Welsh Revival 1904-05

The spiritual state of Wales before the 1904-5 revival was not good; mind you it was a whole load better than it is today! For the last twenty years or so there had been new theologies springing up on the back of Darwin’s book, ‘the Origin of the Species’. The truths of orthodox theology were put away and replaced by liberalism and this had quite deep roots in the Universities of the day, so many of the new ministers were expounding this nonsense just before the revival. However, on this occasion, God was to show up in a mighty way and halt liberalism in its tracks. Oh how we need Him to come and do the same thing again in our time!

There were signs that God was up to something as early as 1900 as there was a considerable amount of prayer going on around Wales in what were known as prayer circles. You can almost see how the Lord was getting his pieces on the board ready to move them when the time was right. Apart from the prayer circles there were several future leaders who were getting into position. The first was W S Jones (photo) who came back to Wales, to Carmarthen from America in 1898. He was a Baptist minister who was transformed by two encounters with God in which he had a ‘deep understanding of the holiness of God and the fire penetrated his whole nature.’ This was the Baptism of Fire and the people who I have read about who experienced this went from being an ordinary preacher to an extraordinary one and one having a passion to save souls. 

In 1900 W W Lewis, a Calvinistic Methodist moved to Carmarthen and joined up with W S Jones and Keri Evans, a Congregationalist, to regularly pray together to deepen their spiritual lives. In August 1903 the three of them went to the first Keswick Convention in Wales, where the teaching was about the need for a second Baptism, sanctification, and holiness. Three other leaders of the revival were there, R B Jones, O Owen and Seth Joshua and all of them either before, during or after the Convention received the Baptism of Fire.

God had prepared at least 8 leaders with the Baptism of Fire so He could send them across Wales as flaming arrows, setting it on fire!

In the summer of 1903 there was a definite sign that God was on the move. In the spring four teenagers at the Pencoed Baptist church had begun meeting to pray on top of a hill. Slowly, others joined them until by the summer the church and the surrounding area were caught up in a revival.

Meanwhile, Joseph Jenkins, the minister at the Tabernacle Calvinistic Methodist church in New Quay, who was soon to light the main fire, was very unhappy with the decline in spirituality in Wales in general and in himself in particular. He recognised that his preaching was not good enough and it did not have the results he hoped for. He then spoke to one of the ministers who had been to the Keswick Convention and learned about the blessings that many had received there and then he met up with W W Lewis who had experienced the Baptism of Fire. Jenkins then set up a series of five conferences to help deepen the spiritual lives of people. Meanwhile, he spent hours in prayer to find a breakthrough that would change him. 

“He refused to lose his grip on His Lord until He had blessed him, and indeed he was blessed for he was clothed with strength from above, and he knew it. And then, when he rose from his knees a strange blue flame took hold of him until he was almost completely covered. It rose, as far as he could gather, from the floor of the room and billowed up, encircling him” 

Jenkins had received the Baptism of Fire and the first conference was held in his church, in January 1904. Nearly two months later, after the Sunday evening service, a young woman called Florrie Evans followed Jenkins home and said that she really feared the domination of the world in her life, she longed for peace and joy. Jenkins told her to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over her life. The following Sunday there were 60 at the young people’s meeting and Jenkins asked them to give a testimony of their spiritual experiences. After a moment Florrie Evans rose to say, ‘I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart.’ The Spirit of God descended, the whole meeting was reduced to tears and two more young people declared for Christ. This I believe was the beginning of the 1904 Welsh Revival. The young people were on fire and they went around the local churches to share the blessing.

The second conference was at Abera(e)ron in July and then the evangelist, Seth Joshua arrived in September and wrote, ‘I found a remarkable revival spirit’. ‘I have never seen the Holy Spirit so powerfully manifested.’ Over that week the revival was in full flow, it had begun in February, but it needed the evangelist to add fuel for it to become a raging fire.

Back in the summer some students from Dowla{i}s were holidaying at New Quay and experiencing the revival, took it back home with them and in July and August a big revival burst out in two sister Baptist churches in Pen-y-Darren and Dowlais. The pastor of the former recollected: 

‘I convened a special Sunday evening service for young people who desired to possess a deeper spiritual life. The Holy Spirit came down and took possession of that meeting and overwhelmed us all with power from on high. On another usual Sunday evening service the Spirit descended in the same remarkable manner; I could hardly speak, so manifest was the presence of God. There was such power in the words I spoke that strong men were broken in pieces. That night several young men gave themselves to the Lord.’ 

From New Quay, Seth Joshua went to do a four-day conference at Newcastle Emlyn. Here, at a school for men training for ordination, were two leaders of the revival, Sidney Evans and his friend Evan Roberts. Many received salvation during these meetings and Sidney Evans was Baptised in Holy Spirit. Overlapping these meetings was the third Jenkins conference which was being held for two days at the Calvinistic Church, Blaenannerch. Several of the New Quay young people had travelled to take part in both conferences.

W W Lewis spoke on the first day in Blaenannerch and Evan Roberts, who was there, felt an anticipation that the fire would fall. At the 7.00 am meeting the following day Seth Joshua (who had come across at the end of his conference) closed the time in prayer and included a request for God to ‘Bend us’. Roberts was significantly impacted by those two words. 

At the 9.00 am meeting, Roberts knew he had to pray. He kept asking Holy Spirit when he should pray. As different people took it in turn to pray, the pressure built up in Roberts until he burst out. ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!’ Speaking about his experience that morning, he said ‘It was God commending His love that bent me…Then the fearful bending of Judgement Day came to my mind and I was filled with compassion for those who must bend at the judgement, and I wept… I felt ablaze with a desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the Saviour.’ 

Evan Roberts had for years been a travailing prayer and had had many amazing encounters with God. Here I believe he was experiencing the Baptism of Fire like most of the other leaders of this revival. 

A week later on October 6th Roberts said to his friend Sidney Evans, ‘I had a vision of all Wales lifted up to heaven. We are going to see the mightiest revival that Wales has ever known – and the Holy Spirit is coming just now. We must get ready. We must have a little band and go over all the country preaching”. “Do you believe that God can give us 100,000 souls now?”   

Over the next few weeks Roberts felt that he needed to go back to his home church, the Calvinistic Methodist, Moriah Chapel, Loughor. On Monday, October 31st the principal of the school gave him permission to return to evangelise the lost. 

On his arrival in Loughor his family noticed the change in him, even the way he talked was different. His brother Dan told him that his eyes were very weak, but Evan prophesied that they would be healed and they were. He sat down at the organ and began to play, but he burst into tears and said ‘Dan, you shall see there will be a great change in Loughor in less than a fortnight. We are going to have the greatest Revival Wales has ever seen.’ He then got permission to hold his meetings and the first one, with seventeen young people, was held that night. Roberts told of what had been happening in New Quay and Newcastle Emlyn and asked them all to make a public confession of Christ. It was a hard meeting as the young people had to overcome their familiarity with Roberts and the traditions of the day. He pressed in and after a long time they each made a confession, including his brother and three sisters. It was noticed that he had changed, in that he used to be shy and nervous, but now he came to meetings with boldness and confidence. This victory, like most victories, did not come without contention. Satan invaded Roberts with doubts about his abilities and his right to lead the meetings.

The following day the meeting was at Pisgah where some of those at the meeting the previous night testified to how changed they felt after their public confession. The confession seems to have opened their hearts to the work of Holy Spirit. Six more made open confession that night. The meeting lasted three hours and consisted of confession, prayer and testimony. The training Roberts had received over the previous weeks bore fruit in these meetings, as he would only do what Holy Spirit was bidding. This was also a feature of the coming meetings.

The format of the meetings was a reading, a hymn, prayers and then Roberts would talk about ‘1. If there is sin or sins hitherto unconfessed, we cannot receive the Spirit. Therefore we must search and ask the Spirit to search. 2. If there is anything doubtful in our lives, it must be removed – anything we were uncertain about its rightness or wrongness. That thing must be removed. 3. An entire giving up of ourselves to the Spirit. We must speak and do all He requires of us. 4. Public confession of Christ.’

The meetings continued with some success and the word got around the neighbourhood that the Spirit was stirring. The meeting on Friday was the largest so far, with old as well as young and Baptists as well as Congregationalists joining the Calvinistic Methodists. The meetings became a topic of conversation, with some criticising the new method and some Roberts’ state of mind. The power of the Spirit in the meetings was becoming stronger and the Saturday meeting lasted for over five hours. Sixty confessed Christ at the Sunday meeting and it was here that he taught them the prayer ‘Send the Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.’

By November 7th, the start of the second week; people in the town were convinced that some irresistible power was gradually taking hold of the people. At 7.00 pm there was a prayer meeting and the chapel was filled to bursting. After speaking on the last chapter of Malachi, Roberts asked some of those who had not made a public confession of Christ, to do so. After a number had complied with his request, nearly everyone was moved to tears and many cried loudly and wept in agony. ‘Those present this night have no doubt that they heard some powerful noise, and felt the place filled with the Divine Presence. The people one after the other fell in agony, because of their souls’ condition. …The next step is more wonderful still. Evan Roberts asked them to pray the “Direct Prayer,” as he calls it. “Send the Holy Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.” He prayed it firstly, then everyone in the meeting was to pray it in turn. When it was about half-way the second time, the whole audience gave way before some irresistible influence, and now the state of things is beyond any description.’ The meeting went on for eight hours.

The Tuesday meeting was very hard. Many left by three, then Roberts called together those remaining. After a considerable struggle, Holy Spirit descended and he got home around 7.00am. He was awakened at around 11.00 am with his mother screaming out that she was dying. She had felt so bad about leaving the chapel before the end of the meeting that Evan helped her in prayer until she found peace.

From the Wednesday Roberts started to hold meetings away from Moriah and it was to be a long time before he came there again.He was invited to hold the service at Brynteg Congregational Chapel, Gorseinon, and Holy Spirit broke out there as well. He was in the same place on Thursday night and it was a very powerful meeting with people coming from further afield. For the first time a reporter from the Western Mail was at a meeting. The newspaper reported that shops were closing early to ensure that the owners got a seat and the tin and steel workers were arriving in their work clothes. They went on to cover virtually every meeting for some weeks and covered them very sympathetically.

Some students from Ammanford came to one of the meetings, caught the fire and started meetings at Bethany Chapel, but the fire was not of the same intensity, so they invited Roberts to come.

On the Friday the meeting was held at Moriah Chapel, Loughor again and over 650 attended, including several ministers from surrounding districts. On Saturday a long article was published in the Western Mail that was very sympathetic to what was happening in the meetings. This article brought about an invitation from a chapel in Aberdare for Roberts to preach on the Sunday; an invitation he accepted. By now prayer meetings were being held in some houses in Loughor all day long. Two girls went to hold open-air meetings near some public houses in Gorseinon and some young people went to evangelise some gypsies who had encamped near Loughor. In both places there were salvations.

That night the new chapel was filled long before the time to begin the service, so Roberts asked his friend Sydney Evans, who had just returned from Newcastle Emlyn, to take the overflow into the old chapel. However, in minutes that was full as well. Several of the people there that night had come to scoff, but ended up giving their lives to Christ. It was past 5.00 am when the people went home.

During these two weeks the fire was burning in other parts of Wales. Joseph Jenkins had a good deal of success with his meetings and he arrived at Ammanford to find the fire that had started beginning to wane. After a series of meetings the fire rekindled and when Seth Joshua arrived on November 19th the fire burst into flame. Another flame of the Revival was in Tonypandy in the Rhondda. Holy Spirit had been stirring since the beginning of 1904 at Trinity, an English speaking (the other chapels so far mentioned were Welsh speaking) Calvinistic Methodist chapel. By October 600 had given their lives to Christ.

