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

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und zu unserer Bestarkung grosse Dinge gewirkt in unserem Geiste. Und
so haben wir in festem Vertrauen es empfangen und in der ^reude unseres
Geistes Gott gedankt, dass Er gnte Dinge thue am Ende der Tage und sein
Werk wirke in diesen Liindern der Erde, in seinem Volke." Letter of
the Brethren to King George, L. F., I. and II.; Goll, Appendix, p. 95.


had come out from a corrupt Church and constituted them-
selves "an habitation of God through the Spirit."^

This separation was now solemnly avowed and rendered
irrevocable by a symbolical act. The members of the Synod,
in a body, were rebaptized.^ And in as much as this act
formed, at the same time, a protest against the errors of Rome
and the validity of her sacraments, it was repeated, for a
number of years, as often as Romanists joined the Brethren.
The celebration of the Lord's Supper closed the proceedings of
the Synod in connection with the institution of the ministry.^

It is noteworthy that the lot designated not scholars, of
whom a number were present, but men in the lower walks of
life. Matthias was a farmer, only twenty-five years of age;
Thomas, a town-clerk ; and Elias, a miller. But they were
all men of "approved godliness, Avisdom and prudence."^"

The important subject of their ordination next engaged the
attention of the Synod, and the following results were reached :
The New Testament makes no distinction between bishops and
priests ; in the time of the Apostles priests administered the
rite of ordination ; the Brethren desire to follow the example
of the Apostolic Church in all things ; therefore the three
newly-appointed ministers shall be ordained by the priests
present at the Synod, one of whom shall be designated by lot
to preside on the occasion. To this end the names of Michael
Bradacius and of an aged Waldensian priest were submitted

^ Ephesians 2 : 22.

* Gindely, I. 36. Such a rebaptism had nothing whatever in common
with the standpoint of modern Baptists. Infant baptism was not rejected,
nor was it a rebaptism by immersion.

^ The principal sources for the above narrative of the Synod are : Fourth
Letter to Rokycana, 1468, L. F., VI., Goll, Appendix, pp. 87-90; Michael's
Treatise, 1473, L. F., V. in Eeichel's Zusiitze, pp. 50 and 51; Apology of
1503, L. F, VI., Reichel's Zusatze, p. 42, etc. ; Luke's Narratives, 1523,
L. F., IV., Goll, Appendix, I and K ; Blahoslaw's Summa, L. F., VIII.,
Goll, Appendix, pp. 117 and 118; Lasitius, II. pp. 47 and 48, quoted by
Plitt ; Camerarius, pp. 93 and 94 ; Regenvolscius, Bk. I. Chapt. viii ;

^^ Jaffet's Geschichte des Ursprungs d. B. U. Eeichel's Zusatze, p. 54.
Comenius, Section 59 and 90 ; Gindely, I. pp. 33-35.


to the lot. It decided in favor of the latter. Accordingly
with prayer and the laying on of hands he ordained Matthias^
Thomas and Elias to the priesthood."

But now that the Brethren had complied with the usage of
the primitive Church, the question was raised whether such
an ordination would suffice in their day and amidst the cir-
cumstances by which they were surrounded, or whether it
would be expedient to introduce the episcopacy. A difference
of opinion appeared. Some were in favor of abiding by the
presbyterial ordination, others urged that the episcopacy should
be secured.*^ The latter view prevailed. A distinction, it
was said, was made at an early day, "immediately after the
time of the Apostles," between bishops and priests ; to the
former was committed the exclusive power to ordain ; the
prerogatives of a bishop are historically established. " These
considerations induced the Synod to resolve upon the intro-
duction of the episcopal office, through which the congregations
would be more closely united among themselves and better
able to meet inimical proceedings, indignities and evil speaking
from without."^^ The minds of the Brethren, writes Come-
nius, " were agitated by the fear whether an ordination would
be sufficiently valid if a presbyter and not truly a bishop
were to ordain a presbyter ; and in what manner, in case of
controversies, such an ordination could be defended either
among themselves or against others."^* Regenvolscius adds :
"Nevertheless, in order to meet the calumnies of the adver-

" Fourth Letter to Rokycana, L. F., VI., GoU, Appendix, pp. 88 and 89;
Letter to King George, L. F., I. and II., Goll, Appendix, p. 96 ; Wie sich
die Mensclien gegen die Rom. Kirche verhalten sollen, L. F., I., Goll, Ap-
pendix, p. 102; Reichel in his Zusatze, p. 94; Goll, p. 19; Jaffet's Ur-
sprung d. B. U. II. p. 48, etc., in Reichel's Zusatze, p. 55; Regenvolscins^
pp. 32 and 33.

