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Knox and the principles imputed to Erastus. the
Swiss physician and divine, who had died at Heidel-
berg in 1583.

For ten days at a time the assembly debated the
right of every particular congregation to ordain its
own officers. For thirty days they debated the propo-
sition that particular congregations ought to be united
under one Presbyterian government. In either case
the test was Scripture; what had happened to Tim-
othy or Titus; how the Church of Antioch had stood
to the first church at Jerusalem; whether St. Paul had
not written to the Philippians words that were a con-
secration of presbytery. The Presbyterian majority
besought the aid of a whole army of Dutch orthodox ;
they pressed for letters from France and from Geneva,
which should contain grave and weighty admonitions
to the assembly at Westminster, to be careful to sup-
press all schismatics, and the mother and foster of
all mischief, the independence of congregations. On
the other hand the half-dozen Independents, whom
Cromwell wished to strengthen by the addition of
three divines of the right sort from New England,
kept up a spirited resistance against the driving force
of the orthodox current. A deliberative assembly
tends to make party spirit obdurate. "Oh, what may
not pride do!" cries Baxter; "and what miscarriages
will not faction hide!" The Reconcilers, who called
for unity in necessary things, liberty in things indiffer-
ent, and charity in all things, could not be heard.
The breach widened as time went on, and by 1645 ^^^
repair was hopeless. The conflict in its progress
made more definite the schism between Presbyterian
and Independent. It was the alliance of Independent
and Erastian in Parliament that finally bafiled the
Presbyterian after the Scottish model, and hardened


the great division, until what had been legitimate
difference on a disputable question became mutual
hatred between two infuriated factions. Baillie says
of the Independents that it would be a marvel to him
if such men should always prosper, their ways were
so impious, unjust, ungrate, and every way hateful.
One Coleman, an Erastian, gave good men much trou-
ble by defending, with the aid of better lawyers than
himself, the arguments of the Erastian doctor against
the proposition that the founder of Christianity had
instituted a church government distinct from the civil,
to be exercised by the officers of the church without
commission from the magistrates. Coleman was hap-
pily stricken with death; he fell in an ague, and after
four or five days he expired. "It is not good," runs
the dour comment, "to stand in Christ's way." The
divines were too shrewd not to perceive how it was
the military weakness of the Scots that allowed the
Independents with their heresies to ride rough-shod
over them. If the Scots had only had fifteen thou-
sand men in England, they said, their advice on doc-
trine and discipline would have been followed quickly
enough ; if the Scottish arms had only been successful
last year, there would have been little abstract debat-
ing. "It 's neither reason nor religion that stays some
men's rage, but a strong army bridling them with
fear." Such were the plain words of carnal wisdom.
A story is told of a Scot and an Englishman disput-
ing on the question of soldiers preaching. Quoth the
Scot, "Is it fit that Colonel Cromwell's soldiers should
preach in their quarters, to take away the minister's
function?" Quoth the Englishman, "Truly I remem-
ber they made a gallant sermon at Marston Moor;
that was one of the best sermons that hath been
preached in the kingdom." The fortune of war, in


other words, carried with it the fortunes of theology
and the churches.

We need not follow the vicissitudes of party, or
the changing shadows of military and political events
as they fell across the zealous scene. One incident
of the time must be noted. While presbytery had
been fighting its victorious battle in the Jerusalem
Chamber, the man whose bad steering had wrecked
his church was sent to the block. The execution of
Archbishop Laud (January 10, 1645) ''s the best of
all the illustrations of the hard temper of the time.
Laud was more than seventy years old. He had been
for nearly five years safe under lock and key in the
Tower. His claws were effectually clipped, and it
was certain that he would never again be able to do
mischief, or if he were, that such mischief as he could
do would be too trivial to be worth thinking of, in
sight of such a general catastrophe as could alone
make the old man's return to power possible. The
execution of Strafford may be defended as a great
act of retaliation or prevention, done with grave po-
litical purpose. So, plausibly or otherwise, may the
execution of King Charles. No such considerations
justify the execution of Laud several years after he
had committed the last of his imputed offenses and
had been stripped of all power of ever committing
more. It is not necessary that we should echo Dr.
Johnson's lines about Rebellion's vengeful talons seiz-
ing on Laud, while Art and Genius hovered weeping
round his tomb; but if we rend the veil of romance
from the Cavalier, we are bound not to be overdazzled
by the halo of sanctity in the Roundhead.

