Hans Nielsen Hauge
Norwegian freethinker

Hans Nielsen Hauge 1771-1824, Norwegian freethinker predicant, born on the Hauge farm in Tune, ěstfold was the son of godfearing and enlightened farmpeople. Hans Christian Hauge is the single person who has had the greatest influence on Norwegian churchlife since the Reformation.

In 1756 he had a religious experience and felt called upon by God to convert people to the Lord, wrote two books on "Rules for living evangelic" and "Thoughts on the evil ways of the world" which he published in Christiania the same year. Next year he started travelling all over Norway, crisscrossing the entire country up to Troms° through 1804, talking in private assemblies and maintaining an extensive series of publishing which were often reprinted and obtained a wide circulation. Hauge was arrested several times for breaking the Konventikkelplakaten [A regulation introduced in 1741 making private religious assemblies illegal if not expressly permitted by the local clergy. This regulation was abolished in 1842]. Hauge was usually released after a few days or weeks. Besides his religious activity, Hauge had an unusual sense of enterprise - he regarded idleness as one of the important sins that any Christian should avoid - and carried himself a load of knitware which he sold along the road besides taking part in the daily work at the farms where he stayed. On his initiative, one of his friend started a printing shop and another a paper mill. In 1801 he took citizenship in Bergen and aiming to secure a sound economic basis for his activities, he started an extensive trade on Nordland. This made the authorities regard his combination of religion and business as an attempt to enrich himself "under the guise of Sanctity". Bishop Peder Hansen of Kristiansand and others complained to the government in Copenhagen about the increasing distrust in the established authorities and the official clergy that was caused by Hauge's teaching. In 18ř   é

Hans Christian Hauge was still widely regarded as a dreamer, but there is no doubt that his character and motives was pure and that his teaching aimed only at conversion and sanctification. He was an orthodox Lutheran who stressed the importance of God's words for the life of Christians and of obeying God's rules much stronger than orthodox Lutherans had previously done. Hauges maintained that Belief without Deeds were Death! He separates himself from the pietists by his high regard for worldly vocational work.

>From "Uncle Rasmus" *) page 46... : "During the time of which we are now speaking, Norway, and particularly the southwest coast district contained a large number of semi-dissenters from the established church, the so-called Haugians or Readers, followers of Hans Nielson Hauge, a refermer born in Smaalenene, in Norway, April 3, 1771. Though he had only a common peasant's education he began to preach in 1795. He protested against the rationalism and secularization then prevalent among the clergy of Norway. He advocated the right of laymen to preach, and laid special stress upon the spiritual priesthood of all believers, while he was on the other hand charged with the extravagant undervaluation of the educated ministry, of ordination, and of the cermonies adopted by the state church. As indicated, his zeal secured him many followers, particularly among the peasants, who did not, however, like the Quakers, withdraw from the established church. Still there were looked upon with disfavor by the governing class, and their leader, Hans Nielson Hauge, was imprisoned from 1804 to 1814. He died March 29 1824. It will be readily seen that the Haugians looked upon their leader as a martyr, and this fact intensified the strained relation existing between the Haugians and the civil and religious rulers of the kingom.

It may be said without the least exaggeration that many of the government officials, not only those who had charge of secular affairs, but also the servants of the church, were inclined to be arbitrary and overbearing, and all dissenters from the Lutheran church, which was the state religion, were more or less persecuted by those in authority. The treatment accorded to Hans Nielson Hauge is evidence of this. Although he was guilty of no crime known to the code of morality, and although he was one of the most earnest and sincere Christians in all the land, he, like John Bunyan in England, was made to languish for 10 long years within the wall of a prision, simply because he held profound religious views and insisted on practising them. All the followers of Hauge were made to feel more or less the keen edge of scorn from their superiors. But the persecution of the Quakers is particularly a dark chapter in the modern ecclesiastical history of Norway. On a complaint of the state priest, the sheriff would come and take the children by force from Quaker families and bring them to the priest to be baptized. People were fined for not going to the holy communion. Parents were compelled to have their children confirmed, and even the dead were exhumed from their graves in order that they might be buried according to the Lutheran ritual. These cruel facts are perfectly authenticated, and there is not a shadow of doubt that this disgraceful intolerance on the part of the officials in Norway, as in the case of the Huguenots in France and the Puritans in England, was one of the main causes of the first large exodus from Norway to the United States of America. The very fact that Norwegian emigration began in Stavanger county, and that the emigrants were dissenters from the established church, is conslusive proof of the correctness of this view. Here it was that Lars Larson, Elias Tastad and Thomas and Metta Hille had founded the Quaker society. In the city of Stavanger and in the adjoining county many had been converted to the Quaker doctrine, and there were no Quakers in Norway outside of Stavanger county. As in all lands and times, the beginning of emigration can often be traced to religious intolerance and persecution. Did not France lose half a million of her most desirable citizens on account of the persecution of the Huguenots? Did not the Huguenots flee to Switzerland, Holland, England and to America? Wherever they settled they brought with them art and manufacture and the refinements of civilization, and so they enriched their adopted countries. And what of the pilgrim fathers (and mothers) who landed at Plymouth in 1620 and founded the first settlement in New England? Were they not men (and women) of strong minds, good judgement, and sterling character, and did they not rigidly conform their lives to their principles? (Well Rasmus, except for the occasional only semi-tolerant witch hunt. But who's perfect.) Persecution led them to emigrate and in New England they embodied their principles in a framework of government, on which, as a most stable foundation, our own great American republic has been built up. History repeats itself in Norway in the early years of this century (1800's), and the sloop, Restuarationen, of which we are soon to speak, left Norway in 1825, because Quakers were not permitted to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. The story of William Penn is repeated in Norway. "

*) "Uncle Rasmus" is Rasmus B. Anderson who was a famous Norwegian-American in the last century. He was my great grandmother's younger brother. He was occupied the first chair in Scandinavian Language in America at the University of Wisconsin. At one point he was ambassador to Denmark. He promoted all things Norwegian- American and took sides in every controversy in the last century. He was a real character. He wrote and edited several books. The one I am quoting is a very rare book he wrote in 1895 on Norwegian immigration from 1821 to 1840. This eminent book is available from Norway-List. Send OFFLINE(!) request to Debbie Haughland Chan [dchan@videon.wave.ca]

Norway-Lister Neil Hofland has a copy of "The Hauge Movement in America" published by The Hauge Inner Mission Federation in 1941.