« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ponents of dark passages of history; as showing the characters of men, and the secret springs of action. I am reminded by this remark, to inquire how far the letters of Oliver Cromwell to his family may be considered as illustrating his real feelings and opinions. His public letters have been generally regarded as so deeply tinctured with hypocrisy, in order to promote his purposes of ambition, that it is impossible to say what portions of them, or whether any, express his genuine sentiments in matters of religion. His character, view it how we may, is singularly paradoxical; but I cannot think he was altogether acting a part. He had been early conversant with Scriptural truth, and his conscience reproached him with not living up to his convictions. The religious phraseology which he adopted was the customary language of the Puritans, among whom he was educated, being partly derived from the words of Holy Writ, but mixed up with quaint phrases, which gave it a motley character. His customary use of it tells not much either way in regard to his real character or opinions; for he might employ it from habit, or intentionally and conscientiously, or as a cloak of hypocrisy. Upon recently perusing the mass of documents in the forgotten-and never much known-heavy quarto volume of his Memoirs, "illustrated by original letters and other family papers," by the late Oliver Cromwell, one of his descendants, it seemed to me difficult to believe that he could, from first to last, in private as well as public, and during a long series of years, have been habitually dissembling. His inconsistencies and crimes must, I think, be accounted for upon some other principle. It may not be uninteresting to your readers to peruse a few of his letters to his relatives, especially his children, some of them copied by his descendant from the originals in the possession of the family. These letters place him in a different light to that in which he is generally represented in the historic page; but instead of clearing up the anomalies of his life, they render them the more inexplicable; unless upon the hypothesis that he knew and approved what was right, and wished to impress it upon his children, though he did not follow it up in his own conduct.
The first letter I will quote is one to his cousin, Mrs. St. Johns, dated from Ely, October 13, 1638.
DEAR COUSIN,-I thankfully acknowledge your love in your kind remembrance of me upon this opportunity. Alas! you do too highly prize my lines and my company. I may be ashamed to own your expressions, considering how unprofitable I am, and the mean improvement of my talent. Yet, to honour my God by declaring what he hath done for my soul, in this I am confident, and I will be so. Truly then, this I find, that he giveth springs in a dry and barren wilderness, where no water is. I live (you know where) in Meseck, which they say signifies prolonging; in Kedar, which signifies blackness; yet the Lord forsaketh me not. Though He do prolong, yet He will (I trust) bring me to his tabernacle, to his resting place. My soul is with the congregation of the first-born; my body rests in hope; and, if here I may honour my God, either by doing or suffering, I shall be most glad. Truly no poor creature hath more cause to put forth himself in the cause of his God than I. I have had plentiful wages before hand; and I am sure I shall never earn the least mite. The Lord accept me in his Son, and give me to walk in the light; and give us to walk in the light, as He is in the light: He it is that enlighteneth our blackness, our darkness. I dare not say He hideth His face from me, He giveth me to see light in His light. One beam in a dark place hath exceeding much refreshment in it; blessed be his name for shining upon so dark a heart as mine. You know what manner of life mine hath been. Oh! I lived in and loved darkness, and hated the light. I was a chief, the chief, of sinners. This is true: I hated Godliness, yet God had mercy on me. O the riches of His mercy! praise Him for me, pray for me, that He who hath begun a good work, would perfect it to the day of Christ. Salute all my good friends in that family whereof you are yet a member. I am much bound unto them for their love; I bless the Lord
for them, and that my son, by their procurement, is so well. Let him have your prayers, your counsel: let me have them.
Salute your husband and sister from me: he is not a man of his word; he promised to write about Mr. Wrath, of Epping, but as yet I received no letters; put him in mind to do what with conveniency may be done for the poor cousin I did solicit him about. Once more farewell; the Lord be with you; so prayeth,
Your truly loving cousin,
My wife's service and love presented to all her friends.
The following letter to his wife, is from the original in the Harleian collection in the British Museum. It is dated Edinburgh, May 3, 1651.
