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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motives, can scarcely be questioned. His project grew out of
the Sendomirian union, which was awakening general interest
in Bohemia. He beheld the religious confusion of that
country, and believed that it, as well as Poland, would reap
rich benefits from a religious confederation. The other
Bishops did not share his views. Blahoslaw, as on many
previous occasions, was his chief opponent. After Augusta's
death, when discussions with regard to a common evangelical
Confession were going on in the Diet, his work on "The
Reformation " was much spoken of, and its plan of union
found supporters."

" Dekrete d. B. IT., p. 226, etc., cited by Czerwenka.

*° Mistopol, who had filled this office for many years, died in 1568.

*i Gindely, II, p. 133. We disagree with Gindely's, but especially with
Czerwenka's extreme views regarding Augusta. Czerwenka seems almost
to take pleasure in presenting him in as unfavorable a light as possible, and
makes him out to have been, after his liberation from Piirglitz, a mere


On the occasion of the Diet which opened at Prague on
the thirtieth of April, 1571, the Lutheran Utraquist states
petitioned Maximilian to recognize in Bohemia the Augsburg
Confession, as he had recognized it in Austria, and allow the
institution of a Lutheran Consistory. Both the Utraquist
Consistory and the Archbishop protested against such a
concession, and it was refused. Nor did a second and very
urgent appeal induce the Emperor to change his mind.
From these negotiations the Brethren stood aloof; but now
they were drawn into an unexpected controversy.

Soon after the adjournment of the Diet, Crato, who seems
not to have been in communion with any church, although he
inclined to the Reformed,-^ published an open letter recom-
mending the Augustana as a common Confession for
Protestants, and advising the Brethren to adopt it in place
of their own, but to retain their discipline."^ This letter
caused great excitement. Blahoslaw was indignant. He
wrote a sharp reply, drew up an opinion which he sent to his
priests, and visited Kromau, where Crato was staying, in
order to consult with him in person. The nobles of the
Unity were no less wrought up, and the Council issued an
official answer. There exists no reason whatever, so said

troubler in Israel, selfish, headstrong and overbearing. A carefal study of
the sources, which are, moreover, insufficient, does not, it appears to us,
warrant such conclusions, particularly when the fact is taken into consid-
eration that these sources, for the most part, proceed from Blahoslaw who,
in the very nature of the case, could not be an impartial witness. For the
way in which Czerwenka, II. p. 412, represents Augasta's plan of union
with the Lutheran Utraquists — as though he meant individually to forsake
the Unity and go over to the Utraquists in order to revenge himself on the
Council — there is no excuse. It is hard to understand how so careful a
historian as Czerwenka could allow so gross an error to stand, especially
when we find that, on page 447, he speaks of Augusta's project as "a union
of the Utraquists with the Brethren under a common church-government "
and therefore contradicts himself.

'^ Blahoslaw says of him : " He asserts that he belongs to the old Church,
which means, I suppose, that he holds with those who are no longer living.
He stands like a solitary tree in the wilderness." Gindely, II, p. 67.

^ Letter in Quellen, p. 374, taken from L. F., p. 63, etc.


this paper, why the Brethren should depart from the faith of
their fathers ; their Confession is older than any other and its
importance has been generally acknowledged; in point of
doctrine and discipline it contains what can be found in no
other Confession.^* Crato did not allow these dilFerences to
interfere with his friendship for the Unity.

It now became necessary to fill up the ranks of its episcopate.
John Czerny was asleep in death. " Worthy of being per-
petually remembered," he finished his course on the fifth of
February, 1565.^^ Four years later Matthias Cerwenka,
distinguished for his learning and eloquence, "a diadem in
the hand of the Unity," was summoned, on the thirteenth of
December, 1569, from the midst of active work to his
eternal reward.^® The only Bishops that remained, were
John Augusta, George Israel and John Blahoslaw. On the
eleventh of October, 1571, the Synod, which had convened at
Eibenschiitz, proceeded to an election. Andrew Stephan,
John Kalef, and John Lorenz were chosen.^ They received
consecration at the hands of Augusta, Israel and Blahoslaw.
Thus the true succession was renewed.^

Stephan, born about the year 1528 at Prossnitz, ordained
to the priesthood in 1557, elected to the Council in 1564, was
a man of extraordinary piety, well versed in theology and
eloquent as a preacher. He took up his residence at Eiben-
schiitz and directed the Moravian Province.^^ Kalef, ordained
to the priesthood in 1555 and elected to the Council in 1567,

2* Blahoslaw's papers are given in L. F. XII, pp. 67-97 ; the paper of the
Council in the Dekreten, p. 234, and a free Latin version in Quellen, p. 377,
with a heading by a later hand.

