The Unity of the Brethren Church, often referred to as the Moravian Church, was founded during the 1400s in Moravia in central Europe. Several principles guided the members' beliefs. The first was that the Bible was the only source to receive God's true word. Second, it was held that all church members must achieve holy perfection to attain God's blessing. Thirdly, the Moravians believed that humans are naturally depraved. Finally, living a true Christian life based on God's word as printed in the Bible was most important to attain salvation. One must not only live a Christian life but also truly believe in both God and Jesus Christ to enter heaven. To assist the congregation in understanding God's word, the Moravians believed that the Bible and other religious texts should be presented in the language of the people. In 1501, the Moravians published the first hymnal in the vernacular. Prior to this most religious texts were published in Latin, a language with which only the well-educated were familiar.
The church grew quickly in both Moravia and Bohemia. It had more than two hundred thousand members and approximately four hundred churches by 1500. Despite the popularity of the church, its members spent the first two-hundred years of its existence facing persecution from already established churches. These churches feared and distrusted the message of the Moravians. By the late 1600s, many Unity of the Brethren churches stood idle due to the oppression of others. But the church would see a revival beginning in 1722 after a small group of believers left Moravia for Saxony in modern-day Germany. There, the Moravians flourished. They quickly assumed the role of evangelists, seeking first in Europe and then in the New World, to assist people, including American Indians, in attaining salvation. Chief among the missionaries to the American Indians were David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder, both of whom helped to found communities, such as Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten, in eastern Ohio during the 1770s. During the American Revolution, the Moravians faced pressure from both the British and the Americans because they tried to remain neutral. Moravian beliefs led them to practice pacifism.
- De Schweinitz, Edmund. The Moravian Manual: Containing an Account of the Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum. Bethlehem, PA: Moravian Publication Office, 1869.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Wellenreuther, Hermann, and Carola Wessel. The Moravian Mission Diaries of David Zeisberger, 1771-1781. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005.
- Zeisberger, David. Schoenbrunn Story: Excerpts from the Diary of the Reverend David Zeisberger, 1772-1777, at Schoenbrunn in the Ohio Country. Columbus: Ohio History Connection, 1972.