Written in 1909 this book claims to be a more critical and scholarly work than any others published before it, a claim which is well substantiated by its contents. Indiscriminate enthusiasts will baulk at some of the authors comments and conclusions, but any authentic work of God can stand the scrutiny of analysis and observation which is conducted in a spiritual and constructive manner. In fact, any real work of the Holy Spirit is quite unaffected, even by an antagonistic and sometimes aggressive critic.
All students of the Welsh Revival should carefully study Morgan’s work alongside the more popular accounts. We have included 3 of the 11 chapters.
THIS is a great age, an age pregnant with untold possibilities, an age rich in direct and aggressive effort for the benefit of mankind. There is abroad, in this and other lands, an overmastering passion for righteousness, and an intense longing for the fulfilment of those ideals that have throbbed in the hearts of holy men throughout the generations. Never before were so many religious books and periodicals read; never before was such solicitude manifested for the welfare of childhood. Modern civilization has robbed us of many an ancient blessing, but the gain which offsets the apparent loss should not be forgotten. The human heart was never so tender and active; the spirit of research was never so penetrating and thorough. Since the Reformation new sciences have arisen, and they have added to our store of knowledge. Archaeological research, and the natural sciences, have thrown a flood of light on the history and sacred writings of Palestine, Greece, Egypt and the Roman Empire. The languages of Scripture, and the literature written in these languages, are better known than before at the dawn of this century. The Western mind is more familiar with the habits, thoughts and religious beliefs of the Oriental world. There is a greater desire than ever to know as much as there is to be known about Christ—His personality, ideals, feelings, thoughts, and the bearing of His ethics upon labour, womanhood, slavery, intemperance, and the colossal accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few.
This new feeling for, and this new interest in Christ, is seen in the great sales of popular lives of Him. Recite to a convention of working-men the creeds of the various sects, and you cannot fail to notice an expression of weariness on their faces. Not that they are sceptics; probably you would find that a great number of them are professing Christians and regular communicants. But speak to them about Christ—the greatness of His soul, the profundity of His thoughts, the purity of His feelings, and what purposes were His, and for which He gave His life—and they will listen to you with respect; they may even applaud you. The element of mercy is at a high premium at this hour. Never were there such efforts to deal with the taproots of those evils that oppress the poor, that deteriorate the mind and tone of the nation. Nevertheless, it remains true that devotion to material good was never more prominent. By materialism is meant three things:
First, life without high ideals, without moral vistas, without poetic vision—life without that moral sense or ultimate dream that invests it with sanctity and power. Second, a life identified with pride and prodigality, with vulgar glamour and gaiety. Third, a life based upon the love of money and greed of gain, the passion for fame and power—a life devoid of conscience and of consideration for the interests and claims of others, accumulating riches for the sake of the reputation it brings, oblivious of every noble instinct, defiling the affections, stupefying the imagination, and resulting in a non-appreciation of the value of things spiritual and unseen. There has been a wonderful development of financial, commercial and colonial expansion. There has been aroused a national delirium for wealth and dominion. Discoveries of precious stones and metals, of gold and diamond mines, are being dangled before the gloating eyesof avarice and ambition. Christian people are falling more and more under the rule of the newspaper press, which is daily becoming more braggart and noisy, which announces events before they happen, and eulogizes and condemns books before reading them. Even education must be practical—must be such that it shall fit our boys and girls to earn money. Life is being made a question of finance. To be poor is to be weak. To fail in the race for riches is to be miserable.
There is another side. Thousands of well-ordered and God-fearing men and women find their life a treadmill grind for existence. For a mere pittance they have to work early and late. Their chief and constant concern is how to find what is simply necessary for the physical comfort of those who depend upon them. Of what value are our creeds to them? It is easy to say that God is good, and that life is sweet, when there is bread enough and to spare; but not so easy when one is willing to toil and to sweat, but is denied the opportunity, or where the hours of labour are long and dreary, and the pay out of all proportion to the claims of the toiler. Such social and industrial conditions do not predispose men to religion. You say that “God is not in all their thoughts.” What wonder? This utter absorption in things material on the part of those who are consumed with the passion for money-making, affects their manners, morals, amusements and ideals. It makes them hard, selfish and inhuman. What real comfort can there be in such a sterile, perverted existence?
It often happens that this worship of wealth is combined with puritanic habits. Their behaviour may be irreproachable; they may be highly abstemious, and regard with a critical eye those who waste money on such trifles as books and travel. Not that money in itself is an evil: it would be as reasonable to denounce steam or electricity. The genius for money-making is as much of a genius from God as the genius for preaching or for writing poems. Wealth represents an accumulation of human force; and under proper conditions may, when rightly used, be among the greatest means of serving the greatest end. But the motive and the ideal are the twin-elements that make riches either a curse or a blessing. It is this that fills the contemplation of the lives of many millionaires with a sense of dreariness, repugnance and disillusionment. Some of them have never known a moment of unguarded generosity. They have no social sympathies and no patriotic idealism. In the Middle Ages whatever had been acquired by genius, industry or ambition, was continually returning in the form of charity for the use of the community. Kings, nobles and merchant-princes adorned and enriched the cities of their times with religion, with education, and with charitable institutions.
What is the general effect of this modern passion for gold and gain—this utter absorption in things material and transitory? It is to crowd out of the heart the thought of God, of personal responsibility, and the contemplations of spiritual life. The verdict of history is, that something more than the ordinary routine of Church work is necessary to head off this inrushing tide of humanity, and to concentrate its attention upon the great verities of religion.
During the last Welsh Revival men who had never been impressed either in their imagination or conscience by the prayers and preaching to which they had listened for years, were swayed as trees by a mighty rush of wind. They were compelled to feel, confess and repent in spite of themselves. Such was their spiritual paralysis, that the most heroic remedies were necessary to awaken them from the sleep of death.
It is a mistake to suppose that methods once used with success can always be used with success. This general insistence of Christian people upon conventional ways and methods is a great hindrance to the harvesting of souls. What is nothing but a means to an end is often regarded as an end in itself. There is no longing to extend the spiritual reach of the soul, and to enrich the inner life, by a closer communion with Divine realities. Is feeling an end? Is preaching? Is worship? No, not one of them is an end. Even righteousness is not an end: it is incidental.
Moreover, the question has to be considered not only in relation to the materialism of the age, but also to the doubt of modern civilization. Since human history began no age has been so marked by unbelief in the supernatural. The materialism of the hour is both a sign and a cause of the decay of faith in the existence of a supernatural life. People who believe strongly in God will not be absorbed in the pursuit of material gain and of gaiety, of vulgar sheen and pride, of low ideals and prodigality. On the other hand, people who devote themselves to the accumulation of property and soul-soiling sensations are almost certain to forget the existence of a spiritual life and the moral government of God.
Natural science, in so far as it has developed itself, does not foster faith in a personal God and in the superhuman side of religion. But to eliminate the super-natural from Christianity is to eliminate Christianity itself, and to leave in its place theism, if not agnosticism. The progress of scientific knowledge dispels superstition, and creates a critical spirit not only among men who are technically educated, but also in the great popular mind. Many effects once deemed miraculous are now looked upon as purely natural. Such, for instance, is the migration of a comet, and the eclipse. This critical spirit has also emphasized the importance of fact in comparison with theory or speculation. The study of literature, and especially sacred literature, shows fable, myth and imaginative narration to be some of its strong characteristics. Even history, until a very late date, has had highly imaginative elements; but it is becoming more realistic every day. This is equally true of fiction.
The photographic quality is in the ascendant. The great fascination of ‘Adam Bade’lies in the fact that, when we read it, we are looking at life. The stage novel is fast disappearing. Hall Caine portrays life in its sunshine and gloom, and delineates the lives of suffering men and enduring women. The ethical element predominates, and the right is always triumphant, even if it be over the open grave. This preference for facts will be more characteristic of the future than of the present. The sphere of its operation is being widened as the years go by. It embraces even the life and character of Jesus. We are frankly told that a barbarous and superstitious age gave Him the reward of deification, just as the Pharaohs and Alexanders and Caesars were deified. His memory was surrounded by clouds of miracle and marvel during the first four generations that passed before the Gospels took any settled form. It is contended that in the centuries since the Reformation, the human reason has done much to disengage Christ in the Protestant mind from these mythical encumbrances; it is also claimed that by relieving Him of all supernatural attributes and powers, the pathos and heroism of His life will be vastly heightened.
Let us look at the progress of this critical spirit in its bearing upon the young. They are passing through a period of danger and difficulty. A new world has been opened up for them. They are being laughed out of their religious scruples and home-made modesty; they are being warned against the cultivation of moral dreams and the pursuit of spiritual shadows. Nothing is sacred, they say, but what is sanctioned by reason. Thus it is that many a pious and humble youth, brought up in an atmosphere of reverence, with a father’s blessing and a mother’s prayers, is found sitting in the seat of the scornful. Religious fervour is despised; the habit of prayer, faith, and respect for the Sabbath and for the Word, are thought of as the vagaries of wild fanatics or mystical enthusiasts. Of course, there are doubters and doubters. In ‘Robert Rismere’we have four types: the worldly in the squire, the misanthrope in Langham, the mystic in Grey, the intellectual and literary in Elsmere. He has a noble spirit, but can no longer accept Christianity as taught by the churches. He cannot preach the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. He feels that he must believe in God and his fellow-men, and he accepts the ideal of the Galilean peasant as a simple human ideal; and still Elsmere is not satisfied with mere philosophy. The squire, hard, cynical and studious, has a different cast of mind. His knowledge has overridden his religious belief, and he takes refuge in philosophy.
Langham revels in the melancholy of unfaith. Some men doubt, but with a crushing sorrow and humiliation. With them the struggle has been real and prolonged—a heart-rending tragedy. God only knows the misery and anguish they have endured—an anguish that has whitened the hair and drained the life. Flippant believers scoff, and say that such doubt is the outcome of a corrupt heart. But religion is more endangered by such audacious assurance than by such thoughtful doubts. Others doubt, and gloat over it; and with the decay of their faith there comes a serious loss of moral tone. You cannot reason such doubters back to the faith of the saints, and to a regard for the interests of their own spiritual nature. You cannot pray, sing or preach them back. The ordinary ministration of the Church has lost its grip upon them. More heroic remedies must be applied. They have to be shocked into a contact with reality. The deadly opiate of sin finds its antidote in these seasons of revival, which arrest the attention of the indifferent, and bring the sinful into contact with reality.
There is another class—those who are polluted and dishonoured by the foul stains of sin. They are apparently useless to any purpose of God and man, and live only to spend their lives like vermin. They have faces wise with wickedness, and eyes out of which all traces of maidenhood have vanished. They are flung upon the world to be trampled in the mire of lust; often neglected and ostracized by respectable orthodoxy, and left to perish where they have fallen. Many of them are men and women who have drifted out of our Sunday Schools into a life of misery and shame.
“Once I was pure as snow; but I fell,
Fell like the snowflake from heaven to hell,
Fell to be trampled as filth on the street,
Fell to be scoffed at and spit on and beat.
Pleading, cursing and dreading to die,
And selling my soul to whoever would buy.
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,
Hating the living, and fearing the dead.
Merciful God! Have I fallen so low?
And yet, I was once like the beautiful snow.”
But the cynic says, “These are difficult cases.” Of course they are, and the mission of Christ was not to get rid of “difficult cases,” but to meet and to solve them. He knew nothing of that “incurable ward” in the great hospital of ailing souls which the modern Church has established. Wesley went to Newgate and preached free salvation to condemned felons. “Though thou hast raked in the very kennels of hell,” said Spurgeon, “Christ will absolve thee from all sin.” Paul did not say that he had no Gospel for the “bad ones.” The writers of the New Testament did not preach the “doctrine of despair.” The essence of the Gospel is that all men must be approached, for the reason that all men can be saved, and that Jesus died for them. Let those who say that they have no faith in the recoverability of man at his worst read the history of the Welsh Revival of 1904—5. Men who had been regarded as either too old or too wicked to be touched and saved, surrendered fully and absolutely, and have since become useful citizens and consistent church members.
There is a deep, dark, underworld of woe, that looks with a sorrowful and almost hopeless gaze to the Church of God, for the thrill of that mystic saving power which the Spirit breathed into it at its birth. Souls weighed down with the burden of sin and shame, moved by a high impulse, wander into our churches only to find them cold and critical. They hear eloquent words about God’s lasting grace, the faithfulness of His love, and His willingness to forgive; but they find little of this love in the attitude of the Church, and practically none in the everyday life of the average preacher. Full of failings himself, he is unsympathetic with the failings of others. He has plenty of churchly school mastership, but little sympathy; he is more plentiful in religiosity than in brotherly love, or even in personal character. Into the sanctuary weary hearts wend their way, looking for shelter from sorrow, from remorse, and from glaring human vices; but of shelter or of comfort there is little. Undoubtedly there is welcome in all the churches for the fairly-dressed classes, for the respectable section that hold their places in the social organism, because they are considered helpful additions to the life of the Church; but should they become financially disabled, or lapse, even temporarily, and through no fault of their own, they are at once classed among the “undesirables” and “undeserving.” The interest in them dies out, and they are allowed to drift into that section of the community that is the despair of the philanthropist and of the statesman. It is this differentiating process that filled the heart of General Booth with compassion, and gave him his great ideal. For supplying this deficiency in the organized life of the churches, he will go down to posterity as the greatest revivalist since the birth of Christ.
To provide a place of worship for the public, and to supply an adequate number of competent men to preach and to minister in them, is not enough, and does not cover the whole duty of a church. The Master came daily into personal contact with the unfortunate and undeserving. Those who had fallen into misfortune turned their faces to Him as flowers do to the sun. The outcast felt that a new era had dawned upon his class; and the churches that perpetuate His spirit, His attitude, and sympathetic outlook upon this great sorrowing world, whatever badge they may wear, or whatever may be their creed, they alone have the right to bear His name and to look for His benediction. The political reformer has to face the fact that the boundaries of his efforts are limited. He can do something to provide adequate opportunity to give every advantage to ability and character, to remove temptation and to rescue those who, through no fault of their own, have drifted among the unfortunate; but the Christian churches, and those who minister in them, cannot plead any such limitation; they cannot find any excuse for it in the teaching and example of Jesus. It is their mission to help those on whom misfortune has fallen, whether deserved or undeserved, to seek to change their habits, character and lot, and to make them deserve in the future what they have not deserved in the past.
