Jon Groseth--The Old Laymen's Principle
What was the old laymen's principle? (Det gamle laegmands princip.) It was to go out with the word of salvation in private and public without a human call, without invitation and without compensation - trusting in the Lord for it all, and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
It was the principle of the first Christians in the Acts of the Apostles and of those who came much later. The Valdense laymen from 1179 and on followed this principle; so did Hauge and the early Haugeans both in Norway and among us, up to as late as 1875. Then the newly organized Hauge Synod began to send the laymen out, giving them a little compensation, something like from $10 to $20 a month. Later the laymen's societies did the same. As time passed the old lay-principle has gone more and more into disuse, till by this time very few, if any, are out preaching the Gospel unless they have a human call, an invitation, and even more or less compensation. The tent-meetings, the inner mission societies are carrying on are in some modified form a revival of part of the old laymen's principle.
The late Pastor I. S. Olson said that Jon Groseth was one of the last representatives of the old laymen's principle. We know, however, that he was sent out by the former Hauge Synod also.
Jon Groseth was of powerful physique, a warm Christian and a blessed witness for the Lord. He was out often to have gospel meetings here and there on his own initiative, as just referred to, according to the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes nearer at home and at times farther away--even as far as Radcliffe, Iowa.
One time, I. S. Olson told me, everything seemed to be closed. He had no church authority to fall back on and no invitation and was looked upon as an unwelcome visitor. He became very downcast and started for home. Then he heard a voice say: "Jeg er Gud foruten dig'' -- "I am God without your help.'' --Then he fell down on his knees and began to plead with God for strength to keep on in faith. The thought had struck him that God might throw him on the scrap-heap and make no more use of him, unless he obeyed the Spirit.
God now opened up the doors so he could have meetings. He had tried his faith severely. How tender toward the voice of the Holy Spirit the old laymen were-grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, was a word they very often used and practiced.
Jon Groseth and wife, Johanna, came over from near Trondheim in 1871. They organized the Melhus Church north of Centerville, S.D. G. Graven was their minister. But he could not come around so very often. The Christians with Jon Groseth in the lead kept it up with devotional meetings on Sunday and prayer meetings during the week just the same. Of course Graven encouraged them to do it also.
Jon was also a good singer. He was often heard to pray and sing in his sleep. Thus living up to the word: "Pray without ceasing.''
Groseth and wife were converted Haugeans from Norway. He was born in 1842 and was summoned home in 1904. She survived him some years. They had the great joy of seeing most, if not all of their many children, walking in the "good old paths.'' Rev. N. Okerlund is a son-in-law.
Jon Groseth's daughter, missionary Ida Groseth, who was born in 1872, was converted to God while young and was possessed of a very fervent heart-concern for the salvation of souls. In 1901, she received both an inner and an outer call to go to China. In that far-away heathen land her heart was absorbed in one thing: The salvation of the Chinese people. Her heart was in China, though her body might now and then be in America. She won many souls out there. When she left for China the last time her health was not so good, and the doctors told her not to go. But her heart and her love for the Chinese drew her and she went just the same. She entered into the joy of the Lord in China in 1937. She wanted to rest among her dear Chinese Christians. Her wish was granted.
Mr. and Mrs. L. Loveseth and Mr. and Mrs. L. Scotvold the parents of the evangelist, Enock Scotvold and Iver and Sigrid Hoiseth and others were among the testifying and praying God's people. These friends also had the great joy of seeing a number of their children enter in on "the narrow way."
I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day. John 9:4.
We have before us a man with a clear ring--not a man who was primarily an intellectual leader--but one with a genuine, true and clear ring in his spiritual experiences, in his personality, in his convictions, in his tireless labors as a layman and layman's pastor and as a true and genuine Haugean.
Through information from I.S. Olson, U.S. Senator P. Norbeck's book, and other sources, including his own autobiography, I shall briefly describe the life of this dear brother.
Goran Norbeck was born October 13, 1836, in Jemteland, Sweden. He grew up in a worldly and ungodly atmosphere. Even "the pastor who confirmed me was a drunkard.-Nasty rumors were spread about the few real Christians, and I had a bitter hatred against the so-called 'laesare' or laymen.''
But God spoke to him through a very young believer, named Per Jonasson--the first call. At eighteen he came to the neighborhood of Trondheim, Norway, seeking employment-but without God and without hope. 'The spirit placed him at the parting of the ways--the great either-or-lost or saved, converted or unconverted, with Christ or against Him. "On bended knees I confessed my sins and promised obedience to God, even if it should cost me my life." Six months later, after being sorely oppressed by his sins and his lost condition, he was set free and "All things became new!'' he writes. "New light, wonderful peace, new desires and longings and an inward urge to admonish others to seek the Lord."
It was in 1860 that his soul passed from bondage to liberty, and he was encouraged to testify in public and private as he had opportunity.
In 1866 young Norbeck came to Wisconsin--asking and wondering if he could find some real Christians, which his heart yearned to meet. Sure enough, he found them on Spring Prairie, Dane County. He had one dollar left, when he came there--which he sent to his poor mother in Sweden.. . .A fine beginning in the new country.
After harvest-work, painting, carpenter work at La Crosse, Wisconsin, and attendance at public school for two winders, he came to the home of Thomas Eidem, near Elk Point, S. Dak., being married that same year by Elling Eielsen to Karen Kongsvik, a real spiritual young Christian and an excellent wife and helpmate.
For seventeen years Norbeck was a pioneer farmer, a member of St. Peter's Church, and an outstanding witness both at home and farther away. As a lay-evangelist he visited a great number of the little scattered flocks in S.Dak., Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, meeting much discouragement and opposition, but he prayed the troubles away. In his conversion he had promised obedience to the Holy Ghost. He was given grace to be faithful despite poverty and hardships. His faithful wife with the six children was alone on the homestead when he was out on his long and strenuous journeys as an evangelist.
In 1885 Norbeck was ordained upon call from some small congregations near Platte, S.D. He was promised a salary of $180.00 per year. He only received a part of this sum. So the pioneer life had to begin all over again with its endless hardships and trials--years of severe droughts also being added. The family of eight members surely had to learn the lesson of strictest economy.
Norbeck's life and unselfish service were like a gnarled, bent-over, lowly, but very fruitful apple-tree. Not so proud and promising at a distance, as many other trees, but watch it at the season of fruit!--Souls were won. There came to be many Christians in Norbeck's churches. "This man was born there." Though lacking in great gifts and eloquence, there was always an excellent spiritual ring in his messages--on the new birth, confession of Christ, laymen's work and Christian fellowship. He spoke from real experience. He was always a real brother-in need and in deed-at all times. He encouraged others to testify and work for the Lord.
Norbeck was also a man interested in civic affairs. He served in the Legislature at least twice-first in 1872-73 and again in 1889. This bent of mind descended upon his illustrious son, U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck.
Norbeck's first wife died in 1894--a noble Christian who lived above the world and did not lose her smile, despite the untold hardships and trials she went through. His second wife, Nee Sletvold, survived him.
In 1914 Norbeck and wife entered the Old People's Home at Beresford, S. Dak., where he continued his spiritual work among the old people until God called him home on July 17, 1917.
Some of his last words were: "Idag blir det hjemvandring.''--"Today I am going home." He was eighty-one years at his death.
Old Norbeck had the salvation of his children deeply at heart. He always took time for Bible reading and prayer in the family. It is encouraging to know that his two sons, Peter (the senator), who died in 1936, and George, who died in 1938, both turned to father's and mother's God during their last years.
All the Norbecks are buried at the Francke Church cemetery near Platte, S. Dak., where old Norbeck rests among many of his spiritual children.
The following lines fit the lives of Goran Norbeck as well as his first and second wife:
Then live for Christ both day and night,
Be faithful, be brave and true
And lead the lost to life and light,
Let others see JESUS in YOU.
Ole Tuntland.--A Layman of the Old School
This intensely earnest and remarkable witness of God was born in the Hjelmeland Parish, near Stavanger, Norway, August 31, 1847. Powerful spiritual life from the time of H. N. Hauge, of the strict and old-fashioned sort, had flourished in his home parish. Knut Fosaanaa, Lars Logeland, Ole Tytlandsvig and the very gifted sister Helga P. Vormeland were some of the old and spirit-filled witnesses who had made deep impressions on the Tuntland family. Young Ole was brought up under the strictest training and hard work-for which he afterward praised God.
Young Tuntland came to Winneshiek County, Iowa, in 1870, at the age of 23. God led him right into a spiritual revival where he was converted and found peace, as he himself writes in his little book; "Tro godt om Gud''
"My heart had experienced the calling grace of God before, but now it was renewed and increased in such a way that I found peace with God and strength to live a new life. The Lord's holy name be greatly praised for the wonderful grace God gave me. My eyes were opened to see how horrible sin is, and also to taste of the grace of God. Here I fully surrendered to Jesus, my Savior, and I tied the sweet chords of fellowship with the true believers.''
In 1871 brother Tuntland came to Lincoln County near Canton, S. D., where there was much drinking and ungodliness, but a revival broke out in 1872. God, no doubt, used Ole this early in his Christian career to bring sinners to conversion.
Tuntland married Eli P. Kvame in the fall of 1872. They had 10 children. She died in 1893. Five of the children had died in infancy and he was left with five small motherless children. On the day of the funeral, Mons Langeteig, his old pastor, said to the grief-stricken father:
"Nu maa du ikke glemme at takke Gud for laanet, Ole.''