MY DEAREST,-I could not satisfy myself to omit this post, although I have not much to write; yet indeed I love to write to my dear, who is very much in my heart. It joys me to hear thy soul prospereth; the Lord increase his favours to thee more and more. The great good thy soul can wish is, that the Lord lift upon thee the light of His countenance, which is better than life. The Lord bless all thy good counsel and example to those about thee, and hear all thy prayers, and accept thee always. I am glad to hear thy son and daughter are with thee. I hope thou wilt have some good opportunity of good advice to him. Present my duty to my mother; my love to all the family. Still pray for thine O. CROMWELL.
The following is addressed to Mr. Major, whose daughter had married Cromwell's son. It is taken from a copy in the possession of the Cromwell family. The date is, Newbury July 27, 1649.
I hear my son hath exceeded his allowance, and is in debt: truly I cannot commend him therein; wisdom requiring his living within compass, and calling for it at his hands; and in my judgment, the reputation arising from thence would have been more real honour than what is attained the other way. I believe vain men will speak well of him that does ill. I desire to be understood, that I grudge him not laudable recreations, nor an honourable carriage of himself in them; nor is any matter of charge likely to fall to my share, or stick with me. Truly, I can find in my heart to allow him, not only a sufficiency, but more, for his good; but if pleasure and self-satisfaction be made the business of a man's life, so much cost laid out upon it, so much time spent in it, as rather answers appetite than the will of God, or is comely before his saints, I scruple to feed this humour; and God forbid that his being my son, should be his allowance to live not pleasingly to our Heavenly Father, who hath raised me out of the dust to what I am. I desire your faithfulness (he being also your concernment as well as mine) to advise him to approve himself to the Lord in his course of life, and to search his statutes for a rule to conscience, and to seek grace from Christ to enable him to walk therein. This hath life in it, and will come to somewhat; what is a poor creature without this? This will not abridge of lawful pleasures, but teach such a use of them, as will have the peace of a good conscience going along with it. Sir, I write what is in my heart; I pray you communicate my mind herein to my son, and be his remembrancer in these things. Truly, I love him; he is dear to me, so is his wife; and for their sakes do I thus write. They shall not want comfort nor encouragement from me, so far as I may afford it; but indeed I cannot think I do well to feed a voluptuous humour in my son, if he should make pleasures the business of his life, in a time when-some precious saints are bleeding and breathing out their last for the good and safety of the rest. Memorable is the speech of Urijah to David, 2 Chron. xi.
Sir, I beseech you believe I here say not this to save my purse, for I shall willingly do what is convenient to satisfy his occasions, as I have opportunity; but as I pray he may not walk in a course not pleasing to the Lord, so think it lieth upon me to give him (in love) the best council I may; and know not how better to convey it to him, than by so good a hand as yours.
Sir, I pray you acquaint him with these thoughts of mine; and remember my love to my daughter, for whose sake I shall be induced to do any reasonable thing. I pray for her happy deliverance, frequently and earnestly.
The next letter is one from Cromwell to his daughter Ireton, from the original in the British Museum. The date is London, October 25, 1646.
DEAR DAUGHTER,-I write not to thy husband, partly to avoid trouble, for one line of mine begets many of his, which I doubt not makes him sit up too late; partly
because I am myself indisposed at this time, having some other considerations. Your friends at Ely are well; your sister Claypole is (I trust in mercy) exercised with some perplexed thoughts: she sees her own vanity and carnal mind, bewailing it; she seeks after (as I hope also) that which will satisfy, and thus to be a seeker is to be of the best sect next a finder; and such a one shall every faithful humble seeker be at the end. Happy seeker, happy finder. Whoever tasted that the Lord is gracious, without some sense of self-vanity and badness? Whoever tasted that graciousness of His and could go less in desire, and less than pressing after full enjoyment? Dear heart, press on; let not husband, let not anything, cool thy affections after Christ. I hope he 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 him; do so for me. My service and dear affections to the General and Generaless. I hear she is very kind to thee; it adds to all other obligations. My love to all. I am thy dear father, OLIVER CROMWELL.
