It was Wednesday 29th March, 1905 that Evan Roberts began his only mission outside of Wales, in the city of Liverpool, where scores of thousands of Welsh people lived. He laboured there almost three weeks and it is estimated that 750 converts joined the churches as a result of his ministry. Each evening of the campaign Gwylim Hughes hurriedly wrote a short sketch of his observations of the meetings and telegraphed them to the South Wales Daily News, 170 miles away. This book is comprised of these eighteen vibrant and first-hand sketches. We have included five of the eighteen sketches.
LIVERPOOL, Wednesday, March 29, 1905.
Mr. Evan Roberts, this evening, commenced his work in Liverpool, and for the next fortnight or three weeks, so it is now arranged, he will minister among the scores of thousands of Welsh people who are residing in and around this great city. We of South Wales are well aware how heavily the Liverpool visit has, during the last month, weighed on the missioner’s mind. It was one of the reasons given by him for his retirement into the seven days’ silence and solitude at Neath, but he left his home at Loughor yesterday fully persuaded that his efforts here would secure the Divine blessing. Among the Welsh churches of the city and suburbs, embracing all denominations, the visit has been anticipated with feverish anxiety, and recent events, with the delays and uncertainties they involved, have served only to heighten the fever. The Liverpool Welsh Free Churches Council, the body that has charge of the mission arrangements, organised in preparation for it a thorough canvass of the Welsh people of Liverpool. These, it was found, numbered 30,000, and of these 4,000 are described as non-adherents — that is to say, persons who do not attend any place of worship. During the next few days’ special efforts will be made to bring these within the influence of the revival.
To-night’s opening meeting was at Princes Road C. M. Chapel, a handsome edifice often described as the cathedral of Welsh Nonconformity. It stands on the Princes-road Boulevard — a magnificent avenue leading to Sefton Park, and within easy access of the centre of the city. Simultaneously another meeting was held at the Mount Zion Wesleyan Chapel, close by, and this was likewise crowded out. That Mr. Roberts would appear at one or other of these meetings was generally known, but, outside the committee, no one knew which of the two places he would select. At six, the chapel doors were thrown open, and for the next twenty minutes a force of Liverpool police — all Welsh-men — had as much as they could do to control and marshal the great and excited crowd besieging the entrances. Under normal conditions Princes-road Church is assured to seat 1,800 people. This evening it was packed in every corner, though the aisles were kept free. The stewards had strict orders to prevent anybody standing in the aisles, and the injunctions were rigidly observed. Among the occupants of the deacons’ pew I observed practically all the best-known leaders of Welsh Nonconformity in the city. The Rev. John Williams, the pastor of the church, one of the great preachers of Wales, was conspicuous, and so also were Dr. Owen Evans, ex-president of the Congregational Union of Wales, Revs. D. Adams (C.), W. M. Jones (C. M.) David Jones, W. O. Evans (W.), O. R. Owen (C.), J. Lewis Williams (C.), Owen Owens (C. M.), J. D. Evans (C. M.), W. Owen (C. M.) Robert Lewis (W.), J. Hughes, BA., B. D. (C.M.), Mr. W. Evans, chairman of the Liverpool Welsh Free Churches Council, Councillor Henry Jones (secretary), and others.
An hour ago, as I wended my way to this meeting, my companion, one of the best known laymen of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, incidentally remarked, “This is a great and risky experiment, to transplant the revivalist from his native Glamorgan.” It was with some such doubts also that I scanned this great gathering. Before the missioner arrived, the atmosphere seemed to entirely lack that spiritual electricity we have been accustomed to associate with revival gatherings in the Southern province. Indeed, for the first half-hour the congregation seemed too eminently respectable to do anything of its own initiative, and assumed an air of expectancy and curiosity that was chilling, if not absolutely fatal to anything approaching enthusiasm and spontaneity.
The opening prayer was offered by the Rev. J. Lewis Williams (C.), who it was interesting to learn is the successor at the Great Mersey Street Church of the Rev. Peter Price, now of Dowlais, the writer of the recent attack upon the missioner and his methods. He was followed by the Rev. W. O. Evans (Wesleyan), and subsequently, after some urging from the “set fawr,” a few prayers were offered in the congregation, and a number of hymns were sung. The revival “fire,” however, had not yet been kindled.
Promptly at 7 o’clock Mr. Evan Roberts entered the pulpit from the vestry behind, looking in excellent health. With him were Miss Annie Davies and his sister, Miss Mary Roberts. They were followed by the Rev. D. M. Phillips, of Tylorstown. Their advent seemed to arouse no special interest. Evidently, the stolid, phlegmatic Northman is not so easily excited as his mercurial brother in the South.
Is the revivalist disappointed? This meeting, after his recent experiences, must seem to him something like an approach to the Arctic regions. He sits in one of the pulpit chairs, and for the next hour and a half utters not a word.
Meanwhile let us glance at the audience. Gradually we become conscious of an increase of fervour in the hymns. The prayers too, seem attuned to a more spiritual key. We hear the same hymns that we sing in the South, but — with a difference. They are all here sung in the minor key, and the tempo is slow and at times almost dragging? Those who pray are of all ages, old and young. At last, here are two on their feet simultaneously, both praying loud and long, and ere they finish someone strikes up a well-known hymn. Presently, the whole congregation is singing with something akin to enthusiasm.
A minute later Miss Annie Davies is rendering her first revival solo in Liverpool. It is “I need Thee every hour,” and we note with delight that her voice is so far recovered that to-day it is as pure as it was in the early days of the revival, and shows no signs of wearing. Her example inspires many other sisters to participate in the service, and the prayers that follow in rapid succession from half a dozen young women in various parts of the building are stirring and truly eloquent.
It was 8.30 when the missioner first broke silence, and then it was in terms of severe reproof. Someone had started the quaint Welsh hymn “Y Gwr wrth ffynon Jacob,” the congregation taking it up to all appearance with great heartiness. But when the fifth line was reached, in which a desire is expressed for closer contact with God, the missioner, who had for some half-hour been burying his face in his hands, suddenly sprang up and, with right arm uplifted and features tear-stained, peremptorily called upon the congregation to stop. There was instant obedience. “You ask for closer contact with God,” he exclaimed in severe tones, “when there are in this very meeting hundreds of obstacles to the coming of the Spirit. There are scores, nay, hundreds here who during the last hour have disobeyed the Spirit. The lesson of prompt obedience to the Holy Spirit must be learnt at all costs. He must be obeyed at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances, in small things as well as in great.”
With this introduction the missioner proceeded to dwell upon the~ danger of offending God. “In that never-to-be-forgotten Cwmavon meeting,” he remarked, “some of us saw what it meant to displease God.” Christ had died for a whole world. He was entitled to receive a whole world in return. Was He to receive it? The sacrifice on the Cross called for sacrifice on the part of all Christ’s followers. Then had been no successful gathering yet which had not cost something to somebody. Heaven had cost much. Those who would serve Christ must serve Him at the cost of sacrifice. They must in the first place give Him their hearts.
With dramatic suddenness the missioner now cut off his address with the remark, “I can proceed no further. There is someone here ready to speak.” And after a second’s pause a lady in the nave speaking in low, tremulous tones, recited portions of Scripture. Meanwhile Mr. Evan Roberts, glancing rapidly and excitedly around the congregation, cried out, “Come, oh! come at once; don’t delay.” And those near him observed with some alarm that he compressed his lips, as in a violent effort to suppress his emotions, that the veins in his temples and his neck became prominent, standing out like whipcord, and that he bent in the attitude of a man in a paroxysm of pain. He resumed his seat, and presently recovered his composure.
