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The very last words in the classic books on prayer The Hidden Life of Prayer D.M. M’Intyre writes…
In a word, every gracious work which has been accomplished within the kingdom of God has been begun, fostered and consummated by prayer.
“What is the secret of revival?” said one in 1905 to Evan Roberts. “There is no secret,” was the reply,
“It is only, ‘Ask, and receive.'”(94).
|The Welsh Revival of 1904-1905|
Evan Roberts 1878-1951 – An Overview of the Welsh Revival of 1904/1905 The REVIVAL of 1904-1905 resulted in over 150,000 people converted and added to churches and chapels in Wales. Lives were TRANSFORMED! Lifestyles were CHANGED! Homes and families were HEALED! Churches were packed and on FIRE with fervour and zeal!
All this happened when young people began to experience the reality of God’s divine power, and teams of young people, such as the one led by the most noted of the revivalist, EVAN ROBERTS and his revival party, travelled the country revolutionising the churches.
100 YEARS LATER … COULD IT HAPPEN AGAIN?
Here is love, vast as the ocean, loving kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life my ransom shed for me His precious blood,
Who His love will not remember, who can cease to sing His praise?
He shall never be forgotten through Heaven’s everlasting days.
On the mount of crucifixion fountains opened deep and wide
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy flowed the vast and gracious tide,
Grace and love like mighty rivers poured incessant from above
Heaven’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.
Just after eleven o’clock on a Wednesday evening a hundred years ago, a solo voice rang out with the beautiful Welsh hymn “Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean”. Maybe a thousand people were in the Chapel at the time, leaning over the galleries, packing every pew and squeezing into every spare corner. They’d been here for more than four hours, in a service of intense emotion.
Meetings like it were taking place across Wales night after night, with fervent prayer and passionate singing – and similar disregard for the clock. They both excited and appalled, left many puzzled and some frightened, but it was reckoned that in less than a year, over a hundred and fifty thousand people had made a new commitment to Jesus Christ.
Whole communities changed, as men and women found themselves drawn into a powerful experience of God; and sparks from their awakening were soon to ignite fires in more than a dozen other countries.
And the hymn that soloist struck up spontaneously, about “love vast as the ocean”, was heard so often that it became known as “the love song of the revival”.
In December 1904 a full and authentic account of the conversion of Evan Roberts was forwarded to the “Western Mail” by the Rev. Thomas Francis, Calvinistic Methodist minister, Gorseinon, to whom it was dictated in Welsh by Mr. Roberts himself. The reverend gentleman writes as follows:-
“I herewith enclose a copy of a report which Mr. Evan Roberts dictated to me. It was dictated in Welsh, but I have, to the best of my ability, preserved the force and vividness of the Welsh, sacrificing style and polish for the sake of a faithful literal translation. This accounts for the abruptness and stiffness of many sentences. On Wednesday afternoon, December 28, 1904, Evan Roberts dictated to me the following account:-
“For thirteen years I had prayed for the Spirit, and this is the way I was led to pray. William Davies, the deacon, said one night in the society:-
“Remember to be faithful. What if the Spirit descended and you absent? Remember Thomas! What a loss he had!”
“I said then to myself: ‘I will have the Spirit.’ And through all weather, and in spite of all difficulties, I went to the meetings. Many times, on seeing other boys with the boats on the tide, I was tempted to turn back and join them. But, no. Then I said to myself: ‘Remember your resolve to be faithful,’ and on I went. Prayer meeting Monday evening at the chapel; prayer meeting Tuesday evening at Pisgah (Sunday School branch); Church meeting Wednesday evening; Band of Hope Thursday; class Friday evening-to these I went faithfully throughout the years. For ten or eleven years I have prayed for a revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit that moved me to think about a revival.
“One Friday night last spring, when praying by my bedside before retiring, I was taken up to a great expanse – with out time and space. It was communion with God. Before this a far-off God I had. I was frightened that night, but never since. So great was my shivering that I rocked the bed, and my brother, being awakened, took hold of me, thinking I was ill.
“After that experience I was awakened every night a little after one o’clock. This was most strange, for through the years I slept like a rock, and no disturbance in my room would awaken me. From that hour I was taken up into the Divine Fellowship for about four hours. What it was I cannot tell you; except that it was Divine. About five o’clock I was again allowed to sleep on till about nine.
At this time I was again taken up into the same experience as in the earlier hours of the morning until about twelve or one o’clock.
