Front Page Titles (by Subject) Part II.—: From the Death of Zbinek to the Exile of Hus ( September 1411— September 1412) - The Letters of John Hus
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Part II.—: From the Death of Zbinek to the Exile of Hus ( September 1411— September 1412) - 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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From the Death of Zbinek to the Exile of Hus
The death of Zbinek was not the end of strife, only its transference to new spheres. Henceforth for Hus there was no peace; but the constant struggle was not altogether the fault of his foes. In September 1411 Hus was engaged in a controversy with the Englishman, John Stokes, in defence of Wyclif. As, however, The Letters of Hus make no reference to this interesting if one-sided tournament, we pass it by (see Age of Hus, pp. 158 ff.).
In the autumn of this year we mark the commencement of the activity of Michael the Pleader. Michael Smradař of Deutsch Brod was at this time priest of St. Adalbert’s, Prague. Soon afterwards he entered the King’s service with a project for a reformed method of extracting gold from the diggings at Jilowy. According to his enemies, a tale endorsed by Mladenowic, he absconded with a part of the money; more probably, on achieving nothing, he deemed it wise to retire. He returned with the office of papal ‘procurator de, causis fidei,’ whence the name Michael de Causis, or the Pleader, by which he is usually known. His attack upon Hus came about in this wise. In the spring of 1411 Hus, who had once more been appointed the special preacher before the Synod, dared to defend in a sermon, by quotations from Wyclif’s De Officio Regis—to which for once he acknowledged his indebtedness—the harsh measures that Wenzel had taken against the clergy who sided with Zbinek. In a sermon to the people on All Saints’ Eve, he again denounced the vices, especially the avarice, of the priests, singling out certain scandals connected with masses for the dead. The clergy, led on by Michael, retorted by a lawsuit, to which Hus refers in the following appeal (infra, p. 59). We see how powerless at this time the clerical party were to restrain the Reformer in the Contra Occultum Adversarium (Mon. i. 135-43), a tract which Hus finished on February 10, 1412, and of which we shall hear again at Constance. In one of his sermons to the people, undaunted by the lawsuit of Michael, Hus had again dwelt on the vices of the clergy. ‘Immediately after dinner’ he had been answered from the pulpit by some one whose name Hus does not give us. In his reply to this unknown disputant, Hus maintained the right of the secular authorities to control and correct scandalous priests, a matter which Rome always regarded with the utmost jealousy. He further defended his constant attacks upon the lives of the clergy from the charge that by this means he was destroying their order and honour. About this time, certainly before the outbreak of the dispute over indulgences in the May of 1412, Hus was also engaged in a controversy with a certain preacher of Pilsen (Replica contra Prœdicatorem Plznensem, Mon. i. 144-8), of whose views Hus speaks at length in the latter part of Letter XII.
The following Appeal to the Supreme Court of Bohemia is without date. According to a marginal note in the MS. it was written ‘shortly before Christmas mccccxii.,’ a mistake for 1411. It is characteristic of Hus’s intense nationalism that it should have been written in Czech; a mark also of the practical drift of his reformation that he should dwell so strongly upon the duty of preaching. In part, of course, this last was an answer to the attempt of his enemies to silence him because of his excommunication.
To the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Bohemia
To the noble lords and magistrates of the Kingdom of Bohemia, and to the other lords now at Prague.
May it please the Lord God in His mercy to grant unto you furtherance in every good thing! Dear lords, heirs of the sacred kingdom of Bohemia, I render thanks before your graces to my most gracious lord, King Wenzel, King of the Romans and of Bohemia, for his kind offices in having enabled me to continue the preaching of God’s word and to persevere in the truth that I love: for having brought about a reconciliation between Zbinek, priest and Archbishop of Prague, of sacred memory, and myself and the other masters, together with the princes, barons, and their advisers: and further for having given a decision in our behalf of which your graces will hear in detail.1 In defiance of this decision the clergy of the chapter of Prague have commissioned Michael, parish priest of St. Adalbert’s, to bring a lawsuit against me, and accordingly have drawn up against me an edict of excommunication. Of this, lest souls be offended, I am not afraid, but I am willingly and cheerfully enduring it. Yet am I grieved at this, that they are not preaching God’s word; for I would not have the sacred offices interrupted and God’s people distressed. Even granting, beloved lords, that the chief blame rests on my shoulders, consider whether on that account it is right for the praise of the Lord God to be curtailed, and God’s people to be distressed by interdicts of this kind, and by the interruption of their religious duties. They have no warrant in the Holy Scriptures for interrupting worship whenever they like. They oppress and trouble the princes, barons, knights, and nobles, as well as the poor people, and summon them to take their trial outside the land,2 which is contrary to divine law and to the institutes of canon and civil law.3 Therefore, beloved lords and heirs of the kingdom of Bohemia, strive to put an end to such calamities and to secure freedom for preaching God’s word to the people. As for myself, I am willing to stand my trial; indeed, I have always been ready to do so, and actually appeared before priest Zbinek, of sacred memory, and his assessors, until at the instigation of the cathedral and parochial clergy of Prague he began to take the side of my enemies and managed to get me summoned to Rome for judgment. However, I wish to stand my trial before all the masters and prelates, and before your graces. I will gladly listen to the charges brought against me, plead my cause, and submit myself to judgment, as becomes a poor priest, provided that the person who is to charge me comes forward. Invariably I offered to do this, and his Majesty granted them this request; but not a charge was ever brought against me, except my alleged disobedience. I am indeed aware that I refuse to obey either Pope or Archbishop when they forbid my preaching, for to cease preaching would be contrary to the will of God and my salvation. But I know, beloved lords, that even you do not obey the command which the late Pope1 gave in the bull which was bought by them at a great price—viz., that there should be no preaching anywhere in chapels. Many of you have chapels in which there is preaching, and occasionally you have it in your own castles as well. I did not betake myself to the Pope’s Curia, for I had my proctors, whom they threw into prison,2 though absolutely guiltless, men who would go through fire to face any one desirous of convicting me of heresy. However, I did not start on the journey, because plots were everywhere being laid against my life, so as to prevent my return to Bohemia. I trust, therefore, that your graces, along with their Majesties the King and Queen, will carry out the instructions which it shall please Almighty God to give you for the welfare of your kingdom. May He strengthen you in His grace! Amen.
