Evan Roberts was a young man from a humble background with a servant, praying heart.He left the life of a coalminer and blacksmith to devote himself to serving God, believing he had been called to take part in the Lord’s plan to bring revival to Wales. Kevin Adams has brought together biographical details, letters, eyewitness accounts and newspaper cuttings to paint a powerful picture of the outbreak of revival in Wales exactly 100 years ago in a new book A Diary of Revival.
Evan was and remains a controversial figure. Some early writers were too starry-eyed to write objectively, others have let some of his faults colour the whole picture. In order that modern readers may make up their own minds, Kevin Adams sought to let Evan himself do much of the talking.Taking autobiographical material from the letters that he wrote during the several weeks just previous to and during the outbreak of revival, it is possible, after 100 years, to hear Evan Roberts speak again about his hopes, his fears, his spiritual struggles and his depth of spiritual experience. It’s all there in his own words, written at the time.
This extract is taken from early November 1904, when prayer meetings at Moriah Chapel, Loughor, are charged with a powerful visitation of God’s presence.
Friday 4 November
We began at 7.00pm and finished at 10.00pm; and asked all who had confessed Christ to remain. Then the Spirit came close to us. After I had prayed, many of the people rose and went home, but about 20 remained. And we had a testimony meeting – praising the blessed Spirit for His wonderful work.
This meeting finished or rather closed at 11.30pm. And we could stay there all night.
Thomas Shephard was weeping and crying aloud like a child, when I related the account of the work of the Holy Spirit, and at the thought of his own pitiable condition. There were three young men from Brynteg, one from Horeb, and some from Penuel, at Moriah. I cannot and desire not to prevent them... I said that this was to be a meeting for young people. But the old people came too. Francis and his wife have been twice, and both have confessed Christ.
In the meeting – scene – two horses, one white, the other red. Both were galloping together.
Number of public confessions: 19.
Sunday 6 November
We have had the Spirit with us throughout this last week; tonight three girls and one man were baptised by the Holy Spirit. Oh! It was a meeting full of awe. Every person present was praying this prayer: “Send the Holy Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.”
This was a ‘Circle Prayer’ – each one had to pray. Oh! The effect was marvellous. And while the prayer was going on, one of our young men was filled with the Spirit. Praise Him! Yes! Yes! When this had gone around, we began again – this time with the addition “more powerfully” – “Send the Spirit now more powerfully, for Jesus Christ’s sake.”
All our children at Moriah are every night and morning praying this beautiful prayer given to me by the Holy Spirit: “Send the Spirit to Moriah, for Jesus Christ’s sake” ...Oh! I am quite happy this week and throughout the last. But, nevertheless, it has been a grand fight with the tempter. But, thanks be to God, I am now a conqueror. He tried to destroy my faith ... by saying: What did I want at Loughor while there are so many ministers to be had? Why did I waste my time? And then he said that God’s Spirit was not with me, and that these grand effects were only the results of my relating the signs and visions I had seen.
I know not what to write. I am almost too full. My heart is full, and brimming over with joy. The Holy Spirit descended in power at Moriah tonight – or rather Monday morning – between 12 and one o’clock. I am certain of four who have been baptised, and I am not absolutely sure about one other person. It is likely that she, too, has been abundantly blessed. These are the persons: 1) David Jones (Daniel’s brother); 2) Alice Gray; 3) Catherine, my sister; 4) Elizabeth Rees (Phrampton Road); 5) Miss Harries (William Harries’ sister). I am not quite certain about the last, but she said she felt rather full, and that she could not contain more – but many have felt so.
It was a wonderful and awful meeting. The service was closed at 10 minutes past one. The services finish later and later as they proceed. Monday night, Tuesday night and Wednesday night, a little past 10; Thursday night, about 11 o’clock; Friday night, half-past 11; Saturday night, twenty minutes past 12; Sunday night, ten minutes past 1 (or, rather, Monday morning). And by the end of this week we shall be staying until daybreak! One thing that gives me great joy is the fact that so many from the other denominations come to us, and some from the Established Church. Very good.
Yes, they too need the fire.
The results of last week’s work are almost incredible. Peace has been made between many. The girls that used to talk in chapel during the service have become serious. All day Sunday everything was as silent as the grave; “the children”, to use Mr Hammon’s phrase, “as quiet as angels”. Many muddy pools have been disturbed by the flow of this new water.
