Wednesday, December 4, 2013

THE SCHWENKFELDERS AN HISTORICAL SKETCH BY C. HEYDRICK

THE SCHWENKFELDERS
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH
BY C. HEYDRICK

THE Schwenkfelders were so called from Caspar Schwenkfeld, a Silesian nobleman. He was born at Ossing (now Ossig), in Lübner circle, in the Principality of Liegnitz, in Lower Silesia, in 1490, was educated at Cologne, and dwelt several years at other universities, where theology early attracted his attention, and the writings of the Church Fathers became his favorite study. Quitting university life he visited many German courts, and devoted some years to the culture which, in his time, was supposed to befit his rank, qualifying himself for knighthood, and becoming, as he says in one of his epistles, a courtier. While yet a young man he entered the service of Carl, Duke of Münsterberg, a grandson of Podiebrad, the Hussite King of Bohemia, at whose court the doctrines of John Huss were received, and by none more heartily than by the young knight and courtier. They made a deep and lasting impression upon his mind, and doubtless gave direction to his future life and labors. Bodily infirmities soon unfitted him for knightly duties, and he quitted the service of the Duke of Münsterberg and became Counsellor to Frederick II., Duke of Liegnitz, whom he served in that capacity a number of years. Theology, however, had stronger attractions for him than affairs of state. 
He made the acquaintance of many theologians who were drifting in the direction of the Reformation, among whom were Valentine Crautwald, Johann Sigismund Werner, and Fabian Eckel, and under the influence of such associations the impressions received at Münsterberg deepened until, as he expressed it, God touched his heart, and he withdrew from the ducal court and was chosen Canon of St. John's Church in Liegnitz. Luther had now withdrawn from the Church of Rome, and his preaching attracted Schwenkfeld's attention and inspired him with a more intense zeal for the service of the Divine Master. He was at one with Luther upon the issues which the latter had raised with the Roman Catholic Church, and could no longer hold his position in St. John's Church without violence to his conscience. He therefore renounced it to become an evangelist, and, for thirty-six years, with voice and pen, exhort men to repentance and godliness. Although not by nature a controversialist, as his writings abundantly testify, Schwenkfeld soon came to differ with the great Reformer on several points, chief among which related to the Eucharist, to the efficacy of the Divine Word, to the human nature of Christ, and to baptism. Schwenkfeld rejected the doctrine of impanation or consubstantiation as well as that of transubstantiation, and held that Christ taught (Matt. xxvi. 26) that "such as this broken bread is to the body, so is my body to the soul, a true and real food, which nourishes, sanctifies, and delights the soul; and such as this wine is to the body, so, in its effects, is my blood to the soul, which it strengthens and refreshes;" and, as a corollary, that the impenitent, though he would eat of the bread of the Lord, could not eat the body of the Lord, but that the penitent believer did partake of both, not only at the sacramental altar, but elsewhere.
In respect to the second point of difference, he denied that the external word, which is committed to writing in the Scriptures, was endowed with the power of healing, illuminating, and renewing the mind, but ascribed this power to the Internal or Eternal Word, i.e., Christ himself. (John i. I-14; Rev. xix. 13.) He regretted that Luther, who at first was quite in accord with him, should see fit afterwards to ascribe to the written, outward, or preached word that power and efficacy which is inherent only in Christ, the Eternal Word. Luther translated Romans x. 17: "So kommt der Glaube aus der Predigt, das Predigen aber durch das Wort Gottes"--So faith cometh by preaching, but preaching by the word of God; while Schwenkfeld followed the original closely, rendering it in the equivalent of the English translation: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Upon the third point of difference Schwenkfeld would not allow Christ's human nature in its exalted state to be called a creature or created substance, holding that such denomination was "infinitely below His majestic dignity, reunited, as it is in that glorious state, with the Divine Essence." He also rejected infant baptism, holding that instruction and faith should precede baptism (Acts viii. 12, 13; Mark xvi. 15, 16; Matt. xxviii. 19) ; and that the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper were not intended as "a channel and means" through which the unregenerated participant could obtain salvation.
Having settled in his own mind the true meaning of the words uttered by our Lord at the institution of the sacramental feast, Schwenkfeld wrote out his views and submitted them to his friend Crautwald, who at first rejected them, and reproved him sharply for what he esteemed his heresy. Schwenkfeld, however, besought him to pray over the matter, and examine the words of the institution closely in the original tongue, declaring his conviction, in harmony with his theory of the operation of the Divine Word, that Christ had revealed the meaning to him. Crautwald finally promised to pray and think over the matter, and the result was his conversion. Speaking of this conference in one of his letters, Schwenkfeld says: "A fortnight later he (Crautwald) wrote me a Latin letter that the Lord Christ had revealed to him also the true meaning of the words." Earnestly desiring harmony rather than polemic discussion, and hoping that an interchange of opinions would lead to an agreement with Luther, Schwenkfeld determined to seek a personal interview with him, and accordingly, in September, 1525, visited him at Wittenberg, and laid before him his views together with Crautwald's letter. Bugenhagen, Pomeranus, and Justus Jonas were present, and the conference, which continued several days, was marked by Christian courtesy. Luther was in a condescending mood and said to Schwenkfeld: "I say truly that I have been troubled with this doctrinal point for three years. Now your opinion is acceptable to me; it is very good if you can prove it. Finally, I say that your doctrinal point is not objectionable to me if you can prove it. I, also, was strongly inclined to it, and have long striven against it, and still have to strive against it."