To the People of Pilsen1
To the good—perseverance in virtue; and to the evil—a holy knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Dear lords and brothers in God’s grace, I hear to my great grief that there is a difference and dissension among you concerning divine truth, and that you who began well are doing badly, vexing God, losing your souls, showing a bad example to others, flinging away your integrity, and for the insignificant gain of this world are holding of small moment the life eternal. Why do you not recall our Saviour’s words: What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul? and what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?1 Why do you not recall that you were a good example to all Bohemia by your goodly concord, your attention to God’s word, and the restraint you exercised over a wrong spirit? Oh! how strangely you have forgotten that it was your holy union in that which is good that defended you from your enemies, enriched you, and marked you out before God and man! The devil, God’s enemy, saw this, and took it so much to heart that he aroused the members of Antichrist and himself to drive divine grace and goodwill out of you. And now the unclean spirit has returned to the house from which he had been driven out. Taking seven spirits more wicked than himself, he has come back; and the last state is made worse than the first.2 He hath swept out of you the divine word, and restored to you frivolities, gambling, and other sins! Where is the Shepherd of your souls? How does He guide you? Your wound hath not been pointed out. There is none to have pity on you, to pour in oil and wine and to bind up the wound3 inflicted on you by the thieves. Methinks you are attended by those who administer poison to you by making light of Holy Writ, and who pour in the oil, not of true love, but of flattery. You do not understand that the smooth-tongued flatterer is an enemy, while he that chastises is a lover and a healer of wounds, although the sick man is angry and murmurs at the chastisement. O holy Gregory! great Pope, thou sayest: He alone shallbe my friend, who shall cleanse away my soul’s impurity.1 Dear saint, pray for the people of Pilsen, that in this matter they may be imitators of you; and then, as of old, they will spread abroad God’s word, will love sermons preached against sins, will embrace their true leaders and reject ravening wolves. Then they will perceive that he who chastises leads them to God, while the flatterer separates them from God, and that while the flatterer nourishes with poison, the chastiser restores with wine. They will remember that they are soon to die, and that he who dies well will be in bliss, while the wretch that has defiled himself will fall into eternal fire.
O beloved followers of Christ! you know that a good name is better than precious ointment.2 What are you doing with your good name, which used to be of this kind: “The people of Pilsen are above all peaceable, administer their municipality aright, love God’s word, drive out priest’s paramours and procurers, have put down gambling, and show a good example to other cities.” Faithfully had God cared for you and had sown wheat among you, but the devil scattered tares,3 so that the wheat was choked. Oh! in the name of the dear Lord God, in the name of His shameful and cruel martyrdom, in the name of your salvation, your honour, the correction of others and your own happiness, return, you that have strayed, return to the truth. You that are holy, become more holy still! For the Lord God saith: The time is at hand: he that hurteth, let him hurt still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is just, let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him besanctified. Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me to render to every man according to his works.1 Thus saith the Lord Jesus. If you willingly receive and keep His word, He will give you as your reward eternal life and boundless joy; but if you do not receive it nor keep it, He will give you eternal damnation in eternal fire and in darkness among the devils, where there will be neither rest nor consolation. But I have confidence in His holy grace and cherish the hope (and that is why I write to you) that the good among you may persevere, and the rest may welcome you in all honour, become good fruit and be the sons of God, citizens of that city where there shall be no darkness nor sorrow, where you will behold God your Father and understand all things, and you will each love one another perfectly as your own self, and have the desire of your heart. May it please the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to help you to attain unto that city, when you depart from Pilsen and its strifes, through the death of Christ and the aid of the Virgin Mary and all the saints. Amen.
After writing the above a letter reached me with the news that the priests were preventing the Holy Scriptures from being read in the mother tongue, Czech or German. Secondly, that a certain priest had said in a sermon2 that no person, though he be guilty of a mortal sin, is a servant or son of the devil. Thirdly, that this priest had said in a sermon at a priest’s first mass that up to the time of the actual celebration he was a son of God; but from that moment, and in future when about to celebrate, he was the father of God and the creator of the Divine Body. Fourthly, that this same priest had said in his sermon that the worst priest was better than the best layman. If this is so, and these errors meet with no opposition from any one, it is a clear sign that you have wandered very far from the truth, especially those of you who have been instructed and are in possession of your reason. For, as St. John Chrysostom1 saith in a gloss on these words of Christ, “Fear ye not them that kill the body”:2Christ hath shown by these words that not only is that man a traitor to the truth who speaks the truth fearfully; but he also is a traitor to the truth who doth not sincerely defend it as it ought to be defended. For as a priest ought boldly to preach the truth which he hath heard from God, so a layman also, that is, a person who is not a priest, ought confidently to defend the truth, which he hath heard expounded from Holy Writ by a priest. If he doth not so defend, then he betrays the truth. This then is the great saint’s argument from Christ’s words, Fear ye not, etc.—namely, that every man, be he priest or no, who knows the truth ought to defend it to the death; otherwise he is a traitor to the truth and to Christ as well.
