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A. G. SHERWOOD & Co., Printers,
47 Lafayette Place.


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008


The author desires to explain that his subject is treated in this condensed form, for the reason that the following pages were read as a paper before the New York Churchmen's Association at one of its ordinary meetings, where he was necessarily restricted to a brief space of time.


Christianity was first introduced into Sweden by St. Ansgarius, a monk of Corbey, and afterwards Archbishop of Hamburg. But the work of that pioneer missionary in great part died with him. It was reserved for an English bishop, the celebrated St. Sigfried of York, to convert and baptize, in the year 1008, Olof Skotkonung, the first Christian king in Sweden. With his three nephews--Unaman, Vinaman and Sunaman--St. Sigfried landed at a place which to his honor is still called St. Sigfried's haven. At Ostrabro, the present city of Vexio, he began the erection of a church, which has ever since remained the cathedral of the diocese of Vexio. He first met King Olof at Husaby in Westgothland, where, according to tradition, he baptized the king, the royal family, and the leading members of the court. In due recognition of the blessings received, the king donated the whole state-farm of Husaby for an episcopal seat. A little later it was removed to Skara, where the cathedral was built. The see of Skara is, without doubt, the oldest diocese in Sweden, and St. Sigfried its founder.

The see of Vexio also recognizes this English bishop as its founder, and St. Sigfried's mass on the fifteenth day of February, as well as a very appropriate symbol in the seal of the diocese, are tokens of the sincere desire to perpetuate St. Sigfried's memory.

[4] Among other English missionaries, bishops, saints and martyrs, who in days gone by have labored for Christ in Sweden, may be named St. Eskil, the founder of the bishopric of Strangnas; St. David, who founded that of Westeras, where among his earliest successors were the Englishmen, Illian and Ogidius, in whose honor the principal churches of the cathedral city were named and dedicated. In the see of Skara there was at one period from 1077 a succession of the three English prelates, Rudolward, Ricolph and Edward.

Both the civil and ecclesiastical history of Sweden attribute the establishment of the Christian religion in the North mainly to English missionaries and their pupils. This may be the reason why Swedish Christians even at this time appear to have been very hostile to the Bishop of Rome. Eugenius III. was probably aware of this English influence, and accordingly sent the English cardinal, Nicholaus Breakspear, afterwards Pope Hadrian IV., as his legatos a latere to the Swedish Church. The Englishman's genius proved equal to the hard task assigned to him, and he finally succeeded, in 1152, at the Council of Linkoping, in bringing the Swedish Church under the Roman dominion, although the law of clerical celibacy and the whole legislation of the Roman Church was not fully recognized by the Swedish Church before the Council of Skenninge, in 1248. Thus Sweden was at first chiefly Christianized, and later on Romanized, through Anglican churchmen.

But as there is no good without some evil, and no evil without some good, so also in this case. Cardinal Breakspear, or Nicholaus Albanensis, as he is usually called in Swedish history, brought with him a young Englishman named Henry, whom the cardinal consecrated to the bishopric of Upsala. This Bishop Henry soon became the trusted friend and adviser of the king, [4/5] Erik the Saint, and persuaded him to invade Finland with an army (1157), for the purpose of converting the Finns to Christianity. Bishop Henry accompanied the king and his army on the perilous journey. The undertaking was successful, and when the king returned, Bishop Henry remained, and became the apostle of Finland. After his martyrdom he was made the patron saint of the country, and the nineteenth day of January, the date of his death, was appointed as the day for St. Henry's mass, both in Finland and Sweden.

Such were the ecclesiastical relations between the Anglican Church and the kingdoms of the North about the first great millenarian period of Christianity. It was a period of great progress among the Northern races. The Norsemen were bold navigators; they had made long and perilous voyages of discovery into Iceland, Greenland, Labrador, and along the eastern borders of North America. They had, as already mentioned, received their Christianity chiefly from the Anglican race; and this prepared the way for the work of colonization and mutual missionary work in times nearer the present period.