Schwenkfeld's mission seemed to have been successful, at least so far as to justify the belief that his views would receive respectful consideration, and he parted from the reformers in friendship, and, we may well suppose, returned to his own country with a light heart. But he was doomed to disappointment, After two months Luther returned his manuscript and Crautwald's letter, and wrote him in his characteristic style, that he and Crautwald must cease to lead the people astray; that the blood of those whom they led astray would be upon their heads, and closed with these words: "Kurtzum, entwieder ihr oder wir müssen des Teufels leibeigen seyn, weil wir uns beiderseits Gottes Word rühmen"--In short, either you or we must be in the bond service of the devil, because we, on both sides, appeal to the word of God.
Troubles now began to thicken. Cut off from fellowship with the Lutherans, Schwenkfeld was none the less an object of the hatred of the Catholics. Even Ferdinand, King of Bohemia and Hungary, afterwards Emperor of Germany, whose liberality to the Protestants brought him into such disfavor at Rome that Pope Paul IV. refused to ratify his elevation to the imperial dignity, could not tolerate his teachings in respect to the Sacraments of the Lord's Supper and Baptism, misrepresented as they were by the Catholic clergy, and wrote to the Duke of Liegnitz to proceed to extreme measures for his repression--Silesia then being under the suzerainty of the Bohemian kings. But the Duke was so far in sympathy with Schwenkfeld that he had printed for the use of his own household a "Confession of Faith" drawn up by two of the latter's coworkers and most intimate friends,--Eckel and Werner,--and embodying the very doctrines which were so distasteful to the King's spiritual advisers. Moreover, a friendship, formed while Schwenkfeld was Counsellor to the Duke and never afterwards interrupted, forbade compliance with the King's command. But the Duke was powerless to protect his friend, and therefore advised him to retire from Silesia until more tolerant counsels should prevail at the royal court. He accordingly left Silesia in 1529 for a journey through Germany, but, as the sequel proved, never to return to his native land,--a circumstance which gave occasion for the story circulated by his enemies at the time, and since repeated by some German writers, that he had been expelled by the Duke at the instance of Ferdinand, a story that Schwenkfeld expressly refuted on several occasions, and which is disproved by his friendly correspondence with the Duke until the latter's death. Thenceforth he had no settled abiding-place, but moved about from city to city, defending his doctrines and faith in public conferences and discussions with the learned, and before the Magistrates at Augsburg, Nürnberg, Strasburg, Tübingen, and Ulm; often persecuted, and at least once--at Tübingen in 1535--tried for heresy, when he was so far acquitted as to be promised freedom of religious worship in private, though forbidden to speak publicly.
His life was one of unremitting labor. Besides preaching, he maintained an extensive correspondence with learned men and others of high rank throughout Germany and in Switzerland, and wrote many books and pamphlets, several editions of which were published--one in 1592, in four large quarto volumes. A spirit of deep and fervent piety pervaded his writings; and, although when controversy was forced upon him he stoutly defended his opinions upon disputed points of doctrine, he held that repentance of sin, purity of life, and humble trust in the cleasing efficacy of the blood of Christ were of infinitely more importance than subscription to dogmas and observance of the Sacraments. Hence he desired not to establish an independent church, but frequently declared, in his writings, his unwillingness to separate himself from any who loved Christ.
Notwithstanding the irreconcilable differences between himself and Luther, and the harsh treatment which he had received from the latter after the Wittenberg conference, he never ceased to frankly acknowledge his obligations and express in the warmest terms his gratitude to the great reformer for the services he had rendered to him in common with all who were seeking the truth; and as late as 1543, less than three years before Luther's death, wrote him, earnestly and affectionately entreating him to examine his "Confession of Faith Concerning the Person of Christ," a work then just published, and point out his errors, if any. He died at the city of Ulm on the 10th of December, 1562, leaving a name unspotted by any charge except that of heresy, and that only in respect to the doctrines herein mentioned, and others held in common by the reformers. His opponents accorded him the praise of possessing great learning combined with modesty, meekness, piety, and a loving spirit. Although the establishment of an independent church was a purpose never entertained by Schwenkfeld, he had, so far as successful teaching of his distinctive doctrines went, prepared the way for it. Many clergymen and noblemen and other influential and learned men in Silesia and throughout Germany, and in some localities, especially in the Principalities of Liegnitz and Jauer, almost the entire population, embraced his doctrines; and for a time his adherents enjoyed the public ministration of the Gospel in not a few of the churches where they were most numerous, not as a distinct sect, but as part of the reformed Church in its wider sense. But their prosperity was short-lived. State reasons inclined the Protestant princes to favor the larger following of Luther, and most of the evangelical pastors who adhered to Schwenkfeld's views were displaced, while but few were permitted to end their days with the churches which they served in Schwenkfeld's time, and these under admonitions to observe the Sacraments according to the Lutheran practice. Even Frederick II. of Liegnitz, whose friendship for Schwenkfeld never abated, yielded late in life to the pressure of the dominant influences in the Protestant Church, and dismissed the Court Preacher Werner for no other reason than that he continued to teach the same doctrines that the Duke approved when Schwenkfeld was near the Court. But Frederick could not entirely forget his first love, and while he lived no severity was exercised towards the people in his dominions.