Now, many of you know the truth and are aware that any man can recite, declare and, if a scholar, read the holy gospel either in Latin, as St. Mark wrote it; or in Hebrew, as St. Matthew composed his version; or in Syriac, as St. Luke composed his; or in Persian, as St. Simon preached and composed his; or in Aramaic,1 as St. Bartholomew wrote;2 and likewise in other languages. How, then, can you suffer the priests to prevent people reading the holy gospel in Czech or German? Then as to the second point, are you ignorant of the fact that it is impossible for a man to serve both God in virtue and the devil in sin? I know you have heard Christ’s words: No man can serve two masters;3 and again: You cannot serve God and mammon. You know also that St. Peter saith: By whom a man is overcome, of the same also he is the slave.4 Christ also saith: Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.5 St. Paul also writes to the Romans: You were the servants of sin.6 Why, then, knowing as you do these testimonies of Scripture, do you suffer a priest to preach that no one, though he be living in mortal sin, is a servant of the devil? I know also that you have heard the words of the Lord Jesus that the tares are wicked sons which the devil hath sown in the world;7 also those which He addressed to evil men: Ye are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do,8 and He brings forward the cause in these words: Because you cannot hear my word, therefore are ye of your father the devil.9 St. John the Apostle also by the Holy Spirit saith: Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doth justice, is just as Christ is just: but he that committeth sin, is of the devil. Afterwards he saith: In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: whosoever is not just, is not of God.1 You see, therefore, that any one who commits a sin unto death, is of the devil and a son of the devil. Why, then, do you suffer a heresy to be preached contrary to these holy sayings of Christ? Be assured that a man who preaches thus is a servant and son of the devil and is worse than the humblest layman that is good. Nor is that priest the father of God; for God would then be the son of this priest; and yet this priest is a son of the devil. God, therefore, would be a son of the devil also! Nor, again, is a priest who preaches and holds this error a creator of the Divine Body; but he is the author of a great heresy. Granted that with the help of all his associates he procreate a nit, then I will admit that they are creators! It is an impossibility, though it were tedious to prove it in this letter. O brave Christians! are you all dead that you allow errors to be bandied about and God’s word driven into a corner? Scorn them, and let not the devil rule over you. May the Lord God herein be your Helper, who alone can be, and is, Creator. Amen.
Within a few weeks of writing this letter to the people of Pilsen, Hus became involved in a controversy of wider import On September 9, 1411, and again on December 2, John XXIII., in the throes of his struggle with Ladislaus, the King of Naples, and Gregory XII., issued bulls preaching a crusade against his foes. The same indulgences were offered as for a campaign in Palestine to all those who should take up arms, or who bought ‘suitable men’ to fight for them. As with the later Tetzel, the indulgences, no doubt, were duly qualified with the usual limitations, which not only Hus, but the Council of Constance, in their attack upon John seem to have overlooked. In theory they were restricted to the ‘truly penitent.’ In practice, for men do not sin in Latin, John’s indulgences were regarded as the selling permission to sin, or the buying of pardon for past transgressions. In some cases priests of no conscience and evil life used the opportunity to wring out in the confessional money and profit for themselves, a practice which Archbishop Albik tried to check.
In the May of 1412, Master Wenzel Tiem, Dean of Passau, who in the previous December had been appointed agent for the dioceses of Salzburg, Magdeburg, and Bohemia, arrived in Prague and opened his sale. The traffic was soon in full swing, money chests set up in the Cathedral, the Teyn Church, and the Wyschehrad, middlemen doing a good trade for country parishes, where payments were often made in kind. Hus, like Luther—who himself points out the similarity of their circumstances—at once entered the lists. For neither Luther nor Hus seems to have recognised how old the custom was. Hus looked upon it as a complete innovation, and forgot his own early experiences. He placarded church doors with his theses, and thundered against ‘Antichrist’ in the Bethlehem Chapel, and among ‘the artists’ of the University. As ‘the German vicars had received the bull and read it aloud’ in their churches, the Czechs at once rallied to the cause of Hus, and the national feud was revived in a new form.
In his proceedings against the indulgences, Hus seems to have been from the first more conscious of his opposition to the authorities than was Luther. News of the coming sale had already driven him to the bold step of answering publicly in the Bethlehem Chapel, in a legal deed drawn up by a notary—‘because people are come to give greater credence to such a document’—three questions that had been sent to him (March 3, 1412). The questions and the answers of Hus go to the root of the controversy: ‘Whether a man must believe in the Pope, and whether it is possible that a man can be saved who does not really confess to a priest.’ As regards the first, Hus appears at this time repeatedly to have preached that ‘we can well be saved without a Pope.’ We see the same spirit of conscious opposition, so different from the early movement in Germany, in the account Hus has given us of an interview he had with Wenzel Tiem shortly after the latter arrived at Prague. ‘I know well,’ he writes, ‘the difference between the apostolic commands and the commands of the Pope. So when I was asked by the legates of John, in the presence of Archbishop Albik, whether I were willing to obey the apostolic commands, I answered: “I desire with all my heart to obey the apostolic commands.” Thereupon the legates, holding apostolic and papal commands to be interchangeable, thought that I was willing to preach to the people the crusade against Ladislaus. So the legates said: “He is willing you see, lord Archbishop, to obey the commands of our sovereign Pope.” So I said to them: “Sirs, understand me. I said that I am willing with all my heart to obey apostolic commands, but by apostolic commands I mean the doctrines of the apostles of Christ. So far as the commands of the Pope agree with the commands and doctrines of the apostles, and are after the rule of the law of Christ, so far I am heartily prepared to render them obedience. But if I see anything in them at variance with this, I will not obey, even if you kindle the fire for the burning of my body before my eyes.” ’
In this spirit, on June 7, 1412, in spite of the opposition of the eight doctors of the theological faculty, led by ‘the friend of his youth,’ Stephen Palecz, Hus delivered his disputation against indulgences in the large hall of the University. This was his answer to what he called the determination of the friars to proclaim that ‘the Pope is a God on earth.’ His arguments, though aptly applied to the disputes of Gregory and John, need not detain us. When not copied from Gratian they are adopted, as Loserth has shown, with verbal fidelity from three tractates of Wyclif, a circumstance which the doctors were not slow to point out in their reply.
