BY: Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Creating art without developing a heart of worship, is a meaningless exercise for Christian artists. Worship is the inevitable response of gratitude, flowing from hearts set free in Christ. When we, as artists, acquire the habit of viewing all artistic endeavors through the prism of eternity, then the art we create has the potential to be the overflow of our jubilant worship to a gracious God.
The subject of worship in a post-Christian culture is a somewhat strange topic. Modern society seems to consider worship as an archaic phenomenon, oblivious to the fact that worship of all sorts is ever present in the culture. Worship of God is considered odd while fawning over celebrities or demonstrating unrestrained enthusiasm at athletic events, is perfectly acceptable. That God is worthy of worship is an unusual idea to most because He remains silent. His presence is not intrusive or forceful. He simply IS. When one becomes conscious of His presence in the beauty of a landscape, the magnificence of a sunset, or the miracle of a new life, full hearts have only one expression that is authentic – worship. Yet, without drawing attention to it, in a society that refuses to acknowledge God as the source of laughter, the velvety softness of a petal or the shimmering beauty of a snowflake, worship remains a bland expression of general appreciation. Yet worship is far more than that.
I have encountered two kinds of worship in the art world – the worship of the art itself, and worship of the artist. Both these could arguably fall into the category of a glorified sort of appreciation rather than worship, yet they are not without fault.
I am convinced that both are distasteful in the Lord’s eyes. He gives us some rather stringent guidelines for worship. Developing a heart of worship is so important to Him, that the Bible is peppered with examples of genuine and spurious worship.
As artists, we have enjoyed creative moments when our hearts soared and worship was effortless. Our language of worship is most authentic when it flows from our spirits in response to our awe of God. Art, like music, can be a potent language to express what is essentially the vocabulary of the praising spirit. When your art develops into that unique language of praise, you will know and sense its precious worth. Having tasted its sweetness, beware of excluding Him when creating art, or looking elsewhere for ways to worship.
Deut 12:29, although addressed to the Israelites, highlights a principle relevant to us as Christian artists today,
‘… be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.”
There exists art that boasts a novel language, devoid of any consideration of God, art that is a slick form of expression, speaking a different dialect, serving different gods, bowing to the gods of acclaim, or simply a chasing after the perfection of beauty. Such art is lovely, yet empty. Seeking direction for our artistic journeys from others who hold a different worldview from us, who have been bought with a high price, is akin to inquiring “how they serve their gods”. Heeding their instruction (except for learning technique or use of materials), valuing their opinions and following their definitions of what constitutes ‘great art’, is to callously overlook the One who created it all.
Developing a heart of worship is a deeply personal journey. It takes its shape from our most private conversations with God. To express our individual hearts of worship wordlessly in the language of art is a unique privilege. Private conversations are not meant to be shared, and when eavesdropped upon, are often misunderstood. Conversations that are meant for His ears only, when spoken for everyone to hear, lose their intimacy. Their integrity also becomes suspect. Have we ever spoken openly to someone, knowing that others were listening? Have we not then tempered our conversation for the larger audience?
As vital as the integrity of a support is to a work of art, I believe that true worship is the foundation on which great art should be built.
A bumpy, ragged, poorly stretched canvas can never deliver excellence, as a carefully prepared, wonderfully smooth one. On such a surface, the brush is not hindered but dances freely at the impulse of the artist. Approaching the creation of art with a keen sense of worship in our hearts is much the same.
What is conceived in secret affects what is birthed in public?
Art is by its nature ultimately very public. Art speaks in a loud, strident voice – boldly expressing opinions held fiercely by their creators. Art shouts from walls of galleries as the outpouring of personal tastes, opinions, and philosophies of the artists.
In such a forum, should not our voice as Christian artists be heard as well? Our role is not to stay silent, or even worse, to imitate. Instead, with our collective heart of worship, why not carry the lessons learned from our private, divine conversations with God to the public arena?
Then we can, in the words of David, “serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you..” 1 Chronicles 28:9
So I urge you to make every effort to develop a heart of worship. Spend lavishly your most valuable resource of time on this one pursuit. You may be surprised by the quality of your work begins to shimmer with His blessing and presence. Our collective heart of worship will result in a resounding visual symphony of praise, each voice unique and necessary in a world starved for the authentic.