"Do not forget to thank God for the loan, Ole.''
His fine Christian wife had indeed been a loan from God. So Ole could praise God for dear wife and five children who already had crossed the river and were home with God.
What a wonderfully blessed thing is not a heart that overflows with the love of God in daily life! In Tuntland's home the old-time hospitality was practiced-always with devotion at meals, including singing.
When friends left he often would give them a gift. Children often would be given apples, nuts, etc., older people some book, perhaps a Pontoppidan's "Truth Unto Godliness," "Samlingspostillen" or another good book. The needy would be remembered with money--gifts or some other gift of love. But his giving out seemed to make him the more well-to-do through the blessing of God. It is more blessed to give than to take.
Brother Tuntland became a very powerful lay-evangelist and traveled extensively. When I first heard him at Sacred Heart, Minn., in 1910, it felt like a benediction just to listen to his deep, powerful, penetrating, yet tender voice that would reach the inmost chords of your heart. He looked like an ancient patriarch, with long, flowing beard and a most venerable appearance. He was of a very powerful build and gigantic stature, resembling' the old Vikings. He made an impression on you that you would never forget.
The old, converted, low-churchly Hauge friends had started up a church-body on a spiritual basis in 1846, on Jefferson Prairie, Wis. But sorry to say, in 1875-76 they were divided. The majority wanted a new constitution, etc., and reorganized themselves under the name of the Hauge Synod. The minority continued under the old constitution. Old Elling, the spiritual father of so many, and the real founder, chose to remain with the minority, which often has been and still is called the Elling or Eielsen Synod.
We would expect to find Brother Tuntland sticking to the old constitution, father Elling and the minority. He writes: "A couple of days before Elling Eielsen died (January 10, 1883) , he wrote to me and admonished me to hold fast unto our precious children's instruction (Pontoppidan) , and not to neglect prayer, then you will have the victory in every fight."
"Eielsen had often been in our house during his last years. God be praised for this man. While the masses of ministers and others were almost ready to burst with hatred and contempt toward him, I both loved and honored his person and his testimony. When he lifted the sword of the Spirit it was never without results-people either would be changed for the better or get angry and bitter in a most notable way. Elling himself said: There usually is a stirring-up where I come.' "
Tuntland had a way to speak out his meaning in a somewhat blunt way to anyone without fear or favor.
"En dod kan ingen dod fordrive.''--A dead man cannot drive out the dead spirit, neither from a church, nor from an individual. "Will you bring up the children before they are born?'' he said to one minister. Tuntland's program was awakening and new birth first--then a good Christian life to follow.
While Tuntland traveled extensively as a lay-evangelist to a great blessing, his main strength perhaps lay in personal work with the sick, the dying and with the seeking souls whom he would lead to Jesus in a very striking yet a very tender way. His singing was always uplifting. He had a way of singing the truth of sin and grace right into your heart. He knew an unusually large number of hymns by heart, which he would quote with blessed effect. He was a great lover of the writings of our fathers-many of them he knew almost by heart.
Tuntland loved old-fashioned simplicity. Like the great Spurgeon in England, he did not believe in using musical instruments in the church-just plain singing. Neither did he care for so-called consecrated cemeteries, he wanted to be buried on his own farm. Though he valued baptism highly, he did not care for a baptismal font in church. A little simple table with a bowl he held was plenty good enough. He had no use for high churchly ceremonies, neither for "new-fangled" religious ideas. He was somewhat afraid of revival meetings, thinking the conversions at such meetings were too superficial.
He was a great writer of devotional articles in various papers. In 1924 he wrote a little remarkable book about the guidance of God in his life. Title: "Tro godt om Gud." --"Believe What Is Good About God." His last dear wife had just left him then, and he longed for heaven and home. . . During his life and in his "Will" sums of money were given to good causes.
He was an outstanding member of Nazareth Lutheran Church of Eielsen Synod at Centerville, S.D., where he was at the head of the Sunday school, and always conducted a laymen's meeting when there was no regular service by the pastor. When he became too weak to go to church he gathered the people around God's Word and prayer in his own home. He lived at Centerville the last 16 years of his life. He always kept the old festival days of the church for prayer and devotional meetings, as "Bededag" (Prayer Day), Ascension Day, 2nd Day Christmas, etc.
He longed for release and was often heard to say: "Perhaps God will permit me to die today?" When he was asked if he wished for anything, he would answer: "I only wish for heaven." He sent greetings with thanks to all friends for what they had done for him. He was often heard to pray--as his desire had been to pray, speak about God's Word, sing and write spiritual letters. It was a great blessing to be around him. Just before he died he said: "Pray for the people. Run in the race for heaven.''-He entered into the joy of his Lord, Whom he had served so well, June 25, 1926. His pastor, S. Stenby, assisted by J. Blanes, Gisselquist and Stensether spoke at the funeral. In the evening the friends had a prayer-meeting in the old home, where his son Bertel now lives, and where so many blessed prayer meetings had been held.
"O think of the friends over there,
Who before us the Journey have trod,
Of the songs that they breathe on the air
In their home in the palace of God."
"Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable.''
Johan Gunning was an unusual man in many ways--unusually tall, 6 ft. 6 inches; unusually soft-spoken, meek, humble, yet very unmovable, like a strong oak-tree in the forest he had an unusual insight in God's word, sin and grace, like an advanced theological professor, though he was only a common farmer. He was a typical Haugean of the older school, who laid great stress on conversion and the new birth-or lost forever. He lives in the hearts of many of us. His name ought to have a prominent place in our Laymen's History.
Johan Gunning (Gundeng) was born in the Aremark parish, Smaalenene, Norway, Jan. 26, 1842. As this was the home district of our spiritual father, H. N. Hauge, and his co-workers--the so-called "Teachers from Smaalenene'' --Johan was born, bred and lived in the old Hauge atmosphere. Part of the large old Gunning house was set aside for lay-activity and Christian fellowship. 0. A. Bergh, the "Kass-boys"--Ole, Hans and Brynild, who were real apostles of repentance,-and many others had a spiritual home here.
This Hauge layman's spirit with an unusual Christian hospitality followed Johan and his wife Alette. They surely had established a real "laeserhjem", where the old Hauge ministers, laymen and other godly people felt they simply had to come and to stay. There was something irresistibly attractive about that old Haugean hospitality, you felt you simply could not miss out on it.
Gunning came to Kenyon, Minn., in 1864 and came to a full conversion and peace with God not long after, especially through the preaching and personal work of 0.A. Bergh, an old friend of the Gunnings, whom the Hauge Synod had ordained. "Old Bergh,'' as he was called, led many souls to the Lamb of God.
In 1874 Johan and family moved to the vicinity of Faribault, Minn., where he lived ever since and was a pillar in the Church of God.
Gunning was one of the most respected Christian men I have ever known. No wonder he was a member of the Hauge Synod Church Council-an unusual distinction. For some time he traveled as a lay-evangelist. When he arose to speak, whether at a synod meeting or in his home church, there always was given him the most respectful attention, though he spoke in a rather low voice, meekly and softly, without the least attempt to put on any show of eloquence.
Brother Gunning stressed Church discipline very pointedly. When church members back-slid, relapsed into something disorderly, or fell into open sin, they might expect a visit from Gunning. He would first start to question their and then reprove them in his soft, mild, yet outspoken way that would cut right to the core. Once, as N. N. Ronning tells in his last book, and which I have heard myself, the wife in the kitchen heard her husband who had been drinking-she heard him weep and Gunning pray at the same time. She then hurried up to get coffee ready. Her husband repented. His heart was melted. The church discipline had succeeded.
When Gunning came to the seeking, sick and dying, he first wanted to know if they had seen their lost condition. No matter how religious they talked-he might listen a while to this, but the question would soon come: "Er du blit fortapt?"-- "Have you become a lost sinner?" Like the older Haugeans, he was skeptical of false hopes and superficial conversions. He stressed humility and a sense of personal unworthiness a great deal. He was a little afraid that young confessing Christians, students from Red Wing Semi- uary, and even younger preachers, might be a little conceited or even puffed up, so they usually had to undergo a little examination when they came to Gunning. He would often take them down a few notches. The question soon would be sprung: "Have you really seen your lost and helpless condition ?''
But when you learned to know Gunning, you found in him a very kind-hearted, tender and sympathetic soul, and a real brother in the Lord. The spirit of helpfulness and the spirit of thankfulness was in Gunning's heart. Like the older Haugeans, he stressed a great deal the Christian training of children and family devotions.
About the year 1887 a very blessed revival broke out in and about Faribault. H N. Ronning was the pastor. Pastor 0.A. Ostby succeeded Ronning in 1892. The wonderful work of God continued for some years. But the devil, like the Parthian horsemen, turned around in his flight and shot his fiery darts. The question, whether it was right for the converted Christians to remain in the worldly churches, became a live issue around Kenyon and Faribault at that time. Other topics for argument also arose. The brotherly love began to wax cold. Pastor Ostby and most of the converted Christians took one side; Gunning, and sad to say, a majority of the unconverted were on the other.—Finally many of the most earnest Christians left the Church. Ostby had resigned. Later he suffered a complete shipwreck of his faith. Gunning with his deep insight perhaps sensed this tragedy.
