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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garden-wall mentioned in a previous note, a small obelisk surmounted by an
urn, and showing the following subscription, which is evidently of modern
origin : " From the bones of the fathers will come forth a blossom that will
diligently bloom, and out of their deeds will grow a glorious fruit."

Charles von Zerotin left no descendants. His two daughters, Bohunka
and Helena, died before him ; his wife Catharine von Wallenstein survived
him. She was buried at Treble. Her illustrious brother met his violent
death at Eger, February the twenty-fourth, 1634, two years prior to the
decease of her husband.



The Labors of Amos Comenius and the History of the Unitas

Fratrum from the Synod of 1636 to the Peace of

Westphalia. A. D. 1628-1648.

Comenius and the Lissa College. — His views on Education. — His Corre-
spondents and Didactic Works. — His Janua Linguarura, Sermons, and
Pansophia. — A great literary Scheme. — Visits England. — Offered the
Presidency of Harvard College in Massachusetts. — Lewis de Geer. —
Comenius at Elbing. — Death and Election of Bishops. — The Collo-
quium Charitativum at Thorn. — Comenius appointed President of the
Council. — The Peace of Westphalia and its Kesults.

On his arrival at Lissa, Amos Comenius found employment
in the College, of which, in the course of a few years, he
became the Rector.^ At his instance the Synod of 1635
devised for it a more complete system of instruction. Abra-
ham Scultetus' work on Ethics was introduced as a text-

^ A complete account of the labors of Comenius would fill a volume ; we
present them merely in so far as they form a part of the history of the
Unity. From this point of view the most important source is Gindely's

The Rectors of the College prior to Comenius were : Rybinski, 1624-1629 ;
Andrew Wengierski, 1629-1633 ; and Michael Henrici. The year in which
Comenius took charge is not known, but Henrici's rectorship continued for
only a short period.

Andrew Wengierski, whom we have so frequently cited by his nom de
plume of Regenvolscius, was born in 1600, and descended from a noble but
impoverished Polish family. He received his education at Lissa, Thorn
and several Dutch universities. In 1629 he returned to Poland, and was
appointed Rector of the College, as also preacher of the Polish congregation.
Subsequently he entered the service of the Reformed Church, and became
Superintendent of the Lublin District in Little Poland. In 1644 he lost


book ; Comenius' Janua Linguarum became the basis for the
study of languages; in their daily intercourse the students
were to use the Latin tongue ; religious exercises were to take
place every morning in the chapel.^ An interesting relic is
the laws of the College, evidently drawn up by Comenius.
They show that the Christian religion elevated its tone and
shaped its character.^

While connected with this school he began to develop his
views on education. He was moved to do this both by the
defects of the existing system and an intense love for his
native country and Church. Amidst a thousand discourage-
ments he ceased not to hope that the Bohemian exiles would
return ; that the Unity of the Brethren would be resuscitated
in its ancient seats-; that from the ruins of old forms would
issue the dawn of a new time for the Church universal. To
prepare the rising generation for this better era was his stead-
fast purpose. He meant to lay the foundation of an educa-
tional system, simple in its structure, suitable to the minds of
children, exercising their faculties, fitting them for the most
important avocations of life and preparing them for their
eternal mission. "This noble patriot and distinguished
philanthropist," says Zoubek, "was convinced that if Bohemia
and Moravia were to be rejuvenated, their schools must, first
of all, be entirely remodeled. From the school there should
proceed a new people ; from the family a new school." ^

The fundamental idea underlying his projected reform
may be defined in his own language as follows : " Children
must learn not only words, but also objects along with the

all his property in consequence of the invasion of the Cossacks. His
valuable library was totally destroyed ; a part of it was thrown into a well,
another part was used as fuel for the fire at which the marauders roasted
their meat. He died at Orzeszkowo, in 1649. Lissaer Gymnasum, p. vii;
Krasinski, II. p. 288.

"^ Zoubeck's Comenius, p. xxvi, etc. ; Dekrete d. B. U., cited by Czerwenka,
p. 615 ; Criegern's Comenius, pp. 34 and 35.

* Lissaer Gymnasium, Beilage VI, p. xxxi, where these laws are given
in full.

