His Life and Work.
by J. Tudor Rees
About This Book
We know little of the author of this work, except that he authored this work, which is the first of a six-part series. The copy we have was taken from a photocopied article in the Sunday Companion. The date is unknown. When we find the other five we will add them to this collection. This lively account was penned in 1905 when the revival was still powerfully affecting the Principality, making it a very lively account.
We also know that J. Tudor Rees was a lawyer from London and that he toured Canada and America in early 1906 to propagate the message of the Welsh Revival, accompanied by Gwilym O. Griffiths and Dewi Michael, a preacher and singer, respectively.
In the lonely cottages that stud the rugged hills of Wales, in the coalmines and railway-carriages, at the forge, and in the busy market-place there is one whose name is on every tongue-and they call him the "Wesley of Wales."
He was born on June 8th, 1878, in a tiny cottage at Loughor, a little mining town near Swansea. Evan was one of seven sons, and his birth was the occasion for much rejoicing in the humble home. Soon he went to the National Schools, Upper Town, Loughor, and there manifested those characteristics which he to-day exhibits in a more developed form. He soon came to be regarded as a real little hero. He it was who saw that right was done; to him went those who had a grievance to be settled.
One day he was told that a little chap had been cruelly treated by a boy bigger than he. "Leave him alone!" said Evan. But the oppressor became angry. Off went the lad's coat, and his opponent had a timely and welldeserved thrashing. He never deigned to "copy" from another boy; and although he would not allow anyone to do so from him, yet he was ever ready to assist a less fortunate scholar in his studies.
He was not only a little hero, but was a sharp scholar also. "From the first he beat us at everything," said an old schoolmate of his. Although he never showed those qualities which stamp a boy as precocious, he was almost invariably the top in his class, and the conscientious, fair way in which he did his work, as well as the results achieved, were not only commentated upon by the teachers, but were envied of all his fellowscholars.
And yet no one bore him any ill-will. "You could not help loving the little fellow." said a teacher of his. "There was something attractive about him. Ever fair and scrupulous, he won the admiration of all." At School And In The Mine.
His was an uneventful life. School and play, play and school; that was his daily programme. "Have you been 'mitching' from school to-day, Evan?" said his mother one day, when the boy returned home earlier than usual.
"Oh, no," he replied quietly; " I have nowhere else to go but to school."
He was always fond of books, and the bookcase in his home at Loughor to-day contains many a story-book which he bought with his weekly pennies.
The characteristics which he displayed at school he exhibited at home. He was ever the first toassist his mother in her domestic duties. "He was always a good boy," said Mrs. Roberts to me, when I visited her at Loughor quite recently. " Whenever I wanted him to do anything for me he never refused. And he was always so kind and sympathetic. He always had a lot of friends as a boy, and was never tired of assisting them in anything. Although always fond of studying, he used to play as much as the other boys.
His schooldays were nearly over, and the lad was anxious to be earning something. But his mother's heart was sad, though he knew it not. "I have another son to serve God now," she said, after Evan's birth, and she had silently nursed the hope that some day he would become a minister.
How, she knew not; but she hoped and hoped, and prayed oft and long.
Her prayer was not to be answered for a score of years.
Evan's father was employed at the Mountain Colliery, Gorseinon, about two miles distant. One day there was an accident at the pit, and Roberts, who had charge of a "district," had his foot crushed. Evan heard the report while at school, and rushed home to see if it were true. Yes; it was true enough, and the doctors said it would take four months before Roberts could return to work.
He had been laid up for a little while, when the manager of the colliery sent to ask him to endeavour to get back to the mine, and bring one of his sons to assist him. Here was Evan's chance, and father and son set out together. Not being able to walk about much himself, Mr. Roberts simply gave the orders, and Evan did the running about. In a month or so the injured foot got all right, and Evan then became "door-boy," opening and shutting the doors in the pit. Later he became a "knocker" at the bottom of the shaft, and ultimately a full-fledged collier.
With the pride of the unselfish lad that he was, he took home his weekly earnings to his mother, and out of the "pocket-money" he had given back to him he purchased books. Even while working in the pit he was very religious, and was always praying, reading his Bible, or singing hymns. Everyday he took a Welsh Bible down the mine with him and in his spare moments read from its pages. When not in use, the Bible was placed in a niche in the workings.
On January 5th, 1898, an explosion occurred at the colliery in which Evan worked, and his precious Book was blackened and scorched by the fiery blast. That Bible is to-day one of the revivalist's most valued possessions, and as his sister opened the brown paper in which the broken pages are stored, and gave me a few burnt leaves, tears welled up in her eyes.
It was just seven years before that the explosion happened, and the sister's tale of Evan's escape-for he was quite unhurt-was singularly touching. Another souvenir of his early days that was shown me was his shorthand Bible.
"He learnt shorthand without any teacher," said Mrs. Roberts, with a touch of pardonable pride. "He bought the books himself, and spent many an hour in this room with his Bible." And as I scanned the unique Volume, marked "Evan Roberts, Island Villa, Loughor," I detected the traces of its having been much used.
Just at this time the youth became an active worker in the Methodist chapel, and one incident alone is enough to prove his real interest in things religious.
Early Efforts For Others In order to provide for the spiritual wants of the miners' children, a Sunday-school was opened in the colliery offices, and Evan became the secretary of what was called "the ragged school," owing to the children who attended it being for the most part ill-clad and poor. This office he held for some time, and some of those who attended that school are living in Loughor to-day, and look back with pride and pleasure upon those bygone days. Even then the young man shed an influence which has not ceased to this day.
