History of the Welsh Baptists by Jonathan Davis
The descent of the Celtic Gauls from Gomer the son of Japheth the son of Noah should come as no great surprise, considering that it is affirmed by Josephus(1). The Welsh are a Celtic tribe and therefore they must be from Gomer. However, there are some Welsh historians who claim to know much more than that. They appear to have a history of Wales from the earliest days of the dispersal from Babylon, up to the arrival of Brutus. I first came across this astonishing claim while reading a back-issue of Creation Ex-Nihilo magazine, published by Answers in Genesis. There was an article called The Sixteen Grandsons of Noah, in the Sept-Nov 1998 issue, which cautiously describes the early arrival of the Gomerites as "a traditional Welsh belief". It references a book called "The History of the Welsh Baptists", first published in the USA in 1835 and reprinted at least twice, although copies in Britain are scarce (2).
It begins as follows:
Containing the History of the Welsh Baptists, from the year sixty-three to the Reformation
The Welsh, properly called Cumry, the inhabitants of the Principality of Wales, are generally believed to be the descendants of Gomer, the eldest son of Japheth, who was the eldest son of Noah.(a) . The general opinion is, that they landed on the Isle of Britain from France, about three hundred years after the flood.(b)
About eleven hundred years before the Christian era, Brutus and his men emigrated from Troy in Asia, and were cordially received by the Welsh. They soon became one people and spake the same language, which was the Gomeraeg, or Welsh; hence the Welsh people are sometimes called the Ancient Britons.(c)
About four hundred years before Christ, other emigrants came from Spain, and were permitted by Gwrgan, the Welsh king, to settle in Ireland, among the Ancient Britons, who were in that country already. They also, soon became one people, but have not retained either the Welsh or the Spanish language; for the Irish language, to this day, is a mixture of both.(d)
By what means the Christian religion was first introduced into Britain, is a matter which has often engaged the pens of historians, but whose records do not always agree. The tradition that Joseph of Arimathea was the first who preached the gospel in Britain, at a place called Glastenbury, the wicker chapel built for him by the Ancient Britons, and his walking-stick growing to a plumtree, might be worthy of the attention of those who can believe any thing. However, we are willing for those who believe that the good man who buried our blessed Redeemer also proclaimed salvation in his name to our forefathers, to enjoy their own opinion. That the apostle Paul also preached the gospel to the Ancient Britons, is very probable from the testimony of Theodoret and Jerome; but that he was the first that introduced the gospel to this island cannot be admitted; for he was a prisoner in Rome at the time the good news of salvation through the blood of Christ reached this region. That the Apostle Paul had great encouragement to visit this country afterwards, will not be denied. When we consider the particular inducement he might have from Pomponia, Grecina, and Claudia Ruffina, the saints in Caesar's household; the former wife of Aulus Plautius, the first Roman governor in Britain, and the latter a Briton born, the daughter of Caractacus the Welsh king, whose husband was Pudence, a believer in Christ. (e)
In this capital, persons of different ranks, employments, and offices, might be found: ambassadors, captive princes, merchants, and mechanics. Many of those would be prompted by curiosity to make enquiries concerning Paul, a noted prisoner at Rome, famed, even before his arrival, as an abetter of a new religion, the principal teacher and propagator of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, who was condemned by Pilate to the death of the cross. As the apostle was permitted to live in his own hired house, guarded by a soldier, he was at liberty to receive all who applied to him for information and instruction; and hereby the gracious purpose of Divine Providence in speading Christianity through the world was promoted. How pleasing it is to carry our views back into those remote ages, and imagine we see the first missionaries and their disciples, assembled under the shade of the wide-spreading oak, instructing the people in the knowledge of the true God and of Jesus Christ the Savior of mankind; disputing with the Druids, confuting their absurd notions, their gross conceptions, their confused and complex mythology.
About fifty years before the birth of our Savior . . . [From this point onwards, until four pages from the end of Part I, the text is continued on the Way of Life website. See Early History of the Welsh Baptists.]
