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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 10 — Rise and Establishment of Protestantism in Sweden and Denmark

Chapter 5 — Establishment of Protestantism in Sweden

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The Battles of Religion — More Fruitful than those of Kings — Consequences of the Upsala Conference — The King adopts a Reforming Policy — Clergy Refuse the War-levy — Conference respecting Ecclesiastical Possessions and Immunities — Secret Compact of Bishops — A Civil War imminent — Vasa threatens to Abdicate — Diet resolves to Receive the Protestant Religion — 13,000 Estates Surrendered by the Romish Church — Reformation in 1527 — Coronation of Vasa — Ceremonies and Declaration — Reformation Completed in 1529 — Doctrine and Worship of the Reformed Church of Sweden — Old Ceremonies Retained — Death and Character of Gustavus Vasa — Eric XIV. — John — The "Red Book " — Relapse — A Purifying Fire.

IF "Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War," we may say that Religion has her battles yet more glorious than those of kings. They spill no blood, unless when the persecutor comes in with the stake, they make no widows and orphans, they leave behind them as their memorials no blackened cities and no devastated fields; on the contrary, the land where they have been waged is marked by a richer moral verdure than that which clothes countries in which no such conflicts have taken place. It is on these soils that the richest blessings spring up. The dead that lie strewn over these battle-fields are refuted errors and exploded falsehoods. Such battles are twice blessed: they bless the victor, and they bless, in measure yet larger, the vanquished.

One of these battles has just been fought in Sweden, and Pastor Olaf was the conqueror. It was followed by great and durable consequences to that country. It decided the king; any doubts that may have lingered in his mind till now were cleared away, and he cast in his lot without reserve with Protestantism. He saw plainly the course of policy which he ought to pursue for his people's welfare, and he resolved at all hazards to go through with it. He must reduce the overgrown wealth of the Church, he must strip the clergy of their temporal and political power, and set them free for the discharge of their spiritual functions — in short, remodel his kingdom in conformity with the great principles which had triumphed in the late disputation. He did not hide from himself the immense obstacles he would encounter in prosecuting these reforms, but he saw that till they were accomplished he should never reign in peace; and sooner than submit to defeat in a matter he deemed vital, he would abandon the throne.

One thing greatly encouraged Gustavus Vasa. Since the conference at Upsala, the light of the Reformation was spreading wider and wider among his people; the power of the priesthood, from whom he had most to fear, was diminishing in the same proportion. His great task was becoming less difficult every day; time was fighting for him. His coronation had not yet taken place, and he resolved to postpone it till he should be able to be crowned as a Protestant king. This was, in fact, to tell his people that he would reign over them as a Reformed people or not at all. Meanwhile the projects of the enemies of Protestantism conspired with the wishes of Gustavus Vasa toward that result.

Christian II., the abdicated monarch of Denmark, having been sent with a fleet, equipped by his brother-in-law, Charles V., to attempt the recovery of his throne, Gustavus Vasa, knowing that his turn would come next, resolved to fight the battle of Sweden in Denmark by aiding Frederick the sovereign of that country, in his efforts to repel the invader. He summoned a meeting of the Estates at Stockholm, and represented to them the common danger that hung over both countries, and the necessity of providing the means of defending the kingdom. It was agreed to lay a war-tax upon all estates, to melt down the second largest bell in all the churches, and impose a tenth upon all ecclesiastical goods. [1] The possessions of the clergy, consisting of lands, castles, and hoards, were enormous. Abbe Vertot informs us that the clergy of Sweden were alone possessed of more than the king and all the Other Estates of the kingdom together. Notwithstanding that they were so immensely wealthy, they refused to bear their share of the national burdens. Some gave an open resistance to the tax; others met it with an evasive opposition, and by way of retaliating on the authority which had imposed it, raised tumults in various parts of the kingdom. [2] To put an end to these disturbances the king came to Upsala, and summoning the episcopal chapter before him, instituted a second conference after the manner of the first. Doctors Olaf and Gallus were again required to buckle on their armor, and measure swords with one another. The contest this time was respecting revenues and the exemption of the prelates of the Church. Battle being joined, the king inquired, "Whence have the clergy their prebends and ecclesiastical immunities?" "From the donation of pious kings and princes," responded Dr. Gallus, "liberally bestowed, according to the Word of God, for the sustentation of the Church." "Then," replied the king, "may not the same power that gave, take away, especially when the clergy abuse their possessions?" "If they are taken away," replied the Popish champion, "the Church will fall, [3] and Christ's Word, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, will fail." "The goods of the Church," said the king, "go into the belly of sluggards, [4] who know not to write or preach any useful thing, but spend the hours, which they call canonical, in singing canticles, with but small show of devotion. Since therefore," continued the king, "it cannot be proved from Scripture that these goods are the absolute property of the clergy, and since they manifestly do not further the ends of piety,

is it not just that they be turned to a better use, and one that will benefit the Church?"