The counterblast of the theological faculty was soon forthcoming. Once more they condemned the forty-five articles of Wyclif, and, with the sanction of Wenzel, in whose presence the articles were read (July 10), forbade their teaching in Bohemia under penalty of expulsion. To these they now added six propositions from Hus. Hus had previously challenged their judgment as regards two of the condemned articles in a dissertation, again taken, word for word, from Wyclif. The two articles were those which touched him closest, for they dealt with the duty and right of preaching, a subject in which, as his Letters show, he was always intensely interested. He followed this up by a Defence of Disendowment (De Ablatione Temporalium a Clericis), of which we shall hear at Constance. This treatise was taken in the main from Wyclif’s De Ecclesia. A third tractate in the same year, nominally on Tithes, contains an uncompromising defence of the weakest point of Wyclif’s system. This was the doctrine of dominion founded on grace, the assertion that office, whether civil or spiritual, lapsed with mortal sin. Hus had moved far since his letter of the previous year to John.
Three days after his dispute in the Carolinum with the theological faculty over the indulgences, Hus wrote the following interesting letter to the King of Poland. The letter not only breathes intense hatred of the whole system and its abuses, but is also an illustration of how far-reaching was the influence of Hus. The Slav races, as the clergy complained, ‘through Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, and Moravia’ rallied to a cause which was almost as much national as religious.
Ladislaus (Jagiello), to whom the letter was addressed, is an interesting character. Originally he was the semi-savage chief of Lithuania, a state at that time at the height of its power, holding possession even of many Russian cities. His mother was a Christian, but Ladislaus himself grew up a pagan. But he was quite willing to turn Christian to secure his marriage with Jadwiga (Hedwig), the heiress of Poland. On his marriage and baptism (1386) he took the name of Ladislaus (Wadyslaw) and transferred his capital from Wilno (Vilna) to Cracow. This step, together with their compulsory conversion to the religion of their Prince, displeased the Lithuanians; but after a short struggle the combined forces of Lithuania and Poland were turned against the Teutonic Knights, whom they overthrew in the disastrous battle of Tannenberg, in Prussia (July 15, 1410). Jagiello was thus looked upon by all Slavs as their champion against the encroachments of the Germans, and probably ranked high on this account in Hus’s thoughts. Hus would also remember that in 1397 Jadwiga had established a college at Prague for poor students from Lithuania. It was one of the grievances of the Czechs that this college had become filled with Germans. Jagiello, though on his marriage he could neither read nor write, yet showed his interest in learning by founding in 1397-1400 a University at Cracow. So successful was his rule that on the death of Jadwiga (1399), though in reality his rights to the crown of Poland had lapsed, the Poles continued him in his position. Like all Lithuanians, he was opposed to the claims of Rome, or any attempts to make mischief in Lithuania by ousting on her behalf the Orthodox Church. This sense of opposition would form a further link between Hus and himself. We must also remember that shortly before this date Jerome of Prague had visited Lithuania, and after allowing his beard to grow—a little matter that was never forgiven—had preached before its duke, Witold, Jagiello’s cousin. Jagiello, after a most successful reign, died in 1434, and is buried in the Cathedral of Cracow, surrounded by the successors in the dynasty he founded.
To Ladislaus, King of Poland
May the grace of Jesus Christ be granted to you for the ruling of your people and the attaining of the life of glory!
Most serene prince, it hath brought me great joy and comfort to hear that your Majesty in the providence of Almighty God hath come to an agreement with the most illustrious King Sigismund.2 The people and myself are united in the prayer that God may direct3 the lives of both of you in the way of righteousness, and your subjects as well. To this end, most illustrious prince, it appears to be a prior condition alike for your Majesty, for his excellence King Sigismund, and for the other princes, that the heresy of simony should be removed from your dominions. But is it possible to expect its banishment when it hath spread its poison so widely that scarcely anywhere can clergy or people be found that have not been laid low by this heresy of simony? Who is honest enough to present to a see for the honour of God, for the salvation of the people, and for one’s own salvation? Who is so disinterested as to accept a see, a parish living, or any other benefice under the constraint of these three motives? I would that there were many to refuse them as a form of bondage and human bribery! But are not the words of Jeremiah fulfilled: From the least of them even to the greatest all follow hard after covetousness, and from the prophet even to the priest all make a lie?1 Is the disciple of Christ wide of the mark when he says: All seek the things that that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s?2 It is the voice of the Church weeping, because the gold is become dim and the finest colour is changed.3 Once the priesthood was like gold aflame with love and burnished with virtues; but now it hath become earthy and blackened, as Bernard saith.4 The words of our Saviour are fulfilled: Iniquity shall abound—that is, among the clergy—and charity shall grow cold5 among the people. Woe, therefore, to him that weeps not for such a time! Most illustrious prince, it is because they hear a message like this that a simoniac, pomp-loving, luxurious, and unrestrained clergy charge me with defamation of their order and heresy-mongerings. But shall I keep silence? God forbid! Woe is me if I keep silence! It is better for me to die than not to resist the wickedness which would make me a partner in their crimes and in their hell. May it please the King of glory to preserve your Majesty from these things for the holy government of your people!
