A history of the moravian church

Download 1.27 Mb.
Size1.27 Mb.
1   ...   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   ...   36
But already the boy had wider conceptions still. As he sat at Franke’s dinner table, he listened one day to the conversation of the Danish missionary, Ziegenbalg, who was now home on furlough, and he even saw some dusky converts whom the missionary had brought from Malabar {1715.}. His missionary zeal was aroused. As his guardian had already settled that Zinzendorf should enter the service of the State, he had, of course, no idea of becoming a missionary himself;63 but, as that was out of the question, he formed a solemn league and covenant with his young friend Watteville that when God would show them suitable men they would send them out to heathen tribes for whom no one else seemed to care. Nor was this mere playing at religion. As the Count looked back on his Halle days he saw in these early clubs and covenants the germs of his later work; and when he left for the University the delighted Professor Franke said, “This youth will some day become a great light in the world.”
As the Count, however, in his uncle’s opinion was growing rather too Pietistic, he was now sent to the University at Wittenberg, to study the science of jurisprudence, and prepare for high service in the State {April, 1716.}. His father had been a Secretary of State, and the son was to follow in his footsteps. His uncle had a contempt for Pietist religion; and sent the lad to Wittenberg “to drive the nonsense out of him.” He had certainly chosen the right place. For two hundred years the great University had been regarded as the stronghold of the orthodox Lutheran faith; the bi-centenary Luther Jubilee was fast approaching; the theological professors were models of orthodox belief; and the Count was enjoined to be regular at church, and to listen with due attention and reverence to the sermons of those infallible divines. It was like sending a boy to Oxford to cure him of a taste for dissent. His tutor, Crisenius, went with him, to guard his morals, read his letters, and rob him of money at cards. He had also to master the useful arts of riding, fencing, and dancing. The cards gave him twinges of conscience. If he took a hand, he laid down the condition that any money he might win should be given to the poor. He prayed for skill in his dancing lessons, because he wanted to have more time for more serious studies. He was more devout in his daily life than ever, prayed to Christ with the foil in his hand, studied the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, spent whole nights in prayer, fasted the livelong day on Sundays, and was, in a word, so Methodistic in his habits that he could truly describe himself as a “rigid Pietist.” He interfered in many a duel, and rebuked his fellow students for drinking hard; and for this he was not beloved. As he had come to Wittenberg to study law, he was not, of course, allowed to attend the regular theological lectures; but, all the same, he spent his leisure in studying the works of Luther and Spener, and cultivated the personal friendship of many of the theological professors. And here he made a most delightful discovery. As he came to know these professors better, he found that a man could be orthodox without being narrow-minded; and they, for their part, also found that a man could be a rigid Pietist without being a sectarian prig. It was time, he thought, to put an end to the quarrel. He would make peace between Wittenberg and Halle. He would reconcile the Lutherans and Pietists. He consulted with leading professors on both sides; he convinced them of the need for peace; and the rival teachers actually agreed to accept this student of nineteen summers as the agent of the longed-for truce. But here Count Zinzendorf’s mother intervened. “You must not meddle,” she wrote, “in such weighty matters; they are above your understanding and your powers.” And Zinzendorf, being a dutiful son, obeyed. “I think,” he said, “a visit to Halle might have been of use, but, of course, I must obey the fourth commandment.”64
And now, as befitted a nobleman born, he was sent on the grand tour, to give the final polish to his education {1719.}. He regarded the prospect with horror. He had heard of more than one fine lord whose virtues had been polished away. For him the dazzling sights of Utrecht and Paris had no bewitching charm. He feared the glitter, the glamour, and the glare. The one passion, love to Christ, still ruled his heart. “Ah!” he wrote to a friend, “What a poor, miserable thing is the grandeur of the great ones of the earth! What splendid misery!” As John Milton, on his continental tour, had sought the company of musicians and men of letters, so this young budding Christian poet, with the figure of the Divine Redeemer ever present to his mind, sought out the company of men and women who, whatever their sect or creed, maintained communion with the living Son of God. He went first to Frankfurt-on-the-Main, where Spener had toiled so long, came down the Rhine to Düsseldorf, spent half a year at Utrecht, was introduced to William, Prince of Orange, paid flying calls at Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and ended the tour by a six months’ stay amid the gaieties of Paris. At Düsseldorf a famous incident occurred. There, in the picture gallery, he saw and admired the beautiful Ecce Homo of Domenico Feti; there, beneath the picture he read the thrilling appeal: “All this I did for thee; what doest thou for Me?”; and there, in response to that appeal, he resolved anew to live for Him who had worn the cruel crown of thorns for all.65
At Paris he attended the Court levée, and was presented to the Duke of Orleans, the Regent, and his mother, the Dowager Duchess.
