Front Page Titles (by Subject) XXXIX.: To the Faithful Bohemians 1 ( Constance, November 16, 1414) - The Letters of John Hus
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XXXIX.: To the Faithful Bohemians 1 ( Constance, November 16, 1414) - 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 Faithful Bohemians1
To all the faithful and beloved brethren and sisters in God, lovers of the truth of Jesus Christ! Peace be to you from God our Father and from Jesus Christ, so that ye may be kept free from sins, dwell in His grace, increase in good works and after death enter into eternal joy. Dear friends, I beseech you to live according to God’s law and to give heed to your salvation, hearing the word of God with circumspectness, lest ye be deceived by the apostles of Antichrist, who make light of men’s sins and afflict no chastisement upon sins, who flatter the priests and do not show the people their sins, who seek their own glory, boasting of their good works and extolling their power, but will not imitate Jesus Christ in His humility, poverty, patience, and tribulation. It was of these that our most gracious Saviour foretold when He said: False prophets shall rise and shall seduce many.2 Again warning His beloved beforehand He saith: Beware of false prophets who come to you in the clothing of sheep; but inwardly they are ravening wolves.3 Surely there is much need that faithful Christians should keep careful watch over themselves; for the Saviour saith that even the elect (if possible) shall be deceived.4 Therefore, dear friends, watch, lest the devil’s craftiness deceive you; and be the more cautious, the more Antichrist troubles you. For the day of judgment is approaching, death is laying many low, and the kingdom of heaven is drawing near to the sons of God. For the sake of obtaining this kingdom, keep your bodies under, lest ye be afraid of death, love one another, and in memory, reason and will abide steadfast in God. Let the terrible day of judgment live before your eyes, that ye sin not; and the eternal joy likewise that ye may seek after it. May the crucified Lord, the beloved Saviour, ever be in your thoughts, that with Him and for His sake we may gladly and patiently suffer all things; for if you will keep His crucifixion in your memory, you will gladly undergo all tribulations, revilings, insults, stripes, fetters, and if His dear will demand it, even death for the sake of His beloved truth.
Ye know, dear friends, that Antichrist hath attacked us with insults, and many so far he hath not hurt one whit, myself for example, although he hath set upon me sorely. Wherefore I entreat you to pray God earnestly that it may please Him to furnish me with wisdom, patience, humility, and energy, in order to stand firm in His truth. He hath brought me now to Constance without let or hindrance; for although I rode the whole way dressed as a priest without disguise, and in all the towns called out my name in a loud voice, I met no open enemy; in fact, I should not have many enemies in Constance if the Bohemian clergy, in their greed for livings and their bondage to avarice, had not been leading people astray on the journey.1 Yet I trust to the mercy of the Saviour and to your prayers that I shall stand firm in God’s truth unto death. Know that the sacrament hath not been interrupted on my account anywhere, not even at Constance, where the Pope himself administered it, though I was in the town.1 I commend you to the gracious Lord God, to the Lord Jesus, very God, the son of the chaste Virgin Mary, Who by His cruel and shameful death redeemed us without any merits of our own from everlasting tortures, from the devil’s power and from sin. I write this at Constance, on the feast day of St. Othmar,2 a strenuous servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Master John Hus.
