In his youth and childhood, Hans Nielsen Hauge was an enthusiastic bookworm, seeking knowledge, with a powerful spiritual longing in him. Over time he developed an intense inner, prayerful life and was preoccupied with truth and honesty. As a natural part of this, it was important to him that life and doctrine matched both in himself and others. This would in later years distinguish his behaviour and his preaching all over the country. After his spiritual experience in 1796 he became endowed with a natural and powerful authority. He became a spiritual leader of the Societies of Friends which grew around him, and he became the self-appointed leader for the business ventures which he initiated. People listened to, and followed his advice, whether it concerned the establishment of a business or spiritual matters,
Hauge was a determined, active and purposeful man. He travelled all over the country preaching, simultaneously establishing small industries in several places. He usually travelled on foot and often knitted as he walked. The gloves and socks were then given away to the poor who needed them. It was his incredible working capacity combined with his pioneering spirit that made him such a successful businessman. He was at the height of his activity during the years 1800-1804. During this period, he established many industries all over the country, from Lista in the South to Troms in the North. Fishing industries, brickyards, spinning mills, shipping yards, salt and mineral mines, the harnessing of waterfalls, paper mills and printing plants were some of the industries he established. The profits were always used to invest in new activities; neither did he hesitate to ask his friends for loans and investments if he thought they were in a position to assist.
Once he had established these ventures, he delegated the daily management to those he thought were the most capable, but he was the strategist who planned and motivated them to finstion. Later when he was in the area he would visit the works, and would contribute and help where necessary. Because he established so many industries, saw the possibilities and was successful in most cases, he became an inspiration and an example to those who knew him.. Many found the courage to break away from the traditional pattern - especially in the outlying districts - and to establish their own enterprises, once they had seen Hauge do it and understood that it was possible. Even the civic authorities recognised his business acumen. He was released from prison for a period of 6 months, having been there for five years for defying the "Konventikkel Ordinance", to establish a salt mine for the government at a time when the country was threatened by famine.
Although the business activities were a large part of Hauge's life, he remained faithful to his calling from God to the very end. Everywhere he went he preached the word of God to the people, and his preaching career was better known than his business. His preaching activity became a source of irritation to the clergy and the authorities, for they were of the opinion that he was defying the "Konventikkel Ordinance" which had been decreed in January of 1741. According to this decree the clergy had a monopoly on preaching the word of God, and lay people could not preach except in the presence of a priest. Hauge always took the ordinance with him on his many travels, was always most particular about letting the priest know about his planned meetings wherever he went, in the hope of avoiding a breach of the law. A mild interpretation of the decree actually made it possible to preach as long as the priest was informed of the meeting. Nevertheless this practice varied from place to place in the country, and many of the clergy felt threatened by Hauge because the people listened to him and followed his advice. They finally managed to have him imprisoned and charged.
Hauge's manner of preaching was popular. He spoke with power and authority using the vernacular and being direct in his speech. He spoke wherever people congregated: in homes, on the church steps, on the storehouse steps, by the factories or as he walked from place to place. People allowed themselves to get carried away. His talks were consuming and sincere, and although they may not always have been well-formed nor written according to the art of public speaking, they were stirring because they witnessed of the fullness of the faith, energy of personality and the compelling power of God's love. Hauge himself said that it was as though a fire within him made it impossible for him to be silent, especially when many came to listen. He spoke of sin, of the Christian life and how to find the path to God. All the while he included strong admonitions of a Christian's responsibility to his fellowmen and to the society to which he belonged.
On his travels Hauge also spoke of everyday things. The rumour was spread from village to village when he was on his way, and people met him on the road to converse with him and follow him to the place he had chosen to stay. He had a great knowledge of people and psychological insight; he talked with people and gave them advice about everyday tasks, about the problems that beset them and he taught them spiritual truths. He respected people for who they were and addressed the individual. For a people who had been taught to listen and not to talk, to obey their superiors and their commands, to meet Hauge was indeed unusual. In him they met a man who listened to them and took them seriously. He had a God-given love for his fellowmen; this they noticed and trusted him for it.
In addition to preaching, he was a good correspondent; more than 500 of his letters are kept in the national archives. He published 33 books and writings of his own, as well as publishing writings from other authors whom he had profited from reading himself. 200 000 copies were published of his own books for a population of about 800 000, which made him the most read author of his time. He also developed an efficient system of distribution throughout the land. Following his imprisonment letter-writing was the most important means of keeping in touch with all his Friends all over the country.
Throughout his life Hauge considered himself to be unlearned. His only education was from the Primary school, nevertheless his knowledge of the Bible and his spiritual insight were worthy of the envy of theologians and other prominent men. Sometimes he even amazed himself. After a while, following his release from prison, a certain intellectual and theological environment developed around his home. It became a natural headquarters of the Haugian movement. In addition Hauge was often visited by bishops, theological professors, priests and other important people in society, who engaged him in long and deep conversation. Hauge himself said that he was flattered “by the respect and friendship accorded him by the most enlightened and respectable men of the country of his birth”. (at nyde Agtelse og venskab hos Fodelandets mest oplyste og aktværdigste Mænd.)
He was faithful to his calling, conscientious in all his walks, practising what he preached. He was most particular about keeping the law by informing priests of planned meetings, nevertheless he was unafraid of contradicting them if he thought they either behaved or spoke out of keeping with the word of God. He was a man of initiative and action who saw possibilities everywhere, and even just 6 months before his death he brought up the possibility of establishing a clothes' factory in the centre of the Eastern area. Throughout his life he managed to combine spirituality and practicality.
Hauge did not marry until 1815. Although he was actually imprisoned, since 1811 he had lived on an estate that his brother had bought for him. Out of consideration to his health he was allowed to live outside the prison, on house arrest, but he had to be prepared at all times to report to the prison authorities. After the judgement in 1814, which by the way he chose not to appeal to the King, he married his housekeeper, Andrea Andersdatter Nyhus from Nes in Romerike. A large number of weddings guests were led by the court priest, Pavels, President Bull, the High Court Judge Bull and Hauge's own defence lawyer, the attorney, Lumholtz. Their happiness was not to last long. In December of the same year, Andrea died after the birth of Hauge's son, Andreas. People who visited Hauge later told of how he looked forward to seeing his son grow up, and spent much time walking with him and telling him of the love of the Lord. Andreas was nine years old when Hans Nielsen Hauge died. In 1817 he married again, this time to Ingeborg Marie Olsdatter, a houseman's daughter from Gjerpen in Telemark. They had three children but none of them lived to adulthood.
In 1817 Hans Nielsen Hauge married again, this time to Ingeborg Marie Olsdatter, a houseman's daughter from Gjerpen in Telemark.