Tabernacle Congregational Church - Morriston (1904)

If it can be said—as has recently been suggested—that the revival has not yet reached Swansea, there can be no possible mistake as to the extent to which the great movement has taken possession of Morriston, for, in addition to the fact that 1,300 to 1,400 converts had been enrolled prior to this week, the extraordinary scenes witnessed to-day drew together large crowds.

Mr Evan Roberts did not arrive in Morriston, as had been generally expected, and yet there were wonderfully fervent and enthusiastic meetings held in the great Tabernacle of the Congregationalists—the largest chapel in the place—both in the morning and in the afternoon while the scenes outside the chapel from about half-past, five o’clock were even more striking than the appearance of the immense crowd which stood in the square at Caerphilly some few weeks ago.

At Morriston the immense chapel stands in the centre of a large plot of ground, which would accommodate thousands outside the chapel and within the railed enclosure, but not only was the enclosure full long before the doors of the chapel were thrown open, but, the pavement and the streets which join at the angle were occupied by swaying, surging crowds who sang hymns as they waited and watched for the opening of the six doors, and when once entrance was to be obtained it did not take many minutes to fill to overflowing every inch of standing space in gallery, balconies, and body of the chapel, pulpit included. No wonder the Rev. T. Morgan declared— “Yr Ysbryd Glan sydd ben yn awr Trwy Gymru fach i gyd; Prysuro wnelo’r amser braf Pan fyddo’n ben drwy’r byd.”

In the afternoon Miss Mary Davies, Gorseinon, and her father, Mr John Davies (the postmaster of that place), and Mr Frank Evans (Pontypridd) put in an appearance. Mr John Davies—himself a prominent member of the Church of England—read a portion of Holy Writ and prayed in Welsh, and concluded by giving out a Welsh hymn, which was sung with enthusiasm by the vast congregation. Mr Frank Evans delivered a brief address, and in the course of a fervent prayer in English invoked a downpour of blessing upon that meeting.

The service was soon in full swing, prayer after prayer, hymn after hymn, and address after address following in quick succession. So impetuous had the participants in the work become before long that song and prayer were heard simultaneously, and those who were not accustomed to the meetings frequently cried “Hush?” So successful were these “silencers” that at times they succeeded in preventing the continuance of speakers and singers. There was no revivalist present with sufficient assertiveness to object to the silencing process, and the gathering in becoming more “orderly” lost much of the spirit of the revival.

Still, it was interesting to note the variety presented in prayer and praise. Here, an aged minister—the Rev. Moses Thomas, Talbach— praying in Welsh; there, a young woman leading in an English prayer and breaking out into a Welsh “Diolch Iddo” when a convert was found; now an appeal, then a solo, and in a minute or two all joining in an English or Welsh hymn. Two deacons from Spurgeon’s Tabernacle were present, and spoke, one of them giving the Rev. Thomas Spurgeon’s message—”Give the love of the Tabernacle to the happy people of Wales”—a message which was received with joyous exclamations of “Amen.” They asked for prayers for London. Then presently a voice from the body of the chapel was heard praying for “polluted, drunken, immoral Swansea,” ‘where some of their beloved relatives lived. An Irish missioner rose in the pulpit, but simultaneously Miss Mary Davies began singing ‘Bydd myrdd o ryfeddodau” (“There’ll be a myriad wonders”), and the congregation joined in a mighty wave of hymn-singing.

M. Frank Evans led the meeting in English, and when the “Diolch Iddo” for some of the converts had stopped the Rev. Penar Griiflths rose and delivered an inspiring Welsh address, at the same time telling the people that if they were moved by the Spirit to sing or pray they should interrupt him, He would be only too glad to be “turned on to a siding” for His sake. “O yr Oen, yr addfwyn Oen,” was struck up by Miss Mary Davies, and “Os caf Iesu” was sung. “That’s the key-note,” exclaimed “Penar,” and he tested the meeting in Welsh, eliciting a number of responses from converts in various parts of the great chapel, While he was speaking Miss Mary Davies gently sang “Os caf Iesu,” and subsequently, led the congregation in singing the last four lines of “Dyma gariad fel y moroedd” (“Here is love like mighty torrents “). The congregation was roused to great enthusiasm by the fervent appeals of “Penar,” whose references to incidents of the revival in Aberdare and other places were singularly appropriate and effective.

The evening meeting. as I have said, drew together an extraordinary concourse of people, and when the proceedings were begun it was certainly wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the devotions of those inside the chapel, while from the outside came floating into the building the sounds of a mighty throng, still in the road, singing “Oh happy, day that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God”; and from the vestry at the same time—a vestry holding about 600 people—came the sound of another congregation singing “Throw out the life-line” and hymn after hymn, while the services were proceeding.

Mr, Roberts arrived at a quarter to eight p.m., and it was with considerable difficulty that he managed to make his way in. When he came into the ante-room there was a rush to catch a glimpse of him, and the moment he appeared in the chapel the congregation began singing “Cariad,” which was continued for some time.

