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Both of these regions were Sclavonian provinces, and many gladly received the Gospel. But civil cominotions arising at this early period, a cruel persecution against these reformers followed; many were punished with death, or imprisonment and exile. But God appeared to their succor and comfort. The bloody persecution of the Waldenses in France and Italy, led to their emigration by great numbers into Bohemia, and about 1176, they formed a union with the Christian Bohemians and Moravians. This religious connection introduced a purer and more Scriptural form of worship among them.
About the middle of the fourteenth century Pope Clement VI., aided by Charles IV., the Emperor of Germany and Bohemia, endeavored to reduce the Bohemian and Moravian Churches to the see of Rome. One of the chief means to accomplish this design was the establishment of the University at Prague. On the 6th of July, 1373, was born that early reformer and martyr, John Huss, in a small town of Bohemia, and amidst poverty. Still he entered the new university, accompanied by his pious mother, who, with prayers and tears, recommended her child to the notice of the rector. Devoting much time to the study of the sacred Scriptures, with the Greek and Latin Fathers, the young student made rapid progress in his learning; he became tutor in his twentieth year, and soon Professor of Divinity in the University. In 1409 he was chosen its Rector, six years before his martyrdom:
The Moravian was soon declared a heretic, excommunicated, and by a papal interdict all religious worship suspended in the city of Prague. Huss was tried and doomed to the flames as a heretic the next year. His books were burned before his face, and this early reformer ascended from the stake, singing, in a chariot of fire, to his reward in heaven.
The Moravian, Bohemian, or Hussite Church now had many divisions in regard to doctrines and religious ceremonies, but in 1460 they finally settled all their differences and adopted the name of “Fratres Legis Christi,” Brethren of the Law of Christ; but it was soon exchanged for the more simple appellation of “ Fratres ”. Brethren. In after years, when their number had greatly increased, they assumed the name of Unitas Fratrum,” the Unity of Brethren. They were the first to give the Bible in the living tongue, having printed it in 1170, at Venice, and issued three editions of its sacred pages before the commencement of Luther's Reformation.
Some eighty-five miles from the city of Prague, near the confines of Bohemia and Silesia, along the foot of the mountains, stretched the domain of Lititz, and there, amid the shadows of feudal towers
and deep recesses, was founded the Moravian Church. At that period Michael Bradacius resided in the barony of Lititz. an evangelical priest, and preached the Gospel in its purity. The Moravians of Prague hearing of him, were moved in the spirit to visit the man of God, and soon a number of the Brethren sought his retreat in 1453. Strong in the faith, and bold for their Master, they turned their backs upon the city and its corruptions, and sought homes and religious freedom amid the mountains and forests. There a solemn convocation was called. This was in 1457, just four hundred years ago, and here they prayed and deliberated until their hearts were impressed with the belief that it was a duty to separate from the established and corrupt Churches of Bohemia and Moravia. They avowed themselves the followers or disciples of John Huss; their only rule of faith, practice, and discipline, the New Testament; and adopting as their model the ancient apostolical Church, they organized a communion of their own.
Michael Bradacius was chosen minister, and at subsequent convocations Gregory. Procopius, and Clenovicius, were elected elders. This is the history of the founding of the Moravian Church, four centuries since, and a regular ministry, established by ordination from a Waldensian Church, on the confines of Austria. The Waldenses have existed a long period, as a distinct body of Christians, tracing the succession of their bishops from the apostolic times. Three of the Brethren, already in priest's orders, were sent to the Waldensian bishop, Stephen, who readily ordained them bishops of the Brethren's Church. Michael Bradacius is the only one of the three whose name has been handed down to posterity. A synod was soon convoked, other presbyters were ordained, and one of them, Mathias, of Kunewolde, consecrated a bishop.
To prevent the pomp of hierarchical power, and the abuse made of the name of bishop in the Romish Church, the Moravians called their bishops Seniors, or Elders. The first four were aided in their solemn and arduous duties by ten con-seniors, or co-bishops, elected from the presbyters.
When it became known that the Moravians had secured an ecclesiastical constitution, severe edicts were issued against them. Michael, their first bishop, was placed in close confinement for several years, and all the prisons in Bohemia were soon crowded, and the Brethren were banished from Moravia and driven into distant lands. The more Rome opposed, however, the more Unitas Fratrum increased, until in the commencement of the sixteenth century, there were not less than two hundred Churches in Bohemia and Moravia, embracing all ranks of life, from the humble peasant to the ancient nobles. There were provincial bishops in Bohemia, Moravia, and Poland, and all united in general conventions. Particular attenwas devoted to education, and the Brethren had several seminaries of learning
They were the first to give the BIBLE in any living European language, having printed it in 1470, at Venice: afterward they established no less than three presses, one in Moravia, and two in Bohemia, and for several years nothing was issued except Bohemian Bibles. These were the blessed fruits of righteousness.
At length Ferdinand II. swayed the sceptre of the Austrian empire, to which Bohemia and Moravia now belonged. He was a religious bigot, and had solemnly sworn to extirpate heresy from his dominions. He expelled all Protestants from Bohemia, but mostly in a bloodless way, the Jesuits being his emissaries and champions. “ Abjure evangelical faith, or leave the country," was the royal principle and mandate. A dark day followed, and toward the end of the seventeenth century " the Moravian Zion" no longer existed as a separate one ; still it was not dead, but a living hidden seed in the hearts of the faithful.
