Sunday, 4 September 2011

This Day in History - Oliver Cromwell

Well, due to studies and exams, it's been a while since my last post. But here I go with one and hopefully, with God's help, next week I will give all my readers another one! 

Today (though now a bit late in the day, here!), the 3rd of September, is a very interesting and important day in history. First, on that day in 1939, Britain (including all countries in the Commonwealth) declared war on Nazi Germany after Hitler's forces attacked Poland. This was the beginning of World War II - a war that changed the world and changed the course of history in many ways. I find this time really fascinating, since I see that God was very much at work during that time of darkness. I hope to write more about this time in later posts. 

However, today I would like to concentrate on another time that perhaps fascinates me even more. This date is also the anniversary of one of Oliver Cromwell's greatest victories, the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. There he fought against Charles II's forces. King Charles I had already been executed for his crimes against England, but his son Charles II (the one who years later imprisoned John Bunyan and many other puritans, and killed many of the Scottish Covenanters) was fighting to get his father's throne. At Dunbar, Cromwell's army was trapped and heavily outnumbered. After a night of fervent prayer, he had a deep assurance that God would give them victory and he encouraged his officers of this. The next day, God truly delivered them and Cromwell stopped briefly at the end of the Battle and sang Psalm 117.  He always remembered this day with deep gratitude.

Amazingly, on that same day a year later, Cromwell had another major victory in the Battle of Worcester against Charles II. Cromwell called it God's 'crowning mercy'. This finally ended the long and bloody phase of the English Civil War. 

To the end of his life and throughout his Protectorate he celebrated  this day as a day of thanksgiving. 

However, it was also, amazingly, on this very day in 1658 that the Lord chose to take him home. He had faithfully served his country and God's people throughout, even though he was hated, misunderstood, and wronged from many quarters (sadly, this included fellow Christians who either disagreed with him or were simply jealous). Yet, he was very humble, bore it meekly, and forgave. 

Here are some memorable things he said on his deathbed. They show how much he really loved God (Remember that these words came from one of Britain's greatest rulers - feared and respected throughout Europe):  

When his wife and children stood weeping about him, he said, 'Love not the world, I say unto you, it is not good that you should love the world. Children, live like Christians, and I leave you the Covenant [The Covenant of Grace and Redemption between God and His people] to feed upon

'The Lord hath filled me with as much assurance of his pardon, and his love, as my soul can hold.

'I think I am the poorest wretch that lives; but I love God, or rather, am beloved of God.' 

'Truly God is good; indeed He is; He will not [leave me].

'I would be willing to live to be farther serviceable to God and His people; but my work is done. Yet God will be with his people

Several people who were present with Cromwell in his last hours wrote down the words of this moving prayer that in many ways portrays his heart in a nutshell: 

Lord, though I am a miserable and wretched creature, I am in covenant with thee through grace. And I may, I will cove to thee, for they 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 do dispose of me, continue and go on to do good for them. Give them consistency of judgement, one heart, and mutual love; and go on to deliver them, and with the work of reformation; and make the Name of Christ glorious in the world. Teach those who look too much on they instruments, to depend more upon thyself. Pardon such as desire to trample upon the dust of a poor worm, for they are thy people too. And pardon the folly of this short prayer: - Even for Jesus Christ's sake. And give us a good night, if it be thy pleasure. Amen. 

Throughout his Protectorate, Cromwell mourned the disunity and lack of love among many Christians of his day. He worked hard and prayed for the day when there would be love and unity between God's people. And he hoped that the principle of religious freedom that he vigorously fought to establish, would endure. 

In one of his letters (one of my favourites) to his son-in-law, Fleetwood, we see more of Cromwell's faith. He wanted to encourage his daughter, Biddy, who seems to have been going through some spiritual struggles. He wrote:   
Love argueth in this wise: What a Christ have I; what a Father in and through Him...This commends the love of God - It's Christ dying for men without strength, for men whilst sinners, whilst enemies. And shall we seek for the root of our comfort within us? What God hath done, what He is to us in Christ 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 we here, and here only. 