But this deplorable division left Gunning in a saddened and somewhat broken condition. He had, to be sure, stood firmly on the old Hauge tradition; but had he not sinned against brotherly love? Failing health set in for the last 10-12 years of his life and added still more to the burden. It surely was a blessed thing that God gave our dear brother, Hans Lybeck, one of the leaders on the other side, grace to have a personal "make up" with Gunning. It lightened his heart and cheered our old brother greatly. We are thankful that God gave him back the blessed assurance and the joy of salvation.
God called his servant home October 1, 1919. He was then 77 years old. His wife, Alette, a real woman of prayer, survived him by some years. Three sons and one daughter Jennie, Mrs. Hans Ulvenes, are still among us.
Was one of the younger men who found his Savior when the revival first began. He was a painter by trade and always a single man. He lived the most intimate prayer life with his Savior. He fed on the "Bread of Life," whenever he had an opportunity. He always had his Testament with him--in the shop and wherever he went. When he entered a home he represented Jesus. Before he left he would read, pray and bear witness.
He was not so forward in meetings, but once when some preacher kept on with a dry discussion about the "narrow gate," Jul broke in with a personal testimony though which the Holy Spirit came into the audience in a remarkable way.
He was a great friend of the poor and needy, especially poor children whom he would befriend. Once he was known to take a poor half-naked boy into a clothing store and dress him up from top to toe. He would do such good works very often, but he would never tell it to others--the left hand should not know what the right did. He would often gather children and young boys around him and point them to the Savior.
Friends would not come to Jul Kallak in vain when in need. He never said "no" if he possibly could help. A new convert had to restore $60 in one case, in order to find peace with God. But he did not have the money and he could not get peace. After a hard struggle he was led to Jul Kallak and opened his heart. Jul found the money to be restored, and the new convert found the peace that casteth all understanding.
Jul Kallak was born in Rodenes parish, southeast of Oslo, Norway, Jan. 24, 1860. He died at Faribault, Minn., Oct. 24, 1917. He did justly, he loved mercy and walked humbly with his God. A Christian sister, Mrs. Julia Dokken is still living near Faribault.
We pass on to one of the most well-known and remarkable witnesses that ever has risen among us. He was remarkable for his great age. He was born at Bardo, Senjen, in the very north of Norway, December 7, 1821, and died near Camrose, Alberta, Canada, June 14, 1917, age 96.
His length of Christian witness-bearing is perhaps record-breaking. He began to confess Christ in public in 1837 at the age of 16 and kept going for 39 years as a lay- preacher in Norway. He continued in this country from 1876 up to the very end of his life, preaching the Gospel of Christ--from 1837 till 1917, or exactly 80 years of very fruitful Christian service. He was ordained among the Hauge people in 1878. At the Hauge Synod annual meeting at Grand Forks, N. D., in 1915, old Bersvend took an active part, even preaching a brief sermon at the Sunday forenoon service. He was then 93.
As a pioneer and hardy spiritual frontiersman "old Bersvend" takes an unusual rank; first for 40 years north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, in snow, ice, intense cold and long distances of travel afoot or in open boats to the distant islands, valleys, mountain districts and inhospitable northern regions.
Then he continued in Northern Minnesota, serving as many as 12 scattered congregations, laboring among unusual hardships from 1878 to 1894, for 16 years, among the first settlers. In 1894 he continued in northern Alberta, Canada. He followed the earliest settlers with God's Word to that northern limit when he was 73 years old. He continued his long travels afoot and on horse among the scattered settlers till 1910, when he retired from the active ministry, age 89, though he continued pointing to the Lamb of God til God called him home in 1917-- age almost 96.
Old Bersvend was an unusually prolific letter-writer, and wrote innumerable articles in religious papers, especially "Budbaereren", the organ of the old Hauge Synod.
About 1914, at the age of 92, he wrote a series of articles in "Budbaereren" on the suffering of our Savior, all under the heading of John 1:29 : "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world."
Old Bersvend takes a place of foremost rank in promoting living, experienced Christianity and layman's activity during his 80 years of Christian service. He was the foremost promoter in organizing the first layman's society, the Red River Valley Society, in 1884. He had a long-ranged Christian vision and looked toward an organization of all Norse lay people in America. This vision was in a great measure realized in 1920, when the Hauge Federation was launched. This promotion of layman's work he continued in Alberta. Old Bersvend founded, together with a few lay-brethren, the first layman's paper among us, "Vidnesbyrd fra Broderkredsen", in 1891 and was the first editor. Next to father Elling Eielsen himself, he is the most outstanding layman's pastor and promoter of layman's work that God has raised up among us.
Old Bersvend had an unusual personality. He was meek, tender, and cheerful with a vein of humor. He had good common sense and an unusual will-power. He was self-taught, self-made-above all, a God-taught and God-made man. He was careful in his life and his words. He was loving, humble and genial. He was a gifted speaker, but spoke mostly in a mildly persuasive but interesting way. He had a word to fit every soul-condition. An official in Norway called him "the layman's bishop."
In stature the beloved old brother was not above medium. He did not possess an iron constitution, as we might expect, judging from 80 years of tremendous hardships. He was very puny and sickly as an infant and very often throughout life he was assailed by attacks of poor health. During the 1890's, he several times wrote letters to the Annual Conventions of the Hauge Synod, telling that he was too weak and ill to attend, etc. But the letters always had a strong spiritual bearing. As if by a miracle God kept him going as a true servant of His in much patience, in affliction and sickness, in distress, in labors, in watching, in fastings, by love unfeigned and by the power of God--for 80 years. Like Abraham he looked forward to the day of Jesus and rejoiced. Like him he died in "good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people."
Bersvend married Marit Johansen in 1851. She died in 1888. They had a number of children. One son, Peder A., a well-known Christian, is still living. A grandson, Palmer Anderson, is a missionary in China.
Syren Patterson-speaking the Truth in Love
This dear old brother with "snow on his head," I shall never forget. Thankful to his daughter, Mrs. H. W. Gesting, Pastor G. 0. Mona, A. J. Krogstad, 0. H. Oace and Hans Lybeck for information furnished about this "grand old man"—in the truest sence of the word—of the former Hauge Synod.
He was born near Oslo, Norway, December 4, 1834. God had bestowed unusual talents upon him, and Bishop N. Laache wanted him to study for the ministry. That door was closed, but when young Soren at the age of 18 received Jesus as his personal Savior, he found the open door into the living experience of salvation, into the "Holy Priesthood" of God's people and into the open Bible. In the course of time he became a living witness and a walking Bible--as he meditated upon it night and day and knew so much of the precious Word by heart.
He learned the trade of cabinet making for a living, though this can hardly be called more than a sideline. His mind and heart were ever in layman's work, God's Word and church history, despite his lack of schooling; he did, however, get some instruction in private from the teachers of Asker Seminary, of which he certainly made good use.
Brother Petterson and wife Eve, nee Johnson, came to America in 1865. She died in 1876, leaving him with three children. He married Mrs. Johanna Anderson in 1879. A daughter from this marriage survives and she writes: "I thank God for father and the blessed memories, and I also can witness that my soul is saved by the grace of God."
At Northfield, and later-1879-1902-at Faribault, Minn., Petterson partly worked at his trade (part of the time he had a furniture store-later working in a factory) or was farming. His heart was not enough in any of this to make a success of it. For one thing he was too goodhearted and let too much out on credit, when he had the store. Then his mind and heart was night and day wrapped up in meditation. In Martensen's Dogmatics, Hagenbach's and Heggtveit's Church Histories. These he just about knew by heart-and first and last his two Bibles which were worn to shreds. After his failure in business, he suffered a severe set-back in his Christian courage, but he burned midnight oil over his precious books to keep the holy flame alive and soon became the same witness-bearing, friendly and genial old Soren again. In 1902 he went to live near Rolette, N. D.
--always in the lead to promote layman's work.
It surely was a fine thing that the former Hauge Synod recognized the God-given talents in this gifted layman. He was chosen as lay-evangelist--one of the most outstanding in the Hauge Synod. Not as a fiery speaker, for he was somewhat slow and deliberate, but he had a wonderful command of the language. His words and thoughts would fit into each other like folded hands. He could draw the lines between the saved and the unsaved, between the Law and the Gospel putting every thought in its right place like books in a well-ordered bookshelf, bringing the blessed truths out before you, clear as crystal.
At a Circuit meeting (not in his own church body) where the ministers had been reading dry theological papers for three days, Soren finally asked for the word. Soon he led the audience to Calvary and brought "its scenes" before them, showing in the most fitting expressions and clear-cut way how Jesus fulfilled the law in our stead and took our punishment upon Himself, that we might be justified by simple faith and have peace with God through Him. Then came his personal testimony at the close:
"I, a sinner, am justified by faith. I, here I stand, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen !"
The Spirit was present. Many hearts were touched. Some no doubt saw light at the cross for the first time. Some cut-and-dried preachers whispered among themselves: "I wonder if he is not a graduate from the Oslo University."
I shall never forget the blessed testimony old Soren once gave on Rev. 6:14. "Sin shall have no dominion over you: For ye are not under the law, but under grace." He drew the lines clearly between the works of the law that cannot save, and salvation by grace alone, and how you must be under grace alone shall you have the victory. He made this clear and distinct, like enlarged pictures you see on the wall.