After the Duke's death, however, they fared worse. That they, on the one hand, were Protestant and Evangelical, and on the other declined fellowship with the Lutherans, was enough to excite the intolerant spirit of the age, and invite persecution from all sides. Other circumstances conspired to bring them into disfavor alike with the clergy and the civil magistrates. Their rejection of infant baptism was sufficient, in the judgment of those who cared not to inquire further, to justify the charge that they were Anabaptists, and bring upon them the odium of the excesses committed by that sect but a few years before at Münster. Neither the explicit denial by Schwenkfeld in his lifetime of any sympathy with the Anabaptists, nor the blameless lives of the people, who rendered unto Caesar the things that were Caesar's, and strove according to their knowledge to render unto God the things that were God's, availed to free them from that charge. They were called Schwenkfelders in derision,--a name which they accepted,--and were stigmatized by almost every name that was supposed to convey a reproach. The new Duke, Frederick III., determined to stamp them out of his dominions, and issued a stringent decree against them, among other things imposing a fine of five hundred florins upon any person who should harbor an Anabaptist, by which he meant a Schwenkfelder, and later, ordered all their books to be seized and burned.
These measures had the opposite effect to that intended; the number of Schwenkfelders increased rather than diminished, but the persecutors did not gain wisdom from experience. Persecutions increased from year to year, until about 1580, when it seemed that every means that the ingenuity of man could devise was employed to coerce these people into either the Lutheran or the Catholic Church. In addition to former methods, the clergy refused to solemnize marriages until the contracting parties would partake of the Sacrament at the parochial church; men and women were dragged in chains into churches; leading men were expelled from the country; frequently when the people met at private houses for worship, as was their custom, they were arrested and imprisoned, often in dungeons, where many died from starvation, cold, and violent treatment, and others contracted diseases of which they died soon after their release; and finally large numbers were sent to Vienna, and there condemned without trial to serve in the wars with the Turks, or as oarsmen on Mediterranean galleys. And so the weary years passed until the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War necessitated conciliation, when the Schwenkfelders accepted the horrors of that prolonged struggle as a grateful change from the cruelties of religious persecution. But soon after the peace of Westphalia the old persecutions were renewed with, if possible, increased rigor. From 1650 until 1658 they were especially severe.
Amid all these persecutions, without churches, without organization, robbed to a great extent of their religious books, and forbidden under severe penalties to reprint those that had been committed to the flames, the Schwenkfelders maintained their faith and their worship in the Fatherland for more than two centuries. The Bible was, indeed, allowed to them, and of this they were diligent readers; and, notwithstanding the efforts to suppress their literature, copies of Schwenkfeld's works and the sermons and other writings of Johann Sigismund Werner, Michael Hiller, Erasmus Weichenhan, and Christian Hoburg were here and there preserved, and these served the multitude who met at the houses of their possessors to hear them read. The entire Sabbath, from morning till night, was spent in worship and in listening to the reading of such books.
Martin John, a learned physician of Hockenau, who wrote in the latter part of the seventeenth century, says: "Whoever had books, read on Sundays, and the others went to hear. The order was thus: In the morning, after each one had prayed when he rose from his bed, they assembled and sang the morning song standing; then they prayed from a prayer-book and sang a hymn of invocation, especially to the Holy Ghost, all standing; after that they sang sitting, then prayed, and thereupon read some sermons; then prayed again and sang a couple of hymns; after that they ate at midday; then prayed again standing and sang an invocatory hymn, after which they read quite until evening, when they prayed and sang standing. This was the order on Sunday, and when the people came together in the week-time (for spinning) they then almost always sang, and when any one wished to go home they knelt down together and prayed."