* Zoubek's Comenius, pp. xix and xx ; Reichel's Geschichte, p. 94.


words. Not the memory alone ought to be cultivated, but
likewise the reasoning powers, the will, the affections. This
should be done from childhood up. Children should be
taught to think clearly and to order their thoughts properly ;
at the same time an affectionate intercourse with them should
be kept."^ Comenius thus became in matters of education,
as Laurie calls him, "a Sense-Realist — the first great and
really consistent Realist."^

He began to labor in two ways. He opened a correspond-
ence with learned men in various countries; and composed
several educational works. Among his correspondents the
most enthusiastic was Samuel Hartlib, a merchant, scholar
and philanthropist of Loudon, the intimate friend of John
Milton who addressed to him his treatise on Education;^
among his works the most important were " The Great
Didactic," "The Mother's School," and "The People's
School," all written in Bohemian, because they were primarily
intended for his countrymen.^ That work, however, which
gave the best exemplification of his educational principles and
contributed most largely to his fame, was the Janua Linguarum

* Zoubek's Comenius. Benham's Comenius, p 39.

* Laurie's Comenius, p. 36.

' Hartlib was born about the beginning of the seventeenth century. His
father was a Polish merchant of German extraction settled at Elbing in
Prussia ; his mother an English woman, daughter of an English merchant
of Dantzic. "Everybody knew Hartlib," writes Masson in his Life of
Milton. " By the common consent of all who have explored the intellec-
tual and social history of England in the seventeenth century, he is one of
the most interesting and memorable figures of that whole period." Laurie's
Comenius, pp. 39 and 40.

* In 1653 the Didactic was reproduced in Latin by Comenius himself, and
published at Amsterdam in 1657. It was translated into German, Polish
and Croatian. The Bohemian MS. was discovered at Lissa in 1841, but
the Austrian censors of the press forbade its publication, because Comenius
was a Bohemian exile ! It finally appeared in 1849, through the exertions
of an association connected with the Bohemian Museum at Prague. The
Mother's School was translated into German and Latin, and appeared in
1633, 1653 and 1657 ; the Bohemian original was not published until 1856.
Daniel Benham issued an English translation in 1858. The People's
School appeared in Latin, in 1657, at Amsterdam ; the Bohemian text has
not yet been discovered.


Reserata, or "The Gate of Languages Unlocked." It
appeared at Lissa in 1631, and consisted of one thousand
sentences, presenting a summary of the essential parts of the
Latin language and, at the same time, a bird's-eye view of
the whole field of human knowledge. A vocabulary was
appended. This book met with a success which is almost
unparalleled, and made the name of Comenius known
throughout Europe, in various parts of Asia, and in the
English Colonies of America. At the instance of the Synod
of 1635 he prepared a Latin and Bohemian edition; others
translated the work into German, Polish, Swedish, Dutch,
English, Spanish, Italian, French, Hungarian, Greek, Arabic,
Turkish, Persian and Mongolian.^

Comenius' growing fame was a source of satisfaction to the
Brethren. It spread a halo around their Church, whose
activity, sufferings and endurance began to excite universal
attention and sympathy. ^"^ In order to give him as much
time as possible for his literary labors the Synod of 1636
enacted : that as Bishop he was to watch over the discipline
and preach to the Bohemian congregation at Lissa ; as Rector
to have the general oversight of the College ; while all the
other duties of his office were to be committed to the Assistant
Bishop Martin Gertich.^^

In his sermons Comenius admonished the Bohemian exiles
as a father and comforted them as a friend. In one of these
discourses he says : ^^

' In some of these editions the sentences are presented in parallel columns
in two languages ; in others in three; in still others in four; each language
having a vocabulary. We have in our library an edition of 1667, in Latin
Bohemian and German ; another, of 1644, in Latin, German, French and
Italian. Besides these editions the Malin Library contains one of 1643 in
Latin only; one of 1656 in Latin and English ; one of 1667, in the same
languages; and one of 1805, in Latin and German.

'° Gindely's Comenius, p. 484.

" Ibid. p. 487.

^^ Twenty-one of his Bohemian sermons, on the death, resurrection and
ascension of Christ, preached in 1636 at Lissa, were published at Amsterdam,
in 1661 ; the extract which follows is taken from the fifth of these sermons.
Criegern's Comenius, pp. 38 and 39.


