This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
We pass quickly from the first to the eighteenth century. Already we have noted how the Christian doctrine of stewardship was submerged by pervasive heathenism, and how European civilization followed Roman jurisprudence rather than Christian teaching in its laws of ownership and possession. Men had practically forgotten the Christian law of property. On the one hand the pagan doctrine of ownership obscured Christian ethics, and on the other asceticism sought to palliate the resulting evil. During the intervening centuries, if we could tarry, we would find noble instances of personal illumination and personal loyalty. The Church Fathers of the third and fourth centuries sought to preserve the Christian teaching of stewardship in the face of heathen standards. Their exhortation to observe "the tenth," in acknowledgment of God's ownership, is most instructive. Prior to the Reformation the Waldenses had, in some sort, preserved early Christian ideals, and the followers of John Huss in Bohemia, known as the Unitas Fratrum, had emphasized practical piety, but for the church, as for the world, "there was no open vision."
If our purpose were to write of economic history, or of social movements, we should here be compelled to pause. The right of the community over private property, and fraternal obligation as expressed in community statutes, these were clearly recognized among Teutonic and Slavic peoples, particularly in their village communities. How far this was an expression of mediaeval life as a social outgrowth of feudalism, and how far it was touched by the Christian impulse, is difficult to say. But it is no part of our purpose to write of social economics. We are tracing those finer spiritual values out of which alone stewardship can flow. For this reason also the communism of the Taborites in Bohemia and of the Anabaptists in Germany, though religious in motive, is not related to our present survey. The core of communism is "ourselves"; the center of stewardship is "others."
The Reformation, both in Germany and England, was so intermingled with ecclesiastical reconstruction, that the spiritual awakening which attended it did not at once manifest itself in a more brotherly attitude of fellowship, nor in a larger sense of social responsibility. When allegiance to the Roman pope was denied, the state took the place of an alien hierarchy as the responsible head of organized Christianity. There was therefore little opportunity for the development of the doctrine of individual and social stewardship; the principles of Protestantism became enmeshed with political faction and intrigue. The rise of the Free Churches was the logical aftermath of the Reformation, and might have marked a notable rebirth of this Christian teaching. But the time was not yet ripe. Men were fighting for their own constitutional rights; they had little thought for the sunken poor and the unreached lands of darkness. The Puritans and the Friends mark a century of heroic consecration, but not of social betterment; their calling was to maintain the inalienable right of private conscience, and to provide the guarantees of human liberty. Stewardship must wait until the householder might be reasonably sure that his own treasure would not be wrested from him; then, perhaps, he would begin to think of his houseless brother. It was not until the eighteenth century that there was any notable return to the spirit and power of the apostolic church, and, with it, a partial return to the Christian law of stewardship. One glance at the worldwide social and missionary movements, which had their rise in the spiritual awakening of the eighteenth century, will quickly reveal the fact that men had again begun to recognize the sacred trust of property. In order to appreciate this it will be necessary to note the rise of the Moravians and the Methodists.
The convulsions of the Thirty Years' War wiped out the last congregation of the Unitas Fratrum, to whom reference has just been made. Nevertheless, the longing for true godliness rather than exact theology was kept alive on the Continent by spiritual-minded men, stigmatized as "Pietists." Finally, in the year 1722, the earlier Unitas Fratrum was resuscitated by exiles from Moravia, under the protection of a young Saxon noble, Count von Zinzendorf. The Count received the Moravian refugees on his own estate, where the community of Herrnhut was founded. From then until the present time the Moravian Church has been a notable influence in Christendom. It has never been a large body, nor, indeed, have its leaders ever been ambitious for wide expansion.
The Moravians have emphasized intensive rather than extensive development. Nevertheless, they have excelled all other churches in the set purpose with which, from the very beginning, they have both recognized and supported the world-program of Christianity. Within ten years after the founding of Herrnhut the Moravian Church, had established successful missions in Greenland, Africa, and the West Indies, and had exploited Lapland, Ceylon, and certain tribes of American Indians, with a view to establishing mission work at a providential opportunity.
