August Gottlieb Spangenberg.

The life of Nicholas Lewis, Count Zinzendorf, Bishop and Ordinary of the Church of the United (or Moravian) Brethren online

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(^NOV 4 1931^
THE LIFE ^^££iWl_8E^j;i^









And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured ,
and hast not fainted."— Rev. ii. 3.






The following pages contain an Abridged Translation
of a Memoir of Count Zinzendorf, which appeared in
Germany between the years 1772 and 1775, from the
pen of the Rev. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, Bishop
of the Church of the United Brethren.* In the Preface
to the original work, the venerable author describes,
with characteristic simplicity, the object which he had
in view in its compilation, the reasons which induced
him to undertake it, and the sources whence his ma-
terials were principally derived. An extract from that
Preface can therefore hardly fail to be interesting and
acceptable to the reader.

" I here present to the public, the true character and
course of life of a man, of whom I may affirm, without
hesitation, that his like is hardly to be met with in the
history of more than one century. In saying this, I have
respect, not so much to his great and distinguished
talents, — for I am aware, that from time to time men
have appeared, whom the Creator has been pleased to
endow vdth extraordinary mental powers and qualifica-
tions, — ^but rather to the use to which those talents were
applied, and the consequences of such application. These
lay open to us his heart, and reveal the spirit by which
he was animated. From his childhood to his departure,
he had but one great object in view — to serve our Lord
Jesus Christ with soul and body. The eternal truth,

* Leben des Herrn Nicolaus Ludwig, Graf en und Herrn von Zinzendorf
iind Pottendorf, beschrieben von August Gottlieb Spangenberg : in 8 Theilen,



that God was manifest in the flesh, — the history of the
Lord of glory, who became man that he might die for
sinners, and redeem them to himself with his precious
blood, — made so deep an impression on him, even in his
earliest years, that he was determined to know nothing
higher or more important, throughout the whole of his
future life. Because he was captivated v^dth this subject,
and his heart was full of it, he spake, wrote, and sang of
it, with an emotion, which placed the fervour and sincerity
of his faith beyond a doubt. His resolution was taken,
— and he adhered to it firmly and immovably, — to testify
of this truth before the whole world, and to venture all
for the sake of it. In a private or a public station, at
home or abroad, in his intercourse with friends or with
enemies, with persons of high or of low estate, with the
learned or the unlearned, herein he was always the same.
This good confession was his bond of union with many
thousand friends, who loved him tenderly, and to whom
he was indeed invaluable ; and it was, at the same time,
the cause of much of that animosity which was displayed
towards him by a host of enemies, who painted him in viler
colours, and persecuted him with more untiring ardour,
than if he had been the worst of heretics. His writings,
which certainly contain much that is peculiar and original,
are highly prized by some persons, while others denounce
them with a zeal bordering on madness. Between these
extremes, a mean position is occupied by thousands, who
are neither for him nor against him. By none, however,
can it be denied, that he was the instrument in the hand
of God, for planting the church of the Brethren in
almost every quarter of the globe. He was a man of
lively disposition, quick perception, penetrating judg-
ment, extended views, extraordinary zeal, unwearied
diligence, incomparable genius, great experience, and,
notwithstanding a degree of timidity and diffidence


inherent in his character, of very lofty courage and
cheerful confidence. The issue of the transactions in
which he was engaged, rendered it manifest that God
was with him, and that he was supported by the Divine
hand in his various undertakings for the good of his fel-
low men, whose temporal and eternal well-being he was
unceasingly solicitous to promote. To the church of
Christ at large he was enabled to render essential service ;
and at length, after beholding much fruit from his labours,
and laying all at the feet of his gracious Lord and Mas-
ter, he was permitted to finish his course with joy.

" In the hearts and consciences of those who truly
knew him, he had the clearest and most undoubted
witness, that he was a worthy man of God, and a faithful
servant of Jesus Christ.

