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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 10 The Lamb Victorious

Far more than trivial gifts and Weihnachtsgebäck came to Herrnhut with the holiday season of 1733. Pilgrims, sent out by the brothers, had begun to return with encouraging, but thought-provoking reports. Among those who found their way to Herrnhut with them, was a young seeker from the University of Jena, August Gottlieb Spangenberg. He asked serious questions and serious discussions ensued.

In their discussions the awakened believers at Herrnhut spoke of their Czech and Waldensian background. They mentioned the influence of Lutheran Pietism and of German sectarians upon them. “But where does the Saviour want us to go from here?” they asked one another. “With whom? And how?”

Pondering these questions, and more, Ludwig von Zinzendorf sat by the fire in his house on a cold day. Someone had emptied a trashcan into the flames and he noticed how a scrap of paper fell from the fire without getting burned. Picking it up he saw it was a Watchword, followed by two lines from a familiar German hymn: “Lass uns in deiner Nägelmaal, erblicken unsre Gnadenwahl” (let us see in your nail wounds how you have chosen us through grace).

For a moment Ludwig stood silent while the significance of the Watchword dawned on him. Then, overcome with adoration and holy joy, he fell on his face before Christ. To Ludwig von Zinzendorf and all believers at Herrnhut, the Lord began to reveal, on this winter day, a “Theology of Blood.”

In Christ’s blood and wounds, not in human tradition, would Herrnhut find the right way to go.

In Christ’s blood and wounds, not in narrow demoninationalism, would it discover true fellowship.

Preaching Christ’s blood and wounds, no more, no less, its Pilgrim messengers would find their way to the ends of the earth.

Once he saw Christ’s blood and wounds Ludwig felt free to let self-righteous Pietism—do good, say your prayers, watch out for sin—go. Suddenly he knew that no amount of Frommigkeit (pious works) would save him. He felt the greatness of his own sin and at the same time, wonderful cleansing in Christ’s blood, an immersion by faith in its life-giving stream, and refuge in the wound in his side.1

As the entire community at Herrnhut entered with Ludwig into the reality of this “blood experience” all other concepts of religion faded out among them. They lost sight of everything but Christ’s blood and wounds to such an extent that Ludwig could write, years later: “Since 1734 the reconciling sacrifice of Jesus has become our particular and public and only subject matter, our universal weapon against all evil in teaching and practice, and so it shall remain, into eternity.”2

In the awakening of 1727 the Lord had already transformed the life and practice of Herrnhut’s believers. Now, in the awakening of 1734, he transformed what they believed.

Fountain of Eternal Life

Like Eve sprang to life out of Adam’s side, the Moravians saw the church springing to life from Christ’s holy Seitenschrein (side wound). In it they found the refuge and “true matrix” of the church, giving new birth to souls—the fountain of eternal life in which to baptise all believers “in the Saviour’s blood and water and buried in the hollow of his wound.” Ludwig von Zinzendorf wrote:

It is known what a strong cement the ancients used in their buildings, so that a whole wall was like one stone. But ours excels all. When our house is joined together by the Lamb’s blood, and not the least pebble put in without having the moisture of his wounds upon it, we shall be indissoluble. . . . The pierced side of Jesus is the central point from which all that is spiritual may be deduced. There we find the square root of all spiritual and heavenly matters and on it our system is based.3

A later Moravian historian described what happened:

All the formal details of their faith were in practice so overshadowed by the one doctrine of the vicarious atonement that this became their distinguishing mark in worship, belief, and conversation. The atonement was so mysterious to them that they shrank from any explanation of the controversial words, “this is my body.” Their teaching and preaching were exclusively Christo-centric, not Christological, always directing their thoughts to the sacrificial death of Christ and his Passion.4

Heavenly Bridegroom

Every one of us lies in a deep sleep, dreaming of what we see and hear, the Moravians believed, until the Lord Christ wakes us up. Then, to the degree we “see” Christ, we see reality. Ludwig wrote:

Through great wrestlings of the soul, through thick smoke and fog, through perils of body and spirit, I push my way through to the hosts of the triumphant, to you unbeaten wonder hero, who overthrows all foes for me. While the mustard seed of my faith stirs itself and brings me to lie like a child at your feet, the enemies may cry that I am a fool. I will not fear that I will lose to them a hair. My faith triumphs. I focus on the Wonderful. My all is more than all the world to me, my friend forever true, my Bridegroom red and white, my Paschal Lamb, my guiding star, my love, my beauty, fort, and banner through eternity!5

Jesus, loved from the heart, look and see my heart aflame for you! I seek and run for all I’m worth. No one gets ahead of me. I must find you myself. I must touch and feel you. Is this too bold? Do I want more than what is right? Have I forgotten modesty and overstepped my bounds? If so, forgive me! Love makes me a child!

If I just think, beloved Life, faithful Friend chosen above all others, how you gave yourself for me and how you meant it so gloriously well—I dissolve in great desire to see you, Lord! The reason for my joy in you comes from your goodness. Your fire burns within me. It blazes up within my inner man. In the zeal of my love I reject the world and call it crazy.
With soul and spirit I long for your pastures, Immanuel. Come to me in the shepherd’s clothes that men and angels praise. See, I am a weak lamb. Care for me and protect me!

Come Jesus, see the fire in my soul for you! Feed the flame! Fan it more! Let no one quench it. Let it burn until the light of grace consumes me as a whole!6

First hundreds, then thousands upon thousands of hymns written at Herrnhut expressed the Moravians’ fascination with Christ:

Jesus hear me! My hope is in you! I want to meet you on the way to be led by you! You are my sun. Please do not disappear while I walk through dark and hidden places where light and courage may fail. You are my rest and freedom from the woes of the day! You are my true peace, when I am weary and storms rage about my heart. You are my paradise and sure retreat! Fullness of tranquility, refreshing coolness after the heat of battle! Friend above all others, sincere from the heart, and who, upon noticing the distress of those he loves, comes quickly to comfort them. You are my blessing, my Christ! Take me from the region of Satan’s attack into the fold of which you are shepherd. Let me die in you, so you may live in me! This is how I obtain salvation. Open the door for me! Oh what blessedness, rest, and time of hope! Oh what joy in the light of the Son that keeps on shining there!7

In his speeches to seekers at Berlin, Ludwig said:

Our aim is for everyone to keep up a close conversation with the Saviour. And I am concerned for nothing else but that this would be the case with all of us—that it becomes as natural for us to speak with Christ about anything, great or small, as it is to speak with a brother. I am concerned that before opening our mouths to say anything one to another, we would first have first spoken with the Saviour—and that our speaking one with another is done to maintain fellowship of spirits rather than to seek in it our nearest refuge. . . . Let us be diligent, therefore, in conversing with the Saviour and maintaining a correspondence with his heart.

There must be no possibility that anyone should see us in the morning, or that the light and air should greet us before we have been in conversation with the Lamb. Before any of that takes place, we must be able to say, “He and I have talked a good while together.” Should anyone—at least after we are awake—question it, we should be ready to tell him: “I have not been separated from him all night!”8

Light of the Trinity

The believers at Herrnhut, overcome with the glory of Christ and the saving power of his blood, did not deliberately change their theology. But shortly after 1734 their critics began to point to what they called a “heretical pre-eminence of Christ” in the community’s life and teaching. In response, Ludwig wrote:

The driest theology that has filled the world is the one of those who talk forever about the Father but skip over the Son. That is the devil’s theology. The devil points people to the Father, thinking they will never get to see him anyway, and by doing it so nicely he manages to lead them around the Saviour. The devil places a huge theatrical scene of the Father before the people, hoping to keep them entertained with it, and to keep them convinced that the theologians who figured it out were very wise.9

Believers at Herrnhut related in a personal way to Christ—exclusively. “Prayer to anyone but Christ,” Ludwig von Zinzendorf stated in a public meeting, “is totally unnecessary.”10 Convinced, like him, that “no one comes to the Father except through me [Christ]” the Moravians loved the Lord Sebaoth (God in his omnipresence), and called him “dear Father,” but only because he was the father of Christ. Their relationship to him was like that of a boy to his closest friend’s father—respectful, but strictly coincidental.

The Moravians saw Christ the King as head of the “Court of Elohim” (the heavenly Sanhedrin) and Light of the Trinity. Exactly who the other “persons of the Godhead” were, they did not undertake to define, but spoke of the Father God and the Mother Spirit (die Gemeinmutter) as assistants to Christ the Ruling Son. Sometimes they spoke of Jehovah as their Grandfather or Father-in-law, through Christ. They also believed that God (Christ) is distinctively One God.

“We do not disagree with the Socinians that a common reasonable man ought to worship only one God,” an early writing from Herrnhut stated, “but the dispute between us is: Who is that God?”

“If it were possible that there should be another God than Christ,” Ludwig declared, “I would rather be damned with Christ than happy with another.”

Pattern For The Universe

“Let the one who desires to please God take Christ for his example,” wrote a hymn writer at Herrnhut. “Let him, with a humble spirit and diligence, do everything Christ commands. There is no other way, nor gate, nor door.” 11 Others enlarged on the theme:

Blessed be the diligent soldiers of Christ! Those who refuse to pull on the ropes of sin, who free themselves from pride, hatred, and lust, who overcome the world and bring their own spirits into subjection. Only those who follow Christ in everything are his true soldiers. Those for whom Christ is the way, the light, and the guide, willingly carry his reproach. But those who refuse to go with him to Gethsemane will not share Tabor’s glory with him. Go on, soldiers of Christ! Suffer and do, as Jesus has shown you how! Let his innocence clothe you and you will remain in his ranks. The one who loves Christ, seeks nothing but to be his companion in the fight!12

The chick runs after its mother hen and loves to hear its mother’s voice. Help me, Saviour, to follow you like that. . . . Your life shows me my duty. You are my mirror and my light. Oh Lord, how far I still am from being just like you!

You watched out for the enemy. . . .You served your Father with reverence. You kept yourself far removed from idle laughing and joking. Help me to be watchful and serious-minded too. You died to your fleshly desires, and lived to please God. . . .

You trusted him completely. . . . In suffering you were like a lamb, not opening your mouth. Give me such patience when others mistreat me. Help me to take it as a discipline from God, and not as from men. You liked to be alone and preferred quietness. On the mountain and in the wilderness you prayed, sometimes all night long. Your life was a constant prayer. . . .

You stood with the poor and suffering, and showed patience to the erring. . . . Yet when God’s honour was at stake you took a clear stand. You did not fear fat-bellied and important, the high, the educated, and the rich. Give me that fearless zeal as well, with wisdom and holy insight! Even though men call your way of life subversive and heretical (schwärmerisch und ketzerisch), even though all men shall be ashamed of your way, and even though our neighbours turn against us for following you, we pass through great poverty, distress, and trouble (viel Elend, Angst, und Trübsal) to rejoice on Mount Zion around your throne. If anyone think this way of life is impossible or too complicated, he does not know the teaching of Christ, nor his love. If he would, nothing would seem impossible. In my heart I know that the right and narrow way, the way of the cross, is the only way to you!13

The believers at Herrnhut referred continually to the example of Christ. But they did not hold unrealistic ideas of imitating him in everything. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, known after his conversion as Brother Josef, wrote:

“Christ left us an example that we should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). If we follow this admonition from the heart, our ways will be full of blessing. . . . Yet it is very plain, that while imitating Christ, we should not try to do what he did while on earth as a result of his mediatorial office, and as the great prophet sent by God into the world. For if anyone should try to make the blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, and the lame walk, in imitation of Christ, he would be as much mistaken as if another would, in imitation of Christ, make a cord and whip to drive those out of the church that have as little right be be there as the sheep and oxen had to be in the outer court of the temple.

To imitate Christ, as the Scripture tell us, means only in those areas in which he operated as a man—just like other men, yet without sin. It means, for instance, that we should humble ourselves like he did, choosing to be poor rather than rich in the world. The Scriptures say, “Let everyone that believes on him think like Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). He did not please himself, so we should not please ourselves either (Rom 15:1-3). He denied himself and took up his cross, and anyone that wishes to be his follower must do the same (Mark 3:24).14


 2008/6/21 20:30Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 10 The Lamb Victorious

The Cross

“Give me Lord what your children must have to be of use to you,” Brother Ludwig wrote, “Give me a yoke that fits my neck!” Expressing what all believers at Herrnhut felt, he continued:

Jesus gave us a powerful command that not everyone likes to hear: “Take up your cross and follow me!” Jesus carried his cross and showed us the way to go. He marked it with his sweat and blood. But it leads to glory!

Even before the Messiah’s time, all who would be rewarded with him suffered. That great number of men and women of whom the world was not worthy moved in trouble from place to place and had it tough beyond words.