Evan was also a tower of strength in the chapel. Out of his scant earnings he gave liberally. He and a few others purchased a railing that was deemed necessary around the chapel, and together they fixed it in position. He had prayed the night before that they might have sunshine to do the work, and the prayer was answered.
And thus it went on, nothing much happening to disturb the usual monotony of the young man's life.' He was gradually growing weary, and still more weary, of the hard work in the mine, and his longings to enter the ministry became more accentuated as the days rolled on. "I used to forget the seam upon which I worked," he says, "I thought so much of religion."
One day he was discovered a mile or more from his "district." and upon being asked the cause of his wandering, he said: "How strange! I had quite forgotten where I was going." One of his old fellow-colliers says that he well remembers how young Roberts would hew the coal to the accompaniment of same Welsh hymn which he used to hum.
It was no unusual sight to see the young man on his knees in the dust and dirt of the coal-mine, offering up prayer, and when not thus engaged he would, when he could snatch a moment, be reading the Bible, of which I have already spoken.
After leaving his work he used either to study or play with the boats on the tide. He was fond of the chapel, but sometimes would miss an occasional service. "Remember Thomas," said an old deacon to him one day. "Think what he lost. And should the Spirit descend while you were absent, think what you would lose!" These words produced an imperishable impression upon the young man's mind, and for years after that he used to attend a religious service in his chapel nightly.
"I will have the Spirit, be said to himself." "And through all weathers, and in spite of all difficulties, I went to the meetings. Many times as I went I saw other boys with the boats on the tide, and was tempted to desert the meeting and join them. But, no. Then I said to myself, 'Remember your resolve to be faithful,' and on I went."
And this was the youth's weekly programme; Prayer-meeting, Monday evening at Moriah Chapel; prayer-meeting, Tuesday evening at Pisgah Chapel; society meeting, Wednesday evening; Band of Hope, Thursday evening; class, Friday evening; and chapel all day on Sunday.
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." Nor was this desire of a short-lived nature. He had prayed and read and talked for ten or eleven years about revivals.
He Leaves The Mine Even Roberts was what is called in Wales a "union" man, and a strike of unionists in the colliery wherein he worked threw him out of employment. Nor was he altogether sorry. He had grown tired of the wearisome work in the mine, and now thought hard about his future, for he was always ambitious. He wanted to be a missionary; but, no, he could not be, and ultimately he decided to become apprenticed to his uncle at Pontardulais, near Swansea, who was a blacksmith. This was in January, 1903. Having some hard-made savings by him, he paid £6 thereof for the privilege of becoming apprenticed, and bound himself for two years.
"A remarkable thing happened to Evan one Sunday." said the revivalist's mother to me, a little while ago. "As was his custom, he had attended the Sunday services, and was, as usual, very tired. But there was something peculiar about him. At first he did not appear to be willing to talk much, but he later told me that he had been face to face with God. For years he had prayed for a baptism of the Spirit, and his prayers were partly answered that night." Did he pray much at home?" I ventured to query.
"Oh, yes!" replied Mrs. Roberts. " He used to spend hours in his own room alone with God. Sometimes, I believe, he spent whole nights in prayer."
He had been a year at the forge, and by this time had become a very useful blacksmith; so his master was extremely sorry when he was informed that it was the young man's intention to leave the smithy. But persuasion was of no avail. The "tide" of the youths opportunities was at the flood, and he decided to take advantage thereof, and go to school.
And an incident of peculiar interest took place just then. As is customary in Wales, when a young man makes application that his college fees, &c., should be paid by the church, the members of the particular chapel have to decide as to whether the candidate is to be supported or not. On the Sunday evening when young Roberts's application came before the communicants at Moriah Church, Loughor, some of those present were some-what tardy in supporting it. The minister thought that the young man had the fullest sympathy of the congregation, and could hardly understand the apparent coldness. "Now, then," he said, "why are you so slow? If you want the young man to go to college, why don't you stand up?' And immediately all present rose to their feet, and Evan Roberts was given the necessary permission to go to college to prepare for the ministry. At length he could see the answer to his oft-repeated prayers.
Throughout long weary years he had been a diligent student, and now he could devote the whole of his time to preparing for the entrance examination of the Preparatory School at Newcastle Emlyn.
The young man's joy knew no bounds, but yet there was sadness. There was an obscurity which he could not penetrate. He longed to be doing something for his fellow-man. He felt there was a great task before him.
During the day he was all alone, and at night some friends would occasionally drop in. And then the only subject he cared to discuss was revivals.
Long Nights Of Prayer "I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals," He says. "It was the Spirit that thus moved me." Even while studying, his mind would oftentimes be elsewhere than on the subject under consideration. He could see the raging angry billows whereon myriads of souls were being tossed, and he longed to "throw out the lifeline." Gradually he grew nearer amid nearer the Light. He prayed almost without ceasing." Sometimes, when his mother went into his room to call him to a meal she found him on his knees.
"He used to say," said Mrs. Roberts to me a short while ago, that prayer was more important to him than food." One night, while praying by his bedside, he was "taken up to a great expanse "-I will give his own words-"without time or space. It was communion with God. Before this I had a far-off God. I was frightened that night, but never since. So great was my shivering that I rocked the bed, and my brother, being awakened, took hold of me, thinking I was ill.
After that experience I was awakened every night a little after one o'clock.