On this, Doctor Gallus held his peace. Thereupon, the king ordered the archbishop to reply, but neither would he make answer. At length the provost of the cathedral, George Turson, came forward, and began to defend with great warmth the privileges of the clergy. "If any one," he said, "dare take anything from the Church, it is at the peril of excommunication and eternal damnation." The king bore the onset with great good-nature. He calmly requested Turson, as a theologian, to handle the matter in a theological manner, and to prove what he had maintained from Holy Scripture. The worthy provost appears to have declined this challenge; for we find the king, in conclusion, giving his decision to the following effect, namely, that he would give all honor and all necessary and honest support to the pious ministers of the Church, but to the sluggards of the sanctuary and the monastery he would give nothing. To this the chapter made no reply, and the king took his departure for Stockholm. [5]

The bishops, however, were far from submitting quietly to the burdens which had been imposed upon them. They met and subscribed a secret compact or oath, to defend their privileges and possessions against all the attempts of the king. The deed, with the names appended, was deposited in a sepulcher, where it was discovered fifteen years afterwards. [6] An agitation of the kingdom was organized, and vigorously carried out. The passions of the populace, uninstructed for the most part, and attached to the old religion, were inflamed by the calumnies and accusations directed against the king, and scattered broadcast over the kingdom. Disorders and tumults broke out; more especially in Delecarlia the most northern part of Sweden, where the ignorance of the people made them an easy prey to the arts of the clerical agitators. [7] The country, at last, was on the brink of civil war. Gustavus Vasa resolved that an end should be put to this agitation. His chancellor, Lawrence Andersen, an able man and a Protestant, gave him very efficient support in the vigorous measures he now adopted. He summoned a meeting of the Estates of Sweden, at Vesteraas, June, 1527.

Gustavus addressed the assembled nobles and bishops, appealing to facts that were within the knowledge of all of them, that the kingdom had been brought to the brink of civil war, mainly through the factious opposition of the clergy to their just share in the burdens of the State, that the classes from whom this opposition came were by much the wealthiest in Sweden, that this wealth had been largely acquired by unlawful exactions, and was devoted to noxious uses; that the avarice of the bishops had reduced the nobles to poverty, and their oppression had ground the people into slavery; that for this wealth no adequate return was received by the State; it served but to maintain its possessors in idleness and luxury; and that, unless the necessities of the government were met, and the power of the throne upheld, he would resign the crown and retire from the kingdom. [8]

This bold resolve brought matters to a crisis. The Swedes could not afford to lose their magnanimous and patriotic king. The debates in the Diet were long and warm. The clergy fought stoutly for their privileges, but the king and his chancellor were firm. If the people would not support him in his battle with the clergy, Gustavus must lay down the scepter. The question, in fact, came to be between the two faiths — shall they adopt the Lutheran or retain the Popish? The monarch did not conceal his preference for the Reformed religion, which he himself had espoused. He would leave his subjects free to make their choice, but if they chose to obey a clergy who had annihilated the privileges of the citizens, who had devoured the wealth of the nobles, who were glutted with riches and swollen with pride, rather than be ruled by the laws of Sweden, he had no more to say; he would withdraw from the government of the realm. [9]

At length the Diet came to a resolution, virtually to receive the Protestant religion. The day on which this decision was come to is the most glorious in the annals of Sweden. The Estates decreed that henceforward the bishops should not sit in the supreme council of the nation; that the castles and the 13,000 estates which had been given to the Church since the times of Charles Canut (1453) should be restored; that of the castles and lands, part should be returned to the nation, and part to those nobles from whose ancestors they had been wrested; and if, in the interval, any of these donations had been sold, restitution must be made in money. It is computed that from 13,000 to 20,000 estates, farms, and dwellings passed into the hands of lay possessors. The bishops intimated their submission to this decree, which so effectually broke their power, by subscribing their names to it. [10]

Other articles were added bearing more directly upon the Reformation of religion. Those districts that adopted the Reformation were permitted to retain their ecclesiastical property; districts remaining Popish were provided by the king with Protestant ministers, who were paid out of the goods still left in possession of the Popish Church. No one was to be ordained who was unwilling, or who knew not how, to preach the pure Gospel. In all schools the Bible must be read, and the lessons of the Gospel taught. The monks were allowed to reside in their monasteries, but forbidden to beg; and safeguards were enacted against the accumulation of property in a dead hand — a fruitful source of evil in the past. [11] So far the Reformation of Sweden had advanced in 1527. Its progress

had been helped by the flight of the Archbishop of Upsala and Bishop Brask from their native land. Deserted by their generals, the soldiers of the ancient creed lost heart.