Why should we not want to have our name in the register of the brave? Why should we not want to suffer for the crown? The evil suffer too, and put forth great effort for things that are not worth it. Let them suffer in vain if they want to. But I have chosen the way where from the seed of the cross one harvests eternal joy!15

God placed men on the earth to rejoice in its beauty and to care for it--not only through hard work and sweat, but also on good days when life goes well and prosperity surrounds them. Christians, however, are not here to have a nice time nor to prosper. Their calling is: “Follow Christ!” They follow him through reproach, forcing their way through narrow places, resisting pressure from without and within, to break forth at last into the place where Christ has broken down the door.16

A New Nature

Even though the awakened at Herrnhut recognised an ongoing “sinful nature” within them, they did not expect it to rule their lives. Neither did they depend on laws and rules to keep it in check. In his messages to seekers in Berlin, Ludwig explained how some try, like Moses, to make men moral through the outward force of the law. “But in this,” he said, “lies the biggest dispute between us and Christian theologians.”

They cannot understand why we lay aside the law (with its moral schemes). They think nothing other than libertinism will follow because of the evil imaginations of men’s hearts. But we say the inclination of a child of God is good. It is not true as they say, that even in children of God the first motions are those of a corrupt nature that must be curbed with constant good reflections and efforts. No. After we become born again our first thoughts tend toward the Saviour. . . . I believe that if an affection for worldly splendour and a craving for sin still occupy first place in a man’s thoughts, or if his inner inclinations still move him to act against the mind of Christ, the Saviour has never yet resided in his heart.

Setting aside all aid of the understanding, even while delirious in a fever, our speech and actions, no matter how confused and weak they may be, must yet testify who is uppermost within. In short, our inclination must constantly be toward what is worthy of Christ. If anything to the contrary shows itself within him . . . or if he begins to feel otherwise, the child of God must certainly be in such a terror that his hair is ready to stand on end!

As long as any object or creature can yield us greater joy than the wounds and person of Christ—as long as we can, even for a fleeting instant, wink at somewhat that is contrary to his principles and glory—we are still unconverted.17


“Timid and ashamed” on receiving grace in their “sinnerlike weakness,” the believers at Herrnhut easily assumed an “altogether tiny and inwardly stooped over (ganz klein und inwendig gebeugt)” disposition. They frequently referred to themselves in letters as “little worms at the feet of Christ” and addressed one another only as “Brother” or “Sister,” believing titles of rank unbecoming. “What does it help to fill our heads with notions of how things are?” asked Ludwig von Zinzendorf. “What does it help to fill our eyes with sights of the temporal? Much better it is to quiet our hearts in holy Gelassenheit (detachment). Much better it is to hang our wills and thoughts with Jesus on the cross, and be a fleck of dust before him. Jesus make me tiny! Through your holy blood make me clean and I will lose myself in you!”18

“The queen of all sins is Hochmuth (haughty pride),” the brothers agreed. “If a man is proud he absolutely cannot be saved, nor can his sins be forgiven. We have no example of the Saviour ever healing or forgiving a proud person. But he saved adulterers who humbled themselves. The proud are the world’s greatest and foremost sinners and in the Gemeine everything depends on becoming very small.”19 In other statements on the subject, believers at Herrnhut confessed:

Only the teaching of the blood and of the Lamb will preserve our children from the greatest sin, that is Hochmuth. In the training of our children we can give them no other example than that of the Lamb who thought nothing of himself, and did nothing for personal glory. If they follow the Lamb they will not walk into sin, yet the children from our Gemeine, must also feel and confess that they are sinners to be saved.

One does not find the Saviour through philosophy. The basis of worldly philosophy stands in direct contradiction to the Saviour and enmity against him is everywhere apparent in what the philosophers say.20

To have a high opinion of self, or to be presumptuous, is a terrible sin. Ambition and jealousy, so easily evident among young children, if left unchecked, can turn our little ones into devils. In this it becomes evident how much depends on our training of children.21

Voluntary Poverty

“The Saviour was and is a poor man,” wrote the brothers in 1753. “The one who desires a close relationship with him must stay poor in material things. He must work and face at least a little hardship to supply his daily needs.”

A hymn writer at Herrnhut wrote:

Proud spirit, high opinion of mine, go look in the dark stable where the Saviour lies, curled up like a worm in poverty and helplessness—our Saviour, God and King! Go there and look, proud selfwill, and inflated spirit!

High spirit of mine, the brotherhood of Christ is small, yet mighty. Poverty is in, and around, and with it. Sink into it to become small and humble. The Saviour goes on before. Throw yourself into the dust, proud spirit, bring down what is high in me!22

To this the Manual of Doctrine added:

Q. What well-grounded presumption do the children of God have against the rich of this world?
A. That they oppress the Brethren and draw them before judgement seats and blaspheme that worthy name whereby they are called.

Q. How do the children of God look on temporal things.
A. They are not to lay up for themselves treasures on earth.

Q. But if they have somewhat?
A. Sell what you have.

Q. How are they to communicate the gifts they have freely received?
A. Freely.

Q. What is the disciples’ chief maxim?
A. Whoever does not forsake all that he hath cannot be his disciple (Luke 14:33)

Brother Josef wrote:

One thing in particular, seems out of keeping with the providence of God. By far the most people are poor. Many are slaves or bondmen, living in misery and keeping themselves alive only with great difficulty—the fruit of their hard labour only serving to increase their masters’ luxury and greed. If they do anything wrong they receive merciless punishment. If they beget children, they know beforehand that they will live in slavery and bondage like themselves. Even where people do not live in actual slavery or bondage, the strong oppress the weak.

Now, if God sees everything that happens on earth, how can he possibly allow all this? Should he not lift his arm and destroy those who abuse their fellow humans?

To this we may answer: God does not think about poverty and riches like we do. He knows that poverty, not wealth, preserves men from a great number of sins. And to what place do wealth and luxury lead us?

If the truth must be said, we have very little good to report of the conduct of men with means. For the most part they forget God and his commandments. They forget they are but stewards of material things and that God will call them to account for how they use them. Of all people on earth, they are the most unfit for the kingdom of God and our Lord says of them (the wealthy) that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one of them to enter his kingdom.

The poor, on the other hand, have far less hindrances. Thorns—that is, the cares of this world according to our Lord’s parable—and the deceitfulness of riches, do not choke the word of God in them. Their understanding is not blurred by philosophical deceits as are those of the wealthy and the educated. Their self-esteem does not grow through flatteries like those offered to the rich. They escape hundreds of temptations to evil that the rich eagerly pursue. Material need drives them to God, and in eternity we shall see why untold numbers have reason to bless God not for temporary goods received, but for having been allowed to be poor in this world.

Holy Simplicity

The believers at Herrnhut recognised Heilige Einfalt (holy simplicity) as the distinguishing mark of all who followed Christ. Brother Josef wrote:

Heilige Einfalt! Wonder of grace! Depth of wisdom, greatest power, supreme adornment, source of love! Work within us that God alone can accomplish! All liberties become bonds, all riches fly away, all beauty becomes shameful, if we do not have it!

Seeing clearly with Einfalt (a single eye) our souls light up inside. But if we see double, everything blurs and our vision grows dim. The one who trusts Jesus alone, the one who finds all things in him, rests on the rock—a child in the blessing of grace.23

Another hymn writer wrote:

The narrow way is wide enough for life. If one walks carefully, straight, and still, one will not easily be blown from it. One must concentrate on it all the time, then it is truly wide enough for life. The way of Christ is full of sweet pleasures if one walks it correctly—that is, with faith. And if one puts his heart into it, joyfully, preparing well for the journey, it is full of sweet pleasures.

How can a bear be gentle like a sheep? Or wild wolves submit to close restriction? How can the flesh be minded to obey God and love the way of the Spirit? It is impossible. A bear cannot be gentle like a sheep. Spirit must be born of Spirit before we can walk the Spirit’s narrow way. Otherwise it is complicated, and does not work. Worldly minds, be gone! Worldly pleasures, go away! Of Spirit my spirit must be born.

The one born of Christ, follows him only, with a true heart. He suffers, he bears reproach with Christ, before he goes with him, rejoicing, into light. The one born of Christ, is buried with him in death. He rises with Christ and ascends with him to heaven. He receives the gifts of the Spirit of Christ, if he is willing to die with him.

The Spirit that directed Christ, directs his disciples. The same Spirit does the same things for both. There is only one way of the Spirit and Christ’s disciples walk that way. It does not matter if the way passes through thorns. Only with our heels we tread on thorns. Sorrow causes no deep hurt if we press on, comforted and steadfast, through death and hell (the grave).

The light yoke cannot rest heavy upon us. It only crushes what is evil—the new man goes free! The yoke of Christ does not crush the one who knows how to carry it. It is light and easy. Its light and pleasant burden makes our inner beings glad. It lifts our hearts. Our Spirits gain new courage and our lives wake up to bloom. We taste the goodness of God when our light burdens make our inner beings glad.

Show me, Jesus, show me how to follow you! I am still far behind. Your narrow way is full of sweet pleasures. Good things follow us on it. Show me, Jesus, show me how to walk like you!24

One only enjoys an undivided heart by keeping one’s focus on Christ. Brother Ludwig wrote:

Whoever wants true holiness . . . must look for it in the heart and person of Jesus. He must know nothing but that the Saviour loves him and love him in return. Then, no matter if he is a child, a youth, or a man, he will become what he ought to be, accepted in the beloved and resting in the Father’s affection like Jesus himself during the stages of his earthly life. He may have defects. He may weep sometimes, and be cheerful. Yet he belongs to the family. . . . And his heart delights in becoming humble, faithful, chaste, kind, and gracious, like the Lamb.

The moment we begin to live and act in Christ he makes us holy. He transforms us so that we begin to think like he does in every situation. We begin to believe, to hope, to weep, and to rejoice like him. Truthfully, we begin to long for him in love, whether eating, drinking, working, doing business, sleeping, or anything else. In a sense we become absent characters, only half engaged in what we do, because our souls run after him. . . . At times he lets us feel his nearness, appearing to us in his bleeding form, so we may be patient with our earthly state for the time being.25

Another hymn writer at Herrnhut wrote:

I went tapping along, blind, in the wilderness. My mind and motives were in the dark. My impure will was aflame with worldly passions. But when the faithful shepherd found me and guided me back onto the right way, ungodliness left and in faith I was born again!

Jesus kills the impulse to sin when the old man is put off. Raging waves of temptation lie back and become still, when he as much as lifts his finger against them. He comes to live in the heart and lights its guiding lamps by which to walk in faith through purity, righteousness, and holiness—the proofs of the godly life.26


 2008/6/23 18:56Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 10 The Lamb Victorious


Innocence and Joy

Not uncommonly, when asked how they were, believers at Herrnhut answered “kindvergnügt” (happy as a child). Living no longer with fears of the past (guilt), worries about the present, or future concerns, they relaxed in Christ like children in the presence of a loving parent. This set them free to sing, to rejoice in fellowship together, or even to play in a manner most unfamiliar to the rest of Europe at the time. In a message, Ludwig von Zinzendorf said:

It would be unmerciful to forbid all diversions. To condemn even innocent pleasures is a characteristic of melancholy minds. [Innocent pleasures] may be useful, if for nothing else than to sweeten this mortal existence for those who have nothing better.

The one who becomes a new person in Jesus Christ sees mortality in an altogether different light. . . . He notices what is pleasant in it, even as things now stand. His slavery ends and he fears no longer. He lifts up his head in sickness and age, for redemption, not fear, stands before him. He does not anticipate Sheol nor eternal silence, but expects to leave his body to be present with the Lord. . . . Whatever seemed illogical and offensive to him before, now demands his respect and awe. He thinks like Jesus, does all physical functions like him, prays, works, journeys, sickens and dies like him.27


Fully conscious of Christ’s humanity, and patterning their lives after his earthly example, the Moravians accepted all of human experience straightforwardly and with common sense. They believed every Christian, the married as well as the single, could (and should) follow Christ. “We ask our married couples to be aware of the presence of Christ in all their affairs,” agreed the brothers in 1753, “so that they may live before him in joy.”

Moral purity, they also associated with cleansing through faith in the blood. Even though they did not practice outward circumcision, Ludwig von Zinzendorf wrote:

Through the merit of the wound of circumcision we trust our choirs will live in sanctity and that our youth and virgins will keep their bodies from a dissolute nature, reserved to the Creator alone. Doing this, they will be able to use them for his service in a right way, if and when it shall be his will [in marriage]. And in the state of marriage we also trust that the perfectly chaste man, Jesus Christ, will free the act of begetting children from the enchantment of uncontrolled lust (entwined into this act as if by magic), according to his original plan. We trust he will also free our women from the usual dread of child bearing, and make this act—even though it is painful—such a holy experience of worship to God that they can rejoice in it body and soul.28

In celebrations of pre-marital purity and the consecration of their bodies to Christ, the young sisters found fellowship with Mary whose heart the Saviour’s presence had warmed. The young brothers’ choir, on the other hand, held the occasional Beschneidungsfest (circumcision feast) “in honour of Christ’s first wound.” For this, Ludwig, wrote a hymn:

Head of the young men of your people of grace . . . most holy wound of the covenant that you as a small boy received in your member—otherwise known as the member of shame but through this cut restored to its place of reverent honour—may you be praised with a hundred thousand tears by the choir that understands the depth of your secret covenant! From the first drop of blood from this wound . . . now comprehended by the choir that sees the human body through spiritual eyes, the old system of shame-ideas began to disappear. . . . The young boys’ choir has become the joy of the church, converted and consecrated to a host of young men for Christ! Hail to the march of the church! Hail to the ranks of our youth, and to the youthful Jesus’ praise!

