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Zinzendorf, Nicholas Lewis, Count Von, d.d.

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founder of the Herrnhuters, or Moravian Brethren, was born at Dresden, May 26, 1700. According to his own account (in his Natural Reflections on Various Subjects), he aspired to form a society of believers from his boyhood. On coming of age in 1721, he settled, with this object in view, on his estate at Berthelsdorf, in Upper Lusatia and was there joined by several proselytes from Bohemia. By 1732 the numbers who had flocked around him amounted to six hundred, and all these were subject to a species of ecclesiastical discipline or monastic despotism which brought them in spirit and body, or was intended so to do, under the most absolute control of their leader. From an adjacent hill called the Luthberg was derived the name of the colony, Huth des Herrn, contracted to Herrnhut, and from this the name of the sect. The appellation Moravian Brethren was assumed for his party by count Zinzendorf for the sake of connection with the separatists of Bohemia and Moravia, partly derived from Valdo, the forerunner of Luther, some of these, indeed, were among his colonists. Zinzendorf assumed various titles as the chief of the Herrnhuters, all of which really pointed to a pontificate as his function.

From 1733 his missionaries began to spread, not only over parts of Europe but in Greenland and North America; even Africa and China were not forgotten. To him, in fact, Wesley was directly indebted both for his religious organization at his missionary plans which became so eminently successful, that indefatigable laborer having passed some time with count Zinzenidorf at Herrnhut. The interference of the government with the count's projects can hardly be regarded as a measure of persecution, as secret doctrines were undoubtedly held by him, and thus motives given to his followers, and objects sought, of which, whether good or evil, the established authorities could take no cognizance. The history of the sect is curious and interesting. Next to its organization in classes, the use of singing, which furnished the Wesleys with a valuable hint, is one of its most remarkable characteristics; under this head some singular details might be given. Something might be said also on the connection of a certain marriage-rite with the theory of regeneration, the efficacy of which was probably tried by the Herrnhuters in common with the Quakers. Count Zinzeldorf died among his people, May 9, 1760. (See MORAVIANS). (W. P. S.)

ADDENDUM FROM VOLUME 12:

Zinzendorf, Nicholas Lewis, Count Von is entitled to a fuller notice than space allowed in volume 10. The founder of the modern Moravian Church was born at Dresden, May 26, 1700, and died at Herrnhut, Saxony, May 9, 1760. He was descended from an ancient Austrian family. For the sake of the Protestant faith his grandfather relinquished broad domains in Austria, and settled in Franconia. When he was but six weeks old, his father, one of the cabinet ministers of the elector of Saxony, died while several years later his mother married the field- marshal Von Natzmar, of the Prussian army, and removed to Berlin. Young Zinzendorf did not accompany her, but remained with his grandmother, the baroness Catharine von Gersdorf, one of the most distinguished women of her day, who had organized a Spenerian ecclesiola in her castle of Gross Hennersdorf. That he was intrusted to her care proved to be an important event in his life. Amid the influences of that ecclesiola he spent his childhood, daily breathing the atmosphere of a transparent piety. His grandmother and aunt Henrietta shaped his religious development. When he was not yet four years old he grasped, with a clear perception and a flood of feeling, Christ's relation to man as a Savior and divine brother. This consciousness produced a love for Jesus which was the holy and perpetual fire on the altar of his heart; so that in mature years he could truthfully exclaim: "I have but one passion; and it is He He only!"

In 1710 he was sent to the Royal Paedagogium at Halle, at the head of which stood the celebrated Francke; in 1716 he entered the University of Wittenberg; and in 1719, in accordance with the custom of young nobles of that day, began his travels. During all these years he confessed Christ with youthful enthusiasm, and labored for his cause with manly courage. At Halle he organized a fraternity among the students, known as "The Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed;"' at Wittenberg he exercised no little influence; in Paris, where he spent an entire winter, neither the blandishments of the royal court nor the flatteries of the highest nobles could seduce him from the path of godliness. His commentary on the French capital, with its hollow gayeties and carnal frivolities, was: "O Splendida Miseria!" while the impression which an exquisite Ecce Homo with the inscription, "Hoc feci pro te, quid facis pro me?" in the picture-gallery of Dusseldorf made upon his heart followed him through life.

