Brynteg Congregational Chapel - Gorseinon (1904)

The ancient township of Loughor, near Llanelly, is just now in the throes of a truly remarkable “revival,” the influence of which is spreading to the surrounding districts. Meetings are being held every night attended by dense crowds, and each of them is continued well into the early hours of the next, morning. The missioner is Mr Evan Roberts, a young man who for some years worked at the Broadoak Colliery. He has spent the whole of his life in the place and was always known as a man with strong leanings towards religion. He is now preparing for the ministry at a preparatory school at Newcastle-Emlyn. Whatever the source of his power may be, there can be no mistaking the fact that he has moved the whole community by his remarkable utterances, and scores of people who have never been known to attend any place of worship are now making public profession of their conversion. During my visit to Loughor I found that the “revival” was on everyone’s tongue, Colliers and tin-platers, shopkeepers and merchants—in fact, all classes of the community are to be found among the auditors of this fervid young enthusiast, who declares that the message which he brings to the people is that which is revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. At the close of the remarkable service which is described below I had a short interview with Mr Roberts. This was at the unearthly hour of 4.30 a.m. after I had gone through a unique seven hours’ experience. In answer to my questions Mr Roberts said that the only explanation of what was now taking place in Loughor was that the Spirit of God was working among the people. Recently death in a very terrible form has come home to the people of Loughor in the wrecking of the express train, and I inquired of Mr Roberts whether that might account for their readiness to receive the message. He did not, however, think that was at all likely. Asked as to whether he intended devoting himself exclusively to mission work in the future, Mr Roberts said that in that matter he was in the hands of God. The meeting at Brynteg Congregational Chapel on Thursday night was attended by those remarkable scenes which have made previous meetings memorable in the life history of so many of the inhabitants of the district. The proceedings commenced at seven o’clock, and they lasted without a break until 4.30 o’clock this (Friday) morning. During the whole of this tune the congregation were under the influence of deep religious fervour and exaltation. There were about 400 people present when I took my seat in the chapel about nine o’clock. The majority of the congregation were females, ranging from young misses of twelve to matrons with babies in their arms. Mr Roberts is a young man of rather striking appearance. He is tall and distinguished-looking, with an intellectual air about his clean-shaven face. His eyes are piercing in their brightness, and the pallor of His countenance seemed to suggest that these nightly vigils are telling upon him. There was, however, no suggestion of fatigue in his conduct of the meeting. There is nothing theatrical about his preaching. He does not seek to terrify his hearers; and eternal, torment finds no place in his theology. Rather does he reason with the people and show them by persuasion a more excellent way. I had not been many minutes in the building before I felt that this was no ordinary, gathering. Instead of the set order of proceedings to which we are accustomed at the orthodox religious service, everything here was left to the spontaneous impulse of the moment. The preacher, too, did not remain in his usual seat. For the most part he walked up and down the aisles, open Bible in hand, exhorting one, encouraging another, and kneeling with a third to implore a blessing from the Throne of Grace. A young woman rose to give out a hymn, which was sung with deep earnestness. While it was being sung several people dropped down in their seats as if they had been struck, and commenced crying for pardon. Then from another part of the chapel could be heard the resonant voice of a young man reading a portion of Scripture. While this was in progress from the gallery came an impassioned prayer from a woman crying aloud that she had repented of her ways, and was determined to live a better life henceforward. All this time Mr Roberts went in and out among the congregation offering kindly words of advice to kneeling penitents. He would ask them if they believed, the reply, in one instance being, ‘No, I would like to believe, but I can’t. Pray for me.’ Then the preacher would ask the audience to join him in the following prayer, “Anfon yr Yspryd yn awr, er mwyn Jesu Grist, Amen” (“Send the Holy Spirit now, for Jesus Christ's sake, Amen.”) This prayer would be repeated about a dozen times by all present, when the would-be convert would suddenly, rise and declare with triumph, “Thank God, I have now received salvation. Never again will I walk in the way of sinners.” This declaration would create a new excitement, and the congregation would joyously sing:- Diolch, iddo, diolch iddo, Byth am gofio llwch y llawr. I suppose this occurred scores of times during the nine hours over which the meeting was protracted. A very pathetic feature of the proceedings was the anxiety of many, present for the spiritual welfare of members of their families One woman was heartbroken for her husband who was given to drink. She implored the prayers of the congregation in his behalf. The story told by, another young woman drew tears to all eyes. She said that her mother was dead and that her father had given way to sin, so that, she was indeed orphaned in the world. She had attended the meetings without feeling her position, but on the previous day, while following her domestic duties, the Spirit had come upon her, bidding her to speak. And she did speak!