This sacramental wound is a wound of dedication. It casts down the ideas of the world and renews creation’s glory in us. In the choir we no longer think like people used to. We no longer live in suspense, nor in a vacuum of lack of knowledge. Now we can think like the Creator when he designed our bodies. We see his holy destination for our bodies like Jesus saw it when he was a young man. . . .

The pain of the covenant wound takes with it what still belongs to the power of sin. . . . The wheel of nature, always turning back to active sin, is stopped by the cut that severs the birth-hood from the most honoured member and makes the desire of youth like Jesus’ mortified body. . . . Then the fierceness departs, and the ways of the Lamb appear in the face of youth. . . . After young men become permeated with Jesus-likeness, nothing shows itself in their members anymore that is not like Jesus. Their bodies may look just like before, but Christ who suffered this agony becomes visible in the whole choir, that even in their bedrooms set nothing before one another but the image of Joseph’s son.

With the wound of the covenant, the reproductive power of young men is consecrated and legitimized in the choir. . . . And even though our congregation has sorted out a number of young men and destined them for marriage, those who are still bent before the Lamb in their unmarried state, seek to become like Jesus in everything until every last member of the body honours him alone.

It is also within God’s plan, when one of the Jesus-like young men proceeds to holy marriage. It may cause sadness (on the part of those left behind) but when the Lamb himself comes and calls one of his servants to become a member of the married congregation, it is a joy to all. . . . Therefore, may God Consecrator, God the man of all states of life, God the praise of the church, be honoured before all the world. He who fulfills his purposes in the church sprinkled with his blood—the church that awaits your flame, Creator God, Man and Lamb!29

In their choirs, the believers at Herrnhut observed the separatio sexus (segregation of men and women) with zeal. A wall even separated brothers from sisters during worship in the Saal.

Along with this, the congregation early turned to the use of the lot to discern the Lord’s will in marriage (young men drawing papers with names from a box that always held a blank or two). Worldly romance had no place in Herrnhut. Complete resignation to the Saviour’s choice took its place, and marriage, for the Moravians, became nothing but “a practical means of advancing God’s kingdom,” or a “strategic union to promote spiritual development.” Nevertheless—unlike their critical neighbours expected—young men and women who found each other in this atmosphere of Gelassenheit (personal surrender of the will) rather than the passion of romance, virtually always established joyful and stable homes.

Sins of a moral nature among the Moravians were rare, and divorce unknown.


Following Christ, the Moravians returned at once to his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, and to the practice of their ancestors, Petr Chelčický, and the Poor. Brother Ludwig, soon after the renewal of the brotherhood, said publicly:

Our congregation does not hold to the opinion . . . that the children of God shall be masters of this world and root out the ungodly. That is a notion in no way suiting the kingdom of the cross. For what should we do with scepters and jurisdiction, if our Saviour would give them to us? We are not made for such things. On the other hand, we respect from the heart those that are called and will take the trouble to rule over us, to be our kings, princes, and protectors.30

The Moravians’ Manual of Doctrine covered Christ’s teaching on nonresistance:

Q. How do the children of God treat their enemies?
A. They love them (Matthew 5:44)

Q. When cursed by them?
A. Then they bless.

Q. When hated by them?
A. Then they do good to them.

Q. When despitefully used by them?
A. Then they pray for them that it may not be laid to their charge.

Q. Why do they act in this manner?
A. That they may be the children of the Father which is in heaven.

Q. Who hath given the greatest example herein?
A. Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends. And Jesus hath reconciled us by his death when we were enemies.

Q. What is one specific rule of Christ?
A. give to him that asketh thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Q. And another?
A. Whoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Q. Further?
A. Resist not evil.

Q. For instance?
A. If any man will sue that at the law and take away thy coat let him have thy cloak also.

Q. If any one should lay hands on us?
A. Whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also.

When brothers from Herrnhut investigated possibilities of settlement in other lands, their nonresistant position raised questions. Brother Josef, meeting with the Dutch West India Company, explained what they believed at Amsterdam, in 1734. “Beyond a refusal to serve in the army, how far does discipline reach?” Dutch officials asked him. “Would you take part in meting out criminal justice, that is, in capital punishment?”

“No,” Brother Josef replied, “we would not. The government carries the sword, and that not in vain. But the highest discipline we use in the Gemeine is the Ausschluß (excommunication). In this we seek to walk by the rule of Christ and the apostles who exercised no worldly authority.”

When the believers settled in Georgia the British asked their young men to enlist or else hire a substitute. David Nitschmann explained why, for the love of Christ, they could not obey. Neither would they register, or help the British build a fort in Savannah.

“When a person does something against us, we need to be so friendly to him that he soon forgets he wronged us,” wrote the brothers in 1728. “And by doing so he does not become our enemy because of shame.”31

Along with their nonresistant position, the Moravians took Christ’s command literally, not to swear. “We would rather have our hands cut off than raise them to swear an oath,” testified Pilgrims enroute to the New World.

Into all the World

In their Manual of Doctrine the Moravians discussed the responsibilities of Pilgrims sent out to tell the world about Christ:

Q. What do they wait for in the execution of their charge?
A. For open doors 1 Cor. 16:9

Q. What is the sign of this?
A. Many adversaries.

Q. Where is it best to preach?
A. Where Christ is yet unknown.

Q. Why?
A. That one might not build upon another man’s foundation.

But along with Scriptural theory they had a wealth of practical experience to draw from. Christian David, for years a roving evangelist and daring knight of the Kingdom, wrote on a journey to Latvia in 1729:

A person unwilling to move from place to place and to live among the common people, or one who cannot survive in poverty, would not get much accomplished here in Livonia. In the four months I have spent here at the Wollmarshof I have suffered more hunger and thirst than I did in Herrnhut during eight years. . . . The one who seeks souls dare seek nothing else, or he loses himself.32

In another letter, Christian David wrote to seekers at Nürnberg:

[To evangelise effectively] one must remember how the dear Saviour once assumed the form of a servant, and while among poor blind people, sat down at their feet. He knew how to fit in anywhere to win people over and persuade them. Even today he adjusts his message to fit all people with their religions, customs, and practices. He gives all of them in every place the most suitable freedom, gifts, powers and mediators.

In the same way, God’s children today should live irreproachably and like true Christians among those that are outside, seeking to remove their prejudice in every conceivable way, approaching them with deference, answering all questions modestly, being of service to them, and showing them love on first opportunity. In all things concerning the church they should seek to adapt themselves, not staying away from public services unless necessary, not abusing the freedom of the children of God, but according to love willingly becoming servants that correctly use what others abuse. They should hallow what others profane, willingly fellowshipping with them in their degenerate sects, but only as the good salt of the earth, and to become all things to all men.33

“One does not start by telling heathen people about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” decided the brothers in a meeting at Herrnhut. “Rather, one must start by telling them of the Saviour. Then, when they are children of God, one may go on to speak to them about the Father, the Spirit, and the Holy Three in One.”34 Several years later they added:

Among the heathen one must not speak in an abstract way about a “Great Spirit” or similar concepts. One must speak directly, and at once, about Jesus our Saviour. One must seek to develop the friendship and inclinations of the people toward him. Then, out of the concept of the Saviour comes their understanding of God.35

An early Moravian Pilgrim to the West Indies wrote: “The Methodists’ way of converting people is to shake them over hell, but of the loving Jesus one hears very little. They teach that one must be holy for God to accept us.” In contrast to this, the brothers at Herrnhut wrote in 1739:

Our plan of action as a church is to aim for the heart at once. We attempt to bring all people to a knowledge of Jesus the crucified one in their hearts, and to see the value of his wounds as the most important thing, so that it may remain their motivation from that point on for the rest of their lives.

In a meeting on August 21, 1742, the brothers decided on two rules for Pilgrims sent out. First, they were not to meddle into the work of other Christians. Second, they should “avoid disputes with any contentious person, choosing to remain quiet rather than to argue. On meeting contentious people, they should hear them out, then answer with a terse, ‘That is my view too,’ or, ‘I do not believe that way,” and avoid further argument.”

“What we teach must be so simple,” the brothers agreed, “that whoever wants to argue against us must find himself in the position of speaking against the clear light of the sun. We must be very careful how we refute what others say.”36

Wherever they went, the Moravians held to a clear plan of action. In some places they established “home” communities. In others they simply encouraged seekers in forming fellowships of their own. “To bring the Gospel to the heathen and to establish colonies,” they concluded in 1747, “are two different matters. In the latter case the brothers and sisters must prosper in a material way to keep on living. But in the former they must be resolved to lay material pursuits aside.” Then, no matter what their calling, or how they adapted themselves to local situations, Ludwig von Zinzendorf’s words applied:

If we continue faithful, and preach nothing to any one but what the Holy Ghost has already told them in the spirit, we shall see true and lasting fruit, even though the numbers and noise may be less.37


 2008/6/24 20:36Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 10 The Lamb Victorious


The Saviour’s Church

“The first purpose of Christ’s death was to save us from sin,” wrote the brothers at Herrnhut. “The second purpose was to bring all of us scattered children of God together in one spirit, in one soul, in one invisible, and finally in a local, visible, body.” To this they added:

Every soul must deal directly with the Saviour. We dare not become middle men in the process. The Saviour must deal personally with every soul, or else the soul has nothing. . . . The all-satisfying heart religion is a matter between the individual and the Saviour alone, but as soon as it becomes a matter between Jesus and I, and this one and that one as well, it is the Gemein (community). In the community of believers the Holy Ghost is prophet, Christ is priest, and we the members are the little church.”38

Describing this Gemeinschaft (community, fellowship) of believers, a Herrnhut hymn writer wrote:

Gemeinschaft with the children of God, how sweet and good it is! Gemeinschaft in the ridicule we face, Gemeinschaft in steady peace, Gemeinschaft from the earliest strirrings of our hearts that were hard as stone, Gemeinschaft on the journey through the valley of the shadow of death to the highway of life. Unknown treasures of the Kingdom of the Cross open up to us when we begin to struggle in Gemeinschaft and become as brothers and sisters one to another. Man was not meant to be alone. Neither did Jesus design the new life to be lived in the wilderness.

Brothers, let us all take care, lest the sweet unity that promises success to what we do—the unity that is our hope of victory in battle, the treasure of the elect, and the entertainment of heroes on their days of rest—should break down.

Remember, souls, the brothers and sisters who love you. Prepare to use for one another the beautiful gifts you received on entering Jesus’ Kingdom. You men, pray without wavering! You women, teach without using words! Young men, struggle against flesh and the devil! Young women, pursue quietness! All of you, run until you grab the prize!

Remember, the whole world rests on rotting pillars. Our work shall stand against it! Let some, diligently supported by the rest, go and engender Jesus-souls. Let us all permit ourselves to be elected ornaments for Salem, the glory and praise of God’s city of peace!39

For as much as the believers at Herrnhut valued their church community, they did not put it into the place of Christ. “The one who developes a close relationship with the church but who does not know the Saviour,” the brothers agreed in 1749, “is a dangerous person. Through people like this, many are brought to ruin.” At the same time, they made it clear they did not consider Herrnhut all there was to the church of Christ.

“The Moravian church dare not be looked at as synonymous with the Church of God,” the brothers agreed. “Even though there may be as many as twenty Christian groups in the world, there is only one Christian Church—one family of God, with one heart and one head. . . . This is the church of all that look to the Saviour.”40 After receiving a sister back into the congregation (from which she had been excommunicated) an early Moravian Pilgrim to Suriname wrote:

In a meeting for the whole congregation we explained our service in the Gospel and the name Herrnhuter usually attached to us . . . . That name has caused all manner of misconceptions and misunderstandings. Far too many times people compare the “Herrnhuter church,” the “Herrnhuter doctrines,” or even the “Herrnhuter religion” with the Lutheran, Reformed or other Christian churches and Judaism. We told the congregation how they ought to see themselves simply as members one of another in our Brüdergemeinde (brothers’ community), and how our Brüdergemeinde in turn is simply a tiny segment of the whole church, the true church and Gemeinde of Christ, partially visible and partially invisible over the face the earth. Our hearts’ desire is that everyone who wants to belong to the church will not rest until the Spirit of Christ has made him a member of the living church and body of Christ. If this would be our goal and become a reality among us it would not happen so often that baptised and communicant members hide sin, covering it up with lies and hypocrisy, only to keep on being counted as brothers and sisters or members of the Herrnhuter church!41

Brother Josef, thinking of similar problems, wrote:

Christianity—that is, all who preach Christ and are called Christians—has been broken up into many groups. Now if every one of those groups lived as closely as possible to the truths with which it is been entrusted, if every one tried continually to lessen its errors and abuses, they might all exist near one another without getting into each other’s way. But if any one of these groups begins to presume it is the Church of Christ, or to present itself as the only church in which a man can be saved, it judges itself too leniently and others too severely.

