Perhaps Oliver's an unusual choice to have as a hero of faith. It's also true that his record is not without blemish. He is included here because:
- He had a genuine Christian conversion.
- He was a Congregationalist.
- He was the first Head of State to allow multiple Protestant churches, including our own type.
Additionally, he helped birth modern democracy by limiting the monarch’s powers (by removing his head, of course, but I suspect Cromwell would have accepted the 1660 constitution in which the King ruled with parliament, not without).
- He was one of the best generals in history.
- He invited the Jews back to England, so as to hasten the return of Christ, undoing their appalling medieval expulsion.
Born in 1599 to the poorer branch of a landowning family, he became a yeoman farmer. In 1630 he had a spiritual crisis, rejecting the frivolities of his youth and accepted Christ as his saviour. He inherited land, whereupon he was classed a gentleman, and elected MP for Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.
He opposed Charles I's personal rule and high church religious policy, and played a part in the 1640 parliament which precipitated civil war between itself and the King. Cromwell rose to general within the army, and his cavalry, known as Ironsides, were the most feared on the field.
He was a puritan- he wished to purify the Church of England from the remaining Roman Catholic influences surviving the reformation and those recently added by the King and William Laud his archbishop. Upon achieving power, his government abolished bishops and established a Presbyterian Church of England with freedom for other Protestant groups.
He's not without controversy. He did after all lead the way in executing a king, only to become a dictator himself a few years later, even passing the position on to his son after he died. He devastated Ireland in the 1649 invasion, and he hated Catholics and Catholicism, considering it to be a political movement as much a religious one. During the rule of the major generals, in which his chosen military commanders enforced puritan morality on the country, Christmas was banned as were may-poles, many ale houses and cock fights (not for the sake of the birds).
• Put your trust in God; but be sure to keep your powder dry.
Said before one his battles in which rain would dampen gunpowder, rendering muskets ineffective; trusting God should not make us idle to our own duties.
• I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
Said to the Scotch Presbyterians who were unwilling to co-operate with others Protestants.
• I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else.
Cromwell's choice of officers would be based on abilities and loyalties, not high birth or money.
• I would have been glad to have lived under my wood side, and to have kept a flock of sheep, rather than to have undertaken this government.
At heart, he was a simple country gentleman.
• Mr Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint your picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughness, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me; otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.
Generally contracted to 'warts and all'; Cromwell did not wish the artist painting him to depict him better looking than he truly was, this being the custom of the time.
• I desire you both to make it above all things your business to seek the Lord: to be frequently calling upon Him, that He would manifest himself to you in His Son.
Written to his daughter and son-in-law, encouraging them to seek genuine faith in Christ.
• Blessed be his name for shining on so dark a heart as mine!
Said of his own conversion.