Zinzendorf was destined for high duties in 18th Century Europe. Since 1662, all males in the Zinzendorf clan bore the title of count in the Holy Roman Empire; thus young Nicolaus became Count Zinzendorf at birth. But in the eyes of his mother, he was her precious son. In the family Bible, she wrote this prayer for her young son, “the Father of mercy, govern the heart of this child that he may walk blamelessly in the path of virtue … may his path be fortified in your Word.”
Just six weeks after his birth, tragedy struck. Nicolaus’ father died. The family found itself in a middle of a storm and the young child was sent to live with his maternal grandmother. A woman of strong principles and deep religious convictions, Zinzendorf’s grandmother would play an important role in shaping the life of the young count. She taught him to love the word of Christ and to make His teachings personal in his own life. His grandmother was deeply involved in a religious movement at that time known as Pietism and her involvement brought Zinzendorf into contact with it. Pietism was a practical outliving of Christian truths that focused on the personal relationship a believer has with Christ and the importance of living holy lives. It was called “religion of the heart.”
In 1722, at the age of 22, Zinzendorf purchased the estate of Berthelsdorf from his grandmother. Zinzendorf’s sincerity and commitment to Christ soon became well known and people began to seek him out. One of these men was Christian David, a religious refuge from Moravia. He begged Zinzendorf to allow him to settle in his new estate so he could experience religious freedom. Eager to help a brother in need, Zinzendorf agreed. Soon, dozens of religious refuges were flocking to Zinzendorf’s estate. They named their new settlement Herrnhut—”the Lord’s watch.” And from this settlement, hundreds of missionaries would be sent around the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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