We may never know exactly what happened, but out of Smale’s chance visit to the Welsh Revival, a key link seems to have been established which provided further stimulus to the outpouring in LA which began in Smale’s church and which found its fullest expression later in Seymour’s meetings in Azusa Street. …
Joseph Smale was born on 7th July 1867 in the tiny hamlet of Hampt in the parish of Stoke Climsland, just south of Launceston, a border town on the very edge of Cornwall where it is separated from the neighbouring county of Devon by the River Tamar. This was at one time a tin and copper mining area, dotted with the tall thin chimneys of the pump houses of the metal ore mines. Joseph Smale’s father John (1826-1881) was himself a tin miner, and he and his wife Ann (nee Stephens, 1831-1911) had five children of whom Joseph was the youngest. Initially, it seemed likely that as a son Joseph would follow in his father’s footsteps as a miner, but that was not to be.
Old tin mine near Stoke Climsland, Cornwall
Some time in the 1870’s, when Joseph was still a lad, the family moved away from Cornwall to settle further north in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, where Ann Smale had been offered a position as servant in one of the wealthiest homes of the district. Being devout Wesleyans, the family attended the local Methodist chapel there. They had presumably been associated with that denomination in their days in Cornwall, where Welseyanism was strongly associated with the direct experience of revival, especially from 1814 onwards, when there was a great outpouring of the Spirit in the tin mining district of Redruth. Seeking God for further moves of the Holy Spirit was very much a characteristic of the Methodist spirituality of those parts, and Joseph Smale would have been brought up with an expectation of revival as part of his DNA. Wiveliscombe was no different, and the Methodists here too had experienced powerful moves of God in 1850, 1859 and 1863, in the years immediately before the Smales moved there, as a result of which there had been scores of conversions. The Smales would have known men and women in their church who had been saved in those outpourings, and would have worshipped in the afterglow of lives having been transformed through repeated revival outpourings.
John Smale died of pneumonia early in 1881 at the age of 55, and this must have had a profound effect on the then fourteen year old Joseph, causing him to seek comfort in God. Soon afterwards, in September of that same year, he was converted. He immediately felt a call to the ministry, and began preaching at the young age of sixteen, his ministry from the very beginning resulting in many conversions.
Being the youngest child of the family, it is possible Joseph had educational opportunities denied to some of his older siblings whose responsibility it would have been in greater measure to contribute to the economy of the family; and in 1887 it became possible for Joseph to respond to what he felt was God’s call on his life and go to Spurgeon’s College in London to train for the Baptist ministry. Smale’s first pastorate was at Ryde on the Isle of Wight, where he took on a struggling tin tabernacle in March 1890. Thanks to his gifting in evangelistic preaching, 40 were added to the church in the first year, and he was able to put the church there on a sounder footing.
Park Road Baptist Church Ryde, as it is today
In 1892 at the age of 25 Joseph Smale emigrated to the USA and by March 1893 had become the pastor of Lone Star Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona, a small church that had been started with just five members in 1880 in this frontier mining town (pop. 4,000) in ‘the driest spot on earth.’ When Smale arrived, the fourth minister of the small Baptist church, there were just 43 members. During the next five years under his effective, Spirit-reliant evangelistic ministry, the church grew three times over to 125 members.
In September 1893 Smale married Helena Dunham. They had met in England and she had followed him out to America. However, their happiness was tragically short-lived for Helena died following confinement and the death of their baby in January 1895, just sixteen months after they were married. In order to help Smale through this difficult period, his mother Ann, then 63 years old, moved out to Arizona to be with her youngest son. Throughout this difficult period, Smale did quite a bit of itinerating round about, and became quite widely known as a good minister and as an anointed and very effective preacher. The result was that in 1897, First Baptist Church in Los Angeles invite Smale to cover for the loss at the same time of their two experienced pastors through illness. They were generally pleased with his support, and at the beginning of 1898, when he was still just 31 years old, Smale was invited to become their pastor. However, there was a small hardcore group of about twenty who did not want him to be the minister, and their continuing opposition to his appointment would dog him in the years that followed.
It was quite a big ask for the minister from a small frontier mining town and a church of just 125 members on the edge of the Arizona desert to be invited to pastor a growing, successful, and very affluent middle-class church in a rapidly developing city. First Baptist had just redeveloped their facility, opening a new and imposing corner of the block building capable of holding up to 2,000 worshippers. It was already a church about 600 strong. Nevertheless, clearly relishing the challenge, Small made clear his hope-filled vision for the church when he arrived:
We are looking for a revival, and several signs of it are already with us. Let us stand for conditions, that, instead of neutralizing, will hasten it to a floodtide of strength.