Master John Hus,
The opposition of Hus to the indulgences separated the Reformer for ever from his former friends Stanislaus and Palecz. The first cause of their ‘backsliding like a crab,’ as Hus termed it, is somewhat obscure. In the autumn of 1408, in furtherance of Wenzel’s policy, an embassy was despatched to the Pisan cardinals. It consisted of John Cardinalis of Reinstein, the usual envoy of Wenzel, Mařik Rwačka, Stanislaus of Znaim, and Stephen Palecz. The two last, for some reason or other—perhaps because of their well-known sympathy with the Wyclifists—incurred the suspicion of Cossa. They were arrested at Bologna, ‘deprived of their goods, and imprisoned.’ Hus, Jesenicz, and Christian Prachaticz at once laboured for their release. At length, after petitions from the University (December 8, 1408) and from the Pisan cardinals themselves (February 12, 1409), this was procured, though not before Palecz was robbed of ‘207 gold knights.’ They retuned to Prague to find the University wrecked by the disruption. Whether this last event, or some subtle influences brought to bear upon them in their imprisonment, or the greater conservatism of maturer years, led to a change of view, we know not. Certain it is that they slowly drifted from alliance with Hus into the bitterest opposition. They first became what Hus called ‘Terminists’—i.e., Nominalists—then by a natural sequence the persecutors of their old associates. But we must beware of doing them the injustice of supposing that the drift was on their side only. Nor must we forget that by Hus’s expulsion of the Germans from the University the triumphant Czechs, no longer united by a common hatred, had now opportunity to discover unsuspected lines of cleavage among themselves.
On the outbreak of the dispute over the indulgences, Palecz, for the moment, had wavered. A meeting on the matter was held at the rectory of Christian Prachaticz. ‘If Palecz is willing to confess the truth,’ said Hus, ‘he will remember that he was the first to give me with his own hand the articles of indulgence, with the remark in writing (manu) that they contained palpable errors. I keep the copy to this day as a witness. But after he had consulted with another colleague he went over to the other camp. The last word I said to him—for I have not spoken to him since—was this: “Palecz is my friend, Truth is my friend; of the two it were only right to honour Truth most.” ’
The theologians, in fact, were unaminous that it was not their business to inquire into the value of the apostolic letters, but ‘as obedient sons to obey, and fight those who opposed.’
Palecz and Stanislaus were not the only foes whom Hus at this time was driven to encounter. In Letter XIV. we are introduced to his most unsparing literary opponent, Stephen, the prior of the Carthusian monastery of Dolein, near Olmutz, in Moravia. According to Stephen’s own statement, Hus and he at one time had been ‘men of one mind who had taken sweet meat together’; but they had long since drifted apart. As early as 1408 we find Stephen refuting Wyclif’s Trialogus in his In Medullam Tritici (“The Marrow of Wheat”), dedicated to Kbel, whom we have already met (supra, p. 12). In this work the references to Hus are few and slight, but his condemnation of Wyclif, whom Stephen recognises as the master, is unsparing.
The following letter of Hus was written in the summer of 1412. ‘To which writing,’ Stephen tells us, ‘when the purport had been told me, and I had seen and ascertained it for myself, I composed the following brief answer’—to wit, that he would reply at length when a suitable opportunity arose. A few months later (autumn 1412) Stephen fulfilled his promise by bringing out his Antihussus, dedicated to Stanislaus of Znaim, in the preface of which he incorporated this letter of Hus. The work ends with a prayer and a curse: ‘Holy Mary and all saints pray for us that the truth may be confirmed. Thou muck-sack (sacce) Wyclif pray for thy own that falsehood be condemned. Amen.’ In September 1414, to anticipate his further writings, Stephen brought out his Dialogus Volatilis inter Aucam et Passerem, seu Mag. Hus et Stephanum, dedicated to the Bishop of Leitomischl, while in 1417, after Hus’s death, he wrote his long Epistle to the Hussites. (All the above works are in Pez. Thesaurus, iv. pt. ii.)
To the Brethren of the Monastery of Dolein, in Moravia
To the honourable and religious inmates (dominis) of the convent in Dolein, beloved brothers of Christ, Master John Hus, a worthless servant in Christ.
May the love of God and the peace of Christ abound in your hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto you!
Worshipful sirs, I have heard how fiercely Dom Stephen with much abuse is assailing not only myself, but those also who hear Christ’s sermons from my lips. If with just cause, he will receive the reward of justice; but if without cause, the reward of injustice from the Lord, Who knows the hearts of men. Therefore to you who are brothers in Christ and bound to me by ties of love, though separated by distance and unknown to me by sight, I am sending this heartfelt entreaty for the sake of your salvation and not in self-excuse (for to me it is of the slightest moment that I be judged of men): believe nothing that is preached about my holding or desiring to hold any error that is contrary to Holy Scripture or to morality: I do not say, “though Wyclif,” but “not even though an angel came down from heaven and taught otherwise than what the Scripture hath taught.”1 For my soul abhors the errors they ascribe to me. But in refusing to obey the ruling of superiors, while offering no resistance to the power which is of the Lord God, I had the teaching of Scripture on my side, and especially the word and deed of the apostles, who, against the will of the priests, preached Jesus Christ as Lord, saying: We ought to obey God rather than men.1 As to my not appearing at the Curia when summoned, there are many reasons for this.2 In the first instance, when summoned I desired to depart; but my own proctors as well as those of the other side wrote to me, urging me not to appear and uselessly sacrifice my life. It would also mean that I should neglect my preaching of God’s word among the people and risk my life to no purpose. For a man to be judged by one whose open sins he attacks is to hand himself over to death. Yet if I had any reasonable ground for supposing that by my appearance and by my death I could be of service to some for their salvation, I would willingly appear, Jesus Christ helping me.
