A History of the Moravian Church

Author: Joseph Edmund Hutton

Chapter XIII. The Battle of the Books, 1749-1755.

As soon as the Act of Parliament was passed, and the settlement at Herrnhaag had been broken up, the Count resolved that the headquarters of the Brethren’s Church should henceforward be in London; and to this intent he now leased a block of buildings at Chelsea, known as Lindsey House. The great house, in altered form, is standing still. It is at the corner of Cheyne Walk and Beaufort Street, and is close to the Thames Embankment. It had once belonged to Sir Thomas More, and also to the ducal family of Ancaster. The designs of Zinzendorf were ambitious. He leased the adjoining Beaufort grounds and gardens, spent £12,000 on the property, had the house remodelled in grandiose style, erected, close by, the "Clock" chapel and a minister’s house, laid out a cemetery, known to this day as "Sharon," and thus made preliminary arrangements for the establishment in Chelsea of a Moravian settlement in full working order. In those days Chelsea was a charming London suburb. From the house to the river side lay a terrace, used as a grand parade; from the bank to the water there ran a short flight of steps; and from there the pleasure-boats, with banners flying, took trippers up and down the shining river. For five years this Paradise was the headquarters of the Brethren’s Church. There, in grand style, lived the Count himself, with the members of his Pilgrim Band; there the Brethren met in conference; there the archives of the Church were preserved; and there letters and reports were received from all parts of the rapidly extending mission field.

And now the Count led a new campaign in England. As debates in Parliament were not then published in full, it was always open for an enemy to say that the Brethren had obtained their privileges by means of some underhand trick; and in order to give this charge the lie, the Count now published a folio volume, entitled, "Acta Fratrum Unitatis in Anglia." In this volume he took the bull by the horns. He issued it by the advice of Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man. It was a thorough and comprehensive treatise, and contained all about the Moravians that an honest and inquiring Briton would need to know. The first part consisted of the principal vouchers that had been examined by the Parliamentary Committee. The next was an article, "The Whole System of the Twenty-one Doctrinal Articles of the Confession of Augsburg"; and here the Brethren set forth their doctrinal beliefs in detail. The next article was "The Brethren’s Method of Preaching the Gospel, according to the Synod of Bern, 1532"; and here they explained why they preached so much about the Person and sufferings of Christ. The next article was a series of extracts from the minutes of German Synods; and here the Brethren showed what they meant by such phrases as "Sinnership" and "Blood and Wounds Theology." But the cream of the volume was Zinzendorf’s treatise, "The Rationale of the Brethren’s Liturgies." He explained why the Brethren spoke so freely on certain moral matters, and contended that while they had sometimes used language which prudish people might condemn as indecent, they had done so from the loftiest motives, and had always maintained among themselves a high standard of purity. At the close of the volume was the Brethren’s "Church Litany," revised by Sherlock, Bishop of London, a glossary of their religious terms, and a pathetic request that if the reader was not satisfied yet he should ask for further information. The volume was a challenge to the public. It was an honest manifesto of the Brethren’s principles, a declaration that they had nothing to conceal, and a challenge to their enemies to do their worst.

The next task of Zinzendorf was to comfort the Brethren’s friends. At this period, while Zinzendorf was resident in London, the whole cause of the Brethren in England was growing at an amazing pace; and in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Dublin, and the North of Ireland, the members of the numerous societies and preaching places were clamouring for full admission to the Moravian Church. They assumed a very natural attitude. On the one hand, they wanted to become Moravians; on the other, they objected to the system of discipline enforced so strictly in the settlements, and contended that though it might suit in Germany, it was not fit for independent Britons. But Zinzendorf gave a clear and crushing answer. For the benefit of all good Britons who wished to join the Moravian Church without accepting the Moravian discipline, he issued what he called a "Consolatory Letter";127 and the consolation that he gave them was that he could not consider their arguments for a moment. He informed them that the Brethren’s rules were so strict that candidates could only be received with caution; that the Brethren had no desire to disturb those whose outward mode of religion was already fixed; that they lived in a mystical communion with Christ which others might not understand; and, finally, that they refused point-blank to rob the other Churches of their members, and preferred to act "as a seasonable assistant in an irreligious age, and as a most faithful servant to the other Protestant Churches." Thus were the society members blackballed; and thus did Zinzendorf prove in England that, with all his faults, he was never a schismatic or a poacher on others’ preserves.

