being a rustic unpolished preacher, Robert Dafydd, Brynengan, “that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” That revival gave Wales John Jones, Talsarn, David Jones, Treborth, and William Jones, America (they were brothers). John Jones was a Saul among his brethren. One instance will suffice for us to realise his power. Concluding his sermon on one occasion he said—“Here is the best description I can give of the two great masters, God and the Devil. Let us divide the house and let each one choose his Master; I’ll do my best to give the Devil fair play. Let him have the first chance and let everyone that desires to be his servant own him publicly. Now are you ready? ‘Blessed be thy name O Prince of Hell!’ Let each servant in this service say Amen. Amazing silence! Perhaps you didn’t understand me or else you wouldn’t be so quiet and reluctant with your Amen. Come again. Here is the second chance. ‘Blessed be thy name for ever and ever Beelzebub.’ Say Amen.” Fear and trembling caught the people and the preacher broke the terrible silence with his trumpet voice. “Now or never to own your Master. One chance! Be men! Own Satan in a religious meeting as well as in the fair! Are you ready? Blessed be thy name O Prince of Darkness. May the crown be on his head. Let the Deity be dis-enthroned!’ Hurry with your Amen.” The silence and fear were painful. In this atmosphere of intense sincerity the preacher turned— “Well, let us turn to the other side. Are you followers of the Son of God, ready to own your Master through thick and thin? If you are, prepare yourselves and remove the rust from your Amen. If you are ready we shall begin—‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.’” The preacher failed to finish the verse. One mighty Amen filled the chapel. The preacher remarked— “There, followers of Satan, God’s family are not ashamed to own their Master.”
William Jones, his brother, served his Master in the Western hemisphere and undoubtedly heard the divine “Well done.” David Jones, Treborth, another of the triumvirate, was an accomplished poet in the strict metres and a hymn writer as well as an acceptable preacher. His was the gift of the prophet—“And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice.” On one of his preaching itineraries through Cardiganshire during a certain corn harvest the Rev. John Jones, Blaenanerch, sent a letter to the Secretary of the Caernarvonshire Presbytery beseeching him to call the Rev. David Jones home because he feared that there would be no food for man or beast during the following winter. The people were leaving the harvest and following the preacher, intoxicated with the wine of his preaching.
One of the most fruitful years of the Right Hand of the Most High in the history of his church in Great Britain is 1859. That wonderful manifestation of the power of God began, in an obscure prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario. The wind bloweth where it listeth; it swept across the States, took the Atlantic in its stride, descended on Ulster, resulting in Pentecostal scenes, and crossed the Irish Sea to Scotland. During this stage a young Welsh Wesleyan preacher, Humphrey Jones, came across the sea in the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. He came into contact with another young man of similar spiritual aspirations and yearnings after perfection, namely the Rev. David Morgan, Ysbyty Ystwyth, Cardiganshire. A carpenter by trade, David Morgan, through the instrumentality of “great David’s greater Son,” the carpenter of Nazareth, spread the flame of revival through Wales and more than 36,000 were added to the churches. Among these converts were pulpiteers of no mean stature— the Rev. John Evans, Eglwysbach, a giants in intellect, whose sanctified oratory and dramatic powers led hundreds to a saving knowledge of Christ. The Rev. Doctor Dinsdale Young the eminent Wesleyan, testified to his listening for over an hour to Eglwysbach preaching—although he understood not a word, yet the monoglot Englishman had utterly forgotten himself. One name resounded very often in his ears—Iesu Grist. Like a true disciple of Wesley, John Evans was enthralled by the Saviour and could well ratify the spiritual experience of Charles Wesley—“Jesus, name, all names above.”
The fire of the revival entered our institutes of learning and who can measure the effects upon generations of students in every sphere? While yet a student at Balliol College, Oxford, at the feet of the renowned Benjamin Jowett, T.C. Edwards, son of Principal Lewis Edwards, came under the conviction of sin during the visit of the Rev. David Morgan to Bala. An old saint, Mrs. Rowlands of Bala, related to us the story of his conversion, how he was “a dry as dust preacher” before his conversion, and how, afterwards, the sacred flame burnt on the altar of his heart for the remainder of his life. He became the first principal of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and then for a brief period followed his father as principal of Bala Theological College. The flame of revival and the light of scholarship dwelt harmoniously in his life. His great sermon on “For me to live is Christ” still lingers in many hearts in Wales. The preacher in a flight of imagination goes to the Emperor’s Palace to ask Nero what life is to him. The answer is— “Power.” Turning from the throne room of the Palace into another room there is a man in deep thought. He asks him the same question, and Seneca answers— “To live is to think.” Then the preacher returns to Nero enquiring whether he has anyone else whom he can consult on the great question of living. At length the Emperor recalls that a strange Jewish prisoner has arrived and he directs the preacher down to the dungeon beneath the palace and bids him be careful because the steps are damp and slippery. The preacher, after going down two or three steps, scans the unhealthy dungeon and sees a prisoner in the attitude of adoration. “Pardon me, remarkable prisoner, can you tell me what it is to live? “The prisoner turns his beaming face on the preacher and then to the heavens and assures him “For me to live is Christ.” The late Sir W. R. Nicoll, that shrewd judge of men, admitted that as a minister to listen to regularly, he would have chosen Principal Thomas Charles Edwards.
During the 1859 revival there were two students at the Memorial College, Brecon, who were destined to influence the lives of generations of ministers—E. Herber Evans, and David Rowlands, who subsequently became Principals, the former of Bala-Bangor Theological College, the latter of Brecon Memorial College. The saintliness of Principal Rowlands (Dewi Mon) left its mark upon all who came under his tuition. He numbly acknowledged the debt to the power of the gospel in his own life as a result of the 1859 revival. Principal Herber Evans was in the front rank of pulpit evangelists of his day. To quote Nicoll’s biographer—“For sheer overwhelming eloquence he placed Doctor Herber Evans above every other preacher he had heard.”
