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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* Czerwenka, II. p. 587.

* The above extract is taken from Comenius' Paraenesis ad Ecclesias
nominatim Anglicanam, §§ 75 and 76, p. 125. What he means by the
interdict of God, is hard to say. Plitt imagines that the question whether
endowments should be received, was referred to the decision of the Lord by
the lot. This we deem, in the highest degree, improbable.


The important work which the Synods carried on, did not
flag in this period. They met frequently, regulated the
schools, provided for the observance of the discipline, elected
bishops, and in every other way, promoted the best interests
of the Church.

The episcopate, by reason of death, was subjected to many
changes. Neither Ariston nor Turnovius lived to enjoy the
benefits of the charter. The former died of consumption, on
the eighth of February, 1606, at Eibenschiitz. He was a
faithful servant of Jesus Christ, a prominent leader of the
Unity, an ardent promoter of learning, enlightened, eloquent
and zealous.^" His place was filled by John Cruciger, elected,
in the same year, at the Synod of Jaromir, and consecrated a
few days after St. Mark's Day, by Narcissus, Nemcansky and

At# Ostrorog, two years later, on the twenty-second of
March, 1608, Turnovius at the age of sixty-four years finished
his illustrious career. One of his last projects was the pub-
lication of a Polish Bible on the model of that of Kralitz.
This project was taken up by a Synod of the Brethren and
Reformed, which intrusted the work to John Turnovius, his
nephew, and Daniel Mikolajewski (1603). It was, how-

The second number, which has just come to hand, of Joseph Miiller's
Historical Reports, gives an insight into the many donations made to, and
the many privileges conferred upon, single churches. Miiller found in the
Staatsarchiv of Posen, to which a part of the archives of Lissa have
recently been transferred, forty-seven original deeds and other documents.
The deeds convey gardens, building lots, fields and houses ; the other documents
grant privileges of various kinds to the membership. One of these papers,
given by Baron Adam von Krajek, emancipates John Aeneas, subsequently
the celebrated Bishop, releasing " him from vassalage and serfdom, in order
that he may with a good will serve the Lord and His Church in personal
freedom." These forty-seven documents evidently form only a small part
of the entire number of similar papers issued for the benefit of the Brethren.

^° Todtenbuch, pp. 101 and 102. He was ordained a deacon in 1578, and
a priest in 1587. With this record and that of a few additional but unim-
portant names, the invaluable necrology found in the Todtenbuch, comes to
an end.

" Jafiet's S. G., p. 39, 2, R.'s Z., p. 438.


ever, subsequently relinquished ; for what reason, does not
appear. ^^

Jacob Narcissus now became President of the Council, and
in the same year in which Turnovius died, consecrated, with
the assistance of Nemcansky and Lanetius, at the Synod of
Leipuik, Matthias Rybinius or Rybinski and Martin Gratian
Gertich to the episcopacy.

Rybinius came of a ministerial family. His father, a
Bohemian by birth, served the Unity for more than thirty
years at Lobsenia, Barcin, and other Polish parishes. He
had his son carefully educated in the schools of the Brethren
and then sent him to the Universities of Breslau and Heidel-
berg. As a scholar Rybinius ranked high. His Polish
metrical version of the Psalms, adapted to the French tunes,
gave him a wide reputation.^^

Gertich was born on the eleventh of November, 1568, at
Lassowice, in Poland. His parents were Germans, He was
educated at Lissa, and, through the munificence of Count
Leszcynski, at the Universities of Wittenberg, Leipzig, Basle
and Heidelberg. After he had finished his studies he became
the chaplain of his patron and subsequently served Baron
Schdneich, at Carolath, in Silesia, in the same capacity. At
a later time he was appointed pastor of the church at Lissa,
and on Rybinius' death took up his residence at Ostrorog,
where he remained until that ancient seat fell into the hands
of the Jesuits. Eloquent and learned, of a dignified bearing
but gentle in his ways, he exercised great influence, especially
upon young ministers, with whom he kept up a diligent
correspondence.^* Both Rybinius and Gertich superintended
the Polish churches.

'^ Jablonski's Con. Send., § 103, p. 121.

1^ Compare p. 411 of this History. Rybinius was ordained to the priesthood
1589. His biography is given by Fischer, II. p. 183 and Regenvolscius, p. 388.

" Fischer II. p. 182 ; Regenvolcius, p. 388. Gertich took part in the
negotiations with the Greek divines at Vilna, in 1599. On that occasion
he wrote a polemical account of the public disputation in which he, Daniel
Mikolajewski and Martin Janitius engaged with the celebrated Jesuit
Martin Smiglecki, in the presence of four thousand hearers.


