This book is a very popular and stirring account of the Welsh Revival that occurred in Wales in 1904-5.
It's subtitle reveals its contents: 'Some of its Hidden Springs and Prominent Results'.
It was written by R.B. Jones, Principal of South Wales Bible Training Institute, Porth, Wales, where the book was first published in 1931.
The picture here is of Evan Roberts and some of his revival party, made up of young girls who sang and gave testimony during the revival.
We have included three of the seven chapters.
“Thou shalt be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” Isa. 62:2
“The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit.” Jer. 11:16
“As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no affection.”
The Revival is herein rather called, “The Revival of 1904,” and that in the same sense as “The Revival of ’59” is so named. Neither of these two blessed seasons of spiritual, power was confined to the year of its name. In each case the year is mentioned as that in which the mighty work came to a definite crisis and became publicly known. In each case the work belongs to years both prior and subsequent to that year. 1904 is memorable as the year of a great manifestation of Revival in the Principality of Wales. There was, as will be shown, real revival even ere 1904 dawned, and certainly before November, 1904. It needs also to be remembered that long after 1904 was past, the Divine work continued.
“THE WELSH REVIVAL”
The Revival is sometimes called “The Welsh Revival”, and that for the natural reason that the work had its beginnings in Wales, and also, perhaps, because it was there it found its most striking manifestations and fruits. It were, however, a mistake to infer from this title that the work was limited to Wales. True, for some inexplicable reason, it did not sweep over England and other parts of our island; and yet many a town and district in England, Scotland, and Ireland shared in the blessing. The mighty flame spread also to other lands. Many of the Protestant countries of Europe reported unusual movements of the Spirit, and mission fields in Africa and Asia were also touched. On the Khassia Hills and in other places in Assam, where the Calvinistic Methodist Church of Wales has a work, the intensity was almost as great as that experienced in Wales. It Moreover, in the United States and Canada there were very definite, stirrings in several parts. The writer was himself privileged with a part in a Revival which, early in 1907, swept through Churches in some Welsh colonies in Pennsylvania. These facts show that to speak of “The Welsh Revival” is apt to mislead.
WORSE THAN MISLEADING
In some ways, to speak of “The Welsh Revival” may sometimes be worse than misleading. Unconsciously perhaps to the speaker the phrase has occasionally fallen on Welsh ears with a suspicion of something like disdain. It may be that Welsh ears are somewhat ultra-sensitive, nevertheless it cannot be denied that there have been attempts, as at Pentecost, at discrediting the whole movement. Suggestions have been thrown out that it was little other than a characteristic unrestrained letting loose of “Welsh emotion!” Emotion, according to this much too widely-diffused notion, seems to be a monopoly of Celtic races, and found at its highest among the inhabitants of the Principality. All this sounds rather foolish to Welsh people, who know so many of their compatriots to be as stolid and impassive as any, and who read occasionally of ungovernable emotion at such places as Epsom Downs and Wembley.
It matters little to Welsh people how they are regarded by their neighbour races, but it matters much when such notions, spreading themselves, hinder the spread of God’s fire when once He has kindled it. Many a child of God in Britain to-day may wonder why the Revival of 1904 did not sweep over the whole island. May it be lovingly and earnestly suggested that the reason, in great part, may be that that Revival was commonly attributed to a supposed characteristic of the Welsh people, and that British peoples, who, are not Welsh, seem to fear emotion when connected with spiritual movements. It is natural to shout at the “Derby”, but one must be more sedate in the religious service. Uncontrolled spasms of emotion are what no sane person would urge or favour, but, if the past is any clue, it may confidently be stated that those who fear to be stirred by deep feelings, sometimes difficult to suppress, had better not look for Revival. One notices that, already, predictions of the coming Revival make it clear that it will be something altogether different from former ones; it will certainly be “moral” rather than “emotional”! All this interests exceedingly, for the writer recalls his own similar predictions in the years prior to 1904; predictions, he gratefully confesses, entirely falsified by the event. Since then he has learned, that when the Holy Spirit is doing His “strange work” there is nothing so unreliable a guide as our poor human wisdom, and that those who fear being deemed as “full of new wine” had better give Pentecosts and Revivals as wide a berth as possible.
AN “ORGY OF EMOTION”?
The idea that the Revival of 1904 was largely an “orgy of emotion” has been so sedulously cultivated and spread that there seems to be every justification for an attempt at “nailing it down”, This, perhaps, can best be done by the telling of the following story, the detailed truth of which the writer vouches for; he knows the facts and the persons concerned; some of them, intimately. A Welshman in an Asiatic city—a very well-known Christian man—hearing of the outbreak in his native Wales in 1904, as soon as possible hurried home. Arrived in England he called upon a personal friend, a well-known evangelical leader, and told him what had thus suddenly brought him back to these shores. During the conversation that ensued he was definitely discouraged from going down to Wales, the impression given him being that it was not worth his while doing so to witness what was nothing more than the unspiritual display of carnal feelings! So did he trust the judgement of his friend that he there and then booked his passage and returned to his adopted foreign home, a bitterly disappointed man. Some years later he was back again in this country and on a visit to a centre where spiritual children of God from many a quarter meet for fellowship. Included in the company at that time were a few from Wales. The foreign Welshman heard their testimony and prayers with amazement, and felt the impact of the power of their lives.
It was all so new to him that he naturally inquired who these people were and whence they came. When he learned that they were from Wales, and that their experiences were born in the Revival, he told them the story of his previous visit, and how he had been robbed of the blessing of going down to Wales and seeing for himself.
