English Puritanism In The Times Of The Commonwealth -- By: Edward D. Neill

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 006:21 (Feb 1849)
Article: English Puritanism In The Times Of The Commonwealth
Author: Edward D. Neill


English Puritanism In The Times Of The Commonwealth

Edward D. Neill

The life of Cromwell, and the history of England during the interval between the reigns of Charles the father and Charles the son, are two books yet to be written. The literary world, tired of the numberless tirades that have appeared from the defenders of the Puritan as well as of the Cavalier, is longing for some Niebuhr to arise and sift out the truth from the chaff of falsehood, and give to them a sober, truthful, readable history of that remarkable period.

Thomas Carlyle has done a great work for the future historian, in collecting and editing the speeches of the “Great Puritan;” but he is such a passionate admirer of the man that, at times, his comments degenerate into pure rodomantade, reminding one of the almost semi-deification that John Wesley sometimes receives from our Methodist Itinerants in the valley of the Upper Mississippi. There is some truth in a remark made by a reviewer of Carlyle’s work, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine for April, 1847: “It is worthy of note that however Mr. Carlyle extols his heroic ones’ in a body, Cromwell is the only individual that finds a good word, throughout the work.”

A perusal of the work whose title we have placed at the head of this Article, imparts a truthfulness and reality to those times, which we never experienced while turning over the pages of Guizot or Carlyle.

It is doubly valuable to those who glory in being descended from the English Puritans, from the fact that it was written by a nonconformist minister and published in London, before the elder Charles lost his head, and before the breach between the Presbyterian and Independent party was widened. The author, Joshua Sprigge, was chaplain in the new model army, at the same time as valiant Hugh Peters of New England memory, and pious Richard Baxter. Sprigge acted as chaplain to Sir Thomas Fairfax; Peters, to the train that was commanded by Lieut. Gen. Hammond; and Baxter, to the regiment of Col. Whalley. The book is divided into four parts, and gives a minute and circumstantial account of the daily operations of the Parliament army from April, 1645, to December, 1646. The account of Naseby Battle, in the “Historical Collections” of Rushworth, is abridged from “Anglia Rediviva,” as we learn from Carlyle, whose opinion of the book is in these words: “a rather ornate work; gives florid but authentic and sufficient account of this new model army, in all its features and operations, by which England’ had ‘come alive again.’ A little sparing in dates, but correct where they are given. None of the old books is better worth reprinting.”

These old Puritan books ...

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