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 24 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

have reached the purpose which they had in view. They
meant, by the publication of these two Confessions under the
auspices of the great Reformer, to give to the Unitas Fratrum
that position among the Protestant churches of Europe to

'* Lasitius incorrectly, as Nicholas of Schlan's record proves, reports this
saying in connection with Augusta's last visit to Luther. Comenius, Plitt,
Croeger and even Gindely follow Lasitius.

2» Art. 19, ^^ 4 and 5, and Art. 20, §^ 4 and 5 were changed. N. of Schlan's


which it was entitled, both in view of its history and of its
faith. This project had been devised in the fear and to the
glory of the Lord. To Him, therefore, they committed it,
in earnest and frequent prayer, asking Him to let it succeed,
if in harmony with His will, but to frustrate it, if not ac-
cording to His mind. And now Augusta and his two
companions visited Wittenberg a third time, and informed
Luther that the Council was willing to assume a part of the
cost of publication. As soon as he heard this, he cheerfully
offered to do his utmost to secure a publisher. The next day,
at his house, a contract was concluded with George Rhaw.
Luther's wife was present and took an active interest in
securing favorable terms for the Brethren.

The Confession and the Apology appeared in one volume
(1538).^^ To the former Luther wrote a preface in which he
spoke, in very appreciatory terms, of the faith and life of the
Brethren, commending them to his own followers and to all
who served God in spirit and in truth. For the Apology
Agricola prepared a brief introduction.^^ These publications,
as the Bishops had anticipated, greatly increased the interest
with which the Unity was regarded among Protestants.

^' The Title of the Confession is the following: "Confessio Fidel ac
Keligionis, Baronvm ac Nobilivm Regni Bohoemiae Serenissimo ac Inuic-
tissimo Romanorum, Bohemiae etc Regi, Viennae Austriae, sub anno Domini
1535 oblata. VVitebergae in Officina Georgii Rhaw." Quarto, 34 fols.
A picture of Hus and, as a motto, St. Paul's words in Acts 24 : 14, adorn
the title-page. Malin Lib., No. 198. This Confession is contained in
Niemeyer Conf., jjp. 771-818; in Lydius, Tom. II. Part 2, 1-94; and in
Kfficher's Glaubensbekentnisse, pp. 98-160, but in the last named work,
without the introduction. A German version of Luther's Preface to this
Confession is given in Comenii Kirchen-Historie, Schwabach, 1739, pp.
456-461. The title of the Apology is the following : "Apologia Verae
Doctrinae eorvm qui vvlgo Appellantvr VValdenses vel Picardi. Retinue-
rant enim Joannis Hussitae doctrinam, cum scripturis Sanctis consen-
cientem. Oblata D. Georgio Marchioni Brandenburgensi. Impressum
Viteberge per Georgium Rhaw." 118 fols. Title and last page adorned
with pictures of Hus. Mottoes, Psalm 69 : 8, and Jno. 15 : 25. Malin Lib.,
No. 198. This Apology is contained in Lydius, Tom. I. Part 2, pp. 92-367.

""■ Oeconomia locorvm praecipvorvm qui in hoc libro continentvr. Lydius
says, in a marginal note, p. 93, that this introduction was written by John
Eisleben, that is, Agricola.


The Confession is based upon and closely follows the doc-
trinal part of the Apology. In its Latin form the latter can,
however, scarcely be called a translation from the German
version of 1533; it is, in fact, a new work comprising five
parts. The first treats of the origin of the Unity ; the second,
of its doctrines; the third, of its membership and of its rules
and discipline ; the fourth, of its ministry, of the word and
the sacraments; and the fifth, of its constitution, worship and

Both the Apology and the Confession show a marked
advance in the knowledge of doctrinal truth. Rebaptism is
no longer taught ; the seven sacraments have disappeared •
and justification by faith is more clearly defined and more
earnestly insisted on.^^ As regards the Lord's Supper there
are references to former Confessions and to other documents,
to show that the Brethren still teach, as they have ever taught,
that the words with which Christ instituted this sacrament
must be accepted in simple faith and all explanations of them

Baworinsky having died in 1535 and Veit in 1536, the
synod of 1537, which met at Prossnitz in Moravia, elected
Martin Michalek and Mach Sionsky to the episcopacy. They
were consecrated by Horn, Augusta, Wenzel and Daniel.^*

2^ In the Conf. of 1535 we find the following : " Men are freely justified
by faith in Christ, and receive salvation and the remission of their sins,
without any human works or merit." " By faith alone men are justified in
the sight of God, without any exertions, merits or works of their own."
The Conf. of 1532 is the first wliicli omits the seven sacraments.