Towards the close of the seventeenth century the spirit of intolerance relaxed, and the Lutheran Church presenting her attractive side to this people, large numbers, especially of the young, were won over to her communion, and from that time the Schwenkfelders gradually decreased, until in 1718 they numbered only a few hundreds where they had formerly been counted by the thousands, and had disappeared entirely from many villages where they had once been numerous. Reduced in numbers as they now were, their conversion to the Roman Catholic faith was, nevertheless, deemed by the Jesuits an object of sufficient importance to enlist the energies of the Order in that direction, and in furtherance of such object they commenced operations about this time at the Imperial Court. It was not difficult to persuade Charles VI. that the treaty of Westphalia in its interdiction of religious persecution did not protect the Schwenkfelders. An order to the government at Liegnitz to send in an official report of that people and their creed was therefore readily obtained, and in obedience thereto some of the leading men were summoned to appear at Liegnitz on the 19th of May, 1718, where they were questioned and required to hand in a written declaration or confession of their faith and some of their doctrinal and devotional books. Next, the Lutheran pastors at Harpersdorf and Neudorf wererequired to furnish lists of the Schwenkfelders in their respective parishes.
These proceedings were followed in December, 1719, by the appearance of two Jesuit priests bearing a "Legitimation," issued by the Superior Magistracy at Breslau, in the name and by command of the Emperor, accrediting them as missionaries for the conversion of the Schwenkfelders, in the following words:
"The Roman Emperor, also King in Germany, Spain, Hungary, and Bohemia, by his acting Privy Counsellor, Director, Chancellor, and Counsellors at the Royal Superior Domain in the Duchy of Upper and Lower Silesia.
"Offers first his courteous services, amity, and all blessings to the royal offices and domains, as also to the magistrates, rulers, and officers, and to all lower jurisdictions, and others. And whereas his Imperial Majesty, our most gracious master, by virtue of a most gracious rescript issued unto the Royal Superior Domain on the 18th day of September last, has graciously declared in what manner a mission should be established for the conversion of the Schwenkfelders living in the Principalities of Schweidnitz, Jauer, and Liegnitz, and has most graciously thought proper to appoint for this purpose two priests from the Jesuit Society, namely, the worthy P. P. Johann Milahn and Carolum Regent, and has furthermore graciously commanded that the Superior Domain should provide said Patres Missionarios with letters patent so that they might not be impeded in their beneficial undertaking, therefore all the magistrates, rulers, and other inhabitants, of whatever standing, office, or condition, are accordingly enjoined not to molest in any way those Patres Missionarios, nor to impede them in their ecclesiastical functions quo quo modo, under avoidance of severe animadversion, but moreover they are commanded to render them readily all possible assistance and help, and thus not to give cause for any complaint. In executing hereby the most gracious command of his Imperial Majesty we have no doubt of your acting in accordance therewith.

"HANS ANTON COUNT SCHAFGOTSCH (L. S.), ex consilio Reg. Cur.
"FRANZ CARL COUNT COTTULINSKY, Duc. Silesi‘.
"M. J. AGLO VON WIESENSTEIN, etc."
"BRESLAU, the 9th of October, 1719. 
The royal government at Liegnitz added to this Legitimation of the Superior Magistracy, the following:
"All the hereinbefore named dominions, especially those at Harpersdorf, Armenruh, and Hockenau, where within the Principality of Liegnitz the most Schwenkfelders are living and dwelling, and all the inhabitants of the precinct of Goldberg, are hereby strictly directed, ordered, and commanded not to hinder the above-named two Patres Soc. Jesu in this mission charge conferred upon them by his Maj., not even under the pretence that they are overreaching the missionary object; but much less subject them to anything unbecoming or troublesome, but moreover to manifest to them with readiness all necessary assistance. By all of which ye shall show your proper regard, etc.

"W., COUNT OF WURBEN, Governor-General.
"LIEGNITZ, the 15th day of December, 1719."
At first the missionaries required only the men to attend their services, and sought to win them by expounding the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and attempting to refute those of the Schwenkfelders. But in the latter they found no easy task. To the end that they might know what they had to refute, they demanded answers in writing to a number of questions. These were cheerfully given, and at considerable length; every proposition being supported by abundant citations of Scripture and from the Church Fathers. Finding the people so strongly fortified in their religious opinions, and so apt to defend them, the missionaries became irritated and threatened to adopt harsher methods after the close of the year 1720. Accordingly, early in the year 1721, it was announced that the women and children must be brought to the missionaries for instruction in the Catholic religion; and an imperial edict to this effect was exhibited.
There was now consternation among the people. So long as only men of mature judgment were required to hear the instructions of the missionaries, they feared nothing, but they could not endure the subjection of their tender offspring to teachings and influences which they regarded as pernicious. They therefore, on the 5th of May, 1721, dispatched three deputies--Christopher Hoffmann, Balthasar Hoffmann, and Balthasar Hoffrichter--to Vienna to sue for toleration. These deputies were graciously received by the Emperor, and remained at the Court five years, during which time they presented no less than seventeen memorials to the Emperor in person at audiences granted for that purpose, setting forth the persecutions suffered by their people at the hands of the missionaries and of the magistrates at the instigation of the missionaries, and praying for toleration and protection. But notwithstanding the Emperor's uniform kindness of manner at these audiences, and that he ordered a cessation of violence until further consideration, matters constantly grew worse in Silesia.
