Sunday June 28th, 1914 was a turning point in European history, for on that day Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife, were assassinated in the Serbian town of Sarajevo. The repercussions of this event reverberated throughout Europe. Austria’s reply was sent to Serbia on Saturday 23rd July. It was an ultimatum, and because the response was unsatisfactory, war was declared on Thursday July 28th. Britain, along with other countries, entered the war on Thursday August 4th. The British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, spoke his famous prophetic words that same day – “The lights are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” What Sir Winston Churchill called “this terrible half century” had begun.
Against this background, which is fully documented in all the books on European history, is a little known event which occurred on Sunday 24th July 1914 in the Glamorganshire town of Llanelli, South Wales. The following account is documented by the son of Pastor Stephen Jeffreys, in his book, “Stephen Jeffreys – the Beloved Evangelist,” pages 11-12, and an excerpt from page 110.
“The next important event in my father’s life was his visit to Llanelly. The Rev. Trevor Jones, a Baptist minister, invited him to run a campaign in his church which was to last for a few weeks. However, he stayed at Llanelly for a period of seven years; for after fulfilling his engagements with the Baptist minister he opened up the remarkable mission known as ‘ Island Place.’ , He told me repeatedly that the happiest seven years he ever spent in the ministry were at Llanelly. The doors were open each night during the whole time. One Sunday evening in July of 1914 (I waspresent at the service), a very remarkable vision appeared on the wall during my father’s address, which was reported in many of the leading newspapers. A lady sitting next to my dear mother drew her attention to a Lamb’s head which appeared on the wall at the back of my father. However, my mother failed to see the Lamb’s head, but she was conscious of something very remarkable there; and presently the vision changed into the living face of Jesus Christ- represented as “A Man of Sorrows.” During the address, which vas preached in wonderful power, my father felt that there was something taking place which was having a remarkable effect upon the audience.
“At the close of his sermon my mother beckoned father to come down from the pulpit, and she pointed to the amazing scene on the wall. It has been described as a Face beautiful beyond description, benevolent beyond words, the face of the ‘Man of Sorrows’; and the eyes – kind, sad, glorious eyes – moved in the living face. It wasn’t something which disappeared in a second – the vision remained on the wall for a period of six hours. The lights were turned out, but still the vision could be seen. News of this strange appearance brought a great crowd of people in who had not attended the evening service. Infidels who came along out of mere curiosity were convinced by the evidence of their eyes, and became converted. We may be a little dubious when certain people inform us that they have seen a ‘Vision’ , and dismiss them in our own minds by saying: “I always thought they were a bit visionary.” But when hundreds of people – including infidels – all testify that they have really seen a vision on a wall which lasted for six hours, the evidence is too strong for refutation. No one who saw it was ever in any doubt. Very many from Europe and America have since visited the little hall, known as ‘Island Place’ hallowed by this Divine visitation .
“Why did God give this supernatural revelation of Jesus Christ as the “Man of Sorrows,” in July, 1914 ? The only answer my father gave to all was this: He felt that it was a warning concerning the Great War I which broke out in August of that same year – only one month after the vision appeared. It made a profound impression upon father’s life and ministry, and he preached Christ as the only solution of all our problems with even greater power than ever before. I have seen people sitting down the aisles, all around my father’s pulpit, and even climbing on top of the window-sills. Sunday night was packed to suffocation, people standing out in the roadway joined in with the singing and tried to listen as best they could to the sermon.”
“I heard him ministering the following Sunday evening, [31st July] one of the most powerful prophetic sermons I ever heard. His text was: “This is the beginning of sorrows.” The scenes there, and his unfolding of the truth, I shall never forget. As he preached he was charged with the power of God. Soon we realised the truth he preached, as on August 4th the war was declared, with all its ensuing horrors.”
Jeffrey’s subsequent ministry in Wales was mightily blessed. He was an anointed preacher, and as the book declared, there was a mighty surge of repentance wherever he spoke. One is reminded of those lines in Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, “The Deserted Village”, (1770) where he speaks about the earnest and godly incumbent of the local church –
“Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.”