" The individual whose character I have attempted
thus briefly to pourtray, was Nicolas Lewis, Count and
Lord of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf, Lord of the Baronies
of Freydeck, Schoneck, Thiirnstein, and the Vale of
Wachovia, Lord of the Manor of Upper, Middle, and
Lower Bertholdsdorf, Hereditary Warden of the Chace
to his Imperial Roman Majesty, in the Duchy of Austria,
below the Ens, and at one time Aulic and Justicial
Counsellor to the Elector of Saxony.*

* " I enumerate all the titles of the Count, because he not xinfrequently
availed himself of one or other of them, when he found it expedient to
travel, or to labour for a season incognito. Thus at one time he assumed
the name of Von Freydeck, at another, of Von Thiirnstein, &c."

The family of Zinzendorf appears to be of very remote antiquity in the
Duchy of Austria. As early as the eleventh century, it was numbered
among the twelve noble houses, which were the chief support of the Aus-
trian dynasty. From its founder Ehrenhold, to his descendant the subject
of this Memoir, were reckoned twenty-two generations. The dignity
of Count of the Holy Roman Empire was conferred on it by the Emperor
Leopold in the year 1662. The first member of the family who embraced
the doctrines of the Reformation, was John, the second of the name, who died
in 1552. Of his descendants, several families remained in the Austrian


" His ecclesiastical functions were those of Bishop,
Advocate, Ordinary, and Representative with full powers,
of the Church of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren,
adhering to the Confession of Augsburg.

'^ The following considerations have induced me to
become the biographer of the late Count. For more than
thirty years, it was my privilege to live with him in a state
of the closest and most cordial intimacy. A gracious
Providence so ordered it, that I had occasion not unfre-
quently to spend half a year at a time in his house, and
near his person. I had thus abundant and almost daily
opportunities of making myself thoroughly acquainted
with his views, the objects to which they were directed,
and the means which he employed for their attain-
ment; of scrutinizing the principles and maxims by
which his conduct was governed, the tone and temper
of his mind, and the nature of his intercourse with
persons of all classes and under every variety of circum-
stances; — in short, of becoming an eye and ear-witness

dominions, and were distinguished by their adherence to the Protestant faith,
not less than by their civil and military services. It is a remarkable fact,
that Luke Bakmeister, Doctor and Professor of Theology, who in the reign
of the Emperor Rudolph II., held a visitation of the churches in Austria,
adhering to the Augsburg Confession, found four flourishing Protestant con-
gregations, duly provided with pastors, established on the estates of the Zin-
zendorf family at Lunz, Carlstetten, Pottendorf, and Orth near Markfeld.
The grandfather of the Count, Maximilian Erasmus, emigrated from his na-
tive land, and settled at Oberberg, near Nuremberg, esteeming the loss of all
his estates more than counterbalanced, by the superior liberty of conscience
which he thus obtained. His son, George Lewis, the father of the Count,
having removed to Dresden, entered into the service of the Elector of
Saxony, and died, as stated in the narrative, in the year 1700. The head-
ship of the family, which fell to the Count in 1756, on the decease of his
elder brother, he ceded with all its rights and immunities to his nephew, as
soon as the necessary forms could be gone through. The motto of the
house of Zinzendorf, derived fromComit Albert, the prime minister of the
Emperor Leopold, was, " I yield to no one, not even to the whole world."
See a Note to a Poem by Count Zinzendorf on his brother Frederick Chris-
tian's second marriage, German Poems, No. LXIII. p. 176 ; in which he
makes a striking allusion to this motto. Also Spangenberg's Memoir, p. 1 1.


of whatever occurred or transpired, in his daily life and
conversation. Whenever the nature of my official in-
cumbencies led to our separation from each other, the
most confidential correspondence was maintained between
us. The communications with which he favoured me at
such times, supplied me with the most interesting details
of his personal and domestic hist^y, to an extent
that I could never have expected from him. Ten years
previous to his translation to eternal rest, the commission
was given me to collect the numerous accusations made
against him and the Brethren's church, out of the various
controversial writings of the day, in order that he might
have an opportunity of answering them himself; and
the execution of this task was the occasion of my obtain-
ing light upon many particulars affecting his person and
character, of which I had previously been ignorant, or
which I had understood but imperfectly. Hereby I
was more tlian ever convinced of the necessity of writing
a memoir of this distinguished man."