12 Koranda's Letter to Baron Kostka, MS., Lib. University of Prague,
printed in Palacky's Archiv Casky, Goll, p. 25 and Palacky, IX. pp. 191
and 192. Zuversichtliche Hoffnung, etc., L. F., V., Goll, p. 28.

'3 Jaffet's Ursprung d. B. U., II. p. 48, etc., in Reichel's Zusatze, pp. 55
and 56.

1* Comenii Hist, et R. D., Sect. 59, p. 17.


saries, especially in the beginning of this reformation, they
decided that the same usage (the episcopacy), as far as it could
be done, should be observed.'"^

In this connection the views of the Roman Catholic his-
torian of the Unitas Fratrum may well find a place :

"However radical the Brethren were in rejecting the old
Church and some of her doctrines, they had not then reached,
and never did reach, so utter a point of sectarianism as to
imagine, like the sects, that they could find among themselves
all they needed, or that they could keep aloof from the Christian
development of the rest of the world. Not one of them believed
that the Church of Christ was restricted to Reichenau and its
vicinity, and that fourteen hundred and forty-two years after the
death of Christ it could be re-established by an act that would,
in no wise, link it to the primitive Church. On the contrary,
there was a means by which the new Church, now to be formed,
would be made to stand in an unbroken connection with the old.
While proceeding to the election of priests, care must be taken
to secure the Roman Catholic priesthood, which was alone
legitimate — to secure it in some way, but in all truth. Thus
provision would be made for a priestly family that would continue
to supply itself in an endless development.'""

That the determination to introduce the bishop's office was
a result of the Utraquist antecedents of the founders and
leaders of the Church is self-evident. A body sprung exclu-
sively from the Taborites would not have attached so much
importance to the question ; whereas men like Gregory and
his friends, coming from the associations of the Thein parish
and a close fellowship with the Bohemian Archbishop elect,
naturally looked in the direction of the episcopacy .^'^ But
where should it be secured ?

At that time there was settled in Moravia, on the confines
of Austria,^^ a colony of Waldenses said to have a historic
episcopate. Their fathers immigrated probably from the

^* Regenvolscius, p. 33.

'« Gindely, I. p. 33.

" With this view Goll, p. 34, agrees, who says: "Den Utraquisten im
engeren Sinne des Wortes, oder den Calixtinern entstamrate ein grosser
Theil der Briider: die utraquistischen Anschauungen sind es gewesen,
welch.e den Sieg davon trugen."

^® Cerny's Letter to lllyricus, Gindely's Quellen, p. 278.


South of France, in the first quarter of the fifteenth century,
hoping that the land of the Hussites would aiFord them a safe
retreat. At first they retired from public view, but soon
grew bolder and openly maintained a position among the
religious bodies by which they were surrounded. ^^ In the
course of time their relations to the Utraquists in particular
became close and friendly, and they fraternized with them at
the mass.^" Some of their ministers were on a familiar footing
with Rokycana, Lupac and other leading divines, whom they
frequently visited and by whom they were highly esteemed.
Stephen, their principal Bishop, was especially honored as a
man of eminence.

At the time the Brethren were looking for a body of
Christians with which they might unite, they had formed the
acquaintance of these Waldenses.^^ Hence the Synod knew
something of their history and claims, and now determined
to make overtures to them for episcopal consecration. Three
priests, Michael Bradacius, the old Waldensian who had con-
ducted the presbyterial ordination, and a priest of Roman
Catholic origin, were commissioned to present such overtures
and to receive consecration.^^ The appointment of this
deputation constituted the last act of the Synod of Lhota.

•» Herzog's Encyklopsedie, XVII. p. 520.

^'^ Blahoslaw's Summa, Goll, Appendix, p. 119: Comenius Hist, et R. D.
Sect. 62.

2* Wie sich die Menschen, etc., L. F., I. see Goll, Appendix, p. 100 and
Palacky, VII. p. 494 ; Jafiet's Ursprung d. B. U., II. p. 48, in Reichel's
Zusatze, p. 71.

2' JaflFet's Ursprung d. B. U., II. p. 59, in Reichel's Zusatze, pp. 78
and 79. Gindely, I. p. 37, says that Matthias probably accompanied
Michael Bradacius ; Goll, p. 83, doubts the narrative as presented by Jaffet,
tliat is, that Michael had two companions. We see no reason whatever for
not following Jaffet who, as Goll says, "used sources and writings which
are no longer within our reach."



The Introduction of the Episcopacy and Second Synod at
Lhoia. A. D. 1467.

