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History of the Moravian Church by J. E. Hutton

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Luke, in his turn, now warned the Brethren against the loose lives
of Luther's merry-hearted students; and, in order to preserve the
Brethren's discipline, he now issued a comprehensive treatise,
divided into two parts--the first entitled "Instructions for
Priests," and the second "Instructions and Admonitions for all
occupations, all ages in life, all ranks and all sorts of
characters." As he lay on his death-bed at Jungbunzlau, his heart
was stirred by mingled feelings. There was land in sight--ah,
yes!--but what grew upon the enchanting island? He would rather see
his Church alone and pure than swept away in the Protestant current.
Happy was he in the day of his death. So far he had steered the
Church safely. He must now resign his post to another pilot who
knew well the coming waters.



As we have now arrived at that bend in the lane, when the Brethren,
no longer marching alone, became a regiment in the conquering
Protestant army, it will be convenient to halt in our story and look
at the Brethren a little more closely--at their homes, their trades,
their principles, their doctrines, their forms of service, and their
life from day to day. After all, what were these Brethren, and how
did they live?

They called themselves Jednota Bratrska--i.e., the Church of the
Brethren. As this word "Jednota" means union, and is used in this
sense in Bohemia at the present day, it is possible that the reader
may think that instead of calling the Brethren a Church, we ought
rather to call them the Union or Unity of the Brethren. If he does,
however, he will be mistaken. We have no right to call the Brethren
a mere Brotherhood or Unity. They regarded themselves as a true
apostolic Church. They believed that their episcopal orders were
valid. They called the Church of Rome a Jednota;24 they called the
Lutheran Church a Jednota;25 they called themselves a Jednota; and,
therefore, if the word Jednota means Church when applied to
Lutherans and Roman Catholics, it must also mean Church when applied
to the Bohemian Brethren. It is not correct to call them the Unitas
Fratrum. The term is misleading. It suggests a Brotherhood rather
than an organized Church. We have no right to call them a sect; the
term is a needless insult to their memory.26 As the Brethren
settled in the Valley of Kunwald, the great object which they set
before them was to recall to vigorous life the true Catholic Church
of the Apostles; and as soon as they were challenged by their
enemies to justify their existence, they replied in good set terms.

"Above all things," declared the Brethren, at a Synod held in 1464,
"we are one in this purpose. We hold fast the faith of the Lord
Christ. We will abide in the righteousness and love of God. We will
trust in the living God. We will do good works. We will serve each
other in the spirit of love. We will lead a virtuous, humble,
gentle, sober, patient and pure life; and thereby shall we know that
we hold the faith in truth, and that a home is prepared for us in
heaven. We will show obedience to one another, as the Holy
Scriptures command. We will take from each other instruction,
reproof and punishment, and thus shall we keep the covenant
established by God through the Lord Christ."27 To this purpose the
Brethren held firm. In every detail of their lives--in business, in
pleasure, in civil duties--they took the Sermon on the Mount as the
lamp unto their feet. From the child to the old man, from the serf
to the lord, from the acoluth to the bishop, the same strict law
held good. What made the Brethren's Church shine so brightly in
Bohemia before Luther's days was not their doctrine, but their
lives; not their theory, but their practice; not their opinions, but
their discipline. Without that discipline they would have been a
shell without a kernel. It called forth the admiration of Calvin,
and drove Luther to despair. It was, in truth, the jewel of the
Church, her charm against foes within and without; and so great a
part did it play in their lives that in later years they were known
to some as "Brethren of the Law of Christ."

No portion of the Church was more carefully watched than the
ministers. As the chief object which the Brethren set before them
was obedience to the Law of Christ, it followed, as the night the
day, that the chief quality required in a minister was not
theological learning, but personal character. When a man came
forward as a candidate for the ministry he knew that he would have
to stand a most searching examination. His character and conduct
were thoroughly sifted. He must have a working knowledge of the
Bible, a blameless record, and a living faith in God. For classical
learning the Brethren had an honest contempt. It smacked too much
of Rome and monkery. As long as the candidate was a holy man, and
could teach the people the plain truths of the Christian faith, they
felt that nothing more was required, and did not expect him to know
Greek and Hebrew. In vain Luther, in a friendly letter, urged them
to cultivate more knowledge. "We have no need," they replied, "of
teachers who understand other tongues, such as Greek and Hebrew. It
is not our custom to appoint ministers who have been trained at
advanced schools in languages and fine arts. We prefer Bohemians
and Germans who have come to a knowledge of the truth through
personal experience and practical service, and who are therefore
qualified to impart to others the piety they have first acquired
themselves. And here we are true to the law of God and the practice
of the early Church."28 Instead of regarding learning as an aid to
faith, they regarded it as an hindrance and a snare. It led, they
declared, to wordy battles, to quarrels, to splits, to
uncertainties, to doubts, to corruptions. As long, they said, as
the ministers of the Church of Christ were simple and unlettered
men, so long was the Church a united body of believers; but as soon
as the parsons began to be scholars, all sorts of evils arose. What
good, they argued, had learning done in the past? It had caused the
translation of the Bible into Latin, and had thus hidden its truths
from the common people. "And therefore," they insisted, "we despise
the learning of tongues."

For this narrow attitude they had also another reason. In order to
be true to the practice of the early Christian Church, they laid
down the strict rule that all ministers should earn their living by
manual labour; and the result was that even if a minister wished to
study he could not find time to do so. For his work as a minister
he never received a penny. If a man among the Brethren entered the
ministry, he did so for the pure love of the work. He had no chance
of becoming rich. He was not allowed to engage in a business that
brought in large profits. If he earned any more in the sweat of his
brow than he needed to make ends meet, he was compelled to hand the
surplus over to the general funds of the Church; and if some one
kindly left him some money, that money was treated in the same way.
He was to be as moderate as possible in eating and drinking; he was
to avoid all gaudy show in dress and house; he was not to go to
fairs and banquets; and, above all, he was not to marry except with
the consent and approval of the Elders. Of marriage the Brethren
had rather a poor opinion. They clung still to the old Catholic
view that it was less holy than celibacy. "It is," they said, "a
good thing if two people find that they cannot live continent
without it." If a minister married he was not regarded with favour;
he was supposed to have been guilty of a fleshly weakness; and it is
rather sarcastically recorded in the old "Book of the Dead" that in
every case in which a minister failed in his duties, or was
convicted of immorality, the culprit was a married man.

And yet, for all his humble style, the minister was held in honour.
As the solemn time of ordination drew near there were consultations
of ministers with closed doors, and days set apart for fasting and
prayer throughout the whole Church. His duties were many and
various. He was commonly spoken of, not as a priest, but as the
"servant" of the Church. He was not a priest in the Romish sense of
the word. He had no distinctive sacerdotal powers. He had no more
power to consecrate the Sacrament than any godly layman. Of priests
as a separate class the Brethren knew nothing. All true believers
in Christ, said they, were priests. We can see this from one of
their regulations. As the times were stormy, and persecution might
break out at any moment, the Brethren (at a Synod in 1504) laid down
the rule that when their meetings at Church were forbidden they
should be held in private houses, and then, if a minister was not
available, any godly layman was authorised to conduct the Holy
Communion.29 And thus the minister was simply a useful "servant."
He gave instruction in Christian doctrine. He heard confessions.
He expelled sinners. He welcomed penitents. He administered the
Sacraments. He trained theological students. If he had the needful
gift, he preached; if not, he read printed sermons. He was not a
ruler lording it over the flock; he was rather a "servant" bound by
rigid rules. He was not allowed to select his own topics for
sermons; he had to preach from the Scripture lesson appointed for
the day. He was bound to visit every member of his congregation at
least once a quarter; he was bound to undertake any journey or
mission, however dangerous, at the command of the Elders; and he was
bound, for a fairly obvious reason, to take a companion with him
when he called at the houses of the sick. If he went alone he might
practise as a doctor, and give dangerous medical advice; and that,
said the Brethren, was not his proper business. He was not allowed
to visit single women or widows. If he did, there might be scandals
about him, as there were about the Catholic priests. For the
spiritual needs of all unmarried women the Brethren made special
provision. They were visited by a special "Committee of Women," and
the minister was not allowed to interfere.

The good man did not even possess a home of his own. Instead of
living in a private manse he occupied a set of rooms in a large
building known as the Brethren's House; and the minister, as the
name implies, was not the only Brother in it. "As Eli had trained
Samuel, as Elijah had trained Elisha, as Christ had trained His
disciples, as St. Paul trained Timothy and Titus," so a minister of
the Brethren had young men under his charge. There, under the
minister's eye, the candidates for service in the Church were
trained. Neither now nor at any period of their history had the
Bohemian Brethren any theological colleges. If a boy desired to
become a minister he entered the Brethren's House at an early age,
and was there taught a useful trade. Let us look at the inmates of
the House.

First in order, next to the Priest himself, were the Deacons. They
occupied a double position. They were in the first stage of
priesthood, and in the last stage of preparation for it. Their
duties were manifold. They supplied the out-preaching places. They
repeated the pastor's sermon to those who had not been able to
attend the Sunday service. They assisted at the Holy Communion in
the distribution of the bread and wine. They preached now and then
in the village Church to give their superior an opportunity for
criticism and correction. They managed the domestic affairs of the
house. They acted as sacristans or churchwardens. They assisted in
the distribution of alms, and took their share with the minister in
manual labour; and then, in the intervals between these trifling
duties, they devoted their time to Bible study and preparation for
the ministry proper. No wonder they never became very scholarly
pundits; and no wonder that when they went off to preach their
sermons had first to be submitted to the head of the house for

Next to the Deacons came the Acoluths, young men or boys living in
the same building and preparing to be Deacons. They were trained by
the minister, very often from childhood upwards. They rang the bell
and lighted the candles in the Church, helped the Deacons in
household arrangements, and took turns in conducting the household
worship. Occasionally they were allowed to deliver a short address
in the Church, and the congregation "listened with kindly
forbearance." When they were accepted by the Synod as Acoluths they
generally received some Biblical name, which was intended to express
some feature in the character. It is thus that we account for such
names as Jacob Bilek and Amos Comenius.

Inside this busy industrial hive the rules were rigid. The whole
place was like a boarding-school or college. At the sound of a bell
all rose, and then came united prayer and Scripture reading; an hour
later a service, and then morning study. As the afternoon was not
considered a good time for brain work, the Brethren employed it in
manual labour, such as weaving, gardening and tailoring. In the
evening there was sacred music and singing. At meal times the
Acoluths recited passages of Scripture, or read discourses, or took
part in theological discussions.

No one could leave the house without the pastor's permission, and
the pastor himself could not leave his parish without the Bishop's
permission. If he travelled at all he did so on official business,
and then he lodged at other Brethren's Houses, when the Acoluths
washed his feet and attended to his personal comforts.

The Brethren's rules struck deeper still. As the Brethren despised
University education, it is natural to draw the plain conclusion
that among them the common people were the most benighted and
ignorant in the land. The very opposite was the case. Among them
the common people were the most enlightened in the country. Of the
Bohemian people, in those days, there were few who could read or
write; of the Brethren there was scarcely one who could not. If the
Brethren taught the people nothing else, they at least taught them
to read their native tongue; and their object in this was to spread
the knowledge of the Bible, and thus make the people good
Protestants. But in those days a man who could read was regarded as
a prodigy of learning. The result was widespread alarm. As the
report gained ground that among the Brethren the humblest people
could read as well as the priest, the good folk in Bohemia felt
compelled to concoct some explanation, and the only explanation they
could imagine was that the Brethren had the special assistance of
the devil.30 If a man, said they, joined the ranks of the Brethren,
the devil immediately taught him the art of reading, and if, on the
other hand, he deserted the Brethren, the devil promptly robbed him
of the power, and reduced him again to a wholesome benighted
condition. "Is it really true," said Baron Rosenberg to his
dependant George Wolinsky, "that the devil teaches all who become
Picards to read, and that if a peasant leaves the Brethren he is
able to read no longer?"

