It is the 29th of September, 2023. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
I did not plan this. In fact, I had written and recorded the show on William Seymour before I looked at today’s date for a show topic. And it happens that just as yesterday we looked at the Azusa Street Revival of 1906, today we head across the Atlantic to Wales where we see, on this, the 29th of September in 1904, what some consider the beginning of the Welsh Revival- one of a number of worldwide revivals that took place at the turn into the 20th century.
We have the Welsh Revival, the Azusa Street Revival, and in the next years, the Revival in Pyongyang, Korea, and in Manchuria. We might ask if they were related, and they might be by more than just similarities in style. We see in this era a common social context- the industrial age had led to discontent and a spiritual malaise. The materialistic philosophies of Darwin and Marx concerned many in the churches, and news was being spread by both missionaries and the popularity of newspapers.
The Western world was not unfamiliar with revival, from the first and second “Great Awakenings” in America to the various British revivals, including a handful in the second half of the 19th century in Wales.
The main character of the Welsh Revivals is Evan Roberts. Some historians have questioned his role and significance for the larger Welsh revival movement he was undeniably its most recognizable preacher. Roberts was born in Loughor in 1878, North of Swansea in southern Wales. He worked in the mines as a young boy and was known to carry his Bible underground to read during breaks. He was apprenticed to a blacksmith, but his desire to enter the ministry led to his leaving for Newcastle Emlyn, just south of New Quay, which had experienced intermittent revivals. By 1862, there had been so many revivals Wales was called the “land of revivals.”
Roberts attended a missions conference led by the reverend Seth Joshua in September of 1904. Joshua had been praying for a young man from the working classes to lead a revival, and Roberts seemed to be the man. After a few prayer meetings, it was on this, the 29th of September of that year, that Roberts recalled bursting forth in prayer during one of the meetings. He ruminated on the phrase “Oh Lord, bend us” and the verse “God commending His love.” Roberts recalled:
“I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears and perspiration flowed freely. I thought blood was gushing forth. Mrs Davies, Mona, New Quay came to wipe my face. On my right was Mag Phillips, and on my left was Maud[e] Davies. For about two minutes, it was fearful. I cried, ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!’ Then, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!’ and Mrs Davies said, ‘Oh wonderful grace!’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘Oh, wonderful grace!!’ What bent me was God commending His love, and I not see anything in it to commend. After I was bent, a wave of peace came over me.”
Unlike Azusa and later revivals of a similar sort, there was no speaking in tongues. But the emphasis was on the baptism of the Holy Spirit- the common thread throughout the revivals of the early 20th century. It was taught that this was a second occurrence- a kind of equipping of the saints with supernatural power for the sake of evangelizing.
Roberts would begin holding his own services, sometimes out of doors but often in churches where- despite not being ordained- many nonconformist ministers would allow him after hearing of previous prayer services.
Thomas Austin Davies, a reporter for the Western Mail, followed Roberts and wrote of his services:
“He had not come there...to frighten them with a discourse on the terrors of everlasting punishment. His belief was that the love of Christ was a powerful enough magnet to draw the people...Denominationalism did not enter into his religion...Sectarianism melted in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and all men who believed became one happy family.”
After a year and a recorded 100,000 conversions, Roberts fell ill. Exhaustion, mental illness, including paranoia and a fear that he was exalting himself, led to his seclusion in Brighton, where he wrote some, but later distanced himself from what were radical positions on demon possession. He moved back to Wales and lived quietly in Cardiff until his death in 1951. In 2004, he was ranked by the Welsh as the 16th greatest Welshman of all time. His time in the spotlight was brief, but it coincided with the Welsh revival with which he is synonymous- which received a spark at a prayer meeting on this, the 29th of September in 1904.
The last word for today is from Acts 13:
32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
“‘You are my son;
today I have become your father.’
34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
35 So it is also stated elsewhere:
“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 29th of September 2023, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who misunderstood the assignment and sent me the names: Willy, Shamu, and Moby Dick- He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who advises you, if you’ve not already, go to YouTube and look up exploding whale, Oregon… Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be OK.