It was in 1646 that Parliament consummated what
would have seemed so extraordinary a revolution to
the patriots of 1640 by the erection of the Presby-


terian system of Scotland, though with marked reser-
vations of ParHamentary control, into the Established
Church of England. The uniformity that had rooted
itself in Scotland, and had been the center of the
Solemn League and Covenant, was now nominally
established throughout the island. But in name only.
It was soon found in the case of church and state
alike, that to make England break with her history is
a thing more easily said than done, as it has ever been
in all her ages. The Presbyterian system struck no
abiding root. The Assembly, as a Scottish historian
has pointedly observed, though called by an English
Parliament, held on English ground, and composed
of English divines, with only a few Scotsmen among
them, still, as things turned out, existed and labored
mainly for Scotland.


The deliberations of the divines were haunted
throughout by the red specter of toleration. For the
rulers of states a practical perplexity rose out of Prot-
estantism. How was a system resting on the rights
of individual conscience and private reason to be
reconciled with either authority or unity? The natu-
ral history of toleration seems simple, but it is in
truth one of the most complex of all the topics that
engage either the reasoner or the ruler; and until
nations were by their mental state ready for religious
toleration, a statesman responsible for order naturally
paused before committing himself to a system that
might only mean that the members of rival commu-
nions would fly at one another's throats, like Catholics
and Huguenots in France, or Spaniards and Beggars
in Holland. In history it is our business to try to


understand the possible reasons and motives for every-
thing, even for intolerance.

Religious toleration was no novelty either in great
books or in the tractates of a day. Men of broad
minds, like More in England and L'Hopital in France,
had not lived for nothing; and though Bacon never
made religious tolerance a political dogma, yet his
exaltation of truth, knowledge, and wisdom tended to
point that way. Nor should we forget that Crom-
well's age is the age of Descartes and of Grotius,
men whose lofty and spacious thinking, both directly
and indirectly, contributed to create an atmosphere
of freedom and of peace in which it is natural for
tolerance to thrive. To say nothing of others, the
irony of Montaigne in the generation before Crom-
well was born had drawn the true moral from the
bloodshed and confusion of the long fierce wars be-
tween Catholic and Huguenot. Theories in books are
wont to prosper or miscarry according to circum-
stances, but beyond theory Presbyterians at West-
minster might have seen both in France and in Hol-
land rival professions standing side by side, each
protected by the state. At one moment, in this very
era, no fewer than five Protestants held the rank of
marshals of France. The Edict of Nantes, indeed,
while it makes such a figure in history (i 598-1685),
was much more of a forcible practical concordat than
a plan reposing on anybody's acceptance of a deliber-
ate doctrine of toleration. It was never accepted by
the clergy, any more than it was in heart accepted by
the people. Even while the edict was in full force,
it was at the peril of his authority with his flock that
either Catholic bishop or Protestant pastor in France
preached moderation toward the other communion.
It was not French example, but domestic necessities,


that here tardily brought toleration into men's minds.
Helwys, Busher, Brown, sectaries whose names find
no place in literary histories, had from the opening
of the century argued the case for toleration, before
the more powerful plea of Roger Williams; but the
ideas and practices of Amsterdam and Leyden had
perhaps a wider influence than either colonial exiles
or homebred controversialists, in gradually producing
a political school committed to freedom of conscience.