We cannot deny that some groups are more attractive than others, and that more of the Gospel’s truth is to be found in some than in others. In the same way, more hindrances to the way of godliness may be found in some, and the rules and constitution of others are more in agreement with the Bible. Some leave more room for errors against the doctrine of Jesus, and others control scandalous vices and sins more effectively, etc. Nevertheless, we may hope in God that he will bring many seeking souls to grace in every one of these groups. Even in Elijah’s idolatrous times, the Lord had reserved seven thousand to himself that had not bowed their knee to Baal. In the same way today, even though apostasy is everywhere visible, who would doubt that his power can do the same again? Who would doubt that the Good Shepherd can preserve his sheep—those who know his voice and follow him in simplicity and truth—in and among all the Christian groups?

Certainly the Moravians believed in an “ecumenical and catholic” church (the undivided body of Christ in its entirety. But they believed just as firmly in the need for visible church communities. Ludwig von Zinzendorf wrote:

The Community of God in the Spirit may be called the invisible Church of Christ, as described in Hebrews 12. This is the church everyone enters when he is born again. It is the church above, but there is also a church below: a visible church.

The visible church is either militant or triumphant. The militant church, out of the wisdom of God, has not been unified, neither in belief nor practice, ever since the days of the apostles, except in those places where it has had an outward communion. There the church is to united in order, in love, and in basic beliefs, and the brothers who separate themselves from such a congregation are heretics with the spirit of Korah. These little visible churches are not stationary nor permanent.

The invisible church has many members that do not know the blessing of belonging to such visible congregations. Many of them belong instead to the sects. The sects are large groups of people with one confession who do not have the power of Christ but who confuse confessional unity for real church unity. Where children of God live in such a sect they must discern whether it is harmful or not. Harmful sects are those that teach fundamental errors in doctrine or practice, those that use force to compel people to believe in a certain way, and those who condemn others. Such sects one dare not support nor condone. One must testify against them and do what one can to draw together a fellowship of true followers of Christ. If this is allowed within the sect, it is alright. But if not, one must keep on witnessing fearlessly to the truth, with godliness and honesty, until one gets thrown out of it.

We need to warn all men about the poison of sectarianism in belief and practice, but we should not encourage people to leave the sects at once. Such encouragement has very negative results, and if followed in the wrong spirit can greatly hinder the work of Christ.42

“Our church,” agreed the brothers at Herrnhut, “is a free city for all souls desiring to be true to their consciences. We love other churches too, both from the east and from the west and seek quarrels with none. We do not encourage people to leave other churches to join ours. In fact we do all we can to deter them from doing so. Our only purpose is to point all men to the Head of the Church himself.”43 With this remarkable belief, Herrnhut became one of the few Christian communities as easy to leave as to join. Ludwig von Zinzendorf wrote:

It is a principle among us to set before everyone the unqualified option of going away at any time. Hearts truly laid hold of by the wounds of Jesus, will not go away and get lost. Confidence among brothers may fail, but hearts [preserved by Christ] find their way back.44

Gestures of Humble Deference

The brothers at Herrnhut practised the Christian rites—water baptism, communion in bread and wine, the holy kiss, feetwashing, and others—asking no questions, only performing with joy these “gestures of humble deference” for Christ. Even though they took them seriously, the Moravians did not feel that baptism or communion saved them. “At the cross,” the brothers agreed in 1740, “the blood of Christ was sprinkled over all humanity. Therefore all children are saved.” Several years later they added: “The believer who dies unbaptised is not for that reason condemned.”

Concerned that none should depend on outer rites where inner conviction failed, the brothers agreed in 1753:

Our children are not ready to go along to communion just because they are ours and have reached years of accountability. Rather, when they individually become partakers of God’s life within them, they come to the place where they need this spiritual food.

Even their choir and educational system did not look to the Moravians like anything to lean on. In a meeting they took note:

For the training of children one does not necessarily need institutions like ours. . . . The goal in our home congregations should be for all parents to educate their own children. Our ongoing need for congregational institutions is mute evidence of our shortcoming in this area.45

Such modest views of their own work helped the Moravians to conduct their affairs in a relaxed and joyful way. “In normal situations,” the brothers, for instance, agreed, “chosen leaders should hold communion services. But when they are gone, other honest disciples of Christ, on whom the Spirit rests, may well serve the congregation.”46

Modesty also prevented unhealthy “spiritual competition” and a desire to demonstrate special gifts in public meetings. Christian David wrote:

Jesus and the apostles usually prayed in secret, except during great and extraordinary awakenings, and this is really when one should pray in public. . . . But when one seeks guidance in deep matters, one must do it in quietness and deal with one’s innermost being. In such cases one does not need many words. One does not need much audible prayer, or outward activity.

[The Pietists at Halle] conduct prayer meetings, and that is the end of it. It may be good for beginners, but after they learn how to rattle off long wordy prayers to be heard by men, the results are nil, as examples show.47

A hymn writer at Herrnhut wrote:

The one who desires nothing on earth lets God’s love take care of everything. His inner being remains quiet. His pulse remains normal. His heart is at rest. In the midst of all manner of dangers his vision remains clear.48

Before taking part in communion, Moravian believers washed one anothers’ feet. Their Manual of Doctrine stated:

Q. What action did the Lord Jesus perform towards his friends before his departure?
A. Jesus rose from supper, laid aside his garments and washed his disciples feet.

Q. What compact did he make with them?
A. Since I your Lord and master have washed your feet you ought also to wash one another’s feet.

Q. Did he do it on purpose that they might copy him?
A. He said, “I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.”

Then, followed the “blessed warriors’ meal” in six stages. First we need to confess our sins and forgive the sins of others. Second, we enter by faith “the holy of holies,” that is, collective awareness of being “in Christ, hidden from the world and safe in the wound in his side.” Only in such a condition, the Moravians believed, may communion services become meaningful to us.

The third stage of communion comes with the eating of the bread—Christ, the bread of life, coming into us. Only as he does this, and his presence becomes real, dispelling sin, do heavenly light and joy descend upon us. The fourth stage is the welling up of our love for him, as we remember his body, broken for us. The fifth stage is forgiveness of sins as we drink the wine and believe in the merits of the blood. The sixth and final stage is fellowship one with another around the table of the Lamb, celebrated by the holy kiss of peace.

Brother Josef wrote:

Holy Communion is a mysterious enjoyment of the body and blood of Christ. That is, we enjoy the bread and wine by associating it with the body and blood of Jesus in a manner incomprehensible to us, and therefore inexpressible, whenever the Holy Supper of the Lord is enjoyed according to the mind of Jesus Christ.49

In 1747 the brothers agreed:

In the innermost parts of the Spirit we are with the Saviour every hour and every moment. We are with literally in his presence, but in the Evening Meal we are also with him in a sacramental way. The first is for the heart, the second is also for the sake of Gemeinschaft.

Bowed before the Word

Highly exalting Christ, the Living Word, led believers at Herrnhut to exalt his recorded words as well. “The moment one comprehends the sacrifice of Christ and his eternal love, one comprehends all of Scripture,” the brothers agreed in 1740. “The one who understands the redemption paid for by Christ, understands the highest wisdom and is, of all philosophers, the greatest. . . . Where the understanding of Christ’s work is missing however, even fifty years of good works will be of no avail!”

The brothers also wrote:

We cannot learn doctrine from human books, rather we must wait until the Holy Ghost reveals things to us from the Scriptures, time after time. That is what makes us wise to Kingdom of Heaven. The knowledge of this blesses souls and makes those who are already blessed, more blessed (jedes solches Erkenntnis macht Seelen selig, und die seligen seliger).50

About matters that are against the Scriptures we need ask no questions.51

Where we have a clear command in Scripture, we have no business nor right to examine the matter further—except to discern how and when to obey it, and to whom it applies.52

Ludwig von Zinzendorf, wrote:

I set the gold, the noble gift of the Word, far above worldly possession and wealth. If the Word should no longer count, on what would faith rest? I would give up a thousand worlds before giving up the Word. Being the Word’s witnesses is a higher calling than the world can comprehend. We witness to its power, the power of the Word the Father sent out: the Lamb of God! We, the Bridegroom’s friends and relatives, testify of it.

World, you see wonders wrought by Jesus, the Word, in human flesh. He works wonders in the lives of the poor from whose faces the light of eternity beams! You see this from afar. Does it not move you?53

If nothing else, it moved the believers at Herrnhut to an unsurpassed degree, as described in a statement from the Pilgergemeine, meeting at London, in 1742:

The distinguishing mark of all our congregations is to cleave to the Lamb, our mediator, not hindering him in declaring anything his Father wants to tell us. . . . We know not where to fly but to him and his wounds We can appeal to nothing higher, to know him is for us a sea of perfection. His love, in which the lies the mystery of his atonement, is most beautiful to us. All the saints in heaven will never have admired it enough, and to sing of it unceasingly is our theme. If we, as a result of this affection, are accused of a certain vagueness or indifference to everything else, we own that accusation to be true.54

“Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur (Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him)!” became the song and banner of the renewed Moravian Church.

1 Jacob John Sessler (see Bibliography) wrote: “Zinzendorf, although a pietist, was not long a follower of the pietism typical of Halle, because he could not correlate his own experience with the struggle of repentance which was emphasized there. Whereas they stressed repentance, struggle, fear, and an angry God, the count emphasized love, peace, and fellowship with Christ. For him regeneration was instantaneous and complete, and with it the reign of love and fellowship with Christ began immediately, resulting in gradual sanctification.”
2 Cranz, David, Alte und Neue Brüder-Historie, Barby, 1771, pg. 231
3 Berliner Reden, 1738
4 Jacob John Sessler, Communal Pietism
5 Zinzendorf, Gedichte
6 ibid.
7 Gesangbuch, 76
8 Berliner Reden, 1738
9 Zinzendorf, Er das Licht und wir der Schein
10 Nine Publick Discourses Preached in Fetter Lane Chapel, 1746
11 Gesangbuch, 217
12 ibid., 441
13 ibid., 430
14 August Gottlieb Spangenberg, Idea Fidi Fratrum
15 Gedichte: Kreuz, des Christen Los
16 ibid.: Christenberuf
17 Berliner Reden, 1738
18 Gesangbuch, 506
19 Dienerkonferenz, 1746
20 ibid.
21 ibid. 1747
22 Gesangbuch, 218
23 ibid. 1778
24 ibid. 432
25 Berliner Reden, 1738
26 Gesangbuch, 134
27 Berliner Reden, 1738
28 ibid.
29 Abridged from Gesangbuch, 2220
30 Berliner Reden, 1738
31 Dienerkonferenz, 1728
32 Letter to the brothers at Herrnhut, from Riga, November, 1729.
33 From a letter to seekers at Nürnberg, ca. 1730.
34 Dienerkonferenz, 1740
35 ibid. 1747
36 ibid. 1741
37 Berliner Reden, 1738
38 Dienerkonferenz, 1753
39 Gesangbuch, 711
40 Dienerkonferenz, 1753
41 Diarium von Bambey, 8. Oktober, 1781
42 Extract-Schreibens, d.d. Mens. Febr. 1730, nach W. in Ehstland
43 Dienerkonferenz, 1753
44 Berliner Reden, 1738
45 Dienerkonferenz, 1747
46 ibid. 1753
47 From a letter to Ludwig von Zinzendorf, June, 1732.
48 Gesangbuch, 474
49 Spangenberg, Idea Fidi Fratrum
50 Dienerkonferenz, 1738
51 ibid. 1740
52 ibid. 1753
53 Gedichte: Liebe zum Wort
54 From the record of a meeting of elders and deacons at London, 1742.

Continued with Chapter 11

 2008/6/25 19:14Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 11 Go!

“Go and dance! Go, look at the girls! Go to the tavern, for once, and be normal!”

Five serious young men looked at the village Burgomaster and said nothing. What could they say? Deep in Roman Catholic Moravia in 1724, deeply convicted to follow Christ, they could not obey the man, even though he meant his advice well—and even though he was Johann Töltschig’s father (Johann being one of the five).

The boys saw nothing but conflict, more threats, and danger ahead. When Johann’s father forbade them under pain of severe punishment to meet again, they knew they had only one option. At ten o’clock the following evening David Nitschmann and Melchior Zeisberger—like the Töltschigs of German Waldensian background—joined Johann to flee. Hastily made plans worked. Once out of earshot they knelt to sing the old Unity hymn, “Blessed be the day when I must roam, far from my country, friends, and home,” and struck out for Leszno in Poland.

On the way to Poland they stopped to see the Moravian refugees at Herrnhut, in Germany. The sight that met their eyes disappointed them. The grain looked poor. Large families lived in makeshift houses. But when a group gathered to lay the cornerstone for a school and orphanage (they happened to arrive at Herrnhut on May 12, 1724), their disillusionment turned into amazement and joy.

Brother Ludwig prayed at the laying of the cornerstone. “Dear Lord, if what we are doing is at all useful to you, bless it. But if this is nothing but the product of our own schemes and actions, destroy it at once. Do not let us go on with anything but what you have in mind.”

Inspired with such humility before Christ, and such a surrender of plans and wills, the three young men decided to travel no further. They stayed at Herrnhut and after the awakening of 1727, Johann was one of the first to hear the call of Christ to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

With Wenzel Neisser and David Nitschman, Johann set out for England in 1728. Carrying little with them but a burning desire to preach Christ, and to share with others the blessings they had received, the young men ran out of money in the Netherlands and one of them nearly got sold as a bond servant to the East Indies. But Christ came to their rescue. Money appeared, and at the home of a Dutch merchant in London they met two seekers, John and Charles Wesley.