By end of the first year of his ministry there, Smale had baptized 56 people, welcomed 195 new members and membership stood at 791. It was clearly a very successful start, due in no small part to an anointing for evangelism which he clearly carried. But the small group of malcontents continued to simmer unhelpfully, ill at ease with what they felt was Smale’s lack of an adequate education (he had not been to university), his lack of church leadership experience, and in all probability his extremely humble Cornish origins. The parallels with Evan Roberts, who was twelve years junior to Smale, and who would in a few years’ time emerge in Wales as a key leader thrown into prominence by circumstances and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are there. In 1905 the two would meet and the older Smale would receive encouragement from the younger Welshman as he sought a similar outpouring of the Spirit in his own context to the one by then being experienced in Wales.
First Baptist Church LA as it is today
Smale taught the Los Angeles church ten factors that he believed needed to be in place in the life of First Baptist Church, LA if it was to break through into revival. He summarised it as follows, each point being accompanied by scriptural exemplars (I’ve omitted these below). There is a strong and even emphasis here on Word and Spirit, which exemplified his Spurgeon’s training as well as his Cornish Methodist background with its strong element of revivalism and commitment too preaching the gospel of the Word of God.
How to Bring Revival
First. Perfect harmony between yourself and every church member.
Second. A living soul… Expect to see souls saved, and all other things being equal, we shall see souls saved.
Third. A God-possessed heart. This involves a separateness from sin and self, a daily surrender, holy conduct, love in us as a master passion for God, for our fellow church members and for lost souls, a full indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Fourth. Unceasing prayer for the Spirit to move upon all hearts in the service.
Fifth. An unceasing knowledge of the Scriptures. Through the word and Spirit we come to know God.
Sixth. A painful consciousness that everybody out of Christ is lost.
Seventh. A willingness and readiness to cooperate with the church in every spiritual project. A disposition to be anything, and do anything, and go anywhere for the glory of God.
Eighth. Attendance at all the services unless you can render a reason for your absence which you know the Lord will accept.
Ninth. Being faithful to known duties.
Tenth. Last, but not least, a daily habit of family table reading and prayer.
But then, not long after he had settled into ministry in Southern California, things started to go wrong, even though the church continued to grow rapidly under Smales Spirit-empowered evangelistic ministry, with 700 being added to the church in five years.
In June 1898, Smale married Alverda Kayser, the daughter of a wealthy businessman and church member. The marriage was a disaster, seemingly because Alverda did not want to let go of the extremely affluent home life in which she was brought up. It was a case of cleaving not really being possible without leaving, to refer to the classic Genesis verse on marriage. The couple separated after just 11 months, and Smale went to live in his study at the church. They would eventually divorce in 1910, but the unresolved marriage breakdown of the pastor exacerbated the criticism from some quarters in the church that Smale had already had to live with.
By 1902 things were getting almost impossible for Smale, and at the end of an acrimonious and painful series of church meetings, one of which lasted for eleven hours, he resigned. He overwhelmingly won the ensuing vote of confidence, however, in a meeting in which only a small proportion of the members were in attendance, the vote being 226 to 30 in his favour. But the rumblings would not go away, and increasingly there was unhappiness in some quarters with what was felt to be Smale’s over-controlling style of leadership. The pressure on Smale was unrelenting, and by 1904 he was exhausted and demoralised, and much in need of a break. The deacons gave him leave of absence and provided funds for him to visit England and to go on a tour of the Holy Land with his mother, Ann. The two of them left for Europe on 24th August 1904. The timing would prove to be very significant, for revival was already brewing in Wales, and would burst forth fully and simultaneously under the ministry of Evan Roberts at Loughor in the south of the country, and R B Jones in Rhosllanerchrugog in the north, just two months later. Smale was unaware that though thing had seemed to be going wrong for him, God was about to use his circumstances to position him to be the carrier of some of the Welsh fire back to California to help start an inextinguishable blaze.
Smale and his mother first went to England to visit friends, and then Smale travelled on alone to Greece, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and the Holy Land on a four and a half month tour, during which time the Welsh Revival broke out in full force. We don’t know if Smale heard about what was happening in Wales while he was on his tour of the Near East, but he was suddenly called back to England from Jerusalem when his mother Ann became dangerously ill in April 1905.
Quite when it was that Smale arrived back in England from Jerusalem we do not know, nor how long it was that he waited there for his mother’s illness to abate. She fortunately recovered quite rapidly, and the two of them prepared to return to America in May 1905, travelling to Liverpool to await passage, though again the date of the journey to Liverpool is not known. By this time, Smale was fully aware of events in Wales. The Revival there represented the kind of experience of God that he had himself longed to see in his own church, and he took the opportunity while he could of travelling from Liverpool to experience the Revival in North Wales for himself while waiting for passage to America. Unfortunately, his precise movements and their timing is not documented, but something of what must have happened can be deduced.