Id 1609 Bartholomew Nemeausky, one of the Bohemian
Bishops, died at Jungbimzlau. The vacancy thus created was
filled, in the same year, by the election of Matthias Koneczuy,
who received consecration at the hands of Narcissus, Lanetius
and Cruciger. The new Bishop was a learned scholar and
fruitful Avriter, distinguished for his ornate Bohemian style.
Among his works, some of which are still extant, the most
celebrated were : A Manual for family worship ; the Theatrum
Divinum, or Contemplation of the works of God's creation ; a
Treatise on Christian Duty ; and Truth Triumphant, a polem-
ical writing directed against Sturm.^^

Two years later, in 1611, Jacob Narcissus, the President of
the Council, passed away at Brandeis on the Adler, in the
sixty-third year of his age. Thereupon Bishop John Lanetius
was appointed President, and proceeded, with the assistance
of Gertich and Koneczuy, to consecrate to the episcopacy
Matthias Cyrus, the assessor of the Protestant Consistory.
Cyrus was a learned and eloquent preacher, of grave deport-
ment, a general favorite among the nobility.

In the following year (1612) Bishop Rybinius was taken
ill. He visited Poseu in the hope of being benefited by its
celebrated physicians, but died May the twentieth, aged only
forty-six years, at the house of his friend Henry Girk, one of
the elders of the Brethren's Church in that city.

In October the Synod met at Ostrorog and elected for the
Bohemian Province, Gregory Erastus, and for the Polish, John
Turnovius, who were consecrated by Lanetius, Koneczuy and
Cyrus.^^ Erastus was a godly and learned man, who deserved
well of the Church, and accomplished much good, especially
by the extensive correspondence which he carried on. John
Turnovius, the son of a minister of the same name and the

'" Regenvolscius, p. 321.

^^ The last bishop mentioned by Jaffet in his important rscord, is Cru-
ciger ; those that follow Cruciger are given according to the complete list
of Regenvolscius, pp. 315-323 ; the list furnished by Gindely, in his Quellen,
p. 450, etc.; and John Plitt's MS. Treatise Vom Bischofthum der B. U. in
alter und neuer Zeit, 1835, Herrnhut Arcliives.


nephew of Bishop Simon Theophikis Turnovius, was educated
at the gymnasia of Glogau and Breslau, and the Universities
of Strasburg, Basle and Geneva. After his graduation he
served various parishes in his native country, and in 1608,
received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University
of Marburg. Subsequently he became Rector of the school at
Thorn. He was an eloquent speaker and a poet whose trans-
lations of German songs and hymns, published in 1605, as
also his Centuriae Carminma, issued in 1606, gave him a dis-
tinguished name.'''

While so many of the Bishops whom he had been accus-
tomed to entertain at Namiest were passing away, Charles von
Zerotin faithfully discharged his -duties as Governor of Mora-
via. It was his earnest purpose on the one hand, to be true
to Matthias, and on the other, to further the welfare of the
margraviate. The most important project which he devised
was its consolidation with Bohemia, Silesia, Lusatia, Hungary
and Austria into one empire. In this way the interests of
each country would become the interests of all, the element of
absolutism disappear and both civil and religious liberty be
developed. This was a statesman-like plan. Had it Ijeen
carried out Austria would have grown great and free, a centre
of liberal influences and enlightened power ; not that hot-bed
of bigotry and intolerance of which history sadly tells. But
the project failed. Nor was this all. Prompted by Cardinal
Khlesel and forgetting what he owed Zerotin, Matthias began
to withdraw his favor. Hence the Governor's personal influ-
ence rapidly waned, while that of the reactionary faction was
in the ascendency. These considerations induced him in 1615,
to resign and retire to private life. But he remained loyal to
the House of Hapsburg and faithful to Matthias, in spite of
his ingratitude. On more than one occasion he mediated be-
tween this monarch and the states.

Through Zerotin's retirement a prominent figure disap-
peared from the arena of European politics. "His name,"

" Fischer, II. p. 183 ; Regenvolscius, p. 389. Gertich wrote also Funeral
Discourses, Theological Disputations, and a work on Predestination.


says Chlumecky, " was honored in Germany, France, Italy
and England ; Protestant leaders throughout Europe looked
upon him as a tower of strength for the pure faith ; even the
Catholics, although they called him 'the worst of heretics,'
were constrained to acknowledge his love of justice, his modera-
tion, his great talents." '^

After the Synod of Thorn, until the year 1605, the Polish
Protestants enjoyed comparative peace. But the civil war in
which many of them took part, as also the treatment which
the Catholics received at the hands of the Swedish invaders,
in 1604, brought on as soon as the din of war had ceased a
new and more decided reaction.