The next night a reporter from the Western Mail showed up and wrote a long sympathetic piece about the revival and the paper covered all his meetings for weeks. This is why Evan Roberts is known as the face of the revival. At 26, single and not tied down to a church like most pastors, he was a very attractive figure as far as the press were concerned. The more they wrote about him the more invitations he got and the more famous he became. However, remember that he was not really doing anything more than many others except he had the freedom to visit wherever he wanted.   

It is time to turn our attention to North Wales, to Penuel Baptist Church in Rhos. Early in 1904, Rosina Davies held a successful mission in the town. Also, the beginning of a revival started in June in the Baptist church at Ponciau just half a mile away. 

On November 8th, when Roberts was just into his second week of meetings, R B Jones began a ten-day mission here. R B Jones had been Baptised with Fire after the Keswick style Convention and had been going around the country teaching mainly on holiness. Before his experience with God he was considered a very good preacher, but afterwards he was an exceptionally powerful one. 

God had prepared the ground, so the revival broke out immediately and spread around the district. As with Roberts, R B Jones was always led by Holy Spirit. The Rhos meetings were also covered by the press. So you see, God prepares the ground, often over a large area – in this case the whole of Wales and it is up to us to recognise what He is doing and step into it.

Here is a wonderful, personal account of a churchgoer who found Jesus, like so many thousands of others:

'One Sunday evening in our church, as November was drawing to a close, an announcement was made that Siloah Congregational Chapel was open daily for such meetings as the miners on the night shift cared to attend. A meeting for the miners at such a chapel was certainly a novelty, but all were warmly invited. I thought it would be a novelty to attend, especially if these illiterate miners—as many of them were reputed to be—would make known their experiences in the revival. At that time the town was only partially influenced by the revival—the floodtide came later. The twenty-third of November proved to be my day of destiny. It was a Wednesday morning, I believe when I thought of the services in Siloah Chapel again. Little did I dream that there lay buried in that unobtrusive reminder a veritable revolution. 

As I recall, I had no urgent business engagements that morning. There was no presentiment of an approaching crisis in my life. It was like any other morning except that I felt listless and aimless. About nine-thirty, I left my room and walked toward the centre of the town, puffing nonchalantly at my fragrant cigar. My thoughts were heavy; an inexplicable sadness was in my heart. When I reached the square, involuntarily I turned in the direction of the main street. On this street there lived a dear friend of mine, an accomplished pianist, oboe player and organist. His home was our rendezvous when practicing some of the oratorio solos for our great competitive meetings. Scarcely ever did I pass that door without entering. As I was passing, my friend came out, hailed me joyfully, and urged me to come in for a song. But there was no song in my heart, so I declined, and sauntered aimlessly onward.

Reaching the end of the street I hesitated, not knowing which direction to take. There was not the faintest thought in my mind regarding divine guidance, neither had I asked for any.  Where should I go? If I took the left turn, it would lead through the poorer streets back to my home. Surely I did not intend to return home. If I went to the right, the road would lead to Trecynon—the place where I had first contacted the revival and where its fires were still burning. No ! that did not seem to be my direction. Should I turn back again and visit my friend in the music store? Yes, that seemed to be the way.

When I was in the act of following that impulse, someone seemed to whisper, No, you must go straight forward. Without more ado, I crossed the road, took the street that lay before me, and went on to my Bethel, the church where the revival services were.

Those who were familiar with the neighbourhood know how poor were the houses surrounding this fine Congregational church. Undoubtedly when the church was erected, the locality was different. To reach this church, where Silyn Evans ministered to a large congregation, it was necessary to pass through this neighbourhood contrast. I went quietly and unconcernedly, wondering what power was leading me in this strange direction. I was to make the greatest discovery of my life, the greatest in time and for eternity!

