Covenanters and Cromwell

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Abd_Yesua_alMasih

Puritan Board Junior
I have been listening to about five hours of sermons on the Covenanters. I can not help but feel some of the more political/historical details have been left out.

Wikipedia says "In spite of their conflict with the Scottish Royalists, the Covenanters then committed themselves to the cause of Charles II, signing the Treaty of Breda (1650) with him in the hope of securing a independent Presbyterian Scotland free of English Parliamentary interference. Charles landed in Scotland at Garmouth in Morayshire on June 23 1650 and signed the 1638 Covenant and the 1643 Solemn League immediately after coming ashore." Wikipedia

It later says that there was war between the English Cromwell and the Scottish Covenanters. There was some explanation given but I can not help but feel that the Covenanters did wrong in betraying their Reformed brethren 'down south'.

My history is scratchy about this period (especially of Scotland - one reason I listened to the sermons) - why exactly did the Covenanters turn upon England? Was it just some form of nationalism? What did theologians at the time say? I am hoping the let down can be explained away.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Fraser,

It's a complicated historical situation and you are right to ask why did the Covenanters crown Charles II king and fight against Cromwell when they had fought with the Parliamentarians shortly before?

Cromwell and the Presbyterians of Scotland got along like oil and water. They were united by the cause of resisting they tyranny of Charles I and by the terms of the Solemn League and Covenant. However, their alliance broke down at the time of the execution of Charles I (many who opposed Charles were shocked by the idea of regicide) and when Cromwell made it clear that Presbyterianism was not going to be the common religion of the Three Kingdoms, contrary to the SL&C. Cromwell, for his part, was an Independent and found the Covenanter Kirk Party's ideals of a pure Presbyterian army and society distasteful. He had Christopher Love executed as a warning to Presbyterians not to push their religious agenda on him. Fearing for their own religious freedom, the Scottish Covenanters naively, mistakenly looked to Charles II as their knight in shining armour. They got him to sign the Treaty of Breda and acknowledge himself bound to the terms of the Covenants. Foolishly thinking that he meant what he said, they thought to resist Cromwell in battle, who again broke the SL&C by raising an army against Scotland, but were defeated decisively. Their theological unity was weakened by the Protestor/Resolutioner controversy. Some Presbyterians distrusted Charles II and some accepted his deceitful words at face value. In any event, Cromwell won the day and ruled just as tyrannically as the Stuart kings. When he died, after his son ruled for a short time, Charles II assumed the throne and proved the Covenanters wrong for ever trusting him. Some of those who crowned him and supported him were among the first to be executed by him.

The divisions between Cromwell and the Covenanters ultimately lead to the restoration of the monarchy and the Killing Times. I am a Presbyterian and hold to Covenanter principles; I believe Cromwell was wrong theologically, and that he was a Covenant-breaker, and while he was the right man from a purely military point of view to lead the Parliamentarians to victory in the first English Civil War, he later proved himself to be a tyrant. However, the Covenanters were wrong to crown Charles II. It was a very messed up situation all around.

Thomas M'Crie's book on the history of the church of Scotland is a good resource for further information. A Puritan's Mind also has articles on the history of the SL&C and Cromwell.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
How does J.H. Merle D'Aubigne 's The Protector treat the situation? Is this a good work on the subject?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
D'Aubigne, as I understand it, takes Cromwell's side where as the author of The Scots Worthies is extremely critical of Cromwell.
 

turmeric

Megerator
Cromwell's actions in Scotland & Ireland were more Realpolitik than theology. His son Richard basically sold the store back to the Royalists after Oliver's death, so I understand. Thus ended a noble experiment, though, as it was conducted by sinners, there were many ambiguous moments in it.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
While not fully inaccurate historically, it is not fair to say that the Covenanters were on the same side as Tyrant Charles Stuart II. True, they did support him at first, but he later put them to death for not saying, "God save the king!"*

*Such an action would have affirmed the spiritual headship of a pagan over Christ's Kirk.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Politics make strange bedfellows. The only men fit for state office are the ones who will not have it, except it be thrust upon them. Even then let them beware their souls.

I'm just beginning Sir Walter Scott's historical novel of those days, Old Mortality. It is not a book that the deepest-dyed partisans on either side like very much because Scott was moderate at heart. The moderate Hero of the book ends up on the Covenanting side, which reflects Scott's concessions to the liberties fought for and won by the Covenanters. But Scott was ever a Tory.

