Cromwell lived in a time while the European continent trembled with horrendous conflicts against the powerhouse of Popery. Oliver and his generation witnessed more wars, divisions, tumults, and rebellions than any other single generation in history up to the Great Wars. King Charles the 1st, son of King James the 1st, was the second of the Stuart Kings and was introducing popery and the blood-soaked persecution of thousands of England’s protestants with the aid of the Catholic Irish. Attempting to rid himself of resistance the King had silenced Parliament for over eleven years which historian refer to as the “Eleven Years of Tyranny.” During such times the protestants were placed in pillories, indebted with unbearable fines, publicly whipped, bodily disassembled, branded, and executed. Whereupon the Scottish Covenanters took up arms and marched against the King. English parliament had reassembled and formed their own Independent Model Army and began therewith to disassemble the engines of tyranny. Our Huntingdonshire yeoman now forty-two years old and father of six, Oliver Cromwell, was among those in the House of Commons to take leave of their peaceful country life and undertake commanding positions in the Parliamentary militia against the King. It was this man as D-Aubigne records was, “To become one of the greatest statesmen of modern times.” This was the first modern war we see in post-medivial history, a war for religious, political, and social freedom. Contrary to the European model of nominating men of nobility and estate as officers, Cromwell elected men of poor and lowly parentage but men who were nonetheless godly and precious. It was not the French Jacobites or Russian Marxists who pioneered such revolution, but the English Calvinist, Oliver Cromwell. Of his men Cromwell stated, “I will raise men who will have the fear of God before their eyes, and who will bring some conscience to what they do; and I promise you they shall not be beaten”, and indeed the “Old Ironside’s” cavalry was never beaten. After four gruesome years of war in 1646 the King surrendered to the Scottish Covenanters. Three divisive years later after the King had contrived his own demise he was beheaded by the English Parliament. Ireland retaliated with the sanguinary slaughter of 50,000 to 200,000 protestants and puritans. As Carlyle wrote, “Oliver descended on Ireland like the hammer of Thor; smote it, as at one felt stroke, into dust and ruin, never to reunite against him more.” Oliver forged with his hammer of Thor, a peace and prosperity in Ireland which has never been witnessed since. And thus, in the space of a few decades God called his servant Cromwell from his family life in the country, to being a representative in the House of Commons, to a leader of the Model Army, to the saviour and protector of puritan England against the tyranny of popery and the maker of peace among divided sects and nations. Cromwell reproduced that same peace of his own soul in England, Ireland, and soon Scotland and the rest of Europe. Though it seem at first a paradox or irony, Cromwell was of all men in Church history, a peacemaker.
Here and Here Only
But what is peace and did Cromwell bring about true peace or was he no more of a power hungry tyrant than King Charles l who preceded him? What peace are both Cromwell and even we to make in our own day? Peace is simply a social state of existence characterized by individual uniformity in thought, word, and deed to a particular belief of that which is true, good, beautiful, and eternal. Peace is not just some abstract philosophy or political term, it is a special state of existence. You either exist in peace or outside of it. Additionally, peace is a state of uniform existence between two or more parties. On a personal level, this peace is a harmony between a plurality of thoughts or emotions, on a social level, this peace is an unity between individuals, groups, and associations, on an ecological level this peace is an order between man made in the image of God, and God’s “ex-nihlo” made creation. Peace doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it presupposes two or more parties living in unison. Thus peace is not just a state, but a social state of existence where each member of this society unites all their faculties with each other individual member of that society in a particular order of belief. Naturally, this is the point where the peace is broken, and this is where it was divided in Cromwell’s day. What was England, Ireland, and Scotland to believe to be true, good, beautiful, and eternal and how were they to exercise their faculties thereto? Was the King to be true and Catholicism good? Or was Cromwell’s puritanism true and religious freedom good? What the persecution of heretics under the Popery of King Charles a beautiful thing? Or was the prosperity of a new Ireland under freedom beautiful? Was the doctrines of man in Catholicism eternal? Or was God’s Word in Scripture eternal? Here once again Cromwell’s cry to Ireland for God’s peace of religious freedom, “As for the people, what thoughts they have in matters of religion in their own breasts I cannot reach; But shall think it my duty, if they walk honestly and