Friday, May 11, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: Supernatural Spirits & Sleep, Part 6 of 22


             
Although Scripture states that the knowledge of men’s hearts is restricted to the omniscient God (1 Kings 8:39), Roberts could see into men’s hearts and “discern souls in conflict,” so that although “some called it telepathy,” his supernatural powers were “accepted as one more sign that Evan Roberts was being led continually by the Spirit.”[1]  Charges that “the revival depended on his hypnotic skills and magnetism”[2] were rejected.  After all, “in the midst of another mass meeting in [a] 6,000 seat [auditorium], Evan detected that a hypnotist had entered the meeting and was trying secretly to control him. . . . [T]he man confessed to a theatre audience that this was the truth,”[3] so Roberts was not using hypnotism himself but had clear power from the spirit world.  Roberts knew “when anyone g[ot] up unmoved by the Spirit”[4] in one of his meetings and could “see . . . insincerity and hypocrisy.”[5]  He “kn[ew]” when “people . . . [were] prompted by false motives . . . in their prayers” and would consequently interrupt them and stop them from praying.[6]  He recognized when people had been truly converted, so that at times he would announce that someone had “decided” for Christ and the person would then reveal himself; for example, “at Saron, Evan predicted a dozen individual decisions to turn to Christ,” and “[e]ach time someone surrendered,” validating “his strange new powers.”[7]  He “displayed a remarkable gift of detecting those souls who were secretly trying to come to Jesus.”[8]  In another meeting, “he began to cry out:  ‘There is a soul lost because someone has been disobedient to the promptings of the Spirit. . . . Too late! Too late!’ . . . Oh!  Dear people, it is too late! . . . [H]e explained that he was prohibited from praying for the soul that was lost.”[9]  In a different meeting, at the “peak moment, Evan stopped the meeting and announced that there was someone in the congregation who wouldn’t speak to his brother.  He called for that person to confess his sin, threatening him with divine judgment and ordering him to leave.  Because no one admitted this fault, the people had to remain on their feet a very long time. . . . Some accepted this kind of rebuke from a man whom they took to be a prophet; others felt it was a mistaken act done by an overtired young man,”[10] since Roberts continued “months . . . of serial meetings, all-night sessions, and crises.”[11]  Others called Roberts “an unbalanced crow stirrer, an exhibitionist, a hypnotist, and even an occultist . . . a prophet of Baal calling down false fire by his incantations.”[12]
Roberts, however, had an answer for those who said he lacked sleep.  Such a lack was not a problem for him.  He said:  “God has made me strong and manly. . . . My body is full of electricity day and night and I have no sleep before I am back in meetings again.”[13]  For months, as the holiness revival progressed in 1904 and 1905, “he ate and slept little,”[14] getting “two or three hours of sleep each night,”[15] but the electricity that filled his body kept him going—at least until he experienced one his several serious nervous breakdowns.[16]  In meetings he would often have “nervous collapses” from which, however, he would usually “recover suddenly”[17] and continue the meeting in most cases—at least until he came to the point in 1906 where he was “unable to stand or walk for almost a twelvemonth,” remaining in “convalescence” in the Penn-Lewis household.[18]
Allegedly empowered to see men’s hearts and live without sleep, Roberts “called to a man to confess his sin” and said, “The Spirit has given me that man’s name and age.”  This fact was, Roberts said, to lead those who were “skeptical of the reality of this manifestation” to have “no doubt about it.”[19]  On a different occasion “Evan Roberts became visibly upset and started to threaten someone with divine punishment for ‘making a mockery of what was so divine . . . [m]ocking what has cost God his life-blood.’ . . . After carefully scanning the congregation, again he urged someone to ask for forgiveness and then declared that the meeting could not proceed until the obstacle had been removed. . . . The remonstration went on for another ten minutes, but no one owned up.”[20]  Later in a meeting he “lay a limp, inert mass on the reading desk, with outstretched arms as if pleading.  Suddenly he straightened up . . . pointed to the gallery and declared that some person there possessed a heart full of scorn, skepticism, and sarcasm.  That was an obstacle to the path of the Spirit, and the cause must be removed.  He tearfully appealed to him to repent or quit the building,” and “continue[d] to sob, with his face buried in his hands,” but “[n]o response was made from the gallery.”[21]  He would “place his hand on his neck, as if pressing something down.  There was a jerking back of the head . . . as in persons whose nervous systems are somewhat deranged. . . . [T]hese . . . tremors . . . [are] attribute[d] . . . to Divine influence.”[22]  Roberts also had a time when he was told to “remain in the house for six days in a silence which had been commanded by the Spirit” and “cancelled all mission engagements,”[23] after a fashion similar to what had taken place with the prophet Ezekiel.[24]  On various occasions he would “walk out of meetings after five minutes because he claimed to have discovered [spiritual] obstacles there.”[25]  Surely such actions, and such abilities to see men’s hearts, were evidence of the powerful supernatural forces that were at work in Evan Roberts.




[1]              Pg. 47, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[2]              Pg. 49, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[3]              Pg. 126, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[4]              Pg. 70, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[5]              Pg. 77, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[6]              Pg. 60, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[7]              Pgs. 82-83, An Instrument of Revival, Jones; the pages record substantial numbers of situations where Roberts exercised his powers to recognize true conversions in a great variety of settings.
[8]              Pg. 89, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[9]              Pgs. 90-91, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[10]            Pg. 88, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[11]            Pg. 91, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[12]            Pg. 98, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[13]            Pg. 41, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[14]            Pg. 41, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[15]            Pg. 51, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[16]            By September 1906 he had already had four.  See pg. 161, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  His breakdowns were “a divine plan to equip [Roberts] to do battle against Satanic powers and to train others for battle,” resulting in the teachings of War on the Saints (pg. 174, Ibid).
[17]            Pgs. 113-114, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[18]            Pgs. 165-167, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  It appears that Jessie Penn-Lewis’s doctrine that “on the basis of Romans Six you may put in your claim for the healing of any bodily disease” (pg. 134, Overcomer, 1914) failed to heal Evan Roberts.
[19]            Pg. 120, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[20]            Pg. 90, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[21]            Pg. 119, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[22]            Pg. 89, “Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival,” A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[23]            Pg. 91, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  cf. pgs. 89-90, 114-115, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).  Roberts broke his silence on the seventh day.
[24]            Pgs. 110-112, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[25]            Pg. 100, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.

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