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The Heavens Were Opened

By James A. Stewart (1910 – 1975)

    Evan Roberts was not the author of the Welsh Revival.  The Author of the Welsh Revival was the Holy Spirit of God, Himself.

    Although Evan Roberts became the popular figure in the movement before the Press and the public in November 1904, it is well to note that the Great Awakening in Wales had its beginnings two years before this time in many parts of The Principality.  And when the river of God was at full spate in the latter part of the year 1904, it was found that the Spirit was using for His instruments at least a hundred pastors, evangelists, and so-called “lay people” for His work.

    While the Spirit’s workings in revival spread into almost every nook and corner of the country, the ministry of Evan Roberts was in the main confined to one of its twelve counties.  The fire of God burned in towns and villages which he did not visit.  And in many of the places which he did visit, he found the fire was already there.  His visit only fanned the flame.

Characteristics of True Revival

    One of the features of a true movement of the Holy Spirit in revival is that He does not depend on one human personality in His workings.  It is true that there must be the human side of revival – “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (Judg. 7:18).  It is true that God searches out and uses broken, clean vessels for His work, and that in Evan Roberts He found such a vessel.

    Another outstanding feature of true revival is that the movement does not depend on money, organization, or advertising. You cannot organize or control the fire of God.  The astounding feature of this awakening was the lack of commercialism. There were no hymnbooks, no song leaders, no committees, no choirs, no great preachers, no offerings, no organization.  As Lord Pontypridd once remarked:  “The revival finances and advertises itself.  There are no bills, no hired hall, no salaries.”      

    Another characteristic of true revival is that the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, is the center of the attraction:  “…It was noised that He was in the house” (Mark 2:1).  If the evangelist or the evangelistic party is the center of the attraction, then the work is of the flesh and not of God.

    The Holy Spirit, when He comes in power upon a church, a town, or a country, comes with His own strategy and His own order of working.  Such is easy to follow in the Welsh Revival.

Marks of the Welsh Revival

    It was a revival for young people.  Evan Roberts, himself, was only twenty-six years of age.  Thousands of young people, when they became converted, went everywhere testifying.  Little children had their own prayer and praise meetings.  The chapels were crowded out with the young.

    It was a revival of singing.  Imagine if you can, an instrument with its every string swept by the breath of the Spirit of God!  As R. B. Jones, a leader in the revival, said, “The fact is, unless heard, it is unimaginable and when heard indescribable. There was no hymnbook.  No one gave out a hymn.  Just anybody started the singing, and very rarely did it happen that the hymn started – no one knew by whom – was out of harmony with the mood at the moment.

    “Once started, as if moved by a simultaneous impulse, the hymn was caught up by the whole congregation almost as if what was about to be sung had been announced and all were responding to the baton of a visible human leader.  I have seen nothing like it.  You felt that the thousand or fifteen hundred persons before you had become merged into one simple-souled personality.

    “Such was the perfect blending of the mood and purpose that it bore eloquent testimony to a unity created only by the Spirit of God.”

    It was a revival of prayer!  Prayer mingled largely with praise.  And what wonderful praying!  It was praying that rent the heavens; praying that received direct answers there and then.  The spirit of intercession was so mightily poured out that the whole congregation would take part simultaneously for hours!

    Strangers were startled to hear the young and unlettered pray with such unction and intelligence as they were swept up to the Throne of Grace by the Spirit of God.  Worship and adoration were unbounded.  Praise mingled with petitions as answered prayer was demonstrated before their very eyes, when their unsaved loved ones came into the meetings and were saved!  What a contrast to our prayer meetings today!

    It was a revival of soul winning.  Instead of a few preachers and a few of their church members testifying to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, it seemed now as if every Christian in Wales had a burning agony for lost men and women.

    It was a most natural thing for a true believer to testify of his glorious Redeemer in the coal mine, in the tramcar, in the office and in the school.  Thousands were saved through the personal witness of ordinary, common believers who spoke to them of the claims of Christ during ordinary conversation.

A New Day Had Dawned

    No wonder the people could not sleep and could not stay away from the meetings.  No wonder the services carried on till two and three o’clock in the morning and then resulted in a march through the streets with the people singing the praises of the Lamb of God!

