September 12, 2010

Persecution of the ancient Unity by Rome ebbed and flowed, but the new church grew. A little over a century after its inception, Rome was forced to turn its attention to a new trouble-maker, a German clergyman by the name of Martin Luther. In 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg church in Germany, and they started a fire which was probably seven times hotter than the flames which consumed Jan Hus. The fire Luther started was none other than the spreading flame of the Protestant Reformation.

Was Luther's message that much superior to the message of Hus? It is said that one invention which appeared between the time of Hus and Luther clearly made a quantitative difference between the results achieved by the two great reformers, that is, the art of printing by movable type. Luther used the printing press to his advantage. History records that he printed copies of his Ninety-Five Theses faster than they could be gathered up and destroyed." If Hus had been able to share his views through the power of the printed word, the fires of the Reformation might have been lit a century earlier.

As it was, a natural affinity existed between the two movements. Indeed, The Unity was delighted with the reforms demanded by Luther, and sought to make common cause with him. The merger did not succeed. Their disagreements revolved around one issue. Luther believed that man was "…saved and justified by faith alone." The Moravians, like Hus, felt that for faith to be genuine, it must find expression through day-to-day Christian living. They said it was not a matter of faith or works, but of "faith that works," insisting that faith ought to be visible in the lives of those who profess it.

Ironically, more than a century later, when Count Zinzendorf the leader of the renewed church and John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement discussed the same issue, it is said that Zinzendorfsounded as if he were defending the position of Luther, and Wesley that of the early Moravians! Though the members of the Ancient Unity were unable to make alliance with Luther, by the time of the great Reformer's death, they had organized some 200 societies and congregations in Moravia, Bohemia, and Poland.