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The Welsh Revival - Longing And Preparation

By Maurice R. Smith

Longing in Wales

Wales, a small but beautiful country on the southwest coast of Great Britain, has been called "the land of periodic revivals." Between 1762 and 1862 (from the time of the "first Great Awakening" until the time of the "second Great Awakening") Wales experienced no less than fifteen outstanding revivals. The revivals encompassing the period of the "first Great Awakening" of the 1700s gave to Wales the Calvinistic Methodist Church and its wonderful hymnology. It became a singing church.

The "second Great Awakening" of 1859-1862 gave Wales its theology. David Morgan, a minister of the Calvinistic Methodist (Presbyterian) Church of Wales, was greatly used of God during this remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God when an estimated 110,000 souls were added to the churches of Wales.

Additional revivals in the last half of the 19th century contributed to Wales reputation as the land of revivals. In particular, the ministry of Richard Owens in North Wales in the early 1880s was greatly blessed with some 13,000 souls won for Christ under his personal ministry. When he died at the young age of forty-eight, "Richard Owen, the Revivalist" was a household name throughout Wales.

But like yesterday’s manna, yesterday’s spiritual renewals were insufficient food for the Church. By the end of the nineteenth century the spiritual condition of the churches in Wales was on the decline. The effects of the 1859 revival (yes, the Welsh counterpart of the 1857 - 1858 awakening in America!) had worn off, except in the memories of old evangelists and pastors who, like D. L. Moody, longed and prayed for another such time.[1]

Church membership in Wales had declined in the decade of the 1890s, with the North Wales Association of the Calvinistic Methodists (the Presbyterian Church in Wales) reporting a loss of 12,844 for the year 1899 alone. Sunday services were poorly attended in both Non-conformist churches and the Anglican Church in Wales. The declines were generally acknowledged and universally deplored. The question confronting the church was how to combat worldliness in the pew and powerlessness in the pulpit.

And yet there was a hunger for God among groups of believers and leaders in the Church which was laying the foundation for a spiritual awakening. Prayer meetings were being held worldwide for a revival in the new century.

In 1898-1899 there were all-night prayer meetings held at Moody Bible Institute for revival. The same was true world-wide in such diverse places as India and Korea. Ten thousand people were enrolled in prayer cells in Melbourne, Australia.

In the winter of 1900 the Methodists were reporting an increasing number of conversions in evangelistic campaigns throughout the U.S.A. They announced the Methodist Forward Movement. They raised $20 million and planned to win two million souls to Christ. They stated in an editorial, "It was believed that with better knowledge of how to work and a feeling that it was a Church-wide movement, a great religious awakening might be secured at the opening of the twentieth century." [2] One Methodist commented later that "God waited until we got our project out of the way, then shortly afterwards He sent the revival." [3]

According to James A. Stewart, "As many as 40,000 desperate believers unknown to each other in the majority of cases, in various parts of theland had been waiting on the Lord and were now about to see even a greater demonstration of the mighty power of God."[4] By 1905 the prayed-for revival was underway.

In 1902 Dean David Howell of Wales declared, "Take notice! If it were known that this is my last message to my fellow countrymen before being summoned to judgment, the chief need of my country and my dear nation at present is a spiritual revival through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit."[5] Howell was summoned to judgment only one month later, two years before his longings were to be answered in the outbreak of the greatest revival Wales had ever known.

But the churches of Wales were not blind to their own need. According to London journalist W.T. Stead, there was a growing sense of longing and burden of prayer for revival:

"For a long time past the Welsh Christians had been moved to pray specifically for the quickening of religious life in their midst. The impulse appears to have been sporadic and spontaneous. In remote country hamlets, in mining villages buried in distant valleys, one man or one woman would have it laid upon his or her soul to pray that the Holy Spirit might be poured out upon the cause in which they were spiritually concerned. There does not seem to have been much organized effort. It was all individual, local, and strictly limited to the neighborhood. But prayer circles formed by devout persons who agree to unite together in prayer at a given hour every day have long been a recognized form of prevailing prayer. By these circles there are some 30,000 or 40,000 people now banded together to pray for a world-wide Revival. All this was general. It was preparing the way. A great longing for Revival was abroad in the land. The Churches were conscious that there was something in the air." [6]


