Josiah Audette

"Aware of the past, curious about the future, ready to argue the present." Tocqueville

Month: June, 2014

The Peacemaker: Cromwell Prt. 3

A Peacemaker

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.”

Scotland

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.”

Edinburgh

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.”

Lord Protector

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.”

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Soldier of God the Just: Cromwell Prt. 2

Ironsides

On August 22nd 1642 at 6 p.m. King Charles summoned his royalist subjects to arms and raised the royal standard at Nottingham. The wind that evening wrenched the royal standard from its pole and hauled it down to the ground the very night it had been erected. This being ostensibly prophetic of King Charles’ includible fall from power. Meanwhile the Earl of Essex was assembling the parliamentary army, in which Cromwell was appointed a captain. A brief time later in October the battle of Edgehill was fought. While it was an indeterminate confrontation for the two armies it was indubitably distressing to the London citizens. It was in this first battle that Oliver too suffered considerable loss in the death of his eldest son. It wasn’t until 1644 that the decisive moment eventuated in favour of the Parliamentary army in the siege of York and the battle of Marston Moor, defended by the Marquis of Newcastle and Prince Rupert. Parliament roundly beat the King’s army, particularly with the aid of Oliver’s calvary upon whom the term “Ironsides” was given. The enemy lost over a hundred flags which were triumphantly shredded by their conquerors. Of this battle Cromwell reported, “God made them as stubble to our swords.” In this battle the King had lost all the north of England and the Queen escaped to France. The battle was costly though, even for Oliver’s “Godly, Precious Men.” Oliver penned the following to the father of one of his fallen Ironsides, “You know my own trials this way; but the Lord supported me in this, That the Lord took him into the happiness we all pant for and live for. There is your precious child full of glory, never to know sin or sorrow any more. He was a gallant young man, exceedingly gracious. God give you His comfort. Before his death he was so full of comfort, that to Frank Russel and myself he could not express it, ‘It was so great above his pain.’ This he said to us. Indeed it was admirable. A little after he said, one thing lay upon his spirit. I asked him, What that was. He told me it was, That God had not suffered him to be any more the executioner of His enemies… Truly he was exceedingly beloved in the Army, of all that knew him. But few knew him; for he was a precious young man, fit for God. You have cause to bless the Lord. He is a glorious Saint in Heaven. Wherein you ought exceedingly to rejoice. Let this drink up your sorrow; seeing these are not feigned words to comfort you, but the thing is so real and undoubted as truth. You may do all things by the strength of Christ. Seek that, and you shall easily bear your trial.” Milton best describes such men who composed Cromwell’s army, “He raised an army as numerous and well-equipped as was ever before done with so short a period; lessoned to the most perfect obedience, high in the affections of its fellow-citizens, and not more formidable to its enemies in the field than admirable for its behaviour to them out of it; having so forborne all injury to their persons or properties, in comparison wight he violence, intemperance, profaneness, and debauchery of their own royalists, as to make them exult in the change, and hail in them a host not of fiends but of friends: a protection to the good, a terror to the bad, and an encouragement to every species of piety and virtue.”

The Sword

Due to schisms within the Parliamentary army which I shall address later, Parliament gave an ordinance in 1645 that excluded all members of Parliament from commanding positions in the model army. However, General Fairfax stayed Cromwell as captain of the Ironsides and did not dispense with him. Thus onward Oliver continued, dashing at the head of his Puritans and driving the Cavaliers who fled before him. In the battle of Naseby on the 14th of June the King lost not merely a desperate battle but with it all his private cabinet of papers and letters. These were sent to London and examined by Parliament who therewith published them under the title, “The King’s Cabinet Opened.” From the irrefutable attestations that the King was repeatedly requesting the aid of foreign princes, Charles was ruined in the minds of the English people. As D’Aubigne wrote, “There is a justice in heaven which permits neither kings nor the humblest of their subjects to live by falsehood and to make a mockery of oaths. By his deception and perjury, Charles had forfeited the respect of many who were desirous to maintain the dignity of the throne, and from this period no hope remained.” With the previous victories attained Oliver wrote the following of his army, “God hath put the sword in the Parliament’s hands – for the terror of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well. If any plead exemption from that – he knows not the Gospel. If any would wring that out of your hands, or steal it from you, under what pretence soever, I hope that they shall do it without effect. That God may maintain it in your hands, and direct you in the use thereof, its the prayer of your humble servant.” On April 27, 1646 the King surrendered to the Scots army at Newark. This would be appreciably required year of joy and peace to Cromwell as a respite to the protracted demise he had witnessed of his nation and personally suffered hitherto. An outstanding officer of the Parliamentary army and long friend of Cromwell, Ireton, married his daughter Bridget. After their marriage Cromwell penned to his daughter the following, “Dear Heart, press on; let not thy Husband, let not anything cool thy affections after Christ. I hope that he (they husband) will be an occasion to inflame them. That which is best worthy of love in thy Husband is that of the image of Christ he bears. Look on that, and love it best, and all the rest for that. I pray for thee and for him; do so for me.” At the end of 1646 Parliament offered 400,000 pounds to the Scots on condition of their returning into their own country and took custody of the King where Cromwell’s grievances were to begin anew.

