Edmund Alexander De Schweinitz.

The history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr online

. (page 13 of 64)
Online LibraryEdmund Alexander De SchweinitzThe history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr → online text (page 13 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Towards strangers and travelers we will exercise kind hospitality,
more especially if the object of their journey be the furtherance
of the Gospel. Whenever we see any of our brethren suffer
want or otherwise in affliction, we will follow the example of the
apostles and our early fathers in the faith, and communicate
according to his need from the store which the Lord in His
mercy has vouchsafed to us. For if all faithful Christians were
united in love, and each one did study to bear the other's burden,
the commandment of Christ would be fulfilled. Sympathizing
love is the fulness of the Christian faith, promoting edification
and spiritual life, and is the firmest and most enduring bond of
human happiness. He that loveth not has denied the faith, and
is worse than an infidel, and the Spirit of the Lord condemns

It was further agreed : We will receive with brotherly kind-
ness a penitent soul, and every one who turns away from the
world unto God, and assist them, that they may come to the
knowledge of the truth. Whoever he be he shall find every-
where a kind and hospitable reception. We will faithfully
converse with him, give him advice and instruction, exhortations,
and every needful warning, that he may be corrected and edified,
and may grow in spirituality.

Concerning our external comforts, it was agreed : We will not
needlessly change our place of residence, except it can be shown
that we can be of 'greater and more extensive usefulness to the
Church of God in the new place.

Neither will we change our servants needlessly, unless a master
is convinced that a change would be beneficial for the spiritual
well-being of his household, in which case he himself should
suggest the means of facilitating it.

If any are persecuted and driven into exile on account of
their faith, or if their property and possessions are taken away
from them or burnt, we consider it our duty to receive and care
for such.

The orphan, the widow, and the destitute, are to be regarded
with peculiar compassion by the Brethren, and to be received in
the name of Christ; the necessary support being provided for
them in the spirit of charity.


The Brethren will inquire after all devoted and faithful
servants of God who may be in want and distress, and assist
them to the best of their ability.

Whenever any sum is paid from the general fund of the
congregations of the Brethren for charitable purposes, the
treasurer is to keep a faithful and correct account of it, and
procure a receipt for it from the party to whom it is paid.
Hereby every suspicion, every false report and hurtful under-
standing are prevented, and love and harmony preserved in the

In general the Brethren should seek their resting-place in the
Lord, and guard against the dazzling and vaunting seductions of
the world. The tempting exterior of worldly-mindedness, the
subtlety and secret malice of its prevailing wicked spirit, which
continually endeavors to overcome Christian simplicity of heart
by its flattering delusions, are very dangerous rocks for a faithful
soul. The spirit of this world pursues only selfish objects, and
promising to its dupe temporary advantages, which often are not
attainable, it can do no more after all than deceive ; from which
spirit may God in mercy preserve us.

All this is contained in the Holy Scriptures, and therefore we
are bound faithfully to adhere to it.

Regarding our earthly appointed Rulers, we consider ourselves
bound to show them due obedience, to follow their wise counsels,
to be subject to them with all humility, to manifest loyalty in all
things, and faithfulness towards them, and to pray unto God for

In the congregations we will preserve peace with all, cultivate
brotherly harmony, and do all in our power to further the
common well-being, and to maintain firmly the bond of brother-
hood in and with and through our God. Thus our conscience
will be preserved in the peace of God, and the blessings of the
grace of" God will at all times abound among us.

It is with feelings of profound admiration that we read
this venerable document more than four centuries old, and
recognize in its opening sentence justification by faith as the
doctrinal ground on which the Brethren stood.^ At the same
time it plainly shows how decided was the tendency which
they had received from Peter Chelcicky, to subordinate the
doctrinal to the practical. And yet, when a man has been
justified by faith what can be more acceptable to God than
holiness manifesting itself, as this document enjoins, in every

* Even Gindely, I. p. 31, acknowledges this.


duty and in all the relations of daily life ? The statutes of
Reichenau set forth personal godliness in a way worthy of the
earnest men who were there assembled.

