Essential reading

Theologia Cambrensis: Protestant religion and theology in Wales, Volume 1: From Reformation to revival 1588-1760

It goes without saying that the appearance of a new book by Professor D. Densil Morgan, Lampeter, is a significant event. Over the years he has published studies in both Welsh and English on many subjects, but he is recognised as an authority for his writings on theology, the history of Christianity and the cultural history of Wales. After a fruitful career researching and publishing in these fields, Densil Morgan’s new volume — the first of two — outlines the history of Protestant religion and theology in Wales.

The first volume of Theologia Cambrensis: Protestant religion and theology in Wales (University of Wales Press, 2018) studies the period from the publication of Bishop William Morgan’s Bible in 1588 until the first stage of the Evangelical Revival in 1760. He examines the development of doctrine within the Church of England (of which the four Welsh diocese were part at that time) and of its general puritan tone during the period, and also the development of high churchmanship following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. As well as the Methodist movement within the Church of Englad he also tackles the rise of Nonconformist theology and interestingly the co-ooperation as well as the confrontation between them.

The author tells his story by introducing us to many publications that are today regarded as Welsh-language classics. What makes Morgan’s treatment different is that his focus is not on language or style but on content. As he reads the product of the printing press, which has such a central role to play in the spread of early Protestantism, the author shares with readers the riches of his wide knowledge, understanding, and research. But this is not dry volume as Morgan introduces us to a series of portraits of significant individuals — with many clerics and lay people of St Davids among them — such as Griffith Jones Llanddowror, Daniel Rowland Llangeithio and William Williams Pantycelyn.

It is a substantial volume and essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the intellectual history of Wales as well as its religion. In a short article like this it is not possible to do much more that draw attention to it. But I would say that it is also a volume which church-people will need to turn to in order to help us understand ourselves better and perhaps help us to answer the big question which we still live with: Why is a church which is similar to the Church of England in so many ways, also so different to it? The second volume cannot appear soon enough for me

Densil Morgan, Theologia Cambrensis: Protestant religion and theology in Wales, Volume 1: From Reformation to revival 1588-1760. University of Wales Press, 2018. Paperback, £24.99. ISBN: 978-1-78683-237-5.

Revd Lyn Dafis