This volume continues the theme begun in Echoes from the Welsh Hills. David Davies aimed at presenting a picture of rural Welsh life as it existed for generations in the heart of Wales. In the latter half of the 19th century villages were gradually, but effectively, depleted of their inhabitants in favour of the large towns and busy commercial centres. Here we read of the customs that were celebrated at Christmas, the cheap excursions to Llandrindod Wells, the Fellowship meetings at the chapel, events surrounding hay-making and the local Eisteddfod. Throughout it all there is the recorded conversation between John Vaughan and his friends as they reminisce concerning the famous preachers they had heard and the spiritual lessons they had learnt.
“We have taken the unusual step of reviewing these two books together as the volume John Vaughan and his Friends continues the theme of Echoes from the Welsh Hills, as is apparent in the subtitle of the book. These books were first published at the end of the nineteenth century and present a picture of rural life in Wales during the period 1840-1870, a picture very different from the one which now exists.
“Their main strength lies in their portrayal of the piety of that period, illustrated by quotations from the sermons of the time, descriptions of the great field services that were held, fellowship meetings where spiritual lessons learnt were applied, and Christian conversation generally. The impression is one of the remarkable impact that the evangelical faith made upon the life of the Nonconformist community.
“The style of the books is typical of the period, rather flowery and quaint, although also possessing pathos and humour. There are many wonderful illustrations that can be drawn, as can be seen in this extract taken from the account of John Vaughan and his friends at the fellowship meeting discussing Psalm 23:
‘I expect we all know something about the bite of the sheep-dog. So that, whatever may be said of the Eastern shepherd in this respect, it is very evident that our Great Shepherd has sheep-dogs, aye, and a good number, too, for us. For instance, there’s the sheep-dog of poverty, and the sheep-dog of disappointment, and that other sheep-dog of sickness, and that other sheep-dog of bereavement.’ Here nods of approval were given, as each trial was mentioned, from those who had evidently felt the bite of that particular sheep-dog. ‘Yes,’ said Shadrach, ‘and a good many more.’
‘Blindness,’ responded blind Betty, as her dim eye became luminous with tears.
‘And lameness,’ exclaimed William John, Ty-isaf, who generally took an hour to walk the mile between his house and Horeb.
This was too much for Shadrach. Tears filled his eyes, and a great lump in his throat choked utterance. With supreme effort, and in tremulous tones, however, he added, ‘Yes, thank the Lord for them, I do not know what would have become of us if these sheep-dogs had not sometimes tripped us up and driven us back to the Great Shepherd’.
“While these books have interest and charm, their main benefit lies in the spiritual vigour they contain. They also awaken a longing that the power of the gospel may again make a real impact in the nation and that we may see better days for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
— Spencer Cunnah, The Evangelical Magazine March 2003