Other preachers of the first magnitude appear in the religious firmament of Wales in connection with this revival. The Rev. R. D. Roberts, Llwynhendy, the Baptist divine, with his sanctified Welsh ‘hwyl,’ and in the power of God, travelled the country with his mighty message, and turned the colourless, tasteless lives of hundreds into the sweet wine of a new relationship with God in Christ. And what of that colourful personality—the Rev. William Rees (Gwilym Hiraethog), poet, journalist, lecturer, but best of all a preacher of brilliant talents? In his sermon on Micah 6, 1-3, he portrays the prophet going to preach to the mountains—he had often preached to the people with no effect. God commanded him to contend with the mountains. He obeys and as he goes the people enquire whither he is going. “He is going to preach to the mountains.” Their curiosity is awakened. “Let us go and listen to what he has to say in our absence.” He goes and lifts his voice— “Hear ye O Mountains, the Lord hath a controversy with his people. I have no quarrel with you, you are always obedient.” And the mountains answer “Speak, holy prophet, thy servants listen.” The mountains teach a lesson to the uncircumcised. Then the people repent and ask “Wherewith shall we come before the Lord and bow ourselves before the high God?” Were it not for the lesson of the mountains no one would have known how long their obstinacy would have lasted.
Then there was that preacher of Herculean proportions— the Rev. Edward Mathews of Ewenny, a revival preacher of whom Sir Henry Irving remarked after hearing him preach, that the stage had lost an actor of the first magnitude. The Welsh saints experienced greater thrills under the ministry of Mathews, than any English audience experienced at Drury Lane. One instance of his genius will suffice. Preaching on the words in Luke 4, 20 “And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened upon him” he said: “A remarkable verse, remarkable things in it—a synagogue. When we think of it, a remarkable place, a small inartistic chapel and people going thither, nothing to eat, to drink, to buy, to sell, only things for the soul. Another remarkable thing—everybody in the synagogue—all there. They saw many people there before, but today, everyone. The houses were empty, everything could be stolen, but there was no one to steal—they were all in the synagogue. And all behaving in a remarkable way—gazing on Him. What a remarkable thing! Everybody in the synagogue and He also. Why was He not in the everybody? If the eyes of all were gazing there was no Him to be but there was a Him apart from the everyone, and everyone gazing on Him. A remarkable service, no speaking, no singing, no sleeping, nobody roaming, everyone gazing. I imagine someone saying—‘they ought to worship,’ but they were worshipping. Worshipping is gazing on Him. There is no one in the universe whom we can gaze upon, only Him. There will be no better work in Heaven than what took place at the synagogue that remarkable morning— worship, gazing for eternity upon Him.”
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century parts of Wales, especially North Wales, experienced an awakening under the ministry of that great man of God, Richard Owen, who reminds us of Paul’s words—“How not many wise men after the flesh are called.” What was true of Goldsmith’s preacher was true also of this evangelist, “Men who came to scoff remained to pray.” The following dialogue between the prodigal son and the Devil will suffice to prove the effective manner of his preaching: —
P.S. I will arise and go to my father. I have a father, My father has a large house with many servants and they have bread enough and to spare while I perish with hunger.
D. Don’t go. I will increase your wages.
P.S. If that is the case, my father’s house for wages.
D. Don’t go. I will improve your table.
P.S. My father’s house for a grand table. There is good bread and the best wine. I will arise.
D. I will give you a change of employment.
P.S. If I am to work I prefer tilling my father’s fields. I will arise and go to my father.
D. Wait, don’t be too hasty. You are in very poor health, Wait until you recuperate and then go.
P.S. Yes, I know I am ill. Nobody knows that better than myself, and I understand that I shall never recuperate if I can not go home. There is no hope for my recuperating only through a change of air on the slopes of Mount Zion. I will arise.
D. You are very ragged and untidy. Let me dress you up smartly. Your clothes are worn out, your boots are torn. You have lost your ring. Let me make a little improvement.
P.S. No, my father’s house for new clothes, for boots on my feet. My father’s house for the ring.
Richard Owen through the spirit of God led hundreds back to the Father from the far country.
It was during this revival that Doctor John Williams, Brynsiencyn, had his baptism of fire. He was undoubtedly the Demosthenes of the Welsh pulpit during the first two decades of the twentieth century, as his sermon on the good shepherd shows. After dealing with important days in the life of the shepherd, there is one outstanding day—the day of gathering the sheep home. They that are in the grave shall hear his voice. The porter of death shall hear his footstep and he will unlock the door in a second. He shall call them by their names—“Come ye, blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom.” They will be sleeping. They have been sleeping long and deep. The world has tramped over their resting places for ages without disturbing their sleep “because they know not the voice of strangers.” The shepherd calls and they are awake in a twinkling. The shepherd glances over them all. “You are all here, no scars of the wilderness left, no mark of the wolves’ teeth, nor the lion’s fang.” The shepherd goeth before them—where? It is the beginning of an eternal summer and the shepherd is changing their pasture forever. Eternal farewell to the wolves. There was a time they feared the barking of the smallest puppies, now they can gaze upon the greatest views of eternity without fear. The following is an instance of his powerful preaching; it is the conclusion of a sermon on Mathew 21, 44. “In the regions of ice and snow on the Continent, immense pieces are gradually loosened by the rays of the sun. A huge precipice hangs over at that moment. The least tremor is enough to interfere with its equilibrium and to cause it to crash to the valley below. Thunder is unnecessary—the cornet of an old beggar is enough, or the bleating of a sheep in the distance, and then the terrible avalanche. The ungodly walks through the ravine of the avalanches. God’s threats hang overhead. Walk slowly and quietly, brother, lest the precipice fall. A curse, one swear word is enough to shake the mountain. Watch, be careful. ‘On whomsoever it will fall it will grind into powder.’ Turn the stone into a foundation. The stone will be either on thee or under thee forever. Under thee as a foundation, on thee as eternal destruction.”
Doctor John Williams preached this remarkable sermon at an association at Mountain Ash in the early days of the revival. Thirteen persons were converted and built their lives upon the rock of salvation.
