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It is impossible not to believe that the dispensation of death exerts a vast moral influence in this world, callous as are the hearts of men. The nature of the case precludes the idea of an exact measurement of that influence. But that it is great and commanding, there can be no doubt. We live in a world from which hundreds pass every hour to the grave-in which every moment some family mourns--some circle of friendship is invaded—some resort of business is desolate—some hope is dashed—some heart is broken. In such a world, and amid such scenes, how often must a restraining, sol. emnizing influence steal over the human heart and waken its moral sensibilities, and allay its passions, and repress its levity 'How often may the inconsiderate be brought to pause, as it were, on the margin of eternity, to number his days and apply his heart unto wisdom! 0 how sober and thoughtful is this world, compared with what it would be were there no dying here, and were this anything but a grave-yard !
The death of infants contributes to the general effect of this solemn dispensation. But besides this, the unconscious dying infant may be the bearer of a message from the invisible world to the fond parent who weeps over his wasting form, which no other lips could deliver ; and the heart that vibrated to no other touch, may yield to the blow which severs from him for ever the life of his only idolized child; and in eternity it may appear, that the only errand of that infant in this world was to die, that a parent might live a life of joy beyond the tomb. Precious in the sight of God is the soul of man, and to save it, what acts of mercy, what devi. ces of wisdom, what clouds of ministries, does he not employ for its rescue !
But we commenced these pages with a par. ticular instance fresh upon our heart. Poor little Frank! We have just laid him in the vault by the side of his little sister. We have returned to our desolate, childless dwelling; and wbile we muse and fall into a momentary reverie, we find ourselves listening to hear the patting of his little tottering feet along the hall, or the music of his infant prattle, but we are roused to the consciousness that we are alone; that the purposes for which his life was given are fulfilled, that he has accomplished his mission and returned to his father and our Father,
to his God and our God. Our little one had a mission here, and till it was fulfilled his tender feet embraced these rugged coasts, and his gentle, innocent spirit tarried and lingered among us, then vanished like some bright dream of joy. Our hearts were diseased with worldli.
There was a proneness in them to love the creature. He came, drew out our hearts, and left them bleeding and in anguish. We were making him an idol, and he withdrew from our worship; he would not receive that which belonged to God; but not till he withdrew were we fully conscious that we had offered him that which was God's.
But this was not all of our infant's errand to this world. We can now see that he was sent to be a healer of discord, and a restorer of sweet peace among our dear and cherished, but latterly somewhat alienated relatives. Between us there had sprung up, no matter how, a cool. ness and a reserve extremely painful as it was utterly wrong. Late months had done something towards our re-union. Intercourse had never been entirely suspended, and it was becoming more frequent, but still there were inward checks upon it, and our hearts did not flow together as was their former wont. It was for poor little Frank to adjust this difficulty, and sweetly to re-unite the hearts that once seemed separated by a gulf. After his last sickness had greatly reduced his frame, the indications of Providence, and the advice of our physician, urged us to accept an invitation to our relative's house, to try the effect of a change of air upon the little sufferer. We accordingly went. The effect at first in his favor was almost magical. But it was not to last. Little Frank did not come here to get well. He came to melt hearts that had been estranged, back again into a fountain of love and unity, and this was to be done by sacrifice-his little bed the altar, and he the victiin. Oh, as we all knelt beside that bed, and blended our tears and prayers, how fully was all forgotten, how freely was all forgiven that had ever separated between us; once more it was true that our hopes, our fears, our joys, our hearts were one. Then was the sacrifice accomplished. Gently the spirit of the little sufferer released itself, the pulse of life paused, and our Frank was in heaven.
BIBLE READERS IN NORWAY AND SWEDEN.
BY REV. R. BAIRD, D. D.
It is the Word of God that is the grand instru- tures, together with Flavel's works and Luther ment which infinite wisdom has resolved to on the Galatians, began to invite his neighbors, employ in effecting the regeneration of mankind who, like himself, had been living in great ignoand their preparation for heaven. This glori- rance of the Gospel, to come to his house on ous revelation of the nature and will of God, of the Sabbath, and hear him read his favorite his purpose to save sinners of our race, and of books. Such were the crowds that soon attended, the means by which this is to be effected, has that a house had to be built of sufficient size to Christ for its author and the blessed Spirit for contain them. To Flavel and Luther's writits indicator. How wonderful is this volume ! ings, there was added a volume of Whitfield's How amazing are the subjects of which it sermons, as furnishing spiritual food for these treats ! How astonishing the renovations which hungry souls. They were visited in 1743 by it effects ! The entrance of thy words giveth the Rev. W. Robinson, a Presbyterian minister light; it giveth understanding to the simple.” sent from New Jersey on a missionary tour to “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the the south. His preaching was greatly blessed soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, making to the “ Realers.” Some years later, the Rev. wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are Samuel Davies (afterwards the celebrated Presiright, rejoicing the heart : the commandment of dent of the College of New Jersey) visited these the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The people, organized a church, and labored nearly fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the twelve years among them with great success. judgments of the Lord are true and righteous The blessed work which was commenced in the altogether. More to be desired are they than reading of the Bible and other good books, gold, yea, than much fine gold : sweeter also spreai far and wide, and its effects are visible in than honey and the honey-comb."
