A history of the moravian church

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Meanwhile, however, a genuine eye-witness was telling a terrible tale. He named his book {1753.}, “The True and Authentic Account of Andrew Frey.” For four years, he said, he lived among the Brethren in Germany, travelled about helping to form societies, and settled down at Marienborn, when the fanaticism there was in full bloom. He was known among the Brethren as Andrew the Great. As he wore a long beard, he was considered rather eccentric. At Marienborn he saw strange sights and heard strange doctrine. At their feasts the Brethren ate like gluttons and drank till they were tipsy. “All godliness, all devotion, all piety,” said Rubusch, the general Elder of all the Single Brethren on the Continent, “are no more than so many snares of the devil. Things must be brought to this pass in the community, that nothing shall be spoken of but wounds, wounds, wounds. All other discourse, however Scriptural and pious, must be spued out and trampled under foot.” Another, Vieroth, a preacher in high repute among the Brethren, said, in a sermon at Marienborn castle church: “Nothing gives the devil greater joy than to decoy into good works, departing from evil, shalling and willing, trying, watching and examining those souls who have experienced anything of the Saviour’s Grace in their hearts.” Another, Calic, had defended self-indulgence. “Anyone,” he said, “having found lodging, bed and board in the Lamb’s wounds cannot but be merry and live according to nature; so that when such a one plays any pranks that the godly ones cry out against them as sins, the Saviour is so far from being displeased therewith that he rejoices the more.” In vain Frey endeavoured to correct these cross-air birds; they denounced him as a rogue. He appealed to Zinzendorf, and found to his dismay that the Count was as depraved as the rest. “Do not suffer yourselves to be molested in your merriment,” said that trumpet of Satan; and others declared that the Bible was dung, and only fit to be trampled under foot. At last Andrew, disgusted beyond all measure, could restrain his soul no longer; and telling the Brethren they were the wickedest sect that had appeared since the days of the Apostles, and profoundly thankful that their gilded poison had not killed his soul, he turned his back on them for ever.132
The next smiter of the Brethren was Lavington, Bishop of Exeter. He called his book “The Moravians Compared and Detected.” He had already denounced the Methodists in his “Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared” {1754.}; and now he described the Brethren as immoral characters, fitted to enter a herd of swine. In a pompous introduction he explained his purpose, and that purpose was the suppression of the “Brethren’s Church in England.” “With respect to the settlement of the Moravians in these kingdoms,” he said, “it seems to have been surreptitiously obtained, under the pretence of their being a peaceable and innocent sort of people. And peaceable probably they will remain while they are permitted, without control, to ruin families and riot in their debaucheries.” Of all the attacks upon the Brethren, this book by Lavington was the most offensive and scurrilous; and the Brethren themselves could hardly believe that it was written by a Bishop. It was unfit for a decent person to read. The good Bishop knew nothing of his subject. As he could not read the German language, he had to rely for his information on the English editions of the works of Rimius and Frey; and all he did was to collect in one volume the nastiest passages in their indictments, compare the Brethren with certain queer sects of the Middle Ages, and thus hold them up before the public as filthy dreamers and debauchees of the vilest order.
And now, to give a finishing touch to the picture, John Wesley arose once more {1755.}. He, too, had swallowed the poison of Rimius and Frey, and a good deal of other poison as well. At Bedford a scandal-monger informed him that the Brethren were the worst paymasters in the town; and at Holbeck another avowed that the Brethren whom he had met in Yorkshire were quite as bad as Rimius had stated. As Wesley printed these statements in his journal they were soon read in every county in England. But Wesley himself did not assert that these statements were true. He wished, he said, to be quite fair to the Brethren; he wished to give them a chance of clearing themselves; and, therefore, he now published his pamphlet entitled “Queries to Count Zinzendorf.” It contained the whole case in a nutshell. For the sum of sixpence the ordinary reader had now the case against the Brethren in a popular and handy form.