In 1637 or 1638 the Swedes began to settle in the regions around the Delaware River, and were amongst the foremost in planting civilization in that part of the country. Swedish priests inaugurated a mission work among the Indians several years before John Eliot and William Penn began their successful ministry among the red men. From the time of Gustavus Adolphus and Queen Christina down to the year 1831, the Swedish Church had sent out thirty-four missionary pastors to the Delaware colony. There they planted churches which have never died out. Long after the Swedish political power over their colony ceased, the Swedish Bishop Swedberg of Skara was a member of the Society for [5/6] the Propagation of the Gospel (under the auspices of the Church of England), and had jurisdiction over the Swedish churches on the Delaware, in conjunction with the Bishop of London. Let us bear in mind that Bishop Swedberg was thus recognized by the English Church as a lawful successor of St. Sigfried in the see of Skara.

Let me now call your attention to the official relations between the Anglican clergy and Swedish missionary pastors, who during the latter part of the seventeenth and the whole of the eighteenth century were commissioned to the Swedish churches in America. I shall confine myself to a few quotations from the official "Records of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church, Wilmington, Del.," published by the Historical Society of Delaware, and confirmed by all other documents touching the question under consideration. On pages 142-43 of these records is found the following statement by the Swedish provost, Ericus Bjork:

"Tuesday, May 20th (A.D. 1711), we went to Oxford where he met some Priests, Mr. John Talbot from Burlington (who preached from Matthew v. 16) and Mr. Evans of Philadelphia, Mr. Clhubb from Apaquimani, Mr. Humphrey here at Oxford, Mr. Sandal of Wicaco, Magister Hesselius, Mr. Lidenius and myself from Christina, who, after the sermon, laid the corner-stone of a brick church in the place of a clap-board church only twenty-four feet long. May God prosper this work for His glory.

"Mr. Evans, the clergyman at Philadelphia, our especial friend, treated these new-comers with peculiar respect and kindness, and took them around to all the most respectable persons in Philadelphia who were connected with his Church to make them acquainted with them; and a short time after there came to Mr. Evans the High-worthy Bishop Henry of London's letter of recommendation, a copy of which I will take this opportunity to record that our posterity may see how we [6/7] Swedes and the English (i.e., those of the English Church) lived together in truth and fellowship:

"I recommend to you these two Swedish Missionaries, Mr. Andreas Hesselius and Mr. Abraham Lidenius, who came over to supply the place of Mr. Rudman, [* The Bishop has made a mistake in the letter as Mr. Rudman had been dead for some time, and these clergymen had been sent over to take the place of Mr. Bjork.] whom I desire you to receive with all brotherly friendship and charity, and to cultivate the best understanding you can with them, and to assist with any directions they may stand in need of, and in my name recommend them to the good-will and protection of the Governor.

"I pray God direct you,
and believe me, Sir,
Your most assured friend
and Brother,
HENRY, London.
Feb. 8, 1712.

"And we have always been counseled and instructed from Sweden to maintain friendship and unity with the English, so that we and the English Church shall not reckon each other as dissenters like the Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Quakers, etc., but as sister Churches."

In a letter to Provost Bjork, dated August 28, 1713, Bishop Swedberg of Skara writes: "I have written and thanked the Bishop of London, and requested him to continue in his good offices and favor to the Swedish churches out there." [* Records of Holy Trinity Old Swedes' Church. Page 160.] And in another letter, dated September 18, 1713, the same bishop exhorts the Swedish clergy: "That they must not by any means give Quakers, Calvinists and Heathen cause or occasion to speak ill of our teaching, which you in former years have frequently been reminded of, and to be in unity with the English Church." [* Ibid.]

[8] On October 1, 1721, the Swedish provost, Mr. Hesselius, received from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel a letter of the following contents :

"London, May 8, 1721.

