Geoffrey Muirden


In 1938, Arthur Sutherland Piggott Woodhouse published a "classic" work on Puritanism and its alleged contribution to freedom, under the title: Puritanism and Liberty:Being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with supplementary documents (London, J.M.Dent, 1938) collecting documents from the English Civil War, notably the Putney and Whitehall Debates.

Of particular significance was the 100-page Introduction by A.S.P. Woodhouse, that sets forth viewpoints on Puritanism. It is time to re-assess what he suggested, especially in view of revisionist and post-revisionist theories about the role of Puritanism, the Debates of the New Model Army and the English Civil War.

An opportunity to re-assess Woodhouse has been publication of the book, The Putney Debates of 1647: The Army, the Levellers and the English State, edited by Michael Mendle. (Cambridge, University Press, 2001. ISBN 0 521 65015 1 hardback. ) which analyzes documentary evidence, including the Putney and Whitehall Debates, that A.S.P. Woodhouse did much to popularise and provides new discoveries and interpretations that amend his views. It provides a vehicle for discussing much of what he had to say, bringing it up to date...

It centres around an issue of central concern to any citizen: civil and religious liberties, asking to what extent they were advanced by the English Civil War and enquiring to what extent civil liberties have a Christian basis or are they better promoted by the secular state which is more common today, especially in the West?

We live in an age in which famous advances in the Western world, which promised to promote liberty, such as Magna Charta, the English Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the American Bill of Rights, are "museum pieces", as far as governments are concerned. These proclamations have been preserved as historical documents, but they are "more honoured in the breach than in the observance" nowadays as far as practical application goes. And this is madness. To have a legacy of freedom for which people fought and died to preserve, only to have them thrown in the waste bin of history, with the aid of our "democratic representatives" in Parliament is insanity. It is another sign of the way in which our world is being structured towards autocratic, globalist control.

Yet through "Doublethink", politicians are capable of enacting laws that suppress personal freedom then, as if nothing had happened, talk lovingly of our "democratic heritage", which they have destroyed, as if it really existed and as if they heartily supported it, to deceive the "masses." It is mostly organizations outside Parliament and Congress that seek to preserve freedoms and make them reality. The tradition of liberty in the United States is fortunately not dead and hopefully will never die.

So-called "Christian" Churches do not help. Most of the mainline churches have been promoting Marxist-created "political correctness" instead of God’s Agenda. Herman Otten, editor of Christian News, 3277 Bouef Lutheran Road, New Haven, MO 63068-2213, U.S.A., has for more than 40 years demonstrated the way in which so-called "Christian" churches have currently embraced practically every heresy and have undermined faith in the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Marx once said he was not a Marxist. Could Christ now say that He was not a "Christian?" Now that the spiritual basis of Christianity has been undermined it does not have spiritual resources to assist in the quest for freedom of the individual and to press for genuine spiritual reformation to regenerate the individual on a personal basis.

The state of "spiritual impotency" that prevails in the United States is shown by the survey conducted by George Barna. In an attempt to discover how many people in his sample in the U.S. accepted a Biblical worldview he asked his respondents if they believed six views: (1) that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe who still rules;(2)when Jesus Christ was on earth He lived a sinless life; (3) Satan is not just a symbol of evil but is a real, living entity; (4)a person cannot earn his or her own salvation by being good but that salvation is the free gift of God; (5) every believer in Jesus Christ should share their convictions with others; (6)the Bible is infallible. He found that "85% of America's born-again adults do not possess either the foundation or the belief to qualify as having a Biblical worldview". He concluded that the Christian church was losing ground in the United States because so few think like Jesus. (1) Much the same could be said for many churches in the Western world outside the United States. It is hard to believe that the English Puritans or the Christians at the time of the American Revolution would have had so little faith. In assessing the role of religion and its connection to liberty, we need to compare the strong beliefs of the past with the lack of firm convictions among many in the present day.

The debate on the nature of the English Civil War, including the Putney Debates, takes us to the perennial problem of the search for liberty, who creates it and maintains it, if it has or can have a Christian basis. People may agree or disagree on the merits of Christianity, but whether or not freedom has spiritual roots is an important issue.

Lamont, one writer in the book on the Putney Debates (listed above) is a trenchant critic of A.S.P. Woodhouse, and points out that Woodhouse was writing at a time of pre-World War II ferment, in which he believed England was striving to "save democracy" from fascism, and thus wanted to highlight "democratic ideals." Partly under the influence of A.D. Lindsay from Balliol College, he saw the Putney Debates as a vital historic record of democratic ferment.  He chose items for his book selectively, with this aim in view, and was encouraged by writers with similar views, appearing at about the same time, such as William Haller and W.K. Jordan.(2)

Although seeking to link Puritanism with liberty, Woodhouse was aware of tendencies in Puritanism towards autocracy. He recognizes that "a concern for liberty does not appear to be a constant feature of the Puritan mind, and that it runs counter to another and the most universally recognized of traits, the passionate zeal for positive reform, with the will, if necessary, to dragoon men into righteousness, or the semblance of righteousness." (3)

Even when he acknowledges a desire for Christian liberty, coming mostly from the "Centre" or "Left" Puritan groups,the direct benefits of that appeal are limited to the regenerate: Christian liberty freed you for, not from the service of God." (4)

This last-mentioned insight is what Lamont calls "the most important insight in the whole of Woodhouse’s Introduction."(5) Woodhouse would disagree- he sees his main insight as his famous "principle of segregation", but more of that later.

Lamont does raise an issue of central concern, and that is the tendency of many Puritans, especially sectaries, to want to impose rule by the "Saints" on the State, and to refuse freedoms to the "sinners" . If they had power, they would prefer theocracy to democracy.

Lamont sees the way out as turning to the antinomians, (6)which will be dealt with later. He hardly discusses the "principle of segregation."

Let us examine Woodhouse’s thesis in the Introduction.