This was most strange, for through the years I slept like a rock, and no disturbance in my room would awaken me. From that hour I was taken up into the Divine Fellowship for about four hours. What it was cannot tell you, except that it was Divine. About five o'clock I was again allowed to sleep on until about nine. At this tune I was again taken into the same experience as in the earlier hours of the morning until about twelve or one o'clock." Seeing that he was supposed to give all his time for college preparation, his family were naturally curious to know why Evan did not get up earlier. While at the colliery and the forge, he rarely, if ever, lost any time through over-sleeping, and why he should now lie abed so late no one could understand. But all questions on this head were not satisfactorily answered. It was too Divine to say anything about, "he says. "I cannot describe what I felt it, and it changed my whole nature."
This went on for three months, and during that period he occasionally preached at one or two of the neighbouring chapels.
"Not much use your going to college," said a pastor, after one of the young man's efforts. "You are a preacher already!" But Evan simply smiled. Certain secrets he possessed, and these he gave to no one. "God had told me," he says, "that I was to take part in a great revival; but kept the secret to myself." Early Preaching Efforts.
But to preach was always somewhat of an ordeal, He was passionately fond of it, but the mental anxiety and soul-worry must surely have told upon him.
"Because he was never over-strong," Mrs. Roberts informed me. "After preaching he would come home very tired, and sometimes done up. His chest used to trouble him a great deal; but now, thank God, he is all right." With preaching and praying, his time was much encroached upon, and the hours devoted to study became proportionately less. And when the eventful examination day came the student considered himself somewhat ill prepared for the ordeal. But prayer sustained and encouraged him, and he got through the examination without much difficulty. "But Evan says," declares his mother, "that he does not know how he passed. How God must have helped him " It now remained for the young man to enter college, and, packing up his belongings, not without some sad regrets, he proceeded, at the commencement of 1904, to the Preparatory School, Newcastle Emlyn. But of all his sorrows at leaving home, the greatest was his fear lest the sweet communion with God which he had enjoyed for so long should cease.
"I dreaded to go to college," he says, "for fear I should lose those 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."
Roberts decided to give up half an hour every day to communion with God; but such planning and organising his Master did not seem to favour. At the end of the first month at the school the darkness became pierced by a Light unspeakable. The old joy returned, and once more he communed with God, "as with a friend, face to face." As the days wore on he became less inclined to study, and more inclined to pray and read the Bible. And soon, as he himself says, "all the time was taken up" in those religious devotions.
To study was all right; but-but-but he was straining towards a nebulous something.
Dissatisfied-or, rather, unsatisfied-at home, he was the same at college.
He could not yet understand God's purpose in his life.
The critic says that Roberts is nothing; but, eliminate the human as much as you like, you are bound to reckon with the charming, forceful, captivating personality of the revivalist. The active brain and powerful individuality of the student made it as easy for him to have lived an obscure life in his humble village at Loughor as for General Booth to have kept within the limits of his Methodist circuit, or Wesley in his tiny parsonage at Epworth. The youth was brimming over with a zeal that soon was to be shed in all directions.
At college, as at home, he frequently wrote poetry, and some of it was of no ordinary merit. His mother told me that often he would go and sit alone on the hillside, and do no small amount of rhyming. Hs was a poetic soul, and he sought to give expression to the thoughts that haunted him when alone with Nature.
Much of this poetry has appeared in the Golofn Cymraeg (Welsh column) of the "Cardiff Times" under the revivalist's bardic name, "Bwlchydd."
He frequently sent his MS. to that eminent Welsh poet, Rev. Elvet Lewis, who criticised the verses of his ambitious student.
The Revivalist's College Days.
The first few months of Roberts's college days were uneventful, and his fellow-students, who were passionately fond of the future revivalist, could detect nothing very extraordinary about the young man. He never outshone his fellows, was never a recluse or bore, and entered into college life with customary life and spirit.
But what a struggle was going on within! "Something" told him his studies were soon to he interrupted, that a vast field of labour spread itself before him. But, alas! he seemed to he losing his hold upon God! In the autumn of 1904 he contracted a severe chill, and had to spend four days in bed.
"The last night of the four," he says. " I was bathed in perspiration- the result of the cold, and communion with God." That was on Saturday. On the following 'Tuesday evening a fellow student, Sidney Evans-who is now a prominent revivalist-went to see him, and asked him to go to a prayer-meeting which was to be held in a neighbouring chapel. Although he had not made up his mind to go before his friend arrived, some mysterious power impelled him to go.
"At that moment," he says, "I felt the Spirit coming upon me, and so irresistibly did he come that I rushed to the chapel without my top-coat." While at that meeting the influence began. Roberts had "liberty before the Throne of Grace." He was "ready to pray," so he says, and he prayed specifically for some young women who were at the meeting from New Quay. Although by no means a sensational service, there was an influence there that quickened the young man's life and feelings.
On the following evening he attended a prayer-meeting again; but this time he had become somewhat cold. He did not pray publicly, but silently he lifted up to heaven petitions for the removal of his indifference. His own words paint the picture: "I was hard. I could, look at the Cross without feeling, and I wept for the hardness of my heart, but could not weep for Christ. I loved the Father and the Spirit, but I did not love the Son." Pleading For The Fire.
In great anguish of soul, he left the service and spent the night in great mental distress. The chief joy of his life seemed to be vanishing, notwithstanding his sincere attempts at its retention. Something was wrong. On the following day he was on his way to a village handy- Blaenannerch-and called at the house of the Rev. Evan Phillips. The first man he met was a well-known local railway-guard, and to him he laid bare the secrets of his breaking heart.