When Zinzendorf returned from his journey, it was his earnest wish to devote himself, in spite of his rank, to the ministry of the gospel. But neither his mother nor grandmother would listen to such a proposition, and insisted upon his adopting, like his father, the career of a statesman. With a heavy heart he yielded, and in 1721 accepted a position as Aulic and Justicial Councillor at Dresden. His purpose to promote the cause of Christ remained, however, unshaken, and soon after attaining his majority he purchased the domain of Berthelsdorf in Upper Lusatia, with the intention of making that the centre of his Christian activity. In what such activity was to consist he did not as yet know. He was supported in his purpose by his young wife, the countess Erdmuth Dorothy von Reuss, whom he married in 1722, and through whom he became connected with several of the royal houses of Europe. Of the manner in which he was led to grant an asylum on his newly-purchased estate to the remnant of the Moravian Brethren, of the renewal of their Church through his agency, and of the peculiar character which he gave to it, a full account may be found in the article on the MORAVIAN BRETH-REN, 2, 6:585, etc.

In all that he undertook in this respect his aim was, not to interfere with the established Church, but rather to make the Moravians, a Church within that Church. His course was misunderstood and excited bitter opposition. In 1736 he was banished from Saxolny, and, two years later, as he refused to sign a bond. acknowledging himself guilty of "of fences," banished "forever." The same result which generally grows out of religious persecutions appeared in this case also. His enemies overreached themselves. Instead of putting a stop to his Christian activity, it grew in importance and extended far and wide.

A "Church of Pilgrims," as it was called, gathered around Zinzendorf, composed of the members of his family and his chief ministerial coadjutors, and itinerated to various parts of Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and England, everywhere making known. the renewal of the Unitas Fratrum, and attracting large numbers to its communion. Zinzendorf, with the aid of his fellowlaborers, directed the entire work of the Moravians in Christian and heathen lands. He had long since resigned his civil office at Dresden, and devoted himself to the ministry; and now, May 25, 1737, at the recommendation of the king of Prussia, he was consecrated, at Berlin, a bishop of the Unitas Fratrum, by bishops Jablonsky and David Nitschmann. In the following year he set out on a tour of inspection to the mission in St. Thomas, and in 1741 visited America. His course continued to excite opposition, and brought upon him personal defamation of the grossest character.

Few servants of the Lord have suffered more in this. respect. But he leaned upon the strong arm of his divine Master, and gradually won the victory. The Saxon government recalled him,to his native country, and fully acknowledged the Renewed Church of the Brethren; the British parliament recognised the Church, and passed an act encouraging the Moravians to settle in the British colonies; the government of Prussia granted the most favorable concessions. At the time of his death the Church for whose renewal God had appointed him the instrument was everywhere firmly established, and in Germany, over against the State Church, had gained a position even more independent than he had intended to secure. Zinzendorf died full of joy and peace, triumphing in the thought of his "going to the Savior," blessing his children, and fellow-workers, and when speech failed him, looking upon them with a countenance that was irradiated with the brightness of coming glory. Thirty-two presbyters and deacons from Germany, Holland, England, Ireland, North America, and Greenland bore his remains to their last resting-place on the Hutberg, at Herrnhut.

Zinzendorf was an extraordinary man, a heroic leader in the Church of Christ, a "disciple whom Jesus loved," a priest of the living God. Like all great men he had his faults, and some of them were of a grave character. He was often impetuous when he ought to have been calm; he allowed himself to be unduly swayed by his feelings; in one period of his career his theological views and utterances, which, however, he subsequently laid aside, were very objectionable; while his efforts to renew the Unitas Fratrum and yet make it a part of the established Church of Germany brought him into dilemmas the inevitable outcome of which was offences on the score of insincerity and double-dealing, although nothing was further from his thoughts. On the other hand, his sterling piety, his intense love to the Savior, his Johannean intercourse with him, his work for. the Moravian Church, his labors for the Church universal, the principles which he originated, often misunderstood and ridiculed in his day, but now the common and cherished property of all evangelical Christians, the missions which he inaugurated among the heathen, the lifelong efforts which he made to promote the unity of the children of God of every name, and to bring about the fulfilment of Christ's high-priestly prayer "that they may be one" assign to him an exalted place in ecclesiastical history, give him an imperishable name, and justify the epitaph on his tombstone: "He was ordained that he should go and bring forth fruit, and that his fruit should remain." In many respects and this truth explains to a great degree the opposition with which he met Zinzendorf was more than a century in advance of his age. His writings number more than one hundred, and consist of sermons, hymnals, offices of worship, controversial works, catechisms, and historical collections. He was a gifted hymnologist. In public service he frequently improvised hymns, which were sung by the congregation as he announced them line by line. Many of his compositions, both in point of the sentiments and the poetry, are worthless; many others are beautiful, and take their place among the standard hymns of the Christian Church. The best collection of them was edited by Albert Knapp, Geistliche Lieder des Grafen von Zinzendorf (Stuttgart and Tubingen, 1845).

