THE GREAT REVIVAL MOVEMENT
S O U T H W A L E S .
SINCE my return, in June last, from South Wales where I was collecting for Mr Oncken’s missions on the continent of Europe, and also was engaged in evangelistic work, I have been advised to call a public meeting to give an account of the great Revival Movement which has taken place in the various towns which I visited. But as only a limited number could be expected to be present, and considering the vast importance of the glorious work and its like glorious results, I think it dutiful to publish a short account of its origin and progress, so that it may be far more extensively known, and thus, perhaps, may be the means, under God, of stirring up his own people in this and other towns, to band themselves together as one man to meet and pray for a like outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and who can doubt if done in the same spirit of simple faith and earnest pleading with God, but that the same results will follow. I may remark at the outset, that, it is not my intention to give much of what I myself have seen and heard of the work while in Wales. I think it will be far better and will have greater weight with the public, if I confine myself to quotations from Vicar Wrenford, of Newport, and others who have had better opportunities of seeing and judging than I could possibly have. I am surprised that so little notice has been taken of such a great and good work, by our numerous religious periodicals.
Vicar Wrenford, in his preface to a short notice of the great work, says “The following narrative is but a simple statement of facts. No attempt is made to draw vivid (though truthful) pictures of scenes most deeply affecting to every Christian mind. Nothing is exaggerated; on the contrary, the colouring throughout is cold and faint compared with what might have been used in portraying the intensely interesting and most blessed occurrences of the period to which the narrative refers.”
He says, “Prior to the commencement of this season of blessing it was a seed-time of tears. The inquiry was frequently made of members of different communions, ‘Are you prospering? Is there much life amongst you?’ To which the humbling reply was almost always returned – ‘Alas! we are not as we should be: there is much deadness of soul: we greatly need an awakening.’
“It pleased God, about two years ago, to put it into the hearts of some of His children to meet together every Friday evening to pray specially for a blessing on the services, Sunday-school teaching, and other means of grace on the approaching Lord’s Day, and also that God would graciously pour out His spirit on the Church with which they were connected, as well as upon all other Christian congregations in the town. Amid various discouragements, this little prayer meeting was carried on week after week. At first only a very few assembled, but bye-and-bye the number increased; until, at last, the room in which they met became inconveniently crowded. The Lord gave them the spirit of prayer and supplication but withheld any special or signal indications that their petitions would be abundantly answered. They did certainly perceive a change in their Minister’s preaching, and remarked upon it one to another. He himself, too, was conscious of it and was led publicly to express his gratitude to God for the sustaining intercessions of the ‘praying band,’ meeting together, in so much love and faith, each Friday evening. At length, however, a deep impression was made on the minds of some of those who had thus continued together in prayer, that the Lord was about to commence a great work in Newport. Faith had long been exercised: now they began to expect a gracious answer.
“Just at this time the Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association suggested that an invitation should be issued requesting ‘Christian men and women of all denominations’ to meet together at the Victoria Hall, ‘to call on the Lord (1) for the descent of the Holy Spirit and an increase of vital godliness; and (2) for the conversion to God of many of our fellow-townsfolk during the coming year.’ This united prayer-meeting was attended by a large number of persons: a most solemn spirit pervaded the assembly: the Lord Himself was in the midst.
“A short season of praying and waiting again elapsed. The Lord ‘tarried’ - but it was not a long tarrying. The spirit of expectation continued, and, indeed, became intensified. At length the Lord gave the ‘earnest’ of the approaching ‘shower of blessing.’ On Sunday evening the preacher (who had himself on the previous day experienced a glorious deliverance from the buffetings of Satan, and had been brought out into ‘a wealthy place’ - a place of sunshine and certainly never before experienced by him), made an earnest appeal to any of his congregation who might then be in an anxious and inquiring condition of mind, to remain in church at the close of the service. His prayer that one soul might be given him as ‘a token for good’ from his heavenly Father, was more than answered, for many souls that night found peace with God. The work of ‘in-gathering’ had now fairly commenced, although, as yet, but on a small scale. Several weeks passed away. Every Sunday night inquirers were led to Jesus: and every week it became more and more apparent that the Lord was preparing the minds of many for the utterance of the momentous cry, ‘Sirs, what must we do to be saved?’