The coronation of Gustavus Vasa had been delayed till the kingdom should be quieted. This having been now happily effected, the monarch was crowned with great solemnity on the 12th of January, 1528, at Upsala, in presence of the whole Senate. It cost Vasa no little thought beforehand how to conduct the ceremony, so as that on the one hand it: might not be mixed up with the rites of the ancient superstition, nor, on the other, lack validity in the eyes of such of his subjects as were still Popish. He refrained from sending to Rome for investiture; he made three newly ordained bishops — Skara, Aabo, and Strengnas [12] — perform the religious rites; the Divine name was invoked; that part of the coronation oath was omitted which bound the sovereign to protect "holy Church;" a public declaration, which was understood to express the sentiments both of the king and of the Estates, was read, and afterwards published, setting forth at some length the reciprocal duties and obligations of each.

The declaration was framed on the model of those exhortations which the prophets and high priests delivered to the Kings of Judah when they were anointed. It set forth the institution of magistracy by God; its ends, to be "a terror to evil-doers," etc.; the spirit in which it was to be exercised, "in the fear of the Most High;" the faults the monarch was to eschew — riches, luxury, oppression; and the virtues he was to practice — he was to cultivate piety by the study of Holy Scripture, to administer justice, defend his country, and nourish the true religion. The declaration concludes by expressing the gratitude of the nation to the "Omnipotent and most benignant Father, who, after so great a persecution and so many calamities inflicted upon their beloved country, by a king of foreign origin, had given them this day a king of the Swedish stock, whose powerful arm, by the blessing of God, had liberated their nation from the yoke of a tyrant" "We acknowledge," continued the declaration, "the Divine goodness, in raising up for us this king, adorned with so many gifts, preeminently qualified for his great office; pious, wise, a lover of his country; whose reign has already been so glorious; who has gained the friendship of so many kings and neighboring princes; who has strengthened our castles and cities; who has raised armaments to resist the enemy should he invade us; who has taken the revenues of the State not to enrich himself but to defend the country, and who, above all, has sedulously cherished the true religion, making it his highest object to defend Reformed truth, so that the whole land, being delivered from Popish darkness, may be irradiated with the light of the Gospel." [13]

In the year following (1529), the Reformation of Sweden was formally completed. The king, however zealous, saw it wise to proceed by degrees. In the year after his coronation he summoned the Estates to Orebrogia (Oerebro), in Nericia, to take steps for giving to the constitution and worship of the Church of Sweden a more exact conformity to the rule of the Word of God. To this Diet came the leading ministers as well as the nobles. The chancellor Lawrence Andersen, as the king's representative, presided, and with him was joined Olaf Patersen, the Pastor of Stockholm. The Diet agreed on certain ecclesiastical constitutions and rules, which they subscribed, and published in the tongue of Sweden. The bishops and pastors avowed it to be the great end of their office to preach the pure Word of God; they resolved accordingly to institute the preaching of the Gospel in all the churches of the kingdom, alike in country and in city. The bishops were to exercise a vigilant inspection over all the clergy, they were to see that the Scriptures were read daily and purely expounded in the cathedrals; that in all schools there were pure editions of the Bible; that proper care was taken to train efficient preachers of the Word of God, and that learned men were provided for the cities. Rules were also framed touching the celebration of marriage, the visitation of the sick and the burial of the dead.

Thus the "preaching of the Word" was restored to the place it undoubtedly held in the primitive Church. We possess its pulpit literature in the homilies which have come down to us from the days of the early Fathers. But the want of a sufficient number of qualified preachers was much felt at this stage in the Reformed Church of Sweden. Olaf Patersen tried to remedy the defect by preparing a "Postil" or collection of sermons for the guidance of the clergy. To this "Postil" he added a translation of Luther's larger Catechism for the instruction of the people. In 1531 he published a "Missal," or liturgy, which exhibited the most important deviations from that of Rome. Not only were many unscriptural practices in use among Papists, such as kneelings, crossings, incensings, excluded from the liturgy of Olaf, but everything was left out that could by any possibility be held to imply that the Eucharist was a sacrifice — the bloodless offering of Christ — or that a sacrificial character belonged to the clergy.

The Confession of the Swedish Church was simple but thoroughly Protestant. The Abbe Vertot is mistaken in saying that this assembly took the Augsburg Confession as the rule of their faith. The Augustana Confessio was not then in existence, though it saw the light a year after (1530). The Swedish Reformers had no guide but the Bible. They taught; the birth of all men in a state of sin and condemnation; the inability of the sinner to make satisfaction by his own works; the

substitution and perfect expiation of Christ; the free justification of the sinner on the ground of His righteousness, received by faith; and the good works which flow from the faith of the justified man.