Michael and his Companions consult with the Waldensian Bishops. —
Origin of their Episcopate. — The Deputies of the Brethren Consecrated
Bishops. — Examination into the Authenticity of the Narrative. —
Authorities proving the Act of Consecration. — Sources of the Account
of the Waldensian Episcopate. — General Remarks.— Return of the
Deputies of the Brethren. — Second Synod at Lhota. — Re-ordination of
the first three Ministers. — Matthias consecrated Bishop. — The Execu-
tive Council. — Michael resigns his Episcopate.

Michael Bradacius and his companions were cordially
welcomed by the Waldenses, among whom they found two
Bishops, Stephen, who appears to have been far advanced in
years, and another whose name is not known. With these
men they had a fraternal and satisfactory interview, reporting
what had been done at Reichenau and Lhota, asking their
opinion with regard to the proceedings, and formally sub-
mitting the request of the Synod, that the Waldensian Bishops
might impart to its deputies episcopal consecration. In reply
Stephen and his associate strongly commended the course
pursued by the Brethren, recognized it as good and of divine
authority, and with the greatest joy promised to fulfill the
wishes of the Synod.^ At the same time they gave the
deputies an account of the origin and episcopate of the Wal-

1 The above is based on Blahoslaw's Summa, L. F., VIII. see Goll,
Appendix, p. 118.


It appeared, that while, in common with all their brethren
of that day, they claimed a very high antiquity — a claim
which modern historical researches have shown to be un-
founded — the episcopate which they then possessed had been
secured from the Roman Catholic Church. In the year 1433,
their ministry having practically died out, they applied, by
the advice and assistance of their Utraquist friends, to the
Roman Catholic Bishop Nicholas for ordination.^ This
prelate, on the Feast of the Holy Cross, the fourteenth of
September, ordained two of their number, Frederick Nemez
and John Wlach, to the priesthood, in the Slavonian Monas-
tery of Emmaus, at Prague. Thereupon these two priests
were elected Bishops by the Moravian Waldenses and sent to
Basle, where the Council was in session. At Basle they were
consecrated to the episcopacy, in the summer of 1 434, again
by a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.^

The deputies of the Brethren having expressed their satis-
faction with what they had heard, a meeting of the Walden-
sian elders and priests was called. At this meeting, Michael
Bradacius and his two companions were set aj^art as Bishops,
with prayer and the laying on of hands, by Stephen and his
colleague. At parting, the consecrators admonished them to
go and labor in the vineyard of the Lord, and then dismissed
them to their own people.*

Here it will be proper to interrupt the narrative in order to
examine into its authenticity.

First of all the question arises, what authorities have we
for the act of consecration ?

1. In the Fifth Lissa Folio there is a Bohemian Treatise,
entitled, " Did the Secession of the Brethren come from

^ Palacky, VII. p. 492, who otherwise accepts the narrative as not im-
probable, says that the consecrating Bishop was the Legate Pliilibert,
although he acknowledges that this Legate had not yet reached Prague on
the fourteenth of September. Palacky has no authority for his statement.
It is, as GoU says, a mere conjecture.

^ The above account of the Moravian Waldenses is based on Jaffet's
Ursprung d. B. U., II. p. 53, etc., in Reichel's Zusatze, pp. 71-73.

* Blahoslaw's Summa, L. F., VIII. see Goll, Appendix, p. 118.


God ?" According to the testimony of Cerwenka, a distin-
guished leader of the Church about the middle of the
sixteenth century, which testimony is endorsed on the manu-
script, it was written, in 1473, by Michael Bradacius. This
document says, that one of the priests of the Brethren, and
that one who was of Roman Catholic origin, that is, Michael
Bradacius himself, " received consecration as a Bishop at the
hands of an old Waldensian."^

2. On the twelfth of September, 1478, in accordance
with a resolution of the Bohemian Diet, a Colloquy began
between AYenzel Koranda, who succeded Rokycana as the
head of the Utraquist Church, and several Masters of the
University on the one part, and Michael Bradacius, John
Chelcicky and Prokop of Neuhaus, as representatives of the
Unitas Fratrum on the other. Of this Colloquy which con-
tinued for several days and was held in the Carolinum,
Wenzel Koranda himself sent a report, before the close of
the year, to Baron John Kostka von Postupic, who was a
warm friend of the Brethren, in order to induce him to
withdraw from them his powerful protection. This report,
in Koranda's own handwriting, is still extant in the
University Library of Prague, and contains the following
passage :^

"They said (the deputies of the Brethren, Michael Bradacius
being the spokesman) : ' At the time that we separated from the
Roman Catholic Church and from you, we decided by lot who
among us was to be a Bishop, and who a priest. And when the
lot had designated three, and that one of them should be a
Bishop, a difference of opinion arose amongst us. At last, how-

5 L. F., V. p. 23, etc., in Eeichel's Ziisatze, pp. 50 and 51. GoU, p. 28,
Note 3, maintains that Michael Bradacius was not the author and that the
treatise was not written in 1473; but he grants that it must have been
composed prior to the end of the fifteenth century. And yet Cerwenka.
fifty or sixty years after the composition, ought to be a more reliable
authority than Goll, three and a half centuries later. In any case, the fact
which the document sets forth remains undisputed.

