Here is a brief summary and commentary on the eighth (actually no comment there) and ninth lectures of Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf, Bishop of the Church of the Moravian Brethren, from Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion, preached in Fetter Lane Chapel in London in the Year 1746. Translated and Edited by George W. Forell, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1973.
Again, this was from early in my graduate experience, 1994-1995, in Dr. Richard Lovelace’s class on the Pietist Renewal at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Lecture VIII—Concerning the Blessed Happiness of Sincere and Upright Hearts
‘The eighth, that it is true in sano sensu that from the human side nothing more is requied for salvation than an upright heart.’ (xxxii)
Text: Psalm 32:2. ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.’
Lecture IX—That which, Properly Speaking, can Secure Us from all Fear, Danger, and Harm
‘The ninth concludes with a frank confession that the object of their faith, although invisible, is nevertheless, in the most real sense, nearer to Christians than the shirt on their backs.’ (xxxii)
Text: Acts 23:11, ‘The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage.”
At the outset, Z makes a distinction between Jesus being present to a person in his Spirit and gifts, and being present in a deeper and somehow more personal way, as in the text, or when he appeared to Paul and cried, ‘Why do you persecute me?,’ or in the Revelation of John. These latter instances, though ‘will be looked upon as extraordinary events which do not happen nowadays,’ (97) says Z.
But the text, and elsewhere, where Paul cites ‘the Lord came to me and told me this and this (e.g. I Cor 11:23 or II Cor 12:9) (97) are ‘without any extraordinary occasion’ (97)
To support this more ‘ordinary’ appearance of Christ to the Christian Z goes to the statement ‘I believe in the communion of saints.’ This, he takes to mean that there are ‘God’s people’ in all denominations, even ‘erroneous’ ones (Z’s term). ‘However, by this is not confirmed that one can be saved in all religions; by this it is not confirmed that one is able to get along quite well with all notions and opinions . . . .one is not to be indifferent to doctrine.’ (97)
[This is an interesting qualification from one who has been charged with dropping doctrine altogether in favor of experience!
[Here he speaks of the ‘church invisible.’ These are people who may be in ‘erroneous’ churches (such as, implied, the RC), but have a ‘different light’ directly from the Lord, to properly relate with him, and have communion with him.
[Frank Peretti would like this:]
‘ . . . there are many things which are not perceived, which, if one’s eyes were opened, would disclose an indescribable splendour, so that one would be astonished at things which are daily around and near, but, indeed, invisibly.’ From this he reasons an ‘invisible head . . . invisible intimate association of the Head with His invisible members, a walking with His invisible body, the revelation and manifestation of which depends every moment upon the bidding and will of its Head.’
[This is a wonderfully robust pneumatology, and I think not far off the mark. Again, a wonderful energizer for missions!]
Z summarizes, this is religion which may be retained in its essence in a man who has no understanding, no senses, no Bible, no memory, no friend. We may lose any of these things, and if we do, and our religion relies upon them, the result is ‘an insecurity, an uncertainty, an unreliability in the whole matter of religion.’ (98). But with that more direct, spiritual, mystical apprehension of Jesus, nothing can take that away. That inward Friend would not leave them for the world, no matter how many of their faculties they lose, or how beset they are (‘neither death, nor life,’ etc.) ‘A close connection, an inseparable friendship must be established with the lamb, with the slaughtered lamb, with that sinner executed for mankind, Jesus Christ, with him in whom the whole world was absolved; and this is the goal of all our lectures.’ (99), and to a great degree, apparently, of all Z’s life, and of all the Moravians’ efforts.
All human relations should be based on this realization of the Essential Relationship and Essential Presence of Christ to us, says Z. And apparently this was a firm basis for fellowship at Herrnhut and the many spinoffs of Herrnhut! Each enjoys the closest communion with Christ, ‘the shirt on our back is not nearer to us than He is; the heart in our body is not nearer to us than He is.’ (100)
Unfortunately, it is the case of this mortal life that despite his constant nearness, ‘for hours, moments, seconds, or even imperceptible intervals, we may be said to be apontes [Greek: absent (e.g. I Cor 5:3)] . . . For a moment one can be disturbed and confused in his mind; and if Satan can succeed in making it last for hours and days, then he has gained so much, that, as Paul says, a person becomes deranged and agitated . . . ‘ (100)
The remedy? Go to him ‘just as we are,’ throw ourselves upon him, and ‘immediately He is as good as His word, and His mere presence, his mere approach drives our enemies out of our sight and away from our borders . . . ‘ (101)