"Reverend Sir: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, have received a representation from the clergy in Pennsylvania setting forth, among other things, the good services you have done by reading prayers and preaching in the several vacant churches in Pennsylvania, and have ordered me to acquaint you that in consideration of your past labours they have presented you with ten pounds, for which you may draw on their treasurer. They have agreed to allow you ten pounds per annum, in case you perform divine service and preach in the English language in the several vacant churches in Pennsylvania, at least twenty times in one year, and transmit over hither proper certificates thereof.

"I am, Reverend Sir,
"Your most humble servant,
Secretary." [* Ibid, Page 264.]

In 1723 Provost Hesselius and Rev. Abraham Lidenius received from English priests a letter of testimony which reads as follows :

"We, the clergy of the Province of Pennsylvania, having had long experience of the great worth and unquestionable abilities of the Rev. Mr. Andreas Hesselius and the Rev. Mr. Abraham Lidenius, who are now to return from these American ports into their native land, do beg leave to add to our prayers to Almighty God for their safe arrival, this public mark and testimony of our most sincere regard and fraternal affection for them. We and our above-mentioned Reverend brethren have had the pleasure and satisfaction to live together in great harmony from the first of our acquaintance to this very moment, and we may truly say the more we knew them [8/9] the fonder we grew of their society. They were always welcome to our pulpits as we were to theirs. Indeed, so great was our mutual agreement in doctrine and worship, and so constant were they in attending our conventions, that there was no visible discrimination between us, but what proceeded from the different languages wherein they and we were bound to officiate.

"They often preached in English with general applause and good success, yet without the least diminution of their care and vigilance over their own particular flocks, whose circumstances, being, generally speaking, but narrow, our brethren had an opportunity given them of being instructed how to be abased and suffer need.

"The Honorable Society for Propagating the Gospel afforded them of late some assistance in consideration of their care for the vacant churches among us, and the favors showed them upon that occasion is a fair preludial, we hope, of their attaining also in process of time to know how to abound. We should be heartily sorry to part with so agreeable and useful fellow-laborers if we were not sure that the design of calling them home is to move them into a higher sphere for the greater good of the Church. We believe them to be fully qualified for the promotion, as persons no way inferior, with submission we speak it, to any of their predecessors, missionaries from Swedland, in anything that is truly praiseworthy, either in wisdom, zeal, piety or diligence. Such we know their endowments to be, and from this our knowledge doe heartily recommend our venerable brethren:

"First, to the Divine favor and protection, and then to the good will and esteem of all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

"Given under our hands at New Castle, the 23d day of April, 1723.
at New Castle, in Pensilvania,
Minister of Chester, Pensilvania,
Missionary at Lewes, in Pensilvania." [* Ibid. Pages 274-276.]

[10] In 1729 the English clergy of Pennsylvania sent the Bishop of Skara a letter, which reads as follows:

"To the Right Rev'd the Lord Bishop of Skara;

"The humble address of the commissary and clergy of the Province of Pennsylvania;

"May it please your Lordship:

"The design of propagating the Gospel in these foreign parts of America, where false doctrine abounds and the number of sound teachers is so small, engaged the Honorable Society of London, whereof your Lordship is an eminent member, to employ the Swedish missionaries here so far in their service, that if they preached twenty sermons per annum in the vacant churches, each of them should have a yearly gratuity of ten pounds sterling paid them. It pleased the Reverend Mr. Samuel Hesselius among others to accept of the said Society's offer, believing that to supply our vacant churches now and then, could never be construed a neglect of his more particular charge. His charity herein, and indeed compassion to himself and poor family, instead of gaining that applause which it truly deserved, was made a handle by two or three of his parishioners, who grudged him bread, and our vacant churches the means of grace, to draw upon him your Lordship's heavy displeasure. But it may suffice to justify his conduct in this affair that it was encouraged from London and had our constant approbation. He seldom preached in English before he had discharged the duty he owed to his own cure; and we cannot but pity him, when we find that his unwearied diligence and his communicating the bread of life to his poor neighbors, when his own people had enough and to spare, is so deeply resented. Your Lordship, surely, never intended that one spot of the vineyard here should be constantly watered, when the several parts around it withered and died. That we be not tedious to your Lordship in a point that has been publicly heard, and determined to our Brother's honor, we beg leave to assure your Lordship that Mr. Hesselius is so meanly provided for at Christina that he could not subsist were it not for his labor among our vacant [10/11] churches. We beg your Lordship will be reconciled to him for he is truly a worthy, discreet and diligent preacher, and as such we recommend him to your special favor and protection.

