A Cluster of Canaan's Grapes

Robert Tichborne

Originally Printed In 1657

Posted On August 11, 2020

A Cluster of Canaan’s Grapes. Several experimental truths received through private communion with God by His Spirit, grounded on Scripture, and presented to open view for public edification. By the Right Honorable, Sir Robert Tichborne, Lord Mayor of the City of London. 1657.

Biographical Sketch: Robert Tichborne, eldest son of Robert Tichborne of the Skinners' Company, was born in London around 1610. His Grandfather was John Tichborne of Cowden, Kent, who was a direct descendant of Sir Roger de Tichborne, a Noble Knight who flourished in the Reign of King Henry II. Brought up to follow his father’s business into the Skinners’ Company, {who engaged in the trade of skins and furs,} from apprentice in 1631 to his freedom in 1637; young Tichborne ranked high among the City Merchants of London at the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1636 he joined the Honourable Artillery Company of London, and by 1642 served as a Captain in the Yellow Regiment of the London Trained Bands, which at that time were the City of London’s Militia, composed of householders who fulfilled their constitutional obligation to maintain arms and serve in the defense of their City. On the outbreak of civil war he was quick to display a militant Parliamentarianism, and in 1643 became Lieutenant-Colonel of a regiment of London Auxiliaries. In the spring of 1643 he joined other City militants on a London subcommittee established at Salters’ Hall to raise a volunteer citizens’ army. This brought him into close contact with other emerging leaders of political Independency in the City. After the passing of Cromwell’s “Self-Denying Ordinance,” in April of 1645, when the Parliamentary Army was remodeled, he obtained a Captain’s commission in that Army. Tichborne was speedily promoted to the rank of a Colonel; and in 1647 was appointed Commander of the Tower of London by General Thomas Fairfax.

By this time, he was considered as one of Cromwell’s ‘saints’ and according to an official journal entry dated December 24, 1647, at a Council of War, “Cromwell, Ireton and Tichborne prayed, and from Scripture exhorted to Unity and Obedience to Commands.” He likewise appears to have been one of the greatest advocates for the destruction and execution of King Charles I, presenting a petition from the Council of London for his trial; and as a Commissioner of the High Court of Justice, gave judgment, and signed the fatal warrant for his execution on January 27th, 1649. It was also during that eventful year that both his religious works were printed. “A Cluster of Canaan’s Grapes,” dedicated to Lord Thomas Fairfax; and “The Rest of Faith,” which he dedicated to Oliver Cromwell. Notwithstanding the pressure of political involvement during this period, it would appear that he also still managed time to attend to his trade, and thereby largely increased his fortune. Civic honours were heaped upon him, and with the ensuing political transformation in London, Tichborne was elected Alderman for Farringdon in July 1649, and a London Sheriff and Master of the Skinners’ Company in 1650. In 1653 Tichborne was elected as one of the members for London of that Parliament which gave Oliver Cromwell the Protectorship. The Lord Protector himself knighted him on December 15, 1655, and summoned him to his House of Lords in December of 1657. In the autumn of 1656 he was elected Lord Mayor of the City of London, and took his oath of Office at Westminster, on October 29, 1656. Of course, upon Cromwell’s death, {on the 3rd of September in 1658,} Tichborne’s political world began to crumble; and as early as April 1660, {after the failure of establishing Cromwell’s son Richard as Ruler of England, and just prior to Charles II being proclaimed King again on May 14th,} Tichborne, along with John Ireton, {John Ireton, 1615–1689, also Lord Mayor of London, and brother of General Henry Ireton. He was knighted by Oliver Cromwell. In 1652 he was appointed a Sheriff of London and in 1658 elected Lord Mayor of London. In 1660 at the Restoration, he was excepted from the Act of Indemnity, and for a time imprisoned in the Tower of London,} who were both now considered highly dangerous from their firm adherence to Cromwell, were both arrested, charged with high treason, all their wealth confiscated and were sent to the Tower of London to await their trial. Tichborne writes, “it is not unknown to us under how many scandals we groan, and how our Names hang up a sunning in all parts of the Nation, all bedaubed with infamous imputations, like an old greasy pair of breeches embroidered with Fullers Earth. We confess that according to the proverb, men that have ill names are as good as half hanged.”