There was no call made for “confessions” or “testimonies,” and yet for the next five minutes confessions came from all parts of the building, and this phase of the proceedings was appropriately closed by Miss Mary Roberts reading the 4th chapter of the first Epistle General of John. Then, as if moved by a common impulse, the congregation rang out in a thrilling rendering of a rousing Welsh hymn, and we felt that at last the congregation had been thawed, and was under the indefinable spell of the revival. Hitherto every word uttered in public had been in Welsh, but someone sang a strain of the revival melody “Come to Jesus,” and English people present, recognizing their own language, summoned courage to participate in the proceedings. From this point to the end English prayers, and English hymns were frequently heard.
Still the missioner was not satisfied. Another hour had passed when he spoke again, and again it was a complaint that he uttered. Either the Holy Spirit worked differently in the North, or there was disobedience in the meeting, so we heard declared; but, continued the missioner, the Holy Spirit was the same North and South. The Spirit was at His best at that meeting, but hundreds within the building were in deed, if not in words, saying Him nay. The result of this disobedience was, that he (the speaker) was not permitted even to give out a hymn, much less to test the meeting.
Later there was a visible improvement, for the revival feeling rose to a great height, though in no way approaching anything witnessed in Glamorgan. At ten o’clock the meeting was tested by the Rev, John Williams, and a dozen converts were enrolled. The revivalist’s closing words were a solemn warning to unbelievers.
It must he recorded that at this inaugural meeting the revivalist fell far short of doing justice to the reputation that had preceded him, and possibly many left the building disappointed. It is yet too soon, however, to form any conclusions. Mr. Evan Roberts is evidently feeling his way, and those who know him best are confident that in a few days the extraordinary outburst of religious fervour which marked his visits to the towns of Wales will be witnessed also in this great seaport on the Mersey. As we left the crowded building, we had outside to fight our way into the streets. Through a great throng inside the chapel railings, who all through the evening had been holding a revival service of their own in the open air. In this service dozens of Welsh policemen of Liverpool, drafted thereto by the chief constable, took conspicuous part.
LIVERPOOL, Thursday, March 30, 1905.
Disappointing as was last night’s meeting at Princes Road Chapel to those familiar with revival scenes in South Wales, the Liverpool people express themselves delighted with it. They regard it as an unqualified success. “Mr. Evan Roberts made an excellent first impression” is the phrase we hear on all sides, and this view is amply confirmed by the Liverpool and Manchester morning papers, all of which find in the Princes Road gathering ample justification of the renown which the revivalist has won. “We did not anticipate,” said a leading local minister to me to-day, “witnessing in Liverpool anything like the stirring scenes you have had down South. I question whether our people here are capable of any extraordinary ebullition of feeling, and we do not desire it; but there prevailed at last night’s meeting a deep and intense feeling which was unmistakable, and the revival, we feel confident, is taking a firm hold of the city.”
In a conversation with the Rev. John Williams, of Princes Road, to-day, I was told something of the manner in which the city had been prepared for the coming of the mission. A house-to-house canvass of so vast a community as Liverpool is surely a task that would not be lightly undertaken by any body or association, no matter how highly organised, but the Welsh Free Churches of Liverpool, having conceived the idea, did not rest until it was carried into execution. The work was divided between the churches, and for many days one thousand canvassers were daily at work. Not a house was left unvisited, either in Liverpool or the suburbs, including Birkenhead and Garston, and at each the inquiry was made, “Are there any Welsh people here who do not frequent places of worship?” In the result, as previously stated, 4,000 such prodigals were discovered.
While this work was in progress, the canvassers met every Sunday night for prayer, and at one of these meetings someone conceived the happy idea of organizing during the mission special gatherings for this class of non-church goers. I hear to-day that three such meetings have been arranged in three different parts of the city, and they will be held next week. These meetings, every one of which Mr. Evan Roberts is anxious to address, are expected to be the feature of next week’s programme.
Mr. Evan Roberts, I ascertained this morning, is in the best of health and spirits, and is deeply grateful to the Liverpool committee for the very excellent arrangements made for his comfort. The address of the house (No. 1 Duc’s Street, Princes Park, the residence of Mrs. Edwards) in which he resides during his stay in the city is kept a profound secret, and he is thus enabled to enjoy rest and freedom, and to escape the unweleome attentions of the army of inquisitive callers who had been dogging his footsteps in other places. I very much fear, however, that the secret will soon become public property, for as I passed the house this morning I observed a crowd of the curious ones in the immediate vicinity watching the carriage which had just arrived to take the revivalist out for his morning drive.
To-night’s meeting is held in the northern end of the city, the chapel selected for the missioner’s visit being that of Anfield Road, opposite Stanley Park. Simultaneously three similar gatherings, all crowded, were held in other chapels in the vicinity. Commodious as is the chapel at Anfield Road, for it will comfortably accommodate 1,200 people, it proved hopelessly inadequate to house the enormous crowd that besieged all the entrances at 6 o’clock. Three minutes later every inch of room within was occupied. Then the doors were finally closed, and the pastor (the Rev. Owen Owens) conveyed to those within, a message from the chief constable of Liverpool that no one was to leave the building until the close of the proceedings. This precaution, it was explained, was necessary so as to avoid crushing and panic.
It was an inspiring audience, typically Welsh, with a slight sprinkling perhaps of other nationalities. The spirit, of idle curiosity so painfully evident at Princes Road was to-night markedly absent; and ten minutes after the congregation was admitted I could detect nothing to distinguish the meeting from the finest revival gathering seen even in the Rhondda and the Garw. The Rev. Dr. Abel T. Parry, D.D., of Rhyl, an ex-president of the Welsh Baptist Union, had scarcely finished reading the introductory chapter ere a lady under the gallery was heard in earnest supplication. She was immediately followed by two young men, one a mere boy, and both prayed with irresistible power. Their theme was one of praise that in this revival the young men of Liverpool had been deeply immersed in the baptism of the Spirit. This elicited loud and fervent “Amens” from all parts of the building, and presently the “gorfoledd” found adequate vent in hymn after hymn. During the brief intervals between the stanzas we heard the music being repeated by a choir of apparently many thousand voices clustered in the streets on three sides of the building.
Let us glance around. While the congregation is yet singing, fully half a dozen persons in as many pews up and down the building are engaged in prayer, and as the music ceases we hear their voices, pitched in a quaint and musical monotone, betraying their North Wales origin. All of them are apparently blissfully unconscious of their surroundings. Like Jacob, one is wrestling for the blessing;, another, striking an altruistic note, pleads for the baptism of the Spirit upon all and sundry, but especially upon Evan Roberts, “Thine honoured servant.”
No one is in charge. The conduct of the meeting is entirely in the hands of the congregation. The spontaneity of the proceedings is delightful. Prayers and hymns follow absolutely without interval, and, as in South Wales, we occasionally have a dozen people simultaneously on their feet. Last night Mr. Evan Roberts — he has I see, just arrived, he is now in the pulpit, though his arrival has created no commotion — the revivalist, was taken aback by the lack of warmth at the Princes Road service, and asked whether the Spirit worked differently in the North from the way He worked in the South. Surely such a query would to-night be quite out of place. The ladies are now very much in evidence, and striking and beautiful are some of the prayers they offer. “The Pentecost that was lost through unbelief must come again,” exclaims one, while the next pleads that the Lord should make them “all Marys, all prostrate at the feet of Jesus.”
Shortly all eyes are fixed on the pulpit. Miss Annie Davies is singing the revival love song,
“Dyma gariad fel y moroedd,
Tosturiaethau fel y lli’!
T’wysog ‘bywyd pur yn marw,
Marw i brynu’n bywyd ni!
Pwy all beidio coflo am dano?
Pwy all beidio traethu’i glod?
Dyma gariad nad a’n anghof —
Tra bo’r nefoedd wen yn bod!
