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The Revival movement, both in its Wesleyan and its Calvinist forms, took up the seventeenth century emphasis on personal salvation, but instead of a lonely process - which, though it might have been inspired by a sermon heard in church, nonetheless largely took place outside the church - it became something experienced communally and under the influence of powerful preaching. It therefore came under suspicion from the older Calvinist tradition that it was not a genuine work of conversion through the Holy Spirit but a purely emotional response to a clever, manipulative rhetoric. The literature of the Revival lays great stress on its spontaneous and unexpected character, and those who claimed to have been converted were often subject to very searching examination as to the actual nature of their experience. A mere high spirited conviction that they were saved was not enough. It was expected that the saved Christian would have to go through something like the process described by Perkins including a painful conviction of sin, a conviction that the existing course of their life was headed towards eternal torment.

Here is a description of one of the revivals, which took place around the village of Beddgelert, Carnaervonshire in Wales in 1818:

'One Sabbath. a young female teacher and her class of girls were reading the concluding chapters of St. John's Gospel, when one by one they began to weep and so strong did the emotion become that they were unable to continue the reading. At the close, one of the brethren, Richard Roberts, of Cae-y-gors, stood up to address the school, and earnestly exhorted the young people to conduct themselves properly at a fair which was to be held in the neighbourhood during the ensuing week, and all at once, to the astonishment of his hearers, and of none more than himself, he became eloquent. He quoted a verse of a Welsh hymn, the concluding line of which, being translated, is, "The firmer hold's above." The word "above" took possession of his whole mind, and for a long time he rang the changes upon it. "It is from above that everything precious comes to us. The light comes from above, and the heat and the rain. The blessings of salvation came to the world from above. It is from on high that God pours His Spirit. There is hope for the hardened sinners of Beddgelert above. If it is dark here, it is light above. If it is feeble here, it is mighty above, above, above." While he spoke the power descended from above, and every soul in the place felt it. All became conscious of a great and mysterious presence; many of the children were filled with dread, and one lad ran to his father, exclaiming, "Oh, my dear father! here is the day of judgment! It has come!" There was universal weeping, and when the school separated it was in tears ...

'The district was sparsely populated, people came together from great distances, and they looked at the meeting at Hafod as a good opportunity to see one another, and to have a talk. A few of the more thoughtful would join in the service, while others sat in the parlour, or stood in groups about the court, busily engaged in conversation on things which were much more interesting to them than hymns, prayers, and sermons. It was so on this occasion. Richard Williams stood on a bench in the kitchen; in front of him was a square table, and on the top of that a small round one, doing duty as a reading-desk. He introduced the service in the usual way, but with more than usual fervour and unction, and the subject of his discourse was "Coming to Christ." He had a sermon in his mind, and one with which he was perfectly familiar, for he had frequently preached it before, but when he had spoken for about a quarter of an hour he lost it quite, and began to say things that he had never thought of. It was not his own thoughts that he spoke now, and those which he uttered were not expressed in his usual style, nor with his usual voice. He felt that some one "was speaking through him," and for some time he was in doubt whether it was he himself that was preaching, or whether he was listening to another. The giddy ones that were talking in the parlour and outside became conscious that there was something unusual going on, and rushed into the kitchen with one accord. There they stood spell-bound and awe-struck, listening to the mighty words. Not one uttered a voice. No one wept. The feeling of awe upon every one present was too great for shouts, and even for tears; and when, at the close, the preacher gave out a hymn, no one was able to sing. The congregation separated in silence, and every one went his way to his own home, thinking, and afraid. What was it? It could not have been anything else than this which has been written, "The Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word."

'In the course of the ensuing week a church meeting, or as it is usually designated in Wales a "society," was held at the chapel. Those meetings were weekly, and were usually held at 10 o'clock or at noon on a working day, for many of the members lived at great distances, and had to reach their homes along paths that were anything but pleasant to travel on in the dark. The Calvinistic Methodists had not then, nor have they ever had, a hard-and-fast rule of procedure in the reception of members. In some cases those who express a wish to join the church are proposed, seen, and conversed with by some of the elders, reported on by them to the church meeting, and, if thought suitable, accepted; but very frequently such persons, without giving any formal notice of their intention, present themselves at the church meeting, and hence when any one has made a profession of religion, it is very usual in Wales to say that "he has gone to the, society." On this occasion two of the elders who had arrived early were waiting at the chapel-house for the people to assemble. By-and-by, one of them looked into the chapel to see whether any had come, and immediately returned to his friend, saying, "Sure enough the people have made a mistake, there is a large congregation. It seems to me as if the whole parish had come together. They must be expecting a sermon." But it soon appeared that it was not a sermon that they had come to seek, but salvation; and at the singing of the opening hymn many of them saw a gleam of hope that, lost sinners as they were, they should find it by the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and their pent-up feelings burst over all bounds. It was not possible to converse with any one, for nearly all were shouting with all their might. Tidings of this went out to the village and to the scattered dwellings beyond; people rushed to the chapel to see, and as soon as they arrived caught the infection, and began to shout like the rest. And thus they continued hour after hour throughout the day and late into the night; and when at length they retired to their homes, some of their own accord and others led by friends who were more self-possessed than themselves, the rocks which bounded the gorges through which they had to pass echoed and re-echoed their shouts of praise.