Thus the Brethren, attacked from so many sides, were bound to bestir themselves in self-defence. The burden of reply fell on Zinzendorf. His life and conversation were described as scandalous; his hymns were denounced as filthy abominations, and his discourses as pleas for immorality; and the Brethren for whose sake he had sacrificed his fortune were held up before the British public as political conspirators, atheists, robbers of the poor, kidnappers of children, ruiners of families, and lascivious lovers of pleasure. But the Count was a busy man. James Hutton says that he worked on the average eighteen hours a day. He was constantly preaching, writing, relieving the distressed, paying other people’s debts, and providing the necessaries of life for a hundred ministers of the Gospel. He had dealt with similar accusations in Germany, had published a volume containing a thousand answers to a thousand questions, and was loth to go over the whole ground again. For some time he clung to the hope that the verdict of Parliament and the common sense of Englishmen would be sufficient protection against abuse; and he gallantly defended the character of Rimius, and spoke with generous enthusiasm of Whitefield. The best friends of the Brethren, such as Lord Granville and the Bishops of London and Worcester, advised them to treat Rimius with contemptuous silence. But a reply became a necessity. As long as the Brethren remained silent, their enemies asserted that this very silence was a confession of guilt; and some mischievous scoundrel, in the name, but without the consent, of the Brethren, inserted a notice in the General Advertiser that they intended to reply to Rimius in detail. For these reasons, therefore, Zinzendorf, James Hutton, Frederick Neisser, and others who preferred to write anonymously, now issued a series of defensive pamphlets.133 The Count offered to lay before the public a full statement of his financial affairs; and James Hutton, in a notice in several newspapers, promised to answer any reasonable questions. It is needless to give the Brethren’s defence in detail. The plain facts of the case were beyond all dispute. In two ways the accusations of Rimius and Frey were out of court. First they accused the whole Church of the Brethren of sins which had only been committed by a few fanatics at Marienborn and Herrnhaag; and, secondly, that fanaticism had practically ceased before the Act of Parliament was passed. The Count here stood upon firm ground. He pointed out that the accusers of the Brethren had nearly always taken care to go to the Wetterau for their material; and he contended that it was a shame to blame innocent Englishmen for the past sins, long ago abandoned, of a few foreign fanatics. He appealed confidently to the public. “We are so well known to our neighbours,” he said, “that all our clearing ourselves of accusations appears to them quite needless.” In reply to the charge of using indecent language, he contended that his purpose was good, and justified by the results; and that, as soon as he found himself misunderstood, he had cut out all doubtful phrases from his discourses.
James Hutton explained their use of childish language. At this period the Brethren, in some of their hymns, used a number of endearing epithets which would strike the modern reader as absurd. For example, they spoke of the little Lamb, the little Jesus, the little Cross-air Bird. But even here they were not so childish as their critics imagined. The truth was, these phrases were Bohemian in origin. In the Bohemian language diminutives abound. In Bohemia a servant girl is addressed as “demercko”--i.e., little, little maid; and the literal translation of “mug mily Bozicko”--a phrase often used in public worship--is “my dear, little, little God.”
But the Brethren had a better defence than writing pamphlets. Instead of taking too much notice of their enemies, they began to set their English house in order. For the first time they now published an authorized collection of English Moravian hymns {1754.}; and in the preface they clearly declared their purpose. The purpose was twofold: first, the proclamation of the Gospel; second, the cultivation of personal holiness. If we judge this book by modern standards, we shall certainly find it faulty; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that it rendered a very noble service to the Christianity of the eighteenth century. The chief burden of the hymns was Ecce Homo. If the Brethren had never done anything else, they had at least placed the sufferings of Christ in the forefront of their message. With rapturous enthusiasm the Brethren depicted every detail of the Passion History; and thus they reminded their hearers of events which ordinary Christians had almost forgotten. At times the language they used was gruesome; and, lost in mystic adoration, the Brethren, in imagination, trod the Via Dolorosa. They nestled in the nail-prints; they kissed the spear; they gazed with rapt and holy awe on the golden head, the raven locks, the pallid cheeks, the foaming lips, the melting eyes, the green wreath of thorns, the torn sinews, the great blue wounds, and the pierced palms, like rings of gold, beset with rubies red. In one stanza they abhorred themselves as worms; in the next they rejoiced as alabaster doves; and, glorying in the constant presence of the Well-Beloved, they feared not the King of Terrors, and calmly sang of death as “the last magnetic kiss, to consummate their bliss.” But, despite its crude and extravagant language, this hymn-book was of historic importance. At that time the number of hymn-books in England was small; the Anglicans had no hymn-book at all, and never sang anything but Psalms; and thus the Brethren were among the first to make the adoration of Christ in song an essential part of public worship. It was here that the Brethren excelled, and here that they helped to free English Christianity from the chilling influence of Deism. The whole point was quaintly expressed by Bishop John Gambold:--
The Doctrine of the Unitas

