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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of July, 1572, Sigismund Augustus died without issue. The
Diet of Convocation, as it was called, met on the sixth of
January, in the following year, and adopted an act of con-
federation, known as the Pacta Conventa, which secured to
Poland religious liberty, but at the same time gave the nobles
unlimited power, even in spiritual things, over the peasants,
who were thus — so Krasinski says — estranged from Protestant-
ism. This act was constituted a fundamental law to which
the Polish kings were obliged to swear fidelity ; the mon-
archy became elective; and its prerogatives were circum-
scribed. In effecting these changes the magnates of the
Unity took a prominent part. Three months later, Henry
of Valois, Duke of Anjou and brother of Charles the Ninth
of France, was chosen king.

On the twenty-ninth of September, of the same year (1573),
at Cracow, the confederated Protestants held their first general
Synod.^^ The Brethren were represented by Israel, Lorenz,
Turnovius, and John Enoch. After the Consensus Sendo-
miriensis and the Articles of Posen had been anew ratified,
various constitutional points and disciplinary principles were
settled. The latter applied to the Reformed only; the
Brethren having a well-established discipline and the
Lutherans being allowed to take their own course. There
followed at Posen, on the eighteenth of November, a Synod
of the Brethren, at which Erasmus Gliczner was present.

p. 89 and p. 474, Note 128 ; Lukaszcwicz, p. 53, etc. ; Kegenvolscius, p. 91 :
a letter in L. F., X. written by Rokita to Cerwenka and consulting him
with regard to the proposed mission, Quellen, p. 123; Krasinski, II. p. 398,
Note; Croeger, II. p. 90, etc.; and especially a work by Lasitius, entitled
De Russorum Moscovitarum et Tartarorum Religione, etc., Spirse, 1582
(Malin Library, No. 347). This work contains the Czar's ten questions,
with Rokita's answers in full, and also, in fourteen chapters, the Czar's
refutation, each chapter having a reply by Lasitius appended. Where
Bishop Croeger found the answers which he ascribes to Rokita, we have no
means of ascertaining. They differ materially from those given by Lasitius
whom we follow.

•^ Sources for the History, in this cliapter, of the Polish Brethren, are
Lukaszewicz, pp. 87-98, and Krasinski, II. Chap. HI.


The various compacts with their fellow Protestants were dis-
cussed and affirmed; and a suggestion that the Protestant
magnates should assemble in full force in order to receive
the new king, found great favor. In this way, it was said?
he would get a proper idea of the strength of the evangelical

When Henry reached Poland, in January, 1574, this sug-
gestion was carried out on so magnificent a scale that his
French escort were filled with astonishment. His coronation
took place on the twenty-first of February. It was a memor-
able occasion. At Paris he had sworn to uphold the Pacta
Conventa ; at Cracow the oath was to be repeated. But,
influenced by the Catholic clergy, he sought to evade this ob-
ligation. The ceremony was almost at an end; he had
already knelt at the altar in order to be crowned ; it was
evident that he meant to ignore the prescribed oath. In that
moment the Palatines Firley and Dembrinski came forward
and presented it written on a scroll. In great astonishment
Henry rose from his knees and confronted them. But Firley
seizing the crown exclaimed in a loud voice: ^' Si non jurabis
non regnabis ! " *'' The French Prince took the oath and was

He reigned four months and then, on receiving the news of
his brother's decease, secretly left Poland, hurried to France
and ascended its more congenial throne.

In his stead Stephen Bathori, Prince of Transylvania, was
elected king and married Anna, the sister of Sigismund
Augustus (1575). He was a zealous but conscientious
Catholic. " Three things," he said, " God has reserved for
himself: the creation of the world out of nothing; the knowl-
edge of future events ; and the power over the human con-
science." ^^ Nor could he be persuaded to interfere with
religious liberty.

'' "If thou '.vilt not swear, thou shalt not reign." Krasinski, II, p. 41.