When parents refused to present their children for instruction, they were imprisoned; women were placed in the stocks and compelled to lie in cold rooms in the winter without so much as straw under them; and when imprisonment failed to bring the people with their children to the missionary services, fines and extortions were added. Marriages were forbidden unless the parties would promise to rear their offspring in the Catholic faith, and when young people went into other countries to be married, they were imprisoned for that on their return. The dead were not allowed Christian burial in the churchyards where their ancestors of the same faith for many generations slept, but were required to be interred in cattle-ways, and sorrowing friends were forbidden to follow the remains of loved ones to these ignominious resting-places. Hundreds of Schwenkfelders were so buried at Harpersdorf, Laugenneudorf, and Lauterseifen during the twenty years that the mission was maintained. The missionaries claimed guardianship of all orphan children of Schwenkfelders, and thus the last hours of the dying were embittered by the thought that their children must be educated in a faith that they themselves abhorred. And to prevent escape from the horrible situation in which they were placed, the people were forbidden to sell their property or, under any pretext, leave the country, and severe penalties were denounced against any person who should assist a Schwenkfelder to escape by purchasing his property, or otherwise.
The deputies made a final appeal to the Emperor for mercy on the 28th of July, 1725. That appeal was answered by the publication--in September--of the following decree:
"CHARLES THE SIXTH.

"DEAR FAITHFUL: We received your obedient report of March 20th, of this year, by which you have informed us of the condition of the ecclesiastical mission appointed for the conversion of those Schwenkfelder Sectariorum sojourning at several places in our Duchy of Silesia. As we now most graciously desire a better progress of the mission, we therefore provide:
"Primo, most graciously to wit: That the mission henceforth exercise all their power to accomplish the work of conversion with profit and good effect. And likewise
"Secundo, that all watchful oversight of the mock preachers and Seductores from the authority of the country, and especially from those missionaries, be kept as heretofore commanded, and in case of any trespass at once to arrest the guilty and to punish them in terrorem alior, and to report to us aggravating occurrences if thought proper, and also we desire that the same may be understood concerning those Schwenkfelder inhabitants and housekeepers who permit Schwenkfelder conventicula in their houses, or who are leaders or instigators to persistence in those heretical errors. In such a manner that they shall be arrested as soon as the same shall be sufficiently apparent, brought here and their names entered. So it shall
"Tertio, not only be a settled matter that the Schwenkfelder books of instruction shall be hunted up and taken away, as also no less
"Quarto, that the children of the Schwenkfelders shall be brought to preaching and catechizing, and also the adulti Sectarii themselves shall be held to the presence and hearing thereof, and those who without good cause absent themselves, shall at the first occurrence be charged with a money fine in proportion to their circumstances; for the second time it shall be doubled; upon further renitens to the contrary they shall be punished according to the nature of the case with arrest or opere publico: and further the Schwenkfelder congregations in their submissive requests to be tolerated in their confession of faith in future, are once for all refused, and they shall never hereafter venture to present any new supplications; and be it in all seriousness announced to all the respective jurisdictions and public authorities that the missionary fathers shall by nothing, and in no way or manner, be hindered, but upon their call shall receive all necessary assistance with all force and effect. Also to report to us, from time to time, all future occurrences by and through our royal Bohemian Court Bureau. Herein let our will be executed.
"Decreed at Vienna, the 30th of July, 1725.
"CHARLES,
"Ad mandatum,
"Joh. Christoph Jordan.
"FERD. COMES VINSKY,
"Ris Bohoemi‘ Sup Cancellarius.
"To the Royal Superior Magistracy
"in Silesia.
"Presented the 19th of August, 1725.
"The foregoing copy was taken from the original, with the same carefully compared and found to agree with the same in every particular, which is hereby attested by deliberately attaching thereto the great royal official seal.
"So done at the Royal Castle in Jauer, the 19th of September, 1725.
"L. S."
The missionaries now bent all their energies to the accomplishment of the work in hand, and to the full exercised with the utmost rigor the powers granted to them, and were aided therein by the civil magistrates even to patrolling the highways to prevent the escape of any of the doomed people. Thus was this unhappy people shut up to the choice of either apostasy, or continued endurance of the ever-increasing miseries of their situation, or flight. The first was to the true Schwenkfelder simply impossible; the second was too horrible to be contemplated. They therefore resolved to escape from the country at all hazards.
