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D. M. Phillips
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As to his goodness, there is a consensus of opinion among those who have had the privilege of knowing him, His comrades at Loughor, his fellow-workmen, and his masters testify that there was never anything doubtful in his character; the churches of Moriah and Pisgah where he brought up bear witness to his unblemished morality, his liberality and faithfulness; other denominations looked at him as an exemplary young man, and irreligious people respected him greatly. This testimony is confirmed by the students with whom he came in contact at Newcastle-Emlyn, and three of them who have replied to the writer in answer to enquiries say that he is the holiest person they have ever met; and one of them affirms that Evan Roberts has been the means of changing his life entirely. Although he will not give any facts concerning his life and work to correspondents who have come scores and some of them hundreds of miles with the intention of having materials for articles on him, yet they honour him. Yea, they honour him all the more, because they can see that he does not court their influence and their help. True, they are disappointed, because of his reservedness; never-the-less they admire the purity of the man. I have seen as many as ten correspondents of the leading papers of England, Scotland, and Wales endeavour to see him after some of the meetings, and he declining absolutely to be interviewed. He must have a certain proof that a correspondent will adhere strictly to facts without magnifying them before he will entertain the idea of supplying him with anything concerning his Life or the Revival. In less than six weeks after he left Loughor, letters reached him from different countries, from important publishing firms, asking for biographical facts, but he definitely declined to answer in every case. Since the Movement commenced, nothing has grieved him more than an occasional exaggeration in the papers of his importance as a force in it. In his opinion, that takes the glory that should be given to God. But be it understood that the said importance given to him by correspondents was due to the idea they had formed of his sincerity and goodness. In a few days after he left Loughor a correspondent of high standing said of him: “Wherein lies the charm of the man and his power? Perhaps the best answer is that he has an indefinable something in his manner and style. His joyous smile is that of a man in whom there is no guile. His genuineness is transparent, and he convinces people that his belief in what he preaches is impregnable. Another wrote — Evan Roberts is real. This realness is most likely the chief source of his power. He is probably far more real than he himself knows, or than any of his critics and would-be teachers and admonishers believe. No one man in a million, perhaps, dare be as honest to himself and to others as Evan Roberts is without daring and without effort and without design. He knows without learning what other people have to spend years in acquiring and are then imperfect. He sees and feels what they do not believe even exists, and so he does his work, and will do it as long as his strength holds out and he retains his spiritual vision unimpaired. After careful observation and investigation since the paper took up the Revival, I have found that the above quotations represent the opinion of all the correspondents who have had the privilege of personal knowledge of Evan Roberts. It is simply surprising to think of the place newspapers and magazines have given to him. There is hardly any daily paper or a periodical in England and Wales that has not published long articles on him and the Revival. Even the rationalistic as well as the secular and religious press has taken special notice of him, and in some instances has highly estimated him. This is sufficient evidence that there is some moral and spiritual atmosphere surrounding the man which makes itself felt, and convinces people of his good motives.
Again, the consensus of opinion as to his motives is not less general when we come to some of the most religious men who have made his acquaintance.
The Rev. F. B. Meyer, B. A., London, says of the Revivalist in a letter to the writer — “I have the privilege of personal friendship with Evan Roberts, and greatly thank God that he will not go in front of the Divine Spirit, but is willing to stand aside and remain in the back-ground, unless he is perfectly sure that the Spirit of God is moving him. It is a profound lesson for us all.”
Mr, Arthur Goodrich, B.A., London, makes these remarks in an article on Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival in the Homiletic Review for March, 1905: — He does not consider himself an inspired prophet or a magnetic preacher. He spoke to me one day with evident anxiety of a newspaper report which spoke of his personal magnetism. There’s nothing in it, he said, in substance. “It’s not my magnetism, it’s the magnetism of the Holy Spirit drawing all men to Him.” He considers, I believe, that God has given him work to do — great work; and he is confident that He will help him to do it. Whether his share in the work is great or little I think Evan Roberts cares as little as any human person can care, as long as the work is done. No one of all those who have watched him more closely and continuously than I have, has seen a single sign of any tendency in him to place himself ahead of his co-workers. Personally, I think I have never met a man who appealed to me as being so completely consecrated to his cause as this young man of twenty-six years trained in the colliery and at the smithy. When one thinks of it, no young man of his years and native environment could have endured against a tide of personal success unless he had an enduring grip upon mighty moorings. These quotations only echo the opinion of hundreds of others who have had fellowship with him. Shortly after the Revival broke out, the leading ministers of the various denominations in Wales and the Welsh Bishops showed their deep sympathy with him and his work, and many of them did their utmost to further and direct the current of the mighty religious wave. They did this because they thoroughly believed in his sincerity and the Divine origin of his message.
