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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twenty-seventh of September, of the same year. Under the
leadership of Bohuslaw Felix Lobkowitz von Hassenstein, a
movement was set on foot to unite the Lutheran elements of
Utraquism into an independent evangelical church. Although
the Brethren, at first, held themselves aloof from this move-
ment, it gradually drew them into its current. The Lutheran
states desired their co-operation. To define their relation to
the new Church proved, however, a difficult thing. It was
finally agreed by both parties to insert in the Preface of the
Confession, prepared by a committee for presentation to the
Emperor, a passage to the following effect: The Lutheran
states will not interfere with the religion of their " dear lords
and friends who call themselves the Brethren's Unity," seeing

** Dekrete d. B. U., p. 240, cited by Czerwenka.
« Giadely, II. p. 102.


that its Confession " in all its chief articles agreeg with the
Confession of Christian faith herewith presented." ^^

This " Bohemian Confession," as it is generally denom-
inated, was presented to Maximilian on the eighteenth of
May, 1575. It was written in Bohemian and consisted of
twenty-five articles, based both upon the Augustana and tlie
Confession of the Brethren. Its brevity and concise defini-
tions of doctrine constituted its chief merit. A plan for the
government of the Bohemian Lutheran Church accompanied
the document.*^

It was not until the twenty-second of August that the
Emperor returned an answer. He could, so he said, neither
accept the Confession nor allow the institution of a new
ecclesiastical government ; he had sworn to be true to the
Bohemian constitution ; the proposed novelties were not in
keeping with that constitution. That he assumed such a
position because the Kings of Spain and France had remon-
strated with him, and the Pope had threatened to excom-
municate him, Maximilian privately confessed. But he was
ill at ease. On the second of September he summoned to an
audience representatives of the evangelical states, and of his
own accord declared : that these states had his permission to

*® " Dass wir sie (dieweil sich ihre Confession in alien vornemsten Haupt-
aitiokelu, mit dieser unserer ubergebenen Christlichen Glaubensbek;iutiiiss
vergleicht) iu ihrer Religion nicht zu bedrangen gedeuken." BekUntniss,
d, h. Christl. Glaubens, aller dreyer Stiind dess Koenigreichs Bohmen, etc.,
1609. Vorrede, fol. 5. Malin Library, No. 747. In the course of the
negotiations between the Brethren and the Lutherans the former drew up
an independent petition to the Emperor, but were persuaded not to jjresent
it. From this document, which was signed by all the Bohemian nobles
belonging to the Unity and present at the Diet, we obtain an idea of the
strength and influence of the Brethren about this time. The signatures of
not less than one hundred and fifty-eight heads of noble houses are
appended. Seventeen of .the signers were barons and one hundred and
forty-one knights. Gindely, II. pp. 154—158, who gives the names in full.

*' The Bohemian Confession was translated into German in the same year
in which it was presented to the Emperor. Besides the German edition
cited in Note 46, the Malin Library contains copies of the editions of 1611
and 1621. A Latin version appeared at Frankfurt, in 1614. (Malin Library,
No. 302.) This version is found also in Niemeyer's Conf., pp. 819-846.


elect " Defenders ;" that "he herewith granted them the free
exercise of their religion ;" that his word was equivalent to a
written edict ; that he would rather suffer death than be un-
faithful to that word.*^ Several days later, his son, Rudolph,
was elected King of Bohemia (September the eleventh). On
the twenty-second of the same month, after having promised
to respect the pledge of religious liberty given by his father,
he was solemnly crowned.

And now was seen a great change throughout the kingdom.
Ten Defenders were appointed who began to arrange a system
of ecclesiastical government ; the Protestant nobles, without
exception, called to their domains ministers of their own faith ;
the cities which had Protestant lords did the same ; even the
royal cities re-organized their parishes ; and in Prague several
churches passed out of the hands of the Utraquists. On a
sudden, however, the Emperor issued a decree forbidding the
publication of the Bohemian Confession, the appointment of
evangelical ministers in royal cities, and, in accordance with
the edicts of Uladislaus and Ferdinand, the religious services
of the Brethren. In vain were the expostulations of Hassen-
tein and other nobles ; the Emperor remained firm, saying
that his edict was directed against the Picards, and that in
the royal cities he was lord. The sky began to darken-
Distant mutterings were heard of a coming storm. It drew
nearer at the Diet of the following year. But before it burst,
the Emperor was overtaken by death. He breathed his last
at Regensburg, on the twelfth of October, 1576. In Feb-
ruary, of 1577, his body was conveyed to Prague for burial.
The obsequies were interrupted by a panic, as unaccountable
as it was fearful, which dispersed the funeral procession and
made the city wild with terror. It was said that the Jesuits
had planned a massacre which was to be the counterpart of
that of St. Bartholomew. For this report there existed no

*« Czerwenka, II. p. 472.

