Vol. 6, Chapter V (Cont’d) – John Huss of Bohemia

44.  Across the seas in Bohemia, where the views of Wyclif were transplanted, they took deeper root than in England, and assumed an organized form. There, the English Reformer was called the fifth evangelist and, in its earlier stages, the movement went by the name of Wycliffism. It was only in the later periods that the names Hussites and Hussitism were substituted for Wycliffites and Wycliffism. Its chief spokesmen were John Huss and Jerome of Prag, who died at the stake at Constance for their avowed allegiance to Wyclif. Through Huss, Prag became identified with a distinct stage in the history of religious progress. Distinguished among its own people as the city of St. John of Nepomuk, d. 1383, and in the history of armies as the residence of Wallenstein, the Catholic leader in the Thirty Years’ War, Prag is known in the Western world pre-eminently as the home of Huss. Through his noble advocacy, the principles enunciated by Wyclif became the subject of discussion in ecumenical councils, called forth armed crusades and furnished an imposing spectacle of steadfast resistance against religious oppression. Wycliffism passed out of view in England; but Hussitism, in spite of the most bitter persecution by the Jesuits, has trickled down in pure though small streamlets into the religious history of modern times, notably through the Moravians of Herrnhut. During the reign of Charles IV., king of Bohemia and emperor, 1346-1378, the Bohemian kingdom entered upon the golden era of its literary and religious history. In 1344, the archbishopric of Prag was created, and the year 1347 witnessed an event of far more than local importance in the founding of the University of Prag. The first of the German universities, it was forthwith to enter upon the era of its brightest fame. The Czech and German languages were spoken side by side in the city, which was divided, at the close of the 14th century into five quarters. The Old Town, inhabited chiefly by Germans, included the Teyn church, the Carolinum, the Bethlehem chapel and the ancient churches of St. Michael and St. Gallus. Under the first archbishop of Prag, Arnest of Pardubitz, and his successor Ocko of Wlaschim, a brave effort was made to correct ecclesiastical abuses. In 1355, the demand for popular instruction was recognized by a law requiring parish priests to preach in the Czech. The popular preachers, Konrad of Waldhausen, d. 1369, Militz of Kremsier, d. 1874, and Matthias of Janow, d. 1394, made a deep impression. They quoted at length from the Scriptures, urged the habit of frequent communion, and Janow, as reported by Rokyzana at the Council of Basel, 1433, seems to have administered the cup to the laity. When John Huss entered upon his career in the university, he was breathing the atmosphere generated by these fervent evangelists, although in his writings he nowhere quotes them. Close communication between England and Bohemia had been established with the marriage of the Bohemian king Wenzel’s sister, Anne of Luxemburg, to Richard II., 1382. She was a princess of cultivated tastes, and had in her possession copies of the Scriptures in Latin, Czech and German. Before this nuptial event, the philosophical faculty of the University of Prag, in 1367, ordered its bachelors to add to the instructions of its own professors the notebooks of Paris and Oxford doctors. Here and there a student sought out the English university, or even went so far as the Scotch St. Andrews. Among those who studied in Oxford was Jerome of Prag. Thus a bridge for the transmission of intellectual products was laid from Wyclif’s lecture hall to the capital on the Moldau. Wyclif’s views and writings were known in Bohemia at an early date. In 1381 a learned Bohemian theologian, Nicolas Biceps, was acquainted with his leading principles and made them a subject of attack. Huss, in his reply to the English Carmelite, John Stokes, 1411, declared that he and the members of the university had had Wyclif’s writings in their hands and been reading them for 20 years and more. Five copies are extant of these writings, made in Huss’ own hand, 1398. They were carried away in the Thirty Years’ War and are preserved in the Royal Library of Stockholm. John Huss was born of Czech parents, 1369, at Husinec in Southern Bohemia. The word Hus means goose, and its distinguished bearer often applied the literal meaning to himself. For example, he wrote from Constance expressing the hope that the Goose might be delivered from prison, and he bade the Bohemians, “if they loved the Goose,” to secure the king’s aid in having him released. Friends also referred to him in the same way. His parents were poor and, during his studies in the University of Prag, he supported himself by singing and manual services. He took the degree of bachelor of arts in 1393 and of divinity a year later. In 1396 he incepted as master of arts, and in 1398 began delivering lectures in the university. In 1402 he was chosen rector, filling the office for six months. With his academic duties Huss combined the activity of a preacher, and in 1402 was appointed to the rectorship of the Chapel of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem. This church, usually known as the Bethlehem church, was founded in 1391 by two wealthy laymen, with the stipulation that the incumbent should preach every Sunday and on festival days in Czech. It was made famous by its new rector as the little church, Anastasia, in Constantinople, was made famous in the fourth century by Gregory of Nazianzus, and by his discourses against the Arian heresy. As early as 1402, Huss was regarded as the chief exponent and defender of Wycliffian views at the university. Protests, made by the clergy against their spread, took definite form in 1403, when the university authorities condemned the 24 articles placed under the ban by the London council of 1382. At the same time 21 other articles were condemned, which one of the university masters, John Huebner, a Pole, professed to have extracted from the Englishman’s writings. The decision forbade the preaching and teaching of these 45 articles. Among Wyclif’s warm defenders were Stanislaus of Znaim and Stephen Paletz. The subject which gave the most offence was his doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. A distinct stage in the religious controversies agitating Bohemia was introduced by the election of Sbinko of Hasenburg to the see of Prag, 1403. In the earlier years of his administration Huss had the prelate’s confidence, held the post of synodal preacher and was encouraged to bring to the archbishop’s notice abuses that might be reformed. He was also appointed one of a commission of three to investigate the alleged miracles performed by the relic of Christ’s blood at Wylsnak and attracting great throngs. The report condemned the miracles as a fraud. The matter, however, became subject of discussion at the university and as far away as Vienna and Erfurt, the question assuming the form whether Christ left any of his blood on the earth. In a tract entitled the Glorification of all Christ’s Blood, Huss took the negative side. In spite of him and of the commission’s report, the miracles at Wylsnak went on, until, in 1552, a