In a second or two she is complete mistress of the congregation. All seen enraptured by the vocalist, who, despite her glorious voice, evidently thinks more of her theme than of her art. She sings as one inspired. The line “Dyma gariad nad a’n anghof” (“Love that cannot be forgotten”) is rung out again and again at the top of her voice with telling effect, and, presently, in contemplation of His love thus extolled, hundreds are silently weeping. A Wesleyan Methodist minister from Paris offers prayer in English for France; Gipsy Smith’s brother-in-law, Mr. Evens, offers another for the salvation of the world, and other Englishmen and Englishwomen follow their example.
Why this silence of the missioner? It is nine o’clock; two hours have elapsed since he took his seat in the pulpit, but he has not yet uttered a word, nor has his face been once lit with a smile. Half an hour ago he bent his head and hid his face in his hands; now, as the congregation are absorbed in a rousing rendering of the Welsh Christian war march, “Marchog lesu yn Ilwyddianus,” ‘he seems to be rousing himself from a reverie and to be taking an intelligent interest in what passes around.
A young fellow in the gallery has been praying for a downpour of the Spirit. It was this that brought Mr. Evan Roberts at last to his feet. “No,” he exclaimed, “don’t ask the Spirit for the downpour, for we shall not get it. The Spirit will not come in all His fullness until a place is prepared for Him.” Hence, he continued, the need for whole-hearted dedication of self — body and soul — to the service of God. Some prayed for a revival, and yet closed the doors of their own hearts against it; others were ready to do great things for God, but refused to do the lesser things for Him. They must learn to do the lesser things before they would be permitted to do the greater things. Was that meeting a success? Yes, perfectly; but Jesus had not been given all the glory that it had been possible to give Him, nor yet as much glory as He desired to have. They must not rob God of His glory. They must make up their minds to give all for God or all for the Devil. Each one of them must attract people to Jesus or repel people from Jesus. Which was it to be? In many Christian hearts Jesus reigned, while the will, the affection, the intellect, had not all been subjected to Him. There was need to rub the rust off many a follower of Christ. God needed workers, not men. Jesus was the greatest worker the world had ever seen, and he who would be like the Master must be ready to be bent, and to be humiliated, even as the Master was.
For fully five minutes after the revivalist had suddenly ceased speaking, there is a silence that can be felt. Evan Roberts, bending over the pulpit desk, glances up and down the silent, solemn congregation with face now smiling, now sad, his solitary remark being,
“I have stopped, because I feel that now in this chapel scores are weighing themselves in the balance.” Eventually the painful silence is broken by a touching prayer from the gallery for Universal peace, universal salvation.” “Thou hast saved the Welsh, O Lord,” ran one of the phrases, “save also the English, and the Scotch, and the Irish,” and the congregation after a loud “Amen” breaks forth into a fervent and ecstatic rendering of “Diolch Iddo.”
A little later the delicate task of testing the audience is conducted by the Rev. Owen Owens. On this occasion church members are asked not only to stand up, but to raise the right arm, and at once we see a whole forest of arms uplifted. “Up with them,” cries the missioner, “up even unto Heaven if necessary; remember the arms that were once extended on the Cross.” Are there any arms down? Only a few. Two, three, four converts are announced in rapid succession, and after each announcement the revivalist, who is now as eager and boyish in manner as he was wont to be at the beginning of this historic movement, leads the audience in a great chant of praise.
“Here is one who doesn’t want to give in,” The voice comes somewhere from the far end. “He won’t? ” asks the revivalist, “Let him beware lest the cry soon be that he shall not.” Another man was said to decline because “he knew too many of the tricks of some who were church members.” “It will be every man for himself in the great day to come,” was the revivalist’s response, “Do you find any fault with God?”
It was close upon 11 o’clock when the meeting terminated, and a similar gathering held in the adjoining hall was simultaneously brought to a close. These Anfield meetings, if I mistake not, mark the beginning in Liverpool of a movement destined to prove as marvellous as that witnessed even in South Wales.
BIRKENHEAD, Friday, March 31, 1905.
Throughout all the great centres of population skirting the banks of the Mersey, Evan Roberts, the Welsh revivalist, is undeniably the hero of the hour. His name is on every lip, his pictures are exhibited in hundreds of shop windows, and repeatedly to-day have I heard the regret expressed that the mission is not conducted in the universal language of the Saxon, and held in the Torrey-Alexander pavilion, which is still up, and in which 14,000 people could be accommodated. Evan Roberts has, however, come to Liverpool to conduct a mission to the Welsh people in the language they know best, and, as to the second point, the Welsh revivalist has not yet, except in one solitary instance at Bridgend, conducted a service since the beginning of the revival in any building not habitually used as a place of public worship. The Liverpool Committee, in arranging a series of suburban gatherings in preference to any central demonstration, are not only carrying out the wishes of the revivalist himself, but are keeping the movement in Liverpool and district strictly on the lines that have led to success in the towns and valleys of Wales.
The scene of operations to-day was changed from Liverpool to Birkenhead, and we are assembled this evening in the spacious chapel of the English Primitive Methodists in Grange Road. It is yet but six o’clock. The revivalist is not due for another hour, but the building was packed, and all the doors closed half an hour ago. Since then thousands have been turned away. Two other chapels in the vicinity, we are informed, are also crowded out. They are the English Baptist Chapel, Grange Road, and the Welsh Wesleyan Chapel, Claughton Road. In which of these three chapels will the revivalist appear? Anyone knowing the secret, and willing to part with it for a consideration, could have added considerably to his wealth during the last few hours. But the committee have kept their secret well, and there are not many, even in this congregation, who know that this is the chapel which the missioner will favour.
Looking around I recognise in the solitary occupant of the pulpit pew the form and features of the Rev. Thomas Gray, of Birkenhead, who must now be numbered among the veterans of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist ministry. He is “in charge” pending the missioner’s arrival, but the congregation is already aflame with the spirit of the revival, and any attempt at leading would be out of place. An eloquent prayer for “the lessening of immorality and ungodliness in the town” is offered by the Rev. William Watson, the well-known Presbyterian minister of Claughton, but this is the only English we hear during the first hour, though there must be a large number of Englishmen present. The next prayer is in Welsh, and he who offers it, a middle-aged man of the artisan class, is evidently a recent convert. In the fluent, vigorous phrases that fall from him, we glean a bit of his personal history. For 20 years he had been a pronounced infidel, but two months ago the light came, darkness and doubt were for ever-dispelled and faith and conviction had been enthroned. It is a great prayer of thanksgiving, and the congregation is deeply stirred. The joy of the last two months is poetically depicted, but we are told that the only true happiness is that derived from bringing other souls within reach of the mercy of God. We must all be fishers of men and winners of souls. The same altruistic note is struck in many other prayers.
The Mission of the Welsh, it has often been written, is to counteract materialism, and to deepen the spirituality of the human race. If this be so, then the revival helps the nation to fulfil its destiny. A writer in a Liverpool daily to-day claims to have found the secret of the revival. It is, he asserts, the power of the Welsh people to sing. Had he made the remark after hearing this Birkenhead congregation to-night, one might be tempted to pardon him. In all my experience of the revival I have certainly heard no more inspiring singing than this. Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that there is here a large number of visitors from Festiniog and other North Wales centres, though I am reminded, by the way, that the Welsh vocalists of Birkenhead have on more than one occasion asserted their superiority in the chief choral and the ladies’ choral competitions of the National Eisteddfod. In the prayers, as in the hymns, there is in every word an unmistakable heart-throb, and occasionally the building re-echoes to the sound of loudIy-proclaimed “Amenau.”
