Historian J. Ann Lewis writes that the nightly prayer meetings first began in September 1904 when a group of young men returned from a holiday in New Quay, Cardiganshire where they had encountered the move of the Spirit that had already broken out there at Tabernacle Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. This had begun back in February 1904 after the minister Joseph Jenkins had led the teenage Florrie Evans to the Lord, and she had a week later declared openly her love for Jesus in an evening meeting at the chapel. Ann Lewis writes of these young men from Merthyr:
'They had been touched with spiritual fervour and were on fire for God. On return to their chapels, the church was set alight with the stories of the wonderful things they had seen and heard. There followed a remarkable series of meetings at Hebron led by the pastor, the Rev. W Ceinfryn Thomas. The spiritual fervour spread to Penwern Chapel, Dowlais, and then other places of worship at Dowlais and Penydarren, as a result, by December, substantial increases in membership had occurred.'
From daibach-welldigger - see below.
Mr Editor - With your customary kindness, please be prepared to allow a few notes to appear in ‘Y Seren’ concerning the above. This is a joyful period in the history of the above church at present, for there are clear manifestations of the influences of the Holy Ghost among us. It has been like Pentecost in Hebron for 12 weeks, and it still continues to be as glorious.
This is a genuine and lasting revival, such as no one in Hebron has ever seen before, and we pray for it to be continued to the end of our lives, and to spread throughout the country.
The Revival broke out as naturally as the break of the dawn, the source of springs, the pouring of a shower, but it did not come without its signs. The Spirit spoke to us as a church by giving signs now and again in our Sunday and weekly meetings, but we were too deaf to hear and too blind to realise that He was among us, when he was speaking so clearly to us.
He was producing occasional significant moments by exerting an extraordinary influence on our services now and then. He is active in the life of the church today and awakens us to the impulses of the spirit. The church had been asking for the Holy Ghost, and he knocked at the door for us to come in. Now we understand that it’s not about asking the Spirit to come down from heaven – he is here – but about the church wanting to receive the Spirit.
The church remembers that morning, when the Spirit visited us in a special way, when he fell in tears on the cheeks of members and hearers, and when sinners were saved, but the church thought no more about him. We missed that impassioned Sabbath of November 22nd, 1903, as a result of having returned home early that evening, and the first thing that fell on our ears was “What a strange day in Hebron today. Mr Thomas preached in a peculiarly influential way, with the whole place filled with the Holy Ghost.” But somehow the church as a whole forgot it, though it remained indelibly in the minds of a few of the faithful.
Hebron church also remembers that service on a Sunday evening when the Spirit visited in a special way and he came with tears and saved that night too, but we did not listen to him. But in his third visit, he came with such strength that we awoke to his visit in a very real way. We remember hearing our dear minister speak of his experience. He believed that someone or something was interfering with his ministry; he could not explain these strange times, without something unusual going on. But on Sunday evening, August 28th, 1904, he visited again in an extraordinary manner, and we felt that our dear minister was completely taken over by the Spirit. Members and listeners of all ages wept for some time, some stayed behind and others went out in tears, but couldn't leave, and paused on the way. It was a strange night! Prayer meetings were held that week before our annual meetings, on September 4 and 5, '04 and conversions were taking place all week. Sunday and the Monday following the Rev. E. Cefni Jones, Ffestiniog, and O. Jones, Barry Dock, were preaching at the festival, and our beloved brothers at their high points and appeals rescued 113, and we continued to pray. The Vestry had been too small since the first week, and the chapel floor was full every night, and conversions invariably take place at every meeting. Over 100 have remained among us, and of these 42 were baptized on Sunday mornings, on October 9th, and 25th, and November 6th, 1904; and these were scenes that have not been forgotten. Praise God in his Son for all this.
But this is but one aspect of the Revival, for the church has undergone a complete makeover. There are dozens of brothers and sisters who have given themselves entirely to God's service. Those who were previously taking a leading role in the work have given themselves to it even more completely, and others whose voice was never heard at our meetings, now for the first time (sisters as well as brothers) compete to be of some service to promote the kingdom which is not of this world. At our prayer meetings, the old custom of calling out people by name to take part has passed; and the meetings are left open for people to participate without being named. Our meetings begin with a prayer offered by our respectful minister, and then some individual reads and prays, and then another person strikes up in some other part of the chapel until the place is taken over by 'Amens' and 'Thank yous'. Another aspect of the Revival is the work done by our young people (and of all ages at that), inviting others to the meetings and persuading them to accept Jesus as Saviour. The church is all work and succeeds through the power of the Spirit to bring men to Christ. Also, there is no longer an atmosphere of jealousy or anything of that kind, but brotherly love and activity characterising everyone, and Jesus gets the credit for it all.
