No library of revival histories could ignore the amazing effects of the Moravian Church over the past 500 years.
Once known as the Unity of Brethren, the Moravian Church originated in Bohemia among some of John Huss’s followers. He broke with Rome in 1467. During the late fifteenth century, his followers in Moravia and Bohemia totalled close to a quarter of a million but suffered greatly from persecution.
By the end of 1648, only a small number of Moravians survived. In the early 1700's, another group of Moravians sought refuge and religious freedom on the estates of the Lutheran Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf and began a village known as Herrnhut, or "The Lord's Watch." Led by Zinzendorf, this dedicated band began a prayer and mission work which touched almost the entire world.
We have included 5 of the 43 chapters.
When an ordinary Englishman, in the course of his reading, sees mention made of Moravians, he thinks forthwith of a foreign land, a foreign people and a foreign Church. He wonders who these Moravians may be, and wonders, as a rule, in vain. We have all heard of the Protestant Reformation; we know its principles and admire its heroes; and the famous names of Luther, Calvin, Melancthon, Latimer, Cranmer, Knox and other great men are familiar in our ears as household words. But few people in this country are aware of the fact that long before Luther had burned the Pope's bull, and long before Cranmer died at the stake, there had begun an earlier Reformation, and flourished a Reforming Church. It is to tell the story of that Church, the Church of the Brethren, that this little book is written.
For her cradle and her earliest home we turn to the distressful land of Bohemia, and the people called Bohemians, or Czechs. To us English readers Bohemia has many charms. As we call to mind our days at school, we remember, in a dim and hazy way, how famous Bohemians in days of yore have played some part in our national story. We have sung the praises at Christmas time of the Bohemian Monarch, 'Good King Wenceslaus.' We have read how John, the blind King of Bohemia, fell mortally wounded at the Battle of Crecy, how he died in the tent of King Edward III., and how his generous conqueror exclaimed: 'The crown of chivalry has fallen today; never was the like of this King of Bohemia.' We have all read, too, how Richard II. married Princess Anne of Bohemia; how the Princess, so the story goes, brought a Bohemian Bible to England; how Bohemian scholars, a few years later, came to study at Oxford; how there they read the writings of Wycliffe, the 'Morning Star of the Reformation'; and how, finally, copies of Wycliffe's books were carried to Bohemia, and there gave rise to a religious revival of world-wide importance. We have struck the trail of our journey. For one person that Wycliffe stirred in England, he stirred hundreds in Bohemia. In England his influence was fleeting; in Bohemia it was deep and abiding. In England his followers were speedily suppressed by law; in Bohemia they became a great national force, and prepared the way for the foundation of the Church of the Brethren.
For this startling fact there was a very powerful reason. In many ways the history of Bohemia is very like the history of Ireland, and the best way to understand the character of the people is to think of our Irish friends as we know them to-day. They sprang from the old Slavonic stock, and the Slavonic is very like the Celtic in nature. They had fiery Slavonic blood in their veins, and Slavonic hearts beat high with hope in their bosoms. They had all the delightful Slavonic zeal, the Slavonic dash, the Slavonic imagination. They were easy to stir, they were swift in action, they were witty in speech, they were mystic and poetic in soul, and, like the Irish of the present day, they revelled in the joy of party politics, and discussed religious questions with the keenest zest. With them religion came first and foremost. All their poetry was religious; all their legends were religious; and thus the message of Wycliffe fell on hearts prepared to give it a kindly welcome.
Again, Bohemia, like Ireland, was the home of two rival populations. The one was the native Czech, the other was the intruding German; and the two had not yet learned to love each other. From all sides except one these German invaders had come. If the reader will consult a map of Europe he will see that, except on the south-east frontier, where the sister country, Moravia, lies, Bohemia is surrounded by German-speaking States. On the north-east is Silesia, on the north-west Saxony, on the west Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate, and thus Bohemia was flooded with Germans from three sides at once. For years these Germans had been increasing in power, and the whole early history of Bohemia is one dreary succession of bloody wars against German Emperors and Kings. Sometimes the land had been ravaged by German soldiers, sometimes a German King had sat on the Bohemian throne. But now the German settlers in Bohemia had become more powerful than ever. They had settled in large numbers in the city of Prague, and had there obtained special privileges for themselves. They had introduced hundreds of German clergymen, who preached in the German language. They had married their daughters into noble Bohemian families. They had tried to make German the language of the court, had spoken with contempt of the Bohemian language, and had said that it was only fit for slaves. They had introduced German laws into many a town, and German customs into family life; and, worse than all, they had overwhelming power in that pride of the country, the University of Prague. For these Germans the hatred of the people was intense. 'It is better,' said one of their popular writers, 'for the land to be a desert than to be held by Germans; it is better to marry a Bohemian peasant girl than to marry a German queen.' And Judas Iscariot himself, said a popular poet, was in all probability a German.
Again, as in Ireland, these national feuds were mixed up with religious differences. The seeds of future strife were early sown. Christianity came from two opposite sources. On the one hand, two preachers, Cyril and Methodius, had come from the Greek Church in Constantinople, had received the blessing of the Pope, and had preached to the people in the Bohemian language; on the other, the German Archbishop of Salzburg had brought in hosts of German priests, and had tried in vain to persuade the Pope to condemn the two preachers as heretics. And the people loved the Bohemian preachers, and hated the German priests. The old feud was raging still. If the preacher spoke in German, he was hated; if he spoke in Bohemian, he was beloved; and Gregory VII. had made matters worse by forbidding preaching in the language of the people.
The result can be imagined. It is admitted now by all historians--Catholic and Protestant alike--that about the time when our story opens the Church in Bohemia had lost her hold upon the affections of the people. It is admitted that sermons the people could understand were rare. It is admitted that the Bible was known to few, that the services held in the parish churches had become mere senseless shows, and that most of the clergy never preached at all. No longer were the clergy examples to their flocks. They hunted, they gambled, they caroused, they committed adultery, and the suggestion was actually solemnly made that they should be provided with concubines.
For some years a number of pious teachers had made gallant but vain attempts to cleanse the stables. The first was Conrad of Waldhausen, an Augustinian Friar (1364-9). As this man was a German and spoke in German, it is not likely that he had much effect on the common people, but he created quite a sensation in Prague, denounced alike the vices of the clergy and the idle habits of the rich, persuaded the ladies of high degree to give up their fine dresses and jewels, and even caused certain well-known sinners to come and do penance in public.
The next was Milic of Kremsir (1363-74). He was a Bohemian, and preached in the Bohemian language. His whole life was one of noble self-sacrifice. For the sake of the poor he renounced his position as Canon, and devoted himself entirely to good works. He rescued thousands of fallen women, and built them a number of homes. He was so disgusted with the evils of his days that he thought the end of the world was close at hand, declared that the Emperor, Charles IV., was Anti-Christ, went to Rome to expound his views to the Pope, and posted up a notice on the door of St. Peter's, declaring that Anti-Christ had come.
The next was that beautiful writer, Thomas of Stitny (1370-1401). He exalted the Holy Scriptures as the standard of faith, wrote several beautiful devotional books, and denounced the immorality of the monks. 'They have fallen away from love,' he said; 'they have not the peace of God in their hearts; they quarrel, condemn and fight each other; they have forsaken God for money.'
In some ways these three Reformers were all alike. They were all men of lofty character; they all attacked the vices of the clergy and the luxury of the rich; and they were all loyal to the Church of Rome, and looked to the Pope to carry out the needed reform.
But the next Reformer, Matthew of Janow, carried the movement further (1331-93). The cause was the famous schism in the Papacy. For the long period of nearly forty years (1378-1415) the whole Catholic world was shocked by the scandal of two, and sometimes three, rival Popes, who spent their time abusing and fighting each other. As long as this schism lasted it was hard for men to look up to the Pope as a true spiritual guide. How could men call the Pope the Head of the Church when no one knew which was the true Pope? How could men respect the Popes when some of the Popes were men of bad moral character? Pope Urban VI. was a ferocious brute, who had five of his enemies secretly murdered; Pope Clement VII., his clever rival, was a scheming politician; and Pope John XXIII. was a man whose character will scarcely bear describing in print. Of all the scandals in the Catholic Church, this disgraceful quarrel between rival Popes did most to upset the minds of good men and to prepare the way for the Reformation. It aroused the scorn of John Wycliffe in England, and of Matthew of Janow in Bohemia. 'This schism,' he wrote, 'has not arisen because the priests loved Jesus Christ and His Church, but rather because they loved themselves and the world.'
But Matthew went even further than this. As he did not attack any Catholic dogma--except the worship of pictures and images--it has been contended by some writers that he was not so very radical in his views after all; but the whole tone of his writings shows that he had lost his confidence in the Catholic Church, and desired to revive the simple Christianity of Christ and the Apostles. 'I consider it essential,' he wrote, 'to root out all weeds, to restore the word of God on earth, to bring back the Church of Christ to its original, healthy, condensed condition, and to keep only such regulations as date from the time of the Apostles.' 'All the works of men,' he added, 'their ceremonies and traditions, shall soon be totally destroyed; the Lord Jesus shall alone be exalted, and His Word shall stand for ever.' Back to Christ! Back to the Apostles! Such was the message of Matthew of Janow.