The service was to a great extent on similar lines to the other revival services, but the fervour and enthusiasm of this extraordinary congregation of 2,500 to 3,000 people was incredible. Mr Roberts forthwith after entering the building began delivering an address, but he was very soon interrupted by prayers and outbursts of singing. He resumed only to be again interrupted—a process which he evidently thoroughly enjoyed.

From, 'The Western Mail', 29th December 1904.

One may well apply the term “extraordinary meetings” to the great gatherings held at Morriston to-day, for they were remarkable in many respects. It can scarcely be said that Morriston was not prepared for the revival services which are now being held there, for there has been a great upheaval in the place for weeks. The Rev. Emlyn Jones, at the Tabernacle, and the Rev. J, Gimblette at Seion have both witnessed and taken part in revival scenes, and the ministers and friends of other Churches have been more or less blessed, not merely with the “dew,’’ but with “showers of blessing.” Only last Thursday at Seion no fewer than 110 people were baptised; at the Calvinistic Methodist and Congregational chapels large numbers were on Sunday received into communion.

Open-air meetings have been held, processions have paraded the streets, and great work has been done,.Yet as the meeting held on Thursday night went on it became apparent that there was a certain “hardness’ prevalent which militated against the highest form of success. Mr Evan Roberts himself noticed it, and “declared that it was one of the hardest meeting’s he had yet addressed. This was so different from the seeming warmth portended by the triumphant singing that he pointed out a possibility that some who sang so well of the Love did not really understand and appreciate the greatness of that Love. He deprecated curiosity, and urged the congregation to look to God for blessings, and not to man. Presently he asked how many present had that night prayed for the saving of some particular soul in that meeting, and the response was weak, for very few rose to their feet. He pointed out, therefore, the importance of the object in view—to save souls—and when “testimonies” were found to be less numerous than might have been expected in such a vast congregation he ascribed it to the “fear of man,” and urged the people to cast that aside, as God was greater than man.

The afternoon meeting on Friday was marked by many features. In some respects it was what English revivalists would call a “regular rouser,” and at times it compared favourably with any of the magnificent gatherings held in connection with the present Welsh religious revival. In some other respects there were reasons for the strictures which were elicited from Mr, Evan Roberts; and in regard to certain points I feel inclined to say things which Mr Roberts, with his charity and humility, abstains from saying. I will, therefore, have my own “say” first. At this afternoon meeting, as well as at previous meetings, especially of late, there has been a growing tendency on the part of visitors not to pray or to sing praises, but to deliver speeches, Some of the addresses are excellent and brevity is one of their excellences. Others, unfortunately, do not come within this category, and even when “the musical closure” is gently applied the speakers wait for the next moment of silence to “fit in” their own stories, which may be very interesting occasionally, but which become wearisome through reiteration. The stories are not always applicable to the particular congregation, and when a story which might suit. Swansea or Cardiff, but which is not of any great service at Morriston, is repeated three, four, or five times in a place like Morriston, no wonder the people prefer singing.

It Is evident that some of the visitors present have not read either Dr Cynddylan Jones’s article or Dr Campbell Morgan’s sermon on the subject of “Hands off.” If they have, they certainly do not apply the point properly. The first, part of the proceedings was wholly in Welsh, and consisted of Scripture reading, prayers, and hymn-singing, principally the old congregational tunes. As a Morriston lady, herself the daughter of an aged minister who holds a unique position in the annals of Wales and in the hearts of his countrymen of all denominations, remarked to me: “All the old hymns are being sung now, including many of the hymns that were popular in the last great revival.” By the bye, the same lady told me she well remembered the l859 revival, but said she considered that that was not by any means so great a movement as the present revival. Of course, she added, the population of Wales was smaller then than it is now, and you could not have expected such gatherings as theses - held, too, in places so near each other, and not merely in one centre for a great area.

Then from the centre of the gallery came the voice of a young man singing the first few words and first few bars of ‘Gawn ni gwrdd tu draw i’r afon?” (“Shall we meet beyond the river?”), and, like a well-trained choir of over 2,000 voices, the congregation joined, for although it was not the ordinary English tune known In connection with those words, the assembly seemed to know it all. Mr Evan Roberts listened to this. as he had listened to others since his arrival, and watched the faces of the congregation with evident interest.