2* Jaffet's Swonl of doliath, p. 18. E's Z., p. 252.



The Unitas Fratrum and the tStrasburr/ Reformers. LaM
Mission to Luther. A. D. 1539-1546.

The Brethren and the Habrowanites. — Visit of two Waldenses. — Cerwenka
and the Strasburg Divines. — Letter from Bucer. — Letter from Calvin-
— The last Visit to Luther and the Discipline. — Death of Krajek. —
Letter from Luther. — End of the Amosites. — The Decline of Utra-
quism. — Its continued but fruitless opposition to the Brethren.

While their fellowship with the Reformers of Germany-
strengthened the hearts of the Brethren, they reaped nothing
but ill-will and abuse from their intercourse with the
Habrowanites. Bishop Luke had rejected the overtures of
this sect; now that he was dead, they were persistently
renewed until the Council agreed to a conference with
Dubcansky. It was held in 1531, and four years later a
second meeting took place. But both occasions again showed
that the Unity had nothing in common with fanaticism.
Dubcansky 's subsequent imprisonment cooled his ardor.
After he had been set free he ceased to teach his vagaries,
and his followers united with the Anabaptists.^

The Waldenses of France, whom Luke had visited, had
not forgotten the Unity. In 1540 two of their number,
Daniel and John, both learned men, came to Bohemia and
spent half a year among the Brethren. It proved to be a
pleasant fellowship, to which the Lord's Supper set its seal.

' L. F., IV. p. 199, etc., contains a full report of those conferences.
R's Z. pp. 252-268.


The visitors rejoiced to find that the report, which had
reached France, of a spiritual decline in the Unity, was
unfounded ; and bewailed the disputes that had broken out
among their own people.^

Soon after these Waldenses had bidden farewell to the
Brethren, Matthias Cerwenka, a teacher at Leitomischl and
an acolyte who enjoyed Bishop Augusta's particular favor,
was sent to Strasburg. Two other members of the Church
were his traveling companions.^ He was instructed to make
himself acquainted with the doctrines, the life and the customs
of the Reformers of that city, and to report to the Council.

Having reached Strasburg in June he, first of all, visited
Martin Bucer and gave him a copy of the Confession and
Apology published at Wittenberg, as also a letter from
Augusta. In this letter Augusta asked Bucer for an opinion
with regard to the doctrinal system of the Brethren and
complimented him on his writings, especially his Com-
mentaries, which, he said, were so full of the Holy Ghost
that the bishops intended to translate them into Bohemian,

Bucer received Cerwenka with the utmost cordiality and
entertained him for six weeks at his own house. In the
course of his stay he became acquainted with a number of
distinguished men, and particularly mentions a dinner-party
given by " a Doctor," at which he met Capito, Caspar Hedio,
Joachim Camerarius, who, at a later time, wrote a history
of the Brethren, John Sturm, John Calvin, who had been

2 Lasitius, V. p. 76, quoted by Plitt; Comenii Hist., § 78; Camerarius,
pp. 128, 129.

3 Cerwenka, who often signed his name in its Greek form, Erythraeus,
subsequently rose to be a distinguislied bishop. Born at Celakowic,
February the twenty-first, 1521, he joined the Brethren at Jungbunzhiu in
1533, became a teacher at Leitomischl in 1540, a deacon in 1544 and a
priest in 1549. Todtenbuch, pp. 42 and 43. Cerwenka himself wrote a
very interesting account of his visit to Strasburg. It forms a part of the
Quarto Boh. MS. found in the Herrnhut Archives and treating of the
correspondence of the Brethren with the Reformers. (See Chapt. XXVI.,
Note 16, of this History.) Gindely's Quellen, p. 35, etc. On this source,
as also on Comenii Hist, and Reichel's Geschichte, our narrative is based.


expelled from Geneva in 1538, Claiulius, Professor of Greek
at the Academy, three Doctors of law and several other
celebrities. His subsequent intercourse with these men was
pleasant and encouraging. They gave unmistakable tokens
of their good will and of the fraternal love with which
they regarded the Unity. "Not a little astonished were
they," writes Cerwenka, " at our past history and present

