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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

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

Chapter 6 — Protestantism in Sweden, from Vasa (1530) to Charles IX (1604)

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Ebb in Swedish Protestantism — Sigismund a Candidate for the Throne-His Equivocal Promise — Synod of Upsala, 1593 — Renew their Adherence to the Augsburg Confession — Abjure the "Red Book" — Their Measure of Toleration — The Nation joyfully Adheres to the Declaration of the Upsala Convocation — Sigismund Refuses to Subscribe — The Diet Withholds the Crown — He Signs and is Crowned — His Short Reign — Charles IX. — His Death — A Prophecy.

SINCE the middle of the reign of Gustavus Vasa, the liberties of the Reformed Church of Sweden had been on the ebb. Vasa, adopting the policy known as the Erastian, had assumed the supreme power in all matters ecclesiastical. His son John went a step beyond this. At his own arbitrary will and pleasure he imposed a semi-Popish liturgy upon the Swedish clergy, and strove, by sentences of imprisonment and outlawry, to compel them to make use of it in their public services. But now still greater dangers impended: in fact, a crisis had arisen. Sigismund, who made no secret of his devotion to Rome, was about to mount the throne. Before placing the crown on his head, the Swedes felt that it was incumbent on them to provide effectual guarantees that the new monarch should govern in accordance with the Protestant religion. Before arriving in person, Sigismund had sent from Poland his promise to his new subjects that he would preserve religious freedom and "neither hate nor love" any one on account of his creed. The popular interpretation put upon this assurance expresses the measure of confidence felt in it. Our future sovereign, said the Swedes, tells us that he will "hate no Papist and love no Lutheran."

The nation was wise in time. The synod was summoned by Duke Charles, the administrator of the kingdom in the absence of Sigismund, to meet at Upsala on the 25th February, 1593, and settle ecclesiastical affairs.

There were present four bishops, four professors of theology, three hundred and six clergymen, exclusive of those who had not been formally summoned. Duke Charles, and the nine members of council, many of the nobles, and several representatives of cities and districts were also present at this synod, although, with the exception of the members of council, they took no part in its deliberations. The business was formally opened on the 1st March by a speech from the High Marshal, in which, in the name of the duke and the council, he welcomed the clergy, and congratulated them on having now at length obtained what they had often so earnestly sought, and King John had as often promised — but only promised — " a free ecclesiastical synod." He invited them freely to discuss the matters they had been convoked to consider, but as for himself and his colleagues, he added, they would abide by the Augsburg Confession of 1530, and the ecclesiastical constitution of 1529, framed for them by Lawrence Patersen, the late Archbishop of Upsala.

Professor Nicolas Olai was chosen president, and the synod immediately proceeded to the all-important question of a Confession. The Augsburg Confession was read over article by article. It was the subject day after day of anxious deliberation; at last it became evident that there existed among the members of synod a wonderful harmony of view on all the points embraced in the Augustan Symbol, and that there was really no need to frame a new formula of belief. Whereupon Bishop Petrus Jonmae, of Strengnas, stood up and put to the synod and council the interrogatory, "Do you adopt this Confession as the Confession of your faith, and are you resolved to abide firmly by it, notwithstanding all suffering and loss to which a faithful adherence to it may expose you?"

Upon this the whole synod arose and shouted out, "We do; nor shall we ever flinch from it, but at all times shall be ready to maintain it with our goods and our lives." "Then," responded the president in loud and glad tones, "now is Sweden become as one man, and we all of us have one Lord and God."

The synod having thus joyfully completed its first great work, King John's liturgy, or the "Red Book," next came up for approval or non-approval. All were invited to speak who had anything to say in defense of the liturgy. But not a voice was lifted up; not one liturgical champion stepped down into the arena. Nay, the three prelates who had been most conspicuous during the lifetime of the former king for their support of the Missal, now came forward and confessed that they had been mistaken in their views of it, and craved forgiveness from God and the Assembly. So fell the notorious "Red Book," which, during sixteen years, had caused strifes and divisions in the Church, had made not a few to depart from "the form of sound words," and embittered the last years of the reign of the man from whom it proceeded.

We deem it incumbent to take into consideration three of the resolutions adopted by this synod, because one shows the historic ground which the Reformed Church of Sweden took up, and the other two form the measure of the enlightenment and toleration which the Swedes had attained to.

The second general resolution ran thus: "We further declare the unity and agreement of the Swedish Church with the Christian Church of the primitive ages, through our adoption of the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds; with the Reformed Evangelical Church, through our adoption of the Augsburg Confession of 1530; and with the preceding Reformation of the Swedish Church itself, through the adoption of the ecclesiastical constitution established and held valid during the episcopate of Laurentius Petri, and the concluding years of the reign of King Gustavus I."

In the fourth resolution, over and above the condemnation of the liturgy of King John, because it was "a stone of stumbling" and "similar to the Popish mass," the

synod adds its rejection of the "errors of Papists, Sacramentarians, Zwinglians, Calvinists, Anabaptists, and all other heretics."

