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Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re:Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 6 Sheep Among Wolves


Christ and Money

In his life on earth, the Lord Christ showed us how to use money and goods. Regarding this, Petr Chelčický wrote:

The true word of God says, “The earth and everything in it is the Lord’s, its mountains, its valleys, and its fields. God is the only rightful ruler of the earth. . . . Whoever does not belong to God has no right to possess or hold anything that belongs to him. If anyone claims ownership of earthly goods, he does so because he has taken possession of them illegally and through violence.

In disobedience to God’s law, our fathers bought and established illegal claims for us. . . . And this is what we have inherited from them: poverty, shame, death, and in the end, hell.

If you who are big, fat, and self-satisfied, say, “Our fathers bought these people and these manors for our inheritance,” then, indeed they engaged in evil business and made an expensive bargain! For who has the right to buy people, to enslave them, and to treat them with indignities as if they were cattle. . . . You prefer dogs to people whom you curse, despise, and beat—from whom you extort taxes and for whom you forge fetters, while you say to your dogs, “Here pup, come lie on this pillow!”

Petr Chelčický distrusted commerce in general, believing it “difficult to buy or sell without sin on account of excessive greed.” To take interest on money or to run a speculative business was for him the “mark of the beast,” and he counted the use of weights and measures, as well as boundary markers, a sign of the curse brought on man through Cain. He wrote:

The unbeliever fights to protect his rights and his property in court or on the battlefield. A Christian, on the other hand, conducts his life with love, patiently enduring injustice, for he knows his reward is eternal. He refuses involvement in commercial enterprises and with speculative business, for fear of harming his soul. But this is foolishness to the unbelieving world.

That only a few would find this narrow way to eternal life, Petr did not doubt. But even in that he saw proof that it was the right way:

Jesus is now very poor. He does not have multitudes following him. The few who stick with him are the outcast and unlearned, for the doctors of this age are too rich and too famous. They have engendered many servants of God with their swords—that is why all the world looks up to them.

When a people wise in this world see Christ—abandoned, dressed in the garb of poverty, and surrounded by danger—they turn away from him and follow after wealthy and popular men who serve God with great learning in cathedrals, in armies, with civil authority, with thumbscrews, city-halls, pillories and gallows. The whole wise world runs after them, but only “fools” dare follow Christ and suffer the ridicule of all.

Only fools perhaps, in the eyes of the world, but Czech believers saw the Lord’s table spread before them in the presence of their enemies. They saw the unspeakable riches of Christ and set their hope on living eternally with him in new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. Petr Chelčický wrote:

Oh how small and barren is the dominion of earthly kings compared with the dominion of Christ! Earthly rulers heap burdens and suffering on their subjects instead of freedom and consolation. By way of contrast, the kingdom of Christ is so powerful and perfect that if the whole world accepted him it would have peace and all things would work together for good. There would be no need of temporal rulers anymore, for all would live by grace and truth.

At Kunvald, many believers—in an attempt to live like Christ—renounced all private possession. Like the Waldensian bonnes hommes and the Albigensian perfecti they lived from a common purse and shared their goods. Others, scattered in towns and on feudal estates through Czech lands, kept on living as independent households but with a strong sense of economic (as well as spiritual) commitment one to another.

Those who lived with no personal possessions were encouraged by the Unity of Brothers to put no pressure on the rest. Neither did the believers force new converts to give up possessions against their will: “If anyone wishes to keep something for a good reason, to give it into safe keeping, or to bequeath it to someone after death, it may be done,” states an old community statute.

Unity in Christ

Loving Christ and committed to following him together, believers from Kunvald, from Southern Bohemia, and from towns and villages throughout other Czech regions, gathered in a great meeting near Rýchnov nad Kněž in 1464. Forced to secrecy, they gathered in the mountains under the open sky. But the document they prepared did not remain a secret. Neither did they want it to. Having found green pastures, following their Good Shepherd, they could not wait to share it with hungry souls.

Among other things the Unity of Brothers agreed in the meeting near Rýchnov:

to maintain the bond of love among ourselves, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to set our hope in God. This we will demonstrate in what we say and how we help one another, in the spirit of love, to live honestly, humbly, quietly, meekly, soberly, and patiently. And through this—through our true love one for another—we will show to others what we believe and in whom we place our hope.

We agree to obey everything the Lord asks of us in Scripture. Along with this we agree to accept graciously the instructions, warnings, and reproof of our brothers and sisters. Doing this, we will keep the covenant we have made with God and his Holy Spirit through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We will confess our faults and shortcomings. We will humble ourselves and be subject one to another. We will keep the fear of God before our eyes when others reprove us, seeking to change our ways for the better and to confess our sins before God and man. If any one of us does not keep the rules we have made, and proves unfaithful to the our covenant with God and our Christian fellowship, we must declare—even though with deep regret—that we cannot assure him of salvation. It may even become necessary for us to exclude him from our church fellowship. And if anyone is excluded from our communion on account of some grievous transgression or glaring mistake in doctrine we cannot re-admit him until he has entirely cleared himself and amply proven that he has changed his ways.

We agree that all of us should faithfully keep the apostles’ instructions in all things. Our priests and teachers, in particular, should set a good example to others. They should walk humbly in word and deed, so that others may have no reason to accuse them. Those who give up personal estates for the church should keep to their decision and not reclaim estates, money, or property. Rather, they should follow the example of the first Christians, submitting with glad hearts to holding all things in common as it is written, “They had all things in common and distributed to everyone as needed.” This is a praiseworthy and reasonable example for us, especially for those who become messengers of the churches, so that they may learn to be content with simple food and clothing, leaving the rest to the Lord who cares for them. They ought to abstain from extravagance and content themselves with the support the stewards of the common fund are able to give them.

Along with this, our priests and teachers should be freed from all care regarding their earthly needs, so they may devote themselves to spiritual duties. They must bear patiently what God allows to come upon them: distress, hunger, cold, persecution, imprisonment, and death itself—after the example of the first Christians who consecrated themselves to God. They must surrender themselves to Christ’s rule, following him patiently, and forsaking the world.

Those of us who have of this world’s things should remember the poor and give freely to them, according to the word of God. At the same time we should work with our own hands what is good. Our trading should be only in heavenly goods and treasures, supplying our neighbours with the word of God, teaching them, and praying that the Lord would give them grace.

Our priests and teachers may, however, work around home if they have nothing else to do. Whatever they can spare, they should also share with the poor, but if they suffer need they should be supported, with the consent of all, from our general fund.

The same rule applies to brothers and sisters working in trades or hiring themselves out to earn a decent living. Whoever goes on errands or is employed to do a certain work, shall be paid fairly for his labour, unless he can and will do it for nothing to help the congregation.

Toward strangers and travellers we will show kind hospitality, in particular if they have left home to spread the Gospel. When we see any of our brothers or sisters in need we will follow the example of the apostles and those who have gone before us in the faith, sharing with them what the Lord in his mercy has given us.

If all Christians faithfully stood together in love, if everyone eagerly carried the other’s burden, all of Christ’s commandments would be fulfilled. Sympathising love is the perfection of Christian faith. It is what builds and keeps spirituality alive. It is the firmest and most enduring bond of human happiness. The one who does not love has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

With brotherly kindness we will receive penitent souls, gladly helping those who turn from the world to God to know the truth. No matter who comes to us, he shall find among us a joyful reception. We will speak with him in good faith, give him the advice the instructions, and whatever warnings he needs, so that he may walk right and grow spiritually.

We will not change our place of residence unless it becomes clear that we would be of greater usefulness to the church of God in another place.

We will take special care of the orphans, the widows, and the poor, receiving them in the name of Christ. What we give them will be done in the spirit of love.
We consider it our duty to care for those who are persecuted or driven into exile for what they believe. We will ask about them and help as much as we can.

Whenever money is paid out of the congregation’s general fund to help the poor, the treasurer is to keep a faithful and correct account of it. He shall ask whoever gets the money for a receipt. This is to prevent any suspicion and false report, and to preserve harmony in the congregation.

We will seek our rest in the Lord and guard against the dazzling seductions of the world. The tempting exterior of worldly-mindedness, the subtlety and secret malice of its wicked spirit continually try to overcome Christian simplicity of heart. The world’s flattering delusions are dangerous rocks for the faithful. The world’s spirit is one of selfishness, the pursuit of temporary pleasures that are often unattainable anyway, and it does nothing more than deceive. From such a spirit, may the Lord in his mercy save us!

We consider it our responsibility to obey our earthly rulers in all humility, to show them loyalty in all things, and to pray to God for them.

We will seek peace in our congregations, and do all we can for common harmony and wellbeing. In this way our conscience will be at rest in God, and the grace of God will be with us at all times.6

A Little Flock

Celebrating the Lord’s supper in simple services throughout war-torn Bohemia and Moravia, the Unity of Brothers became a quiet but powerful movement. After the ordination of its leaders by Stefan, the Waldensian bishop, and the adoption of its own rules (like at the meeting near Rýchnov) it chose its own way. But those who belonged to the Unity never thought of themselves as the church of Christ in its entirety. In another general meeting, in 1486, the brothers decided:

No one church, however numerous, constitutes the universal church embracing all believers. But wherever there is true faith, as described in the Scriptures, there is a part of the holy Catholic church. . . . We should thank God for all who serve him, but no one should lightly leave his own communion and commitment to join another.

For many years, Christ’s little flock in Czech lands, with this belief and commitment, grew in the face of all opposition. But their peace in heavenly light would not last forever.

1 From a letter to Rokycana, written in the 1430s.
2 Netz des Glaubens (all citations from Petr Chelčický in this chapter, unless stated otherwise, are from this book)
3 From the Akty Jednoty bratrské, a collection of Unity documents from the fifteenth century.
4 From a letter to Vańek Valečovský, 1461.
5 Akty Jednoty bratrské
6 From the Confession of the Brothers of Christ’s Gospel, Bratři zákona Kristrova, 1464.

Continued with chapter 7

 2008/6/9 18:21Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 7 Eclipse

In 1473, two years after Jiří Poděbradý and Rokycana died in Prague, Řehoř himself, worn out from years of persecution and travel, died in the “underground” at Brandýs nad Orlicí (Brandeis am Adler) in Bohemia. One of the last things he told the believers gathered around his bed—Brother Matěj the bishop among them—was, “Beware of educated and learned persons who may come after me to corrupt the faith.”

His warning was prophetic. But for the time being, the Unity of Brothers could not comprehend it.

After they buried Řehoř in secret, in a wooded ravine on the Klopot mountain, a strange peace came to believers in Czech lands. The Hussite government, occupied in strife with Hungary, ignored them. A friendly baron, Jan Tovačovský of Mladá Boleslav (Jungbunzlau) gave them an abandoned monastery in which to live, and in its seclusion the Unity of Brothers thrived.

They called the old monastery “Mount Carmel.” In its chapel they met for simple meetings. In its scriptorium they set to copying and binding evangelical books.1 They used one of its halls for a school, and many families moved into its cloistered wings, the surrounding outbuildings, and villages nearby. It did not take long for their witness to result in more congregations taking shape in the nearby town of Vinařice, in Lenešice near Louny, in Brandýs nad Labem (Brandeis an der Elbe), Rýchnov nad Kněž, Benatky, and Německý Brod.

Then another wealthy baron, Jan Kostka of Litomyšl (Leitomischl), far to the southeast, near Lanškroun, provided the brothers with a refuge. This time they named it “Mount of Olives.”

In southern Bohemia the Unity grew rapidly in the old Waldensian areas of Nová Bystřice, Jindřichův Hradec, and around the village of Chelčice—while far to the east, in Moravia, they founded communities at Přerov, Hustopece (Auspitz), Ivancice (Eibenschitz), Slavkov (Austerlitz), and elsewhere. At Fulnek in Moravia, the German Waldensian settlement—now also part of the Unity of Brothers—flourished, until all told, the movement numbered more than a hundred thousand members. But Hussite authorities, watching anxiously from Prague, could not let it go unchallenged.

Tried by Fire

In 1487 a new law in Bohemia made it impossible for workers on feudal estates to move freely from place to place. The same law gave their masters the right to buy or sell their labour (as serfs) and to exercise complete authority, including capital punishment, over them. To make matters worse, Moravia fell under the power of Roman Catholic Hungary. A group of believers fled from there to Moldova in 1488, but many who could not escape had to suffer—like Ondřej, a brother from Kutná Hora,

Seeking escape from constant harassment, Ondřej found refuge at the “Mount of Olives” in Litomyšl. But his wife, a loyal Hussite, would not go with him. When he returned to see her she betrayed him and the authorities forced him to stay at Kutná Hora and attend Hussite services.

Ondřej consented, but not under the conditions imposed.

At his first meeting in the town church he called for silence and began to speak: “Dear friends, what are you doing? What so you worship? An idol made of bread! Oh worship the living God in heaven!”

The priest, outraged at the interruption, ordered the people to seize him. For some time no one moved, but a few rough characters finally grabbed him and smashed his head against a pillar. Then they dragged him to jail.

At his trial the next day, the authorities asked Ondřej, “Why did you act so shamefully? Who gave you the right to act like that?”

Ondřej responded with more questions: “Who told Abraham to leave his father’s idols and worship the living God? Who told Daniel to whom he should pray?”

Torture on the rack could not move Ondřej from his convictions and when they burned him at the stake he cried out, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me!”

“Now he calls on Jesus whose sacraments he despised!” his persecutors jeered. But those who knew Ondřej, Jan and MikulᚠNadrzibka, Jan Herbek, Matěj Prokop, and others burned with them for what they believed, did not make fun. The witness of the Unity of Brothers struck them to the heart and many kept joining the movement—in spite of persecution—until the evil one brought greater trials upon them.


