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charged into fierce uproar, and before many minutes
the moor and the slope of the hill were covered with
bloodshed and disorder. Who gave the sign for the
general engagement we do not know, and it is even
likely that no sign as the result of deliberate and con-
certed plan was ever given at all.

Horse and foot moved down the hill "like so many
thick clouds." Cromwell, on the Parliamentary left,
charged Rupert with the greatest resolution that ever
was seen. It was the first time that these two great


leaders of horse had ever met in direct shock, and it
was here that Rupert gave to OHver the brave nick-
name of Ironside. As it happened, this was also one
of the rare occasions when Oliver's cavalry suffered a
check. David Leslie with his Scotch troopers was
luckily at hand, and charging forward together they
fell upon Rupert's right flank. This diversion enabled
Oliver, who had been wounded in the neck, to order his
retreating men to face about. Such a manoeuver, say
the soldiers, is one of the nicest in the whole range of
tactics, and bears witness to the discipline and flexi-
bility of Cromwell's force, like a delicate-mouthed
charger with a consummate rider. With Leslie's aid
they put Rupert and his cavalry to rout. "Cromwell's
own division," says the scout-master, "had a hard pull
of it, for they were charged by Rupert's bravest men
both in front and flank. They stood at the sword's
point a pretty while, hacking one another; but at last
he broke through them, scattering them like a little
dust." This done, the foot of their own wing charging
by their side, they scattered the Royalists as fast as they
charged them, slashing them down as they went. The
horse carried the whole field on the left before them,
thinking that the victory was theirs, and that "nothing
was to be done but to kill and take prisoners." It was
admitted by Cromwell's partizan that Leslie's chase of
the broken forces of Rupert, making a rally impossible,
was what left Cromwell free to hold his men compact
and ready for another charge. The key to most of
his victories was his care that his horse when they had
broken the enemy should not scatter in pursuit. The
secret a masterful coolness and the flash of military
perception in the leader, along with iron discipline in
the men.

Unfortunately all had gone wrong elsewhere. On


the Parliamentary right the operation as conducted
by Cromwell on the left had been reversed. Sir
Thomas Fairfax charged Goring, as Cromwell and
Leslie charged Rupert, and he made a desperate fight
for it. He cut his way through, chasing a body of
Goring's force before him on the road south to York.
When he turned back from his chase, after being
unhorsed, severely wounded, and with difficulty res-
cued from the enemy, he found that Goring by a
charge of savage vigor had completely broken the
main body of the Parliamentary horse on the right,
had driven them in upon their own foot, and had even
thrown the main body of the Scotch foot into dis-
order. This dangerous moment has been described
by a Royalist eye-witness. The runaways on both
sides were so many, so breathless, so speechless, so
full of fears, that he would hardly have known them
for men. Both armies were mixed up together, both
horse and foot, no side keeping their own posts.
Here he met a shoal of Scots, loud in lamentation as
if the day of doom had overtaken them. Elsewhere
he saw a ragged troop reduced to four and a cornet,
then an officer of foot, hatless, breathless, and with
only so much tongue as to ask the way to the next

In the center meanwhile the Parliamentary force
was completely broken, though the Scotch infantry on
the right continued stubbornly to hold their ground.
This was the crisis of the fight, and the Parliamentary
battle seemed to be irretrievably lost. It was saved
in a second act by the manful stoutness of a rem-
nant of the Scots in the center, and still more by the
genius and energy of Cromwell and the endurance of
his troopers. Many both of the Scottish and Eng-
lish foot had taken to flight. Their braver comrades

„. Windsor Castle, by special permi
Her Majesty the Qi



whom they left behind held firm against assault after
assault from Newcastle and the Royalists. Crom-
well, having disposed of Rupert on the left, now
swept round in the Royalist rear to the point on their
left where Goring had been stationed before the battle
began. "Here," says the scout-master, "the business
of the day, nay, of the kingdom, came to be deter-
mined." Goring's men, seeing Cromwell's manoeu-
ver, dropped their pursuit and plunder, marched down
the hill, just as Fairfax had marched down it an
hour before, and speedily came to the same disaster.

