November 15 will mark the three-hundredth anniversary of the death of John Amos Comenius, a churchman, educator, and philosopher who was one of the most famous men of his time and is still highly revered in his native Czechoslovakia. But his legacy does not belong to the Czech nation alone; it belongs to all mankind. It is proper that the anniversary be observed not only in his small native land but wherever the saints of the Christian faith are remembered and honored.
Comenius’s life story is, from the human point of view, a tragic one. He was born in 1592 as the fifth child of a prosperous miller in southern Moravia (now a province of Czechoslovakia) and was left an orphan at the age of twelve. After unsuccessfully trying to carry on his father’s trade, he enrolled at the age of sixteen in a Latin grammar school, and later at a Calvinist Academy. From there he went to the University of Heidelberg, where he became well known for his learned discourses and his interest in the problems of education. His studies finished, he returned to Moravia and became a teacher and minister in his church, the Unitas Fratrum (The Unity of Brethren or, as it is known in America, the Moravian Church). He married a rather well-to-do young lady and settled down in Fulnek in northern Moravia.
Comenius began his ministry and his teaching at the parochial school during a time of turbulent political developments. For decades the most pressing “political” issue of the land had been religious freedom; only a few years before the ordination of Comenius, the Brethren and other followers of John Huss celebrated a decisive victory in their long and bitter struggle for liberty. In that memorable year, 1609, King Rudolph II issued the Letter of Majesty, ...1
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