zealous Lutheran broke the pyx which held the relic and burnt it. So extensive was the spread of Wycliffism that Innocent VII., in 1405, called upon Sbinko to employ severe measures to stamp it out and to seize Wyclif’s writings. The same year a Prag synod forbade the propaganda of Wyclif’s views and renewed the condemnation of the 45 articles. Three years later Huss — whose activity in denouncing clerical abuses and advocating Wyclif’s theology knew no abatement — was deposed from the position of synodal preacher. The same year the University authorities, at the archbishop’s instance, ordered that no public lectures should be delivered on Wyclif’s Trialogus and Dialogus and his doctrine of the Supper, and that no public disputation should concern itself with any of the condemned 45 articles. The year following, 1409, occurred the emigration from the university of the three nations, the Bavarians, Saxons and Poles, the Czechs alone being left. The bitter feeling of the Bohemians had expressed itself in the demand for three votes, while the other nations were to be restricted to one each. When Wenzel consented to this demand, 2000 masters and scholars withdrew, the Germans going to Leipzig and founding the university of that city. The University of Prag was at once reduced to a provincial school of 500 students, and has never since regained its prestige. Huss, a vigorous advocate of the use of the Czech, was the recognized head of the national movement at the university, and chosen first rector under the new régime. If possible, his advocacy of Wyclif and his views was more bold than before. From this time forth, his Latin writings were filled with excerpts from the English teacher and teem with his ideas. Wyclif’s writings were sown broadcast in Bohemia. Huss himself had translated the Trialogus into Czech. Throngs were attracted by preaching. Wherever, wrote Huss in 1410, in city or town, in village or castle, the preacher of the holy truth made his appearance, the people flocked together in crowds and in spite of the clergy. Following a bull issued by Alexander V., Sbinko, in 1410, ordered Wyclif’s writings seized and burnt, and forbade all preaching in unauthorized places. The papal document called forth the protest of Huss and others, who appealed to John XXIII. by showing the absurdity of burning books on philosophy, logic and other non-theological subjects, a course that would condemn the writings of Aristotle and Origen to the flames. The protest was in vain and 200 manuscript copies of the Reformer’s writings were cast into the flames in the courtyard of the archiepiscopal palace amidst the tolling of the church bells. Two days after this grewsome act, the sentence of excommunication was launched against Huss and all who might persist in refusing to deliver up Wyclif’s writings. Defying the archbishop and the papal bull, Huss continued preaching in the Bethlehem chapel. The excitement among all classes was intense and men were cudgelled on the streets for speaking against the Englishman. Satirical ballads were sung, declaring that the archbishop did not know what was in the books he had set fire to. Huss’ sermons, far from allaying the commotion, were adapted to increase it. Huss had no thought of submission and, through handbills, announced a defence of Wyclif’s treatise on the Trinity before the university, July 27. But his case had now passed from the archbishop’s jurisdiction to the court of the curia, which demanded the offender’s appearance in person, but in vain. In spite of the appeals of Wenzel and many Bohemian nobles who pledged their honor that he was no heretic, John XXIII. put the case into the hands of Cardinal Colonna, afterwards Martin V., who launched the ban against Huss for his refusal to comply with the canonical citation. Colonna’s sentence was read from all the pulpits of Prag except two. But the offensive preaching continued, and Sbinko laid the city under the interdict, which, however, was withdrawn on the king’s promise to root out heresy from his realm. Wenzel gave orders that “Master Huss, our beloved and faithful chaplain, be allowed to preach the Word of God in peace.” According to the agreement, Sbinko was also to write to the pope assuring him that diligent inquisition had been made, and no traces of heresy were to be found in Bohemia. This letter is still extant, but was never sent. Early in September, 1411, Huss wrote to John XXIII. protesting his full agreement with the Church and asking that the citation to appear before the curia be revoked. In this communication and in a special letter to the cardinals Huss spoke of the punishment for heresy and insubordination. He, however, wrote to John that he was bound to speak the truth, and that he was ready to suffer a dreadful death rather than to declare what would be contrary to the will of Christ and his Church. He had been defamed, and it was false that he had expressed himself in favor of the remanence of the material substance of the bread after the words of institution, and that a priest in mortal sin might not celebrate the eucharist. Sbinko died Sept. 28, 1411. At this juncture the excitement was increased by the arrival in Prag of John Stokes, a Cambridge man, and well known in England as an uncompromising foe of Wycliffism. He had come with a delegation, sent by the English king, to arrange an alliance with Sigismund. Stokes’ presence aroused the expectation of a notable clash, but the Englishman, although he ventilated his views privately, declined Huss’ challenge to a public disputation on the ground that he was a political representative of a friendly nation. The same year, 1411, John XXIII. called Europe to a crusade against Ladislaus of Naples, the defender of Gregory XII., and promised indulgence to all participating in it, whether by personal enlistment or by gifts. Tiem, dean of Passau, appointed preacher of the holy war, made his way to Prag and opened the sale of indulgences. Chests were placed in the great churches, and the traffic was soon in full sway. As Wyclif, thirty years before, in his Cruciata, had lifted up his voice against the crusade in Flanders, so now Huss denounced the religious war and denied the pope’s right to couple indulgences with it. He filled the Bethlehem chapel with denunciations of the sale and, in a public disputation, took the ground that remission of sins comes through repentance alone and that the pope has no authority to seize the secular sword. Many of his paragraphs were taken bodily from Wyclif’s works on the Church and on the Absolution from guilt and punishment. Huss was supported by Jerome of Prag. Popular opinion was on the side of these leaders, but from this time Huss’ old friends, Stanislaus of Znaim and Stephen Paletz, walked no more with him. Under the direction of Wok of Waldstein, John’s two bulls, bearing on the crusade and offering indulgence, were publicly burnt, after being hung at the necks of two students, dressed as harlots, and drawn through the streets in a cart. Huss was still writing that he abhorred the errors ascribed to him, but the king could not countenance the flagrant indignity shown to the papal bulls, and had three men of humble position executed, Martin, John and Stanislaus. They had cried out in open