The Jesuits again put themselves at its head. They em-
ployed the same means as before ; but open violence became
more common. At Posen the Lutheran church was set on fire
and that of the Brethren torn to the ground (1616). In the
brief period of fifteen years, from 1606 to 1620, the Protes-
tants lost two-thirds of their places of worship. Among them
were not a few belonging to the Brethren. ^^ Such distressing
experiences induced them, at the Synod of Belz in 1613, to
unite with the Reformed in overtures to the Lutherans for a
renewal of the Sendomirian Confederation. But these over-
tures were rejected.^

The wounds which the Unity received in Poland were many,
yet not fatal. It still constituted an active Church, was sup-
ported by powerful magnates, and carried on the work of the
Gospel with zeal and success.

Ostrorog continued to be its chief seat. In that large and
flourishing parish were found : a Theological School in which,
under the eyes of the Bishops, young men were trained for the
ministry and from which the most promising were sent to for-
eign universities f- the archives of the Polish Province ; and

'* Chlumecky's Zerotin, p. 857.
'^ Lukaszewicz, p. 146.
^o Jablonski's Con. Send., § 106, p. 123.

^^ This school probably ranked with the seminaries at Jungbiinzlau,
Prerau and Eibenschiitz. Compare p. 418.


a valuable library, originally presented by the Ostrorog family
and increased through subsequent gifts.

In 1605 Turnovius had received from the Bohemian Bishops
a printing press, which was at work throughout this whole
period, sending forth many important writings in Polish, Bohe-
mian, German and Latin. There existed, moreover, an endow-
ment of sixty thousand Polish florins, created, in part, through
legacies, and in part, through collections. This fund was in-
vested at Thorn and the interest was applied to the payment
of provincial expenses.^^

Toward the end of April, 1616, the Synod met at Zerawic,
on the Moravian-Hungarian frontier, and was attended by all
the Bishops and Assistant Bishops and a large number of
ministers from every part of the Unity.^^ This convocation
proved to be the last prior to the Anti-Reformation. As
though anticipating that tempest, the assembled fathers set up
a memorial which no storm has been able to sweep away.

In the course of the negotiations between the Brethren and
their fellow Protestants, at the Diet of 1609, the former were
asked to explain in what their peculiarities consisted. There-
upon the Bishops produced a document, setting forth the con-
stitution, ministry, ritual and discipline of the Unitas Fratrum.
Although the importance of these principles was recognized,
they could not, in the very nature of the case, be generally
adopted. Hence the Brethren were told to retain their own
form of discipline and order, "until Providence should offer
something more perfect, which might be alike suitable to all." ^*

The Synod took up the document presented on that occasion.
It was revised, amended and amplified ; and then formally
adopted as "a recognized code of laws" for the Unitas Fra-

" Lukaszewicz, Polish ed., pp. 405-410. This endowment was of pre-
cisely the same character as the so-called Sustentation Funds in the various
Provinces of the Unitas Fratrum at the present day. Why the Bishops
permitted it to be created in the Polish Province, while forbidding endow-
ments in the Moravian and Bohemian, we can not tell.

« Plitt, Sect. 79.

" Ratio Disciplinse, ed. 1702, Prsefatio, p. 5 ; Seifferth's Church Constitu-
tion, Preface, pp. 96 and 97.


trum. All the Bishops and Assistant Bishops attached their
signatures. The object which the Synod had in view, is thus
defined : " That not only a more certain account of this matter
might be left to posterity, but also that the obligation of every
individual to a careful observance of the regulations in mutual
charity, might be more binding." ^^

Such a purpose was fulfilled. It may well be said, that
Jesus Christ, the Divine Head of His Church, who has led
the Unitas Fratrum in all periods of its history, in ways that
have been wonderful and sometimes almost miraculous, him-
self prompted the drawing up of this statute-book. It guided
the Brethren in their exile and made them faithful to the
usages of their fathers ; it perpetuated the memory of their
Unity as a living Church, even when they had almost ceased
to exist ; it formed the standard according to which their de-
scendants reorganized at Herrnhut, in Saxony.