A critic-note in the book reads:
from Thomas Carlyle's On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History, 1840
"Earnest rugged Cromwells, Knoxes, poor peasant Covenants, wrestling, battling for life, in rough mirey places, [how many] have to struggle, and suffer, and fall, greatly censured, bemired,--before a beautiful Revolution of Eighty-eight can step-over them in official pumps and silk stockings?"
The ploughman Cuddie Headrigg, in his response to the unrecognized Morton's comment on the "rich and peaceful" appearance of the countryside at the end of Old Mortality, is making a similar point:
It's no to compleen o', sir, an we get the crop weel in ... but if ye had seen the blude rinnin' as fast on the tap o' that brigg yonder as ever the water ran below it, ye wadna hae thought it sae bonnie a spectacle."
I expect to enjoy the book, though I hold no illusions that I shall appreciate all Scott's opinons or caricatures.

Here's one more odd thought: why do we reverence the Covenanters almost without exception--even the extreme, and we do not honor the Donatists, not even the moderates? Is it for old Augustin's sake? Are we loath to charge him with any error or excess of principle? Just musing...

[Edited on 8-24-2005 by Contra_Mundum]

I'm going to add another "edit" to my post, to the effect of:
Having read just a bit more on the Donatists today, I find confirmed by Augustin himself that the Donatists were orthodox to the core. They were schismatic, and may rightly be charged with the heresy of claiming to be the only true branch of the church. However, when their leading bishop cries out in horror that Augustin should call on the godless imperials to crush them by force of arms, he is surely savoring more of the gospel at that point than Augustin (of blessed memory) is.

[Edited on 8-24-2005 by Contra_Mundum]
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
Cromwell was a tyrant, a leveler, a demagogue and a belicose reactionary-- who merely perpetuated the same persecutions against those who formerly persecuted his crowd. I wish some of my other Reformed friends were adroit and principled enough to draw the same conclusion.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by Puritanhead
Cromwell was a tyrant, a leveler, a demagogue and a belicose reactionary-- who merely perpetuated the same persecutions against those who formerly persecuted his crowd. I wish some of my other Reformed friends were adroit and principled enough to draw the same conclusion.

Here is the troubling question that has always bothered me:

"What if it actually had worked out?"

I like him because he got rid of Tyrants Laud and Charles I. One can also trace their meeting with justice due to the rise of the WCF--as soon as the documents of liberty were erected, they tyrants fell!

An interesting side argument would be that if Cromwell were Presbyterian instead of Congregational, would it have been a different outcome? I maintain, althuogh will not defend at the moment, that it would have.
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
regarding Cromwell- why is it that many who oppose the authority that is ordained over them by God, then seek to set up their own authority? (rhetorical)

I think that much of the time the call for "independency" is really a mask for "I want the power instead". In other words, I think it is often more a temperament than it is a reasonably drawn truth from the scriptures.

I have often wondered if Cromwell really believed in an independent church polity as biblical, or if he just wanted power all along and used the independency movement for his ends.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by RAS
regarding Cromwell- why is it that many who oppose the authority that is ordained over them by God, then seek to set up their own authority? (rhetorical)

I think that much of the time the call for "independency" is really a mask for "I want the power instead". In other words, I think it is often more a temperament than it is a reasonably drawn truth from the scriptures.

I have often wondered if Cromwell really believed in an independent church polity as biblical, or if he just wanted power all along and used the independency movement for his ends.

Charles Stuart I violated English Common law, was a threat to the well-being of the people whom he swore to God to protect, and openly betrayed England on a number of accounts. Cromwell, following the Reformation doctrine of restistance to tyranny led by the lesser civil magistrate, deposed him.
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
I wonder if there are any Presbyterians on this board?

Cromwell was a good man. He overthrew a tyrant. (side note: for all the talk that has been on this board about the proper way to resist tyranny, I'm shocked to see Cromwell labelled as a "usurper". He was a Member of Parliment and therefore in a proper role to resist tyranny). Cromwell overthrew a Roman Catholic monarch. The Covenanters, bless their hearts, sought to reinstate a Roman Catholic monarch. Let me ask you this: Would you prefer a Papist or a Congregationalist? At least with a Congregationalist in power, England remained soveriegn. When Charles II came back to power, England's crown once again bowed the knee to St. Peter's thrown.

Cromwell was in no way perfect, but to slander him as has been done in this thread is simply wrong.

As a side note, Andrew, I looked up Christopher Love on Wikipedia. The article there says that Love was executed for conspiring with Scotland to overthrow Cromwell and reinstate Charles II (aka treason). It seems Love's execution was actually politically motivated (and justly so, if the Wikipedia article is accurate) and not religiously motivated, as you had implied.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by sastark
I wonder if there are any Presbyterians on this board?