At this point, when the minds of men were stirred, the writings of Wycliffe were brought to Bohemia, and added fuel to the fire. He had asserted that the Pope was capable of committing a sin. He had declared that the Pope was not to be obeyed unless his commands were in accordance with Scripture, and thus had placed the authority of the Bible above the authority of the Pope. He had attacked the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, and had thus denied the power of the priests 'to make the Body of Christ,' Above all, in his volume, 'De Ecclesia,' he had denounced the whole Catholic sacerdotal system, and had laid down the Protestant doctrine that men could come into contact with God without the aid of priests. Thus step by step the way was prepared for the coming revolution in Bohemia. There was strong patriotic national feeling; there was hatred of the German priests; there was a growing love for the Bible; there was lack of respect for the immoral clergy, and lack of belief in the Popes; there was a vague desire to return to Primitive Christianity; and all that was needed now was a man to gather these straggling beams together, and focus them all in one white burning light.
On Saturday, July 6th, 1415, there was great excitement in the city of Constance. For the last half-year the city had presented a brilliant and gorgeous scene. The great Catholic Council of Constance had met at last.
From all parts of the Western World distinguished men had come. The streets were a blaze of colour. The Cardinals rode by in their scarlet hats; the monks in their cowls were telling their beads; the revellers sipped their wine and sang; and the rumbling carts from the countryside bore bottles of wine, cheeses, butter, honey, venison, cakes and fine confections. King Sigismund was there in all his pride, his flaxen hair falling in curls about his shoulders; there were a thousand Bishops, over two thousand Doctors and Masters, about two thousand Counts, Barons and Knights, vast hosts of Dukes, Princes and Ambassadors--in all over 5,000 strangers.
And now, after months of hot debate, the Council met in the great Cathedral to settle once for all the question, What to do with John Hus? King Sigismund sat on the throne, Princes flanking him on either side. In the middle of the Cathedral floor was a scaffold; on the scaffold a table and a block of wood; on the block of wood some priestly robes. The Mass was said. John Hus was led in. He mounted the scaffold. He breathed a prayer. The awful proceedings began.
But why was John Hus there? What had he done to offend both Pope and Emperor? For the last twelve years John Hus had been the boldest reformer, the finest preacher, the most fiery patriot, the most powerful writer, and the most popular hero in Bohemia. At first he was nothing more than a child of his times. He was born on July 6th, 1369, in a humble cottage at Husinec, in South Bohemia; earned coppers in his youth, like Luther, by chanting hymns; studied at Prague University; and entered the ministry, not because he wanted to do good, but because he wanted to enjoy a comfortable living. He began, of course, as an orthodox Catholic. He was Rector first of Prague University, and then of the Bethlehem Chapel, which had been built by John of Milheim for services in the Bohemian language. For some years he confined himself almost entirely, like Milic and Stitny before him, to preaching of an almost purely moral character. He attacked the sins and vices of all classes; he spoke in the Bohemian language, and the Bethlehem Chapel was packed, he began by attacking the vices of the idle rich. A noble lady complained to the King. The King told the Archbishop of Prague that he must warn Hus to be more cautious in his language.
"No, your Majesty," replied the Archbishop, Hus is bound by his ordination oath to speak the truth without respect of persons."
John Hus went on to attack the vices of the clergy. The Archbishop now complained to the King. He admitted that the clergy were in need of improvement, but he thought that Hus's language was rash, and would do more harm than good. "Nay," said the King "that will not do. Hus is bound by his ordination oath to speak the truth without respect of persons."
And Hus continued his attacks. His preaching had two results. It fanned the people's desire for reform, and it taught them to despise the clergy more than ever.
At the same time, when opportunity offered, John Hus made a practice of preaching on the burning topics of the day; and the most popular topic then was the detested power of Germans in Bohemia. German soldiers ravaged the land; German nobles held offices of state and German scholars, in Prague University had three-fourths of the voting power. The Bohemian people were furious. John Hus fanned the flame. "We Bohemians," he declared in a fiery sermon, "are more wretched than dogs or snakes. A dog defends the couch on which he lies. If another dog tries to drive him off, he fights him. A snake does the same. But us the Germans oppress. They seize the offices of state, and we are dumb. In France the French are foremost. In Germany the Germans are foremost. What use would a Bohemian bishop or priest, who did not know the German language, be in Germany? He would be as useful as a dumb dog, who cannot bark, to a flock of sheep. Of exactly the same use are German priests to us. It is against the law of God! I pronounce it illegal." At last a regulation was made by King Wenceslaus that the Bohemians should be more fairly represented at Prague University. They had now three votes out of four. John Hus was credited by the people with bringing about the change. He became more popular than ever.
If Hus had only halted here, it is probable that he would have been allowed to die in peace in his bed in a good old age, and his name would be found enrolled to-day in the long list of Catholic saints. However wicked the clergy may have been, they could hardly call a man a heretic for telling them plainly about the blots in their lives. But Hus soon stepped outside these narrow bounds. The more closely he studied the works of Wycliffe, the more convinced he became that, on the whole, the great English Reformer was right; and before long, in the boldest possible way, he began to preach Wycliffe's doctrines in his sermons, and to publish them in his books.
He knew precisely what he was doing. He knew that Wycliffe's doctrines had been condemned by the English Church Council at Black-Friars. He knew that these very same doctrines had been condemned at a meeting of the Prague University Masters. He knew that no fewer than two hundred volumes of Wycliffe's works had been publicly burned at Prague, in the courtyard of the Archbishop's Palace. He knew, in a word, that Wycliffe was regarded as a heretic; and yet he deliberately defended Wycliffe's teaching. It is this that justifies us in calling him a Protestant, and this that caused the Catholics to call him a heretic.
John Hus, moreover, knew what the end would be. If he stood to his guns they would burn him, and burned he longed to be. The Archbishop forbade him to preach in the Bethlehem Chapel. John Hus, defiant, went on preaching. At one service he actually read to the people a letter he had received from Richard Wyche, one of Wycliffe's followers. As the years rolled on he became more "heterodox" than ever. At this period there were still two rival Popes, and the great question arose in Bohemia which Pope the clergy there were to recognise. John Hus refused to recognise either. At last one of the rival Popes, the immoral John XXIII., sent a number of preachers to Prague on a very remarkable errand. He wanted money to raise an army to go to war with the King of Naples; the King of Naples had supported the other Pope, Gregory XII., and now Pope John sent his preachers to Prague to sell indulgences at popular prices. They entered the city preceded by drummers, and posted themselves in the market place. They had a curious message to deliver. If the good people, said they, would buy these indulgences, they would be doing two good things; they would obtain the full forgiveness of their sins, and support the one lawful Pope in his holy campaign. John Hus was hot with anger. What vulgar traffic in holy things was this? He believed neither in Pope John nor in his indulgences.
"Let who will," he thundered, "proclaim the contrary; let the Pope, or a Bishop, or a Priest say, 'I forgive thee thy sins; I free thee from the pains of Hell.' It is all vain, and helps thee nothing. God alone, I repeat, can forgive sins through Christ."
The excitement in Prague was furious. From this moment onwards Hus became the leader of a national religious movement. The preachers went on selling indulgences. At one and the same time, in three different churches, three young artisans sang out: "Priest, thou liest! The indulgences are a fraud." For this crime the three young men were beheaded in a corner near Green Street. Fond women--sentimental, as usual--dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood of the martyrs, and a noble lady spread fine linen over their corpses. The University students picked up the gauntlet. They seized the bodies of the three young men, and carried them to be buried in the Bethlehem Chapel. At the head of the procession was Hus himself, and Hus conducted the funeral. The whole city was in an uproar.