Cromwell keeping his whole force in hand, and
concentrating it upon the immediate object of beating
Goring, no sooner succeeded than he turned to the
next object, and exerted his full strength upon that.
This next object was now the relief of the harassed
foot in the center. Attacking in front and flank, he
threw his whole force upon the Royalist infantry of
Newcastle, still hard at work on what had been the
center of the line, supported by a remnant of Goring's
horse. This was the grand movement which mili-
tary critics think worthy of comparison with that de-
cisive charge of Seidlitz and his five thousand horse,
which gained for Frederick the Great the renowned
victory at Zorndorf. "Major-General David Leslie,
seeing us thus pluck a victory out of the enemy's
hands, could not too much commend us, and professed
Europe had no better soldiers !" Before ten o'clock
all was over, and the Royalists beaten from the field
were in full retreat. In what is sometimes too lightly
called the vulgar courage of the soldier, neither side
was wanting. Cromwell's was the only manoeuver
of the day that showed the talent of the soldier's eye
or the power of swift initiative.

More than four thousand brave men lay gory and


stark upon the field under the summer moon. Of these
more than three thousand a few hours before had
gone into the fight shouting, "For God and the king!"
met by the hoarse counter-shout from the Parhamen-
tarians, "God with us !" — so confident were each that
divine favor was on their side. At the famed battle
of Rocroi the year before, which transferred the lau-
rels of military superiority from Spain to France,
eight thousand Spaniards were destroyed and two
thousand French, out of a total force on both sides
of some forty-five thousand.

A story is told of Marston, for which there is as
good evidence as for many things that men believe.
A Lancashire squire of ancient line was killed fight-
ing for the king. His wife came upon the field the
next morning to search for him. They were strip-
ping and burying the slain. A general officer asked
her what she was about, and she told him her melan-
choly tale. He listened to her with great tenderness,
and earnestly besought her to leave the horrid scene.
She complied, and calling for a trooper, he set her
upon the horse. On her way she inquired the name
of the officer, and learned that he was Lieutenant-Gen-
eral Cromwell.

Cromwell's own references to his first great battle
are comprised in three or four well-known sentences :
"It had all the evidences of an absolute victory, ob-
tained by the Lord's blessing on the godly party prin-
cipally. We never charged but we routed the enemy.
The left wing, which I commanded, being our own
horse, saving a few Scots in our rear, beat all the
prince's horse, and God made them stubble to our
swords. W^e charged their regiments of foot with
our horse, and routed all we charged. I believe of


twenty thousand the prince hath not four thousand
left. Give glory, all the glory to God."

Without dwelling on the question how much the
stubborn valor of the Scots under Baillie and Lums-
den against the Royalist assaults on the center had to
do with the triumphant result, still to describe a force
nearly one third as large as his own and charging
side by side with himself, as a few Scots in our rear,
must be set down as strangely loose. For if one
thing is more clear than another amid the obscurities
of Marston, it is that Leslie's flank attack on Rupert
while the ironsides were falling back, was the key
to the decisive events that followed. The only plea
to be made is that Oliver was not writing an official
despatch, but a hurried private letter announcing to a
kinsman the calamitous loss of a gallant son upon the
battlefield, in which fullness of detail was not to be
looked for. When all justice has been done to the
valor of the Scots, glory enough was left for Crom-
well ; and so, when the party dispute was over, the
public opinion of the time pronounced.



WITH the march of these events a march of ideas
proceeded, of no less interest for mankind.
The same commotion that was fast breaking up the
foundation of the throne had already shaken down
the church. To glance at this process is no irrele-
vant excursion, but takes us to the heart of the con-
tention, and to a central epoch in the growth of the
career of Cromwell. The only great Protestant coun-
cil ever assembled on English soil has, for various rea-
sons, lain mostly in the dim background of our his-
tory.^v Yet it is no unimportant chapter in the eternal
controversy between spiritual power and temporal, no
transitory bubble in the troubled surges of the Refor-
mation. Dead are most of its topics, or else in the
ceaseless transmigration of men's ideas as the ages
pass, its enigmas are now propounded in many altered
shapes. Still, as we eye these phantoms of old debate,
and note the faded, crumbling vesture in which once

