IN the house of an ancient Swedish family, settled at Lindholm, in Upland, was born, in 1496, a child who was named Gustavus and who was afterwards known under the name of Gustavus Vasa. For two centuries members of this family had sat in the Council of the kingdom. It is said that the boy, when only five years old, in his play with other children, usually assumed the part of king. John II., the father of Christian II., who at this period visited his kingdom of Sweden, admired the high spirit of the lad, and giving him a gentle tap with his hand, said, ‘If thou live, thou wilt one day be a remarkable man.’ The prince would have liked even to take him with him to Denmark; but Sten Sture, the administrator of the kingdom, objected. His parents sent him to the school of Upsala; and people have long pointed out, in the neighborhood of the town, the places where Gustavus used to play with his schoolfellows. The story is still told how bravely the boy bore himself when he went to a wolf-hunt. At the age of eighteen he laid aside his studies to follow the career of arms, and became one of the ornaments of the court of Sten Sture the younger.
People used to say — ‘What a handsome, alert, intelligent and noble young man!’ Others would add — ‘God has raised him up to save his country.’ He served his first campaign with credit in the struggle of the Swedes against the partisans of Denmark; and in 1518 he bore the Swedish standard at the battle of Brannkijrka, at which the Danes were defeated and compelled to retreat. His valor, his eloquence, and his unfailing good humor were universally admired. When Christian II. announced his intention of opening negotiations with Sten Sture, but on condition that hostages should be given him, six men who were held in high honor by their countrymen, and among them Gustavus, entered a boat which was to convey them to the prince. As soon as they had put to sea, a Danish vessel of war fell on their bark, took them on board, and, the wind being favorable, carried them off prisoners into Denmark. f383 Gustavus, a victim of this sudden capture, was sent into the north of Jutland, as Tausen had been, and was confined in the castle of Kalloe, under the care of one of his kinsmen, Eric Baner. He used to dine at the table of his host in company with some young Danish officers. ‘King Christian,’ said the latter, fond of playing the braggart, ‘is making preparations for a great expedition against Sweden; we shall soon have a fine St. Peter’s day with the Swedes’ — (a papal bull was the cause of the war), — ‘and we shall share among us the rich livings and the young girls of Sweden.’ Gustavus, worried by such talk, could no longer eat nor drink nor sleep, and employed himself night and day in devising some means of making his escape from confinement. As he was liked by everybody, he had no difficulty in getting the clothes of a coarse drover; and dressed in these, one day in September 1519, early in the morning, he escaped. He walked so fast that he accomplished that day a distance of twelve German miles. On the 30th of the month he arrived safely at Lubeck. f384 Eric Barter started in pursuit of him, and reaching the same town a little later reclaimed him. But Gustavus having declared that he was a hostage and not a prisoner, the council refused to give him up. He then sojourned for three months in this Hanse town; and although it was not yet reformed he had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the doctrine of the Reformation. At the same time he was filled with abhorrence at the conduct of the pope to his fellow countrymen. Sweden, now vanquished, lay groaning under the yoke of Christian; and his only thought was how to go to the help of his country. The magistrates of Lubeck, into whose hands he had delivered himself, gave their consent; and he embarked on board a merchant ship which was bound for Stockholm.