A “BARRAGE OF ICE”.
This incident, one fears, is but typical of much that happened in those years. And it is the writer’s deep conviction, if he may be permitted its expression, that herein lay a chief reason why the grand work did not spread to Wales’s immediate neighbours. That “barrage of ice” hindered the fire spreading. It was a serious slandering of the Work, and a solemn grieving of the Spirit. To attribute to carnal emotion what was manifestly the work of the Holy Ghost can hardly be less than blasphemy. Repentance for this sin would, one sincerely believes, remove a great obstacle in the way of the coming Revival for which so much prayer ascends.
Had the wise advice of the late Bishop Moule been heeded, how different things might have been! Writing to his clergy at that time he earnestly, appealed that they “observe the movement with a reverent welcome and a sacred hope”. He, who himself knew the ’59 Revival, added, “A venerated friend of mine, intimately conversant with the Revival time of 1859, told me a few years ago that nothing was more saddening than the cold view of that extraordinary upheaval taken by too many.” Alas, that it is ever true, whenever God appears, it can be said, even of the Lord’s own people, “There standeth One among you whom ye know not.”
THE SMOKELESS FLAME
Protesting at the time the Vicar of Rhos wrote; “Sneers are made at our Celtic temperament, but God gave it, and God can use it for the glory of His Name.” If the Welsh people share rather liberally, as is commonly assumed, in the gift of emotion, they need have no shame on that account, It nor need it be gratuitously assumed that they do not know how to control it. Said an English visitor, an eminent journalist, of his experiences, “I certainly saw nothing of that (emotional) kind that might not be paralleled in mission services in England.... There was absolutely nothing wild, violent, 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 the awful horror and shame of a wasted life suddenly bursts upon the soul. . . . The vast congregations were as soberly sane, as orderly, and at least as reverent as any congregation I ever saw beneath the dome of St. Paul’s, when I used to hear Canon Liddon, the Chrysostom of the English pulpit. But it was aflame with a passionate religious enthusiasm, the like of which I have never seen in St. Paul’s.”
He further testifies that Mr. Evan Roberts, “while absolutely tolerant of all manifestations of the Spirit, was stern to check any disorder.” Giving an instance of this, he continues, “At F—— , where some persons had been disturbing the meeting by exuberant and unseemly noises, he said, ‘He who would walk with God must come to His house in a spirit of prayer, of humility, of awe. Joy is permissible in the house, but it must be sanctified joy. For think of the majesty of the Divine Person. . . . If we truly walk with God, there can be no disorder, no indecency.’” The same witness puts his testimony on this point in a nutshell when he says, “The flame of Welsh enthusiasm is as smokeless as its coal.”
“I saw no trace of extravagance or fanaticism,” wrote the late beloved Rev. J. J. Luce, M.A., of Gloucester, after a visit with the Rev. Francis Paynter, M.A., to several of the “storm centres” in Glamorganshire. Our brother, in writing so, did not of course wish to give the impression that the meetings were of the “cemetery” type. Mr. Luce— himself well known as a sweetly boisterous Christian—would hardly have enthused over such. He would, rather, have heartily agreed with the quaint comment of an old “fifty-niner” (the Rev. Griffith Jones, Tregarth) who, when someone reflected rather critically on the commotion at a meeting said, “I do not wonder at the great ado to-night. I have noticed that there is always a great commotion when one birth takes place, but here to-night are scores of newly born ones. “
Mr. Paynter, a different type of man from his friend and companion, was equally definite on the matter. Nothing that he saw and heard offended his deeply sensitive spirit, and in his written impressions in ‘The Life of Faith’ we find these words, “Though the work is emotional, and we do not despise emotion in its proper place, it is most practical.” He added, “We have mingled with them, as, for hours together, they waited on God in a quiet, orderly way with very little excitement, singing their beautiful Welsh melodies.” Once more, the same witness said, “I went to South Wales to see what God is doing, and have come back full of thankfulness and praise. We have drawn nigh, and seen a great sight in this sceptical age.”
The reader will forgive the amount of space given to the matter of these last paragraphs. They are deemed necessary in view of the persistent way in which one of the greatest Revivals of history has been misrepresented and maligned. Perhaps, as one has said, it is true of Revivals as it is of anything else, “Woe be unto you when all men speak well of you.”
“THE EVAN ROBERTS REVIVAL”
Another name given the work is “The Evan Roberts Revival”, a name which Mr. Evan Roberts himself, with many others, would strongly deprecate. “The grace of self-effacement,” as the late Rev. Evan Hopkins justly said at the time, “is one of the things that impress one in Evan Roberts.” Of course, it is easily understood how such a description would arise seeing that he was far and away the most prominent figure in the movement. As is well known, in a few months the name of the young miner-student from Loughor had become famous throughout the world. In those years he was easily the best known Christian in the five continents. Doubtless, he was signally used to popularise the work then proceeding in Wales. But it were wrong to assume that the Revival, humanly speaking, is to be attributed to him. He himself would willingly agree that he was more the child than the founder of the work. Just as in 1859 in Wales, the Rev. David Morgan came in to carry on what another (the Rev. Humphrey Jones) had begun, so was it also in 1904. It must also be remembered that the Revival reached almost every nook and corner in the Principality, whilst the ministry of its principal figure was, with little exception, entirely exercised within one of its twelve counties. The fire burned in places which he did not and could not visit; in several places which he did visit the fire was already blazing ere he came. This fact, and its important lesson, should not be forgotten. One of the characteristics of true Revival is that it depends upon no human personality. It is “the wind that bloweth where it listeth”. True Revival is never organised; it is never, so to speak, carried in any individual’s pocket. This was specially true of that Revival in 1904, concerning which the then Editor of ‘The Life of Faith’ glowingly challenged, “Has there ever before been anything equal to this?”