Woodhouse’s study of Puritanism stems from conflict between contradictory impulses of liberty and reform:"the motives are equally authentic: the passionate concern for liberty and the passionate zeal for reform in the interests of righteousness. Capable of co-operation up to a certain point, they finally remain, somewhere near the heart of Puritanism, in a state of potential and unresolved conflict." (6)

Woodhouse sees these conflicting trends resolved by some Puritans to separating the sphere of nature and the sphere of grace. This he calls "the principle of segregation".

The most obvious manifestation "is the insistence by Puritans of the Left on the absolute separation of church and state, leading to "a plea for complete liberty of conscience", and a purely secular view of the State. "It does not follow", he admits, "that the reconsideration will be democratic in origin but it MAY (emphasis added)_ be so., and this is the first service of the principle of segregation to the cause of liberty and equality."

The "second service" is to limit the tendency of the "saints" to deny privileges in the State to "sinners";instead the principle of segregation keeps grace and nature apart. (Of course, if grace and nature are linked, the "rule of the saints" would dominate the secular world).

The "third service" is that the "principle of segregation" separates the world from the spiritual order and deals with the world in a secularised way, by natural ethics. Carried to its logical conclusion by Roger Williams, "it resolves the conflict between the two motives of liberty and reform. This is the third and final service." (8)

"But", he asks, "is the principle of segregation a two-edged sword? Will it not, logically applied, cut off from the secular sphere the liberalizing as well as the reactionary influences of Puritanism?..Theoretically it should", he says, "but the predominantly active character of the Puritan temper.. forestall(s) that result...we may look for... not (direct intrusion), but the indirect influence of analogy. There is a spiritual equality in the order of grace; is there not an analogous equality in the order of nature? This is but one of a dozen points at which analogically Puritanism COULD (emphasis mine) reinforce the cause of liberty and equality."(9)

He sees Milton and Williams as effectively applicating the principle of segregation. (10)

Counteracting the tendency to give control to the "saints" alone, is "the impossibility, recognized alike by Milton, Williams, and the Levellers, of guaranteeing the liberty of the regenerate without guaranteeing the liberty of all, and on this fact at last depends the direct contribution of Puritanism to general liberty;the second counteracting force is a consistent and thorough-going application of the principle of segregation, whereby the idea of Christian liberty is freed to operate by analogy in the natural order: Christian liberty for the regenerate, natural liberty for in the order of grace all believers are equal, so in the order of nature all men are equal; as the church is composed of believers all equally privileged, so the state should be composed of men all equally privileged." (11)

Woodhouse says [p.86]: "first, the principle of segregation; then, after that is enforced, the power of analogy:on these two things the democratic influence of Puritanism chiefly depends." (italics mine) (12)

These are central concerns of Woodhouse’s argument.

Woodhouse does not allow for the reality that there can be unresolved contradictions within individuals, so dichotomy between liberty and reform need not be resolved, by the "principle of segregation" or anything else. The average person is a bundle of unresolved contradictions.

In tying his principles to the Putney Debates, Woodhouse mentions that "at Putney Ireton declares that the Levellers can ground their demand for manhood suffrage only on some plea of natural rights as opposed to the historic rights held forth by the fundamental constitution of the English state. They do not deny that fact. To the law of nature they confidently appeal , and when Ireton further declares that the appeal to nature will destroy all property, they try to show that the right to property is guaranteed by the law of nature and not, as Ireton maintains, merely by positive laws. (13)

Theologically, this has some value, but there is also a "class" difference between Cromwell and Ireton, usually labelled "grandees", as defenders of property to preserve what remains of the status quo, under threat during the English Civil War. Cromwell had himself depended on rents for land, when he was at his former home in Ely. Ireton was concerned to preserve property rights. He said: "all the main thing I speak for, is that I would have an eye to property." (14)

Cromwell tries a conciliatory stance that will soften divisions and preserve unity in the Army. In response to Levellers, he argues that their changes would bring about too abrupt a change in politics, while he seeks to keep "good faith" with the king and Parliament.

These manouvres clash with Levellers, such as Rainborough, in his famous comment: "the poorest he that is in England hath as great a right as the greatest he" (15) to which Ireton responds that "the poorest he" only has a right if he has some local interest, otherwise, "(if they) have no permanent interest in the kingdom (they) must submit to those laws and those rules (which)... do comprehend the whole interest of the kingdom." (16) The tendency of the Levellers, complains Ireton, is leading to anarchy (17)

What Woodhouse neglects to mention, is that, on the third day of the Putney Debates, little mention is made of the law of nature and Wildman, far from advocating the "principle of segregation" seems to take a skeptical tack. Wildman, observing that other people speak of the mind of God, claims that "whatever another man hath received from the Spirit, that man cannot demonstrate [it] to me but by some other way than merely relating to me that which he conceives to be the mind of God. [In spiritual matters he must show its conformity with scripture, though indeed] it is beyond the power of the reason of all the men on earth to demonstrate the scriptures to be...written by the Spirit of God and it must be the spirit of faith...The case is yet more difficult in civil matters: [for] we cannot find anything in the Spirit of God of what is fit to be done in civil matters." (18) Evidently, there is no analogy for Wildman from the spiritual to the secular realm , no distinct sense of a separate law of grace and nature and no "law of segregation" operating. Wildman also says in the Whitehall Debates, "it is not easy by the light of nature to determine [more than that] there is a God. The sun may be that God. The moon may be that God." (19)

During the third day of the Putney Debates, attention is drawn to the so-called "Norman yoke" by appealing to historical precedents (20) rather than the "law of nature", so than nature and grace is only a part.

