Evan Roberts 1878- 1951
Just like the children of Israel, the church would find themselves in a season of great oppression and seek out to the Lord. In His mercy, He would raise up a Gideon, a voice, to bring restoration in that hour. In looking at the story of Gideon, in the first few verses of Judges 6, we see God send an unnamed prophet to the people to bring them a word of correction and hope. In the story of the Welsh revival, we see that the Lord was beginning to stir the hearts of people setting the stage for the revival. If we are content to live without revival, we will. So the Lord in His mercy begins touching the hearts of His remnant, calling them to seek His face and stand in the gap for the people.
In 1859, an incredible revival broke out in Ulster and spread into Wales. It was a glorious move of God. But as time passed, the hearts of men grew cold, and at the beginning of the 20th century, Wales was in a deep winter. Churches were empty and the nation was in a moral decline. Dean David Howell announced just before his death…
“Take notice! If it were known that this is my last message to my fellow countrymen before being summoned to judgement- the chief need of any of my country and my dear nation at present is a spiritual revival through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” 1
Let me quote from the “Scranton Republican”, Monday, December 5th, 1905, from an article from Rev. J. Cromwell Hughes. He gives a brief spiritual history of Wales worth noting…
“’Revival’ is one the greatest words of the Welsh nation. The Welsh people have always been easily acted upon by religious influences; this was characteristic of the Celtic race in ancient and medieval Wales.
The history of the pre-reformation church contains a number of instances of great religious awakenings. In the seventeenth century, the famous Vicar Prichard attracted immense congregations everywhere and made a profound impression on the history of the race. Griffith Jones was a great revivalist at a later period. Jones, in fact, was the forerunner of the greatest revival Wales ever had, i.e., that of 1735. Out of this grew the preaching of Howell Howe and of the Rowlands. The next revival was in 1859. This was the greatest shakeup which Wales experienced in the eighteenth century. The pioneer of this great movement was the great Humphrey Jones. The leading features of this revival, namely spontaneous prayer meetings among the masses of people, union among religious bodies, and a personal zeal for the conversion of the irreligious”
Yes, in every generation, He calls a Gideon and in the words of William Booth…
“We must wake ourselves up! Or somebody else will take our place, and bear our cross, and thereby rob us of our crown.”
So, at the beginning of the century many religious leaders were seeking answers. But just like then, we need agonizers and not organizers. We need people who gain a holy desperation for revival. People who discern the times and hear the cry of the Spirit. The leaders held their convention based on the Keswick-style at a spa with a second convention to follow in 1902. Several ministers, Seth Joshua, Joseph Jinkins, W.S. Jones and E. Kerri Evans started missionary trips in Wales to deepen the spiritual life the church.
Seth Joshua was born on April 10th, 1859, during the last revival in Wales. He was concerned that the emphasis being placed on intellectual qualifications rather than spiritual attainments was the problem. When men are in a dry season, that ugly religious spirit which kills every revival, and seeks to quench any future move starts to make its presence and power known. The spiritual feudal system that dictates only the elect few can and will be used caused many so-called, “nobodies” to abort the call of God. Seth Joshua prayed that the Lord would raise up a man from the mines or fields of Wales. Little did he imagine that was exactly what God would do. Oh, how the Lord loves to use what we consider “the foolish” to confound the “wise.”
Enter Evan Roberts
Evan Roberts, a former miner, and to the general public, a nobody, entered the scene. A man called with a heart after the Lord. The Daily Republican on Friday, May 12th, wrote of Evan Roberts…
“We find ourselves in the presence of a tall, fair, gracefully built young man, who looks younger than his twenty-six years, and who fails to impress us as possessing any qualities, intellectual or otherwise, above the average. Except for a smile of some charm, and an air of purity about his person, he might easily pass without notice of any kind. Evan Roberts is the son of a sturdy and independent couple who may be taken as types of the Welsh mining class in Wales. His father is a collier of sterling character, not noted for any specially marked traits; and in this case, as in so many others, it is to the mother that may be traced some of the religious simplicity and zeal that are so marked in the son.”
David Matthews, an eyewitness of the revival, wrote of Evan :
For some years, the mind of Mr. Roberts had been turning in the direction of the Christian ministry. His spare time was avidly devoted to reading such literature as would assist in the preparation of his lifework. Although his friends “with one consent” acknowledged his undoubted religious sincerity and unspotted moral character, there does not appear to have been manifested, to the observant eyes of vigilant church leaders, any outstanding oratorical gift or special expository brilliance, such as is universally expected in Wales in a candidate for such an exalted office. Evan Roberts quietly persisted in the pursuit of his dream. Everything religious secured pre-eminence in his mind and heart. Every one of his acquaintances concluded, “that Evan intended to be a preacher. 2
Evan Roberts was born on June 8th, 1878 in Loughor, a village around eight miles from Swansea. He was born to staunch Calvinist parents, Henry and Hannah Roberts.
“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he should bear his yoke in his youth.”
Lamentations 3: 26-27
Evan was trained in the ways of the Lord from a child. He was an obedient son who honored his parents. It is said that he was a person who would defend weaker boys from being bullied.
