Tuesday, November 09, 2010

When God came to North Wales, Philip H. Eveson (editor)

When God came to North Wales,
Philip H. Eveson (editor), 2010, Quinta Press, 109pp.

In the busy foyer of the Aberystwyth Great Hall, thronged with people emerging from one of the Aber Conference morning meetings, I spied a man carrying a large pile of books. He spied me too and said, "You should buy one of these books." I replied, "If you let me have one for free, I'll review it on my blog." The man in question, the book's editor, Philip H. Eveson didn't like the sound of that. Off he scurried to deliver his precious load to the conference book shop.

After that encounter, whenever he saw me he enquired, "Bought my book yet?" I responded, "Let me have a freebie and I'll review it for you." I added that a review on Exiled Preacher would hopefully generate additional interest in his book and hence make for more sales. A sprat to catch a mackerel so to speak. He wasn't convinced, but I was prepared to be patient, 'slowly, slowly catchee monkey'. As my mother used to say, "Good things come to those who wait."

Anyway, one day Philip Eveson happened to pop into the conference Missions Exhibition, and got chatting to Jeremy Brooks, Protestant Truth Society Director of Ministries. JB was manning a stand on behalf of the PTS. Somehow the subject of PHE's book cropped up and JB asked the esteemed writer/editor to let me have a copy for review in the Protestant Truth magazine. Ha! My mum was right.

But now I'd managed to blag a copy of the book I had to find the time to read it. Quite a bit of my reading of late has been to do with my Westminster Conference Paper on Puritan Attitudes Towards Rome. I had Bob Letham's The Westminster Conference: Reading its theology in historical context  and Rupert Shortt's Benedict XVI: Commander of the Faith on the go (both now finished - the Letham title is reviewed here). Also, I had to read and review A Dictionary of European Baptist Life and Thought by 1st November, a whopping 500 pager.

Well, the other Wednesday I had to go to London for a meeting of the Kensit Trust. I travelled by train, meaning I had time to read on the way there and back. The dictionary was a bit heavy to lug around London so I took Tony Blair's A Journey and read the chapter on Northern Ireland and made a start on When God came to North Wales. The book is divided up into three main sections, Philip Eveson's chapter on The 1904-05 Revival in Rhos and Dictrict, The Rhos Herald Account, a translation of revival reports in a local newspaper of the time, and Revival in Bethesda by Dafydd Job.

I had listened to Philip Eveson give a paper on the Rhos revival at the 2004 Bala Ministers' Conference, but it was good to see the material in print and I enjoyed reading it on the train. He tells the story of a remarkable work of God in Rhossllanerchrugog, or Rhos for short. The 1904/05 Welsh Revival saw around 100,000 people converted and added to the churches. In popular memory the revival is associated with the name of Evan Roberts. Unlike previous revival leaders in Wales such as Daniel Rowland and David Morgan, Roberts wasn't first and foremost a preacher. It is therefore thought that the 1904/05 Welsh Revival was more dependent on Robert's charismatic personality and innovative methods than the powerful preaching of the Word. But that wasn't the case. Many South Wales revival leaders were preachers, notably W. W. Lewis of Carmarthen, Joseph Jenkins of New Quay and the evangelist Seth Joshua. Anyway, the revival in Rhos owed nothing to the ministry of Evan Roberts. The awakening began under the ministry of Baptist pastor R. B. Jones of Porth in the Rhondda Valley.

Jones had been invited to preach at a series of meetings at Penuel Chapel from 8 to 18 November 1904. At the start attendance at the meetings was a little disappointing, but by the end of the mission the Chapel was packed to capacity. Jones' preaching was mightily owned by the Lord. The people were gripped by a deep sense of the holiness of God, the vileness of sin and the greatness of salvation in Christ. Believers were overwhelmed by the presence of God. Many non-Christians were convicted of sin and brought to confess Christ as Saviour and Lord.

However, the revival was not dependent on the ministry of one man. The work continued after R. B. Jones left for home. The whole community felt the impact of this notable outpouring of the Holy Spirit. A new spirit of prayer came upon the churches. Denominational barriers were broken down. Notorious sinners were soundly converted. The revival spread from Rhos to neighbouring villages. The local press recorded the impact of this powerful work of grace in the district, reporting, 'The revival has now reached Coedpoeth... and Brymbo... and Cefn'. Visitors from elsewhere in the UK and beyond descended upon Rhos to experience the awakening first hand. It is reckoned that by the end of February 1905 that 1,338 people had been saved in Rhos alone. What an amazing work of grace!