A great outcry has been raised in some quarters against the “New Theology.” There is one signal service which the “New Theology “ has rendered. It has concentrated attention upon the solemn and momentous truths of religion, and caused indolent men, lay and cleric, to think. It has made the orthodox world leap to its feet—chiefly in self-defence. The sound of the Rev. B. J. Campbell’s bell may seem harsh and discordant to some; but it has resulted in a call to arms, and has awakened many churches from their deadly sleep. Synods and presbyteries are passing resolutions in defence of orthodoxy. According to Jesus, there is only one orthodoxy, and that is love. The amount of love a church-member has to give away to his neighbours, to his unfortunate brother, to the indifferent and the sinful, is the only test of the reality of his faith. He may believe in Three Gods, and yet be farther away from the Kingdom than he who believes only in One. It is the depth of our love, and not the number of our Gods, that gives us the right to the title of Christians. ,There are many in the churches that are not in theChurch; and many, thank God, are in theChurch that are not in the churches. What is the use of all this discussion about the immanence of God—natural and spiritual immanence, or the transcendence of God, and the relation of the one to the other? What is the use of all this catechizing, praying, preaching and singing, if there is no love to come out of it—no pity for the fallen, no help for the unfortunate, and no encouraging word for the weak and the feeble? There is plenty and to spare of abstract sympathy, but little concrete tenderness.
Not only do our churches need a revival of the passion of enthusiasm, but a baptism with the wider element of sympathy. The Prince of Wales, after his recent visit to India, spoke to the City of London, and said that what the people needed was a wider element of sympathy. To such sympathy, he said, there would be an over-abundant and generous response. He spoke of the splendour of India, its fascination, its immense size, its varied climate, its numerous races, its ancient traditions; but what the people yearn for is sympathy, and it was sympathy alone that could touch them. The same truth applies to the relation of the Church to the work. This sad, bloodthirsty, sinning race needs to be taken into the loving arms of Christians. This is what is recorded of the Master: “He took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” Our churches lack warmth, hospitality, elasticity, and the aggressive genius. An Irish Wesleyan minister, the Rev. John Holmes (the spiritual father of the Rev. William Arthur, who in his days was noted for his work among the fallen and indifferent), was asked to appear before the Conference because he had adopted fresh methods. His reply was, “I am not here to apologize for God Almighty. If souls are saved, I am happy, even though it be not in the usual way.”
The Pharisees said that Christ “’received’sinners.” This He denied in striking allegories. Jesus said in effect, “ I do not ‘receive’the backslider, but I ‘seek’him. I light a candle, I sweep the house, I use every device known to Divine Love. If one method fails, I try another, until I find and restore.” This man is on the look-out for sinners. That is the idea.
Buddhism teaches the practice of sympathy and charity wherever want and suffering are met; but the ideal of Christianity is higher. We are to search for cases of sorrow, and to seek the lost.
To the “husks” the prodigal was welcome, but not to his master’s pity, advice, loving-kindness, or help. Thus it is that respectable orthodoxy, intoxicated with a sense of its own superiority, gloats over the fact that it is “not as other men,” oblivious of another fact, namely, that angels turn away from it in disgust, and that the Master, whose name it bears, will in the greatest day of all unmask its hypocrisy, and reveal it in all its shame and failure. Most of the fortunes that have been built up of late years have been built by utilizing materials that other men and generations have thrown away as useless. There were times when Christianity fled from all contact with the world; but its truest spirit is represented in the words of Mazzini, “Save the souls of others, and leave your own to the care of God.” We are all familiar with the hackneyed comparison between Mohammedanism and Christianity; and no two religions could lie farther apart. But in ten years ending in 1901 Mohammedanism added 5,000,000 to its membership in India. But our evangelical churches have to report arrested progress. The truth is, evangelical Christianity in England and Wales is losing both grip and ground. It is actually on the defensive. Beyond and above this, evangelicalism is fast losing its own intellectual integrity. It is losing it in virtue of the fact that it fails to differentiate between an inherited doctrine and an inherited faith; it is like the image of a man bound in irons speaking to a man that is free. Let evangelicalism make its stand on its faith, and its permanence as a factor in the religious life of the world is assured; but let it continue to seek to bind individual men and women to its Christological doctrines, its extinction as a moral force to be reckoned with is certain. The trend of the collective instinct of mankind is, not to bind men, but to free them—free them intellectually as well as socially. There is but one object to which men are willing to be bound, and that is Christ. But I may be asked, “What is evangelical Christianity?“ By evangelical Christianity I mean the teaching that emphasizes individual conversion by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Incarnation reconciling an alien soul to God the Father. This teaching is still given, but has lost much of its force and power because it has been diverted from its truest and its highest aims, and become disloyal to itself by being unequally yoked to political aspirations, and thus has grown unspiritual and material.
Evangelical preachers have ceased to pray for and plead with the unconverted. The spiritual has become subordinate to the political. It may be contended that Christianity is broader than churchism, and that the weakness of its evangelical force in the churches should be attributed to its spread in society at large. True, there is a diffused Christianity—a Christianity which permeates social life and inspires great philanthropic movements, but which refuses allegiance to any particular creed, church, or organization. This diffused Christianity has emanated both consciously and unconsciously from organized Christianity in the past, in the days when evangelical religion devoted its energies to the one great ideal upon which it was based. But it is not so to-day. Through its flirtations with political and socialistic dreams, it has lost much of its ancient vigour, as well as its hold upon the minds of the people. Men and women look to the churches for the corporate expression of the old faith and of the living Christ, and are disappointed. Thus they are thrown back upon this diffused Christianity which is abroad in the world, and which assumes no corporate form. This decline of evangelical Christianity is most manifest in our industrial districts, and in the great cities, and in purely working-class centres. It is a matter of general knowledge that the condition of our Welsh churches respecting this question is in many ways unsatisfactory. The Sunday School, more than the pulpit, is the test of this point. Allover the Principality there is not only a serious and general falling off in the number of adherents, but there is hardly any interest taken in fundamental theology.
Look in what direction you please, there is progress both in thought and method. If the initiative and inventive genius of the future will be commensurate with that of the past, this world will be either a terrible or a glorious world to live in. There is a spirit of general activity among the sciences; one science does not wait for another. It would be more convenient, in some respects, if they did. For instance, historical criticism has two sides—lower and higher. The first has to do with the text of ancient documents as a basis of study.. The second, or higher criticism, relates to the inner characteristics of the document after the text is settled. It is a misfortune that the textual criticism could not have been finished first, and so prepare the way for higher criticism. Biology has changed not only our theories, but the very spirit of our thinking. Philosophy is still hard at work in its endeavour to unify all our knowledge.
The science of philosophy has made rapid and serious advances. In physical discoveries, in mechanical inventions, the progress has been portentous. When the battle of Waterloo was fought it took them three days to convey the tidings to England; but when Gladstone bombarded Alexandria, the news reached London in a few minutes after the first shell was fired. The Mediterranean from West to East may now be visited with more ease and with less risk and cost than were involved in a trip to London in the days of our forefathers. The sense of social solidarity and mutual accountability has grown stronger, and has supplied our statesmen with a new impelling motive. It has also given an immense impetus to the creation of democratic governments and the realization of the Christian ideal, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” There is a new attitude towards almost every problem that bears upon labour, disease, learning, crime, and education. The whole conception of the function of the teacher has undergone a remarkable change. He no longer drives his pupils to their tasks, but leads and inspires them. He no longer compels them to copy or commit to memory; he incites them to observe and think.
Instead of imposing upon them his opinions, will and tastes, he induces them to form their own opinions. He studies their tastes, and tries to strengthen their wills and teach them self-control. From the Cabinets of Europe and of America the command has gone forth to their consuls abroad to study the requirements of the various markets of the world. As in the sphere of commerce, so in the sphere of thought. We have come, as Mr. Balfour puts it, into the “psychological climate.”
Analyze the attitude of the Christian churches in the light of these developments. Have they kept pace with the enormous advance in these departments of human activity? In population, in huge cities, in area of dominion, in education, in general intelligence, in demand for reality, and in all forms of mechanical appliances, there are improvements, modifications and enlargements that to our forefathers would seem like fairy tales. What about the churches? The last Revival found many unprepared. It found ministers without any knowledge as to the mode of coping with it. Many of them had not been trained to bear the burden of lost souls on their hearts, because their education had been in another and even an opposite direction. It was not a part of their college curriculum to be taught “that he that winneth souls is wise.” This most urgent of all teaching is usually left to the chances of after-life. Such work is relegated to the Salvation Army and city missionary. There is as much danger from the preoccupation of Welsh culture as there is from the preoccupation of worldly interests. Excessive cultivation of the former is as likely to kill the sense of the spiritual as an undue development of the latter.
Churches in general are lamenting that their lot is cast in a material age. They speak of gambling in its diverse forms and the glaring example of other vices; they bewail the lower tone in private and public honour as compared with the earlier and middle years of the Victorian period. We are constantly reminded that we have lost that higher spirit that inspired our citizens and our public men forty years ago. There is plenty of enthusiasm, but it is degraded, we are told, to material and natural ambition. This passion to dominate and to grasp, to pile up wealth, and to win fame, we are informed, has added enormously to the difficulties of the churches. This is the apology. The decline in membership, the want of ardour, the decay of the Sunday School, the indifference to prayer, both private and public, are attributed to the fact that our immediate generation has been sinking to meaner ideals, to coarser ways of life, to more vulgar types of literature and art, and to more open craving after riches, and a more insolent assertion of pride and force.
The deduction is partly right and partly wrong. But instead of lamenting, the churches should rejoice that their lines have fallen in an age that affords such opportunities for Christian enthusiasm and spiritual devotion. When Napoleon drew up his troops before Mameluke’s, under the shadow of the pyramids, pointing to the latter, he said to his soldiers, “Remember that from yonder heights forty centuries look down upon you.” So from the pyramid of opportunity on which God has set the churches of this age, we also look down upon forty centuries. Not that I underrate the place and influence of the churches in the making of what is best and highest in our modern life. Affection has some advantage over hostility, and I confess my partiality for the Church. The pen that is wielded by love is safer than the pen that is wielded by hate. The insight of sympathy is more reliable than the insight of prejudice. In estimating spiritual values, whether in a person or an institution, it is never wise to accept the word of a biased critic. There is certainly an advantage in studying the Church from within. Volumes could be written to illustrate the varied and important ministries of the Church to civilization.
By civilization I mean education, liberty, the production and distribution of wealth, the spread of equality and brotherhood, the abolition of slavery, the founding of charitable institutions, and the promotion of art and general culture. In all ages the clergy have been the custodians of culture, and from their ranks the modern profession of teaching has been evolved. The hood and gown are memorials of the monastic origin of academic dress, and they remind the world of the debt which culture owes to the Church. Such culture was not limited to ecclesiastical institutions its operations extended beyond the confines of the monastery, the priesthood, and the pulpit. It was a culture that overflowed the banks, making a wide stream that enriched the field of secular education. The imprint of its spirit and ideals is manifest in the literature of our public libraries, charged with the most exquisite expressions of Christian thought and national aspirations. In prose, in poem, and in declamation, it brings back to our mind the faith that was once given to the saints. It has demanded beauty for temples and homes; it has created markets for architects, poets, painters and musicians; it has stirred British intellect and British heart. Reforms associated with the name and influence of Peel, Cobden, Bright, Gladstone, Shaftesbury, Brougham, and other statesmen, cannot be traced to their sources, or their true characters analyzed, without taking into account the influence of religion as expressed in the life of the churches. By whom were the vast continents of Asia and Africa opened up to commerce and civilization? By missionaries of humble origin, born in the Church and nurtured in the Sunday School. Some of them waded waist-deep through pestilential marshes for days together, seeing months and years passing away without any intelligence as to whether their own kith and kin were dead or alive. What lands are they where darkness still reigns, whose people are ignorant and debased, where civilization is at its lowest level, and where liberty has no foothold? They are the lands where the missionary is unknown, the Bible unread and unhonoured. The Church has not left itself without witnesses.
It touched art, and art lived; it touched architecture, and architecture lived. Look at the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages! They were reared by men who aspired to express in wood and stone their conception of the infinitude of God and the majesty of holiness. Work to them was worship. Music reached its true sublimity when it caught its inspiration from those hopes and desires that find their home in religion. So with painting. The creations of Michael Angelo strike awe into the gazer because he stands beneath the shadow of the throne of God. As in art, so in literature. Neander, Goethe and Guizot alike admit that all modern European literature, not exclusively scientific, finds its germ in religion. From this source Dante drew that mystic, unfathomable song that will live when Italy is nameless among the nations.
If we turn to consider the influence of the religious elements upon society, and the lot of the working-man, we find it has acted as a force of a mighty order for the extension of happiness. Before trades unions were so powerful as they are now, and before the wage-workers could make their voice heard through universal suffrage, Shaftesbury and Macaulay appealed to the fundamental doctrine of Christianity. They claimed for the British working-man his rightful place at the industrial banquet. They asked for shorter periods of wasting and exhausting toil. They asked for a fairer opportunity and a larger share in the fruit of labour, and they did not ask in vain. Only the Lord, sitting over the sacred counting-house of the churches’ record, can estimate the untold value of the devotion to truth and to the good of mankind as expressed in organized Christianity. Yes, there are many sunny outlooks in the history of our churches, and they can be seen better from the inside than from the outside.
But there is another side. The passion for knowledge, and for a technically-educated ministry, is fast overshadowing the passion for soul-seeking and soul-saving. We seem to be still incapable of realizing the necessity for one certain quality or excellence without neglecting another quality or excellence, equally important. We are continually specializing. Theoretically, the saving of souls, or the saving of character as it might be put, is an axiom in the creed of the Free Churches; but practically at this hour it is a matter of secondary consideration. Our colleges assume that the desire and the qualification for soul-saving are already there; but no means are taken to test and to cultivate them. Thus God has set His seal to agencies without and outside of the organized Church to seek and to find the lost.