There were now only two towns which continued to hold out against the Danes, Stockholm and Calmar. The former was blockaded by sea and land, and Gustavus could not enter it; but Calmar being blockaded only by sea, he succeeded in making his way to a tongue of land near the walls, and entered the town on the last day of May 1520. He found the whole town sunk into a state of despondency, and the only reply given to his generous words was a threat of taking his life. The Danish admiral, Norby, having summoned the place to surrender, Gustavus was desirous at all hazards of preserving his independence for the service of his country, and he therefore threw himself into the mountainous district of Smaland. Here he found an asylum among his father’s peasants; but here also the people were losing their courage and were ready to bow their heads under the yoke. It was in vain that Gustavus appeared among them at their gatherings. ‘Consider,’ he said to them, ‘what a feast Christian is preparing for you!’ ‘Pooh!’ they replied, ‘the king will not let us want either herrings or salt.’ This was enough for them. Others, angry with the young hero who wanted to disturb them in their peaceful solitude’s, even snatched up their arrows and darts and cast them at him. His spiritless countrymen went further than this, and set a price on his head. This people, for want of energy, seemed prepared to submit to any disgrace, and carried despondency and the love of bondage to the pitch of fanaticism. The alarm caused by the Danes was universal; a panic terror had taken possession of all minds. Gustavus alone, inspired with intrepid courage, and with a manly and invincible patriotism, did not despair of raising the dead to life and of winning the victory. He quitted in disguise the district in which his liberty and even his life were continually in danger, and following the byways in order to elude his pursuers, he withdrew to the upper mountain solitude’s, and in these he wandered about all the summer. He lived on roots and wild fruit; the meanest food sufficed him. But even this soon failed him; he hungered, and could not tell how to provide for his wants. Driven to extremities, and in total destitution, he betook himself without money, almost without clothes, to the estate of Tarna, in Sudermania, to the house of his brother-in-law, Joachim Brahe. For some months no one had known where he was; and his sister especially had been in a state of cruel anxiety. One fine day she saw him coming; she immediately welcomed and treated him affectionately and with all attention, and thus restored his exhausted powers. His brother-inlaw was setting out to attend the coronation of Christian, to which he land been invited; Gustavus entreated him not to go, and declared that for his own part, instead of going to pay court to the Danes, his only thought was to drive them out of Sweden. ‘If I do not go in response to the king’s invitation,’ replied Joachim, ‘what fatal consequences will not my refusal involve for my wife and children? Would not your father, and even your mother too, have to pay perhaps with their lives for the affront which I should offer to this revengeful prince? As for yourself, you are free, do what you think right.’ The sister of Gustavus, who was not so cool as her husband, trembled for her brother and implored him with tears to abandon an enterprise which appeared to her to be a rebellion, and which could have no issue but his death. f385 Gustavus was inexorable to all her prayers. Determined to raise up Sweden again, he took leave of his brother-in-law and his sister, and for some time concealed himself on an estate of his father’s, at Raefsnaes. The ex-archbishop Ulfsson was at this time in a neighboring convent. Gustavus went there, made himself known to the prelate, and learnt from him accurately the condition of the land. The archbishop saw no chance of independence for their common country, and therefore advised him to submit to the new order of things. ‘Even your father,’ said he, ‘has acknowledged Christian, and you are included in the amnesty.’ He offered him at the same time his mediation with the king. The aged prelate and the young noble were one day together in a cell of the convent, talking over the circumstances of the time, and the old archbishop put forth all his eloquence to induce Gustavus to acknowledge the king. Suddenly a noise was heard. A man rushed in in hot haste; he was agitated, looked wild, and remained for some seconds in the presence of these two persons without being able to utter a word: his voice was stifled by the deepest emotion.
He sobbed, he burst into tears; he made them understand by signs that some terrible calamity had just fallen upon their country. He was an old servant of Joachim Brahe. At last the unhappy man, coming to himself, told them that all the most eminent men of Sweden had just been massacred in the public place of Stockholm by command of Christian, who was authorized by a papal bull; and that the father and brother-in-law of Gustavus were among the victims. ‘Your father,’ said he, ‘might have saved his life by making a full and unconditional submission to Christian.
The offer was made to him by the king; but he replied that he would sooner die, in God’s name, with his brothers, than be the only one spared.’ The messenger added that fresh arrests and fresh executions were continually being made. At the tale of this frightful butchery, the archbishop was dumb with horror; Gustavus trembled; but the terrible tidings did not make him despair for his country. On the contrary, they gave fresh strength to the resolution and the courage of his noble heart. He rose, left the prelate immediately, and set out on horseback to Raefsnaes, accompanied by a single attendant.