Irregular Times

The Presbyterian Parliament and the Independents of the model army had all been unified in bringing down the despotic control of King Charles, but once this was accomplished divisions broke out with regards to what was to be done with the captured King and the nation itself. Many of the Presbyterians were royalists who wanted either King Charles or his son reinstated on the throne and furthermore for the model army to be disbanded. Cromwell and some principal officers of the army wanted an aristocratic republic, that is to say, a society ruled by virtuous, selected men of standing. Cromwell recognized that the reintroduction of the Stuart Monarchy would revive the bloody persecution and so he resisted the absolute democracy of the Diggers, the Levellers, and the royalists of Scotland. Yet as Morecraft recounts, “Royalist insurrections blazed on every side. London rioted. A cry of ‘God save the King’ arose, and the long affinity between the Stuarts in the theatre, the poets, and the ballad singers began to make itself felt. Meanwhile the Presbyterians made common calls with the arminians against the independents and the new model army.” King Charles meanwhile anticipated that this discord between the Presbyterian Parliament and the Independent model army would be the undoing of both parties to his success. On June 10th 1647 Cromwell, his son-in-law Ireton, General Fairfax, and other principal officers put to parliament an army-manifesto of religious liberty. D’Aubigne describes it thus, “The Independents consented that the Presbyterian religion should be the religion of the nation; thus, granting to the latter body a superiority over their own party. But they claimed for all Christians the full enjoyment of civil and religious rights.” The civil war against King Charles was a modern war for freedom and Cromwell did not loose sight of this. For herein was the army’s great charter and they would not lay down their arms and disband until they had realized what they shed their precious, limited blood for in the first place. “Only we could wish that every good citizen and man who walks peaceably in a blameless conversation, and is beneficial to the Commonwealth, might have liberty and encouragement; this being according to the true policy of all states, and even to justice itself.”  wrote the officers. Cromwell was instrumental in composing this document and even one in opposition to him wrote of him in these equitable terms, “I have looked upon you, as among the powerful ones in England, as a man with a heart perfectly pure, perfectly free from all personal views.” Parliament in the predicament between its numerous Presbyterian members on the one hand and the Independents in the other was pushed by the City of London to dismissing all officers of the army and giving the posts to men devoted to the Presbyterian cause. Thus the King could not be trusted, nor the Presbyterian parliament, nor the other royalist and religious sects. Unless Cromwell with the Independents interfered, Charles’ Catholicism and popery would resume and the oppression begin anew. D’Abigne writes, “What would now be down by those men who, after prodigies of valour, long labours, great sacrifices and astonishing victories, in which the intervention of Providence had been manifested to them, had arrested the progress of despotism, secured liberty of conscience, and rescued Protestantism and England? They saw that, unless they interfered, Charles, popery, and tyranny, would resume superiority; that good men would deb oppressed, they themselves beheaded, their brethren compelled to flee by thousands, if they could, into the wilds of America, and the Protestant would-be church crushed. One alternative offered itself to them. Must they abandon what they have done, and let things take their course? Or must they interfere irregularly in those irregular times and once more rescue England and the Church?”

Refuse a Garter, Confer a Crown

As D’Aubigne wrote, “It was this monarch’s destiny to be the contriver of his own ruin.” King Charles was being interviewed by Parliament and officers of the Independent army. Oliver and his son-in-law had frequent interviews with the King which were of some equanimity and profit. Even Cromwell’s wife and daughters were presented to the King and received with significant adulation and complements from the King himself. However, one day Cromwell was informed that a letter to the French Catholic Queen would be dispatched for France. This letter, he also learned, was to be hidden in a saddle and forwarded to France from the Blue Boar tavern that evening. Cromwell and his son-in-law acted upon the informant and left disguised as private solders. Upon reaching the Blue Boar tavern they took seat and watched attentively at the door. When the messenger appeared they forthwith confiscated the saddle and discovered the letter. In a private room they read together the following, “My time is come at last. I am now the man whose favour they court. I incline rather to treat with the Scotch than with the English army. For the rest, I alone understand my position; be quite easy as to the concessions I may grant; when the time comes, I shall know very well how to treat these rogues, and instead of a silken garter, I will fit them with a hempen halter.” King Charles detected that he had been found out and on November 11th he escaped his palace and made a desperate flight for France. Charles would have succeeded, but for poor timing in his ship to cross the ocean. Later it was it was uncovered that it was Oliver who had both informed the King of his predicament and had assisted in his escape. D’Aubigne gives an account of Oliver’s reasoning for this surprising series of events, “Convinced that everything was finished between the King and England, and wishing to avoid the bloody catastrophe that was approaching, he… made every effort to favour Charles’ flight and his retreat to France.” With the King back in custody, the House of Commons presented the King with four propositions. Commissioners were accordingly sent to the King, who received them amiably with the impression of being favourable to the propositions. Yet again though, Charles’ plan was to put himself at the head of the Catholic Irish and march against England. For what was to come to Charles and the nation, it would have indeed been better for his escape to have been met with success. D’Aubigne writes, “The letter enclosed in the saddle was a divorce between his people and the unhappy monarch, who by refusing a garter, conferred a crown.”

