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Evan John Roberts

1878-1951. Welsh revivalist. Born in Glamorgan, the ninth of the fourteen children of Henry Roberts, pitman, and his wife Hannah, his education at the parish school ended when at twelve years of age he accompanied his father to the coalmine. In 1902 he was apprenticed as a blacksmith, but was accepted as a candidate for the ministry by the Calvinistic Methodist* Church in 1904, and entered a preparatory school at Newcastle Emlyn. Even as a young man he was a remarkable character. For eleven years he devoted himself to intense intercession for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He was also granted visions and vivid experiences of the divine presence.

By 1904 there were indications in many parts of Wales that a revival was about to happen, and in that year while attending a meeting to deepen the spiritual life at Blaenannerch, Roberts underwent a profound experience of being anointed by the Holy Spirit. He returned home to Loughor and began to hold prayer meetings at his home church, Moriah. On successive nights these meetings drew ever larger crowds, and within a matter of weeks the revival had swept across Glamorganshire with tremendous power. The most significant feature of the revival was its concentration on the gift of the Holy Spirit; the meetings, even when Evan Roberts was present, were conducted with complete spontaneity. People were urged to pray, testify, confess, or sing as the Spirit moved them. Soon Roberts and a group of young friends began to make revival tours, first in Glamorgan, then Liverpool, Anglesey, and finally Caernarvonshire (November 1904-January 1906).

Yet the revival was by no means limited to places visited by Roberts: it was a national phenomenon and it was calculated that it led to some 100,000 conversions. By any standards it was a mighty movement of the Spirit, and since it was followed in great detail by the press, it had worldwide publicity. But physically the revival broke Evan Roberts. He retired from public life and went to live in Leicester. He returned to Wales about 1925 and died some twenty-five years later at Cardiff.

See E. Evans, The Welsh Revival of 1904, (1969).