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§ 108. The Moravians.

See the Literature on the Bohemian Brethren, § 75, p. 565, and the Waldenses, p. 568.


Doctrinal and Confessional.

I. Zinzendorf: Ein und zwanzig Discourse über die Augsburgische Confession, 1747–1748 (never published through the trade, and therefore rare). Also the other writings of Zinzendorf, and especially his hymns and spiritual poems, collected and published by Albert Knapp, with a spirited sketch of bis life and character (Stuttg. 1845).

Aug. Gottlieb Spangenberg: Idea Fidei Fratrum oder Kurzer Begriff der christlichen Lehre in den evang. Brüdergemeinen. Barby, 1778, 1782; Gnadau, 1833; English ed. Lond. 1784. Accepted as authority. By the same: Declaration über die zeither gegen uns ausgegangenen Beschuldigungen. Berlin, 1772.

Hermann Plitt (Pres. of the Morav. Theol. Seminary in Gnadenfeld): Evangelische Glaubenslehre nach Schrift und Erfahrung. Gotha, 1864, 2 vols. Not authoritative. By the same: Zinzendorf's Theologie. Gotha, 1869–1874, 3 vols.

The hymns and liturgies of the Moravian Church.

Edm de Schweinitz (Morav. Bishop): The Moravian Manual. Publ. by authority of the Synod. 2d enlarged ed. Bethlehem, Pa. 1869.

II. Among the early opponents of the Moravians we mention Fresenius, Fabricius, Georgius, and the celebrated commentator, J. A. Bengel (Abriss der sogen. Brüdergemeinde, in welchem die Lehre und die ganze Sache geprüft, das Gute und Böse dabei unterchieden, etc. Stuttg. 1751; republ. Berlin, 1859).

III. Modern representations by divines not of the Moravian Church.

Möhler: Symbolik, pp. 533 sqq.; Schneckenburger: Vorlesungen über die kleineren protest. Kirchenparteien, pp. 152–171; R. Hofmann: Symbolik, pp. 533 sqq.


I. Biographies of Count Zinzendorf.

Spangenberg: Leben des Grafen Zinzendorf. Barby, 1772–1775, 8 vols. Thorough, reliable, and prolix.

J. G. Müller (brother of the Swiss historian, John von M.): Bekenntnisse merkmürdiger Männer von sich selbst. 3 vols. 1775.

L. C. von Schrautenbach: Der Graf v. Zinz. und die Brüdergemeinde seiner Zeit, herausgeg. v. F. W. Kölbing. Gnadau, 1851. Written in 1782, but not for publication, and kept as MS. in the Archives of the Moravian Church till 1851. One of the most interesting works on Zinzendorf, setting forth the philosophy of his religion.

Varnhagen von Ense: Leben Zinzendorf's. Berlin, 1830; 2d ed. 1846. The view of an outsider, similar to Southey's Life of Wesley.

J. W. Verbeck: Gr. Zinzendorf's Leben und Charakter. Gnadau, 1845. An extract from Spangenberg.

F. Bovet: Le Comte de Zinzendorf. Paris, 1860.

G. Burkhardt: Zinzendorf und die Brüdergemeinde, in Herzog's Real-Encykl. Vol. XVIII. pp. 508–592 (Gotha, 1864), and published as a separate volume.

II. Histories of the Moravian Church.

Many MS. sources in the Archives of Herrnhut, Saxony, especially the 'Lissa Folios,' relating to the history of the Ancient Bohemian and Moravian Church; the 'Diarium der Gemeinde zu Herrnhut' down to 1736; the journals and letters of Zinzendorf; and the history both of the Ancient and Renewed Church, by John Plitt, from 1722 to 1836, in 9 vols.

The Büding'sche Sammlung. Büdingen and Leipzig, 1742–1744, 3 vols. A collection of documents.

The Barby'sche Sammlung. Barby, 1760, 2 vols. A continuation of the former.

David Cranz: Alte und neue Brüderhistorie (down to 1769). Barby, 1772; continued by Hegner, in 3 parts, 1791–1816. Engl. transl. by La Trobe, London, 1780.

Die Gedenktage der erneuerten Brüderkirche (Memorial Days of the Renewed Brethren's Church). Gnadau, 1820.

