A history of the moravian church

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He began his work with the League of the Iroquois, commonly called the Six Nations {1745.}. At Onondaga, their headquarters, where he and Bishop Cammerhof had arranged to meet the Great Council, the meeting had to be postponed till the members had recovered from a state of intoxication. But Cammerhof addressed the chiefs, brought out the soothing pipe of tobacco, watched it pass from mouth to mouth, and received permission for two missionaries to come and settle down. From there, still accompanied by Cammerhof, Zeisberger went on to the Senecas. He was welcomed to a Pandemonium of revelry. The whole village was drunk. As he lay in his tent he could hear fiendish yells rend the air; he went out with a kettle, to get some water for Cammerhof, and the savages knocked the kettle out of his hand; and later, when the shades of evening fell, he had to defend himself with his fists against a bevy of lascivious women, whose long hair streamed in the night wind, and whose lips swelled with passion. For Cammerhof the journey was too much; in the bloom of youth he died (1751).
But Zeisberger had a frame of steel. Passing on from tribe to tribe, he strode through darkling woods, through tangled thickets, through miry sloughs, through swarms of mosquitoes; and anon, plying his swift canoe, he sped through primeval forests, by flowers of the tulip tree, through roaring rapids, round beetling bluffs, past groups of mottled rattlesnakes that lay basking in the sun. At the present time, in many Moravian manses, may be seen an engraving of a picture by Schüssele, of Philadelphia, representing Zeisberger preaching to the Indians. The incident occurred at Goschgoschünk, on the Alleghany River (1767). In the picture the service is represented as being held in the open air; in reality it was held in the Council House. In the centre of the house was the watch-fire. Around it squatted the Indians--the men on one side, the women on the other; and among those men were murderers who had played their part, twelve years before, in the massacre on the Mahony River. As soon as Zeisberger rose to speak, every eye was fixed upon him; and while he delivered his Gospel message, he knew that at any moment a tomahawk might cleave his skull, and his scalp hang bleeding at the murderer’s girdle. “Never yet,” he wrote, “did I see so clearly painted on the faces of the Indians both the darkness of hell and the world-subduing power of the Gospel.”
As the years rolled on, this dauntless hero won completely the confidence of these suspicious savages. He was known as “Friend of the Indians,” and was allowed to move among them at his ease. In vain the sorcerers plotted against him. “Beware,” they said to the simple people, “of the man in the black coat.” At times, in order to bring down the vengeance of the spirits on Zeisberger’s head, they sat up through the night and gorged themselves with swine’s flesh; and, when this mode of enchantment failed, they baked themselves in hot ovens till they became unconscious. Zeisberger still went boldly on. Wherever the Indians were most debauched, there was he in the midst of them. Both the Six Nations and the Delawares passed laws that he was to be uninterrupted in his work. Before him the haughtiest chieftains bowed in awe. At Lavunakhannek, on the Alleghany River, he met the great Delaware orator, Glikkikan, who had baffled Jesuits and statesmen, and had prepared a complicated speech with which he meant to crush Zeisberger for ever; but when the two men came face to face, the orator fell an easy victim, forgot his carefully prepared oration, murmured meekly: “I have nothing to say; I believe your words,” submitted to Zeisberger like a child, and became one of his warmest friends and supporters. In like manner Zeisberger won over White Eyes, the famous Delaware captain; and, hand in hand, Zeisberger and White Eyes worked for the same great cause. “I want my people,” said White Eyes, “now that peace is established in the country, to turn their attention to peace in their hearts. I want them to embrace that religion which is taught by the white teachers. We shall never be happy until we are Christians.”