What sword and fire could not do, among the Czech believers, a lack of unity brought about by the late 1400s.

The trouble began with money—and prestige.

During their first years at Kunvald and in Southern Bohemia, whoever joined the Unity of Brothers left his fortune behind. Knights and nobles gave up their titles to become simple followers of Christ. Of these, the Baron Strachota of Orlice near Kyšperk, left a shining example. Not only did he give up his castle. He took up book keeping and began to work in mill. All who knew him respected him as a wise and godly man.

Jan Kostka and his wife, the owners of Litomyšl, also became converted and gave their property to Bohuš, their son. Then Bohuš wished to join the church too—and things became complicated.

A large number of Unity families lived at Litomyšl. By asking Bohuš Kostka to get rid of his estate they would have put themselves on the street. “Could this be fair?” they asked themselves. “What if all our barons should get converted? Would we all have to move all the time?”

A brother from Wotic, also named Řehoř, wrote a tract On the Civil Power that like Petr Chelčický’s books warned against any acceptance of government officials, knights, or barons, into the brotherhood. The bishop, Matěj of Kunvald stood with him. So did many more. But to follow Christ in a feudal society did not look easy to the families living and working in the town of Litomyšl itself.

Not only did the problem of Bohuš Kostka’s membership face them. Because nearly everyone in the town belonged to the church, they faced the question of who to elect for town councillors, judges, and policemen. Every feudal estate was responsible to keep its own order.

“Should we have a worldly and unconverted minority rule over all of us?” the people of Litomyšl asked. “Would it not be better to make responsible decisions ourselves?”

Bohuš Kostka, owner of the estate, pushed for Unity members to become its officials and could not understand what held them back. Neither could others. A prominent Hussite priest wrote in 1492:

There have been, and still are, people among us who refuse to accept office as town councillor or any other official position. They say they do not want to administer justice, basing their action on the command of Christ, “judge not that you be not judged” which they, of course, interpret in their own way. But if these brothers are indeed so much better than the rest of us, if they are indeed lovers of justice and truth, why should they not take positions of authority to deal out fair and Christian justice so that righteousness may be established among us, and what is wrong put down? . . . I think it is perverse of them to regard the rest of us as “unbelievers,” and that they should be punished for it. By trusting in themselves alone, they insult their neighbours and cut themselves off from other Christians devoted to God’s truth.2

At Litomyšl, brothers of the Unity heard this criticism and felt bad. They felt they should do their part as responsible citizens. “But how could you be judges and councillors without exercising violence?” Bishop Matěj and those with him, asked. “How could you hold civil office and not swear oaths?”

The brothers at Litomyšl did not know. But when their bishop suggested they leave their trades in town and go back to living as shepherds and field workers, they protested. “We cannot all live in the country,” a soap maker answered. “Cows do not give soap, and even if they did, men who work with them get appointed as judges and councillors too!”

During the time these questions troubled the Unity of Brothers new faces appeared among them. By now, fifty or more years after his death, Petr Chelčický’s writings were well known. Scholars looked through them, and even though considered heretical, copies of them lay in important libraries. It was there, in the library of the university at Prague that Lukas, a young Hussite, discovered them in the 1470s.

Lukas not only read Petr Chelčický. He visited the brothers at Mount Carmel (Mladá Boleslav) to find out how they lived and believed. They impressed him, and with a circle of scholarly friends, he moved there to join them after his graduation.

This brought more trouble.

The owner of Mladá Boleslav was a woman, the baroness Johanka Tovačovská z Krajku, who also admired the Unity. With the coming of Lukas and his friends she found the believers’ community on her lands even more attractive. No longer did it only consist of simple farmers and tradesmen. With scholars and gifted educators among them, the baroness felt there might be room for her (with her title and fortune) as well.

The brothers were not sure.

After many meetings, counsel, and prayer, they finally called leaders from the entire movement to Brandýs nad Orlicí in the early 1490s. Some nobles, interested in joining, came too. So did the scholar, Lukas, and his friends from Mladá Boleslav and Litomyšl. All troublesome issues came up for a vote in which Brother Matěj (unwilling to cause division) refused to take part, then the brothers drew up a statement of compromise. They recommended that no one should take government office of his own free will, that church members should not keep a tavern, go to war, judge others, or apply torture and capital punishment. But if the state, or their position in society demanded it, then no one would judge them for it. Every case should be evaluated on its own, much would be left to individual conscience, and there was to be no more “stirring up of trouble” about things of this nature.

The Unity of Brothers, by this time, was directed by an “Inner Council” elected to help Bishop Matěj. These men, with the approval of others gathered at Brandýs, passed a further resolution:

If anyone’s conscience does not permit him to become a town councillor, a judge, or to hold another civil office, he should not feel pressured into doing it by the fact that the brotherhood allows it on certain conditions. Rather, if he holds to his conviction and wants to suffer for it, he shall have the liberty of doing so, only on the condition that he does not criticise those who feel and do otherwise. He should not consider himself any better than those who co-operate with the government and thereby avoid suffering.

The Inner Council dismissed the brothers at Brandýs with a solemn warning not to go home and talk about controversial issues among themselves. If anyone had a complaint, they said, he should come directly to them or to Brother Matěj, the bishop:

If, after thinking this over, or for any other reason, a brother should object to what we have decided he should neither speak or act, neither openly or in secret, against it. Rather he should bring his complaint in person, or writing. . . . Anyone who disregards this instruction should be admonished, and if he refuses to accept correction, and keeps causing a disturbance and division, he shall be held back from communion. If he still remains obstinate, and corrupts others with his point of view, he shall be expelled from his congregation, and if that does not turn him back from his wickedness, he shall be expelled from the Unity of Brothers itself. (Brock pg. 131)

Two men made their way home from the big meeting at Brandýs with heavy hearts. They were Amos Štěkenský, a collector of bee’s wax from Vodňany close to Chelčice, and his co-worker, Jakub. Their hearts told them that the Unity of Brothers, in deciding to relax its position on civil office and to allow the wealthy and powerful to become part of it, had made a terrible mistake. No sooner did they come home to southern Bohemia—into the area where Pierre Valdés spent his last years, and where Petr Chelčický had taught—than they began to write, discuss the matter with their friends, and pray.

Amos wrote a tract, describing in simple Czech how Christ rejected Satan’s offer of worldly power, and why his followers do the same. He explained why it was right for unbelieving authorities to use power in the world, but why it did not belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. The New Testament, Amos wrote, is the sole authority of Christ’s followers, but the Old Testament is no an authority at all—the difference being that Christ has now established his Kingdom on earth.

Hundreds of believers in southern Bohemia and elsewhere stood with Amos and Jakub. For a time even Brother Matěj, the bishop, returned to the church’s former position. He declared the compromise of Brandýs null and void, and dismissed the Inner Council. But it did not last. The brothers of Litomyšl and Mladá Boleslav—chief among them Lukas and his educated friends—criticised the old way. Řehoř and Petr Chelčický were good men, they said, but their teaching was off balance and impractical. It served a generation of farmers well, but it did not fit intellectuals and people in higher walks of life.

Within months, confusion and unrest overtook the Unity of Brothers as never before. Matěj and his conservative friends resigned their leadership, and a team of trained theologians (Lukas among them) took over. A new Inner Council, hostile to the old way, re-enforced the compromise of Brandýs. To that they added a decree stating that Řehoř and Petr Chelčický’s writings (for teaching a “work’s religion” and not leading the church “to trust in the cross of Christ”) should no longer be considered authoritative. They allowed Matěj to keep his office, but only as a figurehead. His duties, they restricted to officiating at ordinations and to serving as moderator in church meetings.

During the Lent season of 1495, Matěj and Lukas made a final attempt to keep the south Bohemians in the Unity of Brothers. They met with Amos Štěkenský and those who agreed with him in Jakub’s house, not far from the historic village of Chelčice. All day they discussed the way of Christ and the way of the world. It turned dark. The time for the evening meal came and went. But the men reached no agreement. Matěj had firmly decided to keep the church together at all costs. Lukas pushed for a more open and “balanced” understanding (spending much time explaining what Christ meant when he forbade the swearing of oaths—that there are three kinds of oaths, the false, the careless, and the true, and that Christ only condemned the first two). But the south Bohemians would not be reconciled.

No matter how grandly Matěj and Lukas promised their views full toleration in the church, the Menši strana (the Little Group) had no desire to be “back in a net with the rich, the powerful, and those who defend their lives with the sword.” For this “insubordination” and “sowing of discord” the leaders of the church finally excommunicated Amos Štěkenský, Jakub, and all who supported them, and the Unity’s disunity became final.


 2008/6/10 17:39Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 7 Eclipse


The Big Group

Once free of constant criticism by the Little Group, the Větši strana, the “Big Group,” as people called it, made bold and rapid moves toward society and the world. Lukas, with the support of the Unity’s publishing house at Mladá Boleslav wrote voluminous works defending the oath and participation in war. He explained why “turning the other cheek” is only a spiritual, not a physical concept, and following his teaching that to hold possessions is “morally neutral,” members of the Unity began to see wealth and prestige as signs of the blessing of God.

Along with this, Lukas returned to Jan Hus and John Wyclif’s teaching of a threefold society (rulers, clergy, and commoners). Christ did not come to restructure society, he said, but to correct its abuses. And the idea of correcting them by force did not bother him. “To kill and destroy the enemies of the Lord, providing it is done justly and without hatred, is not inconsistent with showing them love. . . . Moderation should of course be used, but I cannot say it is wrong to go about with daggers.”3

Matěj himself wrote in defense of what the Unity now practiced:

We do not forbid you to lead the rich toward voluntary poverty, to snatch them from civil offices that endanger their souls, and lead them toward a more perfect life and closer imitation of Christ. But that is not for all men. Christ said it is difficult, but not impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Some too who believed in Christ, such as the Roman Centurion, were men with authority.4

Against the Little Group’s accusation that higher learning and the study of theology had corrupted the church, a theologian in the Big Group wrote a book, On the Learned Men, and Lukas expressed disgust at the primitive writings and viewpoints of “unlearned innovators.”

In another meeting of its leaders the Unity decided to tolerate tavern ownership and liquor brewing among them, providing its members did not drink to excess, and Lukas’ statement on civil power became their own:

Civil power, with its laws and punishments, may be exercised in our Unity and in the holy church. A lord owning estates, castles, fortresses and towns may be accepted into our Unity without having to relinquish the sword, and may become a brother while continuing to order punishments and executions. . . . It is not impossible to hang a man while having love towards him in one’s heart.5

After Matěj died and Lukas became bishop of the Unity, he reintroduced elaborate rituals, silver and gilt communion vessels, and embroidered robes for its priests. Financed by the baron, Bohuš Kostka (by now a member of the church), he and other delegates travelled to Greece, Asia Minor, and Europe to find like-minded people and support for their actions.6 But they found none, and in a later historian’s words,

Out of Bohemian puritans who followed Petr Chelčický rather than Jan Hus, who admired celibacy like Paul, who swore no oaths, who held no civil office, who indulged in no luxury, who tolerated no wealth, who charged no interest on money, who took no part whatsoever in war, had arisen well-to-do capitalists, honourable householders, very successful businessmen, respected town officials and sworn in, very active generals and statesmen.7

The Little Group

Nothing, in the face of the Big Group’s apostasy, surprised those of the Little Group more than the fact that it was so little.

Even though a vast number of brothers and sisters sympathised with them, only a few, at the last moment, sided with Amos, Jakub, and those who determined with them, to stick to the way of Christ at all costs. Perhaps they hesitated because of the Little Group’s unconditional tone. “There is no middle way between carrying out the commands of Christ in every detail, and conforming to the world on the other,” Amos wrote in a letter to Jakub. “Farmers take better care of their pigs,” Jakub, in turn, wrote to Matěj, “than what you have taken care of the Lord’s flock.”

But here and there, in southern Bohemia and Moravia, in Klatov and Beroun, in Lanškroun, and even at the “Mount of Olives” in Litomyšl, congregations of the Little Group took shape. Matouš a weaver of Lanškroun, Ondřej a cobbler, Jan a miller from Sušice, Řiha a weaver from Votice, Havel a tailor from Litomyšl, Jiřík a cooper from Votice, and Pavel a convert from the extinct Taborites became active workers among them.

At the old monastery in Vilemov the brothers reprinted Petr Chelčický’s Net of Faith, and circulated hand written tracts. They took a dim view of higher education and because they would not take oaths (required in larger businesses), they contented themselves with working as farmers or craftsmen.

For years after the division, those of the Big Group tried to win the Little Group back into their number, but without success. In a reply to them, Jakub wrote:

Now the Brothers say, “Let us open the gates of the fold to gather in more sheep. But when they open it up, the sheep already inside run out and the wolves tear them to pieces. . . . The gates of the fold are the commandments and prohibitions of Christ who is the strait path and the narrow door. Whoever tries to make this gate wider and says a brother may be a town councillor or a judge, take oaths, or exercise the bloody rights of the sword, is a thief and a murderer trying to come in some other way.

In the same tract, Jakub explained more beliefs of the Little Group:

From the beginning of the world good people have had to suffer. Those who have fallen away from the faith [referring here to Lukas and other leaders of the Big Group] have tried to prove that if a person suffers, being able to defend himself, his suffering is only like that of a donkey or another animal. But Christ did not take this view. He did not hesitate to lay his yoke upon his disciples and ask them, for the sake of the Kingdom, to renounce their property and families. Christ found his followers among the lowly and poor, among servants not rulers, for it is not the poor who rule the world, but the rich. Christianity is a religion that blesses the poor and promises nothing but misery to the rich.

