Ludwig von Zinzendorf, the Moravians, & the Pietist Lutherans: Young Christians who changed the world! - American Minute with Bill Federer

Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote:
"As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation."
An example of "one small candle" lighting a thousand" occurred in the early 1700s, with a rich young ruler.
Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born in 1700 into a noble German family, with his ancestor being Maximillian I, the Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 to 1519.
When Nikolaus was six weeks old, his father died. His mother remarried, and at the age of four, he was sent to live with his pietistic Lutheran grandmother, Henriette Catharina von Gersdorff.
In 1719, at the age of 19 years old, Count Zinzendorf went on his "Grand Tour" - a trip where young aristocrats made their first introductions to the royal courts of France, the Netherlands, and major German kingdoms.
While on this tour, in the city of Dusseldorf, Count Zinzendorf visited a museum, where he viewed a painting by Domenico Feti depicting Christ's suffering.
The painting, titled "Ecce Homo" ("Behold the Man"), had a Latin caption underneath,
"Ego pro te haec passus sum
Tu vero quid fecisti pro me,"
which translated is:
"This have I suffered for you;
now what will you do for me?"
Young Count Zinzendorf was moved in a profound way.
Convicted in his heart by the Holy Spirit, Count Zinzendorf came to an intensely personal faith in Christ, an experience which was part of a revival movement labeled "Pietism."
In 1722, at the age of 22, Count Zinzendorf opened up his estate at Berthelsdorf, Saxony, for persecuted Christians of Europe who were displaced during the 30 Years War, to come and live together.
People arrived from Moravia, Bohemia (Czech Republic) and other areas, and built a village on his estate called "Herrnhut," which means "The Lord's Watchful Care."
The area of Bohemia had a Reformation history that can be traced back to Jan Hus in the 15th century.
The religious refugees that came to Count Zinzendorf's estate almost ended the endeavor before it really began, by bringing their doctrinal rivalries with them.
When they started disagreeing among themselves, the 27-year-old Count Zinzendorf began a prayer meeting, August 13, 1727.
This meeting, called a "prayer watch," went on continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with believers taking turns, uninterrupted for over 100 years.
Count Zinzendorf stated:
"I have one passion: it is Jesus, Jesus only."
More Moravian missionaries were sent out from Herrnhut in the next 20 years than all Christendom had in the previous 200 years.
The Moravians were the first to send unordained lay people onto the mission field rather than trained clergy.
Missionaries were also given no financial support but had to earn their own living. Most of the missionaries were young men and women.
Imagine today, if all the woke youth, instead of rioting and tearing things down, were using their energy to share the love of Christ and found missions, orphanages, schools and hospitals around the world!
They established hundreds of renewal groups and Herrnhut-style settlements around the world, emphasizing personal prayer, worship, Bible study, confession of sins, communion, and mutual accountability.
On May 3, 1728, Moravians began publishing a daily devotional called Losungen, or "Daily Watchwords," which went on to be translated into over 50 languages and be the oldest and most widely read daily devotional in the world.
Moravians were the first large scale Protestant missionary movement:
  • to Greenland, Canada, Alaska, to the Inuit of Labrador,
  • to the West Indies, Costa Rica, Belize, Haiti,
  • to American Indians, such as Cherokee, Lenape, Mohican, Algonquin, etc.
  • to the northern shores of the Baltic,
  • to the slaves of South Carolina,
  • to the Miskito peoples of Nicaragua and Honduras,
  • to slaves in South America, Suriname, French Guyana, Peru,
  • to Tranquebar and Nicobar Islands in the East Indies,
  • to the Copts in Egypt,
  • to Northern India and Nepal,
  • to Kenya, Rwanda, Zanzibar, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kivu, Katanga in DR Congo, and the west coast of South Africa.
The story of the the first Moravian missionaries began in Germany with Johann Leonhard Dober.
A Christian film documenting this was titled "First Fruits--Zinzendorf and the Moravians," produced in 1982.
Dober was apprenticing to be a potter like his father, but at age 17, visited the community at Herrnhut and converted.
On July 24, 1731, he heard Zinzendorf's plea for someone to reach the slaves on the Caribbean sugar plantations, recounting the testimony of Anthony Ulrich, a former slave from the Danish island of St. Thomas (which became part of the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917).
In 1834, Bonnie Bartonin wrote in the book The Bow in the Cloud: or, The Negro's Memorial (p. 5-6)
"In the course of a few weeks the negro, Anthony, himself arrived at Hermhut, and confirmed, at a public meeting ... that ... his oppressed countrymen in St. Thomas ... were ... worked by their masters,
that, unless those who went to preach to them would consent to become slaves themselves, and labour with the negroes in the plantations, they would have little opportunity of communicating divine instruction to them.
This intelligence did not in the smallest degree daunt the devoted young men; they were both ready, not only to be bound, but to die for the Lord Jesus ...
They were willing to make any sacrifice which might be required, if they could win but one soul to Christ, — nay, if they might but have the opportunity of carrying the news of salvation to Anthony's sister, — a poor despised female slave."
After a prayer meeting, August 20, 1732, Zinzendorf blessed Johann Leonhard Dober and carpenter David Nitschman, who then traveled to the Danish capital of Copenhagan to get permission to go to St. Thomas.
