Christmas Evans, The Life and Times of the One-Eyed Preacher of Wales, by Tim Shenton, published by Evangelical Press, hardback, 527 pages, obtainable from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom
This is a fine biography of the well-known minister who lived from 1766 to 1838 and was much used in the conversion of sinners. He has been described, probably with some exaggeration, as “the greatest preacher God has ever given to Wales”. He preached in many parts of his country, often out of doors because of the number of hearers.
As a young man, he was persuaded to become a Baptist. He did study the Scriptures and noted the “passages in the Old Testament . . . referring to the circumcision of children”, but he was not the last to ignore the fact that New Testament privileges are greater – and surely therefore we should expect infants to be granted the corresponding sacrament of baptism. For a time during his ministry he turned towards Sandemanianism – an understanding of faith which lacks the element of trust. He confessed: “The Sandemanian heresy affected me so much as to drive away the spirit of prayer for the salvation of sinners”. He was restored to his previous understanding of doctrine, and once again his ministry was much blessed.
Evans’ “message”, writes the author, “was the old-fashioned gospel of ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’, and his main themes were the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. He proclaimed the salvation of God in a purely evangelical sense, all the time stressing the sufficiency of Christ for redemption, and man’s inability to earn by his own efforts the forgiveness of sins. ‘The food for the Church, and for sinners,’ he said, ‘is found in preaching the salvation of man by the grace, merits and the power of Christ . . . It is not in duties we are to rest, but in Christ.'”
Many of his sermons were long remembered and some extracts are given in the book. There was a tremendous vividness about his preaching, typical of which was the famous “graveyard” sermon. Maybe on some occasions he overdid these sustained illustrations, but they were most certainly effective in presenting the truth to congregations where many of the listeners had at best a very limited education.
The book has a worthy subject; it is well-written, instructive and interesting. The author is a headteacher in the south of England.