church that the bulls were lies, as Huss had proved. They were treated as martyrs, and their bodies taken to the Bethlehem chapel, where the mass for martyrs was said over them. To reaffirm its orthodoxy, the theological faculty renewed its condemnation of the 45 articles and added 6 more, taken from Huss’ public utterances. Two of the latter bore upon preaching. The clergy of Prag appealed to be protected “from the ravages of the wolf, the Wycliffist Hus, the despiser of the keys,” and the curia pronounced the greater excommunication. The heretic was ordered seized, delivered over to the archbishop, and the Bethlehem chapel razed to the ground. Three stones were to be hurled against Huss’ dwelling, as a sign of perpetual curse. Thus the Reformer had against him the archbishop, the university, the clergy and the curia, but popular feeling remained in his favor and prevented the papal sentence from being carried out. The city was again placed under the interdict. Huss appealed from the pope and, because a general council’s action is always uncertain and at best tardy, looked at once to the tribunal of Christ. He publicly asserted that the pope was exercising prerogatives received from the devil. To allay the excitement, Wenzel induced Huss to withdraw from the city. This was in 1412. In later years Huss expressed doubts as to whether he had acted wisely in complying. He was moved not only by regard for the authority of his royal protector but by sympathy for the people whom the interdict was depriving of spiritual privileges. Had he defied the sentence and refused compliance with the king’s request, it is probable he would have lost the day and been silenced in prison or in the flames in his native city. In this case, the interest of his career would have been restricted to the annals of his native land, and no place would have been found for him in the general history of Europe. So Huss went into exile, but there was still some division among the ecclesiastical authorities of the kingdom over the merits of Wycliffism, and a national synod, convoked February 13, 1413, to take measures to secure peace, adjourned without coming to a decision. Removed from Prag, Huss was indefatigable in preaching and writing. Audiences gathered to hear him on the marketplaces and in the fields and woods. Lords in their strong castles protected him. Following Wyclif, he insisted upon preaching as the indefeasible right of the priest, and wrote that to cease from preaching, in obedience to the mandate of pope or archbishop, would be to disobey God and imperil his own salvation. He also kept in communication with the city by visiting it several times and by writing to the Bethlehem chapel, the university and the municipal synod. This correspondence abounds in quotations from the Scriptures, and Huss reminds his friends that Christ himself was excommunicated as a malefactor and crucified. No help was to be derived from the saints. Christ’s example and his salvation are the sufficient sources of consolation and courage. The high priests, scribes, Pharisees, Herod and Pilate condemned the Truth and gave him over to death, but he rose from the tomb and gave in his stead twelve other preachers. So he would do again. What fear, he wrote, “shall part us from God, or what death? What shall we lose if for His sake we forfeit wealth, friends, the world’s honors and our poor life?… It is better to die well than to live badly. We dare not sin to avoid the punishment of death. To end in grace the present life is to be banished from misery. Truth is the last conqueror. He wins who is slain, for no adversity “hurts him if no iniquity has dominion over him.” In this strain he wrote again and again. The “bolts of anti-christ,” he said, could not terrify him, and should not terrify the “elect of Prag.” Of the extent of Huss’ influence during this period he bore witness at Constance when, in answer to D’Ailly, he said: I have stated that I came here of my own free will. If I had been unwilling to come, neither that king [referring to Wenzel] nor this king here [referring to Sigismund] would have been able to force me to come, so numerous and so powerful are the Bohemian nobles who love me, and within whose castles I should have been able to lie concealed. And when D’Ailly rebuked the statement as effrontery, John of Chlum replied that it was even as the prisoner said, “There are numbers of great nobles who love him and have strong castles where they could keep him as long as they wished, even against both those kings.” The chief product of this period of exile was Huss’ work on the Church, De ecclesia, the most noted of all his writings. It was written in view of the national synod held in 1413, and was sent to Prag and read in the Bethlehem chapel, July 8. Of this tractate Cardinal D’Ailly said at the Council of Constance that by an infinite number of arguments, it combated the pope’s plenary authority as much as the Koran, the book of the damned Mohammed, combated the Catholic faith. In this volume, next to Wyclif’s, the most famous treatment on the Church since Cyprian’s work, De ecclesia, and Augustine’s writings against the Donatists, Huss defined the Church and the power of the keys, and then proceeds to defend himself against the fulminations of Alexander V. and John XXIII. and to answer the Prag theologians, Stephen Paletz and Stanislaus of Znaim, who had deserted him. The following are some of its leading positions. The Holy Catholic Church is the body or congregation of all the predestinate, the dead, the living and those yet to be. The term ‘catholic’ means universal. The unity of the Church is a unity of predestination and of blessedness, a unity of faith, charity and grace. The Roman pontiff and the cardinals are not the Church. The Church can exist without cardinals and a pope, and in fact for hundreds of years there were no cardinals. As for the position Christ assigned to Peter, Huss affirmed that Christ called himself the Rock, and the Church is founded on him by virtue of predestination. In view of Peter’s clear and positive confession, “the Rock — Petra — said to Peter — Petro — ‘I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, that is, a confessor of the true Rock which Rock I am.’ And upon the Rock, that is, myself, I will build this Church.” Thus Huss placed himself firmly on the ground taken by Augustine in his Retractations. Peter never was the head of the Holy Catholic Church. He thus set himself clearly against the whole ultramontane theory of the Church and its head. The Roman bishop, he said, was on an equality with other bishops until Constantine made him pope. It was then that he began to usurp authority. Through ignorance and the love of money the pope may err, and has erred, and to rebel against an erring pope is to obey Christ. There have been depraved and heretical popes. Such was Joan, whose case Huss dwelt upon at length and refers to at least three times. Such was also the case of Liberius, who is also treated at length. Joan had a son and Liberius was an Arian. In the second part of the De ecclesia, Huss pronounced the bulls of Alexander and John XXIII. anti-christian, and therefore not to be obeyed. Alexander’s bull, prohibiting preaching in Bohemia except in the cathedral, parish and monastic churches was against the Gospel, for Christ preached in houses, on the seaside, and in synagogues, and bade his disciples to go into all the world and preach. No papal excommunication may be an impediment to doing what Christ did and taught to be done. Turning to the pope’s right to issue indulgences, the Reformer went over the ground he had already traversed in his replies to John’s two bulls calling for a crusade against Ladislaus. He denied the pope’s right to go to war or to make appeal to the secular sword. If John was minded to follow Christ, he should pray for his enemies and say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Then the promised wisdom would be given which no enemies would be able to gainsay. The power to forgive sins belongs to no mortal man anymore than it belonged to the priest to whom Christ sent the lepers. The lepers were cleansed before they reached the priest. Indeed, many popes who conceded the most ample indulgences were themselves damned. Confession of the heart alone is sufficient for the soul’s salvation where the applicant is truly penitent. In denying the infallibility of the pope and of the Church visible, and in setting aside the sacerdotal power of the priesthood to open and shut the kingdom of heaven, Huss broke with the accepted theory of Western Christendom; he committed the unpardonable sin of the Middle Ages. These fundamental ideas, however, were not original with the Bohemian Reformer. He took them out of Wyclif’s writings, and he also incorporated whole paragraphs of those writings in his pages. Teacher never had a more devoted pupil than the English Reformer had in Huss. The first three chapters of De ecclesia are little more than a series of extracts from Wyclif’s treatise on the Church. What is true of this work is also true of most of Huss’ other Latin writings. Huss, however, was not a mere copyist. The ideas he got from Wyclif he made thoroughly his own. When he quoted Augustine, Bernard, Jerome and other writers, he mentioned them by name. If he did not mention Wyclif, when he took from him arguments and entire paragraphs, a good reason can be assigned for his silence. It was well known that it was Wyclif’s cause which he was representing and Wycliffian views that he was defending, and Wyclif’s writings were wide open to the eye of members of the university faculties. He made no secret of following Wyclif, and being willing to die for the views Wyclif taught. As he wrote to Richard Wyche, he was thankful that “under the power of Jesus Christ, Bohemia had received so much good from the blessed land of England.” The Bohemian theologian was fully imbued with Wyclif’s heretical spirit. The great Council of Constance was about to meet. Before that tribunal Huss was now to be judged. 45. Huss at Constance Thou wast their Rock, their fortress and their might; Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight; Thou, in the darkness drear, their light of light. Alleluia. The great expectations aroused by the assembling of the Council of Constance included the settlement of the disturbance which was rending the kingdom of Bohemia. It was well understood that measures were to be taken against the heresy which had invaded Western Christendom. In two letters addressed to Conrad, archbishop of Prag, Gerson bore witness that, in learned centres outside of Bohemia, the names of Wyclif and Huss were indissolubly joined. Of all Huss’ errors, wrote the chancellor, “the proposition is the most perilous that a man who is living in deadly sin may not have authority and dominion over Christian men. And this proposition, as is well known, has passed down to Huss from Wyclif.” To Constance Sigismund, king of the Romans and heir of the Bohemian crown, turned for relief from the embarrassment of Hussitism; and from Lombardy he sent a deputation to summon Huss to attend the council at the same time promising him safe conduct. The Reformer expressed his readiness to go, and had handbills posted in Prag announcing his decision. Writing to Wenzel and his queen, he reaffirmed his readiness, and stated he was willing to suffer the penalty appointed for heretics, should he be condemned. Under date of Sept. 1, 1414, Huss wrote to Sigismund that he was ready to go to Constance “under safe-conduct of your protection, the Lord Most High being my defender.” A week later, the king replied, expressing confidence that, by his appearance, all imputation of heresy would be removed from the kingdom of Bohemia. Huss set out on the journey Oct. 11, 1414, and reached Constance Nov. 3. He was accompanied by the Bohemian nobles, John of Chlum, Wenzel of Duba and Henry Lacembok. With John of Chlum was Mladenowitz, who did an important service by preserving Huss’ letters and afterwards editing them with notes. Huss’ correspondence, from this time on, deserves a place in the choice autobiographical literature of the Christian centuries. For pathos, simplicity of expression and devotion to Christ, the writings of the Middle Ages do not furnish anything superior. In a letter, written to friends in Bohemia on the eve of his departure, Huss expressed his expectation of being confronted at Constance by bishops, doctors, princes and canons regular, yea, by more foes than the Redeemer himself had to face. He prayed that, if his death would contribute aught to God’s glory, he might be enabled to meet it without sinful fear. A second letter was not to be opened, except in case of his death. It was written to Martin, a disciple whom the writer says he had known from childhood. He binds Martin to fear God, to be careful how he listened to the confessions of women, and not to follow him in any frivolity he had been guilty of in other days, such as chess-playing. Persecution was about to do its worst because he had attacked the greed and incontinence of the clergy. He willed to Martin his gray cloak and bade him, in case of his death, give to the rector his white gown and to his faithful servant, George, a guinea. The route was through Nürnberg. Along the way Huss was met by throngs of curious people. He sat down in the inns with the local priests, talking over his case with them. At Nürnberg the magistrates and burghers invited him to meet them at an inn. Deeming it unnecessary to go out of its way to meet Sigismund, who was at Spires, the party turned its face directly to the lake of Constance. Arrived on its upper shore, they sent back most of their horses for sale, a wise measure, as it proved, in view of the thousands of animals that had to be cared for at Constance. Arrived at Constance, Huss took lodgings with a “second widow of Sarepta,” who had kept the bakery to the White Pigeon. The house is still shown. His coming was a great sensation, and he entered the town, riding through a large crowd. The day after, John of Chlum and Baron Lacembok called upon pope John XXIII., who promised that no violence should be done their friend, nay, even though he had killed the pope’s own brother. He granted him leave to go about the city, but forbade him to attend high mass. Although he was under sentence of excommunication, Huss celebrated mass daily in his own lodgings. The cardinals were incensed that a man charged openly with heresy should have