Upon sentencing Tichborne humbly confessed to his activity in the execution of Charles Stuart; and among other things said, “my Lord, it was my unhappiness to be called to so sad a work, when I had so few years over my head; a person neither bred up in the laws, nor in Parliament, where laws are made. I can say with a clear conscience, I had no more enmity in my heart to his Majesty than I had to my wife that lay in my bosom - had I known that then which I do now, {I do not mean, my Lord, my afflictions and sufferings; it is not my sufferings make me acknowledge,} I would have chosen a red hot oven to have gone into as soon as that meeting – the Great God before whom we all stand hath shown his tender mercy to persons upon repentance. Paul tells us, though a blasphemer and a persecutor of Christ, it being done ignorantly, upon repentance he found mercy. My Lord, mercy I have found, and I do not doubt mercy I shall find. My Lord, I came in upon proclamation; and now I am here, I have in truth, given your Lordship a clear and full account, whatever the Law shall pronounce, because I was ignorant. Yet, I hope, there will be room found for that mercy and grace that I think was intended by the proclamation, and, I hope, by the Parliament of England. I shall say no more; but in pleading of that, humbly beg that your Lordships will be instrumental to the King and Parliament on my behalf.” This humble confession and the fact that he had previously saved some Royalists from death by execution, kept him from immediate execution, but he never regained his liberty. He spent the rest of his days in prison, although his wife and children were permitted to live with him during his imprisonment in Dover Castle in 1664–74. He died in the Tower of London on 6 July 1682, and was buried with the utmost confidentiality in Mercers’ Chapel. The irony of his imprisonment is that he became a prisoner in the very fortress of which he had once commanded.

In an attempt to vindicate himself from the slanders cast upon him, he wrote {whilst imprisoned} this rather whimsical account of himself, “for myself, I was always pragmatical, and withal very schismatical; and being in the cave of Narrow-fortune, I made my Mother the City drunk with the Clusters which I brought from Canaan, {“Cluster of Canaan’s Grapes,” was published in 1657,} and she in her drink made me a Colonel. Now because I had not so much money then, as I have now, I even contented myself with my Lord of Pembroke’s old clothes, and in them my thought was that I was as fine as the best Colonel of them all. Some that saw me march before my Regiment would say, what is the old Earl of Pembroke risen again from the dead? No foolish Galatians, it was not he, for the dead live not, so that it was not my Lord of Pembroke that lived in my clothes, but I that lived in my Lord of Pembroke’s old clothes. Why if the Earl of Pembroke had carried his old clothes to his grave, I could not have had them, neither should I have desired them; but since that he had no need of taking them along with him, as indeed there is no need of clothes where whoremasters and swearers remain, because the place is heated with perpetual fires, even like a Glass-house, should my Lord of Pembroke’s old clothes have been thrown away? Nay verily, but they are in an error that say so; and I shall say this to the face of the whole world, that for my part I think my Lord of Pembroke was more beholding to that servant that sold me his clothes, than to any man in the world, for that he raised unto his Lord a living monument. But it was not my Lord of Pembroke’s clothes that made me famous, it was a certain deliberate, grave, serious, pithy, godly, and most obstreperous piece of {I will not say} sense, because I was the Author, but let them be judges that have patience to read it. Truly it will require some patience in a man to read it all over. So that if patience be a virtue, he that reads it quite through must needs be virtuous. I entitled it a Cluster of Canaan’s Grapes, meaning the grapes which the spies brought out of Canaan. Truly I think it is ominous to bring Grapes from Canaan; for from the time I brought home my Clusters, have I been counted a Spy too, not without reason; for to tell the truth, I have been a spy upon the City ever since. This book made me appear to the world such a simple fellow, as if butter itself would not melt in my mouth. But Cromwell my very good Lord and Master, a man of a most piercing apprehension, finding that my mouth was not only able to melt the butter, but that my throat also was wide enough to swallow the gudgeons, and perceiving me to have an ostrich conscience, he took me into his arms, and said, Friend Tichborne, I find thee as fit for my turn as if I had made thee myself, and therefore do but help me to carry on this great work of mine, and I will reward thee, not, that like a saint thou shalt trust me till the world to come, but I will reward thee in this world, yea even in this world wherein thou now livest. Dost thou want honour? I will make thee Lord Mayor of London. Dost thou want money? Thou shalt be my Danae, and I will shower gold into thy lap. Say you so, thought I, money will make a Mayor to go. Truly it made me to go about many designs which few men but he thanked me for; and I will say thus much for myself, and a fig for myself, that if faithfulness and reality be virtuous, I was virtuous, for I was always faithful and real to him I served.”

