1757 - A short, reliable report from the church of the Unitas Fratrum...concerning canon, external and internal church constitution and customs...
A short, reliable report from the church of the Unitas Fratrum, known under the name of the Bohemian-Moravian Brethren,concerning canon, external and internal church constitution and customs, from official documents and oral records, published by a Christian antipartisian friends, including sixteen embellished presentations in copper. MDCCLVII
(Introduction) Who are the Moravian Brethren? § I. Reason behind
this name, and how they are otherwise named § II.
There are already so many works which have been written about the Brethren, who, in addition, are called the Moravian Brethren, and also by the respectable yet inaccurate name of Herrenhuters, that one could collect a fairly large library consisting of these books. However, even the most superficial of readers could not fail to see how little of the story of the Brethren has been brought to light by this collection after he found that these texts contradict themselves and each other. At times they contain such despicable items that would not even be tolerated in plebian works which, if they were true, would have long ago had to have been destroyed by their authors. That so much fault has been placed on the Brethren, however, is partially due to ignorance, as they were mostly new and unknown. Yet everyone wanted to know something of them, to judge them, and to talk about them (in accordance with the well known desire to read the newspapers and preference for discussing spiteful and hateful topics.) This they did in part because of the
malice of their [the Brethrens] enemies who, before the Brethren were really settled, attempted to suppress them. It was also partially due to a personal hatred and jealousy of their leaders by secret enemies, who also brought the case before the courts and who would have brought down the Brethren long ago, had the officials wanted to damn them without investigating the situation. They [the officials] have succeeded through any number of intrigues to mediate a solution which requires that the opposition make itself known in all further writings which are open to the public, which knows nothing of the connection of these things, even if it is apparent to all involved that it is to no effect.
The Brethren do not partake in these feuds and they are disdainful of the doings of their enemies. This is because they believe that those souls who are disapproving and only seeking trouble will not appreciate a more correct understanding of them. They believe that those souls who are approving and who are seeking the truth will soon discover the lies of their enemies though a comparison of their texts and an impartial assessment of the writing, and of the causes and goals of said texts. The truth of the texts of the Brethren would be easy for such souls to recognize, if they took the effort to give as much attention to these texts as they do to the texts of the opposition. Among these are the respectable persons who, on account of their positions, must look more closely into the matter and who have already heard the truth of the matter so many times, that they, either
on their own, or at the bidding of the Brethren, have ceased inspecting the case. Yes, the Brethren have publicly explained and pleaded that anyone who cares to come to them with an upright soul and within the bounds of honor common to the morals of the society, to differentiate between truth and fiction can, either in secret or publicly, with handwritten or printed requests, ask questions of them. The Brethren will willingly meet questions about everything that pertains to their teachings, lifestyle, institutes, and especially their history with true and complete answers.
We can find a few trials of this offer in the collection of Büdingen and it is evident that the Brethren kept their word. Only those who accuse the Brethren of letting their passions guide them into laying all necessary work aside as they answered the numerous oppositional and blasphemous writings and worked to dampen the anger once caused by their opponents know why they regarded this sure method of discovering the truth as wasteful (it is not easy to teach an opponent the truth because, even after he has been answered ten times, he still wishes to be right and to have the last word.)
At this time, Mr. Spangenberg, M.A., took upon himself a work that the opposition was supposedly waiting to receive. In this work he closely analyzed the critics' writings and their often shameless accusations, many of which had already been answered many times over.
He gathered them together in a large number of questions without alteration. He then presented his person, his character, and his work to the Ordinario Fratrum. He shared their thorough and mostly highly detailed answers with the public. Because that was still not enough and the German polemic papers were being translated in England the Brethren began again to solicit questions instead of translating a general statement and publishing it. The Brethren, as far as the results indicate, answered the printed questions of an unnamed opposition quite thoroughly, quieting the opposition.
These texts remove the lies and set aright the canon and facts that have been twisted by the opposition, but they do not deal positively with the structure of the Church of the Brethren. For this reason the opportunity was taken to complete the famous Herrlibergerschen Cermonien-Werks on the origins of the Church of the Brethren, their canon, the structure and customs of the church, which was requested by good friends who did not possess the authority to write upon the subject, but who were also not idle passersby. They were residents of the house who wanted to hear about the internal and external structure of the church and who asked the appropriate authority, and from the answers they compiled
this short, reliable report with elaborations taken from the texts and stories of the Brethren, including sixteen elucidating pictorial representations that were also found in the sources of the Brethren.
An understanding reader will see immediately from the style of writing that this is not written in defense of the Brethren but that it is, rather, a sincere relation of the things which we were told of, without praise or censure, but with a secret joy and pleasure (which no accepting soul could or would want to withhold from any constituted church) that they [the Brethren] act in a completely different manner than the opponents would have us believe. It is these people whom we, in accordance with the truth, must convince that the reports that we have received were prepared modestly and without the boasting common to (Testibus in propria causa)* . Praise or astonishment expressed in the following text, which will happen but infrequently, is simply unofficial commentary by the compiler, and which, at first glance, reveal themselves to be trustworthy reports. The freedom has been taken to include the Act granted the Brethren by the Parliament of Great Britain at the end of the report, as it has been asked for many times by good friends.
If the reader would review these few pages with an acceptance of and pleasure in the truth,
then he should rightly expect further and more detailed reports from the Brethren, especially ones which pertain to their newer history and one can also look at the old texts from the Lafitii, Camerarii, Regenvolcii, Comenii, Saligs, and Riegers, and at that which pertains to their teachings, out of the old hymnals of the Brethren. The influences of the natural reflexes of the Ordinarii Fratrum, their intelligence, the Apologia of Spangenburg and the Berbice Synod of 1750 can be seen in the teachings and in the actions of the Brethren. Also noteworthy are the influences of the questions of the Neuwiedish Commission, the summary of the English controversy papers that were edited and bound in two parts by the Ordinarii, the hymnal that was finally edited in London in 1753, and of various volumes of sermons and speeches.
We take some amusement from the fact that, due to all kinds of unforeseen complications, this work was put off until the year 1757. This is the year in which the anniversary of the Church of the Brethren is celebrated. Most historians claim that the first recognizable Church of the Brethren was created in 1457 after they had separated from the Hussites, the Calixtines, and the Taborites, and had moved to Lititz. They were originally descendants of the Bohemian martyr John Huss.
Transcriptions and Translations: Rachel Wheeler & Anna Bellersen
updated: 30 January 2004