By Providence was meant,

In Christendom’s degenerate days,

That cold lump to ferment,

From Scripture Pearls to wipe the dust,

Give blood-bought grace its compass just,

In praxis, truth from shew to part,

God’s Power from Ethic Art.
But the last line must not be misunderstood. It did not mean that the Brethren despised ethics. Of all the charges brought against them, the charge that they were Antinomians was the most malicious and absurd. At the very time when their enemies were accusing them of teaching that good works were of no importance, they inserted in their Litany for Sunday morning worship a number of petitions which were alone enough to give that charge the lie. The petitions were as follows:--
O! that we might never see a necessitous person go unrelieved!

O! that we might see none suffer for want of clothing!

O! that we might be eyes to the blind and feet to the lame!

O! that we could refresh the heart of the Fatherless!

O! that we could mitigate the burden of the labouring man, and be ourselves not ministered unto but minister!

Feed its with that princely repast of solacing others!

O! that the blessing of him who was ready to perish might come upon us!

Yea! may our hearts rejoice to see it go well with our enemies.
Again, therefore, as in their hymns, the Brethren laid stress on the humane element in Christianity.134
But their next retort to their enemies was the grandest of all. At a Synod held in Lindsey House, they resolved that a Book of Statutes was needed, and requested Zinzendorf to prepare one {1754.}. The Count was in a quandary. He could see that a Book of Statutes was required, but he could not decide what form it should take. If he framed the laws in his own language, his critics would accuse him of departing from the Scriptures; and if he used the language of Scripture, the same critics would accuse him of hedging and of having some private interpretation of the Bible. At length he decided to use the language of Scripture. He was so afraid of causing offence that, Greek scholar though he was, he felt bound to adhere to the Authorised Version. If Zinzendorf had used his own translation his enemies would have accused him of tampering with the Word of God. The book appeared. It was entitled, Statutes: or the General Principles of Practical Christianity, extracted out of the New Testament. It was designed for the use of all English Moravians, and was sanctioned and adopted by the Synod on May 12th, 1755. It was thorough and systematic. For fathers and mothers, for sons and daughters, for masters and servants, for governors and governed, for business men, for bishops and pastors, the appropriate commandments were selected from the New Testament. In a printed notice on the title page, the Brethren explained their own interpretation of those commandments. “Lest it should be thought,” they said, “that they seek, perhaps, some subterfuge in the pretended indeterminate nature of Scripture-style, they know very well that it becomes them to understand every precept and obligation in the same manner as the generality of serious Christians understand the same (and this is a thing, God be praised, pretty well fixed), or, if at all differently, then always stricter.” The purpose of the book was clear. It was a handy guide to daily conduct. It was meant to be learned by heart, and was issued in such size and form that it could be carried about in the pocket. It was “a faithful monitor to souls who, having been first washed through the blood of Jesus, do now live in the Spirit, to walk also in the Spirit.” To the Brethren this little Christian guide was a treasure. As long as they ordered their daily conduct by these “convenient rules for the house of their pilgrimage,” they could smile at the sneers of Rimius and his supporters. The Moravian influence in England was now at high tide. At the very time when their enemies were denouncing them as immoral Antinomians, they established their strongest congregations at Fulneck, Gomersal, Wyke, Mirfield, Dukinfield, Bristol, and Gracehill {1755.}; and in all their congregations the “Statutes” were enforced with an iron hand.
Thus did the Brethren repel the attacks of their assailants. From this chapter one certain conclusion follows. The very fact that the Brethren were so fiercely attacked is a proof how strong they were. As the reader wanders over England, he may see, if he knows where to look, memorials of their bygone labours. In Northampton is an auction room that was once a Moravian chapel. In Bullock Smithy is a row of cottages named “Chapel Houses,” where now the Brethren are forgotten. In a private house at Bolton, Lancashire, will be found a cupboard that was once a Moravian Pulpit. In Wiltshire stands the “two o’clock chapel,” where Cennick used to preach. We may learn much from such memorials as these. We may learn that the Brethren played a far greater part in the Evangelical Revival than most historians have recognised; that they worked more like the unseen leaven than like the spreading mustard tree; that they hankered not after earthly pomp, and despised what the world calls success; and that, reviled, insulted, and misrepresented, they pursued their quiet way, content with the reward which man cannot give.