—her address being remarkable for one who had never spoken before in public. Yet another woman made public confession that she had come to the meeting in a spirit of idle curiosity, but that the influence of the Holy Ghost worked within her, causing her to go down on her knees in penitence. It was now long past midnight, but still there was no abatement in the fervour of the gathering. Fresh fuel was added to the religious fire by Mr Roberts, who described what had appeared to him as a vision. He said that when he was before the Throne of Grace he saw appearing before him a key. He did not understand the meaning of this sign. Just then, however, three members of the congregation rose to their feet and said that they had been converted. “My vision is explained,” said Mr Roberts, ecstatically; “it was the key by which God opened your hearts.” One of the most remarkable utterances of this remarkable night was that of a woman who gave a vivid description of a vision which she had seen on the previous evening. “I saw,” she said, “a great expanse of beautiful land, with friendly faces peopling it. Between me and this golden country was a shining river, crossed by a plank. I was anxious to cross, but feared that the plank would not support me. But at that moment I gave myself to God, and there, came over me a great wave of faith, and I crossed I safely.” At 2.30 o’clock I took a rough note of what was then proceeding. In the gallery a woman was praying, and she fainted. Water was offered her, but she refused this, saying that the only thing she wanted was God’s forgiveness. A well-known resident then rose and said that salvation had come to him. Immediately following a thanksgiving hymn was sung, while an English prayer from a new convert broke in upon the singing, The whole congregation then fell upon their knees, prayers ascending from every part of the edifice, while Mr Roberts gave way to tears at the sight. This state of fervency lasted for about ten minutes. It was followed by an even more impressive five minutes of silence, broken only by the sobs of strong men. A hymn was then started by a woman with a beautiful soprano voice. Finally, Mr.Roberts announced the holding of future meetings, and at 4.25 o’clock the gathering dispersed. But even at this hour the people did not make their way home. When I left to walk back to Llanelly I left dozens of them about the road still discussing what is now the chief subject in their lives. They had come prepared with lamps and lanterns, the lights of which in the early hours of darkness were weird and picturesque. In the course of a conversation with our representative on Friday afternoon Mr Roberts said that he believed we were on the eve of one of the greatest revivals that Wales had ever seen. All the signs of this were present. It was time for us to get out of the groove in which we had walked for so long. He himself was converted twelve or thirteen years ago, and ever since then he had been praying for the Holy Ghost to come upon him. That it had come he was certain. It was one thing for a man to be converted and quite another to receive the baptism of the Spirit. The meetings they had had were glorious experiences. When they opened a meeting they had no idea when it would conclude. Only one thing could be said, and that was that it would not conclude until some definite point had been gained. Asked how many converts had been made, Mr Roberts said that he did not call it conversion, nor did he believe in the counting of heads. Some people had said that he was doing good work. It was not his, however. He was simply an instrument in the hand of God, and he wanted men to receive the joy of religion, as he had found it. Our fathers had their religion, and too often it made them gloomy. In those cases the “joy” of religion had not been experienced. The revival originated in the Calvinistic Methodist Church, New Quay. The “fire”’ broke out on the morning of the second Sunday in February last, in a crowded Christian Endeavour meeting, after the morning service, when a young lady, moved by the words and appeal of a lay speaker, arose in the midst of the congregation, and in a clear voice, intense and pathetic, “I love Jesus with all my heart.” Her soul seemed to be in every word. Unaccountable power accompanied her simple testimony and seemed to overwhelm the people. After this the meetings multiplied, and some were held in private houses, wherever entrance could be got. In all the neighbouring villages and towns-people were everywhere electrified by the intense passion of the meeting.

From, 'The Western Mail', 11th November 1904.

Related Wells