Nitschmann, David

Nitschmann, David the first bishop of the Renewed Moravian Church (q.v.), was born Dec. 27, 1696, at Zauchtenthal, in Moravia. At the age of twenty-seven years he fled to Herrnhut, in Saxony, and took an active part in the renewal of the Church, laboring at the same time as one of its itinerant evangelists. In this capacity he visited his native-country, Bohemia, various parts of Germany, England, and Denmark. At Copenhagen he became acquainted with Anthony, a slave from the West Indies. The account which this man gave him of the heathen ignorance of the negroes in those islands excited his liveliest sympathy, and led to the inauguration of the extensive and well- known missionary work of the Moravian Church. On Aug. 21, 1732, Nitschmann and Leonhard Dober (q.v.) set out for St. Thomas, determined to sell themselves as slaves, if there were no other way of reaching the negroes. After his return to Europe Nitschmann was elected bishop, to which office bishop Daniel Ernst Jablonski (q.v.) consecrated him, March 13, 1735, at Berlin, thus transferring the episcopal succession of the Ancient Moravian Church (q.v.) to the Renewed. In the same year Nitschmann sailed to Georgia with a colony of Moravian emigrants. Among his fellow passengers were John and Charles Wesley. His piety, and especially the calmness which he and his brethren displayed in the midst of a terrible storm, made a deep impression upon the heart of the former, and prepared the way for an intercourse with the Moravians that culminated in the historic fellowship between him and Peter Boehler (q.v.). Nitschmann returned to Europe in 1736. The next twenty-five years of his life were spent mostly on episcopal journeys in many parts of the continent of Europe, in Great Britain, the West Indies, and America. He undertook not less than fifty sea voyages. His labors in America, where he spent altogether about twenty-three years, were particularly arduous and successful, both among white men and Indians. He died October 5. 1772, at Bethlehem, Penn., which settlement he had founded in 1740. Zinzendorf says of him: "His conversion was genuine, his walk and conversation were simple, and his manners openhearted. Over against the world, however, he bore himself with authority. His missionary spirit knew no rest, and his success in founding churches was extraordinary." See D. Nitschmann in einem kurzen Urnriss dargestellt (Rothenburg, 1842); The Moravian, vol. vi (1861); Nachrichten aus d. Bruder- Gemeinde (1832). (E. DE S.)

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