As the life of Hus was now in danger, and his presence in the city might lead to riots, he retired for a while from Prague to the castle of Kradonec, in the country; and there, besides preaching to vast crowds in the fields, he wrote the two books which did the most to bring him to the stake. The first was his treatise "On Traffic in Holy Things"; the second his great, elaborate work, "The Church;" In the first he denounced the sale of indulgences, and declared that even the Pope himself could be guilty of the sin of simony. In the second, following Wycliffe's lead, he criticised the whole orthodox conception of the day of the "Holy Catholic Church." What was, asked Hus, the true Church of Christ? According to the popular ideas of the day, the true Church of Christ was a visible body of men on this earth. Its head was the Pope; its officers were the cardinals, the bishops, the priests, and other ecclesiastics; and its members were those who had been baptized and who kept true to the orthodox faith. The idea of Hus was different. His conception of the nature of the true Church was very similar to that held by many Nonconformists of to-day. He was a great believer in predestination. All men, he said, from Adam onwards, were divided into two classes: first, those predestined by God to eternal bliss; second, those fore-doomed to eternal damnation. The true Church of Christ consisted of those predestined to eternal bliss, and no one but God Himself knew to which class any man belonged. From this position a remarkable consequence followed. For anything the Pope knew to the contrary, he might belong himself to the number of the damned. He could not, therefore, be the true Head of the Church; he could not be the Vicar of Christ; and the only Head of the Church was Christ Himself. The same argument applied to Cardinals, Bishops and Priests. For anything he knew to the contrary, any Cardinal, Bishop or Priest in the Church might belong to the number of the damned; he might be a servant, not of Christ, but of Anti-Christ; and, therefore said Hus, it was utterly absurd to look to men of such doubtful character as infallible spiritual guides. What right, asked Hus, had the Pope to claim the "power of the keys?" What right had the Pope to say, who might be admitted to the Church? He had no right, as Pope, at all. Some of the Popes were heretics; some of the clergy were villains, foredoomed to torment in Hell; and, therefore, all in search of the truth must turn, not to the Pope and the clergy, but to the Bible and the law of Christ. God alone had the power of the keys; God alone must be obeyed; and the Holy Catholic Church consisted, not of the Pope, the Cardinals, the Priests, and so many baptized members, but "of all those that had been chosen by God." It is hard to imagine a doctrine more Protestant than this. It struck at the root of the whole Papal conception. It undermined the authority of the Catholic Church, and no one could say to what, ere long, it might lead. It was time, said many, to take decisive action.
For this purpose Sigismund, King of the Romans and of Hungary, persuaded Pope John XXIII. to summon a general Church Council at Constance; and at the same time he invited Hus to attend the Council in person, and there expound his views. John Hus set out for Constance. As soon as he arrived in the city, he received from Sigismund that famous letter of "safe conduct" on which whole volumes have been written. The King's promise was as clear as day. He. promised Hus, in the plainest terms, three thing's first; that he should come unharmed to the city; second, that he should have a free hearing; and third, that if he did not submit to the decision of the Council he should he allowed to go home. Of those promises only the first was ever fulfilled. John Hus soon found himself caught in a trap. He was imprisoned by Order of the Pope. He was placed in a dungeon on an island in the Rhine, and lay next to a sewer; and Sigismund either would not or could not lift a finger to help him. For three and a half months he lay in his dungeon; and then he was removed to the draughty tower of a castle on Lake Geneva. His opinions were examined and condemned by the Council; and at last, when he was called to appear in person, he found that he had been condemned as a heretic already. As soon as he opened his mouth to speak he was interrupted; and when he closed it they roared, "He has admitted his guilt." He had one chance of life, and one chance only. He must recant his heretical Wycliffite opinions, especially those set forth in his treatise on the "Church;" What need, said the Council, could there be of any further trial ? The man was a heretic. His own books convicted him, and justice must be done.
And now, on the last day of the trial, John Hus stood before the great Council. The scene was appalling. For sonic weeks this gallant son of the morning had been tormented by neuralgia. The marks of suffering were on his brow. His face was pale; his cheeks were sunken; his limbs were weak and trembling. But his eye flashed with a holy fire, and his words rang clear and true. Around him gleamed the purple and gold and the scarlet robes. Before him sat King Sigismund on the throne. The two men looked each other in the face. As the articles were rapidly read out against him, John Hus endeavoured to speak in his own defence. He was told to hold his tongue. Let him answer the charges all at once at the close. "How can I do that," said Hus, "when I cannot even bear them all in mind? He made another attempt. "Hold your tongue," said Cardinal Zabarella; "we have already given you a sufficient hearing."
With clasped hands, and in ringing tones, Hus begged in vain for a hearing. Again he was told to hold his peace, and silently he raised his eyes to heaven in prayer. He was accused of denying the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. He sprang to his feet in anger. Zabarella tried to shout him down. The voice of Hus rang out above the babel. "I have never held, taught or preached," he cried, "that in the sacrament of the altar material bread remains after consecration."
The trial was short and sharp. The verdict had been given beforehand. He was now accused of another horrible crime. He had actually described himself as the fourth person in the Godhead! The charge was monstrous. "Let that doctor be named," said Hus, "who has given this evidence against me."
But the name of his false accuser was never given. He was now accused of a still more dangerous error. He had appealed to God instead of appealing to the Church. "O Lord God," he exclaimed, "this Council now condemns Thy action and law as an error! I affirm that there is no safer appeal than that to the Lord Jesus Christ."
With those brave words he signed his own death warrant. For all his orthodoxy on certain points, he made it clearer now than ever that he set the authority of his own conscience above the authority of the Council; and, therefore, according to the standard of the day, he had to be treated as a heretic. "Moreover," he said, with his eye on the King, "I came here freely to this Council, with a safe-conduct from my Lord the King here present, with the desire to prove my innocence and to explain my beliefs."
At those words, said the story in later years, King Sigismund blushed. If he did, the blush is the most famous in the annals of history; if he did not, some think he ought to have done. For Hus the last ordeal had now arrived; and the Bishop of Concordia, in solemn tones, read out the dreadful articles of condemnation. For heretics the Church had then but little mercy. His books were all to be burned; his priestly office must be taken from him; and he himself, expelled from the Church, must be handed over to the civil power. In vain, with a last appeal for justice, he protested that he had never been obstinate in error. In vain, he contended that his proud accusers had not even taken the trouble to read some of his books. As the sentence against himself was read, and the vision of death rose up before him, he fell once more on his knees and prayed, not for himself, but for his enemies. "Lord Jesus Christ," he said, "pardon all my enemies, I pray thee, for the sake of Thy great mercy! Thou knowest that they have falsely accused me, brought forward false witnesses and false articles against me. O pardon them for Thine infinite mercies' sake."
At this beautiful prayer the priests and bishops jeered. He was ordered now to mount the scaffold, to put on the priestly garments, and to recant his heretical opinions. The first two commands he obeyed; the third he treated with scorn. As he drew the alb over his shoulders, he appealed once more to Christ. "My Lord Jesus Christ," he said, "was mocked in a white robe, when led from Herod to Pilate."
There on the scaffold he stood, with his long white robe upon him and the Communion Cup in his hand; and there, an immortal burning words, he refused to recant a single word that he had written. "Behold," he cried, "these Bishops demand that I recant and abjure. I dare not do it. If I did, I should be false to God, and sin against my conscience and Divine truth." The Bishops were furious. They swarmed around him. They snatched the Cup from his hand.
"Thou cursed Judas!" they roared. "Thou hast forsaken the council of peace. Thou hast become one of the Jews. We take from thee this Cup of Salvation." "But I trust," replied Hus, "in God Almighty, and shall drink this Cup this day in His Kingdom."
The ceremony of degradation now took place. As soon. as his robes had been taken from him, the Bishops began a hot discussion about the proper way of cutting his hair. Some clamoured for a razor, others were all for scissors. "See," said Hus to the King, "these Bishops cannot agree in their blasphemy." At last the scissors won the victory. His tonsure was cut in four directions, and a fool's cap, a yard high, with a picture of devils tearing his soul, was placed upon that hero's head. "So," said the Bishops, "we deliver your soul to the devil." "Most joyfully," said Hus, "will I wear this crown of shame for thy sake, O Jesus! who for me didst wear a crown of thorns." "Go, take him," said the King. And Hus was led to his death. As he passed along he saw the bonfire in which his books were being burned. He smiled. Along the streets of the city he strode, with fetters clanking on his feet, a thousand soldiers for his escort, and crowds of admirers surging on every hand. Full soon the fatal spot was reached. It was a quiet meadow among the gardens, outside the city gates. At the stake he knelt once more in prayer, and the fool's cap fell from his head. Again he smiled. It ought to be burned along with him, said a watcher, that he and the devils might be together. He was bound to the stake with seven moist thongs and an old rusty chain, and faggots of wood and straw were piled round him to the chin. For the last time the Marshal approached to give him a fair chance of abjuring. "What errors," he retorted, "shall I renounce? I know myself guilty of none. I call God to witness that all that I have written and preached has been with the view of rescuing souls from sin and perdition, and therefore most joyfully will I confirm with my blood the truth I have written and preached."
As the flames arose and the wood crackled, he chanted the Catholic burial prayer, "Jesu, Son of David, have mercy upon me." From the west a gentle breeze was blowing, and a gust dashed the smoke and sparks in his face. At the words "Who was born of the Virgin Mary he ceased; his lips moved faintly in silent prayer; and a few moments later the martyr breathed no more. At last the cruel fire died down, and the soldiers wrenched his remains from the post, hacked his skull in pieces, and ground his bones to powder. As they prodded about among the glowing embers to see how much of Hus was left, they found, to their surprise, that his heart was still unburned. One fixed it on the point of his spear, thrust it back into the fire, and watched it frizzle away; and finally, by the Marshal's orders, they gathered all the ashes together, and tossed them into the Rhine.
He had died, says a Catholic writer, for the noblest of all causes. He had died for the faith which he believed to be true.