“About this time special ‘Mission Services’ were being held at the neighbouring town of Cardiff, upon which the Divine blessing was evidently resting. Among the preachers were the venerable Robert Aitken, Vicar of Pendeen, Cornwall - so long and well known in England and Scotland in connection with evangelizing labours. An invitation to come to St. Paul’s, on the termination of his co-operation at Cardiff, was kindly complied with. A very solemn spirit of supplication and expectancy pervaded the preparatory prayer-meeting on Saturday night. At the close of the services on Sunday evening an invitation was given to any who might be desirous, to remain to the after service. A great many did so, and the holy solemn work went on until a late hour: and about seventy souls, that night, entered into the liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free.
“On the four following evenings of the week, Mr Aitken preached to crowded congregations. He evidently felt the tremendous responsibility of dealing with immortal souls in the name and stead of Christ. With a power of utterance at times vehement, he sought the careless, the ungodly, the mere professor, to come to the feet of Jesus for pardon and eternal life. Every night crowds of penitents came to God’s people for direction. The after-services were prolonged until nearly or quite midnight: and, even when the last doxology was sung, numbers lingered in the sacred edifice, as though loath to depart without realizing a further blessing.
“And now as to the ‘after-services’ themselves let it be said - with gratitude to God - they were most holy and blessed seasons. Not soon - not ever - will be forgotten the solemn and yet happy hours then spent in prayer and praise: the sweet, heavenly strains of the ‘songs of Zion’ - the impressive fervency of the supplications offered at the throne of grace: whilst all along, hour after hour, proceeded the great work of the in-gathering of souls to Jesus - first the weeping, then the rejoicing: first the cry for mercy, then the praise for pardon: first the sorrow-burdened ‘What must I do to be saved?’ then the grateful outburst, ‘what shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me: Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name!’
“Among those thus brought to the feet of Jesus were the young and the old, - hardened sinners, - mere professors of religion of many years’ standing, - backsliders, - the self-righteous, - persons of almost all classes and descriptions. Husbands and wives knelt together before the Lord: parents and children: brothers and sisters: in some instances, whole families were brought in - in other cases the remaining members of otherwise godly families were reached by the Word and led to the Cross.
“Nor must one precious feature of these services be passed over, namely the real spiritual unanimity and unity manifested by Christians of all denominations, from first to last. It seemed as though our dear Lord’s prayer was quite fulfilled, ‘That they all may be one.’ His people felt they were ‘one,’ not artificially or theoretically, but actually and truly. Blessed be the name of the Lord for that! God’s children knew not of distinctive titles, indicative of divisions in the family; they were forgotten. Churchmen, Wesleyans, Baptists, Independents, Brethren - all met together in the house of their common Lord, not as ‘sectarians,’ but as ‘Christians;’ with one heart and voice they prayed and praised; with one purpose they assisted, when occasion served, in directing the inquiring. The Spirit of the Lord was a spirit of love and fellowship to them all: and Jesus was Himself in their midst, breathing upon them, and saying to them, as to the disciples of old. ‘Peace be unto you.’”
After giving a vivid description of what took place between the intervening services, the Vicar goes on to say: - “Thus closed the second week of the special services. Altogether six hundred souls had been seemingly brought to the Lord. Among the converts were persons connected with nearly all the congregations of the town. No attempt was made to proselytize; on the contrary, the converts were desired to remain in connection with the communion to which they had formerly been attached, unless indeed it seemed clearly laid upon them by the Lord, as a duty, that a change should be made. It cannot be wondered at that many congregations were stirred up to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon themselves, and that a reviving work began to make itself felt among the people. Special services were commenced at several of the Nonconformist chapels of the town and neighbourhood, and the power of the Lord was present to heal the soul-sick and to save the sin-burdened.
“Early in the month of May, Lord Radstock kindly consented to deliver evangelistic addresses at Newport, in continuation of the work at St. Paul’s. His Lordship gave two addresses daily in the Volunteer Drill-hall. The attendance each evening was very large - the hall being densely crowded. Lord Radstock’s expositions and appeals - so scriptural, clear, earnest, and persuasive - were listened to with deep attention. The Spirit of God graciously applied the word spoken: and again the Lord brought many souls ‘out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.’ I can bear ample testimony to the powerful appeals of Lord Radstock - having had the privilege as well as the pleasure of hearing him give such soul-stirring addresses at the Mid-May Park Conference in London, conducted by the Rev. Mr Pennyfather, and also to hear him at the Christian Conference at Perth, give such an able, earnest, and striking address, so well calculated to stir up the people of God, as well as to lead the careless sinner to lay hold of an all-sufficient Saviour.