The following is a copy of another original letter in the possession of the family, dated August 13, 1649; and addressed "For my beloved daughter Dorothy Cromwell (Richard Cromwell's wife), at Horslye, these."
MY DEAR DAUGHTER,-Your letter was very welcome to me; I like to see any thing from your hand, because indeed I stick not to say I do entirely love you; and therefore I hope a word of advice will not be unwelcome or unacceptable to thee. 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 returns 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 by: be above all these things by faith in Christ, and then you shall have the true use and comfort of them, and not otherwise. I have much satisfaction in hope your spirit is this way set; and I desire you may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that I may hear thereof. The Lord is very near, which we see by his wonderful works; and therefore he looks that we of this generation draw near him. This late great mercy in Ireland is a great manifestation thereof. Your husband will acquaint you with it. We should be much stirred up in our spirits to thankfulness. We need much the Spirit of Christ to enable us to praise God for so admirable a mercy. The Lord bless thee, my dear daughter. I rest, thy loving father, O. CROMWELL.
The following letter also is transcribed from the original among the family papers. It is to his son Richard, under date of Carrick, 2nd of April, 1650.
DICK CROMWELL,-I take your letters kindly. I like expressions when they come plainly from the heart, and are not strained nor affected. I am persuaded it is the Lord's mercy to place you where you are: I wish you may own it, and be thankful, fulfilling all relations to the glory of God. 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 to labour 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, but inward, transforming the mind to it, it is uniting to, and participating of, the Divine nature (2 Peter i. 4). It is such a knowledge as Paul speaks of, Philip. iii. 8, 9, 10. How little of this knowledge of Christ is there among us. My weak prayers shall be for you. Take heed of an unactive vain spirit. Recreate yourself with Sir Walter Raleigh's History; it is a body of history, and will add more to your understanding than fragments of story. Intend to understand the estate I have settled; it is your concernment to know it all, and how it stands. I have heretofore suffered much by too much trusting others. I know my brother Major will be helpful to you in all this. You will, perhaps, think I need not advise you to love your wife. The Lord teach you how to do it, or else it will be done illfavouredly. Though marriage be no instituted sacrament, yet this union aptly resembles Christ and his Church. If you can truly love your wife, what doth Christ bear to his Church, and every poor soul therein, who gave himself for it and to it? Commend me to your wife: tell her I entirely love her, and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord to her. I wish her every way fruitful. I thank her for her loving
letter. I have presented my love to my sister and cousin Anne, etc., in my letter to my brother Major. I would not have him alter his affairs because of my debt [his debt to me]. My purse is as his. My present thoughts are but to lodge such a sum for my two little girls. It is in his hand as well as any where. I shall not be wanting to accommodate him to his mind. I would not have him solicitous. Dick, the Lord bless you every way.
I rest, your loving father,
I cannot believe that these Christian and tenderly affectionate letters to his own family could have been a tissue of falsehood and hypocrisy. Assuredly Cromwell understood Scriptural truth, and inculcated it upon his children; and such letters as these would seem to indicate that he himself often felt much of its power; but the greater his guilt that he did not act according to his professions.
ON ASKING FOR THE PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
AFTER being accustomed for many years to the words "The prayers of the congregation are desired for a person seriously ill," I was startled lately by hearing "the prayers of the Church are desired." Will you allow me to ask, through your pages, whether the latter is correct; as one looks now with suspicious eye on any innovation, and the word "Church" is sometimes misplaced, of which this appears an instance. The prayers of a congregation are the prayers of the Church (according to Article xix.); but the prayers of the Church may not be those of the congregation.