2^ Todtenbuch, p. 38. Czerny was very active in collecting the historical
documents which form the Lissa Folios.

2« Todtenbuch, p. 42.

" Dekrete d. B. U., p. 235, cited by Czerwenka.

'8 JafFet's Sword of Goliath, I, p. 21, R's. Z., pp. 367, 368.

'* Todtenbuch, p. 64. Stephan assumed the duties of Archivist in 1567,
when Blahoslaw's health began to fail. Blahoslaw had been constituted
Cerwenka's assistant as Archivist in 1558.



had his seat at Jungbunzlau and superintended the Bohemian
Province. He was "a staunch defender of the Truth of
God," uncompromising in tlie maintenance of the discipline,
zealous in founding chapels, and though often severely tried,
a hero of faith.^ Israel and Lorenz stood at the head of the
Polish Province. Their seat was at Ostrorog.

A few weeks subsequent to the consecration of these new
bishops, Blahoslaw died at Kromau, on the twenty-fourth of
November. Although only forty-eight years old, ill health
had prematurely aged him. In the galaxy of the worthies of
the Church he shines as a star of the first magnitude. His
sound judgment was a safe-guard for his brethren; his energy
led them forward, however great the obtacles by which they
were surrounded ; his reputation as a scholar and author
enhanced their fame. Of his numerous writings twenty-two
are known to exist. His style was pure, beautiful and classic.
He completed that development of the Bohemian language
which Hus began. " It pleased the Lord," says the Todtenbuch,
**to remove him far too soon, according to our judgment." ^^

In the following year, on the thirteenth of January, 1572>
Bishop Augusta died at Jungbunzlau, aged seventy-one years.
A cloud obscured the setting of his sun. The hero of the
Church had become a burden to his brethren. And yet in
all their subsequent history his equal is not to be found. We
mourn over his faults ; we bring a tribute to the greatness of
his works, to his heroism as a confessor, to the zeal, the
endurance and the high aims which he infused into the
Unity. His appearance was striking. He had a lofty brow,
a brilliant eye, a noble countenance revealing the force of his
character, and was graced with extraordinary dignity .^^

^" Todtenbuch, p. 83.

*^ Todtenbuch, p. 48. Gindely, II, p. 471, Note 105, gives a list of his

'^ Gindely, II, p. 73, says : " We do not remember to have seen in any
Bohemian portrait a more noble expression." There exist two portraits of
Augusta. The one is in the Archives at Herrnhut ; the other, we presume,
at Prague. We have engravings of both. Augusta was the author of some


Prior to the decease of these two leaders, the Bishops had
determined to issue a Latin version of the Confession presented
to Maximilian. Various reasons, but particularly the import-
ance of making the doctrinal standards of the Unity more
accessible to the theological world, rendered such a work
desirable. It was to take the place of the Latin Confession
of 1535 and set forth the faith of the Brethren in its maturity.
Esrom Riidinger, Professor of Greek and Philosophy in the
University of Wittenberg,^^ having been engaged as the
translator, the permission of the Theological Faculty to have
the work printed in that city,^* as also a testimonial acknowl-
edging the Confession to be in harmony with the Holy Scrip-
tures and the Lutheran symbols, was secured. These nego-
tiations were carried on, in 1571 and 1572, by Isaiah Cepolla.^
It was with the utmost difficulty that he persuaded the Faculty
to accede to the wishes of the Council. The Professors, afraid
of offending the Saxon court and the extreme party in their
own Church, at first declined all his overtures. It was only
after he had sent them a protest, in which, with a master's
hand, he interwove flattery and menaces, that they reluctantly
yielded. But the publication of their testimonial they refused
to permit even now.^^

twenty devotional and polemical works, and composed many hymns. The
charges mentioned by Gindely against his moral character are notoriously
false, as this historian fully acknowledges (II, p. 72).

^^ Kiidinger, the son-in-law of Joachim Camerarius, was born at Bamberg,
March the nineteenth, 1523. Prior to his connection with the University
he was Eector of the school at Zwickau.

