by Richard M. Riss.
Oliver Cromwell was drunken in the spirit and filled with holy laughter just prior to the Battle of Naseby. This was in 1645 during the civil war in Britain that brought about an end to the reign of king Charles I. Oliver Cromwell was a Puritan, and his so-called New Model Army has been described as an army of God-fearing, psalm-singing Puritans. When not fighting, they studied the Bible, prayed, and sang hymns.
Of course, Oliver Cromwell, who eventually became Lord Protector of England, was very, very far from perfect. Even some of his admirers have admitted that his bigoted anti-Catholic and anticlerical stance may have warped his judgement.
Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that the Puritans really suffered during the reigns of James I and Charles I. During that time, The Earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud caused so many serious problems for the Puritans, that they eventually began migrating to North America in large numbers, especially from 1628 onward.
But in 1640, there was a majority of Presbyterian Puritans in what has become known as the "Long Parliament," and many reforms were made. The Earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud were cast into prison. Charles I was furious, and charged the five leaders of the opposition in Parliament with high treason. The House of Commons refused to give them up, so the king decided to use military force against them from new headquarters that he set up in Nottingham, plunging England into civil war.
Oliver Cromwell was originally a Colonel of a troop of cavalry on the side of Parliament during this civil war known as Cromwell's Ironsides, which had so much success that an army of twenty-one thousand men was organized, and patterned after it, called the New Model Army. This army was composed almost entirely of people known as "men of religion." They did not swear or drink, and they advanced to the charge singing psalms.
At the Battle of Naseby, the King's forces were scattered as chaff before the wind, and the king surrendered. It was just prior to this decisive Battle of Naseby that Oliver Cromwell was filled with holy laughter and was drunken in the Spirit. Here's a quote from George Lavington's book, THE ENTHUSIASM OF METHODISTS AND PAPISTS COMPARED, 2d ed. (London: Printed for J. and P. Knapton in Ludgate-Street, 1749), vol. 2, pp. 72-73:
I don't remember any of these laughing-fits among Papists. But they were very common among the French Prophets in their agitations. Mr. Aubrey, in his MISCELLANIES (Page 117), relates the same thing of Oliver Cromwell. "Oliver, says he, had certainly this afflatus. One that was at the Battle of Dunbar told me that Oliver was carried on with a divine impulse: he did laugh so excessively as if he had been drunk. The same fit of laughter seized him just before the battle of Naseby." 'Tis a question undecided, whether Oliver was more of the enthusiast, or the hypocrite: and I presume the fits are no proof of a good cause either in the protector or the Methodist."
In this quotation, Lavington refers to the Methodist cause. This is because, in the section immediately prior to this passage, he discusses the same phenomena among the Methodists under John Wesley. Lavington also states that this was very common among the French Prophets.
Used with the permission of Richard M. Riss