"I am like flint," were his pathetic words. I feel as if someone had swept me clean of every feeling." Sympathetically did the elder Christian listen to the plaint of the student, and the words he uttered somewhat salved the young man's heart. Looking back upon that experience, he says: "It was my conviction then that I must either be cast upon a bed of affliction, or receive the Spirit mightily." It was the latter that happened.
While he was speaking to the guard a prayer-meeting was in progress in another part of the house. But he did not go in. And this for two reasons.
First, lest they should reprimand him for venturing out while in delicate health; and secondly, because he wished to speak to one of the family "about the state of her soul." The interview between "Mag" Phillips and Roberts was singularly pathetic. After some conversation on Scriptural matters, the young man said: "You pray for me, and I'll pray for you," whereupon the other burst forth into tears. Yes; he felt his need of Divine help. Apart from his natural weakness, nothing but the Sun of Righteousness could thaw the icy hardness of his heart. And He did.
"Both of us were blessed the same day," he avers. "I in the morning, and she in the afternoon. I received something about half-past three. I asked Mag if she had been praying for me at that time, and she said: "I was praying for you all day, Roberts bach " (a Welsh term of endearment).
The rays of the Heavenly sunshine were piercing the gloom; but still there were clouds, and the young man's sadness remained. On the way home front Blaenannerch lie spoke to several who had attended the prayermeeting regarding the state in which he found himself. But relief came not. "We can do nothing for you?" they wistfully queried. "No," was the sad reply "I have only to wait for the Fire." And he had not long to wait, for at half-past nine next morning the Fire fell, and it has been burning over since.
But even that experience did not completely lift the clouds of depression that hung about him. He brooded over-not so much himself now, but the apparent failure of Christian agencies. He took a walk in his garden, and there saw a vision which was as remarkable as it was significant.
The Vision Of The Sword.
While in the Slough of Despond he looked to the hedge on the left, and there saw a face full of scorn, hatred, and derision, and heard a laugh as of defiance. It was the prince of this world, who exulted in the young man's despondency. But this figure was not suffered to exist long.
Suddenly there appeared another Form, gloriously arrayed in white, Who bore aloft a flaming sword. The sword fell athwart the first figure, and it instantly disappeared. The significance and moral of the vision will be demonstrated later. Roberts straightway informed his minister of what he had seen, but was told that the despondency which he was in might very easily have produced an imagination of a vision, "But I know what I saw!" he declares. "It was a distinct vision. There was no mistake."
On the Thursday morning, he, in company with a few others, started again for Blaenannerch about six o'clock in the morning. Several meetings were to he held that day, and great things were anticipated. At seven o'clock the first service began. Then the Rev. Seth Joshua, a popular preacher in South Wales, prayed, and made use of words that seemed to be specially meant for Evan Roberts. "Lord, do this, and this, and this, and bend us," he petitioned.
In speaking of this prayer, the revivalist says: "He did not say, 'O, Lord.
bend us." It was the Spirit that put the emphasis for me on 'bend us.' 'That is what you need,' said the Spirit to me. And as I went out I prayed: 'O Lord, bend me!'" After the meeting the company repaired to the house of the Rev. M. P.
Morgan for breakfast. The others were joyful, but in Evan's heart a contest was in progress. " Bend me, O Lord, bend me!" was his constant prayer. He was realising that before he could be used "self " must be crucified. He wanted to be used, and therefore desired that his own nature should be "bent." As he has himself said, it was a stern battle. But Jehovah conquered! At the breakfast-able he was offered some bread-and-butter. "But I refused," he says. "I was satisfied. At the same moment the Rev. Seth Joshua was putting out his hand to take the bread-and-butter, and the thought struck me: Is it possible that God is offering me the Spirit, and that I am unprepared to receive him? That others are ready to receive, but are not offered?' The thought was distressing, overwhelming, and his "bosom was quite full-tight." Having partaken of a scant breakfast, he, with the others, hastened to the nine o'clock service. "We are going to have a wonderful meeting today," said one. Roberts's rejoinder was: "I feel myself almost bursting." The service was opened in the usual way, and then everything was left in the hands of the Spirit." Prayer succeeded prayer, and hymn followed hymn.
But Roberts was silent. He longed to pray, but the Spirit forbade his doing so.
"Shall I pray now?" he inquired of the Spirit. "Wait a while," said He.
And as time went on the young man, still under the restraint of the Spirit became more and more agitated. "I felt a living force come unto my bosom," is his comment on that wonderful experience. "It held my breath, and my legs shivered; and after every prayer I asked: 'Shall I pray now?' The living force grew and grew, and I was almost bursting."
And then he prayed, and it was a prayer that affected all those present.
He could he restrained no longer. "I should have burst if I had not prayed," he says. He fell on his knees, and flung his arms over the seat in front of him. Tears and perspiration flowed copiously, and a good lady who sat near by wiped the tear-stained face. "For about ten minutes it was fearful. I thought blood was gushing forth."
He cried, in passionate accents: "Bend me! Bend me! Bend me!" And then: " Oh, oh, oh, oh!" "Oh, what wonderful grace!" said a woman who sat near by. And the audience sang with great feeling: "I hear Thy welcome voice."
When The Blessing Came.
His prayer was answered. The battle was at an end. "After I was bent," says Roberts, "a wave of peace came over me." Then the desire which he always had to do something towards the declaration and salvation of his fellows became accentuated. Now, indeed, he must be up and doing. But where and how was he to start? The salvation of souls became the great burden of his heart. "From that time I was on fire with a desire to go through all Wales; and, if it were possible, I was willing to pay God for allowing me to go."
