The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: Pietism’s Advances Counterbalanced by Rationalism’s Inroads

I. Growth and Extension of Pietism’s Influence

It is essential to have a bird’s-eye view of the eighteenth-century efforts toward a revival of godliness. In Germany they centered around Spener, in Berlin, and Francke, professor of divinity in the University of Halle. There followed the solicitation of contributions for the purchase of books for the religious instruction of the poor, the erection of schools, and the building of a great orphan home. The spirit of piety affected the city and extended to other parts of Germany and beyond. PFF2 696.1


AUGUST HERMANN FRANCKE (1663-1727) was brilliant as a lad and deeply religious. By 1685 he had received his M.A. from the University of Leipzig, with Hebrew as his major. He went to Luneburg, where he studied the Bible under Superintendent Sandhagenu. These studies made the deepest impression upon him and caused him to surrender his life to Christ. He visited Spener in Dresden, and was a welcome guest in his home. In 1689 he returned to Leipzig and lectured on the epistles of Paul. He followed Spener’s example, and instituted clubs for Bible study and devotion. Although some of the professors of the University of Leipzig were at first associated with him and many students and citizens attended, differences and discussions arose, and the participants were nicknamed “Pietists.” PFF2 696.2

In 1690 his lectures were forbidden, and he left Leipzig for Erfurt. But soon opposition arose there, and he had to leave the town. His friend Spener, by now in an influential position in Berlin, secured for him a pastorate and professorship at Halle. In fact, the chairs of theology in this newly founded University of Halle were filled by the disciples of Spener. Francke’s deep desire to help the suffering made him accept some orphans into his home, out of which grew the big orphanage, the normal seminary, the divinity school, and the Royal Pedagogium. The latter was reserved for the sons of noblemen. Count Zinzendorf received a part of his education there. By the time of Francke’s death more than 2,200 children had been instructed in his institutions. Francke’s Bible studies attracted large audiences and deeply affected the life of the community. His supreme emphasis was upon the Bible and practical Christianity rather than upon dogma and scholastic subtleties. PFF2 696.3

Among those who opposed him were some who declared the church to be so pure and holy as to be above the possibility of reform. To others, the Lutheran creed was absolute truth. Some even declared the decision of the clergy was equally authoritative with the Scriptures. 1 While at Halle, Francke wrote his Introductioad Lectionem Prophetarum (1724). PFF2 697.1


Nico LAUS LUDWIG, COUNT OF ZINZENDORF (1700-1760) was born in Dresden, Saxony. He became the founder of the “Brüderge-meinde,” the Brethren’s Church-a church within the church. Because of his receiving persecuted families of the old Moravian Church into his estate, the connection is established with the old “Unitas Fratrum” of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren. He traveled extensively in Europe and America, consolidating the Moravian colony at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In Zinzendorf and his Moravian brotherhood, the undying force of practical Christianity reappeared, and the spirit of missions was really born within this brotherhood. They founded missions in Greenland and the West Indies, among the Hottentots and the Papuas. 2 PFF2 697.2

In 1710 Zinzendorf had gone to the Seminary of Halle, where as a pupil of Francke he experienced the quickenings of spiritual life. He founded a society called the “Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed.” After studying law at Wittenberg, and traveling in Holland and France, Zinzendorf entered into the civil service of the crown of Saxony, but not many years there after went to live on his estates near the border of Bohemia. A few members of the Moravian church driven from home by persecution, sought refuge with him. The settlement was called Herrnhut (under the Lord’s guard, Hutberg). Under Zinzendorfs fostering care it grew until it became the Church of the United Brethren, established in 1727—including direct descend ants of the Hussites of Bohemia, who had been crushed by cruel and prolonged persecution. PFF2 698.1