The limit set to toleration in the earlier and un-
clouded days of the Long Parliament had been fixed
and definite. So far as Catholics were concerned,
Charles stood for tolerance, and the Puritans for rig-
orous enforcement of persecuting laws. In that great
protest for freedom, the Grand Remonstrance itself,
they had declared it to be far from their purpose or
desire to let loose the golden reins of discipline and
government in the church, to leave private persons or
particular congregations to take up what form of
divine service they pleased ; "for we hold it requisite,"
they went on to say, "that there should be throughout
the whole realm a conformity to that order which
the laws enjoin according to the Word of God." It
was the rise of the Independents to political power
that made toleration a party question, and forced it
into the salient and telling prominence that is reserved
for party questions.

The Presbyterian majority in principle answered
the questions of toleration and uniformity, just as
Laud or the Pope would have answered them — one
church, one rule. The Catholic built upon St. Peter's
rock; the Presbyterian built upon Scripture. Just as
firmly as the Catholic, he believed in a complete and
exclusive system, "and the existence of a single sepa-
ratist congregation was at once a blot on its beauty


and a blow at its very basis" (Shaw). Liberty of
conscience was in his eyes only liberty of error, and
departure from uniformity only meant a hideous de-
formity and multiformity of blaspheming sects. The
Independent and the Baptist too were equally con-
vinced of the scriptural source and the divine right
of their own systems. It was political necessity that
drove them reluctantly not only to work as partners
with Erastian lawyers in Parliament, but to extend
the theoretic basis of their own claim for toleration
until it comprehended the whole swarm of Anabap-
tists, Antinomians, Nullifidians, and the rest. Crom-
well's toleration was different. It came easy to his
natural temperament when practical convenience rec-
ommended or demanded it. When he told Crawford
early in the war that the state in choosing men to
serve it takes no notice of their opinions, he struck
the true note of toleration from the statesman's point
of view. His was the practical temper which first
asks about a thing how far it helps or hinders the
doing of some other given thing, and the question
now with him was whether tolerance would help or
hinder union and force in military strength and the
general objects of the war.

A grander intellect than Cromwell's had entered
the arena, for before the end of the year of Marston
"Areopagitica" had appeared, the noble English classic
of spiritual and speculative freedom. It was Milton's
lofty genius that did the work of bringing a great
universal idea into active relation with what all men
could understand, and what all practical men wished
for. There were others, indeed, who set the doctrine
of toleration in a fuller light; but in Milton's writings
on church government he satisfies as well as Socinus,
or Roger Williams, or any of his age, the test that has


been imposed of making toleration "at once a moral,
a political, and a theological dogma. With him the
law of tolerance is no birth of scepticism or languor
or indifference. It is no politician's argument for
reconciling freedom of conscience with pul)lic order,
nor is it a pungent intellectual demonstration like
Bayle's, half a century later. Intolerance with Milton
is dishonor to the victim, dishonor to the tyrant.
The fountainhead from which every worthy enterprise
issues forth is a pious and just honoring of ourselves ;
it is the sanctity and freedom of the man's own soul.
On this austere self-esteem the scornful distinction
between lay and cleric is an outrage. The coercive
power of ecclesiastics is an impious intrusion into the
inner sanctuary. Shame may enter, and remorse and
reverence for good men may enter, and a dread of
becoming a lost wanderer from the communion of the
just and holy may enter, but never the boisterous and
secular tyranny of an unlawful and unscriptural juris-
diction. Milton's moving argument, at once so deli-
cate and so haughty, for the rights and self-respecting
obligations of "that inner man which may be termed
the spirit of, the soul," is the hidden mainspring of the
revolt against formalism, against authority, and al-
most against church organization in any of its forms.
And it is the true base of toleration. Alas, even Mil-
ton halts and stammers when he comes to ask him-
self why, on the same arguments, popery may not
plead for toleration. Here he can only fall back upon
the regulation commonplaces.