Lamont mentions an important factor, largely ignored by those who speak simply in terms of social or "class" differences between the "grandees" and the others. These could be overriden by a conviction that the hand of God wanted it so.(21) Cromwell wanted "the foundation of all our actions to do that which is the Will of God" (22) Ireton says that "all the main thing I would speak for,is because I would have an eye to property" (23) yet Ireton also comments that "if God saw it good to destroy, not only King and Lords, but all distinction of degrees- nay, if it go further, to destroy all property, that there’s no such thing left, that there be nothing at all of civil constitution left in the kingdom-if I see the hand of God in it, I hope I shall with quietness acquiesce, and submit to it, and not resist it." (24) , a sentiment he later reaffirms ( 25)Not that he ever did see fit to abolish all property, though he and Cromwell had a hand in abolishing the King, and attacking Lords, but he meant what he said. Cromwell also was prescient when he announced that "I am one of those whose heart God hath drawn out to wait for some extraordinary dispensations" (26). Cromwell sought the backing of God for his actions which did lead him to "extraordinary dispensations."

The question of how far "nature and grace" as concepts operated in the New Model Army is taken up by Leo Solt in his book, Saints In Arms.

According to Woodhouse, the effect of the principle of segregation is to secularise the State. In the case of the New Model Army chaplains, Dell and Saltmarsh, instead of secularising the State, wanted to spiritualise it also. And when it came to toleration, they refused to tolerate Jews, Catholics and non-Christians. ((27)

Whereas Woodhouse believed that the equality of believers in Christ led by analogy to the equality of believers in civil affairs, the Antinomian Army chaplains, especially Dell, did not believe the equality of believers in grace had any counterpart in the world of nature. In fact, Dell saw inequality in the world of man.

Solt claims "the weakness of analogical reasoning with respect to equality is that it makes no provision (either in the world of grace or in the world of nature) for the non-believers,the non-elect,the lost souls arbitrarily assigned to eternal perdition. By definition they are not in the sphere of grace and cannot be transferred by analogy into the civil sphere along with the elect, the saints of God. To do this a society of great inequality rather than equality would be formed. The civil state would then consist of two classes-the rulers and the ruled, the saints and the godless." (28)

Woodhouse admits that "William Dell, in his Way of True Peace, repudiates the church covenant in favour of a spiritual bond between all believers, achieved in Christ. Here the analogy between the order of nature and the order of grace seems to fail- and does fail." He waffles that: " it is neither irreverent nor fanciful to detect in a sense of the community which cannot be written into constitutions, but can only be experienced, some dim and partial analogy of the spiritual bond." (29)

The separation of grace and nature could have other consequences than liberalizing or secularising the State. After 1648 Dell separated grace and nature more to keep the church from being interfered with by the civil magistrate than to secularise the state. (30)

Woodhouse conceded that such segregation need not always be democratic, that it only may be so.(31)This was one of many instances among millenarians that was anti-democratic.

Woodhouse cites Milton as an example of the principle of segregation. It is true Milton favoured toleration of different religions, but he also favoured a civil aristocracy of virtue, rather than a democracy (32)

The Puritan preacher who seems to come closest to Woodhouse’s principle of segregation is Roger Williams, who believed in religious toleration for all men, believing the chosen of God could be found in pagan or anti-Christian religions as well (33) )which seems to take liberalism for a Puritan preacher to its limits. The army chaplains seemed to join Williams in favouring the idea of the State as a protective unit to preserve the church However, the gap between grace and nature was not complete even in Roger Williams, since he regarded the world of nature as falling within the millenarian system.( 34)

Nor did the "chief Puritan", Oliver Cromwell, believe grace and nature to be universally exclusive. He said: "if any one whatsoever think the Interest of Christians and the Interest of the Nation inconsistent, I wish my soul may never enter into his or their secrets!" ((35)

Solt remarks that "the millenarian views of the Army preachers were inarticulate and unsystematic attempts to transmute the theological principle of the reign of Christ into specific political or social terms. " (36)

Since little evidence emerges of much principle of segregation among Puritans, one may suppose that it exists more in Woodhouse’s mind than in reality. More than that, it may be an attempt to be more systematic in thinking than the Puritans were, in view of the diversified and conflicting interpretations of the day.

Since Woodhouse decides the "principle of segregation" is the main Puritan contribution to liberty, (37)whereas it was observed, only partly, in a few Puritans, his main thesis fails.

But Woodhouse also sees weakening of Calvinist dogma coming from Arminianism: "by its central attack on the extreme form of Calvinist doctrine of predestination, of absolute election and reprobation, Arminianism weakens the theological basis of Puritan inequalitarianism, of the conception of an aristocracy of the elect, and thus undermines the most formidable of the barriers separating Puritanism from democracy" (38)

This assumes that Arminianism fostered a belief in universal salvation. The Remonstrants in 1610 promoting Arminius did not preach this doctrine, but it was imputed to their successors.

Yet Solt suggests that any generalisation linking Arminianism and equality must be treated with caution. John Lilburne, the chief Leveller, never committed himself to Arminianism and John Milton, an Arminian, believed in an aristocracy of virtue. "It seems that the Leveller idea of equality owes as much, if not more, to a philosophy of natural rights as it does to religious doctrine." (39)

Woodhouse refers to the covenant as a means of motivating Levellers to accept "the contract on which the authority of just government depends...can be attributed to the covenanted and more or less democratic Puritan churches"  (40)which"preserved the possibility (emphasis mine) of a free and democratic church order, and of its influence in the civil sphere, between which and the ecclesiastical there is constant interaction" (41) so it is another example of an analogy from the spiritual to secular sphere. Woodhouse, in effect agrees with Sir Charles Firth in seeing the ecclesiastical theories of the Independents, when applied to politics, creating democratic government. (42)

Woodhouse sees the Solemn Agreement of the Army as an example of a covenant adhered to .Leveller tracts such as the Agreement of the People he sees as "the apotheosis of the covenant idea and its complete and triumphant translation to the civil sphere." Its endorsement of free and equal discussion is seen as the basis for the Putney and Whitehall Debates. This covenant model is seen as the basis for the creation and working of the General Council of the Army, itself an extension of the Council of War, and the example of Parliament itself is said by Woodhouse to be the inspiration for the General Council of the Army, with "the Army of the Parliament" taking Parliament itself as its model. (43)

