Moravian Missions -- By: Leslie R. Sovocol

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 089:353 (Jan 1932)
Article: Moravian Missions
Author: Leslie R. Sovocol


Moravian Missions

Leslie R. Sovocol

Nicholaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf, founder of the resuscitated Moravian Church was born at Dresden in 1700. His father having died, he was brought up by his grandmother, who was full of sympathy with the religious movement called “Pietism” of which Spener was the leading representative. Zinzendorf studied in the grammar school at Halle under Francke, one of the most devout leaders of the same school. At Wittenberg he pursued law, as his relatives were opposed to his entering the ministry, to which he was strongly inclined. He lost no opportunity of doing good by stimulating others to renewed earnestness in the Christian life. In 1722, and in the seven following years, a considerable number of these “Brethren”, led by Christian David, who were persecuted in their homes, were received by Count Zinzendorf on his estate at Berthelsdorf in Saxony. The village they founded was called Herrnhut, or, “the Watch of the Lord.” There they were joined by Christians from other places in Germany, and Zinzendorf took up his abode among them, and, became their principal guide and pastor. His ancestors had been possessed of wealth and distinction in Austria.

In 1737, at the request of King Frederick William I of Prussia, he was ordained a Bishop. Zinzendorf had before been received into the Lutheran ministry. The peculiar fervor which characterized his religious work, and certain particulars in his teaching, caused the Saxon Government, wedded to the traditional ways of Lutheranism, to exclude him from Saxony for ten years (1736–46). He prosecuted his religious labor in Frankfort, journeyed through Holland and England, made a voyage to the West Indies, and in 1741, a voyage to America and founded the celebrated Moravian colony at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. New branches of the Moravian body were planted in all the countries he visited. His preaching as well as his writings instructed and inspired those of his followers. His chief

talent was that of administrator. The Moravians were generally gathered in towns, and owned the land within their limits. In the local church or town, they were divided into classes or “choirs,” with an elder or deaconess at the head of each. Their ecclesiastical affairs were regulated by a carefully devised system of boards and synods. It was a church within a church that Zinzendorf aimed to establish. It was far from his purpose to found a sect antagonistic to the national churches in the midst of which the Moravian societies arose. His theology, in its main features, was evangelical Lutheranism. But the larger infusion of warmth and religious sentiment was offensive to the more stiff and lukewarm exponents of the current orthodoxy. Such practices as ...

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