“For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commendeth.” 2 Corinthians 10: 18
Christmas Evans, 1766-1838
Time of Refreshing.
It has been estimated that in the hundred years from 1762 to 1862 Wales experienced fifteen significant religious awakenings, some of a local nature and others more widespread in their extent, but each clearly identified and well attested as works of divine origin and inspiration. (see Dr. Eifion Evans, When He Is Come: An Account of the 1858-60 Revival in Wales, chapter 1). It is quite remarkable to consider that this meant a revival occurred every six or seven years on average throughout that period and that people such as Christmas Evans and his contemporaries, were privileged to spend the whole of their lives in times of spiritual blessings.
Evans, born in 1766 when the great “Methodist” movements associated with Howel Harris and Daniel Rowland were reaching their height, was himself greatly used by God in the frequent visitations which took place in the 1790s and played an important part in the extension of that work down to his death in 1838.
Life of Hardship.
Evans was born on Christmas day 1766 at Esgaer-waen in Llandysul, [Wales], the son of Samuel and Joanna Evans. His father, who was a shoemaker, died when Christmas was only nine years old and his family had to apply for relief from the parish poor law. As a result, Christmas became an apprentice farm labourer, working at first for his uncle who treated him so harshly that Evans later recounted, “You could hardly find a harder man in the whole world.”
It was the custom in those days of poverty and hardship for labourers to migrate as the seasons changed, wherever work could be found, and Evans travelled as far as Herefordshire, [England] at harvest time. It was while there that he went to a rowdy fair and lost the sight of his right eye when a youth struck him with a cudgel [club]. Up to that time, Evans had experienced little friendship or kindness in his life, but when he returned to Wales in the early 1780s, he took employment on the farm of Rev. David Davies at Castell Hywel and came into contact with other young men in similar circumstances to himself.
Evans began to attend a local chapel and about the same time, a spiritual awakening in the Twrgwyn area of Cardiganshire in 1784-5 was deeply affecting many people. Evans recalled later, “We bought Bibles and candles and met together at evening in the barn.” Although he had had no previous education, Evans learned to read in Welsh in only a month, and as he often recounted, despite the fact he only had one eye he clearly saw Christ calling him to turn from the lost and dying world before it was too late!
Called to preach.
At the time of his conversion and baptism, Evans was greatly helped by Rev. David Davies whose gifts as a schoolmaster were well-known. Davies taught him English, introduced him to Latin and encouraged him to extend his studies later to Greek, Hebrew and the works of the Puritan divines.
Evans became a member of Aberduar Baptist chapel at Llanybydder and began to preach in the farms and cottages of the Teifi valley, but at first, he relied heavily upon memorizing the sermons and writings of others. Feeling a deep sense of inadequacy, Evans spent several years delving into the Scriptures and sitting under the ministry of Rev. Timothy Thomas at Aberduar. This helped to free him from the Arminian influences which prevailed in many pulpits at that time. Evans also had the opportunity to hear preachers whose ministry was blessed with much fruit and to realize what the power of God was accomplishing in revivals at Trecastle in Breconshire in 1786, and Llanbryn-mair in Montgomeryshire in 1787. Of these ministers, Evans acknowledged, “I reaped much advantage from hearing them, especially as it regarded my manner of preaching. Their ministry conveyed to me some spiritual taste, which I highly appreciated, and prayed for assistance to retain. Mighty powers accompanied them.”
In 1789, Evans was invited to make a preaching tour amongst the Baptists in Lleyn, Caernarvonshire, whose only chapel was Salem with between 60 and 70 members. He was ordained as pastor of Salem and within a year his preaching was inspired with the powerful unction of the Holy Spirit.
Evans testified that “It was there that the Holy Spirit put the cause of Christ in my heart, till I became distressed for the salvation of souls and the establishment of the Redeemer’s kingdom on earth.”
So powerful was the work of the Holy Spirit that Evans stated, “A breeze from the new Jerusalem descended upon me and on the people, and many were awakened to eternal life.”
