Count Zinzendorf: Moravian Leader


Count Nicholas Von Zinzendorf (1700-60), born in Germany, received care and training from his pietistic maternal grandmother after the early death of his father. He also attended Halle school and later studied law at Wittenberg.

Zinzendorf came under the influence of August Francke and as a result became deeply interested in and burdened for foreign missions. He accepted a civil office under the Saxon government. He married Erdmuthe Dorothea, and began building his home.

He offered to use his estate, Berthelsdorf, as a home for religious refugees Moravia and Bohemia (parts of Czech Republic today), and permitted them to build the village of Herrnhut there. As a result several hundred persecuted families found refuge there. They established a religious community where Zinzendorf became spiritual overseer. Protestants from various parts of Germany also joined this settlement.

In 1728 he resigned his official position in the state and devoted himself fully to religious work and leadership. He accepted the Augsburg Confession and was ordained a Lutheran in 1734. When the Lutheran Church of Saxony opposed him, he formed a separate organization with a foreign missionary program going to Greenland, the West Indies, North America, other parts of Europe, and "distant corners of the earth."

Zinzendorf  wanted to demonstrate practical application of Pietist ideals, and did not intend to found a religious organization distinct from the area's Lutheran Church, but to create a Christian association, to stir believers to a true and deep understanding of Christianity that would awaken "cultural Christians" by pointing them to the historical Christ and seeking to recapture the spiritual fervor and practices of the early Church. Their printing-house at Ebersdorf printed large quantities of inexpensive Bibles, catechisms, hymnals and religious tracts.

In 1741 he came to St. Thomas in the Caribbean and to Pennsylvania, becoming one of the few 18th century European nobles to have actually set foot in the Americas, to do mission work and attempt to unite Protestant Christians in the colonies. His visit encouraged the Moravian missionaries and further spurred the movement.

His last 10 years were said to be "more or less depressing and unpleasant." It was difficult to maintain unity among the Brethren because of their "divergent backgrounds." He was a sincere and true pietist whose goal was heart religion and pure living. His motto: "I have but one passion: it is He, He only."

He wrote "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness," long the theme song of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse's Bible Study Hour, and "Jesus, Still Lead On." Though he was unorthodox in some of his theology and given somewhat to emotionalism, his devotion to the cause of Christ is his lasting legacy.

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21).

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

References:Was Who in Church History, by Elgin S. Moyer, excerpts used by permission of Moody Publishers; Wikipedia, "Nicolaus Zinzendorf",

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