Leo Solt queries the extent to which the New Model Army was organized along covenant lines. He says there is little evidence that the ecclesiastical life of the soldiers during 1645-7 was organized along the lines of a voluntary or self-governing church or indeed, of any church policy after the Presbyterian chaplains left. The chaplains were not supporters of visible forms of church government. (44) Richard Baxter had a low opinion of the soldiers’ religious understanding. He called them "ignorant men of little religion". (45)

Further,the New Model, like most armies, relied on hierarchy and military discipline. The extent of free discussion was limited by the need to "keep order" and unity, strongly felt by Cromwell and Ireton. Any idea that Levellers soldiers could force their views on the "grandees" was beaten by the unsuccessful attempts at mutiny which, being suppressed, effectively crushed Leveller influence. Because of this military organization, "free discussion" as a model coming from Parliament could only be limited. Of course, even in Parliament, then as now, domination by pressure groups and "stacking of the Parliament" by supporters, could make "free discussion" a sham.

A further caveat is suggested by William Craven, who suggests that Woodhouse understates a move away from Calvinistic election and predestination on the part of some Puritans towards "free justification by Christ alone". Free justification meant salvation offered to all, not just the elect. Lilburne considered his own election to be proof that the Spirit could be given to even the lowliest. Overton was another proponent of free justification, while Independent,John Goodwin, rejected predestination in his Imputatio Fidei.

The aim of this kind of organization was not so much to set apart the elect from the damned as to give believers the benefit of mutual encouragement. Craven implies that the kind of covenant fellowship mentioned by Robert Browne in Woodhouse (46) was of this non-Calvinist kind. "But whereas Calvinism tended to follow the Old Testament, the spirit of antinomianism was strong in England." ((47)

Antinomianism is a term that was applied to the army chaplains, sometimes in a misleading sense in that antinomianism discards works, whereas most who believe they are saved by grace do not discard works. Antinomianism could be used to "permit" people to become libertines in the belief that grace covered all sins. This link with libertinism was why Puritans shunned antinomianism, although it was false to attribute libertinism to the army chaplains, who called themselves antinomianism.

Lamont sees antinomianism as the instrument among Puritans that works for liberty, by which he includes universal toleration or pluralism. Solt affirms that "it was as champions of individual liberty that the Antinomians made their contribution to political liberty" (48)But antonomian association (not always justified) with libertinism made it anathema to many Puritans.

On the issue of liberty of conscience, Lamont sees a contradiction between Cromwell saying to his Presbyterian opponents: "I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken" and later saying that liberty did not include freedom to celebrate the Mass. "To ask which is the real Cromwell in all this is one of the most fatuous questions one can ask", he snarls: "they are all the real Cromwell." (49) In view of the contradictions in all people, this would not be surprising, yet there is less contradiction than one would think.

Cromwell was objecting to Presbyterians trying to dogmatically force their views on others and objected to the Catholics doing the same. Thus he would not have seen a contradiction. He would have harked back to memories of "Bloody Mary", the Spanish Inquisition, and, like most Puritans, have been aware of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs so he saw Catholicism associated with persecution, just as he also saw the cavaliers in the same light. He may have agreed that "new Presbyter is but old priest writ large" or Dell’s similar comment that "Presbyterian Uniformity is near akin to Prelatical Conformity."(50)Whether we agree with this or not, it is necessary to understand this way of thinking.

Most of Woodhouse’s Introduction has been assessed and it seems that overall Puritanism made less contribution to liberty than he thought. His "principle of segregation" is an interesting invention but, so far as it existed , had  partial effect rather than the dynamic contribution to liberty that he envisaged. It will be discussed in terms of the American alleged "separation of church and state" later.

Possibly the most promising populist proponents of liberty were the Levellers, but the attempt to portray them as "anarchists" proved a successful propaganda disparagement, while their demands were whittled down by "coaching" from Ireton until the third Agreement of the People eliminated many demands apart from calls for decentralized federation of localities. (51) This call for decentralization is certainly a move away from the tyranny of the centralized state power of present times.

Oliver Cromwell has had a "mixed press" of approbation and rejection. Some condemned him as a regicide and tyrant. After his death, his body was dug up and beheaded. His head was eventually buried near the college in Cambridge where he studied, where it remains. He is, and remains, a controversial figure. If England becomes a republic, he may become "fashionable", but he wanted a "godly republic". A secular republic would never have satisfied him.

His supporters have erected a statue of Cromwell in front of the Houses of Parliament in London, since he was the defender of Parliament during the English Civil War. But, while he did indeed fight on behalf of Parliament,he also fought against them, dissolving a Parliament by force and dominating Parliaments to get what he wanted.

In discussing the role of the Puritans in promoting liberty or draconian control, the role of the most influential Puritan, Oliver Cromwell during the Interregnum deserves study. Jeffrey R. Collins challenges an earlier view of Cromwell as an exponent of religious toleration, substituting a "revisionist" view that Cromwell and the Independents actually favoured "free conscience" within limits, accommodating the Protestant Left but excluded some radical sects, all episcopalians and Roman Catholics. Cromwell’s view was not so much toleration but "the unity of the godly party " and "creation of a Commonwealth fit for God’s eyes." Apparently, episcopalians, Roman Catholics and some others were deemed "not fit for God’s eyes." (52)

He also suggests that the Cromwellian settlement, far from a "principle of segregation" separating Church and State,was an Erastian settlement ( one in which the State dominated the Church), following a policy initiated under the Tudors and continued during the Long Parliament. Collins sees various Independent divines, such as John Cotton, John Owen, Sidrach Simpson, and others (such as Phillip Nye  who spoke in the Whitehall Debates(53)) helping form the church settlement during Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

If Collins’ view is right it tones down Woodhouse’s Introduction  which said that "considerable advance towards liberty of conscience .. could be made from the fundamental position of Ireton and Nye (as) attested by the anonymous Ancient Bounds ..and by the practice of Cromwell’s state church."[p.54] If the "practice of Cromwell’s state church" was to crush heresy and establish Erastian control of the church it is less of an "advance towards liberty of conscience," and contradicts Woodhouse’s claim that Independency was anti-Erastian (55).