It was a few minutes past seven when the missioner arrived. He at once took his seat, with the Rev. John Williams, in the pulpit. Miss Annie Davies was accommodated with a seat in the front. For some reason the missioner’s sister is to-night absent. The arrival of the missioner causes an unusual flutter of excitement, and his features are closely scanned, and his every movement eagerly followed by an excited throng — but only for a moment. A fervent prayer is heard in the galleries ‘that we may look to Thee, oh Lord, and not to Thy servant,” and thus recalled to the spiritual aspect of the gathering, the congregation abandons itself once more to an ecstasy of praise. In a subdued voice Miss Annie Davies gives an exquisite rendering of Sankey’s ‘I hear Thy tender voice,” and a solemn hush falls upon the assembly as it drinks in every warbling note that trills from the throat of the youthful singer.
In the audience are scores of young men and women from Rhos, aflame with the fire of the revival, kindled there simultaneously with the outbreak at Loughor. They are easily distinguishable by the fervency of their prayers, and presently four or five of them are heard addressing the Throne of Grace in voices pitched in a high, tremulous key, pulsating with emotion.
We begin to feel that this is going to be an unusual service, for the atmosphere is surcharged with that indefinable something so frequently experienced, at Evan Roberts’s meetings. Call it hypnotism, magnetism, or what you will, or apply to it the revivalist’s own description, “the Operation of the Holy Spirit,” the effect is unmistakably manifest. Hearts beat quick and faces grow pale. There is a catch in the throat, and a deep consciousness that something is about to happen. A silence supervenes that is positively painful — the tension is at breaking point.
Half a dozen voices start a hymn, the congregation makes an effort to follow, and anon the, revivalist, rising suddenly from his seat, excitedly seizes the pulpit Bible and quickly turns o’er its leaves, as if in search of a text that is eluding him. Then, surveying the congregation, with face twitching as if with pain, and eyes full of pathos and sorrow, he sternly demands “silence, stop!”
The congregation is startled, and looks up. The hymn is abruptly stopped in the middle of a line. “Stop,” repeats the missioner. “Stop, we must first clear this place before we can sing. A moment ago a friend over there beseeched God to come nearer, but He will not come nearer until some things here are cleared out of the way.”
What is amiss? Each man looks with wonder at his neighbour, and we seem to read in the astonished faces that are turned towards the pulpit the startling question, “And is this man in the confidence of the Almighty?” Presently, the missioner proceeds to explain. “There are some here to-night who cannot pray the Lord’s prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ Why? Because they will not forgive those that have trespassed against them, and they are here to-night, and are obstacles in the way. Think not this is imagination, say not this is a flight of fancy; it is KNOWLEDGE. They are here, as certain as I am here, as certain as God is here,” and, proceeding, he urges those thus alluded to, to forgive at once.
The scene that follows baffles description. Frantic prayers are heard from many parts of’ the building. List to some of the phrases, “Bend them, oh Lord.” “Forgive us and strengthen us to forgive.” “Pardon our hypocrisy.” “Bend the entire congregation.” A little boy of eleven, who is in the gallery behind the pulpit, offers a prayer that is beautiful and touching. “Let love prevail like the ocean,” he cries, “to enable us all to forgive and forget trespasses, and to think only of the infinite love of God. ”
Again the congregation, with more than half of its members in tears, starts a hymn, and again, the missioner imperatively intervenes. “These people decline to forgive, and some of them are important personages, too. Let them beware lest the Spirit compels them to stand up and publicly denounce their own iniquity, nor must they be surprised if their names are given me. God is revealing Himself in wonderful ways these days.”
This, we know from experience, is no idle threat; and we recall memories of that extraordinary meeting at Blaenanerch, when the missioner who now speaks actually pronounced a name under circumstances similar to these.
Again we hear a multitude of prayers. One of the number is by a young man, who is described to me as a leading official of the Free Church of the Welsh (Eglwys Rydd y Cymry), the section that recently seceded from the Calvinistic Methodist body in Liverpool. I look up and recognise him. He took a prominent part in the painful historic controversy that preceded that secession. We seem to be getting a glimmer of light on what is happening. Are hostile leaders in this meeting, with hearts still filled with bitterness and rancour? “Unite us, O Lord, unite us” is the young man’s piercing cry, and again he repeats it, and again and again he is followed by loud “Amens.” Sounds of sobbing fall on the ear from all sides. He who prays proceeds: — “We are in a hopeless tangle. Lord, reduce us to some semblance of order. We are in mortal fear of quitting this meeting until we are assured we are all brethren and sisters in Christ. Bend us all until every church in the district is ready to co-operate for the furtherance of Thy Kingdom.” Is this a reference to the recent decision of the Welsh Free Church Council of Liverpool not to admit the Free Church of the Welsh into its ranks? Other rhapsodies in the same prayer are equally pointed.
After this it seemed the most natural thing in the world to hear prayer after prayer in which were heard the declarations, “I thank Thee, Lord, Thou hast given me the strength. I forgive all now. I beseech Thee to grant me Thy forgiveness.” “No,” declared the missioner, a little later, “It is not clear here yet. There are still some here who refuse to forgive. They are stubbornly resisting the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They must not expect any sleep to-night. God in His own good time will deal terribly with each of them. May He have mercy upon them.”
The Rev. John Williams, speaking slowly and solemnly, asked the congregation to unite with him in the Lord’s Prayer, and at once 1,800 people bent in supplication, and with faces lifted, offered in Welsh the Lord’s Prayer, repeating with significant emphasis the passage referring to forgiveness. When the Welsh version is finished Miss Annie Davies leads the assembly in an equally fervent repetition of the same prayer in English. Then the revivalist, with face beaming with joy, exclaims, “At last, the Spirit is permitting us to sing. Let us then sing
“Ymgrymed pawb i lawr
I enw’r addfwyn Oen!
Yr Enw mwyaf mawr
Erioed a glywyd son:
Y clod, y mawl, y parch, a’r bri
Fo byth i enw’,n Harglwydd ni!”
In the rendering of this noble hymn, the missioner himself leads the congregation, and then the incident is closed by Miss Annie Davies with an exquisite rendering of “Dyma Feibl Anwyl lesu” wedded to the music of “The Last Rose of Summer.”
“Will those who would like to love Jesus, put their hands up?” The question is put by the Rev. John Williams, and there is prompt response. Every arm in the building is uplifted. The revivalist claps his hands with very joy.
Soon afterwards many converts were enrolled, among the names called out being that of Mr. —— who, it was explained by the Rev. Thomas Gray, “is a brother of the Rev. —— a well-known South Wales minister.” “Oh,” retorts the missioner, “he has found a better brother in Jesus to-night. ”
It was a long way past ten ere this remarkable service ended. While it proceeded members of the Y.M.C.A. of Birkenhead conducted an equally remarkable open-air service outside the chapel, where many thousands were gathered.
Old Feuds Healed. Saturday.
At the Birkenhead meeting last night the hindrance mentioned by the revivalist was the presence in the congregation of people who refused to forgive their enemies. To-day I have received full details (including names, addresses, etc.) of an incident which in this connection will be read with interest. There were present at the meeting a brother and a sister, both advanced in years, who for 20 years had not spoken to each other. Every effort at reconciliation had failed. During the stress of those never-to-be-forgotten moments, when the revivalist depicted the sinfulness of hatred and the duty of forgiveness, both agreed to forgive and forget, and to seek reconciliation. Outside the chapel the two accidentally met, mutually embraced, craved each other’s pardon, and then walked home together linked arm-in-arm.
LIVERPOOL, Saturday Night, April 1 1905
A special meeting exclusively for non-adherents is surely a novel feature even in a revival which, from its beginning, has been run on unusual lines. The idea of organising such a gathering was conceived in Liverpool, and to-night we witness in Liverpool the first attempt to carry the idea into practice. On paper the arrangements were perfect. Hundreds of pink tickets were distributed exclusively, so we were officially assured, to non-adherents, while canvassers who were responsible for bringing these “esgeuluswyr” once more within hearing of the evangel, were supplied with white tickets, securing their own admittance only on condition that they brought one or more non-adherents with them. This is the first of three similar ticket meetings to be held during Mr. Roberts’s visit to the city.