During the early years of the Unity many renounced great estates, honour, fame, and a luxurious life. They suffered great trials, imprisonment, torture, and even death itself, with joy. Some of these, like the Šárovec and Sudoměř families and our Brother Votík lived afterwards on the same level as the simple Brothers. But now people with estates, the rich, the honoured, and those who are friends with the world are coming into the church just as they are.

Throughout the centuries the true Christian faith has been held by only a small minority of those who say they believe. Whenever the church grew very large the seed of true faith disappeared among them, but God preserves it among the faithful few. It is better to be on the right path with the chosen few then on the wrong path with the majority. It was to the small flock that Christ’s words of comfort were dirercted, and when the great church fell away in the time of Constantine it was only a few—the Waldenses—who stayed with the Truth. But now even they have departed from their former teachings.

Every movement, even though God begins it, suffers decline and corruption with time, because of the enemy’s wickedness. Now that is happening to the Unity of Brothers. Those looking on can see, by comparing the Unity to what it used to be, that what began in the Spirit is ending in the flesh. This is happening because the brothers wanted to avoid persecution and win large numbers of people into the church who were unwilling to make the sacrifices formerly demanded for entry into the brotherhood.

Every word of Christ means exactly what it says, and he will in the end accept only those who accept his teaching. Heaven and earth will pass away before the least of his words. This is true in the matter of the oath. When Christ says, “Swear not at all,” he means every kind of oath, just as James in James 5:12. And when Christians begin to set this aside and break his rule, they soon break his command to love their enemies as well—along with the rest of his commands in the Sermon on the Mount. Any attempt to do away with this one command is an attack on all the rest.

There is no proof whatsoever that men exercising civil power have ever belonged to or had part in the holy church. To try and mix the two [the church with civil power] would be like mixing fire with water. Christian groups who do not listen to Christ’s commands in the Sermon on the Mount, and who allow their members to participate in the government are in fact the legions of damnation. You [of the Big Group] say you have not accepted the ways of the unbelieving world. But what else is it? Not only have you accepted them but with pious words you try to hide the fact that you have now given liberty for brothers to take office, swear and fight in wars, deliver thieves up to justice, to the rack and the scaffold and to return evil for evil.

Why have we broken away from you? In the first place it is because you oppress us by force. In second place because you set yourselves up to judge but are not in a position to do so. In third place because we cannot submit to your prostitution of doctrine through which you have corrupted what the Holy Scriptures teach.
In reality it is not we who have separated ourselves from you, but you from us. We are the ones who have stayed with what we formerly believed and you are the ones who have brought in new and unheard of changes. The doctrine we now hold, many among you—like Brother Matěj, for instance—held for years, and we are minded to hold to it until we die. It is the doctrine we believed for years under Brother Rehor and many brothers and sisters still hold it dear. But now you, Matěj, have of your own free will, as you say in a letter, deserted these teachings. Not only this, you have gone so far as to warn the congregations of the Unity against them.8

Community at Letovice in Moravia

After the division of the Unity of Brothers darkness and danger settled on Czech lands. By this time, the crown of Bohemia had passed to a son of the King of Poland. He married a French Catholic princess and persecution increased. Here and there, believers who refused to conform, suffered burning at the stake.

Among the believers of the Little Group, not everything went peacefully. When the time came to ordain new leaders, Amos and Jakub disagreed on how to go about it. Jakob returned to the Big Group and many others lost interest. Then a new face appeared among the faithful.

A knife grinder from Prague, a young man named Jan Kalenec, who had eagerly sought the way of Christ, first among the Hussites, then among the Lutherans, turned to the Unity of Brothers. Like Lukas, years earlier, he travelled to Mladá Boleslav and Brandýs, to see how they lived and what they believed.

Unlike Lukas (with whom he spoke at Mladá Boleslav) Jan saw with grief and displeasure the worldly ways of those who had joined the Unity. His thirst for the Truth gave him no rest until he discovered the Little Group, among whom he became a member with great joy around 1520.

So energetic was Jan Kalenec in his newfound brotherhood, that the congregation at Prague grew rapidly, and when old Amos died in 1522, he became the Little Group’s leader. This alarmed the Hussite rulers of the city who branded him on his face, whipped him publicly, and expelled him from the city in 1524. Two sisters and a brother lost their lives by burning, and others got long jail sentences.

From Prague, Jan fled to a settlement of the Little Group at Letovice, far to the east, in Moravia. Other believers found their way there and it became the centre of the movement. From there, Jan carried on a lively correspondence, and studied the New Testament eagerly to discover even more about the way of Christ. Under his leadership, the Little Group returned to baptising only adults, on confession of faith. Their testimony against all forms of violence and swearing of oaths stood firm. And they chose to live, like Christ, in poverty. Like in early Christian times, and among the Waldenses and Albigenses before them, they practised community of goods, and many of them remained single.

No writing from the community at Letovice appeared in print. (Printing in those days was still a complicated and expensive procedure.) But from Jan’s letters that survive, their strong feeling against all forms of “worldliness” become clear. To those of the Big Group Jan wrote:

You permit your members to carry on trades you did not formerly allow. Now they take interest on money. They buy things cheap and sell them for much more. Many of you who could exist on a single craft, freely pursue several trades. More than that, you add field to field, you continually make more gardens, meadows, and vineyards, and buy up house after house, even village after village. . . .

In earlier times, Brother Lukas warned those who dealt in clothing, those who dyed material, and tailors, to keep themselves from the vanity and wickedness of the world. But now you wear stylish clothes and live in luxurious houses. In the same way, your sisters, following your example, wear costly robes of velvet and lace. They put on fancily embroidered under clothing, and dresses decorated with silk and gold.9

Sebastian Franck, a contemporary historian describing the Little Group in Moravia, wrote in 1531:

They agree altogether with the Anabaptists. Like them, they hold all things in common. They baptise no children and do not believe that the body of the Lord is present in the sacrament.

Indeed, the similarity between some Czech believers and their Anabaptist neighbours was too great to miss. But Sebastian Franck was not nearly the first, nor the only one, to notice it.

New Brothers in Czech Lands

Only a few years after Jan Kalenec fled from Prague to Moravia, he learned of a new group settling around Mikulov (Nikolsburg), Hustopeče (Auspitz), Slavkov u Brna (Austerlitz) and elsewhere on the lands of the Lords von Lichtenstejn. Like the Waldenses, coming to Moravia years before, they were refugees. And like the Waldenses they were German people. But they came from Switzerland and Austria, and they belonged to the new “Anabaptist” movement.

Even though communication was a problem, both the Little and Big Groups of the Unity of Brothers in Moravia hastened to meet their new neighbours and discover what they believed. The results were interesting, but did not lead to unity.

On one hand, those of the Big Group, had become far to involved in commerce and government for the Anabaptists to feel at one with them. Instead of coming to terms in spiritual matters, they came to terms materially, and at least eighteen Anabaptist “Bruderhöfe” (Brotherhood communities) flourished on estates of Big Group nobility.10

On the other hand, the Anabaptists did not live up to the ideals of the Little Group, patterned after centuries of careful and serious-minded following of Christ. Some Anabaptists—those in the city of Mikulov under Balthasar Hubmaier—did not hold a clear testimony against the use of the sword. Others, as reported by Jan Kalenec, tolerated “worldly and frivolous professions” like wood carving, painting, the cutting of jewels, and tavern keeping. Worst of all, even the most conservative group, those named for their leader, Jakob Hutter, had moral problems among them that they did not always take care of. In the Moravian town of Žadovice (Schadowitz) a group of Hutterite men, out for something to drink, stole several barrels of beer from the manorial brewery. In another incident, Hutterites were rightfully accused of stealing wood from a private forest. “And such men,” a Czech brother wrote, “claim that they have mortified their flesh and are born again!”11

Jan Kalenec, after lamenting the Anabaptists’ spiritual pride and lack of love in condemning all who did not practice community just like them, praised them, however, for what he found good. “We rejoice in the fact that you have condemned infant baptism, baptising a second time in faith,” he wrote to them, “and also that you have attained the equality of the First Kingdom, that is, of the Church, where none may say: This is mine.” And when the Anabaptists faced persecution,12 the Czech brothers stood ready to help where they could.

Community at Habrovany

Just as close to the centre of the Little Group at Letovice as the Anabaptists, and even closer to them in background and belief, stood the community at Habrovany, a short distance north of Slavkov u Brna.

The Habrovany Brothers shared with the Little Group the spiritual background of the Waldensians in southern Bohemia, the revivals under Petr Chelčický and Řehoř, and the trial of persecution under Hussite and Catholic authorities. But they did not stand in direct association.

In 1528 a Moravian nobleman, Jan Dubčanský, decided to follow Christ. Unlike Bohuš Kostka, however, he did not try to be a Christian and live in luxury at the same time. He took the Sermon on the Mount as his guide and rejected violence and civil office at once. That brought him into contact with Václav of Lileč, the former rector of the monastery at Vilemov near Chelčice, and with Matěj, a poustevník (hermit) from Zatec (Saaz) in western Bohemia.

Long a refuge of the Waldenses, the Zatec area had a history of radical Christianity. On the German side of the mountains, at Zwickau, a group of prophets helped launch the Reformation. On the Czech side, Matěj, a trapper who spent long times in the forest alone, discovered peace in Christ and on his return to civilisation, began to preach on streets and squares, calling everyone to repent “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” A year after Matěj began to preach, in 1520, a terrible plague struck Bohemia. Afraid to die, many, even in Prague, listened to his warnings and got converted. Others took deep offence.

Matěj spoke fearlessly against the corruption of wealth and power. In 1525 the Hussites threw him into prison. When they released him, a year later, they drove him from Prague and he went to live with Jan Dubčanský, the converted nobleman at Habrovany in Moravia. There Václav of Lileč joined them and in 1528 they established a new congregation along the lines of Petr Chelčický and Řehoř’s teaching, based on the Sermon on the Mount.

Like the Little Group of the Unity, the brothers at Habrovany took a clear stand against all types of violence, the swearing of oaths, and participation in civil government. The “outward sacraments” of baptism and communion however, were not as important to them, and believing in the priesthood of all believers, they had no ordained leaders. At Lulec in Moravia, they set up a print shop from where , after 1530, a steady stream of Czech books and tracts appeared.

Then, in 1537, the authorities imprisoned Jan Dubčanský and Czech believers fell on even harder times.


 2008/6/11 18:41Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 7 Eclipse


Trouble in Czech Lands

With three hundred thousand soldiers, the Turkish sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, had stormed neighbouring Hungary (including Slovakia) in 1526. Not only had this set Czech lands in danger. It pitted Protestants against Roman Catholics in their defence and by the 1530s the Czechs found themselves in a struggle for survival.

While the Big Group made peace with the Hussites and joined forces with them in armed resistance to the Roman Catholics from Austria, the Little Group divided over the use of costly dress material and ornaments in their homes. Jan Dubčanský died and what was left of his followers at Habrovany joined the Anabaptists. Then, in 1546, Austrian troops crossed from Moravia into Bohemia. Prague fell into Roman Catholic hands. The Hussites “made peace with the pope” to avoid annihilation, and two years later the Holy Roman emperor banished the Unity of Brothers by royal decree.

Unwilling to face persecution as an “illegal church” thousands from the Big Group went over en masse to the Hussites. A minority that refused, about 1500 people, fled on foot and in refugee wagon trains through Silesia to Poland. The Anabaptists fled east, to Hungary, and the Little Group, with the brothers at Habrovany simply disappeared.

A Waning Light

Twenty five years after the Austrian take-over of Czech lands, a trickle of Big Group Unity members returned from Poland. Little by little they re-established their congregations, their schools, and publishing works. At Kralice in Moravia, they printed a beautiful Czech Bible in red and black ink with arabesque designs. At Ivančice (Eibenschitz) and on the vast Žerotín estates, they cooperated with the Anabaptists—also returned from Hungary—in large farming, ceramic, and wine-making enterprises. But very little of the Unity of Brothers’ love for Christ returned with their peace and prosperity. The difference between them and their Hussite or Catholic neighbours was primarily in name.

Then on March 28, 1592, Martin and Anna Komenský, a Big Group Unity couple of Nivnice in Moravia, had a little boy they named Jan Ámos. By the time he was twelve, they had both died, and after four miserable years, he found his way into the Unity of Brothers’ school at Přerov (Prerau).

Jan Amos Komenský (John Amos Comenius), did more at school than play games and socialise with the young people. He studied the Scriptures earnestly and discovered, to his dismay, how far his church had strayed from what it originally believed. He also made friends with the Anabaptists in surrounding communities and admired them for their inner order and discipline “by which they surpassed all other denominations.” Then, after his ordination he found his way to the old Waldensian refugee settlement at Fulnek in Moravia.

Living in a room alongside the meetinghouse at Fulnek, Jan Amos learned to know the descendants of these German believers—plain, industrious, minding their own business on little farms hidden in the valleys of Neutitschein, Zauchenthal, and Sehlen. The Kühländl (little land of the cows) the Germans called it, and in its quiet seclusion Jan Amos discovered a remnant of the faith he believed his church had lost. He worked among the German members of the Unity, at Fulnek, with great enthusiasm—until disaster struck.


For many years after the Austrian take-over of Bohemia, the Hussites had lived in an uneasy peace with their Roman Catholic rulers. But when the Catholics, spurred on by Jesuits and the “Counter Reformation” put pressure on the Hussites in the early 1600s, they rebelled. In a hasty trial of officials accused of favouring the Catholics they threw two men from a window at the Hradčany castle in Prague and a popular revolution began.

Austria closed in on Czech lands.

Coming in overwhelming numbers, Roman Catholic troops fought the united Hussite and Big Group Unity forces on November 8, 1620, at the Witkov (Weissenberg, White Mountain) just outside the city. The battle lasted one hour. Hussite and Unity forces disintegrated. Total Catholic rule began with the public decapitation of Hussite and Unity leaders in Prague, while Austrian troops on the rampage raped, murdered, and plundered the Czech people and devastated their land.