Meanwhile, the battle of the books had begun. The first blow was struck by John Wesley. For the last seven years—as his Journal shows—he had seen but little of the Brethren, and was, therefore, not in a position to pass a fair judgment on their conduct; but, on the other hand, he had seen no reason to alter his old opinion, and still regarded them as wicked Antinomians. The Act of Parliament aroused his anger. He obtained a copy of Zinzendorf’s Acta Fratrum, and published a pamphlet128 summarizing its contents, with characteristic comments of his own {1750.}. He signed himself "A Lover of the Light." His pamphlet was a fierce attack upon the Brethren. The very evidence that had convinced the Parliamentary Committee was a proof to Wesley that the Brethren were heretics and deceivers. He accused them of having deceived the Government and of having obtained their privileges by false pretences. He asserted that they had brought forward documents which gave an erroneous view of their principles and conduct. He hinted that Zinzendorf, in one document, claimed for himself the power, which belonged by right to the King and Parliament only, to transport his Brethren beyond the seas, and that he had deceived the Committee by using the milder word "transfer." He accused the Brethren of hypocritical pretence, threw doubts upon their assumed reluctance to steal sheep from other churches, and hinted that while they rejected the poor they welcomed the rich with open arms. At the close of his pamphlet he declared his conviction that the chief effect of the Brethren’s religion was to fill the mind with absurd ideas about the Side-Wound of Christ, and rivers and seas of blood; and, therefore, he earnestly besought all Methodists who had joined the Church of the Brethren to quit their diabolical delusions, to flee from the borders of Sodom, and to leave these Brethren, loved the darkness and rejected the Holy Scriptures.

The next attack was of a milder nature. At Melbourne, in Derbyshire, the Brethren had a small society; and George Baddeley, the local curate, being naturally shocked that so many of his parishioners had ceased to attend the Parish Church, appealed to them in a pamphlet entitled, "A Kind and Friendly Letter to the People called Moravians at Melbourne, in Derbyshire." And kind and friendly the pamphlet certainly was. For the Brethren, as he knew them by personal contact, George Baddeley professed the highest respect; and all that he had to say against them was that they had helped to empty the Parish Church, and had ignorantly taught the people doctrines contrary to Holy Scripture. They made a sing-song, he complained, of the doctrine of the cleansing blood of Christ; they had driven the doctrine of imputation too far, and had spoken of Christ as a personal sinner; they had taught that Christians were as holy as God, and co-equal with Christ, that believers were not to pray, that there were no degrees in faith, and that all who had not full assurance of faith were children of the devil. The pamphlet is instructive. It was not an accurate account of the Brethren’s teaching; but it shows what impression their teaching made on the mind of an evangelical country curate.

Another writer, whose name is unknown, denounced the Brethren in his pamphlet "Some Observations." He had read Zinzendorf’s Acta Fratrum, was convinced that the Brethren were Papists, and feared that now the Act was passed they would spread their Popish doctrines in the colonies. For this judgment the chief evidence he summoned was a passage in the volume expounding the Brethren’s doctrine of the Sacrament; and in his opinion their doctrine was so close to Transubstantiation that ordinary Protestants could not tell the difference between the two.

At Spondon, near Derby, lived Gregory Oldknow; and Gregory published a pamphlet entitled, "Serious Objections to the Pernicious Doctrines of the Moravians and Methodists." {1751.} As he did not explain his point very clearly, it is hard to see what objection he had to the Brethren; but as he called them cannibals and German pickpockets, he cannot have had much respect for their personal character. At their love-feasts, he said, their chief object was to squeeze money from the poor. At some of their services they played the bass viol, and at others they did not, which plainly showed that they were unsteady in their minds. And, therefore, they were a danger to Church and State.

