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Church History Book Reviews - The Protector

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This is the story of Oliver Cromwell.

Church History Book Reviews – The Protector
Reviewed by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

The Protector: A Vindication
by J. H. Merle D’Aubigne
Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, VA:1983.
281 Pages, Hardback.

As D’Aubigne says, every Englishman should be thoroughly acquainted with the happenings of 17th century England. I would concur and tread further: every Christian should be acquainted with this time period, and of the life and work of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England. Why? Because we need more men with biblical passion, and unswerving principles following the Lord Christ and leading others to exercise the same (although a case has been made surrounding his covenant breaking by killing Christopher Love). Men are either influenced or they influence other in the church of Jesus Christ. In Cromwell’s day, he was of prestige influence and power for the good of the church. How could he not with such famous words to his army as “Men, have faith in God, and keep your powder dry.”

D’Aubigne’s fine treatment of bringing this often distorted section of history before us vindicates Oliver Cromwell of reconstructionist history. It is popular to rewrite history through the eyes of bias, but D’Aubigne attempts, as far as humanly possible, to set the facts straight concerning the Lord Protector of England.

Since Charles I was a corrupt and traitorous king, the people, under justifiable warrant, needed to take England back from the king and place the power of control in Parliament, the House of Commons. The king, Charles I, had annulled the power of Parliament, and the voice of the people due to a variety of disagreements. This enraged the people especially since they accused the king of traitorous acts. England finally ended up in civil war and Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan Christian, lead the army to victory against the Cavaliers on many occasions. The turning point was Cromwell’s battle in Nasbey, in 1645, where his 3000 men won over the kings 7000 men. Cromwell was not only waging war against the king, but against the Roman Catholic church; for the king’s wife was Catholic. The king had made a bargain with the Catholics to receive forces from Ireland (Catholic forces) in order to fight Cromwell and the army of the people. The foreign affairs which the king solicited by his inquisition for their help branded him a traitor against the English and the a traitor against God. As a result, Cromwell was victorious in his battles against the king, had the king tried before Parliament, and sentenced to death. Charles was beheaded. But Cromwell did not stop there. He continued the pursuit of the Roman Catholics in England, Scotland and Ireland for their treatment of the Protestant church in those countries. Cromwell was resilient in his attempt at crushing the Catholic church from those countries. In a great part he succeeded. D’Aubigne does an excellent job in assembling al this information, especially Cromwell’s personal correspondence, to make the journey to this point exciting and interesting.

After the war, the House of Commons should have ruled England by fair consensus; it was to be a democracy. Unfortunately the democracy did not work out as well as Cromwell hoped. Parliament became corrupt, fat and lazy. Cromwell marched on Parliament with the army (the people) and emptied the House of Commons from its abusers. He was then “crowned” as Lord Protector of England and established, what many call, the Golden Years of Learning. Cromwell did not desire to take the title of king. He said, Christ, not man, is King. Parliament was to reelected and act as a check on the Protector in case of misjudgment or a possible relapse of the treason Charles had committed himself to. In the time he was Lord Protector, universities flourished and Puritans such as John Owen were assembled by Cromwell to test the preachers of England. Cromwell wanted the church cleansed from those who were not true preachers. He ordained a council made of 38 men, (29 ministers and 9 laymen including John Owen and Thomas Manton), of Presbyterians, Baptists, and Independents. They were to cleanse the pulpits of those who did not belong in them and ordain men for the task. D’Aubigne sets all of this within its context and sprinkles the work with letters to and from friends and enemies.

D’Aubigne’s well documented book is one of the best treatments of Cromwell’s life I have come across. I would highly recommend this book for lovers of English History or the Puritans.

Some Quotes:
After his conversion, “Cromwell now zealously attended the Puritan ministry, and chose his friends from among the gentry and nobility of his neighborhood who held the same opinions. He became intimate with Hampden, Pym, Lord Brook, Lord Say, and Lord Montague. Almost all the serious thought of England was then Puritan. In the midst of them all was Oliver, modest, devout, conscientious, and seriously intent “to make his calling and election sure.”

All who were about him bore testimony to his piety. In reference to this, Mr. Peters writes that he “had spent much time with God in prayer the night before the storming of Basing House; – and seldom fights without some text of Scripture to support him.”

Such was the Protector’s activity. In every place he showed himself the true Samaritan, binding up the wounds of those who had fallen into the hands of the wicked, and pouring in oil and wine…He is the greatest Protestant that lived since the days of Calvin and Luther. More than any other sovereign of England he deserved the glorious title of Defender of the Faith.

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