Industry collapsed. Hundreds of thousands fled.Entire towns stood empty and the population of Bohemia sank from over three to less than one million people. In Moravia both Hussites and Big Group Unity members became Catholics by force, or fled. Given free reign, Catholic troops plundered and burned the Anabaptist Bruderhöfe on Žerotín lands. All non-Catholic books they could find, including Kralice Bibles, they burned.

Not even the peaceful Kühländl, the area around Fulnek in Moravia, escaped. Catholic troops fell on Jan Amos Komenský’s library and burned it on the town square. Jan Amos, with his family and other refugees fled to the mountains near Brandýs in Bohemia. There, in a hiding place in the woods, he wrote The Labyrinth of The World and The Paradise of The Heart. Then even this refuge was taken from him.

A Hidden Seed

After his wife and child died, and Jan Amos married again, mounting danger forced him to flee with his father-in-law (a bishop of the Big Group) and a few others across the border, through Silesia, to Poland.13 Leaving on a cold night, in January, 1628, the group of refugees halted on the last high pass from which they could look back over Bohemia, dark and silent beneath them. They sang a hymn of the Unity of Brothers. Then they knelt, and Jan Amos asked God to have mercy on the Czech people and preserve among them a seed of faith.

God heard the prayer.

Almost a hundred years after the flight to Poland the Czech lands lay quiet and thoroughly “catholicised.” The Unity of Brothers had died out. The last Anabaptists, even though they still made pottery and lived in community of goods, had long forgotten their background and went to mass every week. Even the Hussites had forsaken what their founders stood for and as an organisation had ceased to exist. But a seed remained.

In the mountains around Fulnek in Moravia, in the villages settled by German Waldensian refugees—Landskron, Hermanitz, Rothwasser, Zauchenthal, Schönau, Seitendorf, and Sehlen—not everything stood as the Jesuits (leaders in the Counter-Reformation) supposed.

In the Martin Schneider home at Zauchenthal, meetings took place after dark. In the Kutschern home, an old grandmother, the daughter of a shepherd, told the children how their ancestors had lived in Christian community. In Mährisch-Kuhnwald the Nitschmann family met in secret to read the Bible and pray—as did the Melchior Kunz, Johann and David Zeisberger, Andreas Beyer, and Matthäus Stach families in other villages. And old Georg Jäschke lived at Neutitschein near Sehlen. . . .

Old Georg, as everyone knew among the German settlers, had not “bowed his knee to Baal.” A steadfast believer in Christ and his peaceable Kingdom, he taught his family from the Sermon on the Mount—even though he had to do it in utmost secrecy. His daughter, Judith, married Georg Neisser and they taught their five sons likewise.

After Georg’s family had grown and left home, his wife died. But he still felt young and strong. He married again, and after turning 77 rejoiced in the birth of his youngest son, Michael.

Six years later his age caught up to him and he lay sick in bed. Judith and her family, along with others of the “secret church” came to visit him. His wife and little Michael stood beside his bed. Then Old George, still strong in spirit, looked over the group and said:

Our days of freedom are over. Many of our people have given way to a worldly spirit and the pope’s religion devours them. It may seem as though the Unity of Brothers has come to an end. But listen to me, children: I believe you will see a great deliverance. A remnant will be saved! I do not know for sure whether deliverance will come in Moravia, or whether you will have to “go out of Babylon.” But I believe it will come in the not too distant future. I tend to think an exodus will take place and you will be offered a refuge where you may serve the Lord without fear.

When the time of your deliverance comes, be ready! Watch out that you do not get left behind.

After telling them of his hope and faith, old Georg Jäschke placed his hands on the heads of his son and each of his grandsons in turn. “Remember what I told you,” he said, “and that Michael belongs to Jesus. I commend him into your keeping. Take care of him, and when you depart from this place, take him with you by all means!”

A Light

Soon after Georg Jäschke died, a boy from Senftleben, at the foot of Mt. Radhost in far southeastern Moravia, found a job with a carpenter. His name was Christian David and his new boss, Michael Ranftler of Holeschau, came from a German family that had belonged to the Unity of Brothers.

Christian David could not read. He had spent his childhood herding goats on the mountains and knew little about God. His parents had taught him a prayer to Saint Anthony, but it did nothing to quiet the unrest in his heart. When he saw Michael Ranftler’s eight-year-old son reading on winter evenings by the fire, he asked to learn the alphabet. Then, under the eaves in his attic bedroom, he found what would change his life: a little book published by the Unity in its better years.

Night after night Christian David read from the book. In it he learned the way of Christ and his Kingdom. Every word fell on fertile soil.

Christian David could not contain his enthusiasm for what had come to him, but no one dared talk with him about it. “It is too dangerous,” they said. “Be quiet or you will get a short haircut (you will get beheaded)!”

Desperate to find a place where believers could openly live for Christ, Christian David struck out on foot across the mountains to Protestant Slovakia. But the people there did not trust him and gave him a cold shoulder. Then he found his way through Silesia to southern Germany.

In Germany Christian David met disappointment. German Protestants, even though they spoke about Christ and correct doctrine, made fun of him for taking the Sermon on the Mount seriously. They laughed at his convictions and told him to go join the army.

For several years Christian David wandered about, disillusioned, confused, and wondering if anyone on earth still knew or loved Christ. Then the town of Görlitz in Oberlausitz burned. Four hundred houses lay in ruins and Christian David found work cleaning up and rebuilding.

Working at Görlitz Christian David met the first Germans in whom he discovered a joyful love for Christ. Some of them—under the influence of Philipp Jakob Spener and Jean de Labadie—met in homes to pray. They studied the Scriptures and sang songs. For the first time in his life Christian David could freely share his inner convictions. His gratefulness to God knew no bounds, especially after he found a wife—Anna Elisabeth Ludwig—among believers in the nearby village of Niederwiese.

Christian David’s new-found happiness might have been complete, had not the thought of his friends in Moravia, languishing in darkness and fear, touched it with sorrow. Then he spoke with a converted nobleman, Nicholas Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf, who offered to settle what refugees Christian David might bring, on waste land at Grosz Hennersdorf, southwest of Görlitz on the road between Löbau and Zittau.

Only three months after his marriage Christian David returned to Moravia on foot, crossing the mountains alone at risk of his life. (Moravian authorities caught and killed anyone they suspected of spreading “heresy.”)

Christian David returned to German-speaking descendants of Unity families at Senftleben and from there to Fulnek and the villages of the Kühländl. Here and there frightened people consented to talk with him, but only in secret, and when he spoke of fleeing to Germany they shook their heads. “We could not evade the police,” they told him. “And even if we could, our wives and little ones would not survive the trip.”

Wherever Christian David went he met doubts and fears. No one dared leave Moravia, and even though some believers thanked him for the invitation, they told him he should be quiet and return quickly to Germany or else he would lose his head. Then he came to Neutitschein near Sehlen.

In a secret meeting in the home of Agustin Neisser (one of old Georg’s grandsons) Christian David presented his daring plan. He begged the ones gathered with him to pack up in faith and join him to build a congregation for the Lord in Germany. “Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters, or father or mother or children or fields for Christ’s sake,” he told them, “will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

The Neissers looked at one another. They remembered, as clearly as if it would have happened the day before, old Georg’s last instructions. Was this what he had seen?
“Let us think and pray,” they told Christian David.

A decision did not come easily. To leave Moravia meant forsaking everything but what they could carry on their backs. It meant leaving in utmost secrecy, at the risk of capture, imprisonment, and quite likely death. But when the little cluster of believers at Neutitschein remembered old Georg’s challenge and what would happen to them if they stayed in Moravia (almost all of their friends had already renounced the faith and become Roman Catholic), they knew they could do only one thing. All that remained was to decide, who, when and how.

None of the neighbours dare notice a difference in activities. No packing or food preparation dare take place openly.

On the moonless night of Wednesday, May 27, 1722 Agustin and Martha Neisser, Martha’s niece Susanna Dürlich, Jakob and Anna Neisser with their children Wenzel (6), Anna (3), twins Joseph and Juliana (13 weeks), and old Georg’s son, Michael Jäschke (by now twenty-one) left Neutitschein, praying no dog would bark. Up through the woods into mountains along the Silesian border they found their way on silent trails. They carried bundles, and the little ones on their backs. And with them they carried a spark of hope that would end the long eclipse of the believers’ church in Bohemia and Moravia.

1 Along with works of an instructive nature (the writings of Petr Chelčický and Řehoř) the Brothers produced the first non-Catholic hymnal in Europe.
2 From a letter from Koranda to Bohuš Kostka.
3 From a writing of Lukas against the Little Group: Odpowěd na spis Kalencuo.
4 From a letter written by Matěj, presumably after his meeting at Jakub’s house in Štěken.
5 Peter Brock, The Political and Social Doctrines of the Brethren, pg. 171
6 On this trip they visited the Waldenses in the Cottian Alps, by now far removed from their forefathers’ beliefs, and witness the burning of Savanarola in Florence.
7 Anton Gindely, Geschichte der Böhmischen Brüder II, pg. 312
8 Condensed from Akty Jednoty bratrské.
9 From Peter Brock, The Political and Social Doctrines of the Brethren, pp. 265, 268
10 Among these were the lords von Žerotín, prominent members of the Unity of Brothers (Big Group), who protected the Anabaptists on many occasions, and granted them material concessions. Important Anabaptist communities on Big Group lands were Ročice (Rossitz), Pouzdrany (Pausram), Židlochovice (Seelowitz), and Breclav (Lundenburg).
11 Reported in a letter copied at Kyjov in Moravia, on July 1, 1589.
12 Among the first Anabaptists burned at the stake in Moravia, at Brno (Brunn) in May, 1528, was Jan Cizek, a former member of the Unity of Brothers.
13 In Poland the Czech refugees lived at Leszno (Lissa). After sixteen years the Russians, at war with Poland, passed through their settlement and destroyed it. Jan Amos saved some of his books by throwing them into a well. But Russian soldiers used the rest to the start fires on which they roasted the immigrants’ cattle. Not many years later, the Swedes attacked Poland, and in the struggle they suffered even more. Their meetinghouse, school, and almost all their homes burned down. The town of Leszno itself burned for three days and several hundred wagon loads of women and children fled. This time Jan Amos lost the only manuscript of a Czech dictionary he had worked on for forty years. But he did not lose heart and travelled to England and the Netherlands where his writings became well known.

Continued with chapter 8

 2008/6/12 17:33Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406


Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 8 Ludwig

For days the Neissers and young Michael Jäschke followed Christian David through the wilderness. Danger still surrounded them. Silesia, through which they had to pass, was also Roman Catholic. But weary, faint, and excited, they eventually arrived on the young landowner’s estate at Berthelsdorf in Germany.

The sight that met their eyes left them speechless. The young landowner, Ludwig von Zinzendorf, was not home. The man who came to show them where to settle took them to a low-lying wilderness behind the village. Parts of the land stood in water. Dense brush and brambles covered the rest.

Martha Neisser sat down. “Where in this wilderness shall we find bread?” was all she could think to ask.

But even before she asked, the Lord had prepared bread for them—and more.

The landowner’s grandmother, the baroness Henriette Katherina von Gersdorf, sent them a cow. With great vigour, Christian David and the brothers from Moravia set to work felling trees, building shelters, and clearing land so the women could plant grain and vegetables.

Then Ludwig came.

Just turned twenty-two, Nicholas Ludwig, the young count of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf could not have grown up in a setting more unlike that of the Moravian settlers on his land. Used to nothing but fine food and clothes, he lived in the manor house with his grandmother until she sent him to a “Pietist” boarding school in the German city of Halle.

As long as he could remember, Ludwig had known serious-minded Pietist brothers. At his grandmother’s invitation (his father had died and his mother married a Prussian general when he was four) they had conducted prayer meetings in her manor house at Grosz Hennersdorf (not far from Berthelsdorf). From them he first heard Johann Arndt’s simple lessons in godliness. He learned to sing with them the great Lutheran hymns, and above all he learned to pray.

As a very young child, Ludwig prayed earnestly to Christ. He wrote “letters to Jesus” and tossed them out the window of his upper storey room. During the Swedish invasion of 1706 when plundering soldiers burst into the manor house they stopped and turned back at the sight of Ludwig, a six-year-old, on his knees in prayer.

From his Pietist teachers, Ludwig learned to view contemporary Protestantism—to which he, as a German Lutheran, belonged—with deep mistrust. But he also learned not to go the way of the “sectarians.” The Pietists held the concept of ecclesiolae in ecclesia (little churches within the Church) as their ideal. They believed that through personal conversions, prayer meetings, and Bible study, they could build the “real church,” the mystical, spiritual body of Christ, far above the realm of institutional religion.

All this had appealed to Ludwig, and he “thought like a Pietist” until the school at Halle left him deeply disillusioned. Its teachers, fanatical in their zeal for holiness, harassed the students to no end—while the students, all pious prayers and songs notwithstanding, were a mob of fiends. That is, most of them. A few, like Georg Wilhelm von Söhlenthal, Anton Heinrich Walbaum, Johannes von Jony, and a Swiss boy, Friedrich von Watteville met with Ludwig to read the Bible and pray. They formed a society, the “Order of a Grain of Mustard Seed,” and pledged themselves to serve Christ all their lives together.

In spite of his disappointment with the school, Ludwig learned well. By the time he turned sixteen he spoke Latin freely. Then his family transferred him to the University of Wittenberg, and his days under Pietist influence came to an end.