The political character which Nonconformity has assumed of late years is a matter of grave concern to many; it has become so political in its ambition, its method, its policy and preaching, that there is no comfort and no official position within its ranks for an honest and courageous independent thinker who refuses to subscribe to the Radical Shibboleth. This is one of the causes that accounts for the fact that so many men of intelligence and of superior social standing, the descendants of Nonconformist ancestors, have gone over with their families to the Mother-Church. The old associations still cling to them in a measure, and many of them are not as happy in their new religious life as they should like to be; but they claim freedom of judgment. There was a time when the Church of England in Wales and its clergy were under the domination of the old Tory Party; but those days are fast passing away: there is a new class of men and a new spirit. The movement for Church reform is gaining ground. But of Nonconformity it must be said that it has contracted an alliance with the Liberal Party, and has practically become its slave. There is a plea of justification, and it is based upon the contention that the political activity of Nonconformity to-day is more spiritual than it was thirty or forty years ago. It is also maintained that this political activity is the direct outcome of the Nonconformists’ sense of justice and right, and that it is the duty of the Church of Christ to aid the people materially as well as spiritually and morally.
Again, though we boast of our educational system, there is an enormous amount of ignorance among our people. Crowds of mediocrities are being sent out of our public schools and colleges without any practical accomplishments. To pump knowledge into units by teaching, and to extract it by examination, is a waste both of money and patience, unless it produces men and women with an intelligent and sympathetic sense of life, and who are capable through the power of initiative and assimilation to take their part in shaping the fortunes of the future. We cannot measure a nation’s culture by the number of men, whether lay or ministerial, who hold a Welsh University degree. The degree may leave the student as insular and as uncultivated as ever; it often does. It is also worthy of notice that there is but little acquaintance with the strides made in Biblical interpretation. A progressive theological thinker in Wales speaks at his peril. He may think as he likes, but he must speak as he is expected; otherwise, a certain stigma is attached to his name, and to his church, and the friends of Milton, of Howell Harris, and the Puritan Fathers, will take means to circumscribe his usefulness. This in a measure accounts for the painful uniformity which is spread throughout much of our public worship. it is often dull, insipid and mechanical, and devoid of any helpful influence.
WHAT is nationality? We define it in the same way as we do or should define character. No one attribute is more fundamental than another; and, therefore, no one quality should hold a prior place. The various qualities may be separated for the purpose of analysis; but we must consider them in their totality before we can ascertain what the character is. All the elements in a man’s make-up must be taken into account if we are to form a true estimate of him. We resent the manner in which foreigners judge us as a nation, by emphasizing our weak points and ignoring our strong ones; yet, we proceed upon similar lines when pronouncing judgment upon individual men and women.
It is not within the province of this work to discuss the basis and reality of Welsh nationality, or whether it involves separate political institutions, or clearly-defined boundaries, or purity of race, or a common history and a common literature, or a separate language, or community of religious feeling. In its popular sense nationality means a separate individuality; and by a separate individuality or characteristics we mean national ideals, religious and political. It embraces language, temperament, habit of thought, instincts, tradition, common literature, and a consciousness of unity. Even a cursory study of these characteristics shows that the genius of the Welsh runs in a different direction from that of the English or that of any other nation, whether ancient or modern.
The vitality of nations, like the vitality of individuals, runs into different grooves. In the case of the ancient Greeks, it ran into the region of physical culture; with the Romans, into the intellectual; with the English, into the genius for commerce; but the vitality of the Welsh ran into that of its religious consciousness. No nature has a stronger individuality than the Welsh, and that vigorous native note is more markedly virile and sharply defined in the sphere of religion than in any other direction. The religious atmosphere is essentially the national atmosphere. Not only is the factof Welsh nationality patent to every student versed in the study of comparative races, but the senseor consciousness of nationality is equally patent. For its manifestations we need only refer to the profound regard of the Welsh for their religious ideals, to their enthusiasm for the educational advance of the masses of the people, to the demand for special legislation in temperance and education, and to the agitation for State recognition of aspirations that are distinctly Welsh. It also finds expression on the side of its unity, intensity and culture in the National Eisteddfod and the University system. It is also seen in the devotion to the native tongue.
True, there are dormant periods in its history. The longest of all is the period covered by the second, third, fourth, and fifth centuries after the Roman subjection. Among its causes may be cited the overwhelming power of Rome, together with the social, political and intellectual advantages accruing from the Roman Government. The effects were twofold—physical effeminacy and higher civilization.
Another period dates from 1282 to 1399; that is, between the fall of Llywelyn the last Prince and the rise of Owen Glyndwr. It was due to lack of leadership. It resulted in a closer and a finer attention to poetry and literature of a generalcharacter. It was the dawn and noonday of the Golden Age of Welsh poetry.
The third period dates from 1485 to 1567—between the accession of Henry VII. (the first Tudor Sovereign) and the translation of the New Testament into Welsh. Here, again, we may attribute the cause to lack of leadership. All the gentry of Wales became Anglicized owing to one of their own class having become King. The deterioration that followed was both serious and widespread—-(a) a falling-off in the quality of the literature of Wales; (b)the beginning of the great decay of Welsh as a spoken language among all classes except the peasantry; (c)a general demoralization of the whole manners and morals of the people.
The fourth dormant period lasted form 1603 to 1730—between the death of Elizabeth and the advent of Griffith Jones of Llanddowror and his Welsh Circulating Schools. This was due to two causes—(a) the accession of the Stuarts; (b)the spread of Puritanism. Its effects were threefold—(a) a further decay of Welsh poetry and prose; (b)a chaotic state of religious opinion and practice; (c)a poorer state of agriculture and industries.
But notwithstanding these periods of inertia and apathy, the Welsh nation never lost the sense and the traces of its individuality and its identity. It is a remarkable tribute to the force of its own inward energy. Rarely do we find a nation capable of preserving its imaginative genius, its faculty for religion and its language, by the sheer force of its own life.
As to the growthof the sentiment of nationality, it is coincident with the progress of education; the one has acted and reacted upon the other. From age to age it has existed in the blood and sinews of the people. Caesar, Augustine and Edward discovered it. Centuries of social atrocities of the most vindictive kind, and prolonged periods of intertribal strifes, failed to exterminate it. Many of the Welsh gentry adopted English habits and ideals; but the masses clung to the language, religion and aspirations of their ancestors. The greatest mystery in all the mysterious history of the Welsh has been their non-assimilative quality. It is claimed that the characteristics which differentiate the Welsh enable them to blend with men of other races. This it seems, is the contention of Professor Anwyl and his school. But their history is bad, so is their psychology. True, a few Welshmen scattered over the face of the earth have exhibited the power of social, political and philosophic adaptability and acquisition; but the Welsh in the aggregate, the Welsh as a people, have always been indisposed, even antagonistic, to ideals, modes of thought and types of life differing from their own. The Welshman abroad makes an excellent colonial or American citizen. He loses his insularity and his harsh individuality. He takes a broad and practical interest in the great problems of life, as well as in matters of international import. He loses that fanaticism for everything Welsh which characterized him during his former days, in his former home. The acquired aversion of the Cambro-American for what is British, the contempt with which he regards native Welsh habits, methods of living, laws, mechanical appliances, education, and what he calls the servility of the old folks at home, is one of the most notorious facts in his history. No student who knows him as he is abroad will question this. Such is the effect which the impact of the varied civilizations of the American Continent has upon him; He has no desire to return, and if he does, it is not to remain; he is always gIad to get back. He is like a man who feels he has been disillusioned. He makes a better American citizen abroad than a British citizen at home, and on his native heath he has but little pride in his English or British citizenship. He claims the rights of citizenship, but he has no corresponding sense of his imperial obligations as a British citizen. Such is the attitude of mind which his domestic environment, his politics and even his religious proclivities engender. The typical Welshman always thinks parochially, provincially and nationally. He never troubles about continents and empires. His thought-energy is confined to his chapel, his school, his college and even his party. If we ask what Welsh patriotism means, the answer comes that it is Welsh nationalism. If we ask again what Welsh nationalism means, we are informed that it is Welsh Liberalism, and that Welsh Liberalism is synonymous with organized official Liberalism. That is the ideal. The Welshman who does not subscribe to it must bear the brand of disloyalty, for Welsh national advancement, we are told, depends on official Liberalism. So runs the argument. The man of genius is nothing, the poet is nothing, the middleman is nothing, the littérateur is nothing, if he fails to see that patriotism is confined within these narrow and sharply-defined channels. But Welsh patriotism existed as a fact, and as a force,before Liberalism was invented. The sentiment of nationality among the Welsh is older than Parliament. It bears upon its speech, instincts and ideals the marks of very early days. As to the Welsh Renaissance, that dates back to the Tudor period. It was accompanied by a great stirring of intellectual life. Undoubtedly, it felt the force of the wave of nationalism that passed over the Continent of Europe in the early part of the past century; but its main artery of inspiration came from within. Welsh nationality is the result of forces, political and social, that are inherent in the nation. It marked another stage in the historical evolution of the race. Welsh culture gave Welsh nationalism an impelling force. It is a separate movement, possessing characteristics that are distinct from those of other nations. Our patriotic boasting is not altogether fantastic, though we do overstate our virtues and claim others we do not possess.
Another feeder of Welsh nationalism, has been the Eisteddfod. It has broadened the Welsh outlook, it has fostered the spirit of unity by bringing together, on the same platform and under the same roof, men of different creeds and conditions. But the great foster-fathers of Welsh nationality have come from the ranks of the dissenters. Through the instrumentality of the Sunday School, the pulpit, literary societies, monthly and quarterly periodicals, and Nonconformist homesteads, chiefly, the national sentiment has been nursed and strengthened. For two centuries and a half Nonconformity has been the great bulwark that has enabled the Welsh to withstand the inroads of English habits and characteristics. It is contended that the Mother-Church in the past has not encouraged the spread of the sentiment of nationality among the Welsh. That there is a degree of truth in this cannot be disputed. Of all the besetting sins of the Church, this stands out first and foremost, namely, her fatal policy of placing herself outside the current of our national life. What Church authorities doencourage is, an Oxford First. Literary ability is not patronized. The Church has not a single periodical or paper that can be said to reflect the sentiments of the nation. Number nine of the King’s Regulations for Officers of the Navy contains these words: “Every officer is to refrain from making remarks, or passing criticisms, on the conduct or orders of his superiors which may tend to bring them into contempt, and is to avoid saying or doing anything which might discourage the men, or render them dissatisfied with their condition, or with the service on which they are or may be employed.” These regulations have been canonized by Church authorities in Wales, and have been incorporated, both in spirit and effect, into its administration. There is plenty of national feeling among the clergy in Wales, but it is being suppressed by officialism.
The clergy as a body stand out for such sincerity, goodness, faithfulness and patriotism as demand the highest appreciation. As a class they are animated by the purest motives and most exalted goodness. Many of them are badly and unjustly paid, and have to labour daily under very trying conditions. They are weighed down by crosses they were never meant to bear, but which they have to bear without any hope of redress or any outlet of expression. Restraint is being put upon them; neither the right nor the duty of personal convictions, within the ecclesiastical zone, is being recognized. Moreover, the tendency of the day, even within the Church itself, is to undervalue the work of the parochial clergyman. He is rapidly becoming a local agent for his bishop and for central organizations. It is fast killing his originality, and robbing him of the power of initiative. The importance of the non-parochial official is being emphasized more and more; money is being lavishly spent upon central organization, while the rank and file of the parochial clergy are inadequately remunerated. The impression is abroad that the Church of England is enormously wealthy. Such an impression has some justification when we consider the expenditure upon central institutions. The Ecclesiastical Commission pays out in annual salaries £49,520. The buildings cost £160,000.
The Church House pays in annual salaries £1,031, and the cost of buildings amounts to £112,784. The S.P.G. pays in annual salaries £12,775; and the buildings cost £33,310. The C.M.S. pays in annual salaries £24,078, and has spent £134,231 on its buildings. What must be the feeling of a poor country clergyman as he leaves the gorgeous abode of the Ecclesiastical Commission, with its officials drawing nearly £50,000 a year in salaries, after having being told that they never help any living the income of which exceeds £300? And how many clergymen there are in Wales who do not receive more than £150 a year? I mean, not curates, but beneficed clergymen. It is the highly paid official, whose usefulness no one can see, that creates the ill-feeling. Nonconformists respect the hard-working parish clergymen, many of whom are unable to make two ends meet. If there are legal difficulties in the way of justice being done to the clergy, why do not the bishops use their political power to remove them? To the demand for reform, our dignitaries plead that a Liberal Parliament will give them no assistance in this direction; but why did they not go to a Conservative Parliament? Why do they not go to the House of Lords, where they have bishops and friends in abundance? Let them give practical evidence of their sincerity. Those whose duty it is to lead and to guide are doing nothing. If the poor clergy are expected to defend their Church, they should be made to feel that they have a system that is worthy of defence. The great stream of national life flows past, and there is none to direct and to control its course. So far as elementary education is concerned, the Church in Wales has done excellent work. She established National Schools all over the land long before the State took any interest in the matter. Justice demands us to acknowledge, and acknowledge with gratitude, the fact that the idea of a Welsh University did not begin with the movement that ended in the establishment of the University College at Aberystwyth. Credit must be given to the late Bishop Hughes of St. Asaph and others, who made an effort long before this to get St. David’s College, Lampeter, endowed as a University. But the general policy of the leaders and ecclesiastical authorities has always been to leave to dissent the guidance of great national movements. This policy has cost the Church her leadership, and much of her ancient prestige as a national institution. There is no sign or likelihood of the inclusion of Lampeter as one of the constituent colleges of the Welsh University. It is too much out of touch and sympathy with Welsh needs and aspirations, headed by a staff of men who with one ortwo exceptions, are alien inblood, language and civilization, and who, to all intents and purposes, evince no appreciation of what concerns Welsh life and thought. How the council of the college continues to sanction the folly of the old policy passes understanding. It condemns the clergy who are educated there to the inferiority of seminarists, and places them at a disadvantage in the struggle for promotion in a church that claims to be Welsh in reality as well as in name. The Church needs an educational institution more in touch with our life and with the legitimate expectations of the Welsh people. Lampeter College has never produced one scholar in the technical acceptance of the word. A large number of Lampeter men in the past and present are known as sound theologians and well-read men, but the college has never produced a single specialist, to my knowledge, in any branch of science. Only a mere handful, have attained to positions of dignity in the Welsh Church.
