Friday, June 29, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: False Conversions, Part 9 of 22


            It was important for Roberts to have supernatural abilities to discern true and false conversion, since the methodology he employed in the Welsh holiness revival to produce regeneration was not, as in the Bible, bold, powerful, and clear preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23-25), but getting people to stand up.[1]  Those who stood up were assumed to have been converted.  Roberts would “walk up and down the isles,” look at specific people, and ask them, “Are you ready to stand up now and confess Christ?”[2]  People would think, “Why can’t I?  I am religious!” and then “stand up to confess” when Roberts asked them to.[3]  Roberts would, at times, call on “[a]ll who love Jesus to stand,” as well as “all church members” and “[a]ll who love Christ more than anything else,”[4] and was able to get great crowds to stand up in this way.[5]  In  an atmosphere charged with extreme emotion, but little careful preaching, Roberts called on unsaved people to stand,” and then “men [would] . . . rise up and confes[s] Christ.”[6]  “[A]midst prayers and exhortations in Welsh and English,” people “rose one by one” and were assumed to be converted because they did so, while the “press circulated stories about Evan Roberts’s irreverence, hysteria, mesmerism, and improper pressures upon impressionable females.”[7]
            Roberts’s coworkers described scenes of “feverish emotionalism” where “the air was electrical” as “young men, nerved by the sympathetic atmosphere . . . r[ose], from floor and gallery [of a chapel meeting house, and] followed the formula set by the first, ‘I get up to confess Christ.’”[8]  Large groups would go to the front of church buildings, and, in the words of one of Roberts’s converts, be “asked . . . to confess Jesus Christ as our Saviour. . . . I did not understand it . . . [t]he thing was entirely new to me . . . but I accepted everything from him because I looked up to him . . . [by this confession] we had an interest in heaven.”[9]  If not enough people stood up, Roberts would ask again.  For example, “at the meeting in Van Road, Caerphilly . . . Evan asked, ‘Will everyone who will confess Christ rise?’  When only forty responded, Evan professed to be astonished.  ‘What!  Is this the number?’ he cried. . . . So the people were challenged again. They realized that they had not come to be entertained but to ‘show their side.’”[10]  Sometimes, however, getting up one time would not work, and one would need to stand up more than once to go to heaven; for example, one man stood up twice because a spirit being told him in a vision that he had lost his salvation:
I could stand up to confess since I had been faithful to all the chapel meetings and was morally upright . . . I did stand up to confess Christ . . . [but a few days later] I saw . . . I felt Jesus coming to me and I was going to him . . . and as He came towards me—He was on the cross—He moved His hand and pushed me away.  “If God has deserted me,” [I thought], “only a lost state awaits me.”[11]
The man therefore stood up a second time and said, “Dear friends, God has departed from me; I have no hope; only total loss awaits me; pray for me.”  People responded, “[I]f you are lost, where are we others?”[12]
            At another meeting, Roberts exercised his supernatural powers to predict that “everybody present in that meeting was going to ‘come to Christ’ that day,”[13] indicating that all present, including ministers and Roberts himself, were unconverted and were going to be saved that day by standing up, or that equating standing up with conversion produces incredible confusion and many false professions—unless the prophecy was to be taken allegorically.  However, at the end of the day, “all . . . had stood up to declare themselves followers of Christ,”[14] so it appears that Roberts’s prophecy was not simply an allegory.  A very sympathetic eyewitness described Roberts’s procedure of producing conversions by putting pressure on people to stand up:
Mr. Evan Roberts, toward the close of the meeting, asks all who from their hearts believe and confess their Saviour to rise.  At the meetings at which I was present nearly everybody was standing.  Then for the sitting remnant the storm of prayer rises to the mercy seat.  When one after another rises to his feet, glad strains of jubilant song burst from the watching multitude.[15]
Getting people to stand up, repeating such calls to stand when not enough do so, putting pressure on the unconverted to stand up by having everyone watch them, and getting people to think that all who do not stand at Mr. Roberts’s call are at that instant claiming to be openly and actively against Christ is radically different from Biblical evangelistic methodology and a horrible recipe for producing spurious salvation decisions.  Indeed, it was even immediately apparent that often people would stand and “confess Chris[t] to escape notice” that would come on them were they to stay seated.[16]  Therefore, one must be a firm believer in Evan Roberts’s supernatural powers to accept the validity of such a procedure.  Only the authority of the marvels surrounding Roberts’s work could validate what would otherwise be a very clearly anti-supernatural, fleshly, and devilish rejection of truly supernatural regeneration for the natural work of arising from a chair.  For unless Roberts could do what no other man could, and see into everyone else’s heart, the overwhelming majority of people whom he deceived into thinking that standing up is a sure sign of supernatural conversion and the new birth were in fearful danger of remaining unconverted, being deceived, and being eternally damned, while churches would end up filled with religious but unregenerate people, to the destruction of Christianity and the glory of the devil.  Supernatural conversion by the miraculous power of the Spirit through the preached Word would be replaced with supernatural marvels performed by Evan Roberts and a merely natural outward response erroneously equated with regeneration. 
Roberts, however, was able to use his supernatural powers to detect when people stood up but were not born again on that account:
[On] one occasion Roberts refused to leave the building, when the service had been declared closed by the ministers, because he said that one man in an indicated gallery, a Welshman, he was certain had not confessed Christ as he ought to have done.  The minister in charge of that gallery “tested” the people and reported that every one had confessed Christ.  Roberts was not satisfied:  six times was the appeal made during the next 25 minutes and not until the sixth test did a man come forward and admit that he had not been sincere in professing as a convert with the rest.  Roberts directed the minister to speak to the man, and after a short talk he too gave in.[17]
In such a manner, false professions apparently could be avoided.  Furthermore, visions from the spirit world confirmed that people had indeed been truly saved through the ministry of Evan Roberts.  A man who became an evangelist after professing conversion through Roberts’s ministry recounted that he had felt “petrified . . . tossed about . . . puzzled . . . crushed . . . disturbed . . . and . . . mobbed,” but then saw “a panoramic vision of Jesus moving through a crowd and a blind, beseeching beggar, whom he recognized as himself, pleading, ‘Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.’”  The man related, “A sweet voice spoke within my spirit so clearly, unmistakably, [and] audibly, that the voices of all creation could never succeed in drowning its message:  ‘Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.’  Heaven came into my heart that very moment.”[18]  Ministers also claimed to be converted because of visions.  For instance, an elder testified:  “I was led up to the great white throne, where the Father was seated in his eternal glory. The Holy Spirit came to me and dressed me in the Son’s righteousness.  When He had clothed me in white raiment He introduced me to the Father.  ‘Here he is for you,’ said He to the Father, ‘what do you think of him in the Son’s righteousness?’ . . . Thanks be to Him!”[19] 