The venerable biographer proceeds to explain the
principles which he had endeavoured to keep in view^,
throughout the progress of his work.

" My first and chief object," he observes, " was to
write notliing, but what I knew or believed in my con-
science to be consistent with truth. I have therefore
taken all possible pains, to obtain correct information
relative to the facts which I have recorded; and this
information I have derived, either from the testimony of
my own eyes, or from the verbal or written statements
of credible persons, who had been present at the trans-
actions referred to, or else from relations of the Count

" In his intercourse with his brethren, whether public
or private, it was his invariable practice to seek to make


them acquainted with his faults and failings, as well as
with the good which Divine grace had wrought within
him ; and in general, it was his wish to appear to every
one in his true character. It is owing to this cause,
that in his various hymns, discourses, letters, and other
writings, both published and unpublished, so many
passages are to be met with, having a reference to his
own person,* and that these may justly be reckoned
among the main sources, whence an authentic history of
his life and labours is to be drawn.

" I have further endeavoured to present a faithful
portraiture of the views and motives which influenced
his conduct, in the various transactions in which he was
engaged. The great object which he set before his eyes,
in all his discourses and proceedings, is evident : — he
was a lover of Jesus, and a friend of man ; hereof I
am fully convinced ; and equally so, that the mind and
will of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ were the rule,
by which he wished at all times to be guided. Neverthe-
less, since a variety of reasons may occasionally exist for
a particular course of action, — which has often occurred
in the history of the Count, — I have been sometimes
under the necessity of relating what is probable, rather
than what is absolutely certain on this head.

" The third point to which my efforts have been directed
in the progress of this Work, is the maintenance of strict
impartiality. Notwithstanding my friendship for the
deceased, I have endeavoured, through the grace of God,
so to write, that the good and the evil, the true and the
false, may appear in their genuine colours. Many of

* " In answer to the question, What had induced him to give so many
particulars respecting himself and his undertakings ? he observed, * The
numberless false reports which have been circulated to my prejudice
throughout the world, compel me to say a little on these subjects, yet so
little, that nine out of ten of their number are commonly passed over in
silence.' '*


my brethren will be ready to bear me witness, that on
various occasions during the Hfetime of the Count, I
held an opinion different from his own ; and that I made
no scruple of stating this difference both to himself and
to our fellow-labourers. At the same tiine, I am well
aware, that it must be left to the intelligent reader to
decide, in how far I have succeeded in meriting the
praise of impartiality."

The author enumerates, in conclusion, the various
documentary sources of information to which he had
access, in the compilation of his memoir. Among these,
the most valuable appear to have been, a number of
diaries of early date ; a kind of journal kept by the Count
during several years of his life ; and a large collection
of letters, written either by himself or by brethren in
attendance upon him ; — all which are deposited in the
Archives of the Unity. He had also derived much in-
formation from the Count's printed works; the written
statements of various brethren and friends, concerning
particular facts ; the private journal of brother David
Nitschman, who from the year 1729 was generally near
his person ;* and the diaries of various congregations and
individuals, detailing transactions of greater or less mo-
ment in which he had been engaged. Obligations are
also expressed to the adversaries of the Count, for the
explanations of many circumstances connected with his
opinions and proceedings, which their charges against
him had tended to elicit, and which had proved of essen-
tial service in the compilation of this Memoir.

The preceding paragraphs, derived from Spangen-
berg's own Preface, explain with sufficient clearness the
scope and character of his work, and a portion at least

* The three years, from 1738 to 1741, during which lie was engaged
in a Mission to Ceylon, form the principal exception.

A 3


of the qualifications whicli he possessed, when, in com-
pliance with the wishes of the Synod of 1764, he under-
took to be the biographer of his honoured friend and
fellow-servant. An individual more competent to the
task, and altogether more worthy to execute it, could
certainly not have been selected. With the exception
of Zinzendorf himself, no name is more distinguished
than that of Spangenberg in the records of the renewed
Brethren's church, and none more highly reverenced by
its members. He was indeed a man of primitive piety
and patriarchal simplicity, of extensive erudition, of
unwearied diligence, and of unimpeachable veracity.
The soundness and sobriety of his theological views are
sufficiently proved by his well-known *' Exposition of
Christian Doctrine;"* and the variety and extent of
his experience, as a labourer in the vineyard of his
Master, both at home and abroad, by his valuable
Tracts on subjects connected with the Missionary call-
ing ; while the annals of the Brethren's Unity, during a
period of nearly sixty years, bear abundant testimony to
the blessing vouchsafed to his truly apostolic labours.

His memoir of Count Zinzendorf may be described as
a plain unvarnished relation of facts, bearing the stamp
of truth, and exhibiting the fruits of a judicious and
very careful research. It is however to be regretted,
that the author has assumed the character rather of the
annalist than of the historian ; the strictly chronological
arrangement which he has chosen, and with few ex-
ceptions adhered to, being better adapted to secure the
accuracy, than to sustain the interest of his narrative.

* The German Edition, published in 1779, bears the title Idea Fidel
Fratrum : the English, printed in 1784, with a Preface by the Rev.
Benjamin La Trobe, that of An Exposition of Christian Doct>-ine, as taught
in the Protestaid Church of the United Brethren. Pp. 485. Translations
have also appeared in the Danish, Dutch, Swedish and French languages.


His style is unadorned and simple, though not devoid
of idiomatic peculiarity. The diffusiveness, with which
he handles his subject, can hardly fail to be accounted
a defect by the general reader, readily as it will be for-
given by members of the Brethren's church, to whom
the circumstantial details of events closely interwoven
with the thread of its history will always be instructive.
Not the least valuable portion of Spangenberg's work,
are the numerous extracts from Zinzendorf's own writ-
ings, both printed and manuscript ; including his ex-
tensive correspondence, and his characteristic hymns
and poems. By these, " he is permitted to speak
for himself," in reference to a variety of passages in
his extraordinary life, to unfold his real views, and to
" tell all that was in his heart." The writer of these
remarks cannot, therefore, refrain from an expression of
regret, that in the process of abridgment to which the
translator has had recourse, and by which the contents
of the work have been reduced to about one-third of the
original bulk, it should have been found necessary to
sacrifice so large a proportion of matter, calculated to
place in the clearest light the character, opinions, and
conduct, both personal and official, of so remarkable a
man as Count Zinzendorf.

The question may reasonably be asked, why a work
of authority so decided, and of merit so various and so
generally acknowledged as that of Spangenberg, has not
been earlier presented to the public in an English dress;
and further, why the performance of the task should
eventually have been left to a comparative stranger to
the Brethren's church and its institutions. To these
natural inquiries, it is difficult to return a perfectly
satisfactory answer. The following remarks may, how-
ever, be accepted in apology for the hesitation to publish,


manifested by the Brethren in England, and in explana-
tion of a neglect, which, were it as real as it is apparent,
would certainly be inexcusable.

The first two parts of Spangenberg's Memoir issued
from the press in the year 1772; the eighth, or con-
cluding one, in 1775. A few years after, there appeared
an English translation of the first volume, comprising the
above-mentioned two parts, with a promise of a continu-
ation, in the event of the work meeting with the desired en-
couragement. This encouragement being, however, from
some cause or other withheld, the idea of proceeding with
the publication was gradually abandoned. Meanwhile
the press of Germany continued to bring forth books and
pamphlets, illustrative of Zinzendorf 's private and pub-
lic history ;* and the hope was hereby revived, that a
memoir of his life and services, at once comprehensive,
luminous, and faithful, would in due season make its
appearance. The disappointment of this expectation
continues to be a subject of unfeigned regret with the
English section of the Moravian church ; and may serve
to account, in some measure, for the reluctance hitherto
shown by its leading members, to originate, or directly to
sanction, a compilation like that now given to the public.