    The mountains had melted in God’s presence and the heavens were opened!  The church in Wales had a new and glorious sight of their wonderful Lord.  This was expressed in the following chorus which was called “The Love Song of the Revival”:

Wondrous Love, unbounded mercy!
Vast as oceans in their flood:
Jesus, Prince of life, is dying –
Life for us is in His blood!
Oh!  What heart can e’er forget Him?
Who can cease His praise to sing?
Wondrous Love! forever cherished
While the Heavens with music ring.

    A new day had dawned for Wales.  God was now visiting and redeeming His people.

Preparation for Revival

    Before the revival, it was a dark day in Wales.  Everywhere the bar-rooms flourished.  Football, cock-fighting, prize fighting, pigeon-flying, and betting and gambling reigned supreme especially among the working classes.  As many as 40,000 desperate believers, unknown to each other in the majority of cases, in various parts of the land had been waiting on the Lord.

    Among the chosen instruments which God in the secret place had been preparing was a young miner, who was to be the outstanding voice of his generation.  It may be debated whether he was the most God-used or not, but he was by far the most known of all the preachers in this mighty awakening.

    Evan Roberts was born on June 8th, 1878, in an ordinary working-man’s cottage called “Island House,” in the little town of Loughor.  He began work at a very early age in the mine.  He felt the burning passion to preach.  His pastor and others encouraged him even though he had very little education.

    William Davies, a deacon at the Moriah Chapel which young Evan attended, warned him not to miss the prayer meetings in case the Holy Spirit would come and he would be missing!

    Thus it was that on Monday evenings he would attend the prayer meeting at Moriah, Tuesday at Pisgah, Wednesday at Moriah, and Thursday and Friday at other prayer meetings and Bible classes.  He had prayed for thirteen years for a mighty visitation of the Holy Spirit!

    Before going away to school, in the spring of 1904, Evan found himself, as it were, on the Mount of Transfiguration.  In his own home and out on the countryside, his Heavenly Father revealed Himself to Evan Roberts in an amazing, overwhelming manner which filled his soul with divine awe.  When the time came near for him to enter Grammar School at New Castle Emlyn, he was naturally afraid to go, lest he would lose these blessed seasons with the Lord.

    In the providential leadings of God, just at this time a convention was being held at Blaenanerch, some eight miles from his school.  The evangelist there at the time was Seth Joshua.  On Thursday morning, September 29th, 1904, Evan Roberts and another nineteen young people, including his closest friend Sydney Evans, went to Blaenanerch to attend the meetings.

    The Lord began working in their hearts in that early morning drive as they sang, “It is coming, it is coming – the power of the Holy Ghost – I receive it – I receive it – the power of the Holy Ghost!”

    Still singing and praising, the party of young people reached the town in time for the 7 o’clock service.  Evan was deeply moved and he broke down completely when at the close of the service Mr. Joshua led in prayer.

“Bend Us, O Lord”

    When the evangelist used the words “Bend us, O Lord,” the soul in travail heard nothing more.  “This is what you need,” whispered the Spirit of God.

    “It was not Mr. Joshua who emphasized the words, ‘O Lord, bend me,’ but the Spirit of God Himself,” said Evan Roberts later.

    At the 9 o’clock meeting, the spirit of intercession was powerful.  Evan was just bursting to pray.  Then the Spirit of God told him to do so publicly.  Let him describe this crisis experience which took place in his life at this moment; a crisis which resulted shortly in 100,000 professions of faith:

    “I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me and the tears flowed freely.  I cried, ‘Bend me!  Bend me!  Bend me!  Bend us!’  What ‘Bent me’ was God commending His love and my not seeing anything in it to commend.”

    The Holy Spirit had come and melted his whole being by the revelation to his heart of Calvary love.  Thus, the theme of the entire revival became “Calvary’s Love.”  “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

    He continues, “Perspiration poured down my face and tears streamed quickly until I thought that blood came out.  Soon Mrs. Davies came to wipe my perspiration away.

