« PreviousContinue »
Church of the United Brethren,
COMMONLY CALLED MORAVIANS,
A. D. 1734-1748.
Rev. LEVIN THEODORE REICHEL,
of the Moravian Historical Society.
· NAZARETH, PA.,
TOR a number of years the MS. compiled by the Rev. Levin
On account of its importance this little work will form Volume III. of the Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, comprising its publications for the years 1887, 1888 and 1889.
W E propose in the following pages to give the history of the
Unitas Fratrum, or the Moravian Brethren, in Pennsylvania and other English colonies prior to the Declaration of Independence.
A careful study of a mass of documents, preserved in the Archives of the Moravian settlements, has furnished us with many interesting facts in reference to the early history of Pennsylvania, and especially its eastern Counties, which we believe will prove of general interest to intelligent readers in any denomination. Our object, therefore, is not to write exclusively for the members of that Church to which we belong, and which we cherish and esteem as the Church of our fathers and a chosen instrument in the hand of the Lord, by which, especially in olden times, much good was effected in this country; but, whilst we shall not try to hide our respect for the early Moravian fathers in this country, we will endeavor to relate carefully collected facts in such a manner that our pages may become interesting and instructive to all who take any interest in historical truth.
By way of introduction to the History of the Moravian Church in North America, we deem it sufficient to make only a few remarks in reference to the Moravian Church in general.
We call ourselves the Unitas Fratrum or the Protestant Church of the United Brethren, and date the origin of the Renewed Church to the 17th of June, 1722, on which day the first tree was cut down on the estate of Count Zinzendorf-Berthelsdorf in Saxony-by some poor exiles from Moravia, descendants of the Church of the Brethren in Bohemia, Moravia and Poland, which flourished in those Slavonic countries from 1457–1627. Having for conscience' sake left their houses and homes in these bigoted papal regions, to seek religious liberty in a Protestant country, they, by the Providence of God, were led to Berthelsdorf, and there on the slopes of the Hutberg commenced the building of Herrnhut. Many of their countrymen followed them, and after they had been joined by other awakened souls from different parts of Germany this motley colony, by a gracious outpouring of the Spirit of God on the memorable 13th of August, 1727, became a congregation of true disciples of the Lord, firmly united in the bonds of fervent love to their Saviour and Redeemer—the embryo of a Church, which was soon to expand and to extend its operations to far distant countries. In 1732 the first missionaries were sent to the Danish West India Islands, and were followed by others to Greenland in 1733. In 1735 episcopal ordination was obtained from the two last remaining Bishops of the Ancient Church of the Brethren, Daniel E. Jablonsky in Berlin and Sitkovius in Lissa, Poland, which gave ecclesiastical rights to the Renewed Church of the Brethren.
Rapidly increasing in numbers, not only by the accession of lay members from the evangelical churches of Germany, but also by a considerable number of professors and students of theology, the whole constitution of the Church, at first only calculated for a single congregation of emigrants, was gradually re-formed and fully developed in 1741, prior to the time of the first permanent American settlements.
In order fully to understand the operations of the Brethren in Pennsylvania, it will be necessary to give a detailed description of the religious state of this English colony prior to 1740, which we trust, will not prove uninteresting.
As our documents are almost exclusively in German, many Germanisms may occur and can hardly be avoided in the following pages, which however will matter very little for the intelligent reader. For the sake of those, who understand the German, we will occasionally add some notes in that language.
LEVIN T. REICHEL. SALEM, N. C., March 1, 1857.