"We are your Lordship,
"Your most humble and most obedient servants,
"ARCH'D CUMMINGS, Commissary.
"GEORGE ROSS, Missionary at New Castle.
"ROBERT WEYMAN, Missionary at Oxford.
"WILLIAM BECKET, Missionary at Lewes.
"WAL. HACKET, Missionary at Appoquinimink.
"RICHARD BACKHOUSE, Missionary at Chester.
"Philadelphia, 15th October, 1729." [* Ibid. Pages 327, 328.]

Similar letters of commendation, testimony and vindication were occasionally signed and sent to proper authorities by the commissary of the Bishop of London, the vestries and communicants of English churches, and by all the missionaries of the English Church in Pennsylvania. [* See Ibid. Pages 325, 330, 335, 460.] That all the clergymen, commissioned by the Swedish Church, were recognized by the Anglican Communion as true priests in the Church of Christ, and that they frequently officiated in the English churches is consequently a matter of common history.

The last clergyman officially sent from Sweden to the old Swedish churches on the Delaware was the Rev. Dr. Nicholaus Collin. He took charge of the work May 12, 1770, and died at Wicaco, October 7, 1831. During his long rectorship he employed, with the sanction of the ecclesiastical authorities in Sweden, at least six clergymen of the Protestant Episcopal Church as his assistants. One of these assistants, the Rev. John Croes, became, in 1815, the first Bishop of New Jersey.

[12] A missionary society of the Church of England extended, in December, 1828, a call to the Swedish priest, the Rev. Dr. Peter Fjellstedt, to become its missionary in Asia. This celebrated scholar, author and successful missionary accepted the call and remained in the service of the English Church for twelve years. In a printed account of his reception by the English authorities, Dr. Fjellstedt himself remarks: "As ordained priest by a Bishop of the Swedish Church I was especially welcome." [* See Fjellstedt's Samlade Skrifter, Vol. III., page 600.]

In 1837 the Bishop of London officially requested the Bishop of Gothenburg to confirm the children of English residents of that city, and the Swedish king accordingly issued a royal rescript, [* The text recorded in history of the Reformation in Sweden by L. A. Anjau, translated by Dr. Mason, p. 641.] dated at the castle of Stockholm May 4, 1837, authorizing bishops of the Swedish Church to act in accordance with this request.

The late Bishop Whitehouse took the same ground as the English bishops, and received, in 1861, without any hesitation the Rev. Jakob Bredberg, "on his letters of orders and other papers from the Bishop of Skara," [* Bishop Whitehouse's Tenth Annual Address, p. 21.] as a priest into the diocese of Illinois. The same bishop visited Sweden, in 1866, at the request of the Bishop of London, [* Journal of the Diocese of Illinois for 1866, p. 123.] and while there made an agreement with the proper authorities that, under certain conditions, the Protestant Episcopal Church should take spiritual care of Swedish emigrants seeking our shores. In order to emphasize the professed union between the two churches, Bishop Whitehouse celebrated the Holy Communion in the royal chapel of Stockholm. "At this communion the then Archbishop of Upsala and other ecclesiastical [12/13] dignitaries were partakers of the most blessed Body and Blood of Christ."

In 1890 a clergyman in the Church of Sweden was called to officiate in the church of the English legation at Stockholm during a vacancy. One of its vestrymen, doubting the lawfulness of this step, referred the whole matter to the Bishop of London, who, in his response, not only testified to the lawfulness thereof, but also stated that the same thing had been done quite often during the past 250 years.