“Our revivalist seems to have been noted for his undemonstrative, studious habits when other boys romped and roamed. His nature, and perhaps his religious inclinations, held him in a vise-like grip.” 3
When he was twelve, his father’s foot was injured in the mine. Evan stepped up to the plate and sought to help and went to work in the mines. It was said of Evan:
“So, Evan Roberts, the little Welsh boy of twelve, laid aside his childhood. Almost literally became his father’s right hand, until Mr. Roberts recovered from the accident.” 4
Not long after, Evan Roberts asked to start a Sunday School for the miners children. 5 It was clear even at this early age, Evan was called into the ministry. The family would gather together for family worship on Sunday afternoon, and Evan and his brother Dan would sing and play instruments.
Evan always carried with him his Bible and declared to all that he would be a preacher. Every spare minute he had in the mines he would be studying his Bible.
When he was thirteen, one of the deacons, William Davies told Evan, “’Remember to be faithful. What if the Spirit descended and you absent? Remember Thomas! What a loss he had.’ I said to myself, ‘I will have the Spirit.’” 6
One day while in the mines, a huge fire broke out burning everything in its path- except for Evan’s Bible, which was simply scorched. Evan Roberts continued to use the Bible even during the revival.
“For thirteen years I had prayed for the Spirit, and this is the way I was led to pray. William Davies, the deacon, said one night in the society’ ‘Remember to be faithful. What if the Spirit descended and you absent? Remember Thomas! What a loss he had.’ I said to myself, ‘I will have the Spirit.’ And through all weather and in spite of all difficulties I went to the meetings. Many times seeing other boys with the boats on the tide I was tempted to turn back and join them.” 7
Evan Roberts also said about his teenage years…
“For ten or eleven years, I have prayed for a revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit that moved me to think about revival.” 8
Evan decided after twelve years in the mines to become a blacksmith. But the burden for ministry grew and in 1903 he decided to enter ministry. He sat the denominational exams and prepared to enter the Newcastle Emlyn Academy. Before he entered school he had a powerful experience
“One Friday night last spring, when praying by my bedside before retiring, I was taken up to a great expanse—without time and space. I was in communion with God. Before this a far-off God I had…After that experience I was awakened every night a little after one o’clock. This was most strange for through my years I slept like a rock, and no disturbance in my room would awaken me. From that hour I was taken up into my divine fellowship for about four hours. What it was I cannot tell you, except that it was divine. About five o’clock I was again allowed to sleep on till about nine….this went on for three months.” 9
Evan Roberts gave himself to fervent intercession, which was clearly seen throughout his life and ministry. He was driven by a burden for souls. His greatest concern in going back to school was being caught up in his lessons so much that he would lose his fellowship time with the Lord. So often we can become busy for God, doing good things, but lose sight of Him. The Laodicean Church is rebuked even though they do “good works” because they were neither hot not cold. Sometimes being busy doing things we believe are for the Lord can steal our time and relationship with the Lord. The spirit of religion loves to get us caught up in “doing” and “serving” which in and of themselves are not wrong except when they become our focus and not Him. What we do should draw us closer to Him, and not slowly further from. We can become deceived because we see it as religious service and because we walk in fear of man, when we must learn to walk in fear of Him.
Evan Roberts attended a convention at Blaenaunerch, Cardiganshire in August. At the close of the meeting, Seth Joshua prayed “O Lord… bend us.” Evan went to the front, kneeled down and prayed, “Lord, bend me.” The event impacted Seth Joshua who recorded it in his diary. 10 However, Joseph Jenkins and John Thickens, were disturbed by Evan’s response and were concerned he would cause a spiritual uproar. They considered him a “spiritual neurotic.” 11
Evan felt the Spirit burdening Him to pray, so he waited patiently for his turn while others prayed. He said…
“When a few more had prayed, I felt a living power pervading my bosom. It took my breath away…” 12
He also wrote about the experience…
“I held my breath and my legs shivered, and every prayer I asked, ‘Shall I now?’ The living force grew and grew, and I was almost bursting. And instantly someone ended his prayer—my bosom boiling. I would have burst if I had not prayed. What boiled was that verse, “God commending His love!” 13
His face was bathed in perspiration. He cried out, ‘Bend me!’ He was overwhelmed by the verse, ‘God commendeth His love toward us…’ Then a wave of peace flooded his soul. He became concerned for others.” 13
David Matthews an eyewitness to the event wrote…
“Almost in desperation, the evangelist prayed fervently at what seemed to be the close of the difficult meeting. ‘Bend us- bend us-bend us, O Lord” Speaking humanly, many believe that this very sentence gave birth to the revival. It became famous. Evan Roberts repeated it times without number. A young woman sprang to her feet in terrible agony- Maggie Evans, if my memory serves me right. At this moment, the silent form of a young man rolled off his seat into the aisle. He appeared to be only semi-conscious. God alone knows the miracle that happened. A lady sitting opposite the young man assured me he lay prostrate for a considerable time on the floor of the church, sweating profusely. Nothing seemed more certain but that he would die on the spot.”14
He felt filled with the compassion of the Lord and an incredible burden for souls. Evan Roberts knew that day something extraordinary was beginning. 15 There is a deep cry that comes from our spirit that only He can hear and satisfy. It is a cry that penetrates the veil. For too many, our prayers simply bounce off the ceilings. We need to learn through spending time in the Secret Place when we are alone to break through.