1 Since this chapter was first work of importance in its elucidation
printed Dr. William Shaw has of the controversies of the Westmin-
published his "History of the Eng- ster Assembly, and otherwise. The
lish Church during the Civil Wars Mmutes of the Assembly were pub-
and under the Commonwealth," a lished in 1874.


vivid forms of human thought were clad, we stand
closer to the inner mind of the serious men and women
of that time than when we ponder political discus-
sions either of soldiers or of Parliament. The slow
fluctuations of the war from Edgehill to Marston left
room for strange expansions in the sphere of religion
quite as important as the fortune of battle itself. In
a puritan age citizenship in the secular state fills a
smaller space in the imaginations of men, than the
mystic fellowship of the civitas Dei, the city of God;
hence the passionate concern in many a problem that
for us is either settled or indifferent. Nor should
we forget what is a main element in the natural his-
tory of intolerance, that in such times error ranks as
sin and even the most monstrous shape of sin.

The aggressions of the Commons upon the old
church order had begun, as we have seen, by a
demand for the ejectment of the bishops from the
Lords. The Lords resisted so drastic a change in the
composition of their own body (1641). The tide
rose, passion became more intense, judgment waxed
more uncompromising, and at the instigation of Crom-
well and Vane resolute proposals were made in the
Commons for the abolition of the Episcopal office and
the transfer to lay commissions instituted and con-
trolled by Parliament, of Episcopal functions of juris-
diction and ordination. On what scheme the church
should be reconstructed neither Cromwell nor Par-
liament had considered, any more than they consid-
ered in later years what was to follow a fallen mon-
archy. In the Grand Remonstrance of the winter of
1 64 1, the Commons desired a general synod of the
most grave, pious, learned, and judicious divines of
this island, to consider all things necessary for the
peace and good government of the church. It was


not until the summer of 1643 that this synod was at
last after half a dozen efforts actually appointed by

The flames of fanaticism were blazing with a fierce-
ness not congenial to the English temper, and such
as has hardly possessed Englishmen before or since.
Puritanism showed itself to have a most unlovely side.
It was not merely that controversy was rough and
coarse, though it was not much less coarse in Puritan
pulpits than it had been on the lips of German friars
or Jesuit polemists in earlier stages. In Burton's
famous sermon for which he suffered punishment so
barbarous, he calls the bishops Jesuitical polyprag-
matics, anti-Christian mushrooms, factors for anti-
Christ, dumb dogs, ravening wolves, robbers of souls,
miscreants. Even the august genius of Milton could
not resist the virulent contagion of the time. As diffi-
culties multiplied, coarseness grew into ferocity. A
preacher before the House of Commons so early as
1641 cried out to them: "What soldier's heart would
not start deliberately to come into a subdued city and
take the little ones upon the spear's point, to take
them by the heels and beat out their brains against
the wall? What inhumanity and barbarousness
would this be thought? Yet if this work be to re-
venge God's church against Babylon, he is a blessed
man that takes and dashes the little ones against the
stones." The fiery rage of the old Red Dragon of
Rome itself, or the wild battle-cries of Islam, were
hardly less appalling than these dark transports of
Puritan imagination. Even prayers were often more
like imprecation than intercession. When Montrose
lay under sentence of death, he declined the offer of
the Presbyterian ministers to pray with him, for he
knew that the address to Heaven would be : "Lord,


vouchsafe yet to touch the obdurate heart of this
proud, incorrigible sinner, this wicked, perjured, trai-
torous, and profane person, who refuses to hearken
to the voice of thy kirk." It was a day of wrath, and
the gospel of charity was for the moment sealed.