But, alas! who can be of any service in these days in the midst of a people given over to greed, pride, and hardness of heart, who have turned away their hearing from the truth and are turned unto fables?3 May it please God Almighty to preserve His holy Church and yourselves from the wiles of Antichrist, and to commend me to your kind regard as a help to my happiness! Dom Stephen, lay aside the suspicions which I hear you bear against me, until you are fully enlightened by the facts. You have read Christ’s words: Judge not, that you may not be judged:condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.1 And yet you judge me, and in your book you condemn the soul of Wyclif.2 Where is revelation, or Scripture, or personal acquaintance, that you condemn a man who stands at the bar of God? Would it not suffice you to condemn the man’s words, and to wait for his condemnation by God’s word or Holy Scripture?
Though deserted by his former friends, Hus was not alone. ‘Women without number and powerful nobles’ rallied to his cause, while the people, under the lead of that stormy petrel of reform, Jerome of Prague, once more took matters into their own hands. As usual in such cases, liberty speedily degenerated into licence. On June 24, 1412, Woksa of Waldstein drove up with a cart in which sat two harlots, or two students dressed up as harlots, ‘with the papal bulls tied round their breasts.’ An armed mob conducted the procession through the streets and burnt the bulls and pardons in the market-place of the New Town, ‘about the hour of vespers.’ In the following August the students seized two pardoners at their trade. ‘Get out, you liars,’ cried Jerome; ‘the Pope your master is a lying heretic.’ A Carmelite friar ‘selling relics for the building of a church’ was seized as he sat, ‘kicked out’ of the church, and his table overturned, ‘relics and all,’ ‘You are palming off dead men’s bones,’ shouted the people, ‘you are hoodwinking Christians.’
A more serious riot was the affair of the Three Martyrs. In spite of Wenzel’s edict—perhaps before it was officially promulgated—on July 10 three artisans cried out in a church that the indulgences were lies: ‘John Hus has taught us better than that.’ They were condemned to death. Hus, attended by a vast throng, demanded a hearing from the magistrates, and declared: ‘Their fault is mine; I will bear the consequences.’ To still the tumult evasive answers were given; but later in the day the prisoners were hurriedly executed, according to Hus, without the King’s orders. The excitement was intense. Women ‘dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood’ of the martyrs, whose bodies, shrouded in white linen, were borne in procession to the Bethlehem Chapel. There amid the chanting of the hymn, “Isti sunt sancti,” and ‘the mass of martyrs,’ they were buried ‘in the name of God.’ To all this, though not present himself at the funeral, Hus was a consenting party. The civil authorities deemed it well to disclaim the riot, and issue an order that no one should preach against the indulgences. But no attempt was made to punish its leaders, or even deprive Woksa for his buffoonery of his place at Court.
‘That Luther,’ laughed Leo, when he heard of his outbreak against Tetzel, ‘has a pretty wit.’ In the case of Hus, however, John was of a different mind. The Pope scarcely needed the formal complaint of the clergy of Prague, stirred up by Michael the Pleader, against ‘that son of Belial, the Wyclifist Hus, a despiser of the keys’ (May 1412). So he committed the case to Cardinal Peter Stefaneschi of St. Angelo, with instructions to proceed without delay. Stefaneschi at once pronounced upon Hus the great curse (July 1412). Hus was declared cut off from ‘food, drink, buying, selling, conversation, hospitality, the giving of fire and water, and all other acts of kindness.’ If within twenty-three days he did not yield, he was to be excommunicated ‘in all churches, monasteries, and chapels,’ with the usual custom of ‘lighted candles, extinguished and thrown to the ground.’ Places which gave him shelter were to be subject to interdict. ‘Three stones were to be hurled against his house as a sign of perpetual curse.’ In a second bull the Bethlehem Chapel was ordered to be razed to the ground, and the person of Hus to be delivered up and burned.
Hus replied by a dignified appeal, which he read in the Bethlehem, from the Pope to ‘the supreme and just Judge who is neither influenced by gifts (supra, p. 60, n.) nor deceived by false witnesses.’ He consoled himself with the memories of Chrysostom and Grosseteste. His hope lay in the meeting of a General Council. Meanwhile he exhorted the people to put their trust in neither Pope, Church, nor prelates, but in God alone. As for himself—a matter which told heavily against him at Constance—he showed how little he cared for the censures of Rome by continuing as before his public preaching, and his administration of the sacraments (see p. 166, n. 1).
The excommunication and attendant interdict soon produced its effect in Prague. ‘The people,’ complained Hus, ‘did not show sufficient courage to bury their dead in unconsecrated ground, and baptise their children themselves.’ Riots broke out on every hand. On September 30 Jerome and others ‘ducked friar Nicholas’ in the Moldau. On October 2 a counter-attack was made on the Bethlehem Chapel, chiefly, says Hus, by the Germans, at that moment the dominant party in the Town Council: ‘What madness! . . . what German audacity! . . . they are not allowed to pull down a bakehouse. The temple of God where the bread of God’s word is distributed they wish to destroy.’ But the Czechs rallied to their national cause, and prevented the outrage, in spite of the archers. But elsewhere the opponents of Hus were victorious. In the University Stanislaus of Znaim and Stephen Palecz were inveighing against their former friend in the presence of Duke Ernest of Austria. (October 1412). Nor was Hus helped by the formal proof of his ally John of Jesenicz, doctor of canon law, that the excommunication was illegal (December 18, 1412).