“Evan Roberts had, he said, been praying for thirteen months, for that wave to come, and he related how the young man was turned out of his lodgings by his landlady, who thought that in his enthusiasm he was possessed or somewhat mad. He spent hours praying and preaching in his rooms, until the lady became afraid of him, and asked him to leave.” 16
It was recorded regarding the young revivalist that he was very joyous and radiantly happy and the marked essence of his campaign was mirth. 16
Returning to school after this phenomenal baptism, studies for the future revivalist were more than difficult—they seemed utterly impossible. He discovered to his amazement that something had happened and now concentrated book-work was a mere drudgery. Day and night, without ceasing, he prayed, wept, and sighed for a great spiritual awakening for his beloved Wales. Hours were spent in unbroken, untiring intercession, to the chagrin of those who did not understand the symptoms and secret of soul-travail. One thing became clear to him—study was impossible for some unaccountable reason. He had to surrender unconditionally to this overwhelming, mysterious impulse, surging through his sensitive, awakened soul 18
Evan then returned to Newcastle Emlyn to pray for his first team which consisted of Sidney Evans (who would marry Evan’s sister), some young women and himself. Evan would take with him these young ladies to sing and pray at his services. Evan Roberts withdrew all his savings to pay for his team to follow him.
Evan then reached out to his brother Dan and wrote to him…
“The wheels of the Gospel chariot are to turn swiftly before long, and it is a privilege to give a hand in the work. I do not know whether you possess the joy of the Gospel…but if you are to have it, you must be willing to do the Spirit’s bidding…You must put yourself entirely at the Spirit’s disposal.”18
Regarding Dan, Evan’s brother, we later learn …
“Dan Roberts, the brother of the great leader was sent a message, ‘The Lord has need of you.’ And he has rushed to his brother’s assistance. ‘Is not all wonderful?’ said he. God is doing great things, and I go according to the bidding of the Holy Spirit. Until two months ago I worked in a coal mine, and as my eyes were very bad I had to go see my doctor at Llanelly. A day afterwards, my brother, Evan, came home from New Castle Emlyn with the revival spirit upon him. He said to me, ‘Dan your eyes are going to get better. The Lord has need of you.’ I only saw the doctor once after that, and, is it not strange my eyes soon got all right. 20
Stories circulated of Evan being seen standing, “trance-like” beside the road while uttering deep sighs as his lips moved without words being heard. One person write of him21…
“We usually had a reading and prayer together before we put out the lamp. Then I could hear Evan calling and groaning in the Spirit. I couldn’t understand what was his message to God again, and some holy fear kept me from asking.”
In October 1904, Evan had his first vision. He was with Sidney Evans in a garden. Suddenly, Sidney went into a daze looking at the moon. Evan looked up to see what he was looking at when he too saw what looked like an arm outstretched from the moon, reaching down into Wales.22
Evan told Sidney he had a vision of Wales being lifted up to the heavens and that they were going to see a hundred thousand souls won for Jesus. They were to get a little band ready and travel throughout Wales.23 As Edwin Orr recorded, no one forgot the look on Evan’s face that day.
Evan returned home on October 31st and proceeded to go talk with his family about his vision. The Roberts family consisted of his mom and dad, his three sisters, Mary, Sarah and Catherine and his brother, Dan. They struggled with his decision and were confused as to why he had left his studies.
He was not discouraged by his family’s response but proceeded to Moriah Chapel to see the minsters there. He was given favor by them and allowed to hold a meeting with the youth. That evening after the regular prayer meeting, Evan held his first meeting with seventeen people in attendance. He told them about his experiences and called on them to confess publicly their belief in Christ. Evan established four keys that were necessary for the Spirit to move:
- You must confess and put away unconfessed sin
- You must put away any doubtful habit
- You must obey the Spirit promptly
- You must confess Jesus publicly
At ten p.m. Evan was persuaded his brother and sisters had accepted the Lord.
His next meeting was held in a Moriah Chapel, in Pisgah, closer to his home. Here he spoke on the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The meeting lasted three hours. Over the next few days he held more meetings. On November 8th after having a great meeting the previous night, he had a poorly attended one. At midnight his mother decided to leave, deeming it too late for people to come as they would be working the next day. Evan said to her…
“Are you going home now, mother?’ ‘Yes,’ said she. He said, in a quiet rebuke, ‘It is better for you to come back. The Spirit is coming nearer now.” 24
Sorry can last through the night but joy comes in the morning. When things don’t appear to be working, we are not always aware of what the Lord is doing behind the scenes. We need to learn to be in tune with the Spirit. Learning to see with our spiritual eyes and not going by what we see or feel. It is easy to give up or pull back at the critical moment and sometimes abort what the Lord is about to do. We are called to patience because we need to understand the devil does not have the ability to endure. So we must persevere in the dark hours and stand fully persuaded.
Revival Breaks Out
The next day the newsletter of the Keswick Movement, issued an article on the revival. Seth Joshua provided many of the facts and the result was that people were drawn from all over. A local newspaper would soon write about what was now happening. It said…
“A remarkable religious revival is now taking place in Loughor. For some days a young man named Evan Roberts, a native of Loughor, has been causing great surprise at Moriah Chapel. The place has been besieged by dense crowds of people unable to obtain admission. Such excitement has prevailed that the road on which the chapel is situated has been lined with people from end to end.” 25
On November 11th, the church was crowded and overflowing. On the 12th, people were coming from all over and the local meeting houses were full. Everyone was now talking about the revival. Taverns were being emptied and life as everyone knew was starting to change.
“The only theme of conversation among all classes and sects is ‘Evan Roberts.’ Even the tap-rooms of the public houses are given over to discussion on the origin of the powers possessed by him.” 26
Evan Robert’s from the get go is a private, humble person who does not seek to draw any attention to himself. He broke the mold for revivalists. The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as “unclerical in appearance but obedient to the Spirit.” 27 Freedom was given for the Holy Spirit to move, “There has been no machinery or organization. Too often in our country we kill all spontaneity in such meetings by our man-made machinery. We organize a series of meetings to death. In Wales they hardly have any committee. They rely on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is largely a movement of laymen.