Cromwell’s view was that the State should defend "true religion" against radical sects, Catholics or episcopalians. Independency was seen as the church form that most suitably confirmed the religious authority of the State.

Cromwell saw his role as a constable using the State to control the church and maintain order. If the church took control, as it was seen to do under Laud, it could create tyranny. The Independents’ church plan was set out in The Humble Proposals which wanted to create godly men to eject unsuitable ministers from their parishes. The existing parish and tithe scheme was to be retained to finance the Church. Under the Barebones Parliament, the sectarians successfully opposed the church settlement proposals and "professed fully against the magistrate’s power in any matters of religion." The Barebones Parliament surrendered power in 1653 and four days later Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector. The Instrument of Government advised refuting "error, heresy and whatever is contrary to sound doctrine, "which would generally have been taken to include antinomianism.

Cromwell created "Triers" for the trial of public preachers and lecturers authorized to approve or disapprove church candidates, judging their godliness. These Triers included laymen as well as clerics. Ejectors were strictly laymen. The church settlement "was the shoal upon which the Barebones Assembly foundered." (56)

State control extended to removal of clergy "disaffected to the present government" and liberty of conscience threatening state stability. "This was a potentially broad qualifier to Cromwell’s vaunted religious toleration." (57) It made no distinction between religious and political ends.

Collins decides that "Cromwell’s church sought to pursue the godly society by exercising state power, and by abolishing the dualist division of spiritual and temporal power" No "principle of segregation" there! Collins adds that "far more than any threat to Calvinist theology, it was the assertive political independence of the (Laudian) bishops that unified opposition to the Caroline church." (58)

Collins compares Oliver Cromwell with his namesake under Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, who also wanted to curb clerical authority by the State. An anonymous critic drew a parallel: "the first (Cromwell) pulled down abbeys. This one wants to pull down bishops, deans, chapter colleges..."

There is an ironical twist to some comments of Collins: "Erastianism functioned for Cromwell as it had for many English Protestants: to reconcile the tension between the godly society, which required coercive authority in religious matters, and free conscience, the repression of which was associated with clerical authority in collective Protestant memory." (59) This is like Woodhouse’s conflict between liberty and reform, "reconciled" by the "principle of segregation." Another reconciliation would be Erastianism. Coercion by imposition of a settlement, "liberty" as the "right" to practice religion acceptable to the State, enforced to preserve social harmony! Not a "democratic" settlement, but an autocratic one.

Cromwell asked: "Is not liberty of conscience in religion a fundamental?" and answered: Yes, "so long as there is liberty of conscience for the supreme magistrate to exercise his conscience in erecting what form of church-government he is satisfied he should set up." (60)After the Whitehall Debates, this is the role the civil magistrate got.

Was Cromwell a dictator? This would not be a fair assessment. He did not proclaim himself a "Divine Right Monarch" or even a "Divine Right Protector". He did not dispense with Parliaments, though he did seek to regulate their authority. He did not seek to persecute religion in the way "Bloody Mary" had done.

In the end, his church settlement was possibly the most liberal for his times. But it was not pluralist, nor intended to be so.

Some maintain Cromwell’s war in Ireland was meant to exterminate Catholicism. Perhaps Cromwell’s own words on the massacre at Drogheda would give that impression: "In the heat of the action, I forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the town and I think that night they put to the sword 2000 men...I am persuaded that this is the righteous judgement of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbued their hands in so much innocent blood, and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are the satisfactory grounds to such actions which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret." (Cromwell’s declaration of 21 March, 1650) (61)

Yet Cromwell was reacting to exaggerated accounts of a massacre of Protestants in Ireland during the Catholic uprising of 1641. Cromwell saw himself as an "avenging angel".

A "revisionist" historian has argued that Cromwell was "an honourable enemy" who observed the regulations of war, and tried to save civilians from slaughter at Drogheda, Wexford and Clonmel claiming that denunciation of Cromwell as a "genocider" was the result of prejudice and exaggeration. Whreeas Cromwell tried to prevent civilians being harmed, modern armies have not been as scrupulous. Reilly, Tom. Cromwell: An Honourable Enemy. London, Phoenix Press, 2000.(62) But there is no doubt that Cromwell was anti-Catholic.

In assessing the Puritan era, Oliver Cromwell, and the nature of liberty, there is always the problem that they, and we, live in different eras. The Puritans, and in general the era of the English Civil War, gave religion a central purpose it seldom has in our secularised era. What also needs to be emphasized is that the very nature of "liberty" as a concept means something different to us than it did to Cromwell or the Puritans.

Perhaps the central difference is that Puritans tried to create a "godly State". In this, they failed, but they gave Christianity a centrality as a means towards an end of a virtuous society. As Woodhouse put it, "a reliance on good men rather than on a good constitution or a duly elected Parliament." (63)

There is, among historians of the Puritan era, some confusion between secularised versions of Freedom and what would have been seen as freedom under Puritanism. What we might call "liberty" they would call "license". For example, Puritan diatribes against the evils of the theatre sought to suppress free expression in plays, including lewd gestures and situations. They would doubtless be rendered apoplectic if they could see the "license" in modern films, "Playboy", strip-tease, etc. The amount of profanity would shock them, including Cromwell, who forbade profanity and fined those of his soldiers who swore. Swearing, using terms that profane God or Christ, commonplace these days, would be intolerable, and those who did it would have been warned of the danger to their souls.

Woodhouse made two major mistakes not generally appreciated by historians:

1. His "principle of segregation" glorifies a secular approach to promoting liberty, but the separation of church and state, where applied, has crushed liberties;

2. He presumes that "democracy’s" professions of freedom and popular representation are genuine. He did not see the move away from them in his own day, vastly accelerated nowadays, as we move towards globalism.