It is true that these men have natural abilities, but they live in the memory of the principality by virtue of their contact with the powers of the world to come. It is not within the sphere of our undertaking, were we competent to do so, to give any psychological explanation. Sufficient has been written to prove the close relationship between revivals and the Welsh pulpit, and that the spiritual leaders of Wales are (according to Forsyth), “not in the lineage of the Greek orator but the Hebrew prophet. One comes with inspiration and the other with revelation.” But God had not spoken His last word to Wales with the close of the nineteenth century. The last decade of the nineteenth century was a period, of spiritual decline in the churches, yet there remained a few names who asked “How long, Lord?” The answer came after crossing the threshold of the twentieth century. We shall deal with the answer in the next chapter.
A GENTLEMAN sits alone in his room, sociable to a degree. In years he is beyond the span of the Biblical promise of “three score years and ten.” The mail has arrived containing a letter and a money gift from across the Atlantic, as a small token for a great blessing the donor had received by the conversion of his father in the 1904-5 revival. The elderly gentleman “maketh no parade” of these tokens (which are many). They still come as echoes of the great power that swept the principality when God in His chariot, of grace visited His people and many were lifted from a life of sin and shame to a life of holiness and service.
That is a picture of the last days of Evan Roberts, who, to a degree, suffered until the end in his nervous system from the terrible strain of being a vessel in God’s hand half a century ago. Does the church realise the tremendous physical taxation of the heaven-sent revivalist? Not merely the incessant travelling through Wales and addressing vast congregations but the heavier taxation of living “in the Presence,” the long sessions of prayer and communion with the Unseen, the intercession for others? Does this not take its physical toll? Paul was translated into the third heaven and there experienced things inexplicable, and forthwith speaks of “the thorn in the flesh.” Was it the physical result of that spiritual elation? Even physically we ought to understand the meaning of the years of solitude of Mr. Evan Roberts, and his apparent aloofness. We thank God for His servant and that he should have experienced the divine promise—“There shall be light at eventide.” He, through God’s spirit, brought light into thousands of lives, and today when the spiritual life of the church is at a low ebb, it is kept from becoming stagnant by the remnant who still testify to the power of God’s grace in 1904. Evan Roberts is more or less a name to the present generation, and 1904-5 something peculiar that happened to their forefathers. As the athlete goes back a few yards in order to take his jump, so it is in the experience of the church. Forward looking unto Jesus is our motto.
That is our imperative duty. Yet we have to retrace our steps to have a vision of the cloud of witnesses. In the Welsh solo “Plas Gogerddan” (Palace of Gogerddan), the young aspirant is advised to pay an occasional visit to the room where the paintings of his ancestors adorn the walls and there from receive inspiration to carry on. Those to whom Evan Roberts is a mere name we invite on a pilgrimage to the past to find out how God called and equipped him for his tremendous task.
Evan Roberts’ childhood and youth were spent in the typical atmosphere of the latter part of the 19th century, “true to the kindred points of” chapel and home, with no secular attraction, and no youth movements, for chapel and home were one. The childhood days of his family were spent in the period when the prayer meeting and the Young People’s Guild were servants of the same Master, and intellectual and spiritual development went hand in hand. The Glamorgan of those days was not Anglicised to the extent it is today; hence the influence of culture and religion, and especially Welsh culture. Few and far between today are the people who take an intelligent delight in the literary traditions of Glamorgan. Something tragic has happened since the days when the Welsh poet Griffith Llwyd (1380-1410) in his “cywydd” (strict metrical poetry) “Danfon yr haul Forganwg” (“Sending the sun to Glamorgan”), which stretched from Monmouthshire to Glyn Neath, felt jealous, of the sun, so honoured by being above Glamorgan, the home of poesy, Welsh culture, and hospitality: —
“Gor off blaned a garaf
Gwyn dy fyd ar hyd yr haf,
Dy fod uwch, lle difai dydd,
Ben holl Forgannwg beunydd.
Dinag bobl doniog bybyr
O dir Gwent lle mae da’r gwyr,
Hyd, lle medry ehedeg,
Glyn Nedd, bro teyrnedd teg.”
The anglicising and industrialising of Glamorgan during the last century has to a degree destroyed Welsh culture, that ear for music, in sound and words. Iolo Morgannwg, IsIwyn, Dewi Esyllt, and Carnelian are but names (if as much) to the average man of the Glamorgan of today. But during the last quarter of the nineteenth century there still lingered that tradition sponsored by the chapel, and eminent poets like Islwyn, Ceiriog, Hwfa Mon, Cadfan, Berw, and Dyfed were heroes of the cultural life of Wales during that period. Evan Roberts in his youth did not waste the substance of his life, neither intellectually nor morally. He was a product of the prayer-meeting the seiat and the literary society. He delved into the realm of Welsh poetry and literature, and instrumental music became a happy hunting ground for him He possessed fine intellectual power. The background of his life was essentially religious. His father, Henry Roberts, a pitman by vocation, was remarkable for his scriptural knowledge. The incident related by his brother James substantiates our statement. The brothers were working together twelve hours a day, two hours being allowed for lunch. Henry spent most of the time memorising the Bible. One week especially he disturbed his brother James with this learning by heart of the Bible, especially during the night. After going to bed he spent hours reciting Bible verses and James, trying to sleep, said—“Henry be quiet, let me sleep and then carry on.” During that week Henry Roberts learnt 144 verses. Being a staunch supporter of the Temperance Movement his home was called “Temperance Villa.” In Hannah, his wife, he found a perfect helpmate. The Bible was her guide, and her favourite haunts were the prayer meetings and seiat. They were the happy parents of seven boys and seven girls. Apart from the revivalist himself two of the children were more or less fellow-workers in the revival. The Rev. Dan Roberts, who spent years in America, is now in retirement after a successful pastorate at Brynmawr. Miss Mary Roberts was blessed by God in her ministries during the revival. She spent a period as a missionary in Africa. After her marriage with the Rev. Sidney Evans, B.A., she accompanied him to India under the auspices of the Welsh Presbyterian mission and proved herself an indefatigable worker with her husband in the mission and as Principal of the Cherra Poonjee Theological College. On their enforced retirement from the field due to ill health Mr. Evans settled in a pastorate in the homeland.