The sorrowful feelings which at this cruel time weighed upon the heart of the young hero may be imagined. One thought alone stood out clear in his mind, — Sweden must be delivered from the most barbarous tyranny. He took the road to Dalecarlia, leaving Stockholm and Upsala on the right; and, keeping clear of Hedemora and Falun, the principal towns of the province, he plunged into this Scandinavian Switzerland, a region bristling with mountains and forming in every age an asylum for refugees. He was determined to conceal himself for some time behind its torrents, its waterfalls, its lakes, its forests and precipitous rocks. To secure his incognito , he put on the dress of a peasant of the country. The handsome young noble wore a coat of coarse woolen cloth; underneath it a long jacket and leather breeches; a sort of leather petticoat which reached to the knee, stockings as large in the lower part as in the upper, and shoes with very high heals and square toes. About the end of November he went to the Kupferberg; offered himself for a workman, and lived there wielding the axe and the spade, and supporting himself on his pitiful wages. He did not shut his eyes to the dangers which threatened him. He knew that in consequence of his escape from the prison in which Christian had immured him, he was more obnoxious to the king than the other nobles. True, an amnesty had been granted to him; but the sole object of this was doubtless to entice him to Stockholm, that he might be sacrificed there like his kinsmen and his peers. The massacre begun in the capital was continued in the provinces. One might have said that the proscriptions of Sylla were renewed. The abbot and five monks of the convent of Nidala had been drowned, by command of Christian, without any form of trial. At Jonkoping Lindorm Ribbing had been executed. He had two sons, one nine years old, the other six. The elder boy was hung by his long and beautiful hair, and his head was then severed from the body by a saber-stroke, and his clothes were covered with his blood. It was then the turn of the younger. The little boy of six said to the executioner, in his childish voice, — ‘Please do not soil my dress as you have done my brother’s, for mamma would be very much vexed.’ At the sound of these innocent words, the executioner flung his sword away, exclaiming, — ‘I will never cut off his head.’ But another headsman was ordered to the spot, who decapitated the poor child, and, by command of his superiors, laid his head at the feet of the man who had refused to put him to death. These barbarities which fell on innocent creatures show plainly the dangers which beset the energetic and dreaded Gustavus. f387 The man who was to give independence and the Gospel to his native land, was at this time laboring at a humble occupation, like a peasant’s son, in a barn at Rankytta. But it was in vain he disguised himself; his noble bearing and especially his pure speech betrayed him, and he was obliged frequently to change his abode.
He directed his steps towards Ornaes, a seat of mining operations, and applied for work to a wealthy miner, who consented to employ him.
Gustavus associated with the servants of the house as one of their own rank; but a female servant, who very much admired the handsome workman had had a keen observant eye, detected beneath his woolen garment a shirt collar of silk embroidered with gold. In great astonishment she hastened to inform her master. The latter, who had been at the University of Upsala at the same time as Gustavus, now recognized him; and fearing lest he should get into a scrape with the Danes, required him to leave his house. At Ornaes, not far off, lived another old fellow-student of Gustavus, Arendt Perssons. The young fugitive resolved to go to him. He reached his dwelling, a house of singular construction, which was situated near a lake, and with its surroundings formed a charming place of residence. The master of the house gave Gustavus a most friendly reception, and assured him that he would be safe with him. He introduced him to his wife, and then conducted him to a large room on the secondfloor forming an almost perfect square, which was to be his own. But no sooner had Gustavus retired to it than the perfidious Arendt betook himself to the bailiff Bengt Brunsson and denounced his guest. The bailiff, with twenty men on foot, set out to seize the fugitive. But if Arendt was a traitor, his wife had a generous heart. After the departure of her husband she was in great distress, for she had guessed, from the expression of his countenance, the purpose for which he had left the house. Pained by the thought of the death which was impending over her guest, she rose, gave orders to make ready a horse and a sledge, and directed two of her men to take Gustavus away without a moment’s delay. The fugitive heard a knocking at his door; he opened it and saw before him two Dalecarlians armed from head to foot, with sugar-loaf hats, according to the fashion of the day. ‘Let us start instantly,’ they said. Tradition has placed on the table of that room, beside the armor and the gloves of Gustavus, a Bible, — the book which liberates and makes free indeed.