peaceably, not to cause them in the least to suffer the same. And shall endeavour to walk patiently and in love towards them, to see if at any time it shall please God to give them another or a better mind. And all men under the power of England, within this dominion, are hereby required and enjoined strictly and religiously to do the same.” In our day and in our modern Canadian culture peace would be described to us as a society that uniformly believes that humanism is true, socialist equality is good, individual expression is beautiful, and the only thing eternal is the previous three beliefs. Thus “peace” for the humanist society is “made” through statist means of restricting all forms of individual “Force” which would change the social peace, diminishing all forms of “Privilege” which would uproot social equality, censoring all forms of “discrimination and intolerance” which would say that not every form of individual expression is beautiful, and silencing any claim that there is an eternal “Prince of Peace.” We see such acts of “peacemaking” daily in our nation alone. Cromwell believed as a Christian that God desired a much different and far better state of uniform social existence for England, Ireland, and Scotland than the tyranny of the Kind and the popery of Catholicism. I hold with Cromwell that Paul stated this state of peace clearly in Colossians 1:16, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.” Thus for the Christian, peace, true peace, is a state of existence where I, as an individual, am right with God. What God says to be true, I believe to be true. What God says to be good, I believe to be good. What God says to be beautiful, I believe to be beautiful. What God says to be eternal, I believe to be eternal. And in all these things I unite the totality of my faculties in worship and observance. I only have true peace when I am right with God, and my society only has true peace when it is right with God. Outside of God, there is no peace. Furthermore, this peace with God is achieved through the work of the cross of Jesus Christ. Christ alone is the means to reconcile all things whether on earth or in heaven as holy, unblameable, and unreprovable in the sight of God. This makes God, the ultimate peacemaker. All of God’s acts in redemptive history were toward making final, lasting peace between Himself and mankind. When God made man in his image it was make peace between himself and man. When God destroyed the world in the flood, it was to save Noah and his family and all their descendants through the water. When God crushed his own Son on the cross, it was to make peace between Himself and me. Outside of God, and outside of the cross, there is no peace. Isaiah 57:20-21, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” This is why total peace will only be realized in heaven, where each soul present, “Shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Herein, and therein only is perfect peace and it was this state of peace Cromwell made and wrote of in the following to his son. “This commends the love of God: it’s Christ dying for men without strength, for men whilst sinners, whilst enemies. And shall we seek the root of our comforts within us, What god hath done, what He is to us in Christ, this is the root of our comfort: in this is stability; in us is weakness. Acts of obedience are not perfect, and therefore yield not perfect Grace. Faith, as an act, yields it not; but only as it carries us into Him, who is our perfect rest and peace; in whom we are accounted of, and received by, the Father – even as Christ Himself! This is our high calling. Rest here, and here only.”
Pax Queritur Bello
So what does it mean to be a peacemaker like the Apostle Paul and Cromwell? If being a peacemaker is an indicative of being a child of God then how do I show myself to be that selfsame child of God? Jesus answers this question further on in his Sermon on the Mount in the context of verse 45, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” In other words, want to be a child of your Father in heaven? Want to be a peacemaker? Want to be a Cromwellian? Want o be an Ironside? Make and take the practical initiatives for peace where there is a lack or absence of peace between you and another. Love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them. Hear in Cromwell’s own words, how he loved his enemies in Scotland after Charles’ death, “We made great professions of love; knowing we were to deal with many who were godly, and who pretended to be stumbled at our invasion: indeed our bowels were pierced again and again; the Lord helped us to sweet words, and in sincerity to mean them. We were rejected again and again; yet still we begged to be believed that we loved them as our own souls; they often returned evil for good…” We will see each of these specific steps of Biblical peacemaking carefully observed by Cromwell as he sought to make peace with his brethren in Scotland. As D’Aubigne wrote, “Peace and the blessing of peace were all that he ever sought in war: he now wished to impart them to his people.” Later in England, on Cromwell’s medals and coins was engraved the following “Pax Queritur Bello” “On earth Peace!”
Peace or Truth?