It seemed as though that time were drawing nigh {1765-81.}. Zeisberger was a splendid organizer. As soon as the “Indian War” was over, he founded a number of Christian settlements, and taught the Indians the arts of industry and peace. For the Iroquois he founded the settlements of Friedenshütten (Tents of Peace), on the Susquehanna, Goschgoschünk, on the Alleghany, and Lavunakhannek and Friedenstadt (Town of Peace), on the Beaver River; and for the Delawares he founded the settlements of Schönbrunn (Beautiful Spring), Gnadenhütten (Tents of Grace), Lichtenau (Meadow of Light), on the Tuscawaras, and Salem, on the Muskinghum. His settlements were like diamonds flashing in the darkness. Instead of the wildness of the desert were nut trees, plums, cherries, mulberries and all manner of fruits; instead of scattered wigwams, orderly streets of huts; instead of filth, neatness and cleanliness; instead of drunken brawls and orgies, the voice of children at the village school, and the voice of morning and evening prayer.
No longer were the Indians in these settlements wild hunters. They were now steady business men. They conducted farms, cultivated gardens, grew corn and sugar, made butter, and learned to manage their local affairs as well as an English Urban District Council. At the head of each settlement was a Governing Board, consisting of the Missionaries and the native “helpers”; and all affairs of special importance were referred to a general meeting of the inhabitants. The system filled the minds of visitors with wonder. “The Indians in Zeisberger’s settlements,” said Colonel Morgan, “are an example to civilized whites.”
No longer, further, were the Indians ignorant savages. Zeisberger was a great linguist. He mastered the Delaware and Iroquois languages. For the benefit of the converts in his setlements, and with the assistance of Indian sachems, he prepared and had printed a number of useful books: first (1776), “A Delaware Indian and English Spelling-book,” with an appendix containing the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, some Scripture passages and a Litany; next (1803), in the Delaware language, “A Collection of Hymns for the use of the Christian Indians,” translated from the English and German Moravian Hymn-books, and including the Easter, Baptismal and Burial Litanies; next, a volume of “Sermons to Children,” translated from the German; next, a translation of Spangenberg’s “Bodily Care of Children”; next, “A Harmony of the Four Gospels,” translated from the Harmony prepared by Samuel Leiberkühn; and last, a grammatical treatise on the Delaware conjugations. Of his services to philology, I need not speak in detail. He prepared a lexicon, in seven volumes, of the German and Onondaga languages, an Onondaga Grammar, a Delaware Grammar, a German-Delaware Dictionary, and other works of a similar nature. As these contributions to science were never published, they may not seem of much importance; but his manuscripts have been carefully preserved, some in the library of the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, others at Harvard University.
Thus did Zeisberger, explorer and scholar, devote his powers to the physical, moral and spiritual improvement of the Indians. For some years his success was brilliant; and when, on Easter Sunday morning, his converts gathered for the early service, they presented a scene unlike any other in the world. As the sun rose red beyond the great Blue Mountains, as the morning mists broke gently away, as the gemmed trees whispered with the breath of spring, the Indians repeated in their lonely cemetery the same solemn Easter Litany that the Brethren repeated at Herrnhut, Zeisberger read the Confession of Faith, a trained choir led the responses, the Easter hymn swelled out, and the final “Amen” rang over the plateau and aroused the hosts of the woodland.
Away in the forest, how fair to the sight