Evans was greatly encouraged in his early ministry by the preaching of Rev. Robert Roberts of Clynnog, who was regarded as a worthy successor to Daniel Rowland. Large congregations gathered to hear Roberts proclaiming the gospel with such effect that Evans said it gave him, “confidence in prayer, a care for the cause of Christ, and a new light on the plan of salvation.” As a result, Christmas Evans began to extend his own ministry beyond the Lleyn peninsula and in 1791 made a preaching tour along the west coast of Wales as far as Llanelli, during which many conversions were recorded.
A New Work
Although Christmas Evans spent less than three years at Salem, the number of members more than doubled and in addition, other Baptist congregations in Lleyn were established and built up. He had married Catherine Jones at Bryncroes Chapel in Lleyn in October 1789, but his ministry was not solely confined to Caernarvonshire. At that time there were fewer than ten Baptist chapels in north Wales and Evans frequently travelled, on foot or horseback, to preach to scattered groups in other countries. He was particularly burdened for the cause of the gospel in Anglesey, which he found to be in a state of spiritual dearth, and in 1791 he accepted an invitation to become pastor of a chapel at Llangefni. Thus it was that on Christmas day his twenty-sixth birthday, Evans set off on horseback with his wife riding pillion behind him to make the long journey to Anglesey where God had a new work for him to do.
People in Darkness.
When Christmas Evans moved to Anglesey at the end of 1791, the spiritual condition of that county was amongst the poorest of any part of Wales. As yet the religious awakenings which had been occurring in many other areas of north and west Wales since the 1760s had made little impact on the island which at that time was accessible only by ferry boats crossing the dangerous tidal waters of the Menai Straits. This remoteness tended to isolate the inhabitants of Anglesey who had a reputation for ignorance, immorality and lawless pursuits such as smuggling and piracy. The low state of religion can be gauged from a frequently quoted letter to Rev. Thomas Charles of Bala by Sion Williams in 1799, describing his memories of life in Anglesey before revival began. Williams recorded that the people “…delighted in nothing except empty sports and carnal pleasures, playing with dice and cards, dancing and singing with the harp, playing football, tennis, mock trials and hostages, and many other sinful sports too numerous to be mentioned. They used the Sunday like a market day to gratify every wicked whim and passion; old and young, with no one to persuade or prevent them in their ungodly course. They flocked in crowds to the parish churches on Sunday morning; not to listen to the Word of God, but to devise and relate foolish anecdotes, and to entice each other to drink at the wash-brew house of the devil’s market and to arrange places of meeting to decide upon the sports to be engaged in after the evening service.”
None of the dissenting causes had been securely established in the county. The Baptists, for example, had very few chapels there, although small groups met in houses for Sunday worship in several places. There seemed little prospect that they could even open new chapels and support ministers, let alone have any impact on the general mass of the population whose lives seemed devoted to drunkenness and rowdy behaviour which often ended in violence and disorder. Such a daunting prospect did not deter Evans, for although he was still young and inexperienced as a pastor, he was convinced that the spiritual awakening which God had bestowed upon other parts of Wales, was the only true remedy for the sad plight of the people around him.
Time of Planting.
Evans and his wife took charge of the chapel at Cil-dwm in Llangefni and lived in the small cottage attached to it. The chapel provided an income, but Evans spent little of this upon his own comforts, for the cottage with its low roof and bare floors were sparsely furnished to meet his simple needs. Most of his time and resources were expended on visiting the farms, villages, and towns of the island, preaching three times every Sunday, holding meetings to set up new chapels and encouraging the small groups of believers who were struggling to call their own pastors. With regular periods of prayer and fasting, Evans laboured for several years and was able to write, “it has pleased the Lord to bless us, to increase our hearers, and to bring many to Christ.” As the planting of new churches continued, Evans assumed personal oversight of their development and engaged upon preaching tours throughout Wales to gather financial support for the work. No task was too large or too small for Evans to undertake for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel. In 1794 his contribution to the Baptist Associations annual meeting at Felinfoel established him as one of the denominations leading preachers, while at the same time he and his wife frequently had to sell copies of his pamphlets in order to cover the expenses of his itineraries. After just over ten years the steady growth of the work made it possible to restart the North Wales Baptist Association in Anglesey in 1802, and as a result of his superintendence over the chapels there, Evans was popularly referred to as, “Esgob Mon”—”bishop of Anglesey.”