Not having financial support of a church or missionary organization, the King's Chamberlain, Von Plesz, asked how they expected to live while evangelizing the slaves.
Nitschmann replied: “We shall work as slaves among the slaves.”
Von Plesz said, “But that is impossible. It will not be allowed. No white man ever works as a slave.”
Nitschmann replied, “I am a carpenter, and will ply my trade.”
“But what will the potter do?”
“He will help me in my work.”

“If you go on like that,” the dismayed Chamberlain replied, “you will stand your ground the wide world over.”
They left Copenhagen, October 8, 1732, and two months later arrived in St. Thomas where they lived humbly and ministered to the slaves.
Over the next 50 years, more Moravians arrived and established churches on St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John’s, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Kitts, baptizing over 13,000 converts.
Nitschmann undertook no less than fifty sea voyages and was particularly successful evangelizing among slaves and native Americans.
In 1740, he helped found a mission near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
On a trip back to Germany, David Nitschmann was elected a Moravian bishop.
In 1735, he sailed for Georgia on a ship carrying the passengers John and Charles Wesley.
The ship was caught in a terrible storm. While others panicked in fear, the Moravians sang praise songs to the Lord.
This made a profound impression on the Wesleys.
Charles Wesley was sent to be the secretary of Georgia's founder James Oglethorpe.
John Wesley was sent to be the colony's Anglican minister, at the settlement on St. Simon Island.
The Wesley brothers returned to England where, feeling defeated, they were invited to a Moravian prayer meeting at Aldersgate.
They were so touch by they Holy Spirit and their lives were forever changed.
In 1738, John Wesley visited Herrnhut to study with the Moravians. What he witnessed he described as "the religion of the heart."
John returned to England where he began the Methodist revival movement.
Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 sacred hymns.
Through the Wesleys, the Moravian influence was felt by George Whitefield, who helped lead the Great Awakening Revival in the American colonies.
In 1741, Count Zinzendorf visited America, hoping to unify the various German Protestants churches in Pennsylvania.
On Christmas Eve, 1741, Count Zinzendorf founded Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Moravians settled an area in North Carolina which was named Wachovia, after one of Count Zinzendorf's ancestral estates on the Danube River.
There his daughter, Benigna, organized a school which became Moravian College.
Count Zinzendorf traveled with the German Indian agent and interpreter Conrad Weiser into the wilderness to share his faith with Iroquois Indian chieftains, making Zinzendorf one of the few European noblemen to meet with Indians in their villages.
Conrad Weiser's daughter, Ann Marie, married a young German minister, Henry Muhlenberg, who is considered the main founder of the Lutheran Church in America.
In 1742, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg met Count Nicholas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf.
Later that year, on December 12, 1742, Henry Muhlenberg became pastor of fifty German families at the Old Trappe Church in Pennsylvania.
In 1751, Henry Muhlenberg received a land grant from the sons of William Penn, and on it founded Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading, Pennsylvania.
It was referred by Lutherans as their "mother church," as out of it were birthed numerous Lutheran Churches.
The Trinity Lutheran Church was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777.
Henry Muhlenberg was influenced by the Pietist movement within Lutheranism which stressed a personal relationship with Christ in addition to adhering to orthodox doctrine.
Pietism also had a political consequence similar to "separation of church and state."
Whereas Calvinist Puritans believed God had a will for everything including government and it was a Christian's duty to put God's Will in place;
Pietists, on the other hand, believed that when someone believed in Christ their life should change and they should not participate in worldly distractions such as bars, theaters, and ... government.
It was therefore a major step for Henry Muhlenberg's son, John Peter Muhlenberg, pastor of Emanuel Church in Woodstock, Virginia, to join General George Washington's army as a colonel, with 300 members of his church forming the 8th Virginia Regiment.
John Peter Muhlenberg was promoted to Major-General in the Continental Army, then elected to the U.S. Congress and Senate.
Henry Muhlenberg's other son, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, was pastor of a Lutheran congregation in New York.
Frederick Muhlenberg became active during the Revolution and afterwards was elected to the U.S. Congress, being the first Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both John Peter and Frederick were members of the First Session of U.S. Congress which passed Twelve Amendments limiting the power of the Federal Government.
With both of them being ordained pastors, it is obvious they did not think the purpose of the First Amendment was to keep pastors out of politics.
Only Ten of the Amendments were ratified by the States.
There are two signatures on the Bill of Rights:
Vice-President John Adams - who was President of the Senate; and Speaker of the House Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, Lutheran Pastor.
Pastor Henry Muhlenberg wrote of General George Washington at Valley Forge in The Notebook of a Colonial Clergyman:
"I heard a fine example today, namely that His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each to fear God, to put away wickedness ... and to practice Christian virtues ..."
Rev. Muhlenberg continued:
"From all appearances General Washington does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God's Word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness.
Therefore, the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously preserved him from harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades, fatigues, etc., and has hitherto graciously held him in his hand as a chosen vessel."
The father of Frederick and John Peter, Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, died OCTOBER 7, 1787.
"As one small candle may light a thousand," Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf, the Moravian missionaries, and the pietist Lutherans, had a profound impact on the founding of America, as well as on missionary efforts around the world.
American Minute is a registered trademark of William J. Federer. Permission is granted to forward, reprint, or duplicate, with acknowledgment. ( 314-502-8924)
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