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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

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

Chapter 8 — Church-song in Denmark

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Paul Elia Opposes — Harangues the Soldiery in the Citadel — Tumults — The King summons a Meeting of the Estates at Odensee — His Address to the Bishops — Edict of Toleration — Church-Song — Ballad-Poetry of Denmark — Out-burst of Sacred Psalmody — Nicolaus Martin — Preaches outside the Walls of Malmoe — Translates the German Hymns into Danish — The Psalms Translated — Sung Universally in Denmark — Nicolaus Martin Preaches inside Malmoe — Theological College Established there — Preachers sent through Denmark — Taussan Removed to Copenhagen — New Translation of the New Testament.

MEANWHILE the truth was making rapid progress in Viborg, and throughout the whole of Jutland. The Gospel was proclaimed not only by Taussan, "the Luther of Denmark" as he has been called, but also by George Jani, or Johannis, of whom we have already made mention, as the founder of the first Reformed school in Viborg, and indeed in Denmark.

The king was known to be a Lutheran; so too was the master of his horse, Magnus Goyus, who received the Communion in both kinds, and had meat on his table on Fridays. The army was largely leavened with the same doctrine, and in the Duchies of Holstein and Schleswig the Lutheran faith was protected by law. Everything helped onward the movement; if it stopped for a moment its enemies were sure again to set it in motion. It was at this time not a little helped by Paul Elia, the first to sow the seeds of Lutheranism in Denmark, but who now was more eager to extirpate than ever he had been to plant them. The unhappy man craved permission to deliver his sentiments on Lutheranism in public. The permission was at once granted, with an assurance that no one should be permitted to molest or injure him. The master of the horse took him to the citadel, where at great length, and with considerable freedom, he told what he thought of the faith which he had once preached. His address fell upon attentive but not assenting ears. When he descended from his rostrum he was met with a tempest of scoffs and threats. he would have fallen a sacrifice to the incensed soldiery, had not a lieutenant, unsheathing his sword, led him safely through the crowd, and dismissed him at the gates of the fortress. The soldiers followed him with their cries, so long as he was in sight, saying that "the monks were wolves and destroyers of souls."

This and similar scenes compelled Frederick I. to take a step forward. A regard for the tranquillity of his kingdom would suffer him no longer to be neutral. Summoning (1527) the Estates of Denmark to Odensee, he addressed them in Latin. Turning first of all to the bishops, he reminded them that their office bound them to nourish the Church with the pure Word of God; that throughout a large part of Germany religion had been purged from the old idolatry; that even here in Denmark many voices were raised for the purgation of the faith from the fables and traditions with which it was so largely mixed up, and for permission to be able again to drink at the pure fountains of the Word. He had taken an oath to protect the Roman and Catholic religion in his kingdom, but he did not look on that promise as binding him to defend all "the errors and old wives' fables" which had found admission into the Church. "And who of you," he asked, "is ignorant how many abuses and errors have crept in by time which no man of sane mind can defend? " "And since," he continued, "in this kingdom, to say nothing of others, the Christian doctrine, according to the Reformation of Luther, has struck its roots so deep that they could not now be eradicated without bloodshed, and the infliction of many great calamities upon the kingdom and its people, it is my royal pleasure that in this kingdom both religions, the Lutheran as well as the Papal, shall be freely tolerated till a General Council shall have met." [1]

Of the clergy, many testified, with both hands and feet, their decided disapproval of this speech; [2] but its moderation and equity recommended it to the great majority of the Estates. A short edict, in four heads, expressed the resolution of the Assembly, which was in brief that it was permitted to every subject of the realm to profess which religion he pleased, the Lutheran or the Pontifical; that no one should suffer oppression of conscience or injury of person on that account; and that monks and nuns were at liberty to leave their convents or to continue to reside in them, to marry or to remain single. [3]

