Christmas Evans (1766-1838)
When writing any biography it is useful to start with the background of the country in which the subject lived. As I have written about several Welsh men of God, I have written a summary of the religious state of Wales under ‘Revivals – Wales’ on this website.
Christmas Evans was born at Ysgarwen, near Tre-groes, in the parish of Llandysul, Cardiganshire, on Christmas Day 1766. His father was a poor shoemaker who died when Christmas was nine. This left the family in dire poverty, but his mother’s brother took Christmas to work on his farm in Bwlchog, Llanfihangel-ar-Arth. His stayed there for six years under the care of his cruel, drunkard uncle. At the age of seventeen he could not read a word and he had had no one to guide him into living a moral or godly life. Probably as a result of associating with poor, brutal boys like himself he had a series of accidents, any one of which might have killed him. He was stabbed in a quarrel, he nearly drowned and was saved with difficulty, he fell from a high tree with an open knife in his hand and a horse ran away with him down a low and narrow passage.
At about seventeen he went as a farming lad to Glancletwr, Pen-yr-allt Fawr, Gwenawlt and then Castell Hywel. While in the area there was a revival around 1784 at the Presbyterian church at Llwynrhydowain under the ministry of David Davis. Evans writes, “Under a revival which took place in the Church under the care of Mr David Davis, many young people united themselves with the people, and I amongst them…One of the fruits of the awakening was the desire for religious knowledge that fell upon us. Scarcely one person out of ten could, at this time, and in those neighbourhoods, read at all, even in the language of the country. We bought Bibles and candles, and were accustomed to meet together in the evening, in the barn of Penyralltfawr; and thus, in about one month, I was able to read the Bible in my mother tongue. I was vastly delighted with so much learning. This however did not satisfy me, but I borrowed books, and learnt a little English. Mr Davis, my pastor, understood that I thirsted for knowledge, and took me to his school, where I stayed for six months. Here I went through the Latin Grammar; but so low were my circumstances that I could stay there no longer.”
Strangely, Evans and David Davies were to become two of the greatest preachers Wales has ever produced; both were admitted into the church fellowship on the same day and they preached their first sermons in the same cottage within a week of each other. It was the law of their church that nobody was allowed to preach without having passed a college course and so the Presbyterian Church lost two great men. Evan’s first sermon did not go too well. He actually borrowed the sermon from a book and one of the hearers, a farmer, went home and found the sermon in the same book. The generous man commented, “still, I have some hope of the son of Samuel the shoemaker, because the prayer was as good as the sermon.” Little did he know that the prayer was borrowed from a collection by Griffith Jones (see this website.) As mentioned above, his financial circumstances were such that he could not stay at the school longer than six months, even though there was no charge. He went to Herefordshire to find some work and while there started to backslide. At this time six of his former companions waylaid him and beat him with sticks; resulting in the loss of sight in his right eye. The following night he had a dream that Judgement Day had come and Jesus spoke to him saying, “It was thy intention to preach the Gospel, but it is now too late, for the Day of Judgement is come.” This dream halted his backsliding and he knew he had to be a minister of the Gospel.
Evans was very unsure of his abilities and worthiness to be a preacher. For three years he was confused about his beliefs. He sometimes visited the Calvinistic Baptist church at Aberduar and found that he was drawn more towards their doctrine than to the Armenian doctrine of his own church. He was also confused about the doctrine of Baptism and searched the Scriptures, only to find that he could not find anything to support infant baptism. He therefore decided to move to the Aberduar church in1787 and was baptised in the river Duar in 1788. Evan’s new pastor was Timothy Thomas; an exceptional minister. Someone said, “It would require a small volume to do justice to his merits and his memory.” Soon after joining the church a significant revival took place in the area, accompanied by many manifestations of Holy Spirit such as ‘jumping’. However, Evans wrote, “Such life and animation in divine worship greatly surprised me, for I knew nothing of religious enjoyment heretofore…. But now, among my new friends, I could not help viewing myself as a speckled bird, not feeling what they felt, until my mind was filled with very low and dejected thoughts of my state and condition.” It appears that Evans’ low self-image persisted for some time. He would learn a lot from hearing great preachers, but he would then compare himself with them and feel depressed. He would get depressed over the way he looked in the pulpit with his one eye. I suppose this feeling of inadequacy came from the way he was treated whilst living with his uncle. According to Tim Shenton, in his book on Evans, he experienced an inner release of the Spirit about a year later.