Cromwell was a good man. He overthrew a tyrant. (side note: for all the talk that has been on this board about the proper way to resist tyranny, I'm shocked to see Cromwell labelled as a "usurper". He was a Member of Parliment and therefore in a proper role to resist tyranny). Cromwell overthrew a Roman Catholic monarch. The Covenanters, bless their hearts, sought to reinstate a Roman Catholic monarch. Let me ask you this: Would you prefer a Papist or a Congregationalist? At least with a Congregationalist in power, England remained soveriegn. When Charles II came back to power, England's crown once again bowed the knee to St. Peter's thrown.

Cromwell was in no way perfect, but to slander him as has been done in this thread is simply wrong.

As a side note, Andrew, I looked up Christopher Love on Wikipedia. The article there says that Love was executed for conspiring with Scotland to overthrow Cromwell and reinstate Charles II (aka treason). It seems Love's execution was actually politically motivated (and justly so, if the Wikipedia article is accurate) and not religiously motivated, as you had implied.

End of debate. :tombstone:

:up:
 

Plimoth Thom

Puritan Board Freshman
Oliver Cromwell Song by Monty Python (to the tune of Frederic Chopin's Polonaise Op.53 in A flat major)

[Spoken]
The most interesting thing about King Charles the First is that he was five
feet six inches tall at the start of his reign,
but only four foot eight inches tall at the end of it. Because of...

[Sung]

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England
(Puritan)
Born in 1599 and died in 1658
(September)
Was at first
(Only)
MP for Huntingdon
(But then)
He led the Ironside Cavalry at Marston Moor, in 1664 and won
Then he founded the New Model Army
And praise be! beat the Cavaliers at Nazeby
And the King fled up north like a bat! to the Scots

[Spoken]

But under the terms of John Pym's solemn league and covenant, the Scots
handed King Charles the First, over to...

[Sung]

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England
(And his warts)
Born in 1599 and died in 1658
(September)
But, alas!
(shouted: OY VEY!)
Disagreement then broke out
(spoken: Between)
The Presbyterian Parliament and the military who meant to have an independent
bent and so
The Second Civil War broke out
And the Roundhead ranks faced the Cavaliers at Preston, Lancs
And the King lost again, silly thing
(Stupid git)

[Spoken]

And Cromwell sent Colonel Pride to purge the House of Commons of the
Presbyterian Royalists, leaving behind only the Rump Parliament

[Sung]

Which appointed a High Court at Westminster Hall
To indict Charles the First of - tyranny (ooh)
Charles was sentenced to death, even though her refused to accept
That the court had - jurisdiction (say goodbye to his head)

Poor King Charles laid his head on the block
(spoken: January 1649)
Down came the axe, and...

[Spoken]

In the silence that followed the only sound that could be heard was the
solitary giggle, of...

[Sung]

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England
(shouted: OLE!)
Born in 1599 and died in 1658
(September)
Then he smashed
(shouted in Irish accent: IRELAND!)
Set up the Commonwealth
(shouted: AND MORE!)
He crushed the Scots at Worcester, and beat the Dutch at sea in 1653 and then
He dissolved the Rump Parliament
And with Lambert's consent wrote the instrument of Government
Under which Oliver was Protector at last - THE END!!!

:bigsmile:

[Edited on 8-24-2005 by Plimoth Thom]

[Edited on 8-24-2005 by Plimoth Thom]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by sastark
I wonder if there are any Presbyterians on this board?

Cromwell was a good man. He overthrew a tyrant. (side note: for all the talk that has been on this board about the proper way to resist tyranny, I'm shocked to see Cromwell labelled as a "usurper". He was a Member of Parliment and therefore in a proper role to resist tyranny). Cromwell overthrew a Roman Catholic monarch. The Covenanters, bless their hearts, sought to reinstate a Roman Catholic monarch. Let me ask you this: Would you prefer a Papist or a Congregationalist? At least with a Congregationalist in power, England remained soveriegn. When Charles II came back to power, England's crown once again bowed the knee to St. Peter's thrown.

Cromwell was in no way perfect, but to slander him as has been done in this thread is simply wrong.

As a side note, Andrew, I looked up Christopher Love on Wikipedia. The article there says that Love was executed for conspiring with Scotland to overthrow Cromwell and reinstate Charles II (aka treason). It seems Love's execution was actually politically motivated (and justly so, if the Wikipedia article is accurate) and not religiously motivated, as you had implied.

Seth,

If I may, a few responses to your comments are in order.

