The Welsh Revival Welsh Revival The Welsh Revival 1904
Welsh Revival 1904


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“God Hath Visited His People”

Remarkable events in Wales (by the Editor)

God brings round his seasons in the spiritual world as in the natural, and there is none of them that we can afford to do without. Each has its proper purpose and use. Character, for its full formation, needs it winter as well as its springtime, and its storms and its zephyrs alike. The main thing is to see to it that, by wise and careful husbandry, we take good value out of each vicissitude in its time.

“There is no reason to doubt,” says Bushnell, “that God is framing the plan or system of His spiritual agencies, ordained fluctuations and changing types of spiritual experience, that He might at intervals take advantage of novelty in arresting and swaying the minds of men. These are the springtimes of His truth, otherwise in danger of uniform staleness. Thus He rouses the spiritual lethargy of men and communities, and sways their will to Himself, by aid of scenes and manifestations not ordinary or familiar. Nor is it anything derogatory to the Divine agency in this case, that the spiritual spring cannot remain perpetual; for there is a progress in God’s works, and He goes on through change and multiform culture to ripen His ends…

“Not that the Christian is allowed at some times to be less religious than at others. He is under God’s authority, and bound by His law, at all times: he must answer to God for each moment and thought of his life. His covenant oath consecrates all his life to God, and stipulates for no intermission of service. It is his duty and privilege ever to be filled with the Spirit: God will never leave His temple except He is driven away by profanation. The Christian is as much under obligation at one time as at another, though not under obligation to be ever doing the same things. No intermission, no wavering or slackness, is permitted him; nay, he is bound to increase, or gather strength in his religious principles, every day and hour of his existence. God favours and appoints different moods, or kinds, of religious interest, but not backsliding or declensions or religious principle. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. Three are diversities of operations, but it is the same God who worketh all and in all.”
While thus guarding against the thought of the manifestations of the Welsh Revival, with his high tension, being a permanent condition, we rejoice in it exceedingly as a notable recurrence of God’s spiritual spring-time. Let us dismiss at once the thought of spiritual declension being necessary between such periods: our Lord can always keep us filled with His Spirit and loyal to His cause; but let us hail most heartily this special display of His grace and power, and pray and labour for its extension over all the land.

Truly God has visited His people in Wales. It is not a question of one town being awakened, but of the whole Principality being on fire. Profanity silenced, public?houses deserted, theatres closed, betting books burned, football teams disbanded, police courts idle, family feuds pacified, old-standing debts paid, sectarianism and ecclesiasticism submerged, the family altar re-erected, and Bible study become a passion – it is certainly a wonderful record. “This is the finger of God.” Not only does it hold large place in the religious weeklies, but the chief Cardiff journals give columns to the Revival each day, and some of the principal London papers give a full column every morning. It is “the Acts of the Apostles up to date,” as Gipsy Smith says.

One is struck with the simple spontaneity of it all. There is no great outstanding instrument of blessing, and little of organisation. An indefinable influence pervades the country, and awakes to action in the services through the mere reading of a passage, of the singing of a well-known hymn, or the inelegant prayer of a collier or a country maiden. The ministers, even when in sympathy, take little part: routine and system are tabooed, and prim sermons quite at a discount: the meetings, often prolonged through the whole night, seem to conduct themselves. “Disorder,” one would say. But no: from all accounts it is clear that there is a controlling spiritual power that dominates and directs in all. Everywhere stress is laid upon the personality and operation of the Holy Ghost – “the Pure Spirit,” as the name reads in Welsh.

This was a feature that specially appealed to a London journalist, who visited the scene of the Revival one Sunday in December. “The most extraordinary thing about the meetings I attended,” he writes, “was the extent to which they were absolutely without any human direction or leadership. ‘We must obey the Spirit’ is the watchword of Evan Roberts, and he is as obedient as the humblest of his followers. The meetings open – after any amount of singing while the congregation is assembling – by the reading of a chapter or a psalm. Then it is go-as-you-please for two hours or more. And the amazing thing is that it does go, and does not seem to get entangled in what might seem to be inevitable confusion. Three-fourths of the meeting consists of singing. No one uses a hymn-book. No one gives out a hymn. The last person to control the meetings in any way is Mr Evan Roberts. People pray and sing, give testimony, exhort as the Spirit moves them. As a study of the psychology of crowds, I have seen nothing like it. You feel that the thousand or fifteen hundred persons before you have become merged into one myriad-headed but single-souled personality.”