^* Croeger, II, p. 94. Krasinski maintains that Bathori was a Protestant
but was induced by the Roman Catholic clergy to become a pervert, to


During his reign the Jesuits made rapid progress in
Poland. They had been introduced in the time of Sigismund
Augustus, by Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius, a bigoted but cele-
brated prelate, who established them at Braunsberg (1564).
Six years later, in 1570, they gained access to Posen, which
place soon grew to be their stronghold. They won the favor
of the Princess Anna who upheld them, in every way, when
she became Queen ; they opened schools which gained a high
repute and were patronized even by Protestants ; they intro-
duced public disputations that attracted great attention;
they manifested unusual eloquence in the pulpit; and with
the most insinuating arts they crept up to powerful magnates
of the evangelical party, and tried to entice them back to

Meanwhile some of these magnates were endeavoring to
extend the blessings of the Sendomirian confederation. On
the occasion of the Diet of Warsaw, in 1578, they wrote
to the Palatine John Casimir, to the Elector of Saxony
and to the Margrave of Brandenburg, deploring the discord
which prevailed among the German churches, suggesting a
union on the plan of that established in Poland, and urging
that there should be held a convention in which all the
Protestant churches of Europe should be represented. At
the same time Gliczner, Turnovius, Gilovius, Prazmowski
and other divines sent similar letters to the theologians of
Germany. This laudable eflfbrt was not crowned with success.

It was followed by a second General Synod, held on the
first of June, in the same year, at Petrikau. This body
again ratified the Consensus Sendomirensis ; forbade com-
municants to remain seated when receiving the elements
of the Lord's Supper, but otherwise allowed each church
to maintain its own ceremonies at this sacrament ; resolved
that any church connected with the Sendomirian union
might, with the consent of the proper authorities, call to its
service a minister of either of the other two churches ;
determined to establish a general Protestant school for
Poland ; and adopted a number of other regulations.


In 1574 the Prussian branch of the Unity came to an
end. After the death of Duke Albert (1568), the restrictions
imposed upon the Brethren grew more and more irksome,
until at last their ritual was altogether forbidden. There-
upon the majority of them went to Poland ; the rest returned
to Bohemia.

The vacancy in the episcopate, caused by the death
of Bishop Stephan, was filled on the thirtieth of August
1577, when Zacharias and John Aeneas were elected. They
received consecration at Holleschau, at the hands of Israel
and Kalef.'^ Both the new Bishops were set over the
Moravian Province. Zacharias took up his seat at Slezan
and Aeneas at Eibenschiitz. The latter was a very learned

^' Jaffet's S. G., II, p. 38. Zacharias was born at Leitomischl ; in 1552
he was ordained to the priesthood ; in 1572 elected to the Council.

'*" In 1572 he was ordained a deacon on one day and a priest on the
next, after which he took charge of the parish at Trebitz and remained
there until his election to the episcopacy.



Hymnology of the Unitas Fratrum. A. D. 1517-1580.

The Bohemian Hymnal of 1505.— The German of 1531 and 1540.— The
Polish of 1554. — New and enlarged Hymnals in Bohemian, German,
and Polish.

One of the most attractive features in the history of the
Bohemian Brethren is their hymnology. It beautifully
illustrates the doctrinal system which they upheld, and
affords an insight into the depths of their Christian life.

As their Hymn-books were destroyed, by thousands, in
the Anti-Reformation and the copies which remain are
extremely rare, we will, at some length, describe the principal

Of the first Hymnal, edited in Bohemian, by Bishop
Luke, in 1505, and containing versions of old Latin hymns,
too-ether with original compositions, we have spoken in a
previous chapter.^ It was republished in a revised form, in
1541, at Prague, Bishop Horn being its editor and Paul
Severin its printer.

Out of it grew the German Hymnal, edited by Michael
Weiss, published at Jungbunzlau in 1531, and republished
at Ulm, in 1535.2 It bears the following title: 1523.

1 Vide p. 226.

"^ Michael Weiss was born at Neisse, in Silesia. He founded the
churches at Landskron, where he died in 15b4, and at Fulneck. Having
learned the Bohemian language he translated many Bohemian hymns into
German. Luther said of him that he was an excellent German poet.
German Hymnal, ed. of 1639, p. 482, which work says that besides the
edition of 1535, two others were published at Ulm. But these undoubtedly
are editions of Horn's revised Hymnal.


Veritas Odium parit. Elm New Gesangbiichlen. MDXXXI.

Venite exultemus Domino, jubilemus Deo salutari nostro.
Psalm 95. Veritas vincit.

" 1523. The Truth produces hatred. A new Hymn-book.
1531. O come, let us sing unto the Lord ; let us make a joyful
noise to the rock of our salvation. Psalm 95. The Truth

The colophon reads : Gedriickt zum Jungen Buntzel
in Behnen. Durch Georgen Wylensehioerer. Im Jar
MCCCCCXXXL Am zwelften Tag des Mertzen volendet.