We will deal with these in turn.

Woodhouse sees individualism as a safeguard of liberty, seen in Areopagatica and John Stuart Mill’s Essay on Liberty ,including a distrust of the state, with the caution that it needs to be balanced by a "sense of the community... because the individual needs the help of his fellows." (64)

It may seem as if John Stuart Mill, as the apostle of individualism, has attained the limit of free speech when he affirms that:

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he ad the power, would be justified in silencing mankind"

"We can never be sure", he also affirmed, "that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle, is a false opinion, and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still."

He did concede that: "the liberty of the individual must be thus far limited: he must not make himself a nuisance to other people." (65)

He mentions nothing about a Christian asking God for Guidance in the pursuit of wisdom and "leaning not to his own understanding", but there is a rational purpose for his admonitions: the unhindered expression of viewpoints so that the truth can be uncovered. He even allows for what we might  call: "the right to be wrong."

However, it is this "right to be wrong" that is suppressed nowadays, in certain areas, such as anti-vilification legislation, where it is laid down as a dogma, that "racism", however it may be defined, is "wrong", and no one has a "right" to practice it. Unhindered freedom of discussion has not been preserved under any secular or so-called "democratic" regime nowadays.

This in itself begins to cast doubt on the validity of the "principle of segregation." Now that most countries, including the "democratic" countries, have the State in control, and separate from the Church, on Woodhouse’s basis, that should promote freedom, but in fact it has not.

One example where church and state were separated, and there was dictatorship was Stalin’s Russia, in spite of the fact that "Rights" were set out for the Soviet citizen, all broken with impunity. The Soviet Union Constitution, article 124, "promises": "In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the State, and the school from the church." (66) which did nothing to ensure  freedom of conscience or personal freedoms under Stalin!

The problem in setting "Rights" is that the "grassroots" depend on the will of the government or the controlling body to enforce them, and there is much more interest in a "will to power" than a "will to freedom" even in our so-called "democracies" in Western countries, which should rather be called "pseudo-democracies." The problem with Woodhouse, and even with the framers of constitutional rights, has been the willingness of forces acting behind the scenes to undermine any "will of the people" and make it a farce. Real power lies with the "control freaks" who can break laws with impunity and establish a dictatorship, even while labelling it a "democracy". Woodhouse confused the rhetoric of democracy with real democratic "grassroots" power, mostly honoured more in the breach than in the observance.

One claimed exception has been the alleged "separation of church and state" in the United States. This term has been used by courts in the United States since 1947 to imply that the Founders of the American Republic accepted a "principle of segregation" (as Woodhouse would call it) to separate church and state and create civil and religious freedoms. If this were so, it would be a great vindication of the "principle of segregation" since the American Founding Fathers aimed at freedom, at a level higher than that of Cromwell or the Levellers in the English Civil War.

The problem is that the alleged "separation of church and state" in the United States is a hoax.

The words "separation of church and state" appear nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Federalist Papers. The First Amendment, which courts have used to prohibit religious activities in public, states in reference to religion that: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.."

Neither the phrase "separation of church and state" nor even "church" or "separation" are there. The doctrine of separation of church and state is a fabrication of blatantly liberal, anti-Christian, dishonest, activist judges since 1947 and the Everson v Board of Education decision.

The words "separation of church and state" are taken out of context from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. They exist nowhere in the laws of the US nation.

On January 1,1802, Thomas Jefferson spoke to a gathering of Danbury Baptists at Danbury, Connecticut. He tried to reassure them that the federal government would not establish them, or any other denomination of Christianity, as the national religion, "thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

By using this phrase "wall of separation", he was using a term from a well-known Baptist minister, Roger Williams, whom Woodhouse commends as an exponent of the "principle of segregation". According to Williams, separation was to "protect the garden of the church" from the "wilderness of the world." In other words, the role of the State was to protect and foster the church. (67)

The judges from 1947 that twisted the meaning of Thomas Jefferson’s words also twisted the role of the State as being to protect the state from the church. In context, Jefferson meant to reassure his listeners that there was no intention on the part of Congress or the Founding Fathers to create a national church, as in England. There was to be no attempt to create a "Church of the United States".

The role of the Christian Church in the American Revolution and in inspiring the Founding Fathers has been largely ignored or downplayed. Failure to appreciate this led historian John Morrill to claim that "the English Civil War was not the first European revolution, it was the last of the wars of religion." (68) The American Revolution was a "war of religion" in terms of the strong Christian basis for it, a situation which has largely been concealed. But proper examination shows the solid Christian foundation.

Among those who attended the Constitutional Convention, with no more than five exceptions, they were orthodox members of one of the established Christian communions: approximately 29 Anglicans, sixteen to eighteen Calvinists, two Methodists, two Lutherans, two Roman Catholics, one lapsed Quaker and sometime Anglican, and one open Deist, Benjamin Franklin, who attended all kinds of Christian worship, called for public prayer and contributed to all denominations. (Barton, p. 25) Roman Catholics were permitted to contribute: something Puritans would not have allowed.

It is only since the middle of the twentieth century that history books have omitted mention of the faith of the American Founders. It is about time it was mentioned and TBR, which aims to bring history into line with the facts, is an ideal vehicle.

Patrick Henry openly stated: "it cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here." (69)

Justice Joseph Story commented about this attempt to ban a national US church under the terms of the First Amendment: "we are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment to an indifference to religion in general , and especially to Christianity which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution...Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution and of the Amendments to it, the general, if not universal, sentiment in America was that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State... An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation." ( 70)

He also wrote: "It remains yet a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether any free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God and the support of religion constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape." (italics mine)(71)

Alexis De Toqueville, who visited America in the 19th century, commented that : "For Americans, the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other."  In order to hold political office, the denomination was irrelevant, but it was required that he be a Christian. (72)

The importance of Christian roots behind the American Revolution cannot be over-emphasized.