Evan Roberts tells the people that he shall speak only what the Holy Spirit dictates. He calls himself a divine instrument. The meetings are not dependent upon some famous evangelist. The services consist mainly of prayers, testimonies and singing.” 28
At the meetings, he made it clear he was not the center, Jesus was. He sought to get the people’s eyes on Jesus…
“A remarkable scene occurred at Mr. Evan Robert’s open-air mission at Holyhead yesterday. There was from 10,000 to 12,000 people present, and the meeting had proceeded for three hours without any manifestations of feelings when Mr. Evan Roberts jumped up, crying, ‘Where are you, ye professing Christians? Why don’t you pray? I can do nothing. I leave Holyhead with a quiet conscience but a wounded heart and spirit,’ and then he broke out into loud weeping and wailing. The audience responded, thousands shouting, wailing, and shrieking for mercy. Those who followed the services for months say that nothing like last night’s scene has yet been witnessed. After a while Mr. Roberts waved his arms and shouted, ‘Thank God, we can now sing and rejoice; the victory is won.’ The crowd, again responding, leaped to their feet and shouted, ‘Glory, hallelujah; the victory is won.’ Then there was triumphant singing, shouting, and cheering. ‘The devil is conquered,’ cried Mr. Roberts; ‘see him fleeing, pursue him, O ye army of the Lord, keep him fleeing from you.” 29
Evan Roberts did travel throughout Wales with a group of lady singers. The revivals would continue after he left. Women had, up until this point, been banned from public roles in church.
“The five ‘Singing Sisters,’ one of them a convert from the stage, who accompany Evan Roberts, seem to have a power equal to his own. Three-fourths of every meeting consists of singing. No one uses hymn books, and no one gives out the hymns, which are sung through…the spontaneity of the meetings is astonishing. It is orderly disorder.” 30
Some newspaper reported that as Pentecost was being poured out, in many churches people would erupt in spontaneous praying, speaking in “tongues.”
“The fervor in the services at Clydach was very marked, and it was nothing uncommon to see half a dozen or a dozen enthusiasts praying aloud at the same moment. So great was what has now come to be spoken of as ‘the gift of tongues’ in all parts of the chapels that the missioner himself said but very little.” 31
During his services it was not uncommon to see laughing, crying, dancing, people completely broken or filled with joy over finding the Savior. Evan refused to preach or saying anything unless he felt the “unction” of the Holy Spirit. Even when he spoke, typically his messages were short or he simply called the people to pray. Like many of the heroes of faith, Evan soon began pushing himself and would go with little or no sleep. Regarding the pushing of his body, Evan said…
“Tired? Not once. God has made me strong and manly. I can face thousands. My body is full of electricity day and night and I have no sleep before I am back in meetings again.” 32
The Scranton Republican wrote…
“The strain of the last few weeks has told perceptibly upon Mr. Roberts’ nerves and it is expected that he will have to relinquish the great hold he has on the nations. Thousands travel to see him and he is in constant demand in all parts of the country. Congregations are simply fascinated by the story of his experiences, and his coming into any district is hailed with joy.
Business is suspended and all manner of work is abandoned when he appears. A deep religious feeling pervades the town when he is present- public houses are closed, and churches are open at all hours, and the only theme of conversation among the classes and sects is Evan Roberts.” 33
It is easy to think when we are under the anointing that we are invincible and don’t need sleep, but even the Lord rested on the seventh day. Our bodies need rest. The demand on Evan grew and his body was becoming more and more exhausted, which helped open the door to his breakdown. People started coming from all over the world. We know Frank Bartleman, a key figure with the Azusa Street Revival, corresponded several times with Evan Roberts. 34
Exhaustion and the Breakdowns
Often, Evan Roberts failed to make appointments due to exhaustion, but would concede many times because of pressure.
In 1905, the strain was clear and often Evan would describe himself as entering, “the sufferings of the master.” He would begin rebuking people and he started hearing voices. He clearly begins operating in the gifts of the Spirit. Some branded him a clairvoyant, while others insisted, as Edwin Orr writes, that he had the gift of discernment. 35
Evan Roberts was a man that refused to be photographed, except by his family. He refused to give interviews to the newspapers. As time went on great efforts were made to uncover scandals regarding Evan. He was criticized for his lady singers who accompanied him. Though the worst scandal they could find was the fact that he once allowed one of them to wash his socks. 36
They sought to pin financial indiscretion on him as well. The worst they found was he gave $100 to Pisgah mission church, to help clear their debt. Evan sought to live by the help of friends, which he did till the day he died.37, 38
At the end of January, Evan saw his worst attack which came from Rev. Peter Price. He denounced the revival as a “mock revival,” “false fire,” an “utterly sacrilegious” and “bogus” performance. 39 While Evan sought to brush off the criticism, it did clear damage. Several key people sought to defend Evan. In fact, the Scranton Republican published some of the defenses of Price’s false accusations. 40
Edwin Orr wrote, “In March 1905, there came reports that the health of Evan Roberts had begun to be affected. The strain of incessant travel, irregular meals, and long hours in meetings, added their quota to the toll on his health.” 41 His colleagues, Sydney Evans and Samuel Jenkins were also suffering. While he was in Liverpool in 1905, he was medically checked out and it was determined he was mentally sound and sane. 42 However, Evan’s health never recovered after the attack by Rev. Price.