“Early in June the venerable Mr Aitkin paid a second visit to St. Paul’s, accompanied by his two sons, the Rev. R.W. Aitken, Vicar of St. Paul’s, Penzance, and the Rev. W. Hay Aitkin, Vicar of Christ Church, Everton, near Liverpool. The Rector of Trinity Church, having taken a warm interest in the previous special services, very gladly opened his Church on this occasion and the Revs. R. and R. W. Aitkin preached on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, while the Rev. W. Hay Aitkin filled the pulpit of St. Paul’s. It pleased God to give His blessing to the Gospel message at each of the churches, conversions taking place every night.
“On Sunday, June 4th, the much-beloved and venerated patriarch preached twice at St. Paul’s. On Tuesday night, nearly or quite two thousand persons were crowded into the sacred edifice, while hundreds thronged the approaches, unable to obtain admission. A spirit of deep solemnity characterized the services, which were prolonged to a very late hour, in consequence of the large number of anxious ones seeking direction. The result of this second mission was that three hundred souls were brought to the Lord, in connection with St. Paul’s alone.
“Surely no one can speak of an aggregate of one thousand conversions in a single parish, within four months, without feelings of fervent gratitude to Him who alone can turn one sinner ‘from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.’ Still more intense become the heart’s thanksgivings, when the fact is contemplated that many hundreds besides were awakened and led to Jesus, in connection with other communions, in the same period of time, and that the work of the Lord still continues to advance in the town, and has spread to several parishes adjacent. To God be all the glory. The great in-gathering has been His doing. Paul may plant, Apollos may water, but it is God that giveth the increase.
“The people of the world have been perplexed by what they have witnessed. The confession has again and again been made, ‘I cannot understand it.’ In some instances, utter incredulity has been expressed as to the reality of the work; while not a few have attributed all to a sort of fanatical excitement, the results of which would soon pass away. It is not to be expected that the people of the world will form a right judgment upon such a subject. It lies beyond them altogether and their opinion of it cannot possess any value. To the unconverted the operations of God’s grace and Spirit must ever be an enigma which they cannot explain. The inspired Word tells us: - ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ That is decisive. The feeble excuse may be pleaded, ‘I do not approve of such excitement:’ but how truly I ‘feeble’ such an excuse is! Of what do they approve? Of their dead formalism? Of their worldly-mindedness? Of their devotion to the passing affairs of the present life? Of living as though there were no judgment - no heaven - no hell - no eternity - and as if they themselves had no soul to be saved? Can they approve of their own course, when brought face to face with realities such as these?
“No doubt, some are encouraged in resisting the blessed influences of such a season as that referred to in this narrative, by the cold-heartedness of many professing Christians, who look with unsympathising eyes upon the whole work. ‘Let us hope good may come out of it all’ is one of the expressions such persons often use, as though charitably hoping against hope. ‘Wait six months, and see how many of your converts will remain steadfast,’ another will say. ‘I don’t like these times of great excitement,’ a third will remark, ‘they are always succeeded by times of corresponding deadness’’ Alas for these cold-hearted, unsympathizing Christians, who can lend themselves so sadly to the enemy’s cause. Why should they start their objections, their suspicions, their prophecies of defection, failure, and deadness? Doubtless, had they lived in the times of the Apostles, and witnessed the great in-gatherings of those days, they would have had similar misgivings. And when, in after times, St. Paul, in his Epistles, deplored the defection of some, the deadness of others, and the inconsistency of many, they would have found, in such regrets, full confirmation of all their anticipations, and might have exclaimed, ‘Ah, I told you how it would be. I knew that excitement would soon die away. All this is just what I expected.’ Alas for all such prophets of evil, and hinderers of souls. There may be cases of defection - there may be instances of grave inconsistency - some of those whom we thought to have clean escaped from the pollutions of sin may give occasion to bitter disappointment. But the work God will stand, the glory of Jesus will not pass away, and the cause of the Gospel will continue to prosper, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Such is the account as given to the world by Vicar Wrenford. Had the above extracts been taken from the diary of an obscure evangelist, they might be deemed exaggeration. But, coming from the pen of such a God-honoured man, who could have no motive whatever but to give an unvarnished statement of facts and incidents as they occurred, no room is left for incredulity. (I will give another extract from the Vicar’s narrative before I close).
