Wales has a history of a few revivals, but the one most talked about is the third one, which by most accounts started in early 1904. In a town called New Quay there was a preacher named Joseph Jenkins. He is considered to be the leader of the early stages of the Welsh Revival.
On December 31st1903 and January 1st1904 he held conventions, testifying of his own experience being baptized in Holy Ghost fire. He apparently had a desire to see that fire spread.
On February 14th1904 in Joseph Jenkins’ church a lady named Florrie Evans declared publicly and spontaneously: “I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart.” With the release of these words, there was a release of the Spirit of God on the congregation. Many consider this the be the beginning of the larger revival.
Many congregants of this church stayed past services to stay in God’s presence. Most were young people—especially young women. Time was not a factor. They went to neighboring towns and spread the news of their experiences with God, whishing to spread the work God was doing.
In this way, revival was kindled, but it was not destined to reach national proportions until later the same year and under another man’s leadership.
Evan Roberts was born in 1878 in Lougher Wales. He was reared in a Christian home and was considered an honest and honorable young man. At the age of 11 his father had an accident that crippled his feet and kept him from work for four months.
Evan Roberts was called upon to go with his father to the mines during this time and do the work his father would normally do, at his father’s direction. So at 11 he left school and started working full time.
As a teenager, he was converted and had his own experience with God. He took his Bible to the mines and read it during times of leisure. The pages of this Bible were charred once when an explosion occurred in the mine. It killed 5 of his fellows. Evan came out alive, but with a reminder of his narrow escape ever before him in the form of his precious Bible.
As a teen, Evan Roberts prayed for revival. He continued this prayer for many years, until God began using him in the Welsh Revival.
He had later in life begun an apprenticeship as a smith, but soon realized he found as little satisfaction in this as he had as a coal miner. In the spring of 1904 he was awakened frequently at 1:00 a.m. and he would pray until 5:00 a.m. Finally, he felt he could not withhold himself anymore from what God had truly called him to. He felt called to ministry, so off he went to Newcastle Emlyn Grammar School to prepare for theological studies at another school.
Leading The Welsh Revival
This was on September 13th1904. Two and a half weeks later his plans were interrupted as he was powerfully baptized in Holy Ghost fire. A sermon he heard convinced him he was to lead a revival in Wales. So, having barely wet his feet in his scholarly endeavors, he canceled his plans and went back home to Lougher at the age of 26.
He went to a prayer meeting at the church he grew up in. When the meeting was ending, he asked those who would like to go deeper with God to remain behind. These he exhorted and taught in his quiet manner far into the night. Within the church there was weeping and outside the church there was wondering, as people walked by late in the night and saw the lights still shining brightly.
Among the exhortations laid out by Evan Roberts, were these keys to receiving the Holy Spirit:
1. Confess all known sin to God, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
2. Remove anything from your life that you are in doubt of or feel unsure about.
3. Be totally yielded and obedient to the Holy Spirit.
4. Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.
They planned to meet again the following night, but it was a much larger crowd that came. The town at large had gotten wind of the doings the previous night. Many came out of curiosity. The same fire spread among those who came this night. Many who were naturally private, testified boldly. Evan Roberts prophesied that in two weeks, revival would come to Wales.
Sure enough, the fire spread. The young people went to nearby towns with the message of revival and by two weeks, the papers were reporting a Welsh Revival. Evan Roberts traveled throughout Wales and wherever he went, the fire of God fell.
There was public weeping, confession of sin, and hymn singing all done without organization and with only a little leadership. Evan Roberts did little to evoke emotion in the people, but relied only on the power of God to move in people’s hearts. He was not considered a good orator, but was a quiet, even tempered man whose manner of speaking was not eloquent. Many times he would speak for only a few minutes before being interrupted by testimony, confession, weeping, or singing.
The Movement Continues
Many people willingly aided in the spreading of revival. When Evan Roberts left a town, he exhorted many to continue in the same way after he was gone. This being the case, revival would continue in a town long after he left.
Stores had a hard time keeping Bibles in stock. Bars and saloons went out of business. Law enforcement found they had no crime to fight anymore in many towns and judges and lawyers had no cases to try. Production increased in the mines. Instead of swearing and cursing, the mines were now filled with hymns. The ponies at the mines were so used to being addressed in vile language and anger, they hardly knew how to comprehend orders given in softer tones and pureness of speech.
One journalist wrote: “Strong men are in tears of penitence; women are shaken with new fervour, and in the streets small children at their play are humming revival hymns.”
Evan Roberts apparently thought the Welsh Revival would spread globally, for in his writing called, A Message To The World, he wrote: “I believe the world is upon the threshold of a great religious revival, and I pray daily that I may be allowed to help bring this about.”
Unfortunately, the Welsh Revival did not spread globally, but it did spread fragmentally to various other nations. By late 1905, Evan Roberts was entertaining some doubts due to persecution from various groups and he was wearing himself out on little sleep and a lot of work. A woman called Jessie Penn-Lewis was during this time associated closely to Evan Roberts. Many called her Jezebel, as she is considered to be the one who dissuaded him eventually from the movement and convinced him to move in with her husband and herself for a time of rest.
Shortly after he began his sabbatical, revival tapered off. A few years later Evan Roberts disassociated himself from Jessie as he realized he was being deceived. He went into ministry once more and brought isolated revivals to various groups. But his anointing for mass revival seemed to be missing at this point.
A Call For End Time Revival
I believe God laid it on my heart to research and recount the Welsh Revival. I don’t know all the reasons why, but I believe one of them is to inspire us to look for and pray for end-time revival. Our nation and our world are in desperate need of revival. And there is something about looking into the past and seeing evidence of God’s movements that makes it easier to believe He is able and willing to do it once more before He calls His church home. Besides, I believe it is scriptural that a late rain will come before the end, which I believe implies revival.