3* In accordance with the privileges conferred by the Elector of Saxony
upon the University, no theological work could be issued from a Wittenberg
press without the sanction of the Theological Faculty.

^* Peter Herbert was appointed translator, but could not at once begin the
work and died in 1571 ; thereupon John Aeneas, a student at Wittenberg,
was intrusted with it; at his suggestion the services of Eudinger were
secured. Isaiah Cepolla, or Cybulka, a former student at Wittenberg, was
born at Bystrice, near Pernstein, ordained to the priesthood in 1572, elected
to the Council in 1577, and died, in his best years, at Kralic, on the twenty-
fifth of August, 1582. Todtenbuch, p. 70.

^ The negotiations are given at great length in Quellen, pp. 319-372,
taken from L. F., XII.


Riidinger having finished his translation, superintended its
printing. The work appeared in March, 1573. Under his
direction the German version was republished in the same
year, and also at Wittenberg.^'^ In the way of introduction
are given : Luther's preface to the Confession of 1 535 ; a
long historical preface, dated December the tenth, 1572, and
composed by Rudinger, but signed, "The Seniors and Minis-
ters of the Church of the Brethren, who teach the pure
doctrine of the Gospel in Bohemia, Moravia and Poland ;" ^
and the preface of the nobles to the Confession of 1535. The
doctrinal part is divided into the following twenty articles :

1. The Holy Scriptures. They are true, infallible and worthy
of all belief, having been inspired by the Holy Ghost. 2. The
Catechism. It is the kernel of, and the key to, the entire Bible.
8. The Holy Trinity. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost, are three distinct persons, but according to their being,
the one, true, eternal and unsearchable God. 4. Self-knowledge ;
Sin; and the Promises. The entire human race is depraved:

'' Of this German version the Malin Library contains two original copies
No. 810, which must have been printed at different times, although both in
1573, inasmuch as the type is different and the one does not give the name
of the printer, which was Johan. Schwertel, while the other omits a part
of the title. The latter copy is remarkable because of the chain with
which it is still furnished and by which it was, no doubt, fastened to a
reading desk in the vestibule of one of the chapels of the Brethren ; subse-
quently it must have fallen into the hands of an enemy, for its margins are
filled with remarks, written with a pen and, as far as we can decipher them,
severely criticising the Unity and its Confessions. Of the Latin Confession
we have seen no original copy and do not know whether any exists ; it is,
however, found in Lydius, Tom. II. pp. 95-256, and bears the following
title : Confessio Fidei et Religionis Christianae, quum sereniss et potentiss-
Romanorvm, Vngariae et Bohemiae, etc. Eegi Ferdinando, obtulerunt
Viennae in Austria XIV. Die IX bris, Anno Jesv Christi MDXXXV.
Barones, et ex nobilitate in regno Bohemia ij. qui puriori doctrinae in pijs
Ecclesijs, quas communitatem Fratrum Bohemicorum nominant, dediti sunt
et conjuncti : Quae eadem et Imperatori Maximiliano II. Avg. et Sereniss.
Regi Poloniae Sigismundo, etc. oblata est : Recognita, et conversa in
linguam Latinam nova interpretatione, Anno Christi MDLXXIII. Psal.
CXIX. Loquebar de testimonijs tuis coram Regibus, at non confundebar.

^* This historical Preface is found also in Camerarius, p. 263, etc., where
it is entitled : De origine Ecclesiarum Bohemiae, etc., et Confessionibus ab
iis editis.