It was natural that such an intense lover of good books as "old Soren" should have his own book mission, which he never forgot, first in Norway and then among us. Good
books were good medicine and good friends to Soren and he had a genial way of recommending them and their message. He made you forget cost and price and called attention to the good message you needed for your soul. He would travel from home to home, from church to church--always at meetings, large and small-always welcome by the Christians and spiritual ministers. He kept his book mission and his preaching separate-never imposing it on any one. Many will thank old Soren in heaven for the blessed messages through his books.
"More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me."
Soren Petterson was intensely devoted to the spiritual principles of the old Hauge Synod. Its low-church simplicity in worship, its stress on repentance and personal experience, evangelism, layman's activity and the personal testimony: these were ever so dear to his heart.
After 1912 when the Hauge Synod, especially its ministers, were caught by the church union fever, which old Soren was thoroughly inoculated against, he then for once made a very spirited fight--fight against the proposed church union.
By temper and disposition Soren was calm, somewhat humorous, philosophical, good-hearted and good-natured. He was no fighter; he was a natural pacifist. So when his heart was stirred to its depth against the church union he must have felt he had some extremely weighty reasons.
He knew church history as no other man within the church body--the theological professors not excepted. He had carefully studied the formalistic and high church tendencies in the early church, which finally strangled spiritual life and layman's activity and gradually developed into the Roman Catholic Church with its sacramentalism and its hierarchy with the pope at the head.
He knew that the various ordinances and ceremonies in the church bodies the Hauge Synod wanted to enter into the union with were remnants and old hangovers from the Roman Catholic period. He felt in his heart that as the falling away in the last days increased, the form of godliness without its power would increase, and the formalistic tendencies of the larger church bodies would in time overwhelm and drown out the spiritual life and liberty in the Hauge Synod section of the new church body.
Especially was the old ritualistic hangover of the promiscuous laying-on of hands in communion, with absolution, intolerable, if not downright abominable to old Soren. He could not understand why the Hauge Synod could give the right hand of fellowship to such ritualistic and unbiblical practices. By so doing the Hauge spirit would sicken and decay, his dear layman's activity would never thrive, and ritualism, formalism and dead orthodoxy would gradually, like leaven, penetrate and ruin spiritual life and simplicity in worship. The Christian testimony would die.
Old Soren had a battle royal on his hands--in Synod meetings, smaller assemblies, in the church organ, "Budbaereren", where he was especially active with strong contributions against the union; in pamphlets and his book, "Den gamle Grund" -- the Old Foundation--published in 1914, and in innumerable private discussions old Soren fought on. But the union fever raged higher and higher, especially among the worldly and formalistic elements, and nothing seemed to be able to stop it. Unlike the train, old Soren did not slow down for the junction--the end of life. He was getting past 80. It would perhaps have been better for his spiritual life if he had slowed down; certainly it would have been better for his physical well-being. But he fought for his precious convictions to the last day of the existence of his dearly beloved Hauge Synod.
At the last Hauge Synod meeting at St. Paul, Minn., on June 9, 1917, while speaking and warning against the proposed union which was to take effect the next day, our dear old brother was stricken with apoplexy. He would have fallen to the floor, if two of the brethren had not caught him in their arms. His last words were-as he was tottering and his hands, frame and voice were trembling :--"But now I feel I cannot say any more, and I will close in Jesus' Name."
He was rushed to the hospital where he died within a few hours. He was then 83. His pastor, T. J. Lund, accompanied the earthly remains back to Minot, N.D., where burial took place.
Soren Petterson was "little of stature," but a spiritual giant. His memory was remarkable. His spiritual convictions were dear to him as life itself. His greatest joy was to preach Christ and Him crucified. "For to him to live was Christ and death was gain." Rest good, dear old pilgrim ! We shall meet you in the morning just inside the Eastern Gate. Blessed is the memory of Soren Petterson!
Pastor Ole P. Svingen
Brother Svingen was no cheap or lazy Christian. He was fighting for his crown and was in dead earnest for God and the salvation of souls.
He was born at Vaage parish, Gudbrandsdalen, Norway, January 7, 1856. God translated him from darkness into His marvelous light about 1879. Because he could not but speak the things he had experienced, he went out and bore witness as a lay-preacher in Norway for some years. He came among us in 1884. Being in tune with the guidance of the Spirit, he was led to Hauge Seminary at Red Wing, Minnesota, in 1885. God continued to set before him an open door. He was pastor for 24 years. About one-half of this time he labored in the Turtle Mountain District of N. Dak., where he labored tirelessly to lead sinners to repentance and new birth.
Then his health gave out about 1912 and he became an invalid-no doubt because of his zeal f or the kingdom of God and his intense labors, night and day, often in bad weather and roads to serve his scattered congregations around Maddock, N. Dak.
But Brother Svingen had learned to put the government of his life on God's shoulder. He accepted the bitter medicine from God's hand as well as the sweet. For the last 15 years of his life--when he became an helpless invalid, he lived in a special sense in the "House of God's Providence." He did not murmur nor repine, but the Christian visitors realized that he lived above the world. As his sickness continued and the mortal body became more and more broken down, his spirit was living more and more with Christ in the heavenly places.
His sick-bed became his pulpit. The sick-room became a work-shop for the Lord. He was in close touch with Him who sits at the right hand of the power of God. Through this saving power brother Svingen suffered patiently, prayed and interceded, testified and admonished others. I doubt if anyone who visited the suffering brother ever forgot the visit--although at times he was in deep darkness.
On March 7, 1927, he entered into the Sabbath rest that remaineth for the people of God. The frail body, like precious seed, which was sown in weakness, will soon burst forth and blossom into a beautiful flower.
In 1902 brother Svingen preached the opening sermon at the Hauge Synod annual meeting. His text was John 3:16. It was no "cut-and-dried" lecture as such sermons often are, but a testimony from an overflowing heart. In conclusion he challenged the audience by asking:
"How is it with us who have gathered here at this Synod Meeting? Have we learned to know this heavenly love? Have we received His Son through faith? Have we experienced the signs? Have we the life eternal?"
To an old financial statement, sent in to "Budbaereren" about 1896, brother Svingen had added: "From a brother who is fighting for the crown and who is standing in the need of prayer. 0. P. Svingen."
"When thro' the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress."
Professor Hans H. Bergsland
We are thankful for a goodly number of teachers and professors in the various church-bodies who have been of great help directly or indirectly to the Haugean movement.
We had J. N. Kildahl who helped along in the Inner Mission in Chicago, much more than the pastors of the Hauge Synod, and had revivals and prayer-and-testimony meetings in his churches. When he was president of St. Olaf, I am told, he always took time to attend the prayer meetings and listen to the prayers of God's humble people. He was also president of the Hauge Seminary at Red Wing for a year, 1885-86.
Then we have had G. Sverdrup, senior, Sven Oftedal, and many others in the Lutheran Free Church who have stood for a genuine spiritual life, the Christian testimony and the liberty of God's people.--Not to speak of the Lutheran Brethren and Prof. Broen who has no doubt stood in more contact with the Hauge Federation and Hauge Inner Mission societies than perhaps any of the others.
In the former Hauge Synod we had a number of teachers and some presidents of the Seminary, like M. G. Hanson, who likewise have been supporters of the Hauge movement. All these men have served church bodies in a more direct way, and they have been given much good publicity. We have no space, nor sufficient knowledge, nor is it within the scope of this book to take them all along, be they ever so deserving.
Next to Prof . Broen, I believe Prof. Bergsland comes a little nearer to the Hauge movement than any of the others I know of, both for his stand on the Haugean principles of 1846, on spiritual liberty, and the relentless, but wholly unmerited persecution he endured. As an example of a patient, godly and innocent sufferer in persecution and trials, I doubt if his equal can be found among our people these 100 years.
These three main Haugean principles stressed so strongly in the constitution of 1846 are:
1. Christianity is not only a theory, but a real experience of awakening, conversion, true life in God and separation from the world.
2. Simple informal worship such as was practiced by the Apostles and the early church ; as opposed to stiff, formal, ritualistic church practices.
3. Lay-activity, the gifts of grace and the Christian testimony are to be encouraged in public and private. As Bergsland said on a certain occasion, "Do not be afraid to confess Christ in the crowd, boys."--There is a good spiritual ring in such a statement.
To be sure, the Hauge Synod had amended the old constitution in 1875. But the best part of it still continued to live. A layman always opened the forenoon service with prayer, and very often another brother closed with prayer. At the afternoon and evening meetings the minister usually shortened his message to give room for a season of prayer, free singing and testimonies. Then they had mid-week prayer-meetings. When the minister was not there, the lay-people gathered just the same. Often they read a short sermon at the beginning, followed by prayers and testimonies. In the annual reports to the Synod meetings, the president stressed lay-activity and mentioned with thanks to God places where there had been revivals. At the circuit meetings, the laymen testified like the pastors and every circuit in the former Hauge Synod sent out laymen to go around in the various congregations to do personal work and conduct meetings.
That Bergsland was a strong supporter of all this Haugean activity and in the training of the young men along the spiritual low-church principles, I think we can easily prove.
Here is Bergsland's own testimony as gleaned from the report to the Hauge Synod Annual Meeting at Cambridge, Wis 1895 -- a year of persecution. Here comes his testimony:
"But I have rejoiced in my work this year also, in spite of the difficulties. What rejoices my heart the most is that the Holy Spirit has been active among the students. So I can report that the true and living spirit of Christianity has been the leading one at the school.