Throat of the Nation

On January 3rd of 1648 the following motion was adopted by the Commons, “Mr. Speaker, the King is a man of great sense, of great talents, but so full of dissimulation, so false, that there is no possibility of trusting him. While he is protesting his love for peace, he is treating underhand with the Scottish Commissioners to plunge the nation into another war. It is now expected the Parliament should govern and defend the kingdom.” Naturally the royalist parties threatened uproar, the Presbyterian parties increasingly voiced discontent, and other sects furthered the terror and confusion. Among this chaos and unprecedented predicament “The longest heads and strongest hearts in England” belonging to the army leaders met at Windsor for three days in prayer to seek guidance from God. One participant in these three days of prayer wrote the following, “We were also helped, with fear and trembling, to rejoice in the Lord, who no sooner brought us to His feet but He did direct our steps, and we were led to a clear agreement amongst ourselves, that it was the duty of our day, with the forces we had, to go out and fight against our potent enemies, with an humble confidence in the name of the Lord only. And we were also enabled then, after serious seeking the Lord’s face, to come to a very clear and joint resolution, that it was our duty to call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to an account for that blood he had shed, and mischief he had done to his utmost against the Lord’s cause and people in these poor nations.”  This was not done without confrontation. The Presbyterians and loyalists in London, Wales, and Kent formed in great numbers to the King’s defence and on the 8th of July this royalist army from Scotland crossed the border. They had hardly crossed when of a sudden this army received word that Cromwell was rapidly approaching. With unprecedented speed Cromwell had traversed England with his army and met the Royalists head on and fiercely  vanquished them, dashed upon them, routed them thoroughly, pursued them in their retreat, and compelled them to surrender. In a fortnight’s campaign, Cromwell had swept away the whole northern army. Cromwell marched triumphant into Scotland, where he was joined by the Presbyterians who praised his cause and religious freedom. D’Aubigne remarks, “The liberties and Protestantism of England were on the verge of shipwreck, when Cromwell intervened; and all his life he upheld in Great Britain religious liberty and the national prosperity.” Many, including Thomas Roosevelt, report that Cromwell’s actions were either a grave neglect of the law or without reference to it. Roosevelt wrote, “Cromwell’s extreme admirers treat his impatience of the delays and shortcomings of ordinary constitutional and legal proceedings as a sign of his greatness. It was just the reverse. In great crises it may be necessary to overturn constitutions and disregard statutes, just as it may be necessary to establish a vigilance committee, or take refuge in lynch law. But such a remedy is always dangerous, even when absolutely necessary and the moment it become the habit or usual remedy, it is a proof that society is going backward. Of this retrogression the deeds of the strong man who sets himself above the law may be partly the cause and the consequence but they are always the signs of decay.” In his own defence Cromwell would say to Roosevelt and his own objecting contemporaries, “The throat of the nation may be cut, while we send for some to make a law.”

Farewell Sovereignty

When Cromwell returned from Scotland the House of Commons determined to bring the King to trial on a charge of high treason, as the cause of all the blood which had been shed during the war. To this Oliver was hesitant, “Sir, if any man whatsoever have carried on this design (of disposing the King, and disinheriting his posterity), or if any man have still such a design, he must be the greatest traitor and rebel in the world. But since the Providence of God hath cast this upon us, I cannot but submit to Providence, though I am not yet prepared to give you my advice.” The matter of the King’s trial put Cromwell at considerable unease. Despite Cromwell’s hesitation and the protests of Presbyterians, Scotland, and foreign dignitaries, Parliament erected a High Court of Justice for trying the King. On July 20th 1649 Charles was brought before the court as pale as death. It would have indeed been far better had Charles’ escape to France been accomplished. If this had been so, the subsequent wars against Ireland and Scotland, the divisions in parliament and the church, and the execution of the King would have been unrealized. Cromwell and his friends once again devoted themselves to prayer. During this moment, Cromwell determined that Charles’ death alone would save England. On January 27, 1649 Charles was condemned to death with this sentence, “There is a contract and bond made between the King and his people and your oath is taken and certainly sir the bond is reciprocal. For as you are the Lord, they are your lead subjects, the bond of protection is due from the sovereign. The other is the bond of subjection which is due from the subject. Sir, if this bond is ever broken, farewell sovereignty.” On January 30, 1648 Charles was beheaded.