The Ratio Disciplince contains seven chapters. In the first
"is exhibited the order of the whole Unity in general;" that
is, "the Essential, Auxiliary and Accidental Things of Chris-
tianity ;" ^^ the classes of the membership ; the lay officers of
the Church ; and the three orders of its ministry. The second
chapter treats of Synods and the rite of ordination ; the third
of the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacra-
ments, confirmation, festivals and fasts ; the fourth of " the

'^ Ibid. The original document was written in Bohemian. Sixteen
years later, the Synod of Lissa, in 1632, resolved to publish a Latin version
and supply it with a preface. This was done in the following year. The
work appeared at Lissa and received the following title: Katio Disciplinse
Ordinisque Ecclesiastici in Unitate Fratrum Bohemorum. Whether this
edition is extant, we do not know. But in the same year a German trans-
lation was published with the title : Kirchen Ordnung, wie sie in der ver-
einigten Bohmischen Briiderschafft gehalten wird. Gedruckt zur Pol-
nischen Lissaw Im Jahr 1633. Of this edition there is a copy in the Malin
Library, No. 769. In 1660, Amos Comenius republished the Latin edition
at Amsterdam (Malin Lib., No. 806) ; in 1702, Buddieus brought out a third
edition at Halle ; and in 1866 Bishop Seifferth a fourth in London, adding
an English translation and valuable notes. Seifferth's work is entitled;
Church Constitution of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren.

^^ Compare p. 201 of this History.


domestic order of the ministers," in other words, their mode
of living in the parsonages ; the fifth of " the domestic order
of the hearers," that is, the regulations which are to govern
families; the sixth of official visits on the part of the bishops
and their assistants ; and the seventh of the discipline.

At the same Synod which adopted this document there was
ordained on the twenty-seventh of April, to the priesthood of
the Unity, a man whose career shed lustre upon the last period
of its history, whose fame filled Europe and reached other con-
tinents, who with one hand laid upon the remnant of the
Brethren God's protecting benediction, and with the other
pointed, like a seer, to a better time, a new epoch, a glorious re-
newal of the Church of his fathers. His name was John
Amos Comenius, or Komensky. He was born on the twenty-
eighth of March, 1592, at Niwnitz, a market-town near Ungar-
ish-Brod, on the domain of Ostran, in Moravia.^ His parents,
Martin and Anna Komensky, who were wealthy members of
the Brethren's Church, both died when he was a child ; the
former in 1602, the latter probably in 1604. A tradition,
which can not, however, be substantiated, says that his father
was a miller. The guardians to whose care he had been left,
neo-lected him. He was sent to the Brethren's schools at
Ungarish-Brod and Straznic. In 1611 he entered the Theo-
logical Institute at Herboru, in Nassau ; and on the nineteenth
of June, 1613, the University at Heidelberg. After having
completed his studies he traveled to Holland and probably to
England. On his return to Moravia he was appointed,
through the influence of Charles von Zerotin, Rector of the
school at Pre ran. There he began to examine into the system
of education then in vogue and devise new methods. One of
his first literary works was a treatise on grammar, published
in 1616. Two years after the Synod of Zerawic he was ap-
pointed pastor of the flourishing parish at Fulneck and Rector

^' Ostran was the property of the Kunowic family and formed, in the
sixteenth century, a chief seat of the Brethren, where they had a press on
which Blahoslav's works were printed. The owners of the domain were
members of the Unity.


of its school. The house in which he lived and taught stood
on the slope of a hill overlooking the town and crowned with
a stately castle.^

On the fourteenth of March, 1618, Bishop Cyrus died at
Prague and was buried in the Bethlehem Chapel. The vacancy
thus created in the Consistory was filled by the appointment
of John Cyrill, who received consecration to the episcopacy at
the hands of Lanetius and his associate Bishops.^^

Cyrus had been the preacher in the Bethlehem Chapel. The
calling of a successor gave rise to an acrimonious dispute — one
of the signs of the coming revolution — between the Faculty
of the University and the Roman Catholic burgomaster of the
Altstadt, in whom was conjointly vested the right of appoint-
ment. At last the Faculty appealed to the Defenders to de-
signate the incumbent. The Defenders appointed Bishop

28 This building remained until recent times. It was a massive structure
of stone, two stories high, with an arched door, to the left of which were
two windows, and seven windows in the second story. We visited Fulneck
in 1879 and found that this venerable edifice had been torn down and a
sort of tenement house erected on its site, owned by a manufacturer, named
Gerlich, who has a garden near by ; but there exists a correct picture of the
original building. Connected with the house is a chapel, which, no doubt,
occupies the site of the Brethren's chapel in the time of Comenius. From
this spot one has a full view of the Fulneck square, surrounded by ancient
and quaint buildings; and from the park of the castle, on the top of the
hill, opens a beautiful prospect of the entire Kuhldndl, where are Zauchten-
thal and many other villages, once flourishing parishes of the Brethren.