He did not like memorising his sermons because he thought that he was not allowing Holy Spirit to have His way, so he began to preach by inspiration, but he found that was just as bad. He was so dispirited that he entered every pulpit with dread. He carried on with his preparation and training until he went to a Baptist Association meeting at Maes-y-berllan chapel in June 1789, when he was persuaded to go to preach in North Wales where there was such a shortage of ministers. He left for Lleyn, Gwynedd directly from the meeting, travelling with some of the ministers from North Wales who had attended the meeting. Lleyn was a wild and primitive area, although very beautiful. Evans was ordained at Salem, Ty’ndonen; shortly after his arrival in Lleyn.
It was relating to this time that he made a note that, “I then felt that I died to the law; abandoned all hope of preparing myself to apply to the Redeemer; and realised the life of faith and dependence on the righteousness of Christ for my justification.” It appears that it was only now that Evans was truly converted and it is probably no coincidence that his power as a preacher began to appear almost as soon as he took up his first ministry position. He wrote, “I could scarcely believe the testimony of the people who came before the church as candidates for membership, that they were converted through my ministry; yet I was obliged to believe, though it was marvellous in my eyes.” One of the many preachers he heard while ministering in Lleyn was Robert Roberts. He noticed how Roberts used graphic pictures to convey his message and realised that was something he could do as well. He had had the idea before, but was unable to work out how to apply it until he heard Roberts. This became one of the distinctive characteristics of his preaching and he has often been compared with John Bunyan who used a similar device in ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’. Evans always learned a lot from the many preachers he heard and he used what he learned to improve his own manner of preaching.
He married Catherine, one of his congregation; at Bryncroes church in October 1789. He ministered successfully in Lleyn for about two years, often preaching five times on Sundays and walking a circuit of twenty miles in the process. At Ty’ndonen, one of the centres where he preached, 50 were baptised in the first year. He then went on a preaching tour to South Wales on foot. The people in Lleyn were so poor that Evans was paid barely enough to live on and not enough to get the use of a horse. He preached in every town or village he passed through and in South Wales large numbers of people would frequently follow him to the next town. He walked through six counties and his fame spread. He reported, “I now felt a power in the word, like a hammer breaking the rock, and not like a brush. I had a very powerful time at Cilfowyr, and also pleasant meetings in the neighbourhood of Cardigan. The work of conversion was progressing so rapidly and with so much energy in those parts, that the ordinance of baptism was administered every month for a year or more, at Cilfowyr, Cardigan, Blaen-waun, Blaen-y-ffos and Ebenezer, to from ten to twenty persons each month…. Preaching was now unto me a pleasure, and the success of the ministry in all places was very great. The same people attended fifteen or twenty different meetings.”
On his return to Lleyn matters did not go as well as he hoped. He reported many years later that more were converted under his ministry in that two years than in any comparable period of time until 1829 in Caerphilly. Despite his success, many of his converts went to join the Calvinistic Methodists. Whatever the reason for this -disagreement with the Baptist’s doctrine, unhappiness at Evans’ autocratic leadership, or greater familiarity with Methodists – Evans was discouraged. He was therefore glad to accept the invitation of a Baptist Deacon to Llangefni on the island of Anglesey, which is 29 miles long and 22 miles wide. He and his wife left Lleyn on Christmas Day 1791.
At the time of Evans’ arrival on Anglesey it was a fairly godless place, with great religious ignorance, drunkenness, smuggling and low morals prevalent among the people. He was given £17 pa in wages and for the time he served there he never asked for more. There were ten small Baptist societies there and most of these were polarised through a dispute over the two ministers on the island in 1785 (one died and the other left due to debts). He was therefore the only Baptist minister on the island and he based himself in Cildwrn chapel in the village of Llangefni. Evans and his wife lived in a cottage next door to the chapel. Like each of the few cottages that made up the town, it was so basic that the bed was hardly worthy of the name. There was nowhere to go and study or prepare his sermons – nothing like the mansion that William Haslam (see this website) lived in at Baldhu – however in that small cottage he learned Hebrew and Greek. It is no credit to the Welsh Baptist Association that their most gifted and successful minister lived in such poverty, and the same could be said of the people of Anglesey.
Evans divided the island into four districts, preaching in three places every Sunday and speaking each week in two of the districts. This involved a lot of travelling. Evans and most of Anglesey at this time were tainted with a doctrinal controversy (Sandemanianism). This only lasted a short period, and although it stopped him flowing the way he had done; he was back to form as soon as he turned his back on the doctrine.
Evans had a multi role in the area; preaching of course, but also appointing ministers, looking after them, being a pastor to his congregation and organising the building of chapels.
Evans would go on a tour in South Wales most years and at the same time attend the Association meeting at Felin-foel near Llanelli. There were annual Association meetings in the North, the South West and the South East of Wales. These were started by Howel Harris and Daniel Rowland (see this website) as a place where the leaders of the Calvinistic Methodists could get together to discuss issues. The Baptists borrowed this idea from the Methodists and generally had a time of discussion, encouragement and unity. It was also a time when the great preachers of the day would show off their gifts, with people from all denominations gathering from all over the Principality to hear up to nine sermons in the one day. There were often up to 20,000 attending, so the preaching was always outside in a field that had been prepared for the purpose. There was no television, theatre, horse races, football or rugby to go and watch in those days, so people loved to go to hear good preachers preaching in the open air.
There are a few versions of this story around, but I include here the one by David Rhys Stephen, Memoirs of the Late Christmas Evans, of Wales, as it was written only nine years after Evans’ death. “In this instance, at Velinfoel, Mr. Evans was to preach at the morning meeting, which commenced at ten o’clock. The day was very sultry, and two good brethren were to preach before him; the second in English. The latter was long or seemed to be long; and when Mr. Evans was to begin his discourse the people seemed wearied and jaded. His subject was the return of the prodigal son; as he proceeded, one man, who had sat down on the grass, got up here, another there; the people closed in together about the platform, looked hard at the preacher, nodded approvingly to each other.” The preachers present confessed that they were dazzled with the brilliance of the language and the imagery that came from the lips of this unknown preacher. The people began to gather closer to the speaker, enwrapped in what he was saying; shouts of “Glory!” and “Blessed!” were intermingled amongst the weeping and rejoicing of the audience. From that moment Evans was one of the most famous preachers in the Principality.
He had a very singular appearance. He was about six foot tall, rather corpulent, with a large head, big ears and one large piercing eye. His black hair was always untidy; as were his clothes and his whole general appearance, yet despite all this he had a presence.
You can read in several books examples of Evans’ preaching, although I would say that it is very difficult to get an understanding today of what he was like. First of all, most of his sermons were in Welsh and the richness of that language cannot be conveyed in English, and secondly, it is difficult to understand the culture of those days. Suffice it to say that he would paint a vivid picture of each of the characters in the Biblical stories, such as the ‘Prodigal Son’, so much so that people would really believe that they were there; it was almost theatre, with Evans playing all the roles. People’s emotions would be stirred up by his descriptions of Satan or a demoniac; they would weep in fear and then be incredibly joyful when the climax of the story was described. Evans used beautiful language and was full of energy and enthusiasm as he spoke.
It should be mentioned that another great preacher came to Anglesey in 1799 and ministered there for 40 years. John Elias (see this website) was a Calvinistic Methodist and so this small area of Wales was blessed by two giants of their time. From the biographies I have read of Evans and Elias there is no discussion of how their ministries related to one another. They laboured in the same area for over 25 years and I cannot believe that they never came into contact with one another. Anglesey is not very big and several local revivals hit the island in their time. Even though they were in different denominations; would not these revivals have blessed both churches?
I am very grateful to Geraint Jones who has made available to me his so far unpublished work on his history of Welsh Revivals from 1762-1862. He has tried to record every known revival during those years. Most of the time Evans and Elias were in Anglesey there was a local revival somewhere in Wales. There were a couple of local revivals in Anglesey in the 1770’s, but the next was not until 1800-1802 under the ministry of Elias at Llanrhyddlad. After that revival came to Rhosybol in 1811-1812, again amongst the Calvinistic Methodists and there was another 1813-1814 at Talwrn. Revival finally came to the Baptists in 1814 at Llangefni, while Evans was away in the south. Evans reports “In the year 1814, a very pleasing revival took place in the church of Ebenezer, when eighty members were added in the course of a few months! The Lord was pleased, out of the abundance of His mercy, after much wrestling in prayer, and ardent longings after the enjoyment of divine influence, to bestow upon us the dew from heaven; which occasioned great awakenings, conviction, and concern to take place among the people throughout many neighbourhoods in Anglesey.” In the two years of the revival 600 were added to the Baptist churches of Anglesey. Revival began again in 1821 amongst the youth at Bethel. In 1822 the revival became more general, mainly amongst the Calvinistic Methodists, although other denominations were also touched. The Sunday School at Bethel grew from 40 to 200. This was the year of a wonderful Association at Llangefni where Elias preached very powerfully. Many were moved to rejoicing and such a sight was never before seen in Anglesey. Amlwch was also touched, with 170 being added to the church in that year.
These revivals were a great blessing; however they increased the work of the pastor. The 1814 revival was the one that touched the Baptists most and it resulted in a need to build new churches and expand others. It appears that the cost of building chapels landed on Evans, and in order to raise the finances he went to wealthier churches in the South to ask for help. This involved a lot of travelling, in wild weather and over wild country. He went to the South forty times, preaching every day of the week and twice on Sunday, and at the end of each sermon he would stand at the door to receive offerings. Through this method a number of Welsh Baptist chapels were built in Anglesey and North Wales, but how humiliating it must have been for Evans. On one occasion he knew that the area was famous for sheep stealing, so he asked any sheep stealers present in the chapel to not contribute to the offering. Every person in the chapel gave money that day! Why no one else in the community stepped up to do this work I cannot say, but it is certainly something that Evans should not have to have worried about.
Whilst still having to deal with the remains of Sandemanianism, Evans got embroiled in another controversy that was around for about the first twenty years of the new century. Calvinism vs. Arminianism was not new; there had been strong disagreements between George Whitefield and John Wesley in the middle of the eighteenth century, resulting in a split between them that lasted several years. Since the time of the beginning of the revivals in the 1730’s Wales had been almost completely Calvinistic. Wesley had had limited success with the English speaking Welsh, but the Welsh speakers were all Calvinistic. Despite the doctrinal differences the relationship between the leaders of the revival in Wales, Howel Harris and Daniel Rowland, and Wesley were always good. However, at the beginning of the century the Methodists in England sent Welsh speaking ministers to Wales and they had a good deal of success. By 1810 they had almost six thousand members. I would expect that a lot of these new members were old Calvinists, and Calvinistic Methodists were not happy with this situation, principally because they thought that the Calvinistic theology was being misrepresented by the Methodist ministers. Arguments between the two sides grew and grew as both sides misrepresented the other and both sides thought they were representing Truth and defending God’s position. Evans attacked the Wesleyans verbally and in print and became very extreme in his views. Looking back on what happened in later life; Evans admitted that he did not exactly shine with glory during these debates. Many people took extreme positions and little good came out of the drawn out controversy. It still happens today that godly people argue over doctrine that is not core to our beliefs and so are deflected from the Christian work that they should be doing. Troubles came to Evans at the end of his ministry in Anglesey. First of all his dear wife died after a long illness in 1823. Catherine was the perfect wife for Evans and without having any children and with her husband away so much, her life must have been quite lonely. Evans described her as being very discerning, honest, having a pastor’s heart, forgiving, courageous and having a passion for the cause of Christ in her own land. Shortly after Catherine’s death he went south to collect money for the chapels and became so sick that he almost died. He was unable to preach for 9 months. Then he had the burden of being threatened with court action over a loan for the building of a chapel (although nothing came of this), there was much trouble in his pastorate and his blind eye was causing him trouble. He wrote, “As soon as I went into the pulpit during this period, I forgot my troubles, and found my mountain strong; I was blessed with such heavenly unction, and longed so intensely for the salvation of men, and I felt the truth like a hammer in power, and the doctrine distilling, like the honey-comb, and like unto the rarest wine, that I became most anxious that the ministers of the county should unite with me to plead the promise, ‘If any two of you agree touching anything,’ etc. Everything now conspired to induce my departure from the island.”
Because of his physical weakness Evans could no longer do all the work of ministering to twenty meeting places that made up the Baptist church of Anglesey. There were preachers in each congregation, but they could not or would not, make any decisions on their own. In 1823 he wrote to the branches to advise them to make themselves into groups and appoint a minister over each group (church), but it appears that there were not enough suitably gifted men to fill the positions. One of the problems was that Evans did not seem to know what sort of church he wanted, prevaricating between a form of Congregationalism and an Independent structure, so his uncertainty in leadership caused confusion and dissatisfaction amongst the different congregations.
In 1825 William Morgan was ordained as pastor of the Holyhead church and that church became independent. Other branches wanted to go the same way, some refused the ministers recommended by Evans, appointing others, showing contempt for his leadership and causing disunity. This happened with the branch at Amlwch, where there was great contention and Evans ended up excommunicating the proposed minister (Hugh Williams), together with five other members. The congregation voted against Evans and the church became independent. After this very public rebellion against Evans’ authority it was going to be impossible for him to regain control. Things got worse when some of the elders at the Holyhead made some outrageous charges against Morgan and he precipitously excommunicated them. Evans took all of these set backs personally. He had some justification in thinking that after 35 years of service he deserved to be listened to favourably and deserved respect.
So far from the events, it is difficult to make any judgements on what happened. However, one would have thought that as the church grew, the sensible thing would have been to train up leaders who could take over the churches. To expect to always have complete control of the branches in Anglesey was really not very wise; a desire for independence was bound to rise up at some point. When children grow up, unless you allow them some freedom, they rebel. It appears that Evans did not plan for the future and was very authoritarian in his leadership, so the problems that arose in 1825-6 were inevitable. Once the bubble had burst, Evans had no option but to leave Anglesey. Morgan describes Evans as he left the island. “It was such an affecting sight to see the aged man, who had laboured so long and with such happy effects, leaving the sphere of his exertions under these circumstances; having laboured so much to pay for their meeting houses, having performed so many journeys to South Wales for their benefit, having served them so diligently in the island, and passed through so many dangers; now (some of the people) withheld their contributions, to avenge themselves on their own father in the Gospel; others, professing to be friends, did little more; while he, like David, was obliged to leave his ‘city’. Not knowing whether he should ever return to see ‘the ark of God and His tabernacle’ in Anglesey again.”
Evans really felt that the Lord was telling him to leave Anglesey; his leaving was not only due the treatment he had received. He left in August 1826, having been invited to be the minister of a small Baptist Church of 65 members at Tonyfelin in Caerphilly. There was massive excitement in the area at the news of his coming to this small village; the people could scarce believe it. He was provided with a housekeeper, but he really wanted a North Wales woman to do this work, so he asked someone to go to Anglesey and bring back his old servant, Mary Evans. She came and he married her in the parish of Eglwysilian, in the same church that George Whitefield (see this website) was married in. Mary was about 35 and he was 61 and they had a very happy marriage. He was paid £48 pa and lived in a house next to the church.
The ministry of Evans in Caerphilly was very successful. He began by calling people to pray; believing that Holy Spirit would hear their pleas. In less than three months he was writing, “There is a great movement in this forest. We have received seven backsliders and thirty six new converts …. We have sixteen in the fellowship who are ready to be baptised and signs of many more. In the village of Caerphilly and the district of Bedwas, the breeze is blowing.” Large numbers of people could be seen on Sunday wending their way across the surrounding hills from all directions. The revival spread to the surrounding area and many were baptised. In future years’ people used to remember the date of certain events because that was the date when Christmas Evans preached on such and such subject. One of these great sermons was at the opening of the Baptist Chapel in Merthyr Tudful. He spoke on 1 Timothy 3:16 and sometime later he was asked to preach it again. Rhys Stephen was present on this occasion and he wrote, “In its oratorical excellence it stands alone, even among his great achievements, especially in the report of the soldiers. We heard them talk, had a clear perception of the difference of tone and variations of countenance…. Such a combined triumph of sanctified fancy and perfect oratory I never expect to witness again.”
His time here was pleasant. He received great respect from people in the area and there were opportunities to fellowship with other good preachers; he had the opportunity to get hold of more books to feed his insatiable appetite for knowledge. When he was sixty-five he met a young minister reading a book on ‘truth’ by a well known author and on showing interest in it, the young man gave him the book. Evans was delighted as a school boy who had won an end of term prize. A few days later the young man visited Evans and spent two hours with him, but he could not get him to discuss any subject other than the book.
Evans did not want to return to Anglesey, even though someone wrote to him saying that the church there was praying for him to return. In answering this letter Evans said, “There is a church of around 200, with many of them going about the community to pray – not a dry doctrinal people, but a happy people of heaven. It is so pleasing to see them in fiery meetings and, through the goodness of the Lord, I am experiencing more of these than ever. They weep and shout ‘amen’ and give thanks more than I ever saw in Anglesey.”
After the revival was over in 1828 Evans decided to leave Caerphilly. There were tensions in the church, because for many years the deacons were used to running the church affairs; not having a pastor who liked to control matters. Also, Evans was used to looking after several churches and found it difficult looking after just one congregation; he tended to get frustrated and so he decided to leave. None of the next five pastors stayed for more than four years, so perhaps it was a difficult church.
He was invited to go to the Tabernacle church in Cardiff which was about eight miles away. Having spent time seeking the Lord’s will, Evans decided to go. His relationship with God always came first. Around this time he made his second written covenant with God; the first being made around 1808. Each covenant had thirteen to fifteen points, showing his spiritual humility, love and dependence on the Lord. He came into a difficult situation because the previous pastor had been removed for immorality, but he was still part of the congregation. At this church he was again paid a pittance and found it difficult to make end meets, but within himself he was happy. A number were added to the church, but the revival that he had been hoping for did not happen. Once again friction came about through his authoritarian leadership. As at Caerphilly, the deacons were used to running things and did not like his interference. These problems as usual drove him to seek the Lord’s face, sometimes many times a day; however things did not improve, so he finally decided to leave. Several of the more godly in the congregation went with him.