man must learn to know his depravity : redemption comes
tlirough Christ alone, according to the promises. 5. Eepentajice.
Having recognized his depravity man must repent : repentance
is fear of God and His judgment, sorrow for sin, a broken and a
contrite heart. 6. Christ and Justification. No one can be
delivered from the bondage of sin and enter the liberty of the
children of God except through living faith in Jesus Christ, who
is the Only Begotten Son of the Father but became a man and
took upon himself human nature: such faith, without any work
or merit of his own, justifies a man in the sight of God : justifica-
tion is the forgiveness of sin, deliverance from everlasting
punishment, an imputing to the believer of the righteousness of
Christ, acceptance through grace, and the inheritance of eternal
life: in this doctrine is found the sum of the Gospel. 7. Good
Works and Christian Life. Such as are justified must, con-
strained by the Holy Ghost, show their faith by good and pious
Avorks. 8. The Church. The church militant is the com-
munion of all Christians : this communion consists of righteous
and unrighteous, of living and dead members : wherever doctrine
is preached in all purity, and the sacraments are administered
according to the institution of Christ, and the members, in the
unity of the faith and of love, grow up into Christ,— there is the
true Church : the Brethren do not claim to be exclusively the
true Church, but they are a part of the true Church. 9. The
Teachers of the Church. Those that preach the Gospel are
ambassadors for Christ ; they must be properly ordained : they
must not be lords over God's heritage, yet the people must obey
them as having the rule over them : they shall, if possible, earn
their bread by the labor of their hands. 10. The Word of God.
The preaching of the Gospel is the true office of grace, instituted
by Christ himself. 11. The Sacraments. They have been insti-
tuted by Christ and form the means through which the believer
is united with Him, so that a spiritual body is produced : the
mere administration of a sacrament, as an o^ms operatuvi, is
worthless. 12. Holy Baptism. The outward washing with water
is a sign and a testimony of the spiritual washing and inner
cleansing, through the Holy Ghost, from innate depravity and
other sin to the obtaining of the new birth (ad consequendum
novum ortum uascendi seu regenerationem): God "washes away
sin, regenerates man (hominem regenerare), and confers upon
him salvation." Children also are to be baptized. 13. The
Lord's Supper. " The bread of the Lord's Supper is the body
of the Lord Jesus Christ, given for us : in the same manner, the
cup, or the wine in it, is His blood shed for us for the forgiveness
of sin : this we believe according to the clear words of Christ,
when He says ; ' This is my body ; this is my blood :' to these
certain words, spoken by the Lord Christ, by which He pro-
claims, testifies and institutes, that the bread is His body, and


the wine His blood, no one shall add anything, and from them
no one shall take anything, but every one is bound to believe
what they say : in order, however, to explain the meaning of
such faith we teach further, that although the bread is the body
of Christ, according to His institution, and the wine His blood,
neither the bread nor the wine changes or loses its nature and
substance ; but the bread is and remains real bread, and the wine
real wine : hence this locutio, or manner of speaking — namely,
the bread is the body, and the wine is the blood of Christ — must
be understood as a sacramental locutio, signifying that these two
different things remain what, according to their nature, they are,
and yet, in view of their sacramental union, also are that which
they signify and testify ; not by nature and in a natural manner,
but through the institution and declaration (de institutione atque
pronunciatione) of Him who instituted this sacrament." 14. The
Keys of Christ. The power of the keys is based upon the words
of Christ and has been received by the Church from Him,
through the Holy Ghost : it is the power to bind and to loose.
15. Vsages; Ceremonies; and Christian Liberty. Usages and
ceremonies, although of subordinate importance, are proper for
the furtherance of the service of the Church : Christian liberty is
that which proceeds from the forgiveness of sins : therefore all
such usages and ceremonies as militate against the honor, glory
and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, are to be avoided. 16. The
Civil Power. Government has been instituted by God : it must
abide by His commandments : and the people must obey it in all
things which are not contrary to the divine law. 17. The Saiiits
and their Adoration. No one shall adore the saints or their
pictures : adoration belongs to God alone : but it is proper to
hold up their lives as an example to the people. 18. Fasting.
This is an outward act of faith, by which the believer is exercised
in abstinence. 19. Celibacy; Virginity; and Marriage. It is left
to the free will of men or women to choose a life of celibacy, or
of virginity : and no one shall be forced to adopt it : the marriage
state is holy and well-pleasing to God : yet the Church of the
Brethren recommends celibacy to its priests, without binding
them to accept it : any priest may marry, with the consent of the
Bishops. 20. The Time of Grace. This present life includes
the time of grace : repentance must not be delayed until old age
or a sick or dying bed : nevertheless if any one is converted in
his last hour, he shall receive the consolations of the Gospel.