Bp. Holmes: History of the United Brethren. Lond. 1825, 2 vols.

A. Bost: Histoire de l’Église des Frères de Bohème et Moravie. Paris, 1844, 2 vols. Abridged English transl. publ. by the Relig. Tract Soc. of London, 1848.

Bp. E. W. Cröger: Geschichte der erneuerten Brüderkirche (down to 1822). Gnadau, 1852–1854, 3 vols. (The same wrote also a Geschichte der alten Brüderkirche. Gnadau, 1865 and 1866, 2 vols.)

Verbeek: Geschichte der alten und neuen Brüder-Unität. Gnadau, 1857.

H. Plitt: Die Gemeine Gottes in ihrem Geiste und ihren Formen mit Beziehung auf die Brüdergemeine. Gotha, 1859.

Dr. Nitzsch: Kirchengeschichtliche Bedeutung der Brüdergemeinde. Berlin, 1853.


The missionary literature of the Moravians is very large and important, and embraces the works of Cranz on Greenland (1767); Oldendorp (1777) on Danish Missions; Heckewelder (1817) on Indian 875 Missions; L. Kölbing, Uebersicht der Missionsgeschichte der evang. Brüderkirche (1832 and 1833); Bp. von Schweinitz, Life of David Zeisberger (Phila. 187O). Comp. the Missionary Manual and Directory of the Unitas Fratrum, Bethlehem, Pa. 1875.


We must distinguish between the old Bohemian and Moravian Brethren who belonged to the Slavonic race, and the new Moravians who are chiefly German or of German descent. The connecting link between the two was the celebrated educator, John Amos Comenius (1592–1671), the Jeremiah of the former, and the John the Baptist of the latter, who, hoping against hope for the resurrection of the Bohemian Unitas Fratrum, nearly crushed to death by persecution, left behind him their order of discipline, and made provision for the ordination of two bishops, that through them the succession might be preserved in a quiescent state, until, in 1735, it was transferred to the renewed Church.

The new Moravian Church16671667   Also called the Unitas Fratrum, the United Brethren, the Moravian Brethern; in German, Brüdergemeine, or Herrnhuter. They must not be confounded with the Methodist 'United Brethren in the United States,' founded by Rev. William Otterbein in 1800. took its origin from the remnant (the ' Hidden Seed') of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethern, to whom Count Zinzendorf (1700–1760), under the guidance of a special providence, gave an hospitable refuge on his estates at Berthelsdorf, in Upper Lusatia, Saxony. The asylum was called Herrnhut (the Lord's Protection), and became the mother church and the centre of the denomination.

The little colony of immigrants from Moravia soon increased, by the accession of German families of the pietistic school of Spener, to the number of three hundred souls. It was organized on the basis of the Ratio Disciplinæ of Comenius. David Nitschmann was consecrated the first bishop by Daniel Ernst Jablonsky (court chaplain in Berlin) and Christian Sitkov, the surviving bishops of the old succession (March 13, 1735). This consecration was performed secretly in the presence of only two members of the Bohemian congregation in Berlin, for the sole purpose of sending ordained ministers to the distant missions and colonies. It was not intended to establish an episcopal form of government, separate and distinct from the national Lutheran Church, but this separation was the natural consequence. The second bishop was Count Zinzendorf himself, who gave up his office at the Saxon court 876and his worldly prospects to devote himself entirely to the Church of his own planting.16681668   It is an interesting fact that Frederic William I., king of Prussia, advised Zinzendorf to get the old Moravian Episcopal ordination, and that Zinzendorf conferred on the subject with Bishop Jablonsky, and with his friend, the Archbishop of Canterbury (John Potter). With all his eccentricities he was one of the purest and most remarkable men in the history of Christianity, a religious and poetic genius, and a true nobleman by nature and divine grace as well as by rank. He had but one all-absorbing passion—Christ and him crucified.16691669   'Ich habe nur eine Passion, und die ist Er, nur Er.' From his childhood, when he used to write letters to his beloved Saviour, this sacred fire burned in him, and continued to burn till he was called to see him face to face. He early conceived the idea, by planting in the spirit of Spener a true Church in the nominal Church, to reform the Church at home, and to carry the gospel to the heathen. We may call him the German Wesley; he was an organizer like John Wesley, and a true hymnist like his brother Charles. The Oxford Methodists started with a legalistic type of piety, but they received a new inspiration from the childlike, cheerful, serene, and sublime trust in God which characterized the Moravians with whom they came in contact.