They questioned me at home. Why didn’t I get up earlier, &c., &c.
But it was too Divine to say anything about it. This went on for about three months. When I went to school, to Newcastle-Emlyn – oh! I was afraid that I would lose the communion. I had set aside half an hour daily for it. And for the first week I did the school work very well. But after that all the time was taken up. I had four days in bed with a severe cold, but day and night there was nothing but prayer. The last night of the four I was bathed in perspiration – the result of the cold and communion with God.
“I got up Sunday. The Rev. Seth Joshua was there. Tuesday evening there was a prayer meeting, and Sydney Evans and others came to see me, and asked if I would go to the meeting. At that moment I felt the Spirit coming upon me, and so irresistible did He come that I rushed to the chapel without my topcoat. The influence began. I was ready to pray – to pray for power to the young women who were there from New Quay, lest the people should wait upon them. I had prayed for them in the house on Monday night. I was not allowed to pray publicly on Tuesday evening. That day I had asked where the devil was. I was hard. I could look at the Cross without feeling. I wept for the hardness of my heart, but could not weep for Christ. I loved the Father and the Spirit, but I did not love the Son.
“On Wednesday I went to Blaenannerch. In the morning I met the (railway) guard in the Shop (the house of the Rev. Evan Phillips), and told him that I was like a flint-I was as if someone had swept me clean of every feeling. And my conviction was that I must either be cast on a bed of affliction or receive the Spirit mightily.
“Mag Phillips came to me. There was a prayer meeting going on at the house. I had two reasons for not going in: one was lest they might talk about me because I ventured out; the other was that I wanted to speak to Mag about the state of her soul.
“‘You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you,’ said I to her, and the tears burst forth from her eyes.
Both of us were blessed the same day, I in the morning and she in the afternoon. I remember nothing about Wednesday, except that I received something about half-past three, and that I asked Mag if she had been praying for me at that time, and that she told me, ‘I was praying for you all day, Roberts bach.’
“When returning Wednesday night the young woman from New Quay tried to influence me, but nothing touched me. And they said:
“‘No,” said I. ‘I have only to wait for the fire. I have built the altar, and laid the wood in order, and have prepared the offering; I have only to wait for the fire.’
“About half-past nine next morning the fire fell, and it is burning ever since. “We started for Blaenannerch about six o’clock Thursday morning. Now, joyful, now sad, now hard and cold – so my feelings varied on the journey that morning.
“The seven o’clock meeting was devoted to asking and answering questions. The Rev. W. W. Lewis conducted. At the close the Rev. Seth Joshua prayed, and said, during his prayer, ‘Lord, do this, and this, and this, &c., and bend us.’ He did not say, ‘O Lord, bend us.’ It was the Spirit that put the emphasis for me on ‘Bend us.’ ‘That is what you need,’ said the Spirit to me. And as I went out I prayed, ‘O Lord, bend me.’
“At the breakfast table at the Rev. M. P. Morgan’s house Mag Phillips offered me bread and butter. I refused, as I was satisfied. At the same moment the Rev. Seth Joshua was putting out his hand to take the bread and butter, and the thought struck me:-
“‘It is possible that God is offering me the Spirit, and that I am unprepared to receive Him; that others are ready to receive, but are not offered?’ Now my bosom was quite full-tight.
‘On the way to the nine o’clock meeting the Rev. Seth Joshua remarked, ‘We are going to have a wonderful meeting to-day.’ To this I replied, ‘I feel myself almost bursting.’
“The meeting, having been opened, was handed over to the Spirit. I was conscious that I would have to pray. As one and the other prayed I put the question to the Spirit, ‘Shall I pray now?’ ‘Wait a while,’ said He. When others prayed I felt a living force come into my bosom. It held my breath, and my legs shivered, and after every prayer I asked, ‘Shall I now?’ The living force grew and grew, and I was almost bursting. And instantly someone ended his prayer-my bosom boiling. I would have burst if I had not prayed. What boiled me was that verse, ‘God commending His Love.’ I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears and perspiration flowed freely. I thought blood was gushing forth. Mrs. Davies, Mona, New Quay, came to wipe my face. On my right was Mag Phillips, and on my left Maud Davies. For about two minutes it was fearful. I cried, ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!’ Then, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!’ and Mrs Davies said, ‘O wonderful Grace!’ What bent me was God commending His Love, and I not seeing anything in it to commend. After I was bent a wave of peace came over me, and the audience sang, ‘I hear Thy welcome Voice.’ And as they sang I thought of the bending at the Judgement Day, and I was filled with compassion for those who would be bent on that day, and I wept.
