A notable feature of Oliver Cromwell’s letter of 25 October 1646 to his daughter Bridget Ireton is the cheerful spirit in which he reports to Bridget the mental distress of her sister Elizabeth Claypole, only seventeen and not yet a year married:

your Sister Claypole is (I trust in mercy) exercised with some perplexed thoughts. She sees her own vanity and carnal mind, bewailing it: she seeks after (as I hope also) that which will satisfy. And thus to be a seeker is to be of the best sect next to a finder; and such an one shall every faithful humble seeker be at the end. Happy seeker, happy finder! Who ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, without some sense of self, vanity, and badness? Who ever tasted that graciousness of His, and could go [become] less in desire, and less than pressing after full enjoyment? 1

Why is this father not distressed that his favorite daughter is distressed? Optimism about the situation is implicit in the scriptural verses that Cromwell’s writing “she seeks” may have recalled to him: those verses in Luke in which Jesus promises that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (11:13) and that one had only to “seek, and ye shall find” (11:9). Moreover, the thought that his beloved daughter is perplexed and bewails her own nature cheers Cromwell because he is committed to the idea that introspection rigorously conducted is the surest way to the joy of being fully open to God’s grace, letting Christ into the heart, “that which will satisfy.” 2 This idea is hardly unusual, some sense of it being shared right across the Interregnum religious spectrum from Presbyterian to Quaker. But when radical spiritualists greatly magnified the direct operations of divine grace on the human heart by slighting the role of church ordinances and the preaching of the paid clergy as conduits of grace, this idea of an unmediated relationship between the believer and Christ divided churchman and “enthusiast.” As we shall see, a considerable number of devout people (often called “Seekers” came to disdain all formal worship in churches even before they were able to find satisfaction in private worship; their seeking could be more prolonged, more uncertain, and thus more painful than Cromwell here appears to think.