*' A very full and quaint account of this panic is given in the Todtenbuch
pp. 55, etc.



The Beginning of Rudolph's Reign. A. D. 1576 to 1580;

and the Polish Branch of the Unitas Fratrum in the

first Deoade after the Synod of Sendomir.

A. D. 1570-1580.

Religious Liberty and the Jesuits. — Rudolph the Second. — His first Diet. —
Decline of the Utraquist Consistory. — Rudolph and the Moravian States.
— Baron Zerotin. — Correspondence with John Casimir of the Palatinate.
— Death of Bishop Stephan. — Feeling against the Brethren. — Krajek
excommunicated. — Correspondence with Casimir renewed. — Rokita and
the Russian Czar. — Death of Sigismund Augustus. — The Pacta Conventa.
— Union Synod at Cracow. — Synod of the Brethren at Posen. — Corona-
tion of Henry of Valois. — Stephen Bathori King. — The Jesuits. — Cor-
respondence of Polish Magnates and Divines with Germany respecting
a general Convention of all the Protestants of Europe. — Synod atPetrikau.
— End of the Brethren's Church in East Prussia. — New Bishops.

At various times, in its past history, Bohemia had beheld
fleeting visions of religious liberty ; but it was not until the
Diet of 1575 that such liberty assumed a real existence. It
is true that this existence depended upon a verbal promise
and was not formally guaranteed. Nevertheless the events of
1575 were the sign of an approaching crisis. A crisis was
inevitable in a kingdom whose sovereign was a Romanist,
while the majority of his subjects were Protestants. It came
in 1609, and resulted in the Bohemian charter. Under the
broad wing of this charter Protestants and Catholics enjoyed
equal rights, and prosperity would have blessed the realm, if
it had not harbored the Jesuits. These satraps of Rome
steadily kept in view her supremacy and the destruction, no
matter by what means, of everything that she called heresy.


Hence as soon as Bohemian Protestantism lifted up its head,
they silently declared war against it ; and never rested until
by slow but sure degrees they brought on a catastrophe which
crushed evangelical religion and produced a conflict of arms
that extended far beyond the bounds of Bohemia, convulsing
the half of Europe and raging fearfully for thirty years.

When these commotions burst forth Rudolph the Second,
Maximilian's son and successor, was no longer living, but his
reign constituted their seed-time. It was a dark day that saw
him ascend the throne. Educated at the Spanish court, under
the eye of Philip the Second and the sinister influences of the
Jesuits, he grew to be a gloomy, suspicious, irresolute and yet
self willed man.^ With no strength of mind and no force of
purpose he undertook to rule a kingdom and an empire, and
instead of devoting himself to the duties of his high mission,
manifested in the afiairs of state an indolence that is almost
incredible, dabbled in astrology and alchemy, collected
pictures, gems and statues, spent hours in his stables where
stood the finest horses that money could procure, eschewed
matrimony for a dissolute life, and became a mere tool in
the hands of unworthy favorites.

That he bore such a character was not known when he
assumed the government. His Protestant subjects trembled
with apprehension. To what extremes might not his ante-
cedents lead him? Reared in an atmosphere thick with
Philip's cruel bigotry, might he not carry out in Bohemia
what he had learned in Spain ? But the very first Diet which
he convened (February, 1577), gave unmistakable evidence
of the weakness of his character. The Protestants took heart ;
their nobles grew bold; in a short time the power of the
aristocracy in general was as overweening as it had ever been.

At the Diet bitter complaints, especially against the Breth-
ren, were brought forward by the Utraquist Consistory. The

1 Rudolph was born at Vienna, on the eighteenth of July, 1552 ; in his
eleventh year he was sent to Spain ; in 1575, soon after he had been elected
King of Bohemia, he was chosen and crowned Roman King at Regensburg,
and hence became Emperor on the death of his father.


position of this body had become pitiful. Its authority was
acknowledged by but fifteen domains and a few royal cities.^
The lame efforts which Rudolph made to come to its assist-
ance proved fruitless.