The patriarchs of Moravianism—Zinzendorf, Nitschmann, and Spangenberg—like the patriarchs of Methodism, labored in both hemispheres at a time when the stagnant State Churches of Germany and England cared little or nothing for their children in America. They founded Bethlehem (1741) and Nazareth in Pennsylvania, and other colonies which remain to this day. Zinzendorf endeavored to unite the other German denominations and sects in Pennsylvania into one Church, but in vain.16701670   On the unionistic labors of Count Zinzendorf in Pennsylvania from 1742 to 1748, see an interesting article of the Rev. L. F. Reichel (mostly from unpublished MSS.) in Schaff's Deutscher Kirchenfreund for 1849, pp. 93–107.

The Moravian brotherhood is par excellence a missionary society at home and abroad. It has but few regularly organized congregations scattered in Christian lands, but in an age of indifferentism and rationalism they were like cities of refuge and oases in the wilderness, with fresh fountains and green pastures for multitudes who flocked to them for refreshment.16711671   Hase (Kirchengeschichte, p. 636, 9th ed.): 'Die Frömmigkeit ist in Herrnhut eine Manier geworden, aber viele stille oder gebrochene Herzen hatten hier eine Heimath, und der alte Christus in den Zeiten des Unglaubens ein Heiligthum.' They are still holding up the model of living congregations 877of real Christians. Besides, they have mission stations, called Diaspora (1 Pet. i. 1), for those who wish to derive spiritual benefit from them without severing their connection with the established Churches. These half-members may be compared to the Jewish proselytes of the gate as distinguished from the proselytes of righteousness. The Moravians, however, are free from the spirit of proselytism, and endeavor to promote peace and union among the Christians at home. But they are aggressive abroad, and concentrate their energies on foreign missions. Their chief glory lies in the extraordinary zeal and self-denial with which, since 1732, they have labored for the conversion of the most ignorant and degraded heathen in Greenland, Labrador, among the American Indians, and the African negroes and Esquimaux, at a time when orthodox Protestant Christendom had not yet awoke to a sense of its long-neglected duty. To the small band of Moravians belongs the first place of honor in the work of foreign missions.


The Moravian congregations in Germany are select communities of converted Christians, ecclesiæ in ecelesia, separate and distinct from the national Churches and the vanities of the surrounding world.16721672   The Moravian settlements in the United States were organized on the same exclusive principle, but have recently been thrown open to other people. They have a strict discipline, but they are free from gloomy asceticism, and cherish a cheerful and trustful piety with love for music and social refinement. Their educational institutions attract pupils from all directions.

The form of government is a kind of Episcopal Presbyterianism, under the supreme legislative power of synods, and an executive administration of an elective board of bishops and elders, called the 'Unity's Elders' Conference.' The bishops ordain deacons and presbyters: they represent the whole Unitas Fratrum, are official members of the synods, and have usually a seat in the governing boards. They claim an unbroken succession, but lay no stress on it, and fully recognize the validity of Presbyterian orders.

The home churches are divided into three provinces, Continental, 878British, and American. In 1857 these were declared independent in local and provincial affairs, but they continue to be united in doctrine and the work of foreign missions.

In worship, the Moravians combine liturgical and extemporaneous prayer. At all the liturgical services music forms a prominent feature. Their liturgy and hymn-book are of a superior order. They have greatly enriched the treasures of German hymnology, and produced also one of the best English hymnists in James Montgomery (1771–1854), 'the Cowper of the nineteenth century.' Love-feasts are held preparatory to the communion, in imitation of the ancient Agapæ. Foot-washing was formerly practiced, but has been discontinued since the beginning of the present century. The former use of the lot in connection with marriage has been practically abandoned; and in connection with the appointment of ministers it has been restricted or is left discretional.