^ Koranda's Manual, MS. XVII. F. 2, the passage being quoted in full
by Palacky, IX. pp. 191 and 192. The report is printed in Palacky's
Archiv Cesky, VI. See also Goll, p. 25, who likewise cites the passage.


ever, we agreed to send a deputation to a Waldensian Bishop,
who consecrated me a Bishop' — so said Michael concerning
himself — ' and I thereupon, after my return to my brethren,
ordained one of the three first a priest and then a bishop.' "

This testimony alone is conclusive. It is emphatically
re-iterated in the " Book of the Masters of Prague," of which
we will speak more at length in another connection, and which
appeared not long after the Colloquy.''

3. The Third Lissa Folio contains a document entitled an
Apology, and dated May the third, 1503. It sets forth the
reasons why the writer joined the Brethren, and is addressed
to a friend. In this document we are again told that JNIichael
Bradacius was consecrated a Bishop by the Waldensian Bishop,
with prayer and the imposition of hands.^

4. The Sixth Lissa Folio embraces the answer of the

Brethren to the Articles, drawn up in 1504, of the Masters of

the University of Prague, in which answer is found the

following passage :

" We have a lawful priesthood, which was produced as well by
the birth of faith as established through that order which men
introduced. We have priests who were properly ordained both
in accordance with the divine institution" — presbyterial ordina-
tion — "and in accordance with that order which comes from
men" — episcopal ordination.®

5. An important witness is John Blahoslaw, (born 1523,
died 1571,) one of the most illustrious leaders and learned
authors of the Church. In 1 556 he wrote a brief summary
of its history. This work was occasioned by the dogmatic
assertions of Flacius Illyricus, the celebrated author of the
Catalogus Testium Veritatis and of the Magdeburg Centuries,
that the Brethren were not the spiritual seed of John Hus,

' "I, Michael," so this passage reads, "went to him (the Waldensian
Bishop). He thanked God with tears that he was permitted, before his
latter end, to hear of such men as the Brethren, and he consecrated me as
a Bishop with the imposition of hands." Goll, Appendix, p. 105.

* L. F. III. p. 227, etc., in Keichel's Zusatze, p. 45. Goll, Appendix,
p. 107. Goll thinks the author was Luke of Prague; the Bohemian
Historia Fratrum says he was either Thomas, Prokop of Neuhaus, or
Lawrence Krasonicky.

^ L. F., VL p. 48, etc., in Keichel's Zusatze, p. 37.


but a mere branch of the Waldenses. Blahoslaw had a
violent dispute with Flacius on this subject at Magdeburg.
Under such circumstances it may well be supposed that he
prepared his epitome with the greatest care. At the same
time, in as much as he was the archivist of the Church,
specially charged with the collection of its official records and
of documents relating to its history, he had the best oppor-
tunity of rendering his narrative authentic and absolutely
reliable. Now, in the course of it he says, that the Waldenses
had two Bishops who "consecrated them (the deputies of the
Brethren), with the imposition of hands, and declared them to
be their associates in the Lord and fellow-bishops."^"

At a later time Blahoslaw wrote a second and more
voluminous History of the Church. This work is lost. It
was, however, known to Jaifet, Regenvolscius and other
writers of the seventeenth century. One of these, Samuel
Martinius of Drazov, a bitter enemy of the Brethren, em-
bodied almost literally in a polemical work, Zur Abwekr,
which he published in 1636, Blahoslaw's account of the
introduction of the episcopacy, taken from his second History.
In this citation Blahoslaw says that the deputies of the
Brethren M^ere sent to the Waldensian Bishop in order to be
empowered, through their consecration, to ordain other
ministers, and that he gave them such consecration, adding :
"But it is not true, as some assert, that he laid his hands
upon them merely as a sign of repentance; although we will
not deny that the Waldensian Bishop may perhaps have said
this, at a later time, constrained by fear." That is, he feared
the consequences of having invested the Brethren's Church
with the episcopacy; for as soon as this became known a
severe persecution broke out.^^

1" Blahoslaw's Summa, L. F,, VIII.; Goll, Appendix, p. 118.