The paradox facing the peacemaker every day as it faced Cromwell is the dilemma of could it be the peacemaker’s fault when the division is caused by their taking a stand? Was Cromwell as a peacemaker wrongly disturbing the peace when he united and defended an antithetical belief to the King, or claimed the King’s belief to be antithetical itself? Must Cromwell stand for peace or for truth? At what point should Cromwell brake the peace and come to the defence of truth? And what means should Cromwell use to brake the peace? Again we go back to the definition. Many Christians hold a humanistic definition of peace, a view of peace which, as stated earlier, holds all use of force or acts of violence as wrong or ineffectual. A view which holds peace as superior to truth. A view which sacrifices truth on the alter of peace. Such a view is antithetical to Biblical thought. These Christian’s infected with such humanism may quote Romans 12:19-20, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” These verses are true and beautiful, but they neglect the provisions and instructions which come both before and after this instruction. Verse 18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” And verse 21, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” If this is not enough, you can point these humanists to Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” Paul would have obviously not recognized the place for breaking the peace if he only averred that the Corinth church should have compromised the truth in order to prevent the division at all cost. In these instances, the Apostle Paul here acknowledges the eternal value of peace, as written in verses nineteen and twenty, but also recognized the earthly dilemma and gave the Christian a means of escape and grace in the provisional eighteenth verse and the clarifying twenty-first verse. So, how long and in what circumstances may the Christian live in peace? “As much as possible.” Under what circumstances may the Christian make out God’s peace on earth? When about to be “Overcome with evil.” The hegemony of all arguments in this case is Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” Furthermore we read in James 3:17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable…” As John Piper wrote on the subject of peacemaking, “You must love peace and work for peace. you must pray for your enemies, and do good to them, and greet them, and long for the barriers between you to be overcome. But you must never abandon your allegiance to me and my word, no matter how much animosity it brings down on your head. You are not guilty; you are not in the wrong if your life of obedience and your message of love and truth elicit hostility from some and affirmation from others. Perhaps its just this warning that Jesus wants to sound when the next beatitude says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. In other words righteousness must not compromise in order to make peace with your persecutors. When Jesus pronounces a blessing on you for being persecuted for the sake of righteousness, he clearly subordinates the goal of peace to the goal of righteousness.”
Now again we turn to our great peacemaker Cromwell and his division with Scotland. Although it was the Scottish Covenanters who had initiated the noblest movement of that time in objection to the Tyranny of the Stuarts and of Rome, it was also the Covenanters who would now retract their stance upon the King’s execution and put themselves in opposition to Cromwell and the Commonwealth by having Charles the Second instituted as King over them. Therewith, they gave invitation to the prince to take welcome in Scotland and possession of his kingdom. Prince Charles was like his French Mother Henrietta in his Catholic convictions and like his beheaded father with regards to his duplicity. Cromwell saw in this instantaneously the peril Scotland was inviting upon not only themselves, but all of England. On June 26th, 1650 Cromwell, having been appointed commander-in-cheif of all armies of the Commonwealth, set out for Scotland immediately. Naturally, Cromwell’s feelings towards his fellow Scottish Covenanter’s was different than the feeling he had when fighting the Irish. For Cromwell felt as though he was moving against his brethren and was determined to restore Scotland to herself. And it is in this war we can witness the special steps Cromwell took towards peacemaking with his brethren.
Battle of Dunbar
This can be observed in Cromwell’s letter to the Scots Army, “We return you this answer; by which I hope, in the Lord, it will appear that we continue the same we have professed ourselves to the Honest People in Scotland, wishing to them as to our own souls; it being no part of our business to hinder any of them from worshipping God in that way they are satisfied in their consciences by the Word of God they ought, though different from us. But that under the pretence of the Covenant, mistaken, and wrested from the most native intent and equity thereof, a King should be taken in by you, to be imposed upon us.” Nonetheless, the Scots marched against the English army. It would have seemed to any witness that this was the first and only battle to which Cromwell was to lose as he quickly took full retreat of the Scots, but this only to seize a more favourable position in the field. He thereupon attacked them victorious and took 10,000 prisoners in the battle of Dunbar on September the 3rd. Once again, Cromwell, a true child of God, acted as a peacemaker towards his enemies. After the battle of Dunbar he distributed food among his defeated enemies and attended presbyterian services in their own churches where the ministers did not hesitate to pray for Charles the King and call Cromwell a usurper in his own presence. Nonetheless Cromwell did not retaliate by returning evil for good, but only sought reconciliation. During the entire war against Scotland, Cromwell assured his enemies of their minister’s and pastor’s freedom to walk freely through the land to preach in their respective churches, without in any manner being disquieted. “No man hath been troubled in England” said Cromwell to the Scots, “nor Ireland for preaching the Gospel; nor has any minister been molested in Scotland since the coming of the army hither. The speaking truth becomes the ministers of Christ. When ministers pretend to a glorious Reformation, and lay the foundations thereof in getting to themselves worldly power, they may not know that the Sion promised will not be built with such untempered mortar.” Such was the general’s cordial and humble disposition towards his enemies. We shall now recount a brief letter as always that Cromwell wrote to his family after his battles, and this to his wife. “My Dearest, I have not leisure to write much. But I could chide thee that in many of thy letters thou writes to me, that I should not be unmindful of thee and thy little ones. Truly, if I love you not too well, I think I err not on the other hand much. Thou art dearer to me than any creature, let that suffice…. The Lord has shoed us an exceeding mercy; who can tell how it is! My weak faith hath been upheld. I have been in my inward man marvellously supported; though I assure thee, I grow an old man, ands feel infirmities of age marvellously stealing upon me. Would my corruptions did as fast decrease! Pray on my behalf in the latter respect…. I rest thine, Oliver Cromwell.”
