Hans Nielsen Hauge - the Father of Lay Activity and the Spiritual
Life Movement Among the Norwegians
To describe the life of this great apostle of repentance and Christian testimony, about whom so many books have been written, cannot now be done. He was a great gift from heaven to the Norse people. He was born April 3, 1771, in the Tune parish, southeast of
Oslo . The outstanding day for himself, for lay activity and
Church history was April 5, 1796, when out in the field, after a long spiritual struggle, he was born again, set free and filled with the Holy Spirit. He received the call from heaven to confess the name of Christ at all occasions and call sinners to repentance. The glory of God filled his soul for some three weeks in such a way that he hardly felt the need of eating, drinking or even sleeping-only a couple of hours a night, and people thought he was going crazy.
Then came a new fight. Then the testing. Then the fiery darts of the devil - while God pressed on with the high calling. "O send some one else!'' he cried.”Send a professor! Send a bishop! How can I, a young ignorant farmer boy go out preaching the Gospel? Let me die!'' But God whispered: "Will you now die? Before you served sin. I have saved you from sin. Should you not serve me now?" So the call stood forth plain and big as a cloudless moon and Hauge was sent out by the Holy Ghost - out and out and out, through the length and breadth of
with a burning message from a burning heart: "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
To sum it all up: From April 5, 1796, to his long imprisonment which began October 24, 1804 Hauge found a wonderful outlet for the spiritual power God had given Him. He went from house to house, from parish to parish, from one end of the country to another preaching the living Truth. The 600 churches of
were there to be sure, and everybody was a church member. There was organization, but no life, no power. Now the Gospel was preached from experience and in living power. Not in a single church would Hauge be permitted to preach or was ever permitted. No, not one. But outside the churches after services, in market places, in high-ways and by-ways, in private houses, doing personal work, along the roads as he traveled, he went on in his most wonderful, soul-saving career. I doubt if he ever held a meeting, unless it led to the conversion of one or more souls.
But the progress he did make, he made on his knees. On the way to
Oslo to publish his first book - he published in all some 36 books and publications - he was assaulted by the devil. How did he win? On his knees in prayer to God. On the way to the parish of Rollag, Nummedahl, when the devil appeared, just as he did to our Savior in the wilderness, how did he overcome him? On his knees, standing on the promises of God our Savior.
But as salvation was drawing nigh to hearts, settlements, parishes, the entire nation, the devil got frightfully busy and raised a horrible cyclone against him. At first the most slanderous and lying rumors: "He is a false prophet, a deceiver, a disturber of peace. He makes the people crazy and many commit suicide because of his preaching," etc. When this did not help, the ragings of the devil increased - through the government, the mob, and especially through the ordained ministers: "It is our office and calling to preach; we can well take care of that. What in the world is it you are after? Who has called you to preach?'' Then Hauge published a book describing the awful condition of the people and the churches, writing as follows against the preachers:
"What makes the spiritual condition so hopeless is that the leaders of the people (the ordained ministers) make the way to heaven broad, so the Lord now as before must lament: My people are lost sheep; the shepherds have led them astray. These preachers who are dead in sin close the door to the kingdom against those who want to enter. The true Christians are few, because of soul-destroying teachers (ordained ministers, often called teachers). They are carnal, they are hirelings, and deceive people with a false hope till they wake up in hell.''
Now the devil woke up a perfect cyclone of wrath and persecution through the ordained ministers. Before his final imprisonment, Hauge was arrested nine times; he was struck three times - once by a minister. Once a minister spat him in the face while he was speaking. Finally in October, 1804, the cry against him became so frightful that he was imprisoned for about ten long years and suffered the most barbarous treatment. His books were taken away, no writing material, no friends to visit him - shut up in an unhealthy, damp prison, as if he were the very worst criminal in the country. Once he was let out to help the country manufacture salt - for he was a most skilful man at all practical work - and it was at a time when
blockaded the country. As soon as he had helped the government out in the manufacture of salt, he was remanded to prison again.
Hauge was finally set free in 1814. After that he lived quietly on his little farm, Bredtvedt, near
Oslo till March 29, 1824, when God took his suffering servant and martyr home. His last words were: "Follow Jesus!'' and: "O everlasting and loving God!'' Age only 53.
'The kernel of wheat was put into the ground, through a long, slow and horrible imprisonment and martyrdom, but it was to bear much fruit. Hauge's own personal and evangelistic work was a most unique and wonderful visitation from heaven. God's Spirit had shoved him on in spite of dungeon, fire and sword; yet it was not his greatest work.
The saying that it is better to put ten persons to work than to do the work of ten persons was fully realized by Hauge. He encouraged others; he sent out others. He started a movement that was destined to live after him and lives yet, praise be to God. So by this time there are far more lay-evangelists in
than there are ordained ministers. Hauge sent them out, men and women, only he required of the women-preachers that they should be reputed as good house-keepers also. If they could not preach, he wanted them to use the other gifts God had given them -- to do personal work, to sing, to pray, to give to his cause, to be hospitable, etc. A sense of blood-bought pardon and passion for souls should shove them on and on.
Another great and enduring work Hauge initiated was the centers for spiritual fellowship and spiritual headquarters. These he established from Tromso to Lindesness, lengthwise, and from the Swedish border to the
North Sea , crosswise. So when Hauge was imprisoned and left the scene of Christian work, these fellowship centers carried on. By this time, through God's marvelous grace, there are fellowship and prayer meetings in every one of the 600 parishes, and many groups in each parish, and innumerable chapels or "bedehus" where God's people gather. In the course of time the ritualistic and formalistic ring of iron has been broken, so the lay people have free use of the churches too - long before this time. Then they have their spiritual Bible schools and young people's schools for the conversion of sinners - and evangelistic courses, Bible conferences, etc. God used Hauge to lay the foundation of it all. But he started it on both knees, and that is the way it must be carried on, for the devil is not dead yet. And the moment you aim for higher ground he will hurl his darts at you.
From 1853 and on, God's people commenced to organize their laymen's societies, so every spiritual group by this time belonged to some laymen's organization. At the same time, in 1842, foreign mission work was started-which is now encircling the earth - in China, Mongolia, India, Africa, etc., just from one small country. If we shall fight the devil, there must be no let-up in the soul-winning work. Else we stagnate. Stagnation is death.
This will suffice for this part. We shall in the next part see how the spiritual work that God began through Hauge Was transferred to . The living spiritual power like a flame in the wind made a jump across the . So the river of life was started among our people in in 1825 - sma1l at first, but it has carried much living water through living preaching, living witness-bearing, living Christian work resulting in real and true conversions and living spiritual life. But God began it through Hauge one day out in the field in Tune parish, April 5, 1796. It is for us now living to carry it on, work, testify and pray- till Jesus comes.
It is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.
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