After leaving Cardiff, Evans was invited to the Welsh Baptist Association in Liverpool where a special meeting was called to discuss his future. There were several options open to him including a strong invitation to go back to Anglesey. By this time he felt reconciled to what had happened to him there and he was willing to consider returning. Several people encouraged him to return to the island, but he did not feel called there, so it was decided that he should take up the offer of a small church of about thirty people in Caernarvon. The church was disunited and in debt to the tune of £800, a considerable sum. Shortly after his arrival there was an Association meeting in Anglesey and the whole neighbourhood flocked to see him. They were amazed to see him looking younger than they expected and sounding as good as ever. He wrote in his journal at this time, “and now, in my old age, I see the work prospering wonderfully in my hand, so that there is reason to think that I am, in some degree, a blessing to the Church, when I might have been a burden to it, or rather a curse, by which one might have been induced to wish me laid in the earth.”
Once again Evans was in a problem church; the people were not godly and there was a lack of mature believers who could disciple the others. The burden of the debt was great, but God supplied someone to go through England, Ireland and Scotland raising money and by this method £400 was collected. Evans prayed for this person twice every day because as usual he knew that the only way things could be achieved was through prayer. Ministers from all denominations were exceedingly kind and supportive to him, showing him great respect and friendship. There was progress in the church, but it was slow. Despite his age and health he often preached powerfully around the country and he put into print several lectures and sermons. He gave up drink as an example to others and joined the ‘Tee Total’ movement, and he was a strong supporter and encourager of the missionary movement.
The burden of the debt on the chapel was great. In 1838 the remaining £300 had to be repaid, so Evans decided he had to go on another tour to the South to raise the money. He was now 71 years old and it is scarcely conceivable that he should need to go on this journey. He set out with his wife and a young minister, John Hughes, but before he went he wrote a circular that was published in the ‘Welsh Magazine.’ “We have received notice to pay up £300. The terms of the lese of life has expired in my case, even three score years and ten, and I am very much afflicted. I have purposed to sacrifice myself to this object, though I am afraid I shall die on the journey (he did die on the journey) and I fear I shall not succeed in my errand for Christ. We have no source to which we can now repair, but our own denomination in Wales, and brethren and friends of other communities that may sympathise with us.”
He pleaded with the people to smile upon him and contribute to his cause. He was received with great joy wherever he went and people flocked, as ever, to hear him. Incredibly, in May he visited twenty-two towns, and in June twenty three. In Monmouthshire he preached before the County Association. It was said that the sermon evinced all his vigour and intellect, and splendour of genius, and as perfect a command over the feelings of the great crowd as ever. However, he got sick here and was laid up for a week before going on to preach in Caerphilly (where his former antagonists were pleased to see him), Cardiff, Cowbridge, Bridgend, and Neath, reaching Swansea on July 14th. He preached twice on Sunday at Bethesda, the Welsh Baptist church; then on Monday evening at Mount Pleasant Chapel, where he was heard by many to say, “This was my last sermon,” as he came down the pulpit stairs. He was taken ill during the night and died four days later on the Friday. Christmas Evans was buried four days later in the graveyard of the Welsh Baptist Chapel in Swansea. There was mourning throughout Wales and, there was scarcely a Baptist Chapel in Wales where the pulpit was not draped in black.
One of the amazing things about Evans’ life is what he achieved with no education. Apart from his few months under David Davies, he appears to have had no teaching and everything he learned was self taught. He was born a simple man and a simple man he remained throughout his life. He had strength of character that comes from spending a long time in the presence of God. His times of communion with the Lord made him a holy and righteous man whose one desire was to serve his God. He spent a lot of his time in prayer. For many years he was accustomed to pray three times a day and to get up at midnight to do the same. Christmas Evans had a deep love of God and a deep love of man; all he wanted to do was to live for Christ Jesus.
The majority of this short biography is taken from ‘Christmas Evans – the preacher of Wild Wales’ by Paxton Hood, published by Hodder and Stoughton 1883.
Also of great help was ‘Christmas Evans’ by Tim Shenton, published by Evangelical Press 2001. Tim Shenton gathers together letters and quotes from all the main biographies of Evans’ life.
I am grateful to Geraint Jones for supplying me with his unpublished work on the Wels revivals between 1762 and 1862.