The exodus commenced in the month of February, 1726. During that month and the months of March, April, and May following, upwards of one hundred and seventy families escaped by night from Harpersdorf, Armenruh, and Hockenau, and fled on foot to Upper Lusatia, then a part of the Electorate of Saxony, and found shelter at Wirsa near Greissenberg, Gorlitz, Hennersdorf near Gorlitz, Berthelsdorf, and Herrnhut. In consequence of the prohibition of sales of property by Schwenkfelders, and the police regulations to prevent emigration, they were obliged to leave all their property behind except what they could carry upon their backs or upon wheelbarrows. Consequently the less provident, who had laid up little or no money, found themselves in great destitution amongst strangers. They were, however, hospitably received, and treated with much consideration by the Senate of Gorlitz, and by Count Zinzendorf, at Berthelsdorf and Herrnhut, and soon after their arrival assistance came to them unexpectedly from theretofore unknown friends in Holland. They lived here in a state of uncertainty as to the future for eight years.
The assistance received from Holland led to a correspondence with the Dutch benefactors, who strongly advised emigration to Pennsylvania. Some, however, began to purchase homes in Lusatia, and it is doubtful whether all would not have settled there permanently had not subsequent events proved the advice of the Hollanders to have been both timely and wise. In the spring of 1733 Count Zinzendorf informed them that they would be tolerated no longer in Lusatia, and referred them to the superior magistrate at Bautzen for the reasons. It was ascertained that application had been made for their enforced return to Silesia. They were, however, permitted to remain until the next spring.
Soon after Count Zinzendorf's announcement that protection would be withdrawn, two families emigrated to Pennsylvania, arriving at Philadelphia on the 18th of September (O.S.), 1733. Their report of the country, and the advice of the friends in Holland, determined about forty families to follow them Their first care was to proceed orderly and obtain the permission of the sovereign to whom they proposed to transfer their allegiance. This secured, they set out in April, 1734, for Altona, in Denmark, where they arrived on the 17th of May. On their arrival at Altona, they found preparations made for their reception, and were most hospitably entertained until the 28th, when they embarked on three small vessels for Haarlem, arriving at the latter place on the 6th of June. Here they were received with open arms, and overwhelmed with kindness by their benefactors of former years.
The disinterested kindness of a mercantile house in Haarlem, composed of three brothers, Abraham, Isaac, and John Von Byuschanse, deserves more than a passing notice here. Their attentions to the strangers were not limited to seeing that there were no actual wants unsupplied; they strove by personal attentions to make the stay of the party in Haarlem enjoyable. The little ones especially came in for a full share of their kindly offices. Part of the contribution sent to Gorlitz in 1726 for the relief of the destitute remained unexpended, and those having it in charge offered to return it to the donors, there being no further need of such assistance. The Messrs. Von Byuschanse would not listen to the offer, but directed the fund to be expended for the benefit of the poorer people when they should arrive in Pennsylvania. And not content with all that they had done, they insisted upon providing at their own expense a vessel for the transportation of the whole company to Philadelphia, and defraying the entire expense of the voyage. This noble benefaction was bread cast upon the waters. The descendants and successors in the business of the Messrs. Von Byuschanse met with reverses in the year 1790. Information of this fact coming to the Schwenkfelders in Pennsylvania, they, in grateful remembrance of the kindness shown to their own ancestors and to some of themselves in childhood more than half a century before, raised a considerable sum of money, and sent it to the relief of the distressed house. 
The emigrants remained at Haarlem, enjoying the munificent hospitality of the Messrs. Von Byuschanse, until the 19th of June, when they proceeded to Rotterdam, and there embarked for Pennsylvania on an English ship, the St. Andrew, which had been chartered for them by their large-hearted friends, and touching at Plymouth, England, arrived at Philadelphia on the 22d of September (N. S.), 1734. On the next day all male persons over the age of sixteen years proceeded to the Statehouse, and there subscribed a pledge of allegiance to George II., King of Great Britain, and his successors, and of fidelity to the proprietor of the province. They spent the 24th in thanksgiving to Almighty God for delivering them out of the hands of their persecutors, for raising up friends in the times of their greatest need, and for leading them into a land of freedom, where they might worship Him unmolested by civil or ecclesiastical power. This day, the 24th of September, was thenceforth set apart to be observed by them and their descendants, through all time, as a day of Thanksgiving commemorative of the Divine goodness manifested in their deliverance from the persecutions of the Fatherland. To this day it is so observed.
The little band who had passed through so many trials together were now to separate. Some settled within the present limits of the city of Philadelphia, in the neighborhood of Chestnut Hill; others in the now counties of Montgomery, Berks, and Lehigh, there to convert the wilderness into happy homes, that in many instances have been enjoyed by their descendants till this day. It is needless to dwell on the hardships and privations of the first few years. They were such as were the common lot of all the early settlers of Pennsylvania, mitigated by the remembrance of what had been exchanged for them.
Dispersed as the people were, they nevertheless remained one in faith and in the bonds of mutual sympathy and love, and promptly set up the worship of Almighty God in their new home. They were without a pastor, but fortunately not without a man qualified by many gifts and graces to fill the sacred office. That man was George Weis. He had been selected on the eve of departure from Lusatia to "give instruction to the children, and render such other spiritual services as might be required," and had conducted the thanksgiving services on arrival in this country and perhaps other services, and having proved acceptable, was, in December, 1734, elected by the "house fathers" to the pastoral office. He served with great acceptance till his death, in 1740, when he was succeeded by Rev. Balthasar Hoffman.