No Choice But To Go

While Johann Töltschig visited seekers in England and Ireland, and other believers travelled through Poland to Latvia and Russia, to Denmark, Switzerland, and beyond, all of Herrnhut prepared itself for the road. German authorities had turned hostile. Disturbed by Herrnhut’s rapid growth, they exiled Brother Ludwig in 1736 and took measures against the refugees around him.

Far to the west, in the valley of the Wetter River—the “Wetterau” between Frankfurt am Main and the Taunus highlands—an indebted nobleman, the Count of Ysenburg-Wächtersbach came to their aid. His fields destroyed by a long history of war and neglect, lay in weeds. His castle, the Ronneburg, stood in disrepair. No matter what the Moravians believed, the count welcomed them onto his estate with an eye on their willingness to work and technical skills.

The first refugees from Herrnhut entered the old Ronneburg with sinking hearts. Animals had slept in the place. No door or window closed properly. No stairs were safe to use. Rats scampered off into dark cobwebby corners, and a strange collection of tramps, drunkards and gypsies slept among garbage on the grounds. But the love of Christ soon transformed the cheerless place. Working with their children and visitors from far and near, the Moravians cleaned and repaired the castle and planted the fields around it. They began a free school for the children of the area and gave their ragged neighbours clothes. The Lord blessed their work and as fast as pilgrims went out to preach Christ, new seekers came to join the community.

Not long after their arrival in the Wetterau, the Count of Ysenburg-Meerholz let the believers move into the much homier and better cared for castle of Marienborn, nearby. But the movement grew so fast that all buildings on the grounds filled up and by 1738 the third heir of the Ysenburg family, the Count of Ysenburg-Büdingen, gave them land on which to build a new community however they desired.

Widening Horizons

Working with boundless zeal and joy, the brothers and sisters built the choir houses, the Saal, and the circle of barns and outbuildings that became the new community of Herrnhaag (the Lord’s refuge). Contacts with seekers in Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, and throughout Germany and Scandinavia brought a stream of new residents until several thousand lived under careful management there. Its fields and workshops, tended to by many willing hands, prospered. Within a few years the brothers could loan money to their landlord counts, and more became available all the time to send Pilgrims out with the Word.

Peter Böhler, a young German believer sailed to England the year of Herrnhaag’s founding. No sooner could he communicate in English than he found himself speaking to crowds of one to four thousand people, sometimes as many as twenty times a week. In spite of the persecution of wealthy and powerful people, the brothers founded new communities they named Grace Hill (Gnadenberg) and Lamb’s Hill (Lammsberg, renamed Fulneck) in Yorkshire, and Ockbrook in Derby. Johann Töltschig moved on to Ireland and many seekers found Christ and one another there.

Protestant leaders resented the Moravians’ arrival in England. They distrusted their communal order, their refusal to bear arms, and above all their “blood fanaticism.” Under growing pressure the English government passed a law forcing all young men attending Moravian meetings into military service, while at Swindon in Wiltshire an angry crowd drenched the English convert, John Cennick, with water from a fire engine. At Stratton they sprayed him with blood saved up from the butcher, and angry cries of, “Lamb, Lamb,” followed Moravian Pilgrims wherever they went. But by 1749, King George II granted them the privilege (like the Quakers) not to swear oaths or bear arms.

For several years a Moravian community—Pilgerruh, the “Pilgrims’ Rest”— existed in the north German province of Schleswig. Some from Herrnhut settled in the Hanseatic city of Reval (now Tallin, Estonia), and in the Netherlands on the estate of Heerendyk in the barony of Ysselstein. After a number of years they moved from there into an old castle at Zeist. Wherever they travelled, or wherever they found lodging for a time, they kept their transience clearly in mind. Brothers and sisters, especially those of the Pilgergemeine, moved continually further until twenty-five years after Johann Töltschig left for England they had reached more than a million people around the world with the Gospel—in forty-three languages. Even then, a hymn-writer at Herrnhut wrote:

Unknown land, barren wilderness! God’s hand will yet be praised in you! So many dark places where the torches of faith have long burned out . . . Unknown land, infinite is the seed that shall yet come out of you! In you the pious shall be seen, a holy city. You who still sit in darkness, dirty with false teaching . . . Infinite shall be the seed of God’s grace in you!

Wonderful light! Light you have never heard of in your unconverted state, shall break in upon you like shining rays of the sun. Dark swamps of disease it shall penetrate, dancing in joyfully, opening your face for the first time. Oh wonderful light! . . . The long hidden secret of God’s promise to Abraham is about to be revealed as many become his seed. The world with all its heathen is about to be filled with the glory of God’s grace.1

1 Gesangbuch, 710

Continued with Chapter 12

 2008/6/26 21:37Profile

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 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 12 Into All The World

Having tasted the joy of leaving all things for Christ, no amount of opposition could stop the Moravians from going “out into all the world” in the 1730s. The Order of the Mustard Seed revived, and in preparation for service abroad, young believers began to study languages, medicine, geography, and the Bible, with zeal. A number of them took classes at the University of Jena, but with Brother Ludwig’s caution always in mind: “You must not be blinded by reason and order, as if people first had to learn to believe in God, and after that in Christ. That is wrong, because they already know God exists. They must be instructed about the Son for there is salvation in no other.”

During this time Ludwig von Zinzendorf and David Nitschman travelled to Copenhagen in Denmark. There, in the home of a Danish nobleman, they met Anton Ulrich, a black slave from the West Indian island of St. Thomas.

The brothers listened spellbound to Anton telling of slave transport to the New World, of their wretchedness on plantations there, and of how he used to sit on the shore of St. Thomas, longing to know God. “Should you cross the ocean,” Anton assured them, “you would find many slaves in the same condition. Perhaps you would even find my sister Anna and tell her about God like you have told me.”

After baptising Anton at Copenhagen, Ludwig—profoundly moved by his story—wanted David Nitschmann to set out at once for the West Indies. But things did not fall into place so quickly. Anton travelled back to Herrnhut with them instead, where he spoke to the whole congregation on July 21, 1731. In halting Danish, with gestures and stories that struck the believers to the heart, he described slavery. “But to speak to my people would be difficult,” he told them. “To reach them you would most likely have to become slaves yourselves.”
That night, after the meeting, Johann Leonhard Dober, a young potter who had come to Herrnhut from Silesia tossed and turned in bed. He shed many tears. The thought of innumerable black people, living and dying in bondage, without hope and without God in the world, kept him awake until morning. All day long he cried inwardly to Christ. Then he met on the Hutberg, the following evening, with other believers to pray, and discovered the same thing had happened to his friend, Tobias Leupold.

On their way back from the prayer meeting the young men passed Brother Ludwig’s house. Through the open window they heard him saying to a guest, “You know, among our young people the Lord has messengers to St. Thomas, Greenland, Lapland, and who knows what other countries!”

Filled with joy on hearing this, both Leonhard and Tobias hurried home to write letters telling the congregation of their willingness to go to the West Indies. In Leonhard’s words:

I can tell you that my intention has never been just to travel abroad for a while. What I desire is to dedicate myself more firmly to our Saviour. Ever since the Count [Brother Ludwig] has returned from Denmark and spoken of the condition of the slaves, I have not been able to forget them. So I decided that if another brother would like to accompany me, I would give myself over to slavery in order to tell them as much as I have learned about our Saviour. I am ready to do this because I firmly believe that the Word of the Cross is able to rescue souls even in degraded conditions. I also thought that even if I would not be of use to anyone in particular, I could test my obedience to our Saviour through this, but my main reason for going would be because there are still souls in the islands that cannot believe because they have not heard.

Martin Linner, leader of the young men’s choir, did not like the idea of Leonhard leaving Herrnhut. He was a valuable youth, both for his working skills and his godly example among the rest. But after a year of waiting before the Lord the congregation allowed Leonhard to draw lots concerning his future. The slip of paper he pulled out said: “Let the boy go, the Lord is with him.” Not Tobias Leupold, however, but David Nitschmann received the call to go with him.

Sent Off

After a farewell service (during which the congregation sang more than a hundred hymns by memory) and spending their last night at home in prayer, Leonhard and David left Herrnhut at three in the morning on August 21, 1732. Brother Ludwig accompanied them to the edge of the village. They knelt on the road and prayed together. Ludwig laid his hands on their heads and gave them a solemn charge: “Do everything in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Then, with one ducat each, and a few extra clothes in a bag, they set off on foot for the other side of the world.

Whoever they met told the young men to turn around and go back. “What you want to do is unthinkable,” Danish authorities told them when they reached Copenhagen in September. “You cannot become slaves. The only way for you to reach the New World is to join the army.”

To preach the gospel to black slaves not only seemed bizarre to Danish Protestants (the country had turned Lutheran in the Reformation). It ran directly counter to their beliefs. Many of them still suspected God made white people and the devil those of other colours. To buy and sell blacks seemed logical to them. But to tell them of Christ and offer them eternal salvation—never! Even Anton, whom the brothers met in Copenhagen, changed his mind and begged them not to go.

The brothers said little and prayed much.

The Lord Christ opened the doors.

After all captains in port had flatly refused to take them to America, a Danish princess, Charlotte Amalie, learned of the young men’s desire and took their side. She sent them money and a Dutch Bible. (Neither Leonhard nor David could read Dutch, but it was the language best known on St. Thomas.) With the money the men bought carpenter tools and a captain hired them to make a closet on his ship. Seeing their willingness and careful work, he recommended them to a friend and they found passage to the New World at last.

Accursed Paradise

With dread and excitement the young men first saw the palm-fringed shore of St. Thomas on December 13, 1732.

Recently purchased from France, together with St. Croix and St. John, this most prosperous island of the West Indies already supplied all of Denmark with sugar and tobacco. Dutch Reformed families, owners of its 150 plantations, lived in airy palaces surrounded by mud and cane thatched huts of black slaves whom they firmly believed “predestined to perdition.” Every month, new shiploads of naked wretches from Africa—cannons trained on hatches where they lay in darkness below deck in their own filth—arrived at St. Thomas’s harbour. Those who turned deathly sick en route their dealers tossed overboard, to save on water. Those who survived, they led, skin and bones, eyes glazed with terror, onto the wharves of St. Thomas, to place at the mercy of “Christian” landlords who promptly broke them in to work.

Under the vigilant eye of Dominie Jan Borm, Reformed pastor of the island, strict Calvinist rule kept all in their places—slaves subject to masters, and masters subject to God and the church as they understood it. Blacks enjoyed few liberties and no luxuries. Living without furniture on dirt floors, dressed (if at all) in loincloths, they ate with their hands and slept on the ground. Small pox, lockjaw, and leprosy killed many.

Outnumbered six to one by their black slaves, white Christians lived in perpetual fear of revolt. St. Thomas law required the cutting off of slave’s hands lifted against their masters. First time run-aways had one foot cut off. Subsequent attempts resulted in cutting off the second foot, then one leg after the other. Floggings occurred every week—five hundred lashes (permitted by law) being equal to the death sentence. Masters cured the wounds of minor floggings by having them washed with salt and Spanish pepper.

St. Thomas law required the prompt execution of slaves planning revolt—masters to be paid by the government for every slave decapitated or hanged. The same Protestant law fined people fifty pounds of tobacco for working on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), and obligated all whites to attend church.

Order, greed, and terror in the name of God—the two brothers from Herrnhut felt it enveloping them at once, and wondered what place they would find in it.

First Fruits

A Dutch planter, Lorenzen, hired Leonhard and David to finish a new house he had built and gave them a place to sleep. Then, on first opportunity they set out with a letter from Anton to look for his brother and sister.

In a plantation on the south side of the island the young men found them. Not only was Anna amazed to hear from her brother in Europe. She listened open-mouthed to Leonhard’s kind words of the Saviour. She called more of her family and friends together and even though they could barely understand his mixture of German and Dutch (the slaves spoke a Dutch creole) they heard Christ’s promise of good news for the poor and broke out in excited clapping of hands.

Leonhard and David spoke slowly. They used the simplest words they knew to tell the slaves about Christ, the Son of God, and his blood and wounds. Their message—with the Spirit’s direction—fell on open hearts. Anna, her husband Gerd, and Anton’s brother Abraham gave their lives in childlike trust to the Lamb. “If I could have the whole world,” Anna told the brothers soon afterward, “and if that kept me away from the Saviour I would not even bother considering it.”

On another occasion, when Leonhard asked her how things went, she said: “Quite well, thank God! For although the day’s work did not give me time to say my prayers, my heart has never stopped calling the Saviour. I thank God for mercifully allowing me to be with him while in the company of others.”


Life on St. Thomas gave Leonhard and David no time to exult in their first victories on the island. Many slaves, after their curiosity wore off, made fun of them and opposed their message. “Why should we do what is right, while you white people do otherwise?” they asked. Nearly all black people stole, lied and got drunk, and as one of the brothers reported, “Chastity is a virtue of which they are completely unaware.”