Keswick Conventions

Keswick Conventions were conferences, English in origin, which were intended to promote the deepening of the spiritual life. In the early 1900s a number of Welsh church leaders were praying for the beginning of Keswick Conventions in Wales. Welsh church leaders invited noted Keswick speaker Dr. F.B. Meyers to minister to them in Keswick-style conventions at the beautiful Welsh spa in Llandrindod Wells. The conference was well attended by young Welsh pastors who were greatly blessed as they devoted themselves to prayer for an awakening in Wales.

Several noted pastors were greatly touched at the Llandrindod conference and began traveling widely, conducting missions for the deepening of the spiritual life. Later, when the Welsh Revival was well underway many Keswick leaders would claim that the revival could be traced directly to the effect of the Keswick conferences.[7]


"Mary, Are You Saved?"

In the years leading up to 1904 Wales was criss-crossed by a number of able and dedicated evangelists. The Reverend John Pugh had begun an evangelistic ministry in the Calvinistic Methodist Church of Wales (later known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales) in the 1870s. It later became known as the Forward Movement and stressed open-air evangelism. When Pugh moved to Cardiff, the capital of Wales, in 1891, he met Seth Joshua who had been converted in a Salvation Army meeting. Together, the evangelistic work of John Pugh and Seth Joshua covered most of South Wales.

Seth Joshua was known for being both forthright and studious. His wife related the following story as an example of his forthrightness: "One day he turned to me, and asked, ‘Mary, are you saved?’ Surprised at such a question I said, ‘Well, you know, Seth, that I have been confirmed’. ‘Yes, my dear,’ he added, ‘and vaccinated; but are you saved?’"[8] Seth Joshua’s forthrightness would serve him well when the revival began in earnest.


"What Does Jesus Christ Mean To You?"

At the outset of the Welsh Revival Joseph Jenkins was the pastor of New Quay (pronounced "key") Church in Cardiganshire. He was deeply concerned about the spiritual state of the young people in his church and had begun spending prolonged times in prayer for them. He was concerned that his youth group had become more social than Christian. One Sunday morning in February of 1904 he challenged the 60 youths in his Christian Endeavour movement. "What does Jesus Christ mean to you?" he asked. The question was embarrassing to them. There was a prolonged silence. One boy eventually spoke up and said, "Jesus Christ is the hope of the world." Jenkins responded, "Never mind the world. What does Jesus Christ mean to you?" Finally, young Florie Evans, who had been converted by Jenkins only two weeks before, testified to the cold youth meeting, "I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart." This simple statement of personal faith deeply moved the Christian Endeavour movement. The effect was startling, and resulted in an overpowering sense of God’s presence in the church. The fire of revival had been lit. The young people soon began visiting other local churches carrying the fire and sharing the blessing.


"Please God, Give Me Wales"

In the 1970s a retired Presbyterian minister lived in Port Hueneme in California. His name was Dr. Peter Joshua. He was the son of Seth Joshua (born April 10,1859). By 1904 Seth Joshua was an official evangelist of the Welsh Presbyterian Church, then called the Calvinistic Methodist Church. Along with John Pugh, Seth Joshua was also an official evangelist for the Forward Movement in Wales. He began to pray a most unusual prayer. He was concerned with the over-emphasis of the Presbyterian church upon the academic and educational qualifications rather than the spiritual qualifications of its ministers. So he had begun to ask God to raise up a lad from the mines or fields of Wales (even as He had taken Elisha from behind the plough), not from Cambridge or Oxford to pander to the people’s pride, but a lad from the mines or the fields to revive his people and lead them back to God. He could scarcely have imagined that God would use his own ministry to anoint the very person who would fulfill this prayer!