Henceforth the salvation of souls became the burden of my heart. From that time I was on fire with a desire to go through all Wales, and, if it were possible, I was willing to pay God for allowing me to go. A plan was agreed upon, and eight of us were to go through Wales, and I was to pay all expenses.
“One Saturday afternoon a few of us went to New Quay to confer about the idea. I had only about two hours stay there. I had promised to go back to Newcastle-Emlyn for the sake of one soul. The others remained there and prayed over the plan, but no light came. After the wonderful experience at Blaenannerch I had prayed God to fire six souls in the Church at Newcastle-Emlyn, and six were fired, and straightway I was commissioned home to Loughor. The vision was given me in the Sunday evening service, just before the Rev. E. Phillips began to preach.”
By Dr. Alvin L. Reid
I believe the world is upon the threshold of a great religious revival, and I pray that I may be allowed to help bring this about. I beseech all those who confess Christ to ask Him today, upon their knees, if He has not some work for them to do now. He will lead them all as He has led us. He will make them pillars of smoke by day and pillars of fire by night to guide all men to Him.” –Evan Roberts
One of the first revival movements I ever heard of was the Welsh Revival of 1904-05. Wales has duly been called the “Land of Revival” and the “Land of Song.” Griffith Jones, Howell Harris, Daniel Rowlands, William Williams, and Christmas Evans led earlier awakenings. The 1859 awakening was reported around the world. The land was set ablaze by the Moody-Sankey meetings in the late 19th Century.
In 1904 God again visited this small but significant locale. One of the earliest signs of a growing awakening came in the ministry of pastor Joseph Jenkins at New Quay, Cardiganshire. In November, 1903, he began a Young People’s Meeting to battle their growing worldliness. Jenkins was visited by a shy young girl following an evening service in January, 1904. The following week, the first Sunday in February, Jenkins asked for testimonies during the Young People’s Meeting following the morning service. Then, he asked for responses to the question, “What does Jesus mean to you?”
Her sincere, earnest confession had the effect of a lightning strike of the Spirit in the congregation. Person after person arose and made full surrender to Christ. An early eyewitness of the revival said: “It was the beginning of the visible manifestation of the Spirit breaking out in life-streams which afterwards would touch thousands of souls.”(2) The news of the service spread throughout the area as young people testified in other churches.
Evan Roberts (1878-1951) was the person most recognized in the Welsh Revival. He came from a humble, religious family. As a child, the devout lad took a Bible with him everywhere. Early in his life, he dreamed of revival. While a young coal miner, a page of the Bible was scorched, the page at II Chronicles 6 where Solomon prayed for revival. Perhaps Evan saw this as prophetic, for when he became world-known, the Bible was displayed in photographs around the world.
Roberts heard an evangelist named Seth Joshua speak at Blaednnannerch. The Thursday morning service closed with Joshua praying, “Lord…Bend us.” Roberts went to the front, knelt, and with great anguish cried, “Lord, bend me.” Reflecting on that prayer, he later said that the impact of his commitment had this effect: “I felt ablaze with a desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of my Savior; and had that been possible, I was willing to pay God for doing so.”(3)
Roberts began to go to various towns to speak of his changed life. “Oh, Syd,” he said to his best friend, Sydney Evans, in late 1904, “We are going to see the mightiest revival that Wales has ever known – the Holy Spirit is coming just now.” In great anticipation, he added, “We must get ready. We must get a little band and go all over the country preaching.” Suddenly Roberts stopped, looked at Sydney, and said, “Do you believe that God can give us 100,000 now?”(4)
Within six months, 100,000 souls were converted in Wales.
Social impact was similarly reported. Judges were presented with white gloves signifying no cases to be tried. Alcoholism was halved. At times hundreds of people would stand to declare their surrender to Christ as Lord. Restitution was made, gamblers and others normally untouched by the ministry of the church came to Christ. In fact, esteemed G. Campbell Morgan recalled a conversation with a mine manager about profanity. The manager told him, “The haulers are some of the very lowest. They have driven their horses by obscenity and kicks. Now they can hardly persuade their horses to start working, because they have no obscenity and kicks.”(5)
Do you long to see God move like that in our day? What if, one hundred years later, God so moved in our nation that hundreds of thousands of people, even millions, flooded the churches? If so, remember there is never great, widespread revival without personal revival. Do you seek a personal, deep, Spirit-led movement of God in your life? Then consider these aspects of personal revival taught by Evan Roberts, known as the Four Points:
- You must put away any unconfessed sin.
