The first question that researchers tend to ask about the Welsh Revival is: Why did the Lord do it there? James E. Stewart concluded that God sends fire where it is likely to catch and spread, that “Wales provided the necessary tinder.” But what is the necessary tinder? According to Rick Joyner, Tinder is wood that is dry enough to burn easily.
When the Spirit Came
Evan Roberts (1878-1951) was not the author of the Welsh Revival. The author of the Welsh Revival was none other than the Holy Spirit of God, Himself. Although Evan Roberts became the popular figure in the movement before the press and the public in November 1904, it is well to note that the great Awakening in Wales had its beginnings two years before this time in many parts of the principality. And when the river of God was at full spate in the latter part of the year 1904, it was found that the Spirit was using for His instruments at least a hundred pastors, evangelists and so-called “lay people” for His work.
While the Spirit’s workings in revival spread into almost every nook and corner of the country, the ministry of Evan Roberts was in the main confined to one of its 12 counties. The fire of God burned in towns and villages which he did not visit. And in many of the places which he did visit, he found the fire was already there. His visit only fanned the flame.
One of the features of a true movement of the Holy Spirit in revival is that He does not depend on one human personality in His workings. As much as I love and admire Evan Roberts as a man of God, and as much as I appreciate how greatly his ministry was blessed in the movement in Wales, I must state that the whole lesson of this textbook on revival will have been missed if it leads the readers to glorify man instead of God.
It is true that there must be the human side of revival; “The sword of the Lord – and Gideon.” It is true that God searches out and uses broken, clean vessels for His work, and that in Evan Roberts He found such a vessel. Moreover, during these years, He prepared and used hundreds of such instruments in different parts of the principality who led thousands to Christ.
These young converts, in turn, went out to witness to the grace and power of god. Yet, every one of these men and women would point the reader to the divine Spirit of God who was the instigator and promoter of the mighty movement in Wales and surrounding districts in 1904-05. Another outstanding feature of true revival is that the movement does not depend on money, organization or advertising. You can’t organize or control the fire of God.
The astounding feature of this awakening was the lack of commercialism. There were no hymn books, no song leaders, no committees, no choirs, no great preachers, no offerings, and no organization. I have scanned newspapers of Wales which came out in 1904 and 1905 and found no paid advertisements there announcing the meetings. So far as I can discover in my research while reading magazines and books and asking numbers of people who were saved at that time, not one single dollar was spent in advertising the revivalists.
As the late Lord Pontypridd once remarked,
The revival finances and advertises itself. There are no bills, no hired halls, and no salaries.
The only time I can discover that a committee organized a planned evangelistic campaign for Evan Roberts was in the city of Liverpool in 1905. Even on this occasion, the Spirit of God disrupted the plans and broke through the machinery by the time the revivalist arrived.
The movement was entirely under the control of the Spirit of God. Evan Roberts seems to have learned his lesson in the matter of making his own plans early in the revival. Just a few weeks before the revival broke out in his home church in Loughor, Evan had planned campaigns throughout Wales with his brother Dan and his friend Sydney Evans. Soon he was to discover that the Spirit had another plan – something better and deeper. After this, he greatly feared man’s planning and organization.
In my long talks with Sydney Evans and Mary Roberts-Evans, his wife, and also with the widow of Dan Roberts, I discovered that Evan would not announce any meetings for a week ahead. He simply announced a day or two ahead, if at all, that he hoped to be in a certain place at a given time. Even then it was not sure when, where, or if he would preach! He moved only with the Spirit. When the campaign was organized in Liverpool, the committee pressed him to state a definite time when he would come and begin meetings, but he refused to say, and when he did eventually go there (his only meetings outside his beloved Wales) he gave the committee only a three or four days’ warning.
Even then, though 100,000 Welsh people in the great English city were longing and waiting to hear him, he insisted that he could not know in which of the crowded chapels he would speak at a given time! Another characteristic of true revival is that the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, is the center of the attraction:
It was noised that HE was in the house.” If the evangelist or the evangelistic party is the center of the attraction, then the work is of the flesh and not of God.
Nobody was more conscious of this fact than the popular revivalist (Evan Roberts) himself. He dreaded publicity. He dreaded newspaper reporters. He dreaded adulation. Many times he withdrew himself from the meetings when he felt that the people were coming to see and hear him only. In meetings where he feared he was the center of attraction, he pleaded with agonized spirit that the people would look away to Christ and Him alone, or else the Holy Spirit would withdraw Himself from the movement.