“Sir Count,” said the Duchess, “have you been to the opera to-day?”
“Your Highness,” he replied, “I have no time for the opera.” He would not spend a golden moment except for the golden crown.
“I hear,” said the Duchess, “that you know the Bible by heart.”
“Ah,” said he, “I only wish I did.”
At Paris, too, he made the acquaintance of the Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Noailles. It is marvellous how broad in his views the young man was. As he discussed the nature of true religion with the Cardinal, who tried in vain to win him for the Church of Rome, he came to the conclusion that the true Church of Jesus Christ consisted of many sects and many forms of belief. He held that the Church was still an invisible body; he held that it transcended the bounds of all denominations; he had found good Christians among Protestants and Catholics alike; and he believed, with all his heart and soul, that God had called him to the holy task of enlisting the faithful in all the sects in one grand Christian army, and thus realizing, in visible form, the promise of Christ that all His disciples should be one. He was no bigoted Lutheran. For him the cloak of creed or sect was only of minor moment. He desired to break down all sectarian barriers. He desired to draw men from all the churches into one grand fellowship with Christ. He saw, and lamented, the bigotry of all the sects. “We Protestants,” he said, “are very fond of the word liberty; but in practice we often try to throttle the conscience.” He was asked if he thought a Catholic could be saved. “Yes,” he replied, “and the man who doubts that, cannot have looked far beyond his own small cottage.”
“What, then,” asked the Duchess of Luynes, “is the real difference between a Lutheran and a Catholic?”
“It is,” he replied, “the false idea that the Bible is so hard to understand that only the Church can explain it.” He had, in a word, discovered his vocation.
His religion purified his love. As he made his way home, at the close of the tour, he called to see his aunt, the Countess of Castell, and her daughter Theodora {1720.}; and during his stay he fell ill of a fever, and so remained much longer than he had at first intended. He helped the Countess to put in order the affairs of her estate, took a leading part in the religious services of the castle, and was soon regarded as almost one of the family. At first, according to his usual custom, he would talk about nothing but religion. But gradually his manner changed. He opened out, grew less reserved, and would gossip and chat like a woman. He asked himself the reason of this alteration. He discovered it. He was in love with his young cousin, Theodora. For a while the gentle stream of love ran smooth. His mother and the Countess Castell smiled approval; Theodora, though rather icy in manner, presented him with her portrait; and the Count, who accepted the dainty gift as a pledge of blossoming love, was rejoicing at finding so sweet a wife and so charming a helper in his work, when an unforeseen event turned the current of the stream. Being belated one evening on a journey, he paid a visit to his friend Count Reuss, and during conversation made the disquieting discovery that his friend wished to marry Theodora. A beautiful contest followed. Each of the claimants to the hand of Theodora expressed his desire to retire in favour of the other; and, not being able to settle the dispute, the two young men set out for Castell to see what Theodora herself would say. Young Zinzendorf’s mode of reasoning was certainly original. If his own love for Theodora was pure--i.e., if it was a pure desire to do her good, and not a vulgar sensual passion like that with which many love-sick swains were afflicted--he could, he said, fulfil his purpose just as well by handing her over to the care of his Christian friend. “Even if it cost me my life to surrender her,” he said, “if it is more acceptable to my Saviour, I ought to sacrifice the dearest object in the world.” The two friends arrived at Castell and soon saw which way the wind was blowing; and Zinzendorf found, to his great relief, that what had been a painful struggle to him was as easy as changing a dress to Theodora. The young lady gave Count Reuss her heart and hand. The rejected suitor bore the blow like a stoic. He would conquer, he said, such disturbing earthly emotions; why should they be a thicket in the way of his work for Christ? The betrothal was sealed in a religious ceremony. Young Zinzendorf composed a cantata for the occasion {March 9th, 1721.