Years later Dr. Peter Joshua told a story about missing ("mitching") school one day and going to a local park to play. Suddenly he spotted his father walking in the park. Hiding in some bushes he watched as his father walked by:

"As he came near I was frightened as I heard that he was crying (something I thought never my Dad would ever do) and as he went by he was saying, ‘Please God, give me Wales’, and kept saying this as long as I could hear him. After a while I ran back home, and while I had to explain to mother that I had mitched school, I asked her what was wrong with Dad, and told her that I had heard him crying and saying ‘Give me Wales.’ She ruffled her hair and said, ‘You’ll understand one day.’ God never gave Wales to my Dad, although he gave him many souls, but one day when he was preaching when he made an appeal Evan Roberts was the only one who stood to his feet and trusted the Saviour. God never gave Wales to my Dad, but he gave Wales to Evan Roberts." [9]


Fire In New Quay

In September of 1904 Seth Joshua went to New Quay to visit Jenkins’ church. To his surprise he found a real congregational awakening going on. He could not know at the time that He was witnessing the beginning of the greatest revival Wales had ever known. He wrote in his diary:[10]

(Sunday, 18th September) "I have never seen the power of the Holy Spirit so powerfully manifested among the people as at this place just now . . . It was easy to preach today."

(Monday, 19th)"Revival is breaking out here in greater power. Many souls are receiving full assurance of salvation. The spirit of prayer and of testimony is falling in a marvelous manner. The young are receiving the greatest measure of blessing. They break out into prayer, praise, testimony and exhortation in a wonderful way."

(Tuesday, 20th) "The revival goes on. I cannot leave the building . . . until 12 and even 1 o’clock in the morning. I have closed the service several times and yet it would break out again quite beyond control of human power."

(Friday, 23rd) "I am of the opinion that forty conversions took place this week. It is as near as I can fix it. I also think that those seeking assurance may be fairly counted as converts, for they had never received Jesus as a personal saviour before . . . I shall thank God for this blessed time to my own soul. I am saturated, melted and made soft as willing clay in the hands of a potter."

Seth Joshua had an unparalleled week of blessing. He next went to visit Newcastle-Emlyn, a preparatory school for Trevecca College. This was a preparatory school for the Presbyterian Ministry, but it was not a place on fire for Christ. Seth Joshua spoke to the students for a week, telling them about the revival which was breaking out at New Quay.

He preached 4 times on Sunday the 25th of September, and afterwards wrote "nothing has moved yet." He spoke again on Monday, the 26th. Afterwards he wrote, "I find scarcely a soul here in the joy of assurance. It is a pitiable sight to me. When I tested the meeting only a small handful among hundreds would stand up to confess a present salvation. The witness of the church is nothing in this state."[11]

But Seth Joshua’s discouragement was short-lived. On Tuesday, the 28th, a remarkable thing happened. Fifteen of the youth from New Quay came and spoke to the students at Newcastle Emlyn. They brought with them "the fire". Seth Joshua later recorded, "I did not preach but allowed them to speak, pray, sing and exhort as the Holy Spirit led them. The fire burned all before it. Souls were melted and many cried out for salvation." [12]


Evan Roberts

During this week Seth Joshua ministered at a meeting where a young man by the name of Evan Roberts was present. Roberts was 26 years of age and a former coal miner (a "collier"). Born on July 8, 1878 of a devout Welsh Calvinistic Methodist family, Roberts had always had a great passion for revival. He had been a devoted Christian for many years. He had offered himself for the ministry in 1903 and after an extraordinary mystical experience was in the habit of awaking nightly at 1 a.m. for communion with God. Evan Roberts had been praying for revival. He had told one of his friends, "For ten or eleven years I have prayed for a revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revival. It was the Spirit that moved me to think about a revival." [13]

While working as a collier (coal miner) Roberts was once in an explosion when a page of his beloved Bible was scorched by the explosion. At the time it was open to 2 Chronicles 6 where Solomon prayed for a revival. The page was permanently scorched by the explosive tongue of fire. When Roberts later became world renown during the revival, a picture of this Bible went around the world.[14]

Evan Roberts was recovering from a cold and was unable to hear Seth Joshua until Tuesday night. When he heard Seth Joshua speak about the revival currently going on in the New Quay congregation, he felt that the time had come. Evan Roberts and several of the students at New Castle Emlyn petitioned the principal of the college to be allowed to attend meetings at nearby Blaenannerch, 8 miles away, at which Seth Joshua and Joseph Jenkins would be speaking. Principal Evan Phillips agreed and they were given permission to go to the meetings.