It was natural to expect that the remaining Schwenkfelders would follow their emigrant brethren as rapidly as circumstances would admit. Such, however, was not the case. The very violence of the missionaries worked its own temporary cure, and for a time the necessity for flight was removed. Says Kadelbach:(*) "The respective local rulers, lords of the soil, saw with indignation the expatriation of their most active and peaceful subjects, and the decline of the prosperity of their communities." Thus was an influential public opinion awakened against the missionaries, not so much, indeed, by the outrageous cruelty of their methods, as by its effects on the public prosperity; but it was none the less potent, and its pressure was felt in a quarter where it was least expected to be respected. The same author says: "Even the Catholic clergy of the surrounding country declared themselves by no means in accord with the behavior of the missionaries, and were greatly dissatisfied with this sort of conversion." Of course this meant a change of tactics, and the Schwenkfelders had comparative rest for a few years.

(*)Ausfurliche Geschichte Caspar Schwenkfelds und der Schwenkfelder in Schlesien, der Ober Lausitz und Amerika, Lauban, 1860.About the close of the year 1735, however, the old methods of conversion were revived, and in the following year a number of families fled into Saxony, whence one family came to Pennsylvania the same year, and four others in 1737. Again there was anxiety about the loss of subjects, and, whether in consequence of representations by the local governments or of other promptings, an imperial order was issued temporarily suspending the exercise of the extraordinary powers of the missionaries, and directing a searching investigation of their conduct; and again there was comparative exemption from persecution.
But whatever steadiness of purpose Charles VI. manifested in the general administration of the affairs of the empire, his conduct towards the Schwenkfelders had always been characterized by fickleness. Each spasmodic exhibition of a tolerant disposition had been followed by a more intolerant decree from the Imperial Court, and it was too late now when, nearing the end of his career, he was engaged in securing guarantees of the inviolability, after his death, of the Pragmatic Sanction, to expect more firmness in his good intentions towards this people than he had before shown. The next spring a decree was published to the effect that the "Schwenkfelder heresy" must be trodden out, and its adherents coerced into the Catholic Church within one year. But it was a vain decree. The hour of final deliverance and, in some measure, of retribution, was approaching. Within the year appointed for the extermination of the Schwenkfelders Charles had paid the debt of nature, and Frederick the Great had vindicated his better title to Silesia, under the agreement of mutual succession made two centuries before between his ancestor, the Elector of Brandenburg, and the Duke of Liegnitz, and had proclaimed religious freedom in the long-misgoverned principalities. 
Frederick was not content to merely put a stop to religious persecutions. Damage had been sustained by the country in the loss of valued subjects, and great wrongs had been done to individuals. He desired to repair the former and was willing to redress the latter even at the expense of the royal treasury. For that purpose he issued an edict in 1742 which reflects the highest honor upon himself, and, when the insignificance of their numbers is considered, pays a flattering tribute to the worth of the exiled Schwenkfelders. As exhibiting the estimation in which the ancestors of those whose names are contained in the following pages were held, and at the same time as a happy contrast to the before-recited decree of Charles VI., that edict is here presented in extenso:
"Edict to provide for the re-establishment of the so-called Schwenkfelders in Silesia and other provinces of his Royal Majesty; De dato Selowitz the 8th of March, 1742.

"We, Frederick, by the Grace of God, King of Prussia, Margrave of Brandenburg, Arch Chamberlain, and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, etc., etc.

"Be it known to all to whom these presents may come: Whereas we do hold nothing to be so contrary to Nature, Reason, and Principles of the Christian Religion as the forcing of the subjects' consciences, and persecuting them about any erroneous doctrines which do not concern the fundamental principles of the Christian Religion. We have, therefore, most graciously resolved that the socalled Schwenkfelders, who were exiled through an imprudent zeal for Religion, to the irreparable damage of commerce and of the country, be recalled into our Sovereign Duchy of Lower Silesia. We have, therefore, thought fit by these presents to assure all those who possess the said doctrine, upon our Royal word that they shall and may safely return not only into our Sovereign Duchy of Lower Silesia, but also into all our provinces, peaceably to live and trade there, since we not only do receive them into our special protection, but also will give them all necessary supplies for the promotion of their commerce. And all those who, several years ago, were deprived of their habitations and estates in our country of Silesia, shall be reinstated without any compensation in case those estates are not paid for by the new possessors. Such as will settle in our villages shall have farms assigned to them, and care shall be taken to provide them employment, and those who choose to live in towns shall, besides several ordinary Free years, have places assigned them gratis for the building of their houses, for which purposes they need only apply to our Military and Domainen Chambers. 