Very often, alas, the best laid schemes “gang agley,” and to-night’s effort, from all appearance, has not been the success it was hoped for. What than is lacking? Certainly not enthusiasm. The crowd is greater than ever. Shaw Street Chapel, in which we are now assembled, is the chapel of the Welsh Wesleyans, where the late Egiwysbach ministered for some years, and is possibly one of the most commodious places of worship to be found in the north end of the city. Now at 6.50, 20 minutes after the doors were thrown open, it is packed from floor to ceiling.
Looking at the congregation from the pulpit end, what do we see? Ministers and preachers of all denominations clustered in and about the pulpit pew; deacons and leading church workers, whom we recognise as having met at previous gatherings — they are all here with zeal and vigour undiminished. Scan the pews closely and critically, and note how they are crowded with well-dressed men and women — typical chapel goers, every one of them. And if you are in any doubt on that point listen to the singing! In what church or chapel in all Wales can you hear ‘a heartier, a fuller-throated, a more soulful and “hwyliog” rendering than this of the music of the sanctuaries of Cymru? There is not a single hymn book in view on balcony or floor. Close your eyes, and as you hear hymn and prayer and testimony and confession, you can emphatically declare that this is a Welsh valley where revivalism is at fever heat. This a congregation of non-adherents? Have the Mission Committee been befooled on this first day of April?
When on the point of putting this very question to one of the officials, my ear caught a few phrases of protest from the Rev. W. 0. Evans (Wesleyan), Bootle. He is in the set fawr, and facing the audience makes a pointed appeal — “Outside there are hundreds of non-adherents with tickets, but they cannot come in. Will those in the audience who are Christian members quit the building and make room for some of them? “What a fine opportunity this for the exercise of a little Christian self-denial. But no; so far as I can see there is scarcely any movement. The appeals fall on deaf ears, and the next minute we are caught in the mighty sweep of another Welsh hymn. Turning to the Rev. W. O. Evans I ask, “Are there any non-adherents here?” and the sorrowful reply is, “There are hundreds of church members:” “Nay,” said a voice behind him, “there are hundreds of esgeuluswyr, too. We have been bringing them in by the score all the afternoon, in cabs, in wagonettes, and by trams. Many of us have been for hours after non-adherents, just as on election days we run after the voters.”
All this of course may be, but what business have these church members at all in this meeting, arranged for those who are outside the pale of the Christian churches? How obtained they the tickets? Have non-adherents been trafficking with the passports supplied them? Outside, as I write, many hundreds have assembled who have come by a late afternoon train from Wrexham, Rhos, and other districts in North Wales in their eagerness to attend one of the Liverpool meetings; but, alas! they are turned away disappointed.
From six to seven, the meeting is more or less in charge of the pastor of Shaw Street. the Rev. Robert Lewis, and others in and around the platform include the Revs. Griffith Ellis, M.A., Bootle (C.M.); W. O. Evans, Bootle (Wesleyan); Thomas Hughes (Wesleyan); Owen Owens, Anfield (C.M.); John Hughes, M.A., Fitzclarence Street (C.M.); J. D. Evans. B.A. (C.M.); David Powell (B.); John Hughes, BA., B.D. Princes Road (C.M.); Hawen Rees (C); O. L. Roberts (‘C.), Tabernacle; D. C. Edwards, M.A. (C.M.), Llanbedr; Hugh Roberts (C.M.); E. J. Evans (C.M.), Walton; Thomas Charles Williams, M.A. (C.M.), Menai Bridge.
It is 7. 15. Here comes the missioner. What’s this change? Swiftly mounting the pulpit he stands facing the vast congregation with delight in every feature. Is this he who last night at that memorable Birkenhead meeting threatened a terrified congregation with Divine wrath? The pain, the sorrow, the anguish, the pity, and the anger then reflected in his countenance are apparently gone — all gone. The Evan Roberts whom we now see is the smiling, jovial, light-hearted, merry evangelist who in the early days of the revival spread the gospel of hope and joy through the mining valleys of South Wales. What has happened?
There is to-night, no suggestion of that mood of reticence and reserve, which have hitherto marked his appearance in Liverpool. Bending over the pulpit desk he beams with delight upon the congregation. His face wreathed in captivating smiles. Some one starts a hymn as he is about to speak, and someone else cries “Hush.” “Nay. nay,” replies the evangelist, “you sing on, sing on,” and thus encouraged, we have hymn after hymn, and prayer after prayer, now in English, now in Welsh and as often as not half a dozen engaged in public prayer together. Suddenly Annie Davies’s voice rings through the building, and there is instant silence. In the middle of her solo she is overcome with emotion: the solo is turned into a sobbing prayer, Turning to the audience, we observe hundreds in silent tears who a moment ago were jubilant singers. But it is only a gentle summer shower, and anon the clouds pass away, and all is sunny again.
A few minutes later the missioner is on his feet with a new-found text. It was evidently suggested to him by the prayer of the Rev. W. O. Evans, who in his supplications had asked that their ears be attuned to hear the voice of Jesus. “This is His voice,” declares Evan Roberts, “Come unto Me all ye that are weary and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” — On this favourite verse, the young preacher founded a bright, winsome address, in which it was shown how the needs of the ‘fallen race were more than met by the love of Christ. He alone could relieve us of burdens. “Come,” and the missioner beckons again and again, as if addressing individuals in the audience. “Come! Come!” What tenderness, what pathos, what loving-kindness, he throws into this one word, “Come!” “You have fallen to ‘the depths, some of you,” he continues, “but Jesus has not yet given you up. His word is still ‘Come.’ When to come? Jesus has no special hour of call. Come early, come every hour, every minute, every second. You feel too weak? He will give you strength. Naked? He will clothe you. Steeped in sin? He will cleanse and purify you and attire you in a royal robe, a robe that shall cover not filth and iniquity, but purity, and a purity that will whiten the robe.”
A Prediction and its Fulfilment.
The speaker is silent. For a moment he surveys the congregation with love-lit eyes, and then remarks, in a low, soft, musical voice: “When I came in, this place was full of angels. There is a fierce battle now going on here. Who is going to win? Jesus Christ.” Again he pauses, again we have silence, and hundreds are in an expectant attitude as if listening for the flutter of angel wings. “Think not,” is the next remark, “that this great effort of yours in Liverpool is going to fail. No, there is too much love in it for failure.”
A little later he again embarks upon a prophecy. “Are there some who are to come to Him to-night? Yes. How do I know? Because I have asked that it shall be so, and because I have the assurance that it shall be so. Jesus is waiting to relieve your burdens, and scores of you here are going to yield yourselves up to Him to-night and when the burden is removed you can then sing in the day and sing in the night (canu’r dydd a chanu’r nos). There will be then no night, for you will be with Him, Who is the Light.”
Just at this moment, as we marvel at the prophecy, and wonder whether we shall witness its fulfilment, Miss Annie Davies’s voice is heard softly rendering Sankey’s hymn in Welsh, “Os caf lesu, dim ond lesu” (“If I have Jesus, Jesus only “).
“This is the beginning of glorious times in Liverpool.” The speaker is the Rev. John Williams, of Princes Road, who now stands at the pulpit desk. With tact and delicacy he proceeds to test the meeting. “All who want to love Jesus, will they raise their hands?
A second invitation is not needed, every hand is up. “Da lawn.” remarks the reverend gentleman; “but if you really desire to love Him, your place is inside, not outside the churches.”
When those who were already members of churches were asked to stand, about two-thirds of the congregation sprang to their feet. Ah! I thought so. Non-adherents are in a hopeless minority. In less than a second the set fawr is emptied. Ministers and officials who had sat there are now rapidly threading their way in and out of the crowded congregation in all parts of the building in search of stricken ones.