In this instance, however, the devil was innocent. The real culprit
was Bishop Luke of Prague. Of all the services rendered by Luke to
the cause of popular education and moral and spiritual instruction,
the greatest was his publication of his "Catechism for Children,"
commonly known as "The Children's Questions." It was a masterly and
comprehensive treatise. It was published first, of course, in the
Bohemian language {1502.}. It was published again in a German
edition for the benefit of the German members of the Church {1522.}.
It was published again, with some alterations, by a Lutheran at
Magdeburg {1524.}. It was published again, with more alterations,
by another Lutheran, at Wittenberg {1525.}. It was published again,
in abridged form, at Zürich, and was recommended as a manual of
instruction for the children at St. Gallen {1527.}. And thus it
exercised a profound influence on the whole course of the
Reformation, both in Germany and in Switzerland. For us, however,
the point of interest is its influence in Bohemia and Moravia. It
was not a book for the priests. It was a book for the fathers of
families. It was a book found in every Brother's home. It was the
children's "Reader." As the boys and girls grew up in the
Brethren's Church, they learned to read, not in national schools,
but in their own homes; and thus the Brethren did for the children
what ought to have been done by the State. Among them the duties of
a father were clearly defined. He was both a schoolmaster and a
religious instructor. He was the priest in his own family. He was
to bring his children up in the Christian faith. He was not to
allow them to roam at pleasure, or play with the wicked children of
the world. He was to see that they were devout at prayers,
respectful in speech, and noble and upright in conduct. He was not
to allow brothers and sisters to sleep in the same room, or boys and
girls to roam the daisied fields together. He was not to strike his
children with a stick or with his fists. If he struck them at all,
he must do so with a cane. Above all, he had to teach his children
the Catechism. They were taught by their parents until they were
twelve years old; they were then taken in hand by their sponsors;
and thus they were prepared for Confirmation, not as in the Anglican
Church, by a clergyman only, but partly by their own parents and

The Brethren's rules struck deeper still. For law and order the
Brethren had a passion. Each congregation was divided into three
classes: the Beginners, those who were learning the "Questions" and
the first elements of religion; the Proficients, the steady members
of the Church; and the Perfect, those so established in faith, hope
and love as to be able to enlighten others. For each class a
separate Catechism was prepared. At the head, too, of each
congregation was a body of civil Elders. They were elected by the
congregation from the Perfect. They assisted the pastor in his
parochial duties. They looked after his support in case he were in
special need. They acted as poor-law guardians, lawyers,
magistrates and umpires, and thus they tried to keep the people at
peace and prevent them from going to law. Every three months they
visited the houses of the Brethren, and inquired whether business
were honestly conducted, whether family worship were held, whether
the children were properly trained. For example, it was one of the
duties of a father to talk with his children at the Sunday
dinner-table on what they had heard at the morning service; and when
the Elder paid his quarterly visit he soon discovered, by examining
the children, how far this duty had been fulfilled.

The Brethren's rules struck deeper still. For the labourer in the
field, for the artizan in the workshop, for the tradesman with his
wares, for the baron and his tenants, for the master and his
servants, there were laws and codes to suit each case, and make
every trade and walk in life serve in some way to the glory of God.
Among the Brethren all work was sacred. If a man was not able to
show that his trade was according to the law of Christ and of direct
service to His holy cause, he was not allowed to carry it on at all.
He must either change his calling or leave the Church. In the
Brethren's Church there were no dice makers, no actors, no painters,
no professional musicians, no wizards or seers, no alchemists, no
astrologers, no courtezans or panderers. The whole tone was stern
and puritanic. For art, for music, for letters and for pleasure the
Brethren had only contempt, and the fathers were warned against
staying out at night and frequenting the card-room and the
liquor-saloon. And yet, withal, these stern Brethren were kind and
tender-hearted. If the accounts handed down are to be believed, the
villages where the Brethren settled were the homes of happiness and
peace. As the Brethren had no definite social policy, they did not,
of course, make any attempt to break down the distinctions of rank;
and yet, in their own way, they endeavoured to teach all classes to
respect each other. They enjoined the barons to allow their
servants to worship with them round the family altar. They urged
the rich to spend their money on the poor instead of on dainties and
fine clothes. They forbade the poor to wear silk, urged them to be
patient, cheerful and industrious, and reminded them that in the
better land their troubles would vanish like dew before the rising
sun. For the poorest of all, those in actual need, they had special
collections several times a year. The fund was called the Korbona,
and was managed by three officials. The first kept the box, the
second the key, the third the accounts. And the rich and poor had
all to bow to the same system of discipline. There were three
degrees of punishment. For the first offence the sinner was
privately admonished. For the second he was rebuked before the
Elders, and excluded from the Holy Communion until he repented. For
the third he was denounced in the Church before the whole
congregation, and the loud "Amen" of the assembled members
proclaimed his banishment from the Brethren's Church.

The system of government was Presbyterian. At the head of the whole
Brethren's Church was a board, called the "Inner Council," elected
by the Synod. Next came the Bishops, elected also by the Synod.
The supreme authority was this General Synod. It consisted of all
the ministers. As long as the Inner Council held office they were,
of course, empowered to enforce their will; but the final court of
appeal was the Synod, and by the Synod all questions of doctrine and
policy were settled.

The doctrine was simple and broad. As the Brethren never had a
formal creed, and never used their "Confessions of Faith" as tests,
it may seem a rather vain endeavour to inquire too closely into
their theological beliefs. And yet, on the other hand, we know
enough to enable the historian to paint a life-like picture. For us
the important question is, what did the Brethren teach their
children? If we know what the Brethren taught their children we
know what they valued most; and this we have set before us in the
Catechism drawn up by Luke of Prague and used as an authorised
manual of instruction in the private homes of the Brethren. It
contained no fewer than seventy-six questions. The answers are
remarkably full, and therefore we may safely conclude that, though
it was not an exhaustive treatise, it gives us a wonderfully clear
idea of the doctrines which the Brethren prized most highly. It is
remarkable both for what it contains and for what it does not
contain. It has no distinct and definite reference to St. Paul's
doctrine of justification by faith. It is Johannine rather than
Pauline in its tone. It contains a great deal of the teaching of
Christ and a very little of the teaching of St. Paul. It has more to
say about the Sermon on the Mount than about any system of dogmatic
theology. For one sentence out of St. Paul's Epistles it has ten
out of the Gospel of St. Matthew. As we read the answers in this
popular treatise, we are able to see in what way the Brethren
differed from the Lutheran Protestants in Germany. They approached
the whole subject of Christian life from a different point of view.
They were less dogmatic, less theological, less concerned about
accurate definition, and they used their theological terms in a
broader and freer way. For example, take their definition of faith.
We all know the definition given by Luther. "There are," said
Luther, "two kinds of believing: first, a believing about God which
means that I believe that what is said of God is true. This faith
is rather a form of knowledge than a faith. There is, secondly, a
believing in God which means that I put my trust in Him, give myself
up to thinking that I can have dealings with Him, and believe
without any doubt that He will be and do to me according to the
things said of Him. Such faith, which throws itself upon God,
whether in life or in death, alone makes a Christian man." But the
Brethren gave the word faith a richer meaning. They made it signify
more than trust in God. They made it include both hope and love.
They made it include obedience to the Law of Christ.

"What is faith in the Lord God?" was one question in the Catechism.

"It is to know God, to know His word; above all, to love Him, to do
His commandments, and to submit to His will."

"What is faith in Christ?"

"It is to listen to His word, to know Him, to honour Him, to love
Him and to join the company of His followers."31

And this is the tone all through the Catechism and in all the early
writings of the Brethren. As a ship, said Luke, is not made of one
plank, so a Christian cannot live on one religious doctrine. The
Brethren had no pet doctrines whatever. They had none of the
distinctive marks of a sect. They taught their children the
Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Eight
Beatitudes, and the "Six Commandments" of the Sermon on the Mount.
They taught the orthodox Catholic doctrines of the Holy Trinity and
the Virgin Birth. They held, they said, the universal Christian
faith. They enjoined the children to honour, but not worship, the
Virgin Mary and the Saints, and they warned them against the
adoration of pictures. If the Brethren had any peculiarity at all,
it was not any distinctive doctrine, but rather their insistence on
the practical duties of the believer. With Luther, St. Paul's
theology was foremost; with the Brethren (though not denied) it fell
into the background. With Luther the favourite court of appeal was
St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians; with the Brethren it was rather
the Sermon on the Mount and the tender Epistles of St. John.

Again the Brethren differed from Luther in their doctrine of the
Lord's Supper. As this subject was then the fruitful source of much
discussion and bloodshed, the Brethren at first endeavoured to avoid
the issue at stake by siding with neither of the two great parties
and falling back on the simple words of Scripture. "Some say," they
said, "it is only a memorial feast, that Christ simply gave the
bread as a memorial. Others say that the bread is really the body
of Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God. We reject both
these views; they were not taught by Christ Himself. And if anyone
asks us to say in what way Christ is present in the sacrament, we
reply that we have nothing to say on the subject. We simply believe
what He Himself said, and enjoy what He has given."32

But this attitude could not last for ever. As the storms of
persecution raged against them, the Brethren grew more and more
radical in their views. They denied the doctrine of
Transubstantiation; they denied also the Lutheran doctrine of
Consubstantiation; they denied that the words in St. John's Gospel
about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ had any
reference to the Lord's Supper. They took the whole passage in a
purely spiritual sense. If those words, said Bishop Luke, referred
to the Sacrament, then all Catholics, except the priests, would be
lost; for Catholics only ate the flesh and did not drink the blood,
and could, therefore, not possess eternal life. They denied, in a
word, that the Holy Communion had any value apart from the faith of
the believer; they denounced the adoration of the host as idolatry;
and thus they adopted much the same position as Wycliffe in England
nearly two hundred years before. The Lord Christ, they said, had
three modes of existence. He was present bodily at the right hand
of God; He was present spiritually in the heart of every believer;
He was present sacramentally, but not personally, in the bread and
wine; and, therefore, when the believer knelt in prayer, he must
kneel, not to the bread and wine, but only to the exalted Lord in

Again, the Brethren differed from Luther in their doctrine of Infant
Baptism. If a child, said Luther, was prayed for by the Church, he
was thereby cleansed from his unbelief, delivered from the power of
the devil, and endowed with faith; and therefore the child was
baptised as a believer.33 The Brethren rejected this teaching.
They called it Romish. They held that no child could be a believer
until he had been instructed in the faith. They had no belief in
baptismal regeneration. With them Infant Baptism had quite a
different meaning. It was simply the outward and visible sign of
admission to the Church. As soon as the child had been baptised, he
belonged to the class of the Beginners, and then, when he was twelve
years old, he was taken by his godfather to the minister, examined
in his "Questions," and asked if he would hold true to the faith he
had been taught. If he said "Yes!" the minister struck him in the
face, to teach him that he would have to suffer for Christ; and
then, after further instruction, he was confirmed by the minister,
admitted to the communion, and entered the ranks of the Proficient.