Respite

Once again Cromwell received from the Lord that much needed respite from his troubles. That same dreadful year of the King’s execution, Cromwell’s son, Richard, had just been married. Cromwell wrote the following letter to his knew daughter in law. “I desire you both to make it above all things your business to seek the Lord;  to be frequently calling upon Him, that He would manifest Himself to you in His Son; and be listening what return He makes to you, for He will be speaking in your ear and in your heart, if you attend thereunto. I desire you to provoke your Husband likewise thereunto. As for the pleasures of this Life, and outward Business, let that be upon the bye. Be above all things, by Faith in Christ; and then you shall have the true use and comfort of them, and not otherwise.” D’Aubigne observes, “It is delightful to read Cromwell’s letters to his children. What wisdom, what tender affection in that we have just selected. What truth in these words! What indications of a soul that has descended into the depths of a Christian life! And how striking a contrast between the gentle amiability of the postscript and the iron front and stern eye that we have observed in him at other times.”  President Roosevelt observed the following of Cromwell’s letters. “The religion element entered into everything Cromwell did, mixing curiously with his hard common-sense and practical appreciation of worldly benefits. It appears in all his letters and speeches… It is saturated not merely with Biblical phraseology, but with Biblical feeling, all the glory being ascribed to God, and the army claiming as their sole honour that God had vouchsafed to use them in his service, and that by faith and prayer they had obtained the favour of the most high. It is impossible for a fair-minded and earnest man to read Cromwell’s letters and reports after action, and the prayers he made and the psalms he chose to read and to give out before action, and to doubt the intensity of the man’s religious fervour. In our day such utterances would be hypocritical.”

Soldier of God the Just

Upon Charles’ execution the Irish Roman Catholics had unleashed themselves into rebellion and massacred 50,000 to 200,000 protestants. One historian records, “On all sides the Protestants of Ireland were attacked unawares, ejected from their houses, hunted down, slaughtered, exposed to all the perils, all the tortures that religious and patriotic hatred could invent… A half-savage people, passionately attached to its barbarism… eager to avenge in a day ages of outrage and misery, with a proud joy committed excesses which struck their ancient masters with horror and dismay.” D’Aubigne records how their houses were burnt, they were driven naked into the midst of winter. Some for shame of their nudity and relief from the cold took shelter under hey in a barn only to which the rebels set fire and burned all within alive. With others they marched at the point of the pike, toppled by the hundreds into the sea, plunged into the cold waters with the butts of muskets or fired upon should they resurface. Husbands were disassembled in the sight of their wives. Women were abused in the sight of their children. Children were hung in the eyes of their parents. The Irish went so far as to teach and involve their own children in stripping and killing the children of the English. Numbers were buried alive while others received the quick mercy of having their throats cut. Needless to say this struck Cromwell to the heart. “That kingdom” said Cromwell, “is reduced to so great straits that I am willing to engage my own person in this expedition, because of the difficulties which appear in it; and more out of hope, with the hazard of my life, to give some obstruction tot he successes which the rebels are at present exalted with. And all that I desire is, that no more time be lost in the preparations which are to be made for so great a work.” Cromwell, the “Old Ironside”, departed at the head of 12,000 of his gallant Ironsides. Before embarking they all participated in a solemn day of fasting and prayer. Thomas Carlyle masterfully described Cromwell’s march into Ireland, “Oliver descended on Ireland like the hammer of Thor; smote it, as at one fell stroke, into dust and ruin, never to reunite against him more.” Cromwell wrote of this expedition, “I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood; and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future. Which are the satisfactory grounds to such actions, which otherwise cannot but remorse and regret… It was set upon some of our hearts, that a great thing should be done, not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God… It was this Spirit who gave your men courage, and took it away again; and gave the enemy courage, and took it away again; and gave your men courage again, and therewith this happy success. And therefore it is good that God alone have all the glory.” One of Cromwell’s biographers wrote, “Oliver Cromwell did believe in God’s judgments; and did not believe in the rose-water plan of surgery, in philanthropic sentimentalism… He arrives in Ireland an armed soldier, solemnly conscious to himself that he is the soldier of God the Just; and armed soldier, terrible as death, relentless as doom; doing God’s judgments on the enemies of God!” With the exception of two towns, Dublin and Londonderry, the whole of Ireland had united as a terrible force against Cromwell, yet still notwithstanding Oliver’s victory was colossal. Public order and security revived. Ireland for a little over two years experience peace, ease and industry to such an extend as has never been witnessed again in that unhappy land. Not only was Oliver a peerless opponent with the sword,  but he also laboured with the pen and wrote his Declaration in response to the popish hierarchy of Ireland which had drawn up its on manifesto in 1649. Cromwell’s Declaration is one of the most remarkable documents history has ever given us from a soldier. In this document Cromwell refutes the Catholic separation of the Clergy and Laity and presents Luther’s doctrine of the royal priesthood of all believers. “‘Laity and Clergy.’ It was your pride that begat this expression. And it is for filthily lucre’s sake that you keep it up; that by making the people believe that they are not so holy as yourselves, they might, for their penny, purchase some sanctity from you… All Christians belong to the spiritual estate, and that there is no other difference between them than in the functions they discharge.” Later in his Declaration Cromwell emphasizes his life long goal 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 for the same. And shall endeavour to walk patiently and in love towards them, to see if at any time ti 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 all of this Oliver maintained a spiritual devotion to the Lord which he was sure to pass on to his family even from afar of in Ireland. Oliver wrote the following letter to his son Richard after his victory in Ireland, “Seek the Lord and His face continually: let this be the business of your life and strength; and let all things be subservient and in order to this! you cannot find nor behold the face of God but in Christ; therefore labor to know God in Christ; which the Scripture makes to be the sum of all, even Life Eternal because the true knowledge is not literal or speculative; no, but inward, transforming the mind to it.” Cromwell returned to London in the month of May of 1650 and was received by Parliament and the people, “As a soldier who had gained more laurels, and done more wonders in nine months, than any age or history could parallel.”

