Friday, April 27, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: Visions, Voices, and Hysteria, Part 5 of 22



In 1906, the same year he went to the Keswick Convention and was invited to give a special address,[1] Roberts moved into the Penn-Lewis household after Jessie Penn-Lewis had visions about him,[2] leaving behind “the confusion of South Wales where there were disorderly meetings at Carmarthen, dancing and barking at Llannon, a prophesying curate at Llanelly, [and] a persuasive woman healer in Swansea.”[3]  By 1907 there were “many instances . . . [of] prostrations and trance visions and such manifestations as guiding lights and angelic helps.”[4]  Indeed, Roberts experienced almost innumerable visitations from the spirit world and made “many statements about special guidance by vision and voices”[5] both before, during, and after the Welsh holiness revival.  “[H]e claims as his guide . . . the inner voice . . . the Spirit tells him when to speak and when to be silent, to whom he may grant an audience and whom he must refuse, what places to visit and the places he must avoid.”[6]  Thus, Roberts was directed by visions of Satan and sundry other spiritual beings concerning where he should go to hold meetings.[7]  In one often-mentioned vision[8] he claimed he “was taken up into a great expanse without time or space—it was communion with God. Before this it was a far-off God that I had. . . . I was frightened that night . . . [s]o great was my shivering that I rocked the bed and my brother awakened [and] took hold of me, thinking I was ill.  After that I was awakened every night a little after one” to experience similar communion, although without the same fear, “for about four hours. . . . About five I was allowed to sleep[.]”[9]   Frequently his visions “caused his body to shake.”[10]  He had a “vision . . . [of] a kind of arm stretching out from the moon in the direction of earth,”[11] “many visions about the sufferings of Jesus,”[12] a “terrifying vision of hell,”[13] a “vision . . . [of] a great conflict between Satan and the Archangel of God,”[14] a “vision of a white horse and of a key which opened the Gate of Life,”[15] a vision of “a person dressed in white, with a glittering sword in his hand, striking the devil until he fled and vanished,”[16] various “visions of the devil and of the blessed Saviour,”[17] and “dreams . . . such as that of Satan’s face sneering at him in the midst of some garden shrubs”[18]—although Satan not only sneered at Roberts in gardens in dreams, but also appeared while Roberts was walking in a garden hedge, until a glorious figure in white—the Church—struck Satan and made him disappear.[19]  Thus, “Evan Roberts . . . speaks of God and the devil with the assurance not only of one who has had communication with them, but who has actually seen them.  The devil grins at him in his garden, he goes back into the house, and when he returns Jesus Christ is there smiling at him.”[20]
After seeing a book called The Gospel in Art, he “experienced a new series of visions, each of which was centered upon biblical scenes,” although the pictures in the book “bore a striking resemblance to his visions” of the actual events.[21]  Because of “visions and voices,” in his revival meetings he said, “I have to say strange things;”[22] and services, the large majority of the time, had the scripture readings and sermon omitted for people getting up to sing or speak without any order.[23]  In his meetings, “the din was tremendous . . . constant interruptions [of] the speakers [took place as] excited men and women [rose] to pray, testify, sing, ask questions, recite verses, etc. . . . formal preaching [was] an impossibility.”[24]  “Pentecostal enthusiasm” required that there was no preaching for months in various congregations.[25]  Some ministers stated that they had not preached for almost a year.[26]  Those parts of Wales under Roberts’s influence “almost completely ousted preaching,” for “to cease preaching . . . seemed to many the natural and right thing to do.”[27]  Ministers who ascended pulpits to proclaim God’s Word were forbidden to do so by the confused disorder of their congregations.  This de-emphasis upon preaching was accounted for by the conclusion that “Evan Roberts had a ‘ministry of gifts’ rather than a ‘ministry of the Word.’”[28]  While there was not much preaching of God’s Word, at least there were plenty of alleged miraculous gifts, as Roberts believed that all the spiritual gifts of the Apostolic age were to be present and active in his day.  On those instances where Roberts did attempt to preach, he might be “interrupted about thirty times by pleas and excited comments,” as his meetings “sounded chaotic.”[29]  “He made no preparation beforehand concerning what he should say” even when he did preach; “all was spontaneous response” to what was supposed to be the Holy Spirit.[30]  “Well-structured expository preaching . . . was just unworkable . . . [since] each service was dominated by testimonies, prayers, pleadings, and songs.”