Friday, December 28, 2018

Evan Roberts: Destroyer of Welsh Christianity, part 22 of 22

As the work of Evan Roberts filled congregations with false doctrine, filled church membership rolls with unregenerate people, and hardened Wales to a true work of the Holy Spirit, serious spiritual declension manifested itself as soon as the strange fire died down.  Already by 1909 a very serious “decline of evangelical Christianity [was] most manifest” throughout Wales.[1]  “All over the Principality there [was] not only a serious and general falling off in the number of adherents, but there [was] hardly any interest taken in fundamental theology.”[2]  Wesleyan Methodism was confronted with a serious decrease of membership, and the “spiritual state of the Wesleyan Church” became the matter of the “greatest apprehension.”[3]  Losses also began to multiply among the other Nonconforming bodies, for these had “unquestionably lost their old grip upon the people.”[4] A “grave note of religious pessimism” came to “pervad[e] Welsh Nonconformity,” as there was a “lamentable falling-off in Welsh Sunday schools, in the attendance, in the interest taken and in the registered results.”[5]  Roberts’s revivalism had failed to produce lasting positive results, but it produced terrible and long-lasting negative ones that contributed to the transformation of Wales from a notably God-fearing nation into a spiritual wasteland.  A contemporary source stated:  “[T]he Welsh Revival of 1904-5 . . . has not been followed by any marked progress of either a political or religious character. . . . There has not sprung up in its track anything of a general and permanent character. . . . Vital religion has not been made more effective[.]”[6]  This lack of lasting godly transformation resulted in “a great change . . . in public opinion . . . and events justify the change.  Ministers in general are distressed at the number of [alleged] converts who have cut themselves off from the way of His life.  Their judgment is not a hasty one.  People seem harder than ever—due to the effects of the Revival.”[7]  In sharp contrast to the revivals in the Bible, and real revivals in church history, only four years after the ministry of Evan Roberts burned out, nothing positive was evident:
[I]n the sense of curbing the passions of the great masses of the people, in the purifying of their common speech and in eradicating their criminal tendencies.  If a plebiscite of the magistrates, solicitors, colliery owners, and prison officials, were taken [in 1909], their unanswerable reply would be in the negative.  A disenchanted nation remains neither stimulated in thought nor enriched in character.[8]
Indeed, by 1909 historians could record:
[I]n looking back at the Welsh Revival of 1904-5 we find that its success is by no means commensurate with its proportion, with its excitement at the time, with its professed statistics of individual or collective results, or even with the money expended upon it. . . . [There was a] complete failure of the Revival to permanently regenerate churches and districts to any considerable degree. . . . [T]he Revival . . . . did not produce subsequent discipline of morals, but it was subversive of, and antagonistic to, the spirit that produces results in practical life.  The religious disappointment of thousands of individuals in Wales today is such as to have made their “last state worse than the first.” . . . The moral condition of the Welsh people . . . [i]n many ways . . . was better . . . before the Revival than it is today. . . . The whole attitude of the people has undergone a deplorable change, and the change is both rapid and widespread.  No one conversant with the inner life of Wales can fail to observe the alarming spread of the personal and domestic disuse of the Bible. . . . There is an alarming ignorance of the contents of the Bible among the rising generation . . . [t]he Bible is becoming less and less the Book of the rank and file.  The . . . preacher [engages in] less close study of the Bible.  Preaching is more topical than expository. . . . [The] methods [of] . . . Evan Roberts . . . did undoubtedly repel not a few, and hardened rather than softened the hearts of some who longed for a higher life. . . . It is a fact within the knowledge of any and every man that football, the music-hall, and the public house, are the dominant interests of . . . the very thousands that thronged the various chapels during the Revival season.  Sunday shows of various sorts, that were compelled to close their doors at that time, are now in the zenith of their popularity, and there is not power enough in the churches or among the ministers and clergy to check their progress.  Since the Revival various socialistic organizations have invaded the valleys, and . . . thousands . . . hear the “socialistic gospel” . . . the social application of the “New Theology” [theological modernism].  If materialistic socialism, without a tinge of reverence for sacred things and sacred institutions, is either the direct or indirect result of the Revival of 1904-5, then it cannot but be a source of sorrow to God-fearing people that the Revival ever came.  The reaction is on a large scale . . . and the reaction is still in progress. . . . Many—very many—of [the] . . . Free Churches . . . have been obliged to revise their roll of membership [downward], and are now lamenting over the deadly indifference that has overtaken the flock.  The apathy, the levity, the decay of religious faith, the lapse in the habit of prayer, the disinclination to take part in religious work, the non-attendance of adherents, and the decline of the Sunday School, together with the prevalence of vice in its various aspects . . . have followed the Revival.  The general condition of the churches is worse than it was in the days preceding the outbreak in 1904.  There is a loss of appeal in the Gospel message, and an alarming disregard of sacred institutions. . . . The fall of the spiritual thermometer is very marked. . . . [I]n very many instances contributions towards foreign missions and the maintenance of the ministry have decreased . . . [so that they are] much less than they were two and four years previous to the Revival. . . . [T]he general condition of things among the churches in the Principality is worse since the Revival than before. . . . [T]here is a retrogression and a reversion to a more unsatisfactory type of religious life. . . . [The] mission . . . [of] Evan Roberts . . . did not produce a reversion to a higher type of reverence or moral life.  The converse is true.[9]
The evils associated with Evan Roberts’s work, feared by many Baptists and other old-line evangelicals who believed in the older and more Scriptural theology of revival, had come to pass.

[1]              Pg. 15, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[2]              Pg. 15, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[3]              Pg. 205, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[4]              Pg. 206, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Many drifted into Anglican sacramentalism (pg. 206, 208, Ibid.) or simply into rationalism and infidelity.
[5]              Pg. 219, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[6]              Pgs. 242, 254, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[7]              Pgs. 241-242, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.
[8]              Pgs. 254-255, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Italics in original.
[9]              Pgs. 74, 78-79, 88-89, 127, 251, 254-257, The Welsh Religious Revival, Morgan.  Italics in original.

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