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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measures against the Anabaptists.^

^ Queen Maria, the childless widow of Lewis, was Ferdinand's sister, and
Anna, the sister of Lewis, was Ferdinand's wife.

^ The Anabaptists owed their origin to Thomas IMiinzer and were a body

of mystical fanatics, distorting the principles of the Reformation. They

aimed to establish a union of all the spiritually minded, a government

sustained by immediate revelations of God, and a church having all things



The Unitas Fratrum pursued its way unhindered. Bishop
Martin Skoda, having succeeded Luke as President of the
Council, convoked a synod at Brandeis on the Adler. It
met in September, 1529, and elected Wenzel Bily, Andrew
Ciklowsky and John Roh to the episcopacy. They were
consecrated by Skoda and the Assistant Bishops Wenzel and
Daniel.^ Two of them, however, exercised the functions
of their office but a short time. Ciklowsky — eloquent,
faithful to God and of a heroic mind, but stern, passionate,
and peculiar in his ways — died a few weeks after his conse-
cration ; Bily fell into sin and was deposed.* John Roh, on
the contrary — who was also known as Horn, or Cornu — took
part for eighteen years in the government of the Church,
ruling faithfully and well. He was a native of Taus and
had been ordained to the priesthood in 1518. Although not
a learned man, he spoke several modern languages with
fluency. Of keen understanding and liberal in his views, he
realized the importance of the events which the Reformation
was brinffino; about; and having;; been associated with both
the deputations to Luther, he had learned to honor him as its
heroic leader. But as long as Skoda stood at the head of the
Unity, Horn made no attempt to change the exclusive policy
which prevailed and which had been introduced by Luke.

And yet this policy Avas hastening to an end. In 1532, on
the fourteenth of April, there met, at Brandeis on the Adler,
a synod which led the Unitas Fratrum to a position of
prominence and influence such as it had aever before occupied.
At this meeting Bishop Skoda, being advanced in years,
resigned his presidency in favor of Horn, and announced
that new bishops were to be chosen and other vacancies in

in common. They were particularly numerous in Moravia, where they had
about sixty congregations. Some of the nobles were their friends and they
had accessions even from the higher ranks of the Eoman Catholic clergy.

3 Jaffet's Sword of Goliath, I., p. 17, in R's Z. p. 250.

* Todtenbuch, pp. 11 and 12. Ciklowsky died October twenty-eighth,
1529, and was buried at .Jungbunzlau, by the side of Luke, whose devoted
disciple he had been. Bily repented and was re-admitted to church-fellow-
ship, but not allowed to exercise episcopal functions. He died in 1533.


the Council to be filled. Such elections were about to begin,
when a young priest, John Augusta by name, rose and
addressed the synod. He said that he spoke in the name of
a number of his fellow priests ; that he and they were
unanimously of the opinion that the Executive Council had
become torpid and was an inactive body; that it did not
show itself equal to the requirements of the age; and that
there must be infused into it a new and vigorous element.
Augusta did still more. With an imperturbable self-posses-
sion, which struck the older members of the synod dumb, he
offered himself and four of his friends — Martin Michalek,
Michael Weiss, Mach Sionsky and John of Tein — as can-
didates for the Council.^ They were elected. But a still
greater triumph awaited the bold speaker. He and two of
his associates, Benedict Baworinsky and Veit, who fully
shared his progressive views, were chosen bishops and conse-
crated by Skoda, Horn, Wenzel and Daniel. Skoda died
soon after. He was a man of simple ways and distinguished
piety.'' Bishop Horn being in sympathy with the position of
his new colleagues, the Unity now assumed a far more con-
spicuous attitude. From this time forth its history constitutes
an important part of Bohemian history in general.^

The man who took the initiative in bringing about this
change, John Augusta, was the son of a hatter, and born at
Prague, in the year 1500. Originally a member of the
Utraquist Church, he was offended by the immoral lives of
its priests, sought fellowshiji with the Nikolaites, who failed
to satisfy his longings, and at last found peace among the
Brethren. In 1524 he joined the church at Juugbunzlau,
and soon began to prepare for the ministry. Not having

5 Boh. Hist. Fr., I. p. 897, cited by Gindely.

® Gindely, without assi.2:ning any authority, says that Skoda died before the
meeting of this Synod. Czerwenka follows him. But the presence of Skoda
at the Synod is evident from .Jaffet, Sword of Goliath, I. p. 18, R's Z. p. 251.

