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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

Olaus Petri was especially active


Frederick's death there was a disputed succession, which resulted in civil war. In the end Frederick's son ascended the throne as Christian III., King of Denmark and Norway (1536). The king, who had been present at the Diet of Worms, and who had learned there to esteem Luther highly, was a strong Lutheran, and determined to end the authority of the Romish bishops. He proposed to his council that bishops should no longer have any share in the government, and that their possessions should be forfeited to the Crown. This was approved of not merely by the council, but also at a National Assembly which met at Copenhagen (Oct. 30th, 1536), where it was further declared that the people desired the holy gospel to be preached, and the whole episcopal authority done away with. The king asked Luther to send him some one to guide his people in their ecclesiastical matters. Bugenhagen was despatched, came to Copenhagen (1537), and took the chief ecclesiastical part in crowning the king. Seven superintendents (who afterwards took the title of bishops) were appointed and consecrated. The Reformation was carried out on conservative Lutheran lines, and the old ritual was largely preserved. Tausen's Confession was set aside in favour of the Augsburg Confession and Luther's Small Catechism, and the Lutheran Reformation was thoroughly and legally established.

The Reformation also became an accomplished fact in Norway and Iceland, but its introduction into these

lands was much more an act of kingly authority.

After the massacre of Swedish notables in Stockholm (Nov. 1520), young Gustaf Ericsson, commonly known as Gustaf Vasa, from the _vasa_ or sheaf which was on his coat of arms, raised the standard of revolt against Denmark. He was gradually able to rally the whole of the people around him, and the Danes were expelled from the kingdom. In 1521, Gustaf had been declared regent of Sweden, and in 1523 he was called by the voice of the people to the throne. He found himself surrounded by almost insuperable difficulties. There had been practically no settled government in Sweden for nearly a century, and every great landholder was virtually an independent sovereign. The country had been impoverished by long wars. Two-thirds of the land was owned by the Church, and the remaining third was almost entirely in the hands of the secular nobles. Both Church and nobles claimed exemption from taxation. The trade of the country was in the hands of foreigners--of the Danes or of the Hanse Towns. Gustaf had borrowed money from the town of Luebeck for his work of liberation. The city was pressing for repayment, and its commissioners followed the embarrassed monarch wherever he went. It was hopeless to expect to raise money by further taxation of the already depressed and impoverished peasants.

In these circumstances the king turned to the Church. He compelled the bishops to give him more than one subsidy (1522, 1523); but this was inadequate for his needs. The Church property was large, and the king planned to overthrow the ecclesiastical aristocracy by the help of the Lutheran Reformation.

Lutheranism had been making progress in Sweden. Two brothers, Olaus and Laurentius Petri, sons of a blacksmith at Orebro, had been sent by their father to study in Germany. They had meant to attend the University of Leipzig; but, attracted by the growing fame of Luther, they had gone to Wittenberg, and had become enthusiastic disciples of the Reformer. On their return to Sweden (1519) they had preached Lutheran doctrine, and had made many converts--among others, Laurentius Andreae, Archdeacon at Strengnaes. In spite of protests from the bishops, these three men were protected by the king. Olaus Petri was especially active, and made long preaching tours, declaring that he taught the pure gospel which "Ansgar, the apostle of the North, had preached seven hundred years before in Sweden."

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