David Morgan

David Morgan

Went to bed like a lamb... and woke up as a lion!

Although the term ‘revival’ is not found in the New Testament, it is generally accepted that it is a sovereign move of God in which the Holy Spirit uses certain men or women in a remarkable way in bringing momentum and growth to the kingdom of God. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the ministry of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist minister, David Morgan.

In October 1858 Morgan went to sleep one night and woke up a changed man. He was endued with an extraordinary memory for spiritual things. His preaching from that day was marked with a new power.

It has been said that Morgan ‘went to bed like a lamb and awoke as a lion’. But as the revival drew to an end the experience was reversed.

His son later testified, “This astonishing endowment of memory was revoked as suddenly and unexpectedly as it was conferred. One night, in less than two years time, he went to sleep in possession of it, and when he awoke – it was gone!”

Although Morgan remained thereafter a faithful minister of Christ, from that time he never again knew the extraordinary power of the two years of revival ministry. However, during the 1859 revival it is estimated that over 100,000 people were converted in Wales alone.

Who was David Morgan?

David Morgan was born at Bodcoll Mill, Devil’s Bridge, Cardiganshire in 1814 to a godly family. His father was a carpenter and miller and David himself took up the family trade. He came to know Christ in a personal way when about 22 and joined the church at Ysbyty Ystwyth, a small village 13 miles from Aberystwyth, becoming an active worker.

He first resisted a call to ministry but his mind was finally made up when he heard a popular preacher give a rather ineffective sermon and thought, “The glorious gospel of the blessed God deserves to be preached better than that and I will try to do it.” Such was his success that, although having no formal ministry training apart from his own diligent study, Morgan was ordained to the ministry at the Trevine Association in 1857.

Revival first came to the district through the ministry of Humphrey Rowland Jones. A Weslyan Methodist, Jones had spent some time in America experiencing first-hand the extraordinary Fulton Street Revival that took place under Jeremiah Lamphier. And in June 1858 Jones arrived back in his native Wales to spread the fire.

He began his mission in his home town of Tre’r-ddol with a week of prayer meetings, and then he began to preach. Weeping converts came forward at every service. He spent five weeks there and services were packed. There were so many people around the chapel in the afternoons that it was difficult to drive a carriage down the street, and it was a similar scene at five in the morning. In August he ministered in Ystumtuen and 100 were converted.

Morgan was sceptical at first as Jones had imbibed Charles Finney’s Arminian ideas of revival, which went against Morgan’s own Calvinistic tendencies. However, having heard Jones preach on ‘not being hot or cold’, he was won over and joined Jones in the ministry.

Soon after Morgan received the anointing which changed his ministry for the next two years. Having gone to bed as usual one Tuesday night, he woke up early, instantly conscious that some strange, mysterious change had come over him. He became aware with awe of a marvellous illumination of his faculties, especially of his memory: “I awoke about four in the morning, remembering everything of a religious nature I had ever learnt or heard.”

In the future Morgan would interview all those who gave their lives to the Lord at a meeting, perhaps 100 people, and he would later be able to declare their names, in the order that he had spoken to them, details of their spiritual circumstances and those of their families. This lasted for almost two years and then one night he went to sleep and woke up with his memory back to normal!

This was the first of several supernatural visitations experienced by Morgan. Another happened shortly afterwards on New Year’s Eve in the mountains at Soar: “He was on the mountain for hours; whether in the body or out of the body, he hardly knew. Beyond a doubt he went through experiences unspeakable and full of glory.”

His biographer (his son) writes that Morgan hardly ever mentioned these occasions, but he told a close friend that, “On this strange night on the hill he grasped and clung to the bushes, because he seemed to feel some mystical force lifting him, as it were, body and soul from the earth.” He arrived home looking very strange and with dirty clothes. On being asked what happened, he replied, “I have been wrestling for the blessing, and I have received it.”

The united meetings grew in the power of Holy Spirit. Drunken miners were convicted of their sin and prayer meetings took place down the mines, in people’s homes and in the street. Children would pray together and people would pray as they walked along. The whole neighbourhood was affected; if one person in a household was saved, then it was likely that person would bring in the rest. By the end of the year there were two hundred adult converts out of a population of less than one thousand.

From early November the revivalists visited churches in neighbouring villages. At one church an old lady of 80, who found difficulty in walking owing to rheumatism, came briskly to the front and laid hands on a lame and decrepit deacon of 72. This man stood up and vaulted over the high-backed bench that separated him from the old lady, and the two of them began to leap and dance about!

After about seven weeks of working together, Jones and Morgan amicably went their separate ways. Unfortunately, the strain was telling on Jones and he suffered what today would probably be called a nervous breakdown, exhibiting bizarre behaviour which discredited both himself and the revival. He then went into seclusion for about four years before ministering again in the Aberystwyth circuit. In 1869 he had medical treatment and in 1871 returned to America, where he preached for some years before dying in 1895.

The work under David Morgan’s ministry, however, went from strength to strength. In February 1859, a report of a meeting in Aberystwyth speaks of the power and conviction of the preaching: “The revivalist stood in the pulpit and glanced around the audience, gazing more especially at the crowd of young people in the audience. That gaze was terrible. Hardly any one in the gallery could endure it. With one impulse they bent their heads like a sensitive plant touched. ‘The world’s sin is great’, he says. The words fall like lead on the hearts of the multitude. ‘Christ’s atonement is greater,’ he adds; and a shower of tears falls through a bright sky of joy.”

After this, Morgan’s influence began to grow and the southern Cardiganshire churches embraced the revival. He preached extensively throughout the Principality and was a powerful instrument of revival blessing wherever he went. Soon many parts of Wales would experience a powerful outpouring of the Spirit as the revival spread throughout Wales.

However, there were many parts of Wales that experienced a move of the Spirit independent of Morgan’s ministry. Almost every county was touched as the refreshing gales of the Spirit breathed new life into moribund churches. The Word of God was preached with fresh power and many were soundly converted. And still the churches prayed in earnest for yet more of the Spirit’s presence in their midst.

As a result of the 1859 revival in Wales, it is estimated that over 100,000 people were added to the churches, this at a time when the population was little over a million. The Welsh communities in Liverpool and the Midlands were also affected by the awakening. During the same period there were also remarkable outpourings of the Spirit in Ulster, Scotland and England. In London, Charles Haddon Spurgeon experienced revival in his New Park Street Ministry. Although there have been local moves of the Spirit since, it might be said that 1859 was the last UK-wide revival.

The revival lasted around two years, which was the same period the extraordinary power rested on Morgan. It was said that Morgan “went to bed like a lamb and awoke as a lion,” but as the revival drew to an end the experience was reversed. The special anointing and astonishing endowment of memory was revoked as suddenly and unexpectedly as it was conferred. One night in 1860 Morgan went to sleep in possession of it, and when he awoke, it had departed. The pulpit ‘lion’ was a ‘lamb’ once more! The divine power that had been sovereignly given in such a mysterious way was now withdrawn in an equally mysterious fashion.

While Morgan himself was troubled as to why this special anointing had suddenly disappeared from his life, there appears to be no other explanation than the sovereignty of God. The Spirit moves as he wills, taking men up and putting them down again as he pleases. It is also a reminder that there is a season for revival, and while the church should always expect to be in the blessing of God, times of revival (as in 1859) are determined by God.

David Morgan, the erstwhile pulpit lion, settled down to an ordinary, yet faithful pastoral ministry in the Calvinistic Methodist Church. His contribution as an instrument of revival was enormous and he was held in respect by his people until his ministry ended with his death in 1883.

First published in Heroes of the Faith issue 45

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