'It was thus that this great revival began, and it continued thus for many months. At every religious service the same wonderful influence was felt, and frequently at the singing of the first hymn a fire kindled, which made public prayer and preaching impossible. When the preacher was allowed to proceed as far as the beginning of his sermon in comparative quietness, if he wished to give it all he must be very cool and cautious, for the least spark would produce an explosion which would make it useless for him to speak any more on that occasion. And it was not in the public services only that these influences were felt. They came upon people in an unaccountable manner when alone or in company, or when they were following their daily avocations, and when, as far as men could see, there was nothing to induce them. A young woman, who was remarkable for her personal comeliness, was engaged in milking her father's cows when thoughts came into her mind which filled her with fear, and sent her home crying, "What shall I do to be saved?" She found the answer, was saved, and lived to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour." Two young people, the son and the servant of one of the elders of the Church, were bringing a cart into Beddgelert, when they began to sing a hymn quietly together. As they were singing the fire kindled, and they were drawn into the village shouting and praising in the cart, the horses having been left to guide themselves. It was hay-carrying day at one of the neighbouring farms, and the man who made the mow, finding a longer interval than usual before the arrival of a fresh load, looked towards the field, and lo! the haymakers had thrown away their pitchforks and rakes, and were "leaping and praising God." It may be said that all this was very disorderly, and a sad breach of the decorum which ought to characterise the worship of God, and very probably that is true. But there is one thing to be said in favour of those poor people; they could not help it.

'The influence soon began to spread to other districts. In many instances people came to Beddgelert to see the wonder, caught the fire, and took it home with them. A number of young people crossed the mountain from Dolwyddelan, rejoicing in anticipation of the "fun" they were going to have. They were disappointed in the fun, but they found salvation; and one of them, Cadwaladr Owen, became a minister of the gospel, and was for many years one of the most useful in the Principality. But while it spread into Merionethshire on the south, and the Isle of Anglesey on the north, it was on Caernarvonshire and especially on that division of it that is called Arfon, that it made the deepest impression, and produced the greatest change. Previous to 1818 there were in this district only fifteen Calvinistic Methodist chapels, all of which, with two or three exceptions, were small and poor, but in a very short time all these were rebuilt and enlarged, and twelve new places of worship were erected in localities where there were none before. The impetus then given to religion has never wholly subsided, and there are now in that district seventy-eight Calvinistic Methodist Churches, with 14,795 communicants. Besides this, there were men born again in that revival who became eminent ministers of the Gospel of Christ, and were the means of turning many to righteousness, and whose names will be household words in the principality for ages yet to come.'(31)

(31) William Williams (not to be confused with Williams Pantycelyn): Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, Bidgend, Byntirion Press, 1998 (first published in 1872), pp. 182-186.

I've given that at some length but the main point to be made about it is that it is nothing special. There is an enormous number of similar stories that could be told, most especially in Wales and in North America. It was only in 1858-9, coinciding with further revivals in Wales and North America, that this spirit hit Ulster on a large scale and I, in my book on Ulster Presbyterianism, took it as effectively marking the end of the Ulster Presbyterian population as more or less a morally self sufficient society organised round the church, more or less on the pattern originally established by Calvin. It marked the rise of the Gospel Hall, of a taste for a rather more exciting style of religious experience than the old Presbyterian Church could offer. Not that the Presbyterian church has ceased to exist, but in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it functioned almost as the legislature of a quasi-national society, it was the centre of intellectual life. 

It could be suggested that once it broke from the established church this is what the Calvinist Methodist Church became, in alliance with old Nonconformity, in Wales, in which case the revival had almost the opposite effect to the one it had in Ulster. However, by its very nature, revival is an insecure foundation for the establishment of a stable, long-lasting religious community. Looked at from the believer's point of view, it is the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit cannot be constrained. Believers can pray for a new manifestation of the Holy Spirit but it is out of their power whether it happens or not.