that country to this day. As with individuals, so with communities. But the most striking instances of the salutary The word of God, wherever it is brought before influence of the reading of the Scriptures and the ininds of men in masses, soon begins to other religious books which have come to my effect, through the coöperating and applying knowlelge, whether through the perusal of the agency of the Holy Spirit, those glorious re- pages of ecclesiastical history, or through performations in society which have so often fol- sonal observation, have occurred in Norway lowed the march of Christianity, wherever it and Sweden during the last twenty-five years. has prevailed in its purity. Could the history In both of these countries, as well as in all of all these triumphs of the Truth be fully writ- the Protestant countries on the continent of Euten, how wonderful and how instructive it rope, there has been a sad decline of evangelical would be ! Such a history we shall never religion. This has been owing to several peruse in this world. This may constitute a
One has been the union of the Church portion of the blessed employments of heaven. and the State, which exists in all of them withBut imperfect as the history of the church is, it out exception. This has rendered all proper abounds in instances of the happy influence discipline in the churches nearly impossible. It which the reading of the Scriptures has exerted has encouraged, or at all events, has in no way in bringing about a revival of true religion in hindered, the entrance of unconverted men into neighborhools where it had become almost ex- the ministry. It has led to the churches being tinct.
filled with worldiy professors, and the pulpits The history of religion in our own country, with unfaithful ministers, and the action and furnishes some striking illustrations of the influ. reaction of both on each other have been deence which the simple reading of the Scriptures plorable for the interests of sound doctrine and and other religious books, may, through God's vital piety. “ They shall be like priest like blessing, exert upon a cominunity. About the people.” And they have too often been “ like year 1740, a Mr. Samuel Morris, a layman in people like priest.” Eastern Virginia, who had been brought to the Another cause of the religious declension knowledge of salvation by reading the Scrip- which has taken place in all Protestant coun
BIBLE READERS IN NORWAY AND SWEDEN.
tries on the continent, has been the many and long continued wars which have unhappily occurred since the Reforination. The influence of these wars has been eminently disastrous to pure religion. The spirit of God retreats from such awful scenes.
But there is one fact which we must never lose sight of when we contemplate the sad decline of religion which took place in all the Protestant countries in Europe, in the latter part of the last century and the beginning of the present; or rather, which more fully developed itself at that tiine. It is the very partial extent to which the Reformation, as a spiritual movement, reached the masses of the people in most of those countries. It is quite certain that the great bulk of the nobles and of the common people in every portion of Christendom, which embraced the Reformation in the sixteenth century, were influenced by other than purely spiritual motives. I am far from saying that these motives were not proper ones; I only affirm that they were not spiritual, and those who acted under their influence were unacquainted with that glorious emancipation of the soul which nothing but Truth can, through the agency of God's Spirit, accomplish. Many of the nobles desired the overthrow of both the political thraldom in which they were held by a superior political authority, and of the spiritual domination and insolence of the Romish hierarchy. The masses hoped to find in the Reformation, guarantees against the despotism of the monarch and of the nobles, as well as to escape from the yoke of Rome. Wherever the monarch took the lead in the Reformation, there the work was more exterior and political than interior and spiritual. This was greatly the case in Denmark and Norway, which constituted one portion, and in Sweden and Finland, which constituted another, of what is called Scandinavia. Frederick I., during whose reign Norway was united with Denmark, and the Reformation established in both, was in many respects a worthy man, but he seems to have been very little acquainted with the spiritual nature of true Christianity. It was otherwise with Gustavus Vasa, who gave freedom and a renewed national existence to Sweden, and labored with most commendable diligence to spread the glorious Reformation in his extensive kingdom, on both shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. In this blessed work he was zealously aided by Olaus and Laurentius Petri, who had received their theological education under Luther at Wittemburg. And although there can be no doubt
that the number of those in the kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark who truly received the heart-renovating doctrines of the Reformation, and brought forth their appropriate fruits, was very considerable, yet it is equally certain that the masses of people in both realms remained unaffected by its purifying faith. The celebrated Swedish historian, Geijer, says in his admirable history of his native country, that the peasants in the north part of Sweden long seemed to be wholly ignorant of the change which had come over the country, and thought, one hundred years after the Reformation had occurred, that when they were chanting the Lutheran Liturgy, they were still reciting the Breviary of the Church of Rome! Surely the Reformation was only nominal among such people.