The onset of Error.
The progress made by the Baptist cause in the 1790s was not without its problems and setbacks. In particular, the spread of erroneous teachings was damaging in its effects. One of the Baptist leaders who had associated with Christmas Evans was Rev. J. R. Jones of Ramoth chapel who had become affected by Sandemanian ideas. These theories had gained a strong foothold in Scotland and had created division and controversy amongst Welsh Methodists. Their originator, Sandeman, had put forward a theory on justification which reduced it to a mere intellectual assent of Christ’s atonement. He had stated, “Everyone who obtains a just notion of the person and work of Christ is justified, and finds peace with God simply by that notion.” Such a view completely ignored the need for conviction of sin and for repentance and put so much emphasis upon human intellect that it inevitably led to arrogance and pride. The heart and will could remain unaffected as long as the mind accepted the idea of Christ as Saviour.
The Sandemanian error opened up the way to all kinds of excesses—some busied themselves with rituals such as washing each other’s feet, giving a holy kiss, and holding love feasts in order to show conformity to New Testament customs, while others developed a preoccupation with forms of church government and became intolerant of anyone who disagreed with them. The attraction of the Sandemanian position was its intellectual interpretation of salvation and in 1811 he published a book entitled, “Particular Redemption examined and its content and implications noted.” This work presented a view of Christ’s atonement in terms of a commercial transaction in which the value of His sacrifice on the cross was exactly equal to the weight of human sin which required cancellation. Such opinions were currently very popular with theologians who saw salvation not as a divine act of grace which was, “vast, unmeasured, boundless and free,” but as a transaction which was limited to the number of sins committed by those who were predestined to be saved.
There followed a bitter controversy which wrought havoc, not only amongst the Baptists but throughout all the denominations and caused grief to many ministers and their congregations.
For Evans, the experience proved to be profoundly depressing, yet ultimately very instructive. With great honesty and understanding, he wrote of himself, “The Sandemanian heresy affected me so much as to drive away the spirit of prayer for the salvation of sinners.” Christmas Evans followed the lead of J. R. Jones for several years, although he later separated from him when Jones broke away from the Baptist cause and set up his own organization. For Evans, “Lighter matters of the kingdom of God pressed heavier upon my mind than the weightier. The power which gave me zeal and confidence and earnestness in the pulpit for the conversion of souls to Christ was lost. My heart sank within me and I lost the witness of a good conscience. On Sunday night, after I had been fiercely and violently condemning errors, my conscience felt ill at ease, and rebuked me because I had lost communion and fellowship with God, and made me feel that something invaluable was now lost and wanting. I would reply that I acted according to the Word. Still, it rebuked me, saying that there was something of inestimable value gone. To a very great degree had I lost the spirit of prayer and the spirit of preaching.”
Restoration and Revival.
Evans had been warned against adopting Sandeman’s ideas by many of his friends, including Thomas Jones of Glyn Ceiriog, and in an effort to correct his doctrinal deviations, Evans was recommended to read Andrew Fuller’s “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation” and other works by that author. Evans knew his spiritual condition was not right in the sight of God, but he struggled to go on until he experienced such a sense of despair that he threw himself on God’s mercy for deliverance. The account which Evans later wrote of how God dealt with him is a stirring testimony of how the Holy Spirit can restore the believer who has wandered away from the Lord:
“I was, at last, tired and wearied. My coldness of heart towards Christ, His atonement, and the work of His Spirit—coldness of heart in the pulpit, in my secret chamber and study—pained me; especially when I remembered that that heart for fifteen years before had been burning within me, as if I were on the way towards Emmaus with Jesus. A day came, at last, a day ever memorable in my life when I was on my way from Dolgellau to Machynlleth. As I climbed up towards Cader Idris, I felt it my duty to pray; though my heart was hard enough and my spirit worldly. After I had commenced praying in the name of Jesus Christ, I could soon feel as if my shackles were falling off, and as if the mountains of snow and ice were quickly melting away. This engendered a hope in my mind for the promise of the Holy Ghost. I felt as if my whole spirit were liberating itself from some great bondage, and as if it were rising up from the grave of a hard winter. My tears profusely flowed, and I was compelled to cry out aloud and pray for the gracious visitations of God, for the joy of His salvation, and for the divine presence once more in the churches of Anglesey that were under my care. I prayed for all the churches, and for almost all the preachers of Wales by name. The struggle lasted for three hours. It would come over me again and again, like the waves of the sea, like a tide and a strong wind, until my physical power was greatly weakened by weeping and crying. I gave myself up altogether to Christ, body and soul, talents and labour; my life, every day and every hour, and all my cares, I entrusted into the hands of Christ. The road was mountainous and lonely so that I was altogether left to myself while this was going on. This event caused me to hope for a new revelation of God’s goodness towards myself and the churches. And thus the Lord delivered me and the people of Anglesey from being swept away by the evils of Sandemanianism. In the first services I held after this event, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold regions of spiritual ice, into the pleasant lands of the promises of God.”