True, a few disagreed with him, and in the severe test he has been put to, his invariable replies to his critics have been: — “Let then alone”; “Pray for them”; “Fear not”; “My feet are on the Rock”.
Often it has been said that Evan Roberts is not the author of the Welsh Revival. Well we know that, and we thank God for it. Had Evan Roberts been its author, we would rather be without it. The efficient cause of the Revival is to be found amid the everlasting hills in the heart of God. The movement bears the marks of its origin, and the most spiritually-minded people are agreed that these marks are Divine beyond dispute. Without the intervention of the Divine a true revival is impossible as we shall see presently, there are sufficient evidences that the Holy Spirit is the dynamic force in the Movement. But it must be borne in mind that the Movement has its human side. It can be said that it has a human cause or condition as well as Divine. That is subject to psychological and moral laws. There could be no greater error than to think that the Revival is outside the domain of these laws. God does not give an outpouring of his Spirit except in accordance with the great general principles of human nature. A Revival otherwise brought about would be unnatural. To find the condition of this moral and spiritual upheaval we must take in all the Christian work done in Wales since the Revival of 1859. A revival is similar to letting out the contents of a reservoir. When all the contents have run out it must have time to fill before another outpouring is possible. Now since 1859 what the Church in Wales has been doing is filling a moral and spiritual reservoir in the heart of the nation through different means. In the mental, moral and spiritual world there is a law of conservation of energy similar to that of the natural world. This conserves all the labour of the church. It secures that no chapter read, no prayer offered, no hymn sung, no sermon preached, no temperance lecture delivered, is lost. All are treasured in the minds of the hearers. The different religious sects in Wales have had their general assemblies, unions, and conferences annually, quarterly meetings and associations, anniversaries once or twice a year, in most of the churches in populous districts, and preaching twice every Sunday during the year. These saturated the mind of the nation with religious ideas. Again, all the denominations have their annual singing festivals, and in virtue of these the young people commit the hymns to memory without any effort. Great endeavours have been made to further the temperance cause by men and women’s unions. Add to these the excellent Sunday School organization in Wales with its system of Bible classes. Annual Sunday School examinations are arranged by the different religious bodies, and people of all ages sit for them, and they are trained all the winter to that end. Many between fifty and seventy pass these yearly, as well as young people and children. To give one instance, the Preshytery or Monthly Meeting of the Calvinistic Methodists of East Glamorgan passed over two thousand candidates in 1906. Then there is the great reading of English religious books in the Principality especially during the last twenty-five years. Let me note another great factor, namely, the innumerable prayers to God from hearts longing for a religious awakening. Between these different branches of religious work, the moral and spiritual reservoir mentioned had filled, and it only required the right man under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to turn the tap to let its contents run forth. And it pleased God to pass the learned and the great in human estimation, and call a consecrated, timid young man from the Grammar School to perform that function. Fair it is to say, that the greatest scholars of the nation said in the face of this, Glory be to God in the Highest. For at least two years people of strong religious intuitions had noticed that the reservoir was overflowing here and there, and they hoped for great things. As will appear in a future chapter, a marked awakening had taken place in South Cardiganshire. Many other places had experienced similar things but on a narrower scale. Everything was ready, only to have the breathing of the Holy Spirit. The seed was in the ground, and it only required the Spring rays of the Sun of Righteousness to bring it forth with power and splendour.
