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To Honour God: the Spirituality of Oliver Cromwell
by Michael A. G. Haykin editor
You won’t find many teachers talking about Oliver Cromwell today, which makes me suspect that his life is well worth studying. Teachers hostile to Christianity are quick to talk about John Calvin recommending the execution of a heretic or the Crusades, because such tragedies fit their preconception that Christianity is barbaric. I have yet to hear a non-Christian teacher discuss the lives of William Wilberforce or David Brainerd, godly men who powerfully impacted history.
Cromwell powerfully impacted history, and from what I’ve learned so far he seems to be a faithful, committed Christian. The portrait painted by Cromwell in his own words in this little book To Honour God (for the most part a collection of his letters and speeches) shows a man conscious of his sinfulness and deeply concerned that he honor God.
Even more significantly, Cromwell is the first man in history, to the best of my knowledge, to gain power and then promote religious freedom. There may have been a few men before Cromwell who argued for freedom of religion—I’m open to suggestions on this—but I can find no one before 1654 extending religious freedom to the nation he rules. Think about just how revolutionary Cromwell’s words were when he addressed Parliament 120 years before the American Revolution: “Is not Liberty of Conscience in religion a fundamental? So long as there is liberty of conscience for the supreme magistrate to exercise his conscience in erecting what form of church-government he is satisfied he should set up, why should not he give it to others? Liberty of conscience is a natural right; and he that would have it ought to give it . . .”
Why would Cromwell be willing to promote freedom of religion? Because he understands the Christian faith. Men may not be coerced to believe the right things about Jesus Christ—faith is a personal issue between each individual and his Creator. Thus, the state would be foolish to seek to impose a faith on hearts that have rejected it. Just as the king believes according to his own conscience, his citizens must necessarily believe according to their own consciences.
This argument makes perfect sense today—but what ruler recognized this until Cromwell?
by Jeff Baldwin