The Confession, of which the above is a brief summary,
was the last and most complete of all the Confessions officially
issued by the Brethren. It shows the progress which they
had made in the knowledge of evangelical truth and the
influence which the Reformation had exercised upon their


theological system. The Synod, that met on the twentieth of
September, at Holleschau, while satisfied with Riidinger's
translation, for which he was liberally paid, expressed its deep
regret that the testimonial of the Wittenberg Faculty had
remained in manuscript. Soon afterward the Faculty per-
mitted its publication.^^

The Confession was widely circulated in Bohemia, Ger-
many and Switzerland. With regard to its merits, opinions
differed. Peter Codicilluc, the Rector of the University of
Prague, took great offense at the historical Preface; Beza
found fault with the article on the Lord's Supper and with
many other points; Crato severely criticised the celibacy of
the clergy and certain modes of expression relating to the
work of Christ ; but Jerome Zanchi, Professor of Theology
at Heidelberg, Olevianus, Jacob Mylius and Ursinus, ex-
pressed their unqualified approbation.*'^

In their relations to other Protestants, the Brethren were
beginning to manifest an unfortunate tendency. That they
continued to fraternize both with the Lutherans and the
Reformed, was right and in accord with a fundamental
principle of the Unity. But they went beyond a mere
fraternization. They sought, perhaps unconsciously, what
was tantamount to patronage. How eager were they not to
obtain a testimonial from the Wittenberg Faculty, although
its glory had departed ! In order to secure such an indorse-
ment they were willing even to reconstruct their doctrinal
articles.*^ It is true that the same thing had been done in
Luther's day. But at that time their theology was still

'^^ Dekrete d. B. U., p. 240. This testimonial appears in the original
German edition of the Confession published at Wittenberg in 1573, and
referred to in Note 37 ; hence the Faculty must, prior to the end of that
year, have given its permission.

*° The many letters that passed between Bishop Stephan and the above
divines, together with other cognate documents, are given in Quellen, pp.
382-341, taken from L. F., XII.

*' The article on baptism, and especially that part which related to the
baptism of children, was changed to suit the views of the Wittenberg


forming. Now they had reached, both in doctrine and life, a
maturity which gave them the right to take their own course
independently of Wittenberg, of Geneva, or of any other
theological centre. Amidst the disgraceful controversies
which were in progress, begetting a carnal spirit and a low
standard of life, they ought to have stretched their wings and
soared like the eagle. Their true mission was to press
forward among the Slavonian nations, and shaking oif every
trammel, to lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes of
their Unity. The course which they did pursue, diminished
its influence and eventually helped to bring about its extinc-
tion. Zinzendorf forcibly says : " The Bohemian Brethren's
Church began to decay, not when it grew to be great, but
when it sought outside unions."*^

There was another evil which resulted from such a
tendency. In attempting to gain the good will both of the
Lutherans and of the Reformed, the Brethren, at times,
exposed themselves to the charge of insincerity.

The practical outcome of their recent negotiations with
Wittenberg, was — strange to say ! — a growing sympathy not
with the Lutherans, but with the Reformed. After the
catastrophe which overtook the University in 1574, such
sympathy became a marked feature in their history.*^

That the Brethren failed to recognize the evil results of the
policy which has been indicated, was owing, in no small
degree, to the want of leaders like Luke, Augusta and
Blahoslaw. True and faithful and superior in learning
though the later bishops were, they did not guide the helm
with the skill, the authority, the farsightedness of those
masters ; whose intercourse with other Protestants, moreover,
had been of a different character. For what they had
received, they had given a full equivalent. Of this Augusta's

" Croeger, II. p. 90, Note.

*^ In 1574 the Elector of Saxony forcibly suppressed, at the CJniversity
of Wittenberg, the system of Melanchthon, or Crypto-Calvinism as it was
called, and treated some of its upholders with great cruelty ; especially
Peucer, Melanchthon's son-in-law, who was imprisoned for twelve years.


admonitions to Luther with regard to the discipline, are a
notable instance.

It was the discipline which chiefly engaged the attention of
that Synod at HoUeschau to which we have referred. The
same subject had been discussed in the previous year, at a
meeting at Austerlitz (February the twenty-eighth, 1572).
Cases of immorality had occurred among the nobility and
too much license had been permitted at weddings. Resolu-
tions of the strictest kind were therefore adopted, to exercise
the discipline without fear or favor.^*

Meantime the Brethren were quietly regaining their former
status in Bohemia. They prospered even in the capital, under
the eyes of the Archbishop. In the spring of 1573 this
prelate lodged formal complaint with the government, that
their chapel, on Brennten Street, was frequented by " many
more people than some of the principal churches of the

Since the accession of the House of Hapsburg to the
Bohemian throne no Diet was equal in importance to that
which convened on the twenty-first of February, 1575; and,
with an occasional recess, continued its labors until the

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 34 of 64)