Frank Bartleman, the narrator of events that took place a little later in Los Angeles when the Holy Spirit began to be poured out at Azusa Street in 1906, and Cecil Robeck, the more recent historian of those events, refer to Smale’s having met with Evan Roberts, and to his having developed a friendship with him. During April and the early part of May 1905 Evan Roberts was disengaged from the Revival meetings which were continuing across Wales. He spent that period in North Wales, resting and recuperating from what had been an extremely arduous and exhausting schedule. Evan Roberts had been involved in a hectic round of revival meetings in Liverpool, the effective capital of North Wales, where there was a very large Welsh speaking community, and at that time, many Welsh chapels. This was between 28th March and 17th April 1905. It is just possible, though I think unlikely, that Smale and his mother were in Liverpool in time to attend one of the revival meetings in the city at which Evan Roberts spoke. It is more possible that he might have visited a chapel there that was experiencing revival in the aftermath of one of Evan Roberts’ visits. What we do know is that Smale must also have travelled to North Wales to visit the Revival either on his way to Liverpool or from Liverpool once he was staying there waiting for a ship to take them across the Atlantic.
In the Llangollen Advertiser for 28th April 1905, there is an article which mentions a special train coming from Liverpool to Rhosllanerchrugog, in North Wales, carrying hundreds of visitors to the Revival. Rhos, as it is more commonly know, was the premier Revival location in the north of the country as far as visitors to it were concerned. The date for the special train from Liverpool ‘last Friday’ would have been 21st April. Was this the train on which Smale travelled to the Revival? It is quite possible. If so, this would have been several days after Evan Roberts had been in Liverpool.
THE REVIVAL SCENES AT RHOS
During the holidays the revival influence at Rhos has undoubtedly been kindled. The meetings have been attended by larger congregations than ever, and visitors have been more numerous. The Vicar has been busily engaged entertaining visitors from France, Holland, and Dublin. Although unable to understand the Welsh language, these visitors expressed themselves highly pleased with the wonderful scenes of real Welsh emotion they witnessed, and were greatly surprised on Sunday, when they made a tour of inspection of the various Sunday schools. At three of the larger Schools there were present scholars from one to eighty years of age a sight which the foreigners had never before witnessed. On Friday a special train conveyed some hundreds of visitors from Liverpool, and special arrangements were made for their reception.
A letter from Smale was published in a North Wales newspaper some time after Smale’s return to Los Angeles. The letter was written to a Baptist pastor in Rhosllanerchrugog in North Wales whom he had clearly visited before returning home to America.
Here is the letter, which appeared in the Llangollen Advertiser on 1st September 1905:
THE RHOS REVIVAL
EFFECTS FELT IN CALIFORNIA
The Rev. E. Williams, Baptist minister, Rhos, has just received the following letter from the Rev. Joseph Smale, pastor of the first Baptist Church of Los Angeles, California.
My dear Brother, you will doubtless recall my visit to you back in April. I left the old country the 10th of May, for home, arriving here the 25th of the same month, and am glad to tell you that a wonderful work of grace commenced immediately I resumed my ministry. While I was recounting the Lord’s doings in your country the Holy Ghost fell upon the people, and fully two hundred of them came out of their seats and wept in penitence before the Lord. This was the first Sunday morning after I returned home, and similar scenes have greeted us every now and again in our meetings. This is the eighth week of special gatherings for prayer. We are coming together every day in the afternoon and evening meeting with glorious results, principally in sanctification of the lives of believers. Conversions are not as yet very numerous, but we are looking for a great awakening. The glory of the Lord has indeed settled among us, and people from all over Southern California are coming and feeling the power divine. May I ask of you and your Church an interest in the Lord’s work here. Will you pray for us and that the Lord will grant us to see greater things for His Glory.”
Penuel Chapel, Rhosllanerchrugog
The Rev E Williams mentioned was Evan Williams, the minister of Penuel Baptist Chapel in Rhosllanerchrugog, the chapel at which R B Jones had preached back in November 1904 when the Revival broke out in the north of the country for the first time. Evan Williams, himself a North Walian from the slate mining village of Bethesda in Snowdonia, was 41 years old when the revival began, having been born in 1863. He had been a quarryman himself when young, and was from the same kind of working class milieu as Smale. He was also just four years older than Smale. Both Baptist pastors, the two of them seem to have got on well together, well enough for Smale to keep the Welsh pastor up to date with news of what happened subsequently at First Baptist Church in Los Angeles, and to ask for the prayers of Williams’ church. The fact that Williams gave the letter to the press for publication suggests he valued the link with Smale, and recognised the genuineness of Smale’s report.
Evan Williams and his wife Sarah had a young son, James Maelor Williams, who had been born in 1900. They lived in the Penuel Chapel manse just behind the chapel, on Roberts Street. It was probably here that Smale would have stayed while attending some of the meetings at Penuel, and perhaps one or two of the other chapels in Rhos.
Penuel Villa, Rhosllanerchrugog,
the home of Evan & Sarah Williams
From 18th April to 6th May Evan Roberts was himself in North Wales, but was having a break from the revival meetings themselves after what must have been a particularly gruelling time in Liverpool earlier in April. During this period he was enjoying the stunning scenery of the area, but he was receiving a few visitors. Some of these visits are mentioned in the revival accounts, though Smale is not specifically referred to. Frank Bartleman’s reference to Smale having developed a friendship with Evan Roberts certainly suggests that the two men might have met while Smale was visiting Rhosllanerchrugog, and Evan Williams, a key figure in the North Wales revival as the minister who had invited R B Jones to his church, could well have effected an introduction of Smale to Evan Roberts.
