Welsh Revival – 1904

Early revival stirrings

Welsh Revival

Evan Roberts at a wedding

In 1900 a revival broke out among South African Boer soldiers, who had been captured by the British and transported to various British colonies. At the conclusion of the war, in 1902, they returned to South Africa and the revival returned with them. Gypsy Smith reaped a great harvest there in 1904.

In Japan, during 1900, the church doubled in size as revival swept through many ailing churches.

In 1902, Torrey and Alexander conducted meetings in Melbourne, Australia, resulting in over 8,000 converts. This news spread like wild fire, igniting a passion for prayer and a fresh expectation for God to work in similar ways everywhere.

In 1904, Torrey and Alexandra were in Cardiff, Wales and, in the light of a minimal response to the Gospel, they called for a day of prayer and fasting. Suddenly things changed dramatically and thousands were converted over the next 12 months.

On the day of prayer and fasting (according to Torrey) Evan Roberts received an anointing of the Holy Spirit with great power, in a meeting conducted by Seth Joshua. Here the Welsh Revival began. It was Sept 22nd 1904.

Revival precursors

There were some great signs of impending revival. During the years just before the revival there were some local awakenings. The most important result of these movements was the forming of spontaneous prayer meetings. In these meetings all were free to take part.

Each one obeyed the promptings of the Holy Spirit: one would read a portion of the Bible, another would pray, another would give out a hymn, another would give a testimony. These meetings sometimes lasted for two or three hours but no one got tired of them.

The effects of the Llandrindod Conferences and the evangelistic meetings of Seth Joshua were clearly part of the preparation.

But the main person through whom revival came was Evan Roberts.

Evan Roberts

Evan Roberts was born and raised in a Welsh Calvinist Methodist family in Loughor, on the Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire border. As a boy he was unusually serious and very diligent in his Christian life. When he was 12 years old he joined his father working underground in the coal mines. It was no unusual sight to see him on his knees in the dust and dirt of the coal-mine, seeking God and reading his Bible.

It is not clear exactly when he was converted but he was certainly saved by the time he was 13. Even at this age he began to develop a heart for a visitation from God. He memorised many verses of the Bible and was in regular attendance at Moriah Chapel, a church about a mile from his home.

When he was absent from a particular meeting an old deacon said to him one day “Remember Thomas, “Think what he lost. If the Spirit descended while you were absent, think what you would lose!” These words produced a deep impression upon the his mind, and for years after that never missed a single meeting.

“I will have the Spirit,” he said to himself. Through all weathers, and in spite of all difficulties, he went to the meetings. Many times he saw other young people enjoying themselves and was tempted to join them. But, he said to himself, ‘Remember your resolve to be faithful,’ and went to the chapel.

It was a demanding schedule:
Monday evening: Prayer-meeting at Moriah Chapel;
Tuesday evening: prayer-meeting at Pisgah Chapel;
Wednesday evening: society meeting;
Thursday evening: Band of Hope;
Friday evening: class (Bible?);
Sunday: chapel all day on.

Throughout the weary years he spent hours in communion with God, praying for a revival of religion in Wales. Sometimes he and a friend would sit up for hours and hours at night talking about a revival, and when not talking he would be reading about revivals. “I could sit up all night,” he said, “to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit that moved me thus (like this).” Nor was this desire of a short-lived nature. He had prayed and read and talked for ten or eleven years about revivals.

After working in the coal mines for 12 years on 15th Sept 1902, he began to work as an apprentice , blacksmith with his uncle, Evan Edwards. He hoped to earn enough money to go to make a fortune in America so he could work full-time as a missionary for God, unsupported by anyone. A year later his spiritual aspirations to pursue his growing spiritual calling caused him leave the blacksmith’s forge and he applied for training in the Christian ministry. It was 1903 and he was 25 years old.

From December 1903 to September 1904, he spent his time at home preparing for the ministry by studying, sitting exams and preaching in local chapels. During this time he struck up a close relationship with Sydney Evans, who later became his associate in the work of revival.

Evan Roberts at the Seth Joshua meeting

The great turning point in his life was when he visited a meeting at Blaenannerch where Seth Joshua was preaching. He was the most powerful preacher in Wales at the time and was holding evangelistic and consecrations everywhere. In one meeting he heard the evangelist pray “Lord, bend us” and the words stuck to his heart and mind. The Holy Spirit said to Evan, “That’s what you need”. He knew he had to consecrate himself to God before the Spirit would come.

