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march in gallant order towards us, and we a company of poor ignorant men to seek to order our battle, the General having commanded me to order all the horse, I could not—riding alone about my business—but smile out to God praises in assurance of victory, because God would, by things that are not, bring to naught things that are, of which I had great assurance —and God did it.” No doubt, as has been said, Cromwell omitted to mention that the Parliamentary army had numbers on its side—not much less than 14,000, opposed to 7, 500. But it was not the numerical superiority of the Parliamentarians which won the day. It did not enable Ireton to withstand Rupert, and the infantry in the centre was already giving way when Cromwell returned to assist it. It was the discipline rather than the numbers of Cromwell’s horse aided by the superb generalship of their commander that gained the day. Cromwell, when he wrote of his soldiers as ‘poor ignorant men,’ was doubtless glancing back in thought at his own early criticism of the fugitives at Edgehill. The yeomen and peasants whom he had gathered round him owed much to discipline and leadership; but they owed much also to the belief embedded in their ‘hearts that they were fighting in the cause of God.
After the victory at Naseby the issue of the struggle was practically decided. There was another fight at Langport, where Fairfax defeated a force with which
Goring attempted to guard the western counties; but after this the war resolved itself into a succession of sieges which could end but in one way as Charles had no longer a field army to bringito the relief of Royalist garrisons. For some months Cromwell, sometimes in combination with Fairfax, sometimes in temporary command of a separate force, was untiring in the energy which he threw into his work. Charles was full of combinations which never resulted in practical advantage to his cause. At one time his hopes were set upon Montrose, who, after his brilliant victories, expected to bring an army of Highlanders to aid of the royal cause. At another time he looked with equal hopefulness to Glamorgan, who was to conduct an Irish army to England Montrose’s scheme was wrecked at Philiphaugh, and Glamorgan’s concessions to the Irish Catholics were divulged and had to be disavowed. On March 31, 1646 Sir Jacob Astley bringing 3,000 men, the last Royalist force in existence, to the relief of Charles at Oxford, was forced to surrender at Stow-on-the-Wold. “You have done your work,” said the veteran to his captors, “and may go play, unless you will fall out among yourselves.” Though Oxford and Newark were still uhtaken, the end of the war was now a mere question of days. “Honest men,” wrote Cromwell to Speaker Lenthall soon after the victory of Naseby “served you faithfully in this action. Sir, they are trusty—I
beseech you in the name of God, not to discourage them—I wish this action may beget thankfulness and humility in all that are concerned in it. He that ventures his life for the liberty of his country, I wish he trust God for the liberty of his conscience, and you for the liberty he fights for.” “All this,” he continued three months later, in the same strain, after the storm of Bristol, “is none other than the work of God; he must be a very atheist that doth not acknowledge it. It may be thought that some praises are due to those gallant men of whose valour so much mention is made :—Their humble suit to you and all that have an interest in this blessing is that, in the remembrance of God’s praises, they may be forgotten. It’s their joy that they are instruments of God’s glory and their country’s good. It’s their honour that God vouchsafes to use them. . . . Sir, they that have been employed in this service know that faith and prayer obtained this city for you: I do not say ours only, but of the people of God with you and all England over, who have wrestled with God for a blessing in this very thing. Our desires are that God may be glorified by the same spirit of faith by which we ask all our sufficiency and have received it. It is meet that He have all the praise. Presbyterians, Independents, all had here the same spirit of faith and prayer, the same presence and answer ; they agree here, know no names
of difference; pity it is it should be otherwise any
where! All that believe have the real unity which is most glorious because inward and spiritual in the Body and to the Head As for being united in forms, commonly called uniformity, every Christian will, for peace sake, study and do as far as conscience will permit. And from brethren, in things of the mind, we look for no compulsion but that of light and reason. In other things, God hath put the sword in the Parliament’s hands for the terror of evil-doers and the praises of them that do well. If any plead exemption from that, he knows not the Gospel; if any would wring that out of your hands, or steal it from you, under what pretence soever, I hope they shall do it without effect.”
No words can better depict the state of Cromwell’s mind at this time. Of the religion to which the King and his followers clung there is no question in his
'thoughts. He would be unwilling to listen to the
suggestion that it was to be counted as religion in any worthy sense. Parliament, mutilated as it was, is the authority ordained by God to keep order in the land. For that very reason Parliament was bound to allow full liberty to God’s children, whatever might be their differences on matters of discipline or practice. Within the limits of Puritanism, no intolerance might be admitted. A common spiritual emotion—not external discipline or intellectual agreement-—-was the test of brotherhood. So resolved was the House of Commons to discountenance this view of the case, that in ordering the publication of Cromwell’s two despatches, it mutilated both of them by the omission of the passages advocating liberty of conscience.
At the present day we are inclined to blame Cromwell, not for going too far in the direction of toleration, but for not going far enough. In the middle of the seventeenth century the very idea of toleration in any shape was peculiar to a chosen few. That the majority of the Puritan clergy were bitterly opposed to it affords no matter for surprise. As men of some education and learning, and with a professional confidence in the certainty of their own opinions, they looked with contempt not merely on views different from their own, but also on the persons who, often without the slightest mental culture, ventured to produce out of the Bible schemes of doctrine sometimes immoral, and very often—at least in the opinions of the Presbyterian divines—blasphemous and profane. Even where this was not the case, there remained the danger of seeing the Church of England—which was held to have been purified by the abolition of episcopacy and the banishment of the ceremonies favoured by the bishops—degenerate into a chaos in which a thousand sects battled for their respective creeds, instead of meekly accepting the gospel dealt out to them by their well-instructed pastors. Richard Baxter was a favourable specimen of the Presbyterian clergy.