Contemporary biography has its peculiar charms ; and
it must be confessed, that he who devotes himself to
it, possesses advantages for the delineation of indi-
vidual character, and the record of particular incidents,

* Among these may be particularly noticed, Characteristics of Count
Zinzendorf, by Charles Lewis Baron Schrautenbach ; a Sketch of his
Life, by Rev. J. Chr. Duvernoy ; a Memoir, by Rev. C. R. Reichel ;
Count Lynar's Account of the Brethren's Unity, in Biisching's Magazine,
Vol. XIII. ; and a brief but highly interesting portrait of his character,
writings, and labours, in a work published in 1795, by J. G. Miiller, under
the title of " Bekenntnisse merkwiirdiger Manner von sich selbst." (Con-
fessiotis of Remarkable Men, respeci/ng themselves.) The two writers first
mentioned were members of the Brethren' s church.


whicli are denied to the historian of a subsequent
age. But it is not less obvious, that the latter, if his
natural abilities are equal to the task, and his materials
for its performance are copious and well selected, —
among which materials, the researches of contemporary
authors naturally hold a prominent place, — is in circum-
stances more favourable to the exhibition of the qualities
which characterise a great and philosophic historian. It
is thus with an edifice of symmetrical form and imposing
dimensions. Though a near view may be necessary to
give the spectator an accurate idea of its architectural
details and minuter ornaments, it is only from a moderate
and well-chosen distance, that its true proportions, and
its graceful and noble outline can be discerned and ap-
preciated. The greater and more majestic the object, the
more needful is it to ascertain the point of sight, which
best accords with its true character, and with the state
of the surrounding atmosphere. There are probably not
many individuals, to whom the foregoing remarks are
more strictly applicable than the subject of this Memoir.
Count Zinzendorf was undoubtedly one of the most
extraordinary personages, that have appeared in the
church of Christ since the period of the Reformation.
Few men have been the object of more sincere and
more affectionate admiration ; few, exposed to greater
and more cruel obloquy. In his own country, by
turns honoured and despised, caressed and persecuted ;
at one time admitted to the friendship of sovereign
princes, at another exiled from his native land, and
deprived of the rights and privileges of the meanest
citizen, — he was enabled to pursue his course unmoved,
and to demean himself as the humble and devoted
servant of that Master, who has declared, that his king-
dom is not of this world. The justice which was so often
denied him by his countrymen during his life, they have


willingly rendered him since his death ; and even the
fame which he sought not, has been conceded to him, to
a greater extent than would have been agreeable to his
own feelings, or than is consistent with the views and
character of the church, to v/hose service he was so dis-
interestly attached. By the worldly-wise, he has been
acknowledged as a man of original genius and exten-
sive acquirements ; by evangelical divines, as a sound,
though occasionally eccentric theologian;* by children
of God of every denomination, as a single-minded and
faithful servant of Christ, whose witness of the truth as
it is in Jesus was blessed to thousands, both within and
without the pale of his own communion, and who by his
example, as well as by his testimony, was made instru-
mental in arousing into action the slumbering energies of
the Lutheran and Reformed Churches, and directing them
into the numerous channels, in which they are now exerted
for the dissemination of the gospel, both in Christendom
and in heathen lands. The vehement accusations and
shameless calumnies against the Count and his brethren,
with which the press of Germany at one period teemed,
have sunk with their authors into merited oblivion :

* Of the christian and friendly spirit, in which subjects connected with
the controversies of a former age are handled at the present day, by
divines of the Protestant churches on the continent, a favourable specimen
has just been given to the English public, in the Memoir of the Life
and Writings of J. Albert Bengel, by Rev. J. C. F. Burk, — a work of
the highest interest, and deserving an extensive circulation and diligent
perusal. It is well known, that Count Zinzendorf always cherished the
sincerest esteem for this luminary of the Wirtemberg church, whom he
considered one of the most candid and able of his numerous opponents.
See p. 346. The strictures of Bengel were not, however, in every in-

Online LibraryAugust Gottlieb SpangenbergThe life of Nicholas Lewis, Count Zinzendorf, Bishop and Ordinary of the Church of the United (or Moravian) Brethren → online text (page 1 of 50)