The Sword of the Lord and Charles Worsley

This summer I visited Leeds’ Royal Armouries. I went twenty years ago when it first opened and paid five pounds for admission, a lot of money to me. This year, now I’m slightly richer, it was free. Contained therein are many wonderful displays and models. Its weaponry collection is huge, much of it coming from London’s historic Tower. Each floor is divided into particular sections, and there was one in particular I really wanted to see. I’d even emailed the curator a few weeks before to ensure a certain item was still displayed. I may have seen it on my first visit, but I would have passed it by, thinking nothing of it. It is Charles Worsley’s sword.

Regular readers will despair at my obsession with this man. He was one of Cromwell’s deputies who managed affairs in Lancashire, Staffordshire and Cheshire during part of the 1650s. He was a genuine evangelical Christian who sought to promote godliness in these parts. He attended Congregational churches in Lancashire and Manchester. Controversially, he was a soldier. His sword, pictured, is a violent, bloody weapon.

I sometimes sway towards pacifism, and feel deeply uncomfortable that any follower of Christ should seek to cajole, hurt, maim or kill a fellow human being. On the other hand, God plainly uses some violence in scripture to achieve His purposes. The armies of Israel fought their way into the Promised Land when resistance was offered; God used the Assyrian and Babylonian armies to chastise His wayward people; the New Testament says that God employs civil magistrates and the force at their disposal to curb sinful natures and execute immediate judgement on criminals.

So do I tremble at the sight of Worsley’s sword, or rejoice? Perhaps a little of both. Christ will require him to give account for each time he used it. I also believe that the New Model Army of which Worsley was a part, and the militias which supported him as Major General, were God’s instruments in this nation. They protected the vulnerable puritan congregations that had flowered under Cromwell, and were used to hamper the spread of outward sins like drunkenness and prostitution.

The sword itself is rathe lovely, if deadly weapons ever can be. The blade is a hollow ground triangular section from Germany, etched and gilt with figures of Hannibal and Achilles, two great warriors from ancient times. On one side is written: Vincere aut mori which means ‘to conquer or to die’ and Si Deus Pro/Nobis/quis Contranos/1651 'if God is for us who can be against us 1651above the figure of a mounted trooper.

On another side, the inscription Fide sed cui vide, which is literally ‘faith, but to see’ or usually translated ‘trust, but be careful of whom you trust’. Elsewhere is inscribed Regere seipsum summa sapienta or ‘self-control is the highest wisdom’.

These are all good maxims for a warrior, but the latter is the most reassuring for a man wielding a very sharp metal blade. 

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Is 2:4