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Relation of the Lot

Neither of the two foregoing accounts mention the conspicuous part played by the lot in connection with early marriages. Bishop Edmund de Schweinitz has written an enlightening description of the system, which is here given in full. (3)

    "The fundamental principle underlying the employment of the lot, in the case of marriages, was a noble principle of devotedness to the service of Christ. The Brethren believed that the extension of His kingdom, through their agency, should not be hindered by any of the relations of this life, in accordance with what the Lord himself said, as recorded in Matthew xix 29. They feared that early engagements would prevent young men from going forth, as messengers of the Gospel, to distant lands, or render a long abode in them irksome; they were, moreover, convinced that it was a matter of the utmost importance not only to enter the marriage state in the fear of God, but to secure partners in life who would, in the fullest sense, be helpmates to them while laboring in the Lord's vineyard. Therefore they had faith in Him, that He would condescend to give them such wives as they needed, and as would approve themselves worthy handmaids of His. Besides, owing to the peculiar regulations of the settlements, young men and women had very little social intercourse. In this way, the lot came into use for contracting marriages in the case of missionaries and ministers, and gradually of all the members of the Church. But it was not employed in the manner so often set forth by ignorant writers. Men and women were not indiscriminately coupled, without their knowledge, and contrary to their wishes. The mode was simply this: When a man wished to marry, he proposed a woman to the authorities of the Church, or, if he had no proposal to make, left it to them to suggest a woman. The authorities submitted the proposal to the decision of the lot, and if it was sanctioned, made the woman an offer of marriage, in the name of the man, which offer she was at perfect liberty to reject, if she thought proper; for the lot bound the authorities to make the offer, but not the woman to accept it. If she refused, or if the proposal was negatived by the lot, the man made another, and the authorities never forced any woman upon him against his will.

So far, therefore, from ridiculing this usage, an intelligent mind, capable of appreciating the spirit which animated the early Brethren in this respect, will be filled with profound admiration at the faith which they displayed. When confidence in this mode of contracting marriages began to wane, the rule was abrogated. But while it continued, there were fewer unhappy marriages among the Brethren, than among the same number of people in any other denominations of Christians. This is a well known and abundantly substantiated fact."

Bishop J. Mortimer Levering also discusses the general subject of the lot at some length (4) , and his comments on its application to marriage are here given:

      "Its application for many years to marriages in the Exclusive Church Settlements and in the case of persons officially serving as ministers and missionaries, arose under an overwrought system devised to carry out lofty ideals of a completely consecrated associate and individual life under Christ the Head; and of complete subjection to Divine guidance, believed to be given in every matter in response to simple faith, and to be ascertained in this manner. . . no official use of the lot by a board, involving a call, or proposition to any persons, ever bound the person in question without their previous knowledge and consent. That persons were mated together for marriage by a board using the lot in connecting one's name with that of another, without their concurrence, in a kind of lottery, is a preposterous supposition".

The Rev. Harry E. Stocker narrates the following Interesting account of the marriage of the missionary, John Peter Kluge (5).

     "In the fall of 1800, Kluge and a companion, Abraham Luckenbach from Bethlehem, received and accepted a call for service in the White River (Indiana) mission. Both men were single,, but Kluge expressed his willinguses to be married, if the Lord would provide a suitable helpmate. Those were the days when the Brethren made considerable use of the lot. The names of all eligible young women in the Bethlehem congregation - needless to say without their knowledge - were therefore taken under prayerful consideration and submitted to the lot. In each case the answer was negative. Thereupon the elders of the Nazareth congregation were fraternally requested to send a list of likely candidates for married honors. They did this, but Kluge's wife was not among the number. Clearly the proverbially right one had been sought in the wrong place. Not in Bethlehem nor in Nazareth, but in Lititz, she bad her home. Thus it came about that Brother Kluge journeyed to that village in the early part of October, and was there joined in marriage to Anna Maria Rank. On the twelfth of the same month, the day on which her husband and Brother Abraham Luckenbach were ordained to the diaconate of the Moravian Church, at Bethlehem, the young bride was accepted as an acolyte. October fifteenth, at high noon, the missionaries started on their journey from Bethlehem to Goshen."

