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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pare, in conjunction with the Lutheran delegates, a petition
to the Diet setting forth the grievances of the Evangelical
party ; a common fund for the benefit of suffering parishes
was agreed on ; and it was left to Jablonsky to appoint, after
consultation with the Lutherans, the time for the meeting of
the General Synod.^"

In the interests of the fund he opened a correspondence
with Doctor William Wake, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and sent Christian Sitkovius to England in order to present
the cause in person. It met with favor; and on the tenth of
March, 1715, was brought to the notice of the Privy Council.
This body adopted the following minute :

" Upon a Representation on this Day made to his Majesty, by
the most Reverend Father in God, William Lord Archbishop of
Canterbury, of the deplorable Condition of several Episcopal
Protestant Churches in Poland and Transylvania, occasioned by
the long Continuance of War in those Countries, and other
Miseries that have befallen them, his Majesty, in Commiseration

^* Acta Fratrum, p. 115.

i« Ibid.

'^^ Lukaszewicz, pp. 183 and 184; Con. Send., p. 156-165 The following
were the representatives of the Unity present at the Synod of Thorn :
Bishops Jablonsky and Opitz, Benjamin Vigilantius, Paul Cassius, Samuel
Majowski, David Cassius, Francis Samuel Priifer, Samuel David Sitkovius,
John Samuel Musonius, and seven lay delegates.


of the said poor Sufferers, is graciously pleased, with the Advice
of his Privy Council, to order, as it is hereby ordered, That the
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain do cause Letters Patent
to be prepared, and passed the Great Seal in the usual Manner,
for the Collection of the Charity of all well-disposed Per.-^ons, for
Relief of the said poor Sufferers, throughout Great Britain, or
such Part thereof as their Agents shall devise."

Upon the strength of this order the King, George the First,
issued his letters patent, recommending to all the Archbishops
and Bishops of England and Wales, that they should " give
a particular Direction to all the Parsons, Vicars and Curates,
of all and every Parish for the Advancement of this so charit-
able and good Work ; " and appointing the Archbishop of
Canterbury, the High Chancellor of Great Britain (Lord
Cowper), the Archbishop of York, the Bishops of London,
Carlisle, Sarum, Norwich and Bristol, to be Trustees for the
advancement of said charity.^' Liberal donations were
received, but to what extent is not known.

Jablonsky carried on a further correspondence with the
Archbishop of Canterbury and, in 1717, sent him his De
Ordine et Successione Episcojpali in Unitate Fratrum Bohe-
moriim conservato. In a letter to Count Zinzendorf, dated
October the thirty-first, 1729, he mentions the occasion which
called forth this work. "In England about twelve years
ago," he says, " certain enemies of all Evangelical Churches
asserted and even published through the press, that the Bohe-
mian Brethren had never had, and had not then, lawful
bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor William
Wake, thereupon wrote to me and asked for information on
this subject. I replied by giving him a circumstantial account
of our succession with which account the Lord Archbishop
declared himself to be perfectly satisfied." ^^

Through the intervention of the Russian Czar the feud be-
tween Frederick Augustus and the Polish states was brought
to an end in 1716. This pacification, however, instead of
furthering the interests of the Protestants, restricted their

^^ Acta Fratrum, pp. 22 and 23.
*^ Kolbing's Nachricht, p. 26.


liberties still more. Nor did they succeed iu effecting a
change at the Diet held the next year.

On the second of September, 1718, the long projected
General Union Synod of the Brethren, Reformed and
Lutherans, convened at Dantzic. Christopher Arnold, the
Lutheran Superintendent in Great Poland, was chosen Presi-
dent, and Count Bonawentuna Kurnatowski, a member of the
Brethren's Church, Director. Bishop Jablonsky was not

The principal enactments were the following : First, the
petition to the Diet, dra^vn up by Jablonsky, is approved ;
second, the Protestants of Poland are to act in unison ; third,
representatives of the three Churches are to be appointed in
all the provinces, in order that through them this compact
may be furthered ; fourth, deputies are to be sent to the
Protestant courts of Europe asking their intervention on be-
half of the Evangelical party .^

The petition was presented in October. But so little did it
avail that the only Protestant who seems to have been a
member of the Chamber of Deputies, was expelled; while
Zebrowski, a prebendary of Wilna, preached before the Diet
a sermon in which he ascribed all the sufferings that had come
upon Poland, by reason of wars and pestilences, to its scanda-
lous toleration of the Protestants. Nevertheless they still
persisted in contending for their rights and, in the course of
the next few years, held three more Union Synods at Dantzic.
A course so determined and fearless brought about intense
bitterness among the Roman Catholics, which culminated in
the tragedy of Thorn (1724).^* This event roused all Europe.
Instructions were given by England, Prussia, Sweden, Den-
mark, and Holland, to their several ambassadors, to remon-
strate with the Polish government on its treatment of the

'^ Lukaszewicz, pp. 185, 186 and 187.