Such, then, was the life, and such were the views, of the Bohemian
Brethren. What sort of picture does all this bring before us? It
is the picture of a body of earnest men, united, not by a common
creed, but rather by a common devotion to Christ, a common reverence
for Holy Scripture, and a common desire to revive the customs of the
early Christian Church.34 In some of their views they were narrow,
in others remarkably broad. In some points they had still much to
learn; in others they were far in advance of their times, and
anticipated the charitable teaching of the present day.



As the great Bishop Luke lay dying at Jungbunzlau, there was rising
to fame among the Brethren the most brilliant and powerful leader
they had ever known. Again we turn to the old Thein Church; again
the preacher is denouncing the priests; and again in the pew is an
eager listener with soul aflame with zeal. His name was John
Augusta. He was born, in 1500, at Prague. His father was a hatter,
and in all probability he learned the trade himself. He was brought
up in the Utraquist Faith; he took the sacrament every Sunday in the
famous old Thein Church; and there he heard the preacher declare
that the priests in Prague cared for nothing but comfort, and that
the average Christians of the day were no better than crack-brained
heathen sprinkled with holy water. The young man was staggered; he
consulted other priests, and the others told him the same dismal
tale. One lent him a pamphlet, entitled "The Antichrist"; another
lent him a treatise by Hus; and a third said solemnly: "My son, I
see that God has more in store for you than I can understand." But
the strangest event of all was still to come. As he rode one day in
a covered waggon with two priests of high rank, it so happened that
one of them turned to Augusta and urged him to leave the Utraquist
Church and join the ranks of the Brethren at Jungbunzlau. Augusta
was horrified.

Again he consulted the learned priest; again he received the same
strange counsel; and one day the priest ran after him, called him
back, and said: "Listen, dear brother! I beseech you, leave us.
You will get no good among us. Go to the Brethren at Bunzlau, and
there your soul will find rest." Augusta was shocked beyond
measure. He hated the Brethren, regarded them as beasts, and had
often warned others against them. But now he went to see them
himself, and found to his joy that they followed the Scriptures,
obeyed the Gospel and enforced their rules without respect of
persons. For a while he was in a quandary. His conscience drew him
to the Brethren, his honour held him to the Utraquists, and finally
his own father confessor settled the question for him.

"Dear friend," said the holy man, "entrust your soul to the
Brethren. Never mind if some of them are hypocrites, who do not
obey their own rules. It is your business to obey the rules
yourself. What more do you want? If you return to us in Prague,
you will meet with none but sinners and sodomites."

And so, by the advice of Utraquist priests, this ardent young man
joined the ranks of the Brethren, was probably trained in the
Brethren's House at Jungbunzlau, and was soon ordained as a
minister. Forthwith he rose to fame and power in the pulpit. His
manner was dignified and noble. His brow was lofty, his eye
flashing, his bearing the bearing of a commanding king. He was a
splendid speaker, a ready debater, a ruler of men, an inspirer of
action; he was known ere long as the Bohemian Luther; and he spread
the fame of the Brethren's Church throughout the Protestant world.
Full soon, in truth, he began his great campaign. As he entered on
his work as a preacher of the Gospel, he found that among the
younger Brethren there were quite a number who did not feel at all
disposed to be bound by the warning words of Luke of Prague. They
had been to the great Wittenberg University; they had mingled with
Luther's students; they had listened to the talk of Michael Weiss,
who had been a monk at Breslau, and had brought Lutheran opinions
with him; they admired both Luther and Melancthon; and they now
resolved, with one consent, that if the candlestick of the
Brethren's Church was not to be moved from out its place, they must
step shoulder to shoulder with Luther, become a regiment in the
conquering Protestant army, and march with him to the goodly land
where the flower of the glad free Gospel bloomed in purity and sweet
perfume. At the first opportunity Augusta, their leader, brought
forward their views. At a Synod held at Brandeis-on-the-Adler,
summoned by Augusta's friend, John Horn, the senior Bishop of the
Church, for the purpose of electing some new Bishops, Augusta rose
to address the assembly. He spoke in the name of the younger
clergy, and immediately commenced an attack upon the old Executive
Council. He accused them of listlessness and sloth; he said that
they could not understand the spirit of the age, and he ended his
speech by proposing himself and four other broad-minded men as
members of the Council. The old men were shocked; the young were
entranced; and Augusta was elected and consecrated a Bishop, and
thus, at the age of thirty-two, became the leader of the Brethren's
Church. He had three great schemes in view; first, friendly
relations with Protestants in other countries; second, legal
recognition of the Brethren in Bohemia; third, the union of all
Bohemian Protestants.

First, then, with Augusta to lead them on, the Brethren enlisted in
the Protestant army, and held the banner of their faith aloft that
all the world might see. As the Protestants in Germany had issued
the Confession of Augsburg, and had it read in solemn style before
the face of the Emperor, Charles V., so now the Brethren issued a
new and full "Confession of Faith," to be sent first to George,
Margrave of Brandenburg, and then laid in due time before Ferdinand,
King of Bohemia. It was a characteristic Brethren's production.35
It is perfectly clear from this Confession that the Brethren had
separated from Rome for practical rather than dogmatic reasons. It
is true the Brethren realised the value of faith; it is true the
Confession contained the sentence, "He is the Lamb that taketh away
the sins of the world; and whosoever believeth in Him and calleth on
His name shall be saved"; but even now the Brethren did not, like
Luther, lay stress on the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
And yet Luther had no fault to find with this Confession. It was
addressed to him, was printed at Wittenberg, was issued with his
consent and approval, and was praised by him in a preface. It was
read and approved by John Calvin, by Martin Bucer, by Philip
Melancthon, by pious old George, Margrave of Brandenburg, and by
John Frederick, Elector of Saxony. Again and again the Brethren
sent deputies to see the great Protestant leaders. At Wittenberg,
Augusta discussed good morals with Luther and Melancthon; and at
Strasburg, Cerwenka, the Brethren's historian, held friendly counsel
with Martin Bucer and Calvin. Never had the Brethren been so widely
known, and never had they received so many compliments. Formerly
Luther, who liked plain speech, had called the Brethren
"sour-looking hypocrites and self-grown saints, who believe in
nothing but what they themselves teach." But now he was all good
humour. "There never have been any Christians," he said, in a
lecture to his students, "so like the apostles in doctrine and
constitution as these Bohemian Brethren."

"Tell your Brethren," he said to their deputies, "to hold fast what
God has given them, and never give up their constitution and
discipline. Let them take no heed of revilements. The world will
behave foolishly. If you in Bohemia were to live as we do, what is
said of us would be said of you, and if we were to live as you do,
what is said of you would be said of us." "We have never," he added,
in a letter to the Brethren, "attained to such a discipline and holy
life as is found among you, but in the future we shall make it our
aim to attain it."

The other great Reformers were just as enthusiastic. "How shall I,"
said Bucer, "instruct those whom God Himself has instructed! You
alone, in all the world, combine a wholesome discipline with a pure
faith." "We," said Calvin, "have long since recognised the value of
such a system, but cannot, in any way, attain to it." "I am
pleased," said Melancthon, "with the strict discipline enforced in
your congregations. I wish we could have a stricter discipline in
ours." It is clear what all this means. It means that the
Brethren, in their humble way, had taught the famous Protestant
leaders the value of a system of Church discipline and the need of
good works as the proper fruit of faith.

Meanwhile Augusta pushed his second plan. The task before him was
gigantic. A great event had taken place in Bohemia. At the battle
of Mohacz, in a war with the Turks, Louis, King of Bohemia, fell
from his horse when crossing a stream, and was drowned {1526.}. The
old line of Bohemian Kings had come to an end. The crown fell into
the hands of the Hapsburgs; the Hapsburgs were the mightiest
supporters of the Church of Rome; and the King of Bohemia, Ferdinand
I., was likewise King of Hungary, Archduke of Austria, King of the
Romans, and brother of the Emperor Charles V., the head of the Holy
Roman Empire.

For the Brethren the situation was momentous. As Augusta scanned
the widening view, he saw that the time was coming fast when the
Brethren, whether they would or no, would be called to play their
part like men in a vast European conflict. Already the Emperor
Charles V. had threatened to crush the Reformation by force; already
(1530) the Protestant princes in Germany had formed the Smalkald
League; and Augusta, scenting the battle from afar, resolved to
build a fortress for the Brethren. His policy was clear and simple.
If the King of Bohemia joined forces with the Emperor, the days of
the Brethren's Church would soon be over. He would make the King of
Bohemia their friend, and thus save the Brethren from the horrors of
war. For this purpose Augusta now instructed the powerful Baron,
Conrad Krajek, the richest member of the Brethren's Church, to
present the Brethren's Confession of Faith to King Ferdinand. The
Baron undertook the task. He was the leader of a group of Barons
who had recently joined the Church; he had built the great Zbor of
the Brethren in Jungbunzlau, known as "Mount Carmel"; he had been
the first to suggest a Confession of Faith, and now, having signed
the Confession himself, he sought out the King at Vienna, and was
admitted to a private interview {Nov. 11th, 1535.}. The scene was
stormy. "We would like to know," said the King, "how you Brethren
came to adopt this faith. The devil has persuaded you."

"Not the devil, gracious liege," replied the Baron, "but Christ the
Lord through the Holy Scriptures. If Christ was a Picard, then I am
one too."

The King was beside himself with rage.

"What business," he shouted, "have you to meddle with such things?
You are neither Pope, nor Emperor, nor King. Believe what you will!
We shall not prevent you! If you really want to go to hell, go by
all means!"

The Baron was silent. The King paused.

"Yes, yes," he continued, "you may believe what you like and we
shall not prevent you; but all the same, I give you warning that we
shall put a stop to your meetings, where you carry on your

The Baron was almost weeping.

"Your Majesty," he protested, "should not be so hard on me and my
noble friends. We are the most loyal subjects in your kingdom."

The King softened, spoke more gently, but still held to his point.

"I swore," he said, "at my coronation to give justice to the
Utraquists and Catholics, and I know what the statute says."

As the King spoke those ominous words, he was referring, as the
Baron knew full well, to the terrible Edict of St. James. The
interview ended; the Baron withdrew; the issue still hung doubtful.

And yet the Baron had not spoken in vain. For three days the King
was left undisturbed; and then two other Barons appeared and
presented the Confession, signed by twelve nobles and thirty-three
knights, in due form {Nov. 14th}.

"Do you really think," they humbly said, "that it helps the unity of
the kingdom when priests are allowed to say in the pulpit that it is
less sinful to kill a Picard than it is to kill a dog."