But we are slightly anticipating. Hus, in fact, had already left Prague, on the advice, or rather orders, of Wenzel. This step, as the following letter shows, the Reformer was at first unwilling to take. But Wenzel, who was placed in an awkward position and feared the calling in of the secular arm, was persistent. So Hus left Prague—his enemies claimed that he was expelled—‘that a Synod for settlement might be held with more chance of success.’
The date of Hus’s exile, and therefore of the following letter, is somewhat uncertain. He seems to have left Prague first in the August of 1412, but a few months later, on his own statement, returned and preached. He was certainly absent in the October, when the attack was made on the Bethlehem (see infra, p. 94). But his final departure must have taken place in December 1412, for on the 14th of that month the secular arm was called in by the papal authorities. From the other letters which follow, and which were evidently written in the autumn of 1412, we are inclined to date the following as written before the first departure. Nicholas Miliczin was the colleague of Hus at the Bethlehem. He had taken his bachelor’s degree in 1401, his master’s in 1406. He is probably the Nicholas to whom Hus refers on pp. 236 and 274. Of Master Martin nothing is known, unless indeed he be the Master Martin, ‘his disciple,’ of later letters (see infra, pp. 149, 235, 274).
To Masters Martin and Nicolas Miliczin
Peace be unto you—that peace which he that seeks shall not have with the world, the flesh, and the devil. In the world, saith the Saviour, you shall have distress;1 but if you are jealous for that which is good, who is there to hurt you? I have a jealousy for preaching the gospel, but I am careworn, because I know not what I am to do.
I have pondered over our Saviour’s words in the gospel of John, chapter x.: The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep, and flieth:and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep.1 I have also pondered over another passage in Matt. x.: When they shall persecute you in this city, flee unto another.2 This, then, is the precept or promise of Christ. I am in a strait betwixt two, and know not how I ought to act.
I have pondered over the epistle of the blessed Augustine to Bishop Honoratus,3 who sought guidance in a similar case. Here is the reply and conclusion of Augustine: Whosoever fleeth so that his flight doth not leave the Church without the necessary ministry, is acting according to the Lord’s precept or promise. But he that fleeth so as to withdraw from Christ’s flock the nourishment which supports its spiritual life, is an hireling, who seeth the wolf coming and flieth, because he cared not for the sheep. Seeing, beloved brother, that you have consulted me, this is my genuine opinion and the answer which true love4moves me to send: but I do not restrict you to this view, if you can find a better. Nevertheless, we cannot find out any better how to act in these difficulties than by praying to our Lord God to pity us: for we5have obtained the power both to will and to do this very thing, to wit, that all the wise and holy men of God should not forsake the churches: and in the teeth of opposition we have not fallen away from our own purpose. Thus Augustine.
Let me know, therefore, if you can rest satisfied with this advice of Augustine; for I am urged by my conscience not to be absent and thus prove a stumbling block, although the necessary food of God’s word be not wanting to the flock. On the other hand, the fear confronts me that my presence, by the wicked device of an edict, may become a pretext for the withdrawal of that food—that is, the Holy Communion, and the other things pertaining to salvation.
Therefore, let us humbly pray that it may please Almighty God to instruct us how I, poor wretch! am to act in the present crisis, so as not to stray from the paths of righteousness. It is beautiful advice that the blessed Augustine gives in that letter. For there he clearly lays down in the special case brought to his notice that it is possible to flee lawfully. He mentions St. Athanasius1 as an example. Supposing the lives of all were in peril, then perhaps it would be their duty to arrange for some one to take to flight who2 would be most useful for the welfare of the Church in the days to come, and thus perhaps carry out, etc.3
[1 ]The reference is to the decision of July 6; see supra, pp. 40-41.
[2 ]A reference to his own citation; supra, p. 39.
[3 ]This is not correct. Properly by civil law a man’s judge was the judge ordinary of the defendant’s domicile. But Rome was regarded as the common domicile or fatherland of all men, and the Pope, therefore, as legally their ordinary. See Gratian, Pt. ii. C. 9, q. 3, c. 17.
[1 ]Alexander V.; see supra, p. 26.
[2 ]Supra, p. 53. The following passage from one of the Czech treatises of Hus will illustrate this letter. Hus tells us that when his proctors arrived in Rome they could obtain no hearing, though it should have been given to ‘pagan, Jew, heretic, and the devil himself if he had come with the request.’ First one commission of cardinals was appointed who ‘obtained beautiful horses, silver cups, and precious rings from his adversaries. Then the Pope transferred the matter to others, and the same thing happened again. Of the latter commission some are dead, some in the prisons of Ladislaus. Then the Pope himself took up the matter, saying that he wished to decide it himself. “All men,” he added, “have got something from the case, but I have nothing.” But when my advocates pleaded for a hearing he refused, and asked for “yellow knights,” of which Goose had had none, nor would he have given them if he had possessed them. So the Pope, wanting to get these “knights” (a gold coin), ordered my proctors to be thrown into prison’ (Doc. 726; cf. Mon. i. 235, 332, and Doc. 191).