}; the cantata was sung, with orchestral accompaniment, in the presence of the whole house of Castell; and at the conclusion of the festive scene the young composer offered up on behalf of the happy couple a prayer so tender that all were moved to tears. His self-denial was well rewarded. If the Count had married Theodora, he would only have had a graceful drawing-room queen. About eighteen months later he married Count Reuss’s sister, Erdmuth Dorothea {Sept. 7th, 1722.}; and in her he found a friend so true that the good folk at Herrnhut called her a princess of God, and the “foster-mother of the Brethren’s Church in the eighteenth century.”66
If the Count could now have had his way he would have entered the service of the State Church; but in those days the clerical calling was considered to be beneath the dignity of a noble, and his grandmother, pious though she was, insisted that he should stick to jurisprudence. He yielded, and took a post as King’s Councillor at Dresden, at the Court of Augustus the Strong, King of Saxony. But no man can fly from his shadow, and Zinzendorf could not fly from his hopes of becoming a preacher of the Gospel. If he could not preach in the orthodox pulpit, he would teach in some other way; and, therefore, he invited the public to a weekly meeting in his own rooms on Sunday afternoons from three to seven. He had no desire to found a sect, and no desire to interfere with the regular work of the Church. He was acting, he said, in strict accordance with ecclesiastical law; and he justified his bold conduct by appealing to a clause in Luther’s Smalkald Articles.67 He contended that there provision was made for the kind of meeting that he was conducting; and, therefore, he invited men of all classes to meet him on Sunday afternoons, read a passage of Scripture together, and talk in a free-and-easy fashion on spiritual topics. He became known as rather a curiosity; and Valentine Löscher, the popular Lutheran preacher, mentioned him by name in his sermons, and held him up before the people as an example they would all do well to follow.
But Zinzendorf had not yet reached his goal. He was not content with the work accomplished by Spener, Franke, and other leading Pietists. He was not content with drawing-room meetings for people of rank and money. If fellowship, said he, was good for lords, it must also be good for peasants. He wished to apply the ideas of Spener to folk in humbler life. For this purpose he now bought from his grandmother the little estate of Berthelsdorf, which lay about three miles from Hennersdorf {April, 1722.}; installed his friend, John Andrew Rothe, as pastor of the village church; and resolved that he and the pastor together would endeavour to convert the village into a pleasant garden of God. “I bought this estate,” he said, “because I wanted to spend my life among peasants, and win their souls for Christ.”
“Go, Rothe,” he said, “to the vineyard of the Lord. You will find in me a brother and helper rather than a patron.”
And here let us note precisely the aim this pious Count had in view. He was a loyal and devoted member of the national Lutheran Church; he was well versed in Luther’s theology and in Luther’s practical schemes; and now at Berthelsdorf he was making an effort to carry into practical effect the fondest dreams of Luther himself. For this, the fellowship of true believers, the great Reformer had sighed in vain;68 and to this great purpose the Count would now devote his money and his life.
He introduced the new pastor to the people; the induction sermon was preached by Schäfer, the Pietist pastor at Görlitz; and the preacher used the prophetic words, “God will light a candle on these hills which will illuminate the whole land.”
We have now to see how far these words came true. We have now to see how the Lutheran Count applied his ideas to the needs of exiles from a foreign land, and learned to take a vital interest in a Church of which as yet he had never heard.


IT is recorded in John Wesley’s “Journal,”69 that when he paid his memorable visit to Herrnhut he was much impressed by the powerful sermons of a certain godly carpenter, who had preached in his day to the Eskimos in Greenland, and who showed a remarkable knowledge of divinity. It was Christian David, known to his friends as the “Servant of the Lord.”
