SECRET OF THE COUNTRY WIDE REVIVALS IN AMERICA AND IRELAND
SECRET OF WELSH REVIVAL OF 1904
By an eye witness, J.M. Jones
One of the greatest revivals next to Pentecost was that which took place in Wales; amongst the Welsh coal miners under the leadership of one named Evan Roberts. He was no genius, merely a son of poor parents, but nevertheless had been brought up in an atmosphere of prayer. The miners in those days, those who were zealous for God’s cause, used to hold after every Sunday morning sermon a prayer meeting, called the “Young People’s Prayer Meeting.” Evan Roberts attended like the rest of the young men. It was always noticed however, that his prayers were more earnest, more intense, more supplicant, contained a greater intercessory spirit for the fallen and unfortunate than those of his brother worshippers.
One day in one of these meetings in the year 1904 the fire, which his continual earnest prayer was creating, burst out into flame, It spread to the other members of that little prayer meeting, they were so filled that some of them stood on the benches and yelled for all they were worth, others leaped over the benches unable to contain the blessing, soon the noise of shouting and jumping within the little room spread to the village, and in a short space of time the people came in hundreds to see the cause. Thus began the Great Welsh Revival, which shook not only south Wales where it began, but even as far away as New Zealand. The cause of this revival was simply a fervent desire on the part of that little prayer meeting for a deeper communion with God; and a desire that God should manifest His power through them to the world.
Some of the characteristics of the revival were an absolute forgetfulness of time in their worship, one girl in prayer said, “The saloon is open till midnight, cannot we pray also till midnight, if Satan’s door can be open so late, must the door of grace be closed sooner?” In those days it was no uncommon sight to see worshippers coming home in the early morning hours after they had been praising and praying all night.
Another characteristic was that swearing almost entirely ceased among the miners, to such an extent that some of the pit ponies would not draw the load, because they had been used to so much swearing before. Drunkards, who were thought hopeless were converted. Consciences that love the hardness of a long life of sin were touched, so that money had been stolen was returned of their own accord. It was truly for a time the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
There was no need of asking anyone to take part. The trouble was how to keep order in the meetings, as everybody was anxious to testify of what the Lord had done. Evan Roberts drew interest, because of his method. He was different to all other ministers. Sometimes he would sit unobserved by the many amongst the pews until someone would prevail on him to go in front. Then unless he felt that the Spirit had a message to the people, he would say nothing. When he spoke, in clear, short cut sentences, and to the point, his words used to “cut asunder, unto the dividing of soul and spirit as it were.” Confirming saints, and terrifying sinners to seek repentance. Sometimes he would shake all over, his lips moving, but saying nothing, this would sway the people more than when he spoke. Many people would leap in their seats by merely looking at him, for as it were God’s glory beautifying his face. The outcome of the revival was that thousands were saved.
The General Revivals from 1857 – 1860
The immediate occasion, the exciting cause, which precipitated the revival in America was the famous Noon-day prayer meeting movement. Mr. J.C.Lamphier, lay missionary in New York City, was greatly burdened for salvation of souls. Almost daily in the lecture room of the old Dutch Church he would go alone to pray for a genuine revival. He finally decided to invite others to join him in prayer. He announced a weekly prayer meeting to be held at the noon hour on Thursday. On the 23rd of September, 1857, the doors were thrown open for the first of these meetings. For thirty minutes he prayed. Five others joined him in the second half of the hour. In this way the far-famed Fulton Street prayer meetings commenced. Before long the numbers increased and it became a daily prayer meeting. This meeting-room overflowed and simultaneous meetings were held in a second and in a third room in the same building. The seats were all filled, passages and entrances were blocked and hundreds were turned away for lack of room. This led to the formation of nine other daily noonday prayer Meetings in New York City.
Men and women gave these prayer meetings for the first time in their lives. The story is told of a merchant who came to New York City to purchase goods. While engaged in selecting his articles the noon hour arrived. The visiting merchant requested the New York wholesaler to work through the noon hour, thus enabling him to return home by the evening boat. This reply was given, “I cannot help that, I have something to attend to which is of more importance than selling goods. I must attend the noon-day prayer meeting. It will close at one o’clock and I will then fill out your order.” They both went to the meeting. The visiting merchant was impressed and reflecting upon this example of Christian fidelity was led to become a follower of Jesus Christ. He returned to his home in Albany, N.Y., and immediately started the noon-day prayer meetings in that city.
Shortly after establishment of the Fulton street prayer meeting, one of the attendants moved to Philadelphia. This man sought a place for a noon-day prayer meeting in this city. People tried to discourage him, but he prevailed. Finally the lecture room of a Methodist church was secured. Passersby jeered at him when he hung out the placard announcing the first meeting. For weeks he met with nothing but disfavor. Even the ministers looked upon the movement with distrust. God, however, was looking with favor upon the little group who were praying for the outpouring of His Spirit upon their city. After awhile this lecture room became to small for them and they moved from larger place to larger place until finally they occupied the largest hall in the city, one capable of seating four thousand people. This was filled daily by men and women who came there to pray for a spiritual awakening in their city. This prayer movement led to the conversion of hundreds of people.