[1 ]Written in Czech; see supra, p. 58, for the circumstances.
[1 ]Mark viii. 36-7.
[2 ]Luke xi. 24-6.
[3 ]Luke x. 34.
[1 ]I have not discovered this passage.
[2 ]Eccles. vii. 1.
[3 ]Matt. xiii. 39.
[1 ]Rev. xxii. 11.
[2 ]See the Replica contra Prædicatorem Plznensem (Mon. i. 144). The arguments of this letter are expanded by Hus in that tract.
[1 ]Gratian, Pt. ii. C. 11, q. 3, c. 86; loosely quoted. Really from the anomymous Auctor Operis Imperfecti in Matt. hom. 25, a favourite work with Gratian, Hus, and Wyclif, invariably attributed in the Middle Ages to Chrysostom. Cf. p. 12, n.
[2 ]Matt. x. 28.
[2 ]See the tale of Eusebius (H.E. v. 10) of a certain Pantænus of Alexandria who went to preach the gospel to the Indians and found that the apostle Bartholomew had left them St. Matthew’s gospel written in Hebrew characters. Hus repeats this argument in his De Arguendo Clero (Mon. i. 150a), which, possibly, was written at this time, and not as is usually assumed, in 1408.
[3 ]Matt. vi. 24.
[4 ]2 Pet. ii. 19.
[5 ]John viii. 34.
[6 ]Rom vi. 17.
[7 ]Matt. xiii. 38-9.
[8 ]John viii. 44.
[9 ]Ib. viii. 43.
[1 ]John iii. 7-8, 10, Czech.
[1 ]Marginal note in MS.
[2 ]On this peace of Sigismund, the Poles, and the Teutonic Knights, see Aschbach, Kaiser Sigmund (Hamburg, 1845), i. e. 16, and the letter of Sigismund (March 28, 1412) in ib. i. 437.
[3 ]P.: vita . . . dirigatur; H.: vitam . . . dirigat.
[1 ]Jer. vi. 13.
[2 ]Phil. ii. 21.
[3 ]Lam. iv. 1.
[4 ]P.: ut ait Bernardus; H.: ut ait Bene impletur—i.e., ut ait Jeremias I cannot put my finger on this passage. But similar statements in St. Bernard abound.
[5 ]Matt. xxiv. 12.
[1 ]Gal. i. 8. Hus was very sensitive about his dependence on Wyclif. Cf. his answer in 1414 (Doc., 184): ‘Whatever truth Wycliff has taught I receive, not because it is the truth of Wyclif, but because it is the truth of Christ’; and cf. Mon. i. 264a. In the Medulla of Stephen the dependence of Hus on Wyclif is clearly recognised.
[1 ]Acts v. 29.
[2 ]Supra, pp. 39-40. Stephen Dolein dwells on this matter in his Dialogus, pp. 464-7, and claims that Hus had shown no just cause why he should not have gone to Rome.
[3 ]2 Tim. iv. 4.
[1 ]Luke vi. 37.
[2 ]In a sermon before the Synod and in the presence of Zbinek (probably in June 1408), Hus had stated. ‘I could hope that my soul should be where rests the soul of Wyclif.’ His enemies added that he had claimed that Wyclif was a ‘Catholic doctor,’ but Hus argued that ‘Catholic’ cannot be expressed in Czech, and therefore he could not have said it. This famous wish of Hus was never forgiven or forgotten. It forms part of the charge of the Englishman Stokes, to which Hus replied as follows: ‘I will not grant that Wyclif is a heretic, I will not affirm a negative, but I hope that he is not, since in doubtful matters one ought to choose the better part. Wherefore, I hope that Wyclif is among the saved.’ At Constance Hus had to deal with the matter again. The reason for the heat with which the question was debated lay in the fact that Wyclif had never been condemned or even excommunicated during his lifetime. Was it possible, then, to condemn him ‘in anima’? We have a curious illustration of the importance of this question in the Lollard Purvey’s Remonstrance, p. 133 (see my Age of Wyclif, i. 306), as also in the famous Oxford forgery of October 5, 1406 (ib. i. 241-2). Wyclif, we must remember, was not formally condemned until the Council of Constance (May 4, 1415), unless, indeed, we count the curious Lateran Council of February 2, 1413. The reference to Dolein’s ‘book’ is a general reference to the Medulla Tritici, whose other and more significant title was Antiwikliffus.
[1 ]John xvi. 33.
[1 ]John x. 11-12.
[2 ]Matt. x. 23.
[3 ]Ed. Maur, Ep. 228 (vol. ii. p. 830-35). Written during the irruption of the Vandals in 428 or 429 ad The unusual accuracy of the quotations in this letter would lead me to the conjecture that the editors of the Monumenta (1558), where alone it is found, did a little “editing” of the MS. after their wont.
[4 ]Mon.: recta caritate. Ed. Maur: et certa.
[5 ]Mon.: qui id ipsum ut soilicet ecclesias non desererent . . . meruerunt. Ed. Maur: quod ipsum, ut scilicet Dei ecclesias non deserent, Dei dono . . . meruerunt.
[1 ]Infra in same letter: ‘the holy Athanasius who was specially sought after by the Emperor Constantius, while the Catholic people who remained in Alexandria were in no wise deserted by the other ministers.’
[2 ]quis. Either read qui, or quis is used elliptically for aliquem qui.
[3 ]facta forte, etc. There is no MS., only the ed. 1558 (Monumenta). Perhaps we should read facta sorte, ‘arrange by casting lots,’ etc., for Augustine goes on to say that ‘in such a difficulty the lot seems the fairest decision, in default of others.’