This society increased so fast, that, in a few years, they had an orphan-house and other public buildings. An adjacent hill, called the Huth-Berg, gave the colonists occasion to call this dwelling-place Herrnhut, which may be interpreted the guard or protection of the Lord. Hence this society are sometimes called Herrnhuters.
The Moravians avoid discussions respecting the speculative truths of religion, and insist upon individual experience of the practical efficiency of the gospel in producing a real change of sentiment and conduct, as the only essentials in religion. They consider the manifestation of God in Christ as intended to be the most beneficial revelation of the Deity to the human race; and, in consequence, they make the life, merits, acts, words, sufferings, and death, of the Savior the principal theme of their doctrine, while they carefully avoid entering into any theoretical disquisitions on the mysterious essence of the Godhead, simply adhering to the words of Scripture. Admitting the sacred Scriptures as the only source of divine revelation, they nevertheless believe that the Spirit of God continues to lead those who believe in Christ into all further truth, not by revealing new doctrines, but by teaching those who sincerely desire to learn, daily, better to understand and apply the truths which the Scriptures contain. They believe that, to live agreeably to the gospel, it is essential to aim, in all things, to fulfil the will of God. Even in their temporal concerns, they endeavor to ascertain the will of God. They do not, indeed, expect some miraculous manifestation of his will, but only endeavor to test the purity of their purposes by the light of the divine word. Nothing of consequence is done by them, as a society, until such an examination has taken place; and, in cases of difficulty, the question is decided by lot, to avoid the undue preponderance of influential men, and in the humble hope that God will guide them right by its decision, where their limited understanding fails them. In former times, the marriages of the members of the society were, in some respects, regarded as a concern of the society, as it was part of their social agreement that none should take place without the approval of the elders; and the elders' consent or refusal was usually determined by lot. But this custom was at length abandoned; and nothing is now requisite to obtain the consent of the elders, but propriety of conduct in the parties. They consider none of their peculiar regulations essential, but all liable to be altered or abandoned, whenever it is found necessary, in order better to attain their great object -- the promotion of piety.
What characterizes the Moravians most, and holds them up to the attention of others, is their missionary zeal. In this they are superior to any other body of people in the world. "Their missionaries," as one observes, "are all of them volunteers; for it is an inviolable maxim with them to persuade no man to engage in missions. They are all of one mind as to the doctrines they teach, and seldom make an attempt where there are not half a dozen of them in the mission. Their zeal is calm, steady, persevering. They would reform the world, but are careful how they quarrel with it. They carry their point by address, and the insinuations of modesty and mildness, which commend them to all men, and give offence to none. The habits of silence, quietness, and decent reserve, mark their character."
The following is a sketch of the mode of life of the Moravians, or United Brethren, where they form separate communities, which, however, is not always the case; for, in many instances, societies belonging to the Unity are situated in larger and smaller cities and towns, intermingled with the rest of the inhabitants, in which cases their peculiar regulations are, of course, out of the question. In their separate communities, they do not allow the permanent residence of any persons as householders who are not members in full communion, and who have not signed the written instrument of brotherly agreement, upon which their constitution and discipline rest; but they freely admit of the temporary residence among them of such other persons as are willing to conform to their external regulations. According to these, all kinds of amusements considered dangerous to strict morality are forbidden, as balls, dancing, plays, gambling of any kind, and all promiscuous assemblies of youth of both sexes. These, however, are not debarred from forming, under proper advice and parental superintendence, that acquaintance which their future matrimonial connections may require. In the communities on the European continent, whither, to this day, numbers of young persons of both sexes resort, in order to become members of the society from motives of piety and a desire to prepare themselves to become missionaries among the heathen, and where, moreover, the difficulties of supporting a family greatly limit the number of marriages, a stricter attention to this point becomes necessary. On this account, the unmarried men and boys, not belonging to the families of the community, reside together, under the care of an elder of their own class, in a building called the single brethren's house, where usually divers trades and manufactures are carried on, for the benefit of the house or of the community, and which, at the same time, furnishes a cheap and convenient place for the board and lodging of those who are employed as journeymen, apprentices, or otherwise, in the families constituting the community. Particular daily opportunities of edification are there afforded them; and such a house is the place of resort where the young men and boys of the families spend their leisure time, it being a general rule, that every member of the society shall devote himself to some useful occupation. A similar house, under the guidance of a female superintendent, and under similar regulations, is called the single sisters' house, and is the common dwelling-place of all unmarried females, not members of any family, or not employed as servants in the families of the community. Even these regard the sisters' house as their principal place of association at leisure hours. Industrious habits are here inculcated in the same way. In the communities of the United Brethren in America, the facilities of supporting families, and the consequent early marriages, have superseded the necessity of single brethren's houses; but they all have sisters' houses of the above description, which afford a comfortable asylum to aged unmarried females, while