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 Bend the Church, and save the world - Evan Roberts

In the same Preparatory School was Evan Roberts, a young collier student of twenty-six years of age, preparing to enter the ministry. For eleven years he had prayed for a "Revival," and for thirteen years he had prayed for the fullness of the Spirit.

Just a word dropped by a deacon in a church-meeting thirteen years before, caused him to determine to know the Holy Ghost. "Be faithful," said the deacon. "What if the Spirit descended, and you were absent!" So through all weathers and difficulties, refusing to be tempted by the boys and the boats on the river near his home, the lad wended his way to prayer meeting, and other chapel services, year after year.

Evan Roberts came from a typical Welsh home, and is the son of godly parents. At twelve years old he became his father's right hand in the mine, and shortly afterwards commenced regular work underground in the colliery. He was never without his Bible, which he studied in the intervals of work, and so the time went by, until one night in the spring of 1904 God seems to have drawn near to him in a very special way. He says that as he prayed by his bedside at night, he was taken up into a great expanse--without space or time--into communion with God.

This was manifestly a crisis in his spiritual life, for hitherto, he says, God was to him " a far-away God," and he was afraid of Him. But after this the Lord awakened him night after night, a little after one o'clock, and took him up into Divine fellowship for about four hours. He would sleep until nine o'clock, when again he would be rapt in communion with God until about noon in the day.

Three months this sacred fellowship lasted, and then came the time--September, 1904--for him to go to the Preparatory School at Newcastle Emlyn.

In the providential leadings of God just at this time a Convention was being held at Blaenanerch, some eight miles from Newcastle Emlyn, the messengers with the Loid's message being the same three who had been sent to New Quay at the close of 1903.

The Rev. Seth Joshua had now commenced his Mission, and on the Thursday morning took a party of about twenty young people, including a group from New Quay, Evan Roberts, and Sydney Evans, to Blaenanerch to attend the meetings. The Lord wrought in the brake on that early morning drive as they sung, "It is coming--It is coming--The power of the Holy Ghost--I receive it--I receive it--The power of the Holy Ghost" Singing and praising, they reached Blaenanerch in time for the seven o'clock service which was being conducted by one of the Missioners. Evan Roberts was already deeply moved, but he quite broke down when at the close Mr. Joshua led in prayer, and used the words "Plyg ni, 0 Arglwydd "--" Bend us, O Lord." The soul in travail heard no words but these. "This is what you need," whispered the Spirit of God. "Bend me, 0 Lord," he cried, but even yet the fire had not fallen. At the nine o'clock meeting the Spirit of God led one and the other to pray, and then Mr. Roberts says:-- "I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears freely flowed. I cried, 'Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!' What bent me was God commending His love, and I not seeing anything in it to commend." The Holy Ghost had come and melted his whole being by a revelation of the love of God at CALVARY, for "God commendeth His own love to us in that--Christ died for us."

The young man returned to Newcastle Emlyn and prayed God to give him the seal of six others set on fire of God, and--the six were given. Then the Holy Spirit bade him return to his own people, and speak to them, but he did not obey, although he grew more and more troubled and ill at ease. One Sunday in chapel he could not fix his mind on the service, for always before him--as in a vision--he saw the schoolroom in his own village, and all the young people and his old companions sitting in rows whilst he addressed them. He tells how he shook his head impatiently, and sought to drive all this away, but God would give him no rest; back and back it came whilst the Holy Spirit whispered clearer and clearer, "Go and speak to these people."

At last the pressure grew stronger, until he could no longer resist, and he said he would go. Instantly the glory of the Lord so filled the chapel that he could not "see for the glory of that light."

After this the young man went to an aged minister to ask him whether this was of God or the devil, when he replied that the devil was not given to sending people to work like this--he must obey the heavenly vision.