Charles I and II, while they had Catholic leanings, were not Roman Catholic, they were Anglican. At no time during the reigns of either king did they acknowledge the authority of the Pope in England. Penal laws against Papists in England continued in force throughout their reigns. James II was much more likely to acknowledge the authority of the Pope in England, but he abdicated the throne, and his reign is not under discussion here.

As for my own opinion of the lawfulness of deposing Charles I, I believe that the Parliamentarians and Covenanters were quite right to resist his tyranny by force. It was a just cause. I have never said otherwise.

As to the issue of the Covenanters crowning Charles II king, I said earlier in this thread that this was a foolish thing to do. It was an act of naivete based on the assumption that Charles II had repudiated the tyranny of his father and embraced the Covenants which Cromwell had broken. Time proved that the Covenanters' trust in Charles II was sorely misplaced. However, not all Presbyterians were trusting of Charles II -- there was division amongst Presbyterian over this issue. I would also note that when Charles I was executed, it shocked the world. Many who fought against him were repulsed by the execution. Good men on the Puritan side had different opinions about the justice of his punishment. I already noted this facts earlier in this thread.

The foolishness of the trust placed by the Covenanters in Charles II, however, does not justify the Covenant-breaking by Cromwell that lead the Covenanters to seek a more just authority by which to resist the tyranny of Cromwell.

Cromwell did in fact break the Solemn League and Covenant. And his execution of Christopher Love was motivated by a desire to suppress the Presbyterian party [I would note that the Presbyterian party was both religious and political, adhering as they did to the Covenants, which was true of all religious and political parties of the day]. Even the Wikipedia article acknowledges this:

He was a strong Presbyterian, the leader of the younger men of that party. In this way he became involved in a treasonable correspondence with the Presbyterians of Scotland to restore Charles II; and, with many others, was arrested May 7, 1651, and chosen to make an example of, to check the Presbyterian agitation against Oliver Cromwell and in favor of Charles II.

Christopher Love denied the charges against him. I'm sure the truth of the matter is complex. But Christopher Love is considered a Presbyterian martyr under the reign of Cromwell. If you read his biography on A Puritan's Mind or in the Soli Deo Gloria publication, you will see that the charge of treason is debatable or spurious altogether [again, note that treason in that day was very much a religious as well as a political issue]. Cromwell and his men were not above using the same tyrannical methods of suppressing Presbyterian dissent that Charles I had used. As a covenant-breaker, Cromwell lacked any more moral authority to govern than Charles I.

No one has slandered Cromwell here that I can see. The charges I have made are legitimate and backed by the historical record. I am not painting him as pure evil by any means. He was a man and like all men his character was mixed. Cromwell began well and ended up much like the man that he replaced. He was in some ways a great man and other ways small-minded. The Presbyterians of the day were right to fight with him in the beginning and right to fight against him when he broke the covenant. They were wrong to look to Charles II to lead them, however. The whole situation, as I said earlier, was complex and there is guilt and folly enough to go around on all sides. That is the sad truth of history.



[Edited on 8-24-2005 by VirginiaHuguenot]
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
Cromwell = Usurper

Was Oliver Cromwell to be considered as a usurper, or as a lawful ruler, to whom obedience is due for conscience sake? The friends of the Protector, as Cromwell was called, were few, but they were formidable. The army was under their command. They required also conscientious submission to the power of the protector. They reasoned thus: "the powers which he exercises are in themselves lawful, and he has acquired from God´s Providence a right to exercise them. The powers that be, are ordained of God." To these arguments it was replied, that although tyranny and usurpation were permitted by a Holy Providence, and over-ruled for the good of the Church, they had not the divine approbation, had no claim on the obedience of Christians, and might not only be lawfully resisted, but completely overthrown. That Cromwell was an usurper was manifest. He was never chosen by the nation to govern it; and the constitution, ratified by solemn oath, excluded him from power. To this constitution, the more faithful Presbyterians considered themselves bound by covenant to adhere.

Reformation Principles Exhibited, A Brief Historical View
 

turmeric

Megerator
I trust Cromwell is simul iustus et pecator. He certainly made his errors. He was, however, a fighting machine as we never would have known if the Civil War hadn't broken out. It was started, BTW, by Charles I, who tried to arrest sitting MP's (against English law), and called out the military when Parliament refused to disband. BTW, Charles I was the one who had asked them to assemble in the first place. Something about a Scottish thorn in his side...
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I have an historical imagination. Just imagine if Cromwell would have been Presbyterian. If only he had been successful in establishing the Christian Republic so often longed for! And his army--a holy army destroying the physical manifestations of Satan--set the military standard.

