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Yesterday’s post introduced Swedish pietists and alluded to Dwight Moody’s popularity among them in the 19th century.

Although I plan to post on David Gustafson’s book on Moody and Swedish pietists (mentioned therein) early next week, it seemed apposite to explore the possibilities for their appetite for Anglo-American holiness.

A likely place to begin is with two men, Carl Olof Rosenius, Lutheran pietist and George Scott, an English Methodist.

However, in the early 19th century, Napoleon imposed the Continental Blockade against Great Britain in retaliation for his defeat at Trafalgar. Napoleon wanted to isolate Britain from trading with Europe. He not only had his French Empire, but satellite states which included Scandinavia and much of Eastern Europe into Russia. Sweden refused to participate, and, consequently, was able to trade with Britain in a flourishing exchange of her raw materials for Britain’s colonial products.  Whilst that oversimplifies the situation, it also meant that a number of enterprising Britons settled in Sweden to establish their own businesses, from engineering to manufacturing to shipping.  They assimilated into Swedish society, married Swedes and became philanthropists.

As religious life was still essential, they invited their British clergymen to join them. These clergy came largely from what the British call non-Conformist churches, that is, those which are not established state churches (e.g. Church of England [Anglican], Church of Scotland [Presbyterian]). They came from the Free Church in Scotland (so called because it is free from state control), the Methodists as well as various Evangelical groups (e.g. Religious Tract Society and the Salvation Army).  The Methodists gained an extra boost with Nordic sailors on the floating mission in New York Harbor, the Bethel (Betel in Swedish). Led by a Swede, it was in operation for many years and resulted in numerous conversions of Scandinavian sailors, who then returned to their homes and encouraged the spread of Methodism among their families and friends.

Therefore, by the time Dwight Moody’s sermons and Ira Sankey’s hymns reached Sweden in the 1870s, Lutheran pietists were well acquainted with English and Scottish non-Conformist evangelists.

The early 19th century also saw Britain at the forefront of the age of steam during the Industrial Revolution.  A Englishman by the name of Samuel Owen (1774 – 1854) indirectly helped to shape not only industry but pietism in Sweden.

Owen was a brilliant inventor and engineer. Although born in Shropshire, he moved to Leeds (South Yorkshire) where he worked for a steam engine manufacturer, Fenton, Murray & Wood’s.  Swedish companies were naturally eager to purchase these revolutionary new engines and ordered four from the company. Fenton, Murray & Wood’s sent Owen to Sweden to help install them.

Owen made his home in Sweden in 1807 and had 17 children with three wives. It is unclear what happened to his first wife, an Englishwoman, but afterward, he married two Swedes, the first of whom died. Owen’s third wife, Lisette, was one of playwright August Strindberg’s aunts.

In the meantime, Owen had opened his own manufacturing works in Stockholm in 1809. Less than ten years later, he held the distinction of being the first person in Sweden to build a ship with a steam engine. He became prominent in Swedish society and is remembered today with a street named after him located near Stockholm City Hall, Samuel Owens gata.

He is known as the ‘founder of the Swedish mechanical industry’ and was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1831.

Although Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, Projekt Runeberg says that, in 1830, Owen and other British immigrants requested that the Methodist preacher George Scott move to Sweden.

Information on Scott is scant, unfortunately, but he met Carl Olof Rosenius and mixed in Swedish pietist circles for several years.

Rosenius’s father Anders was the local pastor in Nysätra in Västerbotten. Anders Rosenius became involved with Swedish revivalism in the 19th century. The younger Rosenius completed secondary school and went on to study theology at the University of Uppsala. However, for financial and health reasons, he had to give up his studies and become a tutor near Stockholm.

Rosenius experienced his ‘conversion’ moment at the age of 15. He was no doubt always a Christian, but certain pietist, Baptist and holiness denominations refer to the one big moment of being born in the Spirit as conversion. The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, although steeped in faith from infancy, even had a ‘conversion’. Therefore, in this context it doesn’t mean they went from non-believer to believer but instead had a much deeper experience.

After his conversion, Rosenius preached to the school holidays conventicle (small group). He also impressed his local bishop with his deep understanding of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by grace through faith.

As a young tutor in Stockholm, however, Rosenius began to have doubts. There, he made the acquaintance of George Scott. In 1840, the two became good friends and Rosenius felt his faith buoyed by the association. Rosenius abandoned his goal of pursuing the priesthood and instead began working for Scott as his assistant. He lived in the grounds of Scott’s church Betlehemskyrkan — the ‘English Church’ (unrelated to the Church of England) — which the Foreign Evangelical Society helped to finance.

In 1842, the two men founded a journal called Pietisten, which became popular among its newly evangelical readership who were sceptical of the Lutheran Church and seeking a greater holiness and Spener-type religious experience.

However, that same year, Scott had criticised the Swedish government and, in reaction, a small riot broke out in front of Betlehemskyrkan on Palm Sunday. Scott left Sweden soon after for Gravesend, Kent, where he stayed until 1845, after which time he became Superintendent and Chairman of the Aberdeen District of the Methodists in Scotland. He also served in Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle. In 1866, he presided at the Wesleyan Methodist Conference of Eastern Canada.

Pietisten lived on, though, under Rosenius’s editorship. In 1868, Paul Peter Waldenström succeeded him.

After Scott’s return to England, Rosenius became more involved in the Swedish revival movement, known as ‘neo-evangelicalism’. He travelled around the country, speaking to various conventicles. He also rented premises in Stockholm.

In 1856, he joined a group of fellow pietists to found the Evangelical Mission (EFS) and edited their magazine Mission. The following year, a foundation which had bought Scott’s Betlehemskyrkan reopened it.  The Wikipedia image on the right shows Rosenius in the pulpit there.

In 1867, whilst preaching at St John’s Church in Gothenburg, Rosenius suffered a stroke and died a year later.

Like the Wesley brothers who never left the Church of England, Rosenius remained a member of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, as did his wife and children. Similarly, as the Wesleys felt resistance from the established Church, so did Rosenius from the Lutherans.  Rosenius opposed free and open Communion, which he and his family still received in the Lutheran Church.  He was also against schism.

Throughout his life, Rosenius continued to place primary importance on the Lutheran doctrines of objective atonement and justification by grace through faith.  However, he liked the warmth and personal approach of the Herrnhut school.  He found Scott’s Methodism helpful for its works-based emphasis on outward signs of holiness.

Rosenius’s legacy was probably what he would have wanted: a cross-pollination of pietism into the Lutheran Church and reinforcement of a core element of Lutheran doctrine into pietism.

One of his many followers, a lay preacher named Nicolaus Bergensköld, emigrated to the United States and became involved with the revival movement taking place in Scandinavian settlements in the Midwest.  He founded the mission church in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1868.

Next week: Moody’s effect on Swedish pietists


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