The concept of a secular state was virtually non-existent in 1776 as well as in 1787, when the Constitution was written, and no less so when the Bill of Rights was adopted. To read the (US) constitution as the charter for a secular state is to misread history, and to misread it radically. The Constitution was designed to perpetuate a Christian order." (73)

When the Constitution was ratified by the thirteen original states, not only did Congress hold long, fervent prayers and quote directly from scripture in speeches and floor debates, but many of the original 13 states had official state churches with official names like the Church of Maryland. Just as the Putney and Whitehall Debates were preceded by prayer sessions and concern was shown that what was determined would be favoured by God, that same conviction permeated early Congress meetings.

One aspect not mentioned in the Putney and Whitehall Debates was the necessity for good education to build up a proper moral basis for society. In America, before the Revolution, it was proclaimed that "religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, school and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." They asserted that you must have religion if you are to have good government, and they linked religion to schools. (74)Schools were the means used to promote both education and morality.

The beginnings of American government had been framed by Puritan minister, Robert Hooker, in 1639,intending the laws to be "as near the law of God as they can be" (75) The basic law was that anything Christian was legal; anything unchristian was illegal. Only Christians could be given civil authority.

Major universities and schools were founded to enact Christian rules, such as Harvard University, created by the Puritans in 1630; in 1639, the College of William and Mary was founded in Williamsburg, Virginia; in 1701 Yale was founded in Connecticut; in 1746, Princeton was founded by Presbyterians; in 1766, Rutgers University was founded. In fact, one hundred and six of the first one hundred and eight colleges in America were founded on the Christian faith. By the time of the Civil War, non-religious universities could be counted on the fingers of one hand. (76)

This had an effect on the Revolution. John Witherspoon, President of Harvard, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and served in Congress, helped train 1 President, 1 Vice President, 3 Supreme Court Judges; 10 Cabinet Members; 12 Governors, 60 Congressmen, many members of the Constitutional Convention and many State congressmen. (77)

This Christian education was the basis for  creation of the Declaration of Independence,  Congress and the settlement that followed  creation of the United States.

John Adams, the second US President, said that "we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion...Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."(78)

As the American Revolution proceeded, the delegates rejected turning to God for guidance, and received a rebuke from the Deist, Benjamin Franklin, in a speech to the Constitutional Convention on June 28,1787, who reminded them that God had answered their prayers, and added :

"I have lived a long time, sir(81 years of age), and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of the truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an Empire could rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it". I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel: we shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

"I therefore beg leave to move- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service." (79) This was acted upon. It was the turning point in the framing of the Constitution, and marked the way ahead for the revolutionary cause, under God's Guidance.

This is the spirit of submission to God lacking, not only in the present US government and most of the nation, but much of the Western world. George Washington put it succinctly: "it is impossible to govern rightly...without God and the Bible" (80), a sentiment which does not activate present Western governments, and which has been accompanied by physical and moral collapse.

Which is precisely why as morals and the Christian religion are  destroyed today, the constitution is being destroyed along with it. The viewpoint of the Founders has been destroyed, and the nation has suffered.

Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the House in the Republic said, "men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them, either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible or the bayonet." ( 81)


It was, of course, true that Cromwell used both the Bible and "the bayonet" and tried to reconcile them, using military force if necessary. He was attempting to enforce righteousness, And even chose what he regarded as righteous men to reform the church. but righteousness had to come from the heart, not by force.

In the Christian Church’s long history, it has tried to reform men by force, but "a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still." Where repentance was genuine, it must come from the heart, on an individual basis, and not be enforced by the State. Alvin J. Schmidt puts it well: "supporters of socialism, communism, fascism, and other highly centralized systems have a strong distaste for the freedom of the individual because such freedom hampers and impedes authoritarian/totalitarian governments from controlling the expressions and movements of its citizens. Without freedom of the individual there is no real freedom, whether it is on the economic, political or religious level." (82)

Much could be said in comparing and contrasting the English Civil War and Puritanism with the American Revolution, but some key points include these:

Both had a strong Christian influence. Even those who were Deists in the American Revolution were strongly influenced by Christians and Christianity. (83)

Even Thomas Jefferson, who issued a "dissenting" "Jefferson Bible", in which he edited the Bible and cut out Christ’s miracles, did it to show that he was a "real Christian" (84)

In both cases, an influence in terms of concepts of nature and grace was shown. The words "The Law of Nature and Nature’s God" was built into the American Declaration of Independence, showing the influence of Locke and Christian theology.

The Founding Fathers, including Jefferson, wanted people to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. They were more liberal than the Puritans in their views, especially in not being anti-Catholic. The system instituted by the Founding Fathers was for the State not to dominate and control the Church, yet this is what present government authorities and departments in the United States and elsewhere seek to do. The Founding Fathers never sought to ban prayers in public schools, outlaw Christian creches and even outlaw practice of Christmas as a religious festival, as is now being done. In fact, the Founding Fathers understood well the role played by Christianity in providing a moral basis for society. Erica Carle has seen the role of the current US government, not as separating church and state, but as providing a basis to impose a Religion of Humanity. (see "Government Religion in the United States" by Erica Carle in htm)


Schmidt explains that "when Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s", He did not mean to have Caesar (the government) jettison God from public life." (85) He wanted to give complementary roles to Church and State, to work in harmony one with the other, which is not the case in the present day.


The Putney and Whitehall Debates were only released by historians in the late 19th century, and popularised by Woodhouse in the twentieth century, so they could have had no influence on the American revolutionary era. But they do provide a forum for the discussion of political and religious issues as a background to the greatest contribution to the most advanced system yet devised for promoting freedom under the US Founding Fathers.