We may never know exactly what happened, but out of Smale’s chance visit to the Welsh Revival, a key link seems to have been established which provided further stimulus to the outpouring in LA which began in Smale’s church and which found its fullest expression later in Seymour’s meetings in Azusa Street.
Joseph Smale and his mother arrived back in New York by 10th May 1905, and were back in Los Angeles by 24th May, after nine months away. They were warmly welcomed back by scores of church members who escorted Joseph and his mother to the home of the church clerk, Henry Keyes, who coincidentally lived on Bonnie Brae Street – the very street on which the Spirit would begin powerfully to move in meetings led by William Seymour. There was a reception at the church gathering 500 the following day to welcome back their minister.
Some of the large houses on Bonnie Brae Street
Smale spoke to a reporter from the LA Examiner:
I was greatly interested in the great revivals which are in progress in Wales, and shall give a series of talks next week about them. The wave of religious enthusiasm is sweeping the entire country and thousands of conversions are reported.
But Smale was not the first bearer of good news about what was happening in Wales to the people of Los Angeles, though he was the one whose ministry had perhaps the greatest impact on his home city in terms of imparting something of the spirit of what was going on in Wales. The great preacher and author F B Meyer (1847-1929), who had experienced the Welsh Revival at first hand, had already visited Smale’s church early in 1905 while Smale himself was in the Middle East. Meyer had also played his part in the build-up to the Revival’s outbreak by being a keynote speaker at the Keswick in Wales conference at Llandrindod Wells in 1903 which had had such a powerful impact in bringing many Welsh leaders into the fulness of the Holy Spirit. He brought the church a first hand account of the Welsh Revival, and had spoken in other churches in the city too.
F B Meyer
In addition, Frank Bartleman who was as keen as anyone to see a Holy Spirit visitation in Southern California, had distributed 5000 copies of Campbell Morgan’s published account of the Revival entitled ‘Revival In Wales’. S B Shaw’s compilation of first hand accounts called ‘The Great Revival in Wales’ had also been published in America and was freely available. There had also been several reports in the Los Angeles Herald newspaper about the Revival in Wales, including this fascinating one which appeared in March 1905, dealing with strange phenomenon which had been observed at Egryn in North Wales associated with a 35 year old farmer’s wife, Mary Jones. She had read and been deeply challenged after reading a book by an American Congregationalist minister from Topeka, Kansas. This was Charles M Sheldon’s 1895 world-wide bestseller ‘In His Steps’. On the back of that, Mary Jones had also been inspired by the ministry of Welsh Revivalist Evan Roberts, and felt God calling her to spread the blessing in her own community, by ‘doing what Jesus would have done’, to use Sheldon’s terminology. She began preaching early in December 1905, and the supernatural manifestations which came to be associated with her ministry very quickly drew her to the attetion of the national press. She went on to become famous in a matter of weeks, and ended up being invited to address packed revival meetings all over Wales in 1905 and well into 1906, seeing many hundreds, if not thousands, being saved. The interest in the article about her published in a Los Angeles newspaper is chiefly because of similar manifestations which came to be associated with the Azusa Street outpouring when it came towards the end of 1906. It would have been read quite widely in the city before the time of Smale’s return from the Revival:
REVIVALISTS SEE A GREAT LIGHT
WEIRD PHENOMENA OBSERVED IN WALES
Inhabitants Much Worked Up Over Illuminations That Accompany Devotions of a Successful Local Preacher
Special Cable to The Herald.
LONDON, March 11.— The Daily Mall says: Lights of unknown origin and of dazzling, brightness are shining out by night on the hillside above the little chapel of Egryn, in North Wales. . The people of the countryside, keenly alive to superstitious influences, regard the strange lights with steadfast face and calmness, believing them to be material signs from heaven in connection with the revival.
Three months ago the revival spirit touched the little Merionethshire village of Egryn, and Mrs. Mary Jones, the wife of a local farmer, roused much fervor in the village and gained many converts.
Soon after this local revival began rumors were afloat that strange lights were to be seen in the sky when Mrs. Jones went abroad, that sometimes they accompanled her to the place of worship she was visiting, that they were always to be seen when she was preaching, and that they made their most frequent appearance over the chapel at Egryn, where the revival started.
Under these circumstances a special correspondent of the Dally Mail was sent to investigate the matter. He has seen the lights, and says- of them: “At 7 o’clock in the evening I made my way through Egryn, watching the black hillside. I walked back again across the lonely meadow, and saw nothing. At 8 o’clock I had decided that the whole thing was a local superstition.