The King was touched; his anger was gone, and a week later he
promised the Barons that as long as the Brethren were loyal subjects
he would allow them to worship as they pleased. For some years the
new policy worked very well, and the King kept his promise. The
Brethren were extending on every hand. They had now at least four
hundred churches and two hundred thousand members. They printed and
published translations of Luther's works. They had a church in the
city of Prague itself. They enjoyed the favour of the leading
nobles in the land; and Augusta, in a famous sermon, expressed the
hope that before very long the Brethren and Utraquists would be
united and form one National Protestant Church.36

At this point a beautiful incident occurred. As the Brethren were
now so friendly with Luther, there was a danger that they would
abandon their discipline, become ashamed of their own little Church,
and try to imitate the teaching and practice of their powerful
Protestant friends. For some years after Luke's death they actually
gave way to this temptation, and Luke's last treatise, "Regulations
for Priests," was scornfully cast aside. But the Brethren soon
returned to their senses. As John Augusta and John Horn travelled
in Germany, they made the strange and startling discovery that,
after all, the Brethren's Church was the best Church they knew. For
a while they were dazzled by the brilliance of the Lutheran
preachers; but in the end they came to the conclusion that though
these preachers were clever men they had not so firm a grip on
Divine truth as the Brethren. At last, in 1546, the Brethren met in
a Synod at Jungbunzlau to discuss the whole situation. With tears
in his eyes John Horn addressed the assembly. "I have never
understood till now," he said, "what a costly treasure our Church
is. I have been blinded by the reading of German books! I have
never found any thing so good in those books as we have in the books
of the Brethren. You have no need, beloved Brethren, to seek for
instruction from others. You have enough at home. I exhort you to
study what you have already; you will find there all you need."
Again the discipline was revived in all its vigour; again, by
Augusta's advice, the Catechism of Luke was put into common use, and
the Brethren began to open schools and teach their principles to

But now their fondest hopes were doomed to be blasted. For the last
time Augusta went to Wittenberg to discuss the value of discipline
with Luther, and as his stay drew to a close he warned the great man
that if the German theologians spent so much time in spinning
doctrines and so little time in teaching morals, there was danger
brewing ahead. The warning soon came true. The Reformer died. The
gathering clouds in Germany burst, and the Smalkald War broke out.
The storm swept on to Bohemia. As the Emperor gathered his forces
in Germany to crush the Protestant Princes to powder, so Ferdinand
in Bohemia summoned his subjects to rally round his standard at
Leitmeritz and defend the kingdom and the throne against the
Protestant rebels. For the first time in their history the Bohemian
Brethren were ordered to take sides in a civil war. The situation
was delicate. If they fought for Ferdinand they would be untrue to
their faith; if they fought against him they would be disloyal to
their country. In this dilemma they did the best they could.

As soon as they could possibly do so, the Elders issued a form of
prayer to be used in all their churches. It was a prayer for the
kingdom and the throne.37 But meanwhile others were taking definite
sides. At Leitmeritz the Catholics and old-fashioned Utraquists
mustered to fight for the King; and at Prague the Protestant nobles
met to defend the cause of religious liberty. They met in secret at
a Brother's House; they formed a Committee of Safety of eight, and
of those eight four were Brethren; and they passed a resolution to
defy the King, and send help to the German Protestant leader, John
Frederick, Elector of Saxony.

And then the retribution fell like a bolt from the blue. The great
battle of Mühlberg was fought {April 24th, 1547.}; the Protestant
troops were routed; the Elector of Saxony was captured; the Emperor
was master of Germany, and Ferdinand returned to Prague with
vengeance written on his brow. He called a council at Prague
Castle, summoned the nobles and knights before him, ordered them to
deliver up their treasonable papers, came down on many with heavy
fines, and condemned the ringleaders to death.

At eight in the morning, August 22nd, four Barons were led out to
execution in Prague, and the scaffold was erected in a public place
that all the people might see and learn a lesson. Among the Barons
was Wenzel Petipesky, a member of the Brethren's Church. He was
to be the first to die. As he was led from his cell by the
executioner, he called out in a loud voice, which could be heard far
and wide: "My dear Brethren, we go happy in the name of the Lord,
for we go in the narrow way." He walked to the scaffold with his
hands bound before him, and two boys played his dead march on drums.
As he reached the scaffold the drums ceased, and the executioner
announced that the prisoner was dying because he had tried to
dethrone King Ferdinand and put another King in his place.

"That," said Petipesky, "was never the case."

"Never mind, my Lord," roared the executioner, "it will not help you

"My God," said Petipesky, "I leave all to Thee;" and his head rolled
on the ground.

But the worst was still to come. As Ferdinand came out of the
castle church on Sunday morning, September 18th, he was met by a
deputation of Utraquists and Catholics, who besought him to protect
them against the cruelties inflicted on them by the Picards. The
King soon eased their minds. He had heard a rumour that John
Augusta was the real leader of the revolt; he regarded the Brethren
as traitors; he no longer felt bound by his promise to spare them;
and, therefore, reviving the Edict of St. James, he issued an order
that all their meetings should be suppressed, all their property be
confiscated, all their churches be purified and transformed into
Romanist Chapels, and all their priests be captured and brought to
the castle in Prague {Oct. 8th, 1547.}. The Brethren pleaded not
guilty.38 They had not, as a body, taken any part in the conspiracy
against the King. Instead of plotting against him, in fact, they had
prayed and fasted in every parish for the kingdom and the throne.
If the King, they protested, desired to punish the few guilty
Brethren, by all means let him do so; but let him not crush the
innocent many for the sake of a guilty few. "My word," replied the
King, "is final." The Brethren continued to protest. And the King
retorted by issuing an order that all Brethren who lived on Royal
estates must either accept the Catholic Faith or leave the country
before six weeks were over {May, 1548.}.

And never was King more astounded and staggered than Ferdinand at
the result of this decree.



It is easy to see what Ferdinand expected. He had no desire to shed
more blood; he wished to see Bohemia at peace; he knew that the
Brethren, with all their skill, could never sell out in six weeks;
and therefore he hoped that, like sensible men, they would abandon
their Satanic follies, consider the comfort of their wives and
children, and nestle snugly in the bosom of the Church of Rome. But
the Brethren had never learned the art of dancing to Ferdinand's
piping. As the King would not extend the time, they took him at his
word. The rich came to the help of the poor,39 and before the six
weeks had flown away a large band of Brethren had bidden a sad
farewell to their old familiar haunts and homes, and started on
their journey north across the pine-clad hills. From Leitomischl,
Chlumitz and Solnic, by way of Frankenstein and Breslau, and from
Turnau and Brandeis-on-the-Adler across the Giant Mountains, they
marched in two main bodies from Bohemia to Poland. The time was the
leafy month of June, and the first part of the journey was pleasant.
"We were borne," says one, "on eagles' wings." As they tramped
along the country roads, with wagons for the women, old men and
children, they made the air ring with the gladsome music of old
Brethren's hymns and their march was more like a triumphal
procession than the flight of persecuted refugees. They were nearly
two thousand in number. They had hundreds with them, both Catholic
and Protestant, to protect them against the mountain brigands. They
had guards of infantry and cavalry. They were freed from toll at
the turn-pikes. They were supplied with meat, bread, milk and eggs
by the simple country peasants. They were publicly welcomed and
entertained by the Mayor and Council of Glatz. As the news of their
approach ran on before, the good folk in the various towns and
villages would sweep the streets and clear the road to let them pass
with speed and safety to their desired haven far away. For two
months they enjoyed themselves at Posen, and the Polish nobles
welcomed them as Brothers; but the Bishop regarded them as wolves in
the flock, and had them ordered away. From Posen they marched to
Polish Prussia, and were ordered away again; and not till the autumn
leaves had fallen and the dark long nights had come did they find a
home in the town of Königsberg, in the Lutheran Duchy of East

And even there they were almost worried to death. As they settled
down as peaceful citizens in this Protestant land of light and
liberty, they found, to their horror and dismay, that Lutherans,
when it suited their purpose, could be as bigoted as Catholics.
They were forced to accept the Confession of Augsburg. They were
forbidden to ordain their own priests or practise their own peculiar
customs. They were treated, not as Protestant brothers, but as
highly suspicious foreigners; and a priest of the Brethren was not
allowed to visit a member of his flock unless he took a Lutheran
pastor with him. "If you stay with us," said Speratus, the
Superintendent of the East Prussian Lutheran Church, "you must
accommodate yourselves to our ways. Nobody sent for you; nobody
asked you to come." If the Brethren, in a word, were to stay in
East Prussia, they must cease to be Brethren at all, and allow
themselves to be absorbed by the conquering Lutherans of the land.

Meanwhile, however, they had a Moses to lead them out of the desert.
George Israel is a type of the ancient Brethren. He was the son of
a blacksmith, was a close friend of Augusta, had been with him at
Wittenberg, and was now the second great leader of the Brethren.
When Ferdinand issued his decree, Israel, like many of the
Brethren's Ministers, was summoned to Prague to answer for his faith
and conduct on pain of a fine of one thousand ducats; and when some
of his friends advised him to disobey the summons, and even offered
to pay the money, he gave one of those sublime answers which light
up the gloom of the time. "No," he replied, "I have been purchased
once and for all with the blood of Christ, and will not consent to
be ransomed with the gold and silver of my people. Keep what you
have, for you will need it in your flight, and pray for me that I
may be steadfast in suffering for Jesus." He went to Prague,
confessed his faith, and was thrown into the White Tower. But he
was loosely guarded, and one day, disguised as a clerk, with a pen
behind his ear, and paper and ink-horn in his hand, he walked out of
the Tower in broad daylight through the midst of his guards, and
joined the Brethren in Prussia. He was just the man to guide the
wandering band, and the Council appointed him leader of the
emigrants. He was energetic and brave. He could speak the Polish
tongue. He had a clear head and strong limbs. For him a cold
lodging in Prussia was not enough. He would lead his Brethren to a
better land, and give them nobler work to do.

As the Brethren had already been driven from Poland, the task which
Israel now undertook appeared an act of folly. But George Israel
knew better. For a hundred years the people of Poland had
sympathised to some extent with the reforming movement in Bohemia.
There Jerome of Prague had taught. There the teaching of Hus had
spread. There the people hated the Church of Rome. There the nobles
sent their sons to study under Luther at Wittenberg. There the
works of Luther and Calvin had been printed and spread in secret.
There, above all, the Queen herself had been privately taught the
Protestant faith by her own father-confessor. And there, thought
Israel, the Brethren in time would find a hearty welcome. And so,
while still retaining the oversight of a few parishes in East
Prussia, George Israel, by commission of the Council, set out to
conduct a mission in Poland {1551.}. Alone and on horseback, by bad
roads and swollen streams, he went on his dangerous journey; and on
the fourth Sunday in Lent arrived at the town of Thorn, and rested
for the day. Here occurred the famous incident on the ice which
made his name remembered in Thorn for many a year to come. As he
was walking on the frozen river to try whether the ice was strong
enough to bear his horse, the ice broke up with a crash. George
Israel was left on a solitary lump, and was swept whirling down the
river; and then, as the ice blocks cracked and banged and splintered
into thousands of fragments, he sprang like a deer from block to
block, and sang with loud exulting voice: "Praise the Lord from the
earth, ye dragons and all deeps; fire and hail, snow and vapour,
stormy wind fulfilling his word." There was a great crowd on the
bank. The people watched the thrilling sight with awe, and when at
last he reached firm ground they welcomed him with shouts of joy.
We marvel not that such a man was like the sword of Gideon in the
conflict. He rode on to Posen, the capital of Great Poland, began
holding secret meetings, and established the first evangelical
church in the country. The Roman Catholic Bishop heard of his
arrival, and put forty assassins on his track. But Israel was a man
of many wiles as well as a man of God. He assumed disguises, and
changed his clothes so as to baffle pursuit, appearing now as an
officer, now as a coachman, now as a cook. He presented himself at
the castle of the noble family of the Ostrorogs, was warmly welcomed
by the Countess, and held a service in her rooms. The Count was
absent, heard the news, and came in a state of fury. He seized a
whip. "I will drag my wife out of this conventicle," he exclaimed;
and burst into the room while the service was proceeding, his eyes
flashing fire and the whip swinging in his hand. The preacher,
Cerwenka, calmly went on preaching. "Sir," said George Israel,
pointing to an empty seat "sit down there." The Count of Ostrorog
meekly obeyed, listened quietly to the discourse, became a convert
that very day, turned out his own Lutheran Court Chaplain, installed
George Israel in his place, and made a present to the Brethren of
his great estate on the outskirts of the town.

For the Brethren the gain was enormous. As the news of the Count's
conversion spread, other nobles quickly followed suit. The town of
Ostrorog became the centre of a swiftly growing movement; the poor
Brethren in Prussia returned to Poland, and found churches ready for
their use; and before seven years had passed away the Brethren had
founded forty congregations in this their first land of exile.