The college since its foundation has produced one bishop (Bishop Hughes), not a single dean, one archdeacon (Archdeacon Griffiths of Neath), three or four residential canons, and a few prebendaries. It is altogether a wretched record for such an institution, for it obviously shows the low opinion (without exception) the Welsh bishops have entertained for Lampeter men. It is a significant fact that the few who have been raised to positions of dignity excelled as preachers or organizers, and were appointed not because but in spite of the fact that they were Lampeter men. Not only from the Cathedral stalls, but from the incumbencies in nearly all the important parishes in Wales, have Lampeter men been excluded. The few exceptions have only proved the rule. The experiences of the past eighty years of the college have proved to us that Lampeter at present is capable of nothing more than “hewers of wood and drawers of water” in the Church. With the possibility of extending its usefulness by the extension of the Charter so as to include the M.A. degree, I doubt if the Lampeter M.A. would be of greater value than its B.A. As Sir Harry Reichel points out, what Lampeter lacks is facilities for specializing. To provide this would involve an outlay of £50,000 to begin with. If the money were forthcoming, would it be wise to spend it in this way? Church people have already contributed largely toward the University colleges. Why should not the Welsh Church derive some benefit from them? Let Lampeter give up her charter for the Arts degrees, and let the men take their Arts degrees at one of the Welsh University colleges or at Oxford or Cambridge, and then spend two years or more at Lampeter at the Church’s expense, not only in preparation for the sacred ministry, but in laying the foundation of the B.D. degree, which they would secure from Lampeter after five years’ priesthood. The gain to the Church would be enormous. The present dual systems of University men for the cathedrals and towns and Lampeter men for the country parishes would be done away with. The preparation for the ministry would be of a more thorough and spiritual character, and Lampeter would be a tower of strength instead of a source of weakness to the Church in Wales. The fact that the Mother-Church has not encouraged the sentiment of nationality may be attributed to poor episcopal statesmanship, the attitude of certain Lord Chancellors, patrons of Welsh livings, who knew nothing and cared nothing for Welsh aspirations. Welshmen of character and ability were ignored and their claims disregarded. This fatal policy is being continued. The nation has drifted from its moorings, but St. David’s College is still anchored in an ecclesiastical backwater, maintaining its unpatriotic attitude, having ceased to be Welsh and failing to be English. Its intellectual insolence is in direct proportion to the want of sympathy with Welsh thought, sentiment and aspiration. The Church is being borne along by forces beneath and around it, whose strength and direction it did not foresee in the past. A policy of mere negation and defence, having for its sole,as well as immediate,object the preservation of the material side of the Church as an establishment, will not suffice. Cultured Welshmen are proud of the Church as a spiritual organization. Her tolerant spirit, her wealth of learning and tradition, her unbroken historic past, and her incomparable liturgy, appeal to them, but they cannot understand why a clergyman who identifies himself with national movements should be regarded with suspicion. A Church that claims to be national should cultivate Welsh characteristics, and by Welsh characteristics we mean Welsh habits of thought, language, temperament, literature and ideals.
The phrase, “Celtic characteristics,” is often heard. What does it signify? To the Welsh it is one thing, to the Irish another, and to the Scotch something different from both. Each section of the Celtic stock has a different ideal. They vary in social customs, in temperament, in political aspirations, and in their religious proclivities. The Welsh are as serious as the Greeks of old Welsh hymns, Welsh poetry and Welsh literature are mostly serious—very many of the hymns sad. The French are the very opposite in temperament. Moreover, the Welsh are as religious as the French are irreligious. The Irish have something of the Welsh literary popular afflatus, but there is a striking unlikeness in national habits, in their conception of national glory, and in political action. The religions of the two countries make a difference. With the Irish, religion comes first, and the race second. As far back as the Tudor period, the Welsh made their choice; and the choice was for their race and against their religion. To the days of the Reformation they were devoted Papists; even when the Reformation came, it did not penetrate Wales. But when the Jesuits captured the College at Rome, which was a Welsh presentation and in which Welsh priests were being trained, and when they began intriguing against Queen Elizabeth, who was a Welshwoman, they renounced their allegiance to Romanism, and Wales became an Anglican community. They were willing to accept either Franciscan or Benedictine monks; but Elizabeth was Welsh, a descendant of Henry Tudor; and being a race of Celts, they stood by her dynasty. It was the beginning of the Welsh Renaissance.
What are the main features or characteristics of Welsh nationality?
First, Dwysder.—Itis impossible to convey in words—even in Welsh—its exact and full meaning. Some of the most forceful and exquisite words have no equivalent in English. “Hiraeth” is one, and “Dwysder” is another. The authorities translate it “gravity”; but “gravity” is entirely inadequate and unworthy. In Welsh “dwysder” means “alaeth yr enaid “—the result of a consciousness of a burden, It conveys the sense of oppression—the wail of the soul. It is not essentially a religioussentiment. That its origin may be traced to the consciousness that we are a conquered race is a pure figment of the imagination. There is in it an element of seriousness; and yet seriousness does not cover the meaning. There is in it also an element of sadness, of retrospective contemplation, and of intensity; yet it is more than, and different from, either. It is a combination of all. In the region of religious life it suggests the sighing or heaving of the soul as if crushed under a heavy weight. Thus most of our Welsh hymns are in the minor key. Such a temperament is attracted by the sad, the serious and the tragic. It is predisposed to religion and religious exuberance. It explains the paramount place of religion in Welsh thought and life, being first and foremost, above amusement, above intellectuality, above science and even family affection. From hour to hour, from place to place, and even in political aspirations, the sense of it is not far away. Thus it is that there is such an abnormal development of spiritual life among the Welsh. This “dwysder” may be classed among the most sacred and powerful of their characteristics. The Welsh mind is reverential and serious, and any approach to levity or off-handedness in spiritual matters is highly repugnant to it. One of the most distressing features of the last Welsh Revival was the flippancy manifested, especially by the young and others who had just emerged from the depths of iniquity. It helped to kill the Revival. In the opinion of some thoughtful Christians, it was the chief factor in the break-up of the movement and the revulsion of feeling that marked the closing scenes. Faber went over to Rome because of the dreadful facility of turning to God indicated by what he was pleased to call the base theology of the evangelical school. But what would Faber think if he heard terms in which girls and boys in their teens, quarrymen, miners, and peasants, who had reached the age of discretion, addressed the Almighty God? Here we have the human side of the Revival, partly humorous and partly irreverent, but sincere and autobiographical, with just a tinge of blasphemy, due to the excessive freedom that prevailed at the meetings. It shows that there is a good deal of vulgarity still left in Nonconformity. It has been claimed by a distinguished Welshman who is a Cabinet Minister that Nonconformity has affected Welsh character. How and in what direction? It has, he says, “steadied” the Welsh character, and given it “perseverance.” Such a claim has no historical foundation. It is not based on experience. The Welsh are as mercurial, as impulsive, as ever. The last Revival gave abundant evidence of this fact. As to “perseverance,” it is one of the immemorial qualities of the Welsh. It is a native trait. It was Welsh perseverance that made Welsh Nonconformity possible. Perseverance is not the child,but the parent,of Nonconformity. It founded the Tudor dynasty. It has enabled the race to outlive generations of oppressive laws, neglect, unrest, and intertribal strife. Long before the Tudor period, as far back as the fourteenth century, a large number of statutes of a most oppressive kind had been passed, designed to destroy the Welsh as a nation. For instance, no Welshman could buy land within England, no Welshman could become a municipal officer, nor, indeed, could enjoy the rights of a citizen or a burgess. No Englishman could be convicted at the suit of any Welshman in Wales except by the judgment of English justices, and no Englishman who was married to a Welshwoman could be put into office either in Wales or the Marches. In the Marches it was almost impossible to punish criminal offenders. The Lords Marchers, when not fighting with each other, were making raids upon the Welsh. Could a nation devoid of perseverance preserve its identity against such prohibitive conditions?
Those who were carried away by the excitement of the Revival called it “Pentecost”; but, judged by its popular characteristic marks, nothing could be farther from the truth. This brings us to the human side of the movement. It is a curious study in the history and psychology of religious experiences.
For instance, at Llanrhaeadr, in North Wales, a brother prayed after this fashion: “Lord, forgive me for going to the public-house from the church meeting the other night, and forgive the grey-haired old deacons who were there like myself. Thou knowest who they are; but I shall never mention their names.”
At Canton, Cardiff, a man said, “The people, Lord, do not understand the strange things that are happening, neither do the horses that are down in the pit.”
This was the petition of a drunkard who had confessed at Bethesda, Carnarvon: “Almighty God, thou knowest that I return to South Wales to-morrow. May the fire continue to burn here: they have plenty of it in the South already.”
Immediately he finished, he was followed by an old friend who said, “Dear God, remember Sam; keep an eye on Sam—watch Sam. Thou knowest the temptations that are in the South. Sam holds on well here, in his old home; but I shall be afraid of him when in the neighbourhood of the coal-pits. Watch Sam in the wilderness of the South. Lord Jesus, keep him straight. I thank Thee for snatching me from the jaws of evil. Satan is busy. Oh, the old devil! what a sneak he is! If he were here now. I would strike him.” While uttering this last sentence he assumed the attitude of a pugilist.
At Abergynolwyn, North Wales, an old soldier, notorious for his profanity, expressed himself after this fashion: “I have been for years, Lord, in the British Army, but now I am in the Army of the Lamb. Talk about pension from the British Government! Here is a pension.”
Just then a woman swooned. Dr. Wynne Griffiths went to her, and with one hand he unloosened her collar and blouse, with the other he led the singing, at the same time joining in the refrain, “Crown Him.” Some laughed, others cried, and a few did both at the same time.
At Horeb Chapel, Treherbert, a young man prayed with great fervour: “Lord Jesus, someone said, ‘Between Piahiroth and Baalzephon as long as I live I’ll remember the place.’ I can say now, between Blaengwynfi and Treherbert as long as I live I’ll remember the spot. There the darkness disappeared, there the dawn broke, and light came into my soul. Lord, save the man who walked with me as far as the pit yesterday. Thou knowest him. He has been wounded, but he has not been overthrown. Also, remember the two men who, are lodging in the same house as myself. The one of them is among the hearers at Horeb. Save him, Lord. Now,Lord, now,this moment. I shall not give Thee rest henceforth. I shall continue to disturb Thy peace for the salvation of some one or other.”
At the same meeting a young collier came forward and addressed the Throne of Grace in this manner: “Blessed be Thy name, Lord, for descending the coal-pit to look for me. Some of the old saints accompanied me home last night; and when I entered the house, my little boy ran into my arms and exclaimed, ‘Dada, I love Jesus.’ Glory be to God for the change!”
The following evening a neighbour and companion of the last begged of his Heavenly Father to expel the devil from that meeting, and from every heart as well. “Lord,” he continued, “fling him out: we do not want him here. Thou knowest that he has occupied the armchair in my heart for years. Turn him out to-night, and then take the chair Thyself, and stay there for ever. Dear God, remember those who despise and make fun of us. Don’t forget the brother that sneers in the columns of the ‘Western Mail’this morning. He calls himself a Churchman—yes, a Churchman; but it would be more appropriate if he called himself a ‘Sporting man’!”
In the Aberdare valley a quaint old collier made a strange request: “Almighty Father, I am afraid of the devil: he is after me everywhere. Send him to for a pair of clogs, that I may hear his footsteps.”
At Tonypandy a man in the gallery shouted out that he was going to heaven there and then, whereupon a well-known character in the district, who felt annoyed, called out, “If you are going to heaven, go; but go quietly.”
At Bala a youth got up to pray: “Give me a clean heart, Lord. It is time for Christmas boxes now: give me a Christmas box. I have a blank leaf in my life. Give me a Christmas box from the white page of the New Year.”
At Bethesda, Carnarvonshire, an old prodigal offered up his supplication with an earnestness that was unmistakable: “Save this district, Lord, the wholedistrict. I have felt for some time that there was something in the way, whatever it is. The English call it a ‘stumbling-block.’ We feel it all the time; but Thou canst through the Spirit put Thy finger on it.”
In a certain part of Merioneth a Church member gave vent to his feelings in these words: “Lord, many a time have we begged of Thee to remember us; but we never dreamt that we would be remembered in this fashion.”
At Skewen a woman, who evidently knew a great deal about Briton Ferry, implored God to remember the people and the place: “Lord, bless Briton Ferry, save Briton Ferry. Oh, drunken Briton Ferry, infidel Briton Ferry, beastly Briton Ferry!”
An effort was made at Narberth, in Pembrokeshire, as was done in other places, to work up a Revival spirit. A noted character in the neighbourhood, who is now dead, pioneered the movement. He and a few others decided to hold a prayer-meeting outside the town. The brother in question prayed after this fashion: “Almighty God, we have met together in this strange place to ask Thy blessing. Thou hast been with us in other parts, and we pray Thee not to forsake us now. Dear Lord, come to-night. We know that Thou art having a busy time of it just now: Christians everywhere are wanting Thee, and it is hard for Thee to please us all. Lord, if Thou art too busy to come Thyself to us here to-night, please send Gabriel or someone else.”
Very significant was the prayer of an Anglesey man: “We thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast shunted our ministers to the side-line that we, the people, might come to the front. But, Lord, do not keep them there too long, for fear they may get rusty.”
Another in the same district prayed as follows: “Thou, Lord, dost receive all kinds of people. The King of England will not permit any man to enlist as a soldier in the British Army unless he is 5feet 9 inches and has so much breast-measure. But Thou dost accept everybody—fathers and mothers, young and old, rich and poor alike.”
“Come into our hearts,” implored another. “Thou hast been knocking at the door for years; we have the key, and Thou art too much of a gentleman to enter without being invited.”
An aged Christian woman living in the quarry district of North Wales prayed thus: “We pray Thee, dear Jesus, to send Thy clean and Holy Spirit to us in this place, and may we do some spring-cleaning in the house, that we may be ready to receive Him, for He will not come into a very dirty house; and after He comes, let us have peace and quietness, for Thy Spirit is like a dove. He will fly away at the least noise and disturbance.”
In the Avan Valley in Glamorganshire one young man offered this prayer: “Lord, forgive me and my old friend for neglecting other services of Thy House for so long at a time, and for going up to the mountain to play cards, pitch-and-toss, and drink beer on Sunday. Now I give my heart to Thee, and I give my life. Lord, bless me and keep me.”