The net having been thrown out is drawn in. We now see the prediction fulfilled. Dozens of repentant sinners are discovered, some prostrate with grief, others engaged in prayers, and still others too overcome to speak. Names of converts are called out in apparently endless succession. I keep record up to 30 and even 40 and then the names come in too rapidly and in batches, and I am unable to follow. This must rank amongst the most successful meetings that even this unrivalled revivalist has ever held. Surely he must be overjoyed. Where is he?
While the congregation are, for the sixtieth time, singing Diolch Iddo, Byth am goflo llwch y llawr,” I try to discover the missioner, who for ten minutes past has been silent. Ah, there he is at the far end of the pulpit, his ‘face buried in his hands as if weeping. Why this mood, when all is so bright? We see signs of a coming storm.
Returning to the pulpit, the Rev. John Williams announces “There are scores here engaged in a bitter struggle. Let us pray for them,” and at the word the Rev. Owen Owens leads the congregation to the throne of grace, and he is followed by dozens of others in English and Welsh. Meanwhile a lady in the congregation, with a rich contralto voice, gives a perfervid rendering of the sacred solo, “There is life for a look,” and presently a thousand voices join exultantly in the refrain.
But we are suddenly pulled up by the missioner. With both arms raised he sternly demands silence. He is in tears, and his brow is clouded. What’s wrong? “Don’t sing.” He speaks with a voice that is choked. “Don’t sing. Oh, the tragedy of it. When salvation has been secured by so many, the Spirit has suddenly departed, and some of you know the reason.” Why? The congregation looks bewildered, failing to detect the slightest reason for the interruption, and possibly many resent it. A minister, more courageous than his brethren, calls out, “Here is another soul crying for rescue. Let us rejoice.” “No,” replied the missioner, with increased severity, “Don’t sing, Diolch (thanks); there’s no Diolch due to some who are here, though there is praise due to Heaven for all that.” Then with scorn-flashing eyes, clenched fists, and in a heightened voice he exclaims, “Some of you are jealous, envious (eiddigeddus) because of the rescue work that has been accomplished, and you who are guilty must at once ask God to forgive you — yea, to bend you. This, oh this, is awful. Men jealous because Christ is being glorified! “
A thrill of something akin to horror passed over all present at this extraordinary pronouncement. In the pulpit, on the gallery, on the ground floor, everywhere around us, men and women cry out in prayer. The air is full of the sounds of moaning. The missioner, as he bends with closed eyes over the pulpit desk groans as if in physical pain. The moaning gives way to loud, and bitter lamentations. Women shriek, and many are on the point of fainting. The situation is excruciatingly painful, almost intolerable. Well-known ministers exchange despairing glances. “Plyga nhw, O! Dduw” (“ Bend them, O Lord”) cries the missioner, and the prayer is repeated by hundreds of others, who are kneeling.
Clear as a bell rises the resonant voice of Mr. William Evans, of Newshani Drive, one of the deacons of Anfield, and an ex-member of the Liverpool City Council. “Forbid it, Lord “— this is his supplication— “that there should be any elder brothers among us to-night.” “But there are,” swiftly rejoins the missioner, “and these persons have not yet asked for forgiveness. They are the obstacles. In the Name of the Lord I ask them to go out or bend. Let us as one great army again beseech the Lord to bend them.”
And once again the building resounds to the earnest, almost hysterical, pleadings of hundreds. Presently, the terror increases, when the missioner, having presumably received a still further revelation, commits himself to a still more definite statement — “There are five persons here who are obstacles. Will you five go out or seek forgiveness? We shall not be allowed to sing or to test the meeting, nor shall we see any mere saved here until something happens. If this proceeds much longer, perhaps the names of the five shall be revealed to me.”
Wild and Delirious Scenes.
What is to be done? The scenes now witnessed are wild and delirious. Tension is at breaking point. A happy thought occurs to the Rev. W. O. Evans, a Wesleyan minister. Perhaps the five are Englishmen who do not ui~d~rstand that they are rocks of offence, and, presumably, with a view to enlighten them, the minister breaks forth into an English prayer for a relief of the crisis that has arisen. But the missioner forbids him to proceed.
“They are not English friends,” he cries, “they are Welsh, all five of them.” “Save them, Lord,” a woman prays. “No, no,” excitedly interrupts the revivalist, “don’t pray; God is not listening; Heaven is locked against us, as it were. Three of the five are preachers of the Gospel. There is a terrible ordeal in store for the five.”
It needs a more graphic pen than mine to depict the sensation produced by this declaration. “Five men, three of them preachers.” This is the statement, and inferentially it is a statement made under Divine inspiration. It is received with loud and general exclamation of “Oh, dear oh, dear!” in tones of mingled pain and astonishment.
The uppermost feeling seems to be one of utter despair, and I experience an uneasy feeling that unless this acute tension is speedily relieved there may be a panic. The Rev. John Williams, standing in the pulpit behind the missioner, who is bent as if in a trance over the desk, appears to share this disquietude, for, placing one hand firmly on the missioner’s shoulder, he with the other beckons silently to the congregation to depart.
A few take the hint, and frantically endeavour to push their way out. The great mass remains, anticipating developments. Then Mr. Williams, resolved to take no more risks, quietly makes a few simple announcements, and without consulting the missioner pronounces the benediction and declares the meeting over.
Just at this moment Mr. Evan Roberts stands upright, and realising what is happening, turns an affrighted glance to the minister and assumes an attitude of protest. Then appealing to the congregation he cries: “No, don’t go out. Pray! Pray! Pray! We cannot leave until Christ is glorified. This meeting is not a failure. It is a success. There will be no envy after to-night. God is awful in Zion. Woe be unto those who are obstacles; woe be unto those who are obstacles.”
A section of the congregation makes another attempt to sing, and the hymn “Dyma Gariad fel y moroedd” is started, but the revivalist peremptorily calls upon them to stop. “No, there is to be no singing just yet. We may have singing presently. It is beginning to lighten. You can pray as much as you like, but the only subject of prayer now must be these five. No praise, and no prayers for salvation.”
Five minutes later, after innumerable prayers have been offered, singly and in chorus, Evan Roberts, with face streaming with tears, declares that “All who are here must before they retire to rest to-night interceed to God on behalf of the five. Now we shall sing, and let us sing
“Duw mawr y rhyfeddodau maith!
Rhyfeddol yw pob rhan o’th waith.”
Great God of wonders! all Thy ways are matchless, Godlike and divine!
But the fair glorys of Thy grace more Godlike and unrivalled shine.
Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free ? — President Davies.
There is no need to repeat the permission. The congregation seizes the opportunity with avidity, and finds refreshing relief for its pent-up feelings in the noble strains of “Huddersfield.”
Still the congregation is loth to depart, though 10 o’clock is now long past. Miss Roberts reads the story of the prodigal son, punctuating it with quaint and picturesque comments as she proceeds. After this the meeting is again tested, and a shoal of converts is added to the already large list.
Above the clock sits a man, who to the stewards has declared he cannot surrender, for he is not ready. Under the gallery is another man, of whom it is announced that he lacks not in knowledge of the plan of salvation, but he declines to surrender. Looking in turn at the two, the revivalist is heard to remark. sotto voce, that the man over the clock will give in, but the one under the gallery is to be left alone. A few minutes later the first-named is seen to collapse in a paroxysm of grief. He has surrendered, and once more the chapel rings with the strains of “Diolch lddo”. This brings the total number of converts at this one meeting up to 70.
In response to the missioner’s request the congregation stands, and in one great volume of sound repeats after him, thrice in Welsh and thrice in English, the verse, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “There,” he declares, “that verse will ring for years to come in the ears of scores that are present, and let none of you come into any more of these meetings without first asking God to save.”