The next day he felt as if he was bursting inside in the chapel meeting.

“I felt a living power pervading my bosom. It took my breath away and my legs trembled exceedingly. This living power became stronger and stronger as each one prayed, until I felt it would tear me apart. My whole bosom was a turmoil and if I had not prayed it would have burst…. I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me. My face was bathed in perspiration, and the tears flowed in streams. I cried out “Bend me, bend me!!”

It was God’s commending love which bent me… what a wave of peace flooded my bosom…. I was filled with compassion for those who must bend at the judgement, and I wept. Following that, the salvation of the human soul was solemnly impressed on me. I felt ablaze with the desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the saviour”.

There were several places in Wales where Seth Joshua was experiencing the early showers of revival.

Evan began praying more seriously and one night asked his friend Sydney if he thought God could give them a hundred thousand souls. They agreed together that he could and began praying for it.

Evan Roberts Visions

Little did they know that within 9 months that desire would be fulfilled. Evan claimed to have seen the Saviour hand His Father a cheque with this figure and that he was ready to honour its payment.

He had more visions which encouraged him to believe it would happen. He saw a lighted candle and behind it the rising sun. He felt the interpretation was that the present blessings were only as a lighted candle compared with the blazing glory of the sun that was to come. Later all Wales would be flooded with revival glory.

Another time he saw a hand coming out of the moon, as if directing him. He would rise from his bed in the depth of night and go out of the house to watch it and to pray. One night he saw it when out with Sydney Evans who asked him why he was staring at the moon. Before he could tell him Sydney saw it too! It was an arm that seemed to be outstretched from the moon down to Wales. He was in no doubt that revival was on its way.

One night he had a wonderful vision in the garden between his lodging-house, Ty Liwyd, and Ebenezer Independent Chapel. In the hedge he saw the devil with threatening, mocking face, which somewhat frightened him. But immediately he saw a shining One with a glittering sword in His hand, and smiting the foe till he disappeared; Mr. Roberts recognized both; and he knew God was preparing for a great victory.

When interviewed during the revival the interviewer asked how he began to take to this work?” He said, “For a long, long time I was much troubled in my soul and my heart by thinking over the failure of Christianity. Oh! it seemed such a failure—such a failure—and I prayed and prayed, but nothing seemed to give me any relief.

But one night, after I had been in great distress praying about this, I went to sleep, and at one o’clock in the morning suddenly I was waked up out of my sleep, and I found myself with unspeakable joy and awe in the very presence of the Almighty God. And for the space of four hours, I was privileged to speak face to face with Him as a man speaks face to face with a friend. At five o’clock it seemed to me as if I again returned to earth.”

“Were you not dreaming?” the interviewer asked.

“No, I was wide awake. And it was not only that morning, but every morning for three or four months. Always I enjoyed four hours of that wonderful communion with God. I cannot describe it. I felt it, and it seemed to change all my nature, and I saw things in a different light, and I knew that God was going to work in the land, and not this land only, but in all the world.”

“It went on all the time until I had to go to Newcastle Emlyn to the (Bible) college to prepare for the ministry. I dreaded to go for fear I should lose these four hours with God every morning. But I had to go, and it happened as I feared. For a whole month He came no more, and I was in darkness. And my heart became as a stone.

Even the sight of the Cross brought no tears to my eyes. So it continued until, to my great joy, He returned to me, and I had again the glorious communion. And He said I must go and speak to my people in my own village. But I did not go. I did not feel as if I could go to speak to my own people.”

“I did not go to my people, but I was troubled and ill at ease. And one Sunday, as I sat in the chapel, I could not fix my mind upon the service, for always before my eyes I saw, as in a vision, the schoolroom in Loughor, where I live. And there, sitting in rows before me, I saw my old companions and all the young people, and I saw myself addressing them.

I shook my head impatiently, and strove to drive away this vision, but it always came back. And I heard a voice in my inward ear as plain as anything saying, ‘Go and speak to these people.’ And for a long time, I would not.

But the pressure became greater and greater, and I could hear nothing of the sermon. Then at last, I could resist no longer, and I said, ‘Well, Lord, if it is Thy will, I will go.’ Then instantly the vision vanished, and the whole chapel became filled with light so dazzling that I could faintly see the minister in the pulpit, and between him and me the glory as of the light of the sun in Heaven.”