they furnish an opportunity of attending to the further education and improvement of the female youth after they have left school. In the larger communities, similar houses afford the same advantages to such widows as desire to live retired, and are called widows' houses. The individuals residing in these establishments pay a small rent, by which, and by the sums paid for their board, the expenses of these houses are defrayed, assisted occasionally by the profits on the sale of ornamental needle-work, &c., on which some of the inmates subsist. The aged and needy are supported by the same means. Each division of sex and station just alluded to, viz., widows, single men and youths, single women and girls past the age of childhood, is placed under the special guidance of elders of their own description, whose province it is to assist them with good advice and admonition, and to attend, as much as may be, to the spiritual and temporal welfare of each individual. The children of each sex are under the immediate care of the superintendent of the single choirs, as these divisions are termed. Their instruction in religion, and in all the necessary branches of human knowledge, in good schools, carried on separately for each sex, is under the special superintendence of the stated minister of each community, and of the board of elders. Similar special elders are charged to attend to the spiritual welfare of the married people. All these elders, of both sexes, together with the stated minister, to whom the preaching of the gospel is chiefly committed, (although all other elders who may be qualified participate therein,) and with the persons to whom the economical concerns of the community are intrusted, form together the board of elders, in which rests the government of the community, with the concurrence of the committee elected by the inhabitants for all temporal concerns. This committee superintends the observance of all regulations, has charge of the police, and decides differences between individuals. Matters of a general nature are submitted to a meeting of the whole community, consisting either of all male members of age, or of an intermediate body elected by them. Public meetings are held every evening in the week. Some of these are devoted to the reading of the Scriptures, others to the communication of accounts from the missionary stations, and others to the singing of hymns or selected verses. On Sunday mornings, the church litany is publicly read, and sermons are delivered to the congregation, which, in many places, is the case likewise in the afternoon. In the evening, discourses are delivered, in which the texts for that day are explained and brought home to the particular circumstances of the community. Besides these regular means of edification, the festival days of the Christian church, such as Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, &c., are commemorated in a special manner, as well as some days of peculiar interest in the history of the society. A solemn church music constitutes a prominent feature of their means of edification, music in general being a favorite employment of the leisure of many. On particular occasions, and before the congregation meets to partake of the Lord's supper, they assemble expressly to listen to instrumental and vocal music, interspersed with hymns, in which the whole congregation joins, while they partake together of a cup of coffee, tea, or chocolate, and light cakes, in token of fellowship and brotherly union. This solemnity is called a love-feast, and is in imitation of the custom of the agapae in the primitive Christian churches. The Lord's supper is celebrated at stated intervals, generally by all communicant members together, under very solemn but simple rites.
Easter morning is devoted to a solemnity of a peculiar kind. At sunrise, the congregation assembles in the graveyard; a service, accompanied by music, is celebrated, expressive of the joyful hopes of immortality and resurrection, and a solemn commemoration is made of all who have, in the course of the last year, departed this life from among them, and "gone home to the Lord" -- an expression they often use to designate death.
Considering the termination of the present life no evil, but the entrance upon an eternal state of bliss to the sincere disciples of Christ, they desire to divest this event of all its terrors. The decease of every individual is announced to the community by solemn music from a band of instruments. Outward appearances of mourning are discountenanced. The whole congregation follows the bier to the graveyard, (which is commonly laid out as a garden,) accompanied by a band, playing the tunes of well-known verses, which express the hopes of eternal life and resurrection; and the corpse is deposited in the simple grave during the funeral service. The preservation of the purity of the community is intrusted to the board of elders and its different members, who are to give instruction and admonition to those under their care, and make a discreet use of the established church discipline. In cases of immoral conduct, or flagrant disregard of the regulations of the society, this discipline is resorted to. If expostulations are not successful, offenders are for a time restrained from participating in the holy communion, or called before the committee. For pertinacious bad conduct, or flagrant excesses, the culpable individual is dismissed from the society. The ecclesiastical church officers, generally speaking, are the bishops, -- through whom the regular succession of ordination, transmitted to the United Brethren through the ancient church of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren, is preserved, and who alone are authorized to ordain ministers, but possess no authority in the government of the church, except such as they derive from some other office, being, most frequently, the presidents of some board of elders, -- the civil seniors, -- to whom, in subordination to the board of elders of the Unity, belongs the management of the external relations of the society, -- the presbyters, or ordained stated ministers of the communities, and the deacons. The degree of deacon is the first bestowed upon young ministers and missionaries, by which they are authorized to administer the sacraments. Females, although elders among their own sex, are never ordained; nor have they a vote in the deliberations of the board of elders, which they attend for the sake of information only.
The Moravians that first visited the United States, settled at Savannah, Ga., in 1735.