This edict the king and Estates supplemented by several regulations which still further extended the reforms. Priests were granted leave to marry; bishops were forbidden to send money to Rome for palls; the election was to be in the power of the chapter, and its ratification in that of the king; and, finally, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction was restricted to ecclesiastical affairs. [4]

Another influence which tended powerfully to promote the Reformation in Denmark was the revival of church-song. The part which Rome assigns to her people in her public worship is silence: their voices raised in praise are never heard. If hymns are ever sung under the gorgeous roofs of her temples, it is by her clerical choirs alone; and even these hymns are uttered in a dead language, which fails, of course, to reach the understandings or to awaken the hearts of the people. The Reformation broke the long and deep silence which had reigned in Christendom. Wherever it advanced it was amid the sounds of melody and praise. Nowhere was it more so than in Denmark. The early ballad-poetry of that country is among the noblest in Europe. But the poetic

muse had long slumbered there: the Reformation awoke it to a new life. The assemblies of the Protestants were far too deeply moved to be content as mere spectators, like men at a pantomime, of the worship celebrated in their sanctuaries; they demanded a vehicle for those deep emotions of soul which the Gospel had awakened within them. This was no mere revival of the poetic taste, it was no mere refinement of the musical ear; it was the natural outburst of those fresh, warm, and holy feelings to which the grand truths of the Gospel had given birth, and which, like all deep and strong emotions, struggled to utter themselves in song.

The first to move in this matter was Nicolaus Martin. This Reformer had the honor to be the first to carry the light of the Gospel to many places in Schonen. He had studied the writings of Luther, and "drunk his fill of the Word," [5] and yearned to lead others to the same living fountain. The inhabitants of Malmoe, in 1527, invited him to preach the Gospel to them. He obeyed the summons, and held his first meeting on the 1st of June in a meadow outside the walls of the city. The people, after listening to the Gospel of God's glorious grace, wished to vent their feelings in praise; but there existed nothing in the Danish tongue fit to be used on such an occasion. They proposed that the Latin canticles which the priests sang in the temples should be translated into Danish. Martin, with the help of John Spandemager, who afterwards became Pastor of Lund, in Schonen, and who "labored assiduously for more than thirty years in the vineyard of the Lord," [6] translated several of the sacred hymns of Germany into the tongue of the people, which, being printed and published, at Malmoe, formed the first hymn-book of the Reformed Church of Denmark.

By-and-by there came a still nobler hymn-book. Francis Wormord, of Amsterdam, the first Protestant Bishop of Lund, was originally a Carmelite monk. During his residence in the monastery of Copenhagen or of Helsingborg, for it is uncertain which, led by love of the truth, he translated the Psalms of David into the Danish tongue. The task was executed jointly by himself and Paul Elia, for, being a native of Holland, Wormord was but imperfectly master of the Danish idiom, and gladly availed himself of the help of another. The book was published in 1528, "with the favor and privilege of the king." [7] The publication was accompanied with notes, explaining the Psalms in a Protestant sense, and, like a hand-post, directing the readers eye to a Greater than David, whose sufferings and resurrection and ascension to heaven are gloriously celebrated in these Divine odes. The Psalms soon displaced the ballads which had been sung till then. They were heard in the castles of the nobles; they were used in the assemblies of the Protestants. While singing them the worshippers saw typified and depicted the new scenes which were opening to the Church and the world, the triumph even of Messiah's kingdom, and the certain and utter overthrow of that of his rival. [8] Long had the Church's harp hung upon the willows; but her captivity was now drawing to an end; the fetters were falling from her limbs; the doors of her prison were beginning to expand. She felt the time had come to put away her sackcloth, to take down her harp so long unstrung, and to begin those triumphal melodies written aforetime for the very purpose of celebrating, in strains worthy of the great occasion, her march out of the house of bondage. The ancient oracle was now fulfilled: "The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs."