And to Loughor the young student went in obedience to the voice of God. What God wrought through him we shall see later on. We will first pause a moment to see how God answers prayer. In the brake that morning on the way to Blaenanerch, Mr. Joshua told how it had been laid upon him four years before, to ask the Lord definitely to take a lad from the coal-mine or from the field, even as He took Elisha, to revive His work in Wales. He prayed God to raise an instrument whereby human pride might be humbled--not one from Cambridge, lest it would minister to their pride, nor one from Oxford University lest it would feed the intellectualism of the Church. Not once had this prayer been mentioned until this morning, and it was then revealed, little knowing that the very instrument chosen of God was listening to the words.

Let us recall, too, the midnight prayer meeting at Llandrindod just two months before, when the Lord was asked to raise some special instrument to usher in the Revival. Yes, God answers prayer.

To Loughor, his native place, early in November, 1904, Evan Roberts went. He says that he consulted the Pastor of his church, who told him that he might try and see what he could do, but he would find the ground stony and the task hard!

The young people came together, and they all sat before him as he had been shown by God. At first they did not seem touched, but presently the Spirit of God began to work, and six came out for Christ. Then the "Pentecost" began. Soul after soul came forward, and the most extraordinary results followed. The whole community was shaken. Meetings lasted until four in the morning, and at six the people would be awakened by the sounds of the crowds going to the early morning prayer meeting. The work went on until, a local minister said, the entire population had been transformed into a praying multitude. Men and women of whom he had despaired had voluntarily come to Christ. The lives of hundreds of colliers and tinplate workers were transformed. The men went straight to chapel from the mills, and the public-houses were practically deserted.

On November 10th the first public reference to these remarkable scenes was made in a Welsh secular paper, which, from this time, to the wonderment of all, devoted columns to the reporting of the work, and did much in the providence of God to noise abroad that which God was doing among His people. Other secular papers did the same, and all men marvelled at the sovereign power of God in thus moving the secular Press to report the work of God! From Loughor, the Revivalist, as the young student began to be called, went on to Trecynon and other places, manifestly carried on the crest of a mighty wave of the Spirit, which swept like a cleansing tide along the mining valleys of Glamorganshire.

Everywhere the people thronged in multitudes to hear this Spirit-baptized young student! At Loughor he spoke, it is said, with impassioned oratory, but once the overflowing stream had broken out the Spirit of God appeared to put aside "preaching" and use the voice of testimony. "YE slew, hanging Him on a tree, Him did God exalt," and " we are witnesses," was the burden of the message of the Spirit-possessed souls in the days of Pentecost. And this was the Holy Spirit's message through His people, as He bore co-witness by "signs and wonders" wrought amongst the thronging multitudes.

Under the constraint of an unseen power the chapels were filled with eager people at all hours of the day, and the services took their own course under the control of the Holy Ghost, presiding as the "executive power of the Godhead." Prayers, testimonies, and singing broke out in seeming disorder, yet acknowledged by all to be the most harmonious order. The Revivalist would enter during the meeting, sometimes unknown to those present until he rose with some word to the people. The burden of his message would be, "Obey the Holy Ghost," and when one in the meeting would break out into prayer whilst he was speaking, he would calmly "give place," and show to others his acknowledgement of the presidency of One greater than he.

At some point perhaps Mr. Roberts would "test" the meeting, and put to it the four definite steps necessary to salvation, which, he said, the Holy Spirit had given to him to urge upon the people.

(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 emphasised, as well as the distinction between the Holy Spirit's work in conversion, and in baptising the believer with the Holy Ghost.

In truth, the Revivalist was giving the full Gospel as preached at Pentecost, and like Peter's message, it received the co-witness of the Holy Ghost, and produced Pentecostal results. "Repent "--change your mind toward God, and put away wrong to your neighbour. "Remission" of sins will then be given you, and ye shall "Receive" the Holy Ghost if ye will obey Him, and publicly bear witness to Christ.

Indescribable scenes took place at the meetings. Sometimes a very torrent of prayer, and then of song, would sweep over the audience, and hundreds of souls would rise to declare their surrender to God, the congregation bursting out into joyous thanksgiving in hymns of gladness.