Familiar revival melodies reached my ears. It seemed as if an angelic choir had come from heaven to drown earth’s sorrows in a sea of song. It was marvellous! Could the singers be miners? The sweetness of the air, “O! say, will you take up your cross? O! say will you take up your cross ?“ captured me. Yes, I was actually turning the little refrain over in my mind when I met a young woman, greatly agitated. She was well known to me. But what power had stirred her to the extent that she seemed beside herself? This was so unusual for her that I felt startled. Had someone molested, insulted, or frightened her? That could hardly be on such a bright, snowy morning, with the sun bathing the old earth with majestic glory. With an appealing tremble in her voice she exclaimed, “You must come—you must come at once—you must come at once to the revival !“She pointed excitedly to Siloah Chapel, the source of the glorious music. “It is wonderful—wonderful—in there! Come quick !“ Amazement took hold of me. For once in my life the power of speech deserted me-I simply looked on. I must have looked at her incredulously for she persisted in exclaiming, “It is wonderful—wonderful—wonderful !“ Like one in a dream, I accompanied her to the chapel—or rather, the vestry door. Again the rapture of the singing thrilled me. Lustily they sang,

"The law has now been crowned

Stern justice stands exalted

The Father calls us blessed through the blood

And Zion has been ransomed through the blood"

Such marvellous singing, quite extempore, could only be created by a supernatural power, and that power the divine Holy Spirit. No choir, no conductor, no organ—just spontaneous, unctionized soul-singing! 

An irresistible attraction, resembling a tremendous magnetic force, drew us inside the vestry. All the seats were occupied, except a few right in the front. Directed by this woman, I tiptoed up the aisle to a seat. It must have been about ten o’clock and lo! the vestry was a mass of worshipers absorbed in the adoration of God. Almost as soon as we were seated, the woman slipped to her knees, breaking forth in such passionate prayer as I had scarcely ever heard, certainly not outside of the revival meetings. No one would have credited her with such eloquence. Indeed, no one had ever heard her engage in public prayer. Words poured from her lips. She was like Gad of old, of whom it was prophesied that “a troop shall overcome him; but he shall overcome at last.” The power of God had overwhelmed her, and she was now overcoming. All shyness, timidity, frailty, and human weakness had vanished.

Petrified with fear, I wondered what was going to happen next. I became conscious of one thing, that I was sitting perilously near the “fire”— nearer than ever before in my life. What could I do? Escape? Even if contemplated, that would have been an ungracious act, if not cowardly. Besides, had I not been somewhat familiar with these unearthly proceedings during my visit to the revival in Trecynon? This was only another edition—a second edition of the services which had so intrigued me in Ebenezer. This woman’s prayer continued in fervency and passion. Seriously reflecting upon the situation which was momentarily developing into a spiritual crisis before my eyes, I could only indulge in a quiet, inward, mental observation: What a place is this! Everybody seemed to have been affected by this prayer, for all were engaging in intercession, without let or hindrance. One person, with a yearning for communion with God, had mightily moved this congregation heavenward. It would need more bravado than bravery for any man to have dared to interfere with this inrush of divine power.

Singing, sobbing, praying intermingled and proceeded without intermission. When this glorious commotion seemed to have reached a peak, there came through the air a small melodious voice softly singing, “Come to Jesus; come to Jesus; come to Jesus now.” It persisted until the people joined in the sweet refrain, inviting sinners to take the irrevocable step that meant salvation. It must have commenced in one of the back seats. But all hearts were soon completely captivated. People joined heartily in the invitation which echoed and re-echoed through the building… 

My poor mind was tossed about with every extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s working upon the hearts and minds of these people. Sometimes I felt like shouting; again I felt like doubting. At all times I was puzzled. There was no gainsaying the fact that the prayers of these comparatively illiterate people must have been divinely inspired; one felt convinced that simple, ordinary worshipers of themselves could never have composed such sublime sentences as were expressed. The petitions were divinely indited. [sic] Some of them fell upon my spirit like red-hot coals, and I was troubled.

My heart became heavy. Almost unaware of what I was doing, I sighed continually. The burden increased with the progress of this service until I felt myself crushed. From some part of the building came the words: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.” Surely He was “near” enough just then, never so near as at that moment. But the voice continued with emotion, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord.”