“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads.” Gen. 2:10
“No man can find out the work that God hath done from the beginning even unto the end.” Eccles. 3:11(R.V.).
“The thing that is hid bringeth He forth to light.” “God understandeth the way thereof.” Job 28:11, 23
“The hope of the Church is in the holiness movement.” R. W. DALE, LL.D.
Though every Revival ultimately culminates in a form which attracts the attention of all, no Revival is of sudden origin. Behind the startling outburst is a process which sometimes goes on for years, a purifying and preparatory process. It was so in connection with that of 1904. It has already been hinted that the Revival goes back beyond November, 1904. Not many will care to contest that statement. Indeed, in most of the few records of the movement it is found that there were small burstings forth, more especially in New Quay, Cardiganshire, in the earlier part of the year. The writer had the privilege of visiting New Quay in August, 1904, and found indisputable signs of the grace of God that had been poured forth upon several young people. They greedily devoured every bit of teaching from the Word, a sure token that the life begotten by that same Word was within. Earlier in the year—in February, so runs the story— at a meeting of young Endeavourers, a young girl was lifted from her seat, and, in spite of her natural and pronounced shyness, with trembling lips was inspired to say fervently in Welsh, “Yr wyf yn caru Jesu Grist a’m holl galon” (“I love Jesus Christ with all my heart”). It was all so unexpected, so beautifully simple and sincere, so manifestly of the Spirit that it acted like a spark on tinder. The weeks that followed were unforgettable and, in August, 1904, after several months, as the writer himself saw, the fire burned brightly.
BACKGROUND OF PRAYER
Whilst this very striking incident must not be forgotten, it is necessary to go still farther back for the origins of the mighty movement. In her useful book, ‘The Awakening in Wales, and Some of the Hidden Springs’, Mrs. Penn-Lewis goes back as far as the incident above referred to and also to the Llandrindod Convention of 1903, but there are “hidden springs” of which she was not told. Indeed, at that time, there was neither time nor inclination to trace them, so engrossed were all with the work itself. It is only in later years that opportunity has come for tracing the wondrous steps the Holy Spirit took.
Of course, it goes without telling that, like every other Revival, this also had its springs in prayer. God seems to have so ordained that most, if not indeed all, of His activities in the moral and spiritual realms should be the responses of His heart and power to the prayers of His people. No axiom seems surer than that. At the same time, if one is asked to probe to the praying that lay back of the Revival of 1904, that is, such praying as would seem adequate to account for the tremendous things that followed, one would be compelled to confess inability. Doubtless, there were those in Wales itself who pleaded for Revival, and, there was also the universal praying for Revival that belongs peculiarly to the year 1902. Beyond this the writer has knowledge of nothing in the form of adequate prayer that might explain the copious showers that fell.
But if the Revival cannot here be traced back along the lines of prayer, it is nevertheless possible to do so along other lines; lines, perhaps, equally vital. That, however, belongs to a story which only a few have known and treasured in their hearts all the years, waiting for the time when the Lord would have it written. That time, it is felt, has now come. It is right that the facts should be known; more, it is necessary and profitable. God’s “ways” are ever of interest, His “ways” in Revival especially so; “ways” that need to be pondered by such as pray for Revival and who might desire to be used in any Revival the future may bring.
THE YEAR 1896
For the last century or two, as has been pointed out “revival seems to travel in the opposite direction to the sun.” The great Revival of 1740, under Jonathan Edwards in New England, preceded by many years the Welsh Revival under Howell Harris and Daniel Rowlands and the English Revival under Wesley and Whitefield. In like manner the Revival that touched Wales and Ireland in 1859, and England in the early sixties, had its birth in 1857 or 1858 across the Atlantic.” As for the ’59 Revival in Wales it is clear that its origins lay away in the United States. A young Wesleyan minister named Humphrey Jones had emigrated there from Wales. Having himself “caught fire” in the Revival connected with the Fulton Street Prayer Meeting, New York, after much Revival work in his adopted land, he became burdened with the condition of his own native Principality, and returned here, as he confessed to the friend who met him at Liverpool, “to set Wales on fire!” This was in June, 1858. His return to Wales saw the beginning of “The Revival of ’59”. That is to say, the anachronism notwithstanding, the ‘59 Revival began in June, 1858! Humphrey Jones, however, was not to be the prominent messenger to Wales at that time. God had another instrument—the Rev. David Morgan, Ysbytty—for the work of spreading the fire which Jones had kindled.
All this is increasingly interesting when it is recalled that the first known outburst of the Spirit of God which led to the Revival of 1904 also took place beyond the Atlantic, and with which another of the name of Jones is concerned. This, briefly told, is the story. In the year 1896, in a Church in Scranton, Penna, U.S.A., laboured a pastor who had settled there from Wales a few years previously. It was a thriving church, and the pastor ere he left Wales was, though young, one of the two most eminent preachers in his own denomination. Well-read, cultured, possessed of a mind penetrating and analytical to a degree, he delighted his American audiences as he had his Welsh hearers. Still, his preaching, as he confessed in later years, was something far beyond his experience. Divine and eternal realities to his then somewhat sceptical and rationalistic mind were so many postulates of thought and nothing more. Then came a variety of trials which led to a more serious thought than ever concerning God and the meaning of life. The fallow ground in his own heart was being dealt with. A day came when the reality of God as a Person and a Holy Presence seemed to dawn on his soul: that God was his own Father, and that underneath him were “the everlasting arms” were facts so borne in upon him that life seemed altogether new and the joy of his heart was boundless. How great his wonderment at his erstwhile blindness! All things had become new. It was only a beginning, and yet his preaching took on a new note and there was a new power.