The gratitude to God that Evans felt knew no bounds and made him resolve never to indulge in erroneous and misleading ideas. He recorded:
“I felt great calmness and perfect peace. I had the feeling of a poor man who has just come under the protection of the Royal Family, and has obtained an annual pension for life—the dreadful fear of poverty and wants having left his house for ever; I felt the safety and shelter which the little chickens feel under the wings of the hen. This is what it is to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and to hide under His wings until all dangers are passed.”
When he resumed his ministry in Anglesey his preaching was blessed with such power that within two years, 1814-15, it was estimated that there were about 600 conversions in the Baptist cause alone. It should also be remembered that the ministry of John Elias was marked with similar blessing in Anglesey amongst the Calvinistic Methodists during this period, and furthermore, in 1822 a great revival swept through the whole island when the Holy Spirit mightily used a young minister named Moses Jones.
The remarkable changes in the religious life of Anglesey during the 35 years Evans spent there saw the Baptists open sixteen new chapels, but this placed a heavy responsibility upon him. In 1823 his wife died and since they had no children, he was left to continue alone in his demanding position of spiritual leadership. Feeling, “there was yet more work for me to do in the harvest of the Son of Man,” Evans left Anglesey in 1826 and moved to Caerphilly where the membership of his church tripled in two years. He then accepted an invitation to the pastorate of Tabernacle Chapel in Cardiff where he ministered from 1828-32. The town’s population was expanding rapidly at the time and Evans lived at 44 Caroline Street in an area where this growth was largely concentrated. His preaching still attracted large congregations and he continued to make frequent tours of Wales even after he moved to Caernarvon in 1832.
By this time Evans had remarried and for the remainder of his life, he followed his practice of preaching, writing, encouraging and propagating in every way the good news of Christ’s redeeming love for sinners. It was while preaching at Swansea in July 1838, that Evans was taken ill and shortly before he died at the house of his friend Daniel Davies, he gave final testimony to God’s unfailing goodness and mercy:
“I am leaving you; I have laboured in the sanctuary for 53 years, and my confidence and consolation in this crisis is that I never laboured without blood in the basin [referring to Exodus 12:22]. Preach Christ to the people, brethren. Look at me in my sermons; I am nothing but ruin. But look at me in Christ, and I am heaven and salvation.”
Author unknown. Copyright ©1996 Heath Christian Book Shop Charitable Trust, United Kingdom.
“Prove me now” (Malachi 3:10).
What is God saying here but this: “My child, I still have windows in Heaven. They are yet in service. The bolts slide as easily as of old. The hinges have not grown rusty. I would rather fling them open and pour forth than keep them shut, and hold back. I opened them for Moses, and the sea parted. I opened them for Joshua, and Jordan rolled back. I opened them for Gideon, and hosts fled. I will open them for you–if you will only let Me. On this side of the windows, Heaven is the same rich storehouse as of old. The fountains and streams still overflow. The treasure rooms are still bursting with gifts. The lack is not on my side. It is of yours. I am waiting. Prove Me now. Fulfill the conditions, on your part. Bring in the tithes. Give Me a chance brethren of The Mystical Order and The Brotherhood.