The Moravians acknowledge no exclusive and compulsory symbols. They are essentially unionistic, and seek union in harmony of spirit, life, and worship, rather than in a logical statement of doctrine.16731673   Burkhardt (in Herzog, Vol. XVIII. p. 589) says: 'Die Brüdergemeinde stellt nie ein äusserlich formulirtes Bekenntniss nach aussen hin auf, das sie von anderen evangelischen Glaubensgenossen trennen könnte. Sie wird es und kann es nie thun, denn nicht Abschluss und Scheidung, sondern Union ist ihr Princip. Aber nur jene wahre und positive Union auf Grund der heiligen Schrift und der lebendigen Herzens-Erfahrung, die allein die Herzen vereinigt.' Bishop Schweinitz says {Manual, p. 95): 'The Renewed Church of the Brethren has no Confession of Faith as such, that is, no document bearing this name.' Their most authoritative creed is the Easter Litany, which dates from 1749, and is still used annually in all Moravian churches, but as an act of worship, not as a formula for subscription.16741674   See the Moravian Litany in Vol. III. p. 793. They have always laid the chief stress on the atoning death of Christ, and the personal union of the soul with him, but more in a devotional and practical than doctrinal way. Christ crucified and living in them is the all in all of their religion, their only comfort in life and death; but they have not formulated any particular theory of the atonement or of the unio mystica. They prefer the chiaroscuro of mystery and the personal attachment to Christ to all scientific theology.

Historically and nationally, they are more nearly related to the 879Lutheran denomination than to any other. They sustain to it a relation similar to that which the Wesleyans sustain to the Church of England. They professed from the start their agreement with the Augsburg Confession. Spangenberg, the exponent of their doctrinal system, begins the preface to his Idea Fidei Fratrum with the declaration that his book is no new confession, but that the Confessio Augustana of 1530 is and shall remain their confession.

But we should remember that this indorsement of the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession, though no doubt sincere, was partly a matter of policy and necessity to secure toleration in Lutheran countries.16751675   After ten years' banishment from Saxony, Zinzendorf secured in 1748 recognition of his congregation as Augsburgische Religionsverwandte (Addicti Augustanæ Conf.)—a title under which the Reformed, or Calvinists, were included in the Treaty of Westphalia. It had no force outside of Germany and Scandinavia, and even there no subscription to this document was ever required.16761676   Manual, p. 95: 'This acknowledgment, according to the declaration of the General Synod, does not bind the conscience of any member, much less is it of any weight in those provinces of the Unity where the Augsburg Confession has no other value than as being the creed of one (the Lutheran) among many Churches enjoying equal rights' (Synod. Results of 1857, p. 96). The Moravians never adopted the other Lutheran symbols, least of all the Formula of Concord, which strict Lutherans regard as a legitimate development of the Augustana. They never wished to be considered, nor were they recognized as Lutherans, but were violently assailed by them for their alleged doctrinal latitudinarianism and various excesses during their early history. Even the Pietists for a period made common cause with their orthodox enemies against the new sect, though less on doctrinal grounds. The Moravians claim to be the legitimate descendants and heirs of the Bohemian Brethren, who were closely connected with the Waldenses, and had their own Confessions and Catechisms before and after the Reformation. They admitted to their communion Lutherans, Pietists, Calvinists, Anglicans, without inquiring into their creed, if only they were devout Christians. In England they were recognized by Parliament, with the concurrence of the bench of bishops, as 'an ancient Episcopal Church' (1749), and allowed to settle in the American colonies. They also freely associated with Wesleyans. They were the advocates of a conservative evangelical union of three chief types of doctrine16771677   Lehrtropen (τρόποι παιδείας), as Zinzendorf called them. He meant different educational ways of God adapted to the varieties of national and individual character. The Lutheran type prevailed among the Moravians in Saxony, the Reformed in Holland and England. The Moravian type furnished the historical base and a peculiar element in discipline rather than doctrine.—the old Moravian or Bohemian, the Lutheran, 880and the Reformed—living in brotherly harmony as a true unitas fratrum, and having their common centre in Christ. They rise above the boundaries of nationality and sect, and represent a real catholicity or universalism of creed with Christ as the only fundamental article. 'I know of no other foundation,' says Zinzendorf, 'but Christ, and I can associate with all who build on this foundation.' He was at one time even open to a project of union with the Greek and Latin Churches and all sorts of Christian sects, but he learned that the union here below must be spiritual and inward.