Alter a while he rose to deliver his address, and the silence which for a time fell upon the audience was indicative of the keenness with which every word fell from him, and every movement of his countenance and body was followed. He remarked that there was not sufficient of the spirit of prayer in the proceedings. They needed prayer at all times, and at these meetings they should direct their prayers to the saving of souls. He reminded them of the incident of the previous night, which I have already alluded to, when he tested the meeting to ascertain how many had offered specific prayer for the saving of souls then and there, and expressed hope that that would not be lost sight of. Proceeding, he urged the necessity for praying on behalf of others, when— A young man who was sitting in the big pew (and who afterwards declared that he had become a convert six weeks ago) began singing “A glywaiet ti son am Iachawdwr y byd?” and when the solo part of the first verse was concluded the congregation very tenderly joined him in the refrain— Mae’n dysgwyl am danat— Mae’n dysgwyl am danat yn awr.” (“Hast thou heard the story of the Redeemer of the world?” is the first, line, while the refrain is “He is expecting thee now.”) Prayers were again offered by many in the congregation, and Miss Annie Davies, Maesteg, sang, first in Welsh and then in English, very softly and pathetically, “I need Thee every hour.”

Resuming. Mr Evan Roberts declared that everyone present could be filled with the Holy Ghost in less than a fortnight. Why a fortnight? they might ask. Well, simply because in many instances there were difficulties to overcome and obstacles to remove first. It could be done if they asked, and if they did not ask they did not, love God. How much did they work for Him? “Oh,” one would reply, “a little.” “Do you go to the prayer meeting?” “Yes, sometimes, when I feel in the humour,” was sometimes the reply. How did Jesus feel when he prayed throughout the night? He was worn and tired; still he prayed. When he sat at the well of Samaria He was tired and thirsty, and yet, He did not slake his own thirst until he had slaked the spiritual thirst, of another. Someone in the gallery now interrupted with a Welsh prayer, which elicited from Mr Roberts the remark, “Diolch am yr ufudd-dod’ (Thanks for the obedience to the Spirit). The petitioner prayed that someone in the gallery who was laughing and mocking might be saved. Madame Kate Morgan Llewelyn sang the Welsh rendering of “Jesus of Nazareth passeth by,” and the evangelist again resumed his discourse with the remark that he feared some had come there in order to have an “entertainment,” and the sooner that spirit was done away with the better; but if there were mockers present, he reminded them that the day would come when even they would not mock—a challenge which elicited a great chorus of “Amens” from all parts of the chapel. The Rev. J. Gimblette then prayed for scoffers who were present and who, he said, had been scoffing at previous meetings. Another petitioner prayed specifically for the conversion of Atheists. A Voice from the gallery: “Even the devil says there is a God!” Mr Roberts: Yes; he knows it, and has felt it. But while the Churches have been quarrelling and fighting amongst themselves, the devil has been rejoicing, and saying “This will do!” This led to another burst of approving “Amens.” and a lady in the body of the chapel struck up— “This Is my story, this Is my song, Praising my Saviour all the day long.” the congregation joining in the refrain, and the singer rendering the solo part very effectively. Between the verses cries of “Hallelujah” were heard, and afterwards there were more prayers in Welsh and English.

In the course of brief address a workman stated that he had two “titles”- “B.A.” (born again) and “M.A” (missionary anywhere).—and he asked for special prayers for one of his fellow-workmen, who lived “next door” to his house. ‘The number of women who prayed publicly here was remarkable, and it was noticed that after the prayers for Atheists had been offered, a few people went out. Whether they were the people referred to I have, of course, no idea.

Some of the incidents which I referred to earlier in this article happened now, and when a speaker, who seemingly did not understand the purport and importance of the remarks of Mr Roberts, began telling his own story in English, some of the people started singing. “Hush,” “hush,” cried numbers of people in the congregation, but Mr Roberts would not have the “hush,” and he urged everyone to allow everyone else to do whatever he or she thought best, for no one must control the meeting except the Spirit. In this particular instance the singers had their way, and there is no need- to particularise further.

Later, when the “tests” were being put, there was a similar incident, and in his intense desire to give absolute freedom to all Mr Roberts gave way, as he always does, and when many in the congregation, anxious to hear him, again cried “hush” to singers and speech-makers alike, the evangelist protested and threatened to leave the chapel if there were going to be two sections. While this was going on in the chapel I could hear through the partition voices in earnest prayer in the adjoining rooms, and presently “Diolch Iddo” rang throughout the building over converts who had declared themselves.

The meeting was continued in semi-darkness until the electric light supply could be obtained, and by the time this extraordinary service had been brought to a close, fresh crowds were assembling for the evening meetings, and the work was carried on again with an amount of fervour and earnestness and activity which clearly shows that as yet only the early stages of the revival have been witnessed, even at Morriston, with its long roll of converts already enlisted.

In conclusion, let me give the text of the Rev. Thomas Spurgeon’smessage to Wales as sent by the gentleman who briefly spoke at Thursday afternoon’s service:— Pastor’s College, Temple Street, Newington, S. E. To God’s happy people in South Wales. The bearer (MR F. Fisher) and his friend (Mr J. Davis) are fellow labourers in the Gospel—good men and true. Receive them in the name of the Lord. May they share the blessing that is with you. In all heartiness, Yours, in Jesus, THOMAS SPURGEON. “Brethren, pray for us.”

From 'The Western Mail', 30th December 1904.

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