The effects of the confessing are marvellous. Peace has been made between many. A large number have already confessed. And Hugh Jones has confessed. He was backsliding. But I rejoice that he has been caught by the Spirit. “Since 50 years ago,” said Hugh, “I have never seen anything like it. And I hope now that I shall have strength to hold to the end.” Some have stood up to confess Christ for the first time, and they feel they have some joy never experienced before. For instance, at the close of Sunday morning’s service I asked if anyone was desirous of confessing Christ. Two of the sisters stood up, Mrs Edwards (John Edwards’ widow) and Mrs Parry Davies (Mary Parry). And in the evening service, she said she felt better since the morning service. And last night, I went about asking some if they desired to confess Christ, and trying to help them a little. During this time, Mary Parry was on her feet, handkerchief in hand, leading the singing – the people, it seems, singing too slowly to please her. Before, she was quiet and retired, but she is completely changed. Praise God. I can scarcely do anything now, but praise Him.
Some lad stood up last night to confess Christ – a lad who had a marked impediment in his speech. And, Oh! What an effect he had on the congregation.
He was asking, “P-p-p-p-p-r-r-r-r-ay-ayf- f-f-o-o-o-o-r-r-r-m-m-m-m-me.” There’s an effect. The place streamed with tears. “Pray for me.” And pray I did that moment that God would answer him and baptise him with the Holy Spirit. After the service had continued until it was 12 o’clock. I said I was not satisfied with it, and that we must get the blessing, even if it were necessary to stay down until daybreak. I said that we would have to “strive with heaven”. Then the people came down from the gallery, and sat close to one another. “Now,” said I, “we must believe that the Spirit will come; not think He will come; not hope He will come; but firmly believe that He will come.” Then I read the promises of God, and pointed out how definite they were. (I am doing all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and praise be to Him.) After this, the Spirit said that everyone was to pray. Pray now, not confess, not sing, not give experiences, but pray and believe, and wait. And this is the prayer, “Send the Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.” The people were sitting, and only closed their eyes. The prayer began with me. Then it went from seat to seat – boys and girls – young men and maidens. Some asking in silence, some aloud, some coldly, some with warmth, some formally, some in tears, some with difficulty, some adding to it, boys and girls, strong voices, then tender voices.
Oh, wonderful! I never thought of such an effect. I felt the place beginning to be filled, and before the prayer had gone halfway through the chapel, I could hear some brother weeping, sobbing, and saying, “O dear, dear.” “Well, well.” “O dear, dear.” On went the prayer, the feeling becoming more intense; the place being filled more and more. I then went to see the brother, and who should it be but David Jones! “What is the matter?” said I, “Oh!” he answered, “I have had something wonderful.” After this, he said that he felt his heart was too large for his bosom. I told him, “There, you have had the Holy Spirit.” “I hope so”, said he. The prayer had then ended its journey, but not its message. “Shall we ask again for more?” “No,” said David Jones. He had had as much as he could hold. But there were others, who had not had enough, and I said that brother Jones had had enough, but that we could go on to ask for more, and that Jones could ask God to withhold, if necessary. God can give and withhold.
Then we added to the prayer, “Send the Spirit more powerfully, for Jesus Christ’s sake.” The prayer begins its journey. And, Oh! With what effect! The Spirit was coming nearer and nearer all the while. On this journey, the Spirit descended upon two sisters. And, Oh! It descended with power! They were shouting aloud –shouting as I never heard anyone shout before. The prayer was not allowed to end its journey around. The people were in a circle around them. There was a sight! The people looked amazed and terrified, while I smiled, saying, “Oh, there is no danger.” After a few minutes, the two sisters regained their composure, and Catherine said, “Sing now.” And ‘Praise Him’ was sung, but I fear there was but little real praising, for the people were so amazed at the sight. Then some young brother began to sing ‘May Thy blessing.’ And the meeting came to a close. And on the way out, Elizabeth Rees broke out into weeping, being filled with the Spirit, and would have fallen had not some of the friends held her.
I know not what the end of this week will be. I intend staying here for another week. Mr Francis beseeches me not to go back upon any account, since that would only be leaving good work half done. This will be the plan this week – everyone to pray individually for the Spirit – “Send the Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.”
Extracted and adapted from A Diary of Revival – The Outbreak of the 1904 Welsh Awakening by Kevin Adams published by CWR and used with permission. ISBN 1853452866, £7.99.
Within a year of this revival outbreak close to 100,000 were widely reported to be added to the Welsh church.