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A History of the Moravian Church

by 'Joseph Edmund Hutton'

Book 4 — The Modern Moravians. 1857-1908

Chapter 5 — Bonds of Union

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Section V. — BONDS OF UNION. — But these essentials are not the only bonds of union. At present Moravians all over the world are united in three great tasks.

First, they are united in their noble work among the lepers at Jerusalem. It is one of the scandals of modern Christianity that leprosy is still the curse of Palestine; and the only Christians who are trying to remove that curse are the Moravians. At the request of a kind-hearted German lady, Baroness von Keffenbrink-Ascheraden, the first Moravian Missionary went out to Palestine forty years ago (1867). There, outside the walls of Jerusalem, the first hospital for lepers, named Jesus Hilfe, was built; there, for some years, Mr. and Mrs. Tappe laboured almost alone; and then, when the old hospital became too small, the new hospital, which is standing still, was built, at a cost of £4,000, on the Jaffa Road. In this work, the Moravians have a twofold object. First, they desire to exterminate leprosy in Palestine; second, as opportunity offers, they speak of Christ to the patients. But the hospital, of course, is managed on the broadest lines. It is open to men of all creeds; there is no religious test of any kind; and if the patient objects to the Gospel it is not forced upon him. At present the hospital has accommodation for about fifty patients; the annual expense is about £4,000; the Managing Committee has its headquarters in Berthelsdorf; each Province of the Moravian Church has a Secretary and Treasurer; the staff consists of a Moravian Missionary, his wife, and five assistant nurses; and all true Moravians are expected to support this holy cause. At this hospital, of course, the Missionary and his assistants come into the closest personal contact with the lepers. They dress their sores; they wash their clothes; they run every risk of infection; and yet not one of the attendants has ever contracted the disease. When Father Damien took the leprosy all England thrilled at the news; and yet if England rose to her duty the black plague of leprosy might soon be a thing of the past.

Again, the Moravian Church is united in her work in Bohemia and Moravia. At the General Synod of 1869 a strange coincidence occurred; and that strange coincidence was that both from Great Britain and from North America memorials were handed in suggesting that an attempt be made to revive the Moravian Church in her ancient home. In England the leader of the movement was Bishop Seifferth. In North America the enthusiasm was universal, and the petition was signed by every one of the ministers. And thus, once more, the Americans were the leaders in a forward movement. The Brethren agreed to the proposal. At Pottenstein (1870), not far from Reichenau, the first new congregation in Bohemia was founded. For ten years the Brethren in Bohemia were treated by the Austrian Government as heretics; but in 1880, by an Imperial edict, they were officially recognized as the "Brethren's Church in Austria." Thus is the prayer of Comenius being answered at last; thus has the Hidden Seed begun to grow; thus are the Brethren preaching once more within the walls of Prague; and now, in the land where in days of old their fathers were slain by the sword, they have a dozen growing congregations, a monthly Moravian magazine ("Bratrske Litsz"), and a thousand adherents of the Church of the Brethren. Again, as in the case of the Leper Home, the Managing Committee meets at Herrnhut; each Province has its corresponding members; and all Moravians are expected to share in the burden.

Above all, the Moravian Church is united in the work of Foreign Missions. For their missions to the heathen the Moravians have long been famous; and, in proportion to their resources, they are ten times as active as any other Protestant Church. But in this book the story of Moravian foreign missions has not been told. It is a story of romance and thrilling adventure, of dauntless heroism and marvellous patience; it is a theme worthy of a Froude or a Macaulay; and some day a master of English prose may arise to do it justice. If that master historian ever appears, he will have an inspiring task. He will tell of some of the finest heroes that the Christian Church has ever produced. He will tell of Matthew Stach, the Greenland pioneer, of Friedrich Martin, the "Apostle to the Negroes," of David Zeisberger, the "Apostle to the Indians," of Erasmus Schmidt, in Surinam, of Jaeschke, the famous Tibetan linguist, of Leitner and the lepers on Robben Island, of Henry Schmidt in South Africa, of James Ward in North Queensland, of Meyer and Richard in German East Africa, and of many another grand herald of the Cross whose name is emblazoned in letters of gold upon the Moravian roll of honour. In no part of their work have the Brethren made grander progress. In 1760 they had eight fields of labour, 1,000 communicants, and 7,000 heathen under their care; in 1834, thirteen fields of labour, 15,000 communicants, and 46,000 under their care; in 1901, twenty fields of labour, 32,000 communicants, and 96,000 under their care. As the historian traces the history of the Moravian Church, he often finds much to criticize and sometimes much to blame; but here, on the foreign mission field, the voice of the critic is dumb. Here the Moravians have ever been at their best; here they have done their finest redemptive work; here they have shown the noblest self-sacrifice; and here, as the sternest critic must admit, they have always raised from degradation to glory the social, moral, and spiritual condition of the people. In these days the remark is sometimes made by superior critics that foreign missionaries in the olden days had a narrow view of the Gospel, that their only object was to save the heathen from hell, and that they never made

any attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. If that statement refers to other missionaries, it may or may not be true; but if it refers to Moravians it is false. At all their stations the Moravian Missionaries looked after the social welfare of the people. They built schools, founded settlements, encouraged industry, fought the drink traffic, healed the sick, and cast out the devils of robbery, adultery and murder; and the same principles and methods are still in force to-day.

At the last General Synod held in Herrnhut the foreign mission work was placed under the management of a General Mission Board; the Board was elected by the Synod; and thus every voting member of the Church has his share in the control of the work. In each Province there are several societies for raising funds. In the German Province are the North-Scheswig Mission Association, the Zeist Mission Society, and the Fünf-pfennig Verein or Halfpenny Union. In the British Province are the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, which owns that famous missionary ship, the "Harmony"; the Juvenile Missionary Association, chiefly supported by pupils of the boarding schools; the Mite Association; and that powerful non-Moravian Society, the London Association in aid of Moravian Missions. In North America is the Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen. In each Province, too, we find periodical missionary literature: in Germany two monthlies, the Missions-Blatt and Aus Nord und Süd; in Holland the Berichten uit de Heidenwereld; in Denmark the Evangelisk Missionstidende; in England the quarterly Periodical Accounts and the monthly Moravian Missions; and in North America two monthlies, Der Missions Freund and the Little Missionary. In Germany the missionary training College is situated at Niesky; in England at Bristol. In England there is also a special fund for the training of medical missionaries. Of the communicant members of the Moravian Church one in every sixty goes out as a missionary; and from this fact the conclusion has often been drawn that if the members of other churches went out in the same proportion the heathen world might be won for Christ in ten years. At present the Mission field contains about 100,000 members; the number of missionaries employed is about 300; the annual expenses of the work are about £90,000; and of that sum two-thirds is raised by the native converts.

There are now fourteen Provinces in the Mission field, and attractive is the scene that lies before us. We sail on the "Harmony" to Labrador, and see the neatly built settlements, the fur-clad Missionary in his dog-drawn sledge, the hardy Eskimos, the squat little children at the village schools, the fathers and mothers at worship in the pointed church, the patients waiting their turn in the surgery in the hospital at Okak. We pass on to Alaska, and steam with the Brethren up the Kuskokwim River. We visit the islands of the West Indies, where Froude, the historian, admired the Moravian Schools, and where his only complaint about these schools was that there were not enough of them. We pass on to California, where the Brethren have a modern Mission among the Red Indians; to the Moskito Coast, once the scene of a wonderful revival; to Paramaribo in Surinam, the city where the proportion of Christians is probably greater than in any other city in the world; to South Africa, where it is commonly reported that a Hottentot or Kaffir Moravian convert can always be trusted to be honest; to German East Africa, where the Brethren took over the work at Urambo at the request of the London Missionary Society; to North Queensland, where the natives were once so degraded that Anthony Trollope declared that the "game was not worth the candle," where Moravians now supply the men and Presbyterians the money, and where the visitor gazes in amazement at the "Miracle of Mapoon"; and last to British India, near Tibet, where, perched among the Himalaya Mountains, the Brethren in the city of Leh have the highest Missionary station in the world.

As the Moravians, therefore, review the wonderful past, they see the guiding hand of God at every stage of the story. They believe that their Church was born of God in Bohemia, that God restored her to the light of day when only the stars were shining, that God has opened the door in the past to many a field of labour, and that God has preserved her to the present day for some great purpose of his own. Among her ranks are men of many races and many shades of opinion; and yet, from Tibet to San Francisco, they are still one united body. As long as Christendom is still divided, they stand for the great essentials as the bond of union. As long as lepers in Palestine cry "unclean," they have still their mission in the land where the Master taught. As long as Bohemia sighs for their Gospel, and the heathen know not the Son of Man, they feel that they must obey the Missionary mandate; and, convinced that in following these ideals they are not disobedient to the heavenly vision, they emblazon still upon their banner the motto encircling their old episcopal seal: —

"Vicit Agnus noster: Eum sequamur."

(Our Lamb has conquered: Him let its follow.)

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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