As the sun is the centre of the planetary system so Evan Roberts was the centre of the revival, He was no ordinary person before his great experience. He came under the spell of poetry and music in early life, and was not ignorant of Welsh literary tradition. His incursions into the realm of literature and poetry prove that he was no mere novice. His moral qualities also were not at a discount in his youthful days. His whole endeavour was to bring the realm of labour into subservience to the law of Christ. He went on occasional rambles with his fellow-workers on Saturday afternoons. On returning from one of these a friend made the remark— “There is another idle afternoon,” to which Evan Roberts replied—“No, we must be holier men after this.” Due to a strike in the Broadoak Colliery, Loughor, where he was employed, he left home to work in Mountain Ash in 1899. There again the Book, the Sanctuary, and the life of the spirit were his whole delight. Even in the bowels of the earth his fellow-workmen felt the atmosphere of the sanctuary. The ”seamy” story and the foul word were under lock and key whenever Evan Roberts appeared. The elders of the local Presbyterian chapel spotted his talents and piety and nothing pleased him more than to be harnessed to the service of the Master. Following the example of Wendell Holmes he saw to it that the tender plant, of devotion was well watered by prayer and meditation, for prayer was his stronghold. Returning to his native Loughor he was lost in books and intelligent conversation. His companions were Hodge, Bunyan, the Welsh Encyclopaedia, etc. Naturally the church at Moriah encouraged him to enter the ministry but he refused. His refusal brought a change in his attitude as witnessed by the most observant of his fellow worshippers. His talent overcame his meekness. That failing was a passing phase, for the undercurrents of spiritual reality revealed themselves ere long. At this period during a prayer meeting he utterly broke down when giving out a hymn, which expressed a longing for an outpouring of the Spirit of God. In the words of one present “that scene changed everybody’s opinion. Nobody could imagine Evan Roberts crushed by emotion.” His spiritual and intellectual developments kept apace. His books, especially the Book, were his one realm of interest. The Bible was never beyond his reach even during his apprenticeship as a blacksmith. Prayer and poetry became a beautiful blend communion with God and music became practically synonymous. Some suggest as a gentle criticism that one of the ironies of the revival was the tendency to sever spirituality and the arts. This criticism could not be levelled at the human channel of that great awakening. His intellectual nature endeavoured to curb his emotions. He tried to dam the undercurrents but the darn broke and the current swept him towards the Welsh pulpit. Now he was heard to say—- “Grave or pulpit for me.” On his breaking the news to his mother she reminded him that the preacher’s world was not all smooth. He assured her that he had given the question deep consideration and had come to the decision “to work to death for my Redeemer and nothing else.” He told his parents— “I would not go but for the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I will do my best and the consequences will be God’s. It will be terrible when I go to the judgment for Christ to tell me—‘You could have preached for me but you refused.’ A missionary life is the most Christ-like.”
The word of God consumed him and like the prophet of old he felt— “Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord, I am weary with holding in. I will pour it out upon the children of Israel and upon the assembly of young men together.”
During his itinerary through the churches, as is the custom of ministerial candidates in the Welsh Presbyterian church, the only criticism was that he was beyond criticism as a probationer. His classical language, his powerful delivery, his polished sermons, his fervent prayers surprised his hearers. He passed the ministerial examination and September 1904 saw him, enrolled as a student in the Newcastle-Emlyn Grammar School under the tuition of Mr. (after Rev.) John Phillips, son of the seraphic preacher Evan Phillips. He did not remain long at the feet of this Gamaliel of Greek and Latin before the spirit of God definitely called him to the work apportioned him by God. It was then that he revealed one of the great secrets of his life to a friend—“Thirteen years I prayed for the Holy Spirit and thus was I led to it. William Davies one of the elders said in a seiat—‘Remember to be faithful; what if the Holy Spirit descended and you were absent; remember Thomas and the loss he sustained.’ I said to myself then—“I will have the Holy Spirit, through all kinds of weather. In spite of adverse circumstances I attended every meeting. Often I saw other boys playing with the boats when the tide was full and I felt like joining them. No, I remembered my resolution to be faithful. I could easily remain down all night reading and speaking about revival. During the spring of 1904, on a Friday night, while on my knees, I was swept into space oblivious of time and place—it was communion with God. Prior to that experience my God was distant. I had a fright that night but never afterwards. Such was my trembling that the bed shook and my brother woke. After that I was awakened each night after 1 o’clock. This was remarkable because I usually slept like a rock. After awakening I had three or four hours of communion with God, then after five I could sleep until nine. There followed divine communion until twelve or one o’clock. This lasted for about three months. My one fear when I went to the Grammar School was the losing of this experience. I endeavoured hard to keep up the work of the school but the divine visitations became irresistible.”
The same spirit of revival was manifesting itself in other places and upon other persons—Joseph Jenkins, Seth Joshua, W.W. Lewis, W. S. Jones. During October 1904 Seth Joshua and W. W. Lewis held revival meetings at Blaenanerch (immortalised by John Jones, where the same tradition of evangelical preaching has been successfully held up for fifty years by the Rev. M. P. Morgan). At six o’clock on a Thursday morning a brake-full of students went there from Newcastle-Emlyn, and Evan Roberts with them with terrible, mixed feelings. The burden of Seth Joshua’s prayer was—“Lord bend us.” In the following meeting after breakfast Evan Roberts experienced his Peniel struggle. He was absolutely crushed; he fell forward in prayer and perspiration. Seth Joshua had been praying for four years that “God would take a young man from the coal-mine or the plough as He chose Elijah of old, not from the centres of learning lest it should nurture pride and self.” That memorable Thursday morning in Blaenanerch his prayer was answered. More than his thirst for knowledge was the thirst of Evan Roberts for souls. His motive was spiritual revival and not intellectual renaissance. His history heretofore proved that he was not of the superficial type, and his desire to spread the knowledge of God became irresistible. He returned to Loughor and there began his great work. He began his work without any personal presumptions. He was conscious of Divine Leadership. He was interviewed by W. T. Stead of “Review of Reviews” fame, who was drowned in the ill- fortuned “Titanic” in 1912— “This movement is not of me,” said Mr. Roberts, “it is of God. I would not dare to direct it. Obey the Spirit —that is our word in everything. It is the Spirit alone which is leading us in our meetings and all that I do.”
“You do not preach or teach, or control the meeting?”