Ere that awakening had proceeded far God’s providence decreed a return to his native Wales. It was at once observed that the minister who had returned to Wales was different from the one who had left Wales a few years before. “Ye must be born again,” in those days, seemed a strange text for a popular preacher, and that too in one of the high denominational preaching festivals! The people did not gather at such a time to be convicted of sin and spiritual need, and it was therefore not to be wondered at that the message of the preacher fell somewhat flat. The common query thereafter was, “What has happened to —? He does not preach as he used to.”
THE SECRETS OF GOD
His return to Wales coincided with the completing in his life of the work which the Spirit of God had begun across the sea. Experiences which have been the lot of other pioneers of Revival were his also. “In point of fact,” to quote Professor James, “you will hardly find a religious leader of any kind in whose life there is no record of such things. St. Paul had his visions, his ecstasies. The whole army of Christian saints, including the greatest—the Luthers, the Foxes, the Wesleys—had these visions, voices, rapt conditions, guiding impressions, and openings. They had these things because they had exalted sensibility, and to such I things persons of exalted sensibility are liable.” The gifted professor, were he discussing the matter from the point of view of these pages, might have, added that such persons are not only liable to such things, but also that such things are what really constitute them pioneers in any new movement of the Spirit.
Over these things, in the case of the brother referred to is drawn a veil, and if ever that veil which covers those sacred and marvellous dealings of God with his soul is to be drawn aside, he himself must be the one to do it. Maybe he is wise in not divulging them; they may have been for him alone; “pearls” and “holy things” which few, if any others could fully appreciate and understand. And, surely, it is right that the Father should have some “secrets” with His children without risking their being bruited abroad from every housetop. God does not give His servants marvellous experiences in order that they might appear to others to be marvellous people. Speaking of “transports”, Professor James insists that “mystical truth exists for the individual who has the transport, but for no one else”. Paul, obviously, agreed with him, for he kept to himself his “third heaven” rapture until he was forced by the folly of his antagonists to divulge it. The brother referred to, although he could tell a story as wonderful as any connected with the Revival, has probably followed the Lord’s will in letting it be known to but a few of his closest friends.
A FAVOURED CHURCH
His church soon realised that it had a pastor of an unusual, an altogether new type. The preaching, while it had lost nothing of its brilliant intellectuality, was concerned with a new message and charged with a power that was overwhelming. The holiness of the Lord had become to him a thing of tremendous reality; he himself had stood in its humbling light, and now his people also were searched by the same pitilessly searching and inescapable rays. There was no great commotion in the meetings, but individuals here and there went through the terrific agony of conviction of sin; and, finding peace at last, and cleansing too, through the precious, expiating Blood, entered upon a life of holy surrender
The change in the pastor was obvious to all. Old faults of character had given place to a meek earnestness that deeply impressed. The vessel had become
“only a broken vessel
For the Master’s use made meet.”
Brethren in, the town, ministers of his own and other denominations, became inquirers as they heard of the preaching and witnessed the life. The wife of one of these “came through” into definite blessing and, some time later, her husband also.
THE SPREADING LIGHT
The repute and influence of this work of God were not confined to that county town. Our brother, being much in demand throughout the Principality, found numerous opportunities for ministry. That ministry sounded a new note, and few at the time were able to realise what it meant. The message burned with a fire that scorched even where it did not consume. It revealed an ideal of Christian living far transcending the level of the dead morality that ordinarily satisfies even those who profess regeneration. It insisted that the laws of Christ had, for the believer, superseded the laws of Moses. “Be ye holy” had substituted “Be ye moral”. In its light it was seen that to hate, despise, be unforgiving, etc., were as vile, if not viler, sins than even the “gross sins” that had always been abhorred. Though most were simply stunned by such preaching they nevertheless realised, though perhaps dimly, that to give heart-assent to it involved a revolution for which, as yet, they were hardly prepared, with the result that the preacher incurred their dislike and the message was discounted. Some, and not a few either, came under the power of the message so irresistibly that obedience followed. Habits that had long been indulged were relinquished; redress for wrongs committed, where that was possible, was made; differences between church members were composed by confession and forgiveness. The writer speaks of some of these things as an eye-witness for, during those years, he had occasional opportunities of fellowship with this brother at special meetings in different parts of Wales. It was indeed a strange thing to see Welsh preaching festivals converted into what approximated very nearly to Holiness Conventions! All believed in the sincerity of the preacher; most failed to explain him; many became definitely hostile.
