From material from Hauge Institute
Hans Nielsen Hauge was born in 1771 in southeastern Norway into a farming family. As a boy he was a bookworm, seeking knowledge, reading the Bible and devotional books daily but throughout his life Hauge considered himself to be unlearned. His only education was from primary school.
On 5th April 1796, he was ploughing a field on the farm when, in his own words, "As I was working under the open sky, I was singing the hymn ‘Jesus, O to taste sweet union with You’. When I had sung the second verse, 'Myself and all that I have I will freely surrender, if You alone will dwell in my soul ...'. my mind was so uplifted to God that I was unaware of myself and could not say what was happening in my soul, because I was outside of myself. Now I thought that nothing in the world was worth paying heed to and I regretted that I hadn't served the God who is good above all things better than I had. My soul felt something supernatural, divine and blessed. There was a glory that no tongue can describe. No one can take this away from me, because I know that from that moment my spirit was full of all good things.
"I especially felt a passionate and burning love for God and my neighbour. My mind was renewed; I grieved over all sins and feel a strong desire that people should get to share that same grace with me. I was filled with a passionate desire to read the Bible and Jesus' own teaching. I noticed a new light to understand it and to be able to bind together the teaching the teaching of God's men to the one aim, that is that Jesus has come as our Saviour and we should be born anew by his Spirit, repent, and be made holy more and more after the characteristics of God to serve the triune God alone and prepare and perfect our souls for the eternal bliss. It was as if I saw the world sunk down in evil, something about which I was gripped with grief. I prayed to God that he would withhold the Last Punishment so people could repent. I would now willingly serve God. I prayed he would tell me what I should do. Then I heard in my inner being, ‘You shall confess my name before the people, exhort them to repent and seek me while I can be found, call on me while I am near and am touching their hearts, so they can turn from the darkness into the Light.'"
Within two months, he had founded a revival movement in his own community, written a book, and decided to take his mission on the road. In his lifetime. he published 33 books and 100,000 Norwegians are estimated to have read one or more of them, at a time when the population was 900,000 and church attendance was very low as Christianity had become a framework for traditions - ethics and spiritual life were nearly non-existent.
In the next several years, Hauge traveled - mostly by foot - throughout most of Norway, from north to south. He held countless revival meetings, often after church services. His organization became an informal network that in many ways challenged the establishment of the state church. As a result, he and his followers were persecuted in various ways. Hauge himself was imprisoned 14 times, spending nine years in prison, mostly for violating the law that a Church of Norway minister had to be present at any religious assembly.
In a similar way to Quakers in England at the time (see a previous blog), societies of friends were organised as the revival spread across the land. These groups met in their homes and spent much time together praying and teaching. Hauge used both men and women as preachers and spiritual leaders. The notion of giving women such responsibilities was revolutionary at the time. His opinion of equality and worth was right according to his understanding of the Bible. The really important issue was to find the right person in the right place to accomplish the tasks in hand.
Another characteristic was that there was room for all kinds of people in the societies. The old class distinctions from the farmers' society were gradually wiped out by the fact that men and women, farmers and servants, the crippled and the elderly were all on the same footing. Unselfish love and co-operation distinguished them all. Haugians spent much time together: they spoke to each other of spiritual matters, taught and advised one another and were edified by reading spiritual books.
These societies of friends were distinguished by the fact that people lived in a brotherhood, helping one another both practically and spiritually. There was a clear connection between their life and doctrine. The Haugians behaved carefully, properly and nobly; they were hard working and never refused anybody if they could be of assistance. They showed initiative, charity and sacrifice, and many of the cottage industries the Haugians started up were financed with the help of gifts from friends all over the country. Businesses such as mills, shipyards, paper mills, textile industry and printing were founded and often grew to prosperity in a short time, a fruit of Haugeans diligence, economic enterprise and frugality.