“Why should I teach when the Spirit is teaching? What need have these people to be told that they are sinners? What they need is salvation. Do they not know it? It is not knowledge that they lack, but decision—action, and why should I control the meetings. The meetings control themselves, or rather the Spirit that is in them controls them.” In his meetings, according to W.T.S., “all the atmosphere of a got-up job is conspicuous by its absence, neither is there any organisation nor is there a director, at least none that is visible to the human eye. In the crowded chapels they even dispensed with instrumental music. The vast congregations were as soberly sane and orderly and at least as reverend as any congregation I ever saw beneath the dome of St. Paul’s when I used to go to hear Canon Liddon, the Chrysostom of the English pulpit, but it was aflame with pure religious enthusiasm, the like of which I have never seen in St. Paul’s. There was absolutely nothing wild or hysterical unless it be hysterical for the labouring breast to heave with sobbing that cannot be repressed, and the throat to choke with emotion as a sense of this awful horror and shame of the wasted life suddenly bursts upon the soul. On all sides there was the gladness of men and women upon whose eyes had dawned the splendour of a new day, the foretaste of whose glories they are enjoying in the sense of human fellowship and a keen glad zest added to their own lives.”
In the conducting of these meetings the role of Evan Roberts (if one may speak of a role) was mysterious. He was there “as one that serveth,” not as a leader. From the pen of the Rev. Arthur Goodrich, B.A., we have the following description—
“Evan Roberts is everywhere, now upon his knees besides a man in the last seat by the door, now talking in his quiet triumphant way from half way down the aisle, now standing before them all as a burly man rises in the gallery, and telling him with closed eyes that he seems to see God on high confessing the man even as the man is now confessing God. And always he is dominant, masterful, cheery, and quiet, his power growing with his tense eagerness and his tremendous earnestness. A cynical indifferent critic watching during one of his meetings, would be forced to admit that the young man is sincere to the core, that he descends to no tricks of gesture, word, or act, that he is straightforward and simple to the last degree, that he does not try to force people against their will and yet in some way he draws all before him, not to himself but to the Spirit of whom he is a disciple. What a reward for thirteen years of constant prayer for a revival! Witnessing the multitudes in the valley of decision, and, after witnessing the capitulation of the Baals of drunkenness, dishonesty and vice, hearing them cry out with tears of repentence and joy and the thrill of forgiveness—‘The Lord He is God’”
We have the testimony of the late Dr. Campbell Morgan who saw the hand of God in the life of the revivalist and the results of the revival— “Evan Roberts is hardly more than a boy, simple and natural, no orator or leader of men.” He had nothing of the masterfulness that characterises such men as Wesley, Whitfield and Moody. One of the most intelligent writers in one of our morning papers said of Evan Roberts, in a tone of sorrow, that he lacked the quality of leadership and “if only some prophet should now arise he could sweep everything before him, but God has not chosen that a prophet shall arise.” It is quite true that Evan Roberts was no leader. What was he? I mean with regard to this great movement. He was a mouthpiece, a witness to the fact that there is no human guidance for man or organisation. All Evan Roberts said was this—“It is not man—do not wait for me, depend upon God, obey the Spirit.” Whenever moved to do so he spoke under the guidance of the Spirit. His work was not to appeal to men but to create an atmosphere by calling men to follow the guidance of the Spirit in whatever the Spirit should tell them to do. God put him in the forefront of this movement that the world might see that he chooses “things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are; the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty,” a man who lacks all the essential qualities which we say make for greatness in order that through him in simplicity and power he may secure the victory.
Some critics of the revival speak of it as ephemeral. The same criticism could be applied to the fruit trees in spring, but the delicious fruit dishes of autumn and winter give the lie to the idea. We look back across practically half a century on that great awakening, the spring of God’s spirit, the bloom time. Although the frost of religious indifference has played havoc in the garden of God, yet the church has its delicious tastes of the fruits in the spiritual experience of the remnant of the seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to the Baals of pleasure and vice. The moral standards of our age are no credit to men like Cromwell and Milton. The custodians of our laws are at their wits end when confronted with the problems of divorce and juvenile delinquency. Many churches are mere entertainment clubs; the prayer meeting and the seiat are at a low ebb. Our pulpits are adorned with the laurels of science, philosophy and theology— and yet there is something lacking. When we think of Evan Roberts, the simple, chaste channel of the Holy Spirit, we would pray God to “do it again!” When we think of God’s choice of saintly men in the past we think of the words of Wordsworth addressed to Milton
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men:
Oh, raise us up, return to us again.
BORN 1860 at Cwmystwyth, Cardiganshire. Educated at Canton, Cardiff, Pontypridd and Trevecca College. Ordained in 1887. Ministered at the following churches: Caerphilly, Spellow Lane, Liverpool (English), Newquay, Dolgelley, Festiniog, Llandovery. Died 1929.
1860-1929 are the temporal boundaries of this volcanic, personality. Volcanic is the only word to describe Joseph Jenkins. He can only be explained in the light of the spiritual and eternal. Faintly could the words of Young be applied to him— “Midway from nothing to the Deity. One moment rubbing shoulders with angels, the next, creeping in the lower parts of the earth.” Once we paid him a call on an afternoon preceding his last fatal illness. There he was in his study sitting in his chair lost in melancholy. Suddenly he opened those piercing eyes and said— “I am going to eternity. What will they do with me there—a little bundle of inconsistencies? The saints don’t understand me. Seventy five per cent are powerless to do so. What will they do with me in the great beyond? One thing is certain, whatever they’ll do with me, I shall never be at home with devils.” There’s Joseph Jenkins. His own words give the true estimate— ‘a bundle of inconsistencies.’ Yes, a volcanic personality—one moment as lifeless as for long periods are Etna or Vesuvius, the next moment emitting a terrific stream of spiritual lava couched in never-to-be-forgotten phrases. There was no art in his preaching, no light and shade, no pre-meditated cadences and ‘hwyl.’ He was Joseph Jenkins in the pulpit as everywhere else. There was no effort to make a parade of eloquence. If his Heavenly Father did not pronounce his Amen to his ministry, Jenkins would not play the strings to solicit the Amen from other quarters. During such a service, when the wheels were dragging heavily along, he stopped and said— “This little lady (his sermon) is not coming, and you know it, and I know it, and my Heavenly Father knows it, Amen.” Who shall forget his terrific preaching in the Association at Denbigh, April 1919? His text has taken wings but the terrific effect remains with us. Never to be forgotten were those flights in voice, thought, and imagination when describing the blasphemous daring of the Roman soldiers in their rough handling of the Son of God. In one corner of the Big Seat sat Doctor John Williams, Brynsiencyn, as limp and soaked as a wet cloth; while in the other corner was the self-possessed Doctor T. C. Williams, with tear-stained eyes and twitching lips. I sat in the gallery beside another gentleman who grasped my arm like a vice at every flight the preacher took, asking in my ear— “What is this creature” (Be ydy’r creadur yma?).