The following is an extract from a secular newspaper, which tends greatly to corroborate the statements of the Vicar and others who took part in the movement. I quote from the Evening Telegram of March 31st, 1871: -
“The special services in St. Paul’s, conducted by the Rev. Mr Aitken, have not only led to a Revival, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, but to an overwhelming outpouring of the Spirit of Truth, and in such a copious effusion as to far exceed the sanguine hopes of the most ardent followers of Christ. There are some disposed to question the genuineness or reality of what has already taken place, and maintain that it is only to be accounted for by religious enthusiasm, which has no solid basis; and they believe that, like the early cloud or morning dew, it will speedily pass away. To those who so reason we would commend them to set aside prejudices, and weigh their reasoning by the stern facts which confront them in connection with the present Revival. So great is the effect that men of stout and sturdy physical development have to bend to the superior power of the Spirit, and have been constrained, even against their stubborn wills, to yield to His benign influences, to pour out their souls in prayer, and to beseech and to obtain mercy at the hand of God. Singular is it also that this religious awakening is not confined to a class; but the aged, the middle-aged, and the young, of both sexes, partake of the same feeling, and find their way to the altar, where they receive from Christian men that solace and comfort which their distressed hearts need, whilst being urged to believe in the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. It is not usual, in the columns of a secular journal, to give prominence to matters appertaining to religion, indeed it has been regarded as out of place in journalists to devote space for such matters; but the occasion is one which, in the interest of the community, demands that we should deviate from ordinary usage to record the most remarkable spiritual awakening which has ever taken place in this town. Christians of almost every name, and all sections of the community are joining heart and soul in thanking God for this manifestation of His presence, and to beseech and implore Him for a further outpouring of His Divine Spirit. The services, from the commencement to the close, have been of the most solemn and impressive character.”
The above extract from such a source speaks volumes, and must have no small weight with those who are often heard to say “such Revival movements have only the tendency to drive men and women to the mad-house.”
From all I know of the great movement which lasted such a length of time, I rejoice to be able to bear my testimony to the fact that not one individual has been so affected. But I have had the unspeakable pleasure of meeting many of both sexes in those places - persons of wealth and influence - who had been living without God and without hope in the world, who are now rejoicing in the glorious assurance of a blessed immortality beyond death and the grave Many of these converts who, according to their own confessions, before the great revival took place, were spending their precious time and their means to no good purpose whatever. I know, are now devoting both, in a large measure, to deeds of benevolence and charity; such as, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for neglected children, supplying the wants of poor widows, and making provision for helpless orphans, supporting the means of grace at home, and giving largely of their abundance to send the Gospel abroad. If that is the madness these Revivals drive men and women to, I would that thousands of those I see all around me, who take little interest in such works of faith and labours of love, were driven to the same sort of “madness.” This reminds me of an incident, in the case of a poor pious widow, who had a wayward daughter, who, though she had been the child of many prayers, caused her great trouble, but, by the grace of God, was converted at a Revival meeting. Her minister having heard of the daughter attending these meetings, of which he did not approve, came to caution the mother, by saying “are you not afraid, my good woman, that your daughter’s head will get tuned at these meetings, and put her quite daft?” She said “Ah sir, it is a long time since my lassie’s head was tirned, which I ken tae my cost; but I am glad to say God has by His holy spirit tirned her heart, and, instead of a curse, she is now a great blessing to me; and a-weel, a-weel, sir, daft or no daft, I wad far rather see her daft than damned.”
The next extract I quote is from a religious paper called The Christian. It is the number for Thursday, June 22, 1871. The article is contributed by Mrs Hollyer, whose husband is one of the leading merchants in Cardiff. Mrs H. is a most devoted Christian Lady, who takes a special interest in the Gospel-Hall Mission, in Cardiff. With much zeal and devotedness she has laboured to bring wicked men and wretched women to this place, in order to hear the Gospel of the Grace of God. Here she labours herself in the glorious work of proclaiming the message of mercy, in winning tones of womanly tenderness beseeching her wayward brothers and sisters to be reconciled to God. Nor does she rest satisfied with this; but she calls faithful evangelists to her aid in prosecuting her labour of love. Many have, through her instrumentality, been thus turned unto the Lord, souls that will be to her a crown of rejoicing in the day of Christ Jesus.
Mrs Hollyer says: - “It has been my privilege to labour with dear Mr Aitken, sen., both here and in Newport, and in the work in both places to receive from a faithful God answers to prayer ‘beyond what I asked or thought.’ Praise the Lord! I asked a great deal, I expected from my blessed loving God a great deal, but in the way He gave it He certainly exceeded my expectations. Hundreds of souls in both places have been blessed, but Newport has exceeded all, and the work still spreads there. It was a great refreshing to Christians - solemn, earnest, powerful, and deep work. Oh, I cannot describe to you how he pleaded with souls with many tears. He has been twice at Newport; once here. Two of his sons were at Newport part of the time. Several clergy were engaged in the Mission at Cardiff, which extended to seventeen churches, but the greatest work was at St. John’s and St. Andrew’s.
“After sermon the anxious were dealt with at the after-meeting, which lasted till nearly twelve o’clock every night. Christians from all denominations came, and souls were saved in connection with the people of all denominations. The respectable people were reached. Medical men and other professional men attended morning and afternoon as well as evening services, and the churches were full; St. John’s crammed every night.
“At Newport the after-meeting was held in the church, and the anxious came forward round the communion rails, frequently seventy or eighty of a night. The prayer meeting was also held in the church, and scarcely any withdrew at the close of the sermon; aisles were filled with people pressing to hear the word. Oh, to see such a sight in the church! As true, as earnest, as affecting an after-meeting as ever I saw in any revival movement. Truly we may say, ‘What has God wrought!’
“It has been with children and aged people, moral and profligate. One gentleman, a member of an Independent Church, but deeply interested in the work, and also active in it, and who had two of his own little ones saved during the last week, said he never was so affected as to hear from 1500 to 1600 people in that church, the last evening, join in one great ‘Hallelujah.’ Oh! you may safely praise the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously. He has done a great work, for which hundreds are glad. I have prayed ever since Mr Howell came to Cardiff, especially for a revival in the Church of England and especially in his church (St. John’s); and oh, what a gracious answer! ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul,’ And since the mission, there is a Sunday morning prayer-meeting in St. John’s schoolroom, at half-past seven, at which about 200 attend - Christians of all sections as well as Church people. Lord Radstock has been here and at Newport since. Praise the Lord! - Yours in Jesus, CECILIA HOLLYER.”
I also had the pleasure of meeting Mr Faulkoner, architect, who is a most indefatigable worker in the Lord’s vineyard, who is the superintendent of the Young Men’s Christian Association in Newport, and who also took an active part in the revival movement. He told me that a great number of the young men had been savingly converted to God since the movement commenced.
So much for the wonderful work of God in Newport and Cardiff. I will now quote an extract from another secular newspaper - The Western Mail - wherein is given a graphic account of the great outburst of God’s work in Aberavon. It says: - “The mission has been held; the special preachers (Rev. R. Aitken and his son, Rev. Robert Aitken) have finished their work. This work began with a most excellent sermon by Canon Morgan (St. Mary’s, Cardiff), on Thursday evening, June 1. The church was crowded upon the occasion, as was also the school-room at the after-meeting. We may add that meetings for prayer and a blessing upon the work were held every evening during the previous week.
“On Wednesday a new impetus was given to the movement when it was announced that the Rev. Mr Aitken, of Pendeen, whose hair is whitened with the snows of seventy-two years, would preach on that evening. The scene that night was a striking one, as also on Thursday and Friday evenings, the large congregation seeming to bend before the spirit of the Lord like reeds beneath a wintry blast. On Saturday evening, at 6 p.m. an open-air service was held on the lawn of Baglan Hall, the residence of Mr Griffith, Llewellyn. The Rev. Mr Griffith, Vicar of Cwmavon, delivered an admirable address in Welsh and was followed in English by Rev. R. Aitken, jun. There could not have been less than eight hundred persons on the ground, and the sight was one that can never be forgotten, as the mass knelt in prayer with bared heads beneath the canopy of heaven, while their gladsome voices made the hills re-echo to their hearty song. The mission was brought to a close by a sermon from the elder Mr Aitken.
“The church was completely crammed, there not being room to move either in the chancel, aisles or anywhere else. Such a sight has never been seen before in Aberavon church. It is estimated that in the church and in the churchyard there could not have been less than 1,000 people, and their songs of praise made the neighbourhood ring again and again. God grant such sights may be seen in this place again!
“A peculiar feature of this mission was the holding of a meeting for prayer at half-past six every morning. Early though the hour was, still the schoolroom was filled day after day, and ‘early in the morning’ did the sweet incense of prayer ascend to the God of Sabbaoth. However varied may be the views held by some people with regard to the wisdom of these missions, no man can, no man dare, deny that these good men, under God, have done a great work at Aberavon. Man can only judge by ‘the outward appearance,’ and therefore all we can say is, that about 120 persons, old and young, have yielded their hearts to Him who bought them. The one great cry of the people of Aberavon and Baglan is, ‘May the Lord reward these mission preachers, in time and in eternity!’