He was born on December 31st, 1690, at Senftleben, in Moravia; he was brought up in that old home of the Brethren; and yet, as far as records tell, he never heard in his youthful days of the Brethren who still held the fort in the old home of their fathers. He came of a Roman Catholic family, and was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. He sat at the feet of the parish priest, was devout at Mass, invoked his patron saint, St. Anthony, knelt down in awe before every image and picture of the Virgin, regarded Protestants as children of the devil, and grew up to man’s estate burning with Romish zeal, as he says, “like a baking oven.” He began life as a shepherd; and his religion was tender and deep. As he tended his sheep in the lonesome fields, and rescued one from the jaws of a wolf, he thought how Christ, the Good Shepherd, had given His life for men; and as he sought his wandering sheep in the woods by night he thought how Christ sought sinners till he found them. And yet somehow he was not quite easy in his mind. For all his zeal and all his piety he was not sure that he himself had escaped the snare of the fowler. He turned first for guidance to some quiet Protestants, and was told by them, to his horror, that the Pope was Antichrist, that the worship of saints was a delusion, and that only through faith in Christ could his sins be forgiven. He was puzzled. As these Protestants were ready to suffer for their faith, he felt they must be sincere; and when some of them were cast into prison, he crept to the window of their cell and heard them sing in the gloaming. He read Lutheran books against the Papists, and Papist books against the Lutherans. He was now dissatisfied with both. He could see, he said, that the Papists were wrong, but that did not prove that the Lutherans were right; he could not understand what the Lutherans meant when they said that a man was justified by faith alone; and at last he lost his way so far in this famous theological fog that he hated and loathed the very name of Christ. He turned next for instruction to some Jews; and the Jews, of course, confirmed his doubts, threw scorn upon the whole New Testament, and endeavoured to convince him that they alone were the true Israel of God.
He turned next to the Bible, and the fog lifted a little {1710.}. He read the Old Testament carefully through, to see if the prophecies there had been fulfilled; and, thereby, he arrived at the firm belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah. He then mastered the New Testament, and came to the equally firm conclusion that the Bible was the Word of God.
And even yet he was not content. As long as he stayed in Catholic Moravia he would have to keep his new convictions a secret; and, longing to renounce the Church of Rome in public, he left Moravia, passed through Hungary and Silesia, and finally became a member of a Lutheran congregation at Berlin.
But the Lutherans seemed to him very stiff and cold. He was seeking for a pearl of great price, and so far he had failed to find it. He had failed to find it in the Church of Rome, failed to find it in the Scriptures, and failed to find it in the orthodox Protestants of Berlin. He had hoped to find himself in a goodly land, where men were godly and true; and he found that even the orthodox Protestants made mock of his pious endeavours. He left Berlin in disgust, and enlisted in the Prussian Army. He did not find much piety there. He served in the war against Charles XII. of Sweden {1715.}, was present at the siege of Stralsund, thought soldiers no better than civilians, accepted his discharge with joy, and wandered around from town to town, like the old philosopher seeking an honest man. At last, however, he made his way to the town of Görlitz, in Silesia {1717.}; and there he came into personal contact with two Pietist clergymen, Schäfer and Schwedler. For the first time in his weary pilgrimage he met a pastor who was also a man. He fell ill of a dangerous disease; he could not stir hand or foot for twenty weeks; he was visited by Schwedler every day; and thus, through the gateway of human sympathy, he entered the kingdom of peace, and felt assured that all his sins were forgiven. He married a member of Schwedler’s Church, was admitted to the Church himself, and thus found, in Pietist circles, that very spirit of fellowship and help which Zinzendorf himself regarded as the greatest need of the Church.
But now Christian David must show to others the treasure he had found for himself. For the next five years he made his home at Görlitz; but, every now and then, at the risk of his life, he would take a trip to Moravia, and there tell his old Protestant friends the story of his new-found joy. He preached in a homely style; he had a great command of Scriptural language; he was addressing men who for many years had conned their Bibles in secret; and thus his preaching was like unto oil on a smouldering fire, and stirred to vigorous life once more what had slumbered for a hundred years since the fatal Day of Blood. He tramped the valleys of Moravia; he was known as the Bush Preacher, and was talked of in every market-place; the shepherds sang old Brethren’s hymns on the mountains; a new spirit breathed upon the old dead bones; and thus, through the message of this simple man, there began in Moravia a hot revival of Protestant zeal and hope. It was soon to lead to marvellous results.