"Printed at Jungbunzlau in Bohemia, by George Wylen-
schwerer, in the year 1531. Finished on the twelfth day of
March." ^

This work contains one hundred and seventeen hymns,
mostly translated from the Bohemian, and classified under
seventeen heads. Along with the hymns are printed in
full the notes of the tunes — an arrangement which is kept
up in all the subsequent Hymnals. The dedication, signed
by Michael Weiss, is addressed to " The Churches of the
Christian Brotherhood at Fulneck and Landskron," and

"Your frequent requests have induced your Seniors and
Pastors to supply you, our German brethren, as well as our
Bohemian brethren, with spiritual songs. The compilation of
this work was committed to me. I have undertaken it to the
best of my ability, making use of your and the Bohemian
brethren's old Hymnal, and bringing its meaning, according
to the sure words of the Holy Scriptures, into German rhymes.
The syllables, words and metre I have arranged in such a way
that each hymn can be sung according to the notes by which it
is accompanied. These hymns, after having been diligently
revised, corrected and improved, have now been published by the
Seniors. Therefore, dear brethren, make use of this little book
and pray to God that He may lay upon it His benediction."

There follows, in rhymes, an " Exhortation " addressed to
the reader, to praise God in the German tongue.

* Of this Hymnal the Herrnhut Archives contain a copy, whose title has
been transcribed for us. What the figures 1523, at the beginning of the
title signify, we do not know ; nor could our copyist tell us. Our
description of the work is based upon Hist. Nachricht vom Briider

Gesangbuche, Gnadui, 1835, p. 16-18.


But not until this Hymnal had appeared in print did the
Bishops discover that Weiss had tampered with it, setting
forth, as he had done in the German version of the Confession
of 1532, the Zwinglian view of the Lord's Supper, He was
called to a severe account and directed to revise the
objectionable hymns; but before this revision was completed,
" God summoned him from hence." ■* Thereupon Bishop
Horn undertook the work, assisted by two other Bishops ;
and in 1540 the Hymnal appeared in its new form.

Its title, printed partly in red and partly in black letters,
is the following : Eln Gesangbuch der Brilder in Behemen
vnd Merherrn, Die man cms hass vnd neyd, Piekharden,
Waldenses, etc., nennet. Von jnen auff ein newcs {sonderlich
vom Sacrament des Nachtmals) gebessert, und etliche schone
newe geseng hinzu gethan.

" A Hymn-book of the Brethren in Bohemia and Moravia,
who through hatred and envy are called Picards, Waldenses, etc.
Newly revised by them (especially in relation to the Sacrament
of the Lord's Supper), and several beautiful new hymns added."

Tliere follow three x>assages from Scripture : Psalm 68:5-
Psalm 149 : 1 ; Ephesians 5 : 19 and 20. This work, as the
colophon shows, was printed at Nuremberg by John vom
Bero; and Ulrich Neuber.

The Preface has this heading : " John Horn wishes the
Christian reader grace and peace through Jesus Christ our
Lord ;" and explains how Weiss succeeded in interpolating
his Zwinglian tendencies. Horn assumes part of the blame.
He revised the hymns translated from the Bohemian, but
allowed such as were original to go to the printer without
revision or examination. This he did because Weiss'
knowledge of the German was far superior to his own.
Hence that representation of the Lord's Supper which is
contrary to the long-established principles of the Brethren.
Speaking of the new Hymnal Horn says :

* Bishop Horn's words in the Preface to the revised Hymnal. His
censure of Weiss is harsh.


" It has been our chief aim to let every one fully and clearly
understand what our views are with regard to the articles
of Christian faith ; also how and in what way, in our assemblies,
we praise, honor, and call upon God the Father, together with
His beloved Son, Christ Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. And now,
in all kindness, we would request such printers as will republish
this Hymnal, not to change its sense ; not to add syllables to,
and not to take syllables from, the words, as was done in the
former edition; not to mix strange hymns with these our hymns ;
but to let this Hymnal be and remain our Hymnal. As such
we acknowledge it."

The table of contents embraces the following twenty-three
heads :

1. Incarnation of Christ ; 2. His Birth; 3. His Circumcision ;
4. His Manifestation to the Gentiles ; 5. His Presentation at
the Temple ; 6. His Walk on Earth ; 7. His Triumphal Entry
into Jerusalem ; 8. His Sufferings and Death ; 9. His Resurrec-
tion; 10. His Ascension ; 11. The Holy Ghost ; 12. The Holy
Trinity; 13. The Holy Christian Church; 14. Didactic Hymns;
15. The Lord's Supper; 16. Hymns of Praise; 17. Hymns
of Prayer; 18. Morning and Evening Hymns; 19. Hymns
for the Fallen; 20. Hymns for Children; 21. The Saints;
22. Funeral Hymns ; 23. The Judgment.