He was never regarded as a safe preacher. It was not safe to place him in a prominent position in the hope of his making a mark. His utter disregard for everything conventional made him very unsafe as a preacher. People witnessed this during the same Association meetings. He was engaged to speak with the prominent preachers at the 10 o’clock morning service, which was then regarded as the opportune time for a preacher to make an impression. But that morning Jenkins was inaudible even to the Big Seat; everybody was disappointed and ready to suggest what a waste of good time. In the evening it was arranged for him to preach alone in another chapel while two other prominent preachers preached in the most important chapel to an over-flowing congregation. A young minister was present listening to Joseph Jenkins preaching to about three dozen people on the words of the Master— ”Will ye also go away?” The eagle preacher spread his mighty pinions and heaven honoured this servant of God by opening its doors and letting out the winds to carry the prophet and congregation to dizzy heights. The testimony of the young minister was— “I did not sleep a wink that night.”
Joseph Jenkins was the favourite preacher of that great human (yet divine) Doctor Puleston Jones. Being so devoid of art and oratorical tricks, according to Puleston, Joseph Jenkins’ shout was inevitable. In giving advice to young students, Puleston remarked that he liked to hear a kettle singing before boiling, but never a preacher. Jenkins never sang. He knew nothing of ‘hwyl’ in the musical sense. To change the metaphor, and to use his own illustrations when describing the preaching of John Jones, Talsarn, “You read his sermons today, you are disappointed. There is nothing there. Why? He isn’t there. The sermons of John Jones were nothing but mere concrete upon which the big guns were fixed, and the fire from heaven came and touched the fuse, and the result - a nation on its knees imploring mercy.”
A young man (a little inebriated with his own importance) asked Joseph Jenkins—
”Would John Jones, Talsarn, be as great a preacher today as he was in his own day?” Jenkins answered him— “Young man, if five thousand of the like of us went into the soul frame of John Jones it would be empty for eternity.” Jenkins knew nothing of a musical ‘hwyl’ but had a terrific shout that opened secret doors, which took us into realms where we were oblivious of everything temporal. Doctor Cynddylan Jones remarked that when Edward Mathews was in the heights of his preaching he felt as if electric shocks went through him spiritually and physically. Our feeling was similar under the ministry of this eminent man of God. How true are the words of Principal T. C. Edwards— “God’s last resort is a great preacher.” This man was one of the tremendous forces in the hand of God behind the 1904/5 revival. (We shall have occasion to refer to this aspect in another chapter). In a review of a book published by an author bearing the same name as Joseph Jenkins, the reviewer made this remark— “The author is Joseph Jenkins. To Welsh Presbyterians there is only one Joseph Jenkins. He has gone to heaven, but he was there very often whilst here in the flesh.” It will be to our gain to look at Joseph Jenkins from different angles. First, let us glance at the man.
(a) Physical. —
Short of stature and dark, he had piercing eyes. When he was disturbed by the glories of the gospel or the terrors of sin, who could withstand the flame of holiness in his eyes? During the final year at Bala College he was invited to spend the week with us as students, and what a week!! Joseph Jenkins in the heights! What unforgettable phrases, as when he called our attention to the relationship of the sexes! “Don’t be responsible for destroying the religious bloom of the female mind.” He was introduced by the late Professor David Williams and in his opening remarks he said— “I don’t know whether you are graduates or not. If you are, make your degrees bags to carry the goods of Calvary.” Our little bags were richer in their contents after a week of his reminiscences and advice. One evening during his stay we were honoured by the visit of another gentleman, the late (and sadly bereaved) Rev. George M. L.l. Davies. Never shall we forget the sight. At one end of the table Joseph Jenkins, the short Iberian. At the other end George Davies, the tall handsome Celt, (reminiscent of his eminent grand-father John Jones, Talsarn). Oh, had we the genius of a Reynolds or a Rembrandt, and could we but see that painting “on the line.” in the Royal Academy! On our way home Jenkins made the remark—“Did you see that man’s face, tall figure, and peaceful eyes? Why didn’t the Almighty constitute me on the same lines as him, instead of giving me such an insignificant face.” What would we give for one spark of the genius in that insignificant face?
(b) Intellectual. —His was a keen mind and discerning. He could weigh and measure men and situations to the finest degree. In a class he measured us all in a short period. We were very wary of our utterances in his presence. In company he once made the remark that he was not impressed by a certain person present. He had no “a priori” knowledge of the person. Jenkins was of the opinion that the best thing that person would ever accomplish would be to wear a blazer and carry a tennis racquet. This prophecy we fear has been fulfilled!! His mind was of the dramatic mould. He was the Edward Mathews of our age. The dramatic flights will remain the inspiration of many of his admirers. In a sermon emphasizing the duty of children to reciprocate the love of their parents, he gave this beautiful picture of a mother — Young people, honour your parents. What is a mother? A drop of the divine paint that fell from the brush when the eternal artist was making a painting of his own heart. Although he was not a poet in the accredited sense of the word, yet one could see the influence of Shakespeare and Edward Young on his mind as the following verbal pictures demonstrate:
“Sinner, you don’t realise now that you are an artist, but some day Time will present you with a panoramic replica of your sins; that mother who died of a broken heart years too soon; that father you drove to the cemetery; that girl you deceived; they shall be presented before your eyes in full length and their blood dripping like The drum of eternity upon your soul.” Is there not an echo of Shakespeare here? Or again in his warning to young people against the sins of the flesh he said— “See those young people dancing half naked at one o’clock in the morning when nature is at its weakest, with only one inch between them and eternity.” Is not that reminiscent of Young— “Life’s little stage is a small eminence an inch high above the grave.” Another turn of his mind was sarcasm, which is a very dangerous weapon yet a necessary lancet in the hand of the skilled surgeon be he in hospital or pulpit. The following is an instance of his wielding of this weapon — “You occasionally meet a man with a soul of a fly, and the brains of a dwarf. It would be a boon and a blessing for such a man to be placed upon a pole long enough to hold him in the face of the sun, in order that he might see something big for once in a lifetime.” Once an officer of the church, who was a very responsive listener, objected to a proposed increase in the minister’s salary, because he didn’t know what the minister was doing with his money (he had five children). The minister was in the heights in his pulpit on a Sunday morning and the responses came like a shower. The minister stopped and said— “Yes, you say Amen. I had that idea in a book that cost me seven and six. That’s what the little man is doing with his money.”