“One thing we must not omit to mention because we have never heard of the same thing having been done in any other place upon a like occasion. The tradesmen of Aberavon, of every denomination, closed their shops at half-past six p.m. during the mission week, in order that their young people might be enabled to attend the evening services. ‘Honour to whom honour is due’ May the tradesmen of other towns follow their good example.”
In a short notice which appeared in the Graphic newspaper, of the great movement, it speaks of the work as being similar to that which burst out in the days of the Apostles, when seeing the shops all closed on a summer’s evening at half-past six, and the people flocking out en masse to worship God and to beseech Him to pour out His Spirit in rich abundance. The people were impressed with the idea that the Son of God was then and there to appear amongst them in all His glory. These extracts from secular newspapers evidently show what a great and glorious work it must have been; and, from letters I am frequently receiving from parties on the spot, since my return, I am pleased to hear the work is still progressing, although perhaps not to the same extent, yet steadily and satisfactorily.
Immediately after the evangelistic missions came to a close in Cardiff, Newport, and Aberavon, a series of evangelistic mission meetings were held on some of the mountains and valleys in South Wales, beginning at Llandaff (on Sunday evening) where a fair was to be held on the following week, it being Whitsun week. The people flocked out from Cardiff in hundreds on the Sunday night to see the preparations for the fair. A number of us went to the place and stationed ourselves on the green in the middle of the square formed by the show waggons or caravans. We sang a hymn, and the crowd assembled at once. We had a glorious opportunity of preaching the Gospel to hundreds who had gone for another purpose than to hear the joyful sound. I was so pleased to see the tenants of the caravans opening their doors and windows to listen to the story of the Cross, perhaps by some of them heard for the first time in all their lives. I was particularly struck with the strict attention and decorum of the Welsh people at out-door religious services. On the Monday following, according to a previous announcement, about a dozen Evangelists went up the Taff Valley to the Rocking-stone mountain which rises above the interesting town of Pontypridd. Hustings were erected for the accommodation of the speakers and others. The services commenced at ten a.m. by singing and prayer; then an address in Welsh. I may here remark that although I did not understand a single word of what was said, yet my soul was stirred within me to see the intense earnestness and animation that fired the heart and soul of him who addressed the large assembly. After again singing and prayer, several addresses were given in English. I was pleased to learn that almost everyone present understood the English language quite well, and, from what I heard, most of the people in South Wales do the same. Upwards of a thousand people were present, it being Whitsun Week, and besides, hundreds of colliers and miners were out on strike, many of whom attended these mission meetings. The services lasted until about one o’clock. When the conductors of the meeting decended from the hustings, a large circle was formed on the green-sward, in the centre of which some of these godly miners got to their knees and poured out their souls to God in prayer, for a blessing on the services in which we had been engaged. On another part of the mountain a little way off, a long row of tables was placed where hot coffee and sandwiches were provided. About half-past two we again assembled, when addresses were delivered both in Welsh and English, which lasted till five o’clock, when we then had tea served out to us as before; after which it was quite a treat to mingle with the people and to hear from many what God had done for their souls and to witness the deep interest the mass of the people seemed to take in these mission-meetings, and the intense desire on the part of many to listen to the Gospel message. The Services commenced again about half-past six and lasted until about nine o’clock. The weather was all that could be wished. The sun was shining brightly in the heavens, and all nature seemed smiling around us, and, when a beautiful hymn was given out, and the Old Hundred tune sounding forth in all its glorious strains from nearly two thousand voices under the broad blue canopy of heaven; no wonder though the mighty wave of sound that went rolling along the sides of the mountains, down to the valleys below, awakened the deepest emotions and elevated the minds of all who had the pleasure to be present at such a happy gathering.