They had, however, another great mission to fulfil. As the Brethren
spread from town to town, they discovered that the other Protestant
bodies--the Lutherans, Zwinglians and Calvinists--were almost as
fond of fighting with each other as of denouncing the Church of
Rome; and therefore the people, longing for peace, were disgusted
more or less with them all. But the Brethren stood on a rather
different footing. They were cousins to the Poles in blood; they
had no fixed and definite creed; they thought far more of brotherly
love than of orthodoxy in doctrine; and therefore the idea was early
broached that the Church of the Brethren should be established as
the National Church of Poland. The idea grew. The Lutherans,
Zwinglians, Calvinists and Brethren drew closer and closer together.
They exchanged confessions, discussed each other's doctrines, met
in learned consultations, and held united synods again and again.
For fifteen years the glorious vision of a union of all the
Protestants in Poland hung like glittering fruit just out of reach.
There were many walls in the way. Each church wanted to be the
leading church in Poland; each wanted its own confession to be the
bond of union; each wanted its own form of service, its own form of
government, to be accepted by all. But soon one and all began to
see that the time had come for wranglings to cease. The Jesuits
were gaining ground in Poland. The Protestant Kingdom must no
longer be divided against itself.

At last the Brethren, the real movers of the scheme, persuaded all
to assemble in the great United Synod of Sendomir, and all
Protestants in Poland felt that the fate of the country depended on
the issue of the meeting {1570.}. It was the greatest Synod that
had ever been held in Poland. It was an attempt to start a new
movement in the history of the Reformation, an attempt to fling out
the apple of discord and unite all Protestants in one grand army
which should carry the enemy's forts by storm. At first the goal
seemed further off than ever. As the Calvinists were the strongest
body, they confidently demanded that their Confession should be
accepted, and put forward the telling argument that it was already
in use in the country. As the Lutherans were the next strongest
body, they offered the Augsburg Confession, and both parties turned
round upon the Brethren, and accused them of having so many
Confessions that no one knew which to take. And then young
Turnovius, the representative of the Brethren, rose to speak. The
Brethren, he said, had only one Confession in Poland. They had
presented that Confession to the King; they believed that it was
suited best to the special needs of the country, and yet they would
accept the Calvinists' Confession as long as they might keep their
own as well.

There was a deadlock. What was to be done? The Brethren's work
seemed about to come to nought. Debates and speeches were in vain.
Each party remained firm as a rock. And then, in wondrous mystic
wise, the tone of the gathering softened.

"For God's sake, for God's sake," said the Palatine of Sendomir in
his speech, "remember what depends upon the result of our
deliberations, and incline your hearts to that harmony and love
which the Lord has commanded us to follow above all things."

As the Palatine ended his speech he burst into tears. His friend,
the Palatine of Cracow, sobbed aloud. Forthwith the angry clouds
disparted and revealed the bow of peace, the obstacles to union
vanished, and the members of the Synod agreed to draw up a new
Confession, which should give expression to the united faith of all.
The Confession was prepared {April 14th.}. It is needless to
trouble about the doctrinal details. For us the important point to
notice is the spirit of union displayed. For the first, but not for
the last, time in the history of Poland the Evangelical Protestants
agreed to sink their differences on points of dispute, and unite
their forces in common action against alike the power of Rome and
the Unitarian40 sects of the day. The joy was universal. The scene
in the hall at Sendomir was inspiring. When the Committee laid the
Confession before the Synod all the members arose and sang the
Ambrosian Te Deum. With outstretched hands the Lutherans advanced to
meet the Brethren, and with outstretched hands the Brethren advanced
to meet the Lutherans. The next step was to make the union public.
For this purpose the Brethren, a few weeks later, formed a
procession one Sunday morning and attended service at the Lutheran
Church; and then, in the afternoon, the Lutherans attended service
in the Church of the Brethren {May 28th, 1570.}. It is hard to
believe that all this was empty show. And yet the truth must be
confessed that this "Union of Sendomir" was by no means the
beautiful thing that some writers have imagined. It was the result,
to a very large extent, not of any true desire for unity, but rather
of an attempt on the part of the Polish nobles to undermine the
influence and power of the clergy. It led to no permanent union of
the Protestants in Poland. Its interest is sentimental rather than
historic. For the time--but for a very short time only--the
Brethren had succeeded in teaching others a little charity of
spirit, and had thus shown their desire to hasten the day when the
Churches of Christ, no longer asunder, shall know "how good and how
pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity."

And all this--this attempt at unity, this second home for the
Brethren, this new Evangelical movement in Poland--was the strange
result of the edict issued by Ferdinand, King of Bohemia.



Meanwhile, John Augusta, the great leader of the Brethren, was
passing through the furnace of affliction.

Of all the tools employed by Ferdinand, the most crafty, active and
ambitious was a certain officer named Sebastian Schöneich, who, in
the words of the great historian, Gindely, was one of those men
fitted by nature for the post of hangman.

For some months this man had distinguished himself by his zeal in
the cause of the King. He had seized sixteen heads of families for
singing hymns at a baker's funeral, had thrown them into the
drain-vaults of the White Tower at Prague, and had left them there
to mend their ways in the midst of filth and horrible stenches. And
now he occupied the proud position of town-captain of Leitomischl.
Never yet had he known such a golden chance of covering himself
with glory. For some time Augusta, who was now First Senior of the
Church, had been hiding in the neighbouring woods, and only two or
three Brethren knew his exact abode. But already persecution had
done her work, and treachery now did hers.

Among the inhabitants of Leitomischl were certain renegade Brethren,
and these now said to the Royal Commissioners: "If the King could
only capture and torture Augusta, he could unearth the whole

"Where is Augusta?" asked the Commissioners.

"He is not at home," replied the traitors, "but if you will ask his
friend, Jacob Bilek, he will tell you all you want to know."

The wily Schöneich laid his plot. If only he could capture Augusta,
he would win the favour of the King and fill his own pockets with
money. As he strolled one day through the streets of Leitomischl he
met a certain innocent Brother Henry, and there and then began his
deadly work.

"If you know," he said, "where Augusta is, tell him I desire an
interview with him. I will meet him wherever he likes. I have
something special to say to him, something good, not only for him,
but for the whole Brethren's Church. But breathe not a word of this
to anyone else. Not a soul--not even yourself--must know about the

The message to Augusta was sent. He replied that he would grant the
interview on condition that Schöneich would guarantee his personal

"That," replied Schöneich, "is quite impossible. I cannot give any
security whatever. The whole business must be perfectly secret.
Not a soul must be present but Augusta and myself. I wouldn't have
the King know about this for a thousand groschen. Tell Augusta not
to be afraid of me. I have no instructions concerning him. He can
come with an easy mind to Leitomischl. If he will not trust me as
far as that, let him name the place himself, and I will go though it
be a dozen miles away."

But Augusta still returned the same answer, and Schöneich had to
strengthen his plea. Again he met the guileless Brother Henry, and
again he stormed him with his eloquent tongue.

"Have you no better answer from Augusta?" he asked.

"No," replied Brother Henry.

"My dear, my only Henry," pleaded Schöneich, "I do so long for a
little chat with Augusta. My heart bleeds with sympathy for you. I
am expecting the King's Commissioners. They may be here any moment.
It will go hard with you poor folk when they come. If only I could
have a talk with Augusta, it would be so much better for you all.
But do tell him not to be afraid of me. I have no instructions
concerning him. I will wager my neck for that," he said, putting
his finger to his throat. "I am willing to give my life for you poor

The shot went home. As Augusta lay in his safe retreat he had
written stirring letters to the Brethren urging them to be true to
their colours; and now, he heard from his friends in Leitomischl
that Schöneich was an evangelical saint, and that if he would only
confer with the saint he might render his Brethren signal service,
and deliver them from their distresses. He responded nobly to the
appeal. For the sake of the Church he had led so long, he would
risk his liberty and his life. In vain the voice of prudence said
"Stay!"; the voice of love said "Go!"; and Augusta agreed to meet
the Captain in a wood three miles from the town. The Captain
chuckled. The time was fixed, and, the night before, the artful
plotter sent three of his trusty friends to lie in wait. As the
morning broke of the fateful day {April 25th, 1548.}, Augusta, still
suspecting a trap, sent his secretary, Jacob Bilek, in advance to
spy the land; and the three brave men sprang out upon him and
carried him off to Schöneich. And then, at the appointed hour, came
John Augusta himself. He had dressed himself as a country peasant,
carried a hoe in is hand, and strolled in the woodland whistling a
merry tune. For the moment the hirelings were baffled. They seized
him and let him go; they seized him again and let him go again; they
seized him, for the third time, searched him, and found a fine
handkerchief in his bosom.

"Ah," said one of them, "a country peasant does not use a
handkerchief like this."

The game was up. Augusta stood revealed, and Schöneich, hearing the
glorious news, came prancing up on his horse.

"My lord," said Augusta, "is this what you call faith?"

"Did you never hear," said Schöneich, "that promises made in the
night are never binding? Did you never hear of a certain Jew with
his red beard and yellow bag? Did you never hear of the mighty
power of money? And where have you come from this morning? I hear
you have plenty of money in your possession. Where is that money

As they rode next day in a covered waggon on their way to the city
of Prague, the Captain pestered Augusta with many questions.

"My dear Johannes," said the jovial wag, "where have you been? With
whom? Where are your letters and your clothes? Whose is this cap?
Where did you get it? Who lent it to you? What do they call him?
Where does he live? Where is your horse? Where is your money?
Where are your companions?"

"Why do you ask so many questions?" asked Augusta.

"Because," replied Schöneich, letting out the murder, "I want to be
able to give information about you. I don't want to be called a
donkey or a calf."

And now began for John Augusta a time of terrible testing. As the
Captain rapped his questions out he was playing his part in a deadly
game that involved the fate, not only of the Brethren's Church, but
of all evangelicals in the land.

For months King Ferdinand had longed to capture Augusta. He
regarded him as the author of the Smalkald League; he regarded him
as the deadliest foe of the Catholic faith in Europe; he regarded
the peaceful Brethren as rebels of the vilest kind; and now that he
had Augusta in his power he determined to make him confess the plot,
and then, with the proof he desired in his hands, he would stamp out
the Brethren's Church for once and all.

For this purpose Augusta was now imprisoned in the White Tower at
Prague. He was placed in the wine vaults below the castle, had
heavy fetters on his hands and feet, and sat for days in a crunched
position. The historic contest began. For two hours at a stretch
the King's examiners riddled Augusta with questions. "Who sent the
letter to the King?"41 they asked. "Where do the Brethren keep their
papers and money? To whom did the Brethren turn for help when the
King called on his subjects to support him? Who went with you to
Wittenberg? For what and for whom did the Brethren pray."

"They prayed," said Augusta, "that God would incline the heart of
the King to be gracious to us."

"By what means did the Brethren defend themselves?"

"By patience," replied Augusta.

"To whom did they apply for help?"

Augusta pointed to heaven.

As Augusta's answers to all these questions were not considered
satisfactory, they next endeavoured to sharpen his wits by torturing
a German coiner in his presence; and when this mode of persuasion
failed, they tortured Augusta himself. They stripped him naked.
They stretched him face downwards on a ladder. They smeared his
hips with boiling pitch. They set the spluttering mess on fire, and
drew it off, skin and all, with a pair of tongs. They screwed him
tightly in the stocks. They hung him up to the ceiling by a hook,
with the point run through his flesh. They laid him flat upon his
back and pressed great stones on his stomach. It was all in vain.
Again they urged him to confess the part that he and the Brethren
had played in the great revolt, and again Augusta bravely replied
that the Brethren had taken no such part at all.