People will object, "But he ended up being a tyrant!"
So what? There are often risks involved and tyrannical successor, Charles II, wasn't any better. Also, we now know not to imitate fully what he did--we learn from his mistakes.

And I am not against the Covenanters. I will eventually side with them and they are inspiration for much of my Tales from Reformia--a biting satire against political cowardice among Christians and a presentation of Presuppositional Apologetics in a narratival context. Back to the subject: I do not think it wise of the Covenanters to initially support Charlie II; but that begs the question as to whether they were justified in their reaction to Cromwell. I cannot give my historical conclusion as of yet.
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
Jacob, even the Covenanters realized it was unwise to back Charles II. They were too hasty in crowning him. They should have spent longer time catechising him. Moreover that wasn't they're worst mistake. Charles II, even as a hypocrite, would have been harmless without malignants opposing the reformation in the highest echelons of civic and military society who were put there by the Covenanters.

[Edited on 8-24-2005 by Peter]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
To reiterate: I recommend reading The Story of the Scottish Church by Thomas M'Crie, Chap. X. It covers the history of Cromwell vs. the Covenanters and shows how Cromwell tried to usurp authority over the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and how he broke the Covenants. It is a sad story.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
To reiterate: I recommend reading The Story of the Scottish Church by Thomas M'Crie, Chap. X. It covers the history of Cromwell vs. the Covenanters and shows how Cromwell tried to usurp authority over the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and how he broke the Covenants. It is a sad story.

But one day Scotland will rise again; the Netherlands will rise again; the South will rise again. "We will see the Shire again, Pippin," said Merry.
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Draught Horse
Cromwell, following the Reformation doctrine of restistance to tyranny led by the lesser civil magistrate....

Jacob-

Maybe I missed the boat on this one, but could you please cite some of the passages from scripture that the magisterial reformers used for formulating this doctrine? I am aware that is was a practice during the reformation due to the church and the state being so intermingled, but can you show me where in any of the reformers writings they actually called for the deposing of tyrants through the means of war? I believe it was Luther who condemned the anabaptists for their militant ways against those in authority. When i read the scriptures, I see Paul adminishing us to pray for our leaders, I have yet to find where he explicitly states that we are to dethrone Caesar by force.

Genuinely curious. Thanks.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by RAS
Originally posted by Draught Horse
Cromwell, following the Reformation doctrine of restistance to tyranny led by the lesser civil magistrate....

Jacob-

Maybe I missed the boat on this one, but could you please cite some of the passages from scripture that the magisterial reformers used for formulating this doctrine? I am aware that is was a practice during the reformation due to the church and the state being so intermingled, but can you show me where in any of the reformers writings they actually called for the deposing of tyrants through the means of war? I believe it was Luther who condemned the anabaptists for their militant ways against those in authority. When i read the scriptures, I see Paul adminishing us to pray for our leaders, I have yet to find where he explicitly states that we are to dethrone Caesar by force.

Genuinely curious. Thanks.

[puts on Jacobs hat] Check out http://fly.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/reform.htm
for treatises of Beza, Goodman, Knox, etc. I know that isn't scratching your scripture itch immediately but they definitely go to the Book to prove things out. This has been eyeopening reading for me as well. I kept hearing Jacob and Andrew etc. talk about these concepts but not until I started reading this stuff did I come close to understanding it...(now I'm probably an inch closer but I'm working on it!)
[gives Jacob his hat back]
 

Plimoth Thom

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by crhoades
Originally posted by RAS
Originally posted by Draught Horse
Cromwell, following the Reformation doctrine of restistance to tyranny led by the lesser civil magistrate....

Jacob-

Maybe I missed the boat on this one, but could you please cite some of the passages from scripture that the magisterial reformers used for formulating this doctrine? I am aware that is was a practice during the reformation due to the church and the state being so intermingled, but can you show me where in any of the reformers writings they actually called for the deposing of tyrants through the means of war? I believe it was Luther who condemned the anabaptists for their militant ways against those in authority. When i read the scriptures, I see Paul adminishing us to pray for our leaders, I have yet to find where he explicitly states that we are to dethrone Caesar by force.

Genuinely curious. Thanks.

[puts on Jacobs hat] Check out http://fly.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/reform.htm
for treatises of Beza, Goodman, Knox, etc. I know that isn't scratching your scripture itch immediately but they definitely go to the Book to prove things out. This has been eyeopening reading for me as well. I kept hearing Jacob and Andrew etc. talk about these concepts but not until I started reading this stuff did I come close to understanding it...(now I'm probably an inch closer but I'm working on it!)
[gives Jacob his hat back]

Also, "Lex, Rex" (1644) by Samuel Rutherford.
 
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