- You must put away any doubtful habit.
- You must obey the Holy Spirit promptly.
- You must confess Christ publicly.
- May God raise up a generation of people with this passion.
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
During the spring of 1904 a young Welshman named Evan Roberts was repeatedly awakened at 1:00 a.m. He met with God until 5:00 a.m. The Welsh revival followed. Churches were packed for prayer meetings. In a prayer meeting for young people, Pastor Joseph Jenkins asked for testimonies. A young girl named Florrie Evans, who had only been a believer a few days, rose and with a trembling voice said simply, “I love Jesus with all my heart.” The other young people’s hearts were melted. A powerful spiritual awakening that brought 100,000 people to Christ was under way.
On November 7th, 1904 Moraih Chapel was filled to capacity for a prayer meeting that lasted until 3:00 a.m. Soul winning spread through the coalmines. Profane swearing stopped. Even the miners’ horses were puzzled when their masters stopped cursing. Orders to the Bible Society “for Scriptures from Wales during November and December, were over three times the amount for the corresponding months of 1903…” The Times said this resulted from the Welsh revival, adding that this demand showed no sign of falling off.
“The mighty and unseen breath of the Spirit was doing in a month more than centuries of legislation could accomplish” the pastor of Saint John’s-Wood Presbyterian Church declared on Sunday, January 1st, 1905 according to the London Times.The Welsh revival “had a great effect” in healing spiritual carelessness among Christians and “the growing bitterness which has accentuated our unhappy divisions”, the Bishop of Bangor declared on January 2nd, 1905. He called “congregations to meet together often for united prayer.”
The Times added that “the religious revival in Wales continues…with unabated zeal.” Huge crowds were attending the meetings. Bible verses covered the doors down in the coalmines. “At Swansea the Poor Law guardians…dealt with revival cases in which people…have taken their parents from the workhouse. The Welsh revival movement has shown no sign of flagging…”, The Times pointed out on January 10th. Entire congregations were on their knees in fervent prayer and “for the first time there was not a single case of drunkenness at the Swansea Petty Sessions.”
On January 11th The Times noted that David Lloyd-George, who later became the British Prime Minister, said the Welsh revival gave hope “that at the next election Wales would declare with no uncertain sound against the corruption in high places which handed over the destiny of the people to the horrible brewing interest…” Lloyd-George even saw one of his political rallies taken over by the Welsh revival. He was impressed as a young girl prayed in the presence of 2,000 people. He said in one town the tavern sold only 9 cents worth of liquor drinks on Saturday night!
The Times observed that “The whole population had been suddenly stirred by a common impulse. Religion had become the absorbing interest of their lives. They had gathered at crowded services for six and eight hours at a time. Political meetings and even football matches were postponed…quarrels between trade-union workmen and non-unionists had been made up… At Glyn-Neath a feud had existed for the past 10 or 12 years between the two Independent chapels, but during the past week united services have been held in both chapels, and the ministers have shaken hands before the congregations.”
The Salvation Army set apart January 19th, 1905 for a day of confession, humiliation, and prayer throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. All day prayer meetings were held in many of the principal cities of the British Isles, according to the London Times. The meeting was marked by “fervent prayer and any one who felt called upon to pray.” Fires of spiritual revival and moral recovery were spreading.
Coal miners crowed into prayer meetings that lasted till 3:00 a.m. and then washed, ate breakfast and returned to work. Many drunkards confessed their sins and received Christ. According to the London Times of February 2nd, 1905 due to the Welsh revival many men abandoned dens of iniquity. Employers noticed a great improvement in the work produced by their employees. A judge named Sir Marchant Williams said that his work was much lighter especially regarding drunkenness and related offenses.
The revival fires burning in Wales in 1904-05 spread through England, Ireland and Scotland. Prayer meetings multiplied. As many as 2,000 attended a prayer meeting in the city of Bradford. In the City of Leeds, Samuel Chadwick reported that his church was never empty all day. An amazing work of grace transformed life in a factory.
