Origin of the work:
1918 & 1935 Prague (under the title Vyznání víry Jednoty bratří českých [The Confession of Faith of the Czech Unity of Brethren])
The Unitas Fratrum was a community of people who tried in their faith and behaviour to approximate as closely as possible those of the first Christians. Their guide was Scripture and the practice of the original Church. The Brethren were persecuted, and had to fight hard for their existence alongside the Catholic Church and the Hussites. When in 1530 the Lutherans published their confession, the Brethren did not wish to be left behind, and in 1535 produced their own, which was set before Emperor Ferdinand I for approval; it was printed the following year. Prior to the Battle of White Mountain, the Brethren’s confession was published at least sixteen times in four languages and several redactions, of which the Latin, thanks to the secular public, was the most thoroughly elaborated. In 1609 the Brethren joined with the Neo-Utraquists to set down their common expression of faith (the Bohemian Confession) for approval by Rudolf II; they nevertheless retained their own ecclesiastical regulations.
In 1662 Comenius published the Brethren’s confession in Czech in Amsterdam. It bears traces of his intervention, but otherwise Jan Amos attempted to preserve the content of the 1564 edition. His confession contains 20 articles. Fundamental emphasis is placed on Scripture, which has priority above all else written by men. Parents and godparents are obliged to work with children through the catechism, which according to the example of the ancient Church and of the Father contains the Ten Commandments, the general Christian creed, the Lord’s Prayer and regulations regarding church observances. All is dependent on the Word of God, the discipline and the sacraments. The Brethren believe in the One God and in the Holy Trinity. Man was originally in a state of innocence, from which he fell into a state of sin and through that into death. People may be cleansed of their sins through faith in Christ without merit for their own acts and penance. Good works at the command of God comes occupies only second place; good deeds done at the command of other people are not held in such respect. The Brethren believe in the holy catholic (i.e. universal) Church that contains all of Christendom as representative of the chosen and the called, that they might faithfully serve God on earth and be with Him for eternity. Their hallmarks are the annunciation of the gospels, and observance of the sacraments and the discipline.
The head of the church is Christ. The leaders and administrators of the church are its major pillars, as deputies of Christ. They prepare lesser servants, teachers and deacons. The sacraments are the visible signs marking the invisible mercy of God. Of them, the Lord’s Baptism and the Last Supper are of fundamental importance. Baptism was the redeeming submission (means) established by Christ and consisting in the inner washing away of innate sin and other sin. In the first Church it was undertaken by adults, now the Brethren clergy baptise children, because baptism was performed in place of circumcision. The Last Supper is a sacrament established by Christ’s own words, the bread and wine being His body and blood, in commemoration of his death, and given for use.
Ancient practices have been preserved, including several posts and feast days, morning Mass, Sunday and annual celebrations of Christ’s incarnation, birth, martyrdom, resurrection etc., as well as commemorations of several saints. The rule and customs should not be adhered to against God’s will and the true faith. Lords and potentates in the world are according to the apostles appointed by God, to keep a hand on the world order and perform justice. They are also the deputies not just of God, but also of the Lamb (Christ), and should thus use their honour and power well – to oppose the Antichrist and be defenders of the people. Matters of the soul, the faith and salvation are exempt from the power of the lords; in these things, Christians should heed none but God and his Holy Word.
All men are of their nature sinful. Were they created kind and holy, it occurred by the grace of God and as such are remembered; this is particularly true of the Virgin Mary. In terms of the states of freedom, maidenhood and widowhood, all have the liberty to elect or reject them. It is a gift from God, if within themselves they can defend the purity of the body and soul and can abstain from those things beloved of the body, such as friends, riches and lusts. Temperance however also applies to the matrimonial state. In particular, people should know that if they are alive here, then they have from God a time of grace in which to seek their God, His grace, His mercy and His love.
The Unitas Fratrum represents the apex of the Czech religious life termed Hussitism; it was an earnest and full life, highly regarded by both František Palacký and T. G. Masaryk. It brought Masaryk to the conviction that the sense of Czech history was religious.
For further study, see also:
J. V. Novák& J. Hendrich: Jan Amos Komenský, jehoživot a spisy. Prague 1932, pp591-592
Jan Kumpera, Jan Amos Komenský, poutník na rozhraní věků. Prague & Ostrava 1992, pp213-214