I can never forget a church mother’s very brief paraphrase of Malachi 3:10. The verse begins, “Bring ye the whole tithe in,” and it ends up with “I will pour” the blessing out till you’ll be embarrassed for space. Her paraphrase was this: Give all He asks; take all He promises.”
The ability of God is beyond our prayers, beyond our largest prayers! I have been thinking of some of the petitions that have entered into my supplication innumerable times. What have I asked for? I have asked for a cupful, and the ocean remains! I have asked for a sunbeam, and the sun abides! My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father’s giving: it is beyond that we can ask.
“All the rivers of Thy grace I claim, Over every promise write my name” (Ephesians 1:8-19).
May Almighty God whispers in our ears the way forward of asking and giving. God, it is your unmeasurable portion that I await this morning. God bless
Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
By Sir Godfrey Gregg D. Div
During every funeral, you must remind the audience that funeral sermons are for the living, not the dead. Words spoken in the hour of death can encourage the living to remain faithful to the Lord. After the first martyr gave his life for the Lord, Luke tells us that “devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2).
(Acts 9:36) tells us of Dorcas, a woman “full of good works and charitable deeds.” While at Joppa, she grew sick and died. The disciples washed her and placed her in an upper room. When Peter entered the room “all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them” (Acts 9:39). This godly woman was remembered what she left behind. (Revelation 14:13) says our works will follow us. When you die, what will you leave behind?
“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7). Why do so many people get all wrapped up with “possessions”? Jesus asked, “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
What would you gain if you had the whole world? Whatever it is, it will not endure after the Judgment is passed (2 Peter 3:10).
What would you give in exchange for your soul? Whatever it may be, this is one transaction you will eternally regret. Judas sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16) — some Christians will sell out for far less. Some will sell their soul for a few more minutes sleep on Sunday morning, or another hour of TV on Sunday night. Gospel preachers have been known to exchange their hope of eternal glory for the praise of men (2 Timothy 4:3). So, my question to you this afternoon is what will you give in exchange for your title or position in the church? Will you today take a fight for leadership or will you let the Lord be your Leader and constant guide?
When you die, all that your spouse will have left of you are memories and pictures. Don’t wait till your spouse dies to express your love. Flowers at the graveside might make you feel better, but your spouse could only have enjoyed them in life. What do kind words have to do with the departed brother or sister? They cannot hear you and it is just useless saying it at the funeral and more, in a eulogy. While they have the breath of life is the time to tell them all the nice things you want them to hear at their death.
Among the many laws in the Pentateuch, (Deuteronomy 24:5) is one of the most quaint. It says, “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife, whom he has taken.” God intended for the home to be pleasant for both parties.
The Psalmist tells us our “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). How are you treating your “gift” from God?
You probably purchased life insurance so your spouse can meet the financial needs of your children in the event of your death — this is to be commended. We may have brought life insurance policy for our children. But that money could not dry a single tear from our children’s eyes.
I am saddened by parents who get all wrapped up in material things so they can give their children “the best of everything.” My daughter will love to spend every last moment with me, but, I know she is married with a family. So I would rather spend 30 minutes with me than to lose out for a day.
What will your friends think when they read your obituary? Will they be surprised to find out you were a Christian? Will the reputation of the Lord’s church be harmed? Your death will affect them, for “none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself” (Romans 14:7).
My brother/sister, you have run this race with one of the greatest trainers and leader in the Spiritual Baptist Faith. He was the late Patriarch Dr. Granville Williams, who left you to walk in his steps and principles. You have finished your course, kept the faith and now you are on your way to reward after your labours. I pray that you who have heard these words will make your calling and election sure with God your Father. May the angels of God transport you to your place in heaven while your body is taken to its final place of rest. God bless and keep you in Jesus’ Name.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
To place Christmas Evans among the biographies of such noted Baptists as John Bunyan and Isaac Backus may seem strange. Known as the “one eyed Bunyan of Wales”, Evans remains an unusual and yet very useful servant in God’s army. Christmas was born at Llandysul, Wales on the day from which his name is taken, to Samuel and Johanna Evans in 1766. His long life would carry him until 1838 and leave a legacy of great Baptist leadership in his homeland of Wales. Early in Evans life, his father died leaving his mother nearly destitute. In desperation, Johanna Evans sent her nine-year-old Christmas to live with her brother and work on his farm. Unfortunately, Evan’s uncle was a drunkard and a cruel man. Due to the circumstances of his life, Christmas found himself illiterate and irreligious at the age of eighteen. Finally, sick of his condition, Evans headed to the town of Llwynrhydewain to get away from his abusive uncle and the life which held him in its snare.
