Colonel John Hutchinson

One of the great and tragic figures of the Puritan Era is John Hutchinson. Along with being a faithful Christian, he was a colonel in the Parliamentary Army, defender of representative government, regicide, and died after being cruelly imprisoned after the Restoration of Charles II. His wife, Lucy Apsley, wrote his biography, which has been republished in many editions. Here are some excerpts from a 19th century edition:

To number his virtues is to give the epitome of his life, which was nothing else but a progress from one degree of virtue to another, till in a short time he arrived to that height which many longer lives could never reach; and had I but the power of rightly disposing and relating them, his single example would be more instructive than all the rules of the best moralists, for his practice was of a more Divine extraction, drawn from the Word of God, and wrought up by the assistance of His Spirit; therefore in the head of all his virtues I shall set that which was the head and spring of them all, his Christianity—for this alone is the true royal blood that runs through the whole body of virtue, and every pretender to that glorious family who hath no tincture of it is an impostor and a spurious brat. This is that sacred fountain which baptizeth. all the gentle virtues that so immortalise the names of Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, and all the old philosophers; herein they are regenerated, and take a new name and nature. Dug up in the wilderness of nature, and dipped in this living spring, they are planted and flourish in the paradise of God.

By Christianity I intend that universal habit of grace which is wrought in a soul by the regenerating Spirit of God, whereby the whole creature is resigned up into the Divine will and love, and all its actions directed to the obedience and glory of its Maker. As soon as he had improved his natural understanding with the acquisition of learning, the first studies in which he exercised himself were the principles of religion, and the first knowledge he laboured for was a knowledge of God, which by a diligent examination of the Scripture, and the several doctrines of great men pretending that ground, he at length obtained. Afterwards, when he had laid a sure and orthodox foundation in the doctrine of the free grace of God given us by Jesus Christ, he began to survey the superstructures, and to discover much of the hay and stubble of men’s inventions in God’s worship, which his spirit burned up in the day of their trial. His faith being established in the truth, he was full of love to God and all His saints. He hated persecution for religion, and was always a champion for all religious people against all their great oppressors. He detested all scoffs at any practice of worship, though such a one as he was not persuaded of it. Whatever he practised in religion was neither for faction nor advantage, but contrary to it, and purely for conscience’ sake. As he hated outsides in religion, so could he worse endure those apostasies and those denials of the Lord and base compliances of His adversaries, which timorous men practise under the name of prudent and just condescensions to avoid persecution. Christianity being in him as the fountain of all his virtues, and diffusing itself in every stream, that of his prudence falls into the next mention. He from a child was wise, and sought to by many that might have been his fathers for counsel, which he could excellently give to him self and others; and whatever cross event in any of his affairs may give occasion to fools to overlook the wisdom of the design, yet he had as great a foresight, as strong a judgment, as clear an apprehension of men and things as any man. He had rather a firm impression than a great memory, yet he was forgetful of nothing but injuries. His own integrity made him credulous of other men’s, till reason and experience convinced him; and he was as unapt to believe cautions which could not be received without entertaining ill opinions of men; yet he had wisdom enough never to commit himself to a traitor, though he was once wickedly betrayed by friends whom necessity and not mistake forced him to trust. He was as ready to hear as to give counsel, and never pertinacious in his will when his reason was convinced. There was no  opinion which he was most settled in, either concerning divine or human things, but he would patiently and impartially hear it debated. In matters of faith his reason always submitted to the Word of God, and what he could not comprehend, he would believe because it was written; but in all other things, the greatest names in the world could never lead him without reason: he would deliberate when there was time, but never, by tedious dispute, lost an opportunity of anything that was to be done. He would hear as well as speak, and yet never spoke impertinently or unseasonably. He very well understood his own advantages, natural parts, gifts, and acquirements, yet so as neither to glory of them to others, nor overvalue himself for them; for he had an excellent virtuous modesty, which shut out all vanity of mind, and yet admitted that true understanding of himself which was requisite for the best improvement of all his talents. He no less understood and was more heedful to remark his defects, imperfections, and disadvantages, but that too only to excite his circumspection concerning them, not to damp his spirit in any noble enterprise. He had a noble spirit of government, both in civil, military, and domestic administrations, which forced even from unwilling subjects a love and reverence of him, and endeared him to the souls of those who rejoiced to be governed by him. He had a native majesty that struck an awe of him into the hearts of men, and a sweet greatness that commanded love. He had a clear discerning of men’s spirits, and knew how to give every one their just weight. He contemned none that were not wicked, in whatever low degree of nature or fortune they were otherwise: wherever he saw wisdom, learning, or other virtues in men, he honoured them highly, and admired them to their full rate, but never gave himself blindly up to the conduct of the greatest master. Love itself, which was as powerful in his as in any soul, rather quickened than blinded tie eves of his judgment in discerning the imperfections of those that were most dear to him. His soul ever reigned as king in the internal throne, and never was captive to his sense; religion and reason, its two favoured counsellors, took order that all the passions kept within their own just bounds, did him good service there, and furthered the public weal. He found such felicity in that proportion of wisdom that he enjoyed, as he was a great lover of that which advanced it— learning and the arts; which he not only honoured in others, but had by his industry arrived to be himself a far greater scholar than is absolutely requisite for a gentleman. He had many excellent attainments, but he no less evidenced his wisdom in knowing how to rank and use them, than in gaining them. He had wit enough to have been subtle and cunning, but he so abhorred dissimulation that I cannot say he was either. Greatness of courage would not suffer him to put on a vizor, to secure him from any; to retire into the shadow of privacy and silence was all his prudence could effect in him. It will be as hard to say which was the predominant virtue in him, as which is so in its own nature.

