Christmas Evans, so named because he was born on Christmas Day 1766, suffered a very unhappy childhood. He had no formal education, his father died when he was nine years old and he was raised by an alcoholic relative. But God had great plans for this young man. He was converted in 1783 and, on hearing the need for more preachers, was ordained in 1789.
He immediately took to itinerant evangelistic preaching but was soon affected by the erroneous teachings of Sandemanianism which thoroughly dampened his spiritual passions and desire for conversions.
Fortunately, he realised the error of his ways and was restored to the right path, renewing his covenant with God and receiving the old fire again. By the time he left Anglesey his ten Baptist churches increased to twenty. He became minister at Caerphilly, Glamorgan for three years beginning in 1826 and the congregation increased from 65 to 200. Thereafter he held other pastorates but gained wide popularity as an outstanding itinerant evangelist.
Despite his extraordinary height, the loss of one eye and continual ill-health he excelled as a preacher of the gospel. ‘His remarkable memory, copious vocabulary, keen sense of drama, infectious humour and vivid imagination, all combined to make him a preacher of rare eloquence with deep evangelistic concern….. a forceful and persuasive orator.’ Together with John Elias (1774-1841) and William Williams of Wern, (1781-1840) he is enshrined in Welsh tradition as one of the three greatest figures in the history of the nation’s preaching.
His revivals were pastoral and based on Biblical preaching. His advice to preachers was to lead a moral life, to read the Bible and pray, and to learn all they could, to teach evangelical doctrine, to watch their outward appearance in the pulpit, to avoid foolish gestures, and to preach clearly in love and from the heart.
It is no surprise that he was influenced by such great preachers as his contemporary Robert Roberts, the Calvinistic Methodist preacher and George Whitefield who died in 1770.
Bibliography: Nancy J. Morris, Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1730-1860, 1995; Earle E. Cairns, An Endless Line of Splendour, 1986; R. Tudor Jones, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1978