At Dublin, John Roche, a Churchman, published his treatise {1751.}, the "Moravian Heresy." His book was published by private subscription, and among the subscribers were the Archbishop of Armagh, the Bishops of Meath, Raphoe, Waterford, Clogher, Kilmore, Kildare, Derry, and Down and Connor, and several deans, archdeacons and other Irish clergymen. He denounced the Brethren as Antinomians. It is worth while noting what he meant by this term. "The moral acts of a believer," said the Brethren, "are not acts of duty that are necessary to give him a share in the merits of Christ, but acts of love which he is excited to pay the Lamb for the salvation already secured to him, if he will but unfeignedly believe it to be so. Thus every good act of a Moravian is not from a sense of duty, but from a sense of gratitude." Thus Roche denounced as Antinomian the very doctrine now commonly regarded as evangelical. He said, further, that the Moravians suffered from hideous diseases inflicted on them by the devil; but the chief interest of his book is the proof it offers of the strength of the Brethren at that time. He wrote when both Cennick and Wesley had been in Dublin; but Cennick to him seemed the really dangerous man. At first he intended to expose both Moravians and Methodists. "But," he added, "the Moravians being the more dangerous, subtle and powerful sect, and I fear will be the more obstinate, I shall treat of them first."

For the next attack the Brethren were themselves to blame. As the Brethren had sunk some thousands of pounds at Herrnhaag, they should now have endeavoured to husband their resources; and yet, at a Synod held in London, 1749, they resolved to erect choir-houses in England. At Lindsey House they sunk £12,000; at Fulneck, in Yorkshire they sunk thousands more; at Bedford they sunk thousands more; and meanwhile they were spending thousands more in the purchase and lease of building land, and in the support of many preachers in the rapidly increasing country congregations. And here they made an amazing business blunder. Instead of cutting their coat according to their cloth, they relied on a fictitious capital supposed to exist on the Continent. At one time John Wesley paid a visit to Fulneck, saw the buildings in course of erection, asked how the cost would be met, and received, he says, the astounding answer that the money "would come from beyond the sea."

At this point, to make matters worse, Mrs. Stonehouse, a wealthy Moravian, died; and one clause in her will was that, when her husband followed her to the grave, her property should then be devoted to the support of the Church Diaconies. Again the English Brethren made a business blunder. Instead of waiting till Mr. Stonehouse died, and the money was actually theirs, they relied upon it as prospective capital, and indulged in speculations beyond their means; and, to cut a long story short, the sad fact has to be recorded that, by the close of 1752, the Moravian Church in England was about £30,000 in debt. As soon as Zinzendorf heard the news, he rushed heroically to the rescue, gave security for £10,000, dismissed the managers of the Diaconies, and formed a new board of administration.

But the financial disease was too deep-seated to be so easily cured. The managers of the English Diaconies had been extremely foolish. They had invested £67,000 with one Gomez Serra, a Portuguese Jew. Gomez Serra suddenly stopped payment, the £67,000 was lost, and thus the Brethren’s liabilities were now nearly £100,000 {1752.}. Again Zinzendorf, in generous fashion, came to the rescue of his Brethren. He acted in England exactly as he had acted at Herrnhaag. He discovered before long, to his dismay, that many of the English Brethren had invested money in the Diaconies, and that now they ran the serious danger of being imprisoned for debt. He called a meeting of the creditors, pledged himself for the whole sum, and suggested a plan whereby the debt could be paid off in four years. We must not, of course, suppose that Zinzendorf himself proposed to pay the whole £100,000 out of his own estates. For the present he made himself responsible, but he confidently relied on the Brethren to repay their debt to him as soon as possible. At all events, the creditors accepted his offer; and all that the Brethren needed now was time to weather the storm.

