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So common were these morbid phenomena during the Ulster Revival of '59, that many cases of insanity resulted. Dr. Salmon quotes a sympathiser with the movement as writing: 1
There is another side of the picture which I am almost afraid to turn to you, but I feel that I would not be doing my duty if I would keep it back. There are three or four persons in this locality who have not got better from their conviction, and are raving maniacs as yet. I cannot look upon them without shuddering. They seem to answer the description of those given in the New Testament as possessed of devils. This is, as I think, God's mysterious work, but I cannot fathom it.
The prostrations, inhibitions, trances, and other abnormal phenomena throughout the Ulster Revival are almost of an exclusively morbid type. Except in some American revivals, it would not be easy to find such extreme manifestations. They are of great interest to the alienist, and the student of morbid psychology, but they are only a side issue in the study of the conversion-psychose. Davenport has dealt at length with such physical outcrops in his Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals, and regards them as much more substantial features than we are inclined to do. He uses them as proofs of recrudescence of primitive instincts in these psychoses. There is more than a little of 'medical materialism' in his system. We must account for these explosions more simply, for we cannot ignore their comparative absence in the largest body of Christian religious experience, that of Catholics. They are also rare among_Anglicans. During the Ulster Revival of '59, the then Established Church was, on the whole, opposed to the Revival, at least, in its more orgiastic features. It was only in certain parts of Ulster that the Revival was at all general among Protestants. It left the Catholics untouched, save a very doubtful sporadic case or two, and what is more, did not notably affect Protestants in those parts of Ireland where Catholics were in the majority. Dogma, of course, was a great factor, but as far as regards Calvinism, there was little to choose between the Episcopalians and other Irish Protestants in '59. Liturgy, and the sense of church order, were the restraining forces. Neither in the Catholic, nor in the Established Church was the ecclesiastical crowd' suffered to become a mob. There was a discipline which_repressed 'singularity,' and the 'note' of every revival, in the Protestant
1 Salmon, Evidences, etc., p. 31.
Evangelical sense of the word, was precisely 'singularity.' Stress was laid on the necessity of personal religion,' that is, of spiritual singularity, of individualism. Singularity in matters of devotion easily runs to extravagance, and has always been discouraged by Catholics and by Anglicans, who have a sense of corporate worship. It was felt to be disorderly, from the liturgical point of view, and even in private devotion, was regarded as objectionable. There are few points more strongly insisted on by Catholic spiritual writers than the duty of avoiding singularity in one's devotions, even those which are strictly private. Hence, the idea of a layman leading the congregation in prayer, or interrupting a service with ejaculations or extempore collects is quite unthinkable. Take this element of sporadic prayer out of the Welsh or Ulster Revival meeting, and its characteristic feature is gone. During the Evan Roberts Revival, De Fursac remarked that attempts to restrain spontaneous exuberance, to create more order and discipline in the services, only resulted in a damping down of the revival spirit.1 The repression of singularity inculcated as a duty by Catholic directors is, in the eyes of the revivalist, a quenching of the Spirit.
We find some curious examples of this devotion in Wales.
It is described in Welsh by a variety of words, such as gorfoleddu, ' rejoicing'; mwynhad, rapture'; and moliannu, praising.' At its best, this praise' would be characterized by a delightful spontaneity and abandon, and illuminated by a glow of spiritual insight and passion that lifted it to the highest levels of that worship which is spirit and truth. Sometimes it would be a soliloquy addressed to the speaker's own soul, dilating on one's hopes and fears, triumphs and defects, experiences and prospects, solaces and aspirations. Not seldom it would be a doxology of rapturous homage to the power and beauty of the Redeemer.... Sometimes a cry of despair. ... Some would wail as if the pains of death had got hold of them... . The reader should remember that the popular mind did not recognize that the Revival, par excellence, had broken out in a place until religious emotion had reached this point of ebullition in open rapture.3
What would be very beautiful in private devotion was sometimes found inconvenient in church,
It (Sion chapel) was the reiigious home of the pious old Sister Jane Williams, of Bryn, commonly known as 'Sian Seion.' Many things are
1 De Fursac, Un Mouvement Mystique Contemporain; Paris: Alcan, 1907,
reported of Sian's' sayings and doings. One of them appears in the Welsh Autobiography of Robyn ddu Eryri. Robyn states: As I was going along the street one Saturday, Mr. Preece beckoned to me, and in my hearing asked Sian y Bryn if she did not feel chilled walking bare-footed in that snowy weather, and she replied that she did. Exacting a promise from her that she would not shout (glorify) on the following day whilst he was preaching, he bought her a pair of shoes. Sunday morning came, and I went to Sion Chapel before Mr. Preece had arrived, and took care to secure a place near Sian. Mr. Preece's text was 'Behold the Lamb of God.' He preached with much fervency, and Sian began to be ill at ease. Presently she stooped down and took off her shoes. Then she stood up and flung the shoes at the preacher, shouting, Thy shoes to thee, Preece; Christ for me. Glory and praise be to Him for ever and ever.'1
Another and more curious example of singularity :
Another hymn was started, and suddenly a very quaint scene was witnessed. Between the big seat and the pews there was a clear space, some yards across, in most chapels in Wales at that time. A godly old woman, named Nell, eighty years old, who had failed to attend the afternoon service owing to very severe rheumatic pains in her limbs, and had only crept painfully to the evening meeting, advanced briskly across the open space and put her hand on Enoch Davies, a lame and decrepit deacon of seventy-two, who sat in the 'big seat.' This was high-backed and a seat ran around it outside as well as inside. As if electrified by Nell's touch, Enoch stood on his feet, and with one vault cleared the high obstacle between him and her; and the two soon joined by others, began to leap and dance as if the days of youth had returned to them ... the subjects of these physical manifestations were frequently, indeed generally, men and women of piety and spiritual-mindedness; and when they were moved in this manner, they were swayed spontaneously, irresistibly, and often unconsciously. In one neighbourhood a respectable middle-aged lady, the sister of an eminent Welsh minister, when intensely moved by the truth in sermon or prayer or hymn, would leave her pew, walk gravely into the clear space in front of the big seat, and there she would literally fulfil the Psalmist's injunction and praise the name of the Lord in the dance.' After leaping and dancing with rhythmical movements for a few minutes, she would cease and return to her pew, not one word having been uttered by her throughout the whole scene. 2
Spiritual jubilation of this extraordinary character is far from unknown among Catholics. There is a variety of mystical religious experience known as Ebrietas seu crapula amoris, of which we find many details in the lives of the Saints. St. Teresa on one occasion sang and danced in the
1 Robert Humphreys, An Early Methodist Preacher in Wales, by Edward Rees, J.P.; translated from the Welsh, and edited by Howel Thomas; London: Charles H. Kelly, 26 Paternoster Row, E.C., p. 70.