At first Ludwig felt strange in the “worldly” atmosphere of the university—deep in the study of law, with lessons in fencing, riding horses, and dancing. But as time passed, he began to view his strict Pietist childhood more critically. He began to wonder who was the holiest—the “regular” Lutherans at Wittenberg who trusted entirely in grace to save them, or the works-conscious Pietists at Halle, forever at odds one with another on how to be a little more sanctified.

Determined to find the truth of the matter, Ludwig spent an hour every morning and another one, every evening, in prayer. He studied the Bible carefully, from cover to cover, in Latin and now also in Greek. Then the time came for him to finish his studies abroad.

In France, Ludwig witnessed the work of Catholic religious orders among the poor. The thought of remaining celibate to serve Christ appealed to him. But when he met a godly and gracious young woman, Theodore von Castell, in southern Germany, and she returned his attention, he proposed marriage. Everyone, on both sides, gave their consent. Ludwig was happy. But shortly before the wedding, he made a discovery. On his way to see Theodore, his carriage broke down near the estate of one of his best friends, Heinrich von Reuss. Stopping to make the necessary repairs, Ludwig learned that Heinrich had been interested in Theodore, but had given her up for his sake.

Ludwig felt terrible. “I will not take her away from you!” he declared. “Let us go and ask which one of us she prefers.”

It did not take long for Heinrich to get ready—nor for Ludwig to discern the truth. When he saw Theodore and Heinrich truly in love, he freely released her from the engagement. And even though it cost him an inner struggle, he served as best man and composed a song for the wedding.

This experience, and a visit to an art museum in the city of Düsseldorf on the Rhine, permanently changed Ludwig’s life. Even though he had “believed in Christ” for years, things did not fall into place for him until he stood before a painting showing Christ flogged, mocked, wearing a crown of thorns, and set by Pilate before the people. When Ludwig read the words underneath the picture, “I have done this for you. What have you done for me?” his heart broke. Overwhelmed before the Saviour of the world, he repented of all things human and surrendered his life to him. Far beyond self-righteous Pietism, far beyond Lutheran presumptions of free (or cheap) grace, far beyond anything he had known or felt before, Ludwig felt his soul transported into the presence of Christ. And even though he did not know it yet, out of this experience, his life’s vocation was born.

For the time being, it resulted in a German poem:

Bridegroom of the soul, Lamb of God! Prove my motives and discover where they begin. Is my will sincere? Oh so let it be! Let me be crucified to self and sanctified to you. Purify my inner ways. If I go astray on dark paths, shine on me and guide me back! If the cross and sorrow trouble me, give me patience. Set my sights upon the goal. After war, victory and peace will come. The world holds little joy. Its pasture is dry. Only in Zion shall we drink undiluted wine!

Jesus walk before me, on the way of life. I will hurry after you. Take me by the hand, to our Fatherland. Order my steps, Beloved One, as long as I live. If you lead me on rough trails, watch out for me. At the end of the way, open the door into what is yet to come!1

On September 7, 1722, Ludwig married Heinrich von Reuss’s sister Erdmuth Dorothea. Three months later, on the way to Berthelsdorf to see a new house being built for them on the family estate, he noticed a strange settlement beside the road. “Who lives here?” he asked.

“The Moravian refugees you gave permission to settle on your land!”

Before his surprised companions knew what was happening, Ludwig halted the carriage, found his way down the muddy trail and entered the first of the low shelters where women in simple peasant dress hastily picked up their babies and men came running to greet him.

Within minutes, all were kneeling on the floor to thank Christ for bringing them together.

1 Gesangbuch der Evangelischen Brüder, 415

Continued with chapter 9

 2008/6/13 17:05Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 9 The Place Of The Lord’s Care

Standing tall above the refugee’s cabins south-west of Berthelsdorf, the Hutberg (Watch Hill) greeted the first rays of the morning sun. Once reconciled to their new home, the Neissers, Michael Jäschke, and Susanne Dürlich found its familiar presence a constant reminder of Psalm 121:1—Ich hebe meine Augen auf zu den Bergen, von welchen mir Hülfe kommt—and in a play on the name, called their new settlement “Herrnhut” (the Lord’s watch, or place of his care).

How meaningful that name would become, they could not imagine.

Not long after the first group of refugees settled at Herrnhut and the men were nailing down a new cabin floor, Christian David suddenly felt the Lord calling him back to Moravia to invite others. The call came to him so forcefully he jumped up and ran, even forgetting his hat. A month later, in August 1723, he returned to Herrnhut with Judith Jäschke Neisser, her sons Georg, Johann, and Wenzel, with their wives Susanne, Rosine, and Marianne, two little boys Georg Jr. and Augustin Neisser, Judith Holaschke (a sister of Anna Neisser) and old Georg Jäschke’s widow.

Word of their safe arrival spread. More and more “secret believers” in Moravia took courage and packed their bags to flee. In December Christian and Julianne Jäschke with their children Rosina, Nikolaus, Andreas, and Dorothea suddenly appeared, and told of yet more making plans to come.

Dreams Unite

Ludwig von Zinzendorf did not grasp the import of the Moravians’ flight at once. He felt kindly disposed to them and certainly wished them the best. But his mind was elsewhere, full of dreams of his own. With Friedrich von Wattewille, Johann Andreas Rothe (Lutheran pastor at Berthelsdorf), and Melchior Schäffer of the cloister church in Görlitz, he entertained serious thoughts of founding a Christian community.

Ever since his surrender to Christ, Ludwig knew he could not live like the ordinary Reichsgraf (count of the Holy Roman Empire) he was. He had given his wealth, talents, and position to Christ, and expected Christ to use them. The first idea of how that might happen came after his marriage and return to Grosz Hennersdorf in 1721.

Seeing the needs of seekers throughout Germany and the rest of Europe, Ludwig and his friends planned a publishing and correspondence work, a school where young people of all walks of life could be trained in godly living, an orphanage, an itinerant evangelisation ministry, and a retreat for those seeking new life in the church—all in the context of a “home” or “base” community. To that end, Ludwig offered the estate of Berthelsdorf and proposed that Moravian refugees already living there could help with the building projects.

At first things went as expected. By 1723 the publishing house, under the direction of Abraham Gottlieb Ludwig, began to send out its first newsletters (although not from Berthelsdorf). The school opened its doors. The orphanage became a reality, and Ludwig—besides writing continually and visiting seekers here and there—translated the works of Johann Arndt to publish in French.

But the scene kept changing—fast. Instead of an idyllic “retreat” for the spiritually inclined, the estate of Berthelsdorf and surrounding area, lying as it did near the borders of Silesia and Bohemia, became a raw refugee camp. In 1724 thirty poor families converged on Görlitz from Silesia. They were Schwenkfelders, the little known remnant of a Reformation-era revival group in the east. A year later, the Nitschman, Hickel, Quitt, Weber, Fischer, and Berger families from Moravia arrived at Herrnhut, ninety people all told, of ancient Waldensian and Unity background. And the end, Ludwig and his friends suddenly realised, was nowhere in sight.

Not only did the settlers at Herrnhut report to Moravia how the Lord had blessed them in Germany. They, and exiles in other places, sent Bibles, forbidden writings of the Unity, and the works of Johann Arndt to seekers in Czech lands. Even though it might cost their lives, both ethnic Germans and Czechs snatched what came with the desperation of the spiritually starving. With tears, and stirrings of heart, they returned to Christ and the way their ancestors had lived suddenly became of greatest interest to them.

Not only at Fulnek and surrounding areas in Moravia, but at Kunvald and Lanškroun, even in the old “Mount of Olives” at Litomyšl in Bohemia, love for Christ sprang from the rubble of what had been the Unity of Brothers. Christian David risked a visit to Bohemia in 1726. Melchior Nitschmann followed two years later to discover faith in full bloom, and besides an approximate thousand three hundred refugees from Moravia, another six hundred fifty from Bohemia found their way safely to Herrnhut in the 1720s and 30s.

This was not all.

Herrnhut, instead of continuing as a curious “sideline” to the planned Christian community at Berthelsdorf, fast became that community itself. Christian David’s dream of finding a refuge for the Moravians in Germany merged—by circumstance, not by choice—with Ludwig’s dream of founding a refuge for spiritual seekers. The two became ever more related until those looking on lost track which was which, and came to see the whole strange scene as one: a young count trying to follow Christ, a fast-growing settlement of foreigners in rude cabins among animals on the loose, muddy trails, brush to be cleared, new workshops of all descriptions, a school, an orphanage, an old German village (Berthelsdorf) with a Lutheran church, and an ever greater variety of visitors, eccentrics, sectarians, and adventurers.

Dreams Divide

Local authorities, watching what happened at Herrnhut, began to grow alarmed. Ludwig’s family and many former friends looked on in bewilderment, or dismay. But people kept coming—Moravian refugees, Schwenkfelders, Protestants of both persuasions (Lutheran and Reformed), Catholics, Anabaptists, Separatists, peasants and nobililty, educated and ignorant, rich and poor—until the general Durcheinander (mix-up), both in material and spiritual things, threatened to become the ruin of all. Some loved Ludwig and his friends and worked closely with them. Others grew disillusioned and made trouble.

No one could live at Herrnhut long without seeing that besides simple personality problems, major doctrinal rifts stood in the way of it becoming a functional community. Skilled defenders of every viewpoint abounded. Everyone had his own dreams for the future and his own set of aversions. Ludwig did what he could to keep peace—to the point of inviting all men in the settlement to his house for Bible study, twenty hours a day, three days in a row, to find out whether God predestined men to salvation or whether grace was free to all. They decided on free grace. But even with this contention cleared up, the people were not happy. From the least to the greatest, even prominent brothers among them like Christian David, plunged into fresh disputes with zeal.

One man went so far as to march up and down Herrnhut announcing to all that Ludwig von Zinzendorf was the beast of Revelation 13, and Johann Andreas Rothe the false prophet. Christian David, for a time, found life in Herrnhut so upsetting he built himself a hut outside the settlement and dug his own well, sitting to wait like Jonah for God’s judgement to fall.

In all this, however, Ludwig did not lose heart. Intent on seeking fellowship with Christ, he managed through thick and thin to pray for hours every day, and challenged others to the same. Out of this circle of prayer the question arose: “Why not turn from facing issues and one another, to face Jesus Christ? Will he not save us from confusion?”

Timidly at first, but with ever growing conviction, Ludwig and his friends stopped discussing religion to focus on Christ. To behold him, smitten in their hearts, worshipping him with indescribable silence and joy, they began to comprehend him as Heiland (the Healing One, the Saviour)—not only of individuals, but of Church and society, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.

Fixing their eyes on him, their lives and outlook became reflections of what they saw.

Early in 1727 Ludwig and his young wife—like him of noble birth—moved from the manor house at Grosz Hennersdorf to live among the refugees at Herrnhut. Taking part at once in the refugees’ lives, Ludwig spent every day visiting families, praying with them and setting for them an example in serving others. Under Christ’s benign influence an air of goodwill began to move through the settlement again. Damaged relationships healed. Arguments died down, and the anticipation of blessings to come brought new life to Herrnhut.

From Dreams to Reality

Promptly, after moving to Herrnhut, Ludwig and his wife invited all the settlers to join “bands” for interpersonal responsibility, confession, and prayer. Several times a week, members of the bands—usually from three to half a dozen, voluntarily associated—met to tell each other what they thought. They shared their temptations, pointed out faults, and opened themselves up one to another in the presence of God.

Miracles happened, but more were to come.

With the help of the settlers from Moravia, Ludwig drew up a plan of “brotherly agreement” in May, 1727. Following their ancient custom the people at Herrnhut then chose four men, Christian David, Georg and Melchior Nitschmann, and Christoph Hoffman, to be their overseers. All shook hands and promised to keep the rules in Christ’s peace.

Two months later, on July 16, a great young people’s gathering on the Hutberg turned into an all-night prayer meeting. The next week a group of men—including Christian David, Melchior Nitschmann, Ludwig von Zinzendorf, Leonhard Dober (a potter who had come to Herrnhut from southern Germany) and others—gathered at the same place and their prayers turned into a joyful time of praise and commitment. The day following Ludwig left to visit an older relative. With him, he took a book from the nearby Zittauer library. It was a church order of the Unity of Brothers, the Ratio Disciplinae, written by Jan Ámos Komenský fifty years earlier.

The more he read of Jan Amos’s work, the more excited Ludwig grew. “This sounds just like our Brotherly Agreement,” he told himself, and could not wait to return to Herrnhut to read it, in German translation, to the rest.

Everyone, but in particular the Moravians, at Herrnhut rejoiced to hear what Jan Amos had written. Yes, they recognised this teaching! And deep within them, it stirred their longing to revive the Unity of Brothers and live in the way their grandparents—those of Jan Amos’s generation—only dimly remembered.

Ludwig and his friends began to see the Moravians among them in a new light. Did they perhaps carry clues to an ancient, purer, Christian belief? Could their history and traditions become valuable for the present church? The possibility intrigued Ludwig as much as the refugees and together they began to study the Gospel of John in evening meetings.

The meeting on August 5 did not end when the women put the little ones to bed. Fifteen men sat on the lower slopes of the Hutberg discussing Christ and his Gospel until long after the fireflies came out and the day’s heat gave way to a balmy summer night. As at other times, they prayed and sang. But instead of dwindling off into village homes as the night wore on, the group began to grow. More and more brothers, and eventually sisters, appeared. No one had to explain. The Lamb was there. Prayers, confessions, tears and songs continued until nearly the whole settlement, standing at the burial ground on the slopes of the Hutberg greeted the morning sun with David’s words: “He is the sun of righteousness that arises with resplendant grace!”