With Bucer he had a formal conversation, in the presence
of other divines, on the Apology of the Brethren. Concern-
ing the discipline, as portrayed in this publication, Bucer
expressed himself in terms of unqualified praise. " Your
churches," he said, " have received a great gift from God —
the bond of love and unity, of good order and fellowship.
Where these things are wanting, Christ is driven out and
can neither be taught nor preached. Many have cast off the
yoke of Antichrist, but refuse to take upon themselves the
yoke of Christ. May God our Lord guide us, for we are
still far from the truth !" Again he remarked : " Where
order and discipline prevail in the Church, there the divine
throne has been set up." The constitution, worship and
usages of the Brethren elicited his commendation in no less
a degree. He declared that the Unity had reached the
apostolic ideal more nearly than any other Church, adding with
tears, as he turned to his associates : " Truly this is more of a
heavenly than of an earthly system !" And when Cerwenka
begged him to write words of encouragement to the Brethren,
he replied : " What shall I write to men who carry on the
work of the Lord in such a way ; or how shall I instruct
those whom God has himself instructed ?"

Cerwenka had frequent conversations about the Unity with
Calvin also. From him he learned the antecedents of the
two Waldenses, who had recently visited Bohemia. They
were well-known to Calvin. He said that he had himself
been associated with the Waldenses, but had withdrawn from
them on account of their disputes and incorrect views in
regard to justification by faith.


When, at last, the time arrived for parting from his friends
at Strasburg, Cerwenka strongly felt what the Apostle ex-
perienced when his friends came from Rome to meet him :
" He thanked God and took courage."

Bucer, Capito and Calvin each wrote to Augusta, Bucer's
communication was as follows :

" Your letter and the books which you sent have occasioned
me much joy. Both show that God has given us one mind.
This difference only exists between us and you, that we must sow
on the thorny acre of the papacy, which ground has, as yet, not
brought forth a Scriptural discipline. Hence there spring up
so many anabaptistical and other weeds. God preserve to you
that which He has given you, and encourage us through your
example ! You alone, in all the world, combine a wholesome
discipline with a pure faith. I have read your Confession and
rejoiced greatly over that light of truth and good order which
shines among you. When w^e compare our Church with yours,
we must be ashamed. What I have heard from your brother
Matthias, that the principal ministers among you are unmarried,
in order that they may the more faithfully serve the Lord and
attend to the duties of their office, appears to me to be proper.
But I beseech you, let no one esteem celibacy so highly as to
assume it contrary to his own inclinations, and let it not be
forced upon any one. Great injury came to the Church in the
times of the apostles and martyrs, because celibacy was over-
estimated, a thing which Cyprian and others bewail. I thank
God that such things are not reported of you. Therefore we will
enter into fellowship with you. Let it be a fellowship not only
of faith and purpose, but also of mutual comfort and admonition.
In this way it will be renewed and strengthened from time to

Calvin wrote :

" I congratulate your Churches with all my heart that the
Lord, in addition to pure doctrine, has given them so many other
excellent gifts. It is a thing not lightly to be esteemed, that they
have shepherds who know how to guide and direct them, and that
they maintain such good morals, order and discipline. These
constitute the best and only means to uphold the bond of
obedience. We have, long since, recognized the value of such a
system, but cannot, in any way, attain to it. Indeed I would
despair, if I did not know that the building up of the Church is
the Lord's work, which He will carry out through His own
power, even if all human means, on our part, should fail."

Calvin, like Bucer, admonished Augusta not to over-


estimate celibacy. In his judgmeut, this was done in the

These letters were ansAvered in the following year (1541),
while Bucer and Calvin were attending the Conference of

The favorable result of the mission to Strasburg induced
Bishop Augusta to pay another visit to Wittenberg (1542).^
Luther received him and his two companions, George Israel
and Joachim Prostiborsky, with his wonted kindness. The
subject which they presented to his notice was again the dis-
cipline. Augusta urged this very strongly, telling Luther
that the Utraquists of Bohemia were willing to accept his
doctrines, but not willing to give up their ungodly lives;
that this state of affairs was injuring the Unity ; that he had
himself extolled its system, and that the Strasburg divines
had now done the same. Did he approve of that misuse of
the Gospel which grew out of a lack of discipline ? In rejjly,
Luther again recognized its importance, but said that he could
not have broken the power of the papacy except by breaking
its yoke of superstition and restraint. The question of intro-
ducing a discipline would receive his earnest attention, but not
immediately, as the public mind was disturbed by the
expectation which the Pope had raised, that a General
Council would soon be convened. Augusta rejoined, that if
the Reformation devoted all its attention to a development of
theology and neglected practical religion, evil would certainly

* A year later Calvin returned to Geneva and there carried out what he
so greatly admired among the Brethren. The above two letters are con-
tained in full in the Boh. MS., but have not been reproduced by Gindely
in his Quellen, except in the way of a brief summary. Nor are they
complete as given in the text. We have translated them from Reichel's
Geschichte, pp. 47 and 48, and Comenii Hist., ^§79 and 80. Comenius says
that Calvin's letter is found in his i^ublished correspondence, probably the
collection edited by Beza, in 1576.