' The synod of 1532 adopted a resolution with regard to the writings of
Luke, similar to that in relation to the writings of Gregory. Luke's
doctrinal position was to be of authority only in so far as it fully agreed
with the Bible. The Unity acknowledged no other standard.


enjoyed a classical education, he now took up the study of
Latin, which language he mastered. In 1529 he was
ordained a deacon, and in 1531 advanced to the priesthood.^

Augusta must be classed among those men who are born
to rule. His energy was boundless, his will indomitable.
The persistence with which he pursued his aims degenerated,
at times, into obstinacy ; and the ambition which inflamed
him, too often kept his steps away from the paths of humility
and disqualified him for learning of his Divine Master
meekness and lowliness of heart. And yet he was a great
man and his works were illustrious. Endowed with natural
gifts of an extraordinary character, he became Bohemia's most
distinguished preacher, earned the title of " the Bohemian
Luther," stood high among many eminent nobles as a trusted
counsellor and friend, corresponded with the leading Re-
formers of Germany and Switzerland, and labored for the
Unity with burning zeal and fiery enthusiasm. His career
was a drama setting forth heroic incidents, tragic scenes, a
lamentable fall. No other bishop of the Brethren was like
him in his glory and in his shame.

His colleague Baworinsky, the scion of a noble house,
possessed rare gifts both as a speaker and writer;^ his col-
league Veit — the brother of Martin INIichalek — had studied
at the University of Prague, attained the degree of a Bachelor
and was eminent for his scholarship.

Soon after the adjournment of the synod a new Confession
of Faith was drawn up, probably by Horn and Augusta, and
printed at Jungbunzlau (1532). This was done at the
instance of Baron Conrad von Krajek, in order that the
document might be presented to the Margrave George of
Brandenburg, a supporter of the Reformation, who had
expressed a desire to become acquainted with the doctrines of
the Brethren. The Confession was written in Bohemian.
Michael Weiss produced a faulty German translation, which,

8 Todtenbuch, pp. 49-51.

^ On the authority of Blahoslaw, which is, however, not substantiated by
a reference, Gindely, I. p. 221, calls Baworinsky an idiot ! What we have
said in the text is based upon the record given in the Todtenbuch, p. 13.


moreover, contained interpolations of his own. This version,
through the overhasty zeal of several Swiss who were visiting
Jungbunzlau, was printed at Zurich, before the Bishops could
prevent its publication (1532).^" In consequence they had a
correct German translation made (1533), and sent it to Luther
by the hands of Martin Michalek and another deputy. In
the name of the entire Council these messengers begged
Luther to have the document printed at Wittenberg, and to
write a preface of his own. He consented ; and the work
appeared in due time.^^ In this way the connection between
the Unitas Fratrum and the Reformer of Wittenberg was
renewed. It would seem that neither party alluded to the
estrangement which had taken place in the time of Bishop Luke.

In his preface Luther says, that he has published the Con-
fession, because he desires to promote the unity of faith among
all Christians ; and because although the Brethren express
themselves in a way which he would not adopt, the document
shows how diligently they have studied the Scriptures, how
near to this divine standard they have remained, and how
groundless it is to call them heretics.

A copy of the Confession, as printed at Wittenberg, was
presented to the Margrave of Brandenburg.

Both the Zurich and Wittenberg editions spread over
Germany, exciting general interest. At the same time the
discrepancies between them were apparent. Hence Wolfgang
Musculus and other Lutheran divines of Augsburg wrote to
Bishop Horn to know which was the authorized translation.
In the course of the correspondence which followed, they
suggested the issuing of a Latin version.

'" " Rechenschaffl des Glaubens, der Dienst vnd Cerimonien der briider
in Behmen vnd Mehren. Getruckt zu Zurich bey Christofflel Froschouer."
A duodecimo of XLVI fols. Malin Library, No. 808.

11 " Rechenschaffl des glaubens : der dienst vnd Ceremonien, der Briider
in Beheman vnd Mehrern, welche von etlichen Pickarten, vnd von etlichen
Waldenser genant werden. Sampt einer nutzlichen Vorrliede Doct. Mart.
Luth. Gedruckt zu Wittenberg durch Hans Luffl. MDXXXIII. A
quarto of 98 pages, which are not numbered. Malin Library, No. 345.
Luther's Preface is reprinted in Gindely's Quellen, pp. 32-35.