All this went on from 1897. During those years, as on review can now be clearly perceived, the message and life of this beloved brother were telling in a deep, sure way on the hearts of many. Among these were some young ministers belonging to his own religious body. Beneath a seemingly disdainful indifference a hunger was being created which, presently, would become intolerable. In the providence of God, early in 1903, they found themselves fairly near neighbours. Seriously minded by this time, and having discovered affinity one with another, they began meeting for prayer and other forms of spiritual intercourse. This fellowship but intensified their hunger, bringing it at last to a pitch near to desperation. It should, perhaps, be said that, during those months, some of them were experiencing unwonted things. God was rending the heavens and coming down, and mountains were flowing down at His presence. One of them recalls how, on several Saturday evenings, sermon preparation for the following Lord’s Day being over and he meditating and praying before the Lord, there would come upon him such a power as would crush to tears and agonising praying. All this was so new and inexplicable; but he noticed that, invariably, the next day’s preaching was in unusual power.
THE FIRST LLANDRINDOD CONVENTION
As that year 1903 wore on this little group of young ministers became conscious that all this must be leading up to something important and definite, albeit, such was their spiritual ignorance, what that something definite might be they had hardly an idea. The late revered Dr. F. B. Meyer had been greatly used to ministers in South Wales. This they knew, and it was that knowledge that probably suggested that he could perhaps help them also. Written to he replied that he was not likely to be in their district for some time, but he informed them of a “Keswick” Convention which had been arranged for the first week in August at Llandrindod Wells, and counselled their attendance thereat, promising also to give them an interview there. This, it may be stated, was the first of the Conventions at that beautiful Mid-Wales Spa, and the inception of the series at this particular time seems to be a striking part of the preparation for the mighty movement then imminent. That that Convention had a vital connection with the Revival is certain, as the story which is here being told will, in part, show Keswick had not a little to do with the birth of the Revival, and many have wondered how it happened that, when it was born, the nurse did not seem to welcome as heartily as might be expected what was in large measure her child. Not only is the influence of “Keswick”, especially via Llandrindod Wells, distinctly traceable in the origins of the Revival, it is also noteworthy that, in many a place which tasted the Revival blessing, the need for holding Conventions for the solidifying of the work and the enlightening of the workers in God’s methods of revival was keenly felt. And, it is but the barest truth to say that, where the Conventions followed in the wake of the Revival, there the fruits have been most fully conserved and matured.
A NEW MINISTRY
Behind the first Llandrindod Convention there had been much prayer. Mrs. Penn-Lewis, in her book already referred to, tells of how thirteen Welsh people, gathered in 1896 (a year of peculiar moment in the story) at the Keswick Convention, met together to pray for Wales, and definitely asked God to give to Wales a Convention similar to the one at Keswick for the deepening of the spiritual life. “For six years,” Mrs. Penn-Lewis adds, “this petition lay before the Lord, until in the seventh year—which in the Scriptures always speaks of God’s fullness of time—the Lord’s time to answer had come.”
The letter from Dr. Meyer was the first intimation the young ministers referred to received of the proposed first Llandrindod Wells Convention. They decided to go. That Convention was an utterly new and strange experience to them. Much could be written of the struggle. Suffice it to say that the Lord gloriously prevailed and that those young men returned to their pulpits altogether changed. A new vision had dawned on their souls; spiritual truths had become articulate to their minds; an unwonted power had come into both life and ministry. They knew what putting away of sin was; they had found their way in surrender to the altar; they had entered into the experience which follows the receiving of the Holy Spirit in faith. They were cleansed; cleansed from habits which had long defied their best resolves. Of course, they had much yet to learn, but they were at least conscious of having been ushered into a world altogether new, and that things could never be again the same. The testimony of each in his own church made a deep impression and caused intense questioning. Their new attitude toward things which once were easily tolerated convinced their flocks that something of importance had happened. Soon, in some at least of their churches, there were signs of real awakening, and many were converted. Many of their members, the young people especially, were led into full surrender to Christ as King and became bold open-air witnesses.
VISION OF HOLINESS
During the last quarter of 1903 the work in the hearts of these young ministers quietly developed. At the dawn of 1904 they found themselves burning with the same message which, heretofore in Wales, had been heard from the lips of the brother already mentioned only. The one flame had distributed itself into several. That message, as already stated, was one to the Lord’s people; a call to holiness. Strikingly enough, without the least collusion, and, indicative of the leading and unity of the Spirit, several of these young ministers found themselves preaching from the same Scripture; Isaiah’s vision of the Holy, Holy, Holy God, and His call to solemn service! The light, as they preached, was intense and the conviction deep. Everywhere was heard the echo of Isaiah’s cry; “Woe is me, for I am undone.”
By this time signs of awakening were many. Together with the pioneer brother referred to, some of these awakened men were asked to undertake missions; a new thing to the men themselves, and something not very usual in the churches in Wales. Indeed, to say the truth, the Welsh churches generally rather looked askance at such efforts. However, with the holding of these missions, it can confidently be stated, the Revival had taken on a very definite form.
It may be helpful if one of these missions were described. Typical of the rest, let us think of one in the first month of 1904. The pastor of the church was himself deeply exercised about his own life and ministry, and longed for blessing upon himself and his people. The young and inexperienced missioner (it was his first mission) began the series of meetings in much trembling. He hardly knew what to do or to expect, but, from the first (there were so many praying) there were impressive manifestations of the Lord’s presence and work. Every succeeding meeting fastened still more securely the Spirit’s grip on the hearts of the gathered ones. The young members of the church were specially moved. Let it be remembered that the message and its appeal were almost exclusively to those within the church. The call was to holiness. After a few nights, the “after-meeting” method was adopted. Those desiring definite blessing were urged to remain after those who had to leave had gone. A surprisingly large proportion of the congregation would stay. These were then further taught the simple truth of the Lordship of the Saviour, and urged, first of all, to put away all known sin and, if necessary, to be reconciled to others of God’s children, and make restitution where the latter was, required and possible. Then the simple way of faith in the matters of surrender to the rule of the Lord Jesus and of the reception of the Holy Spirit was laid before them. That done, while all knelt, one after another would speak out his or her confession, decision, and faith, the Holy Spirit wondrously enabling. Can any pen describe those meetings—their pure, tense, warm atmosphere? No sensationalism: such meetings were hardly reportable; they provided no passable “copy” for the press. All was so still, so silent, so deep, and yet overwhelming; as overwhelming as when Elijah, hearing the “still, small voice”, hid his face in his mantle. In the many meetings such as that first described, men and women—many of them still with us—entered into a blessed experience of the Lord which has stood the stress of years and continued to grow.