Five days later, nearly the same thing happened at an evening service in the village church at Berthelsdorf, a kilometre away. Johann Andreas Rothe, who as a Lutheran pastor had quarrelled much with the Herrnhut settlers—at times standing on speaking terms with only two or three—suddenly beheld the Lamb. Regardless of his office, never mind his reputation or creed, he fell on his face before the people and spoke to Christ as he never had before. So did the congregation. Amid tears and confessions and pledges to live in peace everyone continued in herrliche Gemeinschaft (glorious fellowship) until midnight.

Then came the communion service of August 13, 1727.

Walking in little groups from Herrnhut to Berthelsdorf, everyone felt humbled and “an awareness of personal sin, need, and helplessness brought them to think less of themselves and kindly of one another.” Johann Andreas Rothe introduced the communion service by pointing everyone, with a broken heart and conviction, to Christ. The congregation knelt. Ludwig von Zinzendorf led in a prayer of confession. Then someone began to sing, “Hier legt mein Sinn sich vor dir Nieder, mein Geist sucht seinen Ursprung wieder. . . .” In translation:

Here I lay my will before you, my spirit seeks its source again. May your joy-inspiring face, be turned toward me in my need. Look! I feel my sin, let me die with you! May my stubborn self, in your pain, be killed as well. Fill my motives with surrender [meinen Willen mit der Gelassenheit erfüllen]. Break nature’s power and set my inner longings free! I do not know what I should do. Human works mean nothing here, for who could wash his heart from sin? You must do it. Therefore take the worries of my soul and impress me deeply with the fact that I in you, am already blessed [daß ich in dir schon selig bin]!

Loud weeping and cries to heaven nearly drowned out the singing. The service did not end until, as Ludwig described it later, true Herzensgemeinschaft (communion of the heart) had descended upon them all. “Where they had been one body before, now they were one in spirit, the Spirit of Christ. . . . Those who had seriously annoyed each other, now embraced and promised to serve one another in peace, so the whole congregation came back to Herrnhut as newborn children.”


 2008/6/14 18:25Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 9 The Place Of The Lord’s Care

A Transformed Community

During the summer and fall of 1727 Herrnhut became exactly what Ludwig had wanted his community to be: “a visible habitation of God among men.” It became, within the wider Church, a sign for Christ and his Kingdom. But far beyond the pietistic idea of “little churches within the church” Herrnhut, after its renewal, awoke to its spiritual heritage.

Numerous brothers at Herrnhut—among them Augustin Neisser, Martin Dober, David and Melchior Nitschmann, Johann Gottlob Klemm, and Martin Rohleder—began to exercise their teaching gifts. Not only that, they began in simplicity and freedom to teach from the New Testament as they understood it.

For the first time since the Little Group “disappeared” in Moravia, two hundred years earlier, the teachings of Christ they had stood for resurfaced. Řehoř and Petr Chelčicky’s love of peace, their refusal to swear oaths or bear arms, their conviction to serve Christ in simplicity, all believers sharing their things as in a family—everything came back (to the alarm of their Protestant neighbours) and more!

Peace and order came to Herrnhut. Even though opposition to their activities mounted—not the least of which came from Johann Andreas Rothe who feared their “sectarianism”—the Moravian settlers went on to enjoy transformed . . .


“David Nitschmann and Christian David sat at my table today,” Ludwig reported some time after the awakening in 1727. “We took stock of ourselves and told each other what still remained to mar the image of Christ in us. First I let them say what was the matter with me, then I said what was still the matter with them.”

“The new birth—the new man created in the image of God through the blood of Christ in perfect righteousness and holiness in thought and action—is often a mystery for a long time, between the Saviour and the soul,” reads a statement from a brother’s meeting at Herrnhut. “But in personal relationships, in the fellowship of believers, and in the everyday round of life it becomes totally obvious to all.”1

Complete openness, along with the responsibility they felt for one another, led the believers at Herrnhut into a total restructuring of their community. It started with the young men in 1728. A good many of them lived with families other than their own, where the husband was not always around. To avoid suspicion, and at the same time to live in greater accountability among themselves, twenty-six of them moved into a wing of the orphanage with Christian David and Melchior Nitschmann as “choir leaders.” (Because they sang and practised music together, everyone knew them simply as the “Young Brothers Choir.”) Every day they prayed and studied the Scriptures together. They planned and distributed their work among themselves and pooled their resources.

In 1730, under the leadership of Anna Nitschmann, a “Young Sister’s Choir” moved into another building at Herrnhut, and separate choirs for boys and girls, young married and older married couples, widows, and widowers followed. Children moved from their parents’ quarters into their respective choir houses at an early age, and from there into the single brothers and sisters choirs at maturity (around fourteen). This arrangement came from the belief that Christ looks different and means different things to various groups of people. Young men, for instance, see him as an example of endurance and model of wisdom, while older widows may value him as a friend and helper. Every group, the Moravians believed, gets the most out of fellowship with Christ if among others of their kind.

Every choir house at Herrnhut came to have its own chapel, kitchen, and communal dining room. Choir leaders led in feetwashing and communion services, and held joyful funerals for its members that “went home.” Only on the Sabbath and on the Lord’s day (the first and last days of the week) did all worship and, on occasion, eat together.

With time—after the church at Herrnhut branched out to other places in Europe—all members came to belong as well to a Haus or Pilgergemeine (“home” or “pilgrim” congregations). Those of the Hausgemeine took care of the children, the land, livestock, handcrafts, and trade. Those of the Pilgergemeine travelled continually from place to place to tell others of Christ. But all separations of distance and “band” or “choir” groupings notwithstanding, the Moravians were a close knit and joyful fellowship in Christ. Young and old remembered one another’s special days with Scriptures or words of greeting on carefully illuminated pieces of stiff paper—the source of today’s “greeting card” tradition. And in their prayers, they “remembered one another in name before the Lamb.”


The awakening at Herrnhut in 1727 not only restructured its society. It revolutionised its members’ use of time.

Two weeks after the memorable communion in Berthelsdorf another prayer meeting on the Hutberg lasted all night. In fact, it lasted and lasted. Those gathered pledged themselves to keep on praying by turns, twenty-four men and twenty-four women selecting their hours by lot, every day. From Herrnhut the custom passed to Moravian settlements around the world and for more than a hundred years following the brothers and sisters kept it, like the fire in the Lord’s temple, aflame.

Mornings at Herrnhut began with devotions in the Saal (the meeting room) at five. Those not able to attend observed a quiet time and prayed elsewhere. Then, after breakfast came the Viertelstunde, a fifteen-minute prayer time during which someone read the Losung (the Scripture of the day, selected by lot, popularised later as the “Watchword”), and other devotions followed throughout the day. Evening meetings were either Gebet or Singstunden (prayer or song hours). Every Thursday evening the brothers met to discuss the community’s general needs. Watchmen, on duty around the clock, announced the hours, and at night sang cheerful songs to mark the time for those who could not sleep.

When the question of keeping the Lord’s Day or the Sabbath came up, the Moravians decided to keep both, but to be legalistic on neither. On either day, the believers’ celebration was Christ.

After 1728 a Gemeintag (community day) became the custom at Herrnhut, one Saturday a month. Between choral selections, common meals they came to call love feasts, and the public reading of letters or trip reports, this became the day to celebrate weddings, receive new members, and dispatch pilgrims to all parts of the world. More often than not the Gemeintag ended with feetwashing and communion—“festivals of the Lamb” that could continue well past midnight.

The Lord’s Day began with a morning blessing at five and meetings in the choir houses at six. A children’s meeting came at ten, followed by preaching in the Saal, for the whole congregation, at eleven. Those who spoke prepared nothing beforehand but shared as the Spirit led. In the afternoon special meetings focused on the needs of the aged and sick, and those visiting. A “blessed warriors’ meal” (communion in bread and wine) sometimes preceded the preaching or song hour after supper and the Lord’s day ended with an evening blessing at every choir house.

From beginning to end, every week at Herrnhut became a sweet adventure in Christ.


With their time and fellowship revolving around Christ, the work of the Moravian settlers at Herrnhut naturally did the same. Soon after their awakening, they formed a general diaconate to oversee the land, buildings and industries of the community. Every able person among them became responsible to work and contribute to the welfare of all.

In the late 1720s, forty-five houses stood at Herrnhut. But as the community grew, its choir houses and adjoining buildings, around a sheltered “Hof” (central yard), needed constant enlargement. Its workshops multiplied and among its buildings the believers planted flowers and fruit trees. Everyone at Herrnhut learned a trade or practised what he already knew. Friedrich Kühnel set up a linen weaving shop. The Dober brothers, Martin and Leonhard, manufactured fine ceramics. Some of the Neissers made knives, and others hand crafted furniture, woollen blankets, shoes, saddles, or raised livestock. The community set everyone at liberty to work how they best could, and restricted nothing but wastefulness or greed. But no one could build at Herrnhut without permission. In 1727 the believers decided:

The one desiring to build a house shall first bring the matter before the brotherhood. He shall wait to begin until a place has been designated for him. Then he shall not build it one foot further forward, or one foot further back, nor any bigger or higher than the instructions given to him. He shall follow the proscribed plan exactly.2

Working like bees, in co-operation and subjection to Christ, the believers at Herrnhut transformed their settlement into “a haven of peace, with two hundred houses built on rising ground, evergreen woods on two sides, gardens on the others, and high hills at a short distance—a haven of faith in a world of infidelity, of unity in a world of strife.”3

Communal work projects, such as the preparation of apple “Schnitz”4 on long winter evenings, became a time of joyful fellowship in the Hausgemeine.


 2008/6/16 18:40Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 9 The Place Of The Lord’s Care



Careful to do nothing that would hinder their fellowship with Christ, the believers at Herrnhut took no interest on loans, and if they borrowed money, made sure they paid it back. An early statute of the community calls for loans to be paid back “on the hour, or else to make other arrangements.”

Community statutes also forbade believers to visit markets on the Lord’s Day, or go shopping if they did not need anything. Overcharging was declared sinful, and the butcher at Herrnhut could not take part in communion after he took one Thaler too much in a sale of meat.

In weekly meetings of the brothers, business matters received prompt attention. The baker was told to make larger buns, and the shoe fixer to finish his work on time. Two women who had brought plums across the border from Bohemia without paying duty were admonished to repent, go back to correct the matter, and apologise. Another woman, for cooking extravagantly (and wasting in that way the resources of the Lord’s Gemein), was held back from communion.

The believers tried continually to waste less and give more. In 1730 they decided to bake no more cakes for special events, but to serve “milk bread” instead. They served love feasts of nothing but bread, salt, and water, and ruled out coffee in favour of garden tea.

A competitive spirit among brothers was handled as sin, and to help one another became everyone’s business. Brothers going to town (Löbau, Zittau, or Görlitz) were to announce it beforehand so the rest could order what they needed. A community statute called for brothers to willingly loan out their possessions. But the same statute also admonished those who borrowed to return things promptly (not making their owner come to fetch them back), and to avoid making a practice of borrowing objects in continual use, such as an axe.

After the forming of “choirs” in Herrnhut, brothers and sisters took weekly collections among themselves. Every Tuesday evening their choir leaders met to report how much money they had and how much they needed, sharing among themselves if necessary—for all food and maintenance money in the choir houses came from these free-will offerings.

Above this level, the community at Herrnhut had a general fund toward which all contributed. The brothers and sisters helped decide how this money was spent and a catechism prepared as a “Manual for Doctrine” put its guiding principles to words:

Q. What expedient was found out in time of persecution for the maintenance of the members?
A. None said that ought of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things common.

Q. When that did not suffice?
A. Then a collection was made for the saints.

Q. In what manner?
A. Each was accepted according to that he had, not according to that he had not.

Q. How did the first Christians act who had something of their own?
A. They laboured, working with their hands that they might have to give to them that needed.-

Q. How did they give?
A. Not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Q. What maxim did they go by in this matter?
A. They remembered the words of the Lord: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”5

Money from the general fund provided for the travel expenses of pilgrims sent out and, in the case of those going to Greenland (Sister Stach and her daughters in 1736), to buy them adequate linen and furs. Money from the fund also bought trombones for the Young Brothers’ Choir, and lead pipes to lead water into the community. The school, orphanage, and public buildings at Herrnhut had their needs supplied from it, but no leaders used the community’s money for personal expense.

Of special concern to the believers at Herrnhut were the poor, and unfortunate. When Friedrich Kühnel’s horse stumbled and broke its leg, they bought him another one. Of frequent mention in the records are shoes purchased for needy families, firewood for the elderly, coffins for those who could not afford them, and small gifts of cash to beggars or wandering prophets to “dismiss them kindly.”

Larger amounts from the general fund allowed a brother to buy his sister out of debt bondage and a converted soldier his way out of the army (sixty-seven Thaler). Families asked to leave the community at Herrnhut received a gift to help them find a home or start a business elsewhere—all in the spirit of a community statute that read:

The Almosenpfleger (stewards of alms) are not to bother themselves about anything except to see to the condition of the homes and people in the community. They shall decide on the best way to help in every case, whether it is to loan, to give, or to refrain from giving. They shall promote a willing and mild spirit in the whole Gemein—one that knows how much better it is to give than receive.

Health and Hygiene

The Moravians who settled at Herrnhut came from simple homes. Some of them, in fact, from homes where “simplicity” had degenerated into untidiness. At first this bothered their new neighbours in Germany, but when the Spirit of Christ transformed Herrnhut, everything changed.

Undisciplined children, little boys that had run around in nothing but shirts, suddenly appeared properly dressed, in order, and content. Parents stopped having their little boys and girls sleeping together and passed a community statute against it. Those responsible for community upkeep made regular inspections to ensure that houses smelled fresh and that no one threw garbage out of the windows. When the Josef Neisser family continued with a schweinische Haushaltung (piggish housekeeping) they received a public admonition and matters improved.