We append a brief account of Zinzendorf's labors in America. His chief purpose was not to found Moravian churches, but to care for his neglected German countrymen in Pennsylvania. He landed at New York on Dec. 2, 1741, accompanied by his daughter, the countess Benigna, his private secretary, and several others. From New York he proceeded to Philadelphia, and established himself at Germantown, where he rented a house which is still standing. Keeping in view the main object of his visit to America, he opened, in that dwelling, a school for German children; preached the gospel wherever he came, in churches, school-houses, and barns; accepted from the Lutherans of Philadelphia, who were without a minister. an appointment as their temporary pastor, a thing that led, on Muhlenberg's arrival from Europe, to bitter animosities, for wlnhich both sides were responsible; and organized the so-called Pennsylvania Synod. This last was his favorite undertaking. He conceived the idea of uniting the German churches and sects of Pennsylvania, upon the basis of experimental religion, into what he called "The Congregation of God in the Spirit."

Gaining over to his views Henry Antes, a prominent magistrate of the Reformed persuasion (see McMinn, Life and Times of Henry Antes, Moorestown, N.J., 1886), a call was addressed to all German religious bodies within the colony to send representatives to a Union Synod to be held at Germantown. It convened on January 12, 1742, and met again, at various places, seven times during Zinzendorf's stay in America, and eighteen times after his return to Europe. But, however beautiful the ideal, it was premature no real union was brought about; the interest in the movement gradually waned, and, in the end, it served but to augment the differences among the German religionists of Pennsylvania. Reports of the first seven meetings of this Synod, together with cognate documents, were published by Benjamin Franklin, and form a volume which is as valuable as it is rare. The title of the first report is Authentische Relation von dem Anlass, Fortganog und Schlusse der in Germantown gehaltenen Versammlung einiger Arbeiter derer meisten Christlichen Religionen und vieler vor sich selbst Gott-dienenden Christen-Menaschen in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: by Benj. Franklin). Zinzendorf's labors among his own brethren resulted in the organization of several churches, particularly the one at Bethlehem. After he had left the country Moravian enterprises were begun at nearly all the places where he had preached. The Indian mission attracted his earnest attention. He undertook three journeys to the aboriginal domain the first, in July 1742, to the Delawares of Pennsylvania; the second, in August, to the Mohicans of New York; and the third, in September, to the Shawnees of the Wyoming Valley. He was probably the first white man who encamped on what is now the site of Wilkesbarre, and he would have been murdered by the savages had it not been for the opportune arrival of Conrad Weisser, the government agent. The rattlesnake story, which has found its way into so many books and is so often quoted as an instance of God's special providence, is a fable. During his stay in America Zinzendorf laid aside his rank as a count, and was known as Lewis von Thurnstein, which name formed one of his titles. On January 9, 1743, he set sail for Europe in a chartered vessel commanded by captain Garrison, who afterwards, for many years, was the captain of the Moravian missionary vessel which plied between England and the American colonies.

Literature. The books in relation to Zinzendorf are very numerous. Besides the works noted in the article on the Renewed Moravian Brethren, the most important are the following: Spangenberg, Leben des Grafen von Zinzendorf (Barby, 1772-75, 3 volumes; an abridged English translation by Jackson, Lond. 1838); Verbeek, Leben von Zinzendorf (Gnadau, 1845); Vanhagen nvon Ense, Leben des Grafen Zinzendomf (Berlin, 1846); Pilgram, Leben des Grafen Zinzendorf (Leipsic, 1857), from a Roman Catholic standpoint; Kolbing, Der Graf von Zinzendorf dargestellt aus seinen Gedichten (Gnadan, 1850); Braun, Leben des Grafen von Zinzendorf (Bielefeld, eod.); Bovet, Le Conmte de Zinzendorf (Paris, 1865; an English translation under the title of The Banished Count, by John Gill, Lond. eod.); Zinzendorfs Theologie, dargestellt von H. Plitt (Gotha, 1869-74, 3 volumes); Becker, Zinzendorf im Verhdaltniss zu Philosophie und Kirchentum seiner Zeit (Leipsic, 1886). (E. DE S.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Zinzendorf, Nicholas Lewis, Count Von, d.d.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/z/zinzendorf-nicholas-lewis-count-von-dd.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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