Conclusion

Once again we have witnessed the remarkable account of God’s providence in the life of Oliver Cromwell. He was the protector of the puritan movement in England from the tyranny of a despotic King and the persecution of his cohorts. Cromwell strove earnestly to bring harmony between the Presbyterian parliament and the Independents of the New Model Army. He sought diligently to attend to the suffering of his neighbour citizens and to make life easier for those who suffered tangible wrong. As Roosevelt documented, “He advocated entire religious freedom. In dealing with the army he declared his readiness to maintain the doctrine that the foundation and the supremacy is in the people, radically in them, and to be set down by them in their representatives in Parliament.” We will close with the words of Cromwell written to General Fairfax of the Model Army. “I pray God teach this nation and those that are over us… what the mind of God may be in all this, and what our duty is. Surely it is not that the poor, godly people of this kingdom should still be made the object of wrath and anger, nor that our God would have our necks under a yoke of bondage. For these things that have lately come to pass have been the wonderful works of God, breaking the rod of the oppressor.”

The Protector: Cromwell Prt. 1

Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud

Not of war only, but distractions rude,

Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,

To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough’d,

And on the neck of crowned fortune proud

Hast rear’d God’s trophies, and his work pursued.

The Early Years

The following is the opening of a poem from that great poet John Milton of the seventeenth century on his friend and contemporary, Oliver Cromwell. Today I would like to give a brief and simplistic sketch of this great man’s life and work. Joseph Morecraft stated that he personally believed Cromwell was one of the three greatest Christians since Apostolic times. The other two being Augustine and Calvin. Theodore Roosevelt in his 1906 biography on Cromwell stated that he was the greatest Englishman of the seventeenth century. In his peerless biography, Merle D’Aubigne praised Cromwell as the greatest Christian since Martin Luther and John Calvin. However, today Cromwell is little known, never mind acknowledged for changing the Western world as we now know it. It was April 25, 1599, the Geneva Bible, first study-Bible was printed in the common tongue, hit the press, it was the latter years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and Shakespeare was still alive. Upon this day in the lands round Huntingdon, the wife of Robert Cromwell bore him a son with a glorious destiny. He was named Oliver. Oliver at the age of sixteen studied for a time at the university of Cambridge just fifteen miles from his mansion home in Huntingdon. In June of 1617 at only eighteen he lost his father and his grandfather. As the eldest surviving patriarch, Oliver returned home to care for his mother and six sisters. After a time he proceeded to London to gain some knowledge of law. At 21 years of age, Oliver was married as Saint Giles’s CHurch, Cripplegate to Elizabeth Bourchier. Immediately, he returned home with his newlywed to the mansion of his fathers in Huntingdon. For about 10 years Oliver lived in seclusion and simplicity, passing the time with his flocks, family, and social duties. During such time Oliver came under the conviction of his sin and misery. Oliver agitated under the uttering groans of his wounded spirit into desperate melancholy. A melancholy so fierce he would often send for the local physician in the deep hours of the night supposing himself to be near death. At some length Oliver came out of this dark time with such an unspeakable joy and deliverance as we would name his conversion. Cromwell now zealously attended to the puritan brethren and practice. J.I. Paker denied puritanism as a spiritual movement, “Passionatly concerned with God and godliness. It was essentially a movement for church reform and pastor renewal and evangelism and spiritual revival and indeed in addition, in special zeal for God’s honor, it was a worldview.” Milton wrote of Cromwell’s private life, “He had grown up in peace and privacy at home, silently cherishing in his heart a confidence in God, and a magnanimity well adapted for the solemn times that were approaching. Although of ripe years, he and not yet stepped forward into public life, and nothing so much distinguished him from all around as the cultivation of a pure religion, and the integrity of his life.”