In the sixth resolution, the synod declares it to be "strictly right that persons holding other forms of faith than the Lutheran should not be permitted to settle in the kingdom;" nevertheless, having respect to the requirements of trade and commerce, they grant this indulgence, but under restriction that such shall hold no public religious meetings in their houses, nor elsewhere, nor speak disrespectfully of the national creed.

It is easy to pity, nay, it is easy to condemn this narrowness; but it is not so easy to apportion due praise to the synod for the measure of catholicity to which it had attained. Its members had repudiated the use of the stake for conscience-sake; that was a great advance at this early period; if, notwithstanding, they framed an edict that has the aspect of persecution, its object was not to coerce the opinion of others, but to defend their own belief. Plotters and foes abounded on every side; it behooved them to take measures to guard against surprise, and as regards other points, fuller information would have qualified their judgment on some of the opinions enumerated in their, list of ostracized sects. But despite these defects, we find in their creed and resolutions the pure and renovating breath of our common Protestantism. The faces of these men are turned toward liberty. The molding principles of their creed are those which generate noble characters and heroic actions. It scattered among the Swedish people the germs of a new life, and from that hour dates their resurrection to a nobler destiny. The spirit of the Upsala convocation embodied itself in Duke Charles's illustrious son, it bore him in triumph into the very heart of Papal Germany, it crowned his arms with victory in his Protestant campaigns, and the echoes of the solemn declaration of the Estates in 1539 come back upon us in battle-thunder from many a stricken field, and grandest and saddest of all from the field of Lutzen.

The synod had done its work, and now it made its appeal to the nation. Will the Swedish people ratify what their pastors had done at Upsala?

Copies of the declaration and resolutions were circulated through the kingdom. The sanction of the nation was universally and promptly given. All ranks of persons testified their adherence to the Protestant faith, by subscribing the Upsala Declaration. The roll of signatures contained the names of Duke Charles, Gustavus, Duke of Saxony and Westphalia, the grandson of Gustavus I., 14 councilors of State, 7 bishops, 218 knights and nobles, 137 civil officials, 1,556 clergymen, the burgomasters of the thirty-six cities and town's of the realm, and the representatives of 197 districts and provinces. This extensive subscription is proof of an enthusiasm and unanimity on the part of the Swedish people not less marked than that of the synod.

One other name was wanted to make this signature-roll complete, and to proclaim that the adoption of Protestantism by the Swedish people was truly and officially a national act. It was that of King Sigismund. "Will he subscribe the Upsala Declaration?" every one asked; for his attachment to the Romish faith was well known. Sigismund still tarried in Poland, and was obviously in no haste to present himself among his new subjects. The council dispatched a messenger to solicit his subscription. The reply was an evasion. This naturally created alarm, and the Protestants, forewarned, bound themselves still more closely together to maintain their religious liberty. After protracted delays the new sovereign arrived in Sweden on the 30th of September the same year. The duke, the council, and the clergy met him at Stockholm, and craved his subscription to the Upsala resolutions. Sigismund refused compliance. The autumn and winter were passed in fruitless negotiations. With the spring came the period which had been fixed upon for the coronation of the monarch. The royal signature had not yet been given, and events were approaching a crisis. The Swedish Estates were assembled in the beginning of February, 1594. The archbishop, having read the Upsala Declaration, asked the Diet if it was prepared to stand by it. A unanimous response was given in the affirmative, and further, the Diet decreed that whoever might refuse to sign the declaration should be held disqualified to fill any office, civil or ecclesiastical, within the realm. Sigismund now saw that he had no alternative save to ratify the declaration or renounce the crown. He chose the former. After some vain attempts to qualify his subscription by appending certain conditions, he put his name to the hated document. A Te Deum was sung in the cathedral the day following, and on the 19th of February, King Sigismund was crowned. The struggle of Sweden for its Reformation, which had lasted over twenty years, came thus at last to a victorious close. Arcimbold, by the preaching of indulgences, and the political conflicts to which this led, had ploughed up the soil; Olaf and Lawrence Patersen came next, scattering the seed; then arose the patriotic Gustavus Vasa to shield the movement. After a too early pause, during which new dangers gathered, the movement was again resumed. The synod of the clergy met and adopted the Augustan Confession as the creed of Sweden; their deed was accepted by the Estates and the nation, and finally ratified by the signature of the sovereign. Thus was the Protestant faith of the Swedish people surrounded with all legal formalities and securities; to this day these are the formal foundations on which rests the Reformed Church of Sweden. [1]

Only a few years did Sigismund occupy the throne of Sweden. His government, in accordance with the Upsala Declaration, partook too much of the compulsory to be either hearty or honest; he was replaced in 1604 by Charles IX., the third son of Gustavus Vasa. When dying, Charles is reported to have exclaimed, laying his hand upon

the golden locks of his boy, and looking forward to the coming days of conflict, "Ille faciet." [2]

This boy, over whom his dying sire uttered these prophetic words, was the future Gustavus Adolphus, in whom his renowned grandfather, Gustavus Vasa, lived over again, with still greater renown.


Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 19th, 2018
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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