THE FIRE BURNING
That mission and its results could be multiplied many times over, as these “new” preachers blazed throughout the Principality their newly-found message and testified to the Lord’s power and grace. Cwmbach, Dowlais, Llwynypia, Penydaren, Porth, Cefnmawr, Cwmavon and Pencoed are only some of the places where the fires of Revival burned glowingly, but, as yet, not in such form as to attract the attention of the press. The spectacular was an element entirely absent from this mighty work of the Spirit.
A PRE-REVIVAL REVIVAL
Here is a letter written by a Welsh pastor, dated December 1st, 1904, and recording movements, of the Spirit in his own church and neighbourhood: “Much as we rejoice in the present Revival which is quickly spreading over our dear land, it is to our comfort and joy to be able to say that the Lord visited us in the same manner locally something over a year ago. P— Church, P— (of which I am pastor) was at that time in a state of cold indifference, the ordinary services being chilly and formal; life and enthusiasm at zero point, and the conversions few and far between. However, one evening in the spring of 1903, some of our young brethren—four in number—were found on the mountain holding a meeting for prayer, and it transpired that they had been doing so every night for some months. Their one object was to pray for Revival. The brother who discovered them heartily joined them. When the news leaked out the whole church was moved by the thought that her condition was so keenly felt by those who were so young (the brethren who met for prayer were not more than eighteen years of age). Some, it goes without saying, viewed the whole matter with suspicion and disdain, feeling sure that it was nothing but a momentary flame soon extinguished.
“Not so, however; the praying on the mountain continued, and those attending increased in number; even those who never entered a place of worship were attracted and remained to pray. And, as numbers increased, so also did the fervour. Presently, the flame reached the whole church, and we were moved with the Spirit of prayer and with a passion for souls. In an incredibly short time the whole neighbourhood was ablaze with the divine fire. A special feature was the part taken by the young women who prayed and sang swayed by the Holy Ghost. On Sundays as many as six meetings would be held; thirty souls on one Sunday coming to the Lord.
“Never shall I forget that summer; it was a time of unspeakable joy. For fully six months we continued in prayer every night, and the effect of that blessed time is evident even now when the wave of another general Revival has almost submerged everything. The after-effects upon God’s people were very great. Speaking for myself, my own heart and life were searched as never before. Was I fully surrendered to the Lord? Where was the power that should be in my ministry? Was I fully assured of salvation? Had I received the Holy Ghost? The outcome of it all was that I yielded wholly to God, casting away all known sin, and making God’s glory the one aim of my life and ministry. What an experience followed! What joy!
Yours in Christ, E— T—.”
AN UNMISTAKABLE AWAKENING
One of the “new” preachers referred to wrote under date, December 3rd, 1904, in these terms, “My church has experienced a season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord for at least five months. Indeed, there have been unmistakable signs of awakening in some lives for the last fifteen months. There have been repeated testimonies to a deep thirst for a holier life; many confessing that never in their lives had they such a desire to live to God. About six months ago I convened a special Sunday evening service for young people who desired to possess a deeper spiritual life. The Holy Spirit came down and took possession of that meeting and overwhelmed us all with power from on high. On another usual Sunday evening service the Spirit descended in the same remarkable manner; I could hardly speak, so manifest was the presence of God. There was such, power in the words I spoke that strong men were broken in pieces. That night several young men gave themselves to the Lord. The same experience was repeated on several Sunday evenings, but, as yet, the church as a whole was not ready.
“Then came the missionary prayer week, a week whose every night was spent in praise and prayer. Following this came the week of thanksgiving for the harvest. The Sunday preceding these special weeks, at my invitation, those who were ready to yield entirely to the Lord and to go out seeking the lost, were met together. They were but a few, but they were used for the kindling of the fire. Ever since souls have been saved every day. The church had entered upon the blessing of Pentecost. There is, of course, no doubt that the whole movement has a vital connection with my own awakening. Now I have a new church with a large number of men and women filled with the Holy Spirit, and who are used to win souls.
Yours in Him, O—M.O—.”
WEST WALES CONVENTIONS
Thus the fire was gaining strength presently to leap forward in irresistible flame. Side by side with the Revival missions described, and the local awakenings in south-east Wales just described, in north Carmarthenshire and south Cardiganshire, local conventions were being held as early as 1903. New Quay, Aberaeron, Borth, Blaenanerch, were some of the places where these were held. These Conventions, it is important to note, were largely the direct results of the work of grace in the county town already referred to. The speakers thereat included the Rev. W. S. Jones; also the Revs. W. W. Lewis and E. Ken Evans, M.A., two of the ministers in Carmarthen town who had come under the influence of the message of the first-named; the Revs. J. Jenkins New Quay; J. Thickens, Aberaeron; and others. At a later stage the Rev. Seth Joshua came in for a share in the work.
