Kornthal, Society of
Kornthal, Society Of, a German religious community, which bears its name from the place where it originated, Kornthal, in Wurtemberg. Rationalistic influences in the Wurtemberg Church had occasioned changes in the liturgy (1809) obnoxious to many who adhered more strictly to the old Lutheranism. The millenarian influence of Jung Stilling and Michael Hahn incited among this class an inclination to migrate, especially to Russia, where, near Tiflis, in 1816-17, several Wurtemberg settlements were formed, while many hundred families were making ready to follow. The king sought means to restrain this movement, and in 1819 accepted the suggestions of Gottlieb Wilhelm Hoffmann, burgomaster of Leonburg. The latter, in consequence of deep religious impressions received in his youth, was in sympathy with the Pietists, and now proposed to retain for the state a valuable class of citizens by securing for them the establishment of a community similar to that authorized at Konigsberg under king Frederick, simply independent in its religious matters of the Lutheran Consistory. The motive was Pietistic, and not schismatic. Hoffmann's scheme sought to realize the spirit of the apostolic age; required as condition of membership "a regenerate state of heart, manifested in a true life which springs from a sense of pardoned sin;" and demanded careful education of children both mental and industrial, as well as charitable and missionary work. The community, as established, arose from the combination of three distinct elements, viz., the Old Church Pietism represented by Hoffmann, the Moravian ideas appearing in the constitution and Church service, and the partially millenarian views of Hahn to which the majority adhered.
Michael Hahn, known among the people as "Michel," was at this time sixty-two years old. His spirit was that of Jacob Bohme. Converted at the age of twenty, he passed at that period, and subsequently, through an experience of religious ecstasy. Persecuted by his family and neighbors, he lived ascetically, was much in prayer, addressed religious assemblies, and soon won thousands of adherents, who sought him in Sindlingen, where he settled in 1794. His writings were disseminated in manuscript, and in 1817 his followers numbered 18,000. Hahn's teaching, with its acknowledged defects, brought a spirit of practical activity to the aid of a too subjective Pietism. The Kornthal society was founded Jan. 12,1819, and Hahn was chosen its president, but he died on the 20th of the same month. SEE HAHN, MICHAEL.
The Constitution of the community seeks to realize rather the union of the religious and civil orders than their separation. Truly patriarchal under the presidency of" Father" Hoffmann, who died in 1846, it is really based on the idea of the universal priesthood of Christians. Not the clergy, but the community, is the final authority. The latter (" die Guterkaufsgesellschaft") is the original possessor of the land, from whose authority it cannot be alienated. The lordship of Kornthal, 1000 acres, all its buildings, gardens, vineyards, woods, was purchased for 113,000 gulden, and given out by lot to each member. Money can be borrowed only from the common chest, and no debts can be contracted by members outside the community. A common council and council of elders is periodically elected. The president, pastor, and schoolmaster are chosen by the community, with recognition of the government and Church. The pastor shares the functions of the Sunday service with the president, councilmen, and schoolmaster, each of whom has authority to conduct a week-day service. The community admits its members by vote, and the children of the members are received only upon their own recognition. The criminal administration is under the general state authority, the property census and tax assessment being controlled by the president.
The usual Church festivals are observed. Baptism is a public and solemn ceremony, the import of which the people are not allowed to forget. The Lord's Supper is administered once a month on Saturday evening, preceded by a week of preparatory meetings.
The Christian activity of the community is displayed in connection with foreign and domestic missions and in education. It has few of its own members in the foreign mission field, though many missionaries, male and female, were educated at its schools. It is a supporter especially of the Basle Mission House, and its yearly missionary festival is an occasion of great interest. 'he destitute of the neighborhood are systematically visited, and its institution for abandoned children is chief among those of its class at Wiirtemberg. In its separate educational institutions for the two sexes about 10,000 persons from various lands have received their training.
Kornthal has in all a population of about 1300. It has ever exerted a salutary influence for the prevention of schism in the Wirtemberg Church, has furnished for the sentiment of Pietism a corrective model of practical life, and has in general shown a successful example of religious and moral principle directly applied to social laws. Iere are uniformly neat dwellings, clean streets, a well-clad people; intemperance and brawls are unknown; not a beggar is seen except such as may come in from abroad; there has been no case of bankruptcy from the foundation of the community, but two illegitimate births, and not a case of civil or criminal process of law has been required, while remarkable fidelity to the government in times of trial has characterized its people.-Kapff, Die uiirtemberyischen Briiderenmeinden Kornthal u. hVilhelmsdorf (Kornth. 1839); Barth, Ueber die Pietisten (Tibing. 1819); Zeitschr.f. hist. theol. 1841; Haag, Studien d. Wirttemb. Geistl. 9:1 sq.; Herzog, RealEncyklop. vol. 19:s.v. (E. B. O.)