Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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Speech by the Lord Protector regarding the humble Petition and Advice
The Lord Protector's speech (fn. 1) at the presenting of the humble Petition and Advice, on Tuesday, the 31st of March, 1657:—
This frame of Government, that it hath pleased the Parlia ment by your hand to offer to me, truly I should have a very brazen forehead, if it should not beget in me a great deal of consternation of spirit, it being of so high and great importance, as by your opening of it, and by the reading of it is manifest, to all men to be, the welfare, the peace, and settle ment of three nations, and all that rich treasure of the best people in the world being involved therein. I say, this consideration alone ought to beget in me the greatest reverence and fear of God, that ever possessed a man in this world. I rather truly study to say no more at this time, than is necessary to give a brief and short answer suitable to the nature of the thing. The thing is of weight, the greatest weight of any thing that ever was laid before a man; and, therefore, it being of that weight, and consisting of so many parts as it doth, (in each of which much more than my life is concerned) truly, I think, I have no more to desire of you, at this time, but that you will give me time to deliberate and consider what particular answer I may return to so great a business as this.
I have lived the latter part of my age in (if I may say so,) the fire, in the midst of troubles. And all the things that have befallen me, since I was first engaged in the affairs of this Commonwealth, truly if they should be supposed to be brought into a narrow compass, that I could take a view of them at once, I do not think they would, nor do I think they ought, to move my heart and spirit, with that fear and reverence of God that becomes a Christian, as this thing that hath been now offered by you to me. And, truly, my comfort in all my life hath been, that the burdens that have lain heavy upon me, they have been laid upon me by the hand of God. And I have not known, and been many times at a loss which way to stand under the weight of what hath lain upon me; but by looking at the conduct, and pleasure of God in it, which hitherto I have found to be a good pleasure towards me, and should I give any resolution in this suddenly, without seeking to have an answer put into my heart, and so into my mouth by him that hath been my God and my guide hitherto, it would give you very little cause of comfort in such a choice as you have made in such a business as this is, because it would savour more to be of the flesh, to proceed from lust, to arise from arguments of self; and if (whatsoever the issue of this be,) it should have such motives in me, and such a rise in me, it may prove even a curse to you, and to these three nations, who I verily believe have intended well in this business, and have had those honest and sincere aims at the glory of God, the good of his people, the rights of the nation. I very believe these have been your aims, and God forbid that so good aims should suffer by any dishonesty or indirectness on my part; for, although in the affairs, that are in the world, things may be intended well, (as they are always, or for the most part, by such as love God, and fear God, and make him their aims, and such honest ends and purposes as these, are, I believe, yours;) yet if these considerations fall upon a person or persons, that God takes no pleasure in, that perhaps may be at the end of his work, that to please any of those humours or considerations that are of this world, shall run upon such a rock as this is, without due consideration, without integrity, without sincerity, without approving the heart to God, and seeking an answer from him, and putting things, as for life and death to him, that such an answer may be received, as may be a blessing to the person to be used, to answer these noble and worthy, and honest intentions of those that have, prepared and perfected this work. It would be like a match where a good and worthy and virtuous man mistakes in the person that he makes loves to, and (as it often proves,) it proves a curse to the man and to the family through mistake. And lest this should be so to you, and to these nations (whose good I cannot be persuaded but you have in your thoughts aimed at,) why then it had been better, I am sure of it, that I had never been born.
I have therefore but this one word to say to you, that seeing you have made progress in this business, and completed the work, on your part, I may have some short time to ask counsel of God, and of my own heart. And I hope, that neither the humour of any weak or unwise people, nor yet the desires of any that may have lusting after things that are not good, shall steer me to give other than such an answer as may be ingenuous and thankful, thankfully acknowledging your care, and integrity; and such an answer as shall be for the good of those, that I presume you and I serve, and are made to serve. And truly I may say this also, that as the thing will deserve deliberation, the utmost deliberation and consideration on my part, so I shall think myself bound to give as speedy an answer to these things as I can. (fn. 2)