In 1905 a week of united prayer meetings in an English town called Nuneaton led to a “glorious revival”. The Prince’s Theatre was packed each Sunday night after church with 1500 praying believers and many unsaved seekers. In Bulwell, many of the most degraded drunkards were converted. In the Bedfordshire villages, whole nights devoted to prayer prepared for powerful evangelism.
Joseph Kemp, pastor of Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh, visited God’s mighty work of revival in Wales in 1904. Back in his home church on New Year’s Eve, 1905, an unusually fervent prayer meeting led to conviction of sin. A powerful revival that continued for over two years was under way. A strong work of evangelism began. 1,000 inquirers received counseling.
The Irish Presbyterians issued a Call to Prayer. Noonday and evening prayer meetings multiplied. The Irish Methodists and other denominations experienced an unusual spirit of grace and supplications. In Lurgan, revival meetings packed both the First Presbyterian and the Methodist churches. The taverns were emptied while people who had not attended church before come in record numbers and received Christ.
Revival fires spread through Bangor University resulting in “only a third or fourth of the students attending some of the classes… Beginning with a spontaneous outburst of praise and prayer among the men students, the movement spread…at a united prayer meeting…some…broke down sobbing.”
In 1905 when Fred C. Gibson became pastor of 1st Presbyterian Church in Tobormore, County Londonderry, Ireland the little town was morally and spiritually dead. So he signed a covenant with God to seek revival by his preaching and his prayers. In spite of strong resistance, God moved in special meetings that changed the Christians and resulted in remarkable conversions of hardened sinners.
God can do it again. Join with others all over the world in praying for spiritual awakening. Gather a group to pray on the first Monday of each month.
….Within a month he felt compelled to share this message of the reality of God and the possibility of complete forgiveness of sins with his home youth group at Moriah Loughor.
Summing up the message in 4 parts, Evan pressed it home to the astonished church
1. Confess all known sin
2. Deal with and get rid of anything ‘doubtful’ in your life
3. Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly
4. Confess Christ publicly
By the end of the first week over 60 responded. By the end of the second week Evan had already started on a whirl-wind tour of the South Wales valleys with his team of 5 girl singers and within a year or so 100,000 converts were said to be added to the Welsh Church….
Extract from the Evan Roberts Section.
The story of Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival of 1904-5 is the most thrilling, but also the most sad and sobering in all revival history. On the one hand we see one hundred thousand souls in Wales coming to Christ in just nine months, from November 1904 to August 1905. This was the beginning of a world-wide revival that ushered hundreds of thousands more into the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, we see Evan Roberts, the principle revivalist of this move of God, becoming deceived, deluded and finally suffering a nervous breakdown which took him out of the public limelight to live the life of a recluse. Furthermore, the fruits of the revival in Wales (but not world-wide) were soon lost through criticism, fears of deception and a Welsh theology which suppressed the assurance of salvation. Within a generation there were no signs that a revival had ever occurred. Surely there are some important lessons for 21st Century Christians to learn here?
Evan Roberts was born and raised in a Welsh Calvinist Methodist family in Loughor, on the Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire border. As a boy he was unusually serious and very diligent in his Christian life. He memorised verses of the Bible and was a daily attender of Moriah Chapel, a church about a mile from his home. Even at 13 years of age he began to develop a heart for a visitation from God. He later wrote “I said to myself: I will have the Spirit. And through all weathers and in spite of all difficulties I went to the meetings… for ten or eleven years I have prayed for revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit who moved me to think about revival.”
After working in the coal mines and then as a smithy, he entered a preparatory college at Newcastle Emlyn, as a candidate for the ministry. It was 1903 and he was 25 years old.
It was at this time that he sought the Lord for more of His Spirit. He believed that he would be baptised in the Holy Spirit and sometimes his bed shook as his prayers were answered. The Lord began to wake him at 1.00 am for divine fellowship, when he would pray for four hours, returning to bed at 5.00 am for another four hours sleep.
He visited a meeting where Seth Joshua was preaching and heard the evangelist pray “Lord, bend us”. The Holy Spirit said to Evan, “That’s what you need”. At the following meeting Evan experienced a powerful filling with the Holy Spirit. “I felt a living power pervading my bosom. It took my breath away and my legs trembled exceedingly. This living power became stronger and stronger as each one prayed, until I felt it would tear me apart. My whole bosom was a turmoil and if I had not prayed it would have burst…. I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me. My face was bathed in perspiration, and the tears flowed in streams. I cried out “Bend me, bend me!!” It was God’s commending love which bent me… what a wave of peace flooded my bosom…. I was filled with compassion for those who must bend at the judgement, and I wept. Following that, the salvation of the human soul was solemnly impressed on me. I felt ablaze with the desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the saviour”.