On the following Thursday morning I had to take a family member to an orthodontist appointment in Bath. While waiting I got stuck into The Rhos Herald Account. It was moving to read the newspaper's enthusiastic reports of the revival meetings. But inclusion of this chapter means that there is an element of repetition in the book. Eveson's paper obviously draws on material from the Rhos Herald and while the translation contains additional information, much of  it will be familiar from his earlier piece. It might have been better if the Rhos Herald reports had been included as an appendix at the back of the book, rather than having them sandwiched between the chapters by Eveson and Job.

Yesterday I was off to London again, this time for the AGM of the Protestant Truth Society. Once more I travelled by train, meaning I could at last finish reading When God came to North Wales. Interestingly, Dafydd Job, author of the final chapter is the paternal grandson of John Thomas Job, a preacher powerfully used by God in the Bethesda revival. The village of Bethesda is overshadowed by the Snowdonia mountain range. At the turn of the last century it was also overshadowed by industrial unrest. The main source of employment for the men of the village was the Penrhyn Slate Quarry. The high handed quarry owner, Lord Penrhyn treated his workers badly, which led to a walk out, the Great Strike, which lasted from 1900-03. The strike plunged many families into poverty and men were forced to leave the village to seek work elsewhere. The unscrupulous Lord Penrhyn drafted in strike breaking "scab" labour to man his quarry. This caused huge resentment an bitterness in the close knit community. Even the Chapels were affected. On one occasion when a strike breaking "traitor" was about to take part in a service, the whole congregation left the building.

John Thomas Job, pastor of Carneddi Calvinistic Methodist Church in Bethesda was something of a national figure. He was a preacher-poet who had won the prestigious chair for his poetry at the National Eisteddford. However, tragedy struck in the Job household. The preacher's wife and three children all died within the space of three years (1899-1902). Job was cast upon the Lord, who gave him grace to bear up under all these trials. The preacher reflected on losing his last child, Etta, "He must have a glorious reason for all of this, or else I must throw my Bible overboard. But I'd rather drown with the Bible in my hand than live without it."

By the closing months of 1904 news had begun to filter through of an outpouring of the Spirit in New Quay, under the ministry of Joseph Jenkins. This led to to a renewed prayerfulness among believers and Job's preaching was marked with a fresh note of hope that the Lord was about to do a great work. Indeed he was. The bitterness occasioned by the Great Strike had exposed the evils of the human heart. When the Holy Spirit came in reviving power, Christians became aware of their sins and cried out for mercy. Those harbouring an unforgiving spirit were enabled to forgive others as they had been forgiven by the blood of Christ. Under the preaching of the Word by Job and others, a deep realisation of the love of God overwhelmed the people. The preacher wrote after one meeting, "Oh! The love of God in the Death of the Cross is awfully powerful!" During the revival, which lasted until the summer of 1905 members of the different Nonconformist Churches in the village met for times of united, fervent prayer. But the Anglican Church, to which most of the strike breaking workers belonged remained aloof from the revival. Nevertheless this work of the Spirit in the small Welsh village of Behesda was to have a lasting and beneficial impact upon the community.

The stirring account of  When God came to North Wales is a wonderful testimony to what the Lord can do. Revival is a sovereign work of God that cannot be worked up by human beings. But as Eveson reminds us in his concluding remarks on the Rhos revival, we are now living in the era of the Spirit. The Lord can break out in awakening power at any time. This thought should rouse us to pray without ceasing for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our day.

With Christmas coming, you could add a request for this excellent little volume to your letter to Santa. Alternatively, order from Quinta Press.

* An edited version of this review will be published in a forthcoming edition of Protestant Truth.


Jonathan Hunt said...

Yes folks, order now. Quinta press is the greatest publisher in the whole wide world!!*

* I deny that I am related to the sole proprietor...

Tim Mills said...

Nice review.
What are the copyright rules about reviewing/quoting books, on the web?

Exiled Preacher said...

Hi Tim,


I'm, no expert in copyright law, but I would have thought that the same rules that cover printed book reviews apply to those published online. I've never known an author or publisher complain about having their books reviewed on the blog. In fact I'm often sent freebies for review.