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 February, 1622, aged fifty-two years. His last words
were : " Just in time am I called away." ^ Lanetius and
Erastus found retreats on the domains of Charles von Zerotin.
Of the ministers who stood under these Bishops not a few

' J. Miiller's MS. Notes based on Jireck's Handbuch zur Bohmischen
* Regenvolscius, p. 321.


followed their example aud hid themselves, unwilling to leave
the country as long as it was possible to do anything for their
parishes. Zerotin espoused their cause. In March, 1623, he
went to Vienna in order to appeal to the Emperor. Indig-
nantly breaking away from the courtiers who wanted to
persuade him that their imperial master was but manifesting
a fatherly solicitude for the salvation of his people, the Baron
souffht an interview with Ferdinand himself This interview
was noteworthy. It showed the dignity and power of a good
cause even in the extremity of its misfortunes ; and the shame
and weakness of a bad cause however complete its triumph.

Zerotin began the conversation by reminding the Emperor
that he had repeatedly promised to reward his fidelity and
allow him the free exercise of his religion at all times and
places ; he complained that this promise had not been kept ;
he urged that his Majesty's good name could not be main-
tained and that his government could not prosper, if such
pledges as had been given to him were broken and the inno-
cent treated like the guilty. The Emperor replied, that he
remembered and acknowledged his promises ; but to carry
them out did not lie within his power; they were objec-
tionable to his Holiness the Pope, whom he was bound to
follow in all matters affecting the conscience ; he could not
act otherwse; his own conscience constrained him. The
Baron rejoined, that he too had a conscience and begged that
he might not be forced to act contrary to it. Ferdinand pro-
tested that he did not intend anything of the sort ; but that
the preachers should be allowed to remain in the country was
out of the question. On the other part Zerotin protested that
he could not do without religious services and hence must
have preachers. Finally, the Emperor referred him to
Cardinal Dietrichstein, the Governor of Moravia. The curt
decision of this prelate was that the Emperor allowed no
interference whatever in the affairs of religion.^

^ There are two sources upon which the account of this interview is
based : the one a letter from Vienna in Soltl's Denkwiirdigkeiten aus den
Zeiten des Religionskrieges in Deutschland, 1842, given by Pescheck, II.


Although greatly disappointed Zerotin did not lose heart.
On returning to Namiest he gave shelter to twenty-four
Moravian clergymen until the following year (1624), when
Count Magnis and Canon Plateys, two Reform Commis-
sioners, appeared and banished them. Not even this experi-
ence, which brought the Anti-Reformation to his very home,
could stop him in his course. He continued to support and,
as far as possible, shield the two Bishops as well as other
ministers who sought his protection, although when danger
grew imminent they were often obliged to flee to the moun-
tains or hide in forests and caves. Among the refugees was
Julian Poniatowski, the Rector of the school at Jungbunzlau,
who acted as Zerotiu's librarian.^" During all this time his
chaplain, Paul Hronow, conducted religious worship in
public. A number of Bohemian ministers were protected on
the estates of George Sadowsky and a few other noblemen.
In some instances such ministers imitated the example of

After the sacking of Fulneck, Amos Comenius continued
to labor in his parish for nearly two years. In the autumn
of 1622 to he was obliged to flee to Brandeis on the Adler.
Soon after he lost his wife and child. The cellar of the house
that he occupied is still to be seen. This dwelling stood at
the foot of the Klopot Mountain which even at the present
day is wooded to the top ; in the time of Comenius the forest
must have been dense, afibrding a perfect hiding place. Here
he wrote, in 1623, The Labyrinth of the World and the Palace

pp. 53 and 54 (Ger.) ; the other Hist. Persecutionum cap. LXXXVIII.
At first sight it would appear as thougli they referred to two diiFerent inter-
views. We, however, deem it improbable that Zerotin, after having once
been refused by the Emperor, should have visited Vienna a second time
and appealed to him again, and rather believe that both sources refer to
the same interview and supplement each other.

'" Julian Poniatowski was a Pole of noble descent, who abjured
Romanism and a monastic life, and joined the Brethren. He was a learned
theologian, a philosopher and an astronomer, the author of several theo-
logical works. His death occurred at Namiest on the sixteenth of Feb-
ruary, 1628.


of the Heart. It is the most celebrated of his Bohemian
works — an allegory representing a pilgrim going out to see
the world, led by a guide whom its queen has sent, and find-
ing that there is no real satisfaction, or joy, or peace, except in
God through Christ."

