Monday, 23 February 2009

Christmas Evans -- No Ordinary Preacher, Tim Shenton, Day One

Wales, in the past, has experienced spiritual revival and produced outstanding preachers of the gospel. One such preacher was the one-eyed Baptist pastor Christmas Evans (1766--1838) and in the years of his ministry he was involved in periods of spiritual awakening when churches of which he was pastor were blessed with occasions of great gospel blessing. Evans was naturally gifted in many ways, especially in oratory and a creative imagination (he was known as ‘the John Bunyan of Wales’), and these gifts combined to make him a very attractive preacher in his day.

Like all other servants of God Evans had defects: some seem to have been the consequence of inadequate theological training (which appeared when he became involved in doctrinal disputes) and others were connected to his personal traits (at times he could be severe with those who disagreed with him, and sometimes he let his penchant for humour come out in inappropriate situations). He had a tendency to place far too much reliance on dreams as a means of divine instruction, when it is possible that they were connected to his vivid imagination. Nevertheless he could sway great crowds when he took them to Calvary to observe the suffering Saviour, and a preacher who can do this on a regular basis is worth his weight in gold (and Evans was a big man physically).

This paperback is an abridged version of a previous biography of Evans by the author. It contains thirty short chapters and is designed to make the story of Evans accessible for ordinary readers. The account informs contemporary readers of some of the great things God did in the past in days of spiritual awakening, and should cause them to long for similar, even greater occurrences today.

In addition to highlighting the God-given abilities of preaching that Evans possessed, the book also stresses the importance of prayer in his life. Two quotations from Evans himself reveal the reality of prayer that he knew: on one occasion he said, ‘A thousand prayers bubble up from the fountain of my soul’; on another occasion he stated, ‘I never succeeded in anything for the good of others without making it a matter of prayer.’

Since Evans was noted for his quick wit and humour, here is an example of it. One day, while travelling across some hills on a summer’s day, he met a preacher with the surname Herring. Herring greeted Evans by saying how unusual it was to meet Christmas in the middle of summer. Evans replied that it was not as surprising as meeting a live herring on top of a mountain.

The story of Christmas Evans is one with which Christians, especially preachers, should be familiar. There are several biographies of him, and this one is a good choice with which to begin.

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