He further writes, “thus, I hope, we have fully satisfied the world, if the world be not as unreasonable as ourselves; for I confess I think ‘twas not a small matter that satisfied us. ‘Tis true, perhaps we may be a little puzzled what to say at the last day; but be of good comfort Brother Ireton, for if it be impossible for Saints to err, then it will go well enough of our side. Now I am as confident as I stand here we are two Saints; for I have proved it in my most odoriferous treatise of Muscadine, {a grape vine,} which gives you such essential marks of a Saint, that it may indeed be called the saints butter-print. You may there see a saint cut as exactly as a French gown. Now does anybody think that my soul could breathe forth such experiences and holy truths, and I be a knave? Now if there were nothing else, this were enough to satisfy any reasonable man. And therefore I shall say no more till I shall come to preach to the multitude upon a Ladder, {a reference to the ladder leading up to his execution, which would of giving him a brief platform to vindicate his cause, which at that time, he felt certain, would be his dreaded portion,} and then you shall hear as much again, if it be but only to delay time.” {THE APOLOGY OF Robert Tichborne & John Ireton. Being a serious VINDICATION of themselves and the GOOD OLD CAUSE, from the Imputations cast upon them, and it by the triumphing City and Nation in this their day of Desertion, London, 1660.}

According to Wilson, {Dissenting Churches Vol. 1,} there is a report that Tichborne preached frequently in William Kiffin’s Devonshire Square {Particular Baptist} Assembly during the reign of Oliver Cromwell; and another source informs us that Tichborne also had strong spiritual ties with George Cokayne, {1619-1691,} an Independent Minister, whose London Congregation met at St Pancras, Soper Lane, and of which congregation Tichborne himself was a member. This is the same Cokayne, who joined with Henry Pinnell in 1646, in writing a long recommendatory preface to the works of Tobias Crisp. {“Christ alone Exalted,” Volume III, 1646.} A close examination of Tichborne’s “Cluster of Grapes” warrant the speculation that these were preached sermons that were {after their delivery} edited, and perhaps improved by the author; and if so; {and if Tichborne did frequently preach at Devonshire Square,} these discourses may indeed be the closest example of the type of preaching that characterized this formative Particular Baptist Assembly. Certainly, when one compares the contents of this work with the body of truth as set forth in the London Confession of 1646; the writings of Samuel Richardson, {another early Particular Baptist,} and the early sentiments of William Kiffin himself; one can see a beautiful Gospel Accord, as these messages flow simultaneously with the essence of Heavenly Truth contended for at this time; and more especially in their essential exaltation of Christ. {A note of interest obtained from the Cromwell Family Papers at the Cambridgeshire Record Office is the fact that Tichborne; who was Lord Major of London at the time; performed the marriage ceremony of William Kiffin’s daughter Hannah, who in 1657 married Benjamin Hewling; a rich and eminent Turkey merchant, and citizen of London. The paper states that the marriage was witnessed by both William Kiffin and Hanserd Knollys.}

Joseph Caryl, {Nonconformist 1602-1673,} in an attempt to promote Tichborne’s book said, “I have delightfully looked upon these Clusters of Canaan’s Grapes, and have helped them to the Press, that they may be wine for common drinking; I only mind the reader, that these Grapes yield the New Wine of the Gospel; let him take heed he puts it not into the Old Bottles of envy or of malice, of prejudice or of contempt; for if he do, his bottles will break; and though the wine, {because it is saving wine,} cannot but be safe, yet himself will be a loser, yea, in danger to be lost; whereas, his profit and salvation are {I believe, on this side the glory of God} the highest end of the author, is this publication, as they are of the licenser.”