Before this suggestion could be carried out, an important
change in the practice of the Church was made. Voices had
occasionally been raised within the Unity itself against the
rebaptism of Roman Catholics. In particular had this usage
been condemned by John Cerny, a distinguished physician
and the brother of Luke. But yet it had been continued
from year to year. Now however that time had arrived, of
which Luke himself had spoken prior to his death, when the
question of abolishing the practice could no longer be avoided.
Not only were more liberal views with regard to baptism
spreading among the Brethren, but the Diet had also adopted
a sev^ere edict against rebaptism as administered by the Ana-
baptists. This edict might be made to apply to the Unity
likewise, although its usage had nothing in common with
theirs. Under these circumstances Bishop Horn issued a
circular letter asking each church to decide the question pre-
liminarily for itself. Thereupon a synod was held at Jung-
bunzlau (1534). By an almost unanimous vote this body
abolished rebaptism and acknowledged the validity of baptism
as administered in the Roman Catholic Church. ^^ Only one
minister, a certain Valenta, of Holeschau, in Moravia, resisted
this enactment and alienated four parishes. No sooner, how-
ever, was he dead, than they all rejoined the Unity.^^

Meantime important developments in connection with the
Reformation had taken place in Germany. The Protest of
Spires had come to pass (1529), the Conference of Marburg
had been held (1529), and the Confession of Augsburg pre-
sented (1530). This last event suggested a similar step to
the Brethren. There were grave reasons for it. In 1535
Ferdinand began to manifest, in some of the royal cities, an
alarming hostility. Members of the Unity were ordered to
appear for trial at Prague ; John the Hermit, a priest of
extraordinary piety and influence, was cast into prison ; and

'2 Dekrete d. u., p. 147, cited by Czerwenka, II. p. 207.

1^ Valenta choked to death, in 1534 or 1535, at the dinner table of Baron
von Holeschau, whom he had induced to leave the Church. Todtenbuch,
p. 13.


two young Barons von Janowic, on whose domains he labored
and who had refused to give him up, shared the same fate.'*

Although this persecution was, as yet, but a little flame, it
might, at any time, burst into a formidable and pitiless con-
flagration. Hence the Bishops and Executive Council resolved
upon a deputation to the King, which should present to him,
in the name of the ministers and nobles of the Church, a new
Confession of Faith. Such a Confession was drawn up, in
Latin, by Horn and Augusta. It embraced, first, an intro-
duction setting forth the origin of the Unitas Fratrum, the
development of its faith as shown in its various confessions,
the abrogation of rebaptism, and the relation of the Brethren
to the Anabaptists ; second, a manly preface by the nobles ;
and third, twenty doctrinal articles. This document having
been signed by twelve barons and thirty-three knights, William
Krinecky, as the representative of the former, and Henry
Domausky, on the part of the latter, were appointed to under-
take its presentation.'^ Accompanied by Bishop Augusta,
Baron Krajek and two other nobles, these envoys proceeded
to Vienna in the autumn of 1535. On the eleventh of No-
vember Ferdinand admitted Krajek to a preliminary audience,
at which no one else, except the Vice Chancellor of Bohemia,
was present. After thanking the King for granting him an
interview, the Baron introduced the case of John the Hermit
and the Janowics; begged that these prisoners might be
liberated; avowed himself a member of the Unity; and inti-
mated that it would relinquish its faith only if this faith
were shown, from the Holy Scriptures, to be false. At first
the King replied in a calm tone. Presently however he rose,
advanced a few steps to a table, and turning upon Krajek
exclaimed in a loud voice : " We would like to know how you

" They were the sons of that Peter Suda who had arrested and maltreated
Bishop Luke but afterward became a friend of the Brethren, in whose schools
these young men were educated. Suda was still living, but had made over
his domains to his sons.

'* Gindely says, I. p. 234, that all the nobles belonging to the Unity signed
the Confession, but he must mean those in Bohemia only, for the list of
signatures which he gives lacks well-known Moravian names.


came to accept this (Picard) faith. The devil must have
persuaded you." " Not the devil, gracious liege," answered
the Baron, "but Christ the Lord through the Bible. If
Christ was a Picard, I am one too." At this reply Ferdinand
crrew livid with rage. " What business have you to meddle
with such things?" he demanded in his harshest manner.
" You are neither pope, nor emperor, nor king ! Nevertheless,
believe what you will ; we do not prevent you. For all we
care, you may go to hell !" Krajek remained silent. " Be-
lieve what you please," the King continued in the same
violent manner, " we do not hinder you ; but we will hinder
your meetings, at which you carry on your hocus-pocus.
This we will not permit, and even if it should cost us our
neck. And now we desire no further disputation with you."
Krajek protested his loyalty, and Ferdinand, somewhat molli-
fied, dismissed him more graciously.