“Half an hour later my views were changed. At 8:15 I was on the roadside, walking from Dyffryn to Egryn. In the distance, about a mile away, I could, see the three lighted windows of the tiny Egryn chapel, where service was going on. It was only a touch of light In the miles of countryside. Suddenly, at 8:20, I saw what appeared to be a ball of fire above the roof of the chapel. It came from nowhere and sprang into brilliance and did not move.
“I set out to walk the four lonely miles to Barmouth, stopping here and there for ten minutes to watch for fresh lights.
“Just after 10:30 I was startled by a flash on the dark hillside immediately on the left, and looking up I saw I was comparatively close to one of the strange lights. It was about 300 feet up the hillside, and about 800 feet from where I stood. It shone out dazzllngly, not with a white brightness, but a deep yellow brightness. It looked a solid bulb of light, six inches in diameter, and was tiring to look at.
“I ran to the stone wall by the side of the road, climbed It, and made a run for the light. It was gone before I had covered a dozen yards and I could find nothing but the bare hillside. When I reached the road again I looked back along the way I had come, and saw In the roadway near the Egryn chapel another of the bright lights.
“That is, baldly, what I saw. The lights may be capable of some natural explanation, but I give the coincidences what they are worth.”
Los Angeles Herald 12th March 1905
Furthermore, there had been in May 1905, just days before Smale’s return, an outbreak of the Holy Spirit in Pasadena in California in a Methodist church which had resulted in 200 conversions. It seems that, as in Wales, things were building up towards something big happening, and it was Smale who was going to light the blue touch paper, though it would be Seymour who would see the fullest expression of the powerful move of God was was about to commence. Bartleman describes Smale as the Moses figure in the story who led the people most of the way, while Seymour was the Joshua who actually led the people into the land.
It was on Sunday 28th May in the morning service that Smale spoke on ‘The Great Welsh Revival.’ Here is church clerk Keyes’ account of what happened:
‘At the close of the sermon, the Pastor invited all those who were not right or felt they wanted to get nearer to God to come forward and kneel; at least two hundred people came. Prayer was offered and there followed a general confession of sin and an asking of forgiveness from each other. The Spirit was strongly manifest.’
It was: ‘A remarkable service, long to be remembered.’
Smale called for daily meetings, and additional prayer gatherings were initiated in the afternoon. Smale began a series outlining the background and development of the Revival in Wales. The Holy Spirit was strongly at work in the meetings. At times, Smale was unable to preach, and there were a number of conversions.
Here is Timothy Welch’s account:
Similar events to those Smale had witnessed in Wales were increasingly evident thereafter. The next Sunday, during the June communion service, “one of the members who had taken the bread came to the table and laid it down, following the act by a heart-melting confession of sin. A deacon who was called upon to pray got as far as ‘Our Father’ and broke down”. Echoes of Evan Roberts’ prayer “Bend me! Bend me! Bend us” were translated into the Los Angeles context of First Baptist Church, and “sobs of convicted hearts were heard in various parts of the building” making it difficult for the distribution of the emblems. Smale comments how “it was a never-to-be-forgotten night”.
People began to attend from other churches across the city, and Frank Bartleman first attended meetings at First Baptist at the end of week three.
Here is Bartleman’s account:
A wonderful work of the Spirit has broken out here in Los Angeles, California, preceded by a deep preparatory work of prayer and expectation. Conviction is rapidly spreading among the people, and they are rallying from all over the city to the meetings at Pastor Smale’s church. Already these meetings are beginning to “run themselves”. Souls are being saved all over the house, while the meeting sweeps on unguided by human hands. The tide is rising rapidly, and we are anticipating wonderful things. Soul travail is becoming an important feature of the work, and we are being swept away beyond sectarian barriers. The fear of God is coming upon the people, a very spirit of burning. Sunday night the meeting ran on until the small hours of the next morning. Pastor Smale is prophesying of wonderful things to come. He prophesies the speedy return of the apostolic “gifts” to the church. Los Angeles is a veritable Jerusalem. Just the place for a mighty work of God to begin… Pray for a “Pentecost”.
It was quite probably at this time that Frank Bartleman wrote to Evan Roberts asking for his advice on how to promote what God was beginning to do at Smale’s church in Los Angeles. Evan Roberts wrote back to him with the following advice:
‘My dear brother in the faith: Many thanks for your kind letter. I am impressed of your sincerity and honesty of purpose. Congregate the people together who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God’s promises. Hold daily meetings. May God bless you is my earnest prayer. Yours in Christ, Evan Roberts’
Bartleman wrote of this response: ‘We were much encouraged to know that they were praying for us in Wales.’
In response to a second letter from Bartleman, Roberts wrote:
“I pray God to hear your prayer, to keep your faith strong, and to save California.”
The exchange continued, and Roberts also wrote in reply to a third letter from Bartleman, the reply being dated 8th July 1905:
Dear brother, I am very thankful to you for your thoughtful kindness. I was exceedingly pleased to hear the good news of how you are beginning to experience wonderful things. Praying God to continue to bless you and with many thanks repeated for your good wishes. I am yours in the service, Evan Roberts.
