Hostile Bishops Jailed Hans Hauge for Preaching in Norway
WHEN Hans Nielsen Hauge of Norway was in his mid-twenties, he felt dissatisfied with his Christian life. There had to be something more, he thought. He read many religious books and they filled him with a fear of hell and longing to be established on “the spiritual rock, Jesus Christ.” He reached such a state of desperation that he even fell on his knees out in the fields to pray.
In the spring of 1796, while singing the hymn “Jesus, I Long for Thy Blessed Communion,” he experienced deep joy. “It seemed to me that nothing in this world was worthy of any regard,” he said later. He felt the assurance of salvation and a spiritual renewal welling up within him.
Immediately he asked the Lord what he should do. The thought that formed in his mind was, “You shall confess My name before the people; exhort them to repent and seek Me while I may be found and call upon Me while I am near; and touch their hearts that they may turn from darkness to light.”
Hauge left home and began to preach throughout Norway. At the time it was illegal for laypeople to preach unless they were under the supervision of a clergyman of the Lutheran state church. Because Hauge ignored this “Conventicle Act” by preaching and forming religious groups, he went to jail ten times. As soon as he was released each time, he returned to preaching. He traveled thousands of miles, paying for his lodging with mittens and socks that he knitted. Wherever he spoke, revival followed and large numbers of peasants came to Christ. His converts prospered because he had a knack for teaching business and industrial skills as well as the gospel. He also sought to uplift women by urging they be allowed a voice in assemblies and commending the role of housekeeping.
In spite of the good he was doing, opposing bishops called for his execution. They were jealous that he, an untrained layman, was achieving what they could not, and furious that he was encroaching on their turf. Although they could not prevail to get him hung, they were able to have him imprisoned for a decade (1804-1814).
Hauge’s wife and most of his children died before him. Later, his own health failed. He was just fifty-three when, bleeding from the lungs, he died on this day 29 March, 1824. His last words were, “O Thou eternal, loving God!” Friends who gathered around his bed said his face shone with light.
His legacy was enormous. Not only was he the founder of Norwegian Pietism (a movement that emphasized personal knowledge of God, obedience, and holy living) but he also left thousands of converts. Emigrating to South Africa and the United States, these believers carried their vibrant faith with them and revival sometimes followed.
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Hauge was a Pietist, a Lutheran movement that originated in the seventeenth century as people sought a living and active faith. Watch God's Glory, Neighbor's Good: The Story of Pietism.
God's Glory, Neighbor's Good: The Story of Pietism can also be streamed at RedeemTV
To learn more about how Christianity first came to Norway, read “Be Christian or Die” and "Dead Man Converting" in Christian History #63, A Severe Salvation