BBC History describes Oliver Cromwell as:
an English soldier and statesman who helped make England a republic and then ruled as lord protector from 1653 to 1658. After overthrowing Charles I and then successfully defending the republic from his son Charles II, Lord Protector Cromwell reorganised the national church, established Puritanism, readmitted Jews into Britain and presided over a certain degree of religious tolerance. Abroad, he ended the war with Portugal (1653) and Holland (1654) and allied with France against Spain, defeating the Spanish at the Battle of the Dunes (1658). Cromwell died on 3 September 1658 in London.
Such an august person would naturally sit for a portrait, and in the Puritan days, Flemish painter Peter Lely was the go-to court painter. Wikipedia says,
Lely was of Dutch origin, whose career was nearly all spent in England, where he became the dominant portrait painter to the court. … His talent ensured that his career was not interrupted by Charles’s execution, and he served Oliver Cromwell, whom he painted …
In the days before photography and social media, controlling one’s personal image was easy to do, and common. Leaders commanded idealized portraits, paintings, or statues, as opposed to realistic depictions. As this blogger opined about idealized portraiture,
It goes back as long as portraiture itself, of course; early classical portraits of emperors and such tended to cycle through emphasis on either a rugged, realistic appearance (as would befit a warrior and statesman) or an angelic, unblemished appearance (as would befit a god). In the same way, later emperors (such as Constantine) saw value in associating themselves in the public eye with prior, well-regarded emperors.
In modern times, photographic airbrushing was common as well. See the official photograph of Mikhail Gorbachev, last Secretary General of the old Communist Party of the USSR (it was to Gorbachev that President Reagan urged, “Tear down this wall!”)
Where is Mr Gorbachev’s birthmark?
Oliver Cromwell was a not too attractive man whose ruddy complexion and wrinkles was studded with pimples and warts. Cromwell commissioned Peter Lely for the official portrait. Lely sketched Cromwell and then presented the proofs for perusal. There were no warts.
For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:20)
In one of those 100-years-later (mis)quotes, Horace Walpole allegedly captured Cromwell’s reaction,
“Mr Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me; otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.”—Anecdotes of Painting in England (1763) by Horace Walpole>
It seems that the quote is likely somewhat accurate, since the final portrait did indeed to have been controversially painted in realistic and not idealistic fashion. Whatever Cromwell actually said, it is generally accepted that this incident is where the phrase, “warts and all” comes from.
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
We’re all vain to some degree. We all want to put forward ‘our best face’ as it were. Just think of Facebook. We all put out our best sayings and our most cordial attitudes but our warts still show.
He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You’ (John 21:17). Peter did not conclude from Jesus’ knowledge of his heart that he knew all things; rather he concluded from the omniscience of Jesus that he knew his heart.
See, that’s the thing. There is no point in hiding our warts. Cromwell’s were on the outside but ours are on the inside. It makes no difference to Jesus, He sees all of them. Nothing is hidden from Christ. He knows all our sins, all our flaws, all our foibles, all our proclivities. Our Father loves His children anyway. That is really the miracle. Our Holy Savior loves His sinful children.
There is no point in hiding from Him. There is no point to airbrushing away our flaws. We really are like little children when we fail to go to the throne and confess our sins. It’s like we’re toddlers who scurry to the bed and pull the covers up to hide from mom, thinking if we can’t see mom, then mom can’t see us.
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)
Since He sees us as we are, and He has already forgiven us, it glorifies Him to approach Him and confess our sins. This is our part in participating in our sanctification, where He is conforming us to His likeness.
Live humbly before Jesus, with no pride or vanity. Live before Him warts and all. I believe we will find in the end, that the more we do this, the more beautiful our face will become, because it will be like His.
John Piper: Nothing is Hidden from Christ
GraceGems, Arthur Pink: “Nothing Is Hidden“