The hero hastily mounted the sledge and departed. Shortly after, Arendt arrived with the bailiff and his band. The traitor, it is said, never forgave his wife for having saved an innocent man.
Gustavus, still a wanderer, arrived at Swardsjoe, at the house of the pastor Jon; and a notary named Sven Elfson, who lived near, received him into his house. But the gentlemanly bearing of the young man always betrayed him. Suspicious looks were fastened on him, and his pursuers were approaching. The wife of Sven Elfson, alarmed at the imminent danger in which the young noble was placed, and wishing to mystify her household, seized the shovel used for placing bread in the oven and struck Gustavus with it, crying out and calling him a wicked rascal and a lazy boy, and so drove him away. Sven, no less loyal than his wife, immediately undertook to conduct him to some friends with whom he believed he would be safe.
But they already heard the footsteps of the bailiff’s horses, who was in pursuit with his twenty troopers. A wagon loaded with straw was standing near, and Gustavus hid himself in it. The horsemen came; as they passed they made thrusts with their halberts into the straw and continued their journey. Gustavus was wounded, but he uttered no cry. Sven Elfson came to him; the young fugitive crept out of the wagon stained with blood, but with unfailing intrepidity he mounted a horse and set out. The blood which trickled drop by drop on the snow must inevitably betray him. In order to save him, Sven wounded his horse in the foot, and when anyone observed the spots on the road and inquired the cause of them, the Swede boldly pointed to the foot of his beast. At last they reached Marnaes.
Two peasants, Ner and Mats Olafsen, friends of Sven, concealed Gustavus under a large fir-tree recently felled in the forest, which covered the ground with its broad green boughs. In this place he lay for three days and three nights; and in the evenings, when all was quiet, one of the two brothers used to bring him food by stealth. f390 During these sorrowful days, in which he was pursued like a wild beast, Gustavus did not forget the task which he had proposed to himself. His eye was on fire when he thought of the tyranny of Christian; but alas! his resolution and his courage were useless. The people were indisposed to follow him. ‘The king,’ they said, ‘strikes only at the nobility and the clergy.’ The dwellers in these wild valleys were accustomed to go in crowds to church during the Christmas festival. Gustavus joined in the devotions of the people in the churches of Raettwiks and Mora. Then, gathering the peasants together as they came out of church, he endeavored to rekindle in them the love of their country. ‘My good friends,’ said he, ‘you know what you have yourselves suffered under the government of the foreigner. He has shed the blood of our noblest men; my father has fallen under his blows; and the country is now crushed under the feet of our enemies. Let us put an end to this slavery. With God’s help, I will be your captain, and we will die to save the kingdom.’ But the inhabitants of these remote valleys knew nothing of the state of things nor of the man who spoke to them. Some of them testified compassion for him, but the greater number begged him to go away. Gustavus, disappointed in his hopes, traversed about the close of 1520 the desert places which separate Eastern from Western Dalecarlia, frequently walking over the ice which cracked under his feet, and exposing himself more than once to the risk of drowning in the course of this mournful and solitary flight. He wandered about in these wild regions dejected and distressed; and his bitterest grief was to see his countrymen wanting to themselves and enduring without regret the most intolerable yoke. f392 Soon after he had left Mora, two Swedish gentlemen, Lars Olafsson and Jon Michelsson, arrived there, and they gave to the inhabitants, then assembled for the new year, a thrilling account of the massacre at Stockholm, which set the poor people sobbing. ‘Christian,’ continued Olafsson, ‘is going to impose on the people ruinous taxes, he marches with a gibbet on his right hand arid the wheel on his left, and all Swedish peasants are obliged to deliver up their arms to him. He leaves them nothing but a staff.’ At these words the people murmured aloud. They now appreciated the worth of the young man whom they had so ungraciously received, and men were sent out with instructions to search for Gustavus in the villages, the woods, and the lofty rocks. They found him at Saeln, in the parish of Lima, at the foot of the mountains which separate Sweden and Norway, just preparing to cross them.