When Anna refused to celebrate a pagan festival, Gerd became angry with her. Suspicion and disunity arose between them and Abraham. Gerd got drunk and earned a flogging from the governor. David left for Europe on April 17’th and Leonhard turned deathly sick. On July 11’th a hurricane struck St. Thomas, then the island (that has no ground water or wells) turned totally dry. Many slaves began to die of hunger and thirst.

Leonhard, skilled in making pottery since his childhood, set up a kiln and tried to make pots and jugs. But the clay did not fire well. Even his kiln collapsed and on most days he was too sick to stand, let alone work.

Both white and black people on the island made fun of Leonhard’s projects. Then, in November, a slave revolt on the island of St. John brought panic and disorder to St. Thomas. White authorities reacted with yet more cruel tortures and executions of slaves. But from here and there, souls in need found their way to Leonhard’s hammock where he lay with a burning fever and listened to his words of instruction.

Once he had partially recovered, the governor of St. Thomas hired Leonhard to do his bookwork. But he soon saw that this put him out of touch with the island’s black population. So he resigned, and even though forced through poverty to live on bread and water, he returned to doing odd jobs and carpentry. Adriaan Beverhout, the owner of a small cotton plantation gave him work, and another slave, Heinrich, found Christ.


 2008/6/27 19:29Profile

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Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 12 Into All The World

Greater Plans

While Leonhard and his small circle of friends overcame one obstacle after another in St. Thomas, the entire community at Herrnhut, harrassed by the German government, discussed the possibility of moving to the West Indies. A Danish landowner invited them to settle on the abandoned island of St. Croix, so after much prayer and careful preparation, the Wenzel and David Weber and Timotheus Fiedler families left for the New World in 1733. With them travelled Tobias Leupold, David Nitschmann, Matthäus Schindler, Matthäus Miksch (a school teacher), Kaspar Oelsner and Martin Schenk who left their wives in Germany for the time being, and the single brothers, George Weber, Johann Böhm, Matthäus Kremser, and Christian Neisser.

The group, largely formed of refugees from the old Unity settlements in Moravia,

included a mason, a carpenter, a wheel maker, a tailor, and several farmers. Travelling though Stettin (Szczecin) in Pomerania, where they helped to build an orphanage while waiting on a ship, they sailed on the Einigkeit from Copenhagen on November 12, 1733.

Cramped into a compartment below deck, too low in which to stand, five yards long and five and a half yards wide, the entire group from Herrnhut faced their first trials together. No sooner did the Einigkeit enter the North Sea than a storm drove them up against the coast of Norway. For several days and nights the ship skirted disaster until it anchored safely in a fjord near Tremmesund. There they set up camp in caves along the shore until spring came. Suffering extreme cold the women spun and the men carved wooden utensils until, several unsuccessful attempts behind them, they returned to sea on March 11, 1734.

Five days later, Wenzel Weber’s wife, Elisabeth, gave birth to a baby they called Anna. Another storm, more terrible than the first rose from the sea and the little ship pitched so dangerously that water barrels below deck burst from their lashings and rolled from side to side, threatening to crush the passengers. Only after 21 days did the stars came out again. Then they entered the tropics. The wind stopped. The believers’ windowless compartment (in which a lamp had to burn all day) grew “hot as a Russian bath house,” water became scarce, only salted meat remained, and two of the brothers, Matthäus Schindler and Kaspar Oelsner had scurvy. Crew members began to die, and in their sick and crowded state, the travellers’ patience one with another grew thin.

On June 11, 1734, the Einigkeit arrived at St. Thomas. Tobias Leupold, with two others, set out at once to find Leonhard Dober on the Beverhout plantation. The only detraction from their joy at meeting one another was the news that the believers in Herrnhut had chosen Leonhard to lead the young brothers’ choir and he had to return to Europe.

A month after their arrival at St. Thomas Johann Böhms died, followed by Timotheus Fiedler’s wife and David Weber.

St. Croix

Deeply grieved by the misery of the slaves, the brothers and sisters from Herrnhut decided to buy as many as they could and treat them like equals—hopefully leading them to Christ and training them for work as messengers to their own people. With this in mind they bought twelve adult slaves to accompany those who would settle in St. Croix, and a seven-year-old Loango boy to send back to Europe with Leonhard Dober.

On the short trip to St. Croix, little Anna Weber died and they buried her on arrival. For thirty-eight years the island had lain uninhabited. Pigs and cattle, long turned wild, foraged among abandoned farms of the former French colony. Thorny scrub had grown up “so thick one could barely find a place to sit down.” But with a great desire to build an outpost for truth the brothers set up camp and the sisters began to work over open fires, cooking food and washing clothes.

With the help of the twelve Africans the believers on St. Croix cut back the brush to plant the seeds they had brought from Europe—lettuce, parsley, and cabbages—with West Indian cassava and yams. But the heat and bugs overwhelmed them. Rain water, carefully collected, did not reach, and when they drank from brackish streams they turned sick. By the time the rainy season began, their first two-room house, with walls of reeds, still had no roof.

Christian Neisser died on September 4, followed within a month by David Weber’s widow, then Matthäus Kremser, Elisabeth Weber and Matthäus Miksch within two weeks time. By January, 1735, when Tobias Leupold died, only seven survived, too sick to care what happened to them.

New Courage and Hope

In the meantime, back at Herrnhut, the “awakening to the blood” inspired new volunteers, Kaspar Güttner, Martin Barthol, Matthäus Freundlich, and a doctor, Gottlieb Kretschner, to join the believers in the West Indies. They left Europe in the spring with Anna Nitschmann, Elizabeth Oelsner, Maria Francke, and Judith Leopold (wives of men who had gone before), three of whom were already widows and did not know it. Completing the group were Johann Gold with his wife, and the widow Anna Berger.

The new group landed on St. Croix at the end of May. Words could not describe the shock they felt on meeting the survivors. But wasting no time in lamentation, they tended to the sick and with great love pointed all to Christ, his blood and wounds. Lack of water and all hardship notwithstanding, such joy in the Spirit broke out among them that first eight, then all twelve of the Africans from St. Thomas humbled themselves and “allowed the Lamb to wash them in his blood.”

A month after their joyful arrival all the newcomers lay sick. Anna Nitschmann died first, followed by Kaspar Güttner, Elisabeth Oelsner and Martin Barthol. The doctor, Gottlieb Kretschner died in September, Martin Francke and Anna Berger in October. Old David Nitschmann, Martin Schenck’s widow, and George Weber found passage back to Europe. So did Judith, Tobias Leupold’s young widow, and Martin Francke’s widow. But their ship, presumably taken by pirates or lost in a storm was never heard from again. Even worse, Timotheus Fiedler who stayed on St. Thomas, lost his faith and became a plantation administrator. That left only Matthäus Freundlich, the shoemaker, and in December he also moved back to the island of St. Thomas.

An Open Door

On March 13, 1736, Friedrich Martin, a young tailor who had come to Herrnhut from Silesia, landed on St. Thomas with Johann Andreas Bönike. Once again their meeting with Matthäus Freundlich brought more tears than words. But within days of their arrival, the newcomers had come to know many slaves and determined to meet every last one on the island.

On his way to a meeting he had planned on a Lord’s day before the end of March, Friedrich Martin met a boy on the road. “Would you like to know your Saviour, the Lamb of God that took on himself the sins of the whole world?” Friedrich asked him. The boy looked startled. But in sudden miraculous understanding he said clearly in Dutch creole: “With great pleasure,” and handed Friedrich two live chickens. It was all he owned.

Others began to come, some walking long distances, to attend meetings for worship and instruction. Then, on September 10, 1736, Brother Josef came. He found the brothers, surrounded by eager disciples, holding an evening prayer meeting under a cane roof.

Brother Josef sensed Christ’s presence at once, and further meetings, held on the Carsten plantation at Mosquito Bay, drew hundreds of seekers. The boy who had given the chickens became the first to receive baptism. He took the Christian name of Andreas. With him Brother Josef baptised two other young men, Petrus and Nathanael, and a great company took part in a love feast following.

But Brother Josef, for as deeply as he became attached to the new believers on St. Thomas, could not stand the climate. When the time came for him to leave, he lay sick unto death. The brothers helped him onto a ship for the island of St. Christopher. Stopping in at St. Eustatius, he saw a ship for New York and in his distress, made a transfer the Lord seemed to have arranged.

The captain who took Brother Josef aboard had lived as a child in an Anglican home on Staaten Island. His mother had taught him about God and prayed with him every night. But she died when he was twelve and in his despair he ran off to sea. There, for eight years he led a wicked life. Three times pirates caught him. One time he swam from a captured ship to safety in another. When he finally returned home he found his father had died too and he left for the sea again.

Now, when Brother Josef spoke to him about his soul, he repented with many tears and found Christ.

New Believers, New Trials

After Brother Josef left St. Thomas the awakening among the slaves kept on spreading. It spread much faster than anyone expected, and certainly faster than any white people on the island liked.

White Protestant “Christians” who owned the slaves felt convicted. Many of them (their governors and preachers included) lived in shameless debauchery. “How can you black devils live up the Gospel,” they asked, “when even we white people, to whom it was given, cannot do it?” Other masters, proud of their Christianity and of the fair treatment they gave their slaves (for whom they assumed the role of protective “father figures”) felt encroached upon by Friedrich and Matthäus’s work. “Our slaves are happy,” they insisted. “They have it much better with us than they did in Africa. So why come and stir up discontent?”

Some masters flogged their slaves for attending Moravian meetings. Nearly all took their books away if they caught them learning to read—one master making it a practice to set the books on fire and swat them in his slaves’ faces. “That,” he said, “is how my Neger will learn to read.”

Black sisters, no longer allowing themselves to be violated at will by their masters, suffered particular trials. Some, stripped of their clothes, suffered merciless floggings. One, locked into a dungeon had hot sealing wax dripped onto her head until her body was scorched. “But if we have suffered in the past for being bad,” one sister asked, “why should we be unwilling now to suffer for doing good.”

When an elderly believer turned sick his master denied him water. His wife tried to bring him some but he struck her across the head with the broadside of his sword, and when the brother died he did not allow anyone to bury him, but let him rot away in his hut.

Mobs of drunken white men regularly broke up meetings (like in the story in Chapter One). They beat Friedrich Martin severely. But no believers suffered more than those deliberately sold to other West Indian islands to separate them from Christian fellowship. Concerning these trials, Christian Georg Oldendorp, a brother from Herrnhut who lived on St. Thomas fifty years later, wrote:

Their longing for Jesus Christ and his mercy was strongest when they had to suffer and bear great distress on account of him. When their masters forbade them to attend meetings in which the brothers were to teach them the gospel, they did not fail to visit the brothers in private. They also made up for lost instruction by getting together in small groups on their own plantations to strengthen one another. Hidden in the scrub forest, many found safe places where they could gather to pray and open their hearts one to another. There they learned what Jesus meant when he said that where two or three come together in his name, he will be among them. Black brothers and sisters have assured me that during those hard times they felt such love for the Saviour and enjoyed such grace in their hearts that they gladly suffered any imaginable tortures for his sake.


 2008/6/29 14:19Profile

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Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 12 Into All The World

Grace and Growth

Not only white people harassed the new believers on St. Thomas. Hostile fellow slaves burned Petrus’ house, with his precious New Testament. A black woman with a knife attacked a sister on her way home from meeting and those steeped in witchcraft tried to cast spells.

While trying to keep everyone encouraged and looking the right direction, Friedrich Martin found himself deteriorating rapidly. Always sick, plagued with thirst and dysentery, he became so weak he could no longer walk straight. His mind began to go blank for hours at a time and he found it increasingly difficult to remember what he did, where he had been, or where he went. Matthäus Freundlich felt sick too. Then, to make matters worse, Johann Andreas Bönike turned against them, lost the faith, and lightning struck him dead one night on the road to Mosquito Bay.

Walking skeletons themselves, Friedrich and Matthäus could think of nothing else to do but take in the abandoned children they found starving during the drought of 1737. They hired Rebecca, a free mulatto woman, to take care of them, and on May 4, of the following year, Matthäus, for the sake of decency, married her. Friedrich, who had been ordained a minister of the Unity of Brothers through a letter sent from London, England, performed the ceremony and they began their life together with nine adopted children. On the same day Friedrich married two black believers, Zacharius and Susanna.

After Friedrich’s ordination he chose four sincere young men to be his helpers: Andreas (the boy with the chickens), Petrus, Johannes, and Christoph, all of whom had proven their loyalty to Christ and whom the believers loved and respected. A month later, Andreas and Johannes’s white master sold them to a plantation on St. John. Pleas for consideration fell on deaf ears so weeping, but not in despair, they left in chains for their new place of bondage.

All setbacks notwithstanding, crowds of seekers that gathered in the evenings to learn of Christ grew ever larger. In their poverty the slaves worked hard to buy the candles needed by those who read the Scriptures. Out of unbleached linen they also managed to make decent clothing for those who would be baptised—the women in ample dresses with capes, and white head coverings tied with strings under their chins, the men in white shirts and trousers.