Milton's ideas, which were at the heart of Crom-
well's vaguer and less firmly molded thinking, were
in direct antagonism to at least three broad principles
that hitherto ruled the minds of men. These ideas
were fatal to uniformity of belief, not merely as a


thing within reach, hut as an object to be desired.
They shattered and destroyed Authority, whether of
clergy or laity, or of a king by the grace of God.
Finally they dealt one of the blows that seem so
naturally to mark the course of all modern revolu-
tions to History as a moral power. For it is the
essence of every appeal to reason or to the individual
conscience to discard the heavy woven garments of
tradition, custom, inheritance, prerogative, and an-
cient institution. History becomes, in Milton's own
exorbitant phrase, no more than the perverse iniquity
of sixteen hundred years. Uniformity, authority, his-
tory — to shake these was to move the foundations of
the existing world in England. History, however,
shows itself a standing force. It is not a dead, but a
living hand. The sixteen hundred years that Milton
found so perverse had knit fibers into our national
growth that even Cromwell and all the stern zealotries
of Puritanism were powerless to pluck out.


Events made toleration in its full Miltonic breadth
the shibboleth. In principle and theory it enlarged
its way both in Parliament and the army, in associa-
tion with the general ideas of political liberalism, and
became a practical force. Every war tends to create
a peace party, even if for no other cause, yet from the
innate tendency of men to take sides. By the end of
the year of Marston Moor political differences of
opinion upon the terms of peace had become definitely
associated with the ecclesiastical difference between
Presbyterian and Independent. The Presbyterians
were the peace men, and the Independents were for


relentless war until the ends of war should be gained.
Henceforth these are the two great party names, and
of the Independents Cromwell's energy and his mili-
tary success rapidly made him the most powerful

When it was that Cromwell embraced Independent
views of church organization we cannot with pre-
cision tell, nor does it matter. He deferred signing
the Presbyterian Covenant as long as possible (Feb-
ruary. 1644). He was against exclusion and pro-
scription, but on grounds of policy, and from no
reasoned attachment to the ideal of a free or congre-
gational church. He had a kindness for zealots, be-
cause zeal, enthusiasm, almost fanaticism, was in its
best shape his own temper, and even in its worst
shape promoted or protected his own policy. When
his policy of war yet hung in the balance it was the
Independents who by their action, views, and temper
created his opportunity. By their fervor and sincerity
they partially impressed him with their tenets, and
opened his mind to a range of new ideas that lay
beyond their own. Unhappily in practice, when the
time came, Puritan toleration went little further than
Anglican intolerance.




AFTER the victory at Marston, followed as it was
by the surrender of York, men expected other
decisive exploits from Lord Manchester and his tri-
umphant army. He was directed to attend on the
motions of the indomitable Rupert, in whom the dis-
aster before the walls of York seemed to have stirred
fresh energy. Manchester saw a lion in every path.
The difficulties he made were not devoid of reason,
but a nation in a crisis seeks a general whom difficul-
ties confront only to be overcome.

Essex meanwhile (September, 1644) had been over-
taken by grievous disaster in the southwest. Escaping
by sea from Plymouth, he left his army to find their
way out by fighting or surrender as best they could.
So great was his influence and popularity, than even in
face of this miscarriage, Essex almost at once received
a new command. Manchester was to cooperate with
him in resisting the king's eastward march from Corn-
wall to his fixed headquarters at Oxford. He pro-
fesses to obey, but he loiters, delays, and finds excuses,
until even the Derby House Committee lose patience
and send a couple of their members to kindle a little
fire in him, just as in the next century the French



Convention used to send two commissioners to spur
on the revolutionary generals. "Destroy but the
king's army," cried Waller, "and the work is ended."
At length the forces of Essex, Waller, and Manches-
ter combined, and attacked the king at Newbury.
In this second battle of New^bury (October 27, 1644),
though the Parliamentarians under Manchester and
Waller w-ere nearly two to one, the result w^as so little
conclusive that the king made his way almost without
pursuit from the field. He even returned within a
fortnight, offered battle once more on the same
ground, and as the challenge was declined returned at
his ease to Oxford.