^ Gindely's Quellen, pp. 43-45.

® The only account extant of this visit is found in Lasitius, V. p. 99, etc.,
whom Comenius follows. Hist. ^ 81. See also Gindely's Quellen, pp. 31, 32.


Aud thus they parted — the great Reformer of Wittenberg
and the earnest representatives of the Uuitas Fratrura — not
in anger, but in love. It was the last mission of tlie Brethren
to Luther, and their last words were prophetic. Evil did
ensue. Hardly had he closed his eyes, when the most acri-
monious disputes broke out among his followers and a dead
orthodoxy began to chill the life of the Church. With
unfaltering integrity, convinced that they had been appointed
of God to be the bearers and promoters of a discipline
befitting His Church, had the Brethren striven to avert so
lamentable an end. "Would to God," says Comenius, "that
they had been false prophets when foretelling, from the very
beginning of the Reformation, the results which have now
come to pass I'""

In the spring of the same year in which this last mission to
Luther was undertaken, the Unity lost its noblest member
and most influential patron. Like a prince in Israel there
died, at Jungbunzlau, in the seventy-first year of his age
Baron Conrad von Krajek (May the tenth, 1542). He was a
hero of faith, fearless in his confession of Christ, great in
God. On his deathbed he delivered a glorious testimony.^

' The testimony of a distinguished Lutheran writer, Salig, in his
celebrated History of the Augsburg Confession, may here find a place.
''Neither a scriptural discipline," he says, "than which nothing can be
more important, nor the real object of the whole Reformation, was attained.
Both died with Luther's death. For the Smalcald War began and the
theologians cared little for a godly discipline and life, but fell into the
most violent quarrels. In the universities were taught words, distinctions
and formulas, and such things were made to constitute the kernel of pure
Lutheranism. To lead young people to true godliness was not thought of
.... Men that were great at universities, in stickling for words, remained
the smallest children in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the

practice of the heavenly rules of life In order that the discipline of

the Bohemian Brethren — which, as could not be denied, Lutlier had praised
— might not be accepted, and other Christians thus by them be put to shame,
suspicion was cast upon their doctrine and some of them were accused of
fanaticism." Salig's Hist. d. Augsburg. Conf, II Theil, 6 Buch, pp
550, 551.

* Todtenbuch, pp. 14-17. Krajek's funeral was attended by a large part
of the Bohemian nobility. John Cerny preached the sermon.


Several mouths later Luther sent the followhig fraternal
letter to Bishop Augusta.

•" To the Venerable Brother in Christ, John Augusta, Minister of the
Divine Word among the Brethren at Leitomischl, my very dear
Friend. Grace and Peace !

One of your brethren, Lawrence of Leitomischl, has asked me
to write to you, and told me of your sentiments toward me, that
you and your brethren have a true and sincere regard for me and
that you remember me in your prayers. For this I thank you
all and beseech you to pray for me in future also. For I am
persuaded that the time of my poor life on earth will not continue
much longer. That God may take my soul hence in peace and
that I may have a happy end — this is my wish. Amen.

Fui'ther I admonish you in the Lord, that even as you began,
so you may continue with us to the end, in the fellowship of the
Spirit and of doctrine. Help us to fight, with the word and with
prayer, against the gates of hell, which continually oppose the
Church of God and its Head, Christ the Lord. And although it
may, at times, seem as if the power of Satan were unequally
great, nevertheless Christ's strength will be made perfect in our
weakness, His wisdom will be magnified in our ignorance, and
His goodness will be glorified in our iniquity and sins, according
to His own wonderful ways which are past finding out. May
this Lord strengthen, protect, keep and stablish us and you, so
that we may together grow into the same image, to the glory of
His mercy, which is perpetually to be praised! Amen.

Given Thursday after St. Francis (October the fifth), 1542.