Needless to say, his studies began to take second place! He began praying for a hundred thousand souls and had two visions which encouraged him to believe it would happen. He saw a lighted candle and behind it the rising sun. He felt the interpretation was that the present blessings were only as a lighted candle compared with the blazing glory of the sun. Later all Wales would be flooded with revival glory.
The other vision occurred when Evan saw his close friend Sydney Evans staring at the moon. Evan asked what he was looking at and, to his great surprise, he saw it too! It was an arm that seemed to be outstretched from the moon down to Wales. He was in no doubt that revival was on its way.
He then felt led to return to his home town and conduct meetings with the young people of Loughor. With permission from the minister, he began the meetings, encouraging prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit on Moriah. The meetings slowly increased in numbers and powerful waves of intercession swept over those gathered.
During those meetings the Holy Spirit gave Evan four requirements that were later to be used throughout the coming revival:
1. Confession of all known sin
2. Repentance and restitution
3. Obedience and surrender to the Holy Spirit
4. Public confession of Christ
The Spirit began to be outpoured. There was weeping, shouting, crying out, joy and brokeness. Some would shout out, “No more, Lord Jesus, or I’ll die”. This was the beginning of the Welsh Revival.
The meetings then moved to wherever Evan felt led to go. Those travelling with him were predominately female and the young girls would often begin meetings with intense intercession, urging surrender to God and by giving testimony. Evan would often be seen on his knees pleading for God’s mercy, with tears. The crowds would come and be moved upon by wave after wave of the Spirit’s presence. Spontaneous prayer, confession, testimony and song erupted in all the meetings. Evan, or his helpers , would approach those in spiritual distress and urge them to surrender to Christ. No musical instruments were played and, often, there would be no preaching. Yet the crowds continued to come and thousands professed conversion.
The meetings often went on until the early hours of the morning. Evan and his team would go home, sleep for 2–3 hours and be back at the pit-head by 5 am, urging the miners coming off night duty to come to chapel meetings.
The revival spread like wildfire all over Wales. Other leaders also experienced the presence of God. Hundreds of overseas visitors flocked to Wales to witness the revival and many took revival fire back to their own land. But the intense presence began to take its toll on Evan. He became nervous and would sometimes be abrupt or rude to people in public meetings. He openly rebuked leaders and congregations alike.
Though he was clearly exercising spiritual gifts and was sensitive to the Holy Spirit , he became unsure of the “voices” he was hearing. The he broke down and withdrew from public meetings. Accusation and criticism followed and further physical and emotional breakdown ensued.
Understandably, converts were confused. Was this God? Was Evan Roberts God’s man or was he satanically motivated? He fell into a deep depression and in the spring of 1906 he was invited to convalesce at Jessie Penn-Lewis’ home at Woodlands in Leicester.
It is claimed that Mrs Penn Lewis used Evan’s name to propagate her own ministry and message. She supposedly convinced him he was deceived by evil spirits and, over the next few years co-authorised with Evan “War on the Saints”, which was published in 1913. This book clearly delineates the confusion she had drawn Evan into. It left its readers totally wary of any spiritual phenomena of any kind or degree. Rather than giving clear guidelines regarding discerning satanic powers, it brought into question anything that may be considered, or that might be described, as Holy Spirit activity. Within a year of its publication, Evan Roberts denounced it, telling friends that it had been a failed weapon which had confused and divided the Lord’s people.
Evan stayed at the Penn-Lewis’ home for eight years, giving himself to intercession and private group counselling. Around 1920 Evan moved to Brighton and lived alone until he returned to his beloved Wales, when his father fell ill in 1926. He began to visit Wales again and eventually moved there in 1928 when his father died.
Nothing much is known of the years that followed. Evan finally died at the age of 72 and was buried behind Moriah Chapel on Jan 29th 1951.
May his life be both an example and a warning to all those who participate in revival to maintain humility; keep submissive to the Spirit; be accountable to godly men and women; remain true to their calling; use the gifts God has given, but be wise in the stewardship of their body.
Bibliography An Instrument of Revival, Brynmor Pierce-Jones 1995, published by Bridge Publishing (ISBN 0-88270-667-5).