" Goll, pp. 60 and 61, and Appendix, p. 132. The manuscript collection
of historical documents, written in Bohemian and preserved in the Univer-
sity Library at Prague, which work we have cited in other connections
{vide p. 100, No. 10, etc.) is generally ascribed to Blahoslaw, although Goll
doubts the correctness of this view (Goll, pp. 56-59). This collection
contains no document relating to the introduction of the episcopacy.


6. A no less important witness is John Jaffet (ordained
priest in 1576, Assistant Bishop in 1589, died in 1614), who
was appointed by the Bishops to meet the attacks of a Jesuit
opponent, of whom we will presently speak more at length.
Jaifet began his literary labors by a thorough study of the
history of the Brethren, and became so well read in it that
Regenvolscius calls him, by way of eminence, "the writer of
the History of the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren.'"^
Jaffet says, in his Ursprung der Bruder-Unitnt, that the
priests sent to the Waldenses were consecrated by their
Bishops "to the episcopal office with prayer and the laying on
of hands."^^

7. In the year 1616, the General Synod of Zerawitz resolved
to publish the Ratio Disciplince Ordinisque JEcclesiastici, or the
'•Ecclesiastical Discipline and Order" of the Church. To
this document was prefixed, in the name of the Bishops and
Ministers, a historical introduction, which says, speaking ot
the deputation sent to the Waldenses : " Since they affirmed
that they had regular Bishops, and a regular succession unin-
terrupted from the Apostles, they in a solemn manner created
three of our ministers Bishops, and conferred on them the
power of ordaining ministers."^^ This is the official testi-
mony on the subject given by the Church in Synod assembled.

8. In closino- this series of authorities we merely refer to
the additional and unanimous evidence furnished by Bishop
Amos Comenius, by the History of Persecutions, by Regen-
volscius, and, in modern times, by the Roman Catholic writer
Gindely, and the Protestant writer Cerwenka, both of whom
have studied the history of the Brethren with the utmost
care.'^ Cerwenka says: "That the first priests of the
Brethren received their ordination, and the Unity its first

" Regenvolscius, p. 328.

" Ursprung, p. 59, MS., Herrnhut Archives, Reicliel's Zusiitze, p. 79.

" Seifferth Ch. Con., pp. 26 and 94; Ratio Discipline, ed. 1702, pp. i
and 4.

15 Coraenii Hist, et R. D., | 21, p. 18 ; Hist. Persecutionum, cap. XX, 4;
Regenvolscius, p. 33 ; Gindely, I. p. 37 ; Cerwenka, II. pp. 28 and 29.


Bishop through the agency of the Waldenses, can not be

In the next place we will examine into the credibility of
the account which has come down to us respecting the origin
of the Waldensian episcopate.

The circumstances which called forth this narrative and the
source whence it is derived both tend to give it authority. It
is not taken from Waldensian records, but from a formal
document issued by the University of Prague, which paper,
in the very nature of the case, must be disinterested. Soon
after the Colloquy in 1478, between the Masters of the
University and the representatives of the Unitas Fratrum,
Wenzel Koranda, in the name of the former, drew up " The
Book of the Masters concerning the ten Articles ; a Defence
of the faith against the Picards." These articles contained
the reputed heresies which the Brethren had acknowledged
at the Colloquy, and the entire work was written in refuta-
tion of such errors. It contains the following passage :

" In order that no one may, in any wise, doubt that the ordina-
tion of those Waldenses of whom the Picards speak, springs from
the Roman Catholic Church, we will here set forth when and how
this thing came to pass. It is a thing which stands fast, which
was reported by the Waldenses themselves, and which was recorded
by those who were present as a memorial for all time to come."^^

There follows the narrative as given above. It is derived,
therefore, from the bitter enemies of the Brethren, and was
written only about forty-five years after the occurrence which
it relates, Jaifet fully endorses it and introduces it into his
reply to the attacks of the Jesuit whom, as we have said, he
was appointed to refute.^'' This Jesuit was Wenzel Sturm,
one of the most learned and acute of his order, and so adroit
a sophist that it was a common saying : " Hippias ought to

^® Goll, pp. 26 and 27, and Appendix, p. 106. The document ("Das
Buch der Magister von den 10 Artikeln. Die Vertheidigung des Glaubens
gegen die Pikarden") is found in a codex of the Bohemian Museum, in
which codex it was inscribed in 1491. A part of it was printed in 1842 in
the Bohemian Transactions of the " k. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften,"
Rozbor staroceske literalury.

" Ursprung d. B. U., II. "p. 48, etc., Reichel's Zusatze, pp. 72 and 73.