From these letters, Bartleman said he received the gift of faith that full blown revival would eventually come.
Henry Keyes described events in the church during weeks five and six:
It is with us! Glory to God. The Holy Spirit is doing a profound work in Zion. For years God’s professing people in the bulk have been drawing nigh to Him with their mouth and with their lips have been honoring Him, but their heart has been far removed from Him, and now he is revealing to them the pathetic truth that their fear of Him has been a commandment of men. (Isa. 29:13) But from under that commandment he is now bringing them, and causing the wisdom of their wise men to perish. And this is the rich promise that he is fulfilling: “They also that err in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmur shall receive instruction”. (Isa. 29:24) Let us continue to wait upon Him, for every day the deaf are hearing the words of the Book and the eyes of the blind are seeing out of obscurity and out of darkness. Soon God’s glory shall burst forth upon the people, and the multitude of thy foes O church of the living God shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones as chaff that passeth away; yea, it shall be in an instant, suddenly.
It is clear from this account, that Smale still felt they were not yet experiencing the full flow of revival, and that there was still more to come. Smale himself said of this experience of outpouring:
‘Pentecost has not come, but it is coming.’
At about this time, Bartleman wrote a typically laconic account of one of the meetings from around this time for a local newspaper as follows:
The service of which I am writing began impromptu and spontaneous some time before the pastor arrived. A handful of people had gathered early, which seemed to be sufficient for the Spirit’s operation. The meeting started. Their expectation was from God. God was there, the people were there, and by the time the pastor arrived, the meeting was in full swing. Pastor Smale dropped into his place, but no one seemed to pay any special attention to him. Their minds were on God. No one seemed to get in another’s way, although the congregation represented many religious bodies. All seemed perfect harmony. The Spirit was leading.
The pastor arose, read a portion of the Scripture, made a few well-chosen remarks full of hope and inspiration for the occasion, and the meeting passed once again from his hands. The people took it up and went on as before. Testimony, prayer and praise were intermingled throughout the service. The meeting seemed to run itself as far as human guidance was concerned. The pastor was one of them. If one is at all impressionable religiously they must feel in such an atmosphere that something wonderful and imminent is about to take place. Some mysterious, mighty upheaval in the spiritual world is evidently at our doors. The meeting gives one a feeling of ‘heaven on earth’, with an assurance that the supernatural exists, and that in a very real sense.’
Meanwhile, on Monday 10th July, at the start of week seven of season of outpouring that was being experienced at First Baptist Church, Keyes wrote:
The Seventh Week of Prayer Services begins with the meeting at 3 o’clock this afternoon. We are thankful to God for the wonderful movement of His Spirit in our midst. Truly the glory of the Lord is settling down in Los Angeles. The intercession of those in fellowship is telling upon the indifference that has sadly prevailed towards spiritual things. We are seeing an awakening among those who have been but nominal church members. Souls that have never been converted but yet have had their names upon the roll of some church, are coming in penitence to the Cross and entering into real union with our Lord Jesus Christ. A great work of sanctification is also in progress. Sinners are being regenerated and some of the professing people of God who have been living selfish, vain, proud, and carnal lives are becoming separated and devoted to the will of God and are being made holy. Glory! Hallelujah! Ye that are the Lord’s remembrancers keep not silence and give him no rest, till He establish and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
Los Angeles in 1905
The following appeared in the Sunday bulletin on 20th August, during week 13 of the outpouring:
The Holy Ghost broods over every meeting. Phenominal [sic] manifestations of spiritual life appear in each gathering. A wonderful era is opening. The Church is moving into the will of God and the Spirit is convicting the unsaved of their sins. We are truly on the eve of a great work of God which will spiritually revolutionize Southern California. Glory to the triune Jehovah!
Small received a letter during the fourteenth week which indicated that the move of God was continuing to be very powerful:
The presence and power of the Spirit were remarkably manifested in the meeting last evening. It was the first time in all my experience of fifty years that I saw souls seeking the altar without being invited, led there evidently by the Holy Spirit. It was a sermon of power and bore fruit abundantly. All praise to the blessed Trinity!
Towards the end of this period, Smale took the fairly radical step of dismissing the church’s choirmaster, a reflection of the extent to which the services during the outpouring had been being led by the Spirit. However, there were those who disagreed with this decision. Complaints surfaced and demands were made in the church for a reconsideration of the decision. The disagreement led to the resurfacing of all the old divisions, disagreement with Smale finding its focus in one of the deacons, a man named Melville Dozier. During the discussions that followed, Smale once again tendered his resignation on 10th September 1905, not wanting to go through another period of turmoil akin to the one from which he had only just recovered. This was in spite of overwhelming support from the rest of the deacons.