In 1624, while still at Brandeis, Comenius married his
second wife, Dorothea Cyrill. She was a daughter of the
Bishop, who did not venture to leave his hiding place in order
to attend the wedding/^

In March of the following year, however, he and his two
colleagues Lanetius and Erastus, braving every danger,
secretly met in the house of a faithful adherent, one Horn, at
Daubrawitz, among the mountains, near the source of the
Elbe. The oppressed state of the Unity was the subject of
their consultations and prayers. It would seem that they had
been hoping against hope for a favorable change; but now
they were convinced that the Brethren would be forced to go
out from the land of their fathers. They therefore com-
missioned Comenius, John Chrysostom, and Matthias Probus
to visit Poland and Hungary in order to secure new homes
for the exiles. This mission was successfully accomplished in
1626. Not long after the return of the envoys Bishop
Lanetius, the venerable President of the Council, died at
Kral.itz, November the seventeenth, aged seventy-two years.
Comenius took up his abode at Slaupna.

The edict of 1627 in banishing the nobles, put an end to
the further protection of the clergy. It is true that Zerotin
was not touched by that decree. But he declined to accept

" This work, which constitutes a model of Bohemian style, was translated
into German and extensively read in Germany also. In modern times John
Nowotny has issued a new German version. The Labyrinth of the World
was the forerunner of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

We visited Brandeis in 1879. Near the cellar of Comenius' house a
monument has been erected to his memory. It is a stone obelisk, showing
his bust in relief, with the inscription : "Dem Johann Amos Comenius das
dankbare Volk, September 5, 1865."

12 Miiller's MS. Notes. Benham, p. 37, says this marriage took place at
Lissa in 1628. The name and family of Comenius' tirst wife are not known.


what was denied his brethren; sold, at an enormous sacrifice,
his splendid domains, excepting Prerau, to his brother-in-law,
Wallenstein; and accompanied by the clergy whom he had
sheltered, left the country (1627).

Toward the end of January of the following year (1628),
George Sadowsky, Erastus, Cyrill, Comenius, and many
others, set out from Slaupna. When they reached the top of
the mountain-chain separating Bohemia from Silesia, at a spot
where they could look back upon their native land, they fell
on their knees, Comenius oifering an impassioned prayer,
that the Lord would not entirely withdraw His word from
Bohemia and Moravia, but preserve a seed of righteousness
to glorify His name. Rising and striking up a hymn, they
pursued their way to Poland, strong in their fathers' God.^^

As regards the membership of the Unity but few partic-
ulars have been preserved. That the Reform Commission
encountered in such ancient seats as Jungbunzlau, Brandeis
and Leitomischl, a resistance in keeping with the heroic asso-
ciations of the past, is certain. That the Brethren generally
were the staunchest confessors amidst the sorrows and tempta-
tions of the Anti-Reformation, seems a legitimate deduction
from the fact of their having contributed to the Bohemian
exodus a quota of exiles which was three or four times larger,
in proportion to their entire number, than the contingent of
their sister churches.^* Nor did the majority of such as

" This hymn was probably the one which originated among the
Brethren in the time of tlie Anti-Keformation. It is instinct with faith in
God, based upon those evidences of His protecting care which the Scrip-
tures unfold in the case of Jacob, David, Elijah, and others. Croeger, II.
p. 342, etc. There are two other traditions in relation to the prayer of
Comenius : the first, that it was offered on the frontier mountains of Mo-
ravia, near Troppau ; the second, that the incident took place on the castle-
hill at Fulneck in 1622, when he fled to Bohemia. The narrative in the
text is undoubtedly the correct one.

"•Gindely's Comenius, p. 483. " Was die Bohmischen Briider insbeson-
dere betriffl, so stellten sie ein im Verhiiltniss drei bis viermal starkeres
Contingent zur Auswanderung." Plitt, followed by Bishop Croeger, asserts
that the majority of the Brethren apostatized. He cites the Hist. Per-
secutionum as authority. But in the passage referred to, that work speaks