Such examples could be multiplied; but these are sufficient for my purpose. They are highly uncanonical in expression, and sound worse in English than in Welsh. But they must be judged, partly at any rate, in the light of the occasion and of the atmosphere. Their puritanic anthropomorphism may shock some of my readers; but they cannot be dismissed as wanting in value or significance. What do they show? In some of them we have the low-water mark of the indiscretions of the Revival. Others are typical of the Revival prayer—half-sermon and half-prayer, due both to physical causes and the consciousness of deliverance from guilt and the power of evil. They show that the rise of religious democracy in Wales was coincident with the rise and spread of the Revival wave, and they throw some sidelight on some of the customs that largely prevailed in Wales at one time, and that still exist in many parts. Here we have an insight into the attitude of many of our religious leaders in the principality, especially in some out-of-the-way rural districts, with regard to public-houses. We have also in these prayers unmistakable evidence that the Revival, though in form unexpected, was itself expected, and had been prepared for, long before any outbreak had been recorded. Moreover, some of the prayers clearly indicate that many of the raw converts of the Revival thoroughly understood the meaning of forgiveness, and were prepared to exercise the grace they had received. These are simple, beautiful and childlike, full of unconscious humour and even of deplorable ignorance, yet overflowing with earnestness, trust in God, and zeal against evil as a personality.
In many Revival supplications, as well as in many of the addresses and confessions, there was a freedom and a recklessness of utterance that impressed many God-fearing people as irreverent, if not as blasphemous. On a certain occasion Evan Roberts spoke about new birth, and the necessity for it. When be had finished, a woman got up and addressed the meeting, giving the details of a natural birth with such graphic exactness that the people were amazed. A Cwmavon minister who had not been allowed to preach for several Sundays approached a group of young men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three: “Am I,” asked he, “to preach to-night?” The answer he received was this: “It depends upon what the Spirit will tell us.”The italics (underlining) are the author’s. Many of the ministers did not preach for months.They were utterly powerless. The rest was probably not unwelcome,—to some, at any rate; but it shows how lamentably they had failed to grasp the situation, and to control a movement that had in it the seeds of untold blessings. It was allowed to drift and to degenerate. Evan Roberts did nothing to check its downward course. A shrewd man like himself could not fail to see the advantage that was being taken, and the dry-rot that was eating away the essence of the Revival; but the chief responsibility rests with those who surrounded him, who acted as his bodyguard, and who sought to convert it into an instrument for additional denominational prestige and the canonization of sectarianism.
Second, Superstition.—This is to be found, more or less, in every man and every nation. Evidences of it are found in far-sundered races in all the ends of the earth. It is a permanent fact, independent of civilization, of education, and of the progress of mankind. Superstition has become the pastime of the intellectuals, and even scientists are not free from it. We now count superstition as one of the great staying qualities of human nature. It has, we are told, this one virtue to its credit. It has done good service to humanity in promoting respect for human life. How these credulities came into existence, and what power keeps them in existence, against the natural instincts and the everyday experience of those who hold them, passes understanding. In spite of reason and of knowledge, belief in witchcraft and in the evil eye, in the influence of the heavenly bodied, both benign and malign, upon the lives and fortunes of men and nations, continues to hold its ground. It operates as openly and as effectively in the field of religion as in any other department of human life. The Welsh branch of the Celtic race seems to have been particularly endowed in this direction. From time immemorial the Welsh mind has familiarized itself with the mysterious and incomprehensible. Houses were and are believed to be haunted by the reappearance of departed ones in the form of ghosts to worry and revenge themselves upon the living. Certain people were supposed to be in constant communication with the unseen world, and to be able to predict impending calamities. The fall of a star, or an eclipse, was an augury of pestilence or disaster. Immense superstructures were built on incidents that were worthy of nothing but ridicule and contempt. Tales of the weird and wonderful have always engaged the minds of the Welsh. Nameless spirits were supposed to haunt houses where money had been hoarded. “Farthing dips” were kept burning all night in bedrooms for fear some ghost or mysterious something might come in the night to terrify the inmates while asleep. On certain nights, called the “Three Spirit Nights,” it was thought that the branches of the yew-trees rustled whether there was wind or not. The bells in the belfry would creak without human touch. On these nights men would take girls’ garters and tie them in a true lover’s knot, uttering words over them. Then they laid the knots under their shirts next their hearts. If the swallows flew near the ground, or the cows had their tails to the wind, or the domestic cat became frisky, it was a sure sign of rain. Superstition seems to be in the very blood and fibre of the people, as if it were one of the gifts conferred upon them by the genius that presided at the birth of the race. It has distorted their vision, and engrafted into them vicious prejudices and obstinate predispositions. It has left its impress upon their poetry, their literature, their history and habits of thought. This is what makes Welsh history so intricate and difficult. It is almost impossible to distinguish between the real and the mythical. Welsh tradition is unreliable. It is surrounded by clouds of miraculous encumbrances. So strong is this element of superstition in the native mind that it is ever ready to burst into consciousness and action when occasion shall allow. It takes refuge in every conceivable hole and corner, and peeps out in the most unexpected manner, and at the most unexpected time. Dryden said, “When reason goes to sleep, superstition wakes.” Among the Welsh, emotion has always been in the ascendant. Reason has been subordinated to feeling. The spirit of judgment has been conspicuous by its absence Hero-worship has been a prominent feature. A man of courage and resource, with pretensions to superior wisdom, professing to have a vision of the future, is certain of the most abject homage.
The value of hero-worship depends upon its character. If it is blind adoration, if it is a defiance of frank and honest, but courteous, criticism of the hero’s policy, or if it is an aggressive defence of all that he says and does, then it is a curse, and not a blessing. “My hero right or wrong,” is not the noblest of sentiments, nor the sanest. Moreover, it is not true patriotism. What is the explanation? It is found in the lack of education, of travel, or association, and the absence of the critical faculty. The geographical position of Wales must also be taken into consideration. For generations the Cymry have been imprisoned within narrow limits, and the pressure of their immediate surroundings has been so real that it has developed an intellectual parochialism that has narrowed their outlook, contracted their life, and made them regard theirtype of goodness as the one and only ideal. True, there is no superstition that has not something sublime at the bottom of it, and on which wise teachers may build, and build nobly. All nations with such a history, and such a cast of mind, are pre-eminently disposed to periods of religious excitement; and it explains the intemperate emotions and extraordinary outbursts that accompanied the upheaval of 1904.
It was on the anvil of Welsh superstition that, Evan Roberts forged his fame. People believed that he possessed the powers of life and death. Many sought the opportunity of coming into physical contact with him, that they might partake of his virtue. There are instances when men rubbed his hat with the sleeve of their coat, and said that the dust was holy dust. One would imagine that such things would be impossible in this enlightened age, and especially among a race of people with such strong brain power—a race that has developed an excellent educational system. It was thought that education would not only nurse the new patriotism, but that it would also be the means of eradicating the superstitions to which the Welsh have clung so tenaciously, and that under the impulse of Welsh culture, broadened by the impact of other minds, they would be thrown over to the bats and owls. The sooner it is done the better.
Third, Imaginativegenius,—Fancy is often confounded with imagination; but the difference is wide and real. Fancy wanders aimlessly like a phantom, and has no objective point. It is controlled neither by conscience nor reason. It has no plan, and no substance. Whether it originates in the head or in the heart it is impossible to say. Imagination is both creative and constructive. It is allied to reason, and implies a larger development of the intellect. Imagination is constructive. There is a certain degree of imagination necessary in all great scientific and mechanical achievements. Great strategists are men of imagination. They manipulate forces, and launch them in new combinations, taking everything into account, calculating and providing for every contingency. Imagination, like superstition, is found to some extent in every man and every race. Homer and Shakespeare possessed it to an extraordinary degree. So did Christmas Evans. A Doré or a Rembrandt would have filled his canvas with many a weird scene, and peopled many a gallery with vivid portraitures, after retiring from the spell of this great prose-poet. His charm was in his imagination. In this regard he was, and is, the premier man of his race; the flower of the stock; an exception, it is true, but an exception only in the measure of his endowment. The quality which he exhibited on the heights is one of the historic Cambrian qualities. It is in the very temperament of the people. It predisposes them in favour of religion, of the poetry of religion, and even of the romance of religion. The disposition is peculiarly Welsh. How his imagination quickens as he listens to the mournful gust sweeping over the brow of the hill, and as he watches the mist rolling up the mountain-side. The character of his country is reflected in his own. The gorgeous, even weird costume, in which some of the Bible pronouncements have been clothed has a fascination for him that it cannot possibly have for a less poetic or mercurial soul. This explains why the illustrative style of preaching has been so common in the Principality. The old preachers revelled in the witchery of the imagination. Not that they eschewed reason or argument, or wandered aimlessly into the region of improbability and of fiction; some of them were exceptionally strong in argument, in analysis and in perceptive power. The catholicity of their moral and spiritual apprehension was wonderful. Reason and judgment were seldom absent, and imagination was invariably kept within its proper province. Then, what is its province? It is to illustrate. What logic is exclusively to a cold, unimpassioned mind, that is imagination, subordinately,to a genuine Welsh preacher. Imagination is ever at hand to supply the requisite imagery for exposition and embellishment. This is the source of that variety, freshness, beauty and charm of the ideal Welsh sermon.
There is also this difference between imagination and fancy — imagination is closely allied to patriotism. In the Welsh temperament this is very pronounced. They act and react the one upon the other. Their imprint is found in our music, our literature and our religion.
It is said that patriotism is mainly moral; but the truth is, it is very largely an imaginative passion. It is not difficult to embrace the idea of a clan or a class, especially if its aspirations be in accord with our own; but in grasping the connection of nationality, one has to entertain countless thoughts and associations, gathered from every remote period. Nevertheless, imagination has its limitation. There is an ultra-sensual world that is at present beyond its ken—a world as vast and as varied as the one the imagination is now able to contemplate. Beyond the border-land of the ultra-sensual world is mystery; and so far, it is forbidden ground.
The limitations of imagination are likewise revealed when it seeks to form an adequate conception of God and to embrace the idea of the Infinite. Literature, and more especially poetic literature, teems with illustrations, showing how insuperable has been the task of bringing God within the compass of human imagination.
Moreover, imagination enters very largely into the making and unmaking of life’s shadow and sunshine. It can give pain, and it can give pleasure. It is more dreadful than reality. It is more pleasing than reality. We get out of life what imagination puts into it. As there are many consciences, so there are many imaginations. Some men have a lascivious imagination. It is more insidious and far-reaching in its effect than the popular vices that are being constantly denounced by the pulpit and the press.
There is also a religious imagination—an imagination saturated with spirituality of thought. It is among the greatest of moral forces. Of all the races of mankind of which we have any knowledge, there is no race that possesses this type of imagination in so marked a degree as the Welsh. It is one of their great constitutional qualities, and goes far to explain their poetic and religious proclivities. It makes them highly sensitive to those fluctuations of feeling to which all forms of religion are subject.
Now that the excitement of the Revival is over, and the nation has regained its sanity, we are able to look more analytically upon the career of a man who, for a brief period, loomed largely in the imagination of the people. Different men, according to their temperament, appreciate different sides of him; so to write an analysis is a delicate and difficult task. It is delicate on account of denominational prejudices and ambitions. It is difficult owing to the diverse and conflicting views that have been held regarding Evan Roberts himself and of the Revival—its origin, character and ultimate effect, and the place it is likely to occupy among the religious factors of modern Wales. Life is full of unique and baffling individualities that have given rise to conflicting contentions among their contemporaries, and food for quarrel among future historians. England has her Joseph Chamberlain, Florence her Lorenzo the Magnificent, Scotland her Burns, and Wales her Kilsby Jones. Such characters are inviting subjects for those who believe that history is psychology; and there is no stronger hold on the public mind than curiosity in personality. As to Evan Roberts, it can be safely said that people were moved more by the mystery of the man than by his cause. In the estimation of the general public at the time, he was an ideal spiritual leader—an inspired Revivalist in the best and highest sense of the term. The sight of his face, the sound of his voice, and the echo of his name, were refreshing to them. Men who had mortgaged their soul’s to the devil, and for whom preachers and churches affected a pity and a sorrow, but who regarded them as too bad to be cured, felt that they were indebted to Evan Roberts, as the symbol of the Revival, for the one ray of heavenly light that had fallen upon their souls, and the one genial glow of hope that had entered their homes—homes that for many weary years had been darkened by sin and unbelief. There were others, whose piety was unquestioned and unquestionable, men who hailed with glad surprise the golden brightness of the latest Revival that had just dawned upon the land; to their natures Evan Roberts did not, and possibly could not, appeal. They looked for the image and superscription of the heaven-sent messenger, and were disappointed. To them he was neither a feeder nor a medium. Even a good man with excellent qualities may repel rather than attract. it is a question of moral temper. That Evan Roberts did repel, that he quenched rather than inflamed the Revival flame in many districts, there can be no doubt. Evidence of the fact abounds, and it is indisputable. In a book called ‘With Christ among the Miners’there is this statement: “He “—meaning Evan Roberts—“impressed his personality on every meeting. Again, he seemed to perceive instinctively what each ordinance was capable of; and, as with the skill of a musician, he made each ordinance yield its value.” This statement is not true to facts.
One of the four articles of the Revival, or confession of faith, which he has caused to be written and to be made public, was instant and absolute obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. At Zion, Cwmavon, Mr. Thomas Roberts, a Wesleyan by profession of faith, an aged Christian gentleman, one of the landmarks of the valley, began to pray; but he had uttered only a few sentences when the Revivalist stopped him. The Holy Spirit prompted the one to pray, and the same Spirit prompted the other to suppress him. Then Mr. David Elias, a Baptist brother, offered prayers. Evan Roberts said, “It is enough.” But David Elias paid no heed to the interruption. The Revivalist called for verses, and they came by the dozen; but David Elias continued to pray, his clear, bell-like voice being heard above the din and clatter. Evan Roberts sat down, and remained silent until Elias had finished. There was a revulsion of feeling that the Revivalist did not fail to detect, and he fell in a heap on the floor of the pulpit, at the same time giving vent to the most doleful exclamations. The confusion was as indescribable as it was painful. At the request of an American lady, Mr. Edward Davies asked Evan Roberts to repeat in English what he had just said in Welsh; but he replied that the Holy Spirit did not permit him to utter it in English. It sounded the death-knell of the Revival in the Avan Valley. The flame was there, but it was extinguished. The tide began to ebb, and ebb it did; and the last state of that Church is worse than the first.
