Book Review: I Saw the Welsh Revival by David Matthews

I Saw The Welsh Revival by David Matthews. Review by Jeff McLain.
This is a review of I Saw the Welsh Revival from David Matthews. This Colportage Library edition of I Saw the Welsh Revival from Moody Press was released in 1951 by The Moody Institute of Chicago. David Matthews shares that “requests have been made, at various times, for an authoritative description of the marvelous effusion of the Holy Spirit which occurred in Wales during the years 1904-05.”[1]  It is in I Saw the Welsh Revival, that he looks to place “on record an unvarnished report of what was seen” and he confesses that “I have attempted to meet the requests made for such a report,” utilizing his experiences.[2]

Throughout I Saw the Welsh Revival, Author David Matthews shares investigated, transformative, and spirit-filled moments and encounters shared with him by those who were present.  Though, a major part of the book also shares his firsthand experiences, thoughts, and commentary from being present at and invested in these revival moments. At just a little over 120 pages and 16 short chapters, I Saw the Welsh Revival investigates the start to finish of this well-documented and known revival. It follows the critics, the newspapers, the firsthand stories, and it shows the fruit and witness of this powerful and transformative season for the Welsh people. This book also portrays the way the figure at the center of the Welsh Revival, Evan Roberts, pulled back from the public and reconsidered many of his earlier held beliefs about the fruit and manifestations of the revival.

For years, those of us who have been shaped in Charismatic circles know that the Welsh Revival, which involved a young, passionate man named Evan Roberts, is held up as an exemplary moment. To be fair, I think I Saw the Welsh Revival gives a richer and more holistic view of what that revival looked like with vulnerable honesty and without the romanticized attachment of the wide-eyed revivalists. The Welsh Revival has indeed become an exemplary moment that many revivalists envision as they earnestly pray to God to do it again. However, God moved differently in this movement than God had performed before, and I suspect God's moves in each revival and renewal moment are contextualized in ways unlike before. I do think that we are in a time once again that Author David Matthews would remark as one where “throughout the world, there are now many thousands of devout Christians yearning passionately for a great spiritual awakening, convinced that only a mighty effusion of the Holy Spirit among the tormented nations can produce the turning point in the history of this distracted planet.”[3] I also cannot help but agree with the author of I Saw the Welsh Revival, that we are in a time in which many of us are coming to see “the ailments afflicting humanity from age to age are entirely beyond the capacity of human ingenuity to heal.”[4] To that reality, this story is encouraging.

The Welsh are no strangers to revival. There have been many Celtic renewal and revival moments in this region over the years. Many have centered on the scriptures, others on inner transformation, and yet others - like Evan Roberts - focused on obedience to the Holy Spirit. For this reason, I Saw the Welsh Revival author David Matthews remarks, “Perhaps the name of Evan Roberts is the most fascinating of all our honored revivalists because of both worldwide publicity and strange happenings reported to have occurred in his -meetings.”[5] Throughout the Welsh Revival, and the ministry of Evan Roberts, from all over the earth “men and women in all ranks of life, representing different religions, came to Wales to witness personally the strange phenomena. Some criticized, and carnally minded skeptics scoffed. People thronged the churches day and night, far beyond the registered capacity of such buildings, without any decrease for months on end.”[6] What is unignorable from this moment in time is the way that this experience redefined the countryside, especially the roughest of the tough. Miners were especially at the center of this revival, and it not only transformed their attitudes and language, but the way they treated their families and animals. This revival is especially known for the way it led to singing, both in the streets and the mines, and the way it left dance halls and pubs empty. David Matthews remarks, “In all Wales, songs of praise raised in ceaseless chorus from the burning hearts of countless thousands were heard in homes and churches and even in the coal mines. There are few, if any, parallels with this mighty outpouring of religious fervor, bringing a whole nation to its knees at the foot of the cross in adoration and praise.”[7] This speaks to the way this revival touched deeply the hearts of the Welsh people.

Perhaps most interesting is the way the Welsh Revival involved a man “of humble origin. His [Evan Roberts’] parents were of the ordinary good, solid, religious type, steeped in Calvinistic theology; proud of the purity of their home life; glorying in their church life; scrupulously jealous of their moral life.”[8] It is also worthy of note that most of the revival took place in church communities defined by their Calvinistic theology, which is far from a renewal or charismatic foundation one may suspect. Though, after Roberts encountered a Spirit-filled moment as a young man, he was by “all appearances a new man after this experience.”[9] He became known as an individual who “day and night, without ceasing…prayed, wept, and sighed for a great spiritual awakening for his beloved Wales.”[10] It was through this passionate young man, not known for his speech, that God used to bring about reconciliation of the Welsh people through confession and healing. All reports mention that inside these church buildings, there were “strange things…happening. Young men and women who had never been known to speak openly of any experience of saving grace stood and testified fearlessly. Others were bowed in prayer. Some sang the hymns of Zion. Tears, sobs, sighs, and songs of praise were intermingled, continuing until near midnight. The happy throng dispersed in all directions, somber midnight gloriously disturbed by the psalms of the sanctuary.”[11] For two years, every part of Wales was turned on its heads, as “everything sprang into new life. Former blasphemers were the most eloquent, both in prayer and praise.”[12]

Towards the end of this revival, Evan Roberts was struggling with his health and perhaps more. It is said that “the strain had culminated in slight paralysis of the brain.”[13] One “rumor circulated that already one side of the brain was paralyzed,” preventing Roberts from continuing.[14] In this season, and for the rest of his life, Evan Roberts was pulled into seclusion, away from even family and friends. However, the fire was lit, and though Roberts was out of the limelight and criticism was high, “The revival was progressing… All over Wales, incredible things were happening.”[15] The author shares that “Mr. Dan Roberts, although subdued in spirit, continued to carry on his brother's work. He traveled constantly up and down the country, endeavoring to keep the revival flame burning.”[16] As I shared, Evan Roberts stayed out of the limelight after that, eventually co-authoring a book with a Quaker that countered some of his earlier experiences. However, the author of I Saw the Welsh Revival mentions that “occasionally he [Evan Roberts] would present himself in an unofficial capacity, at some of the high religious festivals prominent in Welsh religious life. Often his unobtrusive presence would pass entirely unobserved.”[17] Perhaps it is fitting that a man at the center of such a proclaiming experience dips into obscurity, allowing others to carry the flame and conviction.

I recommend I Saw the Welsh Revival by David Matthews. This book covers this movement with an open and informative matter. If you like learning the story of revival and renewal moments, this one cannot be missed. Readers should beware that the language and grammar of David Matthews is eloquently beautiful and descriptive, but also notably of another era.

Buy on Amazon

Highlights & Quotes

 



[1] David Matthews, I Saw The Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 5.

[2] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 5.

[3] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 9.

[4] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 9-10.

[5] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 11.

[6] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 11.

[7] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 11.

[8] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival(Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 13.

[9] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 19.

[10] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 19-20.

[11] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 22.

[12] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 23.

[13] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revivall (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 111.

[14] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revivall (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 112.

[15] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 117.

[16] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 118-119.

[17] David Matthews, I Saw the Welsh Revival (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1951) 124.


Comments

Popular Posts

Book Review: Shattered by Rip Wahlberg

Book Review: Lennon, Dylan, Alice, & Jesus by Greg Laurie and Marshall Terrill

Book Review: How Much Land Does a Man Need by Leo Tolstoy