Was the clear, placid lake as it sparkled in light,

And kissed with low murmur the green shady shore,

Whence a tribe had departed, whose traces it bore.

Where the lone Indian hastened, and wondering hushed

His awe as he trod o’er the mouldering dust!

How bright were the waters--how cheerful the song,

Which the wood-bird was chirping all the day long,

And how welcome the refuge those solitudes gave

To the pilgrims who toiled over mountain and wave;

Here they rested--here gushed forth, salvation to bring,

The fount of the Cross, by the “Beautiful Spring.”
And yet the name of this wonderful man is almost unknown in England. We are just coming to the reason. At the very time when his influence was at its height the American War of Independence broke out, and Zeisberger and his converts, as an Indian orator put it, were between two exceeding mighty and wrathful gods, who stood opposed with extended jaws. Each party wished the Indians to take up arms on its side. But Zeisberger urged them to be neutral. When the English sent the hatchet of war to the Delawares, the Delawares politely sent it back. When a letter came to Zeisberger, requesting him to arouse his converts, to put himself at their head, and to bring the scalps of all the rebels he could slaughter, he threw the sheet into the flames. For this policy he was suspected by both sides. At one time he was accused before an English court of being in league with the Americans. At another time he was accused by the Americans of being in league with the English. At length the thunderbolt fell. As the Christian Indians of Gnadenhütten were engaged one day in tilling the soil, the American troops of Colonel Williamson appeared upon the scene, asked for quarters, were comfortably, lodged, and then, disarming the innocent victims, accused them of having sided with the British. For that accusation the only ground was that the Indians had shown hospitality to all who demanded it; but this defence was not accepted, and Colonel Williamson decided to put the whole congregation to death {March 28th, 1782.}. The log huts were turned into shambles; the settlers were allowed a few minutes for prayer; then, in couples, they were summoned to their doom; and in cold blood the soldiers, with tomahawks, mallets, clubs, spears and scalping knives, began the work of butchery. At the end of the performance ninety corpses lay dabbled with blood on the ground. Among the victims were six National Assistants, a lady who could speak English and German, twenty-four other women, eleven boys and eleven girls. The Blood-Bath of Gnadenhütten was a hideous crime. It shattered the Indian Mission. The grand plans of Zeisberger collapsed in ruin. As the war raged on, and white men encroached more and more on Indian soil, he found himself and his converts driven by brute force from one settlement after another. Already, before the war broke out, this brutal process had commenced; and altogether it continued for twenty years. In 1769 he had to abandon Goschgoschünk; in 1770, Lavunakhannek; in 1772, Friedenshütten; in 1773, Friedenstadt; in 1780, Lichtenau; in 1781, Gnadenhütten, Salem and Schönbrunn; in 1782, Sandusky; in 1786, New Gnadenhütten; in 1787, Pilgerruh; in 1791, New Salem. As the old man drew near his end, he endeavoured to stem the torrent of destruction by founding two new settlements--Fairfield, in Canada, and Goshen, on the Tuscawaras; but even these had to be abandoned a few years after his death. Amid the Indians he had lived; amid the Indians, at Goshen, he lay on his death-bed {1808.}. As the news of his approaching dissolution spread, the chapel bell was tolled: his converts, knowing the signal, entered the room; and then, uniting their voices in song, they sang him home in triumphant hymns which he himself had translated from the hymns of the Ancient Brethren’s Church.