But the Revivalist's special burden always was the "Church." "Bend the Church, and save the world," was his cry." The word "bend" in Welsh conveying the meaning of submission to God, and the taking away of resistance to His will. And his one aim seemed to be first to get the Christians right with God so that the Spirit might break out in converting power upon the unsaved. And CALVARY was the power both for sinner and saved. The Revivalist would break down in heart-anguished sobbing when he touched the theme. "You would not be cold if you had come here by Calvary," he would say. "Thanks, thanks for Calvary," was the burden of many prayers. The hymns rang with Calvary, the one most often sung was "Pen Calfaria "--the Mount of Calvary--an exultant song of triumph telling of Christ's victory over death and hell at the Cross. Another hymn sung with melting power was "Dyma Gariad "--" Here is love vast as the ocean." The people sang without books, for these hymns had been in their memories from childhood, but now quickened and used by the Spirit they rang out as never before. Many of the "sweet singers of Wales" were drawn by the Spirit of God into His service, and often would be heard a sweet warbling voice like a nightingale's trill breaking out into a hymn whilst the people were bowed in prayer. A "Singing Revival" it truly became. Souls were sung to Christ, and exulted over in song when won. The spirit of gladness and praise filled all hearts, as thousands rejoiced in a new-found assurance of salvation. The Spirit of God did His own work of convicting, and many were the evidences of His power working through hymn and testimony. A young man would return his prize medal and diploma because he had gained it unfairly. A grocer would return money picked up in his shop, and kept although knowing the one who dropped it. Long-standing debts were paid. Stolen goods returned. Prize - fighters, gamblers, publicans, rabbit-coursers, and others of the class rarely touched by ordinary means came to Christ, and quickly the world knew the results. Magistrates were presented with white gloves in several places because there were "no cases." Public-houses were forsaken. Rowdiness was changed to soberness. Oaths ceased to be heard, so that, it was said, in the collieries the horses could not understand the language of their drivers. The reading of light literature was exchanged for Bible reading, and shops were cleared of their stocks of Bibles and Testaments. Prayer-meetings were held in collieries underground, in trains and trains and all kinds of places.

All the world bore testimony to these practical evidences of the power of God. "Seeing the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it." "A notable miracle hath been wrought . . and we cannot deny it," said many an one previously sceptical of the practical power of the Christian faith. Managers of works bore witness that the amount of work turned out by the men since the "Revival" had been more than they had known for years, and Magistrates did not hesitate to make known their approval of the ethical fruits of the awakening.

Far and wide the influences spread, affecting all classes. Miners' Associations decided to hold their conferences no longer on licensed premises. Political meetings had to be postponed, and Members of Parliament were found taking part in "Revival meetings." Football teams were disbanded because the men had been converted, and had other attractions now. From one district a Theatrical Company felt it necessary to depart, as there was no hope of audiences, for all the "world" was praying. With one accord the converts put aside the "drink," and the temperance workers saw the Spirit of God accomplish in three months what they had laboured to do for forty years! At the conclusion of a service dozens of young men would be seen marching to the front to sign the pledge.

The mighty tidal wave swept hither and thither-- men knew not how or why. The Spirit of God found His own channels; and districts unvisited by Mr. Evan Roberts had extraordinary manifestations of the power of God. Lists of converts were sent to the newspapers, giving a record of professed conversions of over 70,000 names by December, 1904--just two months only since the life-streams broke out at Loughor, the number reaching over 85,000 by the end of March, 1905! Many of the young people were thrust out by the Lord to share in the service--Mr. Sydney Evans, Mr. Dan Roberts and many others, leading Revival meetings with the manifest blessing of God. Visitors from all parts of Britain and the Continent began to flock to Wales to see the "great sight" of God breaking forth in supernatural power upon the sons of men.

 2005/11/10 12:09

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