Solemn Times Approaching

Indeed there were solemn times that were approaching as Milton stated. D’Aubigne wrote of these times with the following, “The fearful commotions and sanguinary conflicts which shook the British isles in the middle of the seventeenth century, were in the main a direct struggle against Popery.” Morecraft recounts that there were more wars, divisions, and rebellions in Oliver’s generation alone, than any other single generation in history had ever witnessed. Otto Scott of this time period wrote that Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Farel, Charles the 5th, Henry the 8th, Francis the 1st, and several popes had contended for the heart, soul, and mind of Europe. With such contending there came ineffable persecution. Thirty thousand protestants in Spain had been put to death, tens of thousands of French Huguenots were being slaughtered by their Roman Catholic monarchy, Netherlands was in a civil war under the dominance of their King, Bloody Mary’s husband, Phillip the 2nd of Spain. The Muslims had also invaded Easter Europe and for the very first time the medieval age vanished with the press printing in the English tongue rather than in Latin.  With the death of Queen Elizabeth, King James the 1st of Scotland was made King James the 1st of England. King James was the first of 4 steward Kings. Most known for his printing of the King Hames Version, James was a less than pious man known in his time as a tyrant and a homosexual. King James held to the divine right of kings and persecuted the reformers who denied such anthropocentric doctrines. Contrary to the common expression of the law of England, even when prerogative was at the highest, “The King ought not to be subject to man, but to God, and to the law; for the law maketh the king. Let the king therefore render to the law, why the law has invested in him with regard to others; dominion, and power: for he is not truly king, where will and pleasure rules and not the law” said Henry de Bracton. King James died in agony and his throne was held by his son Charles the 1st, who while of far superior character continued the aggression agains the liberty of protestant England. Charles the 1st both during his life and afterward was found and confirmed for his duplicitous, dubious, dubiety. He kept a close circle of his fathers councillors, no treaty or royal prerogative could bind him, and he maintained a bigoted religious obstinance. Rather than laxing the persecution which puritans such as Oliver so long endured, Charles furthered their sufferings under the Arch Bishop of Cantibury, William Laud, and behaved towards this excellent body of men with increasing severity. In addition to this maelstrom King Charles gave England a papist Queen, Henrietta of France. in their marriage contract, written under the supervision of the Pope, there were several clauses leaning toward the Romish faith. While this was less than quietly fomenting in the King’s house and courts, Oliver was attending to his life of Puritanism and prayer with his family and neighbours. D’Aubigne said of Cromwell that he “Lived and died in prayer.” Those who closely witnessed Cromwell’s life retold of his daily reading of Scripture followed by his prostration on the ground with tears as he poured out himself to God. If there was ever a moving and convincing evidence of his godliness and character it would be the multitude of letters to his children in which he exhorts them to godliness and holiness.

His First Words

On the 29th of January 1628 a new Parliament gathered, in which, on the 17th of March, Cromwell took his seat as member for his home land of Huntingdon. It was on the 11th of February, Oliver rose for the first time to speak against eh reestablishment of Catholicism in England. The subject of his first speech would be the ruling principle of Oliver’s life, that Christ was the King of England, not man. Only when England confesses and puts into practice that great truth will she be free and blessed by God. An eye witness recorded Cromwell’s first speech in the house. “All eyes were turned upon him, and the House listened to him with attention. he wore a plain cloth suit, which seemed to have been made by a bad country tailor; his linen was not of the purest white; his ruffles were old-fashioned; his hat was without a band; his sword stuck close to his side; his countenance was swollen and reddish; his voice sharp and untunable: but his delivery was warm and animated; his frame, although exceeding the middle height, strong and well-proportioned; he had a manly air, a bright and sparkling eye, and stern look.” At a later date as in the House as Oliver was proceeding with a delivery, one Lord inquired to another of the name of the Huntingdon speaker, to which he received, “That sloven whom you see before you hath no ornament in his speech; that sloven, I say, if we should ever come to a breach with the King, (which God forbid!) in such a case, I say, that sloven will be the greatest man in England.” Indeed the battle against the re-establishment of Popery was the object of the seventeenth century, and the subject of Cromwell’s first words, and the main objective of Oliver’s momentous life. The King had called them together to vote for the passage of certain taxes, which in return they bluntly refused and furthermore outlawed. Along with outlawing the King’s levy of certain taxes and declaring those who should levy or even pay such taxes with a guilty count of high treason, they went on that day to outlaw Arminian innovations to the doctrine of the Church, and the outlawing of Roman Catholic rituals and submission to the Pope. Upon news of this, the King ordered the house to dissolve and he didn’t call Parliament together again for 11 years, these were known as the 11 years of tyranny.

11 Years of Tyranny

Charles was attempting to rid himself of the Parliamentary body and govern his kingdom by associating further with the Romish nations of France and Spain. Charles’ Archbishop of Canterbury, restored many of the practices of Popery. The middle class of England was in alarm. With the introduction of Catholicism into England persecution followed in its wake. Adversaries of the Archbishop had their ears cut off, imprisoned for life, or heavily fined. D’Aubigne records of a Dr. Leighton, one of the Arhcbishop’s targets, who was condemned to pay a incalculable fine, to be set in the pillory at Westminster, publicly whipped, to lose his ears, have his nostrils slit, and his cheeks branded with S.S. “Sower of Sedition” – a sentence that was executed upon Dr. Leighton in all its severity. Another, Dr. Bastwick, climbed the scaffold to his mutilation and comforted his affrighted watching wife with, “Farewell my dearest, be of good comfort: I am nothing dismayed.” D’Aubigne continues Dr Bastwick’s account, “On descending form the scaffol she drew from his ear the sponge soaked with blood, and holding, it up to the people, exclaimed: “Blessed be my God, who hath counted me worthy, and of his mighty power hath enabled me to suffer anything for his sake; and as I have no lost some of my blood, so I am ready and willing to spill every drop that is in my veins in this cause, for which I now have suffered; which is, for maintaining the truth of God, and the honour of my king against popish usurpations. Let God be glorified, and let the king live forever.” D’Aubigne gives another account of a Mr. Burton, a puritan divine who was placed under the pillory and asked if it was not too uneasy for his neck and shoulders to which he answered, “How can Christ’s yoke be uneasy? He bears the heavier end of it, and I the lighter; and if mine were too heavy, He would bear that too. Christ is a good Master, and worth the suffering for! And if the world did but know His goodness, and had tasted of His sweetness, all would come and be His servants.” Such were the acts of Charles’ unflinching tyranny that brought to Oliver horror and anguish.