In God’s sovereignty, a revival was waiting on Evans when he arrived at his new home town. It was there that he was converted and came to know the living and risen Lord. Late in his life, Christmas wrote of this time: “The fear of dying in an ungodly state especially affected me … and this apprehension clung to me till I was induced to rest upon Christ … this concern was the dawn of the day of grace in my spirit.” Almost immediately, Christmas knew that he had to separate himself from his lost and wicked companions. Not long after his conversion, he was attacked by six of his former rogue friends. They beat him unmercifully and blinded him in one eye with a stick. It was because of this cruel attack that Evans would be called later in life, “the one-eyed preacher of Wales.” Christmas Evans could say along with the Apostle Paul, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Soon after his conversion, Evans felt the call to preach. His low upbringing and lack of education were a loss for the established church and a gain for Baptists. Because he lacked credentials, Evans could only preach in cottage meetings and it was there that he came into contact with Baptist Christians. Because of these Calvinistic Baptists, the “one-eyed preacher” began to study God’s Word deeply for Himself. At the age of twenty, Christmas was baptized as a believer. He wrote: “Having read the New Testament through, I found not a single verse in favour of paedobaptism (infant baptism) … These Scriptures spoke to my conscience, and convinced me of the necessity of personal obedience to the baptism which Christ had ordained.” After his baptism, Evan’s preaching changed. Everyone noticed the power with which he spoke. As he preached, the people who listened were moved to repentance and true revival.
Reading his sermons definitely reminds one of the styles of John Bunyan. There is deep Biblical truth accompanied by powerfully moving allegory. Perhaps, only in Wales could such a man have risen for that land is known for its fervent emotion. Christmas attributed much of his preaching style to a Calvinistic Methodist preacher by the name of Robert Roberts. Outside of church polity, Welsh Baptist and Calvinistic Methodist held much in common. Two names from the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist church should ring a bell, George Whitefield and Martin Lloyd-Jones. Christmas said of Robert Roberts: “I went one Sunday to hear him. He was one of the most insignificant looking persons I ever saw – a little-hunchbacked man; but he neither thought nor said anything like other people; there was something wonderful and uncommon about him.” Like most Welshmen, Evans believed in a fervent religion of the heart. He had little use for much of what he called the “new hymn singing” because he thought it lacked meaning from the heart. Once he saw a church member pull a hymn book from his pocket. “You won’t have those in heaven,” chided Evans, “put it back in your pocket.”
Baptists, in the south, in particular, inherited much of their fervent and yet doctrinally sound religion from their Welsh and Scottish ancestors. Like Jonathan Edwards, they knew one did not have to divorce emotion from doctrine. One can, in fact, must be, sound in doctrine and fervent in spirit. Christmas described himself as a fisher of men. He said: “(my) line should not be of fine silk but of strong thread interwoven with the help of truth and dipped in the spirit of prayer, for what was wanted was not something nice to look at, but a line with a hook on one end to bite.” The preceding quote emphasizes a Baptist distinctive of preaching for decision. Our forefathers were doctrinally sound as can be seen in Evans’ reading of such weighty stuff as the complete works of John Owen. They also believed in a religion of the heart. They preached to see men and women soundly converted. To the wayward saints, they preached for the godly sorrow which leads to repentance. Another momentous time in Evan’s life was when he met and married Catherine Jones.