Soon this great noon-day prayer meeting movement spread from coast to coast. Two years later, in 1859, on the second anniversary of the first noon-day prayer meeting, a convention assembled at the Cooper Institute in New York City to consider means to sustain and enlarge the influence of these meetings. Wm. E. Dodge was the chairman. The representatives came all the way from San Francisco to New York City. This shows the extent of the movement. About this time a gentlemen gave the following testimony in one of the noon-day prayer meetings in Boston: “I am from Omaha, Nebraska. On my journey east I have found a continuous prayer meeting. We call it about two thousand miles from Boston to Omaha, and here was a prayer about two thousand miles in length.”
The City of Providence was active in this movement. The daily prayer meeting was held in Franklin Hall. The attendance grew until other meetings were held in the vestries of the First Baptist Church, the Richmond Street meeting House and the Round Top Church on Broad rest. All were fully attended. Thirty-six churches in Rhode Island in the first six months of the movement gained a thousand converts. One hundred were converted in Pawtucket alone. More that one hundred were converted at the First Baptist Church at Warren.
Space forbids any adequate account of the far reaching influences of this mighty movement. In the three years it gave the Kingdom of God an increase of about a half million souls. One denomination alone gained one hundred and thirty-six thousand new members. W.T. Stead, late Editor of the British Review of Reviews, has a chapter on “The National Significance of Revivals.” In this he makes a startling claim for “The Revival of ’57” in America. He says, “it was the direct precursor of the great civil was and the emancipation of the slaves.”
THE REVIVAL IN IRELAND
The Irish revival had its beginning in the place of prayer. It was a nineteenth century Pentecost. The reading of what God was doing for George Muller in the way of answering prayer gave the desire to four young men in the north of Ireland to meet together for prayer. They met near Connor, in County Antrim, north of Ireland, and prayed that “Their labor and that of other in the prayer meetings and Sunday schools might be eminently owned of God.” This prayer meeting, attended by four anxious young men, was the birth-place of the great religious wave that swept over Ireland. The first prayer meeting was held in the same month of the same Year, and if not on the same day, then near the same day, that saw the first great Fulton Street prayer meeting in New York City. Though unknown to each other, the same God was leading in His own wonderful way. This prayer meeting was the first of many, before any great visible results were noticeable. Then faith was rewarded and suddenly a great number of sinners were converted. This directed the eyes of many to the importance of the prayers of God’s people and soon thousands of God’s people were praying that the wave of blessing might become general. With wonderful rapidity it spread through Antrim, Londonerry, Down, Donegal, Armagh, Tyrone and all of North Ireland. From the north it went to the central, the south and west of Ireland. At times it was estimated that a thousand a day were professing conversion. Ulster alone saw one hundred thousand profess conversion.
It is difficult, in fact impossible, to describe chronologically the history of such a movement. We know its birthplace, time and origin. Eternity alone will reveal its widespread influence.
The first convert in Ballymena was a lad, sixteen years of age. After weeks of deep anxiety he found Christ as his Saviour. For a month he was the only convert. Then two women of mature years came to Christ. These were followed shortly by the conversion of a Roman Catholic and an Arian. The Presbyterian Minister was away attending a meeting of the Synod when the spiritual cloudburst came. On his return he found the town profoundly stirred. Christians everywhere were meeting in little bands to pray. Meetings were held at all hours of night and day and young and old were smitten with deep conviction.
From Ulster the revival spread to Cavan County. In Corglass one could see the power of God working. The large church was crowded to the doors and the entire graveyard, surrounded the church, was then filled with praying Christians and anxious sinners. The preacher would be interrupted time and time again as from various parts of the church and graveyard would come the cry of anguish and prayer. One compared this particular meeting to a “house on fire with all the doors shut.” The burial ground was covered with the prostrate forms of praying people. At ten o’clock at night this otherwise secluded and peaceful churchyard was one vale of sorrows and of tears.
When the fire of God fell on Ballymena the Christians in nearby Coleraine met to pray for a similar blessing in their city. Churchmen and dissenters forgot their differences and were united in their prayers for a revival. Meetings were held in cottages and in church. Heaven heard and showers of blessings fell upon them.
So great was the conviction that one of the town newspapers were compelled to delay publication. The Spirit of God had seized the compositors and instead of setting type they were wrestling in the agonies of prayer. Their new town hall was about to be formally opened with a great opening dance. So great was the conviction of sin and the desire to attend church services that the hall was engaged to accommodate the crowd. When the opening day came the interest was at such a place that the dance was called off and instead the stirring music of the dance one could hear the groans and prayers of anxious sinners. On the streets at midnight you could see praying groups. In the schools, the masters would send the convicted children home to pray in private. So disturbed were they, that study was impossible.
The revival wave went south and even in the popish districts many a soul was claimed for God. The work was not superficial. At one place a factory was compelled to close its doors for three days. Benjamin Scott, the Chamberlin of London, visited this place and studied its character. He knew the looseness that prevailed before the revival and he gave his witness to the far-reaching and genuine results of the movement.
Oh! For the young men and women today, who will be filled with loyalty to Christ Jesus, and a burning passion for the precious souls, instead of a burning lust of the flesh which destroys many souls. Reader, are you a young man? What kind of burning have you got! Cry out to God earnestly to aflame you with His pure and holy love; that like those three Irish young men and that American young man who stated the noon-day prayer meeting in Philadelphia; you also may become Christ’s mighty instrument to be a mighty blessing in His Wonderful name to your fellow men.