compiled a huge financial debt. But his legacy was inspiring because he had managed to found the first truly international missionary movement, with outposts on all continents.
The Pietists of Württemberg were among those who had been most reserved, if not unfriendly and at times even hostile, towards Zinzendorf. They had always been closely associated with the estates in their territory, and they remained so throughout the eighteenth century. In fact, one can say that the strict asceticism that Württemberg Pietists espoused formed the basis of the political opposition of the Württemberg estates in their struggle with the prince who strove, like most other German princes of the time, to rule in an absolutist manner and to imitate the life ofthe court at Versailles. At the same time, Württemberg Pietists were not very active in the social field. While they concentrated on spiritual edification and personal sanctification, and while they strengthened family ties and local networks, their primary aim was not to create new institutions or to send out missionaries. Those young men from Württemberg who wanted to become missionaries went to Herrnhut.
What made Württemberg Pietists special was their strong interest in escha-tology and in the apocalypse, and the person who gained most influence and scholarly authority in this respect was Johann Albrecht Bengel. By carefully assembling all numbers that he could find in the Old and New Testaments and in particular in the Revelation of St John, and by combining these numbers in what he believed to be a meaningful way so that they would disclose the hidden chronology of salvation history, Bengel concluded that the exact date of the Second Coming would be June 1836, and the place, of course, Jerusalem. Bengel was convinced that God had revealed this insight to him so that he could admonish His most loyal children to prepare themselves for this most crucial event. Bengel died in 1752. Even after they had lost their spiritual leader, the Pietists of Württemberg never forgot that the world-order in which they lived and which presented them with so many hardships would be totally transformed in the not too distant future. In the 1790s, as the sequence of upheavals caused by the French Revolution unfolded, Württemberg Pietists were convinced that this was the beginning of the final raging of the devil that preceded Christ's return. As we will see in the final chapter of this volume, some of them decided to migrate to Palestine where they hoped to find a safe place of refuge until 1836 and the Second Coming.
In assessing the impact of Pietism on continental Protestantism, the year 1740 formed a watershed. Before 1740, the movement was growing, especially due to the favours that Halle received from the Prussian king and also because ofthe attraction of Zinzendorf s initiatives. When Frederick the Great assumed
Was this article helpful?