" O flock driven from your native fields for Christ's sake, let your
hearts rejoice! Amidst the trials which have come upon His truth
in your fatherland, you have endured to the end. Let the cross
of Christ, which you are deemed worthy to bear, be more precious
to you than all the kingdoms of the world in their glory and riches.
Behold, He to whom you have been faithful, your blessed Lord,
will give you, in fellowship with himself, the everlasting kingdom 1
Have you been robbed of your earthly country? — the heavenly
awaits you. Are you looked upon as the footstool and refuse of
mankind? — He is preparing for you a place with Him on His
throne. Are you suffering hardships, hunger, thirst ? — He will
provide for you the table of bliss that you may eat and drink in
His kingdom. Blessed therefore is he who abides in Christ;
blessed he who stands fast amidst every temptation."

In 1635 Comenius informed the Synod, that he was engaged
in preparing a Christian Paiasophia, that is, a work on " Uni-
versal Knowledge" from a Christian point of view. The
Synod heartily wished him success. His Pansophic project,
which was intimately connected with his didactic labors, em-
braced three things : first, an encyclopedic grouping of human
sciences and arts in their totality; second, that philosophy
which was to elevate the knowledge of these sciences and
arts to the highest idea, to the centre of all things, to God ;
third, a practical part which should bring all the affairs and
relations of men into order and develop them to a complete
harmony. These three things, in an inseparable union and
mutually supplementing each other, should be carried into
practice through an appropriate and well-ordered system of
schools.'^ On this subject, at Hartlib's request, Comenius
wrots hira a long epistle. Hartlib, without the consent of
Comenius, published it at Oxford in 1637, under the title
Porta Sapientice Reserata, or '* The Gate of Knowledge Un-
locked," It caused a profound sensation among the learned
of Europe; many approved of the plans which it set forth,
others criticised them. In order to meet the objections of the
latter Comenius issued an additional treatise giving a more
complete exposition of his views.^* At the same time it was

'' Zoubek's Comenius, p. xxvii.

'* Conatuum pansophicorum dilucidatio in gratiam Censorum facta, pub-
lished in 1638. The title which Comenius himself gave to the epistle pub-
lished by Hartlib was Prodrcymus Pansophioe, or " Precursor of Pansophy."


apparent to him, and to all who thought with him, that his
Pansophic ideas " could be carried out only by a community
or college of learned men, and that this college would have to
be a permanent institution for the furtherance of science, and
for the authoritative promulgation from time to time of
scientific status quo." ^^

The immediate result of these Pansophic publications was
a large increase of students in the College at Lissa, who
flocked from all parts of Poland to enjoy the instructions of
so great a celebrity as Comenius had now become, and an
invitation from the Government of Sweden to visit that
country and reform its schools. This invitation he declined.
He hoped rather to secure a wealthy patron through whose aid
he could devote himself to a magnificent literary scheme, which
he now devised, and employ a number of assistants in carrying
it out.*^ But this hope, in so far as the Polish nobility was
concerned, was not fulfilled. Hence in 1641 he resigned his
rectorship and, with the concurrence of the Executive Council,
accepted an invitation which Hartlib had worked out for him
from the British Parliament, to come to England.

Comenius reached London on the twenty-first of September,
and found that the King, Charles the First, had gone to
Scotland and that Parliament had been prorogued for a few
weeks. On reassembling in October, this body treated him
with great distinction, told him that a Commission of learned
men would be appointed to confer with him, and proposed to
set apart the revenues and buildings of a college in London,
or Winchester, or Chelsea, to which men might be called

'* Laurie's Comenius, p. 41.

16 Of this scheme a draft, in Comenius' own hand-writing, is extant. He
says: "I propose to render the study of the sciences, of philosophy and
religion, more accessible to all, and to make it more useful in molding
human affairs." To this end he projected the following series : Eight works
treating of the Latin language ; a Pansophic work comprising the entire
treasures of human knowledge ; a Panhistoria, comprising Biblical History,
Natural History, the History of Inventions, of extraordinary Instances of
Virtue, of Eeligious Ceremonies, and Universal History; and a work
devoted to Universal Dogmatics.


from various parts of the world and in which they could
prosecute their researches, thus carrying out his Pansophic
scheme.' '^ The hopes of Comenius rose high. In imagination
he saw his loftiest ideals realized. But suddenly the prospect
grew dark. News reached London of the breaking out of the
Irish rebellion and the massacre of the Protestant colonists.
The relation between the King and Commons became more
and more constrained ; and the sittings of the famous Long
Parliament began. England was on the eve of mighty con-
vulsions. National affairs absorbed every mind. Comenius
was forced to confess that times so troubled did not admit of
the projects which he had in view, and left the country greatly
disappointed (1642).