Whatever may have been the causes, it is certain that the state of evangelical religion has long been at a low ebb in the Scandinavian countries, as well as in all the other Protestant nations on the continent. But it has pleased God to raise up, from time to time, men who labored, not without success, to revive the de. cayed piety of the churches. This is especially true, in our day, of Norway and Sweden.
I may remark, in passing, that the four great Scandinaviar countries—Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland-embrace nearly eight millions of inhabitants, who are almost wholly Protestants. There are a few Roman Catholic churches in the kingdom of Denmark, not one in Norway, and but one in Sweden and one in Finland. The laws of Sweden and Norway,* if not of Denmark and Finland, are almost as intolerant in respect to the Roman Catholics, as are those of Italy and Spain in regard to the Protestants. And in both cases, they are utterly unwrothy of the 19th century.
In all four of the Scandinavian countries it is the Lutheran Church which is the dominant
Indeed, no other form of Protestantism is allowed to exist in Norway and Sweden. I am sorry to say that but a small minority of the clergy in any of those countries appear to be truly converted men. A large proportion of those in Denmark and Norway are Rationalists of the German stamp; whilst in Sweden and Finland, the greater part, though well-educated and moral men, and orthodox in their creed, cannot be said to be faithful and competent preachers of the Gospel. As might be expected, in this state of things, vital piety prevails to a very limited extent. Here and there, where an evangelical and truly pious minister labors, there is what may be called a spiritual garden, of greater or less extent. But the number of such preachers in all those countries, bears but a small proportion to those of a latitudinarian character. Blessed be God, however, the prospect is gradually growing brighter. The distribution of the Scriptures and religious Tracts, the progress of Temperance (respecting which I have just received very cheering news from Norway), and other causes, are concurring to bring about a better state of things. Among these causes we may justly reckon the efforts to revive true religion by means of meetings for reading the Scriptures and prayer, No man in modern times has done more in Norway to institute such meetings than the late Hans Houga, who possessed no ordinary mind. Having become a devoted Christian himself, he began to feel deeply for the low state of religion in his native land. He established meetings among the peasants or country people of the neighborhood, for reading of the Scriptures, singing, prayer and exhortation. Finding that these meetings were useful, he travelled into various parts of the kingdom, and instituted similar ones. In some places he was received well by the parochial clergy; but much oftener he was opposed by them, as well as by the civil authorities. Still he went on, encountering not a little opposition, and even persecution. He continued to labor steadfastly until the day of his death. He was a man of some property, and had the leisure requisite for his pious enter prise. The Lord smiled greatly upon his attempts to revive pure religion in Norway. Though his home was within a short distance of Christiana, where he owned a beautiful farm, yet he often extended his missionary journey's into the middle and northern portions of the kingdom, as well as into the southern. He was not a minister of the Gospel ; he was only a plain farmer, whose education had not been extraordinary, but his mind was well enlightened by the divine pages of the Word of God, and his heart was filled with the love of his Saviour and of the souls of men.
* The Constitution of Norway forbids a Jesuit or a Jew to set his foot in that country.
Since his death, the good work has gone on, not, perhaps, with the same energy as when it had his supervision and guidance. Nevertheless there are many of these little meetings held every week in Norway; and the Spirit of the Lord, I doubt not, still continues to render them a blessing to the souls of those who attend
them. They are an admirable means of keeping alive the spirit of true piety in communities where the preaching is little more than an exhibition of a cold and heartless morality.
These meetings in Norway for reading the Scriptures are not held during the hours of the public services in the churches. Hans Houga founded no sect. His “ people,” as they are called, have not attempted to separate from the parish churches, and no schism has taken place. In this they have probably acted wisely. Indeed, the laws of the country would hardly permit them to form separate societies or churches, for they do not tolerate dissent. The only object of this good man and his followers has been to increase true piety among the people and the churches, by the use of such means as lay in their power, and such as the Scriptures justify.
When I was last in Christiana, in the summer of 1910, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with a sister of this excellent man, who lives about two miles north of that city, in a delightful valley, through which a small stream makes its way down to the gulf, at the bead of which the capital of Norway stands. And never, whilst memory lasts, can I forget the very sweet spirit of piety which was manifest. ed in the remarks of this lovely woman. She was far advanced in life ; and yet, having good health, and unimpaired faculties of mind, she was enabled not only to take a lively interest in the cause of the Saviour, but also to labor, in her way, to promote it, She delighted to converse about the progress of missions among the heathen, and not less respecting the gradual revival of religion which is going forward in almost all Protestant countries. Like every other truly pious person whom I have met with on the Continent, I found her very desirous to know more of those wonderful manifestations of the Spirit which our American churches have so often seen in the revivals of religion, which God in his mercy has vouchsafed to them.