"We do therefore command our Superior Colleges of Justice and Finance, as also all mediate Princes, Lords, Magistrates, etc., carefully to observe the same.

"In Witness whereof we have signed this present Edict with our own hand, and caused our Royal Seal to be affixed.

"Done at Selowitz, March 8th, 1742.
[L. S.] "FREDERICK,
"V. COCCEJI. "Per C. V. MUNCHON." 
Much as they loved the Fatherland in spite of the cruel wrongs which they and their ancestors for two centuries had suffered, none of the Schwenkfelders in Pennsylvania availed themselves of the royal invitation to return to their former homes. They had become attached to the government under which they had for eight years enjoyed absolute freedom and a measure of prosperity that promised better things in the future than restoration of their estates in Silesia. They had come here to stay, and had laid foundations which they were loath to abandon. They had acquired permanent homes; they had established and thus far maintained public worship; remembering the words of Christ: For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good; they had established a Poor Fund, which, increasing with increased prosperity, has, for nearly a century and a half, satisfied every call upon it from within their communion and scattered its blessings outside; and they had established a School Fund which supplied every want intended to be supplied by the system of public instruction established by the State many years later. In short, they had taken root in the soil of Pennsylvania.
For many years they could not be said to have had an organization as a church. Indeed, the want of an organization was not felt while there were but few families, and they widely separated. But after the death of their second pastor, Rev. Balthasar Hoffman, in 1775, with increased membership, the necessity for an organization was recognized and soon received attention. Christopher Schultz, a man of great learning, ability, and zeal, and withal peculiarly fitted for the special work before him, was now, after fervent prayer for the divine guidance therein, called to the pastoral office. He addressed himself to the work of organization, and prepared a constitution or system of church government which was formally adopted on the 17th of August, 1782. For administrative purposes two districts were created, known as the "Upper District" and the "Lower District." It was provided that each district should elect a president, three elders, two trustees, and a treasurer of the School Fund, and a treasurer of the Poor Fund. Two congregations or individual churches were then organized, one in each district.
The duties of the elders are to see that church order is strictly observed, and to examine all matters in dispute between members and, if possible, adjust the same. One elder is elected every year in each district for the term of three years, and no elder can be re-elected until at least one year after the expiration of his last term. After the adoption of the common school system of the State the name of the School Fund was changed to "Literary Fund," and the fund itself devoted to literary purposes, and the duties of the officers of the Fund were correspondingly modified. The duties of the other officers are sufficiently indicated by their titles. The members on their part are enjoined to pay their debts without legal proceedings, and to "live quiet, virtuous, peaceable, Christian lives according to the will of Christ in all meekness and lowliness as the quiet in the land, and to be true and faithful in their spiritual as well as their temporal calling."
Owing to the dispersion of the members and the consequent impracticability of assembling any considerable numbers at any one point, no church edifices were erected until the year 1789. In that year a church was erected in the upper district, and soon after one in the lower. At later periods two more churches were built in each district, making six in all. Until these accommodations were provided, divine service was held at private houses, as it had been in the Fatherland, and in the absence of the pastor was conducted by one of the members. The service was opened with singing and prayer. The Gospel lesson for the day was then read, and sometimes expounded, after which a sermon from Weichenhan's, Werner's, or Hiller's Postille was read, followed by singing and prayer. While there was but a single pastor, there were a number of members who acceptably led meetings for worship and performed much of the pastoral work. At later periods the ministry was increased, until there are now three active ministers in each district.
The religious training and education of their children was from an early period regarded by the Schwenkfelders as a matter of prime importance. The exact date of the establishment of Kinder Lehr cannot now be ascertained, but the first appointment of George Weis before he was called to the full work of the ministry proves that the institution was brought to this country from Germany, and when the immigrants devoted, as they did, every alternate Sabbath to the instruction of the youth by catechetical lectures, it was evidently no new thing. Rev. Christopher Schultz gave an impetus to this department of church-work by his untiring labors therein, and by an excellent Catechism which he prepared for the instruction of children. The solicitude of the church for the children is shown in a ceremony originated in this country. As soon as conveniently may be after the birth of a child it is brought into church and the minister prays for its happiness and prosperity, and admonishes its parents to "bring it up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord according to the will of God." This service is sometimes performed at the home of the parents.
The literature of the Schwenkfelders is almost excl£sively in the German language. Their printed works are mainly those hereinbefore incidentally mentioned, to which may be added the Erla??uterung, etc., published in 1771, and of which a second edition appeared in 1830; and a work by the venerated Schultz, entitled "A Compendium of Christian Faith." But a large and valuable portion of their literature is yet in manuscript, being in part the writings of cotemporaries of Schwenkfeld and of others of the next century. A single volume appeared in an English dress in 1858, containing Schwenkfeld's "Heavenly Balm and Divine Physician," and "Threefold Life of Man," translated by the Rev. F. R. Anspach, D.D.


No comments:

Post a Comment