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A History of American Christianity by Bacon

His office of bishop in the ancient Moravian church

us, as we read the story after

the lapse of a hundred and fifty years, as if the man expressly designed and equipped by the providence of God for this exigency in the progress of his kingdom had arrived when Zinzendorf, the Moravian, made his appearance at Philadelphia, December 10, 1741. The American church, in all its history, can point to no fairer representative of the charity that "seeketh not her own" than this Saxon nobleman, who, for the true love that he bore to Christ and all Christ's brethren, was willing to give up his home, his ancestral estates, his fortune, his title of nobility, his patrician family name, his office of bishop in the ancient Moravian church, and even (last infirmity of zealous spirits) his interest in promoting specially that order of consecrated men and women in the church catholic which he had done and sacrificed so much to save from extinction, and to which his "cares and toils were given." He hastened first up the Lehigh Valley to spend Christmas at Bethlehem, where the foundations had already been laid on which have been built up the half-monastic institutions of charity and education and missions which have done and are still doing so much to bless the world in both its hemispheres. It was in commemoration of this Christmas visit of Bishop Zinzendorf that the mother house of the Moravian communities in America received its name of Bethlehem. Returning to Philadelphia, he took this city as the base of his unselfish and unpartisan labors in behalf of the great and multiplying
population from his fatherland, which through its sectarian divisions had become so helpless and spiritually needy. Already for twenty years there had been a few scattering churches of the Reformed confession, and for half that time a few Lutheran congregations had been gathered or had gathered themselves. But both the sects had been overcome by the paralysis resulting from habitual dependence on paternal governments, and the two were borne asunder, while every right motive was urging to cooeperation and fellowship, by the almost spent momentum of old controversies. In Philadelphia two starveling congregations representing the two competing sects occupied the same rude meeting-place each by itself on alternate Sundays. The Lutherans made shift without a pastor, for the only Lutheran minister in Pennsylvania lived at Lancaster, sixty miles away.

To the scattered, distracted, and demoralized flocks of his German fellow-Christians in the middle colonies came Zinzendorf, knowing Jesus Christ crucified, knowing no man according to the flesh; and at once "the neglected congregations were made to feel the thrill of a strong religious life." "Aglow with zeal for Christ, throwing all emphasis in his teaching upon the one doctrine of redemption through the blood shed on Calvary, all the social advantages and influence and wealth which his position gave him were made subservient to the work of preaching Christ, and him crucified, to the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant."[190:1] The Lutherans of Philadelphia heard him gladly and entreated him to preach to them regularly; to which he consented, but not until he had assured himself that this would be acceptable to the pastor of the Reformed congregation. But his mission was to the sheep scattered abroad, of whom he reckoned (an extravagant overestimate) not less than one hundred thousand of the Lutheran party in Pennsylvania alone. Others, as he soon found, had been feeling, like himself, the hurt of the daughter of Zion. A series of conferences was held from month to month, in which men of the various German sects took counsel together over the dissensions of their people, and over the question how the ruinous effects of these dissensions could be avoided. The plan was, not to attempt a merger of the sects, nor to alienate men from their habitual affiliations, but to draw together in cooeperation and common worship the German Christians, of whatever sect, in a fellowship to be called, in imitation of a Pauline phrase (Eph. ii. 22), "the Congregation of God in the Spirit." The plan seemed so right and reasonable and promising of beneficent results as to win general approval. It was in a fair way to draw together the whole miserably divided German population.[191:1]

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