But the meetings of the “ Readers," as they are called, have not been less useful to the cause of true religion in Sweden than in Norway. I know not who was their founder, nor when they commenced. It is probable that such meetings have been held in Sweden, with more or less frequency and continuousness, as in other Protestant countries, from the days of the Reformation. However that may be, it is certain that they have been a powerful means of keeping alive the spirit of piety in some districts, and of reviving it when decayed in others. Of
BIBLE READERS IN NORWAY AND SWEDEN.
this I had frequent proofs when I last visited that country. On that occasion, I made a long tour up into the northern part of the kingdom, in company with the Rev. Mr. Scott (then a missionary at Stockholm, and whose face has since been beheld with delight by many in this country), and the Rev. Mr. Wieselgren, a most eloquent and devoted pastor and dean from the south part of Sweden. The object of this tour was to hold a series of Temperance meetings at Upsala, Danemora, Geffle, Süderala, Norrala, etc., and especially to attend a great missionary, Bible and temperance meeting, which was to be held at Hudiksvall, on the Gulf of Bothnia, which was to be the apogee of our journey.
This tour brought us into the districts most celebrated for the existence and the happy influ. ence of the “ Readers.” One of these is the parish of Norrala. This parish may justly be termed the Swedish garden of Eden. In no other in that whole kingdom is there so happy and so wide-spread a religious influence. Two thirds of all the population above sixteen years of age, it is said on excellent authority, give good evidence of piety. The very appearance of the country I conld almost imagine, and certainly that of the people, indicated that this district was a “garden of the Lord.” Not only was there proof of this in the neat and proper dress of the people, and the courteousness of their manners, but even in the very looks which their countenances habitually wore.
That sweet serenity which the peace of God, peace of conscience, and true benevolence, alone can give, beamed forth from every face. There was an amazing contrast between the aspect of the people in this parish, and that adjoining on the north. Nor is it difficult to assign the true cause. In Norrala, pure religion has long been maintained by the faithful preaching of the pastors whom the Head of the Church has from time to time placed there, and the meetings of the “ Bible readers,” or “ Readers” as they are more commonly called in that country; whilst the other has been one of the most irreligious spots in Sweden ; drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, and all other vices seemed to have taken
their abode there. For there, alas, the true Gospel had not been preached; and there, no meetings of the “ Readers” had been tolerated, by the “ blind leaders” who undertook to “ lead the blind.” And there, the dress, the manners, and the very countenances of the people indicated that that blessed religion which inculcates " whatsoever is pure," " whatsoever is lovely," “ whatsoever is of good report,” exerts none of
its hallowed influences, because it is there un. known.
The meetings which were held at Norrala, were in some respects the most interesting of all that took place during our tour. The first was held in the morning, when we were going up; the second was held in the evening, upon our return. The former was attended by a considerable number of people, who came together at a few moments' notice, and were delighted to hear, during an hour and a half, some account of the Revivals, Sunday Schools, Home Missions, etc., of America. The latter was a Temperance meeting, and was held on the sloping side of a green hill, near the village. The sun was just descending to the horizon when the meeting commenced, and had long disappeared before it broke up. There, from the very rock on which Gustavus Vasa stood, in the year 1521, and addressed the peasants of this parish, did those who spoke on this occasion call upon the people to rise against a greater enemy than the terrible Christian II., and his mighty Danes. Around stood some fifteen hundred persons, listening with breathless attention to the powerful speeches of Mr. Wieselgren and Mr. Scott. In front were the Norrala peasant women, each with her head covered with a white handkerchief, fashioned into the shape of a plain bonnet. Everything in their appearance indicated the greatest propriety. Higher up, on the hill. side, and immediately in the rear of the speakers, as well as on each side of them, to the distance of several rods, stood peasant men in their best, though plain clothes; whilst a num. ber who could get no better position, were seated on the roof of a low building which bounded the left portion of the assembly. Throughout all ranks, a profound stillness reigned. Towards the close, the venerable and very aged chief pastor of the parish arose, and addressed the people with great animation. They were much affected by the sound of, his well-known and thrilling voice, which, on account of his manifold infirmities, they had not been permitted to hear for a few years past. Prayers were offered up, and several sweet hymns were sung. The Swedes are lovers of music, and they sing well; and never did music more deeply affect me than on this occasion. Whilst the sweet tones of the tenor arose from the compact mass of the women who stood below us, and who, in singing, made a gentle waving motion, the bass rolled along the hillside above us, from one extremity of the living mass to the other, like the sound of the waves