A little company of eight met together, and devised a plan of carrying the flame of salvation all through their beloved land. But how God overrules the planning of his creatures later events were to show.
He had but little money. The hard-earned savings bad been considerably reduced alter paying school-fees and other necessaries. But the optimistic youth said he would pay all expenses of the tour! Now he thought of nothing else. At length he saw that God was going to use him in a mighty manner and his delight was immeasurable. On the following Saturday afternoon a few, of the eight went down to New Quay "to confer about the idea," and further to mature the somewhat hastily made plans. For two hours they discussed the question, and then Evan left for Newcastle Emlyn - "for the sake of one soul."
But the others did not leave. "They remained there and prayed over the plan, but no light came." And the little company dispersed without having arrived at any definite decision.
So far as these young people were concerned, darkness prevailed; but Evan Roberts soon came into possession of that Light that never was on sea or land. God commanded the young man to go home, and open his great work in his old town.
"I will go willingly amongst strangers, Lord, but it will be so hard to work amongst my own people!" And thus he for a time disobeyed God's Spirit. But he was not to go his own way.
One Sunday night, feeling troubled and ill at ease, he went to his chapel at Newcastle Emlyn. But what happened he knew not. Right through the service he was enveloped in a great glory. Before his astonished gaze was the school-room of his native town. "And, there sitting before me," he says, "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 a light so dazzling that I could faintly see the minister in the pulpit, and between him and me the glory as the light of the sun of heaven."
On The Eve Of Revival.
Home went the young man, with mingled feelings of joy and sadness.
Glad because he had seen this wonderful vision; sad because it was so hard to obey the command of the Master. There was one whom he felt bound to confide in, and that was his tutor. To him went Evan, and opened his soul. Was he dreaming, and was the vision "of God or of the devil?" The professor was not slow to discern that his student had recently passed through a wonderful spiritual experience, and became anxious to advise him in the right way. Very kindly and sympathetically he listened to the young man's tale, and then checked his arguments by saying: "The devil does not put any good thoughts into your head. This vision and command must come from, God." Then Evan became cheered. Here was an advice which he valued, and he at once acted upon it.
But before he attended another service at Newcastle Emlyn, and another vision which he saw there deeply affected him. No disobedience after that. The "call" had come, and he now could not choose but go. "While listening to the sermon," he says, " I received much more of the Spirit of the Gospel from what I saw than from what I heard. The preacher did very well, was warming to his work, and sweating by the very energy of his delivery. Mud when I saw the sweat on the preacher's brow, I looked beyond, and saw another vision-my Lord sweating the bloody sweat."
No hesitation now; no halting. It was time, he thought, for him to be up and doing. But to leave college was not an altogether pleasant task. He had made friends, and it was rather a wrench to leave them. As it happened, he was suffering from a cold, and his fellow-students thought that Evan had gone home because he was unwell. But a few knew the real secret of his departure. One of these was Mr. Sidney Evans, whom Evan Roberts wired for directly he saw that the " fire " was spreading.
So, with a heart now glad, anon sad, the young man who was to be the means of quickening the life of Wales, and setting on fire the whole of the country, went to his humble home at Loughor. Nor did he dream of the vast work that lay before him.
When Evan came home," said the revivalist's brother Dan to me a short time ago, "he had something about him that was peculiar. Now I see it was the revival spirit. My eyes were very bad just then, and I was home from work. If you remember, it was just at the time of the terrible railway accident at Loughor. 'Your eyes will soon he all right,' said Evan to me.
'Do you think so?' I inquired. 'Yes,' came the reply. 'The Lord has need of you.' "Evan and I spent a great deal of time together, but one day I left him to go to see the doctor in Llanelly about my eyesight. And-would you believe it?-I have never been troubled with my eyes since. Evans words came true."
"The Lord has need of you!" These words rang in Dan's mind. What work was he to do? "For," said he, "I never was what you might call an active Christian. And when Evan said that God had need of me, I wondered what he meant. But very shortly I was to know."
"It all seemed so strange to me," said Dan, "I could not understand it.
And why Evan should say, 'The Lord has need of you' I could not imagine. I had been superintendent of the Sunday-school, and did other Christian work; but I was not out-and-out. But my brother soon dispelled all my doubts and coldness."
In a day or two Evan's cold was all right, and he went to the pastor of Moriah Church to get his permission to hold a special week-night service in the chapel.
A Discouraging Start.
The proposition, however, was viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. There was not much life in the church, and few would attend the service. But that made Evan more determined. Not much life! Therefore, the need for an awakening. But the young man had yet a certain amount of trepidation. To get a meeting, and let it be a failure! It was too dreadful to think of.
So, without much delay, he set out to see one or two of the older deacons - not to get their opinion as to the advisability of convening a meeting, but for their permission. He was told the ground was hard, but he should try. That was enough for him. He felt that every obstacle had now been removed, and that he was in a position to proceed to the commencement of a movement which he felt would envelop the whole land. He was beginning to realise the great work that lay before him.
But still he had his qualms. Now buoyant, anon despondent, his feelings were those of mixed joy and sadness. The state of his mind can be imagined from his own words.
"When I go out to the garden," he said, "I see the devil grinning at me; but I am not afraid of him. I go into the house; and when I go out again to the back I see Jesus Christ smiling at me. Then I know all is well." And so it was. Feelings of despondency alternated with moments of exuberant joy. But the latter were soon to supersede the former, as prayer strengthened his purpose.