There are one hundred and eighty hymns — sixty-three
more than in Weiss' edition, most of the new hymns being
translations from the Bohemian. The book is a small octavo
of five hundred and eight pages, and is illustrated with
sixteen wood-cuts.^

In the year 1554 the Brethren published, at Ostrorog,
their first Polish Hymnal. It was compiled and edited by
George Israel.

Thus they had a complete hymnology, in the three
languages of the Unity — the Bohemian, German, and Polish.
The German Hymn-book, which was extensively used in
Germany also, passed through several editions at Ulm and

^ The copy which we have described above is No. 765 of the Malin
Library. Although the year of its publication is not given, internal
evidence shows that it is a copy of Horn's original edition of 1540. The
same Library contains a Nuremberg reprint of 1611. Our own Library
contains a copy printed, without the wood-cuts, at the same place, in 1585.


The year 1560 marks an era iu the hyranology of the
Brethren. They determined to publish new and larger
Hymnals, "adapted to the spirit of the age," and yet not
disconnected with the past. Their fathers, it was said, had
exercised the greatest care in choosing hymns " which would
cause the minds of the singers to flow together in the unity
of the divine truth;" therefore of these hymns the best
should be retained. But there existed also a large number
of new ones; hence of these too a good selection should be
made. Thus the old and the new would be brought into
harmony; the churches would be edified; and God would
have the praise. This important work was intrusted, by the
Synod, to " several tried men of the Unity ."^

' Czerny and Blahoslaw were charged with the revision
of the Bohemian Hymnal. In 1561 the new work appeared
at Samter, iu Poland. Its title is the following :

Pisne Duehownj Eioangelistke, opet znowu prehbdnute,
zprawene a shromazdene : etc.

"Evangelical spiritual Hymns, revised, emended and collected :
many new ones having been composed on the basis of the Holy
Scriptures, to the glory and praise of the one eternal God and
of the blessed Trinity. Also to be an Aid and a Comfort in
the service of true Christian godliness ; for all Believers who
love the Bohemian Nation and Tongue."

The book is a small folio, contains three hundred and
seventy-six pages, and seven hundred and forty-three hymns.^
Its Preface was written by John Blahoslaw and is signed :
" The Seniors of those Brethren of the Law of Christ whom
some, through ignorance or hatred, call Picards or Waldenses."
There were forty contributors to the hymns; the largest

« L. F., TX, pp. 318, etc., E.'s Z., p. 397, etc., gives the substance of the
above ; adduces the names of all the authors whose hymns found a place
in the new Bohemian Hymnal ; sets forth brief biographical notices with
regard to these authors ; and appends to their names the numbers of the
hymns which they composed.

■^ There is a copy of an early edition, printed in 1564, in the Herrnhut
Archives. The Malin Library contains a beautiful copy, folio, bound in
parchment, with clasps, and printed in 1615. The Psalms in metre are
added, translated by George Vetter, and each part of the Hymnal has a
separate and highly ornamented title page.


number having been composed by Bishops Luke, Augusta,
Michaiek, and Blahoslaw. Other well-known names are:
Hus, Ciklovvsky, Krasonicky, John Taborsky, Czerny,
Cerwenka, Adam Sturm, Rokita, and even Rokycana.

In the next place a new German Hymnal was compiled.
This work was intrusted to Michael Tham, John Geletzky,
and Peter Herbert, whom names are appended to the Preface.
These three editors contributed together one hundred and
fifty-three hymns; the rest were composed or translated by
Weiss, Horn, John Giskius, Paul KlantendoriFer, John
Korytanski, Syrutschko, Valentine Schultz, Martin Zitta-
viensis, George Vetter, or Streic, Martin Polycarp of Hradek,
and Luke Libaviensis.^

The work appeared in 1566 and bears the following title,
which is highly ornamented with arabesques, the letters being
partly red and partly black :

Kirchengeseng, Darinnen die Heuptartickel des Christlichen
Glaubens kurtz gefasst vnd aussgeleget sind: Jetzt vom newen
durchsehen, gemehret, vnd Der Rom. Key. Mai. in vnterthen-
igster demut zugesehrieben.

"Church Hymns, in which the chief Articles of the Christian
Faith are briefly defined and explained : Now newly revised
and enlarged, and dedicated, in deepest humility, to his Koman
Imperial Majesty."