    “When I was in this feeling, the audience sang heartily, ‘I am coming, coming Lord, to Thee!’  Now a great burden came upon me for the salvation of lost souls.”

The Effects of the Revival

    The effects of the revival in Wales were astonishing.  For example, the correspondent for The Liverpool Daily Post reported in December 1904 that there had been no arrests for drunkenness in Rhos since the revival had started.  The earnings of the workmen, instead of being squandered in drink and vice, were now bringing great joy to their families.  Outstanding debts were being paid by thousands of young converts.  Restitution was the order of the day.

    The gambling and alcohol businesses lost their trade and the theatres closed down from lack of patronage.  Football during this time was forgotten by both players and fans, though nothing was mentioned from the pulpits about football.

    Political meetings were abandoned.  They seemed completely out of the question since nobody was interested.  The political leaders, even from the parliament in London, abandoned themselves to the revival meetings.

    One of the most significant results was that the old church prejudices were broken down.  The man-made denominational barriers completely collapsed as believers and pastors of all denominations worshiped their majestic Lord together.  The quarrels of local Christians were healed.

    One of the outstanding features of the revival was the confession of sin, not among the unsaved alone, but among the saved.  All were broken down and melted before the Cross of Christ!

    The revival and the effects which followed in its wake could not be kept local.  Revival is like a prairie fire which carries all before it.  It breaks out here and there in the most unexpected places, to the amazement of everyone.  It is not surprising then that the mighty fire which engulfed the nation of Wales soon spread to different parts of the earth.  Visiting preachers and ordinary believers who had come to see the sights of “the burning bush” returned home to start fires in their own church, mission field, and city.  God’s people all over the world began to shout for joy!

Bend the Church

    It is good also to remember that the theme of Evan Roberts, BEND THE CHURCH AND SAVE THE WORLD is the secret of every true awakening!  Christians must humble themselves and get right with God so that the Spirit can break through in converting power upon the unsaved (2 Chr. 7:14).

    There must be no hypocrisy.  The Christian must bend to all the will of God for his life in perfect obedience before the Spirit of God is released.

    The Holy Spirit was recognized and honored as a divine Person.  They obeyed Him immediately without any reservation.  Thus, they received holy anointings and they swept on as a conquering army.

    O God, send the fire once again!

A Prayer by Evan Roberts

    Lord Jesus, help us now through the Holy Spirit to come face to face with the Cross of Christ.  Whatever the hindrances may be, we commit the service to Thee.  Put us all under the blood of Jesus.  Oh, Lord, place the blood of Christ on all our past up to this moment!  We thank Thee for the blood of Jesus!

    In the name of Jesus Christ, bind the devil this moment.  We point to the Cross of Christ.  It is our Cross and we take its conquest.  Reveal the Cross through the Name of Jesus.  Oh, open the heavens!  Descend upon us now!

    Tear open our hearts – tear – give us such a sight of Calvary that our hearts may be broken!  O Lord, descend now…now…open our hearts to receive the Heart that bled for us!  If we are to be fools – make us fools for Thee!

    Take us, spirit, soul, and body.  We are Thine!  Thou hast purchased us.  Reveal the Cross for the sake of Jesus – the Cross that is to conquer the world.  Place us under the blood of Jesus.

    Forbid that we should think of what men may say of us.  Oh, speak – speak – speak, Lord Jesus!  Thy words are “wine indeed.”  Oh, reveal the Cross, beloved Jesus – the Cross in its glory.  Reign in every heart for Your sake!

    Lord, do Thou help us to see the dying Savior.  Enable us to see Him conquering the hosts of darkness!  Claim victory for Thy Son, now, Lord!  He is worthy to have the victory.

    Thou art the all-powerful God.  Oh, claim victory!  We shall give all the glory to Thy name!  No one else has a right to the glory but Thee – take it, Lord!

    Glorify Thy Son in this meeting!  Oh, Holy Spirit – do Thou work through us and in us now!  Speak Thy word in power, for Thy Name’s sake.  Amen and Amen!

    – Taken from Invasion Of Wales By The Spirit Through Evan Roberts by James A. Stewart.  Copyright © 2004 by Revival Literature.  Used by permission.