A statement which he made a short time ago reveals the evolution-if it can be so called-of the revivalist. "Some people," he said, "have called me a Methodist. I do not know what I am. Sectarianism melts in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and all men who believe become one happy family. For years I was a faithful member of the Church, a zealous worker, and a free giver. But I found out I was not a Christian; and there are thousands the same. It was only when I made that discovery that a New Light came into my life."
Being "all on fire," he spoke to all whom he came across as to (1) whether they were converted: and (2), if so, had they received the baptism of the Holy Ghost? The Revivalist And His Mother.
One day, after having spent some time on his knees in his tiny room, he went out to his mother. Placing his hand upon her shoulder, he said, with a tremor in his voice, and a strange light in his eye: "Mother, you have been a Christian for a number of years, and a good Christian mother you have been. But-but, mother, there is one thing more that you require." Mrs. Roberts, astonished and visibly a affected, looked into her son's face, and wistfully queried what that one thing was.
"Mother," replied young Evan, "the one thing more you need is the baptism of the Holy Ghost." So unexpected was the message, so strangely was it uttered, that the mother said little, if anything, to her son about what he had spoken to her.
"But for eight days." she said, " I pondered his words over in my heart, mentioned the incident to nobody, and prayed God that He would baptise me with His Holy Spirit." Day after day did she utter that earnest petition, but the Heavens seemed as brass. There was no answer; and then, on the eighth day, " he fire descended," and the joy of Mrs. Roberts knew no bounds. "And, oh, what a change has come over me-and not only over me, but over the whole family since then!" she said. "Yes, a wonderful change," says the revivalist's brother. "It is not like the same place."
That was Evan's first bit of revival work; and, having been the means of transforming his home, he set out to transform Wales, and, through Wales, the world.
Before leaving Newcastle Emlyn he had prayed that God would "fire" six souls at his first meeting. And, as we shall see, that prayer was answered.
He did not print bills, or advertise in the papers, nor have it announced that a meeting for the young people would be held. Quietly and unostentatiously he got amongst the young people of the church of which he used to he a member, and very kindly and persuasively invited and induced some of them to come together for a "talk." He told them that God was about to do great things in Wales, and he wanted to have a talk and prayer on the subject.
A night was fixed, and the young revivalist, although proving the words of the minister to be partly true-"The ground is stony, and you will have a hard task"-yet saw quite plainly that it was no false "call " that he had received.
But not more than sixteen or seventeen of the young people actually assembled. "I asked the young people to come together," says Roberts, "for I wanted to talk to them, and, behold, it was even as I had seen it 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 me.
It was, indeed, a novel experience for young Roberts; and although he felt convinced he had a message for them, yet it was with no small amount of misgiving that he stood up to address those with whom he had associated as an ordinary workman but a short while before.
"A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country." Evan Roberts proved the truth of this. Had he called together a few young people in a strange town he would probably have been accorded a warmer sympathy. So the meeting was cold.
Signs Of Revival.
HE found, as he had been warned, that the "ground was stony." Nothing daunted, however, he proceeded to break up the fallow land. "At first they did not seem inclined to listen," he says, with a touch of sadness, "but I went on, and at last the power of the Spirit came down, and six came out for Christ." This indeed, was cause for thankfulness, and the young man was encouraged to go on. The revival had commenced.
"But that did not satisfy me'" is Roberts's comment. "'O Lord,' I said, 'give me six more. I must have six more!' And we prayed together."
Prayer after prayer was offered, lighter and still lighter became the leader's heart. The "hardness" was being removed, and the building seemed aglow with the light of Heaven. Some mysterious power had descended upon all present.
At length the seventh came," says Roberts, "and then the eighth and the ninth together, after a while the tenth, and then the eleventh, and last of all came time twelfth also. But no more." The stopping at twelve-the number of converts asked for-stimulated Roberts, and this for more reasons than one. He was thankful, in the first place, because it convinced him of the Divine origin of his mission, and in the second, as he himself says, because those present "saw that the Lord had given me the second six, and they began to believe in the power of prayer."
So great was the power in that meeting, so overcome were the young people with a holy emotion, that hour after hour slipped by, and they felt no desire to leave. And when they actually left the building it was not to go home. They must needs discuss the "wonderful times " here and there at street corners with their friends. It was, indeed, good for them to be there, and on leaving the chapel it seemed as if they were withdrawing front the very gates of Heaven. So they decided to have another meeting on the following night.
But even now the young revivalist could not exactly see God's purpose in his life. What if his mission were a failure! What if the services fell through! These thoughts, however, were not suffered to exist for long in Roberts's mind. Prayer was his panacea-and still is. So that day he spent no little time in the position of power invoking Divine guidance.
No special invitations or notices had been sent out about the second service, and Roberts was not a little curious to know how many were going to assemble in the chapel that night. Crowds he did not expect, but he did anticipate power. Nor was he disappointed. That night there gathered together a small company of two dozen or so. Not exactly a "talk" that night. Prayer was the one essential. And the young people seemed to begin that night where they left off on the night previous. No hardness to remove; no ice to thaw. The fire was there. Neither were they unaware of the fact. And as one of those who has had a big part to play in the revival said: "Did not our hearts burn within us?" As a second observed: "We were all on fire."
Again prayer succeeded prayer, and song followed song, and the hours slipped away unconsciously to those praying men and women. And how reluctantly did they leave the building. "It was a wrench," says one-a statement not difficult of believing.