The ferment was tremendous. Milton, in striking
words, shows us how London of that time (1644),
the city of refuge encompassed with God's protec-
tion, was not busier as a shop of war with hammers
and anvils fashioning out the instruments of armed
justice, than it was with pens and heads sitting by
their studious lamps, musing, searching, and revolv-
ing new ideas. Another observer of a different spirit
tells how hardly a day passed (1646) without the
brewing or broaching of some new opinion. People
are said to esteem an opinion a mere diurnal — after a
day or two scarce worth the keeping. 'Tf any man
have lost his religion, let him repair to London, and
ril warrant him he shall find it. I had almost said,
too, and if any man has a religion, let him come but
hither now, and he shall go near to lose it." Well
might the zealots of uniformity tremble. Louder
and more incessant, says Baxter, than disputes about
infant baptism or antinomianism, waxed their call
for liberty of conscience, that every man might preach
and do in matters of religion what he pleased. All
these disputes, and the matters of them, found a focus
in the Westminster Assembly of Divines.

It was nominally composed of one hundred and
fifty members, including not only Anglicans, but An-
glican bishops, and comprehending, besides divines,
ten lay peers and twice as many members of the other
House. Eight Scottish commissioners were included.
The Anglicans never came, or else they immediately
fell off; the laymen, with the notable exception of


Selden, took but a secondary part ; and it became
essentially a body of divines, usually some sixty of
them in attendance. The field appointed for their
toil was indeed enormous. It was nothing less than
the reorganization of the spiritual power, subject to
the shifting exigencies of the temporal, with divers
patterns to choose from in the reformed churches out
of England. Faith, worship, discipline, government,
were all comprehended in their vast operation. They
were instructed to organize a scheme for a church ; to
compose a directory in place of the Prayer Book; to
set forth in a confession of faith what men must be-
lieve; to draw up a catechism for teaching the true
creed. Work that in itself would have sufficed for
giants, was complicated by the play of politics out-
side, and the necessity of serving many changing mas-
ters. The important point is that their masters were
laymen. The assembly was simply to advise. Par-
liament had no more intention of letting the divines
escape its own direct control than Henry VIII or Eliz-
abeth would have had. The assembly was the creature
of a Parliamentary ordinance. To Parliament it must
report, and without assent of Parliament its proceed-
ings must come to naught. This was not all. The Sol-
emn League and Covenant in the autumn of 1643
and the entry of the Scots upon the scene, gave a
new turn to religious forces, and ended in a remark-
able transformation of political parties. The Scots
had exacted the Covenant from the Parliamentary
leaders as the price of military aid, and the Covenant
meant the reconstruction of the English Church, not
upon the lines of modified Episcopacy or Presbytery
regulated by lay supremacy but upon Presbytery after
the Scottish model of church government by clerical


The divines first met in Henry VH's chapel (July
I, 1643), but when the weather grew colder they
moved into the Jerusalem Chamber — that old-world
room, where anybody apt, "in the spacious circuit of
his musing/' to wander among far-off things, may
find so many memorable associations, and none of
them more memorable than this. For most of five
years and a half they sat — over one thousand sittings.
On five days in the week they labored from nine in
the morning until one or two in the afternoon. Each
member received four shillings a day, and was fined
sixpence if he was late for prayers at half-past eight.
Not seldom they had a day of fasting, when they
spent from nine to five very graciously. "After Dr.
Twisse had begun with a brief prayer, Mr. Marshall
prayed large two hours most divinely. After, Mr.
Arrowsmith preached one hour, then a psalm, there-
after Mr. Vines prayed near two hours, and Mr. Pal-
mer preached one hour, and Mr. Seaman prayed near
two hours, then a psalm. After Mr. Henderson
brought them to a short, sweet conference of the heart
confessed in the assembly, and other seen faults to be
remedied, and the convenience to preach against all
sects, especially Baptist and Antinomians." These
prodigies of physical endurance in spiritual exercises
were common in those days. Johnston of Warriston
intending to spend an hour or two in prayer, once car-
ried his devotions from six in the morning until
he was amazed by the bells ringing at eight in the