He was as excellent in justice as in wisdom; nor could the greatest advantage, or the greatest danger, or the dearest interest or friend in the world, prevail on him to pervert justice even to an enemy. He never professed the thing he intended not, nor promised what he believed out of his own power, nor failed the performance of anything that was in his power to fulfil. Never fearing anything he could suffer for the truth, he never at any time would refrain a true or give a false witness; he loved truth so much that he hated even sportive lies and gulleries. He was so just to his own honour that he many times forbore things lawful and delightful to him, rather than he would give any one occasion of scandal. Of all lies he most hated hypocrisy in religion; either to comply with changing governments or persons, without a real persuasion of conscience, or to practise holy things to get the applause of men or any advantage. As in religion so in friendship, he never professed love when he had it not, nor disguised hate or aversion, which indeed he never had to any party or person, but to their sins; and he loved even his bitterest enemies so well, that I am witness how his soul mourned for them, and how heartily he desired their conversion. If he were defective in any part of justice, it was when it was in his power to punish those who had injured him; whom I have so often known him to recompense with favours instead of revenge, that his friends used to tell him, if they had any occasion to make him favourably partial to them, they would provoke him by an injury. He was as faithful and constant to his friends as merciful to his enemies: nothing grieved him more than to be obliged where he could not hope to return it. He, that was a rock to all assaults of might and violence, was the gentlest, easiest soul to kindness, of which the least warm spark melted him into anything that was not sinful.

Nor was his soul less shining in honour than in love. Piety being still the bond of all his other virtues, there was nothing he durst not do or suffer, but sin against God; and therefore, as he never regarded his life in any noble and just enterprise, so he never staked it in any rash or unwarrantable bard. He was never surprised, amazed, nor confounded with great difficulties or dangers, which rather served to animate than distract his spirits. He had made up his accounts with life and death, and fixed his purpose to entertain both honourably, so that no accident ever dismayed him, but he rather rejoiced in such troublesome conflicts as might signalise his generosity. A truer or more lively valour there never was in any man, but in all his actions it ever marched in the same tie with wisdom. He understood well, and as well performed when he undertook it, the military art in all parts of it; he naturally loved the employment, as it suited with his active temper more than any, conceiving a mutual delight in leading those men that loved his conduct. And when he commanded soldiers, never was man more loved and reverenced by all that «ere under him; for he would never condescend to them in anything they mutinously sought, nor suffer them to seek what it was fit for him to provide, but prevented them by his loving care; and while he exercised his authority no way but in keeping them to their just duty, they joyed as much in his commands as he in their obedience. He was very liberal to them, but ever chose just times and occasions to exercise it. I cannot say whether he were more truly magnanimous or less proud; he never disdained the meanest person, nor flattered the greatest; he had a loving and sweet courtesy to the poorest, and would often employ many spare hours with the commonest soldiers and poorest labourers, but still so ordering his familiarity as it never raised them to a contempt, but entertained still at the same time a reverence with love of him; he ever preserved himself in his own rank, neither being proud of it so as to despise any inferior, nor letting fall that just decorum which his honour obliged him to keep up. He was as far from envy of superiors as from contemning them that were under him; he was above the ambition of vain titles, and so well contented with the even ground of a gentleman, that no invitation could have prevailed upon him to advance one step that way; he loved substantial not airy honour. As he was above seeking or delighting in empty titles for himself, so he neither denied nor envied any man’s due precedency, but pitied those that took a glory in that which had no foundation of virtue. As little did he seek after popular applause, or pride himself in it, if at any time it cried up his just deserts; he more delighted to do well than to be praised, and never set vulgar commendations at such a rate as to act contrary to his own conscience or reason for the obtaining them; nor would he forbear a good action which he was bound to, though all the world disliked it, for he ever looked on things as they were in themselves, not through the dim spectacles of vulgar estimation. As he was far from a vain affectation of popularity, so he never neglected that just care that an honest man ought to have of his reputation, and was as careful to avoid the appearances of evil as evil itself; but if he were evil spoken of for truth or righteousness’ sake, he rejoiced in taking up the reproach, which all good men that dare bear their testimony against an evil generation must suffer. Though his zeal for truth and virtue caused the wicked, with the sharp edges of their malicious tongues, to shave off the glories from his head, yet his honour, springing from the fast root of virtue, did but grow the thicker and more beautiful for all their endeavours to cut it off. He was as free from avarice as from ambition and pride. Never had any man a more contented and thankful heart for the estate that God had given, but it was a very narrow compass for the exercise of his great heart. He loved hospitality as much as he hated riot; he could contentedly be without things beyond his reach, though he took very much pleasure in all those noble delights that exceeded not his faculties. In those things that were of mere pleasure, he loved not to aim at that he could not attain ; he would rather wear clothes absolutely plain than pretend to gallantry, and would rather choose to have none than mean jewels or pictures, and such other things as were not of absolute necessity. He would rather give nothing than a base reward or present, and upon that score he lived very much retired, though his nature was very sociable, and delighted in going into and receiving company; because his fortune would not allow him to do it in such a noble manner as suited with his mind. He was so truly magnanimous, that prosperity could never lift him up in the least, nor give him any tincture of pride or vainglory, nor diminish a general affability, courtesy, and civility, that he always shewed to all persons. When he was most exalted, he was most merciful and compassionate to those that were humbled. At the same time that he vanquished any enemy, he cast away all his ill-will to him, and entertained thoughts of love and kindness as soon as he ceased to be in a posture of opposition. He was as far from meanness as from pride, as truly generous as humble, and shewed his noble spirit more in adversity than in his prosperous condition; he vanquished all the spite of his enemies by his manly suffering, and all the contempts they could cast at him were their shame, not his.