" A riot deliberately provoked by the students of the Jesuit College was
made the pretext, contrary to all law and all the evidence offered at the
trial, for the execution of the aged burgomaster of Thorn and of nine other
of its most distinguished citizens.


Protestants. But their condition was not ameliorated ; on
the contrary they were made to suffer all the more because of
the interference of these powers.

In the seventeen years that had elapsed since the fall of
Lissa, this town had risen, for the second time, like a phenix
from its ashes. Liberal gifts from Prussia and other Conti-
nental countries were sent to the Brethren, so that, with what
they received from England, they had at their disposal a large
amount of money. On the old site, where amidst crumbling
walls and blackened timbers Solomon Opitz had held, on the
twenty-fifth of September, 1707, the first religious service
after the conflagration, they rebuilt their College, church and
parsonages. The injunction laid upon this undertaking by
the Bishop of Posen, and persisted in, despite the remonstrance
of Frederick the First, was withdrawn in 1715, after the
King had ordered the commandant of Rastenburg, in East
Prussia, to retaliate in kind upon the Roman Catholics of that

During this whole period, however, the Brethren of Poland
and Polish Prussia were continually decreasing. In 1715 the

^'^ Lissaer Geschichte, p. 17 ; Lissaer Gymnasium, pp. XXXVIII and
XXXIX. The buildings put up at that time are still standing, within a
large yard planted with trees and surrounded by a wall. They are the St.
John's church, two parsonages and the old college. The last named edifice
is now used as a parochial school, the college having been transferred to
the Leszcynski palace. We visited Lissa in 1879, and in the vestry of the
church saw some of the chalices and altar cloths of the early Brethren
that had been saved from the fires. In 1790 the ill-fated town was destroyed
by a third conflagration, which originated through an accident; but the
buildings belonging to the Brethren were saved. At the present day the
Jewish element predominates at Lissa. In tlie vestry of the St. John's
church we also saw the old wall-closet in which the Lissa Folios were
found. These Folios, as has been said in another connection, were saved,
in 1656, from the first conflagration and conveyed to Ursk, in Silesia;
subsequently they were taken to Carolath; and finally transferred to
Breslau. There they remained for several decades. About the year 1720
they were brought back to Lissa, where they were kept until their transfer
to Herrnhut. Some of the documents were lost at Berlin, after the death
of Jablonsky, who had taken them to that city when writing his Historia
Consensus Sendomiriensis. Lukaszewicz, p. 407, Polish edition.


number of their parishes had been reduced to about fifteen.^^
Those that remained, assumed more and more of a Reformed
character. In the reign of Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski,
who ascended the throne in 1763, a few isolated churches,
with which was connected au insignificant membership in-
cludinof about ten noble families, formed the remnant of the
Polish branch of the Unity .^'' Toward the end of the eight-
eenth century even this remnant had been practically absorbed
by the Reformed; it ceased to have a legal existence in 1817,
when Frederick William the Third, of Prussia, constituted
the Unirte Kirche — the Evangelical Union of Lutherans and
Reformed — the established Church of his realm. Down to
that year ordination vows still included a promise to uphold
the Consensus Sendomirieusis.^

In the same way the parishes in Hungary, Transylvania and
Silesia, gradually lost their independence and were absorbed
by other Churches. Of this decline the details are wanting.

And yet, even at the present day, there is found in what
w^as formerly Poland an interesting memorial of the Ancient
Unitas Fratrum. This memorial consists of five so-called
Unitdtsgemeinden — churches of the Reformed type connected
with the Unirte Kirche, but legitimately descended from the
Polish branch of the Unity and keeping up its episcopate. It
is an episcopate which, in modern times, has been revived
through the instrumentality of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum.
Down to the year 1841 it remained unbroken. In that year,
Samuel David Hanke, the last Bishop, or Senior, of the Uni-
tdtsgemeinden died, without having consecrated a successor.-^

'® Acta Fratrum, p. 22.

^' Lukaszewicz, p. 204.

^® Ibid. ; Miiller's Reports. Pastor Cassius, of Orzeskowa, used the form
of the Unitas Fratrum, at baptisms, as late as the year 1838.

^* The Bishops subsequent to the time of David Cassius, down to 1841,
were the following: Paul Cassius, Christian Sitkovius, Frederick William
Jablonsky, John Theophilus Eisner, John Alexander Cassius, Paul Lewis
Cassius, Christian Theophilus Cassius, John Lewis Cassius, John Benjamin
Bornemann, and Samuel David Hanke. Lukaszewicz, p. 384-387. Polish '


Thereupon, at the suggestion of Frederick William the Fourth,
of Prussia, their superintendent, Doctor Siedler, was conse-
crated a Bishop, by Bishops Peter Frederick Curie, Levin
Reichel and John Martin Nitschmaun, on the sixteenth of
June, 1844, at Herrnhut, in Saxony. In the course of time
Siedler severed his connection with the Unifdtsgemeinden,
which were again left without a bishop. Accordingly they
elected Doctor Charles Gobel to that office who, on the six-
teenth of May, 1858, at Gnadenberg, in Prussia, received
consecration at the hands of John Martin Nitschraann and
other Moravian Bishops. Gobel ordained an assistant bishop ;
but died without consecrating a bishop. The result was that the
Unitdtsgememden, for the third time, sought aid of the Mora-
vian Brethren. On the twenty-first of October, 1 883, Doctor
Eugene Borgius was consecrated, at Herrnhut, by Bishops
Henry L. Reichel, Frederick W. Kiihu, and Gustavus B.



The Bohemian and 3foravian Hidden Seed which developed into
the Renewed Unitas Fratrum. A. D. 1671-1722.

Condition of the Brethren not Ameliorated. — The Hidden Seed in General.
— Its Bohemian Centres. — Jacob and John Pechatschek. — Moravian
Centres. — The Kutschera and Schneider Families. — New Signs of Life.
— Evangelical Literature — Wenzel Kleych. — Churches of Grace. —
Fruits of the Testimony of the Fathers. — Awakening in Bohemia and
Moravia. — Samuel Schneider at Zauchtenthal and His Dying Testi-
mony. — George Jaeschke at Sehlen and His Dying Prophecy. — The
Prospect Dark. — Christian David. — His Missionary Tours to Moravia.
— Augustin and Jacob Neisser Emigrate.

In the last thirty years of the seventeenth century the his-
tory of the Seed which remained in Bohemia and Moravia, is
less obscure than in the earlier period of its existence. Narra-
tives have come down to us from the refugees who took part
in the resuscitation of the Unitas Fratrum. It is true that
such narratives are not complete. Amidst the secret emigra-
tions which were going on and at a time when the oppressor
still lived, caution was necessary and details might have been
fraught with danger. Nevertheless there are glimpses given
which enable us to see a Hidden Church preparing for its re-

The condition of the Brethren and other Protestants was
not ameliorated. Leopold the First continued to lay upon
them heavy burdens ; while the Jesuit Missionaries were un-
ceasing in their eiforts to intensify the darkness in which Bo-
hemia and Moravia had been shrouded. From north to south,
from east to west, thev traversed these countries, searchino; for


Evaugelical books, spying out religious meetings, demanding
to see the certificates of auricular confession.^ That amidst
such circumstances the Hidden Seed did not perish, was the
Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.

The parishes to which the Brethren belonged were occasion-
ally in charge of humane and well-disposed priests whom they
won by gifts, so that uo notice was taken of their books and
religious services. Instances occurred in which they even re-
ceived timely hints of the coming of the Jesuit Missionaries.
But as a general thing they were treated with great harshness
and if detected in their practices, severely punished. And
yet they lived. Nor could their life be crushed. It was in
God's keeping. He had heard the prayer of Comenius on the
mountain-top. A seed of righteousness was preserved in the
homes of the Brethren ; and in God's own time there should
grow from it a tree in whose refreshing shade their children
should rest, and their children's converts from all parts of the

In Bohemia, Landskron and Leitomischl were centres of
the Hidden Seed. Its older generation remembered the con-
gregations that thronged the chapels at Lititz, Landskron,
Hermanitz, and Rothwasser, listening to the pure Gospel,
singing the songs of Zion, and celebrating the Supper of the
Lord. To that generation belonged an aged father, Jacob
Pechatschek, distinguished by his fervent faith and holy walk.^
Among his own people he was a preacher of righteousness ;
cherished the traditions of the past ; and delivered them to his
descendants. He took a particular interest in his grandson,

^ The certificates of auricular confession testified that the bearer had been
at the confessional. They were particularly required in connection with
the confession at Easter. Hence the secret Protestants were accustomed to
buy such certificates of their Catholic friends, inducing these to attend the
Easter confession two or three times, each time selecting a diflTerent priest
and obtaining a new certificate. Eisner's Verfolgungsgeschichte, p. 505.
On moral grounds this practice, although it was the outcome of an un-
righteous oppression, cannot be defended.

^ Narrative of Zacharias Hirschel, a refugee from the vicinity of Lands-
kron. Croeger, II. p. 434.


John Bittman, instructed him in the true knowledge of God
and made him acquainted with the history and constitution of
the Brethren.^

His son, John Pechatschek, trod in his footsteps. Upright
and godly he enjoyed the respect of all who knew him. At
social gatherings he bore himself " as a priest of God among
his people." Living to a great age he transmitted the tradi-
tions of the Brethren's Church to his children's children. At
times he spoke of its resuscitation, which the next generation
would live to see. Another patriarch in that neighborhood,
who fostered the Hidden Seed, was John Schallman.

In Moravia its principal centres were at Zerawic, Fulneck,
Zauchtenthal, Kunwald, and in that whole fruitful region
along the Oder known as the Kuhldndl, or Kine-land.

Near Zerawic lived a family, by the name of Kutschera.*
The mother of that household was descended from a priest of
the Unity; her husband was the son of another priest, who
had had charge of the parish of Zerawic and was still living in
the vicinity, having in some wonderful way escaped the perils
of the Anti-Reformation. This venerable sire took delight
in telling his grandson, Tobias Kutschera, of the old times, of
the work of the Brethren, and of the principles of their
Church. The chapel in which he had been accustomed to
preach was still standing. His brother, who lived to be a
very aged man, held three religious services, every Sunday,
in the house of Tobias Kutschera's parents. Such gatherings
were continued long after the death of these fathers, until a
severe persecution broke out, which forced the Brethren to
meet only in very small numbers and with the utmost secrecy.

Round about Fulneck and in the Kuhlandl the Hidden
Seed was very numerous. The most prominent family con-
nected with it bore the name of Schneider and lived at Zauch-

* This John Bittman was born in 1673, escaped from Bohemia in the first
quarter of the eighteenth century, and died, as a member of the Brethren's
Church at Rixdorf, near Berlin, in 1769, aged 96 years.

* Narrative of Tobias Hirschel, a refugee, who died at Rixdorf, in 1757.
Croeger, II. pp. 435 and 436.


tenthal.'^ At the head of this family stood Martin Schneider,
a cotemporary of Amos Comenius and a man of strong foith.
He had witnessed the destruction of the Church ; now he
labored to preserve its memory and, as far as possible, main-
tain its principles. At his house, as well as in other homes,
secret services were held, sometimes by clergymen from Skalic,
more frequently by Schneider himself. On such occasions he
used the Hymnal of the Brethren, read an Evangelical sermon,
and instructed the young in the catechism of Amos Comenius.
His fearlessness exposed him to danger. He was frequently
cast into prison, and on one occasion would have been burned
at the stake, had not the lord of the domain interfered in his
behalf. He lived to an extreme old age ; and his five sons
handed down to the next generation the reminiscences, the
godly lessons, the pious hopes which they had heard from his

In the first quarter of the eighteenth century the Hidden
Seed, both in Bohemia and Moravia, showed signs of new life.
Such life can be traced back to several sources. It flowed, in
the first place, from that Evangelical literature which began
to spread in richer streams than at any previous time since the

At Lazan, on the domain of Leitomischl, lived Wenzel
Kleych. He was born in 1678 of parents descended from the
old stock of the Brethren's Church. Its traditions were dear
to his heart. He nourished them by reading every work that
he could find relating to the subject. Of Evangelical books
in general he was passionately fond. This brought upon him
severe persecutions, and he resolved to seek a country where
he could breathe the atmosphere of religious liberty and follow
his literary inclinations in peace. One night, in the year
1705, he and his wife Catharine, forsaking their rich farm and
taking along but twenty Thaler, escaped from Lazan, with
their two little children whom they carried on their backs,

* Narratives of the Schneider family, Croeger, II, p. 438, and G. E. B., pp.
9 and 10.


and made their way to Zittau, iu Saxony. There they eked
out an existence by gardening, spinning and washing. In
time they became more prosperous, and Kleych ventured to
begin a project which he had long entertained. He published
a devotional work — Motesichy^s Manual — in the Bohemian
language for secret distribution in his native country (1708).
This enterprise proved so successful, that he resolved to devote
himself altogether to the spread of Evangelical literature in
Bohemia, Moravia, and Hungary. He issued a new edition
of the Bohemian New Testament and caused a large number of
other religious works to be reprinted. His undertakings kept
the press of Hartmann and Stremel, at Zittau, busy. Not
content with being a publisher he essayed authorship ; com-
piled a new Hymnal ; and wrote several original works. In
the parsonage at Teschen, in Silesia, he stored his books; and
had them conveyed, by night, across the frontier to Bohemia
and Moravia, with such success that, in all the years in which
he carried on this business, not a single lot was confiscated.
Kleych stood high in the esteem of the Protestant ministers of
Silesia and Hungary. From the Imperial Government he
eventually secured a license to sell his books in the church-
yard at Teschen. While traveling in Hungary, in 1737, God
called him to his eternal reward.^

Kleych's labors were a blessing to the Brethren in Bohemia
and Moravia. The more opportunities they had to read devo-
tional works, and especially the Word of God, the more they
grew in knowledge and grace. But they were obliged to exer-
cise the utmost caution. A new crusade against Evangelical
literature was inaugurated and many books were burned. In
not a few instances, however, such violence recoiled upon the
Jesuits. In order to ascertain why Evangelical writings were
destroyed, Catholics began to read them ; and were led to see
the errors of Rome and to recognize free grace in Jesus Christ.^

Another source of new life appeared in Silesia, where, ac-

^ Mailer's MS. Notes; Pescheck's Exulanten, p. 112.
^ Augnstin Schulze's Narrative, in the Church-Register of his Bohemian
parish at Berlin ; Eisner's Verfolgungsgeschichte, p. 506.


cording to the stipulations of the Peace of Westphalia, so
called " Churches of Grace " had been opened at Schweidnitz,
Glogau, and Jauer. In these sanctuaries Protestants were
allowed to worship God in peace. And now, in 1706, came
Charles the Twelfth, at the head of his victorious Swedes; con-
eluded the pacification of Altranstadt in consequence of which
Frederick Augustus renounced the crown of Poland ; and
forced the Emperor, Joseph the First, to restore to the Prot-
estants one hundred and twenty-nine Silesian churches as also
to open six additional " Churches of Grace." ^ These churches
— at Freistadt, Hirschberg, Landshut, Militsch, Sagan, and
Teschen — were put in charge of ministers educated in the in-
stitutions of Herman Francke at Halle and became centres of
Evangelical power. Not only was all Silesia moved ; but as
several of the " Churches of Grace " stood near the frontier,
their quickening influences were felt in Bohemia and Moravia
likewise. Teschen, the parish in which John Adam Stein metz
labored with apostolic zeal, constituted a place where the soul
of many a Protestant, coming secretly from a dry and thirsty
land, was refreshed.

The testimony borne by the fathers of a former generation
formed the last source of new life. About 1720, on the
domains of Landskron and Leitomischl, an awakening began
which spread throughout that whole region. The village of
Hermanitz was the centre of this movement. Before long,
however, a persecution broke out which was owing, in part,
to unfortunate extravagances into which the Brethren fell.
This persecution was severe. They were imprisoned and
whipped until their bodies ran with blood; or they were
harnessed to ploughs and with cruel blows forced to drag
them through the soil. So great a panic ensued that, for a
number of years until 1730, all outward signs of the awaken-
ing disappeared. In secret it continued to ripen and even-

* Joseph the First succeeded his father, Leopold the First, in 1705, but
died six years later, in 1711, and was followed by his brother, Charles the
Sixth, during whose reign the Unitas Fratrum was renewed. The six
additional ''Churches of Grace" were opened in 1709.


tually yielded a harvest which the Renewed Unitas Fratrum
gathered in.^

In Moravia the signs of life were marked. The work
which Martin Schneider had inaugurated, his grandson,
Samuel Schneider, continued. A hero of faith and burn-
ing with zeal, he exhorted, comforted, and warned his people,
from day to day. As he rejoiced in hope, was patient in

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 57 of 64)