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By Henry C Vedder, 1927


The Field

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      Sweden was once a great empire; in the time of Gustavus Adolphus it included nearly all the countries about the Baltic. Since then it has shrunk to very moderate size area 173,075 square miles (little more than our Middle States); population, 5,954,489, about one-third that of the Middle States. Its largest city and capital, Stockholm, has 422,000 people; Goteborg boasts 227,000; the rest are much smaller, but there are 21 towns that range from 10,000 to 58,000. Since the Reformation the Lutheran Church has been established as the religion of the state and people. There are two universities Upsala (1477) and Lund (1668). Primary education is both compulsory and free, and Sweden has enjoyed a fine school system for generations, so that there is very little illiteracy fewer than one per cent, of army recruits are found unable to read

      It is an agricultural and mining country. Though only about 10 per cent, of its area is cultivated, less than 10 per cent, of the people are engaged in industries and commerce. Mining is very profitable; large quantities of iron and copper, considerable gold and silver and zinc are produced; considerable coal is also mined. A large part of these mineral products is exported. Sweden is, however, a naturally poor country, and strenuous effort has been required to wrest a living from a frowning nature. Hence

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Swedes are a fine race, physically and morally. Hence also as population has pressed hard on means of subsistence, great numbers of them have emigrated, especially to the United States, where they form some of the best elements in our newer population, notably in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

      The way was prepared for the Baptist movement in Sweden by Pietism, which influenced all Lutheran communities, and especially the Moravians, who may be regarded as a part of the Pietist movement. A Methodist from England also labored there, from 1830 to 1842, when he was compelled to leave. There was much dis-satisfaction with the State Church among the more spiritually-minded. In the provinces of Helsingland and Dalecarlia, little groups met privately in devotional meetings and celebrated the Lord's Supper among themselves, to the great scandal of the Lutheran clergy. A royal edict of 1726 forbade such conventicles on penalty of fine, imprisonment, or banishment. Between 1852 and 1854 more than 600 persons were prosecuted for such offenses. The Baptist movement evidently coincided with a general religious ferment in Sweden.

Baptists in Sweden

      There would be no justification for sending American missionaries to such a country, and accordingly Baptists have never sent any. To encourage a Baptist movement of wholly native origin, however, is "something else again," and Baptists have done that. This movement had an origin much like the one in Germany, and like that the story is almost romantic. A Swedish sailor, Captain Gustaf W. Shroeder, was converted and baptized in the Mariner's Mission in New York, November 3, 1844. He met another sailor, F. O. Nilsson, with whom he talked about baptism, and Nilsson also was converted. He

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became a colporter in Sweden and was baptized by Oncken in 1847. Others followed and the first Baptist church was organized. Nilsson was ordained at Hamburg and became pastor of this church. Bitter persecutions followed, and Nilsson was finally banished, and the church was so harried that it emigrated in a body and settled in Minnesota. Later (1870) another colony was sent out by Shroeder and settled in Maine. Andreas Wiberg, a graduate of the University of Upsala and for a time a Lutheran minister, became Nilsson's successor, was baptized by Oncken in 1852, and was for a time a colporter of the ABPS (1855). A book on baptism had been widely circulated in Sweden in the meantime, and he found about 500 people who held Baptist views. The publication of a weekly paper called The Evangelist (1856) proved a great help. By the aid of English Baptists a chapel was built at Stockholm, costing $3,500, large enough to hold a congregation of 1,200, and it was soon filled.

      In the meantime a house was built at Goteborg by Captain Shroeder, mainly from his own means; Nilsson had been "pardoned" for his heinous offense of preaching the gospel and permitted to return; he now became pastor of this church. Bishop Bjorck complained to the authorities about this unauthorized conventicle, and Schroeder and Nilsson were fined $50. This persecution reacted on the Lutherans; the sympathy of people generally was with the Baptists, and gradually persecution died out, though the laws still forbade such meetings. The constitution of Sweden (1809) guaranteed freedom of conscience and exercise of religion, provided the public peace was not disturbed. The King. (Oscar I) urged that laws should be conformed to the constitution, but this was only partially done, though the persecuting statutes speedily became a dead letter. Laws in favor of dissenters

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were at length passed in 1860 and 1873, but offered Baptists slight advantages. Many of them have not formally severed their connection with the national Churchy and still have a nominal legal membership in it, while they have organized their own churches an anomalous state of things that probably cannot be paralleled in any other country.

The Bethel Seminary

      The most important thing in the progress of Swedish Baptists was the establishment of their theological school. Two Swedes by birth, Knut O. Broady and John A. Edgren, who had served with credit in our Civil War, became students at the Hamilton Theological Seminary, and after graduation went back to their native land. They opened the Bethel Seminary in Stockholm in October, 1866, with seven students, and it has continued to flourish from that day to this. Most of the Swedish Baptist ministers of the present generation are graduates of this school. In 1883 a fine building was dedicated; toward its erection considerable help was given by American Baptists. Doctor Broady continued to be president of the seminary and an efficient teacher as well for forty years, until his death in 1922 at the age of 90.

      In 1867 there were general revivals, and large numbers were converted. The year 1884 was another time of ingathering. In July, 1923, the Swedish Baptists celebrated their 7$th anniversary, and there were then 680 churches, and 1,118 preachers; and though more than 30,000 had emigrated to the United States there were 60,000 of them left to rejoice over what God had wrought. The last World Alliance of Baptists was held in 1923 in Stockholm and was a memorable occasion. There was a registration of 2,326 delegates and visitors, of whom over 500 were from the United States. Such a gathering both

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expressed and intensified the unity of Baptists throughout the world, as they realized the greatness of the brotherhood that was theirs, and gave new emphasis to their predominant interest in proclaiming the gospel to all men. It was a demonstration to impress the whole of Sweden and to give the Baptist churches there a new standing among their own people.

      The Swedish Baptists have been a missionary people from the beginning. Through the influence of Wiberg they formed the Swedish Missionary Society, and at their Jubilee they had 165 missionaries under appointment. Next to the Moravians, they probably have the largest number in proportion to membership engaged in mission work of any Christian body. An independent organization, known as the Orebro Mission Society, was formed in 1892, and in 1908 founded a school that has trained some 299 men for missionary and pastoral service. The Society now maintains 60 workers. A Swedish Baptist Union and a Baptist Women's League, are additional bonds of union among them. Perhaps the decade from 1876 to 1886 was the period of largest growth, following the repeal of the Conventicle Act in 1873. The more liberal policy of the state toward Dissenters now permits Baptist students to study in the state normal schools and to be appointed teachers in state schools.

      It should be added that the B M S has carried on work in Sweden since about 1834. This has extended to Norway also, and in the two countries they have eight principal stations, with 13 substations.


Country and People

      Norway's area is 124,964 square miles, about the same as New England, and its population is 2,649,775. Once

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it was part of the Swedish empire, then became a twin kingdom, with a single king. Since 1905 it has been an entirely separate kingdom with its own ruler, Haakon VII. The country is largely mountainous, with agriculture practicable only in the valleys. Of the entire area 74 per cent, is unproductive. Oats, barley, rye, and potatoes are the chief crops. Forestry and fisheries are among the chief sources of wealth; mines and minerals come next. Norway lacks coal but has immense undeveloped water-power. It exports paper-pulp, chemicals, oils, and soap.

Baptists in Norway

      Missionaries from Sweden began work in 1857, and a church was organized the following year. Rev. F. K. Rymder, a converted Danish sailor, baptized in the United States, began a Baptist church in 1860 at Porsgrund, with seven members. Before this a Lutheran pastor had started an " Apostolic Free Church " that adopted baptism of believers, but it never took the Baptist name and was later dissolved. Nilsson preached more or less widely in Norway; churches sprang up in various places. An Association was formed in 1872, and a Conference or Union in 1877. English as well as American Baptists gave help. A college was established at Cristiana, 1910. Now there are three Associations and about 4,000 members.

      The reason for this smaller growth is not coldness of Norwegians to Baptist ideas, but the. great emigration of converts to the United States. From 1872 to 1878 the net gain was only 70 members, though several hundred had been converted and baptized. There was persecution at first, as in Sweden, but less bitter; and now Baptists enjoy entire liberty. Their future prospects are very encouraging.

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A Progressive People

      Denmark is about equal in area to Massachusetts and Connecticut, having 16,604 square miles, and a population of 3,267,831, according to the census of 1921. As Massachusetts and Connecticut have 5,000,000, it is not a very densely populated land, about 195 to the square mile. The Danes are of old Scandinavian stock; those who invaded England were dark-haired, but the modern typical Dane is blue-eyed, blond-haired, and of fair complexion. They are the most intelligent peasantry in Europe, and the percentage of illiteracy is very small. The educational system is the best in the world; primary education has been free and compulsory since 1814, but the distinguishing feature of Danish education is the provision for secondary instruction. Nowhere else is there so great a variety of these Folk Schools, as these institutions are called, with industrial and agricultural schools predominating, and in no other country do so large a proportion of youth complete the elementary grades and go on to the advanced schools. One secret of proficiency may be that Danish schools are in session 246 days of the year, as compared to the average of 168 days in the United States. Agriculture is made a science in Denmark, and small-scale, intensive farming is its great feature. The country is low and flat, like Holland; the soil was originally not very fertile, and while there is much rain there are few rivers. As there are not many large towns, Denmark may be called a rural state.

      The people have gone further than any other nation in solving difficult modern social problems; and while Denmark is in form of government a kingdom, it is more truly democratic than any country of Europe, with the doubtful exception of Switzerland. Dairying is one of

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the largest and most profitable industries, and the great cooperative enterprises of modern Denmark began with this industry. It was so successful that the cooperative principle was extended to other agencies, and a unique civilization is far along in the process of development. Denmark is socialistic without formal socialism. Wealth is cooperatively produced and shared, and in consequence has become more widely distributed, with corresponding reduction of poverty. Taxes are based on wealth and opportunity rather than on thrift and consumption, and large fortunes do not exist, but there is wide-spread comfort. All this has come about subsequent to the beginning of Baptists in Denmark, but it should be in many ways favorable to their advance.

Baptists in Denmark

      From 1800 on there was a marked reaction among the Danes against Lutheran formalism, especially strong in the province of Jutland. Kobner made evangelistic tours in 1839, and he and Oncken baptized eleven converts to form the first Baptist church in the country. Persecution began at once, yet in spite of it the movement grew. In 1840 Kobner and Oncken baptized ten others. In 1849 a liberal constitution was adopted that gave religious liberty. There were at this time six churches with about 400 members. The chief handicap from this time onward was the lack of trained ministers. Kobner himself undertook the pastorate of the church at Copenhagen, the capital city, which by 1883 had grown to 400 members. A house of worship was dedicated there in 1867. Annual Conferences of the Danish churches began as early as 1865 and grew into the Danish Baptist Union. The Swedish department of the Theological Seminary then located at Morgan Park, Ill., supplied some of the pastors of these churches, and the A B M U gave some financial

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aid. The Danish Baptists reported 5,438 members in 1924, and are practically self-supporting.

      Several important enterprises have been undertaken in recent years. One of these was the establishment of a People's College in 1899, to which a theological department was added in 1918, so that a trained ministry is now provided. An efficient work among the young people has developed since the beginning of this century, and the issue of a Baptist Weekly since 1901 has done much to promote unity and efficiency. A foreign missionary work has also been undertaken, and the Danish Baptists now have three missionaries in Congoland, and at latest accounts were sending a fourth.


The Background

      Finland is not, properly speaking, a Scandinavian country, though many Swedish people live in it, and its closest affiliations have been with Sweden. In the Reformation period Finland belonged to Sweden, and was a part of that ambitious project of Gustavus Adolphus to found a vast Swedish empire that should make the Baltic a great Swedish lake. Later Russia conquered Finland and made it a part of its vast empire, politically known as a grand duchy, with a constitution of its own. For several generations, Finland might have been described as "Russia's Ireland," and the fact that its frontier was only about thirty miles from Petersburg made the political problem much more acute than in the case of Ireland. It achieved its independence as a result of the late war, and adopted a republican constitution in 1919.

      Finland has an area of 132,510 miles and a population of 3,366,507 (1921). Its people speak a language of the same family as Magyar and Turkish, neither Slav nor

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any other Indo-European tongue, but Mongolian. The "Kalevala," from which Longfellow borrowed much of the material for his " Hiawatha," has been translated into English; and this epic, or rather collection of folk- songs, has done much to make the spirit of the Finns intelligible to us.

      Finland is a country of lakes, beyond all others in Europe more than 10 per cent, of its surface is covered by water. It has great forests of pine, and the lumber industry is one of great importance. Only 10 per cent, of the total area is cultivated, yet hitherto it could only be described as an agricultural country. Still its chief products are cereals, especially barley and oats, and potatoes. In late years manufactures have been increasing; and factories for the production of articles in iron and leather, as well as textiles, are springing up. The paper industry is also very important, the vast forests furnishing pulp in abundance. The climate is comparatively warm for the high latitude, and agriculture may be expected to increase, as well as manufactures. Like Denmark, this is becoming a great cooperative country, especially in its large dairy industry.

      Travelers invariably note a great difference between Finland and Russia; the change is noticeable the moment they pass the frontier. On the Russian side you drink weak tea out of glasses; on the Finnish side you drink coffee out of cups. The difference is symptomatic of many things. On the Russian side is dirt and neglect; on the Finnish side a shining cleanliness and cheerful courtesy. Out of a hard, bare land, where only a thrifty, industrious people could make even a scant living, the Finns have built up a civilization comparing favorably with the best in Europe. Helsingfors, the capital, is described by all travelers as a beautiful city, a model of cleanliness and good building. It has no slums. Business

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that takes hours for transaction in Russia is done here in a few minutes. Finland was the first country in Europe to give the suffrage to women, making 24 the voting age. The country has an excellent educational system, capped by a university at Helsingfors since 1827.

Baptists in Finland

      Finland is a Lutheran country, but complete toleration prevails there. As already mentioned, many Swedes are found, and the work of Baptists began among them, through tours of preachers from Sweden. No church was formed until 1869, and the first members of this first church were all Swedes. A sailor named Hericksson, who had been baptized in the United States, began to preach to Finns in 1866. E. Lundberg, whom he baptized, became his successor. A Finnish Baptist Conference was formed in 1905 and by 1918 Finnish churches had increased to 25. The war broke them up; seven churches disappeared and several hundred members vanished; there were, however, no persecutions. Before 1921 the A B F M S had made appropriations for this work; now English Baptists have become responsible for its aid. The Baptists of Helsingfors have a fine church edifice in a prominent location, and there are excellent prospects of growth now opening.

[From Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of Baptist Missions, chapter IV, Judson Press, 1927, pp. 87-108. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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