Amos Comenius was the venerable bishop who formed the connecting link between the ancient and the renewed Churches. Wandering with his broken flock into exile, he had reached the top of the lofty mountain chain separating Moravia from Siberia. Here the aged minister of God paused to cast a farewell look upon that native land which he so dearly loved. Long did he gaze, and falling upon his knees, he beseeched the God of his fathers to preserve the good seed in those former homes of religion and truth, and to cause a new tree to grow up from it. After many years spent in exile, Comenius felt his end drawing near, and consecrated, as a last pious act, another bishop, so that the episcopal succession might not become extinct. A living Church thus continued to exist, amid a long night of intellectual and spiritual darkness, which neither the craft nor violence of men was permitted to destroy.
In 1522 the Moravian Brethren deputed John Horn and Michael Weiss to visit Luther, the German preacher, with the sincere congratulations of their whole brotherhood; and in 1536 they transmitted to him their Confession of Faith. With this document he was so well pleased as to have it printed at Wittemberg, with a recommendatory preface.
Luther died in 1646, and Charles V., the same year, commenced a war against the Protestants. The oldest Moravian bishop, John Augusta was imprisoned, fed on bread and water, scourged, and put to the rack. George Israel, his successor in the episcopacy, experienced similar hard and cruel usage. Many churches were now shut up and their ministers banished. Conducted by their bishop, Mathias Lyon, a numerous body emigrated to Poland, and thence to Prussia; and in the short space of six years not less than forty congregations were collected in Great Poland, mostly by Bishop George Israel. Synods were held, at one of which a new version of the Bible in Bohemian, from the originals, was ordered; and students of divinity sent to the Universities of Wittenberg and Basle, to perfect themselves in Hebrew and Greek for the work of translating. A printing-office was established at the Castle of Kralitz, the translators spending fourteen years in completing their important task.
Next succeeded the “ Thirty Years War,” as it is called, from 1618 to 1648, during which the Moravian Brethren were almost exterminated, and many of their leading men beheaded. All the Protestant Churches and schools throughout Bohemia and Moravia were closed forever. Minions of the pope searched for every copy of the Bible, and, with all Protestant books, they were committed to the flames. The sacred utensils of God's house shared the same fate.
Many persons of rank in the Brethren's Church were executed, and among .
them Wenceslaus, of Budowa. He was seventy-four years old, a man of learning, and had held high offices under the Emperor Rudolph. Jesuits and Capuchin monks vainly strove for his recantation. Placing his hand on the word of God, he said, with a smile, “ This paradise has never offered me sweeter fruits than it does at this moment." Upon the scaffold the venerable minister uncovered his white locks, and said: “Behold my gray hairs ; what honor is conferred upon them, to be encircled with a martyr's crown." Baron Von Kopplick had also honorably served the state. He was almost ninety, and when ordered to execution exclaimed: “In the name of God I am ready. I have waited long enough;” and while adding, “Lord Jesus, into thy hands I commit my spirit,” his aged head was severed from his body by one blow. Such was the holy fortitude which manifested the faith and hope of the Moravian confessors, by joyfully laying down their lives for a pure Gospel. Rome, sanguinary Rome, thus tyrannizes over the consciences of men. Whole countries were depopulated by the rage of her cruel hierarchy, and this work of destruction in Bohemia and Moravia, did not cease for a long period.
Crantz, in his Brethren's history, states that not less than thirty thousand persons, about 1730, left Saltzburg for conscience' sake. Our rapid sketch, thus far, has been confined to what may be called the Ancient Brethren's Church,
That Church through ages past,
That Church, which Satan's legions thought destroy'd,
We now come to the “ Unitas Fratrum” of more modern times. Christian David was the principal mover and the soul of the refugees. Born at a little village of Moravia, in 1690, he was early employed in tending sheep, and afterward learned the carpenter's trade. A bigoted Roman Catholic, to use his own words, “in the performance of his devotions he crept on his knees around the images of the blessed Virgin, till his whole body burned like an oven." At twenty he had never seen a Bible; but now hearing that it was the word of God, his desire to obtain a copy was intense. At length he procured the sacred volume, when it became his favorite book; and renouncing the errors of Popery, he joined the Lutherans in Berlin. Next he enlisted in the army, and discharged from the service, he married and settled at Upper Lausatia in 1717. David made several fruitless attempts to find an asysum for his oppressed countrymen, but was directed, providentially, at last, to Count Zinzendorf, who promised to receive them on his estate of Bethelsdorf, near Gerlitz.
In 1722 Christian David carried to Moravia the joyful news of Zinzendorf's offer. A single family at first migrated, Christian David conducting the pilgrims across the mountains and unknown paths to the frontiers of Silesia. The refugees selected a dreary wilderness, covered with bushes, forest-trees, and swamps, for their future home. David, full of courage and faith, striking his axe into a tree, exclaimed with the Psalmist,“ Here the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young; even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”
On the 17th of June, 1722, the first tree was felled, and the building of Herrnhut commenced. This term signifies, the watch of the Lord, or the object of the Lord's protection. And Christian David observed: “You who dwell here must watch day and night, and see to it that the work of grace here begun be uninterruptedly continued.” This is considered by the Brethren as the beginning of their Renewed Church. Other immigrants arrived