freedom, and whatever misgivings Huss had had of unfair dealing were to be quickly justified. Individual liberty had no rights before the bar of an ecclesiastical court in the 15th century when a heretic was under accusation. Before the month had passed, Huss’ imprisonment began, a pretext being found in an alleged attempt to escape from the city concealed in a hay-wagon. On November 28, the two bishops of Trent and Augsburg entered his lodgings with a requisition for him to appear before the cardinals. The house was surrounded by soldiers. Huss, after some hesitation, yielded and left, with the hostess standing at the stairs in tears. It was the beginning of the end. After a short audience with the cardinals, the prisoner was taken away by a guard of soldiers, and within a week he was securely immured in the dungeon of the Dominican convent. Preparations had been going on for several days to provide the place with locks, bolts and other strong furnishings. In this prison, Huss languished for three months. His cell was hard by the latrines. Fever and vomiting set in, and it seemed likely they would quickly do their dismal work. John XXIII. deserves some credit for having sent his physician, who applied clysters, as Huss himself wrote. To sickness was added the deprivation of books, including the Bible. For two months we have no letters from him. They begin again, with January, 1415, and give us a clear insight into the indignities to which he was exposed and the misery he suffered. These letters were sent by the gaoler. What was Sigismund doing? He had issued the letter of safe-conduct, Oct. 18. On the day before his arrival in Constance, Dec. 24th, John of Chlum posted up a notice on the cathedral, protesting that the king’s agreement had been treated with defiance by the cardinals. Sigismund professed to be greatly incensed, and blustered, but this was the end of it. He was a time-serving prince who was easily persuaded to yield to the arguments of such ecclesiastical figures as D’Ailly, who insisted that little matters like Huss’ heresy should not impede the reformation of the church, the council’s first concern, and that error unreproved was error countenanced. All good churchmen prayed his Majesty might not give way to the lies and subtleties of the Wycliffists. The king of Aragon wrote that Huss should be killed off at once, without having the formality of a hearing. During his imprisonment in the Black Friars’ convent, Huss wrote for his gaoler, Robert, tracts on the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, Mortal Sin and Marriage. Of the 13 letters preserved from this time, the larger part were addressed to John of Chlum, his trusty friend. Some of the letters were written at midnight, and some on tattered scraps of paper. In this correspondence four things are prominent: Huss’ reliance upon the king and his word of honor, his consuming desire to be heard in open council, the expectation of possible death and his trust in God. He feared sentence would be passed before opportunity was given him to speak with the king. “If this is his honor, it is his own lookout,” he wrote. In the meantime the council had committed the matter of heresy to a commission, with D’Ailly at its head. It plied Huss with questions, and presented heretical articles taken from his writings. Stephen Paletz, his apostate friend, badgered him more than all the rest. His request for a “proctor and advocate” was denied. The thought of death was continually before him. But, as the Lord had delivered Jonah from the whale’s belly, and Daniel from the lions, so, he believed, God would deliver him, if it were expedient. Upon John XXIII.’s flight, fears were felt that Huss might be delivered by his friends, and the keys of the prison were put into the hands of Sigismund. On March 24th the bishop of Constance had the prisoner chained and transferred by boat to his castle, Gottlieben. There he had freedom to walk about in his chains by day, but he was handcuffed and bound to the wall at night. The imprisonment at Gottlieben lasted seventy-three days, from March 24th-June 5th. If Huss wrote any letters during that time none have survived. It was a strange freak of history that the runaway pontiff, on being seized and brought back to Constance, was sent to Gottlieben to be fellow-prisoner with Huss, the one, the former head of Christendom, condemned for almost every known misdemeanor; the other, the preacher whose life was, by the testimony of all contemporaries, almost without a blemish. The criminal pope was to be released after a brief confinement and elevated to an exalted dignity; the other was to be contemned as a religious felon and burnt as an expiation to orthodox theology. At Gottlieben, Huss suffered from hemorrhage, headache and other infirmities, and at times was on the brink of starvation. A new commission, appointed April 6, with D’Ailly at its head, now took up seriously the heresy of Huss and Wyclif, whom the council coupled together. Huss’ friends had not forgotten him, and 250 Moravian and Bohemian nobles signed a remonstrance at Prag, May 13, which they sent to Sigismund, protesting against the treatment “the beloved master and Christian preacher” was receiving, and asked that he might be granted a public hearing and allowed to return home. Upon a public hearing Huss staked everything, and with such a hearing in view he had gone to Constance. In order to bring the prisoner within more convenient reach of the commission, he was transferred in the beginning of June to a third prison, — the Franciscan friary. From June 5-8 public hearings were had in the refectory, the room being crowded with cardinals, archbishops, bishops, theologians and persons of lesser degree. Cardinal D’Ailly was present and took the leading part as head of the commission. The action taken May 4th condemning 260 errors and heresies extracted from Wyclif’s works was adapted to rob Huss of whatever hope of release he still indulged. Charges were made against him of holding that Christ is in the consecrated bread only as the soul is in the body, that Wyclif was a good Christian, that salvation was not dependent upon the pope and that no one could be excommunicated except by God Himself. He also had expressed the hope his soul might be where Wyclif’s was. When a copy of his book on the Church was shown, they shouted, “Burn it.” Whenever Huss attempted to explain his positions, he was met with shouts, “Away with your sophistries. Say, Yes or No.” The Englishman, John Stokes, who was present, declared that it seemed to him as if he saw Wyclif himself in bodily form sitting before him. On the morning of June 7th, Huss exclaimed that God and his conscience were on his side. But, Said D’Ailly, “we cannot go by your conscience when we have other evidence, and the evidence of Gerson himself against you, the most renowned doctor in Christendom.” D’Ailly and an Englishman attempted to show the logical connection of the doctrine of remanence with realism. When Huss replied that such reasoning was the logic of schoolboys, another Englishman had the courage to add, Huss is quite right: what have these quibbles to do with matters of faith? Sigismund advised Huss to submit, saying that he had told the commission he would not