At this point George Whitefield interfered, and nearly sent the Moravian ship to the bottom {1753.}. He appealed to the example of Moses and Paul. As Moses, he said, had rebuked the Israelites when they made the golden calf, and as Paul had resisted Peter and Barnabas when carried away with the dissimulation of the Jews, so he, as a champion of the Church of Christ, could hold his peace no longer. He attacked the Count in a fiery pamphlet, entitled, "An Expostulatory Letter to Count Zinzendorf." The pamphlet ran to a second edition, and was circulated in Germany. He began by condemning Moravian customs as unscriptural. "Pray, my lord," he said, "what instances have we of the first Christians walking round the graves of their deceased friends on Easter-Day, attended with haut-boys, trumpets, French horns, violins and other kinds of musical instruments? Or where have we the least mention made of pictures of particular persons being brought into the first Christian assemblies, and of candles being placed behind them, in order to give a transparent view of the figures? Where was it ever known that the picture of the apostle Paul, representing him handing a gentleman and lady up to the side of Jesus Christ, was ever introduced into the primitive love-feasts? Again, my lord, I beg leave to inquire whether we hear anything of eldresses or deaconesses of the apostolical churches seating themselves before a table covered with artificial flowers, against that a little altar surrounded with wax tapers, on which stood a cross, composed either of mock or real diamonds, or other glittering stones?" As the Brethren, therefore, practised customs which had no sanction in the New Testament, George Whitefield concluded that they were encouraging Popery. At this period the Brethren were certainly fond of symbols; and on one occasion, as the London Diary records, Peter Boehler entered Fetter Lane Chapel, arrayed in a white robe to symbolize purity, and a red sash tied at the waist to symbolize the cleansing blood of Christ. But the next point in Whitefield’s "letter" was cruel. At the very time when Zinzendorf was giving his money to save his English Brethren from a debtor’s prison, Whitefield accused him and his Brethren alike of robbery and fraud. He declared that Zinzendorf was £40,000 in debt; that there was little hope that he would ever pay; that his allies were not much better; and that the Brethren had deceived the Parliamentary Committee by representing themselves as men of means. At the very time, said Whitefield, when the Moravian leaders were boasting in Parliament of their great possessions, they were really binding down their English members for thousands more than they could pay. They drew bills on tradesmen without their consent; they compelled simple folk to sell their estates, seized the money, and then sent the penniless owners abroad; and they claimed authority to say to the rich, "Either give us all thou hast, or get thee gone." For these falsehoods Whitefield claimed, no doubt quite honestly, to have good evidence; and to prove his point he quoted the case of a certain Thomas Rhodes. Poor Rhodes, said Whitefield, was one of the Brethren’s victims. They had first persuaded him to sell a valuable estate; they had then seized part of his money to pay their debts; and at last they drained his stores so dry that he had to sell them his watch, bureau, horse and saddle, to fly to France, and to leave his old mother to die of starvation in England. For a while this ridiculous story was believed; and the Brethren’s creditors, in a state of panic, pressed hard for their money. The little Church of the Brethren was now on the brink of ruin. At one moment Zinzendorf himself expected to be thrown into prison, and was only saved in the nick of time by the arrival of money from Germany. But the English Brethren now showed their manhood. The very men whom Zinzendorf was supposed to have robbed now rose in his defence. Instead of thanking Whitefield for defending them in their supposed distresses, they formed a committee, drew up a statement,129 dedicated that statement to the Archbishop of York, and declared that there was not a word of truth in Whitefield’s charges. They had not, they declared, been robbed by Zinzendorf and the Moravian leaders; on the contrary, they had received substantial benefits from them. Thomas Rhodes himself proved Whitefield in the wrong. He wrote a letter to his own lawyer; James Hutton published extracts from the letter, and in that letter Rhodes declared that he had sold his estate of his own free will, that the Brethren had paid a good price, and that he and his mother were living in perfect comfort. Thus was Whitefield’s fiction exploded, and the Brethren’s credit restored.