"The direct reason for this joy is that so many living Christian students come to our school. When those come together in whose hearts the glow of the first love has been kindled, then it warms up the rest of us, and melts hearts which before have been cold."
On the devotional work of the school, Bergsland reports:
"Devotions every morning. Bible hour every Saturday forenoon. Prayer meeting for all every Wednesday night. 'Samtalemote' or testimony meeting, every Saturday night. Smaller prayer meetings by groups here and there Sunday mornings and at other times.--We have seen fruit of these meetings.''
From his report to the Hauge Synod meeting at Roseni church, near Beresford, S. Dak., in 1896, another hard year of persecution, he says: "God's blessing has been upon the school this year also. We began with anxious hearts, which no one will wonder at. But in spite of strife without, we have had peace within. Some new souls have begun to seek the Lord. It has been a great joy for me to witness how the Christian students lead seeking souls to the Savior, whom they know from personal experience. Some of them who come to our school surpass me (overgaar mig) in doing personal work." So far the report.
Now this sounds mighty good. It is the old genuine, humble and true Haugean spirit that shines right through this report. At this very meeting the enemies got up a very heated debate to get rid of him--a debate that lasted two stiff hours. The vote stood: 97 for Bergsland, 72 against. He continued as president for 8 years, from 1889 to 1897. Then they succeeded in getting rid of him as president, but he was professor of theology for 20 years in all, from 1887 till his departure in 1907.
Bergsland had imbibed his great love for Christian liberty and the personal testimony, no doubt, during the two years he spent in Norway. There he attended lectures at the university.--Bergsland was a very good Hebrew scholar, and he also knew Greek and Latin. He also studied at "Hauges Minde," a practical Christian school. But I believe the very best results he obtained from his Norway trip were at an Oslo Inner Mission where personal testimonies were the order of the day. Our beloved brother 0. A. Oace writes of Bergsland and the mission as follows: "Bergsland as professor especially stressed the fellowship of the saints. During the two years he studied at 'Hauges Minde' at Oslo he attended also an 'Inner Mission' testimony meeting. There all classes were along and testified, whether they were wise or foolish. There were professors, preachers, teachers, carpenters, shoemakers, janitors, tailors, wagon-makers, dyers and soap-boilers (saapekokere). (Oace forgot the farmers, but it was in a city.) This wonderful spirit Bergsland had imbibed. He always stood up for 'the peculiar people.'"
Bergsland was very "handy" He built his own house and even the wind-mill was according to his own construction.
He had many enemies who tried to undermine the confidence he had among the people. They tried to make him tired and discouraged. But he stood up for the Truth and stood like a rock in the storm.
The persecution of Bergsland we shall refer to as briefly as we can, without mentioning names. It reached three heights. First, when all the accusations were brought against him at the synod meeting at Cambridge, Wis., in 1895. These sad accusations lie before me at this moment and cover nearly a page and a half . When Bergsland stressed conversion and our personal responsibility, he was branded as a synergist. When he stressed our aim to have spiritual congregations with living Christians, he was branded as donatist. When he stressed Christian liberty as in Rom. 8, and said that Rom. 7 belongs more to the stage of seeking souls, then he was branded as a pelagianist, one who denies original sin. In every case, of course, he was un-Lutheran. "Any stick will do to beat a dog with," Spur- geon says, and it certainly became true here.
Second climax: Bergsland was placed under the ban of the local church, denied communion by the local pastor, who was assisted by one of Bergsland's co-teachers. When C. 0. Brohaugh gave a report of this to the Synod meeting in 1897, he said: "Everyone ought to see that when one teacher is along to place under the ban of the church (Bansette) his fellow teacher (at a theological seminary), then conditions cannot be any more desperate.''--Just think of the terrible strain all this must have caused.
Third climax: Prof. Bergsland was dismissed as president of the Hauge school at the synod meeting in Chicago in 1897. Who helped mostly to bring this about was a middle-element, who had gotten tired of all the strife. They thought it would be better to get another president. The final vote was for Bergsland 70, against him 71--that was a very narrow margin. But when they tried to get Bergsland dismissed as a teacher, the enemies failed totally. M.G. Hanson finally was elected president, Bergsland continuing as a teacher.
Bergsland is an example of meekness, humility, yet stead- fastness, when it comes to suffering persecution.
His own brother, Andrew Bergsland, related, that when Prof. Bergsland was asked how he could take all these bitter public attacks and persecutions so mildly, he answered: "I pray to God before I answer." Here, no doubt, we find the deep secret of his victory.
When Bergsland wrote his reply to the enemies, he closed it with the following paragraph:
"My prayer to God is that He will, by His grace, guide everything so that His name may be glorified and His church built up. May He give me grace to triumph over my own evil nature and believe that even the accuser has a good purpose." --This sounds like almost too much meekness. But it certainly will keep bitterness away from your heart and keep you in the love of God.
Instead of coming with contrary accusations, or at least some slurs and aspersions, something Bergsland never did, he begins his report to the Hauge Synod in 1895 this way:
"Dear Brethren in the Lord: "'Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.' The psalmist had a burden he was not able to carry himself. But he had the experience: "Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.' This has been the experience of God's people at all times. But how good when we can carry our troubles to Him who never grows tired and who never stumbles.''
In the report of 1896, when he was so attacked by his foes, he says: "Difficulties meet us. Life seems to be like a long chain of troubles. But when the Lord convinces us that such tribulation is the real earmark of God's people, then our spirit is lightened again."
Not a single word in any of his reports hits at or throws aspersions at his foes; but he is a meek, suffering saint, who takes everything to God in prayer. This we can easily note.
The sum and substance of his very last report to the Hauge Synod as president of the Seminary is as follows:
"Dear brethren : Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.
"God's seed will never fail. It will dispel darkness, though clouds of trials surround us.--But this light that is sown, remember, is only for the children of God. We have much to be thankful for during the past year. Last year I was filled with anxiety that the work of the school would go to pieces. But we are ashamed of ourselves because we have so little faith. Spiritually speaking, we even have reason to rejoice considering the circumstances. God is sending many praying boys to the school. But I have to add that the Christian life has not been so warm and fervent (fyrrig) as last year. A certain dryness has sort of crept in. But the spirit of God has led us to cry for more spiritual heat and fervency."--Then he tells at some length of a boy who had gotten the assurance of salvation and had died in Jesus, adding: follow necessary it is when death calls you, to have the matter settled with God. What wonderful riches he possesses who in child-like f aith can lie down and die in the bosom Of Jesus."
* * *
Hans Hanson Bergsland was born near Peterson, Minn., January 23, 1858. He was born and raised on a farm. After attending the Hauge Seminary at Red Wing 1879-86, he spent two years in Oslo, as mentioned before. He was president of the Seminary 8 years and professor in theology 20 years. He was never ordained.
Prof. Bergsland was worn out early. Beside the weight of the struggles and cares referred to, he did the work at the seminary for two, or three. He only reached the age of 49. On January 19, 1907, God took his faithful servant home, who "bore the mark of the Lord Jesus." He was survived by his wife Anna, nee Thompson, and six children: Katherine, Theodore, Halfdan, Loner, Grant and Esther.--Pastor 0. B. Nelson is a son-in-law.
Upon his gravestone we read these precious words: "I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness." Psalm 17 :15.
We as a Hauge movement are thankful that we in this way can set down a memorial pillar for Prof. Bergsland. May we profit by his Christ-like life, meekness, and patience in tribulation. Let us remember his life-work-to hand down, through the training of Christian young men, to the coming generations the genuine spirit of the Hauge revival movement.
Bergsland's life, helpful advice and godly example is locked and enshrined in many hearts. To this effect we shall in closing listen to a personal testimony of one of the many young men he helped spiritually and trained for the service in the Kingdom of God.
Pastor J. J. Skarpness will give the closing testimony.
A Personal Testimony by J. J. Skarpness
During the Christmas vacation in 1889-90 students Barstad and Langehaug held meetings in Pastor Oppedahl's charge at Green Lake, Spicer, Minn. I went to their meeting's several times and got the impression they were happy in the Lord. By this time I had been a seeking soul for over a year, but I had been gripped by the awful idea that I must have sinned against the Holy Spirit, since God did not answer my prayer. I was sorely troubled--even tempted to take my own life. Oh, how I longed for peace!
The day the young brothers returned to Red Wing I was in Willmar with a load of potatoes, and I went down to the depot to say good-bye. Barstad took me around the neck and said: "Come to Red Wing. It will do you good."
On the way home I pondered on this. How can I go to Red Wing, who have only ten days of English school? But then a voice said: "If you can be saved, it is worth everything." To tell the truth, I really went to the Red Wing Hauge school to get saved, and not to be a student.
I told my boss, Mr. Otternes, as soon as I came home: "I am going to Red Wing tomorrow, if you will loan me $35." He promised, if I would come back and work for him next spring, which I did. And off I went. The school started in January then (1890). Daniel Borgan was the first one I met, and we went together to Prof . Bergsland. He first assigned Borgan the room and his subjects. Then he asked him: "How do you have it with God?" As he had been converted in a revival down by Radcliffe shortly before, he said that he was saved.
After having assigned to me a room and my subjects to study, he asked me; "Are you saved?" "No," I answered, "I don't think I can be saved.'' "why not?" he asked me. "Because I have sinned against the Holy Ghost," I said, "and it is impossible f or me to get peace." He only answered, "Ah-ah" (Aa-aa).