There were learned scholars and theologians, but
no governing churchman of the grand type rose up
among them — nobody who at the same time compre-
hended states and the foundation of states, explored
creeds and the sources of creeds, knew man and the


heart of man. No Calvin appeared, nor Knox, nor
\\'esley, nor Chalmers. Alexander Henderson was
possessed of many gifts in argument, persuasion,
counsel, but he had not the spirit of action and com-
mand. Sincere Presbyterians of to-day turn impa-
tiently aside from what they call the miserable logo-
machies of the Westminster divines. Even in that
unfruitful gymnastic, though they numbered pious
and learned men, they had no athlete. They made
no striking or original contribution to the strong and
compacted doctrines of Calvinistic faith. To turn
over the pages of Lightfoot's journal of their pro-
ceedings is to understand what is meant by the de-
scription of our seventeenth century as the middle ages
of Protestantism. Just as mediaeval schoolmen dis-
cussed the nature and existence of universals in one
century, and the mysteries of immortality and a super-
human First Cause in another century, so now divines
and laymen discussed predestination, justification,
election, reprobation, and the whole unfathomable
body of the theological metaphysics by the same
method — verbal logic drawing sterile conclusions from
untested authority.

Happily it is not our concern to follow the divines
as they went plowing manfully through their Con-
fession of faith. They were far from accepting the
old proposition of Bishop Hall that the most useful
of all books of theology would be one with the title
of "De paucitate credendorum" of the fewness of the
things that a man should believe. After long and
tough debates about the decrees of election, they had
duly passed the heads of Providence, Redemption.
Covenant, Justification, Free Will, and a part of Per-
severance. And so they proceeded. The two sides
plied one another with arguments oral and on paper,


plea and replication, rejoinder and rebutter, surre-
joinder and surrebutter. They contended, says hon-
est Bailie, tanquam pro arts et facis — as if for hearth
and altar.

It was not until May (1647) that this famous
exposition of theological truth was submitted to the
House of Commons. By that time Parliament, in
deep water, had other things to think of, and the
Westminster Confession never received the sanction
of the State. Nor did the two Catechisms, which,
along with the Confession, are still the standards not
only of the Church of Scotland, but of the great body
of Presbyterian churches grouped all over the Eng-
lish-speaking world, and numbering many millions of
strenuous adherents. The effect of familiarity with
the Shorter Catechism upon the intellectual character
of the Scottish peasantry, and the connection between
Presbyterian government and a strongly democratic
turn of thought and feeling in the community, are
accepted commonplaces. Perhaps this fruit of the
labors of the Westminster Assembly, appraise it as
we may, was in one sense the most lasting and positive
product of the far-famed Long Parliament that set it
up and controlled it.

A GREAT group of questions, one following another,
arose upon the very threshold of the Reformation.
The Pope dislodged, tradition cast forth, the open
Bible placed in the emptied shrine, fresh fountains
of spiritual truth and life unsealed of which all save
the children of reprobation might partake — a long
campaign of fierce battles was next fought on fields
outside of purely theologic doctrine. What is the


scriptural form of church government — prelacy, pres-
bytery, or congregational independence? Who was
to inherit the authority of the courts spiritual — the
civil magistrate or the purified and reconstituted
church? Ought either bishop or synod to have coer-
cive jurisdiction against the outward man, his liberty,
life, or estate? Ought the state to impose one form
of church government upon all citizens ; or to leave
to free choice both form of government and submis-
sion to discipline; or to favor one form, but without
compulsion on individuals who favored another?
Ought the state to proscribe or punish the practices
of any church or adhesion to any faith? These were
the mighty problems that had now first been brought
to the front in England by a great revolution, partly
political, partly ecclesiastical, and wholly unconscious,
like most revolutions, of its own drift, issues, and
result. Few more determined struggles have ever
been fought on our sacred national battle-ground at
Westminster, than the contest between the Assembly
of Divines and the Parliament. The divines inspired
from Scotland insisted that presbytery was of divine
right. The majority of the Parliament, true to Eng-
lish traditions and instinct, insisted that all church
government was of human institution and depended
on the will of the magistrate. The divines contended
that presbytery and synod were to have the unfet-
tered right of inflicting spiritual censures, and deny-
ing access to the communion-table to all whom they
should choose to condemn as ignorant or scandalous
persons. The Parliament was as stubborn that
censures were to be confined to offenses specified by
law, and with a right of appeal to a lay tribunal. It
was the mortal battle so incessantly renewed in that
age and since, between the principles of Calvin and

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 11 of 35)