Persecution Sweden


     Persecution for Preaching the First Angel's Message.

     In Sweden, as in other countries, the most bitter opposition to the reformation was from the clergy. As the reformers gained the ascendency, and Protestantism became the State religion, they grew intolerant and oppressive. The priests of Sweden possess great influence, though their authority is limited. In every town there is a church council, which has power to forbid all preaching that is considered dangerous to the State Church, or that will cause division in it. Of this council the priest is a member; but while he may desire to enforce the law, he can do nothing if the other members of the council are opposed. The law is now very unpopular, and is not often enforced. There is a strong public sentiment in favor of freedom of speech and conscience, but as we have seen, the Lutheran clergy are jealous of any  influence which shall weaken their hold upon the people, and the spirit of intolerance and persecution is not extinct.   

     The preaching of the first message in Sweden excited much opposition, and the experience of those who took part in the movement is full of interest. The message was brought to this country from England. In the province of Orebro it began to be proclaimed in the year 1843, by several laymen, called “ropare.” These preached with great earnestness that the hour of God's Judgment had come, and a wide-spread interest was aroused among the people. In the fall of the same year, two young men were moved to give the warning. The people assembled in great numbers to listen to their preaching, and the meetings were continued both day and night, sometimes in a private house, and sometimes in the woods. Many were roused from their careless security, and led to confess their sins and to seek mercy and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. But the greater the interest, the greater the opposition and persecution. There were some who declared the preachers to be insane, or laboring under some strange disease. The priest of the State Church made several attempts to stop the preaching, and to lull the people to sleep again; but without avail. Finally the police were ordered to arrest them, and for six weeks they searched for them in the woods, but in vain.   

     Through the efforts of the priest they were finally arrested and imprisoned. An account of this is given by one of the young men, as follows: “At last the priest summoned us to appear before him. In answer to this summons, about forty of us, mostly young men and women, repaired to his house. After a few questions, he felt our pulse to ascertain if we were affected by disease. We assured him that we were in good health. He then became angry, and demanded a reason for our conduct. This we gave him from the Bible. When we had finished presenting our faith, we noticed that nearly all present had been weeping. All, except my companion and myself, were permitted to return home. The next morning we were arrested by the police, and thrown into the prison at Orebro, where we were assigned a cell among the thieves.     

     “When we were brought before the governor for examination, he demanded by what authority we were sent to preach. We referred him to Joel 2, and Revelation 14:6-8, and told him further that the Spirit of God came upon us with such power that we could not resist it. After a number of questions he angrily said, ‘I will cure you of your foolishness.’ He then lashed us till his strength failed, when he threw the scourge to his private secretary, and ordered him to continue the lashing. After being severely punished in this way, we were returned to our cell. The same treatment was repeated the next day. The governor ended by saying, ‘If you do not cease your preaching, I will shut you up where neither sun nor moon can ever shine upon you.’  

     “The following day we were taken to the hospital to be examined by the doctors. Two physicians, two ministers, and a chamberlain were present. We were requested to testify concerning our faith, and we complied with this request. While we were speaking, the chamberlain left the room, with tears streaming from his eyes. The ministers and one of the doctors soon after withdrew without saying a word. The remaining doctor then called in his servant, and directed him to shave our heads, but to leave some hair in the form of a cross. This was done, and the next day we were taken to the insane asylum.  

     “Here we were put in a room which had been left by its previous occupant in so filthy a condition as to be not only unhealthful but indecent. In the morning we were conducted to an antechamber, and exposed to a powerful stream of cold water. We tried to protect our heads by covering them with our hands; but as soon as we lifted our hands for this purpose, our attendant gave us a blow on the head. Finally my comrade fell to the floor in a swoon, and as he fell, his crutch [he was lame] struck me in the side with such force that I also fell, completely exhausted. We lay in the water until we regained our strength, when the same treatment was repeated. This done, we were again taken before the doctor, who noticed that we trembled from cold and exhaustion, and said, ‘I will soon warm you up.’ He produced a large bundle of sticks, and beat us with them until he could do so no longer.      

     “On the second day after this, we were again brought out for trial, and were told that we would be scourged until we should be compelled to swear. After consultation with each other we repeated the curses mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:15-20, which God uttered against those who would not obey his voice. Through the sympathy of the watchman, it was represented to the governor that we had fulfilled the injunction, and we were then set at liberty.”   

     They were permitted to return home, but the harsh treatment they had received brought upon both a severe illness, which it was feared, for a time, would prove fatal. Both recovered, however, and afterward preached with greater power than before. Hundreds of people came to their meetings, and the neighborhood for many miles around became stirred. Many hardened and wicked persons were led to seek God, and secret sins and crimes were confessed.   

     Efforts were again made to have them arrested; but persons who sympathized with them appealed to the king in their behalf, and secured an order that they should not be molested. From that time they continued to labor undisturbed. About the middle of the year 1844, however, the power which they had before possessed left them. The truths they had presented appeared as clear and forcible as ever; but the warning having been given, the special manifestation of God's Spirit which had been bestowed to aid its proclamation ceased. 

HS 203-205