remained in the country accept Romanism from conviction.
They merely succumbed to a power which it was impossible
to resist. In doing this many, no doubt, were unfaithful,
preferring ease and prosperity to exile and impoverishment
for Christ's sake. But it may well be assumed, that many
others were kept from following their brethren into foreign
countries by circumstances beyond their control. It is true
that Balbin speaks with enthusiasm of the success which
Adam Krawarsky had among the members of the Unity,
converting five thousand to the true Church in the region
round about Trebnitz, pressing forward to their original seats
on the barony of Senftenberg and inducing them " piously to
admire and firmly to love the mysteries of the Catholic re-
ligion." ^^ But such testimony is worthless. It is disproved
by the history of the Hidden Seed and the uprising which
followed the Edict of Toleration. At that time it appeared,
that neither the Lutheran nor the Reformed Confession, but
the religious principles of the Unitas Fratrum, had struck the
deepest roots in the consciousness of the Bohemian people.'®
For there came forward not less than one hundred and fifty
thousand Bohemians and Moravians who claimed to be, not
Lutherans, not Reformed, but Bohemian Brethren.'^ If the
principles of the Church retained for a century and a half

of the Protestants generally, not of the Brethren. Moreover, if it be a fact,
that the population of Bohemia melted to one-third its number, then it is
quite impossible that a majority of its Protestant inhabitants should have
fallen away. At the time the book was written its authors had no means of
ascertaining the truth ; in fact all the statistics which they give are unre-

" Balbin, quoted by Pescheck, II. 101 and 103.

^* Lemme, p. 19.

^' " Protestantism in Bohemia and Moravia," by Frederick Emmanuel
Kleinschmidt, published in The Messenger. Vol. V., 1868. p. 356.
Kleinschmidt was a Moravian clergyman who, between the years 1860 and
1870, itinerated in Bohemia and Moravia as an evangelist in the interests
of the Lutheran and Reformed churches. He says : " This change took
place in 1781, and the result of this edict of Toleration was the public
acknowledgment of 100,000 souls in Bohemia, and of about half that
number in Moravia, that they were not Roman Catholics. The greatest


such a hold upon the people, it is clear that Balbiu's narra-
tive is of no historic value whatever.'*^

part of them lived in the neighborhood of those very towns which had
been the chief seats of the Ancient Brethren, as Leitomisclil in Bohemia,
and Prerau and Fulneck in Moravia. Judging from this fact and also
from the books they had in their possession, and other circumstances, it
is clear that the most of these people were the descendants of the Ancient
Brethren. They belonged, almost without exception, to the lower orders.
When they came forward, asserting they were not Komanists, and were
asked what they professed to be, they declared themselves to be Bohemian
Brethren. This fact," Kleinschmidt adds in a note, " was communicated
to the writer by the historian. Dr. Gindely, of Prague, who referred to his
having inspected the official records of that period."

The Edict of 1781 restricted toleration to the Augsburg and Helvetian
Confessions, and denied it to the Brethren. A limited period was set in
which those who wished to enjoy the benefits of the Edict were invited to
enroll themselves as adherents of one of the two Confessions thereafter to be
tolerated. It was during this period that the uprising of Bohemian
Brethren took place.

^® The Anti-Reformation is generally set forth by Moravian writers as a
just judgment of God upon the Unitas Fratrum, because of its gross spiritual
decline. This view is based upon the testimony of Comenius given cliiefly
in his Prefatory Letter and Concluding Address accompanying the Eighth
Book of Lasitius, which he published in 1649 (In German, Comenii Erste
Liebe). If the testimony of Comenius be correct then the deductions may
be legitimate. But in our judgment, such testimony is unwarranted by the
facts of the case and melts away as soon as historic criticism is applied. In
our lectures in the Theological Seminary we have set forth at length the
reasons for our position. We cannot enter fully upon them here, but will
merely say, that while we do not charge Comenius with intentionally bear-
ing' false witness, we claim that his testimony was given at a time when the
fact, that at the Peace of Westphalia (1648) the Protestant powers, and
especially Sweden, left Bohemia and Moravia to their fate, had plunged
him into a morbid state of mind which rendered it impossible for him to be
an impartial authority. He saw everything through the medium of his
bitter disappointment ; looked upon everything from the darkest point of
view; made assertions concerning a decline among the Brethren not war-
ranted by facts, contradicted by Regenvolscius who had the same oppor-
tunity of knowing the truth as Comenius, disproved by his own History. In
comparison with the stern, puritanic, heroic days of the Unitas Fratrum,
the time of their religious liberty may have presented a decline ; but
nothing that would at all justify the rhetorical language and extravagant
statements of Comenius, or the presumptuous conclusion, that God sent the
Anti-Reformation upon the Brethren as a punishment for their sins. Czer-
wenka, II. p. 624, refers to a decline because, as he says, the Brethren