Loughor is but a small town, and at this time it had fallen into a sort of spiritual slumber not unknown to the other towns in Wales. But those two wonderful services had set the place agog with excitement. It was the one topic of conversation. When was there to be another similar service? Who instructed Evan Roberts to undertake the task of holding these strange services? Those who had actually been in those "Pentecostal meetings" were plied with questions in the pit, in the shop, in the street- wherever they might be. Through that day the local prophets saw in Evan Roborts's return home a meaning which before was unsuspected, and made prophecies which subsequent events have fulfilled.
Little wonder was it, therefore, that the little company was greatly augmented at the third meeting.
"First I tried to speak to some other young people in another church, and asked them to come," says Roberts. "But the news had gone out, and the old people said: 'May we not come, too?' And I could not refuse them. So they came, and they kept on coming, until the chapel was crowded in excess, hundreds having to be turned away."
The Fire Spreads.
The young revivalist was more than delighted, and he laughed boisterously for very joy. One after another professed conversion, one read, another prayed, and the scene witnessed that night-with a hundred simultaneous prayers, people fainting, mighty singing-beggars description. This meeting did not conclude until 4.30 on the following morning.
But Roberts could not remain long at Loughor. He had accepted a "supply" to preach at Trecynon, and hastened there on the following Saturday to keep his appointment. But instead of a preaching service, there was a revival meeting; and the "fire" that had set ablaze the enthusiasm of the people at Loughor manifested itself at Trecynon also.
Wonderful times were experienced at this town, the meetings being in some cases prolonged throughout the whole night.
As Roberts himself says: "I am on the Rock; nothing can move me. Prayer is everything." Before going to stay at a home, it is made known that he wants a room to himself, wherein he can go through those religious devotions which are so essential to him undisturbed. A little while ago, I was having tea at the same house as the revivalist, but could not enter his room until a signal was given me. And that signal was his coming out of his room and entering the apartment in which I sat.
With the few of us present he chatted pleasurably, and, on returning to his room with Mr. Roberts, I handed him my diary, with the request that he should give me the thought that had encouraged him, and which he considered would be helpful to me. And then, turning over the leaves until he came to June 8th, he said: "This is my birthday." Then he wrote: "Ask, and ye shall receive.-EVAN ROBERTS." "That is all," he said.
"God has made promises. Keep Him to his Word."
One of his co-revivalists one day called the leader of the revival "Mr.
Roberts." "What do you mean by that?" was his query. "I know you have two brothers already. Well, I will make the third. I am your brother. And my name is Evan."
And talking about his name reminds me of a quaint remark which he made one day. "The papers," he said, "and the people call me Evan Roberts. That is very good of them. But I will stick to the John myself."
it is not generally known that the revivalist's full name is Evan John Roberts.
About His Father's Business.
During the few days which He spent at home at Christmas-time the humble cottage in which he lived was so besieged that, as his mother told me, "he had to go out for long walks." And one day he performed an action which reveals the loving nature of the man.
A little blind girl lived near by. She had heard a lot about the revivalist, and would have given all she had to speak to him. So one day, unbidden and uninvited, Roberts paid a visit to the lonely little girl, and spent over an hour with her, telling her of all the wonderful things that had happened. No one knew where Evan had gone to. But he was bent on cheering the little one's heart. And he did. He was "about his Father's business," for he was performing a kindly action unto "one of these My little ones."
Christmas Day he spent quietly at home, attending his old chapel once during the day. But how he was sought after! "The young people came to him," said his mother, "just to shake him by the hand, They said new life came into them by coming into contact with him." And all those who have shaken the broad, iron hand of the revivalist can appreciate that.
"Now, then," he said to a friend one day, "let's have a proper handshake-a decent grip." That grip, or grasp, is electrifying! "Good-bye!" said a friend to Evan Roberts one day. "What !" said the revivalist, with a touch of sadness. "Did you say good-bye?" "Yes," was the reply; "I may not see you again." " Perhaps not down here," rejoined Roberts; "but we'll be together up there, won't we? And that will be soon, perhaps."
That "the Lord will provide" the revivalist never doubts; neither has he cause to, in fact. Even when going by train, he has not to trouble about getting tickets for himself. Kind friends are at the station with him, wishing the young man good-bye and God-speed, and they are always ready with the necessary passports.
One day, as I was pushing my way into one of the revival meetings with the "singing apostles," a parcel suddenly appeared before my astonished gaze. "Please give this to Mr. Roberts," said a shrill voice on my right. I took the parcel, and found that it contained half a dozen linen collars! And other articles he gets in the same way. "I have not to bother about clothes," be said, on one occasion. " If I want anything new-well, it comes."
One thing that strikes a person who has anything to do with the revivalist is his humanness. Although profoundly spiritual, he is essentially human, as those who know him best can testify. A humorous anecdote he appreciates; nor is he destitute of a quiet humour himself.
"Do let me have your photograph, Evan !" said one who for some time accompanied the revivalist as a helper. "What do you want with a photograph?" queried Roberts. "You have the original all the time."
On another occasion the same person being brimming over for very joy at the wonderful times experienced, remarked, "Is it not wonderful?" "Yes," replied the leader of the revival; "it is wonderful, but perfectly natural, for God is natural, and naturally good."
A Sea Of Correspondence.
With correspondence the revivalist is deluged. Although his secretary.
Rev. Mardy Davis, does most of his secretarial work, yet Roberts receives numbers of letters. One day when I was in his room there was a bundle of letters almost a foot thick, and most of them days old. The letters of application to attend certain towns, the revivalist just marks "Yes" or "No," and forwards to his secretary.