“I went to my tutor and told him all things, and asked him if he believed that it was of God or of the devil? And he said the devil does not put good thoughts into the mind. I must go and obey the heavenly vision. So, I went back to Loughor, and I saw my own minister, and him also I told. And he said that I might try and see what I could do, but that the ground was stony and the task would be hard.”

The beginning of the Welsh Revival at Loughor

“I asked the young people to come together, for I wanted to talk to them. They came and I stood up to talk to them, and, behold, it was even as I had seen in the church at Newcastle Emlyn. The young people sat as I had seen them sitting all together in rows before me, and I was speaking to them even as it had been shown to me.

At first they did not seem inclined to listen; but I went on, and at last the power of the Spirit came down and six came out for Jesus. But I was not satisfied. Oh, Lord,’ I said, ‘give me six more—I must have six more!’ And we prayed together. At last the seventh came, and then the eighth and the ninth together, and after a time the tenth, and then the eleventh, and last of all came the twelfth also. But no more. And they saw that the Lord had given me the second six, and they began to believe in the power of prayer.”

The meetings slowly increased in numbers and powerful waves of intercession swept over those present.

During those meetings the Holy Spirit gave Evan four requirements that were later to be used throughout the coming revival:

1. Confession of all known sin – if there is any unconfessed sin we cannot receive the Spirit
2. Repentance and restitution – If there is anything doubtful in our lives it must be removed
3. Obedience and surrender to the Holy Spirit – an entire giving up of ourselves to the Spirit is necessary
4. Public confession of Christ – is a requirement of the Spirit.

The Spirit began to be outpoured

There was weeping, shouting, crying out, joy and brokenness. God’s presence seemed to fill the air. Many were prostrated with conviction, others cried for mercy and many were so filled with the Spirit they pleaded with the Lord to stay His hand. Some would shout out, “No more, Lord Jesus, or I’ll die”. This was the beginning of the Welsh Revival.

The meetings then moved to wherever Evan felt led to go. Those travelling with him were predominately female and the young girls would often begin meetings with intense intercession, urging surrender to God and by giving testimony. Evan would often be seen on his knees pleading for God’s mercy, with tears.

The crowds would come and be moved upon by wave after wave of the Spirit’s presence. Spontaneous prayer, confession, testimony and song erupted in all the meetings. Evan, or his helpers, would approach those in spiritual distress and urge them to surrender to Christ. No musical instruments were played and, often, there would be no preaching. Yet the crowds continued to come and thousands professed conversion.

The meetings often went on until the early hours of the morning. Evan and his team would go home, sleep for 2–3 hours and be back at the pit-head by 5 am, urging the miners coming off night duty to come to chapel meetings.

The revival started in the south and a few days later broke out in the North as well within a few weeks had spread to all parts of Wales like a prairie fire.

People began to flock to the church buildings, mostly Welsh chapels. Sometimes all the churches in one town would be filled with people, for anything up to 24 hours a day. In some places there was preaching, in others their was just singing and testimonies, in others just people being led to pray out loud, either in thanksgiving or in intercession for friends and family to be saved, many of whom were sitting in the same building. Christians would be on bended knee passionately pleading with the lost to commit their lives to Christ.

Everywhere the atmosphere seemed charged with spiritual power. There was intense emotion, sometimes much crying sobbing, and sometimes gleefully smiling faces and joyful laughter. At other times there was deep devotion to Christ for his felt love.

Some examples of the Spirit’s work

The national employment was down the coal mines. These were places of terrible ungodliness. There was much swearing, blaspheming and gambling. But now services were held hundreds of feet under the earth. Sometimes 300 would gather to here the reading of Scripture sing hymns and offer prayers.

The revival made men do better work, no time wasting, and slackness; employees looked after their masters’ goods as though they were their own; even the pit ponies, that had been used to blasphemy, did not understand the changed language the colliers were using, refusing to respond to the new, controlled language of the miners!

Another striking fact in connection with this wave of revival that was going through Wales, was that two-thirds of the congregations consisted of men, and nearly half were young men.

Of the results consequent upon the outbreak of the revival the most marvellous was the effect upon the courts of justice throughout Wales. In several towns, especially those of the seaports and mining districts, judges and magistrates commented upon the effect produced by this movement upon proceedings in their courts. Criminal calendars were reduced to a minimum. Prison wardens must have imagined that something approximating the Millennium, if not the thing itself, had happened.

