A History By Samuel Harden Church, Litt. D., A.M. The Knickerbocker Press 1897
Oliver Cromwell is a fascinating historical personage. He has to rank as one of the great Christian statesmen of history. His heroic efforts as a life-long champion of civil and religious liberty demand admiration and respect. The ultimate irony was that the only way be could maintain liberty and keep the forces of despotism at bay was by the sword. In a sense it took a dictator to forcibly keep tyranny at bay and impose liberty. It took the rule of the major generals to keep England free. Nobody really wanted freedom, especially nobody wanted religious liberty. They all wanted to impose their views.
The Presbyterians wanted a religious establishment that support a Presbyterian Church and ban and suppress all others. The Anglicans wanted a return to the Stuart dynasty with a monopoly for the Church of England and suppression of the Puritan and Presbyterian party, etc. Cromwell stood for religious liberty. If he could solve the political problems of loyalty to a Pope who claimed political powers and urged his followers to overthrow Protestant princes and establish catholic governments, he would have granted full religious liberty to Roman Catholics. He wanted to disestablish the Church of England and have full religious liberty, but his advisors, even the great Puritan theologian and his court chaplain, John Owen, an independent, warned him that it was not politically possible as the people were too fond of their church.
When the Scotch Presbyterians foolishly accepted the lies of the Stuart dynasty to establish Presbyterianism if the Scotch would restore them to the throne and sought to do so, Cromwell fought them and prevailed. When Catholic Ireland became a base for Stuart invasion to retake England Cromwell fought them and prevailed. Anywhere and everywhere Cromwell fought the forces of civil and religious tyranny and as long as God gave him breath he prevailed. Under his vigorous leadership England became a world power and Cromwell used that power to support religious freedom for persecuted Protestants such as the French Huguenots and the Waldenses. When he died the England returned as a dog to her vomit and restored the Stuart dynasty. A corrupt and licentious court soon suppressed and persecuted the Puritans, ejecting all Puritan ministers from the Church of England in The Great Ejection. It was not long before the “Killing Times” came to Scotland as the faithful Presbyterians were harassed and slain and a corrupt monarchy sought to force episcopacy and unscriptural ceremonies on the land. Yet Cromwell, who had kept these forces at bay and granted full religious liberty to all, was styled as the “conquering usurper.” Such are the ironies of history.
Church’s biography is an inspiring and fascinating account of the life and labors of this great man. All should read it and learn the lessons of history and profit by the example of him who was probably the godliest ruler ever to reign over England.
The book has been divided into three sections of approximately ten chapters each as follows: