Friday, July 27, 2018

Evan Roberts: 100,000 "saved" by his false gospel? Part 11 of 22

      Indeed, even the widespread circulation of the idea that 100,000 people were converted in the Welsh holiness revival was a product of a “mystical experience” of Evan Roberts where he “receive[d] from God a piece of paper on which the figure 100,000 was written—giving rise later to the belief that 100,000 would be converted during the revival.”[1]  “Evan Roberts had asked the Lord for 100,000 for Jesus Christ, and . . . he had actually seen Jesus presenting a cheque to His Father, and on it the figure ‘100,000.’”[2]  One who accepts Roberts’s prophetic status would be quite correct in promulgating this figure, while those who believe that the Apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20), and, in consequence, their offices have ceased, would want far better evidence for 100,000 people being regenerated than a vision of Evan Roberts—evidence which is, however, lacking.[3]
            Roberts himself, because of the lack of evidence of the new birth in many, eventually “saw that [many] had been touched emotionally but not truly convicted and converted during [many of his] revival meetings.”[4]  He “lived to see many of his converts, some of them the most striking among the records of the Revival, go back, tired of their new home,” to the world, the flesh, and the devil.[5]  However, this recognition came too late and did not affect the fundamental errors in his methodology during the holiness revival, as throughout he continued to employ techniques that were certain to produce many false professions.  Consequently,  “Evan Roberts grew more and more discouraged as he saw some groups of converts following after cults in which they barked at the devil, danced and swooned, or followed healers and prophetesses.”[6]  Likewise, critics of Roberts affirmed that he erred greatly in “assuming that remorse and confession were the same as true regeneration” as it “became sadly evident that the Spirit of God had been quenched.”[7]
            Roberts’s practices contributed to laxity in guarding the membership of Calvinistic Methodist assemblies and other denominations influenced by his ministry, thus filling them with unregenerate members[8] and ministers.  Indeed, Roberts did not merely confuse regeneration and Spirit-produced repentance and faith in the crucified Christ with an outward response in his methodology, but his message itself was confusing enough that it could well be considered—by those who rejected his prophetic status and went by Scripture alone—a very unclear gospel.  Evan Roberts did not regularly preach with any kind of careful clarity the gospel of salvation for totally depraved sinners based on the substitutionary death of the crucified and resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  He did not proclaim the need for miraculous regeneration and call sinners to a supernaturally produced repentant faith through which they looked away from themselves to the Lord Jesus for redemption (John 3:1-21).  Instead, Roberts taught that the unregenerate must both sympathize with and love Christ before they can come to Him for salvation, thus denying the Biblical depravity of man (Romans 3:11) and affirming Pelagianism.[9]  It is not at all surprising that Roberts “did not at any time emphasize the necessity for the creation of a new will in and by the power of Christ.”[10]  On the contrary, he commanded:  “[Y]ou need to turn that sympathy . . . I know you . . . listeners [already have] . . . into a flame of love before you can embrace Him as Saviour.”[11]       Furthermore, he taught:  “Christ . . . has a rope of three strands.  First ask him to take you as you are.  Then ask Him to forgive your sins.  Then ask Him for strength for the future.  This three-stranded rope of salvation is enough for the present, the past, and the future salvation of every sinner.”[12]  Along these lines, Roberts counseled his helpers to find people who needed to stand up to be saved, and act as follows:  “Put one hand on their shoulder, and the other hand in their hand.  Ask them to pray God to forgive their sins for Jesus Christ’s sake.  Then ask them, do they believe in God; and if they will say they do, ask them to thank God for that.”[13]  However, the Biblical response to the gospel is not “ask,” but “believe,”[14] and belief in “God” is not enough (James 2:19); one must be supernaturally enabled to rest upon the crucified Christ and His substitutionary atonement (cf. John 3:1-21).
