When I was in school, I was assigned to write a paper on Oliver Cromwell. This Englishman lived when the group of Puritans known as the Pilgrims fled from King James’ oppression and eventually came to Plymouth. Oliver Cromwell considered joining them in leaving the country at one point, but stayed.
King James’ heir, Charles, fully agreed with his father’s policy of the Divine Right of Kings. Since God had set him up as king, anything he did was right and his word should be obeyed like the Word of God. Conflict in England grew, both religious and economical, until civil war erupted. Oliver Cromwell was one of the main commanders and, when the war was finished and the king’s head removed, he was made ruler, or Lord Protector.
When one of my other teachers heard who I was researching, he asked what my personal opinion was on Cromwell. He had lived in England for some years, and said views on Cromwell were sharply divided. Some thought he was one of the greatest heroes of England, and some declaimed him for a shameful villain.
I wasn’t able to give a strong opinion one way or the other.
His beliefs about God and the Bible were commendable, his self-discipline and the discipline of his soldiers was praiseworthy, and he actively gave God the glory for every victory, even marching into battle singing His praises, but his character was rather abrasive. He supported such orders as stripping finery out of church buildings, yet stood in opposition to many on his side in supporting freedom to worship according to conscience rather than replacing their current order of the Church of England with a different form.
At the time there was the possibility that I would form a more definite opinion by the time I finished my paper. Alas, being a slow researcher and a not-so-fast writer (I have never comprehended those people who wait until the night before and then throw together a 10-page paper. Rough draft fiction on a good day? Conceivable. A non-fiction paper with research? Impossible.), I never finished my books and stopped the paper at the end of the war. Most of what I have since come across from that time period vary, from strict rules against holidays and showy clothing to the reputation the well-disciplined army had throughout the continent as a force to be feared. Recently, though, I have run across a reference to Cromwell that has left a strong impression.
A book I was reading, The Other 1492, mainly follows the trail of Jewish settlement in what became America, but mentioned that Jews had been expelled from many countries. England in the 1200s was mentioned. No mention was made as to when that rule was done away with, so I got online and ran a search. I wanted to see how that linked with what else was happening in English history.
A date popped up—1650s—but along with it the phrase, “were invited back by Oliver Cromwell”.
The Jews are God’s chosen people. Cut off, lost, suffering, yes—for now. As Romans 11:11-12 says, “…Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles [the opportunity to become God’s people]; how much more their fulness?” Glorious restoration is coming, but in the meantime, God still lays a heavy hand on those who oppress His chosen.
Despite this, Satan is constantly finding people willing to hate and attack Jews the world over. That Oliver Cromwell not only stayed separate from that crowd, but actively offered peace to the Jews speaks volumes.
Oliver Cromwell was in no means a perfect man. I do not know if I would even like him personally. But despite his faults and rough edges, he gives evidence of truly honoring God, and God blessed him—and his country—for that.