The excitement in Bohemia was intense. As the ashes of Hus floated down the Rhine, the news of his death spread over the civilized world, and in every Bohemian town and hamlet the people felt that their greatest man had been unjustly murdered. He had become the national hero and the national saint, and now the people swore to avenge his death. A Hussite League was formed by his followers, a Catholic League was formed by his enemies. The Hussite Wars began. It is important to note with exactness what took place. As we study the history of men and nations, we are apt to fancy that the rank and file of a country can easily be united in one by common adherence to a common cause. It is not so. For one man who will steadily follow a principle, there are hundreds who would rather follow a leader. As long as Hus was alive in the flesh, he was able to command the loyalty of the people; but now that his tongue was silent for ever, his followers split into many contending factions. For all his eloquence he had never been able to strike one clear commanding note. In some of his views he was a Catholic, in others a Protestant. To some he was merely the fiery patriot, to others the champion of Church Reform, to others the high-souled moral teacher, to others the enemy of the Pope. If the people had only been united they might now have gained their long-lost freedom. But unity was the very quality they lacked the most. They had no clear notion of what they wanted; they had no definite scheme of church reform; they had no great leader to show them the way through the jungle, and thus, instead of closing their ranks against the common foe, they split up into jangling sects and parties, and made the confusion worse confounded.
First in rank and first in power came the Utraquists or Calixtines. For some reason these men laid all the stress on a doctrine taught by Hus in his later years. As he lay in his gloomy dungeon near Constance, he had written fetters contending that laymen should be permitted to take the wine at the Communion. For this doctrine the Utraquists now fought tooth and nail. They emblazoned the Cup on their banners. They were the aristocrats of the movement; they were led by the University dons; they were political rather than religious in their aims; they regarded Hus as a patriot; and, on the whole, they did not care much for moral and spiritual reforms.
Next came the Taborites, the red-hot Radicals, with Socialist ideas of property and loose ideals of morals. They built themselves a fort on Mount Tabor, and held great open-air meetings. They rejected purgatory, masses and the worship of saints. They condemned incense, images, bells, relics and fasting. They declared that priests were an unnecessary nuisance. They celebrated the Holy Communion in barns, and baptized their babies in ponds and brooks. They held that every man had the right to his own interpretation of the Bible; they despised learning and art; and they revelled in pulling churches down and burning' monks to death.
Next came the Chiliasts, who fondly believed that the end of all things was at hand, that the millennial reign of Christ would soon begin, and that all the righteous--that is, they themselves--would have to hold the world at bay in Five Cities of Refuge. For some years these mad fanatics regarded themselves as the chosen instruments of the Divine displeasure, and only awaited a signal from heaven to commence a general massacre of their fellow men. As that signal never came, however, they were grievously disappointed.
Next in folly came the Adamites, so called because, in shameless wise, they dressed like Adam and Eve before the fall. They made their head-quarters on an island on the River Nesarka, and survived even after Ziska had destroyed their camp.
But of all the heretical bodies in Bohemia the most influential were the Waldenses. As the history of the Waldenses is still obscure, we cannot say for certain what views they held when they first came from Italy some fifty or sixty years before. At first they seem to have been almost Catholics, but as the Hussite Wars went on they fell, it is said, under the influence of the Taborites, and adopted many radical Taborite opinions. They held that prayer should be addressed, not to the Virgin Mary and the Saints but to God alone, and spoke with scorn of the popular doctrine that the Virgin in heaven showed her breast when interceding for sinners. As they did not wish to create a disturbance, they attended the public services of the Church of Rome; but they did not believe in those services themselves, and are said to have employed their time at Church in picking holes in the logic of the speaker. They believed neither in building churches, nor in saying masses, nor in the adoration of pictures, nor in the singing of hymns at public worship. For all practical intents and purposes they rejected entirely the orthodox Catholic distinction between things secular and things sacred, and held that a man could worship God just as well in a field as in a church, and that it did not matter in the least whether a man's body was buried in consecrated or unconsecrated ground. What use, they asked, were holy water, holy oil, holy palms, roots, crosses, holy splinters from the Cross of Christ? They rejected the doctrine of purgatory, and said that all men must go either to heaven or to hell. They rejected the doctrine of Transubstantiation and said that the wine and bread remained wine and bread. For us, however, the chief point of interest lies in the attitude they adopted towards the priests of the Church of Rome. At that time there was spread all over Europe a legend that the Emperor, Constantine the Great, had made a so-called "Donation" to Pope Sylvester; and the Waldenses held that the Church of Rome, by thus consenting to be endowed by the State, had become morally corrupt, and no longer possessed the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. For this reason they utterly despised the Roman priests; and contended that, being worldly men of bad character, they were qualified neither to administer the sacraments nor to hear confessions. At this point we lay our finger on the principle which led to the foundation of the Moravian Church. What ideal, we ask, did the Waldenses now set before them? 'We can answer the question in a sentence. The whole object the Waldenses had now in view was to return to the simple teaching of Christ and the Apostles. They wished to revive what they regarded as true primitive Christianity. For this reason they brushed aside with scorn the bulls of Popes and the decrees of Councils, and appealed to the command of the New Testament Scriptures. For them the law of Christ was supreme and final; and, appealing to His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, they declared that oaths were wicked, and that war was no better than murder. If the law of Christ were obeyed, said they, what need would there be of government? How long they had held these views we do not know. Some think they had held them for centuries, some think they had learned them recently from the Taborites. If scholars insist on this latter view we are forced back on the further question Where did the Taborites get their advanced opinions? If the Taborites taught the Waldenses, who taught the Taborites? We do not know. For the present all we can say is that the Waldenses in a quiet way were fast becoming a mighty force in the country. They addressed each other as brother and sister; they are said to have had their own translations of the Bible; they claimed a descent from the Apostles; and they are even held by some (though here we tread on very thin ice) to have possessed their own episcopal succession.
But the method of the Taborites was different. If the Kingdom of God was to come at all, it must come, they held, by force, by fire, by the sword, by pillage and by famine. What need to tell here the blood-curdling story of the Hussite Wars? What need to tell here how Pope Martin V. summoned the whole Catholic world to a grand crusade against the Bohemian people? What need to tell how the people of Prague attacked the Town Hall, and pitched the burgomaster and several aldermen out of the windows? For twenty years the whole land was one boiling welter of confusion; and John Ziska, the famous blind general, took the lead of the Taborite army, and, standing on a wagon, with the banner above him emblazoned with the Hussite Cup, he swept the country from end to end like a devouring prairie fire. It is held now by military experts that Ziska was the greatest military genius of the age. If military genius could have saved Bohemia, Bohemia would now have been saved. For some years he managed to hold at bay the finest chivalry of Europe; and he certainly saved the Hussite cause from being crushed in its birth. For faith and freedom he fought--the faith of Hus and the freedom of Bohemia. He formed the rough Bohemian peasantry into a disciplined army. He armed his men with lances, slings, iron-pointed flails and clubs. He formed his barricades of iron-clad wagons, and whirled them in murderous mazes round the field. He made a special study of gunpowder, and taught his men the art of shooting straight. He has often been compared to Oliver Cromwell, and like our Oliver he was in many ways. He was stern in dealing with his enemies, and once had fifty Adamites burned to death. He was sure that God was on his side in the war. "Be it known," he wrote to his supporters, "that we are collecting men from all parts of the country against these enemies of God and devastators of our Bohemian land." He composed a stirring battle song, and taught his men to sing it in chorus when they marched to meet the foe.
Therefore, manfully cry out:
At them! Rush at them."
Wield bravely your arms!
Pray to your Lord God.
Strike and kill! Spare none!
What a combination of piety and fury! It was all in vain. The great general died of a fever. The thunderbolt fell. At a meeting in Prague the Utraquists and Catholics at last came to terms, and drew up a compromise known as the "Compactata of Basle" (1433). For nearly two hundred years after this these "Compactata" were regarded as the law of the land; and the Utraquist Church was recognised by the Pope as the national self-governing Church of Bohemia. The terms of the Compactata were four in number. The Communion wine to be given to laymen in both kinds; all mortal sins were to be punished by the proper authorities; the Word of God was to be freely preached by faithful priests and deacons; and no priests were to have any worldly possessions. For practical purposes this agreement meant the defeat of the advanced reforming movement. One point the Utraquists had gained, and one alone; they were allowed to take the wine at the Communion. For the rest these Utraquist followers of Hus were as Catholic as the Pope himself. They adored the Host, read the masses, kept the fasts, and said the prayers as their fathers had done before them. From that moment the fate of the Taborite party was sealed. At the battle of Lipan (1434) they were defeated, routed, crushed out of existence. The battle became a massacre. The slaughter continued all the night and part of the following day, and hundreds were burned to death in their huts.
Was this to be the end of Hus's strivings? What was it in Hus that was destined to survive? What was it that worked like a silent leaven amid the clamours of war? We shall see. Amid these charred and smoking ruins the Moravian Church arose.