IN order to have a clear view of the events recorded in this chapter, we must bear in mind that the Brethren worked according to a definite Plan; they generally formed their “Plan” by means of the Lot; and this “Plan,” speaking broadly, was of a threefold nature. The Brethren had three ideals: First, they were not sectarians. Instead of trying to extend the Moravian Church at the expense of other denominations, they consistently endeavoured, wherever they went, to preach a broad and comprehensive Gospel, to avoid theological disputes, to make peace between the sects, and to unite Christians of all shades of belief in common devotion to a common Lord. Secondly, by establishing settlements, they endeavoured to unite the secular and the sacred. At these settlements they deliberately adopted, for purely religious purposes, a form of voluntary religious socialism. They were not, however, socialists or communists by conviction; they had no desire to alter the laws of property; and they established their communistic organization, not from any political motives, but because they felt that, for the time at least, it would be the most economical, would foster Christian fellowship, would sanctify daily labour, and would enable them, poor men though they were, to find ways and means for the spread of the Gospel. And thirdly, the Brethren would preach that Gospel to all men, civilized or savage, who had not heard it before. With these three ideals before us, we trace their footsteps in North America.
The first impulse sprang from the kindness of Zinzendorf’s heart. At Görlitz, a town a few miles from Herrnhut, there dwelt a small body of Schwenkfelders; and the King of Saxony issued an edict banishing them from his dominions {1733.}. As soon as Zinzendorf heard of their troubles he longed to find them a home. He opened negotiations with the trustees of the Colony of Georgia. The negotiations were successful. The Governor of Georgia, General Oglethorpe, was glad to welcome good workmen; a parcel of land was offered, and the poor Schwenkfelders, accompanied by Böhnisch, a Moravian Brother, set off for their American home. For some reason, however, they changed their minds on the way, and, instead of settling down in Georgia, went on to Pennsylvania. The land in Georgia was now crying out for settlers. At Herrnhut trouble was brewing. If the spirit of persecution continued raging, the Brethren themselves might soon be in need of a home. The Count took time by the forelock. As soon as the storm burst over Herrnhut, the Brethren might have to fly; and, therefore, he now sent Spangenberg to arrange terms with General Oglethorpe. Again the negotiations were successful; the General offered the Brethren a hundred acres; and a few weeks later, led by Spangenberg, the first batch of Moravian colonists arrived in Georgia {1734.}. The next batch was the famous company on the Simmonds. The new settlement was on the banks of the Savannah River. For some years, with Spangenberg as general manager, the Brethren tried to found a flourishing farm colony. The learned Spangenberg was a practical man. In spite of the fact that he had been a University lecturer, he now put his hand to the plough like a labourer to the manner born. He was the business agent; he was the cashier; he was the spiritual leader; he was the architect; and he was the medical adviser. As the climate of Georgia was utterly different from the climate of Saxony, he perceived at once that the Brethren would have to be careful in matters of diet, and rather astonished the Sisters by giving them detailed instructions about the cooking of rice and beef. The difference between him and Zinzendorf was enormous. At St. Croix, a couple of years before, a band of Moravian Missionaries had died of fever; and while Zinzendorf immortalized their exploits in a hymn, the practical Spangenberg calmly considered how such heroic tragedies could be prevented in the future. In political matters he was equally far-seeing. As the Brethren were now in an English colony, it was, he said, their plain duty to be naturalized as Englishmen as soon as possible; and, therefore, in a letter to Zinzendorf, he implored him to become a British subject himself, to secure for the Brethren the rights of English citizens, and, above all, if possible to obtain letters patent relieving the Brethren from the obligation to render military service. But on Zinzendorf all this wisdom was thrown away. Already the ruin of the colony was in sight. At the very time when the Brethren’s labours should have been crowned with success, Captain Jenkins, at the bar of the House of Commons, was telling how his ear had been cut off by Spaniards {1738.