I could not but feel that this call to “return” was meant for me, although I had not the faintest idea how to “return.” Morally there was no need for me to do so; but spiritually—ah! that was where I felt pinched and humiliated. Inwardly I was convinced that I had “come short of the glory of God” in spite of my boasted morality. “And he will have mercy upon him,” went on the voice; then, as if in a mighty crescendo: “And to our God, for HE WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON!“ These words produced a great effect upon my disturbed mind; I hesitated—Jacob-like, I halted on my “shrunken thigh.

In every prayer there seemed to be Scripture for me— I was literally “mobbed” with the words of God. Beyond a doubt it was the ministry of the Holy Spirit "Comfort ye my people, saith the Lord," said another. And was I not in desperate need of some comforting word at that moment. Heavier and still heavier became the burden. Lower and still lower drooped my proud head. Sometimes I felt like falling in a heap on the floor, bewailing my state. Two were praying, a man and a woman. The first was evidently making his great surrender, for he was quoting Scripture: “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” He went on, “What have I to do any more with idols? Idols of different kinds were troubling him and he was busy disposing of them. His words struck me in my tenderest spot, although the worshiper was utterly ignorant of the stabs. The woman was pouring out her very soul before God. She also had evidently been wandering from her Lord. Was, she returning? Listen to her, as I did, with awe: “I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, 0 my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. "For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling". She was jubilant at last. Oh, to enter into such boundless liberty.

How it happened I do not know. Whence it came, God alone knows. It has always remained a mystery as the years have come and gone. Visions were talked of among the young converts. Imagination, in some cases, seemed to be running riot. Some vowed solemnly that they were seeing crosses and stars beckoning them onward. No one cared to condemn, although many were incredulous, as I was. Was it something disturbing my sub-conscious mind, flinging upon the screen of my mind a scene of gospel-days with which I had been familiar since boyhood in Sunday school? The passing of the years has produced no satisfactory answer; “the day will declare.” The reality of it has lasted through forty-three years of the most strenuous labours in the Master's vineyard, on three continents. My soul was utterly overwhelmed with the sense of awful sin. Deliverance tarried long, while unbelief mocked. My eyes were fast closed. A panorama passed before the eyes of my mind, whether a vision or a mental impression. In those moments I saw more with my eyes shut than I had ever seen in my previous life.

There appeared a huge multitude, varied in costume but differing little in features, interested in a central Personality whose presence was the sole cause of their assembling. Moving majestically among the people, He appeared to speak words of encouragement. Suddenly, a blind beggar, staff in hand, pushed his way through the crowd, and knelt in the pathway of the Speaker crying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me!“ Some reached to pull him out of the way, but a hand was extended to protect the defenceless man. Standing with royal bearing, the central figure encouraged the people to bring the poor fellow to Him. Again, dropping his staff and extending his hands, the beggar evidently repeated his cry.

Then something within snapped—my bonds were gone. I jumped to my feet, extended my arms, and took up the poor man’s words. Oh! how I cried! Was ever such a cry heard anywhere? Desperately, passionately, fervently, I cried, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus !“ over and over again, unable to continue with petition. With that one word, I held on like a drowning man clutching a straw—it seemed to be my last chance, absolutely the last.

“Jesus! Have mercy! Have mercy! Have mercy on me !“ I cried. How many times, I do not know. This I do know, that no argument of a psychological nature can ever disturb the serenity of my faith. A sweet voice spoke within my spirit so clearly, unmistakably, audibly, that the voices of all creation could never succeed in drowning its message: “Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.”

Heaven came into my heart that very moment… There were sins to be banished, and they were banished. There were burdens to be dropped, never to be picked up on any pretence again… No chain has since been forged that was strong enough to hinder my service for the Master or to retard the advancement of my spiritual progress. Delirious joy possessed my soul instantaneously. Henceforth there was no keeping quiet. Revival had swept shyness away. So possessed was I with the “new wine of the kingdom of God” that I, like many others in the revival, seemed to have lost my mental equilibrium and self-control. This great miracle within me must have taken place in the neighbourhood of eleven-fifteen, as near as an estimate of the time can be made. According to that calculation, I had been in the church about an hour and fifteen minutes. It seemed to me like eternity, since the burden on my spirit had been so heavy.