And now he proceeded to Olmiitz in order to assume the
sovereignty of his Moravian raargraviate.^ Its nobles failed
not to provide for a continuance of its religious liberty.
They exacted pledges before acknowledging him as Margrave.
They humbled the Bishop of Olmiitz who refused to join
with them in their demands. They interfered when Rudolph,
on the strength of a decree which he had issued, attempted to
oppress the Brethren at Gaja, one of the royal towns.

In these proceedings, John von Zerotin took a prominent
part. He was a rich and influential baron and a leading
member of the Brethren's Church. Blahoslaw had been his
teacher and had made of him a far-sighted statesman and
an enlightened Christian. His seat was at Namiest, but he
owned a number of other Moravian and Bohemian domains,
among the latter Brandeis on the Adler, which continued to
be one of the centres of the Unity.

While the Brethren were not affected by the complaints of
the Utraquist Consistory, they gained notoriety and earned
ill-will in another way. The attention of the Elector
Frederick the Third, who had introduced the Reformed
system into the Palatinate, having been drawn to them, he
expressed a desire to become acquainted with their standards.
Bishop Stephan sent him the German and the Bohemian
Hymnals (1576). But as the Elector died before receiving
these books, Stephan wrote to the Palatine John Casimir and
begged him to accept them. In acknowledging this gift
Casimir suggested to Stephan, that the Brethren should
appoint delegates to a Reformed Synod at Frankfurt-on-the-

2 Gindely, IT. p. 236.

^ As an instance of Kudolph's unwillingness to attend to the affairs of
state, it is related, that it was only with the greatest difficulty that he
could be persuaded to go to Olmiitz in order to receive the homage of the
Moravian nobles.


Main (1577).^ This Synod was to be an offset to that
Lutheran convocation near Magdeburg which had produced
the " Form of Concord," and representatives were expected
from all the Reformed countries of Europe. The Bishops
were perplexed. They sympathized with the Reformed, but
foresaw the odium which the Unity would reap if they
accepted the invitation. While still undecided as to what
course they should pursue, Stephan died suddenly at
Jarmeritz, on the twenty-first of July, 1577.^ This unex-
pected stroke was reported to Casimir and assigned as a
reason for declining his request. A second letter, written in
the same month, set forth the relation of the Brethren to the
Augustana and the very serious entanglements which their
presence at a Reformed Synod would bring about.*' In spite
of the secrecy with which this correspondence had been con-
ducted, it became known and produced so great a sensation
that the Council, at a meeting held at Prerau, resolved to
consult the nobles of the Church in all future negotiations
with foreign princes.

The feeling against the Brethren was intensified through a
notable exercise of discipline at Jungbunzlau. Baron Adam
von Krajek took part in a dance and became intoxicated;
and Kreszentia, a young Baroness of the same family, fell
into gross sin with one of her own servants. Both these
offenders were publicly excommunicated by Bishop Kalef. A
cry of wrath rang through the ranks of the Lutheran and
Catholic nobility. Excommunicate members of a family as
exalted as the House of Krajek ! The thing was not to be

* Both the Letters are found in Quellen, pp. 434 and 435, taken from
L. F. XII.

5 On the following day his remains were conveyed to Prossnitz and
buried in the presence of thirty-four priests and deacons of the Unity.
Several nobles of Rudolph's retinue came from Olmiitz and attended the
funeral, taking occasion to converse with the Brethren on their faith and
public worship. Todtenbuch, p. 64.

« Both these letters are given in Quellen, pp. 437, etc. They are dated
at Eibenschiitz, the first on the thirteenth of July ; the second simply in


tolerated ! Kalef ought to be beheaded ! Such were the ex-
pressions heard on many sides. The excitement had not yet
subsided, when a certain Lorenz, an apothecary of Jungbunzlau
and a member of the Unity, walled his wife in a cave, on
suspicion of her having committed adultery. She was rescued
by his neighbors ; but the inhuman act of which he had been
guilty was charged upon the discipline of the Brethren and
added fresh fuel to- the prevailing indignation.^ This was as
unjust as the fearless course of Bishop Kalef was illustrious.
The lord of the domain embracing the principal seat of the
Brethren was dealt with in the same way in which one of
his serfs would have been treated.^ Such rigid impartiality
can not but excite our admiration.

