Lutheranism was born of Martin Luther’s mighty zeal in the 1500s, but a century later it had sunk into cold and weary formalism. In the 1600s God raised up other giants to rekindle the flames and extend the Reformation into a new phase.
P. J. Spener, burdened for his church, opened his home for prayer and Bible reading. That simple act sparked a spiritual renewal across Germany, since called Pietism. The Pietist movement swept over continental Europe, emphasizing inner spirituality, home meetings, mission involvement, hymn singing, and social work (particularly with orphans). Reaching into Scandinavia, Pietism touched 25-year-old Hans Nielsen Hauge.
Hans had grown up in rural Norway, learning many crafts from his industrious parents. He was a skilled cabinetmaker, carpenter, blacksmith, and beekeeper. He had also known the words of Scripture and the songs of the hymnbook since infancy. On April 5, 1796, as he worked outdoors and sang the hymn “Jesus, I Long for Thy Blessed Communion,” he was abruptly caught up in a dramatic experience. His mind felt suddenly exalted and his heart overflowed with God’s Spirit. The love of Christ blazed in his soul. He sensed a deep hunger for Bible study and a compelling urge to proclaim the gospel.
Hans ran home and shared his experience with his family, then with his church. He then set out to tell others, traveling for eight years and 10,000 miles throughout Norway by foot, ski, and horse. He preached to crowds large and small, emphasizing repentance, conversion, and true revival. His message sparked renewal everywhere. Occasionally local pastors, fearing his zeal and popularity, opposed him, and he was arrested ten times. But most bishops and pastors eventually thanked God for his ministry.
Having finished his preaching tour, Hans applied himself to commerce and became the owner of paper mills, a salt factory, a trading company, and a fleet of ships. He used his position in the business world to spread his message there. He passed away at age 53, using his final breaths to exhort his wife, “Follow Jesus.” He is today called the “Father of Scandinavian Pietism.”
I felt the Lord’s power take control of me, and his Spirit carried me to a valley full of bones. He then told me to say: Dry bones, listen to what the Lord is saying to you, “I, the Lord God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live. … Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:1,4–6)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). April 3.