2 The '59 Revival in Wales, p. 27.
excess of spiritual joy. But it was within the cloister, not in a public church.1 This amazing physical outpouring of spiritual exultation has so characterized certain phases of mystical life, that it is recognized by Lopez Ezquerra and Scaramelli as a distinct stage, though Poulain only regards it as a variety of the prayer of quiet." But though it is recognized as a possible effusion of the Holy Spirit, all approved authors look on these manifestations with deep suspicion and counsel the greatest self-restraint, caution, and privacy.
"Quia hae actiones praecipites possunt interdum procedere, vel a spiritu lunatico, vel ab indole, et genio facili, et hilari, vel à nimia fatuitate, vel denique (et hoc frequentius) ex hypocrisi, et simulatione, quae aliquae falsae Beatae suae virtutis quaestum portare volentes, dum superbia et avaritia tument, credi appetunt divini amoris incendio crepare.' And Lopez Ezquerra concludes: 'Ingenue fatemur, quod omnes insolitas, et exteriores gesticulationes, motus, jaculatiorias, suspiria, et his similia, quibus aliqui in conspectu hominum utuntur; praeter modestiam hilarem, circumspectam gravitatem et inaffectatam devotionem, immortali odio prosequimur.'
If the Ulster Revivalists had possessed a little of the spiritual science of this Spanish priest of the seventeenth century, they would have damped down many scandalous scenes. One of the most striking features in all these Protestant revivals is the lack of that science, 'the discernment of spirits,' in nearly all the ministers concerned. 'No excesses of excitement, no hypnosis, no diseased imaginings, provided they have the cloak of religion, are too extreme to be regarded by certain persons as normal and healthy."
De Fursac, in his account of the Evan Roberts Revival, mentions another phenomenon, not however confined to revivals, which presents also rather marked mystical features, somewhat akin to what Poulain calls la quietude priante," or even certain forms of ecstasy, but distinguished from these forms of experience by its unconscious character. Psychologically it seems a secondary state, but without the
1 Minor Works of St. Teresa, London: Baker, 1913, p. 71.
2 Ezquerra, Lucerna Mystica, tr. 5, cap. 23; Sacramelli, Direttorio Mistico, tr. 3, cap. 7 and 8; Poulain, Les Graces d'raison, ch. 11 § 7 (5me Ed.). 3 Starbuck, Psych. of Relig., p. 164.
4 De Fursac, op. cit., p. 170.
• Poulain, Les Graces d'Oraison, chap. 14, § 23 (5me Ed.).
ordinary defects of such secondary states. This is the celebrated Welsh hwyl. Ordinarily the word merely signifies a species of oratorical chant, but it is a psychological process as well, as the illustration De Fursac gives shows.
Several years ago, well before the Revival, a Welsh minister was preaching on the Passion of Christ. When he came to speak of the bloody sweat in the Garden of Olives, he entered into an excess of hwyl, rose to the chanting tone which characterizes this state, and continued to preach or rather to chant in this way for ten minutes, then he regained consciousness and resumed the ordinary tone of a sermon. When the sermon was over, he remembered vaguely that the moment when he began to speak of the sweat of blood, he felt choked, but could not recall a word of what he had said during the hwyl. That ten minutes were blotted out of his life, as it were yet it appears that he was never more eloquent.
De Fursac does not, of course, admit the last point in an objective sense. He looks on the eloquence as the result of the contagious character of the hwyl, which affects the mentality of the hearers as a species of hypnotism.
A few minutes of hwyl,' said a Welsh minister to me, stronger impression on the soul than hours of preaching.'
We are not bound to accept M. de Fursac's psychologic prejudices. He admits that the hwyl is a plaintive and very impressive chant, but as he did not speak Welsh he could hardly judge the intellectual and moral value of the hwyl he heard.
This phenomena of the hwyl and much of the whole spirit of Welsh Protestant piety, as shown in these revivals, remind the Catholic student of hagiography of much in the lives of the early Franciscans, even in its very extravagances. There is something amazingly Catholic about these Calvinists. The Ulster Revival is convulsionary Jansenism, morbid and repellent, but the Welsh brings us back to the days when Francis of Assissi met the bandits with the cry, I am the Herald of the Great King,' when Brother Juniper boiled all the fowl in the larder, feathers and all, that there might be more time for the Brothers to sing the praises of the Most High, when Jacopone da Todi gave the world the Stabat Mater.
There were two very striking non-morbid features of the Ulster Revival of '59.
I was told by the Rev. Mr. Park, of Ballymoney, on authority which he considered reliable and decisive, that in the district of Excise, of which Coleraine is the centre, comprehending a radius of perhaps ten or