His beloved Catherine would prove to be a great stabilizing force in the preacher’s life. Christmas and his wife moved to the Isle of Anglesey to begin a new work among the Baptists of that island. During his ministry on the island that Evans began to read John Owen and to translate John Gill’s, Body of Divinity into Welsh. The work was difficult and the opposition was great but God blessed his efforts among a number of Baptists churches on the island. Life has many strange turns and Christmas walked down a most crooked road as he approached his sixtieth birthday. First, his beloved Catherine was called home to Christ in 1823. Not long after that, Evans was named in a lawsuit by creditors seeking to recover unpaid debts from some of the Angsley chapels. Then he spent nine months battling an infection which threatened to rob the sight Evans had left. If that wasn’t enough, many of the Baptist church on the island began to chafe under Evan’s leadership and made it plain that felt it was time for him to move one. One is reminded of the words of Paul in Corinthians when he names all of his troubles and adds “as well as care for all of the churches.”
In spite of all of these trials, Christmas never hesitated in his march for the kingdom of God. Evans left Anglesey in 1826 and moved alone to the little village of Caerphilly. God once again blessed Evans in his love and gave him a loving new wife in Mary Evans. Christmas spent the last few years of his life preaching from one place to another, often returning to preach at the great annual assemblies of all evangelical Christians in Wales. On July 19th, 1838, God called Christmas home after a job well done. David Rhys Stephen preaching at Evans’ funeral said: “He had a heart swelling with love to God and man … He was a man that feared the Lord God … He walked before Him with great humility all the day long.” On the day of his death, Evans preached a sermon on the apostles on the day of Pentecost. He likened their mission as going out into a great naval battle: “The captain of our salvation sent out twelve little boats to engage the whole fleet of hell. For a time all was enveloped in fire and smoke, and the issue of the day seemed doubtful, but when the conflict had ceased … it was ascertained that the twelve little boats had captured three thousand of Satan’s ships of war.”
After preaching, Christmas Evans sat down and said, “This is my last sermon.” And it was. Yet Evans still preaches from the past. His life of solid dedication to God and God’s church is a monument to what it means to serve God with one’s whole heart. The one-eyed preacher from Wales may not have had a face that was much to look at but he had a heart that was a work of art. May his legacy lives in our hearts.
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and they spake the word of God with boldness. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection” (Acts 4:31, 33).
I was reading an article and I want to share a part with you. (Tomorrow I will share with you his Biography) Christmas Evans tells us in his diary that one Sunday afternoon he was traveling a very lonely road to attend an appointment, and he was convicted of a cold heart. He says, “I tethered my horse and went to a sequestered spot, where I walked to and fro in an agony as I reviewed my life. I waited three hours before God, broken with sorrow until there broke over me a sweet sense of His forgiving love. I received from God a new baptism of the Holy Ghost. As the sun was westering, I went back to the road, found my horse, mounted it and went to my appointment. On the following day, I preached with such new power to a vast concourse of people gathered on the hillside, that a revival broke out that day and spread through all Wales.”
The greatest question that can be asked of the “twice born” ones is, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?”
This was the password into the early Church.
“O the Spirit filled life; is it thine, is it thine?
Is thy soul wholly filled with the Spirit Divine?
O thou child of the King, has He fallen on them?
Does He reign in thy soul, so that all men may see
The dear Savior’s blest image reflected in thee?
“Has He swept through thy soul like the waves of the sea?
Does the Spirit of God daily rest upon thee?
Does He sweeten thy life, does He keep thee from care?
Does He guide thee and bless thee in answer to prayer?
Is it a joy to be led of the Lord anywhere?
“Is He near thee each hour, does He stand at thy side?
Does He gird thee with strength, has He come to abide?
Does He give thee to know that all things may be done
Through the grace and the power of the Crucified One?
Does He witness to thee of the glorified Son?
“Has He purged thee of dross with the fire from above?
Is He first in thy thoughts, has He all of thy love?
Is His service thy choice, and is sacrifice sweet?
Is the doing His will both thy drink and thy meat?
Dost thou run at His bidding with glad eager feet?
“Has He freed thee from self and from all of thy greed?
Dost thou hasten to succor thy brother in need?
As a soldier of Christ dost thou hardness endure?
Is thy hope in the Lord everlasting and sure?
Hast thou patience and meekness, art tender and pure?
“O the Spirit filled life may be thine, may be thine,
In thy soul ever more the Shekinah may shine;
It is thine to live with the tempests all stilled,
It is thine with the blessed Holy Ghost to be filled;
It is thine, even thine, for thy Lord has so willed.”