In conclusion, let us examine a few of Tichborne’s own motives for sending forth his book, as found in its Preface to the Readers, “I know that you will wonder why I mean to appear in print, especially in these times, when plain truths from the most of men, will find nothing else but plain scorn; most men have sight but on one side, and their stomachs so full of crudity’s, that they cannot else but vomit up with scorn in the face of him that brings them, even saving truths; beside you will think I cannot be ignorant but to know, that my very name will prejudice these truths unto many that live by fancy more than faith; such as will cavil with all Truth that comes by hand they like not, and have little other grounds for the Truth they take up, but that it come by such hands that they at present fancy. I confess that I cannot make myself so ignorant as not to understand these things; nor is it my design by appearing in print to make myself public, for I expect by it to be the derision of most men; nor do I print because I think the press wants work, for I am thoroughly convinced that much evil hath overspread this Land by those many unsavoury pamphlets, and those rending, dividing principles which have this way been spread abroad, by which the members of Christ have been scandalized, rent and divided and have almost made themselves a prey to the wild boars, and the subtle foxes, which have no higher ends but to destroy the tender vines. The reasons why I choose to render myself to the world’s scorn in this matter and manner are these. It is the manifesting of his Free Grace that is my design in giving forth freely as I received; and I shall I trust with much more ease bear the reproaches of the world than I could a concealment of the love of God in Christ. - God hath molded me into his will, and I do freely cast myself upon his love and power, to bear up my spirit to carry me through good and evil reports, and I hope shall ever esteem of this worlds scorn as not worthy of thoughts in that day when God shall manifest his will and work to me. A second reason why I thus appear, is that I might be a Christian servant to fellow saints. God is as free in giving as he is in saving, he gives what he pleaseth, how he pleaseth, when he pleaseth, and by whom he pleaseth; and this I have in some measure experienced of God, and I think it my duty to be a servant to God and to fellow saints, to bring unto them what I have received from him. When saints reveal their knowledge and experience of God, they do thereby confirm, strengthen and build up one another in their most holy faith; and I know of no higher work that saints on earth have than this, and were it more in practice, I do verily believe that the beauty of holiness and the power of godliness would be more transparent; but instead of serving one another this way in the Spirit of God, we are devouring and destroying one another by an evil spirit of lying and slandering, and needless jealousies one of another. This is either in the beginning or the end of most men’s discourses, of their printings; and it hath been, {where I am sure it ought not to be,} in men’s preachings. These tares which the evil man hath sown amongst the good seed have exceedingly scandalized the Gospel of Christ with the professors thereof; and if God delight in this generation, he will exceedingly humble us under this very thing. Instead of crucifying Christ in one another, saints should be servants to carry Christ to each other; I mean their light in Christ, and their experiences of the love, faithfulness and holiness of God. This would increase love to God and his people instead of devouring; beget embracings into the bosom and arms of love, and faithfulness; not to stab and scandalize, but to honour and vindicate every child of God. A third reason that moves me in this, to stir up those many thousands which this land affords that are abundantly more able to take up this necessary work. Truly it is sad to see how frothy and light things do take up the spirits of able and godly men, when is this only thing necessary is as it were quite forgotten, not only dead but buried out of sight. I do believe these last seven years have brought forth as little of this fruit, as any seven years before, in which men did complain that they dare not send truths abroad, lest in so doing they should be confined to prisons. Had the seven years liberty that the Press has had been improved in this, through the blessing of God, it might have left such monuments of God in the world as after ages might have blessed him for. I do believe Satan hath blinded much of this work from appearing by the scandal and reproach of the world which is usually cast upon it; truly I found it a very hard thing to get over, but when God gave me to understand, that the good and comfort of one soul was of greater weight than the reproach of all the world, I was immediately carried above that temptation, and I hear mention it to stir up others to the same work; for doubtless God hath many thousand poor saints in this Kingdom which will gladly gather up those pearls of Divine truths, which the swine of the world trample under their feet; and if but one soul bless God in truth for the revealing of these truths, though many thousands profane ones should come scorn me to my face, yet I shall not lose my end, nor repent of my reproaches, if God be honoured by them. My last reason is to give the world a true discovery of my spirit, and light in those things which I count weighty, and every truth of them to be more concernment than a thousand worlds. I cannot tell the thoughts of men concerning myself, nor will presume to take the place of God to judge the thoughts of any; but this I can truly tell that in the following truths I have clearly opened my heart to the view of every reader, and have faithfully given to the world what light God hath given to me in those main truths and fundamentals of Salvation, in which my soul lives, and what I can cheerfully die in, the next moment. - I shall hold you no longer in the porch, but open every door of the house that you may both read and see the truths of God made known by his Spirit, to the weakest, and one as unworthy as any of his servants.”

Finally, whilst we warmly recommend these choice discourses to any discerning believer in Christ, we likewise would bring to the attention of any weak, wounded or dejected brethren, struggling daily with the body of their death, and perhaps confounded by reason of their many failures and shortcomings; and, lest in discovering the heavenly nature of that life of separation, self-mortification and almost ‘hyper’ spirituality as sometimes contended for by the author, would tend to become nearly confounded as enabled to contemplate the ‘poor’ state, {in comparison,} that they often find themselves in, so easily forgetting the riches that belong to them in Christ Jesus, {who is indeed made unto his people all their wisdom, righteousness and sanctification,} that we look not to the things which are seen, felt or even agonized over, but, that as enabled to do so, consider only Him, that saves to the uttermost all that the Father intended for him to save, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” Phil.3:13. Overall, these messages emit such a distinctive savor of Christ, that those who have been granted a spiritual appetite to relish all things relating to his Person & Work, will not go away dissatisfied!