It should also be noted that it was claimed his denomination had taken over his agenda. “The fact that he was so completely surrounded by the leading officials of the Methodist Church may have been cause for persistent ‘whispering,’ that Mr. Roberts was rapidly losing his personal freedom of action.” 43
In 1906, while attending a Keswick meeting, he met with Mrs. Penn-Lewis, a socially very influential lady who aspired ministry success. Her ministry had been rejected due to serious doctrinal errors, especially on the subject of “suffering.” However, Mrs. Penn-Lewis saw an opportunity by aligning herself with Evan Roberts. Evan was, at this point, in a very bad condition and soon was misled by her. He retired to her home in April, and within a month, Evan had his fourth and most serious nervous breakdown. Here he was forbidden from praying in public. He completely withdrew from the public arena and became a recluse. 44
“With indications of serious indisposition appearing upon him, drastic measures had to be taken immediately if disaster was to be averted. Rumors circulated that already one side of the brain was paralyzed…At this point Penn-Lewis came into prominence. Impartial persons everywhere believed that these servants of the Lord acted with the purest of motive, and did so promptly because of the urgency of the case. They urged Mr. Roberts to take a complete rest and preoffered the hospitality of their beautiful home in Great Glen, Leicestershire, for the purpose.” 45
David Matthews, an eyewitness wrote…
“His seclusion was so complete and the watch over him so rigid that people feared and even whispered that it was against his will. Many friends concluded that such a thing could happen to a person so reduced in health as to be unable to speak for himself. Everything around him seemed to be shrouded in mystery. Letters addressed to him were unanswered. Friends from surrounding districts, including myself, called at the home in the hope of seeing the revivalist for prayer, or advice, but could not.” 46
In the Song of Solomon it says…
“Catch the little foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards.”
Song of Sol. 2: 15
So often we boast about our victories over the bears and the lions, or the big things. But we ignore the small things. Evan conquered one area of pride and seeking to build his own kingdom, but neglected to care for his own body. As I have said before, we need sleep, and when we push our body too far there are consequences. Thinking we are super human, which is easy to do when you are under the anointing, can also be a form of pride. Often, these little foxes are not big sins or maybe not even sins, but they become weights that can slow us down and can cause us to stumble. As the Scripture explains, these cute little foxes which seem so harmless, can ruin the vine. We are called to run the race set before us, casting aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us.
Evan was so taken by this Jezebel that he cut off all family ties and disappeared. She banned him from public appearances and insisted he remain in intercession or limited him to counseling sessions. It is hard initially to believe a man so sharp in discernment would fall for such a thing, but the religious (man’s) spirit has a unique way of deceiving you. It plays on your emotions and makes you feel unworthy. You are always falling short and need more time to be restored. The finishing line is always moving. But the spirit will give you enough crumbs to make it look like they are helping you and if you complain, they can point to these “big deals” they are doing for you, and in due season will open bigger doors. But Evan Roberts did not need this. The religious spirit has a way of stealing your confidence and slowly killing you spiritually, while it claims it is restoring you. Can you imagine what it would have done to Peter after he rejected Jesus? Peter would most likely have missed Pentecost, as they would have had him off being “restored.”
Mrs. Penn-Lewis, it has been discovered, was using Evan’s name to give credibility to her teaching’s. They began work on the book, “War on the Saints,” which later Evan denounced.
In 1908, Evan found an outlet through the school of prayer, where he taught on intercession. However, this too was soon shut down and Evan went back to being a recluse in Mrs. Penn-Lewis’ house.
A group of Salvation Army Officers sought his advice on spiritual warfare, to which he replied…
“In Luke it does not say, ‘preach and faint not.’ but ‘pray and faint not.’ It is not difficult to preach. But while you pray, you are alone in some solitary place, fighting in a prayer-battle against the powers of darkness. And you will know the secret of victory.” 47
Somewhere around 1919 and 1921, Evan finally separated himself from Mrs. Penn-Lewis, who moved to Brighton. He tried writing booklets but never had much success. His image had been damaged by the book, “War on the Saints,” which made it difficult for him to return to Wales. However, Evan wrote a letter to his denomination congratulating a minister on a new position. The minister invited Evan back to Wales, so Evan returned. In 1926, Evan returned to see his family, and preached again. However, Evan never officially left England until after Mrs. Penn-Lewis death of a lung disease in 1927.
In 1928, his father died, and at the memorial service Evan got up and said, “This is not a death but a resurrection. Let us bear witness to the truth.” The people claimed they felt electricity go through them. 48 A short revival did break out. It is recorded that Evan prayed for healings, deliverances and even operated in the gift of prophecy. 49
A year later, Evan disappeared from the public scene again. He lived in a room provided by Mrs. Oswald Williams. He would spend the last years of his life writing poetry and letters to ministers. Edwin Orr claimed to have personally met Evan during this time. He wrote, “his health was poor, so he had a good reason to shield himself from visitors. But his mind was alert- and the whole household held him in awe as a saint.” 50
Evan Roberts disappeared again in 1931. Not this time because of a nervous breakdown, but because of the great “brain drain” in the valleys. There was a major decline in the spiritual vitality which Evan would lament over in many of his letters. He would in the 1930’s lose heart and could no longer believe that another revival would come.