defend any heretic who was determined to stick to his heresy. He also declared that, so long as a single heretic remained, he was ready to light the fire himself with his own hand to burn him. He, however, promised that Huss should have a written list of charges the following day. That night, as Huss wrote, he suffered from toothache, vomiting, headache and the stone. On June 8th, 39 distinct articles were handed to him, 26 of which were drawn from his work on the Church. When he demurred at some of the statements, D’Ailly had the pertinent sections from the original writings read. When they came to the passage that no heretic should be put to death, the audience shouted in mockery. Huss went on to argue from the case of Saul, after his disobedience towards Agag, that kings in mortal sin have no right to authority. Sigismund happened to be at the moment at the window, talking to Frederick of Bavaria. The prelates, taking advantage of the avowal, cried out, “Tell the king Huss is now attacking him.” The emperor turned and said, “John Huss, no one lives without sin.” D’Ailly suggested that the prisoner, not satisfied with pulling down the spiritual fabric, was attempting to hurl down the monarchy likewise. In an attempt to break the force of his statement, Huss asked why they had deposed pope John. Sigismund replied that Baldassarre was real pope, but was deposed for his notorious crimes. The 39 articles included the heretical assertions that the Church is the totality of the elect, that a priest must continue preaching, even though he be under sentence of excommunication, and that whoso is in mortal sin cannot exercise authority. Huss expressed himself ready to revoke statements that might be proved untrue by Scripture and good arguments, but that he would not revoke any which were not so proved. When Sigismund remonstrated, Huss appealed to the judgment bar of God. At the close of the proceedings, D’Ailly declared that a compromise was out of the question. Huss must abjure. As Huss passed out in the charge of the archbishop of Riga, John of Chlum had the courage to reach out his hand to him. The act reminds us of the friendly words Georg of Frundsberg spoke to Luther at Worms. Huss was most thankful, and a day or two afterward wrote how delightful it had been to see Lord John, who was not ashamed to hold out his hand to a poor, abject heretic, a prisoner in irons and the butt of all men’s tongues. In addressing the assembly after Huss’ departure, Sigismund argued against accepting submission from the prisoner who, if released, would go back to Bohemia and sow his errors broadcast. “When I was a boy,” he said, “I remember the first sprouting of this sect, and see what it is today. We should make an end of the master one day, and when I return from my journey we will deal with his pupil. What’s his name?” The reply was, Jerome. Yes, said the king, I mean Jerome. Huss, as he himself states, was pestered in prison by emissaries who sought to entrap him, or to “hold out baskets” for him to escape in. Some of the charges made against him he ascribes to false witnesses. But many of the charges were not false, and it is difficult to understand how he could expect to free himself by a public statement, in view of the solemn condemnation passed upon the doctrines of Wyclif. He was convinced that none of the articles brought against him were contrary to the Gospel of Christ, but canon law ruled at councils, not Scripture. A doctor told him that if the council should affirm he had only one eye, he ought to accept the verdict. Huss replied if the whole world were to tell him so, he would not say so and offend his conscience, and he appealed to the case of Eleazar in the Book of the Maccabees, who would not make a lying confession. But he was setting his house in order. He wrote affecting messages to his people in Bohemia and to John of Chlum. He urged the Bohemians to hear only priests of good report, and especially those who were earnest students of Holy Writ. Martin he adjured to read the Bible diligently, especially the New Testament. On June 15th, the council took the far-reaching action forbidding the giving of the cup to laymen. This action Huss condemned as wickedness and madness, on the ground that it was a virtual condemnation of Christ’s example and command. To Hawlik, who had charge of the Bethlehem chapel, he wrote, urging him not to withhold the cup from the laity. He saw indisputable proof that the council was fallible. One day it kissed the feet of John, as a paragon of virtue, and called him “most holy,” and the next it condemned him as “a shameful homicide, a sodomite, a simoniac and a heretic.” He quoted the proverb, common among the Swiss, that a generation would not suffice to cleanse Constance from the sins the body had committed in that city. The darkness deepened around the prisoner. On June 24th, by the council’s orders, his writings were to be burnt, even those written in Czech which, almost in a tone of irony, as he wrote, the councillors had not seen and could not read. He bade his friends not be terrified, for Jeremiah’s books, which the prophet had written at the Lord’s direction, were burnt. His affectionate interest in the people of “his glorious country” and in the university on the Moldau, and his feeling of gratitude to the friends who had supported him continued unabated. A dreadful death was awaiting him, but he recalled the sufferings of Apostles and the martyrs, and especially the agonies endured by Christ, and he believed he would be purged of his sins through the flames. D’Ailly had replied to him on one occasion by peremptorily saying he should obey the decision of 50 doctors of the Church and retract without asking any questions. “A wonderful piece of information,” he wrote, “As if the virgin, St. Catherine, ought to have renounced the truth and her faith in the Lord because 50 philosophers opposed her.” In one of his last letters, written to his alma mater of Prag, he declared he had not recanted a single article. On the first day of July, he was approached by the archbishops of Riga and Ragusa and 6 other prelates, who still had a hope of drawing from him a recantation. A written declaration made by Huss in reply showed the hope vain. Another effort was made July 5th, Cardinals D’Ailly and Zabarella and bishop Hallum of Salisbury being of the party of visiting prelates. Huss closed the discussion by declaring that he would rather be burnt a thousand times than abjure, for by abjuring he said he would offend those whom he had taught. Still another deputation approached him, his three friends John of Chlum, Wenzel of Duba and Lacembok, and four bishops. They were sent by Sigismund. As a layman, John of Chlum did not venture to give Huss advice, but bade him, if he felt sure of his cause, rather than to be against God, to stand fast, even to death. One of the bishops asked whether he presumed to be wiser than the whole council. No, was the reply, but to retract he must be persuaded of his errors out of the Scriptures. “An obstinate heretic!” exclaimed the bishops. This was the final interview in private. The much-desired opportunity was at hand for him to stand before the council as a body, and it was his last day on earth. After seven months of