At length vexation at inactivity and delay grew^ so
strong that Cromw^ell (November 25), seizing the
apt moment as was his w^ont, startled the House by
opening articles of charge against his commander.
Manchester, 'he said, ever since the victory of Marston
Moor, had acted as if he deemed that to be enough ;
had declined every opportunity of further advantage
upon the enemy ; and had lost occasion upon occasion,
as if he thought the king too low^ and the Parliament
too high. Xo man had ever less in him than Crom-
well of the malcontent subordinate. *'At this time,"
Waller says of him early in 1645, "^'^^ ^^^ never
shown extraordinary parts, nor do I think he did
himself believe that he had them; for although he was
blunt, he did not bear himself with pride or disdain.
As an officer he w^as obedient, and did never dispute
my orders or argue upon them." His letters to Fair-
fax at a later date are a pattern of the affectionate
loyalty due from a man second in conmiand to a gen-
eral whom he trusts. What alarmed him w^as not
Manchester's backwardness in action, his aversion to
engagement, his neglect of opportunities, but the


From the original portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.


growing certainty that there was behind all this half-
heartedness some actual principle of downright un-
willingness to prosecute the war to a full victory, and
a deliberate design not to push the king too hard nor
to reduce him too low. Cromwell recalled many ex-
pressions of Manchester that plainly betrayed a desire
not to end the war by the sword, but to make a peace
on terms that were to his own taste. On one occa-
sion the advocates of a fight urged that to let the king
get off unassailed would strengthen his position at
home and abroad, whereas if they only beat him now,
he and his cause were forever ruined. Manchester
vehemently urged the alternative risks. "If we beat
the king ninety-nine times," he cried, "he will be king
still and his posterity, and we subjects still ; but if he
beat us but once, we shall be hanged and our posterity
undone." "If that be so," said Cromwell, "why did
we take up arms at first? This is against fighting
ever hereafter. If so, let us make peace, let it be
never so basely."

Recriminations were abundant. The military ques-
tion became a party question. It was loudly flung out
that on one of the disputed occasions nobody was so
much against fighting as Cromwell, and that after
Newbury Cromwell, when ordered to bring up his
horse, asked Manchester in a discontented manner
whether he intended to flay the horse, for if he gave
them more work he might have their skins, but he
would have no service. He once made a speech very
nearly quarter of an hour long against running the
risk of an attack. While insinuating now that Man-
chester had not acted on the advice of his councils of
war, yet he had at the time loudly declared that any
man was a villain and a liar who said any such thing.
He was always attributing to himself all the praise


of other men's actions. Going deeper than such
stories as these, were the reports of Cromwell's in-
flammatory sayings; as that he once declared to Lord
Manchester his hatred of all peers, wishing there was
never a lord in England, and that it would never be
well till Lord Manchester was plain Mr. Montagu.
Then he expressed himself with contempt of the West-
minster divines, of whom he said that they were per-
secutors of honester men than themselves. He de-
sired to have none in the army but such as were of
the Independent judgment, because these would with-
stand any peace but such as honest men would aim
at. He vowed that if he met the king in battle he
would as lief fire his pistol at the king as at anybody
else. Of their brethren the Scots he had used con-
tumelious speech, and had even said that he would
as cheerfully draw the sword upon them as upon any
in the army of the king.

The exasperation to which events had brought both
the energetic men like Cromwell and the slower men
like Essex had reached a dangerous pitch. One
evening, very late, the two lawyers Whitelocke and
Maynard were summoned to attend Lord Essex.
They found the Scotch commissioners with him, along
with Holies, Stapleton, and others of the Presbyterian
party. The question was whether by English law
Cromwell could be tried as an incendiary, as one who
kindles coals of contention and raises differences in
the state to the public damage. Of this move the
Scots were the authors. "Cromwell is no good
friend of ours," they said, "and ever since our army
came into England he has used all underhand and
cunning means to detract from our credit." He was
no friend either to their church. Besides that, he was
little of a well-wisher to the lord-general, whom they


had such good reason to love and honor. Was there
law enough in England to clip his wings?

The lawyers gave a sage reply. English law, they
said, knows, but not very familiarly, the man who
kindles the burning flames of contention. But were
there proofs that Oliver was such an incendiary? It
would never do for persons of so great honor and
authority as Essex and the Scots to go upon ground
of which they were not sure. Again, had they con-
sidered the policy of the thing? 'T take Lieutenant-

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 12 of 35)