Warburg warned against the ministers who regarded Denmark as a chosen nation and therefore concluded that God would spare the people. Especially Grundtvig and the Danes inspired by his thoughts had formulated this position. Like other pastors in Denmark, they were convinced that the Danish nation had a mission. This idea was based on the teachings of the Bible, which held that it was humankind’s purpose to restore itself to the image and likeness of God preceding the Fall of Man. In Germany, the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) had, among others, interpreted the idea of humankind’s mission in a national sense and thus succeeded in uniting German nationalism with Christian universalism.
In Denmark, the pastor E.C. Tryde (1781-1860) referred explicitly to the Romantic idea in his 1848-sermon entitled God save our country! During the war, Tryde was a minister at the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen. He had been influenced by Romantic ideas since their (formal) introduction into Denmark by the philosopher H. Steffens (1773-1845) in 1802. In 1848, these ideas had not lost their meaning for him. He described the Danes as a unity “animated by one soul, which speaks with one tongue, which has customs and habits, which wanted to have law and justice in common”. Besides these clear criteria for the nation, he stressed the importance of the soil for the Danes:
Who does not feel, that the essence of his soul is attached to this soil, that it is more than just a word, when we call our country our mother, that we in our nature, in our complete way of thinking and feeling have absorbed a lot from its nature [...] it has imprinted our being inwardly and outwardly with a mark.
Despite the semantic irony in calling the father land a mother, this quotation expresses Tryde’s clear understanding of, and love for, his country and countrymen. It made him adapt a classical hymn. The original presumably stems from the bishop H.A. Brorson (1694-1764). Whereas the latter had painted a picture of the earth in it’s original state before creation of man, Tryde turned it into an appraisal of Denmark. The song lost its universal character and became a national hymn:
The air in which we walk,
The soil on which we step,
The wall of sea and brook,
The star decorated cover,
Was filled with good and pleasure
For Adams country.
The soil on which we step,
The air, in which we walk,
The garland of sea and brook,
The flower decorated cover,
The country for peace and pleasure
The Danes’ country.
Tryde was convinced of the benefits Denmark’s salvation would bestow upon all nations. He explained that God had given every individual a meaning to his life and every nation its own purpose. This national mission is the nation’s contribution to mankind. The pastor did not elaborate on the purpose God had with the Danes. The ability “to give something that will elevate the nation in grateful memory amongst the people on earth” nevertheless required that the nation be truly Danish.
The moderate H.C. Rørdam and the nationalistic Viborg preached, too, of the nation acting as Gods servant or tool. A Danish nation would contribute to the spiritual and temporal development of the human race. In this case, Christendom’s universal message remained intact, but the achievement of its ultimate goal depended on strong feelings of nationhood.