dismal imprisonment and deepening disappointment, on Saturday, July 6th, Huss was conducted to the cathedral. It was 6 A. M., and he was kept waiting outside the doors until the celebration of mass was completed. He was then admitted to the sacred edifice, but not to make a defence, as he had come to Constance hoping to do. He was to listen to sentence pronounced upon him as an ecclesiastical outcast and criminal. He was placed in the middle of the church on a high stool, set there specially for him. The bishop of Lodi preached from Rom_6:6, “that the body of sin may be destroyed.” The extermination of heretics was represented as one of the works most pleasing to God, and the preacher used the time-worn illustrations from the rotten piece of flesh, the little spark which is in danger of turning into a great flame and the creeping cancer. The more virulent the poison the swifter should be the application of the cauterizing iron. In the style of Bossuet in a later age, before Louis XIV., he pronounced upon Sigismund the eulogy that his name would be coupled with song and triumph for all time for his efforts to uproot schism and destroy heresy. The commission, which included Patrick, bishop of Cork, appointed to pronounce the sentence, then ascended the pulpit. All expressions of feeling with foot or hand, all vociferation or attempt to start disputation were solemnly forbidden on pain of excommunication. 30 articles were then read, which were pronounced as heretical, seditious and offensive to pious ears. The sentence coupled in closest relation Wyclif and Huss. The first of the articles charged the prisoner with holding that the Church is the totality of the predestinate, and the last that no civil lord or prelate may exercise authority who is in mortal sin. Huss begged leave to speak, but was hushed up. The sentence ran that “the holy council, having God only before its eye, condemns John Huss to have been and to be a true, real and open heretic, the disciple not of Christ but of John Wyclif, one who in the University of Prag and before the clergy and people declared Wyclif to be a Catholic and an evangelical doctor — vir catholicus et doctor evangelicus.” It ordered him degraded from the sacerdotal order, and, not wishing to exceed the powers committed unto the Church, it relinquished him to the secular authority. Not a dissenting voice was lifted against the sentence. Even John Gerson voted for it. One incident has left its impress upon history, although it is not vouched for by a contemporary. It is said that, when Huss began to speak, he looked at Sigismund, reminding him of the safe-conduct. The king who sat in state and crowned, turned red, but did not speak. The order of degradation was carried out by six bishops, who disrobed the condemned man of his vestments and destroyed his tonsure. They then put on his head a cap covered over with pictures of the devil and inscribed with the word, heresiarch, and committed his soul to the devil. With upturned eyes, Huss exclaimed, “and I commit myself to the most gracious Lord Jesus.” The old motto that the Church does not want blood — ecclesia non sitit sanguinem — was in appearance observed, but the authorities knew perfectly well what was to be the last scene when they turned Huss over to Sigismund. “Go, take him and do to him as a heretic” were the words with which the king remanded the prisoner to the charge of Louis, the Count Palatine. A guard of a thousand armed men was at hand. The streets were thronged with people. As Huss passed on, he saw the flames on the public square which were consuming his books. For fear of the bridge’s breaking down, the greater part of the crowd was not allowed to cross over to the place of execution, called the Devil’s Place. Huss’ step had been firm, but now, with tears in his eyes, he knelt down and prayed. The paper cap falling from his head, the crowd shouted that it should be put on, wrong side front. It was midday. The prisoner’s hands were fastened behind his back, and his neck bound to the stake by a chain. On the same spot sometime before, so the chronicler notes, a cardinal’s worn-out mule had been buried. The straw and wood were heaped up around Huss’ body to the chin, and rosin sprinkled upon them. The offer of life was renewed if he would recant. He refused and said, “I shall die with joy to-day in the faith of the gospel which I have preached.” When Richental, who was standing by, suggested a confessor, he replied, “There is no need of one. I have no mortal sin.” At the call of bystanders, they turned his face away from the East, and as the flames arose, he sang twice, Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me. The wind blew the fire into the martyr’s face, and his voice was hushed. He died, praying and singing. To remove, if possible, all chance of preserving relics from the scene, Huss’ clothes and shoes were thrown into the merciless flames. The ashes were gathered up and cast into the Rhine. While this scene was being enacted, the council was going on with the transaction of business as if the burning without the gates were only a common event. Three weeks later, it announced that it had done nothing more pleasing to God than to punish the Bohemian heretic. For this act it has been chiefly remembered by after generations. Not one of the members of the Council of Constance, after its adjournment, so far as we know, uttered a word of protest against the sentence. No pope or ecumenical synod since has made any apology for it. Nor has any modern Catholic historian gone further than to indicate that in essential theological doctrines Huss was no heretic, though his sentence was strictly in accord with the principles of the canon law. So long as the dogmas of an infallible Church organization and an infallible pope continue to be strictly held, no apology can be expected. It is of the nature of Protestant Christianity to confess wrongs and, as far as is possible, make reparation for them. When the Massachusetts court discovered that it had erred in the case of the Salem witchcraft in 1692, it made full confession, and offered reparation to the surviving descendants; and Judge Sewall, one of the leaders in the prosecution, made a moving public apology for the mistake he had committed. The same court recalled the action against Roger Williams. In 1903, the Protestants of France reared a monument at Geneva in expiation of Calvin’s part in passing sentence upon Servetus. Luther, in his Address to the German Nobility, called upon the Roman Church to confess it had done wrong in burning Huss. That innocent man’s blood still cries from the ground. Huss died for his advocacy of Wycliffism. The sentence passed by the council coupled the two names together. The 25th of the 30 Articles condemned him for taking offence at the reprobation of the 45 articles, ascribed to Wyclif. How much this article was intended to cover cannot be said. It is certain that Huss did not formally deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, although he was charged with that heresy. Nor was he distinctly condemned for urging the distribution of the cup to the laity, which he advocated after the council had positively forbidden it. His only offence was his definition of the Church and his