Monday, March 27, 2006

March 28/29: Hans Nielsen Hauge, Renewer of the Church, 1824

Depending on which church calendar you're using, we remember Hans Nielsen Hauge on Tuesday and/or Wednesday of this week. James Kiefer provides this biographical note about Hans Nielsen Hauge, who was born in 1771 in rural Norway, about fifty miles from Oslo. He had little formal education, but was a skilled carpenter and repairman, and was thus economically secure. He was reared in a devout home, and as a young man he did much religious reading, and was deeply worried that he might be damned. While working on his father's farm, on 5 April 1796 (just two days after he turned 25), he had a mystical experience. He suddenly felt assured of his salvation and called to share his assurance with others. He began to travel through Norway and Denmark, preaching everywhere about "the living faith," the personal commitment to the Lord that transforms the believer's life. He also wrote on the subject, producing about thirty books. He described his conversion experience as follows:

Sometimes I fell on my knees and prayed almighty God for the sake of His Son to establish me on the spiritual rock, Christ Jesus. ... One day while I was working outside under the open sky, I sang from memory the hymn, "Jesus, I Long for Thy Blessed Communion." ... At this point my mind became so exalted that I was not myself aware of, nor can I express, what took place in my soul. For I was beside myself. As soon as I came to my senses, I was filled with regret that I had not served this loving transcendentally good God. Now it seemed to me that nothing in this world was worthy of any regard. That my soul possessed something supernatural, divine, and blessed; that there was a glory that no tongue can utter--that I remember as clearly as if it had happened only a few days ago. And it is now nearly twenty years since the love of God visited me so abundantly. ... Now I wanted very much to serve God. I asked Him to reveal to me what I should do. The answer echoed in my heart, "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."

Norwegian law at that time prohibited any religious meetings except under the supervision of the parish pastor. Many of the authorities, in both church and state, thought that a movement led by an uneducated peasant might veer off unpredictably in any direction, and was best stopped before it did. After several arrests, and releases, he was finally imprisoned in 1804. I n 1809 he was released to work on a project to extract salt from the ocean, and then imprisoned again. In 1811 he was permitted to return to farming, and in 1813 arrested and imprisoned again for preaching. Finally released, he married twice, but his first wife died soon after their marriage, and three of his four children died in infancy. By this time, he had the friendship and support of several bishops. His health broken, his spirit broken, and his confidence in his mission weakened, he died on 29 March 1824. Because his preaching coincided with the years during which many Norwegians were immigrating to America, the Haugean influence on Lutheranism in America has been considerable.

For his ministry of renewal in the Church, you may wish to say something like this to God:

Gracious Father, we praise you because, when the zeal and love of your Church has grown cold, you stir up the hearts of your people, by sending to them men and women of faith, as you sent your servant Hans Nielsen Hauge, to preach repentance and renewal; and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such preaching, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Blogger Carl Heinlein said...

I can see his dilemma. Although, we can get a life lesson out of his story. Even though hard, we should strive to expand God's Kingdom even though we don't know if we are getting anywhere, or even if we think we're really not contributing. I have that problem sometimes, but I try my best to pray before I get really discouraged. Sometimes it takes friends. It takes time and endurance. Hans sounds like he did great and had a pretty influential witnessing arm. Praise God!! It's too bad he couldn't live to see his influence and what God did. Truly the best things sometimes grow really slowly.

Tuesday, 28 March, 2006  

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