The strength of Christian religious convictions as a basis for the American Revolution has been rejected by many secular-minded historians,and needs redress. But there is another factor in promoting the American Revolution also largely neglected: the fact that the debt-free system of money in America prior to the Revolution promoted prosperity and freedom under "colonial scrip", as explained by Benjamin Franklin. English Bankers persuaded the British Parliament to pass a law banning colonial scrip and forcing the colonists to use only English money. Franklin claimed that this was "the original and true cause of the American Revolution", not the tax on tea or the Stamp Act, as court historians insist. Franklin said that "the colonies would gladly have borne the little tax on tea and other matters had it not been for the poverty created by the bad influence of the English Bankers on the Parliament, which had caused in the Colonies hatred of England and the Revolutionary War."(http://www. /Franklin.htm)(See also )

In sum, the link between Puritanism and Liberty as propounded by A.S.P.Woodhouse fails to show as much linkage between them as he hoped. If government had been taken over by theocrats in England there would have been much less, but Cromwell‘s personality was a factor in promoting religious liberty since regarded genuine devotion to God as more important than church affiliation, with certain limitations. Cromwell never became a Founding Father in the way that men such as Jefferson, Madison, Washington and others did. Woodhouse’s "principle of segregation" promotes liberty only when there is a genuine collaboration between Church and State. Otherwise, one will seek to dominate the other.

Nevertheless, it remains true then, as now, as the Puritan William Penn said: "if thou wouldst rule well, one must rule for God, and to do that, one must be ruled by him He also said: "those who will not be ruled by God will be ruled by tyrants"(85) such as is happening now under ungodly and anti-Christian rule in the United States and the Western world generally. The spiritual roots of justice and freedom have been rooted up, and now we are tasting the whirlwind.


(1) Barna,George. Think like Jesus. Nashville, TN, Integrity, 2003, pp.22-23;

(2)Lamont, William. "Puritanism,Liberty and the Putney Debates", pp. 241,245 in The Putney Debates of 1647:the army, the Levellers, and the English State, edited by Michael Mendle. New York,Cambridge University Press, 2001 (revised papers from a conference held in 1997 at the Folger Shakespeare Library at Washington,D.C.);

(3)Puritanism and Liberty;Being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents, by A.S.P. Woodhouse (editor) London, Dent, 1938, Introduction, p. [51];

(4) Woodhouse, Introduction, pp. [67]-[68];

(5) Lamont, op.cit., p. 246;

(6) Lamont, pp. 247-256;

(7) Woodhouse, Intro., p. [53];

(8) Ibid.,p. [59];

(9)Ib., p. [60];



(12)ib.,p. [86];

(13)Ib.,p. [91];

(14) Woodhouse, Putney Debates, p. 57;

(15) Putney Debates, p.53;

(16)Ibid., pp.54-55;

(17)Ibid., p. 59;

(18) Ib.,p. 108;

(19)Ib.,p. 161;

(20)Ib., pp. 96,120

(21) Lamont, op. cit., p. 252;

(22) Putney Debates, p. 15;

(23) Ibid., p. 57;

(24) Ib.,p. 50;

(25) Ib.,p. 68;

(26) Ib., p. 103;

(27)Solt,Leo F(rank) Saints In Arms:Puritanism and democracy in Cromwell's army. Stanford, University Press, 1959, p. 64;

(28) Solt, p. 66;

(29) Woodhouse, Intro.,p. [100];

(30)Solt., p. 74;

(31) Woodhouse, Intro.,p. [59];

(32) Solt, p. 55 & 67-68;

(33) Solt,p. 52;

(34) Solt,p. 92;

(35) Solt, pp. 75-76;

(36) Solt, p. 76;

(37) W/House, Intro.,p. [86];

(38)Intro.,p. [54];

(39) Solt, pp. 67-68;

(40) Intro.,p. [72];

(41)Intro., p. [74];

(42)Cited Solt, p. 71 cf W/house, Intro.,p.[74];


(44)Solt,p. 71;

(45)Woodhouse, p. 389;

(46)Intro.,p. [73];

(47)Craven,W."A.S.P.Woodhouse:AReassessment" in  Melbourne Historical Journal, the journal of the Melbourne University Historical Society, vol. 1,1961, p.56;

(48)Lamont, op.cit., pp. 247-255;

(49) Ibid.,pp.253-4;

(50)Solt,p. 43;

(51) Gentles,Ian. "The Agreements of the People,1647-1649" in The Putney Debates of 1647, pp. 148-174;

(52) Collins,Jeffrey R. "The Church Settlement of Oliver Cromwell" in History:The Journal of the Historical Association (UK) v.87 #285,Jan.,2002, pp. 19-20;

(53)W/house, Whitehall Debates, pp. 146-7;153-4;159-60;168

(54)Intro.,p. [35];


(56)Collins, p. 29;

(57)Ibid., p. 32;

(58)Ibid., pp.35-36;

(59)Ibid.,p. 39;

(60)Cited Collins, p. 39;

(61)Cited by Mason,James & Leonard,Angela. Oliver Cromwell. London,Longman,1998 (Longman History In Depth) p. 106;

(62)Reilly,Tom. Cromwell:An Honourable Enemy. London, Phoenix Press, 2000;

(63)Woodhouse, Intro.,p.[84];

(64) Intro.,p.[100];

(65)Oxford Book of Quotations. Oxford, University Press, 1942, p. 266a;

(66)Barton, David.The Myth of Separation:What is the correct relationship between Church and State? Aledo,TX,Wallbuilder Press,1989, p. 45;

(67) Ibid.,p.41-2;

(68)Morrill,John. The nature of the English revolution. Cambridge, University Press,1993, p. 68;

(69) Barton, p. 25;

(70) Ibid,p. 32;

(71) Ibid.,p. 79;

(72)Ibid,pp. 33-35;

(73) Ibid.,p. 38;

(74)Ibid.,pp. 37-38;

(75)Ibid, p. 87;

(76) Ib.,pp.91-92;

(77)Ib.,p. 93;


(79) Ib.,p. 107-8;


(81) Schmidt,Alvin J. Under the Influence:How Christianity Transformed Society. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 2001, p. 258.

(82) Schmidt, p. 256;

(83) Ibid.,p. 254;

(84) Ib.,p. 267;



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