Now everything was changed! Had anyone prophesied in my hearing that such a thing could have happened to me, I would have unhesitatingly christened him Balaam, the hireling prophet. Everyone in the service that morning knew full well what had happened to me. And at the time of this writing, there are at least some living who know about it. For instance, the lady who sat at my side, my sister-in-law, is a living witness, although advanced in years. Throughout that service my voice was heard. How could one be silent when waves of joy were submerging him.

Hundreds in that building felt exactly as I did. Worship according to the old dignified order was banished unceremoniously. On and on and on went that glorious miners’ meeting, leaving a golden trail behind. Is it not still going on? While my heart beats, that revival service will neither slumber nor sleep. It is fadeless, endless, eternal! Ah! this is something that even the grave cannot stop. “When time shall be no more” this deathless experience will still have the dew of youth upon it.' 

I shall try to give an idea of some of the characteristics of the revival based mostly upon Evan Robert’s meetings as there is so much more written about him than the other leaders of the revival. 

All of Evan Robert’s services and many others, would have people queuing around the block more than an hour before the service started. The people would spend the time singing hymns and talking about the revival. Often, people could not get into the church, so they would hang around outside hoping to hear something or to get in later. In two towns that totalled 5,000 inhabitants, there were four churches, all of which would be full with 4,000 people. Remember the main part of this revival took place in mid-winter.

The Welsh singing was a major characteristic of the revival. Roberts normally arrived with one or more of the young women from New Quay who were renowned for their solo singing and the effect of their singing on the congregation was often electric. 

The Western Mail states Robert’s role, ‘The visits of Mr Evan Roberts and his singing evangelists appear to be merely what he himself so aptly described them, “opening the doors” of the revival, for the work which is carried on by others is becoming vast in its extent and wonderfully effective in its operations. People who attend his meetings get “fired” with the zeal of the revival, and proceed to the neighbourhoods in which they live and spread the “infection” wherever they go—not only in the Churches, but in the works, in the streets, in the trains, and the subject has become, especially in the mining valleys, the principal topic of conversation among all classes of the community.’

The revival was the talk everywhere; it enveloped people’s lives. Prayer meetings would pop up all over the place as did impromptu meetings; even down in the pits.

Here is a short description of a meeting, again from the Western Mail – ‘The service was soon in full swing, prayer after prayer, hymn after hymn, and address after address following in quick succession. So impetuous had the participants in the work become, that before long, song and prayer were heard simultaneously.’

Roberts relied as much as he could on Holy Spirit in his ministry, both as to where to preach and how the meetings were to flow. He would always pull back and not try to lead the meeting. Someone might come up to read a Bible verse, or someone might start singing a hymn or someone might stand up and pray or give a testimony and even if he was speaking Roberts would allow the interruption. 

The meetings generally went on a long time as one service would often merge into the next; I read of one going on for ten hours. Even after being in church for such a long time, there were impromptu services on train platforms as people made their way home or even on the trains.

Roberts would often not give a sermon which was quite common in the Revival. This was probably the reason why so many fell away afterwards as they were not grounded in the Word. He concentrated on telling people about the love of Jesus rather than on Judgement which previous revivals had done. Someone wrote, ‘The only gospel promulgated is the gospel of love.’

Roberts would always pray intensely, but would mostly not vocalise them. He would often be seen kneeling, sweating profusely as a result of the intensity of his prayers. A witness wrote ‘His soul appeared to be saturated through and through with the spirit of prayer. It was the atmosphere in which he moved and lived. He enjoyed uninterrupted intercourse with heaven. Whenever one looked into his face, he seemed to be engaged in intercession. It was an object lesson to all. Prayer was the breath of his soul.’