In the next place, the Synod proceeded to consider measures
looking to a more complete organization of the Church. This
was a subject which, in its widest scope, involved questions
of great moment. The recent persecution had taught the
Brethren that the number of their priests was insufficient.
Not a few of them had been rudely dragged from their fields
of labor and cast into prison ; and although they had, for the
most part, been subsequently set at liberty, so that they could
resume their work, the hope of keeping their ranks full by
secessions from the Utraquists was uncertain. Should the
Brethren therefore cut themselves loose entirely from this
Church and institute a ministry of their own ? They ap-
proached this question, not with the rashness of modern
sectarianism, which almost seems to think that every new
divisif>n among the Protestants is a new trophy for the cause
of Truth, but with the utmost caution and feelings well nigh
of awe. Would so momentous a step be well pleasing in the
sight of God ? Would it tend to promote His glory and
advance His kingdom ? Or would it increase the confusion
prevailing in matters of religion and be a stumbling-block in
the way of men ? These and other cognate points were
discussed, but without bringing the Synod to a decision.
Hence it was agreed that, for the time being, the ministrations
of Utraquist priests should continue, but that the supervision
of the Church should be rendered more efficient. To this end
three of the Elders — Gregory, Procop of Hradeck and John
Klenovsky — were elected Primarii,^ or Chief Elders, and
received authority to direct, in accordance with the new
Statutes which were now delivered into their hands, the other
Elders and rule the membership.^ Thereupon the Synod

® The title given them by Lasitius.

' Lasitius, II. 35 ; Blahoslaw's Summa quaedam L. F., VIII. pp. 157-
171. Camerarius, p. 90 ; Comenii Hist. Sect. 58, p. 17 ; Gindely, I. p. 31.


But the question of an independent ministry was not
dropped. It continued to engage the attention of the
Brethren; they made it the subject of special prayer; they
consulted leading Utraquists upon whose friendship and
sympathy they could rely.

Among these Martin Lupae, who had been appointed
Rokycana's suffragan, but who, like Rokycaua, had never
been consecrated, was prominent. Originally a Taborite, he
ioined the Utraquists when the Taborite faction came to an
'Bnd. In point of learning he was Rokycana's superior ; his
knowledge of the Truth was deeper and his views were far
more liberal.

An incident showing his advanced opinions has been pre-
served. One day, while carrying the sacrament to a village
near Prague, he met a peasant who fell upon his knees and
adored the host. Lupac raised him up and pointing to
heaven said : " My son, Christ must be adored as He sits on
high, at the right hand of the Omnipotent Father."^

Lupac had manifested a warm interest in the work of the
Brethren from its inception; and now he strongly advised
them to secede from the Utraquists and establish a ministry
of their own. Such a step, he said, would indeed be contrary
to the will of the heads of the Church and to the mind of the
Church itself, which was infected with popery, but in har-
mony with the will and mind of God. As regarded himself
personally, he would rejoice to see among the Brethren an
independent order of ministers properly ordained. In no
other way could the work which they had begun be brought
to its legitimate end.^ Similar advice was given them by
other Utraquist priests, especially by Stephen and Martin.^*^

Lupac's liberal views eventually led to a rupture with
Rokycana. Ha\4ng been banished from the capital, he found
a refuge with the Brethren on the domain of Senftenberg."

^ Camerarius, p. 90.

9 Lasitius, II. p. 25, etc., (Plitt); Croger, I. p. 72; Blahoslaw's Summa

1° Lasitius, 11 p. 55.
" L. F., I. and HI.


In consequence of a letter which he issued setting forth his
theological views/^ Rokycana had him arrested and imprisoned
at Prague. Thereupon he addressed a second letter personally
to Rokycana/^ defending the theological positions of the first
and interceding with him on behalf the Brethren who were,
he said, " orphans forsaken and scattered." This communi-
cation brought about a public disputation between the two,'^
which however led to no change in their relations. Lupac
was remanded to prison and died on the twentieth of April,
1468. Whether he regained his freedom prior to his death is
not known. In any case, he lived long enough to see the
ministry, whose institution he had urged, established among
the Brethren.

But at the time when he and others gave them this advice,
they still hesitated to take so decisive a step. Was there not,
they reasoned, a way of gaining their object without creating
a schism ? Could not, somewhere on earth, a body of
Christians be found that traced its origin to the primitive
church, that had maintained the true faith and preserved an
uncorrupted priesthood ? Several Brethren proposed to travel
to the countries of India,'^ in search of such Christians.
But before they could undertake this journey, two men from
that distant region visited Prague. The account which they
gave of the state of religion in India convinced the Brethren
that they would not there meet with the ideal for which they
were seeking. Their inquiries with regard to the Greek and
Armenian churches proved equally unsatisfactory. Nowhere
did they hear of a priesthood which came up to the standard
of the apostolic writings and which was not, more or less,

'' L. F., I. p. 236.