During the period which we have been considering the
Thirty Years' War went against the Protestants, particularly
after its greatest general had come to the front. This was
Albert von Wallenstein, or more properly, Waldstein, born
September the fifteenth, 1583, at Prague, a child of the
Brethren's Church, to which both his parents belonged and
in which he was educated until the death of his father.
After that his uncle sent him to the Jesuit College at Olmiitz,
where he joined the Catholic Church. Through Charles von
Zerotin, who had married his sister, he was recommended for
military service in which he distinguished himself. Ferdi-
nand's cause he espoused with great enthusiasm and success
and received the domain of Friedland as a reward. He grew
enormously rich, partly by his first marriage, but chiefly
through speculations in confiscated estates. In 1622 he was
created a Count, in 1623 a Prince, and in 1624 Duke of
Friedland. In the following year he raised and maintained
an army, at his own expense, of which he became the absolute
commander and with which he helped to defeat the Protestant

themselves speak of it ; but forcibly adds : " We in our day can only look
up to the devoted faith of the members of the Unity as it showed itself even
in the period of the Revolution." The position that there was a gross decline
and a consequent judgment ought therefore to be given up. There would
be just as much reason for saying tliat the St. Bartholomew massacre was a
punishment sent upon the Huguenots.



The Bohemian and Moravian Branches of the Unitas Fratrum

re-organized, with Lissa as a Centre.

A. D. 1628-1636.

The exiled Brethren hold together. — Emigrate to Poland, Hungary, Tran-
sylvania, Prussia and Silesia. — Poland their chief Refuge. — The
Reformed of Cujavia join the Unitas Fratrum. — Bishop Mikolajewski.
— Lissa and its History. — The Leszcynski Family. — The Unity re-or-
ganized at Lissa. — Other Centres. — Two Provinces. — The Exiled
Ministers. — Bishop Paliurus. — Gustavus Adolphus. — Prague again in
the Hands of the Protestants. — Martini. — Death of Sigismund and
Election of Vladislaus. — Bishop Cyrill. — Synod of 1632. — New Bishops.
— Justinus, Prokop, Comenius, and Fabricius. — Synod of 1633. — New
Bishops. — Orminius and Rybinski. — Collection in Switzerland. —
Lutherans at Lissa and Martini's Persecutions. — Death of Leszcynski
and Zerotin.

The expatriation of the Brethren from Bohemia and Mora-
via was an event which brought out in beautiful relief the
character of their Unity. Its principles had been incorporated,
as Gindely well says, " with their flesh and blood." To these
principles they tenaciously clung; and reorganization was
their common purpose. Hence they did not, like many of
their fellow Protestants, scatter into all parts of Germany, but
held together as far as possible and took their way to countries
in which they might reintroduce the system of their fathers.
Such countries were Poland, where their Church still exercised
no mean influence ; Hungary, where the Peace of Vienna


(1606j, which secured the rights of the Protestants, was in
force, however often the Catholics attempted to break it ;
Transylvania, whose enlightened Prince Rakoczy was himself
an adherent of the Evangelical faith ; Prussia, where Protest-
antism prevailed ; and Silesia in which dukedom were several
large estates owned by members of the Unity. The compact
mass of the Brethren coming into these countries, exiles for
conscience' sake but intent upon maintaining their venerable
usages, awakened respect and sympathy.^

Poland offered particular advantages. In that kingdom an
important occurrence had recently taken place. The Reformed
of Cujavia, in consequence of the oppression they were suffer-
ing at the hands of the Romish Bishop Rozrazewski, con-
ceived the plan of uniting with the Brethren. The first
overture was made at the Synod of Ostrorog, in 1620, and met
with favor ; seven years later the union was consummated, at
another synod held at Ostrorog, in December of 1627. On
that occasion Daniel Mikolajewski, the senior or superinten-
dent of the Reformed, and Jacob Gembicki, their consenior,
together with the seven Cujavian parishes that remained to
them, formally and in a body joined the Unitas Fratrum,
which thus gained several thousand members. At the same
time Mikolajewski was consecrated to the episcopacy by Bishops
Martin Gratian Gertich and John Turnovius.^ From such an
increase of power among the Polish Brethren the exiles reaped
their share of good.