Church clerk Keyes, one of Smale’s most loyal supporters, wrote:
He has been fearless in the preaching of the Word as it is in the Scriptures. He is a true and noble example of a Spirit filled servant in the will of his Master striving with untiring energy to do His full will and to establish a Holy Ghost Church to be ruled of the Spirit only in all things. Man may attempt to set his will up against God’s for a short time but his end will be fearful to contemplate. We believe that God has a wonderful mission for our Brother Smale and we know that all Hell cannot prevail against the will of God…. May God have mercy on this Church for rejecting His anointed.
The result was that Smale left and began a new work independent of the denomination constraints of the Baptist Church. First New Testament Church was begun by Smale on 18th September 1905, with 240 members meeting in Burbank Hall.
The new church was founded on three core concepts:
a) The Headship of Christ over the Church.
b) The Holy Ghost administration of the Church.
c) The Baptism of the Holy Ghost for all believers.
One, and only One is Master here, verily Christ. There is no officialism lording it over God‟s heritage, neither allegiance or tribute paid to any sect or Missionary Board, nor any idolatrous denominational worship, nor traditions eating as doth a canker, nor worldliness to secure prosperity, not the human expedients of ladies and young people’s societies for the support of the church, nor the fleshly, ungodly sociable to catch the people. Thank God, this First New Testament Church is a stranger to all the man-made systems of religious life and service… free from all the bondage of creature religion, and separate from man-made schemes for the furtherance of the work of God.
Holy Spirit activity increased among them as they entered 1906, the time at which William Seymour arrived in town and began his meetings in Bonnie Brae Street. Here’s a description of what was happening in Smale’s church at this time:
Amidst the intensity of the daily prayer times, there were descriptions of “the fiery baptism of the Spirit” manifesting itself, “making us feel as if it were but yesterday Christ had died and risen from the dead”. There was “much joy in the reclamation of backsliders”. On another afternoon a participant described the experience as akin to “a people seated in the heavenlies. The place was ablaze with the divine glory”. “A soul that had wandered came back with great joy, testifying that his load of sin was gone”. “The evening meeting was so blessed that altar work went on in several parts of the hall, and many bore testimony to the renewing work of the Holy Ghost”. “Some of us were kept so late dealing with souls that it was after midnight before we reached home”.
A simultaneous work of Holy Spirit continued at Smale’s church and at 214 Bonny Brae Street, and Monday April 9th 1906 was ‘a never to be forgotten night’.
The house of Bonnie Bray Street where Seymour held meetings
Vinson Synan described how Seymour and seven others fell to the floor in spiritual ecstacy and began speaking in tongues in their meeting, while the same night in a prayer meeting at Burbank Hall:
a significant number of people joined “before the Lord brought new glories to already surrendered and spiritually baptized souls” in the following ways:
a) “holy Laughter” – seemingly indescribable, other than the emphasis placed on the fact that it was “holy” laughter, and the link with Psalm 126, “Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing”.
b) “glad exclamations” – the report simply records anecdotal examples of phrases uttered, rather than any analysis, except that they were “involuntary” expressions of joy, such as: “Oh! This is rich”, “this is sweet”, “this is blessed”, and “Oh my! Isn’t this beautiful”.
c) “countenances” – among the one hundred plus who had stayed throughout the night, “there were faces smitten with the very light of the throne” which was interpreted by Smale to be further evidence that the congregation were the recipients of “heavenly experiences on earth”.
That Easter Sunday in the Sunday meeting at Burbank Hall Smale preached on Resurrection, and afterwards invited testimony from the congregation. Several individuals from the Bonnie Brae meetings were there that day, evidence of the degree to which the two groups were sharing at this point a common experience of the Holy Spirit. In response to Smale’s invitation, Jennie Moore from Seymour’s group. stood up and described what had been happening in their meetings during that past week. She announced that Pentecost had come to Los Angeles. As she came to an end of her testimony she began speaking in tongues, and others joined in. Bartleman was there and wrote describing the singing in the Spirit which featured in the meeting:
the New Testament Church received her ‘Pentecost’ yesterday. We had a wonderful time. Men and women were prostrate under the power all over the hall. A heavenly atmosphere pervaded the place. Such singing as I have never heard before, the very melody of Heaven. It seemed to come direct from the throne.
Smale himself later wrote:
some of our fellowship are being favoured with the gift of tongues, for which we adore Him who is the God of gifts.
But Smale differed from Seymour in his view of tongues, and it was at this point that there was a degree of parting of the ways of the two groups in their handling of the outpouring. Seymour saw tongues as a necessary evidence of the baptism of the Spirit, whereas Smale saw tongues as simply one of the possible results of that experience and not necessarily the experience of all who were baptised in the Spirit. It was the point at which Smale held back from pursuing what later developed into full-blown Pentecostalism.
Nevertheless, Smale continued to encourage the use of gifts: exorcism, prophecy, tongues, healing and expectation of the miraculous, and in his encouragement of the full range of the gifts there is a clear moving on from the experience of revival that characterised the Welsh Revival. In First New Testament Church as well as at the meetings in Bonnie Brae Street there was a moving beyond what had been the typical experience of the Revival meetings in Wales the year before, though it was Seymour’s church that pressed in furthest. The Spirit continued to move powerfully at Smale’s church, provoking a number of news reports referred to by Timothy Welch.