Those who had recovered the lights of truth, who had rekindled in their churches, after a long extinction, the lamp of the Gospel, had no need, one should think, of the tapers and other substitutes which superstition had invented to replace the eternal verities of revelation. Those temples which were illuminated with the splendor of the Gospel did not need images and pictures. It would seem, however, as if the Swedes felt that they could not yet walk alone. They borrowed the treacherous help of the Popish ritual.

Several of the old ceremonies were retained, but with new explanations, to divorce them if possible from the old uses. The basin of holy water still kept its place at the portal of the church; but the people were cautioned not to think that it could wash away their sins: the blood of Christ only could do that. It stood there to remind them of their baptism. The images of the saints still adorned the walls of the churches — not to be worshipped, but to remind the people of Christ and the saints, and to incite them to imitate their piety. On the day of the purification of the Virgin, consecrated candles were used, not because there was any holiness in them, but because they typified the true Light, even Christ, who was on that day presented in the Temple of Jerusalem. In like manner, extreme unction was practiced to adumbrate the anointing of the Holy Spirit; bells were tolled, not in the old belief that they frightened the demons, but as a convenient method of convoking the people. [14] It would have been better, we are disposed to think, to have abolished some of these symbols, and then the explanation, exceedingly apt to be forgotten or disregarded, would have been unnecessary. It is hard to understand how material light can help us the better to. perceive a spiritual object, or how a candle can reveal to us Christ. Those who tolerated remains of the old superstition in the Reformed worship of Sweden, acted, no doubt, with sincere intentions, but it may be doubted whether they were not placing hindrances rather than helps in the way of the nation, and whether in acting as they did they may not be compared to the man who first places a rock or some huge obstruction in the path that leads to his mansion, and then kindles a beacon upon it to prevent his visitors from tumbling over it.

Gustavus I. had now the happiness of seeing the Reformed faith planted in his dominions, His reign was prolonged after this thirty years, and during all that time he never ceased to watch over the interests of the Protestant Church, taking care that his kingdom should be well supplied with learned bishops and diligent pastors. Lawrence Patersen (1531) was promoted to the Archbishopric of Upsala, the first see in Sweden, which he filled till his death (1570). The country soon became flourishing, and yielded plenteously the best of all fruit — great men. The valor of the nobles was displayed on many a hard-fought field. The pius and patriotic king took part in the great events of his age, in some of which we shall yet meet him. He went to his grave in 1560. [15] But the spirit he had kindled in Sweden lived after him, and the attempts of some of his immediate successors to undo what their great ancestor had done, and lead back the nation into Popish darkness, were firmly resisted by the nobles.

The scepter of Gustavus Vasa passed to his son, Eric XIV., whose short reign of eight years was marked with some variety of fortune. In 1568, he transmitted the kingdom to his brother John, who, married to a Roman Catholic princess, conceived the idea of introducing a semi-Popish liturgy into the Swedish Church. The new liturgy, which was intended to replace that of Olaf Patersen, was published in the spring of 1576, and was called familiarly the "Red Book," from the color of its binding. It was based upon the Missale Romanum, the object being to assimilate the Eucharistic service to the ritual of the Church of Rome. It contained the following passage: — "Thy same Son, the same Sacrifice, which is a pure unspotted and holy Sacrifice, exhibited for our reconciliation, for our shield, shelter, and protection against thy wrath and against the terrors of sin and death, we do with faith receive, and with our humble prayers offer before thy glorious majesty." The doctrine of this passage is unmistakably that of transubstantiation, but, over and above this, the whole of the new Missal was pervaded by a Romanizing spirit. The bishops and many of the clergy were gained over to the king's measures, but a minority of the pastors remained faithful, and the resolute opposition which they offered to the introduction of the new liturgy, saved the Swedish Church from a complete relapse into Romanism. Bishop Anjou, the modern historian of the Swedish Reformation, says — "The severity with which King John endeavored to compel the introduction of his prayer-book, was the testing fire which purified the Swedish Church to a clear conviction of the Protestant principles which formed its basis." It was a time of great trial, but the conflict yielded precious fruits to the Church of Sweden. The nation saw that it had stopped too soon in the path of Reform, that it must resume its progress, and place a greater distance between itself and the principles and rites of the Romish Church; and a movement was now begun which continued steadily to go on, till at last the topstone was put upon the work. The Protestant party rallied every day. Nevertheless, the contest between King

John and the Protestant portion of his subjects lasted till the day of his death. John was succeeded by his son, Sigismund, in 1592. On arriving from Poland to take possession of the Swedish crown, Sigismund found a declaration of the Estates awaiting his signature, to the effect that the liturgy of John was abolished, and that the Protestant faith was the religion of Sweden.

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the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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