Reverently greet all the brethren in the Lord.

Martin Luther."^

This was the last communication which Luther sent to the
Brethren ; but to the end of his days his flivorable opinion of
them remained unchanged. It may be summed up in the
words which he used in one of his lectures : " Since the time
of the apostles no Church has as nearly resembled the apostolic
churches as the Bohemian Brethren." ^^

About the year 1542 the Amosites, after having once more,
through John Kalenec, poured out their bitterest venom upon

^ This letter is found in Boh., in the MS. of Nicholas of Schlan. It was
written in Latin, in wiiich form Gindely, Quellen, pp. 28, 29, gives it,
taking it from De Wette's ed. of Luther's Letters.

'" Comenius (juotes these words, Hist. I 82, on the authority of Lasitius.
Comp. his Lasitii Ecc. Discip. p. 157.


the Unity and Augusta in particular, disappeared from history
and were lost among the Anabaptists and other fanatical

While the Unitas Fratrum continued to develop a healthful
activity and to spread a beneficial influence, Utraquism was
undergoing a process of disintegration. The Compactata were
[)ractically forgotten, except by a small body of conservatives.
Lutheran views prevailed. And yet Lutheranism was not
established. The National Church of Bohemia was neither
Protestant nor Catholic, neither evangelical nor papistic,
neither identified with the Reformation nor obedient to Rome-
It had no stable character and no fixed position. Its
spiritual state was bad; the morals of its priests were

Nor had this Church ceased from its hostility to the
Brethren. John Mistopol, the new Administrator of the
Consistory, hated them with a bitter hatred. Of the same
mind was Wenzel Mitmanek, the incumbent of the Thein
parish, and a renegade from the Unity. Not only did its
prosperity constitute an offence in the eyes of these men and
of their associates, but they also smarted under the stinging
lash with which Augusta and Michalek, in their writings,
corrected the glaring inconsistencies and the scandalous evils
of Utraquism. On every possible occasion charges were
brought against the Brethren. In particular was a public
ordination of priests at Jungbunzlau (1540), to which
solemnity many people streamed together, decried as a
political gathering. Utraquist nobles manifested their ani-
mosity at the Diet. The King was twice induced to order
the arrest of Bishop Augusta. And yet all these machina-
tions proved unsuccessful. Through the efforts of the nobles
of the Unity, Augusta was not arrested, and the state of
feeling at the Diet was pacified. Ferdinand himself when he
designed beginning his long projected persecution, met with

" L. F., IV. p. 215, etc. K's Z. p. 268, etc., where is found an account of
their final attack upon the Brethren.


the most strenuous resistance on the part of some of his own
councilors (1543). With a hypocrisy that did honor to his
training, he publicly said, on leaving Prague, that he had
never meant to suppress the Unity, or any other religious
body, but merely to lop oif a few excrescences. The very
next year, the Bohemian capital saw, for the first time, a
ciiurch of the Brethren established within its walls (1544).
Of this cliurch John Czerny was constituted the pastor. Thus
the days of the Unity were bright for a time longer. Then
came the darkness and terror of a great storm.



The Smalcald War and a General Persecution of the Unitas
Fratrum. A. D. 1546-1548.

The Smalcald War. — A League organized in Bohemia. — Death of Bishops
Horn and Michalek. — Ferdinand punishes the Members of the League.
— The Brethren accused of being its Instigators. — Edict of St. James
renewed. — Persecutions begin. — The cruel Zeal of the Utraquists. —
Czerny's Views of their Course. — Sufferings of the Brethren on con-
fiscated Estates. — Sixteen Heads of Families in a foul Vault. — Arrest,
Imprisonment and Torture of Bishop Augusta. — Other imprisoned
Ministers. — Developments in Germany.

A FEW months after Martin Luther had closed his eyes in
death (February the eighteenth, 1546), the first conflict of
arms evoked by the Reformation, broke out. In this war,
which is known as the Smalcald War, Bohemia became
entangled. Although a large part of its people sympathized
with the German Protestants, Ferdinand determined to aid
his brother Charles the Fifth, and the Diet granted, for a
limited period, troops against the Turks and "against any
other enemy that might attack the kingdom" (July, 1546).
The time of enlistment expired in November. But the King
immediately asked for a new levy. This demand roused
general opposition. A League was formed having in view
religious liberty, the rights of the aristocracy and a decrease
of the royal power (February, 1547). At its head stood a