"O Lord, Bend Us"

On Thursday, September 29th, Evan Roberts and some twenty students started out at 6:00 a.m. to attend a 7 a.m. meeting at the Blaenannerch conference. Along the way they sang, "It is coming, it is coming, the power of the Holy Ghost; I receive it, I receive it, the power of the Holy Ghost." As they broke for breakfast, Seth Joshua concluded his preaching with a prayer in Welsh, "O Arglwydd, plyg ni" "O Lord, bend us". [15] Evan Roberts was deeply and visibly moved by this prayer. According to Roberts, "‘That is what you stand in need of,’ said the Spirit to me. And Oh! In going through the door I prayed within myself, ‘Oh! Lord, bend us.’"[16]

He refused to eat breakfast. On the way into the 9 o’clock meeting Seth Joshua commented, "We are going to have a wonderful meeting here to-day," to which Roberts replied "I am just bursting." When the meeting resumed at 9 a.m., Roberts knew he must pray. As he waited for others to finish praying he said , "I felt some living energy or force entering my bosom. It took my breath away, and my legs trembled exceedingly." Evan Roberts recounted the event himself, "I fell on my knees with my arms on the seat before me, the perspiration poured down my face and my tears streamed quickly - until I thought that the blood came out. Soon Mrs. Davies, Mona, New Quay, came to wipe my perspiration. . . It was awful on me for about two minutes. I cried ‘Bend me, bend me, bend me; Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! When wiping my perspiration Mrs. Davies said, ‘Oh wonderful grace!’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘Oh wonderful grace!’ It was God commending His love that bent me, and I not seeing anything in Him to commend. After I was bent, a wave of peace filled my bosom. When I was in this feeling the audience sang heartily, ‘I am coming, coming, Lord, to Thee!’ What came to my mind after this was, the bending in the day of judgment. Then I was filled with sympathy for the people who will have to bend in the judgment day, and I wept. Afterwards, the salvation of souls weighed heavily upon me.[17] Seth Joshua wrote in his diary, "One young man was deeply moved". Indeed he was. Evan Roberts would always remember this day as "Blaenanerch’s great meeting."

That was the crisis experience of Evan Roberts. When his burden lifted Roberts rose from prayer a changed man, "I felt ablaze with a desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the Saviour; and had it been possible, I was willing to pay God for doing so." [18]


"A Particle Of Radium In Our Midst"

Roberts returned to Newcastle Emlyn College, but could hardly bring himself to concentrate on his studies. He and his roommate, Sydney Evans, spent much time praying and reading together. Roberts began to form a team of students to travel and preach throughout Wales (he even took $1,000 from his personal savings to finance the team).

One midnight, after Roberts had been walking in the garden in communion with God, he went indoors, his face shining to the point of glowing. Sidney Evans (who later married Evan Roberts sister and went on to India as a missionary) was astonished and asked, "Evan, what has happened to you?" "Oh, Syd," he replied, "I had a vision of all Wales being lifted up to heaven. We are going to see the mightiest revival that Wales has ever known - and the Holy Spirit is coming soon, so we must get ready." [19] Roberts then asked Sydney Evans directly, with a piercing look in his eyes that Sidney Evans never forgot, "Sidney, do you believe God could give us a hundred thousand souls?".[20]

The vision of 100,000 souls being won to Christ was a recurring theme for Roberts. At one time he recorded a vision of an arm and hand holding out piece of paper with the number 100,000 written on it. From that time onward, whenever he prayed, Roberts had no peace of spirit until he had asked God specifically for that number of souls.[21] Amazingly, the official church records show that within 6 months God had indeed brought no less than 100,000 souls into the fellowship of His Church.