But on Saturday that week Prof. Bergsland preached on Sin against the Holy Spirit. Every word fitted my condition. He preached just to me, it seemed. At the close of the sermon he pictured Jesus on the cross, His suffering and death, as I had never heard it before. I then promised to give my heart to God that very day. I could now see that the way of God was open for me. After I got home I knelt down and prayed, and after a hard struggle I found peace with God. Praise be to His name!
After that I thought ever so much of Prof. Bergsland. I am sure he studied and preached that sermon just to help me. And it was for my salvation. He always was my adviser after that. I will thank him in glory.
Even A. Hjelle--A Cross-bearing Witness
Even Hjelle, who bore an unusual cross of sickness for some 47 years-mostly in bed-and who testified in so many ways in his room of suffering, deserves a place in these records.
Even was born in Valdres, Norway, June 1, 1845. He came with his parents to Peterson, Minn., in 1866. He married Birgitte Kaasa in 1872.
But now God comes with afflictions deep and long. At the age of 23 he contracted typhoid fever and was weak for a long time. A doctor advised 250 ice-cold baths, which completely ruined his nervous system. So the least touch, even to the passing of a dark cloud over the house, went like sharp arrows through his ruined nerves.
But God blessed his trials in many ways. First of all he found Jesus as a personal Savior. Then God gave him a very kindhearted and patient wife. For a while she had both her parents and her husband bedfast at the same time. God also gave him obedient children, who later gave their hearts to God. Even prosperity in temporal things came to him. It certainly is true what a man of God has said: "When God takes away one blessing, He always adds another."
We shall briefly mention some living streams that flowed out from the sick-room of this suffering child of God.
He had great interest in the temperance cause and gave liberally of his means that the awful curse of liquor might be removed from us.
No poor man or spokesman for a good cause ever went away empty from Even Hjelle. He literally practised the word: "Never turn your back upon a poor man, and God will never turn His back upon you."
Like Daniel in Babylon he never forgot to praise God for the blessings received. When the last dreadful war finally closed Nov. 11, 1918, Even prepared an offering of Thanks- giving to God for Thanksgiving Day. His expression of thankfulness was given in the real token of $100 for missions and good causes.
God had given brother Hjelle the blessed gift of intercession-for the pastors, for all Christian workers and mission-fields and revival-meetings. When the time for special meetings came around, we knew old Even was on the mountain like Aaron and Hur and supported God's work and His servants, and prayed for revival. He had the staff of faith and the staff of prayer in his hand. When he heard of somebody being awakened and converted he rejoiced greatly. "Love and rejoice in the Truth" became a real thing in his life.
One blessing of the cross was that it pressed the Word of God into his soul. He found the Word of God and he ate it. I shall never forget the impression it made on me when I first learned to know him in 1914. After learning a little of his untold suffering by night and day, I asked: "How have you been able to hold out so long ?" He answered with deep conviction: "Unless the Word of God had been my delight, I should have perished in my affliclion." (Hvis ikke Guds ord hadde vaeret min lyst, da hadde jeg omkommet i min elendighet.) That day I received a deep insight into that word, such as I never could have learned from any commentary or school of theology.
By that time he had learned some 464 Bible passages and hymn-verses by heart. Whenever he heard a good hymn-verse or Bible passage quoted, he learned it by heart-to the support and strengthening of his soul.
With the Psalmist in Ps. 90, Hjelle literally counted his days. Once, I remember, he said he had spent some 11,000 or-- more days on the bed of suffering. As his intestinal organs also were ruined, he at times had to fast for weeks at the time-19 days, 25 days, etc., practically without any nourishment. For the last 98 days, he took only a little nourishment 13 times. After one such long abstinence from food I asked him how he had it. Answer: "I now really was rejoicing in the hope that I soon would be permitted to go home." I seem to hear the words ringing in my ears yet. He spoke with such peculiarly deep conviction.
With Bunyan, brother Hjelle was often in the valley of the shadow of death. He took it so deep with his Christianity. "I have so little joy and peace, I have so little patience in suffering. I have so little desire for the salvation of souls, etc. Perhaps I deceive myself. Maybe my Christianity is only hypocrisy." One night, as he was in such deep darkness and feeling with Asaph in Ps. 73 that "he was almost gone," he awoke his wife and said: "Find Matt. 14 and read about the sinking Peter, for I am sinking now." "I don't remember," he said, "for sure whether it says that Peter took hold of the hand of Jesus, or if it was Jesus who took hold of Peter. If it says Peter took hold of Jesus, I shall be sinking down in despair. For I am absolutely unable to get hold of Jesus."
His wife read the inspired story, and when she came to the 30th and 31st verses where it says that Peter cried: "Lord save me," and it was not Peter that caught the hand of Jesus, but Jesus that caught hold of Peter, his soul was wonderfully comforted. In his blessed delight over this precious discovery in God's Word he even wrote a spiritual poem. He wrote many poems, and he also had great skill as a wood-worker.
So God's Word was his wonderful resting-place. When he got weaker and lost his eyesight, and could not stand that anybody read to him-he had his blessed treasure of Bible passages and hymn-verses learned by heart. These held him up. As his nerves became so crushed and broken, that he could not talk to people more than a few minutes at the time, he used those few minutes to testify about the one thing needful and to admonish people to seek the Lord. "How sad that I cannot talk any longer," he often said. "How good when we come home, then we can talk as long as we desire."
Finally on Sunday, Feb. 26, 1928, Hjelle came to the last mile-post. He was able to write a real spiritual poem to be read at the funeral. It was an admonition to fight for the crown of life. God released him from this affliction on that day and girded him with the heavenly joy at the age of 83. The showers of blessings he scattered from his darkened sick-room will one day be read to him out of God's Book of Remembrance.
One of his daughters died in the Lord before her father. His wife followed not so long after. A grand-son is in the ministry. A son-in-law died in the Lord Feb. 27, 1941 (Erick Stedje). It was father's prayers that carried them through.
Prof. E. M. Broen
I sit here sighing to God f or grace that I may in a very feeble way describe an unusually rich life in God's service. It is like stepping near an ocean of spiritual activity in pastoral work and in outstanding Christian activity. Here is a man who, though extremely busy otherwise, found time to establish a Bible school and train young men along spiritual lines for God's work. Then I begin to think of his deep prayer-life. It seems as though I can still hear his earnest praying ringing in my ears. Then I think of his evangelistic activity, of how many souls were saved, and how many were edified and blessed. I remember his Bible-hours and how he could feed the Christians. We certainly were made "to lie down in the green pastures" when Broen spoke. I think of his lecture on the four temperaments. Broen had an unusual deep insight into human nature and into psychology, as if he could invert--or turn the human soul inside out. I think of when I saw how his heart was deeply moved as he spoke on foreign missions. I remember his singing and music, how in the most natural and heart-felt way he could bring that in to add to many other blessings, God had endowed him to bestow on us. I think of the first lecture I heard him give: "The training of our children." How he could make that otherwise often dry topic most instructive and edifying. He pointed out the faults, and also the remedies, in applications of God's Word, some of which we would not dream. Then I think of his wonderful grasp of the language, and the imagery of his mind that could bring out pearls from the depths of God's Word. I think of his gifts as a Christian writer, of his large book of wonderful sermons, "Guds baekk" and many other smaller books, and all he wrote in the Christian periodical of the Lutheran Brethren, "Broderbaandet." How he could write on the Prophet Amos or on any topic and always hit the nail on the head in chosen words and expressions. His equal among our people here in America has not been found, and I doubt it ever will. We must praise God for this unusual witness He raised up among us.
The Hauge revival movement cannot be limited to any church body, as we have said before. But certainly Prof. Broen was one of its very strongest exponents. In his Bible school at Fergus Falls, and in the training of young Christians for God's work here at home and on the mission field, the Haugean practise and the Hauge revival prineiples run as a strong fundamental when it comes to real low-church practise, spiritual liberty, New Testament simplicity and personal experience. That Christianity is a living experience has been taught and preached by Prof. Broen perhaps more clearly and more consistently from the beginning to the end than by any of our outstanding witnesses from 1825 to 1938.
Broen has been given the rare gift to inspire others, and to set them to work. He would often sit in a large meeting or even at synod meetings and hardly say anything, even when perhaps he ought to have spoken. He was a trainer and inspirer of Christian men. He let them do the work and kept himself often in the back-ground.--Now this will have to do, else l shall never be through.--That he had his faults, and needed to be saved by grace alone, he certainly told us. He could speak most searchingly on sin, and open the door of salvation to poor sinners as could few.
I thought Broen had one fault, but perhaps it is only in my imagination and because I did not know him well enough. I thought he was a little too optimistic at times and failed to sense the power of those deeply-laid old ordinances and old church-customs from the state church which have clung to our people these four hundred years and longer. He had himself contacted spiritual liberty, and thought other Christians should see it. He ran up against disappointments on this point, I believe. But then he was a man that did not slink into a corner, but fought on for life and spiritual consistency--as he saw it--to the end.
We have had four or five outstanding men who have taken up the fight against the dreadful ritualism, which like grave-clothes has hung around us--first for 500 years when we were Roman Catholics, then for these 400 years we have been Lutherans. The reformation ritual and church practise which King Christian III and Luther's friend Bugenhagen worked out for Norway and Denmark in the fall of 1536 were only partly evangelical. Many customs and ordinances from the Roman Catholic church were taken along.