Undismayed by this outburst of anger, which did not
promise them a favorable reception, Krinecky and Domausky
appeared before the King, three days later (November the
fourteenth), and formally presented the Confession. Baron
Krinecky was the spokesman. He said, that the ministers
and nobles of the Unity delivered this document in order that
his Majesty might decide for himself, whether it was, or was
not, right to call the Brethren Picards and whether the abusive
language used by the Utraquist priests in their pulpits — that
it was less sinful to kill a Picard than a dog — would tend to
the peace and unity of the kingdom. The answer of the
King was affable. All signs of his recent auger had disap-
peared. He received the Confession and promised to examine
it carefully. On the twenty-first of November the two
deputies had a second audience, at which he said that he had
been prevented by other engagements from reading the docu-
ment; but that he ^vas willing to grant the Brethren peace, if
they would remain his loyal subjects. It is evident that the
step taken by the Unity left at least a passing impression upon
his mind. He did not relinquish the purpose which he was
nurturing in secret, but he gave up all thoughts of an imme-
diate persecution.


The Elector John Frederick of Saxony, who followed the
great example of his father in supporting the Reformation,
happened to be on a visit to Vienna. He had written to
Kostka, a Bohemian noble belonging to the Unity, and asked
for an account of the faith of the people called Picards, who
were said to live on this Baron's estates. Kostka hastened to
Vienna and supplied him with a copy of the Confession
delivered to Ferdinand. It was translated into German, fpr
the Elector's use, by Spalatin and John Agricola, who were
in his suite. Bishop Augusta assisted them. In this way
these two Lutheran divines became thoroughly acquainted
with the belief of the Brethren. It elicited their unqualified
admiration. " We would not have thought it possible that
such an exposition of doctrine could be found in Bohemia,"
they said. And when the Elector had read the Confession, he
averred that the Brethren were true Christians and upheld
the true faith.

Meanwhile in the beginning of 1535, another mission to
Luther had been undertaken.^^ Its object Avas to inquire into
the doctrines, the faith and particularly the life prevailing at
Wittenberg; as also to ascertain whether the Lutherans, as
was commonly said in Bohemia, were opposing the Brethren
on the score of their discipline. The Bishops had cogent
reasons for desiring to obtain such information. Evil reports
of the morals of Wittenberg and of its university in particular,
were spreading in Bohemia ; and several young members of
the Unity, on their return from that school, had shown them-
selves to be unfit for service among the Brethren, one of them
even becoming a pervert to Romanism.

The deputies, at whose head stood Martin Michalek, having

'^ A full account of this and other missions to the Reformers is found in
a Bohemian Quarto MS., written, in part, by Nicholas of Schlan, (See p.
171, Note 15, of this History) and preserved in the Herrnhut Archives.
Gindely in his Quellen, pp. 16-45, has publislied a German translation of the
larger part of this invaluable record. Upon it is also based, to a great
extent, the account, as given above, of the presentation of the Confession to
Ferdinand. Comp. further Gindely's Geschichte d. B. B., I. pp. 234-238.


presented two letters from Bishop Baworinsky, the one
addressed to Luther, the other to Melanchthon, spent four
Aveeks at Wittenberg in fraternal intercourse with the Reform-
ers. Justification by faith, baptism, the Lord's Supper, and
other theological points were freely discussed. The discipline
of the Brethren which, in the time of Luke, had called forth
Luther's strictures, now excited his profound admiration ; and
he expressed his regret that he could not, as yet, introduce a
similar system. It had, he said, thus far been his province
to destroy, rather than to build up. The time for building
up was, however, at hand.''' The deputies " recognized Ihe
pious purposes of the Reformers and perceived that the state
of affairs among the Lutherans was entirely different from
what had been reported in Boliemia, and that there was far
more of good than of evil among them, especially in point of
doctrine. They convinced themselves, too, that the Reformers
were not only not opposed to the Unity, but also willing to
stand by it, as brethren in the Lord, treading the same way
of salvation which, for years, had been trodden in Bohemia
and Moravia." '^ The parting with Luther was cordial. " Tell
the Brethren," he said, " that they shall hold fast that which
God has given them and not relinquish their constitution and
discipline." *' On account of our discipline," replied one of
the deputies, " many oppose and revile us as a new monkish
sect." Luther rejoined : " Let the Brethren take no heed of
such revilements. The world will behave foolishly. We
here are not exempt from its abuse. If you, in Bohemia,
were to live as we do, that would be said of you- Avhich is said
of us — that we are a wild set, eating and drinking without
fearing the Lord. If we were to live as you do, that would
be reported of us which is reported of you. The world is

