To Be True to Christ, Kind to People and to take the Gospel to the Nations
The Shocking Discovery
“They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul.”(2 Chron. 15:12)
It wasn’t until the mysterious death of a Prussian officer in Amsterdam that the secret got out. Abraham von Rumswinkel had been a professional soldier stationed in Holland, but, upon his death in 1737, those searching his belongings discovered an extraordinary secret—strange symbols and documents: a golden ring with an inscription in Greek and a list of rules written in formal German.
High Society Slowly it emerged that this ordinary Prussian officer had, in fact, been a member of an extraordinary secret Order reaching to the very highest echelons of society, right across Europe and even into the New World of America. It was hard to believe, but other members of this mysterious Order included the king of Denmark, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris, the secretary of state for Scotland, a military general and governor of the colony of Georgia, and even an eighty-seven-year-old Indian chief Tomo-chi-chi (left). The leader of the group was a well-known German aristocrat with a reputation as a religious zealot—a man in his thirties by the name of Count Nicklaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Saxony. The existence of The Honourable Order of the Mustard Seed had finally come to light. The rumors spread like wildfire as the statutes of this secret society fell at first into hostile hands. A Professor Voget of Utrecht attempted to use them to discredit the Moravian missions movement expanding so rapidly under Zinzendorf’s patronage. And so, reluctantly, in 1740, the Count went public with the Rules, the relationships, and the history of his Knightly Order. The truth that emerged was not sinister, but it was truly extraordinary; some of the most powerful people in contemporary society had banded together in a solemn covenant not for self-preferment, but rather to live selflessly for Jesus Christ!
Part of the reason why we have chosen to express the values of the "Order of the Mustard Seed" as 3 simple principles is that the detailed rules themselves changed as Zinzendorf and his companions matured together. The first set of rules (for the "Confessors of Christ") were written when they were just 16 years old, and reflect the concerns and aspirations of young people starting out on adult life.
By 1740, many of the members were in positions of responsibility and influence in the society of their day. The rules which were published to the world following the unexpected disclosure of the OMS (and the controversy which followed) reflect their desire to live out the same basic principles in the complex world of international affairs.
As we seek to apply these same principles in the 21st century, we have taken the original rules as an example rather than a requirement. The issues they had to grapple with (such as how to handle the reality of having a reigning monarch as one of your members) are not ones we have had to confront so far! However, many of their insights are still highly relevant today, and their heart to be "true to Christ, kind to all, and bearers of the Gospel" has an eternal quality which challenges every generation.
Rules of the Order of the Mustard Seed (pub. J Storr, Budingen, 1740)
I. Because of the state of the churches it is not possible to completely bring people together. We are divided by borders and nationality, by our professions, and by church backgrounds and ancestry. We are however united by the fact of our salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of Mary. This then is the aim of our work in the whole world: that we reach the hearts of all for the sake of the One who gave his life for our souls.
II. Every one of us commits to love and serve the whole human race through whatever position he finds himself in. We promise not to try and “convert” others out of their own Christian background, all the while that they are genuinely born again. However, if someone decides to change their affiliation of their own free will, they should be allowed to do so and no-one should prevent them.
III. No-one should try and persuade a new convert to join their own church when that person was won to Christ by Christians of a different background, as long as the person is going on in obedience to the cross. This only applies to “genuine” conversions, not the strange practice whereby someone never had Christ taught or explained to them but was forcibly converted or baptized.
IV. There are many Christians whose salvation is genuine, but equally there are many people who claim to be “Christians” but are not actually true servants of the Lord. To be a member of this Order, you must be a genuine servant and follower of Christ.
V. Everyone should work to further the kingdom of God within the context of their own profession. If you are a teacher, then teach for the Lord, etc.
VI. Kings and Queens may become members of the Order, but they do not automatically become leaders of it and membership cannot be passed on or inherited. If anyone tries to misuse their membership for fame or personal advancement, they can no longer be a member and must resign.
VII. Some members have already died, but to make it clear to everyone, these are the intentions of our Order:
1. The members commit to love the whole human race.
2. We want to give to the world the best of everything we have to offer.
3. We desire to join the souls of all people to their creator, and to their savior Jesus as soon as they come to know about him.
4. We intend to work in a way that is honest and upright. Even when we do things carefully and shrewdly, we will never be dishonest or underhand.
5. We will not be over-hasty, but will think carefully before we act.
6. We will not however think too long before stepping through doors that have been opened by God. In everything we will be brave and joyful, whilst taking care not to close other doors through our actions.
7. If any of us has a personal opponent who is also a servant of God, and their work is going well, a member of the Order will support what their opponent is doing. This way even the things that our enemies do for God will prosper, and great blessing will come from our actions.
8. We will support the good wherever it is found and never work against it.
9. Against the trend, we do not seek to abolish the old and establish the new. Instead we aim to sanctify and bring out the best in old traditions.
10. When new things do arise, we will not try and join them to the old and so make old divisions even deeper.
11. Where there are institutions which were originally of God but have now become dark and useless, and God starts to renew them through his mercy, we will support them in returning to their former glory.
12. Where anyone has a good intention or has made a promising start, we will support them whole-heartedly. This will be so even when their plans are not yet fully worked out, so that out of it our common Lord may be glorified.
13. When we have achieved all of these good aims, we will not ask for any glory or reward from them. We will live to the end of our days in the grace that comes from the cross of Christ alone. We will die willingly, because after hard labor comes a great reward.
VIII. The Order of the Mustard Seed chooses to stay secret and to work out of the public eye. For this reason it is best to wear the medallion only in private.
IX. The “mustard seed” is the emblem of the Order and its guiding principle, taken from Mark chapter 4 verses 30 to 32. We will work simply and quietly. Even if we never see wonders with our own eyes or hear of them with our ears, we are planting the kingdom of heaven into the nations and will look for the fruit which grows from it.
X. Each member will wear a gold ring with the inscription “None of us lives for himself” (in Greek). The ring is a reminder of the task you have chosen and the community of which you are a part.
XI. Describes the medallion of the Order: a gold cross bearing an oval front-piece displaying a picture of a mustard tree and the Latin inscription “Quad Fuitan Ante Nihil” (“That which was formerly nothing”).
XII. Explains the items to be worn at meetings of the Order.
XIII. Practical arrangements like expenses.
XIV. Every member of the Order is equal in status. When someone is acting as the “secretary”, they are there to be a contact point and to handle correspondence but not to take authority.
XV. The 25th of March and 16th of August are set aside as “holidays” for us to gather together for prayer and fasting.