Newspaper reports referred to ‘wild religious frenzy’ in the church. A Los Angeles Times headline for 14th July 1906 referred to ‘Rolling on the Floor in Smale’s Church’, while three days later the same newspaper referred to the church as being ‘Holy Roller Mad’. On 23rd July the headline referred to the widespread use of tongues in Smales’ meetings under the headline ‘Queer Gift Given to Many’:
Besides speaking in unknown languages, some of the adherents of the First New Testament Church, as Smale calls his house of worship, sang in languages unknown to those about them.
But extraordinary as these meetings were, it would seem that even more amazing things were happening in the meetings that Seymour had moved from the house at Bonnie Brae Street to a former livery stable on Azusa Street, where spectacular healing were a normal occurrence, and the meetings were often filled with the glory cloud of the presence of God. It seemed that Seymour’s church was pressing further into the supernatural dimension of the move of the Holy Spirit, perhaps enabled to do so by the far greater degree of freedom from the formality of conventional religious meetings than was probably the case in Smale’s church.
This seems to be reflected in the split that came to First New Testament Church in September 1906, when Keyes, up to this point a strong supporter of Smale, broke with the church and set up the Upper Room Mission, determined to press more strongly into Pentecostalism than Smale seemed prepared to do. Meanwhile, Smale’s own focus increasingly became missional. In 1907 he spearheaded a mission to China, and for a while became heavily involved in the missionary movement there. In 1910 he finally divorced his estranged wife, while in 1911, just after the death of his mother, First New Testament Church opened their new building. Remarriage followed in 1911 to Esther Hargrave, who had a heart for the Spanish speaking world, and for the year or so that followed the two of them lived and worked in Spain doing mission work there. For the next few years they would be based in Europe, far away from what was happening in Los Angeles.
In March 1912 Smale, by now 45 years old, became pastor of Hitherland Road Free Church in Streatham Hill in London. it seems to have been a disastrous move, and he left after just 13 months, unable to work with Mrs Donald Campbell who had started the work and wished to retain full control over its development. For two years just before the Great War, Smale pastored Unity Chapel in Midland Rad in Bristol, a Brethren group. But then the death of their first son soon after birth forced the Smales to return to Los Angeles, where Smale resumed his ministry in the church he had founded there in 1905, which by now had been renamed Grace Baptist Church. A daughter Esther Grace Smale was born in 1916. Smale remained at Grace Baptist Church for the rest of his life, and died in LA on 26th September 1926 aged 59.
Unity Chapel, Bristol, now a warehouse
Joseph Smale was clearly a key figure in linking the experience of Revival in Wales with the increasingly strong desire being found in the hearts of some believers in California for something similar to happen there. He was clearly a catalytic figure, one who carried a significant measure of the fire of God and was able to release it so that lives were transformed as people encountered the living God working among them. God seemed sovereignly to use the circumstances and difficulties of Smale’s own personal life and ministry to bring about situation where he was the one who was equipped to carry something of the fire from the Welsh Revival back to California and to release it. But it seems also to be the case that it needed another generation, a Joshua to his Moses fully to release the fire so that the blaze spread far beyond Los Angeles itself. That fire is still spreading around the globe as Pentecostalism continues to be one of the fastest growing expressions of Christian faith on the face of the planet. It’s good, as a Welshman, to know that what God did in Wales in 1904-5 had a key role to play in initiating this ongoing move of God.
Note: it’s the brilliant doctoral thesis by Timothy Welch listed below to which I am most heavily indebted in writing this piece; but I hope I have made my own small original contribution to the Smale story in this blog as well.
Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-day Pentecostalism – Frank Bartleman (1980)
On the Wings of a Dove: The International Effects of the 1904-5 Revival – Noel Gibbard (2002)
An Instrument of Revival: The Complete Life of Evan Roberts 1878-1951 – Brynmor Pierce Jones (1995)
The Life and Ministry of William Seymour and a History of the Azusa Street Revival – Larry E Martin (2006)
The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement – Cecil M Robeck Jr (2006)
In the Latter Days: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Twentieth Century – Vinson Synan (1984)
The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements of the Twentieth Century – Vinson Synan (1997)
God Found His Moses: A Biographical and Theological Analysis of the Life of Joseph Smale (1867-1926) – Timothy Bernard Welch (2009)
Llangollen Advertiser 1905
Posted 22nd September 2015 by David Edward Pike
Labels: Evan Roberts Frank Bartleman Joseph Smale William Seymour
1 View comments
Church Growth Modelling18 November 2015 at 16:04
Hi David. Thank you for this amazing account of the link between the 1904-5 Welsh revival and the birth of Pentecostalism. It shows God can use the most unlikely of circumstances, and people, to spread his fire to fresh places. Well done. John