In the previous autumn Lewis de Geer, a rich merchant
and philanthropist of Nordkoping, in Sweden, had oifered to
become the patron of his literary enterprises. This offer, by
permission of the Executive Council, Comenius now accepted.
While on the way to Lissa in order to consult with his col-
leagues, prior to his going to Sweden, he met, probably in
Holland, with Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts
Colony, who tried to induce him to come to America and
accept the presidency of Harvard College, which had been
founded at Cambridge in 1638. This overture Comenius
declined, as also an invitation which reached him from
France to visit that country.'^ In August he went to Sweden,
where he consulted with his patron, was presented to Queen
Christina, the celebrated daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, and

1' Laurie's Comenius, pp. 42 and 43.

1* Gindely's Comenius, p. 493. Our authority for the interesting fact that
Comenius received an offer of the presidency of Harvard University, as
it is now called, is Cotton Mather in his Magnalia Christi Americana, or
the Ecclesiastical History of New England, London, 1702. Fourth Book,
containing the History of Harvard College, p. 128, where he says: "That
brave old man, Johannes Amos Commenius, the Fame of whose Worth hath
been Trumpetted as far as more tlian Three Languages (whereof every one
is Endebted unto his Janua) could carry it, was agreed withal by our Mr.
Winthrop, in his Travels through the Low Countries, to come over into
New England and Illuminate this Colledge and Country in the Quality of
President : But the Solicitations of the Swedish ambassador, diverting him


formed tlie acquaiDtance of Axel Oxenstierua, John Skyte,
the Chancellor of the University of Upsala, and John
Matthia, Bishop of the Lutheran State Church; in the
following October he began his literary labors, selecting as his
place of residence Elbing, a Prussian town on the Baltic Sea.
These labors were carried on, in conjunction with four assist-
ants, for well-nigh two years.

Meantime an unusual event was maturing in Poland.
Distressed by the frequent complaints which the Protestants
brought ae-ainst the Catholics and the stormv scenes that in
consequence disgraced the Diet, Vladislaus the Fourth sug-
gested the idea that an understanding and even some kind of
a union might be brought about between the Roman Catholic
and Protestant Churches. This project received the support
of his Chancellor, George Ossolinski, and was strongly urged
by Bartholomew Nigrinus, a religious adventurer, by birth a
Socinian, then a Lutheran, next a Calvinist, and finally a
Catholic, who assured the King that nothing would be easier
than to reconcile the Evangelical Faith with Romanism.
Vladislaus consulted the Primate of Poland, Archbishop
Matthias Lubienski, and Pope Innocent the Tenth, who both
gave their sanction ; while a Catholic Provincial Synod,
convened at Warsaw in 1643, warmly espoused the scheme.
A Colloquy, to take place on the tenth of October, 1644, at
Thorn, was accordingly decided upon. To this Colloquy,
known as the Colloquium Charitativum, the Primate issued
letters of invitation. The letter asking the Unitas Fratrum
to take part, was addressed to the Rector of the Lissa Col-
lege. He referred it to the President of the Council, who
convened the Synod. This meeting Comenius was summoned
to attend.'^ It opened, at Lissa, on the fifteenth of April,
1644. His presence was important. New bishops were to

another way, that Incomparable Moravian became not an American." At
tliat time Mr. Henry Dunster was President, who " fiU'd the Overseers with
uneasie Fears," an account of " his unhappy entanglement in the snares of

^^ Benham's Comenius, p. 69.


be consecrated. lu his prime and in the midst of his brilliant
career Rybinski had died, at Obrzycho, on the thirteenth of
September, 1638; while Erastus, having reached more than
three-score years and ten, had been called away at Lissa, on
the eighth of May, 1643; and Orminius had finished his
career on the last day of the same year, at Lissa. In order
to fill these vacancies Martin Gertich and John Bythner or
Biittner were chosen. They received consecration at the
hands of Laurentius Justinus and Comenins. The former
had succeeded Erastus in the office of President.^"

In response to the invitation to send representatives to the
Colloquium Charitativwn, the Synod pledged the co-operation
of the Uuitas Fratrum, provided its own faith was not to be
interfered with.

