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THE LABOURING SAINT’S DISMISSION TO REST:
A SERMON PREACHED AT THE FUNERAL OF THE RIGHT HON.
HENRY IRETON, LORD-DEPUTY OF IRELAND, PREFATORY NOTE.
THIS sermon on the death of Ireton, though printed, as we are told in the dedication, from the first notes which the author took, contains some beautiful and interesting thoughts, and is pervaded by a strain of peculiar tenderness and solemnity. Henry Ireton was the eldest son of German Ireton of Attenton, Nottinghamshire. He was born in 1610; entered Trinity College, Oxford, in 1626; and having graduated as bachelor of arts, devoted himself’ to the study of law at the Middle Temple. He entered the parliamentary army when the civil war commenced, and gave proof of singular courage and capacity. In 1646 he married Bridget, the eldest daughter of Cromwell; and by the powerful interest which he thus secured, as well as his own abilities, he obtained rapid promotion in the army. At the battle of Naseby he commanded the left wing of the parliamentary army, and was defeated by the impetuous charge of Prince Rupert. Led in the ardor of the struggle beyond his own rank, he was himself wounded and taken prisoner, but contrived soon afterwards to make his escape. It was at his suggestion that the secret council of officers was held, to consider what course should be taken in disposing of the king’s person. He was one of the judges on the king’s trial, and signed the warrant for his execution. In 1649 he was second in command to Cromwell in Ireland, was made president of Munster, and afterwards was left as lord deputy when Cromwell returned to England. In the midst of a successful career, he was seized, after having taken Limerick, with an inflammatory fever, on the 16th of November, and died on the 26th, 1651. His memory was honored by a public funeral, and his remains were interred in Henry the Seventh’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey. His widow and his children, consisting of one son (Henry) and four daughters, had a grant of Ł 2000 settled on them by Parliament out of the confiscated estates of the Duke of Buckingham.
After the Restoration, his body was disinterred, gibbeted along with that of Cromwell, and buried at Tyburn.
Various testimonies might be adduced in proof of the high esteem in which he was held by his party. Burner affirms, that “he had the principles and temper of a Cassius;” — Hume, that “he was a memorable personage, much celebrated for his vigilance and capacity;” — Noble (“ Memoir of the Cromwell Family,” vol. ii. p. 298), that “he was the most artful, dark, deliberate man of all the Republicans, by whom he was much beloved;” — Heath (“Flagellum,” p. 124), that “he was absolutely the best prayermaker and preacher in the army; for which he may thank his education at Oxford;” — Ludlow (“Memoir,” vol. i. p. 33), that “he erected for himself a more glorious monument in the hearts of good men, by his affection to his country, his abilities of mind, his impartial justice, his diligence in the public service, and his other virtues; which were a far greater honor to his memory than a dormitory among the ashes of kings;” — and Carlyle (“Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches,” vol. i. p. 167) thus closes a reference to his death, — “One brave and subtle-working brain has ended; to the regret of all the brave. A man, able with his pen and his sword; very stiff in his ways.’” — ED.
TO THE HONOURABLE AND MY VERY WORTHY FRIEND, COLONEL HENRY CROMWELL.
SIR, THE ensuing sermon was preached upon as sad an occasion as on any particular account hath been given to this nation in this our generation. It is now published, as at the desire of very many who love the savor of that perfume which is diffused with the memory of the noble person peculiarly mentioned therein, so also upon the requests of such others as enables me justly to entitle the doing of it, obedience. Being come abroad, it was in my thoughts to have directed it immediately, in the first place, to her who, of any individual person, was most nearly concerned in him. But having observed how near she hath been to be swallowed up of sorrow, and what slow progress He who took care to seal up instruction to her soul by all dispensations, hath given her hitherto towards a conquest thereof, I was not willing to offer directly a new occasion unto the multitude of her perplexed thoughts about this thing. No doubt, her loss being as great as it could be, upon the account of one subject to the law of mortality, as many grains of grief and sorrow are to be allowed her in the balance of the sanctuary as God doth permit to be laid out and dispended about any of the sons of men. He who is able to make sweet the bitterest waters, and to give a gracious issue to the most grievous trial, will certainly, in due time, eminently bring forth that good upon her spirit which he is causing all these things to work together for. In the meantime, sir, these lines are to you: your near relation to that rare example of righteousness, faith, holiness, zeal, courage, self-denial, love to his country, wisdom, and industry, mentioned in the ensuing sermon; — the mutual tender affection between you whilst he was living; — your presence with him in his last trial and conflict; — the deserved regard you bear to his worth and memory; — your design of looking into and following after his steps and purpose in the work of God in his generation, as such an accomplished pattern as few ages have produced the like, — with many other reasons of the like nature, did easily induce me hereunto. That which is here printed is but the notes which I first took, not having had leisure since to give them a serious perusal; and upon that account must beg a candid interpretation unto any thing that may appear not so well digested therein as might be expected. I have not any thing to express concerning yourself, but only my desire that your heart may be fixed to the Lord God of your fathers; and that, in the midst of all your temptations and oppositions wherewith your pilgrimage will be attended, you may be carried on and established in your inward subjection unto, and outward contending for, the kingdom of the Dearly Beloved of our souls, not fainting or waxing weary until you receive your dismission to rest for your lot in the end of the days. SIR, Your most humble and affectionate Servant, J.OWEN. OXON,CHR.CH., April 2.