Every convert, after baptism, chose a “spiritual companion” with whom to meet at least once a week. Spiritual companions shared their joys and trials and encouraged one another. Beyond this, and in spite of difficulties because of their slavery, the believers formed choirs, took part in the hourly watch (day and night prayer vigils), and shared in material ways as much as possible.

Friedrich and Matthäus instructed the new believers in morality and how to live as Christian families—concepts unknown to them, both in Africa and the New World. Christian weddings, celebrated with beautiful hymns, prayers, and great joy, took place. The brothers followed them up with regular visits and advice on child training. But the planters ridiculed their efforts. “Marrying cattle,” they called it, and insisted that black people have no family feelings like whites. They made it a point to separate Christian couples one from another, to find other mates for them, and to sell off their children.

The congregation on St. Thomas celebrated frequent love feasts and communion services, everyone bringing what little food they could—fish, crabs, or vegetables—to share one with another. Before every communion the brothers held a question and answer period. They interviewed all participants privately and the better they came to know one another the more they marvelled at what Christ had done.

Not only did the congregation include both island blacks (creoles), and “salt heads” (slaves brought from Africa). It included people of many different tribes and customs. Only the first two baptisms on St. Thomas already brought members of the Mandinga, Mangree, Fante, Atja, Kassenti, Tjamba, Amina, Watje, and Loango tribes into the Gemeine. But subjected in love to Christ, they learned to make decisions together and function as one body. Christian Oldendorp wrote:

As soon as they returned from exhausting work in the fields, they gathered, falling on their knees, to pray and sing. There loved one another like members of one family to such a degree that whenever something happened to disturb the harmony of the group, they fell on their knees at once and asked the Saviour for pardon and grace. They also kept the practice of hourly intercession. . . . Even while working they took turns praying to God and asking for his intercession every hour of the day. Without clocks they kept to their hours at night by looking at the stars and by the crowing of the cocks. In this way, one slave awakened the one whose turn came next to pray.

In a letter to the brothers and sisters at Herrnhut, Petrus wrote:

God’s grace that I have received into my heart fills me with joy. I have left what is bad and learned to love Jesus Christ who died for us. Now we pray to the Lord in this place together: “Dear Lord, have mercy on us! Bless us and teach us how to know you so that no evil may remain among us. Help us to do what is right so that pride, covetousness, and immorality may no longer find place among us.


Only by walking closely with Christ could the brothers of the new church on St. Thomas meet every situation that arose. Newly converted slaves lived among constant temptations to drink cane liquor, to commit immoral acts, or take part in African religious rites. Many of them had several “wives” and children from all. But they promised, on entering the brotherhood, not to take more. And if they wished to separate from all wives but one, the brotherhood encouraged them. Marriage partners separating for other reasons lost their place in the congregation.

From the beginning, the brothers made the seriousness of taking part in communion clear. When they found calabashes decorated with ribbons, bird feathers, and sea shells (magic tokens) in an old sister’s house, they suspended her membership and admonished her to repent. Those found stealing one from another, or from their masters, also lost their membership, as did any who took part in acts of rebellion. A few, like Nathanael, one of the first baptised who turned apostate, had to be to requested not to attend services anymore for the disturbances they caused.

The goal of the brothers in St. Thomas was to overcome the evil of slavery by good, not by force. But this required much patience. Christian Oldendorp wrote:

No matter how much joy the progress of the black congregation gave the brothers, the backsliding and unbelief of some of its members brought them much sadness as well. Because the slaves lived among temptations of all kinds, it is surprising that not more of them fell into sin. Those who did were always outnumbered by those transformed through Jesus’ teachings. Still it was necessary for the brothers to admonish and keep back from communion those who did not live according to the gospel. These, they remembered with compassion and joyously welcomed back if they grew tired of their own ways and returned to Jesus Christ, the merciful high priest, and the community of his believers.

With great joy the brothers from Herrnhut watched the new believers learning to read. But newly discovered knowledge threatened, at times, to get in the way of Christ. Christian Oldendorp wrote:

Because many converted slaves did not know themselves well enough, they fell into the common error of trying to become better and more pious without first having found grace and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ blood. They simply accepted Christianity in its external forms, that is, in diligent learning, in singing and praying.

Georg Weber, one of the first Moravians on St. Croix wrote:

It would not be hard to start a Christian sect [cult] among these black people. They excell in copying external forms of religious practice without experiencing real changes of heart. Because of this many of their good resolutions do not last long. Sin resumes its rule over them, and soon after their conversion they are as deeply immersed in the pleasures of the flesh and other evil practices as before.

Only after “daily presenting Christ to them as a friend of sinners, and by persuading them that the salvation of souls can be found nowhere else but in the wounds of the Lamb” did the fire of love fall on the believers at St. Thomas and fill them with power.

The Mountain of Trumpets

As often as they had opportunity, the brothers and sisters at Herrnhut sent encouraging letters to the ones on St. Thomas. An even greater blessing came with the arrival of Johann Christoph Schönewerk and his wife in 1738,* but the heat and tropical disease overcame them. He died soon after arrival and she died three days later. By this time, with help from home, the brothers had managed to buy several of the baptised slaves and a small cotton plantation, twenty-seven German acres, on the central and highest part of the island.

Such rejoicing broke out among the black believers at the purchase of the land that a meeting for praise lasted all night and until the sun came up the following morning. Now they had a place to gather undisturbed. Hundreds came for every meeting, the sick carried in on shoulders and one-legged former runaways hobbling in on canes (one brother had lost two legs in punishment and could only crawl). Even blind and deaf people came, sensing the spirit of worship there. The congregation chose eight more leaders and baptisms became continually more frequent.

Because they used trumpets to announce meetings there, the believers named their new community on the hill the Posaunenberg (Mountain of Trumpets), but its days of peace and rejoicing were numbered.

Trouble For The New Church

Led by their pastor, Jan Borm, the white people of St. Thomas determined to get rid of Moravian influence on their plantations, once and for all. The case they picked for their excuse was Matthäus and Rebecca Freundlich’s marriage.

“Since when is it lawful for a white man to marry a black woman?” angry islanders (many of whom had mulatto children from numerous concubines) asked. “What is more, who authorised Friedrich Martin to marry them?”

In the midst of the turmoil surrounding this charge, Nathanael, whom the black congregation had excommunicated, arrived in a drunken state at Dominie Jan Borm’s house and asked for rebaptism. The Reformed pastor asked him many questions before triumphantly reporting to the governor of St. Thomas the “wretched and miserable condition of the supposed converts of the Herrnhut brothers.”

As if this were not enough, a tropical storm struck the island. The house where Timotheus Fiedler (another apostate brother) lived, suffered damage and those who came to help found valuable stolen goods in his possession. Dominie Jan Borm and the St. Thomas government needed nothing more. “These Moravians are thieves and hypocrites!” they stormed. “Not only do they come to pervert our slaves. They commit acts of perversion themselves. To jail with the accursed Herrnhuters!”

Dragged before the St. Thomas court, Friedrich Martin, Matthäus and Rebekka Freundlich, found themselves faced with the option of swearing they had nothing to do with the theft or going directly to jail. Because they could not swear (and the governor knew they wouldn’t) they landed in a putrid cell, hot like an oven during the day, nothing to sleep on at night, at once.

Great crowds of black people risked punishment to come to the barred window of their cell to listen to Friedrich’s words of encouragement. Friedrich and Matthäus made buttons in jail, and Rebecca had her sewing with her. Their example of peaceful nonresistance deeply inspired the believers, now numbering 750 souls on 51 plantations, under the able leadership of the black brothers Christoph and Mingo.


 2008/6/30 20:26Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 12 Into All The World

Mighty to Save, Strong to Deliver

With the German brothers in jail, Dominie Jan Borm and the Protestant officials on his side wasted no time in doing what they could to bring the black congregation to ruin. The pastor had black believers brought before the court, one by one. In particular he interrogated the leaders, throwing complicated theological questions at them to see how they would respond. On top of that he asked them to explain which faith is more Biblical, the Lutheran or the Reformed, and whether they thought black people would some day rule whites.

“We know nothing about religion,” the black Christians answered him, “except that the Lamb of God has died and taken our sins away. We do not know whether blacks will ever rule whites, but we know that after death we will stand before Christ where all men are equal.”

“See, they know nothing,” Pastor Borm rejoiced. “Those Herrnhut prophets are baptising untaught savages!”

Pastor Borm sent one of his helpers, a Protestant minister, to jail to marry Matthäus and Rebekka, but they refused his services. “We are already married,” they told him. For this the court sentenced them as a public nuisance, living in unlawful immorality, and ordered Matthäus to pay a hundred Reichsthaler within 24 hours. Rebekka, who had been baptised by her white father into the Reformed Church, was formally excommunicated and ordered to be sold again as a slave, the proceeds of her sale going to Protestant charities (the St. Thomas hospital fund).

Friedrich Martin, charged with baptising and holding communion illegally, as well as performing church functions that belong only to legally ordained ministers, was to be held for punishment and exile. But the sun had not gone down on the day of these distressing court decisions when the trade winds carried an unexpected ship into St. Thomas’s harbour.

People from Germany—and it soon became apparent, very important people—stepped onto the hurriedly cleared wharf. The governor, hiding his frustration as well as possible, could do nothing but formally welcome Nicholas Ludwig, Graf von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf, with two Moravian couples, Georg and Elisabeth Weber, Valentin and Veronika Löhans, to St. Thomas.

St. Thomas authorities were surprised and confused. They knew that Ludwig came directly from Herrnhut. But they also knew he enjoyed the favour of the Danish court and that in rank he stood, as a count of the Holy Roman Empire, far above any one of them. So when Brother Ludwig cheerfully asked for Friedrich, Matthäus and Rebekka’s release, they gave it promptly and said no more about it.

The Lord had delivered them.

Triumphs Of a New Church

Brother Ludwig and the two couples from Herrnhut had a hard time believing their eyes. The growth of the Saviour’s Gemein on St. Thomas far surpassed anything they had heard or imagined. At the same time they could not believe how Friedrich Martin had changed. Disease and relentless activity had aged him so much, that when he emerged from prison no one from Germany recognised him.

Brother Ludwig, with his gift for languages, soon caught the drift of Dutch creole, and began to write hymns in the language. In his diary he wrote:

Three days after I got to St. Thomas and Friedrich Martin was still weak unto death, I took charge of the worship service for him. Brother Abraham, in moving and penetrating words, led in the opening and prayer. . . . After that I was nearly swept off my feet as the large group of black people (more brothers and sisters than I have ever seen at one time in any of our congregations) stood to sing and cry out, some with many tears, “My Lord, My Lord, the One who has redeemed me from condemnation!”

About eight days later, on a Sunday afternoon, nearly half of those plantation workers who have turned to Christ came to visit me and we had a service in a large Saal. There was hardly room for everyone to stand (yet the segregation of the sexes has already been taught and is practiced here). Oh how glad I was to be able to sing with this large congregation two of my favourite hymns: May you be praised Jesus Christ, and Let the Soul of Christ Make Me Holy!1

During Brother Ludwig’s stay the congregation chose more leaders, and to the joy of all, he bought Andreas and Johannes back from St. John for 200 pieces of eight. Friedrich Martin described the situation:

Hardly a day passes when we are not visited by souls feeling their misery and crying out for mercy. Wherever we go we hear someone in the sugar cane, among the bushes, or behind a house, praying and crying out to the Saviour, asking him to wash away his sins with his blood. We no longer have people satisfied with getting a bit of school knowledge. Now they come to us feeling their lost condition. Their only conviction is of their own wickedness and their need of the Saviour’s mercy and help.2

“The Saviour is melting souls like wax,” another worker on St. Thomas reported, and even the children, as many as four hundred at a time, came to the Posaunenberg on Lord’s Day afternoons for special love feasts. Valentin Löhans wrote:

The amazing impact of the Saviour’s grace and mercy among the heathen in these days cannot be described! The blood of Jesus flows over them, softens their hearts, and makes them see how great his love is. They feel his power. He becomes great to them and his grace, important. Their hearts have opened up. Many of them who were dead as stone have been moved by Jesus’ death, the constant subject of our preaching, and now they cry for mercy. Jesus’ death and his blood have penetrated their hearts, making them cry out and search for the Redeemer. It is heartbreaking to listen to them as they lie at the feet of the Lamb and cry out to him.

No one, however, could have felt more surprised about the growth of the new black church than the people who did all they could to stop it—and failed. Georg and Elisabeth Weber returned to St. Croix and with the help of many friends began to build a new community they named Friedensthal (Valley of Peace). This time the heat, the tangled scrub, and the scarcity of water did not surprise them. But they faced even greater opposition. During the dry season, hostile neighbours set fire to their houses again and again. Practically every night the cry of fire sounded through Friedensthal. One night ten houses burned at once, on another night fourteen. The largest fire spread to surrounding plantations destroying forty-eight houses, including many that belonged to black believers, in one night. But through severe trials, Friedensthal became a home and refuge for many. The Lord blessed gardens planted in the rainy season and spiritual gifts far outshone every material loss. Stephanus, a black leader there, told a baptismal class in the early 1740s:

We may be ignorant, but we have a master teacher, the Holy Spirit, that explains everything to us. We should enjoy and take part in everything the Saviour has earned for us. The way to it and the gate are open. Still, we should not only stand at the gate and look in, but enter and go to the Saviour himself. This cannot be accomplished only by coming to the church. No, we dare not be satisfied with that. Not the church but real communion, real Gemeinschaft with the Lord Jesus, will save us. That is the right way. No one can excuse himself by saying he has no time for this because of his master’s work. Dear brothers and sisters, I know that one can think about bad things during all kinds of work. I say this from my own experience because I have often done that all day long, during the blind period in my life. If that is true, can we not just as easily think about good things? Can we not put the beloved Saviour before our eyes, and occupy ourselves all the time with him, remembering in our hearts what he has suffered and done for us? I wish that all of you, from this time onward, might do this and enjoy the grace and blessedness our dear Lord has earned for us. He will gladly give it to you.