On the other days of the week we held meetings in the Taff and Rhondda valleys, where we got hundreds of people to listen to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. I cannot refrain from taking notice of the beautiful scenery that meets the eye at every turning in passing up the valleys of South Wales. Every two or three miles you pass through nice little towns, and the sides of the mountains are studded with clean looking houses, the residences of the thousands of colliers who work in the mines. I can truly say, although I have visited the Continent on several occasions, I never saw finer or more picturesque scenery, except once, and that was when sailing up the Bohemian river to the old city of Prague. I must say I was not more surprised than pleased to find so many real Christian men and women in these valleys. I had many opportunities of conversing with them in their cottages, and had the pleasure of hearing many of them engage in prayer at the open-air meetings, and was delighted to hear how intelligently, how earnestly, and how correctly so many of these miners led the devotional part of the services, and how very striking and very much to the point were some of the addresses which they gave to their fellow workmen. Of course, some of their remarks were quaint enough, and, no doubt, seemed a little strange to us; yet they had a powerful effect on the minds of those to whom they were addressed. For instance, I heard one of these good Godly men when addressing his fellow-sinners, say, “Ah, my friends. allow me to tell you that the greatest blow the enemy of souls ever received was at the time when the Son of God exclaimed on the Cross, ‘It is finished;’ for it was then He overcame the Devil by shedding His own life’s blood for guilty sinners. The next terrible blow the wicked one ever received was at the time of Paul’s conversion.” And as the speaker went on to describe it, the whole Welsh fire seemed to be stirred within him, and hundreds of voices could be heard shouting, at one time, “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Glory to God, Amen, Amen, Hallelujah.” He went on to say, “the next terrible blow the Devil ever got was at the time of Paul’s conversion. Ah, how it made him reel and stagger; and why did it make him do so? ‘why?’ because he well knew when Paul was converted, he would be sure to lead thousands upon thousands of poor helpless sinners the shortest cut to Cavalry.” “True.” “true,” “Praise the Lord,” shouted the people. He said, “Ah, my friends, when Paul was converted, and when the cry was heard, behold he prayeth, all the Angels in heaven got hold of the Hallelujah bell ropes, and they rung such a peal, the like of which was never heard in heaven before.” “Glory to God,” was then heard to ascend from the multitude around. No doubt such demonstrations did appear strange compared with our Scotch sober mode of worship; but the Welsh are a far more demonstrative people than we are; and, so far as I could judge, I think it would be an improvement if we had a little of their Welsh fire in our pulpits, and more of their zeal in our Scottish congregations. I have no doubt whatever that very much good has resulted from these missions. Some who had been careless and indifferent regarding their eternal interests, have been brought to peace and joy; and God’s own people stirred up to renewed zeal in their Master’s cause. I cannot help remarking that these missions held on the mountains and in the valleys of South Wales owe their origin, in a great measure, to the untiring zeal of the Brothers Cory, of Cardiff, ably assisted by the zealous Mr Billups, and others. I could not help thinking when I heard of the indomitable zeal, self-denial, and self-sacrifice of these Godly men, what a blessing they must be to the town of Cardiff, where their kindness and benevolence are felt and appreciated. Not only do they take a deep and warm interest in almost every scheme for good-doing at home, but they also devote much of their time and means to the propagation of the Gospel abroad; and, if no marble tablets should ever be erected to perpetuate their names, I am sure of this, that their memories will be loved and cherished in the hearts of many who have been blessed by their deeds of unbounded benevolence; for many an orphan’s tear have they helped to dry, and many a widow’s heart have they made to sing for joy. I must not forget to mention that we had with us, the first two days, on the Rocking-stone mountain, Captain Melville Pym from the Evangelistic Society in London, who was a host in himself. Oh, how I would rejoice if we only had such a one to labour for a week or two in every town in Scotland - to awaken an interest in eternal things amongst the many we see amongst us, who, while making such a terrific scramble to become men of wealth, seem to take but little interest either in the concerns of their own souls or in those of their fellow-creatures around them. I will not soon forget the effect of the Captain’s powerful voice, his pathetic appeals and his earnest entreaties to those who had not yet found the Saviour. His address was delivered with such power and pathos, that it could not fail to reach the hearts of thousands who listened to the words of eternal life which fell from his lips; and, I believe, many, very many have been brought to the Lord through his instrumentality. Such is a brief outline of the rise and progress of the great Revival Movement in South Wales, and here again I would remind my readers of its origin. It will be seen from the statements of the Vicar and others from whom I have quoted so largely that this glorious movement was begun by prayer. Some of God’s earnest people began to mourn over the want of Spiritual life in the various towns in which they resided; and when asked the question if God’s cause was prospering, the answer invariably was returned. “Alas, we are not as we should be, there is much deadness of soul. We greatly need an awakening.” And Oh, how much need there is for God’s people in this town of Cupar, as well as in many other places in this, our highly favoured land, to put the same question, and I am sure the same answer would be returned, “There is much deadness of soul, We greatly need an awakening.”
