Monday, November 20, 2006

D. R. Davies IV: Revival Comes to Wales

By the time of the Welsh Revival of 1904-5, D. R. Davies, then in his mid-teens, was working underground in the coal mine at Maesteg. We should not regard this as a hardship, for to be a coal miner, working down the pit, was to be a man. This was a job requiring skill as well as industry. It was also a job that identified David Richard Davies with most of his compatriots. And it made him one of the ordinary working people of Wales, among whom the fire of revival burned brightly.

His younger sister, Annie Davies, was one of Evan Roberts' young female helpers. Converted in the revival and gifted with a fine voice, she sang solos as a means of touching the hearts of men. She accompanied Roberts on his tour of Wales, leading in the singing and becoming a minor celebrity of sorts. Davies accompanied his mother to a meeting at nearby Abergwynfi, excited by the events of the revival:

"Well! I went and nothing happened! I was rather bewildered. My mother was very moved. I heard Evan Roberts preach and my sister sing, and scores of people were converted, I was not one of them."

This failure to respond to the message preyed on David Richard's mind. When Evan Roberts came to stay with the Davies family at Maesteg, D. R. was 'charmed' by the young evangelist's personality:

"I remember being moved at one of his Maesteg meetings. I cannot recall now how or when I was "converted", but it was certainly after one of his visits. That is to say, at some meeting or other, I walked up to the front pew, the "Set Fawr" and publicly announced, along with others, that I was "saved." For a considerable time I attended nightly prayer-meetings, offered prayer myself, and button-holed people urging them to confess their sins."

The quotation marks around the words, "converted" and "saved" in D. R. Davies' account of his own response to an altar-call indicate his recognition that this was merely a phase, that he was reflecting his surroundings, following the example of his famous sister, rather than acting on faith (did he want to be a celebrity, too, I wonder?). Despite his assiduous Bible reading, his faith was emotional, without any intellectual, or spiritual underpinnings. He told his more settled father that he was unsaved, leading to 'an unholy row', in Davies' own words.

In this period, Davies became part of the core of Welsh-speakers who founded an English-language Congregational Church in Maesteg, 'Bethlehem English Congregational Church.' He had a Sunday School class, and accompanied the organ at the services. In this, however, he showed a little of the old weakness, and more than once neglected his responsiblities, feeling a disgust at the need to do his duty.

despite these warning signs, D. R. Davies decided that he was called to preach. He delivered sermons during the revival, and delivered papers at the Church literary and debating society. The church agreed that he should train for the ministry, and so, at the age of sixteen, David Richard Davies was entered into Old College School, Carmarthen, to prepare for the London entrance examination. It was there that he would begin his intellectual odyssey, but that is a matter for another time.

Note: Although D.R Davies describes his own experience as emotional and shallow, he equally admits that: "Many lives were changed for good - and permanently." Equally, he declares that the Revival was from God, although it became mixed with emotionalism. Only in describing his own experience does Davies use quotation marks around "saved" and "conversion." When describing the generality of the revival, or his own sister's conversion, he does not employ them.

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