Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf has been called the “rich young ruler who said YES.” Born into one of Europe’s leading families, he gave his life to Christ, established a Christian community at his Herrnhut estate, and oversaw the sending of the first missionaries in Protestant history. Then late in life, Zinzendorf married his beloved Anna.
Three years later his strength ebbed. He pushed himself to finish some writing projects, but he noticed that Anna, too, was growing weaker. On Sunday, May 4, 1760 they attended church together, but with difficulty. Anna returned to her bed. The next day Nikolaus was unable to eat much lunch, and he complained of thirst. He visited Anna’s sickbed, then fell into bed himself. Speech became difficult, and it grew apparent he and Anna were both dying in rooms next to each other.
On May 8 David Nitshmann visited them. Nikolaus roused himself, reminisced, and said, “Did you suppose in the beginning, that the Savior would do as much as we now really see in the various Moravian settlements, amongst other denominations, and amongst the heathen? I only entreated of him a few firstfruits, but there are now thousands. Nitshmann, what a formidable caravan from our church already stands around the Lamb.”
At midnight he was seized by a coughing spasm, and at 9 o’clock the next morning, May 9, 1760, he told his son-in-law, John Watteville: “My dear John, I am about to go to the Savior. I am ready. I am resigned to his will, and he is satisfied with me. … I am ready to go to him. Nothing more stands in my way.” His eyes lingered another hour, then they closed. Watteville began praying, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace. The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. … The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” At the word “peace” Zinzendorf stopped breathing.
When Anna was told, she said, “I have the happiest prospect of you all. I will soon be going to him.” She watched his burial from her window, then thirteen days later joined him.
Now the time has come for me to die. My life is like a drink offering being poured out on the altar. I have fought well. I have finished the race, and I have been faithful. So a crown will be given to me for pleasing the Lord. (2 Timothy 4:6-8a)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 9.