When Broen was converted down in Iowa, studied for the ministry and was ordained by the former United Church in 1893, he began more and more to feel this ritualistic weight, which neither we nor our spiritual fathers, many of them, have been able to bear." Even in the very state church of Norway itself, some of their best men have rebelled against the confirmation ritual of 1736 and the ancient custom of absolving all kinds of unconverted people by the laying on of hands. Even Gisle Johnson, the celebrated theologian of Oslo university, Prof. N. Hertzberg writes in his book, "thanked God that he was not a minister in the state church of Norway.'' Men like A. Hoier at Trondheim, Lydeman near Haugesund and many others rebelled against these iron-clad old ordinances.
Elling Eielsen was the first man to throw overboard many of these old customs according to the constitution of 1846.
Paul Auderson was Number 2. He went still further than Eielsen and simplified the communion ritual and the confirmation ritual still more in his church in Chicago, which he served for 13 years. But when he had to quit on account of bad health, the old formalisms got their old ritual back again. It exerts a dreadful power among our people.
Ole J. Kasa was the next to suffer for spiritual liberty when he was ousted from the Hauge Synod in 1889. Later the Hauge Synod adopted the very principle for which Ole Kasa stood up and for which he was ousted.
Prof. H. H. Bergsland was the next. Though he was really an orthodox Hauge Lutheran and consistently practised the Haugean life principles, yet he was persecuted as perhaps very few among us have been.--"Old Adam is a formalist," Gerberding says in his book and that certainly is true.
By 1901 or 1902 Broen found this old ritualistic yoke intolerable for his conscience, as Lydeman and Hoier had found it in Norway and Ole Kasa here in the Hauge Synod.
He could endure no longer to lay his hands on ungodly and unconverted people and on behalf of "his holy office," as well as God's Word, declare the forgiveness of all their sins. The same applied to the confirmation ritual of 1736, with the introduction about "the sincere confession" and the three questions: "Do you renounce the devil, etc. Do you believe in God, etc. Will you by the grace of God remain faithful, etc." All to be answered with, "I do, I do, and I will."-- To ask these questions and receive these answers from all kinds of young people, some perhaps openly wicked, to make this an iron-clad rule for every one, when he often knew the contrary to be the case, this Broen felt he could no longer do. The rest of the story we can easily understand. The devil rose up against him; the people who wanted these old customs rose up against him. The ministers rose up against him. The church body rose up against him. When Hauge Synod did not spare Ole Kasa, we could not expect any better of the United Church. The leaders of the church body tried both mild persuasions and threats. But when Broen had taken a stand, then he stood like a rock. The result was that he was ousted, just like Kasa. But Broen was a much younger man than Kasa and was given grace to carry it much better. Kasa was 68. Broen, only 39.
Broen, like Kasa, was ahead of his time. By this time he has been thoroughly vindicated. In 1917 at the large church merger-it seems as though I hear the words still ringing in my ears-the former United Church accepted the Haugean practise on an equal basis, not only the low-church ritual of the Hauge Synod, without laying on of hands and leaving out "on behalf of my holy office," but also the so--called "understanding" or "forstaaeelse" of the more liberty- loving element in the former Hauge Synod, that we may have communion without any absolution at all. "This the United Church accepted unanimously" was told us. But for the same thing they had expelled Broen in 1902. However, synod resolutions are one thing and practise according to God's Word another. The old ritualistic customs sit unbelievingly deep in the make-up of our people.
Since 1920 the alter-book of the very state church of Norway has vindicated Broen's stand both on the confirmation and the communion question. The soul-suffering of Lydeman and Hoier and others had brought fruit. The well known Brandtzaeg, as we know, could not because of his conscience allow himself to be ordained in the state church of Norway.
In perhaps the majority of parishes there is now no vow at all. The confirmands just go up to the altar and kneel and the minister offers a prayer for them. In some parishes it is elective. Those who decide to take the vow have an opportunity. Those who do not just kneel and are prayed for. Some parishes still cling to the old custom.
As to communion, we find on page 119 in the new altar book of Norway that the old unbiblical words to declare forgiveness of sin to a crowd of people "on behalf of my holy office," is entirely left out. In some churches the laying on of hands is made elective, as each one chooses, as it was in the Bergen "Nykirke" where I myself went to communion in 1923. I took it of course without laying on of hands. In the leading church, the Stavanger Cathedral (Domkirke), where I partook of the Lord's supper in 1934, there was no absolution at all and of course no laying on of hands. Broen's courageous stand has been vindicated by the very "State Church" itself.
When Broen pleaded with God, as many of us have heard him do, there was a note of deep anguish in his pleadings. To be ousted from a church body and to be rejected by the so-called best people we have is a terrible experience. It takes much God-given power and grace to go through it. I believe that deep note of anguish in Broen's prayers was born in his soul-anguish, when he pleaded with God in deep agony to discover God's will, as the strong pressure tightened around him to make him yield to the forces of ritualism rather than to stand on God's Word and in the Christian liberty. Thank God he stood fast.
Our spiritual heritage has been won through much soul- suffering. May we hold it fast and praise God for it.
It went through us almost like an electric shock when it was rumored that Broen died at Moss, Norway, in the winter of 1938. He was on a world-wide trip, but I am afraid it was a trip of labor. He really died in the harness, as he was writing a great deal about his trip, which we read with interest.
Prof . E. M. Broen was born in the Tolgen parish, Osterdalen, Norway, Oct. 7, 1863. During the last years of his life he wrote and spoke a great deal of true Christian unity. "But I am afraid we won't come wholly together as brethren till we experience great trials," he said. Perhaps it was a prophetic word. God took him home to the heavenly fellowship of saints where there is no disharmony, no misunderstandings, no persecution. He rests from his labors, but his works continue after him.
One of the young men he trained, and who for many years was a co-worker, R. S. Gjerde, writes:
"The church body of the Lutheran Brethren was organized in 1900. Broen joined in 1902. The most outstanding gift Broen possessed was to proclaim the Gospel. The strongest part of this again was his gift to awaken sinners. As a Bible teacher he took the practical side. His thoughts were very clear and easy to grasp. He was very mission-minded. His heart was burning for the salvation of souls among the heathen. The hours when he taught 'history of missions' at the Bible school can never be forgotten.
"He fought a great fight against the formalistic customs, when he was ousted by the former United Church in 1902. He refused to accept ungodly communicants. He refused to confirm such young people as lived in open sin. Then the storm came upon him in all its fury. The preaching of the Gospel they tolerated but not when it came to practising it."
May we .praise God for all who have suffered to bring us spiritual freedom.
New waves of ritualism will be sweeping over us in the future, as a form of godliness without power will increase in the last age. Others no doubt will be called upon to suffer for their convictions in the future. Doors will be closed against them and they will be branded as fanatics and undesirable members, or even as proud, stubborn and disloyal persons. Let them remember the anguish and soul-suffering especially such men as Ole Kasa and E. M. Broen have endured for the sake of spiritual liberty and for standing upon God's Word.
Prof . Broen was twice married. His first wife, with whom he had many children, died a number of years ago. His second wife, nee Roton, survives him.
The life and spirit of Prof. Broen is locked in many hearts and lives on in a great many lives-to the glory of God.
Pastor T. J. Oppedahl
Oppedahl, I believe, comes next to Prof. Broen in being like an instrument with many strings-fine strings. In private he was most brotherly and sympathetic. He could comfort the sorrowing. He knew how to win the confidence of people and reach their hearts, as very few have been able to do.
By nature he was straight forward, outspoken and impulsive - much more so than Prof. Broen. He stood fearlessly up for the truth, but his mind did not have so wide a scope as Professor Broen's. Neither was he quite so well balanced. His impulses were at times of a rash nature that would carry him on without so much reflection. But his personality had a peculiar magnetism in it. He drew people, that is, Christians and seeking souls and even worldly people. He drew them by love, tenderness and his very outspoken ways and unusual frankness.
His faults, I should say, were somewhat like Prof. Broen's. He believed the best about people a little too soon. He could be imposed upon a little at times. He did not always look into the depth of the thing.
In the pulpit Oppedahl was nearly always a real inspiration. Not so deep in the Bible as Prof. Broen perhaps. But when he started with concrete thoughts and examples, he filled them with his boundless zeal and enthusiasm.
As to lay-activity, he was always in the front rank, always encouraging and inviting the laymen to be along. He had revivals in his churches at Spicer, Minn., his first charge, and at Sacred Heart where he served so long in two terms, and also at Dawson, Minn.
Oppedahl was also a great student like Broen. He had gone to school in Chicago and Red Wing, but he was above all a self-made and God-made Bible student. He could perhaps not dig so deep in the Bible, but he could make such peculiarly striking applications to real life. He could take a string of Bible passages and somehow get under them-and apply them and make them fit the every-day conditions of life. He was especially against all sham and hypocrisy. He had a special aptitude to preach against dead faith and for a living experience.
By degrees he became one of the most outstanding pastors in the former Hauge Synod. His record as a member on the Union Committee of the former Hauge Synod deserves some special consideration.
Pastor T. J. Oppedalal and the Church Union in 1917
According to secretary N. J. Lohre, the long and often broken career of the old Union Question had been started up again by the Hauge Synod in 1905. A strong union element was by this time in that church body.