During our meetings the Rev R.B. Jones, Porth, W.S. Jones, Llwynypia; and K.S. Morris, Cwmavon, visited us, and we thank you from our hearts for your visits. They through the Spirit (and these are certainly in the hand of the Spirit) have been a blessing to the church and through the church a blessing to the neighbourhood.
We do not know how it will end, because the meetings are maintained, and the conversions continue. Since our minister's induction (Rev W. C. Thomas) among us, the church has grown significantly and that is a growth that is more than just an increase in numbers. Surely we can say that our beloved brother in the hand of the Lord has been an instrument to do great work among us, by having souls to speak of Christ, and to build up the 'Saints in the most holy faith.'
A year before Mr Thomas came among us (1889) the church membership was 206, while today it is over 450. As noted above, the two months, September and October 1904, have increased the membership by 67 through baptism and by 19 through restoration and now about 60 or 70 are awaiting acceptance to the church, and one thing is very clear, namely that the level of the spiritual life of the church is very much higher than it has been before. 'The Lord has done a great thing for us, for that we are glad.'
The awakening has also affected the church-related organizations, namely the Sunday School, the Band of Hope, and the choir. The Sunday School increases every Sabbath, the Band of Hope fills the church, and people in their teens testify there, while the choir under the care of our young and hard-working brother John Lewis as its leader (and a committee of other good people) was more devoted to both singing and the services. Also, the Young People's Christian Endeavour Association (which is a recent development among us) promises to become effective and influential. This is of the Lord, and it is marvellous in our eyes.'
Hebron, Dowlais, Nov. 25, 1904. PUPIL.
'Seren Cymru', 9th December 1904.
With thanks to David Pike and his wonderful blog on the Spiritual Heritage of Wales.
There were unusual manifestations at Hebron (B.), Dowlais, as early as August 1904. Over 200 joined the Church. From, The Welsh Religious Revival 1904-05, by Rev. J. Vyrnwy Morgan, 1909. The morning services held at the majority of chapels in Dowlais were carried out in the absence of Mr Evan Roberts, but, nevertheless, were of a deeply fervent character. At Bethania about two thousand persons were present. In the afternoon the service upon which most interest centred was that at Penywern Chapel. It is the meeting-house of the Welsh Congregationalists and is one of the two churches which started the revival in Dowlais. Soon after the service started a local schoolmistress was heard in fluent and fervent prayer, invoking God’s blessing on the gathering. Even the children, she declared were filled with the Spirit, and when in school turned from their lessons to sing and pray the moment the backs of the teachers were turned. Blessings upon Evan Roberts, upon the meeting, upon the district, upon Wales, and upon the world were asked for, and shortly afterwards Mr Evan Roberts arrived accompanied by the Rev. D. Mardy Davies (Pontyeyminer), Miss Annie Davies, Miss Maggie Davies and Miss Mary Davies (Gorsemon). Mr Evan Roberts’s address was interrupted by an outburst of spontaneous and simultaneous prayers such as has seldom been witnessed, even in connection with the most fervent of revival meetings. Men and woman, boys and girls, prayed eloquently and passionately in all parts of the chapel, in Welsh and English. “Lead, Kindly Light,” led by Miss Annie Davies was rendered in English with thrilling effect and after a brief address by the missioner there was another outburst of simultaneous prayer, and presently Miss Maggie Davies (Maesteg) sang as a solo the pathetic hymn, “Myn afael ar Waredur,” and the touching refrain, “O derbyn Ef yn awr”. (“O receive Him now”), was quickly caught up the congregation. And, as if by a natural of, should I say, a spiritual? - process, the congregation was gradually led to a torrent of “testimony,” the number of Welsh verses recited being very large. The meeting was afterwards tested, and a number of converts were enrolled. but the great majority of these present were evidently members of Christian Churches. In the evening the principal service was held in Hebron Welsh Baptist Chapel, and this meeting, bristling with incidents and characterised by peculiar features of its own, formed a fitting climax to the Dowlais visit of Mr Evan Roberts. Some of the prayers offered up were strikingly eloquent and typical of the Welsh workman at his best. The singing was magnificent in its power, and the old Welsh