I will conclude with H. F. Lovell Cocks' own conclusion: 

It was here [referring to the above letter] that Cromwell rested. He had his faults and his blind spots. He made his mistakes and some of them were serious [my note: as often happens with Generals or politicians]. But living this authentic New Testament faith he walked before God and men in profound humility and love of the brethren. Such was the man to whom even those who hated him conceded greatness. Misunderstood, misjudged, reviled by his enemies, and wounded in the house of his friends, his life-work so precariously poised and so soon overturned and destroyed [my note: referring to the Restoration after his death when they brought back Charles II], he towers over his contemporaries in lonely eminence for the magnanimity of his nature and the large compassion of his Cromwell's steward...'A larger soul...hath seldom dwelt in a house of clay.' (The Religious life of Oliver Cromwell, p. 82, 83)

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1978) confirms this by commenting that:

That great period during Cromwell's Protectorate...was one of the most amazing epochs in the whole history of [England]. To me it was certainly one of the most glorious...Oliver Cromwell is a man whom we do not honour as we should.  (The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, p. 394)

I pray this will not always be so. I personally found his life and work to really inspire me in my walk with the Lord. May it do the same for you, too, my dear readers.

God Bless.


D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987.

H. F. Lovell Cocks, The Religious Life of Oliver Cromwell, London: Independent Press LTD, 1960.

Thomas Carlyle, Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches with Elucidations. 

Click Here to watch Cromwell movie.

Click Here to hear a good lecture about Oliver Cromwell (see my blog page 'Oliver Cromwell - Man of Faith'. 


Joy said...

This is a lovely post, Sarah!
Thank you for sharing a bit about this great man, Oliver Cromwell.... He was indeed a really great man, who loved God! I loved the quotes too.
In His love,
your sister,

Sarah said...

Thanks, Joy, for your encouragement. I'm thankful that it has blessed you:)
your sister Sarah

Shaz in Oz.CalligraphyCards said...

ah such a blessing is this dear Sarah tried to find Joys blog but it cant find it and not sure it will let me in... bit confused it said something about my invitation had been used so not sure what this means??
Anyway I must move along, love to you all, and thanks so much for all your wonderful prayers for Kaz. I am really worried about her she is not contacting anyone her family are not saved - or not many and God bless, Shaz.x

Maddy said...

Dear Sarah,

This was so good to read, thanks. I hadn't realised how good it could be to study this era, until you gave me the link to that history lecture on Cromwell. Christians can learn so much from the time and life of Cromwell, and I'm interested in learning more! It is just amazing... I thank the Lord for an example of a ruler who, like David, was a sinner saved by grace, who deeply loved the Lord. Yes, he was a sinner like us all - but he was a man of great authority who was in submission to the Lord... and this was powerful! May we wait with eager expectation, and reverent readiness, for the coming of the One Who is far greater, our precious Lord Jesus. All praise to Him!

Thank you for sharing this, Sarah.

Love, Maddy

Sarah said...

Dear Shaz,
Thanks very much for your encouragement. I will certainly continue to remember Kaz in my prayers. I also told Joy to fix this problem you're having with her blog. This usually happens if you don't 'follow'. If you view the blog as only a guest, the invitation expires after a while. Joy will resend it soon.

love in Him

Sarah said...

Dear Maddy,

I'm glad to hear you're thoughts on this post. I'm glad it has encouraged you to learn more about this great and godly Christian. He was indeed very much like a David or Moses. The more I researched about his life, the more touched and inspired I was. There are very, very few leaders who were truly born-again Christians who were there to truly serve the Lord and do His will. I pray the Lord will bless us with more leaders like that.

I'd be very glad to help you learn more and find good books about him.

Love in Him,

P.S. see you soon:)!

April said...

This post truly amazed me. I have always held Cromwell a criminal in favor of the house of Tudor. I guess I ought to study more before I take sides! It sounds like Cromwell was a very deep Christian who truly loved the Lord. What you have quoted here of him has truly blessed me. Thank you for writing this!

Sarah said...

Dear April,
The Cromwell that you're probably referring to (his crimes and his relation to the Tudors) was Thomas Cromwell, who lived during the reign of King Henry VIII and the time of the Protestant Reformation. He was what you'd call a Political Protestant. He persuaded King Henry VIII to join the Reformation for political reasons. He did commit some controversial crimes and was involved in many royal intrigues. There is great doubt that he was really a born again Christian.

The problem is that this Thomas Cromwell was Oliver Cromwell's great uncle on his mother's side. Many of the crimes that Thomas did was often wrongly attributed to Oliver.

Oliver Cromwell was during the English Civil War and he was a very godly Puritan. Even during his lifetime he often complained that his great uncle's crimes were unfairly used against him.

I highly recommend watching the Cromwell movie (I've got a link for it at the end of this post). It is a very conservative family movie (though there are some battle scenes - though not graphic) that really portrays Cromwell well. Also, the lecture link is also helpful.

Oh, dear. This is one of my pet subjects. Once I start talking its very difficult to stop, LOL:)

If you're interested to know about good sources, I'd be glad to help. Not all books about Oliver Cromwell are good.

Thanks for your encouragement and interest.

God Bless,

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