The number of factories and mills that Hauge founded around the country were numerous. In 1809, the government temporarily released Hauge from prison so that he could construct salt factories to help alleviate the salt shortage caused by a blockade by the British. Even so, his modesty prevented him from becoming a capitalist, and he gave away all he had founded and inspired to others - brethren and friends. In a period of extreme economic crisis, when almost all the prosperous timber barons and iron works owners went bankrupt because of the Napoleonic wars, he showed a way to prosperity for anyone with initiative, and this led to the new rise in Norwegian economics some years after the independence in 1814.
Hauge was inspired by the idea of the spirit of community practised by the early Christians. It was expressed in the way they lived in a spiritual and practical community where all was shared. It was a brotherhood with room for all. This idea of a brotherhood places the interests of the community in the centre and is the direct opposite of the individualism that marks today's society. Hauge placed this concept of a brotherhood in an economic and material context, where those who had extra capital were expected to invest in something useful which would provide people with work and service. This included the challenge to the friends to sustain each other economically in times of difficulty and to lend each other money should the need arise.
Hauge placed the fellow worker at the centre of attention in a business so that consideration for the individual was balanced with the industry's need for profit, to keep it going. He pointed out that the leader also has the function of caring, that the person in question must have an eye open for the worker's living and working conditions. If anyone is to function well at the work place, the leader must show care and consideration so each one can develop to his best capacity in the work process and - in the community. A business which takes care of its workers' well-being, not only their performance, will come to see that there will be greater enjoyment, less absenteeism and in many cases an improvement in the work.
Hauge warned his followers against ambition and self-importance as a motivation, because then one would be in danger of being self-centred, materialistic and of seeking solely to secure one's own economic position or social status. The only motive for creating profit or ownership according to Hauge, was not for one's own benefit, but to use what one had for the benefit of others.
Hauge felt that material goods such as money, property or natural resources were God's property, which He has given to men in stewardship, for their own benefit and that of their fellowmen. Thus individuals have the responsibility of stewardship so as to serve the community for the greater good. Stewardship requires a far-sighted perspective both of the planning of resources and the fulfilment of the project. It also requires creativity and seeing possibilities which others may not have thought of. Being an entrepreneur and a pioneer was an important part of Hauge's life, and he encouraged his Friends to do the same.
Hauge was of the opinion that everyone has his share of responsibility within the community, and that those who have the means should contribute to the establishment of enterprises to be able to give people work. One should use one's money in the best possible way so that it could grow and become a blessing to others. "Everyone should help establish and manage factories and works according to their fortune and gifts, so idle hands may work.". As Hauge travelled around the country, he saw that much of the poverty around was the result of the fact that many had no remunerative work. So it became very important to him to implement measures to create work places. Much of the reason behind giving people work was to be rid of poverty. To work was to accept one's share of the responsibility, and Hauge sought to have as many as possible in work.
The call to serve was the driving force and the motivation behind the business activities not selfish ambition. Hauge pointed out the possibility and the necessity of being a child of God in all one's walks. He showed that it was possible to combine spiritual and practical activity. The Haugians saw quite rightly that certain tradesmen allowed themselves to be governed by desires for personal gain, but that was something which characterised the person and not trading as such. The Haugians initiative and hard-work philosophy contributed to a legitimising of the market as an institution, and so to the building up of a functioning and independent trade and industry among poorer citizens of Norway.
Hauge often used the words "light up" and "shine" in connection with everyday behaviour, especially with work. He knew that the relationship between living and preaching would be most obvious in the workplace. He emphasised the need for enthusiasm, hard work and a humble desire to serve. In this way one could be a good example for one's friends, colleagues and others.
He was of the opinion that everybody needed to be engaged in something worthwhile, having work that was tailored to age, gender and working capacity. The idea of equality was a major principle in his philosophy of work and employment. This was a social and ethical idea which brought down the barriers of the time. In Hauge's working world there was room for everybody as long as they were prepared to do their part.
Are business people in your church or churches being encouraged to come together and create businesses that will create employment and relieve poverty?
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