denial of the infallibility of the papacy and its necessity for the being of the Church. These charges constitute the content of all the 30 articles except the 25th. Luther said brusquely but truly, that Huss committed no more atrocious sin than to declare that a Roman pontiff of impious life is not the head of the Church catholic. John Huss struck at the foundations of the hierarchical system. He interpreted our Lord’s words to Peter in a way that was fatal to the papal theory of Leo, Hildebrand and Innocent III. His conception of the Church, which he drew from Wyclif, contains the kernel of an entirely new system of religious authority. He made the Scriptures the final source of appeal, and exalted the authority of the conscience above pope, council and canon law as an interpreter of truth. He carried out these views in practice by continuing to preach in spite of repeated sentences of excommunication, and attacking the pope’s right to call a crusade. If the Church be the company of the elect, as Huss maintained, then God rules in His people and they are sovereign. With such assertions, the teachings of Thomas Aquinas were set aside. The enlightened group of men who shared the spirit of Gerson and D’Ailly did not comprehend Wycliffism, for Wycliffism was a revolt against an alleged divine institution, the visible Church. Gerson denied that the appeal to conscience was an excuse for refusing to submit to ecclesiastical authority. Faith, with him, was agreement with the Church’s system. The chancellor not only voted for Huss’ condemnation, but declared he had busily worked to bring the sentence about. Nineteen articles he drew from Huss’ work on the Church, he pronounced “notoriously heretical.” However, at a later time, in a huff over the leniency shown to Jean Petit, he stated that if Huss had been given an advocate, he would never have been convicted. In starting out for Constance, Huss knew well the punishment appointed for heretics. The amazing thing is that he should ever have thought it possible to clear himself by a public address before the council. In view of the procedure of the Inquisition, the council showed him unheard-of consideration in allowing him to appear in the cathedral. This was done out of regard for Sigismund, who was on the eve of his journey to Spain to induce Benedict of Luna to abdicate. As for the safe-conduct — salvo-conductus — issued by Sigismund, all that can be said is that a king did not keep his word. He was more concerned to be regarded as the patron of a great council than to protect a Bohemian preacher, his future subject. Writing with reference to the solemn pledge, Huss said, “Christ deceives no man by a safe-conduct. What he pledges he fulfils. Sigismund has acted deceitfully throughout.” The plea, often made, that the king had no intention of giving Huss an unconditional pledge of protection, is in the face of the documentary evidence. In September, 1415, the Council of Constance took formal notice of the criticisms floating about that in Huss’ execution a solemn promise had been broken, and announced that no brief of safe-conduct in the case of a heretic is binding. No pledge is to be observed which is prejudicial to the Catholic faith and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The safe-conduct was in the ordinary form, addressed to all the princes and subjects of the empire, ecclesiastical and secular, and informing them that Huss should be allowed to pass, remain and return without impediment. Jerome, according to the sentence passed upon him by the council, declared that the safe-conduct had been grossly violated, and when, in 1433, the legates of the Council of Basel attempted to throw the responsibility for Huss’ condemnation on false witnesses, so called, Rokyzana asked how the Council of Constance could have been moved by the Holy Ghost if it were controlled by perjurers, and showed that the violation of the safe-conduct had not been forgotten. When the Bohemian deputies a year earlier had come to Basel, they demanded the most carefully prepared briefs of safe-conduct from the Council of Basel, the cities of Eger and Basel and from Sigismund and others. Frederick of Brandenburg and John of Bavaria agreed to furnish troops to protect the Hussites on their way to Basel, at Basel, and on their journey home. A hundred and six years later, Luther profited by Huss’ misfortune when he recalled Sigismund’s perfidy, perfidy which the papal system of the 16th century would have repeated, had Charles V. given his consent. In a real sense, Huss was the precursor of the Reformation. It is true, the prophecy was wrongly ascribed to him, “To-day you roast a goose — Huss — but a hundred years from now a swan will arise out of my ashes which you shall not roast.” Unknown to contemporary writers, it probably originated after Luther had fairly entered upon his work. But he struck a hard blow at hierarchical assumption before Luther raised his stronger arm. Luther was moved by Huss’ case, and at Leipzig, forced to the wall by Eck’s thrusts, the Wittenberg monk made the open avowal that ecumenical councils also may err, as was done in putting Huss to death at Constance. Years before, at Erfurt, he had taken up a volume of the Bohemian sermons, and was amazed that a man who preached so evangelically should have been condemned to the stake. But for fear of the taint of heresy, he quickly put it down. The accredited view in Luther’s time was given by Dobneck in answer to Luther’s good opinion, when he said that Huss was worse than a Turk, Jew, Tartar and Sodomite. In his edition of Huss’ letters, printed 1537, Luther praised Huss’ patience and humility under every indignity and his courage before an imposing assembly as a lamb in the midst of wolves and lions. If such a man, he wrote, “is to be regarded as a heretic, then no person under the sun can be looked upon as a true Christian.” A cantionale, dating from 1572, and preserved in the Prag library, contains a hymn to Huss’ memory and three medallions which well set forth the relation in which Wyclif and Huss stand to the Reformation. The first represents Wyclif striking sparks from a stone. Below it is Huss, kindling a fire from the sparks. In the third medallion, Luther is holding aloft the flaming torch. his is the historic succession, although it is true Luther began his career as a Reformer before he was influenced by Huss, and continued his work, knowing little of Wyclif. To the cause of religious toleration, and without intending it, John Huss made a more effectual contribution by his death than could have been made by many philosophical treatises, even as the deaths of Blandina and other martyrs of the early Church, who were slaves, did more towards the reduction of the evils of slavery than all the sentences of Pagan philosophers. Quite like his English teacher, he affirmed the sovereign rights of the truth. It was his habit, so he stated, to conform his views to the truth, whatever the truth might be. If any one, he said, “can instruct me by the sacred Scriptures or by good reasoning, I am willing to follow him. From the outset of my studies, I have made it a rule to joyfully and humbly recede from a former opinion when in any matter I perceive a more rational opinion.”