O Lord, Do It Again in Monmouthshire!

volume 19, number 5, January 30, 2020

“Then Moses said, ‘I pray Thee, show me Thy glory.’” -Exodus 33:18.

On Monday, January 13, seven year old Samuel Barker was on his way home from school in Monmouth, South Wales when he was struck by a school bus. When Samuel’s mother, Cat, arrived Samuel was already dead. As she held her dead child, Cat began to bear testimony to policemen and ambulance workers on the scene that her son was with Jesus. The next day, after school the children at the elementary school were informed of Samuel’s death and Cat spoke to Samuel’s classmates, telling them that Samuel was perfectly safe with Christ in heaven. She was witnessing to weeping and astonished friends outside school afterwards, sharing Scripture and reassuring them in her pain that her family was hopeful. Jim, Cat’s husband, had come to Christ two years earlier through her testimony and the work of her Baptist church. Cat and Jim have been witnessing to the bus driver responsible for the accident. He was arrested but I do not know the status of that arrest at this time. As my friend Cliff Swartz who lives with his family there in Monmouth has told me, “They are not Pollyanna. I have been with them as they have wailed with grief, but they are trusting the Lord and longing for the outpouring of the Spirit on their town. Many people in this very secular place have been really shaken and say things like, ‘I wish I had your faith.’, but they are still resistant to turn to Christ. A work of God is their only hope.” Jim and Cat, Cliff and his wife Katie, and many other believers in Monmouth are meeting regularly, several times per week, praying for revival, for God to convert many in their town.

There is certainly Biblical, as well as historical precedent for this effort of revival prayer. We find numerous examples of revival in the Bible. The covenant people of God were revived in the day of King Hezekiah who called the people to consecration and the removal of idols. He restored temple worship and the passover, as well as the giving of tithes and offerings (2 Chronicles 29-31). The post-exilic Psalm 85 cries out, “Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?” (Psalm 85:6). The prophet Joel prophesied the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32) which occurred in Acts 2. And the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2 resulted in a mighty movement of God which wrought thousands of immediate conversions, a felt sense of the presence of God in their assemblies, powerful convicting and converting sermons, greater holiness, and societal transformation. In Moses’ bold and remarkable intercession on behalf of God’s people who had made a golden calf, he asks, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory.” And Yahweh came down and allowed Moses to see a portion of His glory. 

There is, however, a most amazing historical precedent for revival in Monmouthshire (the county in which Monmouth resides). Jason Pennington, quoting Eifion Evans[1], says that between 1762 and 1862 at least fifteen outstanding revivals occurred in the region.[2] We know that revival wonderfully preceded and succeeded these times as well. Young Howell Harris from Trevecca[3], a town only thirty-seven miles from Monmouth, was converted in 1735 at the age of twenty-one (George Whitefield, Daniel Rowland, and John Cennick, all major players in the revivals of England and Wales, were also converted in the spring of 1735). Harris began immediately to witness the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen in and around Monmouthshire. When George Whitefield traveled from Bristol, England to Monmouth both men preached in the open air. Harris preached in Welsh and Whitefield followed in English. 

William Williams Pantycelyn, whom many claim to be the greatest poet in Wales (whose most famous hymn is “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”), was born in 1717 in a farmhouse in Carmarthenshire, around sixty miles from Monmouth. Williams was also a major human instrument for revival in Monmouthshire and South Wales, working closely with Whitefield, Cennick, Harris, and Rowland.[4] John Powell, an Anglican curate from nearby Aberystruth also preached numerous times in Monmouthshire.[5] All these men saw revival manifest itself in humility and brokenness involving deep conviction of sin coming upon large numbers of people, resulting in the true conversion of thousands of people. 

I will have more to say about the 1859 and 1904 Welsh revivals in succeeding weeks but I wish now briefly to touch on another mighty movement of God between these two dates. Perhaps due to the increased secularization of Wales in the mid to late 19th century, Christianity was at a very low ebb. The churches were largely empty and people were falling more and more into all manner of debauchery. David Morgan, who was mightily used in the 1859 revival, was preaching in Llangristiolus, and there was very little response to his preaching. He said to the people, “I would like to know whether there are any who have longed for Him (the Spirit) sufficiently to lose a night’s sleep in order to pray for Him.” Richard Owen and an old man agreed to pray with Morgan all night for souls to be saved. Shortly thereafter, through the preaching of Owen eight hundred were brought to saving faith in South Wales. Owen went from village to village in Monmouthshire and through his preaching found whole communities plunged into severe conviction of sin and fear of wrath and judgment. In the midst of this, Owen spoke of a whole countryside aflame for God.[6]
The Presbyterian pastor John Pugh, new in the town of Tredegar in 1872, realized that if he was to reach people in town with the gospel then he must go to them and preach in the town square. They certainly were not attending church. And the people were very antagonistic. The Holy Spirit wonderfully blessed Pugh’s preaching which led the Presbyterian Church of Wales to institute the Forward Movement, a strenuous effort of church planting through intentional and bold evangelistic outreach. It was at such a church in 1927 that young Martyn Lloyd-Jones went to Aberavon with his new wife and saw God bring a mighty moving of the Spirit there from 1927 through 1939.[7]

There is so much more I could write here but I hope you get the point. Monmouthshire, South Wales’ history is replete with revival. There is no human explanation for it. The common denominator in all these cases of revival is earnest prayer. People had had enough of the status quo. They were driven to repentance for their own sinful lethargy and worldliness which God was pleased to answer by means of raising up fearless preachers who preached with the anointing of the Spirit, bringing a profound sense of the judgment and wrath of God, and driving home the only hope, the crucified Christ.

O Lord, please hear the prayers of these dear saints in Monmouth and do it again. O Lord, use the death of little Samuel Barker to arrest these dear people of South Wales from their deathly slumber, causing them to see their sin and hopelessness, showing them the only remedy, Jesus Christ, the crucified Savior and the ascended Lord.

And while you are at it, pray for yourself and your own city. You and I however will need to pay a heavy price which may include sleepless nights storming the gates of heaven, asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which is our hope of turning our nation away from impending doom and judgment to true righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

1.  Revival Comes to Wales: The Story of the 1859 Revival in Wales, Evangelical Press of Wales2. Revival: Revival and the Apostolic Church in the Monmouthshire Valleys, Jason Pennington, Wipf and Stock, page 13.3. The town where Lady Huntingdon lived. She was an evangelical believer and great supporter of the evangelistic ministries of Whitefield, Rowland, and Harris. She also provided for the funding of Trevecca College which became a training ground for revival and evangelistic preachers. 4. The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, Banner of Truth, volume one, page 209.5. Ibid. page 277. 6. The Welsh Revival of 1904, Banner of Truth, Eifion Evans, pages 16-18.7. For great detail on Lloyd-Jones’ remarkable ministry at Aberavon I urge you to read volume one of Iain Murray’s biography D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, 1899-1939.  

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