}. The great war between England and Spain broke out. The chief aim of Spain was to destroy our colonial supremacy in America. Spanish soldiers threatened Georgia. The Brethren were summoned to take to arms and help to defend the colony against the foe. But the Brethren objected to taking arms at all. The farm colony was abandoned; and the scene shifts to Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the good Spangenberg had been busy in Pennsylvania, looking after the interests of the Schwenkfelders. He attended their meetings, wore their clothing--a green coat, without buttons or pockets--studied the works of Schwenkfeld, and organized them into what he called an “Economy.” In other words, he taught them to help each other by joining in common work on a communist basis. At the same time, he tried to teach them to be a little more broad-minded, and not to quarrel so much with other Christians. But the more he talked of brotherly love the more bigoted the poor Schwenkfelders became. At this time the colony had become a nest of fanatics. For some years, in response to the generous offers of Thomas Penn, all sorts of persecuted refugees had fled to Pennsylvania; and now the land was infested by a motley group of Episcopalians, Quakers, Baptists, Separatists, Sabbatarians, Unitarians, Lutherans, Calvinists, Memnonites, Presbyterians, Independents, Inspired Prophets, Hermits, Newborn Ones, Dunckers, and Protestant Monks and Nuns. Thus the land was filled with “religions” and almost empty of religion. Instead of attending to the spiritual needs of the people, each Church or sect was trying to prove itself in the right and all the others in the wrong; and the only principle on which they agreed was the principle of disagreeing with each other. The result was heathendom and babel. Most of the people attended neither church nor chapel; most of the parents were unbaptized, and brought up their children in ignorance; and, according to a popular proverb of the day, to say that a man professed the Pennsylvania religion was a polite way of calling him an infidel.
As soon, therefore, as Zinzendorf heard from Spangenberg of these disgraceful quarrels a glorious vision rose before his mind; and the conviction flashed upon him that Pennsylvania was the spot where the Brethren’s broad evangel was needed most. There, in the midst of the quarrelling sects he would plant the lily of peace; there, where the cause of unity seemed hopeless, he would realize the prayer of Christ, “that they all may be one.” For two reason, America seemed to him the true home of the ideal Church of the Brethren. First, there was no State Church; and, therefore, whatever line he took, he could not be accused of causing a schism. Secondly, there was religious liberty; and, therefore, he could work out his ideas without fear of being checked by edicts. For these reasons he first sent out another batch of colonists, led by Bishop Nitschmann; and then, in due time, he arrived on the scene himself. The first move had the promise of good. At the spot the Lehigh and the Monocany meet the Brethren had purchased a plot of ground {1741}; they all lived together in one log-house; they proposed to build a settlement like Herrnhut; and there, one immortal Christmas Eve, Count Zinzendorf conducted a consecration service. Above them shone the keen, cold stars, God’s messengers of peace; around them ranged the babel of strife; and the Count, remembering how the Prince of Peace had been born in a humble wayside lodging, named the future settlement Bethlehem. The name had a twofold meaning. It was a token of the Brethren’s mission of peace; and it reminded them that the future settlement was to be a “House of Bread” for their evangelists.

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