" " The Letter of the prisoner M. Lupac to Rokycana." L. F., I. p. 225.

" Report of the Disputation in L. F., I. p. 343, &c.

^= " In die Indische Lander." Goll, Appendix F., p, 100. It is not clear
to what body of Christians the Brethren here refer or what countries they
mean by those of India. The Christians of St. Thomas lived in India.
Perhaps they refer to the Copts of Egypt, or to the Abyssinian Church.

■® From a treatise " Wie man sich gegen die Romische Kirche verhaiten


At last, " constrained by the necessity which their own
salvation imposed upon them,"^'' they convened another Synod,
with the understanding that this body should bring the
question to an issue. The Elders having appointed fasting
and prayers throughout the Church, to the end that God
might, by His Holy Spirit guide the deliberations, the Synod
met, probably in 1465.'^ Its members soon agreed that, even
now, they would not venture to decide the question by their
own votes, or upon the strength of their own arguments but
would submit it, in simple laith, through the use ot the lot,
to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Two of His promises, in
particular, filled their minds with confidence ; " That whatso-
ever ye shall ask of the Father in My name. He may give it
you ;" and " if two of you shall agree on earth as touching
anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My
Father which is in heaven. "^^

Accepting these promises as addressed to them, they
formulated the following questions :

" Is it God's will that we shall separate entirely from the
power of the Papacy and hence from its priesthood ? Is it

soil," cited in the preceding chapter, Note 16, Palacky, VII. pp. 492 and
493; Goll, Appendix F., pp. 99 and 100. The former ascribes the work to
Gregory ; tlie latter says its authorship is uncertain. We adopt Palacky's

^' " Die Noth unsers Heils hat uns dazu getrieben." This saying
frequently occurs in the documents relating to the institution of the
ministry. Goll, p. 15.

^* While the events narrated in this chapter are not to be disputed, the
chronological order in which they occurred is very uncertain. The latest
sources seem to us to show, although we adopted a different position in our
lectures in the Seminary, that there were three Synods which engaged in
establishing the ministry, namely, that of 1464, which took the preliminary
steps, a later Synod, probably in 1465, which used the lot to decide the
question, and the Synod of 1467, which appointed the first ministers. GoU,
p. 19. Lasitius takes this view ; but in giving an account of the Synod of
1465, introduces a number of points which evidently belong to that of 1467.
Plitt, Keichel and Croger closely follow him.

" John xiv, 16 ; Matt, xviii, 19.


God's will that we shall institute, according to the model of
the primitive Church, a ministerial order of our own ?"^

With earnest prayer the lot was cast and decided both
questions affirmatively.-^

Thanking God for this manifestation of His grace, the
members of the Synod returned to their homes, where the
intelligence which they brought excited universal trust and
joy. The Brethren were now confident that God was for
them ; who could be against them ? What they had failed to
understand in 1457, was made plain in 1465. They were
ordained to build up, not a fraternal union within the
Utraquist Church, but an independent Church on the model
of the apostolic. Great and glorious was this mission.

^^ Fourth Letter to Kokycana, L. F., II. found in Goll, Appendix A, p.
87. In this document the Brethren combine with the above two questions
a third, which, however, evidently relates to the second use of the lot, at the
Synod of 1467, when the first ministers were appointed.

21 Fourth Letter to Rokycana, L. F., II. found in Goll, Appendix A, pp.
87 and 88; Blahoslaw's Summa quaedam, L. F., VIII. who says: "Utuntur
et ipsi sorte, hoc unicum quaerentes, an placeat Domino, ut sese in uni-
versum separent ab Ecclesia Eomana, adeoque et Boemica. Confirmantur
sorte placere hoc Deo, et jam esse tempus id fieri. Agunt Deo gratias, et
confidentius obdurant unanimiter in proposito suo." (Goll, Appendix L,
p. 117.) The use of the lot on this occasion gave rise, in later times, to the
legend that God had worked a miracle and that the Brethren had heard a
supernatural voice saying, " This is my will." This legend Lasitins adopted
in one part of his history, but in another he relates the use of the lot.
Regenvolscius also accepts the legend.



The Synod of Lhota and Institution of an Independent
Ministry. 1467.