Meanwhile a mighty prophet had arisen, with a clear and startling message. His name was Peter, and he lived down south, in the little village of Chelcic (pronounced Kelchits). As the historian rummages among the ancient records, he discovers to his sorrow that scarcely anything is known of the life of this great man; but, on the other hand, it is a joy to know that while his story is wrapped in mystery, his teaching has been preserved, and that some of the wonderful books he wrote are treasured still in his native land as gems of Bohemian literature. In later years it was commonly said that he began life as a cobbler; but that story, at least, may be dismissed as a legend. He enlisted, we are told, in the army. He then discovered that a soldier's life was wicked; he then thought of entering a monastery, but was shocked by what he heard of the immoralities committed within the holy walls; and finally, having some means of his own, retired to his little estate at Chelcic, and spent his time in writing pamphlets about the troubles of his country. He had picked up a smattering of education in Prague. He had studied the writings of Wycliffe and of Hus, and often appealed to Wycliffe in his works. He could quote, when he liked, from the great Church Fathers. He had a fair working knowledge of the Bible; and, above all, he had the teaching of Christ and the Apostles engraved upon his conscience and his heart. As he was not a priest, he could afford to be independent; as he knew but little Latin, he wrote in Bohemian; and thus, like Stitny and Hus before him, he appealed to the people in language they could all understand. Of all the leaders of men in Bohemia, this Peter was the most original and daring. As he pondered on the woes of his native land, he came to the firm but sad conclusion that the whole system of religion and politics was rotten to the core. Not one of the jangling sects was in the right. Not one was true to the spirit of Christ. Not one was free from the dark red stain of murder. His chief works were his Net of Faith, his Reply to Nicholas of Pilgrarn, his reply to Rockycana, his Image of the Beast, his theological treatise On the Body of Christ, his tract The Foundation of Worldly Laws, his devotional commentary, Exposition of the Passion according to St. John, and, last, though not least, his volume of discourses on the Gospel lessons for the year, entitled Postillia. Of these works the most famous was his masterly Net of Faith. He explained the title himself. "Through His disciples," said Peter, "Christ caught the world in the net of His faith, but the bigger fishes, breaking the net, escaped. Then others followed through these same holes made by the big fishes, and the net was left almost empty." His meaning was clear to all. The net was the true Church of Christ; the two whales who broke it were the Emperor and the Pope; the big fishes were the mighty "learned persons, heretics and offenders"; and the little fishes were the true followers of Christ.
He opened his bold campaign in dramatic style. When John Ziska and Nicholas of Husinec declared at Prague that the time had come for the faithful to take
up arms in their own defence, Peter was present at the debate, and contended that for Christians war was a crime. "What is war?" he asked. "It is a breach of the laws of God! All soldiers are violent men, murderers, a godless mob!
He hated war like a Quaker, and soldiers like Tolstoy himself. He regarded the terrible Hussite Wars as a disgrace to both sides. As the fiery Ziska swept the land with his waggons, this Apostle of peace was sick with horror. "Where," he asked, in his Reply to Rockycana, "has God recalled His commands, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not take thy neighbour's goods? If God has not repealed these commands, they ought still to be obeyed today in Prague and Tabor. I have learned from Christ, and by Christ I stand; and if the Apostle Peter himself were to come down from Heaven and say that it was right for us to take up arms to defend the truth, I should not believe him."
For Peter the teaching of Christ and the Apostles was enough. It was supreme, final, perfect. If a king made a new law, he was spoiling the teaching of Christ. If the Pope issued a bull, he was spoiling the teaching of Christ. If a Council of Bishops drew up a decree, they were spoiling the teaching of Christ. As God, said Peter, had revealed His will to full perfection in Jesus Christ, there was no need for laws made by men. "Is the law of God sufficient, without worldly laws, to guide and direct us in the path of the true Christian religion? With trembling, I answer, it is. It was sufficient for Christ Himself, and it was sufficient for His disciples." And, therefore, the duty of all true Christians was as clear as the noon-day sun. He never said that Christian people should break the law of the land. He admitted that God might use the law for good purposes; and therefore, as Christ had submitted to Pilate, so Christians must submit to Government. But there their connection with Government must end. For heathens the State was a necessary evil; for Christians it was an unclean thing, and the less they had to do with it the better. They must never allow the State to interfere in matters within the Church. They must never drag each other before the law courts. They must never act as judges or magistrates. They must never take any part whatever in municipal or national government. They must never, if possible, live in a town at all. If Christians, said Peter, lived in a town, and paid the usual rates and taxes, they were simply helping to support a system which existed for the protection of robbers. He regarded towns as the abodes of vice, and citizens as rogues and knaves. The first town, he said, was built by the murderer, Cain. He first murdered his brother Abel; he then gathered his followers together he then built a city, surrounded by walls; and thus, by robbery and violence, he became a well-to-do man. And modern towns, said Peter, were no whit better. At that time the citizens of some towns in Bohemia enjoyed certain special rights and privileges; and this, to Peter, seemed grossly unfair. He condemned those citizens as thieves. "They are," he said, "the strength of AntiChrist; they are adversaries to Christ; they are an evil rabble; they are bold in wickedness; and though they pretend to follow the truth, they will sit at tables with wicked people and knavish followers of Judas." For true Christians, therefore, there was only one course open. Instead of living in godless towns, they should try to settle in country places, earn their living as farmers or gardeners, and thus keep as clear of the State as possible. They were not to try to support the law at all. If they did, they were supporting a wicked thing, which never tried to make men better, but only crushed them with cruel and useless punishments. They must never try to make big profits in business. If they did, they were simply robbing and cheating their neighbours. They must never take an oath, for oaths were invented by the devil. They must never, in a word, have any connection with that unchristian institution called the State.
And here Peter waxed vigorous and eloquent. He objected, like Wycliffe, to the union of Church and State. Of all the bargains ever struck, the most wicked, ruinous and pernicious was the bargain struck between Church and State, when Constantine the Great first took the Christians under the shadow of his wing. For three hundred years, said Peter, the Church of Christ had remained true to her Master; and then this disgusting heathen Emperor, who had not repented of a single sin, came in with his vile "Donation," and poisoned all the springs of her life. If the Emperor, said Peter, wanted to be a Christian, he ought first to have laid down his crown. He was a ravenous beast; he was a wolf in the fold; he was a lion squatting at the table; and at that fatal moment in history, when he gave his "Donation" to the Pope, an angel in heaven had spoken the words: "This day has poison entered the blood of the Church." "Since that time," said Peter, "these two powers, Imperial and Papal, have clung together. They have turned everything to account in Church and in Christendom for their own impious purposes. Theologians, professors, and priests are the satraps of the Emperor. They ask the Emperor to protect them, so that they may sleep as long as possible, and they create war so that they may have everything under their thumb."
If Peter lashed the Church with whips, he lashed her priests with scorpions. He accused them of various vices. They were immoral; they were superstitious; they were vain, ignorant and empty-headed; and, instead of feeding the Church of God, they had almost starved her to death. He loathed these "honourable men, who sit in great houses, these purple men, with their beautiful mantles, their high caps, their fat stomachs." He accused them of fawning on the rich and despising the poor. "As for love of pleasure," he said, "immorality, laziness, greediness, uncharitableness and cruelty--as for these things, the priests do not hold them as sins when committed by princes, nobles and rich commoners. They do not tell them plainly, "You will go to hell if you live on the fat of the poor, and live bestial life," although they know that the rich are condemned to eternal death by such behaviour. Oh, no! They prefer to give them a grand funeral. A crowd of priests, clergy and other folk make a long procession. The bells are rung. There are masses, singings, candles and offerings. The virtues of the dead man are proclaimed from the pulpit. They enter his soul in the books of their cloisters and churches to be continually prayed for, and if what they say be true, that soul cannot possibly perish, for he has been so kind to the Church, and must, indeed, be well cared for."
He accused them, further, of laziness and gluttony. "They pretend to follow Christ," he said, "and have plenty to eat every day. They have fish, spices, brawn, herrings, figs, almonds, Greek wine and other luxuries. They generally drink good wine and rich beer in large quantities, and so they go to sleep. When they cannot get luxuries they fill themselves with vulgar puddings till they nearly burst. And this is the way the priests fast." He wrote in a similar strain of the mendicant friars. He had no belief in their profession of poverty, and accused them of gathering as much money as they could. They pocketed more money by begging, he declared, than honest folk could earn by working; they despised plain beef, fat bacon and peas, and they wagged their tails with joy when they sat down to game and other luxuries. "Many citizens," said Peter, "would readily welcome this kind of poverty."
He accused the priests of loose teaching and shameless winking at sin. "They prepare Jesus," he said, "as a sweet sauce for the world, so that the world may not have to shape its course after Jesus and His heavy Cross, but that Jesus may conform to the world; and they make Him softer than oil, so that every wound may be soothed, and the violent, thieves, murderers and adulterers may have an easy entrance into heaven."