The Beginning

Charles had also sought to abolish Presbyterianism  in Scotland, and the wickedness of the King in Scotland had risen to such heights that they marched their armies against him. Charles was forced to call again upon Parliament for war funds on the 11th of April, 1640, all to the unspeakable joy of the English people. The puritan parliament proceeded unfalteringly to prosecute the authors of the persecutions in the nation. The Archbishop was executed, Charles’ co-conspirator of the Irish army, Thomas Wentworth the Earl of Strafford, was also executed following his exclamation, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, for in them there is no salvation” when he was told the king had given assent to the bill of his execution. On the 1st of November 1641, parliament received news that an Irish army had been commissioned by the king and were ravaging the country with desolation. By December 7th parliament had organized a militia, the Roundheads, officers of which were nominated by Parliament. D’Aubigne records, “The names Cavaliers and Roundheads now first began to distinguish the two parties: the latter deriving their title from the shortness of their hair, which was cut close about their ears.” With the execution of its tyranny inflictors and the erection of an army to protect itself agains the king and his conspiracies “The engines of tyranny” were being dismantled as Morecraft remarked, and the preservation of liberty and protestantism in England was being advanced. On January the third 1642, Charles began the attack by charging five of the leaders of the House of Commons with treason and marching upon parliament with four hundred armed soldiers to arrest them. Parliament fought word and the leaders escaped the clasp of Charles’ murderous hand. Upon later learning that the people, the Parliamentary militia, and even the Thames watermen were going to bring back the five members to Westminster in an act of triumph he retorted, “What! Do these water-rats, too, forsake me!” Most all of the population of London had lost their affection for Charles due to his acts, of which acts Charles only intended to increase and multiply, but only to his ultimate undoing of merely London’s affections, but the hole Nation’s loyalty. Charles was a direct contradiction from Lord Blackstone’s definition of the King’s part, “To govern according to law: to execute judgment in mercy: and to maintain the established religion.” This was the beginning of the civil war, the revolution. the commencement of the struggle between the Parliament and the King.

The Huntingdonshire Yeoman

Oliver was now forty-two years old and the father of six children: Oliver, Richard, Henry, Bridget, Elizabeth, and Mary. To give a lengthy quote from D’Aubigne, “He was living quietly, like many other good citizens and loyal subjects, who, as well as he, had never once thought of the profession of arms. But new times called for new measures. every day these men, who felt the truest affection for their country, were disturbed in their homes at London, or in their more tranquil rural retreats, by reports of the massacre of the Protestants in Ireland, of the King’s connivance at it, of his insincerity and falsehood, of his projects, of the punishments already inflicted on many of their brethren, of the acknowledged Popery of the Queen, of the semi-Romanism of the King, of the persecutions in Scotland, the daily banishment of the best Christians in the kingdom, and by other signs and events no less alarming. When everything seemed to announce that the Protestants of England would ere long be either trampled down by Popery of massacred by the sword, these serious men arose, and called upon the King, through the Commons, not to deceive the expectations of his subjects. But when they found the prince, deaf to their prayers, raising troops to overawe the Parliament, and already victorious in several encounters, they resolved in a spirit of devotedness, to save with God’s assistance their country and their faith, by withdrawing form their families and exposing their live in arms. Oliver now exchanged his parliamentary career for another that had become more necessary. The Huntingdonshire yeoman, who had given the Commons some proofs of his eloquence, was about to astonish the army still more by his courage and genius. The fervent orator was not to show himself a great general, and to become one of the greatest statesmen of modern times.”