Evan Roberts had an appointment at Cwmaman on Sunday, April 9, 1905. Through a misprint, the press announced it was Cwmavon, with the result that many strangers flocked into the Avan Valley on that day. Mr. David Nicholas and Inspector William Williams were on the point of entering Zion Chapel, to attend the Young People’s Prayer-Meeting at 9.30 a.m., when they were approached by Mr. D. L. Rodger, of Rutherglen, Scotland, who is President of the Evangelistic Institute of that place. After the mistake had been explained, he decided to spend the Sabbath with the friends at Zion. The late Rev. Elias Davies, of Llanelly, was the preacher. The chapel was crowded, and the feeling both high and intense. The preacher read from Isaiah: “Every one that thirsteth,” etc. His reading was full of sweetness and tenderness. Then he asked the congregation to sing, “O dragwyddol Graig yr Oesoedd.” At this juncture some strangers were seen making their way into the chapel—Dutchmen, Frenchmen, and a few from Switzerland. Not one of them could speak English, except one of the Frenchmen, and that was very little. It was with considerable difficulty that Mr. Davies was able to deliver his discourse; but, being a strong character, he held the reins. His message was so full of love, of sympathy and of insight into the everyday life and needs of the people, that it was like the very breath of God. At the close he invited the congregation to give vent to the thoughts of their hearts; but he did not permit more than one to pray or to speak at a time. What the Dutchmen and their comrades from Switzerland said no one knew; but it was evident that they had “caught the fire,” as the phrase ran. When the Frenchman came to the word “Calvary,” his pronunciation was so peculiar, and so touching, that the people felt an indescribable something that brought a throb to the throat and a tear to the eye. Never within the memory of the oldest inhabitant had there been such a manifestation of Divine Power. The Revival was there in all its fulness; and yet there was no disorder, no cross-currents, but everything carried on with decency and propriety. The name of Evan Roberts was never mentioned.
At Zoar, Neath, at a later date, there were some peculiar incidents. Two hours before Evan Roberts appeared, the building was packed to suffocation. For about ten minutes there was a stillness as of death. It was broken by an aged man, who read a chapter with such pathos and tenderness that touched the hearts of all. Then his voice was heard in prayer, and he seemed as if in converse with the Almighty; he was an old standard-bearer of the Cross, who had kept the faith—simple, humble, and with a childlikeness that brought tears from the eyes of strong men not easily moved. The strain was great—so great that it could not be borne any longer. Before the veteran was half through his prayer, five or six got on their feet and began to pray simultaneously. It was the beginning. A young woman in the gallery cried out for mercy. Then there occurred a very remarkable thing. The whole congregation, as if divinely inspired, commenced to sing a hymn—the same hymn. Nobody gave the lead. It was spontaneous, unanimous, and full of holy fervour. It had not entered into the heart of any man present to conceive such a thing possible. It was three o’clock. Then someone whispered, “Here he comes.” The whole congregation was on its feet in an instant. There was Evan Roberts being brought in between two policemen. He at once ascended the pulpit stairs, sat down, and as usual buried his face in his hands. Shortly afterwards he stood on his feet, and began the process of scanning. At last he said, “The Spirit of God is not here.” “He has spoilt our meeting,” said a deacon, and half a dozen men who sat near by murmured assent. The people seemed to have turned their faces away from God, and were looking to the Revivalist. The Spirit had come and gone; the tide began to ebb, and ebbed until the close. Failing to get the response which he desired, Evan Roberts, with uplifted hands, suddenly exclaimed, “The meeting is at an end.” He did not give out a parting hymn of praise, he did not pronounce the Benediction. The dismissal was sudden, abrupt and even annoying.
At Ebenezer, Aberdare, he told a Calvinistic Methodist minister who sat next to him in the pulpit that the place was full of devils, and that he could not remain, at the same time advising that the meeting should be brought to a close. But the minister in question thought otherwise; he knew the people, for he had lived among them. Evan Roberts left and went to Bryn Seion, only to make a similar complaint, namely, that Bryn Seion likewise was full of devils. An aged Christian man in the gallery called out in holy anger, “Art thou a prophet?”
Numerous other instances could be quoted showing how vast multitudes of people had congregated together for hours in the heavings of the Revival wave, feeling that they were face to face with the realities of life, conscious of the Divine presence in their midst, only to be told by Evan Roberts within five minutes of his appearance that the Holy Spirit was not there, because theyhad hindered His operations and refused to give obedience. When they sang, they were told that they did not sing with sincerity. In one instance he is alleged to have said that 300 hypocrites were marring the effect of a certain hymn that was being sung. But however inexplicable and even painful many of his actions may have been, he must be given justice; and if there are any doubtful points, he should have the benefit of them. In the scientific world I am content to sit at the feet of superior intelligences. I acknowledge the right of the Maxwells and the Darwins to instruct me, and my deference is sincere and complete. So when I come into the ethical and spiritual realm, I find gifted souls that can teach and enlighten—men whose feeling for the Infinite is stronger than mine—men whose love of God and His Son surpasses mine, for the reason that their capacity is greater—men who have lived lives transcendently holier than mine, and whose insight into the mind and purposes of the Spirit is keener than mine can ever hope to be. These men of finer clay, with their genius for spirituality, impose upon me certain obligations thatI have neither the right nor the desire to repudiate.
In a whirlpool of cross-currents it is difficult to see such boiling masses in the narrows of some mighty river; and, in spite of the swirling chaos, we are able to know that these waters are really hurrying to the sea, and in what point of the compass that broad sea lies. At the time, the Revival seemed a mere whirlpool, with disordered waves flung aimlessly from side to side, and the Revivalist himself was a wonder and a mystery to thousands.
Evan Roberts was not intellectual in the sense intellectuality is commonly understood. He was moved more by his emotions than by his ideas; and such ideas as he uttered had been current in the pulpit for generations. He was more intuitive than inductive or deductive. His broken sentences had more of the heat of passion than of the dry light of truth. He had no fundamental doctrine, no system of theology, no distinctive ideal He bore no traces of culture save that form of culture that one discovers in the peasant and the artisan, and that is often conspicuous by its absence in the University man who wears the hood and gown. Those who came to hear a great sermon, or even a sermon, were disillusioned. He was not an expositor or even a fluent speaker. His schooldays were few and irregular. In estimating character, we are generally able to see some ethical, mental or moral aspect that enables us to trace the springs of action in the temperament; and the higher we ascend, the clearer are the lines that delineate the personality. Take, for instance, such characters as Garibaldi, Gladstone, Milton, and others equally eminent: here are men who held the moral and intellectual sceptres of Europe — men whose patronage was the very breath of heaven to the weak and downtrodden, and whose personalities provided a hospitable harbourage for those who, in every land, sighed for autonomy of conscience and the blessings of liberty. As we follow them in their romantic and stirring careers, we can detect the constructive and modifying influences that combined to make them what they were. The same principle of interpretation is applicable to other men less known to fame because less conspicuous in talent and in achievement. But in our endeavour to compass Evan Roberts, we are baffled, not on the score of greatness, or of accomplishments, or of service, but on the ground of complexity. There is nothing of a colossal nature: the dimensions are very small, and the horizon is exceedingly circumscribed.
It is our habit to speak vaguely of genius in explanation of any unusual, or even eccentric, trait in the individual; genius is the modern cosmopolitan Abraham that is called upon to father freaks and to chaperon qualities that the world characterizes as abnormal. If a Welshman of some note is unconventional in his habits, or strangely irregular in his moods, or suffers from fits of abstraction, we have our traditional method of unravelling the mystery: we classify him as a “genius.” So the tribe is numerous in Wales. But is there nothing that lies back of genuine genius?—no toil?—no anticipatory adaptation?—no psychological conditions? The inner history of every masterpiece, whether in the realm of art, of science, of poetry, or of statesmanship, and which at first sight has the appearance of spontaneity, is not struck off at a flash. But here Evan Roberts eludes us. He makes a sudden leap into fame. People said that he had a clairvoyant’s face. Those who were privileged to enjoy his fellowship affirmed that he was a lovable character. But what is the secret of the fact that men and women travelled long distances—from England, Scotland, Ireland, the United States of America, and the Continent of Europe—swayed by one common impulse, and that impulse centred in Evan Roberts?
Let us analyze this impulse. What were its main elements? It originated in the “bloom” which the press of South Wales cast upon him. They canonized him, and gave him a name and a fame that caused people from far and near to prejudge his relation to a Revival of which he was not the originator, not the medium, and not the feeder. There had been for months and years—there were even then—influences at work that were independent of his initiative or control. As to the nature of the impulse, it was an awe-inspiring impulse due to the impression that had been externally created that Evan Roberts stood in relation to God, to the Spirit, and to the Son as no other minister or priest, young or old, did. “All men are compelledto be honest before Evan Roberts,” wrote a Calvinistic Methodist to the ‘Goleuad’;“there is something in his face that mesmerizes the people; none can playthe hypocrite in his presence.” The italics (underlinings) are mine. People believed that he could read their thoughts and their past life like a page in a book. Some thought that he had the power of life and death. This state of mind is partly reflected in the biography of Evan Roberts by the Rev. D. M. Phillips, M.A., Ph.D., of Tylorstown, Rhondda Valley. His personality is surrounded with clouds of marvel, and even of miracle. We are told that if the midwife that held Evan Roberts in her arms when a babe knew of his future, she would fear and tremble, and many of the old saints would have gone to the parents’ house repeating the words of Simeon of old when he saw the child Jesus, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.” Dr. Phillips tells us that Evan Roberts’s mental powers were of the first order, and that at the age of thirteen he began to write his auto-biography, and this is recorded as an indication of the richness of the inner aspect of his life, with the assurance that, had what Evan Roberts wrote at that age concerning himself been preserved, it would have been a substantial addition to our knowledge of the philosophy of mental activities. The biographer proceeds to say that Evan Roberts might have attained a high position as a musical composer or as an expert shorthand writer, and that he even captured a prize for the best loveletter, which, we are assured, proved that he had an eye to see the movements of others around him.
Furthermore, Evan Roberts, we are informed, might have become famous as a poet. In order to substantiate this contention, we are referred to a poetic effusion of the Revivalist called, “A Sacrifice for Thy sake.” The idea of the poem is that sorrow has lost its existence or essence to the company on board a ship in mid-ocean. “It is difficult,” says the biographer, “to find a stronger line than this in poetry.” “An unbiassed reader will be compelled to admit that such poetical genius as is revealed in this is not to be found in all the pages of even the best authors.”
The author proceeds to state that he never saw such eyes as those of Evan Roberts, for they varied with the rapidity of a lightning flash; that his feet were well formed and, as to size, proportioned to his body; and that the swing of his arms suggested the moving wings of a gentle dove; and that he had a nose tending to be aquiline, showing that Evan Roberts could have made an army commander. This is set forth as part of the physical and mental “preparation of the possibility” in Evan Roberts for the work of an evangelist. It is alleged that Evan Roberts attended a gathering at Loughor in the company of his mother where Mr. John Morgan, one of the deacons of Moriah, was presented with a pair of spectacles. On the way home he told his mother how glad he was that he had been at the meeting, because he had seen Mr. Morgan in a new light. His mother “pondered” over the saying, for it was extraordinary that one so young should take such a view of things. One day he met a man proceeding to the well under the field. Evan Roberts accosted him with this observation: “You carry water to quench the material thirst of people; I do my best to quench their thirst with spiritual water.”
Let me quote a few more illustrations as the author gives them: “The incarnation of Christ contained the possibility of the atonement; the same truth holds good with regard to the works of Evan Roberts: they are all the outcome of the possibility that was in him in the cradle.” “We have no doubt but that his connection with manual labour played an important part in preparing his mental powers for revival work. And why not? Was not the daily task of Jesus of Nazareth, until He was thirty years of age, a greater factor in the preparation of His possibilities to accomplish His infinite work for sinners?” “On one occasion it was not too much for him and some of his young friends to whitewash Moriah chapel” “When they (his brothers and sisters) saw him approaching the house, they would say one to another, ‘We must be quiet: Evan is coming.’ There was no need for him to utter a word: a glance from him would ensure silence.” “His mother affirms that there was not necessity to reprove or advise him when a child.” “In his own person, the renowned Revivalist knows what it is to be tempted in all things. For this reason he can weep with those that weep for their sins, and rejoice with those that overcome them.” “I have seen him engaged in silent prayer in the pulpit for an hour and a half” “In two places where I was present with him he suddenly said, ‘There is a multitude praying for me now ’; and he could not hearken to the conversation attentively, as though he could hear the prayers; and then he would come to himself again, and converse with us.” “Evan Roberts has to stop people proceeding in their prayers, for he knows that they are prompted by false motives.” Of his sermons it is said, “They must have been done by him, for they are not like any other man’s works.” “The young people sought his company notwithstanding his purity.” As evidence of Evan Roberts’s strong faith, reference is made to the time when he saved one Jenkin Evans from drowning. “He threw his arms around Evans’s neck, and both went down. Evan had not learned to swim, but he believedhe could, and he therefore did swim.” “There is reason,” says the biographer, “for saying that for ages long the day of the dawn of the Revival will be commemorated; but there is more reason why the birthday of Evan Roberts should be commemorated.”
It is not necessary to make any further quotations. These are sufficient, and they serve as a reflex of the time of the Revival. Superstition and hero-worship were the order of the hour. It was declared that Evan Roberts had asked the Lord for 100,000 for Jesus Christ, and that he had actually seen Jesus presenting a cheque to His Father, and on it the figure “100,000.” Such a declaration could not fail to appeal to the imagination of a race of people possessing a predominance of religious sensibility and an excess of the impulsive and the passionate. This explains the promptitude with which the people responded to his request from the pulpit of the Tabernacle Church (C.M.), Cwmavon, that the windows should be broken. As soon as the command was uttered it was executed. To the young, and especially the women, it was an evidence of his extraordinary position as a Divine messenger sent of God. To disobey might, and in the mind of many would, be a sin. Evan Roberts knew, therefore he spoke; and thus the multitude acquiesced. So ran the common sentiment. Then, he himself was a man full of emotional hypnotism, more by nature than by practice. His habit and power of transfixing each and every person with what has been termed his “homage-compelling gaze,” was by no means an immaterial factor, and his power of suggestion was remarkable. Not that he dissembled; he had not seen enough of the world for that. Undoubtedly, he observed facts and classified them, using all available means for a thorough understanding of his audience, making a mental survey of the rows of faces before him, and adapting his method to the occasion. He was a man of great native shrewdness and penetration. Above and beyond this was his clean life. From his youth he had observed strict and temperate habits. His conduct and profession were perfectly consistent, and the testimony to his goodness was, and is, both strong and general.
