I’ve been studying the history and founding fathers of the Covenant the past several months. Perhaps the greatest influential figure of the 19th century revivals that swept through Sweden was C.O. Rosenius (1816-1868). He became one of Sweden’s most widely read religious writers of his time as the editor of Pietisten used heavily by the Mission Friends who later became the Covenant Church in America. Here’s a taste of Rosenius — note the strong “pietist” flavor that emphasizes a “heart faith” that leads to a changed life and the warning against a dead orthodoxy that is merely an intellectual exercise void of the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit.
“We are richer in words than in power. We are, praise God, quite rich in spiritual erudition, in word and understanding. We have more religious knowledge than the great saints formerly had. One can truthfully say with Bishop Pontoppidan, ‘As I look at our forefathers, I think that they did more than they knew; we, on the other hand, know more than we do. They were like the fruitful Leah whose eyes were weak, but we like Rachel who was beautiful and lovely.’ What is, therefore, now most necessary is practice, implementation, because the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
But be this thought far from us which some have had…that we have had enough of the preaching of faith. What is lacking, they say, is the preaching of sanctification; the former is enough and sufficiently preached. What we need now, if the deficiencies in Christendom are to be healed, is primarily the preaching of law and sanctification. No, the fact still stands firm that only the despised ‘foolishness of preaching,’ the preaching of faith, gives the spirit. Gal. 3:2. This gives life and power and truth in sanctification.
Where the power of godliness and evidence is absent, there faith and life in Christ is absent. The fault consists in this that we do not lay the Word on our hearts and immediately apply, use, and implement it in our lives. We only gather it in our reason to order our concepts and clarify doctrine. In other words, the time is used to hammer weapons, to polish and arrange, and still let the enemy possess the land without using the weapons against him. The attention is turned only to doctrine and concepts, whereas the actual business urged by the word, repentance of the heart, faith and sanctification flows, these are forgotten. And note, in this way we never get doctrine really clear or pure. In this way we are in danger of losing even doctrine, the genuine true doctrine. At least in this way we miss the real matter, God’s kingdom in us, which does not consist in words but in power.”
C.O. Rosenius, “For the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power,” Missions-Vannen, May, 1878, pp. 131-132