^' " Ich musste aus vielen Griinden zerstoren, ich konnte nicht umhin (wo
der Papst machtig war und man viel Werth auf solches legte) die Monchs-
kappe eine solche zu schimpfen; doch mochte icli nun wohl gern eine
Ordnung einfiiliren. Denn ich will die Kirche nicht zerstoren, sondern
aufbauen." Gindely's Quellen, p. 17.

^® Nicholas of Schlan's Record, Quellen, p. 18.


satisfied with nothing. It mnst always seek occasion to find
fault. Tell the Brethren to pay no heed to the world, but to
maintain their constitution and discipline."

On their return to Bohemia the deputies delivered answers
from Luther and Melanchthon to Bishop Baworinsky's letters,
and reported the friendly feeling which prevailed at Witten-

The satisfaction which this intelligence caused was enhanced
by the news brought from Vienna. No better time could be
found — so thought the Bishops and the whole Council — for
giving to the world, again under the auspices of Luther, the
Confession presented to Ferdinand and thus making known
the decided step which the Unity had taken.

With this end in view Bishop Augusta himself, accompanied
by Erasmus Sommerfeld von Tunic and George Israel, pro-
ceeded to Wittenberg (June, 1536). The overture to Luther
met with a friendly response. He said that he had received,
through Spalatin and Agricola, a favorable report of the
Confession, and proposed that it should now be submitted to a
conference of Wittenberg divines for further examination.
This suggestion was eminently reasonable, as Luther had been
asked to write a preface and consequently wished to be assured
that the work contained nothing to which he could not sub-
scribe. The conference took place at his house. There were
present, besides himself, Justus Jonas, John Bugenhagen,
Philip Melanchthon, Caspar Cruciger and a bishop — so says
the record — whose name the deputies did not know. The
Confession was discussed and met with unanimous approval,
excepting the articles on the celibacy of the clergy and the
time of grace. As regarded the former point Augusta ex-
plained that it referred to a voluntary celibacy ; the latter he
promised to refer to his fellow bishops. The deputation spent
several weeks at Wittenberg. On taking leave, when the
impracticability of a union between the Brethren and the
Lutherans was alluded to, Luther said : " It must be so; do you
be the Bohemian, we will be the German Reformers ; do you
labor for Christ according to your circumstances, we will labor


according to ours." ^^ A letter to the Bishops which he gave
Augusta, suggested that they should either change the article
on the time of grace, or word it with greater perspicuity, so
that he could write his preface accordingly. They adopted
this suggestion, defining the time of grace as one which con-
tinues as long as life, but adding that signs of true repentance
very rarely appear on a bed of death. Luther had declared
hmiself satisfied with the article on celibacy ; nevertheless
they gave a clearer definition of the views and practice of the
Church with regard to this subject likewise.^'^ Thereupon
Augusta, again accompanied by Sommerfeld and Israel, re-
turned to Wittenberg not only with this corrected Confession
but also with the Latin version — which had meanwhile been
completed — of the Apology presented to the Margrave of
Brandenburg. Both these works Luther promised to publish.
Three-quarters of a year passed by, however, and they did
not appear. Toward the end of 1537 the Bishops dispatched
a messenger with a letter to Luther inquiring the reason of the
delay. He could not — so he wrote in reply — find a printer
willing to take the risk connected with such a publication;
the times were so hard that publishers feared to incur heavy
losses; so many worthless books appeared that good books
were supplanted ; his onerous duties and frequent ill health
must serve as an excuse for his not having written sooner.
At the same time he sent back both the Confessions. The
Bishops and the whole Council were bitterly disappointed.
It is true that they might have issued the works from one of
their own printing offices ; but in this way they would not

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 23 of 64)