The Reformation and Gustavus Adolphus -- By: Harold J. Ockenga

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 104:416 (Oct 1947)
Article: The Reformation and Gustavus Adolphus
Author: Harold J. Ockenga

The Reformation and Gustavus Adolphus

Harold J. Ockenga

The life of Gustavus Adolphus proves that a single man is able to set his stamp upon an age. In him we have the refutation of the Marxian maxim that only the struggle for bread, or the philosophy of economic determinism, controls history. Factors like religious faith, personal magnetism, military genius and statesmanship, to say nothing of romance, directly influence the events of history.

The picture of Gustavus Adolphus personally riding to Brandenburg incognito so as to meet and win the hand of Princess Maria Eleanora in spite of the firm opposition and dislike of the Electress Anna, is representative of the man. Anna, a proud Prussian Duchess, had rebuffed the intentions of Gustavus almost to the stage of insult by correspondence. Nothing daunted, the Swedish king with a small group of young noblemen merrily set foot on German soil under the pseudonym of Adolph Karlsson and proceeded to Berlin. The recalcitrant Electress dowager refused to grant the king a private audience, but did allow Gustavus to be presented to herself and daughter along with the rest of the visiting cavaliers. The lovely princess was immediately won over to Gustavus by his broad joviality, radiant personality, handsome appearance, elegant manners, and intellectual superiority. Soon afterward the Electress Anna summoned him to her presence, where with irresistible persuasiveness and confiding modesty he pled his cause and completely captivated the Electress dowager, who henceforth totally capitulated to the Swedish youth. Thus in countless situations the personality of Gustavus Adolphus changed the events of

history, for had Maria Eleanora married the Catholic son of King Sigismund of Poland, Brandenburg would have given no occasion for Gustavus’ intervention in the Thirty Years’ War.

The same influence over his soldiers may be detected in the king’s ability to enthuse them to sacrifices and services without pay by his own example during the wars he constantly waged. Axel Oxenstjerna, his closest friend and faithful councillor, complained at the king’s wonted abandon of his own personal safety in leading dangerous sorties, which placed him in personal jeopardy and which ultimately took his life, but which made him the idol of his soldiers.

We discuss Gustavus Adolphus, however, not because of the military genius of the man, for Napoleon was greater in this respect. Nor do we discuss the Swedish king for the beneficent and wise laws he enacted for Sweden, and the territories he added to her domain, and the influence he established for her in the Baltic, and the patrimony he gave to the learning of her universities, and the f...

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