Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER I: To Zbinek, Archbishop of Prague ( Undated: June 30, 1408; Prague ) - The Letters of John Hus
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LETTER I: To Zbinek, Archbishop of Prague ( Undated: June 30, 1408; Prague ) - Jan Huss, The Letters of John Hus 
The Letters of John Hus. With Introductions and Explanatory Notes by Herbert B. Workman and R. Martin Pope (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1904).
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Archbishop Zbinek Zazic of Hasenburg had been elected while still young to the metropolitan see of Prague (November 29, 1402). The choice was a mistake. As a prelate Zbinek was weak though well-intentioned, more at home in the camp than in the council-chamber, little fitted to guide the Church of Bohemia in the complex struggle into which it had entered. A Czech himself, he was at first inclined to sympathise with the Czech reformers or nationalists. At one time, as this letter shows, Hus enjoyed the complete confidence of the Archbishop. In 1405 Zbinek appointed Hus the special preacher before the Bohemian Synod. In the same year he nominated Hus to serve on a commission to investigate certain frauds carried on at Wilsnack, a village of Brandenburg, in connection with a relic of the blood of Christ. In 1407 Zbinek gave proof of the continuance of his friendship by once more appointing Hus the special preacher to the Synod. The sermons which Hus preached on these occasions have been preserved, and show no signs of revolt. The preacher confined himself to the stock theme of the vices of the clergy, sheltering himself, as was usual in such discourses, behind the authority of St. Bernard. But the events of 1408, and the pronounced part that thenceforth Hus took in the spread of Wyclif’s doctrines, turned the Archbishop’s favour into enmity. This letter of Hus, which the impartial critic will probably condemn as somewhat lacking in respect, contributed no doubt to the growing estrangement.
The circumstances which provoked the letter were as follows: In spite of the condemnation of 1403, the Wyclifists, as Stephen Dolein (infra, p. 74) complained, swarmed everywhere ‘in state apartments of princes, the schools of the students, the lonely chambers of the monks, and the cells of the Carthusians.’ Large sums of money were paid for manuscripts of the English doctor, and corrected copies were constantly brought from England. So rapid was the spread of his doctrines that in 1406 Zbinek, acting on the orders of Innocent VII., threatened with punishment all those who preached the heresies of the Reformer, and ordered that the Roman dogma of the Sacrament should be proclaimed to the people on the next Feast of Corpus Christi.
As the proclamation produced little effect, Zbinek resorted to other measures. In the May and June of 1408 certain masters of Prague were brought up before the Archbishop’s deputies. Their names were Sigismund of Jistebnicz, Matthias Pater of Knin, Nicholas of Welemowicz, and another of whose name we are ignorant. One of these, Nicholas of Welemowitz, familiarly known as “Abraham,” an unlicensed preacher in the Church of the Holy Ghost at Prague, had asserted the Lollard idea that ‘laymen as well as priests should be allowed to preach,’ and at his trial refused to take any oath, “save by the living God.” Hus, who was present in court, openly defended Nicholas in the matter of the oath by a quotation from Chrysostom, for which he was indebted to Gratian’s Decretum.1 “Ah, master,” retorted the Vicar-General, Kbel, “you came here to hear, not to talk.” Thus silenced in court, Hus appealed to Zbinek direct. The next day, July 1, 1408—a day which fixes the date of the letter—“Abraham” was released, though not, we imagine, in consequence of Hus’s interference. In reality, the trials were not pressed, though Matthias Pater of Knin was forced to abjure; for Wenzel the King was anxious to further his political projects (see infra, p. 18) by obtaining a clean bill, if we may so put it, for the character of his subjects. Accordingly Zbinek, a few days after the release of “Abraham,” declared in a Synod at Prague (July 17, 1408) ‘that after making diligent inquisition, he could find no heretic in Bohemia.’
To Zbinek, Archbishop of Prague
Most reverend father, your obedient servant in the faith and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ!
I very often remind myself how at the beginning of your rule your reverence (paternitas) laid it down as a regulation that whenever I noticed any laxity of discipline, I should report it at once, either personally or, failing this, by letter. It is in accordance with this regulation that I am now forced to make a statement to the effect that incestuous and criminal persons are escaping rigorous correction.1 They go about without restraint like untamed bulls and runaway horses with outstretched necks, while humble priests who pluck away the thorns of sin and fulfil their duties under your rule in an excellent spirit, who shun avarice and give themselves freely for God’s sake to the work of preaching the gospel, are thrown into prison and suffer exile, as if they were heretics, for preaching this same gospel. Reverend father, where is the piety of preventing the preaching of the gospel—the first duty Christ enjoined on His disciples, when He said: Preach the gospel to every creature?2 Where is the discretion of restraining from their toils diligent and faithful labourers? In very truth, I cannot think it is your grace, but the madness of others, that sows such seed. What poor priest will dare to attack crimes or to inveigh against vices? Truly the harvest is great, but the true labourers are few. Therefore, father, pray the Lord of the harvest that He may send faithful labourers into the harvest.3 For it resteth with your grace to reap the entire harvest of the kingdom of Bohemia, to gather it into the Lord’s garner and to give an account for every sheaf in the day of death. But how can so large a multitude of sheaves be stored up by your grace in the Lord’s garner if you take away from the reapers their sickle, to wit, their power of speech, at the whim of indolent persons, who neither reap themselves nor suffer others to do so, when their crimes feel the lash of God’s word? Herein, alas! is the word of the apostle fulfilled: They will not endure sound doctrine, they will turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables and will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.1 Verily this saying of the apostle’s will receive fulfilment, seeing that charity hath grown cold among the clergy, and iniquity hath abounded2 among the people, because the clergy have failed in charity and given up preaching the gospel and faithful imitation of Christ. For which of us, alas! is following the life of Christ in poverty, chastity, humility, and diligent preaching? Woe, woe, woe! the apostle’s word is fulfilled: All seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.3 Therefore, most reverend father, turn your eyes to the things of the spirit, love good men, mark the bad, do not be flattered by the vain and greedy, but delight in men of humble mind and lovers of poverty. Drive the lazy to work, do not hinder faithful toilers in the Lord’s harvest-field: for that may not be bound4 which achieves the salvation of souls.5 I would write at greater length; but I am hindered by the toils of preaching. The Lord Almighty direct the mind of your grace as regards the matters written above, that you may render due account at the fitting time to the Shepherd of shepherds.
[1 ]Dec. Pars II. C. 22, q. 1, c. 11. Really from Auctor Operis imperfecti in Matt. homily 44 on c. xxiii. (see infra, p. 65, n.). Hus may, however, have learned the passage from Wyclif, who quotes it in full in the Op. Evangel. lib. iii. p. 47 (De Antichristo, lib. i. c. 13).
[1 ]P.: absque rigo (sic) correctionis; read rigore.
[2 ]Mark xvi. 15.
[3 ]Matt. ix. 37, 38.
[1 ]2 Tim. iv. 3, 4. Altered in order of clauses.
[2 ]Matt. xxiv. 12.
[3 ]Phil. ii. 21.
[4 ]P.: quod non est alligatum; for est read sit.
[5 ]P.: animorum (sic); read animarum.