A Synod appointed at Lhota. — The Delegates. — Proceedings in Connection
with the Appointment of the first Ministers. — Matthias, Thomas and
Elias designated by Lot. — Gregory's Dream fulfilled. — The Thanks-
giving Hymn. — Rebaptism and what it meant. — The Lord's Supijer.
— Ordination of the new Ministers discussed. — They receive, first of
all, presbyterial Ordination. — Further Discussions on the Subject of
Ordination. — The Synod resolves to introduce the Episcopacy. — Tiie
Moravian Waldenses. — Tiiree Priests sent to them to secure episcopal

The year 1467 saw the consummation of the measure that
God had sanctioned. At a Synod which the Elders called for
this purpose, and in view of which they appointed fasting and
prayers in all the parishes, the ministry of the Brethren was
established. A chain of many links — it has continued un-
broken to the present day.

More than sixty representatives, comprising nobles, priests,
artizans and peasants, assembled at Lhota, a village near
Reichenau, in the house of a man named Duchek.^ They
came mostly from the Prachin, Saaz and Chrudim Circuits
of Bohemia, and from the Olmiitz and Prerau Circuits of

' This village, which properly bears the name of Lhotka, is mentioned
for the first time in Luke's Ursprung d. Unitiit, MS., H. A. (See GoU,
Appendix, p. 111). There are several other places of the same name. In
1879 we visited one to the south-west of Pottenstein, a secluded hamlet
completely surrounded by hills. According to the Rev. E. Schmidt, of
Pottenstein, this was the spot where the Synod met, and where alone the
nece.ssary secrecy could be secured. But the mass of evidence is in favor
of the village near Reichenau.


Moravia. Gregory and Michael Bradacius were the ruling
spirits; but a deep sense of responsibility to God and His
Church pervaded every mind.

The Synod was opened with prayer and the reading of the
Scriptures. As soon as the deliberations began, there shone
forth the same implicit confidence in God which had illu-
mined the meeting at Reichenau.^ On that occasion the
question whether an independent ministry should be instituted
had been decided by the lot ; now, on the strength of apostolic
precedent in the case of Matthias, not only the men who were
to be the first to assume this ministry should be designated in
the same way, but the Lord should also determine whether
the time had come for taking this final step.

The proceedings were conducted by the Elders. They
seated themselves at a table in front of which were ranged
the other members in semi-circular rows. First of all nine
men, of high repute for piety, were nominated by ballot.
Then twelve slips of paper, three inscribed with the word Jest
(is) and nine blank, were rolled together and put into a vase.
An earnest prayer followed, that God, in mercy and according
to His good will, would designate either one, or two, or three
of the candidates as the first ministers of the Brethren's
Church ; but that, if the men whom He had chosen were not
among the nine that had been nominated, or if this was not
the time which He had ordained for instituting an inde-
pendent priesthood, He would cause all the nine to receive
blanks. In this event the Brethren would have postponed
further proceedings to a future period.^

^ "Als wir wieder zusammen traten in demselben Vertrauen wie vor-
dem." Letter of the Brethren to King George, in L. F., I.; GoU, Ap-
pendix, p. 95.

^ " Wenn aber Gott in diesem Jahr es noch nicht haben wolle, so solle es
keiner werden. Und ware es anf keinen gefallen, so wiiren wir dieses Jahr
ohne jedwede Priester geblieben, und aiich fernerhin, bis uns Gott zeigen
wiirde auf unser Gebet hin und unsern Glauben, Er wolle es schon haben,
und auch diejenigen Personen, von denen es Ihm gnadig wohlgefalle dass
sie es wiirden." Fourth Letter to Rokycana, L. ¥., IV, p. 4, etc. Goll,
Appendix, p. 88.


After the prayer Gregory addressed the Synod, in substance
as follows : " My brethren, in as much as we have given
this whole matter into the hands of the Lord, that He may
designate, if it so please Him, some of these men to be His
ambassadors, let us submit implicitly to His will and judg-
ment. Be of good courage. He who has promised that the
prayer of faith shall be fulfilled, will not put us to shame."
A lad, named Prokop, was now called in and told to distribute
the lots. He drew one and gave it to the first candidate ; he
drew another and presented it to the second ; he continued to
draw the lots until all the candidates had been supplied.
There ensued a moment of intense expectation and yet of
calm confidence. Three slips of paper remained in the vase.
If these should prove to be the three which were marked, the
faith of the Synod would be tried but not shaken ; for the
Lord's will, under all circumstances, should be the will of
His servants, and whatever the issue, to Him should belong
the praise. Amidst profound silence and a feeling of such
awe as must have pervaded the council of the apostles, the
candidates advanced to the table and presented their lots to
the Elders for examination. The Elders unrolled them. All
the three inscribed with Jest had been drawn. They desig-
nated Matthias of Kuuwald, Thomas of Prelouc and Elias of
Chrenovic as the first ministers of the Unitas Fratrum. A
thrill of joy passed through the assembly, and was intensified
when Gregory announced that these were the men whom he
had seen, in his dream while on the rack, guarding the tree
with the birds. That dream, he added, had evidently been
prophetic, and its fulfillment now might be looked upon as an
additional sign from the Lord.^ As by a common impulse