The next question that naturually arises is, - What is the cause? It is with considerable diffidence that I venture to assign a reason, but I think I may safely assert that one reason is the want of a desire on the part of professed Christian men and women to meet together for prayer. During the forty years of my experience as a church member, I have invariably found that whenever its prayer-meetings were well attended, the church was in a prosperous state. As has been often remarked, the prayer-meeting is the pulse of the church. We often hear complaints from those who never show their face at a prayer-meeting from one year’s end to another, about the want of Spiritual life and prosperity in our churches: all the time forgetting that God himself hath said, “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.”
Is it any wonder that the preaching of the Gospel is attended with so little success when we think how few, how very few, can be brought together to pray for the blessing? It must be very disheartening to our ministers to find that the church members, who say that they cannot find time to attend prayer-meetings, can find time to attend almost any other kind of meeting; thus clearly showing that their non-attendance is the result of their lack of interest in this the most precious of our Christian privileges. Oh, that slumbering professors would arise and call upon their God. If ever we are to have such a blessed season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord as has been experienced in South Wales, it will only be as the result of united effort, on the part of God’s people to meet together for prayer and supplication, resolved to give the Lord no rest until He pours out His Spirit in copious measure in connection with a preached Gospel.
I think I cannot do better than conclude this narrative, not with any further remarks of my own, but with the following soul-stirring paragraph from the pen of Vicar Wrenford: a passage which, in my opinion, cannot fail to make a deep impression on the hearts and minds of all who read it. The Vicar says: - “And now, in concluding this narrative of God’s Work in Newport, to what shall we trace it, so far as man is concerned? Shall it not be, first, to earnest believing, persevering prayer, ‘for this very thing’; and secondly to the real preaching of a real Gospel? Our blessed Lord’s words are, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.’ Surely this assurance ought to be sufficient. And as to the preaching, of what avail is it unless a real Gospel be preached? It is to be feared there is much unreality in the preaching of the present day. If men are really sinners - perishing sinners - then away with theorizing, away with speculating, away with mere ‘opinions’ and ‘views.’ Away, too, with all dead ‘sermonizing’ be it ever so correctly and artistically done. The need of men’s souls is awfully real: Let them hear of a God really waiting to be gracious - of a Jesus really able to save to the uttermost, and as willing as he is able - of an all sufficient atonement really made and accepted of the precious blood of Christ that can really cleanse from all sin - of a Holy Spirit really given to regenerate, guide, comfort, teach, and sanctify men’s souls. Let them hear of a real heaven - a real hell - a real eternity; of real pardon for the guilty - real peace - real joy - real life; of a real approach of the sinner to the feet of a present Saviour - of a real acceptance of Jesus, and a real surrender to Him, and then a real and most blessed discipleship. Away with mere ideas. Away with mere ‘hopes’ and ‘trusts.’ Away with all uncertainty and unreality. ‘Sinner, thou art guilty – ruined - lost: but here is Jesus offering thee eternal life. Believe Him. Accept Him. Yield thyself to Him, heart – soul – wiIl – life - al1. So shalt thou be saved - saved now and forever.’
“This reality of praying, preaching, and hearing has, at Newport, been the secret of the conversion of so large a number of souls to Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost.
“Why may not such a result be brought to pass elsewhere - yea, wherever sinners are found? Doubtless, the fear of the world’s frown may hinder, prejudice may hinder, routine may hinder, dead formalism may hinder, a dread of ‘irregularities’ and of ‘excitement’ may hinder; but should not all hindrances be surmounted for Christ’s sake, and that souls may be saved?
“Oh for reality, then. Reality in the praying of God’s people; reality in the preaching of God’s ministers. Oh for reality. Men to preach, and people to pray, who have themselves been brought into a condition of conscious acceptance – pardon - life; who themselves are ‘in Christ,’ and who know, in their own daily experience, the sweetness of that ‘peace with God’ which I passeth all understanding,’ and of that ‘joy’ which is ‘unspeakable and full of glory.’ Oh for reality. A real lifting up of Jesus in the midst of perishing sinners - not that ‘doctrines’ or ‘views’ (be they ever so correct) may be set forth, discussed, demonstrated - but that the guilty may draw near - may look - may live. Oh for reality. The ‘real presence’ of the loving Jesus in our assemblies, - the real coming of the sin-burdened to Him there and then, - and the real reception from His willing hands of a most real, blessed, and everlasting salvation.”
Having thus endeavoured to furnish an account of the work of Grace in South Wales, I lay down my pen, with the sincere prayer that the perusal of this imperfect narrative may, through the blessing at God, be instrumental in leading Christian readers to unite in earnest prayer for a similar Revival in their respective localities.
[Alexander Sharp, A Narrative of the Great Revival Work in South Wales, 1871]
This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones