James Henry.

Sketches of Moravian life and character. Comprising a general view of the history, life, character, and religious and educational institutions of the Unitas fratrum online

. (page 3 of 19)
Online LibraryJames HenrySketches of Moravian life and character. Comprising a general view of the history, life, character, and religious and educational institutions of the Unitas fratrum → online text (page 3 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a harmony of industrial pursuits, for, in following out
the details of this system, we find that care was taken
not to allow one tradesman to under-sell the other ;
the prices of all goods offered for sale were limited,
and the quality of all manufactured articles inspected
and kept up to a certain standard. Under these
regulations the great principle was implied, that the
love of gain was never to enter into the aims of those
engaged in trade, but that the desire of benefiting
one's neighbor should be the paramount object of an
industrious life.

All the necessary rules were laid down for the
mutual conduct of master and apprentice, the bear-
ing of each toward the other; fidelity to contract
in the making and delivery of goods ; as to the cir-
cumspect choice of trades for the boys, and a proper
discretion in allowing them to follow their inclinations
in this particular.

Another institution was the almonry, or poor-fund,
with its almoner, who administered to the wants of
the destitute, whenever they came to be in need of
help, through disease or other causes.

Physicians were regularly appointed by the general
superintendence of the village, and paid their stipu-


lated salaries ; no fees were ever allowed to be given
them ; thej were required to be married men, to call
down Divine assistance in their efforts to cure, and
never to boast of their own eflSciency in the course
of their practice.

It was enjoined upon the physician that he should
never forbear disclosing to his patient his real con-
dition, since it was pre-supposed that every one would
rejoice, on learning he was approaching nearer to

In the Zinzendorfian community egotism became
an oblation to a high spiritual purpose ; the inner life
of its people derived its sustenance from a pure,
simple, and active faith, and all their acquisitions
were made subservient to spiritual ends. A total
surrender of egotism was, accordingly, the first step
to membership in this people, fashioned after the old
apostolic times. Zinzendorf ushered in his plan by
the erection of a house for single Brethren and one
for single Sisters. He divided his congregation into
"Choirs," or classes: the younger girls, the elder
girls, the sisters, the married brethren and sisters,
the widows, widowers, the younger boys, the elder
boys, the single brethren, all constituted distinct
" Choirs," and had their stated and special meetings.

In the institution of the Brethren's and Sisters'
Houses, the plan intended was, to afford an asylum
to all the young men and women of the community.
In Herrnhut we find every young man has his allotted
room in the Brethren's House, where he repairs


■whenever he choses, if not a constant resident of the
institution, and pays his tax for its support. The same
rule applies to the Sisters' House, in reference to the
young women. Many of either sex, who have no
means of support under the parental roof, make
choice of these abodes, and pursue their employments
there. A principal^ has the superintendence of each
of these institutions, and, in the Sisters' House, the
inmates of which generally number about two hun-
dred, numerous assistants, or vice-principals, are ap-
pointed, w^ho are set over smaller divisions of the

The aged lady presiding over the Sisters' House
at Herrnhut for nearly half a century, was the Coun-
tess of Einsiedlen. Her estates and private dwelling
were contiguous to the village, but she repaired regu-
larly to the Sisters' House to perform her duties
there, and was highly respected and esteemed by
those under her charge. She faithfully administered
the duties of this office up to the time of her death,
which occurred only a few years ago. To explain
this circumstance- more fully, it may be necessary to
state, that the Moravians received a large share of
patronage from the nobility, and numbers of titled
personages adopted their forms, and became devoted
followers of their faith.

The office of this principal and her assistants is to

^ Called Pfleger and Pflegerin, or one who cares for those
under him or her.


keep under their constant supervision all the young
women residing within the walls of this asylum. All
the young girls of the village have their appoint-
ments in the building, and assemble there before pro-
ceeding to church service, followed by their princi-
pals. Over all these female ''Choirs" the principal
exercises a spiritual influence, guides their conduct,
and has confidential communications with them at
stated times, such as preceding a communion or
Choir Festival.

The institution of the "Speaking," or the confi-
dential communication between the principal and
those under her charge, the plan of the Sisters'
House itself and its whole organization, have been
regarded by many as bearing a strong tinge of Ro-
man Catholicism, and this, with many other features
of striking resemblance to the Roman Church, drew
upon the Moravians the charge of Romanism, and
originated the saying that, "The road to Rome went
through Herrnhut."^ The inmates of these houses,

^ It is very properly remarked by Lynar: ''It appears to
me that they who designate the United Brethren as a Lu-
theran monastic order, labor under a great misconception.
There is, confessedly, a certain form of monasticism in their
general subordination, obedience to superiors, allotted hours
of worship, and other prescribed rules and social forms. But
if we reflect how it is marked by its celibacy, its withdrawal
from all the usual forms of industry, its seclusion, its mendi-
cancy, the frequent application of coercion in the entrance to
the cloister, and the large revenues falling to its use, we
shall see the vast difference between the two ; and, laying



however, were never bound by promises or vows to
remain within their walls, nor did they immure them-
selves therein for any longer time than the ordinary
necessities of life might render it desirable for them
to sojourn there. Eor the most part, they are given
to industrious pursuits, they mingle with society,
come and go at their pleasure, and when the chance
of marriage presents itself, they are at liberty to

The institution of the Brethren's and Sisters'
Houses is a marked feature of the Zinzendorfian
plan, and tends, perhaps more than any other ar-
rangement, to cement the whole social body residing
in a single village. Under this organization there can
be but little poverty and no destitution, for while all
the members of the religious family, as it may justly
be viewed, are cared for, helplessness and old age are
the objects of a peculiar tenderness and sympathy.
Another characteristic of Herrnhut was, the conse-
cration of manual labor, and its elevation to the posi-
tion of a religious duty.

As the aims of the whole people were concentrated
upon one purpose, that of first seeking their own
chasteness of life, and thence setting out upon the
apostolic mission among mankind, labor enjoyed its
dignity, and the trades, occupations, and professions

aside all other considerations, we cannot but acknowledge
that one has proved as great a benefit to the State as the
other has been prejudicial."


of all were sanctified, and received the benedictions
of prayer and song.

Much stress should be laid upon this aspect of Mo-
ravian life, inasmuch as it serves to show how the as-
perities of toil for daily bread were mitigated, how the
contrasts of society were subdued, and the condition
of those gifted with fortune and those born without
estate fully equalized; for, notwithstanding the
equality aimed at by Zinzendorf, both of these grades
of society have existed at all times in every Mora-
vian community, and in Europe, where the distinc-
tion between noble and peasant is so strongly and
indelibly marked, the Christianity acted, and does
yet act, with a subduing influence.

At Herrnhut, the Diacony or Proprietary of the
farms, wood lands, hotel, stores, and large manufac-
tories is still upheld, and is based upon the funda-
mental principle of Zinzendorf's plan, to perpetuate
the congregation by a blending of interests, and mak-
ing the whole membership intent upon one purpose.

The Diacony is sustained in all the European com-
munities, although recently abolished in this country,
and is connected with a lease system, giving the right
of holding real estate to those only who are members
of a congregation. Thus by excluding all foreign
elements from the population of a small village com-
munion, the tone of society can be upheld in compara-
tive purity; all the forms of the church, its rituals,
festivals, and enjoinments preserved, and the Chris-
tian family, after the early apostolic model, and in


accordance with tlie idea of Zinzendorf, fully carried
out. Hence the village, and it only, became the seat
of a fully-developed Moravianism ; because its per-
fect isolation, its uniformity, its conjoint purposes
and pursuits, and its unique cultus removed it be-
yond, and elevated it above, the atmosphere of a
grosser world; all these rendered it the true sphere
of an apostolic Christianity, and fulfilled the ideal
of a perfect congregation.^

1 The admission into the commnnity of Herrnhut was not
a matter of easy accomplishment, and before permission was
granted to any one to become a member pf the society, he was
required to hand into the ecclesiastical board a written decla-
ration of his intentions.

The Board, or Conference, then requested of him a personal
interview, in which a candid declaration of his sentiments
was asked. He was told that the congregation was looked
upon as a wise institution of Christ, which was partly destined
to spread His kingdom among infidels and heathen, and
partly for the fulfillment of the testament of Jesus, which
enjoins unity and a close connection among his believers as
the only condition of happiness, and the sole means of pro-
tection against the tide of worldly vanity, that involves so
many in ruin.

It was not presumed that an individual was more sure of
his salvation within than without the congregation, if he only
belonged to the true church of Christ, which is invisible, and
consists of such members as really believe in Jesus Christ,
and give practical evidence of this belief.

It was, therefore, not sufficient to be a Christian to gain
admittance to the congregation, but a proper appreciation,
and a peculiar endowment were deemed requisite.

God was not willing that all true Christians should join


To render more united this community of thought
and labor, Zinzendorf applied to Moravian worship

this congregation, since he wishes them to be scattered
throughout the earth as useful seed ; on this account it could
enjoy its friendships beyond its own circle, without prose-

The initiation to the congregation was a matter of deep
moment, and demanded much wary reflection, because every
one who assumed its responsibilities must pledge his life for
Christ, be prepared for every summons, and live after the
manner of the Apostles, when it was said of them, "they de-
voted themselves to the Lord," and consequently to the con-

The candidate was at liberty to reside several weeks among
the Brethren, and make himself fully acquainted with them>
before closing his purpose to join them.

During this period he was questioned as to his past career —
what had been his fortunes in the world ; was he out at ser-
vice or at home with his parents ; or were there any obstacles
in the way, rendering it impracticable for him to come among
them. The main question put to him was, how he had come
to think of seeking his salvation, and what had led him to
apply to them. It was never inquired whether he were rich,
or poor, or what were his al^ilities.

After all scruples and objections had been surmounted, and
the applicant remained firm in his purpose and conviction
that he considered himself called to become a member of the
Herrnhutian community, the lot was resorted to ; should this
result in the negative, he was told he could not be accepted ;
if, on the contrary, in the affirmative, he was received.

He now had permission to stay, and was regarded as a can-
didate for admission. He visited the Brother, who is the
adviser or principal of the Choir to which he was destined,
and conversed with him in the most confidential manner.

It was now considered by the Conference of Elders, whether


all the embellisliments of music, the festival, the
uniformity of head-dress among the sisters, the

the lot should be used for his final entrance into the commu-
nion of the society, and if it proved a negative he was apprised
of it, and no further action was taken in his case until it was
thought that time had removed the hindrance. If now the lot
approved of him, it was announced to the whole assembled
congregation that Brother would be received as a mem-
ber on the following Congregation-Day, which occurred every

The reception of the new Brother took place in the even-
ing of this day, after the usual discourse was ended.

The candidate sat before the minister, who impressed upon
him the duties and obligations connected with the step he had
taken, and held out to him the share of spiritual blessings dis-
pensed by Jesus, which he would receive ; promising him, at
the same time, the reciprocal duties the congregation owed

Then all arose, and during the singing of a liturgy, the new
candidate was received with the kiss of peace, bestowed, ac-
cording to the sex, by Elder or Eldress.

The minister, finally, with the whole assembly, knelt down
and prayed, and the ordinance was concluded with singing.

This was the entrance into the Congregation ; the next step
was to become a candidate for the Holy Communion.

This also became a subject for the Elders' Conference, who
appealed to the lot to know if the time was come for his par-
taking of this sacred rite. When an aflSrmative was given, he
was notified through his Choir adviser to attend the Commu-
nion Love-Feast, as a spectator.

Here it was made known that he was about to become a
candidate for the Sacrament. When it was thought the proper
time had arrived, the Conference once more resorted to the
lot, to know if he was prepared for admission, and if the reply
was favorable, he was desired to be in readiness at the next


white dress on select occasions, and numerous other
regulations, intended to imbue with order the whole
structure he had erected.^

If a reflection of Roman Catholicism has been
here and there recognized in the drama of the wor-
ship of Herrnhut, we shall find its church architec-
ture the farthest possible departure from it. The
poverty of its early pioneers, and the necessity of
expending its surplus funds in the work of the
missions, rendered superfluous all ornaments of the
sanctuary. The church at Herrnhut presents no
pulpit, no cushioned seats, no columns, no festooned
drapery ; nothing but a simple table raised upon a
dais, for the performance of all religious exercises.
Although now its ample means would enable it to"
erect an edifice in modern style, with all the acces-
sories of fashionable worship, yet the adherence to

ceremonial. A few hours before the Communion, his adviser
summoned him, and, in presence of the Pastor and several
other members, prayed over him, sung verses, and, during the
singing, washed his feet. When the newly-received member
was a Sister, this was done by the female Principal, in presence
of the Eldresses. (See Lynar.)

1 In paying this tribute to the Count's memory, we must
ascribe to him the remodeling, rather than the original con-
struction, of the new Moravian Church. The old Moravian
and Bohemian emigrants to Herrnhut, who formed the ma-
terial for this new organization of 1722, were extremely
tenacious of their old forms, rituals and hymns, and out of
those elements Herrnhut, organized under the auspices of
Zinzendorf, sprung up.


the old in tliought, form, and general modes of life
is so deeply rooted, that it stands there in all its
simplicity, untouched.

One of the few customs of the early days of
Herrnhut that have now become extinct, was that
of the Night-watch. This office was instituted in
1727, when the village was but small, the people in
their first love, and a greater zeal felt for this kind
of nocturnal guard than would be the case at the
present time. In the winter evenings, the watchman
commenced his rounds at eight o'clock, and con-
tinued until six in the morning. In summer, he
began at nine o'clock, and closed his duties at four
o'clock. This office was assumed by all the male
inhabitants in rotation, from sixteen to sixty years.

The announcement of the hour in verse rendered
the custom peculiarly beautiful; thus at eight o'clock
was sung: —

The clock is eiglit ! to Herrnliiit all is told
How Noah and his Seven were saved of old.
9 o'clock. Hear, Brethren, hear ! the hour of nine is come ;
Keep pure each heart and chasten every home.

10 o'clock. Hear, Brethren, hear ! now ten the hour-hand

shows ;
They only rest, who long for night's repose.

11 o'clock. The clock's eleven ! and ye have heard it all

How in that hour the mighty God did call.

12 o'clock. It's midnight now ! and at that hour ye know

With lamps to meet the bridegroom we must go.
1 o'clock. The hour is one ! through darkness steals the

Shines in your hearts the morning star's first



2 o'clock. The clock is two ! who comes to meet the day,

And to the Lord of days his homage pay ?

3 o'clock. The clock is three ! the Three in One above

Let body, soul and spirit truly love.

4 o'clock. The clock is four ! where'er on earth are three,

The Lord has promised He the fourth will be.

5 o'clock. The clock is five ! while five away were sent,

Five other virgins to the marriage went.

6 o'clock. The clock is six ! and from the watch I'm free,

And every one may his own watchman be.^

But this sentinel of Zion was not confined to tlie
set stanzas ; he continued his edifying verses during
his entire rounds. In singing these hymns he fre-
quently awoke the sleepers, "who found the subject
suited to their own situations, and the impressions of
the night caused by those appropriate songs often
had their enduring effect. It is related that during
the visit of a certain nobleman to Herrnhut, he was
so delighted with this primitive custom that he in-
sisted upon assuming the watch for an entire night,
and went the rounds in the usual form.

During the same epoch of Moravian fervor the
institution of the '' Hourly Prayer" took its rise.
A company of twenty-four brethren and as many
sisters (afterwards increased to seventy-two) came
together and pledged themselves to occupy one hour
in the twenty-four, each in his or her turn, and em-
ploy it in intercession for himself or herself and
others, wherever known and in need of aid from

1 Composed by Zinzendorf.


above. The hour thus allotted to each one was
drawn by lot, and at whatever time of day or night
it might fall, they were to be found at their posts,
devoted to the charge assigned them.

The Night-watch and Hourly Prayer were some-
what similar in tendency. Neither aimed at a pro-
tection from without, but the design was rather to
guard the life within, and it forced another of those
essential points in a perfect Christian organization,
complete in all its parts, which distinguished the
system of the Moravians above all similar religious
communities on record.

Previous to the settlement of Herrnhut, Count
Zinzendorf spent his early youth with his grand-
mother, who lived on her estates at Great Henners-
dorf, at the distance of three miles from the village.
The old Castle of Hennersdorf, distinctly seen from
Herrnhut, is an interesting object of research to
the visitor. Leaving the highway, and entering an
avenue of lindens, you are conducted beneath their
shade up to the very entrance of the former court-
yard of the castle, now converted to the purposes of
a barn-yard; and on inquiring for the forest-keeper,
who resides in its lower rooms, which are heavy-look-
ing, massive, vaulted chambers, he receives you with
a welcome, reaches for the key, and guides you up
through its dilapidated corridors and empty halls,
where there is a cold dreary feeling reigning through-
out. The tapestry of a former century hangs upon
the walls in tattered fragments ; and in looking out


through its windows upon the pleasant domains
around, you are reminded of the past history con-
nected with the venerable pile, over which many
centuries have already passed. The forest-keeper
himself, the official to whom I have already alluded,
resides here, and has the care of the woods of the
Unity, or General Proprietary. He seems to take
an interest in the history and traditions of the old
castle, and gives many particulars in regard to its
earlier annals, but leaves some films of doubt resting
upon them, as to his verity as a chronicler.

Near to the Castle of Hennersdorf stands a vener-
able church, under the care of its aged Lutheran
pastor, who, having the keys of its vaults, leads the
inquisitive stranger thither to exhibit the remains of
the widow von Gersdorf, the Count's grandmother,
which are still perfect and uninjured by time.

In sketching the characteristics of Herrnhut, as
they have been and still are, I find much that is
essential in Moravianism to be derived from the
national character and the language of the people
who gave it birth. A century has effected but little
change in the modes of life, or in the expressions of
feeling of a people, who, in common with those of
Southern and Middle Europe, are children of emo-
tion. Born and trained up in abstemiousness, the
early German Moravians were better fitted for en-
durance and privation, such as fell to their lot in the
missionary field, than any other race of people ; but
through all the vicissitudes of want and suffering, the


language of their infancy, the social customs of their
forefathers, the hymns of Zinzendorf, Paul Gerhard,
Luise von Hayn and others shielded and solaced

In the language and heart of the German people
we discover a key to much that would otherwise be
inexplicable in the phraseology of the early Mora-
vian Brethren.^ Its forms of worship approach so
nearly to nature, are so divested of art, if we except
the application of the sound classic music which
adorns it, that we cannot account for its derivation
but by looking into German social life. Here we
find the emotions declared in language. Sentimen-
tality becomes a living truth, and is acted as we
find it written in our poetry. The colloquial scenes
of the family might be copied, and they would ap-
pear like fiction. Upon this characteristic of Ger-
man emotional thought was founded that essential
portion of the Zinzendorfian theology which relates
to the Saviour. In the old Hennersdorf Castle, the
window is still shown where he is said to have
thrown out letters to the Saviour, when a child, and
jt is remarkable that the child remained a portion of
his character to the last. From the very commence-
ment of his early experience, Christ's personality
seized upon his heart and mind, and his imaginary
intercourse, which he felt to be real, was with a
being' whom he knew to be a brother. To give vent
to the impressions springing out of that intercourse,
he indulged in expressions and composed lyrical


strains, in wliicli the language and the social ele-
ment of the race of that country exhibited their
strongest infusion. Much of the censure attached
to Zinzendorf 's phraseology among the English and
Americans, arose from the simple fact of their not
taking this view of German life. What appears so
artificial and theatrical to us, is perfectly natural to
the German people, and this explanation renders
clear and explicable, what sometimes appears to be
the puerility of Moravianism.

In the church of Herrnhut, and in the old edifice
of Berthelsdorf, the gathering for worship is marked
by the most respectful decorum. In these mo-
narchical countries, subordination and respect for
authority are striking features, and it is pleasing

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryJames HenrySketches of Moravian life and character. Comprising a general view of the history, life, character, and religious and educational institutions of the Unitas fratrum → online text (page 3 of 19)