At this the King himself intervened. For some months he had been
busy enough at Augsburg, assisting the Emperor in his work; but now
he sent a letter to Prague, with full instructions how to deal with
Augusta. If gentle measures did not succeed, then sterner measures,
said he, must be employed. He had three new tortures to suggest.
First, he said, let Augusta be watched and deprived of sleep for
five or six days. Next, he must be strapped to a shutter, with his
head hanging over one end; he must have vinegar rubbed into his
nostrils; he must have a beetle fastened on to his stomach; and in
this position, with his neck aching, his nostrils smarting, and the
beetle working its way to his vitals, he must be kept for two days
and two nights. And, third, if these measures did not act, he must
be fed with highly seasoned food and allowed nothing to drink.

But these suggestions were never carried out. As the messenger
hastened with the King's billet-doux, and the Brethren on the
northern frontier were setting out for Poland, Augusta and Bilek
were on their way to the famous old castle of Pürglitz. For ages
that castle, built on a rock, and hidden away in darkling woods, had
been renowned in Bohemian lore. There the mother of Charles IV. had
heard the nightingales sing; there the faithful, ran the story, had
held John Ziska at bay; there had many a rebel suffered in the
terrible "torture-tower"; and there Augusta and his faithful friend
were to lie for many a long and weary day.

They were taken to Pürglitz in two separate waggons. They travelled
by night and arrived about mid-day; they were placed in two separate
cells, and for sixteen years the fortunes of the Brethren centred
round Pürglitz Castle.

If the Bishop had been the vilest criminal, he could not have been
more grossly insulted. For two years he had to share his cell with
a vulgar German coiner; and the coiner, in facetious pastime, often
smote him on the head.

His cell was almost pitch-dark. The window was shuttered within and
without, and the merest glimmer from the cell next door struggled in
through a chink four inches broad. At meals alone he was permitted
half a candle. For bedding he had a leather bolster, a coverlet and
what Germans call a "bed-sack." For food he was allowed two rations
of meat, two hunches of bread, and two jugs of barley-beer a day.
His shirt was washed about once a fortnight, his face and hands
twice a week, his head twice a year, and the rest of his body never.
He was not allowed the use of a knife and fork. He was not allowed
to speak to the prison attendants. He had no books, no papers, no
ink, no news of the world without; and there for three years he sat
in the dark, as lonely as the famous prisoner of Chillon. Again, by
the King's command, he was tortured, with a gag in his mouth to
stifle his screams and a threat that if he would not confess he
should have an interview with the hangman; and again he refused to
deny his Brethren, and was flung back into his corner.

The delivering angel came in humble guise. Among the warders who
guarded his cell was a daring youth who had lived at Leitomischl.
He had been brought up among the Brethren. He regarded the Bishop
as a martyr. His wife lived in a cottage near the castle; and now,
drunken rascal though he was, he risked his life for Augusta's sake,
used his cottage as a secret post office, and handed in to the
suffering Bishop letters, books, ink, paper, pens, money and

The Brethren stationed a priest in Pürglitz village. The great
Bishop was soon as bright and active as ever. By day he buried his
tools in the ground; by night he plugged every chink and cranny, and
applied himself to his labours. Not yet was his spirit broken; not
yet was his mind unhinged. As his candle burned in that gloomy
dungeon in the silent watches of the night, so the fire of his
genius shone anew in those darksome days of trial and persecution;
and still he urged his afflicted Brethren to be true to the faith of
their fathers, to hold fast the Apostles' Creed, and to look onward
to the brighter day when once again their pathway would shine as the
wings of a dove that are covered with silver and her feathers with
yellow gold. He comforted Bilek in his affliction; he published a
volume of sermons for the elders to read in secret; he composed a
number of stirring and triumphant hymns; and there he penned the
noble words still sung in the Brethren's Church:--

Praise God for ever.
Boundless is his favour,
To his Church and chosen flock,
Founded on Christ the Rock.

As he lay in his cell he pondered much on the sad fate of his
Brethren. At one time he heard a rumour that the Church was almost
extinct. Some, he knew, had fled to Poland. Some had settled in
Moravia. Some, robbed of lands and houses, were roaming the country
as pedlars or earning a scanty living as farm labourers. And some,
alas! had lowered the flag and joined the Church of Rome.

And yet Augusta had never abandoned hope. For ten years, despite a
few interruptions, he kept in almost constant touch, not only with
his own Brethren, but also with the Protestant world at large. He
was still, he thought, the loved and honoured leader; he was still
the mightiest religious force in the land; and now, in his dungeon,
he sketched a plan to heal his country's woes and form the true
disciples of Christ into one grand national Protestant army against
which both Pope and Emperor would for ever contend in vain.



To Augusta the prospect seemed hopeful. Great changes had taken
place in the Protestant world. The Lutherans in Germany had
triumphed. The religious peace of Augsburg had been consummated,
The German Protestants had now a legal standing. The great Emperor,
Charles V., had resigned his throne. His successor was his brother
Ferdinand, the late King of Bohemia. The new King of Bohemia was
Ferdinand's eldest son, Maximilian I. Maximilian was well disposed
towards Protestants, and persecution in Bohemia died away.

And now the Brethren plucked up heart again. They rebuilt their
chapel at their headquarters, Jungbunzlau. They presented a copy of
their Hymn-book to the King. They divided the Church into three
provinces--Bohemia, Moravia and Poland. They appointed George
Israel First Senior in Poland, John Czerny First Senior in Bohemia
and Moravia, and Cerwenka secretary to the whole Church.

But the Brethren had gone further still. As Augusta was the sole
surviving Bishop in the Church, the Brethren were in a difficulty.
They must not be without Bishops. But what were they to do? Were
they to wait till Augusta was set at liberty, or were they to elect
new Bishops without his authority? They chose the latter course,
and Augusta was deeply offended. They elected Czerny and Cerwenka
to the office of Bishops; they had them consecrated as Bishops by
two Brethren in priests' orders; and they actually allowed the two
new Bishops to consecrate two further Bishops, George Israel and
Blahoslaw, the Church Historian.

And even this was not the worst of the story. As he lay in his
dungeon forming plans for the Church he loved so well, it slowly
dawned upon Augusta that his Brethren were ceasing to trust him, and
that the sun of his power, which had shone so brightly, was now
sloping slowly to its setting. He heard of one change after another
taking place without his consent. He heard that the Council had
condemned his sermons as too learned and dry for the common people,
and that they had altered them to suit their own opinions. He heard
that his hymns, which he had desired to see in the new Hymn-book,
had been mangled in a similar manner. His Brethren did not even
tell him what they were doing. They simply left him out in the
cold. What he himself heard he heard by chance, and that was the
"most unkind cut of all." His authority was gone; his position was
lost; his hopes were blasted; and his early guidance, his
entreaties, his services, his sufferings were all, he thought,
forgotten by an ungrateful Church.

As Augusta heard of all these changes, a glorious vision rose before
his mind. At first he was offended, quarrelled with the Brethren,
and declared the new Bishops invalid. But at last his better
feelings gained the mastery. He would not sulk like a petted child;
he would render his Brethren the greatest service in his power. He
would fight his way to liberty; he would resume his place on the
bridge, and before long he would make the Church the national Church
of Bohemia.

The door was opened by a duke. The Archduke Ferdinand, brother of
the King, came to reside at Pürglitz {1560.}. Augusta appealed for
liberty to Ferdinand; the Archduke referred the matter to the King;
the King referred the matter to the clergy; and the clergy drew up
for Augusta's benefit a form of recantation. The issue before him
was now perfectly clear. There was one road to freedom and one
only. He must sign the form of recantation in full. The form was
drastic. He must renounce all his previous religious opinions. He
must acknowledge the Holy Catholic Church and submit to her in all
things. He must eschew the gatherings of Waldenses, Picards and all
other apostates, denounce their teaching as depraved, and recognise
the Church of Rome as the one true Church of Christ. He must labour
for the unity of the Church and endeavour to bring his Brethren into
the fold. He must never again interpret the Scriptures according to
his own understanding, but submit rather to the exposition and
authority of the Holy Roman Church, which alone was fit to decide on
questions of doctrine. He must do his duty by the King, obey him
and serve him with zeal as a loyal subject. And finally he must
write out the whole recantation with his own hand, take a public
oath to keep it, and have it signed and sealed by witnesses.
Augusta refused point blank. His hopes of liberty vanished. His
heart sank in despair. "They might as well," said Bilek, his friend,
"have asked him to walk on his head."

But here Lord Sternberg, Governor of the Castle, suggested another
path. If Augusta, said he, would not join the Church of Rome,
perhaps he would at least join the Utraquists. He had been a
Utraquist in his youth; the Brethren were Utraquists under another
name; and all that Augusta had to do was to give himself his proper
name, and his dungeon door would fly open. Of all the devices to
entrap Augusta, this well-meant trick was the most enticing. The
argument was a shameless logical juggle. The Utraquists celebrated
the communion in both kinds; the Brethren celebrated the communion
in both kinds; therefore the Brethren were Utraquists.42 At first
Augusta himself appeared to be caught.

"I, John Augusta," he wrote, "confess myself a member of the whole
Evangelical Church, which, wherever it may be, receives the body and
blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in both kinds. I swear that, along
with the Holy Catholic Church, I will maintain true submission and
obedience to her chief Head, Jesus Christ. I will order my life
according to God's holy word and the truth of his pure Gospel. I
will be led by Him, obey Him alone, and by no other human thoughts
and inventions. I renounce all erroneous and wicked opinions
against the holy universal Christian apostolic faith. I will never
take any part in the meetings of Picards or other heretics."

If Augusta thought that by language like this he would catch his
examiners napping, he was falling into a very grievous error. He
had chosen his words with care. He never said what he meant by the
Utraquists. He never said whether he would include the Brethren
among the Utraquists or among the Picards and heretics. And he had
never made any reference to the Pope.

His examiners were far too clever to be deceived. Instead of
recommending that Augusta be now set at liberty, they contended that
his recantation was no recantation at all. He had shown no
inclination, they said, towards either Rome or Utraquism. His
principles were remarkably like those of Martin Luther. He had not
acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope, and when he said he would
not be led by any human inventions he was plainly repudiating the
Church of Rome. What is the good, they asked, of Augusta's promising
to resist heretics when he does not acknowledge the Brethren to be
heretics? "It is," they said, "as clear as day that John Augusta has
no real intention of renouncing his errors." Let the man say
straight out to which party he belonged.

Again Augusta tried to fence, and again he met his match. Instead
of saying in plain language to which party he belonged, he persisted
in his first assertion that he belonged to the Catholic Evangelical
Church, which was now split into various sects. But as the old man
warmed to his work he threw caution aside.

"I have never," he said, "had anything to do with Waldenses or
Picards. I belong to the general Evangelical Church, which enjoys
the Communion in both kinds. I renounce entirely the Popish sect
known as the Holy Roman Church. I deny that the Pope is the Vicar
of Christ. I deny that the Church of Rome alone has authority to
interpret the Scriptures. If the Church of Rome claims such
authority, she must first show that she is free from the spirit of
the world, and possesses the spirit of charity, and until that is
done I refuse to bow to her decrees."

He defended the Church of the Brethren with all his might. It was,
he said, truly evangelical. It was Catholic. It was apostolic. It
was recognised and praised by Luther, Calvin, Melancthon, Bucer,
Bullinger and other saints. As long as the moral life of the Church
of Rome remained at such a low ebb, so long would there be need for
the Brethren's Church.