But the next attack was still more deadly. At the time when Whitefield wrote his pamphlet there had already appeared a book entitled "A Candid Narrative of the Rise and Progress of the Herrnhuters"; and Whitefield himself had read the book and had allowed it to poison his mind {1753.}. The author was Henry Rimius.130 He had been Aulic Councillor to the King of Prussia, had met Moravians in Germany, and now lived in Oxenden Street, London. For two years this scribbler devoted his energies to an attempt to paint the Brethren in such revolting colours that the Government would expel them from the country. His method was unscrupulous and immoral. He admitted, as he had to admit, that such English Brethren as he knew were excellent people; and yet he gave the impression in his books that the whole Moravian Church was a sink of iniquity. He directed his main attack against Zinzendorf and the old fanatics at Herrnhaag; and thus he made the English Brethren suffer for the past sins of their German cousins. He accused the Brethren of deceiving the House of Commons. He would now show them up in their true colours. "No Government," he said, "that harbours them can be secure whilst their leaders go on at the rate they have done hitherto." He accused them of holding immoral principles dangerous to Church and State. They held, he said, that Christ could make the most villainous act to be virtue, and the most exalted virtue to be vice. They spoke with contempt of the Bible, and condemned Bible reading as dangerous. They denounced the orthodox theology as fit only for dogs and swine, and described the priests of other Churches as professors of the devil. They called themselves the only true Church, the Church of the Lamb, the Church of Blood and Wounds; and claimed that, on the Judgment Day, they would shine forth in all their splendour and be the angels coming in glory. At heart, however, they were not Protestants at all, but Atheists in disguise; and the real object of all their plotting was to set up a godless empire of their own. They claimed to be independent of government. They employed a secret gang of informers. They had their own magistrates, their own courts of justice, and their own secret laws. At their head was Zinzendorf, their Lord Advocate, with the authority of a Pope. As no one could join the Moravian Church without first promising to abandon the use of his reason, and submit in all things to his leaders, those leaders could guide them like little children into the most horrid enterprizes. At Herrnhaag the Brethren had established an independent state, and had robbed the Counts of Büdingen of vast sums of money; and, if they were allowed to do so, they would commit similar crimes in England. They had a fund called the Lamb’s Chest, to which all their members were bound to contribute. The power of their Elders was enormous. At any moment they could marry a couple against their will, divorce them when they thought fit, tear children from their parents, and dispatch them to distant corners of the earth. But the great object of the Moravians, said Rimius, was to secure liberty for themselves to practise their sensual abominations. He supported his case by quoting freely, not only from Zinzendorf’s sermons, but also from certain German hymn-books which had been published at Herrnhaag during the "Sifting Time"; and as he gave chapter and verse for his statements, he succeeded in covering the Brethren with ridicule. He accused them of blasphemy and indecency. They spoke of Christ as a Tyburn bird, as digging for roots, as vexed by an aunt, and as sitting in the beer-house among the scum of society. They sang hymns to the devil. They revelled in the most hideous and filthy expressions, chanted the praises of lust and sensuality, and practised a number of sensual abominations too loathsome to be described. At one service held in Fetter Lane, Count Zinzendorf, said Rimius, had declared that the seventh commandment was not binding on Christians, and had recommended immorality to his congregation.131 It is impossible to give the modern reader a true idea of the shocking picture of the Brethren painted by Rimius. For malice, spite, indecency and unfairness, his works would be hard to match even in the vilest literature of the eighteenth century. As his books came out in rapid succession, the picture he drew grew more and more disgusting. He wrote in a racy, sometimes jocular style; and, knowing the dirty taste of the age, he pleased his public by retailing anecdotes as coarse as any in the "Decameron." His chief object was probably to line his own pockets. His first book, "The Candid Narrative," sold well. But his attack was mean and unjust. It is true that he quoted quite correctly from the silly literature of the Sifting-Time; but he carefully omitted to state the fact that that literature had now been condemned by the Brethren themselves, and that only a few absurd stanzas had appeared in English. At the same time, in the approved fashion of all scandal-mongers, he constantly gave a false impression by tearing passages from their original connection. As an attack on the English Brethren, his work was dishonest. He had no solid evidence to bring against them. From first to last he wrote almost entirely of the fanatics at Herrnhaag, and fathered their sins upon the innocent Brethren in England.

Meanwhile, however, a genuine eye-witness was telling a terrible tale. He named his book {1753.}, "The True and Authentic Account of Andrew Frey." For four years, he said, he lived among the Brethren in Germany, travelled about helping to form societies, and settled down at Marienborn, when the fanaticism there was in full bloom. He was known among the Brethren as Andrew the Great. As he wore a long beard, he was considered rather eccentric. At Marienborn he saw strange sights and heard strange doctrine. At their feasts the Brethren ate like gluttons and drank till they were tipsy. "All godliness, all devotion, all piety," said Rubusch, the general Elder of all the Single Brethren on the Continent, "are no more than so many snares of the devil. Things must be brought to this pass in the community, that nothing shall be spoken of but wounds, wounds, wounds. All other discourse, however Scriptural and pious, must be spued out and trampled under foot." Another, Vieroth, a preacher in high repute among the Brethren, said, in a sermon at Marienborn castle church: "Nothing gives the devil greater joy than to decoy into good works, departing from evil, shalling and willing, trying, watching and examining those souls who have experienced anything of the Saviour’s Grace in their hearts." Another, Calic, had defended self-indulgence. "Anyone," he said, "having found lodging, bed and board in the Lamb’s wounds cannot but be merry and live according to nature; so that when such a one plays any pranks that the godly ones cry out against them as sins, the Saviour is so far from being displeased therewith that he rejoices the more." In vain Frey endeavoured to correct these cross-air birds; they denounced him as a rogue. He appealed to Zinzendorf, and found to his dismay that the Count was as depraved as the rest. "Do not suffer yourselves to be molested in your merriment," said that trumpet of Satan; and others declared that the Bible was dung, and only fit to be trampled under foot. At last Andrew, disgusted beyond all measure, could restrain his soul no longer; and telling the Brethren they were the wickedest sect that had appeared since the days of the Apostles, and profoundly thankful that their gilded poison had not killed his soul, he turned his back on them for ever.132