It seems to me that a powerful revival is impossible without long preparation on lines similar to the above. There must be a deposit of material for it. Take the revival in Egypt when the Hebrews fully realized that they were a nation, and you will find it was due to a long preparation, and so of the national revival in the time of King David. After reading the history of revivals in Europe and America, we find that the same is true. The revival that gave existence to the Calvinistic Methodist Denomination in Wales was due to a great awakening brought about by schools planted all over the principality by the Rev. Griffith Jones, a clergyman of the Church of England, to teach Bible reading. The same principle holds good in the case of other revivals in Wales. A grand illustration of this principle is supplied by the Revival which broke out on Khassia Hills in February, 1905, as a result of reading the account of the Welsh Revival. The missionaries had laboured hard for over sixty years to sow the Gospel seed there. This seed had in it spiritual vitality, and the Holy Spirit used the accounts alluded to as means to quicken the people and that has resulted in over five thousand conversions on the mission field in Khassia.
We observe that this is God’s general method. Take the Spring for instance. Is it not due to a course of preparation? Certainly it is. The earth has been prepared by the great forces and processes of nature in Autumn and Winter, and man has been at it busity doing his part in ploughing and tilling the land, sowing the seed, and weeding the tares. When all is ready the Almighty breathes his life into every grain, every blade of grass, and every flower, and they burst forth with wonderful originality and spontaneity. In this way the work of preparation on the part of God and man is crowned. Had the human race not to undergo a long process of preparation to receive the Incarnation, which brought about an epoch-making revival in the history of the world? Were not the disciples trained by the great Master to be instruments in the hand of the Spirit to bring about such a moral revolution on the day of Pentecost? The people were prepared by the preaching of John the Baptist and Christ in the same way; and that preparation had much to do with the day of Pentecost. Were this principle not the true explanation of the human condition of revivals, there would be no encouragement for all the endeavours of the Church throughout the ages.
Is there not a certain amount of extravagance and emotionalism displayed in Evan Roberts’s Revival? True there is. Had it not been so, it would not be a revival. When the vilest characters see their sin in its real nature, they cannot be cool. Their conscience gets too intense. Church members cannot be emotionless, when their worthless past life is ploughed, and their deceit and hypocrisy are revealed to them. When the pangs of true repentance writhe the soul, it is a relief to shout. Without deep emotion no great thing can take place in the soul. Emotion under proper control is the grandest thing in existence, and the great power that moves the world in its upward march. All epoch-making men are men of strong emotion. Yea, more, it was the emotion of God’s heart that moved Him to perform the greatest act of self-sacrifice, which has and will issue in the salvation of a great multitude. To condemn emotion is to condemn one of the most glorious powers that the Creator has implanted in our nature. But well we know that it is dangerous power unless kept under control. In this Revival a few lost control over it; but that was only repeating the history of all previous religious revivals. Copious examples of this are to be found in the history of the Reformation, the American, and other revivals; and according to the nature of things it could not be otherwise. The nature of the materials God has to work upon in a revival is such that it cannot be different. Hence it will be the same in the history of all future awakenings. Nevertheless, that does not make a revival less valuable. There is an enormous amount of weed produced by the most glorious Spring, but what is that compared with the corn, fruits, and other products? In a great outburst of life like the Spring the venomous germs are developed of necessity the same as the precious seed. So in a spiritual Spring like a revival, the spiritual warmth is an occasion to draw out evil possibilities to an undue measure. No person of sober mind would be offended with the Spring, because of the weed it produces; no man of true wisdom will think less of the revival because of the moral weed that it grows. A broad-minded man will overlook these small imperfections, and see that the nature of the case necessitates them. We are far from justifying the extravagant cases of emotion produced by the Revival, but history, experience, and the Bible show clearly that they accompany all true revivals, owing to what man is, and not because anything in God calls for them. Physical concomitants of the Revival are not to be taken as a sure sign of the working of the Holy Spirit, nor on the other hand that the persons in whom these commitants appear are not undergoing the process of true conversion. We must wait for results to know that.
Many of the converts will backslide. There is no doubt about this. But does that prove the Revival to be less divine? It does not. Did not many hypocrites enter the church in the Apostolic Revival? And did not Judas Iscariot who adhered to Christ for years betray Him? Yet that did not make the conversion of the other disciples less valuable and real. Does not the Great Teacher indicate plainly in the Parable of the Sower that only twenty-five per cent of the seed will fall into good ground and bear fruit. And I say that if only twenty-five percent of the converts of this religious upheaval were truly converted, it will be a glorious movement.
