Friday, June 15, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: Mrs. Jones of Islawrffordd, Part 8 of 22

The “subject which has perhaps caused more excitement in the public mind than any other feature of the Revival” were the “mysterious lights . . . associated with the name of Mrs. Jones of Islawrffordd,” a woman preacher and a “homely farmer’s wife”[1] in the holiness revival.[2]  With “Wales worked up to a state of religious frenzy by the revival fervour of Evan Roberts . . . Mrs. Mary Jones . . . [g]reatly impressed by the work which Evan Roberts was doing in the South of Wales . . . lifted up her voice in public prayer for the first time, and broke down hopelessly.”  Soon she had a vision,[3] read “Sheldon’s book, In His Steps,”[4] and “being much moved by it . . . she began her ministry early in December 1904” as an “evangelist” among the “Calvinistic Methodists” and others, receiving confirmation of her call to a preaching ministry “after seeing a strange light on her way from Islaw’r Ffordd to Egryn chapel.”[5]  She affirmed that she had seen “quickly vibrating lights, as though full of eyes.  She had seen light hovering over some hilltops.  The light . . . frequently accompanied her, leading the way as she went.”[6]  Witnesses stated that she “is attended by lights of various kinds wherever she goes,” which were well attested and seen by a great number of people.  These lights are “tokens of heavenly approval of Mrs. Jones and the Revival.”  Indeed, “Mrs. Jones solemnly stated . . . that [the planet] Venus . . . was a new star, had only appeared since the Revival, and was situated a short distance above her house.”  One man saw a mysterious light “from the beginning of the Revival [in his area] six weeks ago.  Sometimes it appears like a motor-car lamp flashing and going out . . . other times like two lamps and tongues of fire all round . . . other times a quick flash and going out immediately, and when the fire goes out a vapour of smoke comes in its place; also a rainbow of vapour and a very bright star.”  Lights were seen both by those professedly converted in the Revival and those who were not, “Chapel members and non-members alike.”  Another entire family saw lights “hovering above a certain farmhouse . . . as three lamps about three yards apart, in the shape of a Prince of Wales’s feathers, very brilliant and dazzling, moving and jumping like a sea-wave . . . continu[ing] so for ten minutes.”  Others, “a few minutes afte[r] Mrs. Jones . . . pass[ed], on the main road, . . . [saw] a brilliant light twice, tinged with blue.”  A woman “saw two very bright lights . . . one a big white light, the other smaller and red in colour.  The latter flashed backwards and forwards, and finally seemed to become merged in the other.”  Another saw a large light “and in the middle of it something like [a] bottle or black person, also some little lights scattering around the large light in many colours.  Last of all the whole thing came to a large piece of fog, out of sight.”  Another person saw a “pillar of fire, quite perpendicular, about two feet wide and three yards in height.”  Others saw “a cross and two other crosses [of light] . . . [t]he two crosses came nearer . . . and stood not far [away], and dozens of small balls of fire [were dancing back and fro behind the crosses . . . [while they] heard a voice singing.”  A “medical man” saw “a globe of light about the size of a cheese plate, or nearly the apparent diameter of the moon, over the chapel where Mrs. Jones was that evening preaching. . . . Mrs. Jones . . . declared that she had also seen it, but from within the chapel.”  At another meeting where Mrs. Jones was preaching and many were “very much affected . . . religious fervour was intense and the service lasted until 1 a. m.,” people present saw “a ball of light about the size of the moon,” with a “slight mist over it.  The stars began to shoot out around it, [and] the light rose higher and grew brighter but smaller.”  Others saw a “block of fire” rising “from the mountain side and moving along for about 200 or 300 yards.  It went upwards, a star” then “shot out to meet it, and they clapped together and formed into a ball of fire,” the appearance changing into “something like the helm of a ship.”  Others present saw “a ball of fire, white, silvery, vibrating, stationary.”  From the ball “two streamers of gray mist [were] emanating . . . in the space between them a number of stars.”  A “meeting of the Salvation Army” in the same location was visited by “a black cloud from which emerged first a white light, then a yellow, and finally a brilliantly red triangle.”[7]  Thus, Evan Roberts was very far from the only one experiencing marvels in the Welsh holiness revival.
Indeed, “the revival in Wales under Evan Roberts” not only “produced [these] psychological and physical abnormalities” among others in Wales, but “sparked them also in other countries,” leading to “speaking in tongues and similar phenomena as a renewal of the gifts of Pentecost and powerful evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit” that produced the Pentecostal and charismatic movement.[8]  While such “tokens of heavenly approval” of women preachers and Keswick revivalism are radically different in character from Biblical miracles, possessing far greater similarity to pagan marvels and the marvels of medieval Romanism, they certainly proved that the religious excitement was not merely the work of men, but that the spirit world was powerfully at work in the Welsh holiness revival.

[1]              Pg. 179, “The Revival in Wales.”  The East and the West:  A Quarterly Review for the Study of Missions. (1905) 174-188.
[2]              Similar lights were also testified to in the Pentecostal works in India and Los Angeles that arose under the influence of the Welsh holiness revival.
[3]              Pg. 10, Daily Mirror, 2/10/1905.
[4]              As already noted above, the Social Gospel advocate and heretic Sheldon influenced Evan Roberts very strongly, as well.
[5]              Pg. 184, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[6]              Pg. 137, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[7]              Pgs. 97-107, 145-161, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).  Fryer documents many other marvels not reproduced here.  Of course, not every minister or revival proponent endorsed every one of these marvels as divine, or even investigated all of them carefully; however, Biblical cessationism was hardly in great evidence in the Welsh holiness revival.  Fryer simply documents the marvels that appear to be well attested.
[8]              Pg. 159, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Bavinck.  An illustration of the Higher Life theology moving into Pentecostalism is found on pgs. 178-179, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton.

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