Muddy trails in Herrnhut gave way, after the renewal, to plastered walk ways. Families put flat stones in front of their doors and kept their geese and chickens penned up. A community statute specified how ashes and chimneys should be taken care of and prohibited the smoking of tobacco.

Also finding direction in community statutes were the Krankenwärtern (attendants of the sick):

Krankenwärtern shall be chosen from those of a hearty, fresh, and cheerful disposition, and who take to medical things by nature. Their duty is to visit the sick every day to monitor their progress, to give medicines as needed and instructions on how they shall be used. They shall help the sick in anything that needs to be done around the place, and above all, speak to them about the condition of their souls. They shall read to the sick and pray with them, discovering what their needs really are, so that they can be shared with the rest of the brothers. . . . The Krankenwärter must be constantly cheerful and attentive to people’s needs. He or she must be healthy, humble, merciful, tireless, calm in every crisis, and more concerned about prayer and faith than with medical credentials. . . . Brothers and sisters shall be attended by nurses of the same sex, exclusively.

After the renewal, Johann Christian Gutbier became Gemeinarzt (community physician) at Herrnhut. Everyone on his sick list got special food and care. A corps of young people worked under him (Dr. Gutbier always present when younger men attended women) and the entire region felt the blessing of their labour in Christ. Alongside the orphanage, the Herrnhut community also set up an apothecary known far and wide for its supply of medicines, sugar, tea, dried currants, spices, paper, goose quills, wax, ink, and with time a great variety of articles sent back from Herrnhut’s foreign outreaches.


No sooner did the Moravians’ hearts become renewed in Christ, than they rediscovered the value of the plain dress their ancestors had taught them to wear. As in Moravia, the brothers at Herrnhut dressed in simple, dark, peasant clothes. They wore home-made shoes (of a pattern that fit either foot and had to be changed every so often), knee-buckled trousers, and broad-brimmed black hats. The sisters wore ankle-length dresses with white muslin capes and aprons, and three piece white caps that amply covered all their hair.6

Early on in the separation of the choirs, the strings with which the sisters’ tied the caps under their chins took on special significance. Little girls wore scarlet strings. Once converted and part of the Young Sisters’ Choir, they changed to crimson. Older single sisters wore pink. After marriage the strings turned light blue, and when widowed, white.

Concerning women’s apparel, the “Manual of Doctrine” stated:

Q. What general rule did the apostles give concerning dress?
A. That the women should adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but as becometh a woman professing godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:3-4)

Q. What regulation was made at Corinth?
A. Paul writes: “That a man ought not to cover his head when he prayeth or prophesieth, but the woman ought to be covered. That it is a shame for a man to have long hair, but a glory to the woman.

For those at Herrnhut that did not come from Moravia, the conviction to wear plain clothes did not come overnight. In 1731 the leadership spoke with the Countess von Zinzendorf (Ludwig’s wife) about making simpler dresses for herself and the women of her household. She willingly complied. The following year, at a congregational meeting the dresses of both single and married women were declared too short. All sisters were encouraged to keep to the old way of dressing, as in Moravia, and the brothers likewise. The congregation decided that Georg Wäschke, who had purchased material to make himself a purple shirt, should not do so, and young girls should stick to sober, subdued colours for their dresses. (Someone at the meeting reported having watched a group of girls walk through the Hof at Herrnhut, “as gaily coloured as a flock of parrots.”)

Not in the quality of clothing, but in its cut and colour, the believers felt, would pride most likely show. And when it became clear to them that “it is a miserable thing when the children of God have to worry about constantly changing styles,” they decided to make a Kleiderordnung (clothing regulation) “so the brothers and sisters would not have to make thoughts about how to dress themselves.”

After prayer and deliberation, the community assembled on December 31, 1734, at Herrnhut. Among other things they agreed and wrote:

Because it is not fitting that a Gemein of the Lord should be dressed improperly, we have been trying over the years to give guidelines about dress that are known by all. But a certain amount of confusion remained, and offences still occurred. . . . Therefore we have decided upon a new clothing standard for our tailors, seamstresses, and shoemakers to follow in exact detail.

1. The brothers shall not wear any fresh colours, lay-down collars or lapels, double-breasted coats, unnecessary pleats, or starched garments. But the one who still has clothes like this is allowed to wear them out.

2. The sisters shall not wear any type of lace or embroidery on their dresses, nor lacy veils. They shall not use sheer materials, fancy headbands, buttons, or ribbons, nor shall they use white yarn to decorate their clothes. They shall not wear white gloves, nor white or coloured stockings, colourful caps, or any fresh or bright colours whatsoever. They shall use no colourful ribbons in their bonnets, but only black or blue ones. Red striped or blue printed aprons are to be dyed solid blue on both sides. No printed cotton shall be worn, except for winter head coverings where plain brown is allowed, but no multicoloured prints.

3. Pointed shoes and slippers shall no longer be worn, nor shoes with high heels. Form fitting or short-sleeved jackets shall not be worn, nor ruffled clothing, nor straw hats that cost more than two Groschen. Hat bands shall be of uncoloured, rough linen only. Cloth printed on a white background shall only have black patterns and no big-flowered or flashy designs. . . .

The one who does not follow this prescribed manner of dressing, exactly, shall be excluded from the Gemeine, and should not be surprised if in his stubborness he does not get included in future activities.

On the voice of the congregation, Michael Linner became responsible to approve the clothing of the men, Anna Rosina Knesch and August Leopold’s wife, that of the women, Heinrich Nitschmann that of the boys, and Rosina Anders the girls’s clothing. They took their calling seriously. Many garments, in particular those of the women and girls, did not meet their approval. Some found it hard to understand or accept. But in the end their efforts brought peace and unity, and the Moravians’ witness as a “plain church” became clearly established in the world.

In England people sometimes mistook Moravians for Friends (Quakers), and in America for Mennonites or Dunkards, but whoever spoke with them promptly learned they dressed not to please this group or that. They refused to conform to the world in order to “know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”


 2008/6/18 8:47Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 9 The Place Of The Lord’s Care



So many visitors thronged Herrnhut after the awakening that the brothers began to hold special services for them, the Fremdenstunde (visitor’s hour), every Lord’s Day afternoon. Not only that, but within a year’s time a great correspondence had developed with seekers throughout Europe and abroad. Even though postage travelled slowly and many did not yet use the mail in the 1720s, sometimes as many as fifty letters arrived in a day at Herrnhut, and a hundred or more sat waiting on answers.

In the Spirit of Christ, those who answered the letters tried to write as clearly and simply as possible, what they believed. Through their contact, hundreds came to the congregation from afar and found their place among the believers.

Not all visits, however, were encouraged or even tolerated. A community statute forbade the entry of quack doctors, clowns, bear dancers, and magicians to Herrnhut. Night watchmen could give food to beggars, but money gifts only on Tuesdays, and only to those the brothers approved. No money was to be given to immoral wasters or drunkards unless they repented of their ways.

To accommodate their visitors, the brothers built a large guest-house at Herrnhut, and elected suitable couples to care for it. In the summer, according to a community statute, men could not sit at its tables after nine, and in the winter not after eight o’clock in the evening.


Only those who felt inner unity with the believers at Herrnhut could live there. Others they gently but firmly helped to find new homes. Even then, living at Herrnhut and co-operating with its communal order did not guarantee full fellowship with the believers. Nor did baptism—a “washing in the blood of the Lamb”—assure communion privileges. Ludwig von Zinzendorf correctly stated the brotherhood’s feeling when he wrote:

It is a real satisfaction to a brother or sister to be looked upon by his or her fellow members as the truth is, and no better. When a person comes into the congregation and says, “I have lived so and so and involved myself in such and such” he is welcome. But he must not press to be received, confirmed as a member of the congregation, or admitted to Holy Communion. Nor is this any punishment. It is only what common sense dictates.7

Before permitting them to take part in communion, the brothers at Herrnhut instructed new converts carefully. “Only those who have come to love the wounds of the Saviour—those who have begun to understand how much has been forgiven them—may be admitted to holy communion,” they agreed. “And to be slow in admitting people to communion is a great advantage for everyone on both sides.”8

Even after formal acceptance into the brotherhood, all members—the old and the new, those in authority and those without—passed through a period of self-examination and private interviews, brothers with brothers and sisters with sisters, before communion. If a question remained about partaking in the sacrament (which to do unworthily might bring damnation) the congregation discerned the Saviour’s will with the use of the lot. “The Saviour was severe today,” reads an entry in the community diary, “and did not allow twenty to partake.” This, considering how seriously the believers at Herrnhut took communion, is not surprising. The “Manual of Doctrine” states:

Q. Is this supper appointed for people who are yet in their sins?
A. One cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils (1 Cor. 10:21)

Q. Are the members of a church liable here to a great danger?
A. He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Q. What then is to be done?
A. Let a man examine himself.

Q. What harm is it if one should go, without being so approved?
A. He is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord

Settlers at Herrnhut only received a welcome to take part in communion after promising to obey the community’s rules and conforming to them in every area of life. In a community statute of 1734, the brothers wrote:

One must promptly obey the Saviour in little as well as in big things. To be faithful in little things is something everyone can do. . . . In the same way, minor transgressions of detail must be dealt with just as severely as major ones, for with time they can lead to greater ruin than if someone commits an outstanding offence. It is not without reason that God has chose to root unconcerned carelessness out from among us with standards, limits, and means of correction (Ordnungen, Schranken, und Zucht).9

In a letter to seekers at Nürnberg, Christian David explained the Moravian position:

The keys of binding and loosing are given to the congregation by Jesus. This is a spiritual power. To have it, the congregation must be in Christ Jesus. It must stand in his spirit, mind and will, and use his Word in the right way. It must let the Word do what it wants in all honesty, without respect of persons. The Word must be its guiding star. The congregation must keep the Word in faithful obedience, in humility and sincerity, and present it to all in purity and truth.

If the congregation wants to bind and loose, it must make its rules, use its gifts and powers of faith, pronounce its blessings or threats, and decide whether a soul deserves punishment or mercy, for the honour of God and the sake of its members’ salvation. It may not discipline anyone except in the name of Jesus. Then it must persevere in prayer until that soul feels the binding or loosing of the congregation both in the inner and outer man, either painfully or beneficially. Only then will the disciplined soul give honour to God and confess before God and the congregation that it has sinned. Then the congregation can either show mercy to it and can ask God to forgive it, or it can deal sternly with it, and save it with fear. Happy the congregation when it abides in the mind and spirit of Jesus so that he does the binding and loosing among them.10

Even though the believers at Herrnhut held the “binding and loosing” of the Lord’s congregation in high esteem, the danger of making static rules and of maintaining them long after they lost their function, did not escape them. A statement of belief, from the records of a meeting in 1740, describes how they felt:

The Brothers’ Church neither makes nor defends unchangeable rules. The Spirit of Christ is the highest authority among us. . . . In the schools of the world one studies things out and hopes to become perfect in knowledge, but in the school of the Spirit one learns piece by piece, and one must always recognise that there are still details we do not understand.11

In subsequent meetings they added:

In our sacred rites such as baptism and communion we as a congregation of Jesus cannot follow an accepted, established, and permanent usage or form like the state churches (Religionen). Changes in our congregational order and in the practice of its sacred functions may always be anticipated. But they must be introduced and regulated according to the circumstances and state of mind prevailing in each instance.12

Rules dare not be made for the congregation until everyone, from the least to the greatest, has voiced his opinion and consent, or until all have come to a place of rest with them. Rules must be made specifically for every congregation, in light of its own characteristics and needs. They are made to avoid situations that could lead to sin. But after rules are made they must be strictly adhered to. They must first be accepted inwardly, and one can only ask brothers and sisters to be obedient to what they have confessed and approved of themselves.13

“The Saviour did not speak much about church discipline,” the believers at Herrnhut decided, “because he wanted his followers’ hearts to keep them in line. We must remember that wherever a church standard is written out, it is an incomplete and imperfect affair.”14 In another meeting they declared:

The one who makes laws of the good instructions of the New Testament is foolish and deceptive. Doing good, for the believer, is not a command, but the desire of his new nature. Our duty to live holy lives, to be honest, etc, is nothing more than our duty to eat, or to keep ourselves from falling out the window. If we are believers it is our nature, our inclination, and a result of our natural aversion. As soon as we make love a command, because the Bible says, “You shall love your God,” we make it an unnatural affair. The one who has tasted of grace loves automatically. The one who comprehends his Creator’s sacrificial life and death would do nothing rather than love himself to death!15

Ludwig von Zinzendorf further described the feeling of the brothers:

Now this ought to be the basis of our whole spiritual building, for it is the only firm one. If keeping our souls for the Saviour, depended on rules and daily admonitions, all would be lost. These indeed are good, so far as they prove that we have a sharp eye, that guards against wickedness creeping in under the pretext of liberty. But only a man’s own heart is able to judge its own disposition towards the eternal bridegroom, and either to condemn or comfort him.