The principal sources for the life of Comenius are : Criegern's Comenius
als Theolog ; Palacky's Comenius ; Benham's Comenius ; Lissa's Jubelfeier ;
etc. It was formerly common to designate Komna as his birthplace. Later
researches have shown this to be incorrect. Equally mistaken, as Zerotin's
letters to Comenius show, is the idea of Adelung, Eisner, Croeger, and
others, that he adopted the name Komensky after he had been exiled, in
order to hide his true name. He received the name of Komensky from his
father, whose ancestors came from Komna. Comenius is its Latin form.

■•''* putt's MS. Vom Bischofsthum.

^ Gindely's 30-jahr. Krieg; I. pp. 265 and 266.


The Bohemian Revolution. A. D. 1617-1620.

Confidence of the Protestants in the Charter. — The Jesuits determined to
counteract its Blessings. — Prehide to the Revolution. — Matthias ignores
the Eights of the Evangelical Party. — Diet of 1615. — Unjust Enact-
ment regarding Germans. — The Emperor refuses to interpose in Favor
of the Protestants. — He chooses Ferdinand as his Successor. — Charac-
ter of this Prince. — Diet of 1617. — Ferdinand King of Bohemia. — His
Public and Secret Oaths. — Regents appointed. — The Grievances of the
Evangelical Party. — A Protestant Convention. — The Emperor forbids
such Meetings. — In spite of this Prohibition a second Convention takes
place. — Count Thurn. — His conspiracy to put the Regents to Death. —
The Twenty-third of May and its Outrage. — A Provisional Govern-
ment.— Apologies. — War breaks out. — Death of Matthias. — The Bohe-
mians refuse to acknowledge Ferdinand and elect Frederick of the
P^atinate. — Battle of the White Mountain. — Flight of Frederick. —
The Protestant Party powerless.

In the history of Christendom there are few events more
mournful than those which we are now about to set forth.
From the pinnacle of prosperity Bohemia and Moravia were
plunged into the depths of adversity: when the Unitas Fra-
trum, after a century and a half of oppression, had at last
secured a legal existence and flourished like a cedar of Lebanon^
it was cut down. And yet of Him, in whose sight the nations
are as a drop of a bucket and counted as the small dust of the
balance, and who leads His Church and every part there-
of on ways that are not known, it must, in this instance
also, be said, that while "clouds and darkness are round
about Him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation
of His throne."


That Rome never yields, was a truth which the Bohemian
Protestants failed to recognize amidst the joyous growth of
their cause. They had implicit faith in the Charter. They
rejoiced in the amicable relations brought about by the "Agree-
ment" with the Catholics. They cheerfully acknowledged all
their rights, and for themselves asked nothing more than the
same recognition. But this happy state of affairs constituted,
in the estimation of the Jesuits, an intolerable offense. Never
had they lost sight of their nefarious purpose. The Evangeli-
cal party must be destroyed at all hazards. Towards this
end they now moved, sometimes with open violence, and again
with every artifice of which they were masters. All the dis-
sensions between Protestants and Catholics which broke out,
they instigated. All the oppressive measures under which
Evangelical parishes began to suffer, they advised. All the
blood that was shed and all the frightful cruelties of the Anti-
Reformation, they were responsible for. The war that con-
vulsed Europe for thirty years, was their work. Had there
been no Jesuits, Bohemia and Moravia would, this day, stand
foremost among the Protestant powers of the world. At the
same time, when the "Agreement " had once been broken, the
course of the Evangelical party was not blameless. " But,"
says a cotemporaneous writer, " where ours failed once, the
other side committed themselves ten-fold."^

There was a prelude to the Bohemian Revolution. As
early as 1611 complaints began to reach the Defenders that
the Catholics were growing unfriendly. The Defenders
appealed to Matthias, but without success. He had gained
the goal of his ambition. Now that he was King of Bohemia,
King of Hungary, and Emperor of Germany,' he took his
ease ; gave himself up to his amours ; followed the counsels
of the Jesuits, and in particular of Peter Pazman, a renegade

1 Cited by Pescheck, I. pp. 240. Authorities for this chapter are :

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 43 of 64)