The most important benefit which Poland conferred upon
them was a new and prosperous seat for the government of the

^ Gindely's Comenius, p. 483.

2 Lukaszewicz, pp. 146 and 147 ; Fischer, II. p. 157 ; Kegenvolscius, pp.
120 and 322. Plitt, whom Croeger follows, totally misunderstands the oc-
currence and lets tlie entire Polish branch of the Unitas Fratrum unite
with the Eeformed Church. He further teaches, that the exiled Brethren
did not re-organize. Hence according to his view, the Unitas Fratrum, in
all its parts, came to an end in 1627. Even Burkhardt in his Zinzendorf u.
die Briidergemeine, p. 3, asserts the same thing, although he says nothing


In the Prussian province of Posen, forming a part of the
territory unrighteously wrested from Poland in 1772 and 1793,
there is a town called Lissa, with nearly twelve thousand in-
habitants, and a history stretching back to the tenth century.
At that time it constituted a small village known as Lesczyna,
which name was gradually changed into Leszno, or Lissa.^
This village was the centre of a domain presented by Mieczs-
law of Poland to Baron Philip von Perszten, or Bernstein,
who belonged to the escort of the Duke's Bohemian bride and
is said to have stood sponsor at his baptism (965). Perszten
remained in Poland, becoming the progenitor of an illustrious
family which, in the fourteenth century, adopted the patro-
nymic of Leszcynski. "Whoever," says Balbin, "knows
nothing of the House of Leszcynski, knows nothing of

In 1534 Lissa was raised to the rank of a town, and in
1548, increased rapidly through the influx of the Brethren
whom Ferdinand the First had banished from Bohemia.^
The decree of the Polish King, forbidding them to remain in
his dominions, did not materially hinder the prosperity of the
place. Many of them returned ; others were added to their

about a union with the Keformed, but represents the Polish branch as suc-
cumbing, in the year named, to the machinations of the Jesuits. This
whole view of the case is unhistoric. We refer to it merely in order to ex-
plain why the history which we give, from 1628 to 1722, will be found to
differ, in its leading points, from that commonly presented by Moravian

^ Lissa is situated in a wide plain, about forty-two miles south-west of the
city of Posen. Its original name means " a hazel-bush." Lissa is the name
given to the town by the Germans.

* Balbin's Epitome, Lib. II. Cap. 7.

^ Tradition says that the exiled Brethren reached Fiirstenwalde, a village
near Lissa, on the twenty-sixth of August, 1548, and there set up a tem-
porary camp. In memory of their safe arrival it became customary to un-
dertake, on that day, a pilgrimage to that village, where religious services
were held. This custom is still kept up in a modified form. The twenty-
sixth of Augus^ is the day for an annual picnic and popular festival at
Fiirstenwalde. Eeligious services have, long since, been dropped and few
know the origin of the festival.


number; and in 1552 the proprietary, Count Raphael the
Fourth Leszcynski, together with his whole family, joined
their communion. Under his auspices a German parish was
organized, about 1555, a church-edifice built, and a school
established. At a later time a Polish parish grew into exist-
ence. The Leszcynski family became warm adherents and
powerful patrons of the Unity. Raphael the Fourth was
succeeded by his son, Count Andrew, and Andrew by his son,
Raphael the Fifth, who had been educated at German, French
and Italian universities, was an accomplished scholar, and a
godly man. Even the Catholic King esteemed him and con-
stituted him Palatine of Belz.^ He was the proprietary at
the time of the Anti-Reformation ; and while he welcomed
the Brethren to all his domains, they instinctively turned to
Lissa and made that town their rallying-place.

Thither came, on the eighth of February, 1628, the two
remaining Bishops of the Bohemian and Moravian Provinces,
Erastus and Cyrill, the latter in company of his son-in-law,
Amos Comenius. Bishop Gertich had previously established
his seat at Lissa (1624), and in his house both Cyrill and
Comenius found a home.^ These three Bishops, in conjunc-
tion with their colleague Turnovius, who seems to have been
a resident of Thorn, re-organized the Executive Council, of
which Gertich became the President. They set up the archives
that had been brought from Bohemia. They opened a publi-
cation office (1629), which was put in charge of Matthias
Theodore Krokocinsky, and after his death (1632), of Daniel
Vetter, whose assistants were Krokocinsky's sons.^ They es-
tablished a Bohemian parish in addition to the two already
existing and inaugurated, with hearts full of gratitude, 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 50 of 64)