Twiddling thumbs, instead of rattling keys, was a strange experience for them. Lists of convictions dwindled to nothing. Judges had, instead of the usual long lists of cases awaiting trial, blanksheets of paper, without a single name. To celebrate the occasion, pairs of snow-white gloves were ceremoniously handed to them, to be preserved scrupulously as a witness to future generations of the reality and blessedness of real revival.

One newspaper report said this: Truly God has visited His people in Wales. It is not a question of one town being awakened, but of the whole Principality being on fire. Profanity silenced, public-houses deserted, theatres closed, betting books burned, football teams disbanded, police courts idle, family feuds pacified, old-standing debts paid, sectarianism and ecclesiasticism submerged, the family altar re-erected, and Bible study become a passion – it is certainly a wonderful record.

“This is the finger of God.” Not only does it hold large place in the religious weeklies, but the chief Cardiff journals give columns to the Revival each day, and some of the principal London papers give a full column every morning.

Remarkable supernatural activities

“We saw two balls of fire moving back and fro, …. We were about twelve to eighteen in the room … singing hymns. In a little while we had a better view, and, nearer us, several globes of light, some very light colour, and others deep red. My husband I and I have witnessed the sight many a time here. When we saw the light ascending high in, the air, like a cross, I felt nervous, but it descended again nearer us—a cross and two other crosses, one each side of the middle one. The two crosses came nearer us now and stood not far from us, and dozens of small balls of fire dancing back and fro behind the crosses, and we heard a voice singing.”

When I saw it, it was about half a mile from the chapel and about a mile from where I stood. That was about 5 o’clock in the evening. The first form in which it appeared to me was that of a pillar of clear fire quite perpendicular. It was about 2 feet wide and all about 3 yards in height. Suddenly another small fire began by its side some 2 yards distant from the first pillar. It rapidly increased until it assumed the same measurement and form as the first.

Then another small fire suddenly arose on the other side of the first pillar, and increased rapidly until it assumed the same size and form as the other two columns. So there were three pillars of the same size and form. And as I gazed upon them I saw two arms of fire extending upwards from the top of each of the pillars. The three pillars and their arms assumed exactly the same shape and remained so for about a minute or two.

As I looked towards the sky I saw smoke ascending from the pillars, and immediately they began to disappear. Their disappearance was equally swift with their growth. It was a gradual disappearance; the fire became small and went out.

But above all there were the converts, 100’s of them! After a very few weeks there were 10,000, after a couple of months there were 30,000. When 6 months had passed there were over 70,000 new Christians and after 9 months the figure leapt to around a 100,000 new converts.

The revival spreads

Soon the revival spread to other places in South Wales. Teams of young people assisted preachers like Roberts, Sydney Evans, Seth Joshua, Joseph Jenkins and R. B. Jones. The revival then took hold in North Wales. Within six months 100,000 had come to Christ!

The Welsh Revival was soon the main topic of conversation throughout the Christian world. Wherever the news went it seemed to cause passionate prayer and began to ignite revival fires everywhere. Christians across Great Britain turned to prayer and church membership increased throughout the land.

In Scandinavia a current revival was fanned into a mighty blaze, as a result of the Welsh Revival. Germany was similarly affected as the flame spread across Europe. Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Balkans and Russia experienced awakenings.

The United States felt the after-shock of the Welsh Revival in almost every place. Prayer, conviction and conversion spontaneously occurred, resulting in unusual church growth.

In 1906 the modern Pentecostal Movement was born in Azusa Street, in Los Angeles, after a succession of local revivals through 1905. News of the Welsh Revival encouraged more prayer and suddenly the Holy Sprit descended. Daily meetings were held for the next three years. Visitors flocked there to catch the power of the Spirit and they were not disappointed.

No one could have imagined that this was the beginning of the greatest and most effective missionary movement that the world had ever seen. It marked the birth of what was once called ‘the third force in Christendom.’ Some would argue that, 100 years later, it has grown into the largest and most powerful force.

Almost no country in the world was excluded from the effects of this incredible revival. Almost every nation, on each continent, received new power from heaven, a new passion for prayer and for the lost. Hundreds of thousands came to the Lord.