The new theology is swamped, and sectarianism reduced to its proper level. “There is one lesson,” says The Christian, “to be learned from the Revival in Wales, which it is to be hoped will not be overlooked by the Church of Christ, viz, the breaking down of the barriers of sect. The separating walls are in most cases built up only of non-essentials; but, unhappily, they frequently are strong enough to impede spiritual waves. When the flood-tide of a great Revival comes they are swept away, and men clasp hands in the common blessing and joy. Why should they ever be rebuilt? The necessary separation is that ‘unto the gospel of God’.”

The rise of the movement is associated with the name of Evan Roberts, a young Welshman of twenty-six years, who had left the coal-pit to study for the ministry. Last September he received that baptism of the Spirit which he been seeking for thirteen months, and, under Divine impulsion, suspended his studies and went to preach the Gospel at his home. Artless, shy, and unassuming, discouraging any dependence on his personality, he points people beyond himself to the Divine Agent who is at work in the land; and the course of the Revival seems in no way tied to the movements of the evangelist. No one speaks of him as an orator. Living in the sphere of the eternal realities, he talks simply of them in his native tongue, as child might. For instance:

“You desire an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your District? Well four conditions must be observed. They are essential – mark the word, essential.
(1) Is there any sin in your past that you have not confessed to God? On your knees at once! Your past must be put away and cleansed.

(2) Is there anything in your life that is doubtful – anything you cannot decide whether it is good or evil? Away with it! There must not be a trace of a cloud between you and God. Have you forgiven everybody – EVERYBODY? If not, don’t expect forgiveness for your own sins: you won't get it.

(3) Do what the Spirit prompts. Obedience – prompt, implicit, unquestioning obedience to the Spirit. Better offend ten thousand friends than quench the Spirit of God.
(4) A public confession of Christ as your Saviour. There is a vast difference between profession and confession.

You praise the Father, praise the Son; why don’t you praise the Holy Spirit? You speak of Him as ‘something’! The Spirit has been smothered in hundreds of our churches. Quench not the Spirit. When the fire burns, it purifies, and when purified you are useful in the work of God.”

There arises the question – What is to be done with the fruits of this movement? “Bend the churches and save the people” has been one of its watchwords; and truly, from all accounts, the churches have been wonderfully bent. The Spirit of the Lord has broken up, as Rev John McNeill writes, “that which we value far too much – this deadly, dull, respectable formality, that passes for Christian worship and Christian work.” But, unless we are mistaken, the religious systems as a whole must be prepared for permanent transformation, and must seek to adapt and accommodate themselves to this new spirit of life. To attempt to organise the work into forced conformity to the old types, corking up the “new wine” in “old bottles,” must be a fatal course. As Mr Lloyd George, MP, points out, in wishing God speed to the Revival:- “The most important thing to urge in connection with it is that the religious leaders of Wales should see, in time, that the great forces which have been aroused into activity should not be wasted in mere outburst of emotion. Let them in time overhaul their denominational machinery, and adapt it to the new and greater demand upon its resources which has been created by this remarkable upheaval, which seems to be rocking Welsh life like an earthquake.”

This is no passing enthusiasm. The Welsh are poetical, but no hysterical; well informed, sober, intelligent. Their best moral and religious impulses in the past two centuries have sprung from movement such as this.

And there are evidences already that the Revival is not merely local. The Welsh community in London is wakening, and there is a stirring of new life in some of the English counties. Mr Roberts has Divine assurance that the movement is to be worldwide. Among ourselves there has been the impression that the special prayers of the past two years are about to be answered. Pilgrim Lyall’s article of this month was prepared before the Welsh Revival was heard of. Unheard of was it also when the day of prayer for revival was announced in our October number. Is the answer to our prayers upon us?

We cannot do better than close with Mrs Penn-Lewis’s words:-

“All that we read of this work in Wales must awaken a great longing in many hearts for such a movement of God all over Great Britain. Oh that individual churches would suspend ordinary services, and appoint gatherings for prayer until the same Holy Spirit breaks forth in their midst? Does this seeking unto God in prayer not correspond to the ten days of prayer by the hundred and twenty before Pentecost, until the Holy Spirit comes? Dr John Smith pointed out at Keswick, that He is the Eternal Spirit ‘which proceedeth’ – ie. is eternally and ceaselessly proceeding – ‘from the Father’ into the world. He is ready to pour into every soul, and every church, and every town, in answer to united prayer. He must and will respond, as He is honoured and given His place among men. He is ‘the Executive Power of the Godhead,’ in charge of the Church of Christ on earth. He will manifest Himself as soon as He is recognised and given His place. ‘OH, SPIRIT OF BURNING, COME!’”

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