[31]  Indeed, his meetings had a veritable “Babel of voices . . . breaking forth simultaneously in prayer and song . . . [and] people . . . praying in several languages simultaneously.”[32]  At times people would sing “again and again” a handful of lines from a song “twenty times,”[33] or even hear a “chorus . . . sung, perhaps, a hundred times”[34] in a meeting.  It “was a new experience” to many churchgoers “to hear a large crowd sing over and over again for 15 or 20 minutes, without a moment’s pause,” a one-line “refrain” from a song.[35]  Such practices prepared the way for the “Pentecostal movements . . . [that] put their own seal on such worship”[36] soon after the end of Roberts’s ministry.  Roberts also encouraged people to pray the same words “over and over together, or every one separately, as [they were] inspired by the Holy Spirit.”[37]
It even came to pass in southern Wales that “Mr. Roberts gradually ceased to speak at his own meetings.  He [rather would] . . . sit silently in the pulpit and take no part—a spectacle rather than a prophet.”[38]  “Evan Roberts accepted everything,” all the people who “acted strangely,” with the sole exception of “loud shrieking and wild gestures.”[39]  “[E]ven in the most orderly meetings confusion reigns . . . Roberts generally preaches but little, sometimes not at all.”[40]  “[H]ysteria [was] . . . a sign and proof of the apprehension of spiritual truths . . . [e]verything was in confusion, without order, without purpose, and often without decency,” despite the fact that “[w]e have no record that such physical results followed the preaching of our Lord or the ministry of the apostles.”[41]  No one must “reduce the interruption[s]”—Roberts forbade his helpers from trying to do so—because “the Spirit’s prompting . . . must never be ignored or questioned.”[42]  In fact, “[s]ometimes he threatened to leave a meeting if anyone tried to interfere in any shape or form.”[43]  “One day he was in a chapel where ninety percent were English speaking, yet he refused to speak in English, not because he was unused to this but because ‘the Spirit has forbidden me,’”[44] the spirit world leading Roberts to speak in what was an unknown tongue to the overwhelming majority of his hearers, despite the Pauline prohibition on such action in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  Answering criticism for downplaying preaching and the reading of the Word, Roberts answered:  “Why should I teach when the Spirit is teaching?”[45]  After all, “the wonderful eloquence displayed by unlettered persons in prayer and speaking” was “proof of direct Divine inspiration,”[46] was it not? 




[1]              Pg. 129, The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck.
[2]              Pgs. 159-160, The Trials and Triumphs of Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Brynmor P. Jones.  North Brunswick, NJ:  Bridge-Logos, 1997.
[3]              Pg. 160, The Trials and Triumphs of Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Brynmor P. Jones.  North Brunswick, NJ:  Bridge-Logos, 1997.
[4]              Pg. 170, The Trials and Triumphs of Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Brynmor P. Jones.  North Brunswick, NJ:  Bridge-Logos, 1997.
[5]              Pg. 60, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  For further visions not listed below, see, e. g., pgs. 47ff., The Revival in the West, Stead.
[6]           Pg. 89, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[7]              As Roberts recounted to the local newspaper:
He [Roberts] said . . . It was . . . at Newcastle Emlyn.  For days he had been brooding over the apparent failure of modern Christian agencies; and he felt wounded in the spirit that the Church of God should so often be attacked.  It was about four p. m.  Suddenly, in the hedge on his left, he 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 his despondency.  Then there suddenly appeared another figure, gloriously arrayed in white, bearing in hand a flaming sword borne aloft.  The sword fell athwart the first figure, and it instantly disappeared.  He could not see the face of the swordbearer.  “Do you not see the moral?”  queried [Roberts], with face beaming with delight.  “Is it not that the Church of Christ is to be triumphant? . . . “I know what I saw.  It was a distinct vision.  There was no mistake.  And, full of the promise which that vision conveyed, I went to Loughor, and from Loughor to Aberdare, and from Aberdare to Pontycymmer.  And what do I see?  The promise literally fulfilled.  The sword descending on all hands, and Satan is put to flight. Amen.”  (pgs. 47-48, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead, reproducing an article from the South Wales Daily News, November 19).
[8]              Roberts’ experience paralleled that of Madame Guyon, who testified:  “It seemed to me that God came at the precise time and woke me from sleep in order that I might enjoy Him” (pg. 43, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead).