Different is the impression made by the renewal of the cor-
respondence with the Palatine. In this respect the position
assumed by the Bishops deserves anything but praise.

Casimir sent them, through Peter Duthenus, his court-
preacher, a report, drawn up by Christopher Threcius, of the
Synod at Frankfurt and urgently invited them to a second
Synod which he proposed convening.^ This overture was con-
sidered at a special meeting of the Bishops and Council. They
realized that there were serious obstacles in the way ; that
they might be accused of forming an alliance with a foreign
power, nay of treason; that the Palatine was actuated rather
by political than by religious motives. On the other hand
they were impressed with the idea that they ought not to
allow this opportunity to gain the good-will of a Reformed
prince to pass by ; that a time might come when they would
be forced to sever their connection with the Lutherans and
make common cause with the Calvinists. In any event the

' L. F. XII. pp. 429 and 432, cited by Gindely.

* Krajek confessed that his conduct was censurable, but for a long time
obstinately refused to apply for re-admission to the Church, although he
as obstinately rejected the efforts of the Lutherans to win him to their side.
Eventually he became penitent, was re-admitted to the Unity and resumed
his former influential position.

* Letters of the Palatine and Duthenus in Quellen, pp. 441, etc.



controversies of the former were abhorrent to them ; while in
the experiences of the latter they saw, to some extent, their
own reflected. Hence they finally resolved to accept the
Palatine's invitation and send a delegate, but with the
utmost secrecy.^*^ A preliminary letter was addressed to
Casimir. It was written by Esrom Riidinger, and made
humiliating advances and unprecedented concessions.

The Brethren reject ubiquitism;" their views with regard
to the sacraments must be understood accordingly; these
views correspond fully with those of the Frankfurt Synod;
but the Unity has thus far been under the protection of the
adherents of the Augustana; to give up this connection would
jeopard its existence in Bohemia and Moravia. Would the
Palatine be willing to acknowledge the Confession of the
Brethren in his own dominions? Does he insist on a public
separation from the Lutherans and a public union with the
Reformed ? What does he advise the Brethren to do ? They
will follow his advice.

The sentiments which this letter expressed, in the name
of the leaders of the Unity, as well as the extravagant
humility and lamentable want of self-assertion shown in their
previous communications to Casimir, constitute a further and
striking proof of that tendency which we have pointed out in
the foregoing chapter.^^ It must not be forgotten, however,
that, in spite of the resolution adopted at Prerau, the nobles
and the membership generally knew nothing of such over-
tures, but pursued, witli singleness of heart, the way of their
fathers. The responsibility rested with the Bishops and the
Council. Their deliberations were guided by a questionable

^° So says Gindely in the Introduction to the Eleventh Part of his
Quellen, p. 433.

" That is, the corporeal omnipresence of Christ, which dogma was creat-
ing virulent disputes at the time.

^2 Eudinger's letter is given in Quellen, p. 443, etc., and taken from L.
F. XII. Eiidinger had been obliged to leave Wittenberg and had taken
charge of one of the Brethren's schools. Even Bishop Croeger, with all
his gentleness and respect for the divine riglit of sovereigns, grows indignant
and sarcastic, when speaking of the communication to Casimir.


expediency which brought them to slippery ground. It was
therefore a fortunate circumstance that the proposed Synod
did not take place and that the correspondence with Casimir
came to an end.

In the year of the Sendomirian Synod and soon after its
adjournment (1570), Sigismund Augustus sent an embassy of
four magnates to the Russian Czar, Ivan the Fourth, sur-
named The Terrible.^^ Two of the ambassadors, John Kro-
towski and Raphael Leszcynski, were members of the Breth-
ren's Church. At their suggestion John Rokita was invited
to accompany the embassy as chaplain. The Bishops gladly
gave their consent, in the hope that he might be the means
of bringing to Russia the light of the pure Gospel. Their
instructions were, that he should endeavor to induce the Czar
to accept the evangelical faith.