Roberts is passionately fond of his mother language. One day while talking in English to a young man, he queried: "Are you Welsh?" "Yes, came the reply. "Well, then, we'll talk in Welsh," rejoined the revivalist.
And then ensued an animated conversation in "the language of Eden."
His absolute reliance on the will of God, his perfect obedience to the dictates of the Holy Spirit, and his absolute faith in the promises of God are truly remarkable. On one occasion I introduced a party of Christian workers, who wished Mr. Roberts to visit a certain town, to the revivalist.
"Well," replied the young man, alter some thought, "my heart is there. I am not unwilling to come, but the Holy Spirit tells me not to go there- yet. I have been praying about it, and will continue to do so.
But of all the experiences through which the revivalist has passed, none was so-shall I say it?-sensational as the seven days of silence imposed upon him by the Holy Spirit. He was to see no one and speak to no one for a whole week. Whenever he wished to communicate with those in the house, or friends outside, he expressed himself by pen and ink. In a written statement which he made, he said: "I must remain silent for seven days. As for the 'reasons,' I am not yet led to state them. But one issue of this silence is: If I am to prosper at Liverpool, I must leave Wales 'without money'-not even a penny in my purse. We read of Ezekiel the prophet that his tongue was made to cleave to the roof of his mouth, and that the command was: 'Go, shut thyself within thy house.' My case is different. I can speak, I have the power; but I am forbidden to use it. It is not for me to question 'why,' but to give obedience."
Then follows a postscript in which he expresses his sorrow for the disappointment his enforced silence would entail. "I am sorry," he says, "to cancel my engagements. But it is the Divine command. I am quite happy, and a Divine peace fills my soul. May God bless all the efforts of His people!" "It has been a difficult-a hard-week," were Mr. Roberts's first words on emerging from his seven days' seclusion. "Not one word with anyone for a whole week, but I felt it had to be gone though."
During his "great silence " the only person whom he saw was Miss Annie Davies. In a memorandum-book, which he kept for giving and receiving messages, he wrote on the first day of his seclusion: "There is no person except yourself, Miss Davies, to see me for the next seven days, not even my father and mother. I am not ill." Interspersed between these directions are brief records of his daily experience. Of the first day of silence the note says: "On the Tuesday, at 4.22 p.m., I asked the Lord for a message, and received the answer: 'Isaiah liv. 10;' A Voice spoke plainly in English and Welsh. It was not an impression, but a Voice. There was at this time a struggle going on in my mind as to what the people would say!' A Diary Of The Silence.
On the second day he wrote. "I cannot rend my Bible properly, for while I read I may see some wonder, and just then give a word of acclamation, and thus rob the silence of its power, for silence is a mighty weapon. I would prefer being like Ezekiel, unable to speak. If I wore unable to speak there would be no need for this watching. Yet, possibly the lesson intended to be taught is to be watchful. I must teach myself to say with my beloved Jesus, 'Thy will be done.'" "11.30 third day-Saturday," ran the next entry in this remarkable diary.
"A wave of joy came into my heart to-day about 11.30. The sound of the name of 'Jesus-Jesus!' uttered in my ear came to me, and I was ready to jump for joy, and I thought He is enough for me-enough for all men- enough for all to all eternity. On this third day I was commanded not to read my Bible. The day would have been easier for me otherwise." The next day was Sunday, and the note was written at 6.30 in the morning. "Wait not," it said, "until thou goest into heaven before beginning to praise the Blood. To praise the Blood in Heaven canot [sic] bring any one soul to accept it. To praise is worthy; if thou canst by singing the praise of Jesus on earth bring but one soul to accept Him it will be a greater thing than all the praise beyond the grave to eternity."
"I have been very near to God this afternoon," runs the fifth day's entry: "so near as to make me sweat. I must take great care, first, to do all that God says-commands-and that only. Second, to take every matter, however insignificant, to God in prayer. Third, to give obedience to the Holy Spirit. Fourth, to give all the glory to Him, Here am I, an empty vessel; take me, Lord." The last entry for that day was: "I have a mind to shout "Three cheers for Jesus!" On the sixth day a Voice commanded him to "Take thy pen and write." A And this is a part of what he wrote: "6.30 a.m. A voice: "The faith of the people is being proved as much as thine own. Did I not sustain thee during your months on the pinnacle, in sight of the whole world? If I could sustain thee in public, is My power less to sustain thee in private? If I sustained thee during four months, can I not sustain thee for seven days?" Following this came long extracts from the Book of Isaiah. Under the heading " Seventh Day " the note is: "5.17. At my table, tears in m eyes. Why? I have just been opening my heart to my Master, and said that I am only a worker in His fields, doing my best, while others working for the same Master leave His work to come to hinder me. I asked my dear Master to protect me."
The next day the silence was broken-not to man, but to God. "I was commanded to rise from my bed," he says, "bend my knee, open my lips and pray. Then when I got out of the room I saw Mr. Jones, my host."
And thus ended a "testing period " unique in the annals of the history of the Christian religion. As the revivalist said, "It was a lesson in obedience." And, now, I may be asked what I consider to be Roberts's "secret of success." In a word, I consider it to be a transparent sincerity, a noble humility, crucifixion of "self," and entire consecration to the will of God.
May he continue to be the lamp through which the Sun of Righteousness shall send out upon the sad, dark hearts of our land His irradiating and gladdening rays.