            Worst of all, Roberts’s salvation message was summarized by those who heard him as:
He says that if we would have Jesus save us, we must save ourselves first. He says that we must do all that we know is right, first. He says that we must leave off the drink and all that is bad; he says that we must pray and we must work, we must work hard. He says if Jesus Christ is to save us we must work along with Him, side by side, or, he says, the saving will never be done.[15]
That is, “‘He says we must save ourselves first.’ Here is indeed a different Gospel from that of 1859.”[16]  Thus, the Welsh revivalism under Evan Roberts “is of a social and altruistic nature, and . . . differs from those [revivals] which have preceded it whe[re] the doctrine was one almost exclusively of faith rather than works.”[17]  Jessie Penn-Lewis recounted:
Mr. Roberts would “test” the meeting, and put to it the four definite steps necessary to salvation . . . (1.) The past must be made clear by sin being confessed to God, and every wrong to man put right. (2.) Every doubtful thing in the life must be put away. (3.) Prompt and implicit obedience to the Holy Ghost. (4.) Public confession of Christ.  Forgiveness of others as an essential to receiving the forgiveness of God was often emphasized, as well as the distinction between the Holy Spirit’s work in conversion, and in baptizing the believer with the Holy Ghost . . . the full Gospel as preached at Pentecost.[18]
Indubitably, a radical discontinuity existed between Roberts’s message and the Biblical gospel of free grace in Christ, for he equated the new birth with people simply standing up.  He changed the preaching of repentance and faith to the spiritually dead to calling on unsaved men (who somehow loved Christ) to ask Jesus to help them have strength for the future, work hard, and then receive forgiveness.  By his reduction of miraculous regeneration to a merely human decision, however, “hundreds of souls would rise”[19] to receive salvation by standing up and be counted as converts every night.[20]  In a poor meeting, “only 760 decisions had been recorded”[21]—in better ones, many, many more were recorded.  Furthermore, believers did not obtain assurance of salvation by looking to Christ and also by seeing in the reflex act of faith[22] the evidences of regeneration recorded in 1 John; rather, the doctrine of Roberts and his followers was, “Believe you are saved, and then confess it” to obtain “assurance of faith.”[23]  Apparently, only those who possess the ability to see people’s hearts can rightly conclude that the lost standing up is the same thing as the supernatural production of repentance and faith within a dead sinner’s heart by the Spirit of God, enabling a sinner to spiritually come to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in His work on the cross for justification, a new heart, and eternal life.  Furthermore, Biblical assurance is not obtained by simply convincing oneself that he is saved and then saying to others that he is.  Consequently, the practice of equating people’s standing up with conversion will produce horrific numbers of false professions and spurious conversion decisions when practiced by anyone who does not have the kind of insight into the heart Evan Roberts claimed he had.

[1]              Pg. 523, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.  This figure is an instance of the “folk memory of the revival, much of it elaborated by the passage of time” so that the recollection of events “as time progressed, became increasingly divorced from the events themselves” (pgs. 516, 534, Ibid.).  Unfortunately, such inaccurate folk tales too often pass for real history and are propagated in many popular-level Christian biographies, histories, and other narratives, so that, far too often, the people of God accept as factual what is merely legendary.  See also pg. 20, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Brynmor P. Jones; pg. 48, The Revival in the West, W. T. Stead.
[2]              Pg. 60, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan; cf. pg. 66.
[3]              Apart from the visions of Evan Roberts, evidence for the 100,000 figure is derived from people who have sought to keep track of the numbers of people who stood up in meetings (cf. pg. 153, 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); some have also tried to tally, at least generally, increases in membership rolls.
In the Bible, only those were counted as converts who professed salvation through repentant faith in Christ alone, submitted to believer’s immersion, and then continued faithful to the Lord in His church and manifested evidence of a new heavenly nature (cf. Acts 2:41-47)—a standard not a little higher than that of standing up under extreme emotional pressure in a meeting, or than receiving a vision with the number 100,000 in it.
[4]              Pg. 147, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[5]              Pg. 80, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[6]              Pg. 158, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[7]              Pg. 175, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[8]              The rigors of early Calvinistic Methodist assembly membership are set forth on pgs. 103-122, Fire in the Thatch:  The True Nature of Religious Revival, Eifion Evans.
[9]              Roberts carried his Pelagianism with him into his doctrine of the Christian life; e. g., while Philippians 2:13 affirms that God works in the believer both to will and to do, Roberts believed:  “God . . . will work in you up to the point of willing; but He cannot ‘will’ for you!  He works in you up to the point of your will, and then through your act of ‘will’—He will energize you for the ‘doing’ (Phil. ii. 13.)” (pg. 5, “Revival and Prayer,” Overcomer 1910).  It is astonishing that Roberts would refer to Philippians 2:13 and in the same sentence deny that God energizes the believer both to will and to do.
