Home » Biographies » A Brother Used by the Lord: Count Zinzendorf

A Brother Used by the Lord: Count Zinzendorf


His Noble Birth

In 1 Corinthians 1:26 Paul wrote, “For you see your calling, brothers, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many powerful, not many wellborn.” Although Count Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf, unlike Luther, was of noble birth, he was, nonetheless, a faithful witness to the Lord.


A. The Spread of the Bohemian Brethren

While Zinzendorf lived in Dresden, he was informed that some of these exiles had arrived from Moravia. Among them was Christian David, an extraordinary man of whom Spangenberg writes:

When a child of only eight years of age, he sought rest for his soul, and did all he could according to the advice of those to whom he had complained of his distress, but in vain. As he grew up, he went upon his travels, and arrived at Göerlitz as a journeyman mechanic, where he heard the things spoken of, after which his soul longed. He now began to search the Scriptures diligently…. He became acquainted with Count Zinzendorf…and stated to him the oppressive situation of the brethren in Moravia. On seeing [Zinzendorf’s] zeal for the Lord, and how willing he was to receive those who were oppressed for conscience’s sake, he returned to Moravia, and spoke with his friends, telling them that this nobleman would probably receive them, for he was not ignorant of their intention to leave their native land, and seek a place where they could live according to their consciences, in obedience to the truth, with which, by God’s grace, they had been made acquainted. [1]

A band of Moravians acted on Christian David’s word and made the journey to Zinzendorf’s estate. On June 17, 1722, these exiles felled the first tree as they began the work of building a new settlement. The Count was informed of their arrival and received a petition from the exiles which read:

We are under great concern, lest we should be burdensome to you with this building. We most humbly entreat you to take us into your gracious protection, to assist us, poor, afflicted, and simple people, and to treat us with kindness and affection. We willentreat Almighty God to bless you in body and soul for so doing…. [2]

Zinzendorf was sympathetic toward them and willingly offered the temporary use of his estate until a permanent place for settlement could be found. The exiles, however, were of a different mind and set about to establish a permanent community on the estate. Christian David moved so rapidly that the die was cast within the next month without Zinzendorf’s knowledge. Zinzendorf subsequently consented, and this followed:

Towards the end of December, 1722, [Zinzendorf] travelled for the first time with his consort…. On leaving Strahwalde, a village near Bertholdsdorf, he saw in the wood, near the road, a house which he was told was the one built on his estate for the Moravians. He joyfully entered it, welcomed them cordially, fell upon his knees with them, returned thanks to God, and blessed the place with a warm heart. He entreated the Lord to extend His hand over the house, encouraged its inhabitants, and assured them of the favour and faithfulness of God….

The Count’s most anxious concern was now that all his vassals might become acquainted with their Lord and Saviour. [3]

B. The Founding of Herrnhut

Zinzendorf bore in mind that “friendship of the world is enmity with God”

The site of the immigrants’ first building was named Herrnhut, with the expectation that the new community would not only be unter des Herrn Hut, i.e., under the Lord’s watch, but also auf des Herrn Hut, i.e., on watch for the Lord.

1. Resignation of Position

Zinzendorf was employed in Dresden as a judicial counselor. Although those around him endeavored to make court life agreeable to him, Zinzendorf bore in mind that “friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). Spangenberg describes his plight:

He was likewise embarrassed by the good intentions of his friends, who would gladly have advanced him to more honourable stations. He declared in writing, “that he begged them not to do so; especially as it was reported he was to be made chamberlain; that he was utterly unfit for such an office, which required a man of the world, and of worldly wisdom;–for he was neither. But he was heartily desirous of becoming a child of God and a true Christian; and such characters had an abhorrence of the pleasures of a court, and the glories of the world.” [4]

Zinzendorf felt obliged to retain his post as long as his grandmother was living, for it was her wish that he remain in governmental service. Her death came when the Count was twenty-seven. After conferring with his mother and stepfather, he officially resigned from office. In a letter of 1728, he shared his feelings concerning his retirement from office:

I found it difficult to continue in office, because circumstances were daily occurring, in which I was apprehensive of acting contrary to the word of the Lord: “They that are great, exercise authority; but it shall not be so among you.”… [It] has proved a hinderance to me with respect to that religion of the heart, which was my sole object. I have sometimes appeared to conquer by my Roman citizenship…, when I ought to have overcome by suffering and succumbing. In future, the same and still more disgraceful sufferings may befall me, which have befallen my brethren. [5]

2. Opposition

As time went on, there was an increasing number who were critical of him.

During this time a pamphlet was published in Dresden which indirectly attacked Zinzendorf. As time went on, there was an increasing number who were critical of him in addition to the earlier opposition to his paper, The Dresden Socrates. Some even went as far as to question the Count’s salvation. It was commonly held that the conversion experience must be accompanied by certain degrees of anxiety and painful distress on account of sins committed. Since Zinzendorf openly confessed that his initial experience of salvation had not taken place in this manner, some decided that he lacked a true conversion. Zinzendorf took time to examine this matter thoroughly. He would gladly have experienced such penitential conflict, but when he sought the Savior with reference to it, he was always encouraged to cast himself at his Lord’s feet and to cleave to Him as a poor sinner. The essence of salvation, he concluded, consisted in loving Him whom we see not and believing in Him as if we see Him.

3. Move to Herrnhut

In the summer of 1727, Count Zinzendorf and his wife moved to Herrnhut, which now had a population of about three hundred. Zinzendorf called their new house Bethel. Over the doorway, on the left and right, he had inscribed these lines:

As guests we only here remain;
And hence this house is slight and plain.
We have a better house above,
And there we fix our warmest love.

Zechariah 9:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 were also cited but not written out. John Wesley later visited the Count’s house and described it:

The Count’s house – a small, plain building like the rest; having a large garden behind it, well laid out, not for show, but for the use of the community. [6]

4. Children

The Zinzendorfs had twelve children. Eight, however, died in infancy. Their first child, Christian Ernest, was born in 1724 and lived only three months. The Count and his wife had agreed to offer up their firstborn to the hand of the Lord in a voluntary manner. As the Count knelt and prayed, presenting the child to the Lord, the infant expired.

His Last Years

In his last years Zinzendorf experienced many troubles, including financial problems and opposition from religious leaders. Nevertheless, during Zinzendorf’s lifetime the Lord was able to recover much concerning the enjoyment of Christ, hymn-writing, and the practice of the church life.

Taken from the book entitled Count Zinzendorf: A Brief History of the Lord’s Recovery, which was authored by James Reetzke and published by Chicago Bibles and Books. For information about Chicago Bibles and Books please visit their website atwww.ChicagoBiblesAndBooks.com.


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