With his triumph at Dunbar, Cromwell marched to Edinburgh and on the 12th of December the Scottish army who had taken refuge in a castle, surrendered as Cromwell threatened to blow out the foundations. In Cromwell’s letters and speech we observe him making distinction between the two parties he found in Scotland. The first he referred to as “Milignants” these were such men as were friends of Charles Stuart, and on the other, the godly people of that beautiful nation, the true Presbyterians. Dr. Morecraft observed, “Throughout the period of Cromwell’s domination there prevailed a degree of civil peace before what had ever before been experienced. There were more souls converted to Christ than in any season of the Reformation. Thus the result of Cromwell’s campaign both in Ireland and in Scotland was the peace and prosperity of these two countries. There are few wars in all of history which have reproduced such beneficial consequences.” This extraordinary effort was not without consequence on Cromwell’s health. The anxiety and utter labor had fallen him dangerously ill while in Edinburgh. During this time Cromwell, that man of incomparable calibre, wrote the following, “Indeed, my Lord, your service needs not me; I am a poor creature; and have been a dry bone: and am still an unprofitable servant to my master and you. I thought I should have died of this fit of sickness; but the Lord seemeth to dispose otherwise. But truly, my Lord, I desire not to live, unless I may obtain mercy from the Lord to approve my heart and life to Him in more faithfulness and thankfulness, and to those I serve in more profitableness and all diligence. And I pray God, your Lordship, and all in public trust, may approve all those unparalleled experiences of the Lord’s wonderful workings in your sight, with singleness of heart to His glory, and the refreshment of his people.”
As soon as Ireland and Scotland’s peace was made and secured by Cromwell, he then turned his attentions to the peace and prosperity of England. The Long Parliament itself had been infected with the same pride as their now dead King had been. It grew increasingly unpopular in the nation, and was attacked by every party. From all sides it was called to dissolve itself. Monday the 12th of December 1653, it was moved by the House that the sitting of that parliament was no longer beneficial for the commonwealth, and it should be delivered up to the Lord General Cromwell. This motion wa received with wonderful unity from all parties, the Royalists and Episcopalians, Soldiers and Lawyers. All now turned to Cromwell as the sole means of safety for England. Cromwell received the title of “Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland.” Furthermore, all the courts of Europe, recognized and praised their neighbouring nation’s new governor. On September the 4th 1654 Cromwell gave a three hour address at Westminster Abbey. “Gentlemen,” said Cromwell, “You are met here on the greatest occasion that, I believe, Engalnd ever saw; having upon your shoulders the interest of three great nations; and truly, I believe I may say it without any hyperbole, the interests of all the Christian people in the world.” Truly, Cromwell was the peacemaker for puritains throughout the world. Morecraft observed, “Cromwell’s advancement of protestantism throughout Europe assigned to England its position as protestant Queen of the world.” Cromwell produced England’s first and only constitution entitled, “The Instrument of Government.” This preeminent document would present to history the first separation and limitation of powers, local government representation, a system of checks and balances, and a guarantee of liberty of conscience. Cromwell exhibited the same love for protestant churches across the channel as he did to those within. He came to the defence of the Waldesians, Huguenots, Swiss, and German protestants. Morecraft wrote in praise of Cromwell, “It is seldom that a great man is a Christian, but Cromwell was both. The result has been that many of the men of the world has scouted him as a hypocrite. What most distinguishes Cromwell above all great men and especially above all great statesmen is the predominance in him not only in his person but also in his government of a solemnly reformed theology, worldview, and way of life. He thought that the political and national ravens of Great Britain could not have been established in a firm and lasting manner unless the pure and unmixed Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to the people and unless a truly Christian life flowed though the veins of the whole nation.” On September 3, 1658 Cromwell died. We shall let our peacemaker’s own last words conclude this lecture. “Lord, though I am miserable and wretched creature I have been covenanted with you through grace and I may and I will come to thee for thy people. Thou hast made me, though very unworthy, a mean instrument to do them some good and thee service. And many of them have set too high a value upon me. Though others wish and would be glad of my death. Lord, however thou dispose of me continue and go on to do good for them. Pardon thy foolish people, forgive their sins and do not forsake them, but love and bless them. Give them consistency of judgment, one heart, mutual love, and go on to deliver them and the work of reformation and make the name of Christ glorious in the world. Teach those who look to much on thy instruments to depend more upon thyself. Pardon such as who desire to trample upon the dust of a poor worm for they are thy people too. And pardon the folly of this short prayer and give me rest for Jesus Christ sake to whom thee and thy Holy Spirit be all honor and glory now and forever. Amen.”