During the war years, Evan went into a period of depression, which based on everything that was happening in part is understandable. He would come out of it towards the end and started to become more social again. However, he felt the hearts of the people had become hardened to the touch of God.
Evan’s vision of seeing a hundred thousand souls was seen. Gomer Roberts stated…
“Who can give an account of the lasting blessing of the 1904-1905 Revival? Is it possible to tabulate a sum total of family bliss, peace of conscience, brotherly love, and holy conversation? What of the debts that were paid and the enemies reconciled to one another? What of the drunkards who became sober and prodigals who were restored? Is there a balance that can weigh the burden of sins that was thrown at the foot of the Cross?” 51
Roberts took ill in late 1950 and on January 29th, 1951, at the age of seventy-two, he was promoted to heaven. He would be buried in the family plot at Moriah Chapel. A few years later, a Memorial was built at the chapel in honor of Evan Roberts.
“He was a man who had experienced strange things. In his youth, he had seemed to hold the nation in the palms of his hands. He endured strains and underwent great changes of opinion and outlook but his religious convictions remained firm to the end.” 52
Evan will go down as a true history maker that changed his nation and touched the world. His desire to build the Lord’s kingdom and not his own was incredible. However, I believe the fear of exalting himself caused him to fail to step up and be the leader he was meant to be. We can see and learn from his example the importance of taking care of spirit, soul and body if we are to lead a revival. The Lord must have Lordship over the throne of our imagination, emotions, and our body. One has to imagine, how much more could have been accomplished had Evan been able to overcome certain weaknesses. We must learn to address our “foxes” and “weights” that so easily entangle us and prevent us from running the race with endurance.
Revivals held in the North West
Bangor, Amlwch, Llanerch-y-medd, Langefni, Llangaffo, Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Llanrwst, Betws-y-coed, Capel Curig, Llewelyn, Trefor, Bedgelert, Perthmadog, Dolgellan, Ffestiniog,
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Penygroes, Llanllyfni, Bala
Revivals in South West
Ammanford, Blaenamneuch, Caerau, Cwmafon, Cymmer, Felinfoel, Elynneath,
Gorseinon, Henllan, Llanlly, Prembrokeshire, Loughor, Neath, Pontarddulais, Resolyn,
Tona, Murstun, Swansea
Revivals in South East
Abaraeon, Beli, Caerau, Dowle, Hirw, Llanly, Maerdy, Mert, Mount, Nanrymsel,
Pontypridel, Pontycymer, Pyle
Many asked how could Evan be so deceived my Mrs. Penn-Lewis. The Book of Revelation states…
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and teaches and leads My bondservants astray…”
Revelation 2: 20
We look at Evan and how powerful he was and sharp of discerning. He heard the Holy Spirit and knew how to obey. Yet, he was captured by a Jezebel. She seduced him when he was weak and vulnerable. The attack of Price had left deeper scars. We must understand, Evan was impacting the spiritual realm, and plundering the domain of darkness. Not surprisingly, the enemy launched a full scale attack. Price was a man seeking to challenge the rise in atheism. He was an intelligent graduate of Cambridge, who put his faith in reasoning. The lack of education and ordered disorder challenged him. He failed to look at true fruit and be led by his spirit. Instead, led by his flesh, brought forth fruit of the flesh. He did not go to Evan and address his concerns and allow Evan to defend himself. Rather, he launched his attack in the newspaper. He was seeking to build his kingdom.
In addition, Evan had stepped into new territory. 53
- He allowed liberty to those who felt led to take part
- He involved women and young children in worship and testimony time. At the time, the belief was women and children should be seen and not heard.
- He started to move in the Pentecostal realm. He was having visions, discerning of spirits, prophesying, and healings. As we have seen, newspaper articles refer to services where people “spoke in tongues.”
- He called for people to offer praise to as well as through the Holy Spirit. This was later modified by Evan
- His altar calls were not friendly and welcoming people to join the church, but a call to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.
This challenged the status quo of the time. He was criticized for not providing “expository preaching.” 54 I believe Evan had such a heart to serve the Lord, he was terrified to miss it and be leading people astray. In addition, the extreme strain on his body and mind put him in a dangerous position. Then enter Jezebel. The subtle power of spiritual control and manipulation can take a person fully captive.
The manipulator creates a sense of total dependence on them and to leave comes with consequences. Churches use this to hold people, stating “look at the effect it will have on your kids”, or “you have been here so long”, etc. They convince you that you will not survive financially or emotionally without them. 55 As we look at Evan, he was solely dependent on others to take care of him. So I am sure the concern of who would take care of him and where else would he go played a factor. Plus, he was young, and Mrs. Penn-Lewis claimed spiritual maturity over him. The goal is to isolate the person and make them feel they don’t belong anywhere, to anyone or anything. 56 This she clearly did. David Matthews gives a clear account of how Evan’s family went to visit him in Leicestershire, but he refused to see them. 57 He was hidden away from all public guests.
We see that in many churches, the spirit of religion that caused the reformation rears its ugly head as the pastor becomes the voice of ultimate authority. Through a system of spoken and unspoken rules, the person is fully controlled. You are never to disagree with the pastor or spiritual authority as your loyalty will be suspect, and there are consequences. These consequences may involve being shunned, overlooked, ignored or questioned, and openly censored. 58 The victim is revictimized. The person will use the Word as a powerful tool and the victim submits to keep a false peace. 59
As I said, the pastor, or in this case Mrs. Penn-Lewis, becomes the person who must be obeyed. After all, they hear from God, and to disobey would mean to disobey God. Plus the motto, “touch not God’s anointed” is repeated until a fear of standing up grows on the inside of you. 60. In the words of David Johnson 61…
“Because I’m the pastor, that’s why!’ The words come hard and fast, their meaning penetrates: “How dare you doubt me!’ “Are you questioning my authority?’ ‘Don’t be a troublemaker.’ ‘Keep the peace.’ ‘Submit to your elder.””
