Bethlehem Welsh Baptist Chapel - Ogmore Vale (1905)




Wonderful meetings were held at Ogmore Vale today. The great religious upheaval which has so mightily affected the Principality has scarcely anywhere else been more pronounced than at Ogmore. With fervent heat the “fire” has burnt here, and anyone attending one of the meetings today could not fail to be impressed with this fact. Meetings were held all day, and it did not require the presence of the revivalist either to draw big congregations or to call forth overpowering manifestations of the fervour and religious seal of the people of this locality. Of course, a large number of people from a distance also attended, each train bringing its quota of visitors, so that by noon the little place was thronged. The morning service was held at Bethania Congregational Chapel, and though Mr Roberts was not expected, there was a large attendance and great fervency exhibited. An old gentleman thrilled the people with his rugged, pointed, but very original eloquence, walking briskly from one side of the “big seat” with the Bible under his arm as he dramatically exclaimed that his was to be his guide in his brief journey to the other world, and how this Book of books cheered him whilst on the verge of the “old river” and enabled him to sing with rapture at the prospect. It was with considerable difficulty that the meeting could be brought to a close. The Doxology was sung over and over again, but, instead of dispersing, the people broke out into prayer and praise. The afternoon meeting was held at Hermon Calvanistic Methodist Chapel. Contrary to expectation, and much to the disappointment of many, neither Mr Roberts not the young ladies attended. The meeting, nevertheless, was an excellent one; there was a vast amount of religious zeal and fervency exhibited, and in many respects the service was exceptional. The beautiful singing was a marked feature of the meeting. An Englishman said that, though he had not understood a word of what the people sang, he had not been there a few minutes before he realised himself to be nearer to God than ever before. But there was a good deal of English in this meeting, except, perhaps in the singing, though many an English hymn rang out in the course of the meeting. The remark of one of the men is worth re-producing. He had, he said, been a professing Christian for many years. Seventy thousand coverts were put down as the result of the revival, but he said there were 70,000 professing Christians who had also been converted. Professor R.W.Brown (Chertsey) delivered a brief, but pithy, address during the afternoon. The evening meeting was held at Bethlehem Chapel, but, paradoxical though it may seem, the doors had to be locked long before the time of opening, so great was the crush, and an overflow meeting had to be held at the Wesleyan Chapel, though after the disappointment of the afternoon people did not expect to see Mr Roberts. It may, perhaps, appear commonplace to refer to the singing, but there was something subtle about the singing at Ogmore. It was not because it was more perfect in point of technique or that there was a greater volume of song, but it was quite of an exceptional character, even to one who had attended dozens of revival meetings. Subsequently there was an entire transformation of the service. The people seemed to love their singing too much to forsake it, and there were prayers which the congregation often accompanied in an undertone of song. The praying became more and more fervent and the Welsh “hwyl” was more and more apparent. In the prayer and singing many were the supplications offered for the missioner. It was nearly eight o’clock before Mr Evan Roberts arose under most peculiar circumstances. The people were singing, “O anfon Di yr Yspryd Glan” (“Send down the Holy Spirit, Lord”), when one man suggested an improvement in the singing. Mr Roberts at one stopped the hymn. They were commanding the Spirit, he said, whereas they should reverently pray for it. At this the man, with dramatic quickness, fell upon his knees, and prayed for forgiveness for having led the singing wrongly, “Oh, your object was right,” remarked the missioner,” encouragingly. There was throughout a strangeness about this wonderful meeting. There was something indefinable, almost bewildering, in the service. Certainly no lack of fervour of enthusiasm was felt. Yet still, there seemed something “foreign” in its atmosphere which can hardly be described. Many could echo the sentiments of an Englishman, who exclaimed, “O God, what is the meaning of this? We stand appalled. What does it mean – this strange, this wonderful, this peculiar atmosphere?” Mr Roberts then spoke. The meeting, he said, taught him many lessons. He had even felt like going out if he was an obstacle, for there were many obstacles in that meeting – where some had disobeyed the Spirit. A minister had said that the Spirit had asked him to sing, but he had not done so. Mr Roberts said there were many in that meeting like the minister. Several people then, including other ministers of the Gospel, and young ladies also, confessed that they had not done what they had been prompted to do. The meeting was now getting warmer, but the evangelist was not satisfied. “Where is the thanksgiving?” he somewhat sharply queried. Presently, with a smile on his face, he declared that the obstacle had been removed and the congregation burst into songs of thanksgiving. If the meeting had been a wonderful one up to this, it was now still more wonderful. But what a contrast! The people seemed overpowered with joy, and Mr Roberts himself was delighted. It was getting on for eleven o’clock and there was no sign of departing, when Mr Roberts asked if they had not better stay there all night. He then referred to the change in the meeting. He said that not only had he felt at first like going out, but he had felt that he would never again step into a pulpit. “But, thank Heaven,” he cried, “we have now had the victory!” From, 'The Western Mail', 10th February 1905.


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