"If the Church of Rome will mend her ways, the Brethren," said he,
"will return to her fold; but till that blessed change takes place
they will remain where they are."

He denied being a traitor. "If any one says that I have been
disloyal to the Emperor, I denounce that person as a liar. If his
Majesty knew how loyal I have been, he would not keep me here
another hour. I know why I am suffering. I am suffering, not as an
evil-doer, but as a Christian."

The first skirmish was over. The clergy were firm, and Augusta sank
back exhausted in his cell. But the kindly Governor was still
resolved to smooth the way for his prisoners. "I will not rest," he
said, "till I see them at liberty." He suggested that Augusta
should have an interview with the Jesuits!

"What would be the good of that?" said Augusta. "I should be like a
little dog in the midst of a pack of lions. I pray you, let these
negotiations cease. I would rather stay where I am. It is clear
there is no escape for me unless I am false to my honour and my
conscience. I will never recant nor act against my conscience. May
God help me to keep true till death."

At last, however, Augusta gave way, attended Mass, with Bilek, in
the castle chapel, and consented to an interview with the Jesuits,
on condition that Bilek should go with him, and that he should also
be allowed another interview with the Utraquists {1561.}. The day
for the duel arrived. The chosen spot was the new Jesuit College at
Prague. As they drove to the city both Augusta and Bilek were
allowed to stretch their limbs and even get out of sight of their
guards. At Prague they were allowed a dip in the Royal Bath. It was
the first bath they had had for fourteen years, and the people came
from far and near to gaze upon their scars.

And now, being fresh and clean in body, Augusta, the stubborn
heretical Picard, was to be made clean in soul. As the Jesuits were
determined to do their work well, they laid down the strict
condition that no one but themselves must be allowed to speak with
the prisoners. For the rest the prisoners were treated kindly. The
bedroom was neat; the food was good; the large, bright dining-room
had seven windows. They had wine to dinner, and were waited on by a
discreet and silent butler. Not a word did that solemn functionary
utter. If the Brethren made a remark to him, he laid his fingers on
his lips like the witches in Macbeth.

The great debate began. The Jesuit spokesman was Dr. Henry Blissem.
He opened by making a clean breast of the whole purpose of the

"It is well known to you both," said he, "for what purpose you have
been handed over to our care, that we, if possible, may help you to
a right understanding of the Christian faith."

If the Jesuits could have had their way, they would have had
Augusta's answers set down in writing. But here Augusta stood firm
as a rock. He knew the game the Jesuits were playing. The
interview was of national importance. If his answers were
considered satisfactory, the Jesuits would have them printed, sow
them broadcast, and boast of his conversion; and if, on the other
hand, they were unsatisfactory, they would send them to the Emperor
as proof that Augusta was a rebel, demand his instant execution, and
start another persecution of the Brethren.

Dr. Henry, made the first pass.

"The Holy Universal Church," he said, "is the true bride of Christ
and the true mother of all Christians."

Augusta politely agreed.

"On this is question," he said, "our own party thinks and believes
exactly as you do."

"No one," continued the doctor suavely, "can believe in God who does
not think correctly of the Holy Church, and regard her as his
mother; and without the Church there is no salvation."

Again Augusta politely agreed, and again the learned Jesuit beamed
with pleasure. Now came the tug of war.

"This Holy Christian Church," said Blissem, "has never erred and
cannot err."

Augusta met this with a flat denial. If he surrendered here he
surrendered all, and would be untrue to his Brethren. If he once
agreed that the Church was infallible he was swallowing the whole
Roman pill. In vain the doctor argued. Augusta held his ground.
The Jesuits reported him hard in the head, and had him sent back to
his cell.

For two more years he waited in despair, and then he was brought to
the White Tower again, and visited by two Utraquist Priests,
Mystopol and Martin. His last chance, they told him, had now
arrived. They had come as messengers from the Archduke Ferdinand
and from the Emperor himself.

"I know," said one of them, "on what you are relying and how you
console yourself, but I warn you it will avail you nothing."

"You know no secrets," said Augusta.

"What secrets?" queried Mystopol.

"Neither divine nor mine. My dear administrators, your visit is
quite a surprise! With regard to the recantation, however, let me
say at once, I shall not sign it! I have never been guilty of any
errors, and have nothing to recant. I made my public confession of
faith before the lords and knights of Bohemia twenty-eight years
ago. It was shown to the Emperor at Vienna, and no one has ever
found anything wrong with it."

"How is it," said Mystopol, "you cannot see your error? You know it
says in our confession, 'I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.'
You Brethren have fallen away from that Church. You are not true
members of the body. You are an ulcer. You are a scab. You have
no sacraments. You have written bloodthirsty pamphlets against us.
We have a whole box full of your productions."

"We never wrote any tracts," said Augusta, "except to show why we
separated from you, but you urged on the Government against us. You
likened me to a bastard and to Goliath the Philistine. Your
petition read as if it had been written in a brothel."

And now the character of John Augusta shone forth in all its
grandeur. The old man was on his mettle.

"Of all Christians known to me," he said, "the Brethren stick
closest to Holy Writ. Next to them come the Lutherans; next to the
Lutherans the Utraquists; and next to the Utraquists the---!"

But there in common honesty he had to stop. And then he turned the
tables on Mystopol, and came out boldly with his scheme. It was no
new idea of his. He had already, in 1547, advocated a National
Protestant Church composed of Utraquists and Brethren. Instead of
the Brethren joining the Utraquists, it was, said Augusta, the plain
duty of the Utraquists to break from the Church of Rome and join the
Brethren. For the last forty years the Utraquists had been really
Lutherans at heart. He wanted them now to be true to their own
convictions. He wanted them to carry out in practice the teaching
of most of their preachers. He wanted them to run the risk of
offending the Emperor and the Pope. He wanted them to ally
themselves with the Brethren; and he believed that if they would
only do so nearly every soul in Bohemia would join the new
Evangelical movement. De Schweinitz says that Augusta betrayed his
Brethren, and that when he called himself a Utraquist he was playing
with words. I cannot accept this verdict. He explained clearly and
precisely what he meant; he was a Utraquist in the same sense as
Luther; and the castle he had built in the air was nothing less than
a grand international union of all the Evangelical Christians in

"My lords," he pleaded in golden words, "let us cease this mutual
accusation of each other. Let us cease our destructive quarrelling.
Let us join in seeking those higher objects which we both have in
common, and let us remember that we are both of one origin, one
nation, one blood and one spirit. Think of it, dear lords, and try
to find some way to union."

The appeal was pathetic and sincere. It fell on adders' ears. His
scheme found favour neither with Brethren nor with Utraquists. To
the Brethren Augusta was a Jesuitical juggler. To the Utraquists he
was a supple athlete trying to dodge his way out of prison.

"You shift about," wrote the Brethren, "in a most remarkable manner.
You make out the Utraquist Church to be different from what it
really is, in order to keep a door open through which you may go."
In their judgment he was nothing less than an ambitious schemer.
If his scheme were carried out, they said, he would not only be
First Elder of the Brethren's Church, but administrator of the whole
united Church.

At last, however, King Maximilian interceded with the Emperor in his
favour, and Augusta was set free on the one condition that he would
not preach in public {1564.}. His hair was white; his beard was
long; his brow was furrowed; his health was shattered; and he spent
his last days amongst the Brethren, a defeated and broken-hearted
man. He was restored to his old position as First Elder; he settled
down again at Jungbunzlau; and yet somehow the old confidence was
never completely restored. In vain he upheld his daring scheme of
union. John Blahoslaw opposed him to the teeth. For the time, at
least, John Blahoslaw was in the right. Augusta throughout had made
one fatal blunder. As the Utraquists were now more Protestant in
doctrine he thought that they had begun to love the Brethren. The
very contrary was the case. If two people agree in nine points out
of ten, and only differ in one, they will often quarrel more
fiercely with each other than if they disagreed in all the ten. And
that was just what happened in Bohemia. The more Protestant the
Utraquists became in doctrine, the more jealous they were of the
Brethren. And thus Augusta was honoured by neither party. Despised
by friend and foe alike, the old white-haired Bishop tottered to the
silent tomb. "He kept out of our way," says the sad old record, "as
long as he could; he had been among us long enough." As we think of
the noble life he lived, and the bitter gall of his eventide, we may
liken him to one of those majestic mountains which tower in grandeur
under the noontide sun, but round whose brows the vapours gather as
night settles down on the earth. In the whole gallery of Bohemian
portraits there is none, says Gindely, so noble in expression as
his; and as we gaze on those grand features we see dignity blended
with sorrow, and pride with heroic fire.43


THE GOLDEN AGE, 1572-1603.

As the Emperor Maximilian II. set out from the Royal Castle in
Prague for a drive he met a baron famous in all the land {1575.}.
The baron was John von Zerotin, the richest member of the
Brethren's Church. He had come to Prague on very important
business. His home lay at Namiest, in Moravia. He lived in a
stately castle, built on two huge crags, and surrounded by the
houses of his retainers and domestics. His estate was twenty-five
miles square. He had a lovely park of beeches, pines and old oaks.
He held his court in kingly style. He had gentlemen of the chamber
of noble birth. He had pages and secretaries, equerries and masters
of the chase. He had valets, lackeys, grooms, stable-boys,
huntsmen, barbers, watchmen, cooks, tailors, shoemakers, and
saddlers. He had sat at the feet of Blahoslaw, the learned Church
historian: he kept a Court Chaplain, who was, of course, a pastor of
the Brethren's Church; and now he had come to talk things over with
the head of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Emperor offered the Baron a seat in his carriage. The Brother
and the Emperor drove on side by side.

"I hear," said the Emperor, "that the Picards are giving up their
religion and going over to the Utraquists."

The Baron was astounded. He had never, he said, heard the slightest
whisper that the Brethren intended to abandon their own Confessions.

"I have heard it," said the Emperor, "as positive fact from Baron
Hassenstein himself."

"It is not true," replied Zerotin.

"What, then," said the Emperor, "do the Utraquists mean when they
say that they are the true Hussites, and wish me to protect them in
their religion?"

"Your gracious Majesty," replied Zerotin, "the Brethren, called
Picards, are the true Hussites: they have kept their faith
unsullied, as you may see yourself from the Confession they
presented to you."44

The Emperor looked puzzled. He was waxing old and feeble, and his
memory was failing.

"What!" he said, "have the Picards got a Confession?"

He was soon to hear the real truth of the matter. For some months
there had sat in Prague a committee of learned divines, who had met
for the purpose of drawing up a National Protestant Bohemian
Confession. The dream of Augusta seemed to be coming true. The
Brethren took their part in the proceedings. "We are striving," said
Slawata, one of their deputies, "for peace, love and unity. We have
no desire to be censors of dogmas. We leave such matters to
theological experts." The Confession45 was prepared, read out at
the Diet, and presented to the Emperor. It was a compromise between
the teaching of Luther and the teaching of the Brethren. In its
doctrine of justification by faith it followed the teaching of
Luther: in its doctrine of the Lord's Supper it inclined to the
broader evangelical view of the Brethren. The Emperor attended the
Diet in person, and made a notable speech.

"I promise," he said, "on my honour as an Emperor, that I will never
oppress or hinder you in the exercise of your religion; and I pledge
my word in my own name and also in the name of my successors."

Let us try to grasp the meaning of this performance. As the Edict
of St. James was still in force, the Brethren, in the eyes of the
law, were still heretics and rebels; they had no legal standing in
the country; and at any moment the King in his fury might order them
to quit the land once more. But the truth is that the King of
Bohemia was now a mere figurehead. The real power lay in the hands
of the barons. The barons were Protestant almost to a man.