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and said to His disciples, saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.”
The chair of Moses referred to the seat of authority. Chair comes from the Greek word, “cathedra,” which the Latin converted to a phrase, “ex-cathedra.” See we are right back at the reason for the Reformation! The term here means, to be in a position of authority over you. So when a person in such a position speaks, what they speak is binding. Now look at what Jesus was saying. First He pointed out that they seated themselves. True authority brings liberty and points to Jesus. Secondly, they took the seat of authority because of their position, or in other words, they were in charge.
These spiritual Jezebels and manipulators’ convince you that they have the full truth. You need to belong to their network and to venture out of the network could expose you to false doctrine. So the victim remains faithful, hearing the same message that demands absolute submission. They fail to hear the words of Paul in First Corinthians coming against this mindset of saying, “I am of Paul or I am of Apollos.”
Then the system focuses on works or performance. By getting you distracted doing what looks godly, you become preoccupied and complain less. However, despite all your efforts, you never reach the standard required or if you do the finishing mark is moved. 61 You must become a super servant. You are persuaded that your high calling is to serve. In Evan’s case to remain behind the scenes and intercede and if he complied, maybe counsel people. These manipulators claim they are trying to restore you and equip you. Instead they are building their kingdom and slowly killing the gift in you.
We could spend a lot of time going into this deeper and deeper, but the reality is we have a responsibility to follow Him and obey Jesus. We are called to blindly obey Him and walk submitted to men (one to another), which is a heart thing. We must take responsibility and stand up against such manipulation even if it comes at cost. We are to live for Him and Him alone. We must not tolerate the spirit of Jezebel and allow her to seduce us until we find ourselves in a dark place, lost, feeling unworthy, and completely broken.
For Evan Roberts, such was her control, that he never returned to Wales until she died. He never saw a restoration and finished the race. His story is sad in many ways, but should serve as a warning to the church on the dangers of the spirit of religion and spiritual manipulation. We must take responsibility to walk and stay free. Great heroes of faith stood up against this spirit in previous generations and often paid with their lives. Today, it is more subtle, but the results are the same. We must, like those heroes of the past, choose to be brave and hold fast the freedom He won for us.
Roberts Liardon, wrote…
“When a hurt or a wound is left unattended, in any area of our lives, it attracts the enemy. He will follow you, circle you, and aggravate you until that hurt causes your downfall. If it is not dealt with, he will feed upon it until you are consumed. Many have left the ministry, left their mates, or left their destinies because they did not recover from a hurt. “ 63
Let us not forget that Jesus told us that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. Further, John wrote in his third letter, verse two…
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.”
As Roberts beautifully states, “Remember that the eternal consequences are far greater than the temporal trials you face. Fight for what God has given you, and do not bow to the temporal onslaught against you. The moment of trouble will pass; but the decisions you make will stand forever.”64
Dr. Michael Brown explains holiness as worship from an undivided heart. We must surrender every part to Him. As I have stated, we are to cast off not just the sin, but the weight that so easily entangles us. Let us linger a little longer in the secret place, and allow Him to be Lord over the throne of our affection, our emotions, our memories, etc. Let us deal with the small foxes that we often overlook, but over time destroy the vine. Evan wondered against going with Mrs. Penn-Lewis, yet went. The Lord was raising red flags, yet Evan refused to listen. I personally know what it is like to be under a spiritual controller and manipulator. Inside you know it is wrong, but you keep justifying your decisions in the hope things will get better and out of a heart desiring to do the right thing. It is a dark place where hope fades and the heart grows sick. Over time you believe you are the problem and all hope fades. However, you have to stand up and even if you’re trembling, stand on the Word and say, “No” to the spirit of control. No one can do it for you. But He will be with you. As Roberts said, you need to look not at the temporal but in light of the eternal.
As a child, my family endured a lot of persecution. My mom would quote a couple of verses to us…
“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5: 11, 12
We need to take deliberate action when we are attacked. Our spirit man may be strong under the attack, but our emotions and soul man may not. By choosing to rejoice we take authority over our emotions and bring them into obedience to Him. We shut the door on the enemy. He is enthroned on our praises and the enemy is stilled or stopped as we worship. The goal of the enemy is to get our eyes off of Jesus, so we must take drastic action to get them back on Him.
Did Evan Become Pentecostal?
