Mr Evan Roberts, if he be a believer in latter-day spiritualism, must have communicated frequently this week with the departed shades of John Elias. On Thursday at Llanfachreth he preached from John Elias’ pulpit: on Saturday he stood in front of the humble little cottage of Grymllwyn in Eifionydd gazing reverently at the Tyddyn in which John Elias was born: this morning he conducted a revival service at Llangefni in the John Elias Memorial Chapel. What, if any, is the influence of the great revivalist of 80 years ago on the young Elias (Elijah) of today? Is he conscious of wearing the mantle? Has he received a message from the mighty dead? In an unguarded moment I put such a question as this to Mr Evan Roberts as we stood yesterday in John Elias's old home, bat for an answer received only a wan, sad smile, and a slight deprecating shake of the head.
The good people of Llangefni have looked forward to this day for many weeks past with alternate hopes and fears, the fears predominating. Llangefni, in addition to its own population of 2,000 people, is the natural centre for a large thriving community of agriculturists. The larger towns of Carnarvonshire are also within reach, and the fears were due to the certainty that when Evan Roberts came he would attract hither greater crowds than could well be coped with. Had Llangefni fully appreciated the extent of its own resources it might have escaped the high degree of excessively nervous anxiety into which it undoubtedly has worked itself. No town in Wales of its size can boast of a better supply of fine and commodious chapels—most of them new and up to date—and if these do not suffice, there is outside the town the Cae Sassuon (Cymanfa Field) on which the staging has already been erected for the Cymanfa Mon gathering a week hence. This John Elias Memorial Chapel will accommodate 1,200 people. Facing it, the other side of the road is Smyrna, a handsome structure just opened by the Welsh Independents, and within a stone's throw in another street is Penual, recently erected by the Baptists of Wales in memory of Christmas Evans.
Last night the town was full and up to a late hour parties from a distance paraded the streets in search of shelter, beds were at a premium, and many private houses had to throw their doors open for the entertainment of pilgrims. There being no Sunday trains on the branch, scores of visitors had come to spend the week-end in the hope of securing a seat at one at least of Evan Roberts’ meetings, and they came in spite of urgent desires, oft expressed in public, that for Sunday morning at least they should stay at home. Fine or wet, the morning meeting, so it was arranged, would be held in Moriah—the John Elias Chapel—and the 1,200 tickets issued had been distributed among the Llangefni churches, and all smartly snapped up. It was a new experience in religious Wales to hear it announced, as we did from a pulpit at the Bryndu open-air meeting on Friday night, "You had better stay at home next Sunday morning, for there will be no room for you in the Llangefni chapels."
But there is apparently no power in the island strong enough to counteract the magnetic attraction of an Evan Roberts gathering. Thus we find that since 9 o'clock this chapel of Moriah has been crowded. Rain has been gently falling over-night and continues this morning, and the parched lands are eagerly drinking in every drop of it. The rain has no doubt lessened somewhat the rush of visitors by road today. This is a relief to those charged with the local arrangements, but it brings with it a, new anxiety. Tonight's meeting is to be in the open air on the Cae Sassiwn. Suppose the weather does not meanwhile clear?
Truth to tell, the proceedings more or less dragged for the first hour at this morning's service, In the prayers we heard searching appeals to heaven "to rend the veil that hides Thy face." One of the ministers from the set fawr complained that the spirit of curiosity predominated, threatening to ruin the service. This brought to his feet the blazing human torch from Bethesda, William Hughes, of Caestar. We saw not his face, but that "Diolch" can nowhere be mistaken. It sent a thrill through every heart in the building. Gradually the congregation began to thaw, and long before the missioner came simultaneous prayers were plentiful. In these we learnt that Llangefni had been on its knees every night for weeks past wrestling for a blessing on these long-looked-for gatherings.
Evan Roberta has arrived from Gwalchmal, and at 10.30 is in the pulpit. His companions today are MrSam Jenkins, Miss Annie Davies, and Miss Marie Roberts. The missioner five minutes later is at work. The question is, he declares, "Not whether we shall give the Spirit place, but whether we shall give it its place."The speaker is pleased with his surroundings. The meeting is a joy to his heart. Ha is evidently delighted to find himself for the first time for a week past once more inside a chapel. "The Holy Spirit" is his theme. "Who wants courage?—Ask for the Holy Spirit. Who wants the ability to speak for Christ?—Ask for the Holy Spirit. Who is weak? — Oh, ask the Holy Spirit for strength. Who wants wisdom?—The Holy Spirit; offers it. A church filled with the spirit of wisdom from above, what could it not do? Open your hearts to the Spirit, and if the Spirit enters, it will bring the joy of Heaven in its train."
Has anyone been telling the missioner any visitation of the Holy Spirit in Ireland? It is a long time since we heard so much English at a Welsh revival meeting. We scarcely expected it in Sir Fon. The Germans, French and English visitors in the audience had no pains to conceal their delight at hearing something they can understand. Presently they are further favoured, for Sam Jenkins—at whose magnificent voice the congregation is amazed—gives a thrilling rendition in English of "A glywaist ti son."
Mr Evan Roberts speaks to-night of the simplicity of the Gospel and the simplicity of true worship. If they would have the blessing, he continued, they must silence every storm in their past and in their present by confession to God. A little later he complains of the departure of the spirit of obedience, and at once another wave of ecstatic self-abandonment sweeps over the congregation with varying emotions. "I have lived only eight months," declares an old man who is 80 at least, but he lays a peculiar emphasis on the verb "lived," "Let my hallelujah ascend to the third heaven," exclaims another. "Dyma Sir Fon ar Dan O Dduw Tania Arfon befyd " ("Here is Anglesey ablaze. O, Lord, fire Arvon also") is the prayer of a third. An old lady of 89 is the first convert to-night, and over a score follow.
“There are English souls here athirst for salvation," suddenly remarks the revivalist in Welsh, and he makes as if to say a few words in the English tongue, but he fails. "Ah," he cries, "Ddaw he ddim " (Oh, it will not come). A little later he makes another effort and succeeds. A Swiss visitor follows with a striking address. At the close the missioner makes another complaint of disobedience on the part of some in the audience to the promptings of the Spirit and invites them to glorify the Spirit by confessing their disobedience. This elicits very many responses, but the revivalist is dissatisfied. Next, he proceeds to make a final appeal for converts but suddenly stops in the middle of his remarks as if in pain. “I am not permitted to proceed," he explains, “nor am I permitted to have another test. It is forbidden. These friends have received plenty of offers. Let us pray they may not have heard the last." Eighteen converts are announced to-night in addition to ten as the Town Hall at the morning service. We are not permitted, however, to hail the announcement with the customary hymn. "We shall not sing" is the revivalist's remark, “We must end with the Lord’s Prayer."
For hours after the meeting ended a revival service was held in the Market Square, the platform being the steps of the Bull Hotel, and the leaders a number of Irish lady vocalists who are staying at the hotel.
From, 'The South Wales Daily News', 20th June 1905.