As the Emperor lay dying a few months later in the castle of
Regensburg, he was heard to murmur the words, "The happy time is
come." For the Brethren the happy time had come indeed. They knew
that the so-called Utraquist Church was Utraquist only in name; they
knew that the Bible was read in every village; they knew that
Lutheran doctrines were preached in hundreds of Utraquist Churches;
they knew that in their own country they had now more friends than
foes; and thus, free from the terrors of the law they trod the
primrose path of peace and power. We have come to the golden age of
the Brethren's Church.

It was the age of material prosperity. As the sun of freedom shone
upon their way, the Brethren drifted further still from the old
Puritan ascetic ideas of Peter and Gregory the Patriarch. They had
now all classes in their ranks. They had seventeen rich and
powerful barons, of the stamp of John Zerotin; they had over a
hundred and forty knights; they had capitalists, flourishing
tradesmen, mayors, and even generals in the Army, and the Lord High
Chamberlain now complained that two-thirds of the people in Bohemia
were Brethren.46 Nor was this all. For many years the Brethren had
been renowned as the most industrious and prosperous people in the
country; and were specially famous for their manufacture of knives.
They were noted for their integrity of character, and were able to
obtain good situations as managers of estates, houses, wine cellars
and mills; and in many of the large settlements, such as Jungbunzlau
and Leitomischl, they conducted flourishing business concerns for
the benefit of the Church at large. They made their settlements the
most prosperous places in the country; they built hospitals; they
had a fund for the poor called the Korbona; and on many estates they
made themselves so useful that the barons, in their gratitude, set
them free from the usual tolls and taxes. To the Brethren business
was now a sacred duty. They had seen the evils of poverty, and they
did their best to end them. They made no hard and fast distinction
between secular and sacred; and the cooks and housemaids in the
Brethren's Houses were appointed by the Church, and called from one
sphere of service to another, just as much as the presbyters and
deacons. The clergy, though still doing manual labour, were now
rather better off: the gardens and fields attached to the manses
helped to swell their income; and, therefore, we are not surprised
to hear that some of them were married.

Again, the Brethren were champions of education. They had seen the
evil of their ways. As the exiles banished by Ferdinand I. came
into contact with Lutherans in Prussia they heard, rather to their
disgust, that they were commonly regarded by the German Protestants
as a narrow-minded and benighted set of men; and, therefore, at the
special invitation of the Lutheran Bishop Speratus, they began the
practice of sending some of their students to foreign universities.
It is pathetic to read how the first two students were sent
{1549.}. "We granted them," says the record, "their means of
support. We gave them £7 10s. a-piece, and sent them off to Basle."
We are not informed how long the money was to last. For some years
the new policy was fiercely opposed; and the leader of the
opposition was John Augusta. He regarded this new policy with
horror, condemned it as a falling away from the old simplicity and
piety, and predicted that it would bring about the ruin of the
Brethren's Church. At the head of the progressive party was John
Blahoslaw, the historian. He had been to Wittenberg and Basle
himself; he was a master of Greek and Latin; and now he wrote a
brilliant philippic, pouring scorn on the fears of the conservative
party. "For my part," he said, "I have no fear that learned and
pious men will ever ruin the Church. I am far more afraid of the
action of those high-minded and stupid schemers, who think more
highly of themselves than they ought to think." It is clear to whom
these stinging words refer. They are a plain hit at Augusta. "It is
absurd," he continued, "to be afraid of learning and culture. As
long as our leaders are guided by the Spirit of Christ, all will be
well; but when craft and cunning, and worldly prudence creep in,
then woe to the Brethren's Church! Let us rather be careful whom we
admit to the ministry, and then the Lord will preserve us from
destruction." As we read these biting words, we can understand how
it came to pass that Augusta, during his last few years, was held in
such little honour. The old man was behind the times. The
progressive party triumphed. Before long there were forty students
at foreign Universities. The whole attitude of the Brethren
changed. As the Humanist movement spread in Bohemia, the Brethren
began to take an interest in popular education; and now, aided by
friendly nobles, they opened a number of free elementary schools.
At Eibenschütz, in Moravia, they had a school for the sons of the
nobility, with Esrom Rüdinger as headmaster; both Hebrew and Greek
were taught; and the school became so famous that many of the pupils
came from Germany. At Holleschau, Leitomischl, Landskron,
Gross-Bitesch, Austerlitz, Fulneck, Meseretoch, Chropin, Leipnik,
Kaunic, Trebitzch, Paskau, Ungarisch-Brod, Jungbunzlau, and Prerau,
they had free schools supported by Protestant nobles and manned with
Brethren's teachers. As there is no direct evidence to the
contrary, we may take it for granted that in these schools the
syllabus was much the same as in the other schools of the country.
In most the Latin language was taught, and in some dialectics,
rhetoric, physics, astronomy and geometry. The education was
largely practical. At most of the Bohemian schools in those days
the children were taught, by means of conversation books, how to
look after a horse, how to reckon with a landlord, how to buy cloth,
how to sell a garment, how to write a letter, how to make terms with
a pedlar, how, in a word, to get on in the world. But the Brethren
laid the chief stress on religion. Instead of separating the
secular and the sacred, they combined the two in a wonderful way,
and taught both at the same time. For this purpose, they published,
in the first place, a school edition of their Catechism in three
languages, Bohemian, German, and Latin; and thus the Catechism
became the scholar's chief means of instruction. He learned to read
from his Catechism; he learned Latin from his Catechism; he learned
German from his Catechism; and thus, while mastering foreign
tongues, he was being grounded at the same time in the articles of
the Christian faith. He lived, in a word, from morning to night in
a Christian atmosphere. For the same purpose a Brother named
Matthias Martinus prepared a book containing extracts from the
Gospels and Epistles. It was printed in six parallel columns. In
the first were grammatical notes; in the second the text in Greek;
in the third a translation in Bohemian; in the fourth in German; in
the fifth in Latin; and in the sixth a brief exposition.

Second, the Brethren used another text-book called the "Book of
Morals." It was based, apparently, on Erasmus's "Civilitas Morum."
It was a simple, practical guide to daily conduct. It was written
in rhyme, and the children learned it by heart. It was divided into
three parts. In the first, the child was taught how to behave from
morning to night; in the second, how to treat his elders and
masters; in the third, how to be polite at table.

Third, the Brethren, in all their schools, made regular use of
hymn-books; and the scholar learnt to sing by singing hymns.
Sometimes the hymns were in a separate volume; sometimes a
selection was bound up with the Catechism. But in either case the
grand result was the same. As we follow the later fortunes of the
Brethren we shall find ourselves face to face with a difficult
problem. How was it, we ask, that in later years, when their little
Church was crushed to powder, these Brethren held the faith for a
hundred years? How was it that the "Hidden Seed" had such vitality?
How was it that, though forbidden by law, they held the fort till
the times of revival came? For answer we turn to their Catechism.
They had learned it first in their own homes; they had learned it
later at school; they had made it the very marrow of their life;
they taught it in turn to their children; and thus in the darkest
hours of trial they handed on the torch of faith from one generation
to another.

We come now to another secret of their strength. Of all the
Protestants in Europe the Bohemian Brethren were the first to
publish a Hymn-book; and by this time they had published ten
editions. The first three were in Bohemian, and were edited by Luke
of Prague, 1501, 1505, 1519; the fourth in German, edited by Michael
Weiss, 1531; the fifth in Bohemian, edited by John Horn, 1541; the
sixth in German, edited by John Horn, 1544; the seventh in Polish,
edited by George Israel, 1554; the eighth in Bohemian, edited by
John Blahoslaw, 1561; the ninth in German, 1566; the tenth in
Polish, 1569. As they wished here to appeal to all classes, they
published hymns both ancient and modern, and tunes both grave and
gay. Among the hymn-writers were John Hus, Rockycana, Luke of
Prague, Augusta, and Martin Luther; and among the tunes were
Gregorian Chants and popular rondels of the day. The hymns and
tunes were published in one volume. The chief purpose of the hymns
was clear religious instruction. The Brethren had nothing to
conceal. They had no mysterious secret doctrines; and no mysterious
secret practices. They published their hymn-books, not for
themselves only, but for all the people in the country, and for
Evangelical Christians in other lands. "It has been our chief aim,"
they said, "to let everyone fully and clearly understand what our
views are with regard to the articles of the Christian faith." And
here the hymns were powerful preachers of the faith. They spread
the Brethren's creed in all directions. They were clear, orderly,
systematic, and Scriptural; and thus they were sung in the family
circle, by bands of young men in the Brethren's Houses, by shepherds
watching their flocks by night, by sturdy peasants as they trudged
to market. And then, on Sunday, in an age when congregational
singing was as yet but little known, the Brethren made the rafters
ring with the sound of united praise. "Your churches," wrote the
learned Esrom Rüdinger, "surpass all others in singing. For where
else are songs of praise, of thanksgiving, of prayer and instruction
so often heard? Where is there better singing? The newest edition
of the Bohemian Hymn-book, with its seven hundred and forty-three
hymns, is an evidence of the multitude of your songs. Three hundred
and forty-six have been translated into German. In your churches
the people can all sing and take part in the worship of God."

But of all the services rendered by the Brethren to the cause of the
evangelical faith in Bohemia the noblest and the most enduring was
their translation of the Bible into the Bohemian tongue. In the
archives of the Brethren's Church at Herrnhut are now to be seen six
musty volumes known as the Kralitz Bible (1579-93). The idea was
broached by Blahoslaw, the Church historian. The expense was born
by Baron John von Zerotin. The actual printing was executed at
Zerotin's Castle at Kralitz. The translation was based, not on the
Vulgate, but on the original Hebrew and Greek. The work of
translating the Old Testament was entrusted to six Hebrew scholars,
Aeneas, Cepollo, Streic, Ephraim, Jessen, and Capito. The New
Testament was translated by Blahoslaw himself (1565). The work was
of national interest. For the first time the Bohemian people
possessed the Bible in a translation from the original tongue, with
the chapters subdivided into verses, and the Apocrypha separated
from the Canonical Books. The work appeared at first in cumbersome
form. It was issued in six bulky volumes, with only eight or nine
verses to a page, and a running commentary in the margin. The paper
was strong, the binding dark brown, the page quarto, the type Latin,
the style chaste and idiomatic, and the commentary fairly rich in
broad practical theology. But all this was no use to the poor. For
the benefit, therefore, of the common people the Brethren published
a small thin paper edition in a plain calf binding. It contained an
index of quotations from the Old Testament in the New, an index of
proper names with their meanings, a lectionary for the Christian
Year, references in the margin, and a vignette including the famous
Brethren's episcopal seal, "The Lamb and the Flag." The size of the
page was only five inches by seven and a half; the number of pages
was eleven hundred and sixty; the paper was so remarkably thin that
the book was only an inch and a quarter thick;47 and thus it was
suited in every way to hold the same place in the affections of the
people that the Geneva Bible held in England in the days of our
Puritan fathers. The Kralitz Bible was a masterpiece. It helped to
fix and purify the language, and thus completed what Stitny and Hus
had begun. It became the model of a chaste and simple style; and
its beauty of language was praised by the Jesuits. It is a relic
that can never be forgotten, a treasure that can never lose its
value. It is issued now, word for word, by the British and Foreign
Bible Society; it is read by the people in their own homes, and is
used in the Protestant Churches of the country; and thus, as the
Catholic, Gindely, says, it will probably endure as long as the
Bohemian tongue is spoken.

But even this was not the end of the Brethren's labours. We come to
the most amazing fact in their history. On the one hand they were

Book of the day: