Seth Joshua and Bold Evangelism
Dafydd Morris, the pastor of the Evangelical Church in Carmarthen, gave the final address at the Westminster Conference in London in 2004 on Seth Joshua, the Welsh evangelist who died in 1924. It was through the influence of a preacher called John Pugh that Seth Joshua’s ministry was shaped. John Pugh had become the minister in a languishing church in Tredegar in 1872. The only place he could make contact with the world was in open-air meetings especially one in the centre of Tredegar under the town clock. God blessed his direct gospel preaching and the church so grew that it was necessary to hire the Temperance Hall. Regularly a thousand people gathered there on Sundays evenings.
Pugh moved to Pontypridd and took the same approach to the same degree of success, and then went on to Cardiff itself in 1889. Through contact with William Ross of a Free Church in Glasgow (Cowcaddens) a strategy for reaching working men developed which was as follows:
1. The church to be opened every night of the week.
2. Every member of the church to do active Christian work at home and in public.
3. Open air mission is to be organised on a large scale.
4. Work is to be organised among young people and children.
5. Workers are to have opportunity of consulting frequently and of being periodically trained in their work.
6. The church should above all seek the Spirit of God and consecration, and regard it as the highest honour and privilege to be involved in the world of the kingdom.
In Seth Joshua, Pugh found a soul-mate and worker of the most manly and energetic kind. Seth and his brother Frank had been converted at a Salvation Army meeting near Pontypool. Almost immediately they were involved in evangelism, moving to Neath to work and simply preaching on the streets and in the fairs. They sang and prayed; they sold Bibles; they spoke outside public houses late at night facing ridicule. God blessed their efforts. A church was planted and Frank Joshua became its pastor for many years.
John Pugh asked Seth to come to work in Cardiff and he heeded the invitation though no financial remuneration was offered. He went to one of its working class areas called Splott and set up his tent and preached there each night. Out of the work done in the tent a church was gathered. From Cardiff the work spread to all the main industrial centres of Wales, even to Wrexham in the north, and halls were erected and were filled for some years. By 1906 the Forward Movement numbered 7,000 communicant members. In 1969 the Forward Movement was absorbed into mainstream Presbyterianism in Wales.
When Frank Joshua of the Forward Movement in Neath died at the end of the first World War Seth Joshua followed him to address packed congregations for the final four years of his life. The soldiers returning from the trenches recognised the reality of the Bible’s analysis of man’s depravity and the work of grace needed to change them. The watered down religion that was conquering the Welsh pulpit in the 1920s had little to offer them. A few years after his death Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones received a call from the Forward Movement Hall five miles away from Neath in Sandfields, and the gospel he preached there also knew the blessing from the same God who had blessed Seth Joshua in his ministry.
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