The outburst at New Quay (mentioned on a previous page) and these Conventions were intimately related. The whole of that countryside in West Wales was now in a large degree awakened. It should also be stated that the preparatory school, where Mr. Evan Roberts studied at that time, is situate in that district. The story has already been told how it was that, in one of those Conventions—the one at Blaenanerch in September, 1904—Mr. Roberts and some of his colleagues entered into definite blessing, the blessing of I being “bent” to the Lord and His will. It was thus that the Revival, already existent, brought forth its most prominent figure and leader.
MORE CONTRIBUTORY STREAMS
In tracing these particular streams that led to the Revival of 1904 it is not, of course, suggested that there were no others. There doubtless were. It would, for example, be sheer ingratitude to forget two other streams that unquestionably poured their quota to form the mighty tide. Both, however, were somewhat more remote than those recorded in the preceding paragraphs, but they were two special movements of the Holy Spirit within the Principality preparatory to the later and greater movement. Both too, though humanly independent, were largely contemporary. They are connected with two well-loved names—two John’s—Rev. John Evans (Eglwysbach) and Rev. John Pugh.
The former, one of the mightiest Welsh preachers of his day, a Wesleyan Methodist, and always a great evangelist, was so wrought upon by the Spirit of God that he obtained freedom from the ordinary plan of his Church in order that, by adopting new methods, he might win the masses of his people to Christ. His own spiritual quickening and the consuming zeal of his mission work, especially at Pontypridd—the town chosen as centre—created a deep impression throughout the Principality.
Almost exactly in the same years, in another Denomination—the Calvinistic Methodists—there arose another who afterwards became widely known as Dr. John Pugh. Dissatisfied with ordinary methods, this devoted servant of God started an evangelistic campaign in a tent at Cardiff, May, 1891. From that beginning developed the “Forward Movement” of the body referred to, which for years has done great work among the English element of the dense populations in South Wales. It survives to this day and will soon be celebrating its fortieth anniversary. Together with the Brothers Joshua (Seth and Frank) and others, Dr. John Pugh did more than he had intended, and the Principality’s debt to his and their services in the Gospel can never be calculated. Revival was brought nearer through the pioneering evangelism of these two movements.
A few years ago a warm current called El Nina, which usually comes before Christmas, swept southward along the west coast of South America in greater volume than ever before. It brought with it torrential showers, which visited parts of South America which had not known rain since the year 1551.
El Nina turned thousands of miles of desert into paradise in an incredibly short time, as it caused millions of hardy seeds which had lain dormant in the ground through decades of drought to sprout and grow with incredible vigour.
“Lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of the singing of birds is come
And the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.”
“Assuredly the springs of life are breaking forth anew.” - DR. F. J. HORT (1870)
THE DOUBLE OUTBURST
The Rev. W. Hobley, comparing the Revivals of 1859 and 1904 in Wales, calls attention to the fact, illustrated in the foregoing pages, that the latter took longer to work its way to popular attention than did the former, but that once it became manifest to all it spread with a much greater rapidity, and made its influence felt more widely than did its predecessor. He also states that it is a noteworthy feature of both Revivals, that each began to spread beyond its erstwhile limitations, by means of one special personality who was gripped some time after the Revival itself had begun. In the case of the ’59 Revival the personality was the Rev. David Morgan, a man of forty-five years, and a minister near Aberystwyth. In the case of the Revival of 1904 the personality was a young student of twenty-six years, Mr. Evan Roberts. It is rather remarkable that the former Revival, in Wales at least, appealed rather more to the old than to the young, while the latter was in a very marked degree a young people’s Revival. Perhaps some philosophic mind can explain whether the difference in the ages of the Revivalists had something to do with these respective results.
The emergence of Mr. Evan Roberts brought the work of the last Revival to a new phase—its popular phase. The date of this happening was in the second week of November, 1904. It is of some interest to record that this new phase was not exclusively due to the appearance of that famous figure. During the days of Mr. Robert’s memorable meetings in Loughor, South Wales, one of the mentioned group of young ministers was holding meetings at Rhos, North Wales. In similar forms, and on the very same days, the outburst came in both Loughor and Rhos. From Loughor the fire spread throughout the south; from Rhos, to the North of the Principality. As the story, from this point onward, will mostly concern the work in South Wales, the following from a local newspaper about the work in Rhos may here be permitted, “Since the revivalist’s visit the district has been in, the grip of an extraordinary spiritual force, which shows no sign of relaxation. The churches are united in a solid phalanx. The prayer-meetings are so crowded that the places of worship are inadequate to contain them. Some last eight hours, with no cessation in prayer or singing! From the lips of the humblest and lowliest pour forth petitions which thrill the whole being—the spell of earthly things seems to be broken. In the street, in the train, in the car, even in the public-houses, all this is, in hushed and reverential tones, the theme of conversation.” The senseless ditties of the music-hall and. theatre were entirely silenced, and, instead, the very hills echoed with the songs of Zion.
It were easy to fill pages with wonderful incidents belonging to that remarkable period. But this has already been largely—perhaps sufficiently—done. Such incidents are— well, merely incidental. “It is possible to be occupied too exclusively with the mere incidents of the movement—deeply impressive, thrilling, and important as they are.” As Rev. E. H. Hopkins further adds, it is possible to be taken up with the effects and not with the cause; with the phenomena, the mere accidents, as it were, instead of with the real work of the movement. The essential work of a Revival may well be the despair of any pen. The sensational provides “copy” for the journalist, but the more vital things are of little interest to him. A better service than the mere recital of incidents is, the present writer thinks, possible.
If one were asked to describe in a word the outstanding feature of those days, one would unhesitatingly reply that it was the universal, inescapable sense of the presence of God. Revival is the exact answer to such a sigh as that of Isaiah 6410 “Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence.” In 1904 the Lord had literally rent the heavens, and had scattered the satanic foes entrenched therein. The Lord had come down! The mountains were gloriously melted down in His presence.
THE SENSE OF THE LORD’S PRESENCE
A sense of the Lord’s presence was everywhere. It pervaded, nay, it created the spiritual atmosphere. It mattered not where one went the consciousness of the reality and nearness of God followed. Felt, of course, in the Revival gatherings, it was by no means confined to them; it was also felt in the homes, on the streets, in the mines and factories, in the schools, yea, and even in the theatres and drinking-saloons. The strange result was that wherever people gathered became a place of awe, and places of amusement and carousal were practically emptied. Many were the instances of men entering public-houses, ordering drinks, and then turning on their heels leaving them on the counters untouched. The sense of the Lord’s presence was such as practically to paralyse the arm that would raise the cup to the lips. Football teams and the like were disbanded; their members finding greater joy in testimony to the Lord’s grace than in games. The pit-bottoms and galleries became places of praise. and prayer, where the miners gathered to worship ere they dispersed to their several stalls. Even the children of the Day-schools came under the spell of God. Stories could be told of how they would gather in any place they could, where they would sing and pray in most impressive fashion. A very pretty story is that of a child of about four in an infant class who held up his hand to call the teacher’s attention. “Well, A—,” inquired the teacher, “what is it?” Swift and telling came the words, “Please, teacher, do you love Jesus?” That was all: nay, it was not all; the arrow had reached its mark. There and then the teacher came to the Lord, and it is only a year or so since death ended her great missionary career in India.
This all-pervading sense of the presence of God even among the children, may perhaps be further illustrated by a story from Rhos. Someone overheard one little child ask another, “Do you know what has happened at Rhos?” “No, I don’t, except that Sunday comes every day now.” “Don’t you know?” “No, I don’t.” “Why, Jesus Christ has come to live in Rhos now!”
AN OUTSTANDING SERVICE
It is difficult to over-state or over-value this remarkable feature of the Revival. The writer will never forget one outstanding experience of this sense of an atmosphere laden with the power of God’s realized presence. He was conducting meetings in Amlwch, Anglesey, in the first months of 1905. Revival had even then reached that northernmost point in Wales, and the meetings were the culmination of several weeks work in that island called, “the Mother of Wales.” The “capel mawr” (big chapel) was crowded. The memory of that meeting, even after more than a quarter of a century, is well nigh overwhelming. It was easily the greatest meeting the writer ever was in. The theme of the message was Isaiah, Chapter Six. The light of God’s holiness was turned upon the hearts and lives of those present. Conviction of sin, and of its terrible desert, was so crushing that a feeling almost of despair grew over all hearts. So grievous a thing was sin; so richly and inevitably did it deserve the severest judgement of God, that hearts questioned, Could God forgive? Could God cleanse? Then came the word about the altar, the tongs, and the live coal touching ,the confessedly vile lips, and the gracious and complete removal of their vileness. After all, there was hope! God was forgiving, and He had cleansing for the worst. When the rapt listeners realized all this the effect was—well, “electrifying” is far too weak a word; it was absolutely beyond any metaphor to describe it. As one man, first with a sigh of relief, and then, with a delirious shout of joy, the whole huge audience sprang to their feet. The vision had completely overwhelmed them and, one is not ashamed to tell it, for a moment they were beside themselves with heavenly joy. The speaker never realized anything like it anywhere. The whole place at that moment was so awful with the glory of God—one uses the word “awful” deliberately; the holy presence of God was so manifested that the speaker himself was overwhelmed; the pulpit where he stood was so filled with the light of God that he had to withdraw! There; let us leave it at that. Words cannot but mock such an experience.
It recalls, however, a somewhat similar incident in the ’59 Revival. In August, 1859, in Llangeitho, that famous cradle of the Welsh Methodist Revival of the eighteenth century, an annual Convocation of the Calvinistic Methodist body was being held. The climax came in an open-air meeting at eight in the morning of the last day. The Rev. David Morgan, the Revivalist, wrote in his diary that it was the most wonderful prayer-meeting he ever was in. A noted minister—the Rev. Thomas John, Cilgerran—after the meeting, was found alone in deep meditation in a field. Said one who drew near to him, “Mr .John, was not the sight of the thousands as they silently prayed a most impressive one? Did you ever see anything to compare with it?” “I never saw one of them,” was the answer, “I saw no one but God!” Soon after he was seen leaving the field, and said a friend, “Whither will you go, Thomas John?” “Home,” came the reply, “how dreadful is this place! I must leave; I am too weak to bear it.” His earthen vessel was too frail for such experiences. Among the many lessons learned on such occasions is that there must come a great change, not only in the spiritual characters, but also in the physical frames of God’s children ere they will be able to “bear” the “far more exceeding weight of glory”.
Chapter 1 - The Name “The Welsh Revival”
Chapter 2 - Origins
Chapter 3 - November, 1904
Chapter 4 - The Revival Meetings
Chapter 5 - Immediate Practical Results
Chapter 6 - Lasting Fruit
Addenda: - Keswick 1905