In particular the Psalms of David may be said to have opened the gates of Malmoe, which was the first of all the cities of Denmark fully to receive the Gospel. The first Protestant sermon, we have said, was preached outside the walls in 1527. The announcement of "a free forgiveness" was followed by the voices of the multitude lifted up in Psalms in token of their joy. Louder songs re-echoed day by day round the walls of Malmoe, as the numbers of the worshippers daily increased. Soon the gates were opened, and the congregation marched in, to the dismay of the Romanists, not in serge or sackcloth, not with gloomy looks and downcast heads, as if they had been leading in a religion of penance and gloom, but with beaming faces, and voices thrilling with joy, as well they might, for they were bringing to their townsmen the same Gospel which was brought to the shepherds by the angels who filled the sky with celestial melodies as they announced their message. The churches were opened to the preachers; the praises uttered outside the walls were now heard within the city. It seemed as if Malmoe rejoiced because "salvation was come to it." Mass was abolished; and in 1529 the Protestant religion was almost universally professed by the inhabitants. By the king's direction a theological college was erected in Malmoe; Frederick I. contributed liberally to its endowment, and moreover enacted by edict that the manors and other possessions given aforetime to the Romish superstition should, after the poor had been provided for, be made over for the maintenance of the Protestant Gymnasium. [9]

This seminary powerfully contributed to diffuse the light; it supplied the Danish Church with many able teachers. Its chairs were filled by men of accomplishment and eminence. Among its professors, then styled readers, were Nicolaus Martin, the first to carry the "good tidings" of a free salvation to Malmoe; Andreas, who had been a monk; Wornlord, who had also worn the cowl, but who had exchanged the doleful canticles of the monastery for the odes of the Hebrew king, which he was the first by his translation to

teach his adopted countrymen to sing. Besides those just named, there were two men, both famous, who taught in the College of Malmoe — Peter Lawrence, and Olaus Chrysostom, Doctor of Theology. The latter's stay in Malmoe was short, being called to be first preacher in the Church of Mary in Copenhagen. [10]

The king's interest in the work continued to grow. The Danish Reformers saw and seized their opportunity. Seconded by the zeal and assistance of Frederick, they sent preachers through the kingdom, who explained in clear and simple terms the heads of the Christian doctrine, and thus it came to pass that in this year (1529) the truth was extended to all the provinces of Denmark. The eloquent Taussan, at the king's desire, removed from Viborg to Copenhagen, where he exercised his rare pulpit gifts in the Temple of St. Nicholas.

Taussan's removal to this wider sphere gave a powerful impulse to the movement. His fame had preceded him, and the citizens flocked in crowds to hear him. The Gospel, so clearly and eloquently proclaimed by him, found acceptance with the inhabitants. The Popish rites were forsaken — no one went to mass or to confession. The entrance of the truth into this city, says the historian, was signalized by "a mighty outburst of singing." The people, filled with joy at the mysteries made known to them, and the clear light that shone upon them after the long darkness, poured forth their gratitude in thundering voices in the Psalms of David, the hymns of Luther, and in other sacred canticles. Nor did Taussan confine himself to his own pulpit and flock; he cared for all the young Churches of the Reformation in Denmark, and did his utmost to nourish them into strength by seeking out and sending to them able and zealous preachers of the truth. [11]

This year (1529), a truly memorable one in the Danish Reformation, saw another and still more powerful agency enter the field. A new translation of the New Testament in the Danish tongue was now published in Antwerp, under the care of Christian Petri. Petri had formerly been a canon, and Chancellor of the Chapter in Lurid; but attaching himself to the fortunes of Christian II., he had been obliged to become an exile. He was, however, a learned and pious man, sincerely attached to the Reformed faith, which he did his utmost, both by preaching and writing, to propagate. He had seen the version of the New Testament, of which we have made mention above, translated by Michaelis in 1524, and which, though corrected by the pen of Paul Elia, was deformed with blemishes and obscurities; and feeling a strong desire to put into the hands of his countrymen a purer and more idiomatic version, Petri undertook a new translation. The task he executed with success. This purer rendering of the lively oracles of God was of great use in the propagation of the light through Denmark and the surrounding regions. [12]

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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