[1]              Sometimes those who stood up would also come to a “big seat” at the front of a church building.  For example, one person who professed conversion “had a vision,” and consequently “went to the big seat to tell [the congregation] . . . [‘]Jesus Christ has forgiven my sin[.’]” (pg. 32, cf. 72-73, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones).  Another example of the methodology of standing up to be born again is found on pg. 147, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
                The practice of equating standing up with conversion was present in Keswick and Higher Life circles from the origin of the movement; for example, at the Brighton Convention a Quaker leader reported that “manifest converting power” was present, evidenced by “some hundreds [who] rose to witness that they were recipients of salvation” (pg. 399, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875; pg. 462, The Friends’ Quarterly Examiner, 9:23-26.  London:  Barrett, Sons & Co, 1875).
[2]              Pg. 34, An Instrument of Revival, Jones; cf. pg. 182, “The Revival in Wales,” A. T. Fryer.
[3]              Pg. 30, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[4]              Pg. 49, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[5]              E. g., pgs. 60-61, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[6]              Pg. 52, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Compare pg. 44, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[7]              Pg. 81, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[8]              Pgs. 70-71, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[9]              Pgs. 32-33, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[10]            Pg. 60, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[11]            Pgs. 29-30, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[12]            Pgs. 29-30, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[13]            Pg. 121, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[14]            Pg. 122, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).
[15]            Pg. 32, Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.
[16]            Pg. 60, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[17]          Pgs. 90, 120-121, Psychological Aspects of the Welsh Revival, A. T. Fryer.   Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 19 (December 1905).  “211 had already accepted Christ” by standing up or raising their hands that night, and the Welshman was number 212.
[18]            Pg. 185, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[19]            Pg. 189, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones. In the Apostle John’s vision, in Revelation 20:11-15, Jesus Christ, not the Father, is the One on the great white throne, and only the damned are going to be judged there, since the resurrection of the just is already past (20:4-5).  The Apostle’s vision contradicts the vision of this minister in the Welsh holiness revival.

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