                Jessie Penn-Lewis likewise, with the Keswick theology in general, denied that God works in believers both to will and do, affirming rather that the Almighty is helpless without our independent choice:  “God must get the consent of our wills for everything He does” (pg. 181, The Overcomer, December 1913; she misinterpreted Philippians 2:13 in a manner similar to Evan Roberts, pg. 132, The Overcomer, 1914).
[10]            Pg. 88, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[11]            Pg. 53, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[12]            Pg. 143, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[13]            Pg. 49, Voices from the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.
[14]            Much of modern fundamentalism and evangelicalism also replaces supernatural conversion by repentant faith in the Christ who died as a Substitute for sinners and rose again with the repetition of a “sinner’s prayer,” based upon a misinterpretation of Romans 10:9-14 and Revelation 3:20.  Note the careful discussion of these passages and defense of justification by repentant faith alone instead of justification by faith and prayer, in “An Exegesis and Application of Romans 10:9-14 for Soulwinning Churches and Christians,” by Thomas Ross, available at  While Evan Roberts affirmed that to “confess Christ was . . . an initial act of faith” (pg. 145, An Instrument of Revival, Jones), the Bible teaches that one must believe and receive Christ’s righteousness before he can genuinely confess Christ (Romans 10:10-11).   However, at other times Roberts would, at least according to certain writers, correctly state that the gospel is to believe on Christ (cf. pg. 134, Ibid.).
[15]            Between College Terms, Constance Louisa Maynard (James Nisbet & Co.: 1910).  Elec. acc.  Compare the salvation message taught by the Pentecostals of Azusa Street:  “When we preach a sinless life, some people say we are too strict.  They say we will not get many to heaven that way.  But, beloved, God cannot save contrary to His Word.  All salvation contrary to the Word is not saving salvation” (pg. 1, The Apostolic Faith I:9 (Los Angeles, June-September 1907), reprinted on pg. 37, Like As of Fire:  Newspapers from the Azusa Street World Wide Revival:  A Reprint of “The Apostolic Faith” (1906-1908), coll. Fred T. Corum & Rachel A. Sizelove).
[16]          Between College Terms, Constance Louisa Maynard (James Nisbet & Co.: 1910).  Elec. acc.
[17]            Pg. 167, 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.
[18]            Pgs. 48-49, The Awakening in Wales, Jessie Penn-Lewis.  Note that Jessie Penn-Lewis found acceptable such a method of receiving salvation, although it is clearly a false gospel.  These four conditions of receiving “salvation” were also the way that an “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” was received (pg. 51, Revival in the West, W. T. Stead), further evidence that Roberts confused post-conversion Spirit baptism with the gospel, even as in his own personal history a great confusion of conversion and Spirit baptism is evident.  Indeed, the four conditions also were the way through which ecumenical unity among those holding false and true doctrine would come to pass, and the one-world Church—a desirable goal, in Roberts’s view (but cf. Revelation 17:1-6)—would be inaugurated (pg. 53, Revival in the West, W. T. Stead).
[19]            Pg. 49, The Awakening in Wales, Jessie Penn-Lewis.
[20]            Pg. 128, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[21]            Pg. 129, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[22]            Charles Hodge correctly states:
By the direct act of faith, we embrace Christ as our Savior; by the reflex act, arising out of the consciousness of believing, we believe that He loved us and died for us, and that nothing can ever separate us from his love. These two acts are inseparable, not only as cause and effect, [but as] antecedent and consequent; but they are not separated in time, or in the consciousness of the believer. They are only different elements of the complex act of accepting Christ as He is offered in the Gospel. (pg. 100, Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge, Vol. 3)
Likewise, Beeke notes:
[T]he direct act of faith is occupied with the object presented to it, the promises of the gospel in Christ, and the reflexive act, being of a different nature, is concerned with looking back on the direct act which assures the soul of personally being a partaker of Christ. This reflexive act of faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit also, and must be ratified by His inward testimony. (pg. 68, “Does Assurance Belong to the Essence of Faith?  Calvin and the Calvinists,” Joel R. Beeke.  Master’s Seminary Journal 5:1 [Spring 1994] 43-73)
[23]            Pg. 107, Voices From the Welsh Revival, 1904-1905, Jones.  

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