hymns which are justly the pride and precious heritage of Welsh congregations carried with them, and in them, as much “fire” as even the powerful prayers which roused and invigorated all. Let me mention a feature which was more pronounced here than elsewhere. The pulpit in Hebron was not empty. Not only was the pastor in his place – evidently in sympathy with the congregation and in sympathy with the “fire” and spontaneity of the revival - but he was supported by a considerable number of ministers, who showed by their presence and non-interference that they thoroughly understand the great movement and are prepared to take their places and bear their part in the work. Another feature. Mr Miall Williams, of Dowlais, asked to be allowed to sing his “testimony,” and he sang, with much spirit and excellent effect, a solo the refrain of which was “Dros hen lwybr Calfari” (“Along the old path of Calvary”). Further Welsh prayers followed, and then, from the tender striking of a single voice, afterwards joined by the massed congregation, came the hymn, “O Iesu! fy Ngwaredwr cu, Clyw fi pan lefwyf arnat Ti,” and presently the sweet tones of a very young boy’s voice were heard in the solo of “Never lose sight of Jesus,” and the vast concourse sang with intense fervour. A little after seven o’clock Mr Evan Roberts, accompanied by the Rev. D. Mardy Davies, arrived. The gas jets in the gallery were extinguished in order to reduce the heat, but that was insufficient, and at the request of the pastor several window panes were broken. The unrest was promptly stilled. Mr Evan Roberts said his message was to the Churches, and when the Churches were awake and laboured prayerfully, blessings came and would come. They should ask for wisdom so that they might be useful and successful. Miss Maggie Davies delivered a brief, pithy Welsh address, which led to the eliciting of the solo, “A glywaist ti son am Iachawdwr y byd?” being sung by a man in the gallery, the congregation joining in the refrain. “Mae’n dysgwyl am danat yn awr.” Mr. Evan Roberts spoke again for some time, but when he incidentally mentioned that “victory” was written on the banner of the Cross a Dowlais young lady struck up, very appropriately, “Ond buddugoliaeth Calfari enillodd fwy yn ol i mi, mi ganaf tra b’wyf byw.” Then, at the request of Mr Roberts, “Duw mawr y rhyfeddodau maith” was sung, and the rolling of the bass became a musical treat as well as an outlet for the fervour of the praise of the congregation. And thus this remarkable meeting went on, and prayers for the salvation of souls in that meeting were offered up by dozens, if not scores of people simultaneously, young women taking a very prominent part in this portion of the service. Prayers were subsequently offered for the spreading of the “flame” throughout the world, and while this was at its height the majority of those present sang softly in English and Welsh alternately, “For you, I am praying.” Then, when the “test” for converts was made, and people rose to signify their surrender, the singing of “Diolch Iddo” became literally triumphant, and when the enthusiasm grew the singers, hundreds of them, actually clapped their hands with joy, keeping time with the music by the handclapping. Handkerchiefs were waved, and the scene formed another feature of this truly wonderful meeting. “Any more to save?” asked the evangelist. “Yes, yes,” were the cries, and passionate prayers followed, while some young ladies struck up singing “Come, sinner, come.” Suddenly comes another peculiar feature. A man from the gallery shouted, “A brother here has surrendered. He could not speak, so he has written a note to say he accepts Jesus Christ.” “Very good,” said the delighted evangelist. The enthusiastic pastor publicly thanked God for the meeting and for raising Evan Roberts to arouse the young men of Wales to lead the way in the salvation of the world. The hymn, “Marchog Iesu yn IIwyddianus,” was sung, and when this crowning gathering of the Dowlais series was dispersing the people sang in the open air, and sang in the streets, and sang in the trains that victorious Welsh march, “Marchog Iesu,” translated by my friend Mr Abraham Thomas, J.P., Llansamlet, into:- Blessed Jesus, march victorious, With Thy sword fixed at Thy side: Neither earth nor hell can hinder The God-Warrior in His ride. From, 'The Western Mail', 24th January 1905.Hebron Baptist Church, Dowlais, where the revival began in August, continues to be full of the revival spirit. .. During the last seven months, 247 have been added. New converts are still coming in, there being at the present time 22 inquirers awaiting baptism. Prayer meetings are held every night.
From, 'The South Wales Daily News', 29th March 1905.