TRUE REVIVAL (Wales) – P. Fredrick Fogle

When a true revival, initiated by God occurs in the hearts of Christians, the Holy Spirit will help them to understand that it is real. For many people, the word “true” is hard to define. What is true, and what is not true is thought of as debatable. The proper understanding of what REVIVAL really is has become illusive for many. One of the best ways to define TRUE REVIVAL is to cite a positive and powerful example. The example chosen for our purposes is a brief account the story of the revival in Wales in 1904-05:

EVAN ROBERTS: SPARK OF GOD

Wales has periodically been a land of revivals. It experienced spiritual renewal in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Welsh revival of 1904-05 was a divine intervention that drastically changed life in churches, homes, mines, factories, schools and even places of leisure and entertainment.

God used young Evan Roberts to spark the new fires of revival. He was not the human leader of the revival, however. In fact, no one human leader directed it. Evan was extremely conscious of divine leadership during the momentous events of the Welsh revival. He said, “This movement is not of me, it is of God. I would not dare direct it…It is the Spirit alone which is leading us” (Ellis, Living Echoes, Delyn Press).

Some have said that God chose Roberts because he lacked all the usual characteristics often found in human leaders. God secured the victory through Evan’s simplicity and spiritual power. After the early phases of the revival, six men became major overseers along with less- active people, including men and women. Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, a noted Christian author, strongly supported the endeavor, along with her husband.

Evan Roberts was one of fourteen children born to Henry and Hannah Roberts. He spent his childhood in an atmosphere in which the chapel and home were one. Intellectual and spiritual development in children were carried on simultaneously in many homes in Wales during the early 20th century. Roberts responded well to the spiritual atmosphere of his home background. As he matured, he grew in spirituality and gained a broad knowledge of literature and music. He enjoyed the interaction of intelligent conversation. One of his motives as he grew to manhood was to bring each of his endeavors in life into subservience to Christ. In Evan, “prayer and poetry became a beautiful blend, communion with God and music became practically synonymous” (Ellis)

As a young minister, Roberts brought to his pulpit a disciplined knowledge of the Scriptures as well as an unusual level of spiritual dedication. These attributes, coupled with literature, enabled him to deliver powerful and polished sermons that greatly amazed his hearers.

The year 1904 proved to be crucial. Prayer meetings for world revival were being held in many places throughout Great Britain. Young Roberts already had prayed for thirteen years for the Holy Spirit to control him. He determined to read and speak often about revival. His personal prayer effort culminated early that year when he felt the need to spend seven hours with God in prayer and Bible study each day. By October 1904 the Lord’s Spirit had communicated to Roberts that he was the preacher of revival. Seth Joshua, a leading Bible teacher, had prayed for four years, asking God to select some able person to present revival truths. The Lord answered by calling Evan Roberts. After the Word of God had accomplished its work in his own life, Roberts intensified his praying in travail of soul for a great spiritual awakening in his beloved Wales. His spiritual thirst to see people saved was evident. He was not interested in mere intellectual renaissance.

Roberts went to his hometown of Loughor with the desire to share his burden with his Christian friends. A service was announced, and many young people attended. With great liberty, Roberts spoke of the deep things of God. Because of the clear manifestation of the conviction of sin and the need for cleansing by the Saviour, that first meeting was continued until midnight. The next day many comments were made in the village about the event. The people were agog. With the special work of God clearly visible, it was decided to keep the chapel open day and night so that worshipers could go there to pray and to praise God.

“Everything sprang into new life. Former blasphemers were the most eloquent, both in prayer and praise…Drunkards forgot the way to saloons…they were busy worshiping… It was the young people who responded with the greatest alacrity to the challenge of absolute surrender and consecrated to the service of the Lord…With ever increasing momentum, the movement advanced, creating unprecedented excitement among the churches and the secular institutions outside” (Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival, Moody).

What happened in South Wales was heard around the world. From many nations went people of all ranks of life to the country to personally witness the phenomenon. Some criticized and others scoffed, but such voices were answered by the throngs of people who filled the church sanctuaries to capacity for months on end.

The Welsh revival was not an orgy of emotion but a “mighty outpouring of religious fervor, bringing a whole nation to its knees at the foot of the cross in adoration and praise” (Matthews).  In the midst of the events at Loughor, Roberts was asked to share his message with neighboring churches in South Wales and eventually in North Wales as well. Marvelous results were very apparent wherever he taught the Word of God.

During Robert’s work in North Wales, he suffered a serious physical collapse. Though very strong of body, having been a miner, the spiritual burden and intensity of the work had a telling effect. Evan Roberts spent much of the rest of his life in seclusion under the care of the Penn-Lewises. He went to his eternal reward in 1951. After Roberts withdrew from revival work, other people of God carried on with great success. Many joined local churches; industrial production spiraled, and criminal court activity was reduced to a minimum.

What God did in Wales through Evan Roberts should be an object lesson to the world. We desperately need revival today in order to see God glorified and to stem the tide of godlessness. A heaven-sent burden is needed concerning the sins of our world and of our churches. Sustained prayer must be the norm if we are to experience the birth pangs of a new spiritual era.

by P. Fredrick Fogle, Ph.D. Published by Union Gospel Press
Gospel Herald and Sunday School Times  Spring Quarter 1996 Vol 14 Number 2