This account is a striking example of the trusting faith with which many other couples too deferred their own wishes to vine guidance, and courageously set forth to do that which were commanded from on High, regardless of consequences.

Bishop J. Taylor Hamilton has this to say of the lot, in relation to marriage (6)

     "In July, 1732, it (the lot) was employed in regard to the proposed marriage of John Toltschig and Julia Haberland, and after 1733 its voluntary use in connection with marriages became frequent.

The twenty-first general synod convened on June 1, 1789, in Herrnhut. . . . From the outset it was apparant that great differences of opinion existed with reference to the retention and employment of this usage of the church. Great difficulties had arisen in the way of enforcing marriage by lot in the town and country congregations. Hence synod resolved that although the usage should be retained in the 'settlements', exceptions might be allowed in the other congregations., such cases to be decided by the local conference in conjunction with the governing conference of the province.

"Settlements were defined as 'quiet and sanctified retreats where religion was the all-absorbing topic and the chief factor in life. A Moravian settlement normally consisted of a village all of whose inhabitants were adherents of the Moravian Church, permanent residence or the acquirement of property therein by others not being permitted.

In connection with the general synod of 1801, when the subject again came up for discussion, Bishop Hamilton, in the same work, says:

      "Cunow (7) recommended adherence to the most definite rules fur the settlement congregations - 'our entire constitution necessitates that in them no marriage shall be contracted without the approval of the lot'. This opinion prevailed in Bethlehem, as elsewhere, opposition to existing regulations in the administration of the Church, and more especially in matters of personal conduct such as the use of the lot, continued to increase, until finally, at the general synod held in 1818, permission was granted for the town and country congregations in Europe, and for the American congregations, to dispense with it."

Bishop Levering, in his "History of Bethlehem" thus scribes the general attitude in Bethlehem:

     "Involved in it all was the inquisitorial meddling of the authorities in men' a private affairs, which so many could no longer brook, and the unbearable supervision of officialdom in the matter of contracting marriages, with the application of the lot not yet relaxed, against the excessive use of which, in all kinds of matters, an almost irresistible opposition had begun to appear".

While the lot did in some cases unite persons having widely dissimilar personalities, notably from the standpoint of intellect, this did not usually prove an obstacle to the future happiness and usefulness of the persons involved. The writer was once told of such an instance, in connection with two young people whose marriage was solemnized in 1799. The young man was a member of a prominent family, and had received the benefit of a thorough education; the young woman was of humble parentage, had received little opportunity to improve her mind, and held a menial position in the community. Deeply conscious of her inferiority, however, she courageously set out to remove the intellectual barrier that existed between her and her husband. She frequently remained up until late into the night reading by dim candle light, and eventually attained a degree of knowledge which effectually removed what might have proved a handicap to a happy wedded life. Thus it will be seen, that, strange as it may appear from the modern viewpoint, the method of selecting life partners then vogue made for true happiness, rather than otherwise. As stated before, this was due in large measure to trusting faith, and a determination to abide by the Divine will in all matters effecting the higher life.

3. "The Moravian Manual; Containing an Account of the Moravian Church,, or Unitas Fratrum", - Second Edition; Bethlehem, 1869.
4. "A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1741-1892)", Bethlehem, Pa., 1903.
5. "History of the Moravian Missions Among the Indians on a White River in Indiana", - Transactions of Moravian Historical Society, - Vol. X.
6. "History of the Moravian Church". - Bethlehem, - 1900.
7. This was the venerable Godfrey Cunow, and should not be confused with Administrator John Gebhard Cunow, of Bethlehem, who, however, held very similar views on this and kindred subjects

[Text above is from pages x-xv of original]

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