Without delay Gustavus returned to Mora. The most respectable peasants of these valleys assembled there; and they proclaimed the young noble captain of all the communes of the kingdom of Sweden. Sixteen stouthearted men offered their services to him as guides, and some hundreds of young men placed themselves under his command. When the Danes heard of it they shrugged their shoulders, and spoke of him and his followers as a mere band of brigands prowling about in the woods. But in this movement history discerns the beginning of a most glorious reign. On a Sunday Gustavus arrived at the Kupferberg with several hundred men; and when the people came out from divine service he spoke to them with warm feeling, and gained over to the cause of independence these simple and energetic men, who tried in their turn to gain others. ‘God keep Gustavus, as one drop of the chivalrous blood of our ancient heroes,’ said the men of these valleys to those of Helsingenland. ‘Let us all muster around him.’ f393 The movement was now becoming important. The bishop of Skara, Dietrich Slaghoelk, whom Christian had named governor of Stockholm, and who had instigated the king to the massacre of November 8, 1520, took the alarm and had a consultation with the magistrates. The town was immediately fortified and a body of six thousand horse and foot soldiers was sent against Gustavus, in the direction of Dalecarlia. His lieutenant, Peter Svensson, a wealthy miner, crossed the Dale with a troop of men whose only weapons were hatchets, pikes, bows and slings, but whose dash was like a thunderbolt. These high-spirited sons of Sweden fell upon the Danish camp and broke it up. f394 Gustavus, who was at this time in Helsingenland, immediately set out on his march into Westmannia. Everywhere as he advanced, the peasants joined him; and by the 15th of April he had under him twenty thousand men. He marched on Westeraas, the chief town of the province, and took possession of it on St. John’s Day, 1521. He next formed the siege of Stockholm. As the town was open to the Danes by sea, the siege lasted for two years. On April 20, 1523, Christian took flight, leaving the place open to his enemies. A Diet of the kingdom of Sweden was immediately convoked at Strengnaes, for the 7th of June of the same year.
Gustavus, who during his sojourn in Germany had admired Luther, and had appreciated the principles which he proclaimed, was friendly to the Reformation, not, as the Jesuit Maimbourg has said, in the hope of acquiring the Church property, but because some rays of the truth had entered his own soul. He was soon to have an opportunity of enlarging his acquaintance with it.
Two men who were equally necessary to Sweden, Gustavus the liberator of the nation and Olaf the reformer of the Church, were now present together at Strengnaes. During the sittings of the Diet, Olaf with much energy proclaimed evangelical truth. The members of the Assembly came to hear him, and his discourses produced a deep impression on his hearers.
He saw clearly that the bishops and the priests were the chief obstacle to the Reformation. While therefore he lovingly announced the Son of God, he directed his most vigorous attacks against the domineering spirit of the clergy, their love of money, and their idleness and uselessness. He reminded his hearers that the Apostles and the first Christians were simple, sober, and filled with brotherly love, and that by their goodness they won all hearts; while now the priests exasperated the laity by devising a thousand indirect methods of getting their money from them. He inveighed especially against the Roman Church and its unjust decrees. f396 The bishops, consequently, exclaimed in alarm, — ‘He wants to bring us back to mendicity and the state of the primitive Church.’ f397 The Swedish throne was now vacant, and the assembly offered it to Gustavus. At first he hesitated to accept it, and this not without reason.
Most of the fortresses were still in the hands of the Danes, the army and the fleet were in a lamentable condition, and the treasury was almost empty. But as the Swedes were determined to break completely with Denmark, Gustavus came to a decision, and on the 7th of June, 1523, he was solemnly proclaimed king at Strengnaes. Thus was dissolved the union of the three kingdoms, which had lasted one hundred and twenty-six years.
The legate of the pope, Magnus, a native of Linkoping, at this time only thirty-five years of age, had been the representative of the Government of Sweden at the court of Rome. Pope Adrian had sent him back to Sweden as his minister, to oppose the progress of Lutheranism.
Magnus, seeing that Gustavus was evidently the man chosen of God to be set at the head of affairs in Sweden, thought that the best way to accomplish his mission was to flatter him and induce him to accept the crown. But it was no easy matter to check the progress of reform. ‘Verily,’ said Olaf’s hearers, ‘there is more truth in the discourses of the evangelical preacher than in all the fables of the monks.’ A goodly number of souls were won. Young people ardently embraced the Christian truth; professors and students became its apostles. It made its way into families, and women sat at the Savior’s feet. While some still defended Catholicism as the religion of their forefathers, others assailed it on account of the abuses of the clergy. ‘Heresy,’ said bishop Brask, ‘is beginning to multiply.’ The bishops, ever more and more alarmed, betook themselves to the king and launched forth in complaints against Olaf and his friends.
This was very annoying to Gustavus, who, although he leaned to the side of reform, felt it his duty for the sake of his country to steer his course for a time between wind and water. He called before him the three evangelical preachers, Anderson and the two Petri. It was not without emotion that they appeared in the presence of the prince. ‘You are accused,’ he said to them, ‘of preaching doctrines which have never been heard of before.’
They answered frankly, and set before him with warm feeling the substance of the Gospel. Anderson did more; he boldly declared to the king, — ‘The ruin of the clergy is their wealth. For them to be rich is contrary to the nature of the ministry, for Christ said that his kingdom is not of this world.’
Gustavus was struck with the loyalty of the reformers and with the force of their speeches, and he conceived for them still higher esteem. But he was a prince. ‘I promise you my support,’ he said, ‘so far as circumstances shall allow. I cannot at present avow myself your friend. I must beg of you not even to let it be known that I am on your side, for I might thereby lose the confidence of the nation, confidence which is essential to me in my endeavor to secure its welfare. Nevertheless you may rest assured that I shall express myself distinctly on this important subject as soon as the fit time is come.’ We have evidence of the sincerity of these words. ‘From the beginning of our reign,’ wrote Gustavus to Luther, ‘we have been steadily attached to the true and pure Word of God, so far as God has given us grace.’ f399 The effect of his conversations with Anderson and likewise with Olaf and Lawrence was to make the prince more and more a friend to the Reformation; but for some time yet he was a secret friend. f400 It was not long, however, before Gustavus gave a mark of his respect for one of the three evangelists, by appointing Anderson chancellor of the kingdom, attaching him to his court and making him his most confidential friend. By this choice Gustavus gave evidence of great discernment.
Beneath the Christian he discerned the statesman, and the voice of history has confirmed his judgment. ‘Anderson,’ this voice has said, ‘was one of the greatest men of his age. His was a genius which nature had made profound, and reflection had expanded. Although he was ambitious of great place, he was still more ambitious of great things. The independence of his character was accompanied by a sagacity which grasped everything from first principles to remotest consequences, and by an intelligence which was fertile at once in lofty projects and in expedients adapted to their successful execution. His eloquence encountered the less opposition from the fact of its starting-point being solid reason. His contemporaries did not perceive all the loftiness of his character nor the influence which he exerted on the Swedish revolution.’ Such is the view of one of the most celebrated French writers of the last century, who cannot be suspected of any religious partiality. Day by day the king conversed with his chancellor on the concerns of the kingdom. They talked together of the bishops and of other members of the clerical order, and of what must needs be done to bring the ministry into greater conformity with Holy Scripture and to make it more useful to the people. Gustavus saw well what great reforms it was necessary to introduce; but he felt conscious that he was too young and not at present sufficiently established on the throne to venture to undertake them. Anderson showed him the necessity of strengthening in Sweden the evangelical element, and pointed out the two brothers Petri as men well qualified for the work. Gustavus then wrote to Luther to ask what he thought of them. Luther bore noble testimony to their moral character, their devotedness, and their doctrine. ‘I entreat you, Sire,’ he added, ‘put your trust in God, and accomplish the Reformation. For this purpose I wish you the blessing of the Lord. You will not be able to find for this good work men more competent or more worthy than the two brothers of whom you speak.’ The king no longer hesitated. He sent Lawrence to Upsala as professor of theology; and, wishing to have Olaf near him, he named him preacher in the Church of St. Nicholas, at Stockholm. Then, in pursuance of his inclination to avail himself, in affairs of state, of the abilities of Christian men, he also nominated Olaf secretary of the town, a secular office which in those times was frequently given to intelligent and well-informed churchmen. In Olaf’s view, however, his first calling was that of minister of the Word, and from the pulpit of the great church the eloquent preacher had the opportunity of daily proclaiming the Gospel. f402 The two reformers had thus risen to important but difficult positions in Sweden. A career of conflict, of alternate successes and reverses, was now opening before Olaf. His faith was sincere and living. In personal appearance he was dignified and grave, full of graciousness and of frankness. His glance was penetrating, his speech firm and energetic. His keen and clear understanding enabled him readily to unravel the most intricate affairs. He was incessantly at work, and labor was very easy to him. But his temper was quick, and he could not always subdue the passion which impelled him. He had a rather too high opinion of himself, and did not easily forget offenses. Suspicious and sensitive, he lent a too willing ear to false reports, especially when they touched the king.
Nevertheless, Olaf was an eminent character and a man adapted, in spite of his faults, to make a powerful impression on his countrymen. Crowds attended his sermons. The boldness of his preaching and of his character captivated many souls, and conversions were numerous. He was not long left to work alone. Michael Langerben, a Swede, having returned from Wittenberg, was appointed by the king to be Olaf’s colleague.
The powerful preaching of these men, the favor shown to them by the king, and the eagerness with which the people flocked to hear them, stirred up the Roman clergy. Violent speeches were everywhere spreading agitation. The priests, the monks, and their creatures invaded the church while Olaf was preaching, threw stones at him, and held up their staves threateningly, and even made attempts on his life. One day, bent on putting an end to the evangelical preaching, these furious men made a dash at the pulpit and smashed it to pieces.
The legate, Magnus, an able and prudent man, who was by no means a fanatic, knew very well that the reform could not be checked by throwing stones. He drew up a plan for a campaign less noisy, but in his opinion more effective, and undertook to persuade the king by specious reasonings to continue faithful to the papacy. The prince was obliged to go to Malmoe for the purpose of arranging, in conjunction with Frederick, king of Denmark, the great business of the separation of the two kingdoms. The primate and his friends thought that if they obtained some concessions before the departure of Gustavus, they would be able to act during his absence with greater freedom and to strengthen in Sweden the authority of Rome, ‘Sire,’ said Magnus to the king, ‘the preaching of Olaf is diffusing in the kingdom a heresy full of peril. Withdraw your protection from this disciple of the Wittenberg heresiarch; prohibit Luther’s books, and thus win for yourself the glory of a Christian prince.’ But Gustavus was too resolute a man to turn back. ‘I have never heard,’ he replied, ‘that anyone has convicted Luther of heresy. Since the books which are against him are admitted into the kingdom, those which he has written are entitled to the same privilege; and with respect to his disciples, I shall take good care not to withdraw from them my protection. It is my duty to protect every one of my subjects against violence, from any quarter whatsoever. f403 Gustavus did more than this. Aware of the ambition of the legate, he considered whether he could not make use of him as a bridle to hold in check the rage of the clergy. The archiepiscopal see of Upsala was vacant.
The Roman Church had sometimes converted its most bitter enemies into its most determined champions by awarding them the tiara. Profiting by this example, Gustavus named the legate of the pope primate of the kingdom; and from this time Magnus displayed great deference to the king and to his wishes.
