Friday, April 06, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: His "Preaching": Part 3 of 22




            However, very often Roberts did not preach at all.  Services became closer to the pattern, though not necessarily the volume, of the Quaker meeting, where everything was spontaneously enacted as led, allegedly, by the Holy Spirit.[1]  Roberts’s meetings “remin[d] one of the Quakers . . . they would feel themselves thoroughly at home in [them].”[2]  While earlier Welsh revival movements “exalted the preacher,” and preachers leading the people of God and boldly proclaiming the Word were central to prior revival movements in Wales, this “feature . . . was missing in the Revival of 1904-5,”[3] which contributed to “the decline of the sermon.”[4]  Indeed, the “pastor . . . was practically regarded as an alien in the Commonwealth of Israel.  The prevailing sentiment was . . . [to] than[k] the Lord that He had shunted the ministers to the sideline.  [One] never heard a word from the Revivalist in public in recognition of the Welsh ministry, nor saw a single act that showed appreciation of their position.”[5]  Rather than emphasizing the study of and unquestioned obedience to Scripture, and exalting the preached Word, Roberts placed tremendous stress upon instant, immediate, and unquestioning obedience to the “voice from within,” that “voice” that drove him into public ministry and guided him in his work.[6]
            During significant portions of the Welsh holiness revival, “clergymen [noted that] [s]ince the revival began [Evan Roberts] has not taken a Bible verse and made comments as preachers do.”[7]  Indeed, “there was very little sermonizing of any kind,”[8] as frequently “sermons [are] put aside for testimony.”[9]  “Those who came to hear a great sermon, or even a sermon, were disillusioned.  [Roberts] was not an expositor or even a fluent speaker,” but rather gave forth “broken sentences” at intervals in his chaotic meetings.[10]  People recognized that “[p]reaching is not generally acceptable at these spontaneous meetings.”[11]  “Preaching, in the usual acceptation of the word, has . . . been entirely discarded,” as instead “services are throughout spontaneous, resembling a Quake[r] meeting.”[12]  “Welsh preaching festivals” were “converted into what approximated very nearly to Holiness Conventions”[13] through the Keswick connection of Roberts, F. B. Meyer, the Quaker Jessie Penn-Lewis, and others; indeed, “the Welsh revival might be regarded as a triumph for Quakerism.”[14]  However, preaching the Word was supposedly not necessary, since Roberts had “no body of doctrine to present,” but instead gave out “prophetic messages and exhortations . . . in place of expository teaching.”[15]  Following the pattern of the early Keswick conventions, Roberts declared that he never studied the Bible to prepare a message:  “I never prepare what I shall speak, but leave that to Him,” he declared.  This method was possible because Roberts had no substantive doctrine to communicate.  He stated:  “There is no question of creed or of dogma in this movement . . . only the wonder and beauty of Christ’s love.”[16]








[1]              In the words of the Quaker Jessie Penn-Lewis:  “Pastors allowed the services to take any form that might arise from the movement of the Spirit.  Anyone might rise to speak or lead in prayer without fear, and sermons were put aside when the need rose” (pg. 63, The Awakening in Wales), following the pattern of the Quaker meeting, and neglecting the fact that certain elements of worship, including preaching, were ordained by the sovereign authority of God the Holy Ghost for worship in the New Testament (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2).

[2]              Pgs. 30-31, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.  Stead gives as an exception the quantity of singing in the holiness revival meetings, a point—the sole significant point—of discontinuity, although at times even this discontinuity was eliminated and “effective reversion to the practice of the Society of Friends” appeared (pgs. 50-51, Ibid).

[3]              Pg. 53, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  (Asheville, NC:  Revival Publications, 1950); pg. 76, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  This neglect of Evan Roberts “helped to kill what otherwise might have been an impetus to reverence, peace, and vital religion in the land for years to come.”  Furthermore, even when preaching was not abandoned, it “deteriorated in its quality . . . becoming excessively . . . superficial” as well as not being “doctrinal” (pg. 134, Ibid.).

[4]              Pg. 177, The Pentecostals, Walter J. Hollenweger.  London:  SCM Press, 1972.

[5]              Pg. 184, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Italics in original.  Writing in 1909, Morgan continued:
During the Revival [ministers] were counted as nothing.  Not a word of appreciation did they receive when emotionalism was at its height.  They are still suffering.  For ministers as a class Evan Roberts had not a single word of appreciation, though the harvest was the fruit of the seed that they and their predecessors had planted. . . . The same unsympathetic attitude was assumed by Evan Roberts towards aged Christians. . . . [T]aking a general view of the religious life of Wales today, the name “minister” is not the call-word that it used to be. . . . It has been stripped of its former force, magnitude and richness.  It means less in the home, the school, and the community at large.  The average minister is now under toleration. . . . [A]t the time of the Revival [this downgrade in ministerial status] took a very acute form.  Ministers were not in demand, their services were dispensed with and their claims to leadership denied.  We are only beginning to realize its effect. (pgs. 188-189, 202-203, Ibid)
See also pg. 65, 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.

[6]              Pg. 61, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan; cf. pg. 45, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.  Compare the reproduction of Roberts’s principles, including that of unquestioned obedience to what one identifies as the Spirit, the adulatory account of his work in the Welsh holiness revival, and an adulatory obituary in the articles “The Great Welsh Revival” by Ruth Russell and “Evan Roberts is Dead” (pgs. 11-12, The Pentecostal Evangel 1928 (April 1922, 1951).

[7]             Pg. 57, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.

[8]              Pg. 222, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.

[9]              Pg. 64, The Awakening in Wales, Jessie Penn-Lewis.

[10]            Pg. 55, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Italics in original.  Also pg. 40, 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.

[11]            Pg. 49, 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. Scripture never commands men to sing the gospel to every creature and never teaches that congregational singing is evangelistic or man-directed rather than being God-directed worship, affirming on the contrary that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).  Nevertheless, under Evan Roberts “the revival . . . has followed the line of song, not of preaching” (pg. 33-34, The Great Revival in Wales, Shaw).

[12]            Pgs. 9, 106, 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. 

[13]            Pgs. 27-28, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  Asheville, NC:  Revival Literature, 1950.

[14]            Pg. 190, 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.  Shaw affirmed that the lack of order in the service is the most obvious similarity.

[15]            Pg. 224, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Cf. pg. 99.


[16]            Pg. 34, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.

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