The next smiter of the Brethren was Lavington, Bishop of Exeter. He called his book "The Moravians Compared and Detected." He had already denounced the Methodists in his "Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared" {1754.}; and now he described the Brethren as immoral characters, fitted to enter a herd of swine. In a pompous introduction he explained his purpose, and that purpose was the suppression of the "Brethren’s Church in England." "With respect to the settlement of the Moravians in these kingdoms," he said, "it seems to have been surreptitiously obtained, under the pretence of their being a peaceable and innocent sort of people. And peaceable probably they will remain while they are permitted, without control, to ruin families and riot in their debaucheries." Of all the attacks upon the Brethren, this book by Lavington was the most offensive and scurrilous; and the Brethren themselves could hardly believe that it was written by a Bishop. It was unfit for a decent person to read. The good Bishop knew nothing of his subject. As he could not read the German language, he had to rely for his information on the English editions of the works of Rimius and Frey; and all he did was to collect in one volume the nastiest passages in their indictments, compare the Brethren with certain queer sects of the Middle Ages, and thus hold them up before the public as filthy dreamers and debauchees of the vilest order.

And now, to give a finishing touch to the picture, John Wesley arose once more {1755.}. He, too, had swallowed the poison of Rimius and Frey, and a good deal of other poison as well. At Bedford a scandal-monger informed him that the Brethren were the worst paymasters in the town; and at Holbeck another avowed that the Brethren whom he had met in Yorkshire were quite as bad as Rimius had stated. As Wesley printed these statements in his journal they were soon read in every county in England. But Wesley himself did not assert that these statements were true. He wished, he said, to be quite fair to the Brethren; he wished to give them a chance of clearing themselves; and, therefore, he now published his pamphlet entitled "Queries to Count Zinzendorf." It contained the whole case in a nutshell. For the sum of sixpence the ordinary reader had now the case against the Brethren in a popular and handy form.

Thus the Brethren, attacked from so many sides, were bound to bestir themselves in self-defence. The burden of reply fell on Zinzendorf. His life and conversation were described as scandalous; his hymns were denounced as filthy abominations, and his discourses as pleas for immorality; and the Brethren for whose sake he had sacrificed his fortune were held up before the British public as political conspirators, atheists, robbers of the poor, kidnappers of children, ruiners of families, and lascivious lovers of pleasure. But the Count was a busy man. James Hutton says that he worked on the average eighteen hours a day. He was constantly preaching, writing, relieving the distressed, paying other people’s debts, and providing the necessaries of life for a hundred ministers of the Gospel. He had dealt with similar accusations in Germany, had published a volume containing a thousand answers to a thousand questions, and was loth to go over the whole ground again. For some time he clung to the hope that the verdict of Parliament and the common sense of Englishmen would be sufficient protection against abuse; and he gallantly defended the character of Rimius, and spoke with generous enthusiasm of Whitefield. The best friends of the Brethren, such as Lord Granville and the Bishops of London and Worcester, advised them to treat Rimius with contemptuous silence. But a reply became a necessity. As long as the Brethren remained silent, their enemies asserted that this very silence was a confession of guilt; and some mischievous scoundrel, in the name, but without the consent, of the Brethren, inserted a notice in the General Advertiser that they intended to reply to Rimius in detail. For these reasons, therefore, Zinzendorf, James Hutton, Frederick Neisser, and others who preferred to write anonymously, now issued a series of defensive pamphlets.133 The Count offered to lay before the public a full statement of his financial affairs; and James Hutton, in a notice in several newspapers, promised to answer any reasonable questions. It is needless to give the Brethren’s defence in detail. The plain facts of the case were beyond all dispute. In two ways the accusations of Rimius and Frey were out of court. First they accused the whole Church of the Brethren of sins which had only been committed by a few fanatics at Marienborn and Herrnhaag; and, secondly, that fanaticism had practically ceased before the Act of Parliament was passed. The Count here stood upon firm ground. He pointed out that the accusers of the Brethren had nearly always taken care to go to the Wetterau for their material; and he contended that it was a shame to blame innocent Englishmen for the past sins, long ago abandoned, of a few foreign fanatics. He appealed confidently to the public. "We are so well known to our neighbours," he said, "that all our clearing ourselves of accusations appears to them quite needless." In reply to the charge of using indecent language, he contended that his purpose was good, and justified by the results; and that, as soon as he found himself misunderstood, he had cut out all doubtful phrases from his discourses.

James Hutton explained their use of childish language. At this period the Brethren, in some of their hymns, used a number of endearing epithets which would strike the modern reader as absurd. For example, they spoke of the little Lamb, the little Jesus, the little Cross-air Bird. But even here they were not so childish as their critics imagined. The truth was, these phrases were Bohemian in origin. In the Bohemian language diminutives abound. In Bohemia a servant girl is addressed as "demercko"—i.e., little, little maid; and the literal translation of "mug mily Bozicko"—a phrase often used in public worship—is "my dear, little, little God."

But the Brethren had a better defence than writing pamphlets. Instead of taking too much notice of their enemies, they began to set their English house in order. For the first time they now published an authorized collection of English Moravian hymns {1754.}; and in the preface they clearly declared their purpose. The purpose was twofold: first, the proclamation of the Gospel; second, the cultivation of personal holiness. If we judge this book by modern standards, we shall certainly find it faulty; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that it rendered a very noble service to the Christianity of the eighteenth century. The chief burden of the hymns was Ecce Homo. If the Brethren had never done anything else, they had at least placed the sufferings of Christ in the forefront of their message. With rapturous enthusiasm the Brethren depicted every detail of the Passion History; and thus they reminded their hearers of events which ordinary Christians had almost forgotten. At times the language they used was gruesome; and, lost in mystic adoration, the Brethren, in imagination, trod the Via Dolorosa. They nestled in the nail-prints; they kissed the spear; they gazed with rapt and holy awe on the golden head, the raven locks, the pallid cheeks, the foaming lips, the melting eyes, the green wreath of thorns, the torn sinews, the great blue wounds, and the pierced palms, like rings of gold, beset with rubies red. In one stanza they abhorred themselves as worms; in the next they rejoiced as alabaster doves; and, glorying in the constant presence of the Well-Beloved, they feared not the King of Terrors, and calmly sang of death as "the last magnetic kiss, to consummate their bliss." But, despite its crude and extravagant language, this hymn-book was of historic importance. At that time the number of hymn-books in England was small; the Anglicans had no hymn-book at all, and never sang anything but Psalms; and thus the Brethren were among the first to make the adoration of Christ in song an essential part of public worship. It was here that the Brethren excelled, and here that they helped to free English Christianity from the chilling influence of Deism. The whole point was quaintly expressed by Bishop John Gambold:—

The Doctrine of the Unitas
By Providence was meant,
In Christendom’s degenerate days,
That cold lump to ferment,
From Scripture Pearls to wipe the dust,
Give blood-bought grace its compass just,
In praxis, truth from shew to part,
God’s Power from Ethic Art.

But the last line must not be misunderstood. It did not mean that the Brethren despised ethics. Of all the charges brought against them, the charge that they were Antinomians was the most malicious and absurd. At the very time when their enemies were accusing them of teaching that good works were of no importance, they inserted in their Litany for Sunday morning worship a number of petitions which were alone enough to give that charge the lie. The petitions were as follows:—

O! that we might never see a necessitous person go unrelieved!
O! that we might see none suffer for want of clothing!
O! that we might be eyes to the blind and feet to the lame!
O! that we could refresh the heart of the Fatherless!
O! that we could mitigate the burden of the labouring man, and be
ourselves not ministered unto but minister!
Feed its with that princely repast of solacing others!
O! that the blessing of him who was ready to perish might come
upon us!
Yea! may our hearts rejoice to see it go well with our enemies.

Again, therefore, as in their hymns, the Brethren laid stress on the humane element in Christianity.134

But their next retort to their enemies was the grandest of all. At a Synod held in Lindsey House, they resolved that a Book of Statutes was needed, and requested Zinzendorf to prepare one {1754.}. The Count was in a quandary. He could see that a Book of Statutes was required, but he could not decide what form it should take. If he framed the laws in his own language, his critics would accuse him of departing from the Scriptures; and if he used the language of Scripture, the same critics would accuse him of hedging and of having some private interpretation of the Bible. At length he decided to use the language of Scripture. He was so afraid of causing offence that, Greek scholar though he was, he felt bound to adhere to the Authorised Version. If Zinzendorf had used his own translation his enemies would have accused him of tampering with the Word of God. The book appeared. It was entitled, Statutes: or the General Principles of Practical Christianity, extracted out of the New Testament. It was designed for the use of all English Moravians, and was sanctioned and adopted by the Synod on May 12th, 1755. It was thorough and systematic. For fathers and mothers, for sons and daughters, for masters and servants, for governors and governed, for business men, for bishops and pastors, the appropriate commandments were selected from the New Testament. In a printed notice on the title page, the Brethren explained their own interpretation of those commandments. "Lest it should be thought," they said, "that they seek, perhaps, some subterfuge in the pretended indeterminate nature of Scripture-style, they know very well that it becomes them to understand every precept and obligation in the same manner as the generality of serious Christians understand the same (and this is a thing, God be praised, pretty well fixed), or, if at all differently, then always stricter." The purpose of the book was clear. It was a handy guide to daily conduct. It was meant to be learned by heart, and was issued in such size and form that it could be carried about in the pocket. It was "a faithful monitor to souls who, having been first washed through the blood of Jesus, do now live in the Spirit, to walk also in the Spirit." To the Brethren this little Christian guide was a treasure. As long as they ordered their daily conduct by these "convenient rules for the house of their pilgrimage," they could smile at the sneers of Rimius and his supporters. The Moravian influence in England was now at high tide. At the very time when their enemies were denouncing them as immoral Antinomians, they established their strongest congregations at Fulneck, Gomersal, Wyke, Mirfield, Dukinfield, Bristol, and Gracehill {1755.}; and in all their congregations the "Statutes" were enforced with an iron hand.

Thus did the Brethren repel the attacks of their assailants. From this chapter one certain conclusion follows. The very fact that the Brethren were so fiercely attacked is a proof how strong they were. As the reader wanders over England, he may see, if he knows where to look, memorials of their bygone labours. In Northampton is an auction room that was once a Moravian chapel. In Bullock Smithy is a row of cottages named "Chapel Houses," where now the Brethren are forgotten. In a private house at Bolton, Lancashire, will be found a cupboard that was once a Moravian Pulpit. In Wiltshire stands the "two o’clock chapel," where Cennick used to preach. We may learn much from such memorials as these. We may learn that the Brethren played a far greater part in the Evangelical Revival than most historians have recognised; that they worked more like the unseen leaven than like the spreading mustard tree; that they hankered not after earthly pomp, and despised what the world calls success; and that, reviled, insulted, and misrepresented, they pursued their quiet way, content with the reward which man cannot give.


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Chicago: Joseph Edmund Hutton, "Chapter XIII. The Battle of the Books, 1749-1755.," A History of the Moravian Church, trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in A History of the Moravian Church Original Sources, accessed April 16, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=857M5MCB35L3TCN.

MLA: Hutton, Joseph Edmund. "Chapter XIII. The Battle of the Books, 1749-1755." A History of the Moravian Church, translted by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in A History of the Moravian Church, Original Sources. 16 Apr. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=857M5MCB35L3TCN.

Harvard: Hutton, JE, 'Chapter XIII. The Battle of the Books, 1749-1755.' in A History of the Moravian Church, trans. . cited in , A History of the Moravian Church. Original Sources, retrieved 16 April 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=857M5MCB35L3TCN.