When it is remembered that the entire congregation at Herrnhut numbered at this time hardly more than six hundred souls, many of them exiles and most of them poor, it will be appreciated that this was a marked instance of self-sacrificing devotion to large conceptions of Christianity, and fully sustains the honorable distinction, which makes the Moravian Church the mother church of modern missions. By the year 1733 the Herrn-hut congregation had been divided into two classes—those who would go as missionaries to foreign parts, and those who would labor and sacrifice to support them. The close communal life of the Moravian people during the entire history of the Moravian Church has made possible a very marked development of the ideals of brotherhood, as doubtless also it has greatly restricted their numerical increase. A community of labor rather than of goods has been emphasized among them. In a consecutive history of nearly two hundred years there has been no falling away from the high ideals of the first Herrn-hut exiles.
At the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, in 1910, the Moravian bishops thrilled that great assembly with large faith for magnificent Christian advance, for it was recognized that the Moravians had illustrated for all the churches the meaning of Christian stewardship. Of their communicant membership at the present time, one in sixty is a missionary, and the present membership of the Moravian missionary congregations in foreign parts is three times that of the home churches in Germany, the United States, and Great Britain. Such practical illustration of the stewardship of life and possessions would be notable in any age.
Closely affiliated with the Moravians in spiritual ideals, yet wholly removed from them in organization and development, stand the Methodists. The influence of Moravian believers in the earlier years of John Wesley, and the later helpfulness of Peter Boehler, a Moravian preacher, in enabling Wesley to realize the assurance of faith, are well understood in Methodist history. As the Moravians recovered for the modern church the lost vision of a world-embracing Christianity, so the Methodists found again the apostolic gift of reaching men. The Moravians dwelt apart, a distinct people, and mingled but little in the affairs of the world; the Methodists, on the other hand, believed that they had been raised up to spread scriptural holiness throughout society. Hence the habit of one was retiring and peaceful, while that of the other was militant and aggressive.
But the real influence, both of the Moravians and the Methodists, far exceeded their numerical strength. It is true that the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was organized very early in the eighteenth century, but during that period its promoters did not seriously contemplate an advance against heathenism. It was the Moravian leaven which so far worked into the life of other churches that Protestantism began to understand the churches were "stewards of the mysteries of God," and a world-program of missions was undertaken. The Baptist. Missionary Society was formed in 1792, and the other great boards followed within a few years. At the same time, as the result of the Wesleyan revivals, a new sense of social responsibility at home compelled men to believe that they were indeed their brothers' keepers. Says the English historian, John Richard Green, "The Methodists themselves were the least result of the Methodist revival." Prison reform, protection for the poor, and the beginnings of popular education, were some of the outward social results which followed that genuine care for the souls of men, the mark of all true stewardship.
Stewardship, if not a program, became at least an ideal of life. Industry and frugality, the offspring of stewardship, were the rule among Methodists and Moravians alike. Wesley's advice to his people became the watchword of Christian responsibility: "Earn all you can; save all you can; give all you can." Wesley was himself a consummate pattern of the industry, frugality, and generosity which he enjoined upon all Methodists, while, among the Moravians, Zinzen-dorf held himself and his baronial estate liable for the financial obligations of all Moravian institutions, thus illustrating the brotherhood which he proclaimed.
The influence of these humble yet mighty beginnings has permeated Christianity. The spiritual strength and quietness of the Moravians is found in all the churches, the evangelistic passion of the Methodists is the accepted type wherever Christianity is in earnest; the inward sense of personal responsibility, which characterized both Moravians and Methodists, is now, at least in some degree, recognized by all Christian men. It is the praise of a larger Christianity that denominational types are less and less observed; all intelligent students of modern conditions study the same foundations. The recognition, which is beginning to mark our own day—that life is a stewardship and possessions are a trust— did not grow up without beginnings. Out of such an ancestry as we have named came those spiritual forces and agencies which shall yet distinguish the men of our generation as "the men who cared."