He accused them of degrading the Seven Sacraments. They baptized sinners, young and old, without demanding repentance. They sold the Communion to rascals and rogues, like a huckstress offering her wares. They abused Confession by pardoning men who never intended to amend their evil ways. They allowed men of the vilest character to be ordained as priests. They degraded marriage by preaching the doctrine that it was less holy than celibacy. They distorted the original design of Extreme Unction, for instead of using it to heal the sick they used it to line their own pockets. And all these blasphemies, sins and follies were the offspring of that adulterous union between the Church and the State, which began in the days of Constantine the Great. For of all the evils under Heaven, the greatest, said Peter, was that contradiction in terms--a State Church.
He attacked the great theologians and scholars. Instead of using their mental powers in the search for truth, these college men, said Peter, had done their best to suppress the truth; and at the two great Councils of Constance and Basle, they had actually obtained the help of the temporal power to crush all who dared to hold different views from theirs. What use, asked Peter, were these learned pundits? They were no use at all. They never instructed anybody. "I do not know," he said, "a single person whom they have helped with their learning." Had they instructed Hus? No. Hus had the faith in himself; Hus was instructed by God; and all that these ravens did for Hus was to flock together against him.
Again, Peter denounced the Bohemian nobles. As we read his biting, satirical phrases we can see that he was no respecter of persons and no believer in artificial distinctions of rank. For him the only distinction worth anything was the moral distinction between those who followed the crucified Jesus and those who rioted in selfish pleasures.
He had no belief in blue blood and noble birth. He was almost, though not quite, a Socialist. He had no definite, constructive social policy. He was rather a champion of the rights of the poor, and an apostle of the simple life. "The whole value of noble birth," he said, "is founded on a wicked invention of the heathen, who obtained coats of arms from emperors or kings as a reward for some deed of valour." If a man could only buy a coat of arms--a stag, a gate, a wolf's head, or a sausage--he became thereby a nobleman, boasted of his high descent, and was regarded by the public as a saint. For such "nobility" Peter had a withering contempt. He declared that nobles of this stamp had no right to belong to the Christian Church. They lived, he said, in flat opposition to the spirit of Jesus Christ. They devoured the poor. They were a burden to the country. They did harm to all men. They set their minds on worldly glory, and spent their money on extravagant dress. "The men," said he, "wear capes reaching down to the ground, and their long hair falls down to their shoulders; and the women wear so many petticoats that they can hardly drag themselves along, and strut about like the Pope's courtezans to the surprise and disgust of the whole world." What right had these selfish fops to call themselves Christians? They did more harm to the cause of Christ than all the Turks and heathens in the world.
Thus Peter, belonging to none of the sects, found grievous faults in them all. As he always mentions the Waldenses with respect, it has been suggested that he was a Waldensian himself. But of that there is no real proof. He had, apparently, no organizing skill he never attempted to form a new sect or party, and his mission in the world was to throw out hints and leave it to others to carry these hints into practice. He condemned the Utraquists because they used the sword. "If a man," he said, "eats a black pudding on Friday, you blame him; but if he sheds his brother's blood on the scaffold or on the field of battle you praise him." He condemned the Taborites because they made light of the Sacraments. "You have called the Holy Bread," he said, "a butterfly, a bat, an idol. You have even told the people that it is better to kneel to the devil than to kneel at the altar; and thus you have taught them to despise religion and wallow in unholy lusts." He condemned the King for being a King at all; for no intelligent man, said Peter, could possibly be a King and a Christian at the same time. And finally he condemned the Pope as Antichrist and the enemy of God.
Yet Peter was something more than a caustic critic. For the terrible ills of his age and country he had one plain and homely remedy, and that was for all true Christians to leave the Church of Rome and return to the simple teaching of Christ and His Apostles. If the reader goes to Peter for systematic theology, he will be grievously disappointed; but if he goes for moral vigour, he will find a well-spread table.
He did not reason his positions out like Wycliffe; he was a suggestive essayist rather than a constructive philosopher; and, radical though he was in some of his views, he held firm to what he regarded as the fundamental articles of the Christian faith. He believed in the redemptive value of the death of Christ. He believed that man must build his hopes, not so much on his own good works, but rather on the grace of God. He believed, all the same, that good works were needed and would receive their due reward. He believed, further, in the real bodily presence of Christ in the Sacrament; and on this topic he held a doctrine very similar to Luther's doctrine of Consubstantiation. But, over and above all these beliefs, he insisted, in season and out of season, that men could partake of spiritual blessings without the aid of Roman priests. Some fruit of his labours he saw. As the fire of the Hussite Wars died down, a few men in different parts of the country--especially at Chelcic, Wilenow and Divischau--began to take Peter as their spiritual guide. They read his pamphlets with delight became known as the Brethren of Chelcic," and wore a distinctive dress, a grey cloak with a cord tied round the waist. The movement spread, the societies multiplied, and thus, in a way no records tell, were laid the foundations of the Church of the Brethren. Did Peter see that Church? We do not know. No one knows when Peter was born, and no one knows when he died. He delivered his message; he showed the way; he flashed his lantern in the darkness; and thus, whether he knew it or not, he was the literary founder of the Brethren's Church. He fired the hope. He drew the plans. It was left to another man to erect the building.
A brilliant idea is an excellent thing. A man to work it out is still better. At the very time when Peter's followers were marshalling their forces, John Rockycana (pronounced Rockitsannu) Archbishop-elect of Prague (since 1448), was making a mighty stir in that drunken city. What Peter had done with his pen, Rockycana was doing with his tongue. He preached Peter's doctrines in the great Thein Church; he corresponded with him on the burning topics of the day he went to see him at his estate; he recommended his works to his hearers; and week by week, in fiery language, he denounced the Church of Rome as Babylon, and the Pope as Antichrist himself. His style was vivid and picturesque, his language cutting and clear. One day he compared the Church of Rome to a burned and ruined city, wherein the beasts of the forests made their lairs and, again, he compared her to a storm-tossed ship, which sank beneath the howling waves because the sailors were fighting each other. "It is better," he said, "to tie a dog to a pulpit than allow a priest to defile it. It is better, oh, women I for your sons to be hangmen than to be priests for the hangman only kills the body, while the priest kills the soul. Look there," he suddenly exclaimed one Sunday, pointing to a picture of St. Peter on the wall, "there is as much difference between the priests of to-day and the twelve apostles as there is between that old painting and the living St. Peter in heaven. For the priests have put the devil into the sacraments themselves, and are leading you straight to the fires of Hell."
If an eloquent speaker attacks the clergy, he is sure to draw a crowd. No wonder the Thein Church was crammed. No wonder the people listened with delight as he backed up his hot attack with texts from the prophet Jeremiah. No wonder they cried in their simple zeal: "Behold, a second John Hus has arisen."
But John Rockycana was no second John Hus. For all his fire in the pulpit, he was only a craven at heart. "If a true Christian," said he to a friend, "were to turn up now in Prague, he would be gaped at like a stag with golden horns." But he was not a stag with golden horns himself. As he thundered against the Church of Rome, he was seeking, not the Kingdom of God, but his own fame and glory. His followers soon discovered his weakness. Among those who thronged to hear his sermons were certain quiet men of action, who were not content to paw the ground for ever. They were followers of Peter of Chelcic; they passed his pamphlets in secret from hand to hand; they took down notes of Rockycana's sermons; and now they resolved to practise what they heard. If Peter had taught them nothing else, he had at least convinced them all that the first duty of Christian men was to quit the Church of Rome. Again and again they appealed to Rockycana to be their head, to act up to his words, and to lead them out to the promised land. The great orator hemmed and hawed, put them off with excuses, and told them, after the manner of cowards, that they were too hasty and reckless. "I know you are right," said he, "but if I joined your ranks I should be reviled on every hand." (Rockycana's character is rather hard to judge. Some of his sermons have been preserved, and they have the ring of sincerity. Perhaps, like Erasmus in later years, he wished to avoid a schism, and thought that the Church could be reformed from within).
But these listeners were not to be cowed. The more they studied Peter's writings, the more they lost faith in Rockycana. As Rockycana refused to lead them, they left his church in a body, and found a braver leader among themselves. His name was Gregory; he was known as Gregory the Patriarch; and in due time, as we shall see, he became the founder of the Church of the Brethren. He was already a middle-aged man. He was the son of a Bohemian knight, and was nephew to Rockycana himself. He had spent his youth in the Slaven cloister at Prague as a bare-footed monk, had found the cloister not so moral as he had expected, had left it in disgust, and was now well known in Bohemia as a man of sterling character, pious and sensible, humble and strict, active and spirited, a good writer and a good speaker. He was a personal friend of Peter, had studied his works with care, and is said to have been particularly fond of a little essay entitled "The Image of the Beast," which he had borrowed from a blacksmith in Wachovia. As time went on he lost patience with Rockycana, came into touch with the little societies at Wilenow and Divischau, visited Peter on his estate, and gradually formed the plan of founding an independent society, and thus doing himself what Rockycana was afraid to do. As soldiers desert a cowardly general and rally round the standard of a brave one, so these listeners in the old Thein Church fell away from halting Rockycana, and rallied round Gregory the Patriarch. From all parts of Bohemia, from all ranks of society, from all whom Peter's writings had touched, from all who were disgusted with the Church of Rome, and who wished to see the True Church of the Apostles bloom in purity and beauty again, from all especially who desired the ministration of priests of moral character--from all these was his little band recruited. How it all happened we know not; but slowly the numbers swelled. At last the terrible question arose: How and where must they live? The question was one of life and death. Not always could they worship in secret; not always be scattered in little groups. It was time, they said, to close their ranks and form an army that should last. "After us," Rockycana had said in a sermon, "shall a people come well-pleasing unto God and right healthy for men; they shall follow the Scriptures, and the example of Christ and the footsteps of the Apostles." And these stern men felt called to the holy task.
