Ebenezer Congregational Chapel - Swansea (1905)

There can now be no doubt whatever of the reception given by Swansea to the revival, for the meetings held to-day were some of the most remarkable of the whole series held in South Wales since Mr Evan Roberts and his band of evangelists started upon the tour which began at Trecynon two months ago, when the revivalist went from Loughor “for a Sunday” and fired the mining valleys of Glamorganshire with the Gospel of Love. In Swansea all denominations are united, so that, coming within the Pentecostal condition of “being of one accord,” there is no need to wonder at the great success which attends the gatherings. The “big pews” and the ordinary pews were today occupied by the foremost men of all the Churches of the town and district, among them the Rev. and Hon. Talbot Rice, vicar of Swansea; and the Rev. R. E. Barnes Lawrence, vicar of St. Michael’s, Blackheath (who is a guest of the vicar of Swansea); the Rev. W. Henry, Calvinistic Methodist minister, Liverpool; Principal A. M’Caig, B.A., LL.D., of Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College, London, and others. As early as eleven o’clock in the morning Ebenezer Congregational Chapel, Swansea, was being rapidly filled for a meeting to be held in the afternoon, and before five o’clock Trinity Chapel was crowded for a service supposed to open at seven p.m. It need scarcely be said there were overflow meetings, afternoon and evening, and the principal feature of the afternoon meeting especially was its buoyancy and joy. The chapel in which the afternoon meeting was held was Ebenezer, where the late Dr Rees - the historian of Welsh Congregationalism - once ministered, and the Church, for that and other reasons, holds an important position in the annals and in the hearts of the Nonconformists of South Wales. The building is situated a little off the main road, near the High-street Station of the Great Western Railway, and being central, was long before the time for opening the service the rendezvous of large numbers, and when I went to the main entrance, about twenty minutes to one, the crowd was so great as to render it impossible to gain admission, and I had to resort to the use of means of gaining an entrance otherwise - it does not matter how. But even then the service was going on very well. There was evidently a strong Welsh element, as was shown by the strength and power of the singing of the Welsh hymns and by the preponderance of Welsh prayers. Still, there was neither prejudice nor coldness when English prayers were offered or English solos and hymns sung. Indeed, some of the young ladies who here took a remarkably prominent part in the proceedings occasionally used both languages alternately, and once or twice simultaneously. It was only twice or three times, in the early part of the proceedings, that there was anything bordering on what I have reluctantly been compelled to previously refer to, viz., the occupation of the pulpit by English visitors who seem to think that their speeches are more important than prayer or praise. There was subsequently a great outburst of Welsh hymn-singing, the favourite here, as elsewhere, being “Dyma gariad fel y moroedd.” There were large numbers of visitors present, and although he, of course, cannot be called a visitor, it should be noted that among those who sat in the “big pew” was the Vicar of Swansea, who takes a keen interest in the revival. Several well-known ministers took part in public prayer, the Rev. Ben Davies, Panteg, among others, offering up a special petition for London to share the benefits of the Pentecost which now prevailed in Wales. Among those who afterwards prayed were the Rev. W. Davies, Llandilo. At twenty minutes to three p.m. Mr Evan Roberts arrived, while the great congregation (filling every inch of the available standing room in the chapel) was singing - “Rhy fyr fdd tragwyddoldeb llawn I ddweyd yn iawn am dano.” “Do you believe it?” exclaimed Mr. Roberts, and many in the congregation shouted “Yes.” The singing became more enthusiastic, and when ultimately it ceased Mr Evan Roberts took the words of the hymn for his text and dealt with the greatness of the sacrifices of Christ for man. If they took the greatest man in the place, they would very soon be able to say all there was to say about him, but to declare the greatness and goodness of the Lord in time and eternity was too great a task. What did they give Him in return? Did they go to the prayer meeting? No. Did they go to Sunday School? No. When the box or plate came round for the collection many of them put their hands in their pockets to search for a penny. They gave the least they could, while God gave them of His best. Now, even in that service there were some hypocrites – some who had come there for another object than praying God to save souls. If two angels stood at the door and gave tickets to those who had come to pray and those who had not come there for that purpose, those who had not come to pray would have had to take tickets marked “Hypocrite!” Subsequently, the missioner, noticing that the hands of the chapel clock indicated three o’clock, was reminded of the scene on Calvary at three o’clock in the afternoon, and he gave a most pathetic outline of the scenes prior to and leading up to the Crucifixion. While he was going through this portrayal Miss Annie Davies (Maesteg) sang “Gad im’ deimlo, awel o Galfaria fryn.” Then someone in the gallery gave out a Welsh hymn which was seemingly unfamiliar to the congregation, for it was not sung with the same power of voices as the preceding hymns. The Vicar of Swansea, rising in the “big pew,” offered up a fervent English prayer, giving thanks for what they had read and heard of this revival, for what they experienced of it, and hoping God would give them the downpour of the Spirit which they were so anxious, all of them, to obtain – an earnest petition which elicited a veritable chorus of “Amens” from all parts of the building. Later, when Mr Evan Roberts resumed, he was speaking in the same strain, and asking, whether any of them had experienced the loss of God’s face from themselves, when a wonderful scene was created by a young woman from Llanelly, who, in a pathetic voice, but with charming simplicity, gave an account of her own conversion when a child. Mr Roberts, again resuming, said they should measure their religion, not by what they said, or did, or gave, but by the fullness of their love towards the Saviour. Speaking of his own experiences, he said he once tried to compete with God in giving. But he lost in the competition. They might try it, but they would never win – they would never get a medal. Speaking of the change wrought in his own life, he said that at one time he did not like to be addressed as “ti” (thou) – it touched his dignity. But now it was just the reverse. He felt a coldness and a distance from the effect and the use of the word “chwi” (“you”). Let them just think of it. They addressed God as “Thou”, and man as “You” – thus placing man on a higher level than God. Turning to some of those around him, Mr Roberts said, “It is difficult to put that in English, is it not?” The remark was received with laughter, in which Mr Roberts joined, and presently he added that some of the people wondered why they laughed and were happy at these meetings. Well, who should be happy except those who had the Love in their hearts. Before he got to his present state of mind, he used to take a serious view of all things. If they saw him laugh oftner than once in three months in those days, it would have been a matter of surprise; but he laughed very frequently now, and he looked at the matter from this point of view: Would a father be offended when his child laughed? No, certainly not; and they were children in their Father’s House – happy, joyous, and their Father would not be, and was not, offended. He had not yet had a service at which there was so much joy as this one. He occasionally was touched by a light burden, but it was thrown upon the Lord. Only the previous day he had one matter on his mind concerning some who had tried to come to those meetings in his shadow. He thought he had no right to stop anyone, but the Spirit told him that no one must come except the two young ladies who accompanied him, as it would otherwise be partiality on his part, and that would not do. Miss Annie Davies (Maesteg) and Miss Davies (Gorseinon) spoke, and their “testimonies” were decidedly interesting. The last-named raised a hearty laugh when she declared that before her conversion she went to hear Evan Roberts simply because she had heard that he was “off his head”; she had been “off her head” since then herself, and gloried in it. She was, even before her conversion, a very regular attendant at the services – as regular as the minister. The usual tests were put, and the responses were exceptionally numerous, and Mr Roberts declared that his message was to the Churches. There was not much time to get people who were outside the Churches to come to Christ at these meetings, but when the Churches were awakened they would pray the world into the Church.

From, 'The Western Mail,' 3rd January 1905.

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