*** We leave our correspondents, if they think the point of sufficient importance, to reply to Laicus; but the formula objected to, whether right or wrong, is not an "innovation." If the Editor may be allowed to speak personally, he is guilty of having used this notification for some thirty years, without "suspecting it to be suspicious." When he first took holy orders, the members of his rustic flock used to send in a paper, saying "that the prayers of the Church" were desired for such a person; and he made the announcement, as he believes was the custom in his vicinity (and he presumes elsewhere) in the terms of that notification. Rustics still say "Church is gone in ;" and in the Anglican version of the Scriptures we read, "Hear the Church;" "tell it to the Church;" "salute the Church;" 66 cause it to be read in the Church ;" and "prayer was made of the Church." We have, however, no objection to "Prayer was made of the congregation," as the reading is in Tyndale's Testament, 1534, and in Cranmer's, 1539; but not in the Geneva, 1557, where we might have expected to find it. If the formula be wrong, we are willing to change it; but the Prayer-book mentions no form of notification, and some strict ritualists think none ought to be used. We never surmised that there was anything Tractarian in the expression; nay, Dissenters, we believe, and also the Church of Scotland, in such announcements, say "the Church." The strongest reason which suggests itself to us for saying "the congregation," is, that this is the phrase used in the margin of the prayer.
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND A READING, PREACHING, AND PRAYING CHURCH.
For the Christian Observer.
OUR great champions, from Hooker downwards, in their contests with the Dissenters, have contrasted our daily offices of prayer and praise, and the large portions of Scripture in our services, with the scanty attention to those particulars in non-conformist worship. We have heard some Dissenters say, that in their younger days they rarely heard a chapter read from the pulpit from year's end to year's end; and that prayer itself was subordinated to preaching and singing; the usual routine being first a hymn; then a prayer; then another hymn; then a sermon longer than all the other parts of the service added together; then another hymn; and lastly, a short epitome of the sermon in a petitionary form. The public reading of the Scriptures in non-conformist pulpits is stated to be now pretty general. We know how stoutly Hooker had to contend with Cartwright for the reading of portions of Scripture in public worship, which Cartwright seemed to consider a "beggarly_element;" and this in an age when the great body of the people had not, as now, bibles to peruse at home. This great nonconformist leader, speaking for his brethren, denied that the reading of the Scriptures is necessary in the public congregation. "A number of Churches," said he, "which have no such order of simple reading, cannot be in this point charged with breach of God's commandment; which they might be, if simple reading were necessary." This Hooker calls "A poor, cold, and hungry cavil." Commenting upon such declarations of Cartwright, as that "No salvation is to be looked for where no preaching is;" "It confirmeth a man in the doctrine preached, when by reading he perceiveth it to be as the preacher taught ;" and the like, Hooker says, rather sarcastically, but with substantial truth (Book v. sect. 22): "They tell us the profit of reading is singular, in that it serveth for a preparative unto sermons; it helpeth prettily towards the nourishment of faith which sermons have once engendered; it is some stay to his mind who readeth the Scripture when he findeth the same things there which are taught in sermons; and thereby perceiveth how God doth concur in opinion with the preacher. Besides, it keepeth sermons in memory, &c. But the principal cause of writing the Gospel was, that it might be preached upon or interpreted by public ministers, apt and authorised thereunto, &c. The very chiefest cause of committing the sacred word of God unto books, is surmised to have been, lest the preacher should want a text whereupon to scholy." This approaches towards popery; for extremes are apt to meet. Hooker, in the above passage, is speaking of the reading of the inspired word; but he afterwards adds: "They utterly deny that the reading either of Scriptures, or Homilies, or sermons, can ever by the ordinary grace of God save any soul;" which is to assert that the Gospel cannot be preached unless in an extemporaneous manner; and that writing a sermon frustrates the ordinance of God.
But if prayer and reading the Scriptures are necessary; so also are the explication and application of Scripture by the living voice; and hence our great champions justly maintain that the Church of England is a preaching as well as a praying Church; and this is one of their strong arguments in the contest with the Church of Rome. It were superfluous to cite proofs of this. Hooker, in the very section above alluded CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 66.