It was at Moscow that the ambassadors were admitted to
an interview with Ivan. His reception of them was as rude
as his manners were savage. He snatched from them what-
ever happened to please his fancy; and had the horses,
which they had brought as a gift from the King, hewn in
pieces, in wanton contempt, before their very eyes. Undis-
mayed by such barbarism Rokita sought and obtained an audi-
ence. It took place in public and was opened by the Czar
with the curt question, harshly put : " Who are you ? "

Rokita, to whom had been assigned a seat on a divan
covered with rich tapestry, replied : " I am a minister and
preacher of the Church of Christ."

" What do you teach your hearers ? "

" The doctrines comprehended in the writings of the Prophets
and Apostles, and sealed with the testimony of miracles ; of
which doctrines the chief are found in the Decalogue, the
Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, in the definitions of the
two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and in
what is set forth respecting the duties of each Christian."

" Also known as Ivan Vasilievitch the Second, and called, in some
of the sources, the Grand Duke John Basil. He was the first Russian
ruler that assumed the title of Czar.


Continuing his questions Ivan successively asked :

" What do you believe concerning man's justification before
God ? "

" If divine grace alone saves men, why will Christ judge
them according to their works ? "

" What religion do you confess ? It seems to me that it is the
religion of Martin Luther, who fell away from the old faith."

" If you have fallen away from the old faith, tell me, who
has called you to the priestly office?"

" What do you hold of Christian fasting ? "

" In what way do your people pray ? "

"Why do you not adore the pictures and images of the

" What is your opinion with regard to the marriage of
priests, and celibacy ? "

These questions Rokita answered with great boldness and
power from on high. Of justification he said, that no man
can free himself from the curse of sin or satisfy his Creator
by good works. " But when," so he proceeded, " the con-
science is overwhelmed by the multitude of the sins which it
has recognized and is filled with sorrow because of the oflfence
which these sins have given to the Divine Majesty, I point,
as John the Baptist pointed, to the Lamb and Son of God,
Jesus Christ, who taketh away the sin of the world, and Him-
self is the righteousness of all who believe." This truth he
developed, with great force, according to the Scriptures.

As to good works he declared that faith is hidden in the
heart, but that good works are its fruit which must be seen
of men. " And indeed," he solemnly added, " I who stand
here before God and the angels confess, yea, and testify to
thee, that we believe and teach, that a Christian washed by
the blood of Jesus and reconciled to God ought not any more
to give a loose bridle to his depraved lusts, nor trusting in
mercy, allow sin to reign in his mortal body ; but that he
ought rather to adjust the whole course of his life in such
a way as will lead him to serve the Lord in all holiness,
righteousness and truth."


"NVheii treating of the adoration of the saints he proclaimed,
with the utmost freedom, that God, in the twenty-sixth
chapter of Leviticus, had distinctly forbidden such adora-
tion ; that St. John had written, " Little children keep your-
selves from idols ;" that St. Peter had said to Cornelius, when
he fell down at his feet and worshiped him : " Stand up, I
myself also am a man ;" that even the angel before whom
St. John prostrated himself, had said : " See thou do it not ! "'

In speaking thus fearlessly Rokita did not forget the
violent character of the monarch with whom he had to do ;
but he trusted in the promise of his divine and infinitely
greater Master: "Ye shall be brought before governors and
kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the
Gentiles ; it shall be given you in that same hour what ye
shall speak." " This ])romise was fulfilled. The testimony
borne in the presence of Ivan The Terrible was a demonstra-
tion of divine power, even though his proud heart remained

That its chords had not been touched, soon became evident.
The first Czar of Russia neither accepted Protestantism him-
self nor allowed it to have free course in his dominions.
Rokita received in writing, what claimed to be, a complete
refutation of all that he had said at the audience. This
refutation abounded in coarse invectives against himself and
his Church. It told him that he might depart in peace, but
that he was nevertheless a heretic, a servant of Antichrist,
inspired by the devil ; and that to try and convince him and
his brethren of their errors, was to give that which is holy
to the dogs and to throw pearls before swine.

In spite of such vituperations, Ivan presented to Rokita,
when he was about leaving Moscow, a royal gift. It con-
sisted of an exposition, in manuscript, of the faith of the
Greek Church. This manuscript was bound in plates of
solid gold and richly ornamented with pearls.^^

" Matt. 10 : 18 and 19.

^" The authorities for the above narrative are the following : A Polish
MS. written by Kokita and found at Lissa, by Gindely, who cites it in II.


Two years after tlie return of this embassy, on the seventh

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 35 of 64)