(c) Spiritual. —As regards this aspect of his character he was many-sided; moody, sensitive to atmosphere, and cautious in company. The first thing would be to send out feelers to probe the atmosphere. If it were not of the standard expected by him, he would retreat into his shell and remain there, most uncommunicative. He was definitely not a good mixer. We know of different families in the same church who entertained him. One family had no desire to see him again, and the other idolised the memory of his stay. Personally I know in which of the two households I should like to spend the eternal years. His tendency was to be tense and grave. His friend and colleague at Trevecca College, the late Rev. J. M. Jones, M.A., Merthyr Tydfil, relates one incident manifesting the seriousness of Joseph Jenkins. During the ministry of Mr. Jones at Bwlch, Breconshire, Joseph Jenkins was invited to their anniversaries. He preached on Saturday night on Isaiah 11, 6-8, and left a deep impression. J. M. Jones the minister asked Jenkins in a jocular mood how he managed to arrange such a menagerie. But Jenkins was in no jocular mood and not a word passed between them during the weekend. Joseph Jenkins was disappointed that his friend could entertain such a frivolous idea concerning so serious a matter. He was also of a fine spirit, full of charm. I asked him, to take part and preach in my first induction services. What wonderful days—and nights. How near he could come to a young man on the threshold of the ministry. Three hours after supper, alone with this tremendous personality, gave me a panoramic view of his soul. Many things accounted for the tremendous influence of his personality. Undoubtedly one could see even the geographical influence of his birthplace Cwm-Ystwyth; the rugged majesty of the mountains and the mysticism of the heights were a perfect blend in him. Oh for a second of the thrill of his great sermon on “His foundation is in the holy mountains (Ei sail sydd ar y mynyddoedd sanctaidd)!” Here are a few crumbs from the sumptious feast; his description of the mountains of Snowdonia enveloped, in cloud, thunder and lightning, yes, and the preacher himself in the midst of the storm (he remained out all night). With what rapture he repeated the words — “When the sun rose the following morning the mountains were still there.” “The mountains alone of everything else in the world have the first breath of God’s cleansing mercies.” “The inhabitants of the heights always have a clean, healthy appetite.” “Mountain sheep never suffer from foot-rot.” “In many parts of the country animals suffer from foot-and-mouth disease; men suffer from the same thing—drinking and dancing.” Another secret of his strength was prayer. How he differed from everyone else with that tremendous familiarity with the Divine, which was so majestic and awe-inspiring! He was no stranger to the realm of prayer. His beloved wife related how she would retire at 11 o’clock and call in the study and see Joseph Jenkins on his knees by his chair. She would get up at 6.30 the following morning and find him in the same place. One of his colleagues at Trevecca, the late Rev. William Richards, Bettws, related how the staff arranged for the students to go out and hold revival meetings in the local churches. He and Joseph Jenkins went to a certain church and were met by a handful of farm-servants who came to scoff. One went as far as to strike Jenkins. The preacher fell on his knees and offered a prayer. Before he got up the persecutor was in tears of repentence and was seeking the way of salvation. Another influence, which moulded his character, was the spirituality of the leaders and church of his youth—Cwm Ystwyth. How he admired those pious elders. Who listened to these words from his lips and was not thrilled? — “Last Sunday I preached at Cwm Ystwyth. I looked down at the big seat—strange faces from one end to the other. I was tempted to shout, as I looked upon them—oh you robbers! My memory went back for fifty years and remembered the seat—a big seat in the deepest sense. Bearded saints! We knew by their gait that they were holy men, each one of them shod in eternity.”
The church at Cwm-Ystwyth experienced periodical revivals during the nineteenth century. A refrigerator never produces prophets Joseph Jenkins was a revival preacher from his first going-out, and who shall deny his prominence and co-operation in the revival of 1904, which we shall elaborate in the next chapter.
What shall we say of him as a pastor? In the ordinary accepted sense of the word he was not one, but if Ian McLaren’s definition of pastoral work is right, namely, “cure of souls,” then Joseph Jenkins was a pastor. One of his members in his first pastorate, Caerphilly, related an experience, which proves our statement. Her father was killed in the colliery and before the corpse reached the house the young pastor was there and he fell on his knees. Oh, what an intercession followed on behalf of the widow and orphan! After forty years had passed the lady with deep emotion said— “I even forgot that my father was killed.” The effect of that prayer on us as a family that fateful day was tremendous.
Another instance will suffice. Once he was called to the bedside of a recluse who had spent such a hopeless life that nobody except the nurse and doctor darkened this door during his last illness. Joseph Jenkins accompanied by an elder, called to see him and the following conversation was heard— “They tell me that you are lonely,” and the recluse answered — “Yes, and no.” “What do you mean by yes and no!” asked the preacher. “Perhaps you will be surprised to hear that I am not altogether lonely.” “What company do you get?” asked the preacher, and the recluse answered, “The company of an occasional verse and a line of a hymn I learnt before taking the prodigal pathway.” “Oh,” said the preacher, “you are not so lonely.” Joseph Jenkins drew out the Biblical verses and hymns and centred them upon Christ and said— “It is His fellowship you need.” Then he fell on his knees and the elder related that he was not on earth for several minutes. The preacher got up and went out, and on their way they came to a little hillock. The preacher appeared to be enthralled and started shouting the verses and hymns of the prodigal, interspersed with an occasional laugh. The elder was shocked and asked the preacher if there was anything wrong with him. The preacher answered, “Didn’t you see the soul of that man entering the life-boat of salvation before I got up from my knees; and he is sailing well into the harbour of mercy and love.”