But not till 1912 did the union negotiations get real wind in their sails. The Hauge Synod elected 5 members on the union committee, namely, M.G. Johanson, Prof. M.0. Wee, and the three pastors, C.J. Eastvold, J. Lasseson and T.J. Oppedahl.
For four years the discussions and argumentations were carried on. First of course in the joint-committee meetings between the three church-bodies--Hauge, Norw. Synod and United Church. Then in the church-papers, congregations, larger meetings and by private individuals. The forces were slowly lining up on one side or another.
The first thing the joint-committee agreed on was absolution--a peculiar point to bring up in the very beginning, as though it were most important. But it went through. Then came lay-actiyity--of course, controlled lay-activity. It looked good on paper, all agreed to it, and it is good as far as it goes. The Hauge Synod members did their utmost to bring in the low-church points.
Then came "the call and conversion." All agreed on this in the end. That sounds good, and is good. Then came the "Election" that the Hauge Synod really had nothing to do with. The Synod and the United Church had fought over it for some 30 years. They finally agreed on that too, except a small minority within the Norw. Synod.
Then came a good many practical points as to the work of the church-bodies after they were united, etc. They agreed on all in the end.
Finally by the 5th of May, 1915, the joint-committee could report to the respective church bodies that they had reached an agreement. Perhaps two paragraphs in the articles of union drew both the committee of the Hauge Synod and all the others who followed them, more than anything else, over on the church-union side:
In article 4 on church customs it was declared, following Luther, that it was not necessary to carry on the same customs or ritual at services. The Hauge Synod in other words had fully as much right to keep on in a low-church way as the more high-church had to keep on in their way. It should be left to the local church. But this is neutralized again in a sub-paragraph, where it said, we ought to try to carry on in as unified a way as possible.
Then there was another article which the Hauge Synod delegates had fought a great deal for, and for which they deserve credit. It was the one on lay-activity, which finally reads like this:
"Decided: To avoid all misunderstanding in the case, the negotiating church bodies declare that they acknowledge Christian lay-activity, as before decided in the joint- report, and they will encourage it. It shall therefore not be looked upon as church disorder (ukirkelig) or fanatism (svermeri) that people come together for prayer and active work for awakening and spiritual life."
It certainly was a far cry between the stand of most of the old Norwegian Synod pastors, who had declared around 1855 that it was a sin for a layman to pray in public, to this agreement in 1915. We must say it was a great step in the right direction.
In June 1915 the Hauge Synod had its annual meeting in Grand Forks, N. Dak. It turned a rather cold shoulder to the union that year. But the following year, in Red Wing, it went through, 142 for, 103 against.
Now back to Oppedahl. The other members from the Hauge Synod on the Union Committee seemed slowly to have been won over. But Oppedahl fought it tooth and nail during these four years. Oppedahl was not a man for fine distinctions and theories. That was not his strength. I imagine he felt somewhat lost when the others and more scholarly members kept on with those things. But he was strong in sensing the spirit and practical implications. He realized that these things that looked so fine on paper would not be carried out in practise. But he was in a hopeless minority--like a black sheep in the whole joint-committee and even in the committee of 5 from the Hauge Synod. He stood alone at last.
From time to time between 1912 to 1916 he certainly spoke out his opinion. "They say we are agreed on everything," he shouted out once, so it made the old chapel at Red Wing ring. "But we are disagreed on the very main point, the very chief issue, which is a living personal experience through regeneration and conversion."
How Oppedahl stood in 1916 after four years of union efforts with the other church bodies we can see in two, three sentences from his report as Inner Mission Superintendent, which he was at that time.
In regard to low church activity and mission work that ought to be taken up at Fargo, N. Dak., Oppedahl said among other things:
"Somebody might ask: Are there not Lutheran Churches enough in Fargo? To that I want to answer. Many of our Scandinavian people, especially in the big cities, cannot feel at home in churches where preaching is more like a theoretical lecture and the church ritual is the high-church, catholicising liturgy, or form for service. They find themselves more at home with the simple, apostolic, New Testament practise, which is not only for the reason, but which is for the heart."
This part of the speech of brother Oppedahl was immediately attacked from the floor. How in the world could this fit into the church union with the high church element! We can realize how Oppedahl's pent-up feelings against dead ritualism had to find an outburst at times.
To be sure the Hauge Synod got a majority to resent these sentences quoted. Oppedahl was ordered to take them back through the Secretary, N. J. Lohre. Oppedahl's answer to the request to take his strong words back, is as follows: Sacred Heart, Minn., June 24, 1916.
Dear Pastor N. J. Lohre:
Regarding the request of the Hauge Synod that I shall consent to omit from my report those sentences in question, this I neither can nor will accede to (indvilge i). Because those things that are complained against are an expression of true facts (faktisk sandhet) .
With brotherly greeting, T. J. Oppedahl.
So Oppedahl was a real, though losing fighter, against the strong wave of high-church ritualism that was sweeping over us.
Then the great Union Meeting of 1917 came along. But we shall just follow, as far as possible, Oppedahl and the Hauge Synod. During the first days the Hauge Synod wound up its affairs. Old Soren Petterson collapsed as he was making his last attempt to speak against the proposed union. He died shortly after.
Now the very worst stumbling-block to Oppedahl and many of God's living people was article 3 in the conditions for the Church Union. It reads as follows:
"The three church bodies promise one another with all seriousness to follow the rule to have no church work and church meetings with the reformed people and others who do not share in the faith and convictions of aforesaid church bodies.''
This can be understood in different ways to be sure.That it is a straight-jacket to keep the people within strictly denominational lines, that every one can realize.
Now even before this meeting in June 1917, Oppedahl, G.0. Mona, J.F. Melom, 0.H. Oace and a goodly number of others had met to consider what to do when the time for the annual meeting came around. They realized that something ought to be done, but it was difficult to know what to do. If Oppedahl had been a stronger leader something definite might have resulted. But many were afraid of splits and disharmony in their congregations. Finally six men were elected to bring in a resolution to the coming annual meeting. These men were Oppedahl, D.T. Borgen, T.J. Lund, Edw. Hovland, G.0. Mona and 0.H. Oace.
These men had worked out an "Understanding" concerning article 3 in particular.
From this point and on we come to somewhat of a mystery, one that perhaps cannot be cleared up. To be sure the Hauge Synod itself accepted this low-church understanding. Next Prof. G.M. Bruce reported that the United Church had accepted it unanimously.
But this low church understanding of article 3, etc., was also to be accepted by the Norwegian Synod. According to Prof. Wee's, report on page 100 in the 1917 church report, "The Norwegian Synod accepted the low-church understanding of the brethren with a big majority." But on page 166 the secretary, 0.J. Kvale, reports things in detail.
Remember this is while the different church bodies held their separate meetings just before the union took place.
The secretary of the Norwegian Synod reports:
"Prof. M. 0. Wee asked to be granted an opportunity to come with a proposal from the Union Committee of the Hauge Synod.
"Much discussion followed. Several asked questions. Prof. Wee declared that the real issue in the request was not that the synod should recognize this in itself, but recognize those who held these opinions as brethren in the faith.
"It was decided that this request be acceded to, but with this distinct understanding that we (the Norw. Synod) reserve to ourselves the right to speak against such a practise.
Prof. Wee was requested to bring this reservation back to the Hauge synod."
How well he succeeded in doing that, or how well the two secretaries, Lohre and Kvale, have compiled it is a question we may never get answered. Oppedahl himself was satisfied after the reports of Bruce and Wee came in. He said that we better go along in the Union, as they had granted us all we desired. Others think that if we had known the full truth of the Norwegian Synod's stand, a goodly number of ministers and lay-members would never have joined the large church body.
Another mystery is: What became of Oppedahl's low-church understanding? We have hunted for it all over-in the reports from 1916, 1917 and 1918 and in every document I possess, but cannot find it.
We certainly should have it on record. We remember the sum and substance of it.
"That we reserve to ourselves the right to have church work together with the Lutheran Brethren and the Lutheran Free Church." As to the strong point that we shall have nothing to do with the reformed people in a churchly way, it definitely states that this shall not mean funerals, graduations, temperance work, etc. There is also an understanding in regard to communion that it might be detached from absolution, etc.
Oppedahl failed to watch over his program. He and the others should have been present in the meetings of other church bodies when the discussion went on, and not just gone by an oral report.
Toward the last part of his life Oppedahl might have been a little more consistent. His impulsive nature may account for some few inconsistencies in his convictions.
Upon the whole he was a very dear brother that will live in the hearts of a great many souls.
He was born in the Ullensvang parish, Hardanger, Feb.14, 1860. He was ordained by the Haugeans in 1890. He was twice married. He is survived by his second wife and two children from the first marriage.
He was summoned up higher September 11, 1931, from Elliot, Ill. He was buried among the people he had labored with so diligently at Sacred Heart, Minn.
Oppedahl was benevolent almost to a fault. He could not say "no" to a needy person. Christianity was a very personal matter to him. He asked people personal questions about their souls. His personality was open like a gate, so you could walk right into his heart, and he into yours.
It certainly will be fine to meet him on the other side.
The last time he was with us was at the Hauge Federation meeting in 1931 at Eagle Grove, Ia. He certainly made strong pleas for the need of independent lay-activity and true and living Christian life.