At other times, he purposely refrained from speaking in meetings, because he sensed that the people came to see and hear him about whom they’d heard rather than Jesus Christ who had the blessing from them. Though he became by far the most publicized preacher in the world at that time, he repeatedly refused interviews with newspaper men who came from every part of the globe.
He refused to be photographed except by members of his own family. He knew this awakening was of God and not from himself, and that if people idolized him, the Shekinah Glory would be withdrawn. Thus, it was that when letters reached him from many different publishing firms throughout the world asking that they might write about him, he felt the Spirit would have him answer none of these, fearing that he would be robbing God of the glory due to His holy name alone.
Sometimes the revivalist sat among the people, praying silently, and then left without saying a word. Visitors from different parts of the world were astonished to sit in crowded gatherings where people sang, prayed and testified without the young prophet even being there to take part. The saintly F. B. Meyer, a matured Christian leader, upon watching him in the meetings, explained,
He will not go in front of the divine Spirit, but is willing to stand aside and remain in the background unless he is perfectly sure that the Spirit of God is moving him.” Then he added, “It is a profound lesson for us all!
So evident was it that the movement was a divine work that outstanding British Christian leaders came and stood in awe and bowed in adoration to God. Although famous preachers such as Gypsy Rodney Smith, F. B. Meyer, G. Campbell Morgan, General Booth, and many others visited the scene of blessing, in the majority of cases, they only prayed or said a few words. Sometimes they sat quietly in the meetings while young people, and even children prayed, sang and testified in the Spirit. These great men of God recognized the fact that here was not a revival come through great preachers nor through great preaching, but that it was a supernatural work altogether apart from either.
They felt that their very personalities would hinder the meetings. And why should great Christian leaders preach sermons when here before them they saw their sermons fulfilled! Here was the answer to the agony of their prayers for the blessing upon the church of God and the salvation of lost souls. And besides – they could not have taken part unless the Holy Spirit had invited them to do so! Back in Moriah, Evan spoke for the first time on The Four Great Tenets, which formed such an important part in his message at the beginning of the revival. They became known later as the four points:
Did they desire an outpouring of the Spirit? Very well; four conditions must be observed, and they were essential:
I. Is there any sin in your past that you have not confessed to God? On your knees at once. Your past must be put away and yourself cleansed.
II. Is there anything in your life that is doubtful? – anything you can’t decide whether it is good or evil. Away with it! There must not be a cloud between you and God. Have you forgiven everybody, everybody, EVERYBODY? If not, don’t expect forgiveness for your own sins. You won’t get it.
III. Do what the Spirit prompts you to do. Obedience – prompt, implicit, unquestioning obedience to the Spirit.
IV. A public confession of Christ as your Savior. There is a vast difference between profession and confession.
At this meeting, he taught the children to pray “Send the Holy Spirit to Moriah for Jesus’ sake.” He spoke in the evening on “Ask and it shall be given you.”These things must be believed,” he said, “if the work is to succeed. We must believe that God is willing and able to answer our prayers. We must believe in a conquering Christ who is able to defeat all opposition.”
Just as the comments on prophetic Scripture by our Savior in His own synagogue at Nazareth astonished the hearers, so this night the church members who had known Evan all his life sat in amazement at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
After speaking for a while, he threw the meeting open for prayer and testimony. This went on till midnight. To my mind, this was a most remarkable day. An ordained clergyman from another town occupied the morning pulpit, as such had been arranged beforehand. Young Evan sat and listened to the message.
The reader must remember that these meetings, which were to mark the mightiest manifestation of the revival, were neither advertised nor organized. The pastor was simply giving the young man Evan an opportunity to obey God in giving his witness. On this Lord’s Day morning, it was announced that Evan would preach in the evening. That evening, the subject of the revivalist was “The Importance of Obedience.”He emphasized the following:
I commit this meeting into the hands of the Holy Spirit. Remember, the Holy Spirit is not “something,” but a Person. By giving the meeting into His hands, I give it into the hands of a “Person.” At the close of his message, some 60 young people responded for salvation. Then he taught the people to pray, “Send the Spirit now for Christ’s sake.
This meeting lasted until well past midnight and left its mark on the whole of Loughor, for it thrilled the neighborhood with divine awe. This was the turning point of the series of meetings.