On the twenty-fourth of August a Union Synod of the
Brethren and Reformed took place at Orla. Letters were
read from the Elector of Brandenburg and the Duke of
Courland, from several Silesian Princes and Prussian cities,
and from a number of Protestant Universities, giving their
views with regard to the proposed Colloquy. In the opinion
of all assembled more time was necessary in order to prepare
for it; and a resolution passed asking the King to appoint a
later day. To this request he assented and fixed upon the
twenty-eighth of August, 1645. Active preparations were
now made on all sides. In spring (1645) the Brethren and
the Lutherans convened their synods simultaneously at Lissa.
^he Synod of the Brethren opened on the twenty-third of
April, and elected fourteen lay and the following five clerical
delegates: Bythner, Comenins, John Felinus, Benjamin
Ursinus, George Vechner. Two days later this Synod pro-
ceeded, in a body, to the Lutheran church and presented to

2° Fischer, II. p. 344 ; Quellen, p. 453 ; Plitt's Bischofsthum ; Regenvol-
scius, p. 323 and 392. Martin Gertich, a nephew of Bishop Martin Gratian
Gertich, was born at Lasswitz in 1691 ; and educated at Beuthen and
Thorn. In 1640 he was appointed German preacher at Lissa, ordained
Assistant Bishop and, as we have said, associated with Comenius. Bythner,
the son of Bartholomew Bythner, was born in 1602, educated at Thorn, and
subsequently had charge of the parishes at Milenczyn, Karmin and Debnica.


the Lutheran Syuod a memorial proposing union at Thorn,
"as one host/' against the common foe. In due time an
answer was returned. It was fraternal in its character.
Union with the Brethren was desirable; their memorial
would be submitted to the Theological Faculty at Wittenberg
for its judgment ; if this should prove to be favorable the
Lutherans would convene a syuod at Fraustadt and establish
a perpetual fellowship with the Brethren ; at Thorn, in any
case, the Lutherans would make common cause with them.

The opinion of the Faculty was not favorable. Under no
circumstances could the proposed union between the Lutherans
and Brethren be allowed, not even temporarily at Thorn.
Thus, with ranks that were divided, the Protestants came to
the Colloquy.

It opened on the appointed day. There were present twenty-
five Catholic delegates, under the leadership of the Bishop
of Samogitia; twenty-three delegates, with Gorajski, the Cas-
tellan of Kulm, and Bishop John Bythner at their head,
representing the Uuitas Fratrum and the Reformed Church
conjointly ; and twenty-eight on the part of the Lutherans.
By order of the King, George Ossoliuski, the Chancellor ot
Poland, presided, with John Leszcynski, the Castellan of
Gnesen, as vice-president. The meetings were held in the
Town-Hall. Vladislaus had given the most minute instruc-
tions in relation to the manner of conducting the Colloquy.
First each Church was to present its doctrines; then an
understanding was to be reached as to the truth or falsity of
these doctrines ; and finally the ceremonies, or rituals, of the
four Churches were to be discussed. However moderate the
purpose may be called which these points aimed at, it was not
reached. Three months were spent in fruitless and often
childish disputes. The Colloquy closed on the twenty-first of
November, in a side room of the Town-Hall, and in the
presence of a handful of members. Thirty-six sessions had
taken place.^'

^^ Lukascewicz, p. 1 65-173 ; Fischer, II. p. 544-247 ; Krasinski, II.
chap. XI.


In the very nature of the case a union, or even an under-
standing, was impossible. Protestantism and Komanism
could coalesce as little as fire and water. The two elements
are radically discordant. Indeed an agreement just to both
parties was never seriously thought of. The Catholics favored
the Colloquy because they imagined that they would gain an
easy victory over the Protestants, to whom they were willing
to grant a few unimportant concessions, if they would return
to the mother-church ; the Protestants were ready to take
part, in the hope that their status in Poland would be restored.

Much against his will Comenius had been persuaded to
accept his election as delegate. Although ardently desiring
union among all Christians, he had no confidence in the suc-
cess of this movement, no sympathy with the sectarian spirit
animating the Protestants even while preparing for the Col-
loquy, and no belief in the sincerity of the Catholics. He
therefore did not take an active part; left Thorn on the
eighteenth of September; and returned to Elbing deeply
wounded by a letter which he had received from Lewis de
Geer censuring him for his absence. It was only at the
earnest solicitations of Hotton, de Geer's agent, that he con-
sented to keep up his connection with the latter and resume
his literary labors at Elbing. Such labors engaged his atten-

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 52 of 64)