For the last three hundred and forty years there had been established in the neighbourhood of Fulneck, in Moravia, a colony of Germans.70 They still spoke the German language; they lived in places bearing German names and bore German names themselves; they had used a German version of the Bible and a German edition of the Brethren’s Hymns; and thus, when David’s trumpet sounded, they were able to quit their long-loved homes and settle down in comfort on German soil. At Kunewalde71 dwelt the Schneiders and Nitschmanns; at Zauchtenthal the Stachs and Zeisbergers; at Sehlen the Jaeschkes and Neissers; and at Senftleben, David’s old home, the Grassmanns. For such men there was now no peace in their ancient home. Some were imprisoned; some were loaded with chains; some were yoked to the plough and made to work like horses; and some had to stand in wells of water until nearly frozen to death. And yet the star of hope still shone upon them. As the grand old patriarch, George Jaeschke, saw the angel of death draw near, he gathered his son and grandsons round his bed, and spoke in thrilling, prophetic words of the remnant that should yet be saved.
“It is true,” said he, “that our liberties are gone, and that our descendants are giving way to a worldly spirit, so that the Papacy is devouring them. It may seem as though the final end of the Brethren’s Church had come. But, my beloved children, you will see a great deliverance. The remnant will be saved. How, I cannot say; but something tells me that an exodus will take place; and that a refuge will be offered in a country and on a spot where you will be able, without fear, to serve the Lord according to His holy Word.”
The time of deliverance had come. As Christian David heard of the sufferings which these men had now to endure, his blood boiled with anger. He resolved to go to their rescue. The path lay open. He had made many friends in Saxony. His friend Schäfer introduced him to Rothe; Rothe introduced him to Zinzendorf; and Christian David asked the Count for permission to bring some persecuted Protestants from Moravia to find a refuge in Berthelsdorf. The conversation was momentous. The heart of the Count was touched. If these men, said he, were genuine martyrs, he would do his best to help them; and he promised David that if they came he would find them a place of abode. The joyful carpenter returned to Moravia, and told the news to the Neisser family at Sehlen. “This,” said they, “is God’s doing; this is a call from the Lord.”
And so, at ten o’clock one night, there met at the house of Jacob Neisser, in Sehlen, a small band of emigrants {May 27th, 1722.}. At the head of the band was Christian David; and the rest of the little group consisted of Augustin and Jacob Neisser, their wives and children, Martha Neisser, and Michael Jaeschke, a cousin of the family.72 We know but little about these humble folk; and we cannot be sure that they were all descendants of the old Church of the Brethren. Across the mountains they came, by winding and unknown paths. For the sake of their faith they left their goods and chattels behind; long and weary was the march; and at length, worn out and footsore, they arrived, with Christian David at their head, at Zinzendorf’s estate at Berthelsdorf {June 8th, 1722.}.
The streams had met: the new river was formed; and thus the course of Renewed Brethren’s History had begun.


AS these wanderers from a foreign land had not been able to bring in their pockets certificates of orthodoxy, and might, after all, be dangerous heretics, it occurred to Zinzendorf’s canny steward, Heitz, that on the whole it would be more fitting if they settled, not in the village itself, but at a safe and convenient distance. The Count was away; the steward was in charge; and the orthodox parish must not be exposed to infection. As the Neissers, further, were cutlers by trade, there was no need for them in the quiet village. If they wished to earn an honest living they could do it better upon the broad high road.
For these reasons, therefore, he led the exiles to a dismal, swampy stretch of ground about a mile from the village; and told them for the present to rest their bones in an old unfinished farmhouse {June 8th, 1722.}. The spot itself was dreary and bleak, but the neighbouring woods of pines and beeches relieved the bareness of the scene. It was part of Zinzendorf’s estate, and lay at the top of a gentle slope, up which a long avenue now leads. It was a piece of common pasture ground, and was therefore known as the Hutberg,73 or Watch-Hill. It was on the high road from Löbau to Zittau; it was often used as a camping ground by gypsies and other pedlars; and the road was in such a disgusting state that wagons sometimes sank axle deep in the mud. For the moment the refugees were sick at heart.

Download 1.27 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   ...   36

The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2023
send message

    Main page