The results of it have been great and far-reaching. It has done great things to one class of Church members. Religious work had never been more strenuous in Wales among the most faithful members than before the Revival broke out; but there was another class doing nothing. Hundreds of these have been aroused, and are now indefatigable workers. Talents were discovered in the church that no one thought of, and these talents are full of activity at present. The salvation of others has come to be of great importance, and people have realised that they are their brother’s keepers; the services are better attended than ever; family worship has been instituted in thousands of homes; the demand for Bibles has been such that booksellers in some cases found it difficult to supply it; some of the finest hymns have been composed in the heat of the Revival; total abstinence is believed in more than ever, hundreds of people have paid dehts, which they were not compelled to owing to the Statute of Limitations; many who had stolen things fifteen and twenty years ago have sent the full value with interest to the persons from whom they stole them; hundreds of old family and church feuds have been healed; triumphant joy has filled many churches; the different religious sects have come nearer to each other, and small differences have been minimised, and thousands of those who have joined the churches are energetic workers, and do much to influence others. Among these are some agnostics, infidels, prize fighters, gamblers, drunkards, as well as theatricals, and they are as enthusiastic if not more in their new sphere as they were before their conversion. Hundreds of homes have been entirely changed, and where there were poverty and misery before, there is plenty of all the necessities of life now, and happiness. A movement that can produce these results cannot but be divine in its nature. It has changed the whole moral and spiritual aspects of many districts, and its future effects must be great. To quote again from the above letter of the Rev. F. B. Meyer, B.A., regarding the results of the Movement, he says: — “Judging by the fruits, in the vast multitude who have been truly converted and have joined the churches, and the transformation wrought over wide districts of the country, it is impossible to doubt that there has been a real and deep work by the Spirit of God, similar to that which accompanied the labours of the Wesleys and their contemporaries. For this one cannot be too thankful. Mrs. Baxter, who twice visited Wales to estimate the Movement, remarks in the ‘Eleventh Hour’ for January, 1905: — The Revival in Wales has undoubted marks of Divine power and working. This Revival will not result in the formation of a new denomination like the one that produced the Calvinistic Methodists of Wales, and we do not want that; neither will it produce as rich a hymnology as that perhaps; it may not give us so much theology as the revival of John Elias, Williams of Wern, and Christmas Evans, nor be such an impetus to the formation of a system of education as that of 1859; but we believe it will do more than any of them in creating high moral and spiritual ideals and aspirations, and that is what the nation stands in need of now, and not so much the things produced by the former revivals.
May this revival spirit spread and kindle many nations, and bring multitudes to the Saviour.
More space could not be given to the third and fourth journeys as the size of the book had swollen so much, owing to the addresses, articles, and Ietters. The writer hopes to deal with these fully in a future volume.
It is my duty to acknowledge the kindness of the Editors of the South Wales Daily News and the Western Mail for giving permission to use the valuable articles that appeared in their papers on the Revival, as well as the Editors of other papers, articles from which are reprinted in the volume; also persons who have kindly sent me their impressions of Evan Roberts and the Movement. I am specially indehted to the Rev. W. Margam Jones, Llwydeoed, who has so ably translated Evan Roberts’s poetical productions into English; to the Rev. Thomas Powell, Cwmdare, and Mr. David Williams, School Master, Tylorstown, for valuable help, and the Rev. David Davies, B.A. Miskin, Mountain Ash, who aided in reading the proofs and in transcribing. I wish to tender my sincerest thanks to all who have supplied me with information, and also those who readily let me have the letters of Evan Roberts to be published in the book.
Few errata have crept in, but are not of a misleading character.
Now, may God, the source of this awakening, make the history of Evan Roberts and his work, which has been written without avoiding any trouble to verily the facts contained therein, and with strict regard for truth, a means of grace to thousands is the earnest prayer of the Author
D. M. PHILLIPS.
TYLORSTOWN, July 24th, 1906
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