* Vide page li? and 118. The Fourth Letter to Rokycana, one of the
earliest documents, alhides to the vision (Goll, Appendix, p. 89) ; Blahoslaw
in his Summa speaks of it (Goll, Appendix, p. 117); and Eegenvolscius, p.
172, gives it in full. There is nothing improbable or contrary to Scripture
in such a dream ; and if that of the Elector Frederic of Saxony, at the
beginning of Luther's Reformation, was historic, this one may claim the
same character. But no other sign occurred at the Synod. Ijasitius mis-
understanding Blahoslaw's words, "ostentum seu prodigium," which evi-


the whole Synod rose, and exultingly acknowledged Matthias,
Thomas and Elias to be priests appointed of God, each mem-
ber hastening to pledge to them his right hand in token of
fellowship and submission. Thereupon, with one heart and
voice, was sung a thanksgiving hymn composed for the occa-
sion by Gabriel Komarowsky^ :

" With unity of heart and voice
Together let us all rejoice,
And render praise to God alone,
The Father, Holy Ghost, and Son.

Since He hath shown us mercy free,
In time of greatest jeopardy,
And deep His holy law imprest
Upon each heart within each breast.

We needed faithful men, and He
Granted us such : Most earnestly
We pray, Lord, let Thy gifts descend
That blessing may Thy work attend ;

What is begun, O Lord, fulfill,
According to Thy gracious will :
To Thee alone we turn our face,
Trusting entirely to Thy grace.

Pity Thy Church, which, gone astray,
No more discerns the heavenly way,
That by Thy truth's direction tends
To happiness which never ends;

But lur'd by doctrine false to Thee,
Distracted mourns her misery :
Oh Thou ! our Shepherd, faithful Lord,
Help to Thy helpless sheep aflford,

dently refer to Gregory's vision, again reports a miracle — a supernatural
light filling the apartment — which miracle even Camerarius, p. 85, and it
would appear, Croeger also, I. p. 79, accept.

^ The original is found in the Brethren's Bohemian Hymnal, ed. of 1615,
p. 351, beginning, Radugme se wzdy spoke cne; a German translation was
introduced into their German Hymnal, ed. of 1585, p. 127, ed. 1606, p. 311,
see also Croeger, I. pp. 78 and 79 ; the above English version is from Ben-
ham's Notes, pp. 51-53.


By Thy bright word O give them light,
Thee the true God to know aright ;
And humbly seek that glorious rest
Which Thou reservest for the blest.

Thou, Lord, art own'd, with one consent,
The great I AM, Omnipotent,
Monarch of all the hosts that be
In heav'n, on earth, and 'neath the sea ;

Root out foul error and deceit,
And Antichrist, O Lord, defeat ;
Nor suflFer persecuting might
To harass Thee by day and night.

Help Thine elected flock, that they
No more may feel the tyrant's sway ;
But from all thraldom now set free,
Raise grateful songs of praise to Thee.

Eternal God ! we Thee implore,
Help that Thy Word may more and more
So dwell and rule in us, that we
* May always stand approv'd of Thee.

Grant that we one and all may live
In Thee, and rich in virtue thrive ;
And find above, in endless day,
That crown which ne'er shall fade away.


This hymn was an expression of the profound gratitude
which filled the hearts of the members of the Synod. God
had visited them. Great things, which they received in the
spirit, had He done ; good things had He accomplished in the
end of days among His people. They thanked Him and
took courage ; they rejoiced in Him and gloried in His work.^
Enabled by His grace, strong in the power of His might, they

8 " Und viele von uns erkannten und fuhlten, Gott babe uns heimgesucht

Online LibraryEdmund Alexander De SchweinitzThe history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr → online text (page 13 of 64)