A HISTORY OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH by J.E. Hutton
A most insightful and rather comprehensive account of one of Christianity’s “finest historical hours,” so to speak. That is, in the church of the Bohemian Brethren, which later came to be known as the Moravian Church, we find a congregation of called-out remnant believers who persisted against all odds and against all persecution.
Hutton rightfully begins with the martyred John Hus of Bohemia (a part of modern Czechoslovakia), who was a forerunner of later “church reformers” like Luther and Calvin. Hus’s legacy became the foundation for this segment of God’s True Church.
It is a highly irregular history, though, even for a group of God’s persecuted people. Here was a church that always stayed small in numbers, but always remained pure in action and deed and quality of faith; here was a church which, several times, seemed to die away, to disappear from history; yet God miraculously seemed to resurrect them each time.
The most significant time the Moravian Church was resurrected was when the now-renowned Count Zinzendorf, an apparently rare Godly European nobleman (though the author “Lady Queensborough” decades ago claimed he was an occultist?), rather inadvertantly gave his life and his finances towards resurrecting it. Zinzendorf was deliberately founding a congregation of believers in his homeland of Saxony, but what he didn’t know till later was that he was resurrecting a century-long “extinct” church, formerly known as the Brethren, in neighboring Bohemia. The whole account is extraordinary and has God’s fingerprints all over it.
Hutton depicts Zinzendorf, probably rightfully so, as a conflicted genius of a man who, in saving the Bohemian Brethren from extinction, also inadvertantly and ironically was the man most responsible for holding them back from ever expanding their numbers beyond a paltry few remnant parties in several scattered though unified locations; for Zinzendorf staunchly held to a self-imposed rule of not proselytizing to Christians of other denominations, often to the point of turning away multitudes of applicants.
But the main achievement of this little band of believers is this: The Moravian Church pioneered any and all modern missionary work among protestant churches. Unlike nearly all protestant churches at the time, the Moravians believed that God wanted other peoples of the world to hear the Gospel and be saved. They sent missions to Greenland, to South Africa, to North America, to Ireland, and other lands. The saddest moment for the reader of this true account comes when the reader is struck with the realization that, though these Moravian missions all met with wonderful results, and many true converts were made among Eskimos, North American Indians, South African Blacks, and Roman catholic Irishmen, the world and the god of this world soon arrived to snuff out their gains. In South Africa, the racist Calvinist Boers evicted the Moravians for stooping to convert blacks whom they believed were predestined for hell; in North America, freemasons and groups posing as Christians began the ugly history of debauching the Indians with alcohol and systematically murdering and evicting them instead of carrying on the Moravian method of converting them for God’s Kingdom; in Ireland, where a Moravian with great zeal named John Cennick had made great inroads, John Wesley soon arrived with his ideas of Methodism and took all the credit for Cennick’s work. At any rate, Moravian or Methodist, pagan-catholic Rome eventually recouped as it always does and eradicated the budding biblical revival in Ireland.
Hutton is an excellent historian. Occasionally he may let his own biases show here and there, and he tends toward the state church/corporate church side of things in his narration, but only occasionally and in minor ways is this evinced. Hutton is a thorough, straightforward, and rather transparent writer, and occasionally he can be quite memorable in his succinct descriptions, such as when he describes the manner and methodology of the Moravians/Brethren as being, roughly, a “cross between the Puritans and the Quakers.”
We consistently are reminded and shown that the Brethren were always careful to avoid theological disputes, emphasizing instead an adherence to plain Scripture and appealing to human hearts instead of arguing with human heads. We could sure use more of that today.
This is a most wonderful account of a very unique branch of God’s True Ecclesia and every modern-day “evangelical” should read it, especially since the Moravians/Brethren abstained from warfare. They sought to convert the enemy, even at great peril to themselves, but they would not take up arms to destroy any fleshly “enemy” on behalf of any earthly king. Nothing could be so dramatically different in outlook from nearly all crusading/war-mongering “evangelical Christians” in America nowadays than this particular main tenet of the blessed Moravian Church.
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