It is a remarkable fact that the great German theologian, Schleiermacher, was cradled in the Moravian community, and conceived there his love for Christian union and personal devotion to Christ, which guided him through the labyrinth of speculation and skepticism, and triumphed on his death-bed. He shook almost every dogma of orthodoxy, and was willing, if necessary; to sacrifice all, if he could only retain a perfect and sinless Saviour.

Zinzendorf's theology and piety passed through a process of development—first a sound evangelical stage (1723–1742), then a period of sickly sentimentalism (1743–1750), and, last, a period of purification and reconstruction (1750–1760).16781678   See especially Plitt and Burkhardt. These phases are reflected in the history of his followers. Encouraged by his own unguarded language, in poetry and prose, about the luxurious reveling in the wounds of the Lamb,16791679   Or 'Lambkin,' Lämmlein, as the favorite phrase was. The side-wound was made especially prominent. and the personal intimacy with the Saviour, they ran into wild and dangerous excesses of an overheated imagination. As is often the case in the history of religious enthusiasm, the spirit was about to end in the flesh.16801680   Bishop Schweinitz thus describes this period (Moravian Manual, pp. 35 sq.): 'The relation between Christ and his Church was described in language more highly figurative, and under images more sensuous, than any thing found even in the Song of Solomon. A mania spread to spiritualize, especially the marriage relation, and to express holy feelings in extravagant terms. Hymns abounded, treating of the passion of Jesus, apostrophizing the wound in his side, degrading sacred things to a level with the worst puerilities, and pouring forth sentimental nonsense like a flood; while services, in themselves devotional and excellent, were changed into occasions for performances more in keeping with the stage of a common theatre than with the sanctity of the house of God. In short, fanaticism rioted among ministers and people, and spread from Herrnhaag and Marienborn to other churches both on the Continent of Europe and in England. Those in America escaped, or were but slightly affected. This continued for about five years, reaching its climax in 1749. It is possible that immoralities of life may have occurred in single instances, although there are no positive proofs of this; the great majority of the Brethren, however, were preserved from such extremes.' Similar antinomian excesses occurred in the Moravian congregations in England (1751), and turned Wesley and Whitefield against their old friends, whom they charged with neglecting to preach the law either as a schoolmaster or as a rule of life, with irreverent sentimentalism and superstitions fopperies. See Tyerman, Life of John Wesley, Vol. II. pp. 95 sqq. (Harper's ed.). But Zinzendorf himself, honestly confessing his 881share of responsibility, recalled his followers from the abyss to the purity and simplicity of the gospel.

The purified and matured system of the Moravians is best exhibited in Spangenberg's Idea Fidei, which occupies a similar position among them as Melanchthon's Loci in the Lutheran Church. It is also set forth from time to time in the Synodical Results. The Synod of 1869 issued the following summary of such doctrines as are deemed most essential to salvation:

'1. The doctrine of the total depravity of human nature: that there is no health in man, and that the fall absolutely deprived him of the divine image.

'2. The doctrine of the love of God the Father, who has "chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world," and "so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

' 3. The doctrine of the real godhead and the real manhood of Jesus Christ: that God, the Creator of all things, was manifested in the flesh, and has reconciled the world unto himself; and that "he is before all things, and by him all things consist."

'4. The doctrine of the atonement and satisfaction of Jesus Christ for us: that he "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification;" and that in his merits alone we find forgiveness of sins and peace with God.

'5. The doctrine of the Holy Ghost and the operations of his grace: that it is he who works in us the knowledge of sin, faith in Jesus, and the witness that we are children of God.

'6. The doctrine of the fruits of faith: that faith must manifest itself as a living and active principle, by a willing obedience to the commandments of God, prompted by love and gratitude to him who died for us.

'In conformity with these fundamental articles of faith, the great theme of our preaching is Jesus Christ, in whom we have the grace of the Lord, the love of the Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost. We regard it as the main calling of the Brethren's Church to proclaim the Lord's Death, and to point to him, "as made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."'16811681   Bishop Schweinitz, in M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclop. Vol. VI. p. 587. Comp. his Compend of Doctrine in XVII. Articles, compiled from the authorized publication in the Moravian Manual, pp. 95–100. A popular statement is contained in the Catechism of Christian Doctrine for the Instruction of Youth in the Church of the United Brethren, and the Epitome of Christian Doctrine for the Instruction of Candidates for Confirmation (various editions in German and English).

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