[9]           Pg. 86, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905); cf. pgs. 14-15, An Instrument of Revival, Jones, pgs. 60-62, 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.
[10]            Pg. 104, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[11]            Pgs. 25-26, An Instrument of Revival, Jones;                 Pgs. 79, 136, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[12]            Pg. 97, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  See pg. 138 for one example, where the figure that appeared to Roberts and was identified as “Jesus” was “looking smiling and pleasant,” and so Roberts was sure that the particular “mission” he was then on “would succeed.”
[13]            Pg. 521, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.
[14]            Pg. 104, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[15]            Pg. 104, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[16]            Pg. 79, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[17]            Pg. 136, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[18]            Pg. 18, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[19]            See pgs. 47-48, The Revival in the West, Stead.
[20]            Pg. 188, 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.  Roberts said:  “When I go out to the garden 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” (pg. 54, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead).
[21]            Pg. 105, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[22]            Pg. 40, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[23]            Pgs. 48-49, An Instrument of Revival, Jones; cf. pg. 99.
[24]            Pg. 48, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones. Compare the account of women and young girls leading Andrew Murray’s congregation in prayer, and the entire congregation in confusion, on pgs. 194-198, The Life of Andrew Murray, DuPlessis.  Although allowing women to lead the congregation in prayer, Murray commendably did not actively encourage such confusion as Evan Roberts did. where, however, Murray did not actively encourage such confusion as Evan Roberts did.
[25]            Pg. 79, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.  In the particular congregation discussed on pg. 79, preaching was eliminated for two months.
[26]            Pg. 54, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  (Asheville, NC:  Revival Publications, 1950)
[27]             Pg. 53, Rent Heavens:  The Welsh Revival of 1904, R. B. Jones, 3rd. ed.  (Asheville, NC:  Revival Publications, 1950).
[28]            Pg. 522, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.
[29]            Pg. 57, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Cf. pg. 125 for a description of some representative chaos.
[30]            Pg. 522, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.
[31]            Pg. 57, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[32]            Pgs. 72-73, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Cf. pg. 79, 86; pgs. 40-43, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[33]            Pg. 86, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Cf. pgs. 44-45, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[34]            Pg. 173, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.  Cf. pg. 14, 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.
[35]            Pgs. 87-88, “Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival,” A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).  In the particular instance mentioned, the crowd was repeating “Diolch iddo, diolch iddo, Byth am gofio llwch y llawr [Thanks to Him:  always for remembering the dust of the earth]” the entire time.  Compare pg. 31, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead. Contrast Matthew 6:7 and the type of worship found in the inspired songs of the Psalter.
[36]            Pg. 177, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[37]            Pg. 521, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.  Roberts instructed those who had been encouraged to stand up in his meetings, and were counted as converts for that reason, to “repeat th[e] [following] prayer in his or her turn:
                Send the Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.
                Send the Spirit powerfully now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.
                Send the Spirit more powerfully now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.
                Send the Spirit yet more powerfully now for Jesus Christ’s sake.
[Professed converts were to] [p]ray No. 1 over and over . . . Then No. 2 in the same way.  Then No. 3. No. 4 after that” (pg. 521, Ibid).  Thus, the eight words that constituted the body of this prayer were to be repeated over and over and over, with the addition of the words “more,” “powerfully,” and “yet” at certain times, in direct contradiction to the command of Christ:   “when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7; note also the tremendous contrast between the model for prayer set forth by the Lord in the following verses with the model set forth by Roberts).  Roberts would also have whole congregations repeat this prayer over and over again, and then “would-be convert[s] would suddenly rise and declare . . . ‘I have now received salvation.’ . . . [T]his occurred scores of times” (pg. 36, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones; cf. pgs. 31-33).  The vain repetitions were consequently responsible for the production of many professions in Roberts’s meetings.
It is noteworthy that the rote prayer Roberts taught people to repeat fits in with the apparent confusion in his life between his alleged Spirit baptism and his alleged conversion.
[38]            Pg. 141, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Jones affirms that, in contrast, preaching did actually take place in various of Roberts’s meetings in northern Wales later on.
[39]            Pg. 50, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[40]            Pg. 88, “Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival,” A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[41]            Pg. 235, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[42]            Pg. 57, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[43]            Pg. 59, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[44]            Pg. 106, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[45]            Pg. 49, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[46]          Pg. 91, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).

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