A Fault that Saved the Country

On the seventh of February Oliver gave three hundred pounds toward the militia, raised two companies of volunteers from Cambridge, and with them joined the parliamentary army with his two sons, Richard, twenty, and Henry, Sixteen. Cromwell refused to align himself with the hypocritical stance of Parliament who while waging war against the King, pretended to at the same time of fight in defence of the King in accordance to historic principle. The rebellion agains the King was a historic president of astronomical proportions. It was the thinking of the time that “The law therefore ascribes the king, in his high political character, not only large powers and emoluments which form his prerogative and revenue, but likewise certain attributes of a great and transcendent nature; by which the people are led to consider him in the light of a superior being, and to pay him that awful respect, which may enable him with grater ease to carry on the business of government.” The King was ascribed by law, sovereignty, imperial dignity, the supreme head of the realm in matters both civil and ecclesiastical, and of consequence inferior to no man upon earth, dependent on no man, accountable to no man. Lord Blackstone himself wrote, “That by law the person of the king is sacred, even though the measures pursued in his reign be completely tyrannical and arbitrary: for no jurisdiction upon earth has power to try him in a criminal way; much less to condemn him to punishment.” Never before had any one party of England declared war but the King, never before had the King been tried as a criminal, never before had a King been executed by His parliament. From a small perusal of English law, one will notice without trouble, the absolute impossibility of the situation parliament was faced with. These are the reasons why Oliver could not in good conscience say he was in theory of the law fighting for the King when in reality he was fighting against the King. “Soldiers” said Cromwell, “I will not deceive you, not make you believe, as my commission has it, that you are going to fight for the King and Parliament. If the king were in front of me, I would as soon shoot him as another; if your conscience will not allow you to do as much go and serve elsewhere.” As D’Aubigne said in defence of Cromwell and Parliament, “The time had now come when good and evil. salvation and peril, were so obscurely confounded and intermixed, that the firmest minds, incapable of disentangling them, had become mere instruments in the hand of Providence, who alternately chastises kings by their people, and people by their kings. But why should we endeavor to blacken the character of those whom God has employed in His work? It is improper in this instance, more than on other occasions, to entertain respect for hose minds which remain sincere, even when they are misguided, and are doing what they believe to be right, and to be the will of the King of Kings?” Theodore Roosevelt advised his readers in his biography of Cromwell, “We must ever keep in mind the essentially modern character of the movement if we are to appreciate its true inwardness, its true significance. Fundamentally, it was the first struggle for religious, political, and social freedom, as we now understand the terms. As was inevitable in such first struggle, there remained even among the forces of reform much of what properly belonged to previous generations. In addition to the modern side there was a medieval side too. Just so far as this medieval element obtained, the movement failed. All that there was of good and of permanence in it was due to the new elements.” D’Aubigne continued “In studying the life of Cromwell, the reader will undoubtedly have frequent reason to bear in mind the saying of the holy Scripture, In many things we offend all. He interfered violently in public affairs, and disturbed the constitutional order off the state. This was his fault, a fault that saved the country.”

Godly, Precious Men

In order to protect the protestant reformation, Puritanism, and freedom of religion from the tyranny of the King, Cromwell gathered thousands of godly men and created the new model army of independents. Contrary to the European model of nominating officers of nobility and men of estate, Cromwell elected such as were poor and of low parentage, only, as Morecraft stated, “He would give them the title of godly, precious men. That was revolutionary and it was to change the world. It was not introduced by the French Jacobites or by Russian Marxists but by an English Calvinist. It was Cromwell who saw value in tradesman, artisans, farmers, and even labourers.” Cromwell said to another leader of the parliamentary army, “Your troops are most of the old decaying serving men, and tapsters, and such kind of fellows; and theirs are gentlemen’s sons, younger sons, and persons of quality. But I will remedy that. 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.” With this design Cromwell went through England summoning young freeholders, with common piety, to take up arms in the name of God. Fourteen squadrons of zealous puritans were soon raised. D’Aubigne wrote, “It was this new element that decided the destinies of war and of England.” Cromwell maintained the strictest discipline in the army. His men considered victory a sure prize and quite in fact, never lost a single battle. Chateaubrand said of Cromwell’s men, “There was a certain invincibility in his genius, like the new ideas of which he was at the champion.” In the very rage of battle, Cromwell would lead his men up to a few paces of the enemy, and never permuted a shot to be fired from among them unless termination of the enemy was sure to take effect. John Milton wrote of Cromwell in battle, “From his through exercise in the art of self-knowledge, he had either exterminated or subjugated his domestic foes, his idle hopes, his fears, and his desires. Having thus learnt to engage, and subdue, and triumph over himself, he took the field agains his outward enemies, a soldier practised in all the discipline of war.” Cromwell’s own religious and moral values expressed themselves in his army. Cromwell was surrounded by men animated by the same faith in God, who passed unoccupied hours in psalm singing, prayer, and the preaching of the Scriptures.  Cromwell’s men wanted to form what they termed, “A gathered church,” and the officers looked about for a fitting pastor, and to the honor their Christian character selected the great puritan, Richard Baxter as Chaplin of Cromwell’s army of godly, precious men.

Here we will conclude our first part of the sketch of Oliver Cromwell. From this account we have seen a godly young puritan, sound in the faith and in Christian practice, live quietly and peaceably as a family patriarch and as a servant to his country in the House of Parliament. But when the dark and unsettling clouds of tyranny began to fester over the freedom of the English people in the form of Catholic persecution of the protestants and servitude to a tyrannical king godly men such as Cromwell rose up to the defence of God’s glory. Cromwell, among and above others, was not only a exceptional teacher of the protestant, reformed faith, but an extraordinary defender of it. Cromwell lived his life as a faithful son, godly husband, and Christlike father, exemplary of the puritan worldview of the supremacy of Christ over all things. He governed his home with equity, and his army with justice. “Cromwell’s life was dedicated to the realization of his dream” says Morecaft, “Of a Christian constitutional republic in England in the place of tyranny of the Stuart Monarchs.” In our next lecture we will follow up with Cromwell as victor over the King, preserver of unity in a nation of discord, and advancer of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. As Thomas Carlyle said of him, “The last glimpse of the Godlike vanishing from this England.”