Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf

Moravian Missionaries evangelize worldwide.

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, 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, Count Zinzendorf opened up his estate at Berthelsdorf, Saxony, for persecuted Christians of Europe 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 prayer meeting went on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and, with believers taking turns, went on 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 lay people, rather than clergy, as missionaries.

Moravian missionaries went all over the world:

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 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.  

Moravian missionaries sailed to the colony of Georgia in America.

Caught in a terrible storm, the Moravian missionaries confidently sang praise to the Lord.

Their faith made a tremendous impact on two other frightened passengers on that ship, namely, John and Charles Wesley.

John Wesley was being sent to be the Anglican minister in the Colony of Georgia, at the settlement on St. Simon Island;

and Charles Wesley was sent to be the secretary of Georgia's founder James Oglethorpe.

The Wesley brothers returned to England where they later founded the Methodist revival movement.

In 1738, John Wesley visited Herrnhut to study with the Moravians.

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 one of the founders 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 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.

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. Henry 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's life had a profound impact on colonial America, as well as the world.

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Anthony McCool
Anthony McCool

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