In trying to diagnose his power to obsess, we must also take into account his inner consciousness, which was the outcome of his baptism of fire at New Quay. That he underwent a most agonizing soul struggle there can be no doubt. He felt the guiding, controlling and saving influences of the Holy Spirit. He refused to go to Cardiff; he declined to see many ministers and laymen; and he rested for a period of seven days—from February 23 to March 1, 1905—justifying himself on the ground that he was obeying the “voice from within.” It was the “voice” that he heard bidding him go to Loughor. On his arrival, he found that his brother Dan had been suffering considerably from defective eyesight, and had therefore been unable to work for some months. Evan told Dan, “Your eyes are now well: the Lord needs you.” Such a statement implies tremendous courage—such courage as David Morgan in 1859 never felt; but it shows the state of his personal active consciousness, and he succeeded in impressing this consciousness, not only upon his brother, but upon the public. It found response in sympathetic minds, and it was one of the secrets of his power with the masses. It created great expectations, and surrounded his name and person with a sort of mystic influence. And he was essentially a man of the mystic type. Again, his solemnity counted for much. Solemnity, whether real or assumed, always tells. Evan Roberts was heavy, mysterious, doleful and sometimes awful, and his awfulness gave him power over the people. This solemnity was more of an acquisition than a gift. He was always serious, yet cheerful, and even hopeful. This was his first mood, and it endeared him to many. During his first appearance he was a man of charming gentleness, unassuming, brotherly, and unconscious of his power to draw and to sway. A man of unquestionable wealth of heart. But he developed the austere and the turbulent. His voice became peremptory without being convincing. He began to lose his Christian temper; the priest drove out the prophet. The multitude and himself drifted apart, and the chasm widened. His authority waned, and the solemnity which was once a source of power became a weakness, The conviction was borne in upon us that he was merelysolemn; his mind was shallow, even shallower than it appeared. The farther one looked into it, the less original or profound it was. As with himself, so with his broken sentences—mainly mere outbursts without depth, eloquence or moral force. Among the sources of his power to obsess lies the fact that he was the symbol of a dominant idea which was commonly held, and the fascination of which was generally felt, to the exclusion of every other idea, motive or interest. I mean the emotional idea. He did not generate it—did not control it. He was merely the symbol. The people looked to him as the Jews of old looked to the serpent in the wilderness. The Welsh nation is essentially emotional. It is claimed that it has gained in character and in intellect; but, as I have said before, it is still a mercurial nation. The mood is an ancient one; it is native to the soil, and is permanent. To be sad is a necessity of the Welshman’s nature. More than that, he is happy in his melancholy: he glories in its glamour, feeds upon it, and thrives through it. Even on the field of battle, while the Teuton talks of its glory, he will dwell upon its tragedy; if the Teuton sings the martial song, he too will sing—for song is part of his blood and life, of his heart and soul—but with this difference: he will sing something that shows the pathos of it all. It is his natural endowment, and has been granted him in a special measure. If you wish to understand Welsh civilization, you must take cognizance of this; otherwise, you will miss the one salient quality. The preaching that pleases or impresses him most is that aspect of it in which the tragic element predominates—the betrayal and the Cross. It is not so much a matter of theology as of temperament. Herein lies the secret of the enormous influence that the early Welsh preachers wielded over their countrymen. Preaching took the form of native disposition-—more so than to-day. Pulpit literature is cast mainly in this mould. Sermons dealing with the cardinal virtues—with veracity, sobriety, honour, integrity, and purity—did not receive proportionate attention either from the preacher or from the congregation. Such topics were not supposed to afford sufficient scope for the emotion. The Welsh nation is justly reputed to be an eminently religious nation. The reason is not far to seek. Religion is the best outlet for the pathos in the temperament; hence, the most popular hymns are in the minor key, the best poetry is of the melancholy kind, and the most satisfying sermons those that are founded upon “the Blood.” Welsh partiality, or Welsh passion, for religion is more allied to their temperament than to their goodness as a people; they are more religious than moral; and the form that fascinates most is the tragic. Nations, like individuals, have their moods and tenses. Even nature is subject to the same law. She does not always reciprocate our feelings.
As with nature, so with men and nations; but there is one mood that I never miss in the Cymric race—the emotional. In its worship, its hymnology, and its festivals, the mood is there. Even on the marriage morn the sense of it is not far away. But there are high tides in its history—intermittent periods, when the waters come in with a mighty rush, overflowing the banks. The intervals are irregular: the periods vary from twenty to a hundred years. Between the outbreak of 1884 and that of 1904 there are twenty years; between that of 1859 and that of 1884 there are twenty-five years. Rumblings of the coming storm were heard in the spring of 1904, and even in the autumn of 1903. The nation seemed as if preparing for a great lamentation. It was fast passing beyond its ordinary traditional mood. It longed to give vent to its pent-up feelings. There was only one thing lacking—the psychic man who knew how to tap the mood. True, the nation desired that good might come to it, but it was pre-eminently a matter of temperament. So great was the tension that relief had to come; and it came, first at New Quay, Newcastle Emlyn, and in other parts of the country; then the high tide flowed in. Evan Roberts appeared at the psychological moment, and at once became its recognized symbol. He stood in the breach, and was regarded as the concrete embodiment of the emotion that dominated the people. There are other such figures in history. Henry George is one. He awakened enthusiasm and gained affection in virtue of the fact that he focussed the yearnings and longings of a certain class. Mrs. Pankhurst is another typical instance. If she had appeared fifty years back, and said the same things, she would be grotesque for the reason that the idea had not then entered its psychological climate. To-day it has, and in virtue of that fact she has been able to obsess a large number of British men and women. You can no more remove her obsession by fines and imprisonments, by invective and regular wit, than the Pope could crush the modernist movement within the Roman Catholic Church by the issue of his two famous manifestoes, the ‘Syllabus Lamentabili’and the ‘Encyclical Pascendi’. Ours is a curious society. We free the blacks, and give them votes; we free white women, but deny them the privilege to which their liberty entitles them. We accuse them of no vice: we do not say that they are thieves, or drunkards, or profligates. The black vote cannot turn the scale, for they are in the minority; but as white women outnumber white men by three to one, we are afraid. General Booth is another example of the same psychological fact. The driving force of his personality will last as long as a single fascinated follower is left.
The modernist movement in the Roman Catholic Church is longing for the coming of its Luther—the man who will embody its ideal aim—the man who will become the symbol of that overmastering passion for autonomy of conscience and liberty of intellect. All through Catholic Christendom priests and laity alike desire to study the disclosures of scientific investigation in the light of civilization instead of the dim and bewildering gloom of medieval obscurantism. It is the old story of the potency of one absorbing thought.
The questions have been asked, “Was Evan Roberts inspired? Was hisspiritual horizon wider and clearer than that of the saints of his age? “ Let us consider, first of all, what we mean by inspiration, for no word has been more misemployed. By ancient and modern usage, inspiration has been credited to certain individuals who wrote and spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The impulse of inspiration is moral, not intellectual. It is of the soul, not of the mind, and must be in accord with the laws of the activity of the soul. When the soul’s action is at its height and its best, then its vision is clearest, and its grasp of the truth the strongest. It is of the essence of inspiration that the soul may have a vision of a great truth the inner significance of which it may not comprehend, and the ultimate effects of which it may not foresee. Inspiration does not necessarily imply foreknowledge of the glorious issue of the sacrifice; but Evan Roberts said that he knew what the Revival would bring forth. He had asked for a hundred thousand souls, and he claimed to have seen the Saviour hand His Father a cheque with this figure. It is stated by those who have tabulated the results that the number of converts reached this figure. Evan Roberts claimed to know who were sinners and who were not. He also claimed to foresee results, This the people called “inspiration.”
What is the authority that shall decide which men are inspired and which are not? There is no external decision possible. No newspaper, no synod, no Presbytery, can determine; not even the Church can attach the label of inspiration to any revivalist, or book, or movement with the certainty that it will adhere. The only court of appeal is the Christian consciousness. When it has spoken, there is nothing left but to register its decree. But it so happens that the decree of the Christian consciousness is often anticipated or unduly constrained by denominational, social, ecclesiastical or newspaper pressure. There does not exist a more despicable creature than he who takes advantage of the holiest feelings of others in order to further the interests of sect or to secure gain, whether that gain be in the form of money, or prestige, or power.
As to the inspiration, the capacity to inspire is the evidence of inspiration. This, indeed, is its function. The inspiration of Christ was not in His prayers or His teaching, but in the activity evoked by His presence among those who saw Him and communed with Him. I do not think it possible for a man who is inspired to fail to inspire others sooner or later in some way. Many inspired men have failed personally;that is, by the power of personality. Their inspiration of others has been affected by the teaching that they gave. This teaching has often been effected after their removal from the world.
In the popular mind influence is often confounded with inspiration. Inspiration is the communication of ideas or conceptions of truth from a supernatural source. Influence is the effect produced either by individual character or the power of some truth. Thus it is that some inspired men influence others by their personalities, and others by the truth they teach. No man can attain to spirituality except through inspiration, either his own or that of another. Spirituality is the product of inspiration. The old theologians spoke of ordinary inspiration or ordinary spiritual influence, and of extraordinary inspiration. The first was accredited to all fairly good people, and the second was considered as applying exclusively to the writers of the Bible. According to the teaching of the “New Theology,” all who feel the “inbreathing “—the Divine influence prompting and leading them—are inspired, and that is the only sense in which the term or idea must be taken. If we accept the conception of the “New Theology” regarding the essence and meaning of inspiration, then undoubtedly Evan Roberts was inspired. But if we fall back upon the old theology for our interpretation of inspiration, Evan Roberts was not inspired. That he possessed a high grade of spiritual excellence there can be no doubt. A few English friends—ministers and laymen who saw, heard and spoke to him—declared it to be their conviction that Evan Roberts’s spirituality was higher both in degree and in intensity than that of other ministers and Christian people. So to the influence of his personality they, therefore, attributed the origin, growth and spread of the Revival. But I believe that enough evidence has been produced in this book, to show to those whose only desire is to get at the facts of the case, that Evan Roberts had no controlling or constructive influence over the real Revival; and by the real Revival I mean not the rubbish, of which there were truck-loads, but the magnificent radium within. This radium was the resultant of spiritual forces that had been quietly at work for some years. These forces found a wonderful and simultaneous expression in many parts of Wales, and werein some parts rightly, and in other parts wrongly, used at the time of crisis. Seemingly,at any rate, Evan Roberts was to my mind the embodiment of the latter, and was out of touch with the former. Moody promptly suppressed every symptom of hysteria. Even Charles Wesley actually notified his congregation in more than one instance that anyone who was convulsed should be carried out. The intimation was enough.No one was carried out, for no one was convulsed. On the contrary, Evan Roberts encouraged indirectly, if not directly, the waves of hysteria that usually passed over his congregation. In fact, these psychic manifestations were looked upon as necessary adjuncts to a successful meeting, and became at last, in the estimation of the press and the public, the characteristic marks of the Revival.
He did not appear to believe in the acceptability of his message. He came to meet the people as if he were convinced that they did not want to hear the truth. The elemental fact in all true revivals is that men are anxious to hear the Divine message. But Evan Roberts was moody, erratic, critical. The people were better than he seemed to think they were. This was one of the tragedies of the Revival. His view of human nature was unkind and often unjust. His mind was bound by conventional conceptions, more felt than understood; his outlook was blighted by the tenets of a severe theology which he had inherited, but the essence and application of which he did not understand. Revivalists and evangelists seldom if ever take a kindly view of human nature. Indeed, with a few notable exceptions, both past and present, the pulpit takes a harder view of human nature than does the pew. Those who have mixed up with the great masses of the people are impressed with their kindness one to another, and with the thoughtful consideration that underlies their judgments of the transgressions of their fellows. The pulpit, itself weak and full of infirmities, with its intellectual outlook narrower and the level of its spirituality lower than many of the men and women it addresses, lacks in sympathy and discrimination.
Sin in the sense of wilful transgression is not so omnipresent as the pulpit declares it to be. Good often outweighs ill. There is more sorrow for sin, and more remorse for conscious ills, and secret consuming penitence for past misdeeds, than has ever been registered in the logbooks of the churches. There are many sinners who are nothing worse than the outlets of elemental sins which have their origin in the strata of human society. There are many thoughts and many passions other than his own in the guilt and misfortune of the criminal or unfortunate. He or she is bearing his or her share openly in the sight of the world, while the contributory causes are unseen and unrecognized. Of all the legacies which Christ left there is none greater, and yet none so little applied in practical life, than discriminating justice. He never failed to differentiate between those who did and those who did not deliberately violate obligations and principles which they knew to be Divine. His attitude towards the sinful was not governed by a bitter and merciless spirit. There is no exaggerated condemnation in His utterances, for the reason that His judgment was tempered with compassion. Great was His passion for righteousness, equally great was His sense of judgment, but neither overshadowed His discrimination. That always had its due place in His estimate of guilt. He would have moral thoroughness combined with intellectual thoroughness. He arraigned every soul, yes, and the whole of every soul. There was to be neither excess of sentiment nor of justice. Sometimes the strain of this contradiction in human estimates is intense. There were twelve apostles, but only one of them was possessed of the devil, and the proportion of good is greater among our congregations than the proportion of evil. Human nature is more wholesome than one would gather from the tragic and sensational utterances of evangelist and revivalist. To browbeat the people into a confession of crude and frightful sins, and to create moral sensibility by lurid pictures of human society, finds no response in anything Jesus did or said. If the mind of Christ is to dominate and to regulate our attitude, the whole trend of clerical thinking on this matter will have to be recast.
As to the judgment passed upon the Revival and the Revivalist by certain Englishmen, there is this criticism to make:—When men come from a cold, matter-of-fact Saxon atmosphere into a warm Celtic atmosphere, at a time of spiritual crisis among a people always at home in the kingdom of religion, it is not surprising if they are carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment. One of the most interesting, as well as the most distressing, phases of the Revival was the inordinate desire of foreigners and men of other nationalities—journalists, laymen, and ministers—to give their views of the Revival to the world. They would come, spend twenty-four hours at various meetings, shake hands and converse with Evan Roberts, then rush back to London or Paris, to be met on their way by eager reporters at Cardiff station, when, with a grave and an infallible air, they would express their opinion for publication. In a few days or weeks they would give the same opinions to their congregations and to the world in the form of addresses, pamphlets and articles; and by thousands of people outside the Principality such views were accepted as final, full and authoritative. In the first place, an Englishman is very largely incapacitated by temperament, and by effects of environment, to understand a Welsh Revival. Secondly, a thorough acquaintance with the Revival of 1904—5 brings with it humility, deliberation and godly fear. But there were thousands of blind worshippers all over Wales, who, not only believed that Evan Roberts bore a distinctive spiritual class-mark that set him forth as more excellent in his grip of God and of the truth than the best among the saints and the preachers, but who actually did believe (and they acted and lived under the belief) that he was inspired in the old-theology sense of the word. Such a chasm, they thought, existed between the Revivalist and the highest order of sainthood to be found in the pulpit and the Church, that he had become to them the best and highest modern counterpart of early inspiration.
Evan Roberts never said that he looked upon himself in this light. What was passing in his own inner consciousness is sealed up until the last day. It is sacred ground. Into his motives and self-suggestions God forbid that we should enter. When, however, we descend into the region of methods, we are entitled to a larger freedom. They seemed on the whole to give colour to the conclusions of the multitude. By his methods I mean his pronounced emotional sensibility, his weeping and wailing, his predictions as to individual results, his seven days’ silence and seclusion, his refusal to go to Cardiff, and even to show himself or speak a word to the thousands that congregated at Newcastle-Emlyn on that memorable Sunday, when men and women had travelled long distances on the strength of the announcement that he would be there, for the expressed reason that “the Spirit” had not given him any message, and that “the Spirit“ forbade him. When asked at Zion Chapel, Cwmavon, to state in English what he had previously uttered in Welsh, he replied that “the Spirit” did not permit him to do so. If this is not “extraordinary inspiration,” in the old-theology sense, what else does it imply? “I speak as the Spirit prompts me,” he used to say. Again, he often spoke in these terms: “I have read some of your faces: I can see what you want.” “Some of you have received the Spirit’s blessing and lost it.” It was not necessary that Evan Roberts should tell explicitly that be believed he was inspired in the old-theology sense. The implication was sufficient. Instead of calling out the highest, it called out the lowest in the Celtic nature—superstition. At Caerphilly he appealed to some of those present at the meeting to leave; and because there was no response, he himself left, The pressure apparently was great. Inasmuch as he had gone, there was a disposition to break up the meeting; but someone called out, “Is it to be Evan Roberts or Jesus Christ? “ It is sad to relate, but in the interest of truth it must be said, that the man who put this question had his finger on the pulse of the populace. Then, the fact that Evan Roberts assumed concrete knowledge of a lost soul at the Tabernacle meeting, at Cwmavon, would presuppose inspiration, and inspiration of the exalted and superhuman kind. I am now dealing with facts that have been verified and can be confirmed. So there is something, indeed much, in condonation of even superstitious people for a belief that had become part of their very thoughts and feelings. There was plenty of hypnotic sensibility abroad in those days, and sufficient material for suggestion to do its perfect work. Dreams, religious and otherwise, were registered by the score. Any untoward incident, or any prophetic utterance, or any mysterious move on the part of the evangelist, was exalted into the region of the miraculous. But their temperamental origin can no longer be disputed.
Regarded in the light of present facts, how does Evan Roberts stand? What is the general significance of his particular work? His methods, what of them? Have they proved wise and been declared sterling? What is the legacy that he has left us as a people? As his image appears to our memory, what does that image bring with it? There are Welshmen in the realm of poetry, literature, politics, and religion who have long since laid aside the armour and the breastplate, but whose names quicken our remembrance, enrich our imagination, and rouse our enthusiasm. They have stood the severest tests, and have not been found wanting. Their ideals are our realities. The verdict of their contemporaries may have been modified through closer scrutiny and a larger vision; but the bloom and the sweetness remain, to soothe and to invigorate. The old Welsh religious chieftains who communicated their impulse to all within their reach are still fresh in the memory of the nation, not as dead comrades, but as living factors inspiring us to study their genius and to emulate their zeal. They were men of great passionate hearts and high moral elevation. Is there anything to keep the memory of Evan Roberts in remembrance? —any cardinal elements in the teaching of our Lord that he preserved for religion? —any organization that owes its inauguration and its permanence to his initiative or influence? —any doctrine that he taught, and is likely to be an addition to the abiding forces of Welsh religious life? Did he tell us anything we did not know? Did he enshrine any old truths in those inevitable and convincing phrases that burn themselves into the deathless memory of a nation? Did he come to the rescue of anything in Welsh religious and social life which, at the moment, was threatened with extinction? —some fact of the human soul or some elemental passion? I know of none. Again, are his footprints still in the furrows? Is his voice still in the air? Is he an authority on anything? No, he is not. Moody has been dead for nine years, but his great schools at Northfield still move on with ever-increasing success. Large amounts of money are still being raised for the support of the colleges, and applicants for admission may be counted by the thousands. But in looking back at the Welsh Revival of 1904—5 we find that its success is by no means commensurate with its proportion, with its excitement at the time, with its professed statistics of individual or collective results, or even with the money expended upon it. The churches have been thrown back upon simpler ideas and methods. How does he stand in comparison with men of his own school—Howell Harris, David Morgan, Humphrey Jones, and Richard Owen? Is there anything that differentiates him from them?
When David Morgan started out in 1859, he had not the same degree of self-confidence that Evan Roberts possessed. David Morgan was weak and fearful. He sheltered in the personality of Humphrey Jones. His faith in God was strong; but he lacked self-assurance. Humphrey Jones was a preacher amongst the Wesleyans. He had emigrated to the United States, where he witnessed the Revival that broke out in that country in the year 1857. That Revival crossed the Atlantic, traversed the North of Ireland in 1858, covered Wales in 1859, and then made its way into England, where its influence was felt all through 1860 and 1861. Humphrey Jones returned to Wales, and as he longed to witness in his native land what he had witnessed in America, he devoted his time to address professing Christians upon the need of greater consecration. He met David Morgan, of Ysbytty, with whom he exchanged views on matters appertaining to religion and the state of the churches. David Morgan heard Humphrey Jones preach on the words, “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion,” and saw men and women bowing and weeping. The spark kindled into a flame, and the Revival of 1859 was on its wings. David Morgan was at once aroused, and began to hold prayer-meetings and to converse with inquirers. Like Evan Roberts, Humphrey Jones was a great believer in prayer, and began his public work at the same age—twenty-six. Also, like Evan Roberts, he was laid aside in the midst of his labours. He suffered greatly from mental depression and physical exhaustion. He went into seclusion, and observed strict silence for a considerable period. During his retreat he changed his views with regard to revival methods; and though repeatedly urged by his own denomination to leave his retreat, and take his part again in public worship and evangelistic work, he declined. Most of his time was spent in private prayer. But David Morgan continued the work of an evangelist after the Revival wave had subsided, and remained the same humble, companionable man that he was during the height of the Revival. David Morgan made it a rule to deliver a brief address at the Revival meetings and to offer prayer at the close. During the meeting he might be seen descending from the pulpit in order to comfort or to persuade some sorrowful, struggling soul, and even to pray for them by name. Evan Roberts was more erratic: whether he would speak first or last, or at all, or whether he would even remain until the close of the meeting, no one knew. David Morgan exalted the preacher, and invited him to share in the reaping. Thus the reaper and the sower stood side by side, shedding tears of joy as the sheaves were garnered. This was a feature that was missing in the Revival of 1904—5. Though it was in heart and actuality a Revival of men—a democratic Revival, a burning protest against priestcraft and officialism in religion, yet a bold and systematic effort was made to convert it into a one-man Revival, for sectarian and denominational ends. This was one of the fatal defects, and it helped to kill what otherwise might have been an impetus to reverence, peace and vital religion in the land for years to come.
Among the most striking services that David Morgan rendered to the cause of religion and to the peace of the churches was that he visited the different counties, and invited the co-operation of the ministers and leading Christian laymen who lived in those localities, without regard to sect or creed. It was during that Revival that Dr. Owen Thomas became famous as a preacher. Dr. Henry Rees, Dr. Lewis Edwards of Bala, and the Rev. WAmbrose of Portmadoc, participated in the outbreak of 1859. There was no attempt at making that Revival a one-man movement, and it was due to the attitude of David Morgan himself. The Revival of 1859 resulted in the erection of many new chapels. It was the direct cause of the increase of settled pastors among the Calvinistic Methodists. There followed a revival of interest in the Welsh language. Dr. Lewis Edwards’s work on the “Atonement” was written during that period. The impression prevails that Dr. Thomas Charles Edwards, Dr. Herber Evans, and the Rev. John Evans, of Eglwysbach, were the offspring of the Revival of 1859. But this is not so, for these had commenced to preach in 1857, two years previously.
One peculiarity of the Revival of 1882—84 was that the results invariably coincided with the appearance and preaching of Richard Owen. There were no conversions except through his instrumentality. But the conversions in the chapels attended by Evan Roberts were fewer than in the chapels where he was not present. An attempt has been made to account for this strange phenomena by attributing his non-success to the want of preparation on the part of the members worshipping in those particular chapels; but there is no ground for this imputation. Exhaustive inquiries have been made, with the result that there are dozens of instances which prove the fact that in the chapels visited by Evan Roberts prayer-meetings had been held nightly for months, and the power of the Revival felt, and conversions recorded; yet, in the majority of cases his appearance had a dispiriting effect. Many were converted who had neither seen nor heard Evan Roberts; and some of the most successful meetings were held in the districts and towns to which Evan Roberts had refused to go on the ground that the Holy Spirit had not given him any message for them. For a case in point, I need only refer to the Tabernacle Baptist Church on the Hayes, Cardiff, of which the Rev. Charles Davies is the pastor, whose spirituality may not be so intense as that of Evan Roberts, but is more real and lasting.
In originality, force of character, command of courage, independence, and lofty disdain of committees and bodyguards, and above all uniformity of success, Richard Owen towers above both David Morgan and Evan Roberts. He is the Saul among the brethren in the Revival world. But Evan Roberts’s fame will be quite as enduring because he is more elusive; arid because he is more elusive he will provide the future historian with interesting material. His complex character presents a series of apparently irreconciled and irreconcilable contrasts. We can compass Richard Owen, Humphrey Jones and David Morgan; we know where to find and how to measure them: their personalities are well defined ; but the moment we touch Evan Roberts, he eludes us. He is here, and he is gone.
With what, therefore, will his name be linked? It will not be linked with eloquence, with erudition, with knowledge, or with any great truth. Evan Roberts will count for nothing in hymnody, for nothing in the pulpit or the pastoral life of our churches. His mission did not produce a reversion to a higher type of reverence or moral life. The converse is true. There abides no monument, no institution, no permanent spiritual ardour of this or of any coming generation. But there is one priceless legacy that he left for his nation and for his God—his personal character. That he left unsullied in his boyhood and manhood in the midst of danger and temptation; it was tried in the furnace of a tumultuous and world-known Revival—a Revival almost unparalleled for its fierceness and conflicting effects—a Revival that gave him a name and a fame which must have tested the dual claims of both ambition and aspiration; yet he proved true, and his character stands sterling by the common consent of the people. He had his moods, like the rest of mortals. He had his methods, as we have ours. Such methods did undoubtedly repel not a few, and hardened rather than softened the hearts of some who longed for a higher life. There were inexplicable mysteries in his romantic career that we could not attempt to analyze without entering upon the sacred domain of motive; but that domain, thank Heaven, still remains the private ground of Him who alone is able to count our bones, measure our blood, and weigh our soul’s in the scale of His infinite justice. But Evan Roberts gave us his character—the most eminent of his possessions. He had his visions—he saw an arm projecting out of the moon; he saw a person dressed in white, with a glittering sword in his hand, striking the devil until he fled and vanished. I do not believe that these visions had any objective reality; but that such illusions are facts within his own self-consciousness there can be no doubt. What would not the angels give if, only for the period of a brief moment, they could feel the passions of man, which are the tragic realities of life? And what man is there who would not give much that he might experience the mental illusions associated with Evan Roberts? There are cases when the insane have laboured under the impression that they were the Third Person in the Trinity. The belief of the consciousness lasted for years, and only lost its grip upon them when they were confronted by other inmates who claimed a prior right to the same honour. Then the obsession passed; but while it lasted, how ineffably grand and glorious must have been the incursions of that mind in the realm of the spiritworld! Such mental uprushes had no objective reality; but what must it have been to have such extraordinary consciousness, however unreal and brief in its duration! Mr. Evan Roberts has lived to see the nation sink deep into its normal condition, and in some senses even a worse condition. He has lived to see the churches as a whole drift back into the old groove, wearing the same garments, speaking the same old language in the same tone, without passion and without conviction. He has also lived to see many of his converts, some of them the most striking among the records of the Revival, go back, tired of their new home, and, as Rudyard Kipling puts it, “Oft to the sties afresh.” This is an experience common to the most eminent and successful of reformers. But his labour has not been altogether in vain, for there are many who still remain to bear witness to the fact that through his instrumentality they gave themselves over to the new life. There is one vision at least of whose objective reality there can be no doubt: the ideal abides. The vision was that of a man young in years, who, in the declining months of 1904, went through a rebirth of spiritual passion, and who girded himself for one brave resolute grapple with the powers of evil, with the best of books in his hands, the law of truth written upon his lips, the world behind his back, proclaiming the great apostolic note of warning and of appeal.
I. The place of revival in modern civilisation
II. Nationality and revival
III. Evan Roberts – Personality, ideals, cast of mind and source of power
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IV. Theology and revival
V. The origin of the revival
VI. Characteristics of the revival
VII. Children and the revival
VIII. The pastor and the revivalist
IX. The revival and the confession of sin
X. The revival and its physical concomitants
XI. The afterglow