“This,” declares the Rev. John Williams, “has been a meeting we shall remember for ever, but we who are church members have room to show more of the spirit of self-denial. A large number of non-adherents, for whom this meeting was intended, have been turned away because hundreds of you members who are here ought to have been at home.” Thus ended one of the most remarkable gatherings yet held.
Back to the city I travelled with a number of Liverpool Pressmen, to whom this had been a first experience of the revival. “What think ye of it all?” asked one of the others. “My thoughts are too tumultuous for expression,” was the reply elicited, “but this man Roberts seems to me to be beyond human comprehension.”
On Sunday, Mr. Evan Roberts enjoyed a rest, but in the afternoon accompanied by the Rev. John. Williams, he paid a surprise visit to the Princes Road Welsh C.M. Sunday School, and there officiated at a distribution of prizes.
The Missioner as Thought Reader.
The startling declaration of Mr. Evan Roberts at the Shaw-street meeting on Saturday night that there were present five persons envious of the work of saving souls then proceeding, and that three of the five were preachers of the gospel will be recalled.
A Liverpool barrister, in a letter to the “Liverpool Daily Post,” writes “I was present at the meeting and at that period when the names of converts were being taken. A minister was standing close behind me. Just then another minister came up to him having a piece of paper, apparently with the names of converts on it. The latter minister said to the first minister in reference to a young man whose name he had taken, and who had prayed with great fervour, “It’s all hurnbug,” and then went on to mention a charge, which would show that the said young man was not fit to be a member of a church. Then the first minister began to speak about Evan Roberts, and said, ‘I have heard him at Princes-road and at Anfield, and I see nothing in him? The second minister agreed, saying, ‘I see nothing in him either.’ It was shortly after this that Evan Roberts went into a paroxysm, and made the declaration about the five persons — three of them ministers — who were full of envy and jealousy. I relate the story without any comment. Evan Roberts certainly has the rare gift of saying the right thing at the right moment.”
This letter has aroused great interest, and is being keenly discussed. The writer, however, is not quite correct. Mr. Evan Roberts did not say, “Three of them were ministers.” His exact words were, “Tri yn pregethu yr efengyl” (three of them preachers of the gospel).
In private conversation afterwards the same evening Mr. Evan Roberts said, “They were preachers, not ministers. The fourth was the son of a minister, and the fifth the son of a deacon.”
LIVERPOOL, Monday, April 3, 1905.
Liverpool is stirred to its very depth. The scenes witnessed at Shaw-street Chapel on Saturday night are described as unprecedented in the religious history of the city, and since then citizens have been, and still are, discussing the young Welsh missioner, his attractive and magnetic personality, the novelty of his methods, the astounding results of his efforts, and all that pertains to him, with eagerness. Nor is the interest confined to Liverpool. North Wales is said to be seething with excitement, and to-day several “specials” poured hundreds of visitors from the northern counties into the city.
Calling this morning at the office of Councillor Henry Jones, one of the hon. secretaries of the Liverpool Committee, I was shown a pile of hundreds of letters received by that day’s post from correspondents from far and wide, pleading, yea, craving, for admission tickets, while similar requests poured incessantly into the office by telegrams and telephone. “Then,” I asked, “why not solve the problem by centralising all the meetings henceforth in the Torrey-Alexander pavilion?” “The committee,” replied the Councillor, “would have no objection to do so, but we cannot secure Mr. Evan Roberts’s consent.”
According to the original arrangements, to-night’s principal meeting should have been held at the Park-road Welsh Congregational Chapel, of which the pastor is the Rev. O. R. Owen, late of Glandwr. Park-road is in the south, and within five minutes’ ride of the centre of the city. Mr. Owen and his deacons realised this morning that their chapel, with 800 sittings, would prove hopelessly unequal to the occasion. In their difficulty they appealed to their neighbours, the English Baptists, and as a result we are now assembled in the Toxteth Tabernacle.
Two thousand people are inside now at six o’clock. Park Road Congregational Chapel was likewise packed when I passed it half an hour ago, and a message has just arrived stating that Mount Zion (Wesleyan), Princes Road (Calvinistic Methodist), and Chatham Street (Calvinistic Methodist), all in the south end, are already crowded out. Outside Toxteth Tabernacle at the moment of writing is a crowd of at least three or four thousand with keen disappointment depicted on every face. A posse of Welsh constables from the Liverpool police force are having a warm time of it, for there have been threats muttered of storming the railings and forcing admission.
Marshals, standing on the curb inside the railings, try to pacify the crowd, and earnestly entreat them to disperse. “No,” replies one, “turn out the ministers to make room for some of us sinners.” Had the speaker surveyed the crowd he would have realised that there was less sting in this remark than he doubtless thought, for among the disappointed ones were at least a dozen well-known ministers.
Subsequently inside, the Rev. O. R. Owen urged local ministers to leave the building to conduct overflow meetings outside, and dozen responded. The officials of the committee are loud in their praises of the very substantial and sympathetic help rendered them by the chief constable and his staff. It is recognised that but for their intervention a panic, with disastrous results, might have occurred on more than on occasion recently.
As I sit under the pulpit and scan this magnificent audience, I wonder how many unsaved ones are among it. If heartiness of singing and fervency of prayers count for anything, then a large proportion are church members. Of course, this is an open meeting, and admission was regulated on the principle of first come first served, and we must not overlook the fact that one of the characteristics of the present revival is the conversion of actual church members.
Young people of both sexes are here in great numbers, and scores of them take part in the prayers. Here is a supplicant for a baptism of the Spirit on the young of all lands. Over there is a young lady who mid sobs and tears entreats that she be permitted to take some of the fire from Liverpool back to her Welsh home. An old man in the baleony recites the revival miracles he has witnessed during the last few weeks. There is plenty of spontaneity, and the hwyl is in creasing momentarily.
Here come the missioner and his party. It is 10 minutes past 7. With him in the pulpit are Miss Annie Davies and Miss Mary Roberts, the Rev. John Williams, the Rev. O. R. Owen, the Rev. Dr. Phillips, Tylorstown, the Rev. William Jones (Crosshall Street), and the Rev. T. Charles Williams, Menai Bridge.
What is this extraordinary influence? Evan Roberts has scarcely arrived ere we are conscious of an appreciable increase in the fervour of the meeting. A deeper spiritual note is struck in all the prayers. A woman who is now on her feet is uttering a prayer of overwhelming intensity and eloquence, and the “Amenau” are deafening. She pleads for many blessings “for the sake of Jesus Christ.”
What is the missioner’s mood to-night? He sits with closed eyes in the pulpit chair. He has not been well this afternoon, so we learn. He looks sombre, and not a single smile has yet lit his face.
“Er mwyn lesu Grist” A woman in prayer utters the words, and the missioner, facing the audience, slowly and solemnly repeats the phrase, “Er mwyn Iesu Grist” (for Jesus Christ’s sake). He seizes upon this as his text, and founds upon it a short address of remarkable power. Oh that we could have seen the full depth of those four words, “for Jesus Christ’s sake.” Many present, he continues, had already refused to do anything for Jesus Christ’s sake, and it would have been better for such had they not sung some of the hymns rendered that evening. It was very easy to cry out “Amen” and to sing. Nothing more simple, but what was needed was work, work, work — for Jesus Christ’s sake. They could enjoy seeing others having a hwyl, but they could not have the hwyl themselves because they had refused to work. Let them beware lest they crowded into the house of God merely to enjoy themselves. Some who had disobeyed the promptings of the Spirit that evening were members of Christian churches. They were not at one with the Christ Whose name they professed to bear. Many present were not at one with one another. They prayed for a downpour, but the Spirit would never come to a heart that harboured rancour and enmity. Others prayed for the fire from heaven before they had even erected an altar and prepared a sacrifice. What was this but a mocking of God? When the fire came it would come to destroy some things; it would burn and consume some things; it would purify other things. Were they ready to receive such fire?