(a) See Drych y prif oesoedd, p. 7. Dr. Gill on Gen. 10:2. Thomas's History of the Baptists in Wales, p.2. Arch. Britannica, 35 and 267. Dr. Llewellyn's History and Critical Remarks, p. 10. Dr. Heylin's Cosmography, lib 1, p. 218. Mr. Walter's Dissertation, p. 15. See also Bedford's Scriptural Chronology, p. 194.
(b) See Oes Iyfr, page 23. Holmes's History of England, page 16. Thomas's Preface to the History of the Baptists in Wales, p. 7, in the Welsh Language. Dr. Gill on Gen. 10:2. Bedford's Scripture Chronology, p. 194, Drych y prif oesoedd, p. 7.
(c) See Breviary of Britain, vol. 8, by Humphrey Lloyd, Esq. John Price's History of Wales, p.1. Wynne's Preface to the History of Wales.
(d) Preface to Arch. Britannica.
(e) So says the learned Archbishop Usher. See also Magna Britannica.
Some of the references are available at the National Library of Wales and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Other references are obscure and difficult to find. Here are some additional details:
Davis, in his Preface to History of the Welsh Baptists, describes the basis of his book as follows:
Though the most part is a translation (abridged,) of Thomas's History of the Baptists in Wales, yet we have collected all that we deemed interesting from every other author that we could find on the subject.
Davis continues to give some details of the life of Joshua Thomas in a few other parts of his book. He is also mentioned by Thomas Armitage(3). Taken together, this may be summarised as follows:
Joshua Thomas is celebrated as the leading historian among the Welsh Baptists of his time. He was born at Caio in 1719, but at the age of twenty resided in Hereford. At that time he did not profess religion, but walked thirteen miles to Leominster to worship with the Baptists every other Sunday and was baptised there in 1740. He first began preaching at the end of 1743 or early 1744. He preached his first sermon at the request of the church at Penycoed, a branch of the church of Aberduar and sub-branch of Newcastle and Panteg which later became known as Rehoboth. He continued preaching at Penycoed until 1746 when he moved to Hay to live. He was "regularly dismissed" by the church at Leominster and "received by letter, a member of the church of Maesyberllan", which means he had continued his church membership at Leominster while preaching at Penycoed. He continued preaching at Maesyberllan, and at the church at Olchon, and according to Davis he was ordained as a minister in 1749 (although Armitage says he "entered the ministry in 1746"). He returned to Leominster in 1754, became pastor of the church, and remained there for fifty years until his death. If this is an exact figure, it means he died in 1804. He wrote his "History of the Baptists in Wales" (otherwise known as "History of the Welsh Baptists") and "History of the Baptist Association in Wales". His son, Timothy Thomas, became pastor of the church at Devonshire Square, London.
I am continuing to make enquiries, to find out if anything is known of Joshua Thomas in Leominster or the surrounding area. A copy of his "History of the Baptists in Wales" is available in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth although I do not know of any other copies elsewhere.
Strangely enough, Hay-on-Wye is now a very popular place for book enthusiasts, and there are many bookshops. Perhaps Joshua Thomas might have had an influence on the town while he lived there, or perhaps he was influenced by a literary culture that might have already existed.
There are two other books of importance that are mentioned by Davis:
(My references, not the ones from Davis)
1. Josephus Antiquities 1.vi.1.
2. The History of the Welsh
Baptists, from the Year Sixty-Three to the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred
and Seventy, by Jonathan Davis (1786?-1846), Pittsburgh: D.M. Hogan, 1835,
Re-published in 1976 by The Baptist, Rt. 1, Aberdeen, Miss. 39730.
Re-published again in 1982 by Church History Research & Archives, 220 Graystone Drive, Gallatin, Tennessee 37066. Tel: (615) 452-0341 or 452-7027.
3. A History of the Baptists, by Thomas Armitage (1819-1896), New York, Bryan, Taylor & Co, 1890. See the section on "Baptists of Great Britain" and the sub-section "The Welsh Baptists". Available on the Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library.
4. After the Flood, Bill Cooper, New Wine Press, 1995, 256pp, ISBN 1-874367-40-X.
5. True Science Agrees with the Bible, Malcolm Bowden, Sovereign Publications, 1998, 558pp, ISBN 0-9506042-4-0. Most of this book is about scientific issues, but see Section 3.7, Early British Christianity.
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