If we will be a happy people we must be so true to him that we would live right, even if there were no discipline. And those who have directly to do with souls, must take care neither to terrify or attract them with their influence, causing them to behave well for a time without coming to the Saviour. No, the Saviour must be all in all. Every believer must settle affairs with him daily before all things. . . . From the Saviour we learn to distinguish good from bad. Not only this, every one of us must learn from him how to practice virtue and avoid vice. In short, our example in everything is to be found in his humanity.16

“Church discipline, the more complete it is, the more refined the hypocrites it is likely to make,” Ludwig wrote. And in his discourses given at Berlin he said:

Of our Saviour and his death and merits we are to remind one another continually, so that our awareness of him may remain acute. But of what is right or not, fitting or not fitting to do, we should not have to speak to one another. . . . We have long wondered exactly how to discern whether a soul has totally or only partially given itself to the Saviour. Because my great aversion for rigid church discipline is founded on how I see this matter, we would do well to search it to the bottom.17

Further statements from brothers’ meetings confirm the Moravians’ commitment to depend on Christ, not on their own rules and discipline:

True church discipline depends on the invisible working of the Holy Spirit in the heart. What people ordinarily call church discipline has little to do with reality.18

The Holy Spirit is our head theologian, and we are merely his assistants. It is good that we have established order and methods, but we must take care lest we use them to tie the Holy Spirit’s hands.19

All reforms, whether they begin at the head, the hands, the feet, or other members of the body, are useless until the heart is truly changed. . . . We aim at nothing other than to apply the desires of our Saviour in a practical way.20

We have no self-constructed system and do not want one. Rather, we are all taught by the rule given to us by God. He enlightens us step by step.21

We must teach what the Saviour taught and clothe ourselves with the Scriptures. . . . Against our teaching no sect should be able to raise valid arguments. Also, we must strictly refrain from establishing a firm opinion on matters that have two sides. . . . We dare not insist that what we want to see is necessarily what the Saviour wants to see. . . . Our theology dare not become cast in iron.22

That differences of opinion should arise among them, even after their spiritual renewal, did not surprise the believers at Herrnhut. For this reason they wrote:

Among us we have a fundamental rule: A man shall not be told what to think or what he shall say. The only think we ask is that he does not force others to accept his ideas.23
No brother shall do anything against his convictions, but in matters beyond that, all should learn obedience.24

Only when a person withstood their congregational order in a rebellious spirit did the believers at Herrnhut put him out from among them. And if he repented they gladly received him back after public confession of sin. Their Manual of Discipline stated:

Q. In what order did [the early Christians’] church discipline proceed?
A. If a man was overtaken in a fault they restored him in the spirit of meekness.

Q: He that would not be reproved?
A. They would have no company with him that he might be ashamed.

Q. But one that sinned?
A. Him they rebuked before all that others also might fear.

Q. Was this done so as to be unsupportable?
A. They counted him not as an enemy, but admonished him as a brother.

Q. When, after all there was no amendment?
A. They put away such an one from among them, or they withdrew themselves from him.

Q. And if any one at the same time gave great scandal and persisted in it?
A. Him they delivered unto Satan , for the destructioin of the flesh.

Q. What people particularly did they deliver up to Satan’s chastisement?
A. False teachers (1 Timothy 1:20, etc.)

Q. To what end?
A. That they might learn not to blaspheme.

Q. Who did the excommunicating?
A. The teachers with their and the church’s spirit.

Q. But when the very worst truly humbled himself?
A. Then they forgave him and comforted him and confirmed their love toward him.

On handling sin and repentance, the Moravians wrote:

Among us it is said, “Confess your sins one to another,” not in order for sins to be publicised, but so we can pray one for another and be healed. We become involved in another person’s failings only to the extent that we can be helpful to him. . . . We must listen to our brothers’ and sisters’ accounts of failure with compassion and understanding, bearing in mind that we are well capable of failing in the same way. . . . In the world, when a person sins he becomes a marked man. But in the Gemein, the one who sins and repents can be restored to usefulness again. . . . One dare not judge a brother for what he does out of a mistaken understanding or in a time of confusion. . . . A critical or judgmental spirit should not remain in any brother’s heart.25

“No quarrel shall be allowed to continue for more than a week,” stated a community agreement at Herrnhut. “If it cannot be settled, call the congregation together and make disposition of the matter in an hour, or at least before the sun goes down.” And, depending on Christ to settle their disputes, those who lived there took nothing to worldly courts of law.


 2008/6/19 22:13Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 9 The Place Of The Lord’s Care


The Lamb and The Light

The peace that came to Herrnhut in the awakening in 1727 shone through everything they did. It transformed the chaos of a refugee camp into a model of communal order and efficiency. It turned lions of law and justice into lambs of mercy and grace. But nowhere, and in nothing, did it bring about a greater miracle than in the mood of Herrnhut itself.

From harshness and suspicion, the Lord Christ changed the atmosphere at Herrnhut into one of holy delight. Brothers and sisters saw one another as if for the first time. Love abounded. Innocence reigned. And as from heaven a wonderful gift of song came to the congregation.

Every evening the choirs at Herrnhut sang and played before the Lamb. Singing perfected, powerful hymns moved the congregation to its feet time after time in joint services. Every day hymn writers and composers added to an infinite variety of arrangements. Brothers and sisters rising in the congregation began singing any verse of any song and the rest joined in, full volume, from the heart, sometimes continuing in incredible medleys that lasted for hours—organists learning to glide from tune to tune between more than four hundred melodies without a hitch.

In the years immediately following the awakening at Herrnhut its people—believing that singing is the truest expression of the heart—wrote over seventy thousand German hymns.

Intimately part of Herrnhut’s atmosphere of song was its worship and celebration. Anyone could, and did, call meetings anytime. Love feasts for a few or for many became a preferred way of celebrating special occasions—anything from a babies’ festival (“Quite charming to observe, the babies being as attentive as if they understood everything that was said!”) to a birthday, to the beginning of the wheat harvest. But celebrations at Herrnhut, in the presence of the Lamb, did not lose the high grace of holiness. Weeping, in times of celebration, was as common as open expressions of joy. “Brothers and sisters should sing from the heart, or else be quiet,” the community agreed in 1746.

The congregation at Herrnhut, thanks to Ludwig von Zinzendorf and his friends, made full use of the Christian liturgical tradition and the chanting of litanies became a favourite form of worship among them.

With antiphonal choirs, a liturgist, and the participation of the whole church, the believers sang the Te Abba, the Song of the Bride, the Great Paschal Litany, the Agape, the Prayer to the Holy Ghost, and the Hymn of The Wounds, to name a few. Special litanies—written by Moravians—accompanied the practice of ordinances like the Pedilavium (feet washing), the Kiss of Peace, and baptism.

On the day of the Lord’s Resurrection the entire congregation, awakened before daybreak by the young brothers’ trombone choir, met in the Saal to sing the Great Paschal Litany based on the Apostles’ Creed. Half ways through they rose to walk, a stream of people to the burial ground on the Hutberg. There standing in a great circle around the graves, they lifted their voices at sunrise to sing the rest of the litany, in which they mentioned the names of all who had gone home the previous year:

Lord have mercy on us!
Christ have mercy on us!
Lord have mercy on us!
Christ hear us when we pray! . . .
(chorus) The Spirit and the Bride say, come!
(liturgist) And whoever hears, say come!
(congregation) Amen! Yes, Lord Jesus come! Do not tarry! We wait and long for you!
(sisters) Come!
(brothers) Yes, come!
(everyone) Come!
(liturgist) And he will come with a warrior’s shout, the voice of the angel, the trumpet of God, From heaven he will come!
(chorus) To judge the living and the dead. . . .
(liturgist) I believe that our brothers, (names of the deceased), and our sisters (names of the deceased) have joined the upper church, going in to the joy of the Lord, and that only their bodies lie here.
(brothers and sisters) In his earth, and the time shall quickly come when they shall rise with our risen Lord.
(chorus) The right this earth, our mother-place has to their bodies, their souls have to the refuge in his side.
(congregation) We, poor sinners pray, “Hear us Lord!”
(liturgist) And keep us with your church complete . . . in eternal fellowship where we may rest forever in your wounds. . . .

Another favourite litany of the congregation at Herrnhut, beautifully lyrical in German, was the Te Agnum (Song of the Lamb):

First choir: Second Choir
Lord, God we praise you! Little Lamb, we thank you!
You, Son of God from eternity Honoured throughout the earth
Son of Man in time Your people bow to honour you,
All angels and hosts of heaven All who honour Jehovah
Cherubim and Seraphim And those who sing with gladness
Both Choirs
Innocent Lamb of God!
Holy Bridegroom!
Who descended from the throne to accept humanity!
Your heavenly power and glory Extends over heaven and earth!
Your twelve holy disciples All the beloved prophets,
And all the martyrs Praise you Lord, with great joy!
All Christianity Honours you on earth!
The four beasts who never rest Attend you constantly,
Twenty-four elders Throw their crowns before you.
The Father on his fatherly throne You the right and only Son,
The Holy Ghost and comforter, In you, the Lamb, have all become one.
King of Honours, Jesus Christ! Only begotten Son of God,
You did not scorn the virgin’s body Through whom you came to free us!
You robbed death of its power And brought your church to earth,
You sit on the right hand of God Honoured in the Father’s kingdom
You will judge the earth You will judge all things dead and alive.
All things dead and alive!
Alles was todt und lebend ist!
Now help, your servants, Lord! We whom you bought with your blood
Allow a place in your heavenly reign With blessed ones in eternal wellbeing!
Help your people, Lord Jesus Christ And bless your inheritance
Watch over us. Care for us, And lift us up in eternity.
Protect us, faithful Lord From wrong inclinations and sinful acts.
Have mercy on us! Have mercy on us in our need!
Show us your kindness As we hope in you!
Dear Lord, we trust you Do not let us be ashamed
Daily we praise you And we honour you with trembling
You, who take the book from the Father To open its seven seals
May our names be found in it, Among the names of those you know
Seal us against all sin And against the woes of the earth
Give us the garment of righteousness Cleansed in your blood.
That you may be the Lamb and Light and Temple of your community forever!
Daß du wirst ewig der Gemein,
Ihr Lamm und Licht und Tempel sein!

Pay Day In a New World

Believing that nothing happened by accident, but that all choices freely made by men and women have eternal consequences, the believers at Herrnhut early began to record events. Every choir house kept a journal. The congregation itself kept one, and individuals wrote their own Lebensläufe, the story of their lives (focusing on how they came to Christ and their walk with him) to be finished at death by their choir leaders and read out loud at their “home going” beside the grave.

Home goings (funerals) at Herrnhut, developed into serious but ever more joyful celebrations, to the astonishment of all looking on. Love for Christ, in a dark age of war and disease, overcame the sting of death. The sadness of separation gave way to triumphant joy at sending people on to the Lamb.26 “The more passing over the better,” Ludwig wrote, “For in this way we maintain constant postal connection with regions above, carrying with it our greetings and kisses.”

A hymn sung at home goings expressed the believers’ feelings well:

Come and help, come with your innermost being to praise our wise and loving Jesus! If nothing separates us from our head he will help us to complete our work until we have believed our way through. Invisible Bridegroom, we will not forget you through it all, until we come to see you on the new way. Loyalty in battle will be what counts until pay day in a new world. Sweat and dust for Canaan land!

Life at Herrnhut, the place of the Lord’s care, was no longer ordinary European life. It no longer revolved around Germany, Moravia, Protestants, Catholics, money, marriage, lands, or earthly things. It was life in the light of eternity, wide open before Jesus Christ, where everything not possessing heavenly worth became passing trivia.

In its earliest years, Ludwig von Zinzendorf had written a song about Herrnhut:

Where are you together, you my beloved, my heart, with your flock for which you suffered terrible pain? Where do you live? (We know that the places where love for one another burns, the paths aglow with your covenant of blood, are known only to you, the Lamb, alone.) You live in seventeen little houses, where the trails open up in Herrnhut, the place of the Lord’s watch—a free settlement that will not go on unless the Lord goes with it, and unless he does in it what he wants to do.27

In the mid-1700s the Lord did what he wanted to do at Herrnhut, and eternity alone will reveal the outcome of it.

1 Barbyzche Sammlungen, note from a Dienerkonferenz of 1753
2 From the Brüderliche Vereinigung of 1727
3 From John Wesley’s description of Herrnhut in the 1730s.
4 Dried apples, taken along to eat on trips, or sent to Pilgrims abroad.
5 From Manual of Doctrine, published in English at London, in 1742.
6 In 1857, Abraham Ritter, a Moravian minister of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, described what had been the custom of his church in earlier times: “That the Moravians were a plain, unassuming people, is evident from the still existing relics of their simplicity, a cardinal virtue, obnoxious to fashion, forbidding to vain show, but fraternising with economy, and harmonising with their Christian profession. Their apparel, therefore, was unstudied, except in cleanliness, and their taste chastened by disciplined judgement. The strait unlapelled dark brown coat, the broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat, the knee-buckled small clothes, the broad round-toed shoe, were consistent characteristics of a Moravian brother; whilst the plain drab or black silk bonnet, the three-cornered white kerchief, the plain silk Sunday dress, the comfortable hood-finished cloak, the “stuff” shoe, for comfort and convenience, were the sisters’ concession to St. Peter’s advice, “whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel.”
7 Berliner Reden, 1738 (see Bibliography: Des Grafens von Zinzendorff Inhalt dererjenigen Reden welche zu Berlin . . . gehalten worden)
8 Barbyzche Sammlungen, note from a Dienerkonferenz of 1753
9 Note from a meeting of the brothers, October 20, 1734.
10 ca. 1730
11 Note from Dienerkonferenz of 1740.
12 From a record of Gemeintag proceedings in 1742.
13 Dienerkonferenz, 1753
14 ibid.
15 ibid. 1740
16 Berliner Reden, 1738
17 ibid.
18 Dienerkonferenz, 1745
19 ibid. 1747
20 ibid.
21 ibid. 1748
22 ibid. 1749
23 ibid. 1746
24 ibid. 1753
25 ibid.
26 Abraham Ritter, describing Moravian custom, wrote: “‘Rend your hearts, and not your garments,’ was the well-observed manner in cases of death. It was a privilege and a principle of the church to eschew outward mourning for a deceased relative, of any grade, and the sable halliment was never offered to deepen the shade of a sorrowing heart. . . . Grief, of course, could not be forbidden nor suppressed, but it might be chastened. The community was instructed first, to believe that the departed had gone home, and therefore ‘not to grieve as they that are without hope.’”
27 Gesangbuch, 1900

Continued with chapter 10

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