At this moment an exciting scene was witnessed. At the far end of the gallery opposite the pulpit a middle-aged man sprang to his feet, and in a prayer pitched at the top of his voice made pointed reference to the controversy that led to the secession in Liverpool from the Calvinistic Methodists of those who now form the Free Church of the Welsh. “There is,” he exclaimed, “an old quarrel in Liverpool. Ministers of the Lord Jesus have declined to forgive. O Lord, bend the Liverpool ministers and compel them to forgive.”
Loud-voiced and violent as was the prayer, it was almost drowned by another man, who also in a prayer made similar references to the same fend, and added, “They have refused tickets to our young people to the Sun Hall, but, thank God, the road is free to heaven.” For a minute or two the missioner cast scrutinising looks at both men, and then in a peremptory tone ordered both to sit down.
The command had several times to be repeated before it was complied with. “There is no need to name anything to Gods” was the missioner’s subsequent comment. “He knows everything. The brother there thought possibly that in my remarks I was alluding to something or other. I know all about it, but I had nothing in my mind at the moment, save a knowledge of the hindrances that exist at this meeting.” After a deep hush of some moments’ duration Mr. Evan Roberts added in a low voice, “Don’t think, friends, that the service is stopped; it is going on splendidly now. It is easy for each one of you to find out whether it is clear or not between you and God, or clear between you and a fellow-man. If everything is not clear between you and your enemy, it will never, never become clear between you and God.”
For the next ten minutes we had a succession of prayers, and in every one there was an earnest plea for peace and forgiveness. “Maddeu er mwyn y Gwaed” (forgive us for the sake of the Blood) cried one, and another asked that they be taught to look above the ministers to Christ Himself. A little later the painful incident became quite forgotten. Miss Annie Davies gave a beautiful rendering of “Nearer my God to Thee,” and then the great audience abandoned itself to a veritable feast of hymn singing.
If incidents were not numerous for the next hour, the proceedings certainly did not lack in interest. The wildness, not to say the frenzy, that marked some previous gatherings was entirely absent. We enjoyed rather an atmosphere of pure devotion. Only once was a jarring note struck. That was when a man in prayer asked forgiveness for “the brother who had tried to raise a disturbance here an hour ago, and who may have been the means of hardening hundreds of hearts.” The voice was promptly drowned by a hymn.
After an hour’s silence Mr. Evan Roberts is again on his feet. He gently remonstrates with the congregation for its unreadiness to respond to the promptings of the Spirit. “I have been quiet; don’t think I have come here to create a fire; it is God that gives the fire; listen to His promise — “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. Place all reliance upon that promise. God reveals Himself fullest to the congregation that yields itself absolutely to worship. What are the hindrances to-night? How many of you have prayed before coming to the service? Not one half of you. Hundreds of you are being moved by the Spirit this moment. Will you still disobey?”
Suddenly, as by magic, the whole character of the meeting changed. No sooner had the query been put than scores of voices were heard in prayer. The painful scene witnessed at Shaw-street was now repeated in all its intensity. Women screamed, cried, fainted. The Rev. Dr. Phillips, of Tylorstown, sought to end the scene by putting the meeting to the usual test, but the revivalist abruptly stopped him. An attempt to start a hymn was similarly treated, Mr. Evan Roberts remarking, “There is to be no testimony, no singing, until these hindrances are removed. Are you going to permit Jesus thus to be robbed of His glory? Pray, hundreds of you, that the hindrance be removed,” and the injunction is literally obeyed.
Meanwhile, the revivalist throws ‘himself into a chair as if in a paroxysm of pain. The attack is of short duration to-night, for presently he is again on his feet, exclaiming, “Praise heaven, because your prayers have been answered.” The statement is received with joy, and the congregation bursts into a perfervid rendering of “Marchog lesu yn Llwyddiannus.”
The Rev. O. R. Owen’s attempt to test the meeting is, however, unceremoniously cut short. “No, no,” cries the revivalist, who is now pale and shivering, “there is to be no testing just yet. Some of those who hindered are gone out, but some still remain. God has been very long-suffering with these hindrances, but He will soon sweep them away like chaff before the wind. He will not permit the Gospel to be thus obstructed. It has cost Him too much, it has cost Him the blood of His only begotten Son.” The storm has subsided; agonising prayers give way to testimonies; and simultaneously a confusing number are on their feet reciting various portions of Scripture.
It is now 10. 15. People are getting uncomfortable and many have left the building, but their places are speedily filled by others. The revivalist, with closed eyes, is resting his head on his hand, with his elbow on the pulpit desk, facing the audience. The Rev. John Williams announces that at the Park-road meeting there have been several converts, and we receive the statement with “Diolch Iddo.” So far, however, every attempt to test this congregation for converts has been stopped, and the revivalist shows no sign of relenting. Ald. Snape, one of the leading men of Liverpool, is seated in the pulpit, and apparently regards the proceedings with amazement. Prominent ministers in the pulpit whisper to the revivalist as if persuading ‘him to close the meeting, but he waves them impatiently away.
Fifteen minutes more elapse, and then comes relief. “We shall now test the meeting,” declares the missioner. “We were not permitted to do so before, but there are persons here who still stubbornly remain hindrances. Here is a command to them from God. ‘Take care not to sing in a service any more, and take care not to take any public part.’ It is not I that say this. It is God’s command. These people are conscious that they are hindrances. Now do as you like with the command. But you will feel the hand of God upon you. A hand of love. Perhaps you think this service a singular one. But God is wonderful. You would have gone on singing, singing. It is not singing; it is purifying that we need. Don’t be surprised if you see God showing some very great wonders in the immediate future. Now before we test the meeting let us all breathe a prayer for salvation.”
There is a deep hush. Apparently all bow and pray. But the missioner is again displeased, and presently exclaims, “There is to be no testing to-night. There are church members here who have disobeyed. They refuse to pray for the salvation of souls in this meeting.”
A startling statement this, and the audience appears mystified. Three times is the command given to pray, and three times the congregation is bent in an attitude of prayer. Surely all is now clear? “No,” at last, exclaims the revivalist, in a tone of pity mingled with scorn. We are not going to have any testing to-night. There are church members here who still decline to pray. We shall have no testing, no singing, no praying. The service is at an end. You can now go home. This is not the first time that a service has thus ended.” He closed the Bible and resumed his seat.
It is within a few minutes to 11 o’clock. Slowly the huge congregation files out of the building more mystified than ever. The question is on hundreds of lips, What meaneth all this?”
Sketch I. Princes Road Inaugural Meeting
Sketch II. At Anfield. Features of the Mission
Sketch III. Birkenhead. Sensational Service
Sketch IV. Shaw Street. Five Envious Persons
Sketch V. Toxteth Tabernacle. Church Members Denounced
Sketch VI. Seacombe. “Where is the Mocker?”
Sketch VII. Crescent Church, Everton. Sweetness and Joy
Sketch VIII. Bootle. Remarkable Gathering. Liverpool Ministers’ Estimate
Sketch IX. Lord Mayor’s Tribute. Revivalist’s Narrow Escape
Sketch X. Sun Hall. Missioner and the Hypnotist. Grumbling Minister Denounced
Sketch XI. Princes Road. 213 Converts
Sketch XII. Westminster Road, Kirkdale. A Joyless Meeting
Sketch XIII. Mynydd Zion. Free Church of the Welsh. “Not on the Rock”
Sketch XIV. Bootle. A Novel Test
Sketch XV. Fitzclarence Street. Persistent Interrupter
Sketch XVI. Chatham Street. Ministers Attack Missioner. Rev. Daniel Hughes’s Letter
Sketch XVII. Princes Road. Missioner’s Health. Free Church of the Welsh’s Reply
Sketch XVIII. Birkenhead. Final Meeting. Revivalist’s Departure