Worldwide effects of the Welsh Revival

‘The worldwide impact of the 1905 Awakening was almost totally unnoticed by Christian historians. Only J. Edwin Orr, the great English revival writer, was able to discern the global effects in his 1973 work The Flaming Tongue. Most students of the era favored the glorification of the numerous evangelists and their big business, revivalism methods rather than the wide-spread God-inspired renewal. However, Dr. Orr was able to document how all six of the populated continents experienced a noticeable, and a spontaneous spiritual awakening around 1905.

Around the world the stories of the Welsh Revival had an encouraging touch on Christians and missionaries everywhere and immediately. The news quickened the British Isles and particularly the coal-mining regions. When the Torrey-Alexander tour arrived, offerings for missions increased dramatically. The continent of Europe experienced only a slight lag in revival events. The biggest thrust took place in France among the less than one million evangelical Protestants.

They experienced an awakening, a unity, and a growth that had not been seen before. The German Tent Missions enjoyed inspiring attendance’s where thousands received the gospel under the big-tops. A spiritual renewal penetrated Central Europe and even Russia. Scandinavia was especially moved after the 1904 earthquake took place in Norway.

In Latin America the distribution of Bibles gave a spontaneous impetus to the revival. In a seven-year period evangelical Protestants increased 180 percent. Pentecostalism was strong in Chile and Brazil. Valparaiso had been called one of the most wicked cities in the world. After the 1906 earthquake it was christened “the Azusa of South America,” and spiritual tremors traveled throughout the continent.

In the Pacific realm the familiar Christian missionary strongholds were encouraged by the reports from Wales. The 1902 Torrey-Alexander campaign proved to be a blessed preparation for a later harvest by the evangelicals of Australia. As the Welsh reports reached mission stations throughout Oceania, prayer meetings increased from Hawaii to Madagascar. The conviction of sin was everywhere, and “seekers” became “finders” of the Lord Jesus Christ. The doors for missionaries opened in the Philippines and even the Dutch East Indies.

On the continent of Asia prayer meetings and Bible studies turned many hearts to confessions, tears, and commitments to Christ. There was a marked increase in requests for communion and baptism in lands where Buddha and Mohammed reigned. During the first decade of the century in India Christianity increased sixteen times faster than the Hindu religion, and ninety-percent of the nurses became Christians.

At Mukti in India the dramatic story was reported about a girl with a visible fire around her during a prayer meeting. One single church in Burma baptized over 3,000 in 1905. In China after a hundred missionaries were martyred during the Boxer Rebellion, people were awakened to prayer and finally a revival broke out in 1908-09.

The most dramatic revival occurred in Korea after Japan gained control during the Russo-Japanese War. Some even paralleled their revival with Wales. Once a persecuted church Christianity quadrupled and became the strongest single organization in Korea. The revival was called the spiritual birth of Korean Christianity.

In Japan a well-planned evangelism campaign called “Taikyo Dendo” began in 1901. It meant “aggressive evangelism” or “Forward Movement,” and it reaped over 5,000 confessions of faith in Christ in five weeks. Originally the house-to-house visitations took place in Tokyo, however, the program spread to other big cities.

When the war and a famine took place, the news of revival in Wales and Korea renewed the movement. The preaching of two Moody Bible graduates Kimuri and Nakada with several Japanese pastors and evangelists led to the Japanese Evangelical Alliance. In Tokyo in 1907 John R. Mott succeeded in holding the first international World’s Christian Student Federation conference in Asia.

The continent that experienced the greatest progress in Christianity was Africa. Annually for the first two decades of the 20th Century there was a uniform increase in Christians over twice that of the population growth. Although the Boer War was called “the last war of gentlemen,” evangelist Gipsy Smith had a successful harvest of converts with his “Mission of Peace.”

Also, John Mott, the apostle of unity, visited South Africa in 1906 and healed the wounds of war with a conference of great cooperation between the Protestant ministers. Missionary activities heightened and awakenings were numerous in all areas of Africa, even into the once “impossible” Islamic regions of North Africa.

The results of the 1905 Awakening were emphatically worldwide. Overseas Christianity, which had been mainly a Western religion, gleaned the greatest international harvest in history. In many places gains of hundreds of thousands souls were common. The seven leading US denominations grew by two million in a five year period.

While it appeared to some that each awakening was weaker, J. Edwin Orr argued that in reality the scope of Christianity had a wider influence with each outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the case of this awakening the ingatherings in Wales, Chile, Burma, and Korea were the greatest in their histories.’

For further research:
The Welsh Revival Wikipedia