At the three hundredth anniversary of the Council of Upsala, celebrated 1893, the late Archbishop of Canterbury sent a message to the Archbishop of Upsala, in which the Primate of all England recognized "the National Church of Sweden as a sister church with historical continuity." And the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge sent each a representative to Upsala, where the highest functionaries of State and Church met in commemoration of the Reformation in Sweden. It is to be taken for granted that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the authorities of the two English universities named desired these special acts on their part to convey the impression that they not only recognized the principles of the Swedish Reformation, but also the present status of the Swedish Church. Thus have their acts been interpreted, and thus only can they be satisfactorily accounted for.

These friendly relations do not rest on mere precedents, carelessly established, but on the true catholic conception of the catholic creeds and polity. That the Swedish Church has accepted the Augsburg Confession as her Articles of Religion, and therefore often styled Evangelical Lutheran, does not impair her catholicity either in doctrine or polity. This can be satisfactorily [13/14] proved by Confessio Augustana, Art. XXI.; [* See footnote below] the Church Ordinance [** See footnote below.] of 1571, incorporated into the Church law at the Synod of Upsala in 1572; the Declaration [*** See footnote below] of the Swedish Episcopate in 1624, which still holds good, and by the present Canon Law and Liturgy.

[* The authorized English version of the portion of the Augsburg Confession referred to reads as follows: "This is about the sum of our doctrines, from which it is evident, that they contain nothing inconsistent with the Scriptures, or with either the Catholic or the Roman Church, so far as is known from the (ancient) writers (or Fathers). Under these circumstances they certainly judge harshly, who would have us regarded as heretics."]

[** This Ordinance, called the Testament of Laurentius Petri to the Swedish Church, stereotyped the future procedure of the National Church of Sweden by incorporating into her law the three characteristic points: "(1) That a Bishop should be regularly elected; (2) that the election should be confirmed by the state; (3) that the person elected and confirmed should receive episcopal consecration." Compare Apostolical Succession in the Church of Sweden by the Rev. A. Nicholson, LL. D., Chapter IV., v.7, and Svenska Kyrkans Historia by C. A. Cornelius, p. 146.]

[*** Literally it reads: "No Bishop is the others princeps and dominus, but they are all fratres et collegae, of same degree in office jure divino and the Archbishop is only ratione ordinis et honoris primus." (Thyselius Handlingar, I., p. 98.) It ought, however, to be observed that Swedish bishops, both before and after the Reformation, usually have styled themselves as "bishops by the grace of God." So for instance the great champion of papal supremacy in Sweden, Bishop Hans Brask, whose official seal read; "Sigillum Johannis Dei graecia Episcopi Lincopensis."]

Whatever conclusions may be drawn from these and other equally important incidents and official documents, one thing remains perfectly undeniable--that the Anglican and Swedish Churches for nearly 900 years past have recognized each other's ministry. It is to be hoped they will continue to do so, notwithstanding the labored efforts of a few innovating ecclesiastics to disqualify the ministry of the Swedish Church precisely on the same grounds on which the Pope recently declared the Anglican Orders to be invalid.

As far as the Swedish Church is concerned, the present relations remain the same as in the past. The clergy of the Anglican Communion are welcome to officiate at [14/15] her altars, and to preach from her pulpits, although the ill-advised attacks on her Apostolic ministry, together with the report of the Committee on Swedish Orders, presented at the last General Convention, have made Swedish divines suspicious, and strengthened them in their opinion that the Anglican Church has of late come so much under the influence of Roman canonists, that she is in danger of giving up the true catholic principle, maintained by her own reformers, that every autonomous branch of the Church has authority and power to govern itself in all matters not pronounced upon by the whole Church, provided no act shall be antagonistic to the faith and law of the whole body.

It would be strange, indeed, if the Anglican Church with this principle still incorporated into her own Articles of Religion, [* Articles XX. and XXXIV.] should not only frustrate the once established relations to the Church of Sweden, but also by an official act pass judgment on a ministry which she in bygone days has employed in her own service.

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