Front Page Titles (by Subject) XIV.: To the Brethren of the Monastery of Dolein, in Moravia ( Undated: summer 1412) - The Letters of John Hus
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XIV.: To the Brethren of the Monastery of Dolein, in Moravia ( Undated: summer 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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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).
[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.