Friday, March 23, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: His Education & "Preaching": Part 2 of 22



When “Dr. Williams, the phrenologist[,][1] . . . measured [Roberts’s] cranium, deduced certain patterns,” and “told . . . the young miner, ‘You ought to be a preacher,’” an affirmation also confirmed by a minister who had heard Roberts pray publicly one time, Evan was guided no longer to be a miner but a minister.[2]  However, his education for the ministry was extremely limited, as was his education in general, although he was “deeply influenced” by “C. R. Sheldon’s In His Steps.”[3]  Roberts “left school at age twelve, laboured in coal mines for twelve years, undertook part-time study and a brief pre-college course . . . [and] had no pastoral or evangelistic experience”[4] when he became the center of the Welsh holiness revival in 1904, although a novice (1 Timothy 3:6), one whose “schooldays were few and irregular,”[5] and “an unqualified preacher with only six weeks of adult pre-college education.”[6]  Incapable of careful exegesis of the Bible, he taught “experience-based doctrine” and held to “no dogmatic beliefs,” since he was “totally untrained” for “systematic theological instruction” or “expository preaching.”[7]  On the contrary, “visions and voices” were “what really constitute[d] [him a] pioneer in [the] new movement of the Spirit” in Wales.[8]  “Evan Roberts was not intellectual . . . was moved more by his emotions than by his ideas . . . was more intuitive than inductive or deductive . . . had no fundamental doctrine, no system of theology, no distinctive ideal.”[9]  He did not follow the pattern of Christ and the Apostles, as well as of earlier revival preachers such as Jonathan Edwards or Shubal Stearns, or earlier instruments of revival in Wales,[10] by preaching boldly and specifically on sin, clearly explaining the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, calling men to repentance and faith, and strongly warning about hell and judgment to come (Matthew 5:22-30).  Instead, Roberts set forth “no dies irae to terrify, but a dies caritas to win its way[.] . . . Sin—or at least vice—[was] seldom denounced[.]”[11]  Indeed, Roberts stated:  “What need have these people [in the Welsh holiness revival] to be told that they are sinners?”[12]  Some associated with his ministry testified that they never once preached the gospel to the lost during the entire course of their revivalistic work; they saw many make what were supposedly salvation decisions without hearing the gospel.[13]
            Thus, “Roberts does not call his hearers to repentance . . . but speaks of having been called to fulfill the words of the prophet Joel.  ‘Your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions.’”  Rather than proclaiming the gospel, Roberts “frequently describe[d] visions that had appeared to him.”[14]  Surely, in his view, describing visions would bring more to salvation than gospel preaching.  He also “told his congregations that he had ‘not come to terrify them by preaching about the horrors of eternal damnation’” and “told reporters . . . ‘I preach nothing but Christ’s love,’” after the manner of Hannah W. Smith.[15]  Nevertheless, “his message was not so much Christocentric as pneuma-centric, a result of the influence of the Holiness movement, especially the teaching of Keswick.”[16]  Roberts spoke at the Welsh Keswick Conference at Llandrindod Wells in 1905 at the height of the holiness revival excitement,[17] and the message he proclaimed throughout Wales during his work was that of the “Spiritual Life Conventions such as Keswick and Llandrindod.”[18]  While Keswick proper was key for Roberts, Keswick antecedents, such as the “experience . . . called ‘perfect love’ or Christian perfection’ taught by J. Wesley and J. Fletcher . . . [were also] given attention in this revival.”[19]  Thus, while earlier revivals had believed that the Spirit of God bore testimony to Christ rather than emphasizing His own blessed Person, Evan Roberts stressed (as William Boardman had before him) that there “were thousands of believers in our churches who have received Christ, but had never received the Holy Ghost,” a change of emphasis from “[h]eretofore” when “the work of Christ ha[d] been the all-important truth.”[20]





[1]              The development of the quack system of phrenology was as follows:

Franz Gall (1758–1828) and Johann Spurzheim (1776–1832) developed an early physiological psychology known as phrenology, which held three fundamental positions: the exterior conformation of the skull corresponds to the interior (brain); mind is analyzable into a number of functions (e.g., combativeness, hope, acquisitiveness, cautiousness, and secretiveness); and the functions of mind are differentially localized in the brain, and an excess in any function is correlated with an enlargement of the corresponding place in the brain. . . . [T]he term phrenology mean[s] literally the science of the mind. The theory asserted that personality and character traits could be judged by the location and size of bumps on the skull. . . . Some 37 localized areas of the brain were specified to contain independent and inherited regions relating to such character traits as self-esteem, conscientiousness, and spirituality. Three general character types—mental, motive, and vital—facilitated grouping of personalities. Phrenology maps were drawn to indicate the locations of particular faculties and were then used to analyze the corresponding bumps on the skull of a client. . . . Phrenology had a certain popular appeal; people thought personality could be determined by feeling an individual’s skull. However, phrenology was never accepted by scientists because its methodology was largely anecdotal. . . . The charlantanlike activities of Gall and Spurzheim and the multiplicity of faculties made phrenology the last faculty psychology. (pgs. 427, 790, 872, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling (2nd ed.), D. G. Benner & P. C. Hill.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999)

Interestingly, one of Evan Roberts’s “heavily involved” helpers was “Annie May Rees, the daughter of a phrenologist” (pg. 52, see 76ff., Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones).

[2]              Pg. 10, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Pg. 110 mentions Evan’s interaction with another phrenologist later.

[3]              Pg. 6, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  “Sheldon, a Congregational minister, followed the liberal teaching of his day that Christ was merely an example,” and thus the book “promotes a social gospel rather than the Saving Gospel of Jesus Christ,” one of “[w]alking in the steps of Jesus” rather than “trust[ing] in His saving merits and vicarious satisfaction to get to Heaven” (Calvary Contender, 10/15/1997; elec. acc. Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library, ed. David Cloud).

[4]              Pg. xiii, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.

[5]              Pg. 55, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.

[6]              Pg. 96, An Instrument of Revival, Jones; pg. 85, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).

[7]              Pgs. 253, 5, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.

[8]              Pgs. 24-25, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  Asheville, NC:  Revival Literature, 1950.

[9]              Pg. 55, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.

[10]            Thus, Vyrnwy Morgan noted “an unmistakable change of character . . . [in] the general record of revivals” in the years that led up to and included the Welsh holiness revival; “the notion of a material hell is gone, never to return[.] . . . There has been a change of emphasis.  It used to be on hell; it is now on character; it used to be on wrath; it is now on conduct” (xiv-xvi, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan).

[11]            Pg. 154, The Great Revival in Wales:  Also an Account of the Great Revival in Ireland in 1859, S. B. Shaw.  Chicago, IL:  S. B. Shaw, 1905.  For example, Roberts said, “There’s no need to preach against the drink [alcohol]”—rather, a solely positive message was sufficient (pg. 54, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead).

[12]            Pg. 49, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.

[13]            Pg. 55, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  (Asheville, NC:  Revival Publications, 1950).

[14]            Pg. 47, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.  Stead quotes the South Wales Daily News of November 14, 1904.

[15]            E. g., “Mrs. Smith went herself to a man in prison, who was condemned to death for murder. . . . She only told him how God loved him, and grieved over him, stayed with him, and told him again and again, till he was conquered” (pg. 163, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).

[16]            Pgs. 520-521, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.

[17]            Pg. 171, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.

[18]            Pg. 54, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  Asheville, NC:  Revival Publications, 1950.

[19]            Pg. 137, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.


[20]            Pg. 7, The Awakening in Wales, Jessie Penn-Lewis.

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