But the post of defender of Rome was not to remain vacant. In action a resolute spirit is of more importance than official position. Bishop Brask became the powerful champion of the papacy in Sweden. An inflexible, violent, and intolerant man, more of a papist than the legate himself, he was beside himself with rage at seeing the success of the Reformation, and he hurled excommunication against anyone who read or sold evangelical books. ‘The reformers,’ he said, ‘by trampling under foot ecclesiastical order, commit the greatest of crimes.’ Making use without scruple of the coarse expressions so common in that age, Brask said that the Lutherans pretended to re-establish the liberty of Christ, but that they ought rather to say the liberty of Lucifer . Another dignitary of the Romish Church frequently wrote Luterosi (the filthy) instead of Lutherani . One day some deacons of Upland, of whom Brask inquired on what they based their belief, having replied — ‘On the doctrine of Paul ,’ the bishop started from his seat, exclaiming — ‘Better that Paul had been burnt than that he should thus be known and quoted by everybody!’
The bishop of Linkoping, when he discovered that Magnus in becoming primate of the kingdom had also become tolerant, seriously expostulated with him. ‘If you do not vigorously oppose the ravages of heresy,’ he said, ‘you are unworthy to be the successor of so many illustrious prelates, and as legate of the pope you are dishonoring your chief.’
Magnus was in a most embarrassing position. He had two masters who were opposed to each other, and he found it impossible to serve at once both the pope and the king. Bound by the requests of Gustavus, and closely watched by the able chancellor, he thought that the easiest plan would be for him to disappear and leave Brask to carry on the conflict in his stead. To the bishop he therefore said, — ‘I am going to leave the kingdom for a year; I shall beg of the pope to entrust you with the suppression of these disputes; but let both parties abstain from insults.’
Brask had no mind to let the prelate escape and throw upon his shoulders the burden which he could not bear himself. He did not actually refuse to act, but he wished that each should do his own duty. ‘The more indulgence that is shown to heretics,’ said he, ‘the greater will the mischief become.
Summon Olaf and his brother before your chapter of Upsala, that they may either clear themselves of the imputation of heresy or, as heretics, be condemned.’ This fanatical prelate thought that, in the absence of the king, it would be easy to get the two brothers burnt. f404 Here was fresh trouble for the archbishop. If he refused to comply with the demand of Brask, the latter would accuse him to the pope of keeping up a secret understanding with the heretics. He resolved therefore to assemble the members of his chapter at Upsala, at the beginning of October 1524, and cited Olaf and Lawrence to appear before them. When the two reformers entered, the threatening looks of these proud priests were fastened on them, and they vied with each other in making the most hateful imputations, and in assailing them with the grossest insults. Olaf and Lawrence answered quietly, and showed by clear proofs the truth of the evangelical doctrine. Their opponents, unable to reply, contented themselves with calling upon them, in the name of the Roman pontiff, to renounce the doctrines of Luther. ‘Otherwise,’ they added, ‘we shall fulminate the anathema against you. Bethink you, therefore, of the terrible consequences of excommunication, even in the case of the most powerful sovereigns. Reflect on the dangers into which you are hurrying your country; for the pope will urge all the princes of Europe to unite together for the re-establishment of the order which you are endeavoring to break up.’ ‘There is no power in the world,’ replied the two brothers, ‘not even anathemas nor martyrdom, which can compel us to hide the truth. The highest gain which we covet is the loss of all, even of our lives, for the establishment of the Gospel and for the glory of God.’
The chapter, then, had recourse to other weapons, cunningly insinuating that if Olaf and Lawrence re-entered the Church they would fill its highest offices. ‘No honors are high enough,’ replied Olaf, ‘to induce us to conceal the Gospel.’ This was too much for the members of the tribunal; and they demanded the severest measures. The primate declared the two reformers to be cast out of the Catholic Church, as Luther was, and anathematized by Rome. Brask now thought that the time was come for extirpating the Reformation; and he sought from the German prelates all the information they could give, of a kind adapted to render it odious. They forwarded to him a mass of shameful calumnies.
This prelate, in a passion of hatred, now established a printing-press near his own house, and put into general circulation books tending to the prejudice of the reformers, prohibiting at the same time the reading of any of the writings of Luther or of his disciples. It seemed that the evangelical cause must sink under the blows of a powerful hierarchy which conspired together for its destruction. f405