AS Zinzendorf drew near to his end, he saw that his efforts in the cause of Christ had not ended as he had hoped. His design was the union of Christendom, his achievement the revival of the Church of the Brethren. He had given the “Hidden Seed” a home at Herrnhut. He had discovered the ancient laws of the Bohemian Brethren. He had maintained, first, for the sake of the Missions, and, secondly, for the sake of his Brethren, the Brethren’s Episcopal Succession. He had founded the Pilgrim Band at Marienborn, had begun the Diaspora work in the Baltic Provinces, had gained for the Brethren legal recognition in Germany, England and North America, and had given the stimulus to the work of foreign missions. At the same time, he had continually impressed his own religious ideas upon his followers; and thus the Renewed Church of the Brethren was a Church of a twofold nature. The past and the present were dove-tailed. From the Bohemian Brethren came the strict discipline, the ministerial succession, and the martyr-spirit; from Zinzendorf the idea of “Church within the Church,” the stress laid on the great doctrine of reconciliation through the blood of Christ, and the fiery missionary enthusiasm. Without Zinzendorf the Bohemian Brethren would probably have never returned to life; and without the fibre of the Bohemian Brethren, German Pietism would have died a natural death.
We must, however, keep clear of one misconception. Whatever else the Renewed Church of the Brethren was, it did not spring from a union of races. It was not a fusion of German and Czech elements. As the first settlers at Herrnhut came from Moravia, it is natural to regard them as Moravian Czechs; but the truth is that they were Germans in blood, and spoke the German language. It was, therefore, the German element of the old Brethren’s Church that formed the backbone of the Renewed Church. It was Germans, not Czechs, who began the foreign missionary work; Germans who came to England, and Germans who renewed the Brethren’s Church in America. In due time pure Czechs from Bohemia came and settled at Rixdorf and Niesky; but, speaking broadly, the Renewed Church of the Brethren was revived by German men with German ideas.
As the Church, therefore, was now established in the three provinces of Germany, Great Britain and North America, one problem only still awaited solution. The problem was the welding of the provinces. That welding was brought about in a simple way. If the reader is of a thoughtful turn of mind, he must have wondered more than once where the Brethren found the money to carry on their enterprises. They had relied chiefly on two sources of income: first, Zinzendorf’s estates; second, a number of business concerns known as Diaconies. As long as these Diaconies prospered, the Brethren were able to keep their heads above water; but the truth is, they had been mismanaged. The Church was now on the verge of bankruptcy; and, therefore, the Brethren held at Taubenheim the so-called “Economical Conference.” {1755.}
In the time of need came the deliverer, Frederick Köber. His five measures proved the salvation of the Church. First, he separated the property of Zinzendorf from the general property of the Church. Secondly, he put this general property under the care of a “College of Directors.” Thirdly, he made an arrangement whereby this “College” should pay off all debts in fixed yearly sums. Fourthly, he proposed that all members of the Church should pay a fixed annual sum to general Church funds. And fifthly, on the sound principle that those who pay are entitled to a vote, he suggested that in future all members of the Church should have the right to send representatives to the General Directing Board or Conference. In this way he drew the outlines of the Moravian Church Constitution.
Meanwhile, Count Zinzendorf’s end was drawing near. The evening of his life he spent at Herrnhut, for where more fitly could he die?
“It will be better,” he said, “when I go home; the Conferences will last for ever.”
He employed his last days in revising the Text-book, which was to be daily food for the Pilgrim Church {1760.}; and when he wrote down the final words, “And the King turned His face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel,” his last message to the Brethren was delivered. As his illness--a violent catarrhal fever--gained the mastery over him, he was cheered by the sight of the numerous friends who gathered round him. His band of workers watched by his couch in turn. On the last night about a hundred Brethren and Sisters assembled in the death chamber. John de Watteville sat by the bedside.
“Now, my dear friend,” said the dying Count, “I am going to the Saviour. I am ready. I bow to His will. He is satisfied with me. If He does not want me here any more, I am ready to go to Him. There is nothing to hinder me now.”
He looked around upon his friends. “I cannot say,” he said, “how much I love you all. Who would have believed that the prayer of Christ, ‘That they may be one,’ could have been so strikingly fulfilled among us. I only asked for first-fruits among the heathen, and thousands have been given me...Are we not as in Heaven? Do we not live together like the angels? The Lord and His servants understand one another...I am ready.”
As the night wore on towards morning, the scene, says one who was present, was noble, charming, liturgical. At ten o’clock, his breathing grew feebler {May 9th, 1760.}; and John de Watteville pronounced the Old Testament Benediction, “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” As de Watteville spoke the last words of the blessing, the Count lay back on his pillow and closed his eyes; and a few seconds later he breathed no more.
