Zinzendorf, Nicholas Lewis

, count de, founder, or restorer of the sect of the Moravian brethren, was descended from an ancient and noble family in Austria; but directly sprung from that Lutheran branch of it which flourished in Misnia. He was born in 1700, and even in his childhood, had formed a resolution of becoming a minister of the gospel, designing to collects small society of Believers, who should altogether employ themselves in exercises of devotion, under his direction. Accordingly in 1721, when he became of age, he purchased the estate and village of Bertholsdorf, near Zittavv, in Upper Lusatia. Some time before this, in 1717, one Christian David visited the small remains of the church of the United Brethren, who had formed a society for religious exercises in a small village in Moravia, but finding their situation a precarious one, and them desirous of some more secure settlement, he recommended them to count Zinzendorf; and this scheme being perfectly compatible with the count’s original design, the Moravian emigrants were permitted to settle here.

The count himself superintended the rising settlement. The first houses were built near the hill called the Hutberg, i. e. the Watch-Hill; and hence the new settlement was called Herrnhut, i e. the Watch of the Lord; and the brethren were by some denominated (but very improperly) Herrnhutters. In 1724, more emigrants arrived at Herrrihut from Moravia, just as the brethren were beginning to lay the foundation of an edifice intended for the education of the children of the noblesse, for printing cheap Bibles, and preparing medicines for their neighbours, in which building was also to be a chapel.

Herrnhut soon became a considerable village; but it would far exceed our limits to recount the successive emigrations to Herrnhut, and the additions that were made by the preaching of the rev. Mr. Rothe, minister of Bertholsdorf, and by the zeal of Christian David. Among these settlers were persons of different opinions a circumstance, which engaged the attention of count Zinzendorf, who endeavoured to establish a union among them in the fundamental truths of the protestant religion, ancj, in 1727, formed statutes for their government, in conformity to these truths.

From this period, in particular, when elders and wardens were chosen, and a union established between the brethren | from Moravia, both among themselves, and with their Lutheran and Calvinistic brethren, the Moravian writers date the renewal of the “Unity of the Brethren.” The whole congregation was divided into classes, called choirs, and one of their own sex and station in life appointed to have the special care of each choir under the inspection of the elders. The ministers were appointed by lot, according to the apostolic practice, which they have continued ever since. They have adopted also other primitive practices, as the foot-washing, the kiss of charity, and the celebration of the agapæ, or love feasts. All matrimonial contracts were subject to the direction and approbation of the elders. Their worship is directed principally to Jesus Christ; and, in their religious services^ they admit of instrumental as well as vocal mtisic.

The Moravians retain the discipline of their ancient church, and make use of episcopal ordination, which has been handed down to them, in a direct line of succession for more than 300 years. In their doctrines they adhere to the confession of Augsburgh, which was drawn up by Melancthon, at the desire of the protestant princes then assembled in that city, and by them presented to the die( of the empire, in 1530.*


With respect to their doctrines, we refer the reader, for more ample information on the subject, to “An Exposition of Christian Doctrine, as taught in the Protestant Churches of the United Brethren, or `Unitas Fratrum.‘ Written in German by Augustus Gottleib Spangenberg. and translated (with a Preface) by Benjamin La Trobe,” 8vo, 1784.

Full information of the present Con situation of the Church of the Brethren may be likewise found in a small tract, entitled, “A concise historical Account of the present Constitution of the `Unitas Fratrum,’ or Uniy of the Evangelical Brethren, &c.1775; and, in 1779, was printed “A Summary of the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, to be used for the instruction of youth in the congregations of the United Brethren.

In 1732, count Zinzendorf determining to devote h is whole time to the benefit of the brethren, and to the great work of preaching the gospel among the heathens, resigned his situation as one of the council of regency at Dresden. He had been appointed in 1727, one of the wardens of the congregation. These wardens, where necessary, were to patronize the congregation, and to have an eye to the maintenance of good order and discipline. To them, and to the elders in conjunction, the direction of the congregation, both internally and externally, was committed. This office he resigned in 1730, but upon the urgent entreaties of the congregation, resumed it in 1733. He entered into | holy orders in 1734, at Tubingen, in the duchy of Wirtemberg; and in 1737, he received episcopal ordination, on which occasion he received a letter of congratulation from Dr. Potter, archbishop of Canterbury, and from this time we always find him called the Ordinary of the brethren. In 1741, he laid aside his episcopal function, as he believed it would be prejudicial to his intended labours in Pennsylvania, where he purposed to appear merely as a Lutheran divine.

The count was so zealous and indefatigable in the extension of his sect, that he travelled over all Europe, and was twice in America, in consequence of which numerous settlements of the Moravians were formed, and missionaries sent to all parts of the world. In the mean time the brethren had to encounter much serious opposition. From the cbuht’s writings, it was attempted to be proved that he had advanced the most pernicious notions, and recommended the most abominable practices; and with respect to the brethren at large, the language of their devotions was said to be licentious and obscerie; and it was added, that no examples could be found of a fanaticism more extravagant, and a mysticism more gross and scandalous, than those of the Herrnhutters.