Listen to him at the graveside of one of his old members. He travelled from North Wales to pay his last tribute and, arriving a little late, he found that the other speakers had finished— “Whatever you have said it wasn’t half enough. Perhaps that half was twisted. There was too much buckram in this man’s back to twist. He was backward in the handling of this world. I haven’t seen his will, I don’t know whether he left his children a penny, but remember that he left enough behind him to make their hell terrible if they will turn their back on the God of their father. Evan Davies was a stupid man. I make no apology on his graveside. He was made a pillar to God’s grace. Were it not for grace, the devil would be riding him through this district. I would have given up hope for myself had I not realised the polish of grace on the character of Evan Davies. He was nasty but he has gone to Heaven. It was not nature that promoted him there. It is all of grace from top to bottom and, if the grace of God could save such a creature, he can save a creature like me. You merely talk in a church meeting, but he related his experience, and at the grave-side I thank thee Evan Davies for driving thy fear through the heart of a young preacher.”
In, through, and above everything Joseph Jenkins was a preacher. The pulpit was his throne. As a preacher he had a firm grasp on the eternal verities. They also grasped him. He not only handled the gospel but the gospel handled him. He knew the inner meaning of Paul’s words— “Knowing the terror of the Lord.” Although preaching was his sole passion he was afraid of the pulpit. When addressing a number of students who had a common tendency to blame the churches for not giving them engagements he asked them if they knew anything of the fear of preaching— “I have sent a telegram away on Saturday morning to cancel anniversary services ‘sorry cannot come’,” and then turning towards the pulpit he remarked, “Afraid of that terrible place.” The poet’s tribute to the preacher can be applied to Joseph Jenkins—
“If he is anxious not for man’s good name,
But that his heavenly master does not blame;
If knowing life’s quick passing hours are few,
He preaches with eternity in view,
If caring not though scornful doubt deride
His message is as Paul’s “Christ crucified”;
Then come in crowds the people and confess
‘This is the preaching God is sure to bless’.”
We shall conclude our pen-picture of him in the pulpit in a little country chapel, with a congregation of about 50 his text being— “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
“I am a great admirer of Saul of Tarsus. He was no bombast, good enough to be placed in the ranks of the modern university. I would give the world for the honour of being this one’s father even if he were never converted. There he goes one Sabbath morn in Tarsus of Cilicia, passing the heathen temple. What would they not have given if he had only turned there once, but he passes them by and goes to the little insignificant synagogue in the Jewish quarters and the light of God’s revelation dancing like angels in the corner of his eye. His parents confer with each other after his retirement to rest,’ and testify to seeing a strange light in his eyes. His father vows to work harder still to give him a theological training at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. They have heard a strange story of a carpenter of Nazareth who suggests that the day of Judaism is drawing to an end. So Saul finds himself in Jerusalem, the city of his dreams. By chance there is another Jew, One of the Diaspora, Stephen, who goes about the city contending that the carpenter of Nazareth is alive. And the spirit of God begins to play upon the consciousness of Saul of Tarsus. He makes up his mind to rid Jerusalem and Palestine of this carpenter and his followers. The religious leaders realised that their ‘last hope’ had arrived and they gave him full powers to sweep the world of the enthusiasts of the New Way. One unforgettable morning, astride the horse of self-righteousness, in the saddle of Judaism, and with the spurs of tradition, we hear the command “Gee-up” Yes young man, but before you reach that city it will be ‘get-up.’ There he lies in the dust groping and helpless and when he fell Judaism fell with him. When he got on his feet he had a new conception of the person whom he was persecuting— ‘Lord what wilt thou have me to do?’ I remember when in Trevecca College at the end of the first year having our photos taken, a group of pale faces. The photographer had his head under the cover and, while arranging the tripod holding the camera, told us— “Gentlemen it won’t come off, you must get more into the sun.” He tried again and succeeded and the photo came out fine. “Dear friends, I have read a great deal lately—modern theologians on the person of Christ with their heads under cover and it didn’t come off. Going to my study late after supper and reading Pantycelyn till the early hours of the morning, it came off fine. Williams, Pantycelyn, in the sun. Let me remind you that a new conception of Christ pre-supposes the Damascus experience.”
After many months of illness a testimonial was made to him. The cheque was presented at the General Assembly held at Aberdare. After thanking the Assembly for the cheque he said— “I went to Cwm-Ystwyth lately and standing outside an old lead-mine I saw big lumps of black material which I thought was lead, but I was informed by an old miner that it was rubbish, similar to lead. On enquiring whether there was lead in the mine I was assured by the old miner that there was plenty there if only worked for deep enough. Young preachers, I have been ill of late but not too ill to read books, many of them being rubbish, though similar to the real thing. My advice to you is—Go to the deep mines of salvation, there is plenty of lead in the mine.”
Listen to him describing the Prodigal Son, as despair taunts him in his poverty while faith re-assures him and tells him to go home, yet there is a deep river between him and the father’s house, the river of conviction and repentance. The prodigal does not go to the seats of learning to have lessons in swimming, but takes the plunge and lands on the opposite bank, and the smell of the old life is cleansed away and his father beseeches him to come home so that his soul may swim in an Atlantic of blessedness. “And his father went and fell upon his neck and kissed him,” and held him so tight that had the devil gone between them he would have crushed the life out of him.
Or listen to his description of Calvary: —
“What took place there? An election! And when the boxes were opened the morning of the third day there was not a single vote against Him, and the votes of the Devil were soiled, and Gabriel is still counting the majority.”
What a privilege to have heard and known Joseph Jenkins!
I. The Welsh Pulpit And Revival
II. Evan Roberts
III. Joseph Jenkins
III. R. B. Jones
V. W. W. Lewis
VI. Seth Joshua
VII. W. S. Jones
VIII. Keri Evans
IX. Living Echoes
Appendix: The Passing Of Evan Roberts