These were exciting days, and the two men found it difficult to concentrate on their Greek studies. Principal Evan Phillips, himself a child of the 1859 revival, described these days, "Evan Roberts was like a particle of radium in our midst. Its fire was consuming and felt abroad as something which took away sleep, cleared the channels of tears, and sped the golden wheels of prayer throughout the area . . . I did not weep much in the 1859 revival, but I have wept now until my heart is supple. In the midst of the greatest tearfulness I have found the greatest joy. I had felt for a year or two that there was a sighing in the wind, and something whispered that the storm could not be far away. Soon I felt the waters to begin to cascade. Now the bed belongs to the river and Wales belongs to Christ."[22]

The embers of revival fire were now aglow, fanned by the breath of God. It was only a matter of time before they would burst forth in unquenchable fire.


[1] There is an excellent book entitled "The Welsh Revival: Its Origin And Development", by Thomas Phillips. It is an eyewitness account of the 1859 revival. It is available from Banner of Truth at 3 Murrayfield road, Edinburgh EH12 6EL, England, or P.O. Box 621, Carlisle, Pennsylvania 17013, USA

[2] Editorial, Western Christian Advocate, July 4, 1900, quoted by J. Edwin Orr, The Flaming Tongue: The Impact of Twentieth Century Revivals (Moody Press: Chicago, 1973), p 66.

[3] J. Edwin Orr,"1981 Prayer Series," No. 1, "Prayer And Revival " Copyright 1994 Campus Crusade For Christ, International, Audio Tape Series available from Integrated Resources, the audio tape ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International (800)729-4351.

[4]James A. Stewart, Invasion of Wales by the Spirit Through Evan Roberts (Ft. Washington: Christian Literature Crusade, 1963), p. 25.

[5] Y Cyfaill Eglwsig, December, 1902; cf Missionary Review of the World, 1905, pp. 163 ff, quoted by Orr, The Flaming Tongue: The Impact of Twentieth Century Revivals (Moody Press: Chicago, 1973), page 1.

[6] W.T. Stead, The Revival In The West, page 57, in The Revival of 1905 (London: "The Review of Reviews" Publishing Office, 1905).

[7] Jessie Penn-Lewis, a leader in the Welsh Keswick movement was instrumental in advancing this claim through her book The Awakening In Wales, written during the heat of the revival. She called the Keswick movement "the hidden springs" of the revival.

[8]Eifion Evans, The Welsh Revival Of 1904, Evangelical Press, 1969, 136 Rosendale Road, London SE 21 or Box 2453, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501, page 53.

[9] This anecdote is related in a letter in the possession of Mr. Meurig Thomas of Llangeler, Dyfed. A copy is in the Evangelical Library of Wales at Bridgend, quoted by Brynmor P. Jones, Voices From The Welsh Revival 1904-1905 (Evangelical Press of Wales: Bridgend, 1995), page 16.

[10] Evans, The Welsh Revival of 1904, Page 59-60. Seth Joshua’s original diaries, written in Welsh, are today located in the official archives of the Calvinistic Methodist Church, National Library of Wales, in Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, Wales.

[11] Ibid., page 61.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Western Mail, The Religious Revival in Wales, Consolidated reports consisting of six pamphlets of collected newspaper reports issued in 1904-1905, iii, page 31, quoted by Evans, The Welsh Revival of 1904, page 64.

[14] David Matthews, I Saw The Welsh Revival (Moody Press: Chicago, 1951), page 14. Stead also records this event in The Revival In The West, page 42.

[15] The word "bend" in Welsh ("plyg") is much stronger than in English. The Welsh word carries the sense of to bend, mold or shape, like the potter shapes the clay.

[16] D. M. Phillips, Evan Roberts, The Great Welsh Revivalist And His Work (London: Marshall Brothers, 1906), page 124.

[17] Ibid., page 124-125.

[18] Ibid., page 125

[19] Colin Whittaker, Great Revivals (Radiant Books: Springfield, 1984) page 107.

[20] Orr, The Flaming Tongue, page 6.

[21] Evans, The Welsh Revival of 1904, page 79.

[22] Evans, The Welsh Revival of 1904, page 72.

Reference: When The Fire Fell -The Great Welsh Revival of 1904 And Its Meaning For Revival Today, R. Maurice Smith, 2001 - chapter 1, "Longing And Preparaion"

Source: The Parousia Network.


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