Often repeated phrases used by Roberts were, "Obey the Holy Spirit’ and ‘Empty me, fill me, use me." People noticed how humble he always remained despite all the personal attention on him. A witness observed, “We have plenty of better speakers, and, possibly, abler men, but they do not seem to be imbued with the same power as he wields in drawing these immense crowds and keeping them together. At present I can only account for it by the fact that he comes from the midst of the Loughor fire.” I would suggest that it was because of the time he spent in the Presence of the Lord. 

The meetings of Evan Roberts began to change in the New Year.  

The Western Mail said, "On the 4th Jan 1905. Roberts asked a singer to stop as he did not think he had been inspired by the Holy Spirit. He had before allowed the meetings to continue, but he said Holy Spirit had told him to stop the quenching of the Spirit by anybody and everybody who might get up."

I am puzzled by this as the meetings before New Year do not seem to be any less powerful than those afterwards.

On January 22nd Roberts had a meeting in the Congregational Church in Dowlais, where there had been powerful meetings for several months, but this resulted in a huge controversy. The pastor wrote a scathing article saying that his was a genuine revival and Roberts’ was fake. Roberts never responded to the attack and he had a lot of support but the accusation clearly hurt him. A few days later he retreated to a week of silence and after that, he kept pointing out ‘obstacles’ in his meetings. Three weeks later his effective work in the revival was over. He had meetings in Liverpool in April, Anglesey in June and North Wales in December, and then that was it. Roberts had a nervous breakdown and retired to Leicester.

So what were the effects of the revival?

There was great unity during the revival. Roberts would often have three meetings in a town in a day; each one at a different denomination. In many towns there could be three or four meetings going on simultaneously. In one place there were 12 churches and most of them would have been full each day. In Aberdare there were a dozen large meetings held in just one day. 

The behaviour of the people was transformed. Many pubs closed down and many more had a significant decline in their business. People would sometimes order a drink but then leave without touching it because of the presence of God all around. There was therefore little drunkenness, little swearing and little crime generally – magistrates had hardly any cases to try. Old debts were paid off, bad relationships were healed, theatres and sporting events suffered as people wanted to be praising God instead. Although much time was taken with prayer and meetings, employers noticed a much improved work ethic. The presence of God invaded everywhere – schools, colleges, the streets etc. I love one story where a young girl asked, "Teacher, are you Saved?" and the teacher fell on the floor, gave her life to Christ and became a missionary. As with most revivals it produced the next generation of pastors and missionaries. 

RB Jones wrote: ‘If one were asked in a word the outstanding feature of those days one would unhesitatingly reply that it was the universal, unescapable sense of the presence of God. .. It mattered not where one went the consciousness of the reality and nearness of God followed.’ This has been true of every revival, it is the key.

Like many of the big revivals, this one was not confined to Wales because God was moving across the world; although, sadly, it did not spill into England, mainly because most of it was in the Welsh language. The intensity of the revival was only 4 months, November-February, which is surprising. Evan Roberts believed and prayed for 100,000 salvations, but my own calculations based on dozens of newspaper reports show at least 130,000 were saved. It must also be remembered that the following year the Lord broke out in Azusa Street, a revival that has led to more than 100 million Pentecostals around the world!    

The 1904 Welsh revival was wonderful and we need one desperately today, but this time we need 10 million plus coming to Jesus, not 130,000.          

There is a lot written about the 1904 Revival. If you want to read a detailed account of Roberts early life and his part in the revival, get from your library ‘Evan Roberts, The Great Welsh Revivalist and His Work’ By D M Phillips. Phillips accompanied him to many of his meetings and he includes many letters and detailed accounts of where and when he spoke. He describes Roberts in a lot of detail. The book was published in 1906. A more concise version is ‘The Welsh Revival of 1904’ by Eifion Evans, published in 1969 by Bryntirion Press. A wider account of the revival is ‘Fire on the Altar’ by Noel Gibbard, published in 2005 by Bryntirion Press.   

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