These accusations were first circulated in a pamphlet, published in 1753, entitled “A narrative of the rise and progress of the Herrnhutters, with a short account of their doctrines, c.” by Henry Rimius, Aulic counsellor- to his late majesty the king of Prussia. The representations of this writer were confided in, and the character of the brethren was exhibited in the most odious colours. Bishops Lavington and Warburton, in particular, relying principally on the authority of Rimius, were distinguished as the most formidable of their antagonists. Bishop Lavington, in a pamphlet entitled “The Moravians compared and detected,” instituted a curious parallel between the doctrines and practices of the Moravians and those of the ancient heretics; and Dr. Warburton, in his “Doctrine of Grace,” wrote some very severe invectives against them. The count was at this time (1753) in England, and resided at an old mansion (called Lindsey house) which he had purchased at Chelsea. He was here witness to numerous libels against him. “To one of the first ministers of state,” says Mr. Cranz, “who urged the prosecution of a certain libeller, and promised him all his interest in having him | punished, he gave his reasons in writing, why he neither could nor would prosecute him. A certain eminent divine^ who compared the brethren to all the ancient and modern heretics, and charged them with all their errors, though ever so opposite to each other, received from him a very moderate private answer.

Some Moravian writers, however, while they effectually refuted the calumnies against the brethren as a community or sect, very candidly acknowledged that the extravagant expressions and practices of some individuals among them, were indeed indefensible. “It may not be improper to ob-> serve,” says Mr. LaTrobe, in the preface to his translation of Spangenberg’s Exposition of Christian doctrine, “that although the brethren have been very falsely traduced by their adversaries, and by misinformed people, who meant well, and that particularly the writings of the late count Zinzendorf have been used to prove, that the church, of which he was an eminent and the most distinguished minister, held the errors of the most fanatic, yea wicked heretics; and his writings have been, for this purpose, mutilated, falsely quoted, and translated; and, although the extravagant words and actions of individuals have been unjustly charged upon the whole body; yet it were t.o be wished that there had been no occasion given, at a certain period, to accuse the brethren of improprieties and extravagance in word or practice.” Again, speaking of count Zinzendorf, he says, " He commonly delivered two or three discourses in a day, either publicly or to his family, which was generally large; and what he then uttered, was attended with a striking effect upon those who heard him. He spoke in the strictest sense extempore; and according to the state of the times in which, and the persons to whom he spbke. These discourses were commonly taken -down as he uttered therri; and the love and admiration of his brethren were so great, that they urged the publication of these discourses. His avocations were such, that he did not spend time sufficient in the revision; some were not at all revised by him, and some very incorrectly and falsely printed. Hence doctrines, of which he never thought, were deduced from his writings, and some of his transient private opinions laid to the charge of the whole brethren’s church. 1 do not, and cannot, attempt to defend such publications, but relate the real state of the case.

"The count was so convinced of the injpropriety of the | above proceedings, that he requested the reverend author of this exposition to extract all the accusations of his antagonists, and the adversaries of the brethren, and lay them before him. It was done; he answered all; and the charges, and his answers, were published in Germany, in the years 1751 and 1752. He finding positions in the writings under his name which he could not avow, declared in the public papers, that he could not acknowledge any books which had been published in his name, unless they were revised and corrected in a new edition by himself. He began this work in German; but the Lord took him to himself before he could get through many books.

True it is, that at a certain time, particularly between 1747 and 1753, many of the brethren, in their public discourses, and in their hymns, which were published about that period, used expressions that were indefensible: the count himself laboured to correct both the theory and language; and he was successful^ and they are no more in use among the brethren. The brethren’s congregations do not take the writings of the count, or of any man, as their standard of doctrine; the Bible alone is their standard of truth, and they agree with the Augustan, or Augsburgh confession, as being conformable to it.” It is evident from this acknowledgment that the objectionable language of which their opponents accused them, was actually to be found in the writings attributed to Zinzendorf, and the indignation, therefore, which they excited was just Nor have they reason to regret the expression of that indignation, since it has produced a reformation which places the sect in a more unexceptionable light. “It is no more,” says Mr. Wilberforce, “than an act of justice explicitly to remark, that a body of Christians, which, from the peculiarly offensive grossnesses of language in use among them, had, not without reason, excited suspicions of the very worst nature, have since reclaimed their character, and have excelled all mankind in solid and unequivocal proofs of the love of Christ, and of the most ardent, and active, and patient zeal in his service. It is a zeal tempered with prudence, softened with meekness, soberly aiming at great ends by the gradual operation of well adapted means, supported by a courage which no danger can intimidate, and a quiet constancy which no hardships can exhaust.

Count Zinzendorf died at Herrnhutt, May 9, 1760, and was interred in the bury ing-ground on the Hutberg. Mr. | Cranz has given the affecting particulars of his death and funeral in his History of the Brethren, p. 488 502. The count was married, about 1722, to the countess Erdmuth Dorothea Reuss, who died on the 19th of June, 1756, beloved and revered by all as a “faithful and blessed nursing- mother of the church of the Brethren.” By her he had one son and three daughters. His son, count Christian Renatus of Zinzendorf, was educated at the university of Jena; in 1744 his father introduced him at Herrnhut as a co-elder of the single brethren: he wrote many poetical soliloquies and meditations; and died at Westminster, May 28, 1752. Of the three daughters, the eldest accompanied her father to America, and married the baron Johannes de Watteville, who, in 1743, was consecrated a co-bishop, at Gnadenfrey, in Silesia.' 1


Life by Spangenberj, Granz’s History of the Brethren. Mosheina, vol. VI.