At Herrnhut it is still the custom to announce the death of any member of the congregation by a chorale played on trombones; and when the trombones sounded that morning all knew that Zinzendorf’s earthly career had closed. The air was thick with mist. “It seemed,” said John Nitschmann, then minister at Herrnhut, “as though nature herself were weeping.” As the Count’s body lay next day in the coffin, arrayed in the robe he had worn so often when conducting the Holy Communion, the whole congregation, choir by choir, came to gaze for the last time upon his face. For a week after this the coffin remained closed; but on the funeral day it was opened again, and hundreds from the neighbouring towns and villages came crowding into the chamber. At the funeral all the Sisters were dressed in white; and the number of mourners was over four thousand. At this time there were present in Herrnhut Moravian ministers from Holland, England, Ireland, North America and Greenland; and these, along with the German ministers, took turns as pall-bearers. The trombones sounded. John Nitschmann, as precentor, started the hymn; the procession to the Hutberg began. As the coffin was lowered into the grave some verses were sung, and then John Nitschmann spoke the words: “With tears we sow this seed in the earth; but He, in his own good time, will bring it to life, and will gather in His harvest with thanks and praise! Let all who wish for this say, ‘Amen.’”
“Amen,” responded the vast, weeping throng. The inscription on the grave-stone is as follows: “Here lie the remains of that immortal man of God, Nicholas Lewis, Count and Lord of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf; who, through the grace of God and his own unwearied service, became the honoured Ordinary of the Brethren’s Church, renewed in this eighteenth century. He was born at Dresden on May 26th, 1700, and entered into the joy of his Lord at Herrnhut on May 9th, 1760. He was appointed to bring forth fruit, and that his fruit should remain.”
Thus, in a halo of tearful glory, the Count-Bishop was laid to rest. For many years the Brethren cherished his memory, not only with affection, but with veneration; and even the sober Spangenberg described him as “the great treasure of our times, a lovely diamond in the ring on the hand of our Lord, a servant of the Lord without an equal, a pillar in the house of the Lord, God’s message to His people.” But history hardly justifies this generous eulogy; and Spangenberg afterwards admitted himself that Zinzendorf had two sides to his character. “It may seem a paradox,” he wrote, “but it really does seem a fact that a man cannot have great virtues without also having great faults.” The case of Zinzendorf is a case in point. At a Synod held a few years later (1764), the Brethren commissioned Spangenberg to write a “Life of Zinzendorf.” As the Count, however, had been far from perfect, they had to face the serious question whether Spangenberg should be allowed to expose his faults to public gaze. They consulted the Lot: the Lot said “No”; and, therefore, they solemnly warned Spangenberg that, in order to avoid creating a false impression, he was “to leave out everything which would not edify the public.” The loyal Spangenberg obeyed. His “Life of Zinzendorf” appeared in eight large volumes. He desired, of course, to be honest; he was convinced, to use his own words, that “an historian is responsible to God and men for the truth”; and yet, though he told the truth, he did not tell the whole truth. The result was lamentable. Instead of a life-like picture of Zinzendorf, the reader had only a shaded portrait, in which both the beauties and the defects were carefully toned down. The English abridged edition was still more colourless.136 For a hundred years the character of Zinzendorf lay hidden beneath a pile of pious phrases, and only the recent researches of scholars have enabled us to see him as he was. He was no mere commonplace Pietist. He was no mere pious German nobleman, converted by looking at a picture. His faults and his virtues stood out in glaring relief. His very appearance told the dual tale. As he strolled the streets of Berlin or London, the wayfarers instinctively moved to let him pass, and all men admired his noble bearing, his lofty brow, his fiery dark blue eye, and his firm set lips; and yet, on the other hand, they could not fail to notice that he was untidy in his dress, that he strode on, gazing at the stars, and that often, in his absent-mindedness, he stumbled and staggered in his gait. In his portraits we can read the same double story. In some the prevailing tone is dignity; in others there is the faint suggestion of a smirk. His faults were those often found in men of genius. He was nearly always in a hurry, and was never in time for dinner. He was unsystematic in his habits, and incompetent in money matters. He was rather imperious in disposition, and sometimes overbearing in his conduct. He was impatient at any opposition, and disposed to treat with contempt the advice of others. For example, when the financial crisis arose at Herrnhaag, Spangenberg advised him to raise funds by weekly collections; but Zinzendorf brushed the advice aside, and retorted, “It is my affair.” He was rather short-tempered, and would stamp his foot like an angry child if a bench in the church was not placed exactly as he desired. He was superstitious in his use of the Lot, and damaged the cause of the Brethren immensely by teaching them to trust implicitly to its guidance. He was reckless in his use of extravagant language; and he forgot that public men should consider, not only what they mean themselves, but also what impression their words are likely to make upon others. He was not always strictly truthful; and in one of his pamphlets he actually asserted that he himself was in no way responsible for the scandals at Herrnhaag. For these reasons the Count made many enemies. He was criticized severely, and sometimes justly, by men of such exalted character as Bengel, the famous German commentator, and honest John Wesley in England; he was reviled by vulgar scribblers like Rimius; and thus, like his great contemporary, Whitefield, he
Stood pilloried on Infamy’s high stage,

And bore the pelting scorn of half an age;

The very butt of slander and the blot

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