In the year 1457, Uladislaus Postumus, King of Bohemia, died, and George Podiebrad reigned in his stead; and about the same time it came to the ears of Gregory the Patriarch that in the barony of Senftenberg, on the north-east border of Bohemia, there lay a village that would serve as a home for him and his trusty followers. And the village was called Kunwald, and the old castle hard by was called Lititz. The village was almost deserted, and only a few simple folk, of the same mind as Gregory, lived there now. What better refuge could be found? Gregory the Patriarch laid the scheme before his uncle Rockycana; Rockycana, who sympathized with their views and wished to help them, brought the matter before King George; the King, who owned the estate, gave his gracious permission; and Gregory and his faithful friends wended their way to Kunwald, and there began to form the first settlement of the Church of the Brethren. And now many others from far and wide came to make Kunwald their home. Some came from the Them Church in Prague, some across the Glatz Hills from Moravia, some from Wilenow, Divischau and Chelcic, some from the Utraquist Church at Königgratz, some, clothed and in their right minds, from those queer folk, the Adamites, and some from little Waldensian groups that lay dotted here and there about the land. There were citizens from Prague and other cities. There were bachelors and masters from the great University. There were peasants and Nobles, learned and simple, rich and poor, with their wives and children; and thus did many, who longed to be pure and follow the Master and Him alone, find a Bethany of Peace in the smiling little valley of Kunwald.
Here, then, in the valley of Kunwald in 1457 or 1458, did these pioneers lay the foundation stones of the Moravian Church. They were all of one heart and one mind. They honoured Christ alone as King; they confessed His laws alone as binding. They were not driven from the Church of Rome; they left of their own free will. They were men of deep religious experience. As they mustered their forces in that quiet dale, they knew that they were parting company from Church and State alike. They had sought the guidance of God in prayer, and declared that their prayers were answered. They had met to seek the truth of God, not from priests, but from God Himself. "As we knew not where to turn," they wrote to Rockycana, "we turned in prayer to God Himself, and besought Him to reveal to us His gracious will in all things. We wanted to walk in His ways; we wanted instruction in His wisdom; and in His mercy He answered our prayers." They would rather, they said; spend weeks in gaol than take the oath as councillors. They built cottages, tilled the land, opened workshops, and passed their time in peace and quietness. For a law and a testimony they had the Bible and the writings of Peter of Chelcic. In Michael Bradacius, a Utraquist priest, they found a faithful pastor. They made their own laws and appointed a body of twenty-eight elders to enforce them. They divided themselves into three classes, the Beginners, the Learners and the Perfect; and the Perfect gave up their private property for the good of the common cause. They had overseers to care for the poor. They had priests to administer the sacraments. They had godly laymen to teach the Scriptures. They had visitors to see to the purity of family life. They were shut off from the madding crowd by a narrow gorge, with the Glatz Mountains towering on the one side and the hoary old castle of Lititz, a few miles off, on the other; and there in that fruitful valley, where orchards smiled and gardens bloomed, and neat little cottages peeped out from the woodland, they plied their trades and read their Bibles, and kept themselves pure and unspotted from the world under the eye of God Almighty.
But it was not long before these Brethren had to show of what metal they were made. With each other they were at peace, but in Bohemia the sea still rolled from the storm. It is curious how people reasoned in those days. As the Brethren used bread instead of wafer at the Holy Communion, a rumour reached the ears of the King that they were dangerous conspirators, and held secret meetings of a mysterious and unholy nature. And King George held himself an orthodox King, and had sworn to allow no heretics in his kingdom. As soon, therefore, as he heard that Gregory the Patriarch had come on a visit to Prague, and was actually holding a meeting of University students in the New Town, he came down upon them like a wolf on the fold, and gave orders to arrest them on the spot. He was sure they were hatching a villainous plot of some kind. In vain some friends sent warning to the students. They resolved, with a few exceptions, to await their fate and stand to their guns. "Come what may," said they, in their fiery zeal, "let the rack be our breakfast and the funeral pile our dinner."
The door of the room flew open. The magistrate and his bailiffs appeared. "All," said the magistrate, as he stood at the threshold, "who wish to live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. Follow me to prison." They followed him, and were at once stretched upon the rack. As soon as the students felt the pain of torture their courage melted like April snow. After they had tasted the breakfast they had no appetite for the dinner. They went in a body to the Thein Church, mounted the pulpit one by one, pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them, and confessed, before an admiring crowd, their full belief in all the dogmas of the Holy Church of Rome. But for Gregory the Patriarch, who was now growing old, the pain was too severe. His wrists cracked; he swooned, and was thought to be dead, and in his swoon he dreamed a dream which seemed to him like the dreams of the prophets of old. He saw, in a lovely meadow, a tree laden with fruit; the fruit was being plucked by birds; the flights of the birds were guided by a youth of heavenly beauty, and the tree was guarded by three men whose faces he seemed to know. What meant that dream to Gregory and his Brethren? It was a vision of the good time coming. The tree was the Church of the Brethren. The fruit was her Bible teaching. The birds were her ministers and helpers. The youth of radiant beauty was the Divine Master Himself. And the three men who stood on guard were the three men who were afterwards chosen as the first three Elders of the Brethren's Church.
While Gregory lay in his swoon, his old teacher, his uncle, his sometime friend, John Rockycana, hearing that he was dying, came to see him. His conscience was stricken, his heart bled, and, wringing his hands in agony, he moaned: "Oh, my Gregory, my Gregory, would I were where thou art." When Gregory recovered, Rockycana pleaded for him, and the King allowed the good old Patriarch to return in peace to Kunwald.
Meanwhile, the first persecution of the Brethren had begun in deadly earnest. King George Podiebrad was furious. He issued an order that all his subjects were to join either the Utraquist or the Roman Catholic Church. He issued another order that all priests who conducted the Communion in the blasphemous manner of the Brethren should forthwith be put to death. The priest, old Michael, was cast into a dungeon; four leading Brethren were burned alive; the peaceful home in Kunwald was broken; and the Brethren fled to the woods and mountains. For two full years they lived the life of hunted deer in the forest. As they durst not light a fire by day, they cooked their meals by night; and then, while the enemy dreamed and slept, they read their Bibles by the watch-fires' glare, and prayed till the blood was dripping from their knees. If provisions ran short, they formed a procession, and marched in single file to the nearest village; and when the snow lay on the ground they trailed behind them a pine-tree branch, so that folk would think a wild beast had been prowling around. We can see them gathering in those Bohemian glades. As the sentinel stars set their watch in the sky, and the night wind kissed the pine trees, they read to each other the golden promise that where two or three were gathered together in His name He would be in the midst of them; and rejoiced that they, the chosen of God, had been called to suffer for the truth and the Church that was yet to be.
In vain they appealed to Rockycana; he had done with them for ever. "Thou art of the world," they wrote, "and wilt perish with the world." They were said to have made a covenant with the devil, and were commonly dubbed "Pitmen" because they lived in pits and caves. Yet not for a moment did they lose hope. At the very time when the king in his folly thought they were crushed beneath his foot, they were in reality increasing in numbers every day. As their watch-fires shone in the darkness of the forests, so their pure lives shone among a darkened People. No weapon did they use except the pen. They never retaliated, never rebelled, never took up arms in their own defence, never even appealed to the arm of justice. When smitten on one cheek, they turned the other; and from ill-report they went to good report, till the King for very shame had to let them be. Well aware was he that brutal force could never stamp out spiritual life. "I advise you," said a certain Bishop, "to shed no more blood. Martyrdom is somewhat like a half-roasted joint of meat, apt to breed maggots." And now the time drew near for Gregory's dream to come true. When the Brethren settled in the valley of Kunwald they had only done half their work. They had quitted the "benighted" Church of Rome; they had not yet put a better Church in her place. They had settled on a Utraquist estate; they were under the protection of a Utraquist King; they attended services conducted by Utraquist priests. But this black-and-white policy could not last for ever. If they wished to be godly men themselves, they must have godly men in the pulpits. 'What right had they, the chosen of God (as they called themselves) to listen to sermons from men in league with the State? What right had they to take the Holy Bread and Wine from the tainted hands of Utraquist priests? What right had they to confess their sins to men with the brand of Rome upon their foreheads? If they were to have any priests at all, those priests, like Caesar's wife, mast be above suspicion. They must be pastors after God's own heart, who should feed the people with knowledge and understanding (Jer.3.15). They must be clear of any connection with the State. They must be descended from the twelve Apostles. They must be innocent of the crime of simony. They must work with their hands for their living, and be willing to spend their money on the poor. But where could such clean vessels of the Lord be found? For a while the Brethren were almost in despair; for a while they were even half inclined to do without priests at all. In vain they searched the country round; in vain they inquired about priests in foreign lands. When they asked about the pure Nestorian Church supposed to exist in India, they received the answer that that Church was now as corrupt as the Romish. When they asked about the Greek Church in Russia, they received the answer that the Russian Bishops were willing to consecrate any man, good or bad, so long as he paid the fees. The question was pressing. If they did without good priests much longer, they would lose their standing in the country. Brother Martin Lupac, a Utraquist priest, who had joined their ranks said "You must establish a proper order of priests from among yourselves. If you don't, the whole cause will be ruined. To do without priests is no sin against God; but it is a sin against your fellow-men." As they pondered on the fateful question, the very light of Heaven itself seemed to flash upon their souls. It was they who possessed the unity of the spirit; and therefore it was they who were called to renew the Church of the Apostles. They had now become a powerful body; they were founding settlements all over the land; they stood, they said, for the truth as it was in Jesus; they had all one faith, one hope, one aim, one sense of the Spirit leading them onward; and they perceived that if they were to weather the gale in those stormy times they must cut the chains that bound them to Rome, and fly their own colours in the breeze. And so, in 1467, about ten years after the foundation of Kunwald, there met at Lhota a Synod of the Brethren to settle the momentous question, 'Is it God's will that we separate entirely from the power of the Papacy, and hence from its priesthood? Is it God's will that we institute, according to the model of the Primitive Church, a ministerial order of our own?" For weeks they had prayed and fasted day and night. About sixty Brethren arrived. The Synod was held in a tanner's cottage, under a cedar tree; and the guiding spirit was Gregory the Patriarch, for his dream was haunting him still. The cottage has long since gone; but the tree is living yet. The fateful day' arrived. As the morning broke, those sixty men were all on their knees in prayer. If that prayer had been omitted the whole proceedings would have been invalid. As the Master said they, had prayed on the Mount before he chose His twelve disciples, so they must spend the night in prayer before they chose the elders of the Church. And strange, indeed, their manner of choosing was. First the Synod nominated by ballot nine men of blameless life, from whom were to be chosen, should God so will, the first Pastors of the New Church. Next twelve slips of paper were folded and put into a vase. Of these slips nine were blank, and three were marked "Jest," the Bohemian for "is." Then a boy named Procop entered the room, drew out nine slips, and handed them round to the nine nominated Brethren.
There was a hush, a deep hush, in that humble room. All waited for God to speak. The fate of the infant Church seemed to hang in the balance. For the moment the whole great issue at stake depended on the three papers left in the vase. It had been agreed that the three Brethren who received the three inscribed papers should be ordained to the ministry. The situation was curious. As the Brethren rose from their knees that morning they were all as sure as men could be that God desired them to have Pastors of their own; and yet they deliberately ran the risk that the lot might decide against them. What slips were those now lying in the vase? Perhaps the three inscribed ones. But it turned out otherwise. All three were drawn, and Matthias of Kunwald, Thomas of Prelouic and Elias of Chrenouic, are known to history as the first three ministers of the Brethren's Church. And then Gregory the Patriarch stepped forward, and announced with trembling voice that these three men were the very three that he had seen in his trance in the torture-chamber at Prague. Not a man in the room was surprised; not a man doubted that here again their prayers had been plainly answered. Together the members of the Synod arose and saluted the chosen three. Together, next day, they sang in a hymn written for the occasion:--
We needed faithful men, and He
Granted us such. Most earnestly,
We pray, Lord, let Thy gifts descend,
That blessing may Thy work attend.
But the battle was not won even yet. If these three good men, now chosen by Christ, were to be acknowledged as priests in Bohemia, they must be ordained in the orthodox way by a Bishop of pure descent from the Apostles. For this purpose they applied to Stephen, a Bishop of the Waldenses. He was just the man they needed. He was a man of noble character. He was a man whose word could be trusted. He had often given them information about the Waldensian line of Bishops. He had told them how that line ran back to the days of the early Church. He had told them how the Waldensian Bishops had kept the ancient faith unsullied, and had never broken the law of Christ by uniting with the wicked State. To that line of Bishops he himself belonged. He had no connection with the Church of Rome, and no connection with the State. What purer orders, thought the Brethren could they desire? They believed his statements; they trusted his honour; they admired his personal character; and now they sent old Michael Bradacius to see him in South Moravia and to lay their case before him. The old Bishop shed tears of joy. "He laid his hand on my head," says Michael, "and consecrated me a Bishop." Forthwith the new Bishop returned to Lhota, ordained the chosen three as Priests, and consecrated Matthias of Kunwald a Bishop. And thus arose those Episcopal Orders which have been maintained in the Church of the Brethren down to the present day. The goal was reached; the Church was founded; the work of Gregory was done. For twenty years he had taught his Brethren to study the mind of Christ in the Scriptures and to seek the guidance of God in united prayer, and now he saw them joined as one to face the rising storm. "Henceforth," he wrote gladly to King George Podiebrad "we have done with the Church of Rome." As he saw the evening of life draw near, he urged his Brethren more and more to hold fast the teaching of Peter of Chelcic, and to regulate their daily conduct by the law of Christ; and by that law of Christ he probably meant the "Six Commandments" of the Sermon on the Mount. He took these Commandments literally, and enforced them with a rod of iron. No Brother could be a judge or magistrate or councillor. No Brother could take an oath or keep an inn, or trade beyond the barest needs of life. No noble, unless he laid down his rank, could become a Brother at all. No peasant could render military service or act as a bailiff on a farm. No Brother could ever divorce his wife or take an action at law. As long as Gregory remained in their midst the Brethren held true to him as their leader. He had not, says Gindely, a single trace of personal ambition in his nature; and, though he might have become a Bishop, he remained a layman to the end. Full of years he died, and his bones repose in a cleft where tufts of forget-me-not grow, at Brandeis-on-the-Adler, hard by the Moravian frontier.
Chapter I. The Rising Storm
Chapter II. The Burning of Hus, July 6th, 1415
Chapter III. The Welter. 1415-1434
Chapter IV. Peter of Chelcic 1419-1450
Chapter V. Gregory the Patriarch and the Society at Kunwald. 1457-1473
Chapter VI. Luke of Prague & the High Church Reaction. 1473-1530
Chapter VII. The Brethren at Home
Chapter VIII. John Augusta and His Policy. 1531-1548
Chapter IX. The Brethren in Poland. 1548-1570
Chapter X. The Martyr-Bishop. 1548-1560
Chapter XI. The Last Days of Augusta. 1560-1572
Chapter XII. The Golden Age. 1572-1603
Chapter XIII. The Letter of Majesty. 1603-1609
Chapter XIV. The Downfall. 1616-1621
Chapter XV. The Day of Blood at Prague. June 21st, 1621
Chapter XVI. Comenius and the Hidden Seed. 1627-1672
Chapter I. The Youth of Count Zinzendorf. 1700-1722
Chapter II. Christian David. 1690-1722
Chapter III. The Founding of Herrnhut, 1722-1727
Chapter IV. Life at Herrnhut
Chapter V. The Edict of Banishmen., 1729-1736
Chapter VI. The Foreign Missions and Their Influence. 1732-1760
Chapter VII. The Pilgrim Band. 1736-1743
Chapter VIII. The Sifting Time. 1743-1750
Chapter IX. Moravians and Methodists. 1735-1742
Chapter X. Yorkshire and the Settlement System. 1742-1755
Chapter XI. The Labours of John Cennick. 1739-1755
Chapter XII. The Appeal to Parliament. 1742-1749
Chapter XIII. The Battle of the Books. 1749-1755
Chapter XIV. The American Experiments. 1734 - 1762
Chapter XV. The Last Days of Zinzendorf. 1755-1760
Book Three: The Rule Of The Germans
Chapter I. The Church and Her Mission; or, the Three Constitutional Synods. 1760-1775
Chapter II. The Fight for the Gospel; or, Moravians and Rationalists. 1775-1800
Chapter III. A Fall and a Recovery 1800-1857
Chapter IV. The British Collapse 1760-1801
Chapter V. The British Advance 1801-1856
Chapter VI. The Struggle in America 1762-1857
Chapter VII. The Separation of the Provinces 1857-1899
Introduction The Modern Moravians 1857-1907
Chapter I. Moravian Principles
Chapter II. The Moravians in Germany
Chapter III. The Moravians in Great Britain
Chapter IV. The Moraviansin America
Chapter V. Bonds of Union