I pull the motorcar over, and step out on to the running board. From this vantage point I can see the entire town. It looks unchanged. The pit-head is still there, as are the incongruous terraced houses. They huddle together in squalid lines, as though unaware of the vast valley that stretches for miles on either side of them. Their slate grey roofs are an eyesore, a harsh gash in the valley’s lush green setting.
“It’s a though nothing had changed!” I shake my head. It seems impossible that it could give this appearance. The whole world had changed since I’d last been home. I’d changed. Four years in the trenches would do that to a man. Four minutes would.
I can recognize the town hall, the high street, and the three Non-Conformist chapels. I can’t help wondering if the congregations are currently talking to one another. The ecclesiastical and theological differences that separated them, that had once been so important to me, seem trivial beyond belief from my lofty vantage point at the head of the valley.
Of course I couldn’t ponder the chapels without remembering the 1905 revival, when unity had prevailed for a few brief months. Calvinistic Methodists had shared pulpits with Particular Baptists, and Wesleyan Methodists had been acknowledged by both as real brothers and sisters in Christ. We'd been united by the overpowering sense of the presence of God which had hovered over Wales in those days. A spirit of prayerfulness had seized us all.
I’d been a young man, barely seventeen, when Evan Roberts had first preached in our town. Never had I heard such impassioned eloquence for the cause of God, such sweet extolling of the virtues of our Saviour, such urgent pleading with sinners to flee to the cross and find salvation while they could. Nor had I seen so many of the town crowded in to a place of worship to hear any preacher. Even more amazing had been the distress and joy which gripped many as a result. It was said that not a family in the town was unaffected. Everyone knew someone who'd been converted. We'd even made the London newspapers.
Since I’d returned from the War, I'd discovered that our town had made the papers again. This time because of the high losses that the town had suffered. They called it the "Valley of the Cursed", for it seemed that every single family had lost someone. For me, it was my younger brother at the Somme.
As so many times before, a half inarticulate cry of "Why?" exploded from my lips, even as I blinked back sudden tears. For the first time, however, I asked the question in the context of 1905. Why us? Why a revival in our town? Why such suffering? Was there a link?
I'd always known that revivals were amazing acts of sovereign grace. It occurs to me that the grace was broader and deeper than I had ever realised before. God had prepared us for the trials which were to come. No people remembered by the Almighty, and treated so tenderly, were cursed. Quite the opposite.
"In the history of revivals, it has often been that such restoral periods are a warning of, and synchronize with, impending judgment. The harvest is gathered before the field is doomed to death"
The biographer of J. Wilbur Chapman, quoted in Stuart Piggin, "Firestorm of the Lord", Paternoster Press, (Carlisle: England), 2000, page 143.
"...revivals preceding community disasters raise for us the question of God's providence. One would not wish to affirm that God is the agent of disaster, but we can affirm that he not only can overrule all such tragedies for his own purposes, but he does so partly by preparing people in strengthening them with his grace for future suffering."
Stuart Piggin, "Firestorm of the Lord", Paternoster Press, (Carlisle: England), 2000, page 144.
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