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

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Daily Chronicle -December 13th, 1904

Revival in the West

W. T. Stead

About This Article

We found this document reprinted in the Elim Evangel, dated Jan 21, 1984. Its subheading was ‘A famous Fleet Street journalist, W. T. Stead went to see for himself what was happening in Wales in 1904. This account, originally reported in the “Daily Chronicle” on December 13th, 1904, gives a trained observer’s view of the Welsh Revival.’

inside Moriah Chapel

The view inside Moriah Chapel
Revival In The West

W. T. Stead

AS spring-time precedes summer, and seed-time harvest, so every great onward step in the social and political progress of Great Britain has ever been preceded by a national Revival of Religion. The sequence is as unmistakable as it [is] invariable.

Hence it is not necessary to be Evangelical, Christian, or even religious to regard with keen interest every stirring of popular enthusiasm that takes the familiar form of a Revival. Men may despise it, hate it, or fear it, but there is no mistaking its significance. It is the precursor of progress, the herald of advance. It may be as evanescent as the blossom of the orchard, but without it there would be no fruit.

After attending three prolonged services at Mardy, a village of 5,000 inhabitants, lying on the other side of Pontypridd, I found the flame of Welsh religious enthusiasm as smokeless as its coal.

There are no advertisements, no brass bands, no posters, no huge tents. All the paraphernalia of the got-up job are conspicuous by their absence.

Neither is there any organization, nor is there a director, at least none that is visible to the human eye. In the crowded chapels they even dispense with instrumental music. On Sunday night no note issued from the organ pipes. There was no need of instrument, for in and around and above and beneath surged the all-pervading thrill and throb of a multitude praying, and singing as they prayed.

The vast congregations were as soberly sane. As orderly, and at least as reverent as any congregation I ever saw beneath the dome of St. Paul’s, when I used to go to hear Canon Liddon, the Chrysostom of the English pulpit. But it was aflame with a passionate religious enthusiasm, the like of which I have never seen in St Paul’s. Tier above tier, from the crowded aisles to the loftiest gallery, sat or stood, as necessity dictated, eager hundreds of serious men and thoughtful women, their eyes riveted upon the platform or upon whatever other part of the building was the storm centre of the meeting.

There was absolutely nothing wild, violent, hysterical, unless it be hysterical for the labouring breast to heave with sobbing that cannot be repressed, and the throat to choke with emotion as a sense of the awful horror and shame of a wasted life suddenly bursts upon the soul. On all sides there was the solemn gladness of men and women upon whose eyes has dawned the splendour of a new day, the foretaste of whose glories they are enjoying in the quickened sense of human fellowship and a keen glad zest added to their own lives.

The most thorough-going materialist who resolutely and for ever rejects as inconceivable the existence of the soul in man, and to whom “the universe is but the infinite empty eye-socket of a dead God,” could not fail to be impressed by the pathetic sincerity of these men; nor, if he were just, could he refuse to recognize that out of their faith in the creed which he has rejected they have drawn, and are drawing, a motive power that makes for righteousness, and not only for righteousness, but for the joy of living, that he would be powerless to give them.

Employers tell me that the quality of the work the miners are putting in has improved. Waste is less, men to go their daily toil with a new spirit of gladness in their labour. In the long dim galleries of the mine, where once the hauliers swore at their ponies in Welshified English terms of blasphemy, there is now but to be heard the haunting melody of the Revival music. The pit ponies, like the American mules, having been driven by oaths and curses since they first bore the yoke, are being re-trained to do their work without the incentive of profanity.

There is less drinking, less idleness, less gambling. Men record with almost incredulous amazement how one football player after another has foresworn cards and drink and the gladiatorial games, and is living a sober and godly life, putting his energy into the Revival. More wonderful still and almost incredible to those who know how journalism lives and thrives upon gambling, and how Toryism is broad-based upon the drinking habits of the people, the Tory daily paper of South Wales has devoted its columns day after day to reporting and defending the movement which declares war to the death against both gambling and drink.

How came this strange uplift of the earnestness a whole community? Who can say? The wind bloweth where it listeth. Some tell You one thing, some another. All agree that it began some few months ago in Cardiganshire, eddied hither and thither spreading like fire from valley to valley, until as one observer said to me, “Wherever it came from, or however it began, all South Wales today is in a flame.”

In Mardy I attended three meetings on Sunday — two and a half hours in the morning, two and a half hours in the afternoon, and two hours at night, when I had to leave to catch the train. At all these meetings the same kind of thing went on — the same kind of congregations assembled, the same strained, intense emotion was manifest. Aisles were crowded. Pulpit stairs were packed and two-thirds of the congregation were men, and at least one-half young men.

“There,” said one, “is the hope and the glory of the movement” Here and there is a grey head. But the majority of the congregation were stalwart young miners, who gave the meeting all the fervour and swing and enthusiasm of youth. The Revival had been going on in Mardy for a fortnight. All the churches had been holding services every night with great results. At the Baptist Church they had to report the addition of nearly fifty members, fifty were waiting for baptism, thirty-five backsliders had been reclaimed.

In Mardy the fortnight’s services had resulted in five hundred conversions. And this, be it noted, when each place of worship was going “on its own.”

[The remainder of this article is available on the CD-ROM which can be purchased shortly]

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