I feel as you study Evan Roberts, especially his break down, it is important to address this controversial area. Let’s start by looking at what happened. “Every one observer agrees that the upheaval caused by the revival overcame the craze for gambling, drunkenness, idleness and prostitution over wide areas for at least half a generation. “75
“Amongst the children of the revival’ (Plant y Diwygiad- Welsh term for the converts) from Wales speaking in tongues became very prominent in the early days of the Pentecostal movement…The father of British Pentecostal movement, the Anglican priest A.A. Boddy, took part in the revival movement in Wales and worked with Evan Roberts. “76
Roberts referred to the event where he was caught up for several hours in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 77 Evan would preach for six months straight led by the Spirit, he claimed, and he saw mass conversions. 78 Orr, Bois and others confirmed that he flowed in gifts of discernment or he was using telepathy. Roberts was given to visions and was a prophetic type. Some saw Evan as an honest misguided preacher of the Gospel. 79
Evan Roberts wrote a letter to Mrs. Enid Pugh, in which he talks about praying over the sick for healing and “I do not pretend to have a gift of discernment but I must say, though it fell on me absolutely unsought, that I was really concerned for a time.” 80
When he returned to Wales and there was a mini revival from 1928-31, he began healings, exorcisms, prophesying. However, he openly rebuked someone who prayed in tongues, claiming the children of the revival were not ready for them and would easily be deceived. As a result, many thought he had become Pentecostal. 81
1) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 Chapter II p1
2) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com p 139
3) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com p loc 151
4) Shaw, S. B. “The Great Revival in Wale.” Jawbone Digital loc. 1454
5) Shaw, S. B. “The Great Revival in Wale.” Jawbone Digital loc 1464
6) Shaw, S. B. “The Great Revival in Wale.” Jawbone Digital loc 730
7) Shaw, S. B. “The Great Revival in Wale.” Jawbone Digital loc 730
8) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 Chapter II p4
9) Shaw, S. B. “The Great Revival in Wale.” Jawbone Digital loc740
10) Seth Joshua’s Diaries, Archives, Calvinistic Methodist Church
11) John Thickens, Y DRYSORFA
12) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 page 5
13 Western Mail, consolidated reports, iii, p. 31
14) Shaw, S. B. “The Great Revival in Wale.” Jawbone Digital loc751
15) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com p loc 197
16) Shaw, S. B. “The Great Revival in Wale.” Jawbone Digital loc 83
17) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com p 1406
18), Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com p 197
19) D. M. Phillips, Evan Roberts, p 160 & p139
20) The Scranton Republican, February 5th, 1905
21) Liardon, Roberts. “Gods General, Why They Succeeded and Why They Failed.” Albury Publishing, Tulsa, OK. 1995 p 81.
22) Liardon, Roberts. “Gods General, Why They Succeeded and Why They Failed.” Albury Publishing, Tulsa, OK. 1995 p 82
23) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 p 6
24) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 p 9
25) Western Mail. Cardiff, 10-x-i-04
26) Western Mail, 9-xi-04
27) Philadelphia Inquirer, “Pen Pictures of Welsh Revival.” Sunday Morning, March 6th, 1905
28) Pittsburgh Daily Post. “Revival in Wales.” January 30th, 1905
29) Wilkes-Barre Times. “The Phenomenal Revival Now In Full Swing in Wales.” February 8th, 1905
30) The Times. London, July 24th, 1905
31) The Times, London, January 2nd, 1905
32) Liardon, Roberts. “Gods General, Why They Succeeded and Why They Failed.” Albury Publishing, Tulsa, OK. 1995 P88
33) Scranton Republican, “Wales is Shaken to Its Foundation.” Sunday, February 5th, 1905
34) Bartleman, Frank. Azusa Street” How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles. Jawbone Digital, 2012, p. 234
35) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973, page 21
36) Williams, Norman. “Evan Roberts and the 1904-1905 Revival,” p. 33
37) cf. general reports with Norman Williams, after sixty days
38) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 p23
39) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973, p 23
40) Scranton Republican. “An Attack on Evan Roberts. February 19th, 1905
41) The Scranton Truth. “News from Wales.” May 13th, 1905
42) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 p.25
43) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com loc 1383
44) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973 26
45) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com loc 1406
46) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com loc 1442
47) Byrnmore Pierce Jones, An Instrument of Revival: The Complete Life of Evan Roberts 1878-1951, South Plainfield, NJ, Bridge Publishing, 1995, 4
48) IBID., 217
49) IBID., 220-221
50) Orr, Edwin. J. The Flaming Tongue, The Impact of the 20th Century Revivals. Moody, Chicago, 1973, p 26
51) G. M. Roberts & S. Evans, CY FROL GOFFA DIWYGIAD 1904-05, p. 73
52) Liardon, Roberts. “Gods General, Why They Succeeded and Why They Failed.” Albury Publishing, Tulsa, OK. 1995 p 103
53) Jones, Brynmor Pierce. An Instrument of Revival, The Complete Life of Evan Roberts 1878- 1951. Bridge Publishing, South Plainfield, NJ, 1995, p. 255
54) ibid. p. 253
55) Johnson, David and VanVonderen, Jeff. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church. Bethany House Publishers. Minneapolis, MN 1991. P4
56) ibid. p55
57) Matthews, “I saw The Welsh Revival.” Realgoodbooks.com loc 1445
58) Johnson, David and VanVonderen, Jeff. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church. Bethany House Publishers. Minneapolis, MN 1991. P67
59) Ibid p. 95
60) Ibid p. 111
61) Ibid p 112
62) Ibid p. 56
63) Liardon, Roberts. Breaking Controlling Powers. Whitaker House, New Kensington, PA, 2000. Chapter 4, loc 1994
74) IBID., loc 2193
75) The Origin of Pentecostalism in Britain, pa 183
76) ibid 184
77) Bois, op. cit., p. 76
78) The Origin of Pentecostalism in Britain, pa 181
79) Ibid p 182
80) Jones, Brynmor Pierce. An Instrument of Revival, The Complete Life of Evan Roberts 1878- 1951. Bridge Publishing, South Plainfield, NJ, 1995, p. 215
81) Ibid 221
82) Ibid p 225