The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

This Day in HIS-story: April 5

1796

HT: Dan Graves

Don’t you sometimes feel there could be a lot more to your Christian life? When Hans Nielsen Hauge was nearing twenty-five, he felt that way. The young carpenter had done a lot of religious reading. He was afraid of hell and longed to be established on “the spiritual rock, Jesus Christ.” He even fell to his knees in his father’s fields praying for this.

Suddenly, on this day, April 5, 1796, while singing “Jesus, I Long for Thy Blessed Communion,” he was filled with divine joy. “…my mind became so exalted that I was not myself aware of, nor can I express, what took place in my soul. For I was beside myself. As soon as I came to my senses, I was filled with regret that I had not served this loving transcendentally good God. Now it seemed to me that nothing in this world was worthy of any regard. That my soul possessed something supernatural, divine, and blessed; that there was a glory that no tongue can utter…” Not only did he know for certain that he was saved from eternal damnation, but he felt a “living faith” spring up in him.

Enraptured, Hauge asked the Lord what He wanted him to do. The answer that came to his mind was, “You shall confess My name before the people; exhort them to repent and seek Me while I may be found and call upon Me while I am near; and touch their hearts that they may turn from darkness to light.” Hauge was obedient.

He left his parent’s home to spread the gospel through Norway. This task was made harder by the fact that the established church was afraid of enthusiasts and had forbidden all religious services (under the Conventicle Act) except those under the supervision of regularly posted clergymen. Consequently, Hauge spent much time in jail. Some of his incarceratations lasted several months. But although men sought to thwart him, God so endorsed Hauge’s preaching with the power of the Holy Spirit that spiritual renewal followed wherever he went. Often this was accompanied by economic renewal, for Hans was gifted with many skills and strong business-sense and helped Norway’s peasants develop industries.

Eventually he won the support of several bishops. However, he was once held in prison from 1804-1814 although all charges against him fell through. His enemies (among them certain godless bishops) called for his death.

He traveled 10,000 miles in Norway with the gospel and is regarded as the founder of Norwegian Pietism. Norwegians immigrating into the United States brought Hauge’s teachings with them, influencing Lutheranism in the New World. A group also sailed settled in the Natal, South Africa, carrying Pietist ideas there.

Hauge’s first wife and three of his four children died before him. Worn out, bleeding from the lungs. and otherwise broken in health, he himself died in 1824 at the relatively young age of 53. His last words, spoken with a face that shone with light, were, “O Thou eternal, loving God!”

1811

HT: Dan Graves

IMAGINE THIS: two hundred years ago, even great nations like Britain did not educate the majority of their children. One of the people who changed that was Robert Raikes, publisher of the Gloucester Journal. In a letter, he described the start of his world-changing work:

Some business leading me one morning into the suburbs of the city, where the lowest of the people … reside, I was struck with concern at seeing a group of children, wretchedly ragged, at play in the street. I asked an inhabitant whether those children belonged to that part of the town, and lamented their misery and idleness. “Ah! Sir,” said the woman to whom I was speaking, “could you take a view of this part of the town on a Sunday, you would be shocked indeed, for then the street is filled with multitudes of these wretches, who, released on that day from employment, spend their time in noise and riot, playing at chuck [a throwing game], and cursing and swearing in a manner so horrid, as to convey to any serious mind an idea of hell rather than any other place.” 

Raikes already used his influence and time to improve conditions in Gloucester’s prisons. Now he wondered if he could do something to help the children. As he considered this, the word “TRY” impressed itself on his mind. He talked it over with Rev. Thomas Stock. Stock had run a Sunday school in Ashbury, Berkshire. Raikes and the clergyman agreed on a plan to hire four women to teach the children on Sundays. The change for the better in the children was above their highest hopes. In 1783, Raikes published an article about the Gloucester Sunday schools in his newspaper. 

His article drew attention all over Great Britain and people wrote with inquiries. A popular men’s magazine printed one of his replies. The idea was a hit. People had founded Sunday schools before, but Raikes was the first to promote the idea to the nation. Volunteers (many of them motivated by Christian faith) formed Sunday schools across Britain. Hundreds of thousands of children learned to read and to lead self-disciplined lives.

Organizers often went beyond mere book education. One man encouraged children to bring a penny every Sunday toward buying new clothes. He matched the amount for anyone who did. (A penny in 1800 was worth about 50¢ US in 2020.) The children responded eagerly. After a few weeks, many came dressed in new outfits. They had learned that it pays to save a little each week toward a worthwhile goal.

An anecdote shows Raikes’s way of handling children. A sullen girl was giving her mother fits. The mom complained that discipline was ineffective. After asking the mother’s permission, Raikes pleaded with the girl to seek forgiveness as a step toward changing course. The girl refused. “Well then,” said Raikes, “If you have no regard for yourself, I have much regard for you. You will be ruined and lost if you do not begin to be a good girl, and if you will not humble yourself, I must humble myself, and make a beginning for you.” He knelt before the mother and asked forgiveness. No sooner did the girl see him on his knees for her sake than her heart melted. She fell on her own knees and afterward was quite changed.

On the evening of this day 5 April, 1811, Raikes felt a heaviness in his chest. A physician came at once but could give no hope. Raikes died before the hour was up, seventy-five years old. 

Raikes changed millions of lives through his willingness to try something new. He used the means available to him to tell the world of his success. That is why he wrote, 

I can never pass by the spot where the word TRY came so powerfully into my mind, without lifting up my hands and heart to heaven, in gratitude to God, for having put such a thought into my heart.

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