The Origin of the Peace Formula





In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Peter Meiderlin [1582-1651] (1626)

Other version: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials diversity, in all things love.”

About Moravian Motto[1]

Moravian historians attributed it to John Amos Comenius, …in Matthew Spinka’s succinct biography, John Amos Comenius[2], That Incomparable Moravian (page 147 of the 1967 reissue). It is from The One Thing Needful (Unum necessarium), …Comenius appears once more what he really had been throughout his life—a simple believer, a mystic, to whom union with Christ was his all in all. For the church he had this last word of advice: ‘In all things essential unity, in those less needful (which are called additions), freedom; and in all things love to all.’” Spinka footnotes the motto by saying it is a “paraphrase of the celebrated expression of ‘Rupert Meldenius’.


Version attributed to Augustine: In essentials unity, In doubtful things liberty, But in all things love. “In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis (or, dubiis) libertas, in utrisque (or, omnibus) caritas.” Cf. John XXIII’s first encyclical, Ad Petri cathedram of 1959: “72. But the common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed to various authors, must be recalled with approval: in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” [John XXIII did not attribute it to Augustine!!]


Some attributed it to John Wesley’s:  “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”


The Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials, 1994: “In Essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” -Richard Baxter, after St. Augustine


Disciples of Christ’s Founding Principles: “in essential, unity; in non-essential, liberty; no creed by Christ, no book but the Bible.”[3]


Philip Schaff[4]:

The authorship has recently been traced to RUPERTUS MELDENIUS. … The golden sentence occurs in the later half of the tract (p. 128 in Luecke’s edition), incidentally and in hypothetical form, as follows:-

“Verbo dicam: Si nos servaremus IN necesariis Unitatem, IN non-necessariis Libertatem, IN UTRISQUE Charitatem, optimo certe loco essent res nostrae.” [In a word, I’ll say it: if we preserve unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity in both, our affairs will be in the best position.]


Gregor Frank, “Summa est.: Servemus IN necessariis unitatem, IN non-necessariis libertatem, IN utrisque charitatem.”


Fifty years dater Richard Baxter, the Puritan pacificator In England, refers to the sentence, Nov. 15, 1679, In the preface to The True and Only Way of Concord of All the Christian Churches, London, 1680, In a slightly different form: “I once more repeat to you the pacificator’s old despised words, ‘Si in necessariis sit [esset] unitas, in non necessariis libertas, in charitas, optimo certo loco essent rcs nostrae.” Luecke was the first to quote this passage, but overlooked a direct reference of Baxter to Meldenius in the same tract on p. 25. This Dr. Briggs discovered, and quotes as follows:-


“Were there no more said of all this subject, but that of Rupertus Meldenius, cited by Conradus Bergius, it might end all schism if well understood and used, viz.”

The origin of the sentence was first discussed by a Dutch divine, Dr. Van der Hoeven of Amsterdam, in 1847; then by Dr. Luecke of Goettingen, Uber das Alter, den Verfasser, die urspruengliche Form und den wahren Sinn des kirchlichen Friedenspruchs ‘In necessariis unites,’ etc., Goettingen 1850 (XXII. and 146 pages); with supplementary remarks in the “Studien und Kritiken “ for 1851, p. 905-938. Luecke first proved the authorship of Meldenius.


[2] JOHN AMOS COMENIUS (Jan Amos Komensky) was born in 1592 in Nivnice, Moravia, in the area that is now the Czech Republic. Known today as the “Father of Modern Education,” he pioneered modern educational methods. Comenius was a Bishop of the Unitas Fratrum, commonly known as the Moravian Church during its darkest days. He became its President during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) which decimated the ranks of the Unity. At the close of the war, Bohemia and Moravian were ceded to Rome in the Peace of Westphalia. The few surviving members of the Unity had to either become Catholic or leave their homeland. Comenius led a small band to exile in Poland. Others simply went underground, feigning loyalty to Rome. This period, known as the “Hidden Seed,” continued until a small group resettled in Saxony on the estates of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a Lutheran noble. There, the denomination was reorganized and entered a period of great missionary endeavor. Comenius died in Amsterdam in 1670 without ever seeing the “hidden seed” revived.


[4] He dwells on the nature of God as love, and the prime duty of Christians to love one another, and comments on the seraphic chapter of Paul on charity (1 Cor. 13). He discusses the difference between necessaria and nonnecessaria. Necessary dogmas are, (1) articles of faith necessary to salvation; (2) articles derived from clear testimonies of the Bible; (3) articles decided by the whole church in a synod or symbol; (4) articles held by all orthodox divines as necessary. Not necessary, are dogmas (1) not contained in the Bible; (2) not belonging to the common inheritance of faith; (3) not unanimously taught by theologians; (4) left doubtful by grave divines; (5) not tending to piety, charity, and edification. Cf. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 7, pp. 650-653 (repr. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1965).

Cf. Hans Rollmann, “In Essentials Unity: The Pre-history of a Restoration Movement Slogan,” Restoration Quarterly 39/3 (1997).