The colophon says : " Printed at Nuremberg, by Catharine

Gerlach and the Heirs of John vom Berg." ^

* Verzeychniss derer Personen, welche die Bohmischen Gesiinge in
Deutsche Eeymen iibergesetzt, und also dieses Cantional verfertigt haben.
Edition of 1639, pp. 482 and 483. Michael Tham was a German, an
upright, pious, examplary and very diligent old priest, ordained in 1534.
He had charge of the churches at Fulneck and Landskron, labored also
at Jungbunzlau and in Poland, and died at Fulneck, August the twenty-
seventh, 1571. Geletzky was a faithful priest who had charge of the
churches at Fulneck and Grodlitz, in Bohemia. He died in 1568. The
rest were all ministers or students of the Unity.

' The copy which we describe is No. 100, a, of the MalinLibrary and was
printed in 1580, but it prestents the same appearance as the copies
of 1564. The Malin Library copy is bound in a sheet of parchment, on
which are written, in illuminated characters, the notes and words of an old


This Hymnal consists of three parts. The first comprises,

so says the Preface, "hymns in relation to Christ and His

work, describing His life and our redemption; the second

includes the chief points of Christian doctrine, according to

the contents and order of that Christian Faith which is called

the Symbolum Apostolieum;''' the third is made up of " Spiritual

Hymns, of which some were commonly used in the Church

from of old, and others have been composed, in our time,

by pious, enlightened Christians and by godly teachers," In

the first part we find the following thirteen heads :

1. Christ's Incarnation ; 2. His Birth ; 2. His Circumcision ;
4. His Manifestation to the Magi ; 5. His Presentation at the
Temple; 6. His Fhght into Egypt; 7. His human Growth
8. His Conversation in His twelfth Year ; 9. His Human Life
and Ministry; 10. His Sufferings, Death and Burial; 11. His
Resurrection; 12. His Ascension ; 13. The Holy Ghost.

In the second part, which has an ornamented title page

of its own, there are twenty-two heads :

1. The One Triune God; 2. Creation ; 3. The Angels; 4. The
Fall of Man; 5. The Law; 6. Christ the only Mediator; 7. The
Church; 8. The Servants of the Church; 9. The Word of God;
10. Faith; 11. Repentance; 12. Prayer; 13. Justification;
14. The Sacraments; 15. Christian Life; 16. Marriage; 17. The
Civil Power; 18. Mortality; 19. Funeral Hymns ; 20. Resur-
rection of the Dead; 21. The Last Judgment; 22. Eternal Life.

These two parts together comprise three hundred and
forty-five hymns ; in the third part, which has both a title
and paging of its own, are given one hundred and eight
hymns, mostly by Luther; hence there are, in all, four
hundred and fifty-three hymns. The volume is a quarto
of six hundred and twenty pages, one hundred and thirty-
two of which belong to the third part.

At the beginning of the Dedication stands the following
greeting : " The Evangelical churches in Bohemia and
Moravia (which by some are called Waldenses) invoke grace
and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
upon the most serene, the most powerful and the invincible
Prince and Lord, Maximilian of this name the Second,
Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Bohemia, Archduke


of Austria/' etc. The Dedication itself is a fervent protesta-
tion of loyalty and an earnest plea for protection, setting
forth also the importance of hyninology in the Church of

In the Preface the editors, first, speak of the wonderful
works of God in all ages of His Church. Then they go
on to say : Of such works there has been given an example,
" in these countries toward the north, in as much as God,
prior to our time, raised up that beloved man, John Hus,
the Bohemian Apostle, the steadfast confessor and martyr ;
and after him, in our time, that excellent teacher and prophet
of the German country, Martin Luther, through both of
whom He has renewed the Church ;" in as much as these two
distinguished men were closely allied in the character of
their undertakings, their descendants ought to live in loving
fellowship; Hus introduced church-hymns in the vernacular
as a means to carry on his reformation; his descendants
developed both hymnology and singing in a way never before
known; this new collection of their spiritual songs is to set
forth clearly the doctrines of the Evangelical Bohemian
Church ; the old songs of praise, which the Church used in
ancient days, have been gathered as precious crumbs ;
modern hymns, by distinguished writers, have been added,
but in a separate part, so that the Brethren may not be
accused of appropriating to themselves the work done by
others; this new Hymnal is offered not only to their own
German churches, but also to the evangelical churches of
Germany itself.

Last of all the Polish Hymn-book was revised and
enlarged. It appeared, in its new form, in 1569.

The works which we have now described were frequently
republished, always in small folio or quarto form, and
remained in use as long as the Bohemian Brethren continued
to exist.^° A large number of their German hymns passed

^^ In 1604 and 1605 a revision of the German Hymnal was again under-
taken by Martin Polycarp, of Hradeck, who added thirty-two hymns of his
own. This work appeared in 1606. Malin Library, No. 100, b. 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 36 of 64)