Grace and blessedness came to the believers on St. Thomas and St. Croix, even though trials continued. A group of drunken white men held Georg Weber up at gunpoint, but he testified so fearlessly of his confidence in Christ that they could not kill him. Others waylaid Matthäus Freundlich and nearly beat him to death. Some planters threatened the Danish government with pulling out of St. Thomas if no one got rid of the Moravians.

But the church kept on growing.

A river of mercy flowing from Christ’s wounded side attracted more and more seekers weary of sin. Brothers and sisters kept coming from Herrnhut to help in the work, and with time, reached every plantation on the island with the message of peace.

On his return from America and St. Thomas in 1739, Brother Ludwig met two young brothers from Herrnhut, Gottlieb Israel and Alban Theodor Feder, in Amsterdam. They planned to travel to the Guinea Coast in Africa, but Ludwig persuaded them to go to St. Thomas instead. “The church there needs you,” he told them.

On their way across the Atlantic Alban turned deathly sick. Gottlieb, crippled from birth and left as an orphan at Herrnhut, did his best to care for him. Then a great storm blew up. The ship lost its course and ran aground off the shore of Tortola. The captain and crew escaped, but they left the two believers and all slaves on board to perish. Three slaves and the boys from Herrnhut climbed out the bowsprit and jumped onto a rock. High waves came crashing in and threatened to tear them away. They had so little room on the rock they had to lie stacked up on one another. Alban tried to jump from rock to rock and swim to shore, but the waves carried him out to sea. “Go, my dear brother, in peace,” Gottlieb shouted after him in the wind and storm, not knowing whether he heard him before he drowned.

Clinging to the rock until the afternoon of the following day, the four survivors saw people coming to rescue them. From St. Thomas, soon after his arrival, Gottlieb sent a long letter home in which he wrote:

Oh what a great blessing it is to see how the Saviour shows himself to these black people! First they are awakened. Then they come to know their own hearts, finding out how bad they are. After that, they shed tears and cry for mercy until they have found faith in Jesus’ wounds. Oh, how joyful are they then! They come running through the night to tell us about it and bring joy to our souls.

Even though he walked with difficulty, Gottlieb Israel found his way about the island and blessings came to many through him. In another letter he wrote:

The Saviour is both powerful and merciful among us . . . but the prince of darkness has been very busy in his attempts to steal souls from him through temptations and threats . . . Pray that the congregation of the faithful may build on Christ the cornerstone and be strengthened in his blood. I am not so anxious to see a large number of converts as I am to see the ones who find the Saviour to experience his living presence in their hearts.

Georg Weber’s wife died in childbirth and their little daughter a day later. Johann Schurr’s wife gave birth to twin sons that both died and she followed them in death after two days. Gottlieb Israel turned sick and died. Johann Böhner and his wife, newly wed ran into a serious storm on the way to St. Thomas. While he struggled with the sailors to lift a broken mast, his wife died and had to be dropped overboard. By the time Johann reached St. Thomas, Valentin Löhans had died so he married his widow, Veronika.

Friedrich Martin, on the other hand, not only survived but managed to visit the new Moravian community in Pennsylvania where he married Maria Leinbach. Jakob Tutweiler, a brother from Switzerland who survived a flogging by a plantation owner, settled on St. John and began the new Bethany community. Johann Michael Wäckler, Samuel Isles, and Nikolaus Schneider fell into the hands of French pirates and landed on Martinique. Joseph Schaw, an English brother, got lost in a storm at sea and was not heard from again. . . .

The story both of the ones who came and of the ones who joined the brotherhood in St. Thomas, became one many-faceted testimony of Jesus’ grace. Not infrequently hurricanes flattened the cane fields on St. Thomas, uprooted clumps of banana plants, and carried roofs and buildings into the sea. Epidemics followed floods, and on January 17, 1759, a series of earthquakes rocked St. Croix, the third one tearing the earth open with a loud roar, nearly tipping the meetinghouse of the Friedensthal community. But in less than twenty years of Leonhard Dober’s arrival, there were usually a thousand or more applicants for baptism all the time. Slave villages had changed from night to day, squalid, nearly naked people having turned into neatly dressed men and women with orderly families. Miserable huts had given way to plastered cottages among vegetable gardens and flowers. Wild dances and sacrifices of animals to unknown spirits had given way to weddings and funerals held in peace.

By the time Christian Oldendorp came to St. Thomas in 1768, seventy-nine Pilgrims sent out from Herrnhut had lost their lives in the West Indies. But for every one that died there were sixty baptised converts. Within fifty years nearly nine thousand African slaves, only on St. Thomas, had found their way into the Saviour’s Gemeine. And this was only the beginning.

1 August Gottlieb Spangenberg, Leben des Herrn Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1774.
2 From a letter, 1740.

Continued with Chapter 13

 2008/7/1 18:35Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 13 To The North

One year after the first brothers from Herrnhut sailed for St. Thomas, Christian David, with Matthäus and Christian Stach (cousins) left Copenhagen for Greenland. Ignorant of what lay before them, they “took nothing with them for the journey” and expected to find food, a means of income, and lumber to build, on the island.

Their first sight left them speechless. They saw rocks and snow. Unfriendly fishermen in furs slipped about in kayaks between chunks of floating ice in the harbour. The few Danes who ran a trading post there felt discouraged themselves and did little to help the brothers. Inspired nevertheless, by Christian David’s boundless faith in Christ, they set to work with a will.

Already late in spring, but with plenty of snow left in the shade, they planted cabbages, lettuce, and turnips. Nothing grew. From the Danes they purchased a few sheep and a goat and cut skimpy grass for hay. They also learned to use seal oil for their lamps and how to make bedding and clothes out of seal skins. But on their first hunting trip they lost their boat in a storm and an early winter caught them unprepared.

Instead of helping them, the Greenlanders made fun of the brothers from Herrnhut and kept asking how soon they would go away. They stole what they could from the brothers and instead of showing interest in Christ, tried to tempt them into immoral acts.

Matthäus and Christian Stach attempted to learn the Greenlanders’ difficult language, but led by their angekoks (spiritual leaders) the people of the island refused to teach them anything. Even though two thousand lived around the crude shelter the brothers had built, none of them ever came to visit or find out what they did. Then, in 1733 they began to die of smallpox.

First dozens, then hundreds of Greenlanders died. So frightened did they become that when they saw pox beginning to appear, many stabbed themselves to death, or jumped into the sea to drown. Following the epidemic, the Danish settlement where the brothers from Herrnhut lived, suffered even greater want. Then, in 1735 no ship from Europe came. With only half a barrel of oatmeal left for another year, and a few dried peas and biscuits, the brothers knew they faced starvation. Every day they combed the beach for shell fish and sea weed. But every day they found less. Already weak with hunger they set out in a leaky boat, hoping to find food further away. A storm came up, soaked them to the skin, and carried them out to a barren island where they had to keep running in circles through the night to keep from freezing. After four days they made their way back with the Lord’s help. Then winter storms struck in full force. Daylight hours virtually disappeared and in their dugout of stones and frozen sod, suffering from scurvy, they drank the soup of boiled tallow candles to stay alive.

The Lord heard their prayers.

Forty leagues to the south of where the brothers lived he moved the heart of Ippagan, a Greenlander, to travel north to bring them food. And when the ice finally opened and a ship arrived, on July 7’th 1736, who should stand on deck but Matthäus Stach’s widowed mother (one of the original refugees from Moravia) with his two sisters, Rosina, twenty-two years old, and Anna, just turned twelve!

First Fruits of Greenland

After five years of continual struggles—struggles to stay alive, to build a relationship with the Greenlanders, and to get along one with another in trying conditions—the brothers finished their preliminary translation of the Gospel of Matthew into the Eskimo language.

Shortly afterward, Kayarnak, another man from the southern part of the island came to visit and listened carefully to stories about Christ. He brought his extended family and before the end of the month two other families moved in. The brothers began a school for children and scarcely able to believe what was happening, held instruction classes for those who repented and believed in the Lamb.

On March 29, 1739, on the feast of the Lord’s resurrection, Kayarnak, his wife, a son and a daughter, became the first Greenlanders to enter the Saviour’s Gemeine through baptism. David Cranz, a brother who spent time in Greenland during the 1760’s, wrote:

The converts explained in public the full reason for their hope in Christ. They promised to renounce all heathen practices and superstitions to walk according to the Gospel as they had been taught. Then they received baptism with fervent prayer and the laying on of hands, commended to grace in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In the meeting where this took place, the presence of the great Head of the church could be felt in the most powerful way. Tears flowed in streams from the eyes of the recently baptised and those who had come to watch were so overcome that they earnestly desired to become partakers of the same grace.

That the Saviour himself brought about this change of heart among the Greenlanders no one doubted. But it also had to do with a change among the Moravian brothers. David Cranz wrote:

Around this time a great change took place in the way our brothers instructed the Greenlanders. Up to now they had mainly spoken to them of the existence, the attributes, and the holiness of God. They had called on the people to obey God’s laws, hoping through this to prepare their minds gradually to receive the higher and more mysterious truths of the gospel.

It is true, common sense would tell us this is the right thing to do. But in practice it does not work at all. For five years the Pilgrims in Greenland tried this route, barely managing to get people to listen to them. But as soon as they determined to preach nothing but Christ and him crucified, without first “laying the foundation of repentance from dead works, and faith towards God,” they saw its converting and saving power. No sooner did they bring this “word of reconciliation” to the Greenlanders in all its natural simplicity, than it reached the hearts of those they spoke to and produced the most astonishing effects. A way opened up to their consciences and their understanding was opened up to the light. . . . They saw that they were sinners and trembled at the danger in which they stood. They rejoiced in the Saviour’s offer of grace and became capable of enjoying higher pleasures than to have plenty of seals to eat and partners to sleep with.

Building on the sure foundation of the crucified Redeemer, new converts rapidly gained an abhorrence for sin and the power to do what is right toward God and their neighbours, living soberly, righteously, and in a godly way, in this world. They began to look forward to the glorious hope of life and immortality, and walked in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.

So powerfully did conviction fall on the Greenlanders, after 1739, that one worker reported people “trembling like frightened deer” in their meetings, bursting out in tears and running away to weep. Kayarnak, the first of the believers, soon travelled south and stayed away for a year, only to come back with many more. At long last a Christian community began to take shape around the brothers’ first miserable settlement. They named it Neuherrnhut, and by 1747 built a Saal large enough to accommodate three hundred or more people—the number that often met to worship there.

A People Transformed

To everyone’s dismay, Kayarnak, after his return from the south, contracted tuberculosis. But he prepared to die in peace. “I was the first of my people to know Christ,” he said. “It is right now that I should be the first to go and meet him.” His Christian burial, held in an orderly way with singing and a reading of Jesus’ words in the Eskimo language, stood in powerful contrast to the wretched deaths of unbelievers on the island.

Soon afterward, another believer who had taken the name of Daniel, became the first Greenlander chosen to leadership in the congregation. He helped both the islanders and the settlers from Europe very much. Not only did he preach simple, powerful sermons. He showed the Europeans how to hunt, how to store dried meat and fish, and make better clothes. Everyone, even the Danish traders, looked up to him as a man of God.

The winter of 1752-1753 lasted longer and turned colder than any other the brothers had seen. The ocean froze as far out as one could see. Such high winds blew down from the north that their houses shuddered as if in a constant earthquake. Even icebergs split open offshore, everything blew full of snow and lightning flashed in the storms. Following this hard winter came three months of sickness when great numbers, including thirty-five believers, died. Many orphans and widows stayed behind. But the people of Neuherrnhut had become loving and caring. Not only did they assume responsibility for those in need, they responded with open hearts to the needs of people they had never met.

When the news reached Greenland of the massacre of Indian believers on the Monocacy Creek in Pennsylvania, the whole assembly broke out in loud weeping. Some offered to send reindeer skins or boots to those who survived. One brother said, “I will send them a seal so they will have something to eat and oil to burn.”

Following the translation of the Gospels into the Eskimo language, the brothers worked on a hymn book and simple catechism. With the community at Neuherrnhut firmly established, Matthäus Stach moved further south and began another one, Lichtenfels, on an island close to the shore. In a few years it also became the home of three hundred people. After that Johann Sorensen and his wife and Gottfried Grillich began the third community, Lichtenau, 700 km south of Neuherrnhut where another two hundred joined the community.


 2008/7/2 18:50Profile

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