The rumour to which John Cardinalis alludes, that Hus intended to preach—which, after the manner of rumours, grew into a report that he had actually preached—was not the only rumour afloat. Another tale, more damaging still, obtained wide circulation. A hay waggon with a large cover had been noticed in his street. In this, it was said, Hus had attempted to escape; he was actually in the cart when his friends Chlum and Lacembok, who were not in the secret, ran and informed the burgomaster and charged Hus with having broken his safe-conduct. The report was undoubtedly false, for Hus, as we know on the evidence of Chlum himself (Doc. 292), never left the house until his arrest. Nevertheless, it was widely believed, among others by the gossiping burgher, Ulrich von Reichental, from whose pages it has found its way into history. At any rate it furnished the managers of the Council, ill satisfied with the Pope’s vacillation in his negotiations with the heretic, with an excuse for bringing Hus under the grip of the Inquisition. The method they adopted showed either hesitation or duplicity. On November 28, the cardinals, led on by Palecz and Michael the Pleader, sent at breakfast-time the Bishops of Augsburg and Trent, and the burgomaster of Constance, to inform Hus ‘that they were now ready to hear him.’ Chlum at once detected the plot, for the house was surrounded with soldiers. ‘The devil himself,’ he said to the burgomaster, ‘if he came to plead, ought to have a fair hearing.’ ‘I have not come,’ added Hus, rising from the table, ‘to address the cardinals, but the whole Council.’ The envoys replied, ‘that they had come only for the sake of peace, to avoid a tumult.’ After further parley, Hus consented to go with them. ‘God bless you,’ he said, bidding farewell on the stairs to his weeping hostess. The two bishops for their part could not conceal their joy. ‘Now,’ they said, ‘you will not say mass here any more.’ ‘So Hus rode away on a small horse to the Pope’s palace.’ Interrogated by the cardinals, ‘Rather than hold any heresy,’ he replied, ‘I would prefer to die.’ ‘Your words are good,’ replied the cardinals, and retired to dine, leaving Hus to be badgered by a Franciscan friar, who posed ‘as a simple monk desirous of information,’ but was really, as Hus learned from the soldiers, one ‘Master Didaco, reputed the subtlest theologian in all Lombardy.’ After dinner, ‘at four in the afternoon, the cardinals returned to consider further what they should do with the said Hus. His adversaries Palecz and Michael the Pleader continued instant in their demand that he should not be released. Dancing round the fire, they called out in their joy, “Ha, ha, we have him now. He shall not leave us until he has paid the last farthing.” ’ Chlum, meanwhile, sought out the Pope. John took refuge in characteristic evasions. As for the friar—Didaco—‘he is a clown, he is not one of my people.’ The imprisonment was the act of the cardinals. ‘You know, very well,’ he added, ‘the terms on which I stand with them.’ Had Hus, he continued, really a safe-conduct? ‘Holy Father,’ replied Chlum, ‘you know that he has’ (Mladenowic’s Relatio in Doc. 248-52).
The fate of Hus was really sealed. That night ‘about nine he was led away to the house of one of the precentors of the cathedral.’ Eight days later (December 6) he was removed ‘to a dark cell hard by the latrines,’ in the monastery of the Black-friars, in those days on an island in the lake, though now joined to the town. In later prints we can still see it strongly surrounded with its own walls. (See map in Hardt, v. iv.)
For several days carpenters had been hard at work in the monastery preparing the prison for his reception, fitting in bolts, locks, and irons, making up six beds for his gaolers, and fixing up a stove for their comfort. But the comfort of Hus was the last thing considered, and the pestilential latrines brought on a grievous sickness so severe that his friends ‘despaired of his life. But the Pope sent his own physician, who administered to him clysters.’ The death of the prisoner before his condemnation would not have suited the purposes of the Council.
Chlum, in spite of his rebuff by the Pope, was not inactive. He reported the matter to Sigismund, and ‘showed and read aloud the said safe-conduct to the notables of Constance.’ On December 24, knowing that Sigismund would shortly arrive, he posted up a notice on the doors of the Cathedral, ‘complaining that the Pope had not kept faith with him’; the insult to the safe-conduct was a step upon which they would not have ventured ‘if Sigismund had been present.’ Honest Chlum was mistaken. Whatever Sigismund’s previous intentions, when he arrived he blustered a little, but did nothing except procure for Hus a better lodging in the refectory. Sigismund probably realised his own powerlessness; for, on January 1, a deputation from the Council warned him that he must not interfere with the liberty of the Council in the investigation of heresy. If he did it would be at the peril of the break-up of the Council. So Sigismund capitulated, assuring the deputation ‘that the matter of Hus and other details of small consequence must not be allowed to interfere with the reformation of the Church.’1
Hus meanwhile lay grievously ill in his cell. From November 16, 1414, to January 19, 1415, his letters ceased, at any rate none have been preserved for us. The following letter from Chlum is the only one that we know of that reached him in this interval from the outer world. The letter is without date, but from internal evidence must have been written before Hus’s removal from the fever-trap. The date on which Hus was removed to the refectory is a little uncertain—either January 3 (following Hardt) or January 8. If we take the 3rd as the correct date, for the dates of sick men in prison are not altogether trustworthy, this letter of Chlum was despatched on the evening of January 1, after Sigismund’s capitulation to the deputation and refusal to liberate Hus from prison. To this the letter makes reference at the close.
John of Chlum to Master John Hus
My beloved friend in Christ, you ought to know that Sigismund was present to-day with the deputies of all the nations of the whole Council, and spoke about your case, and, in particular, pleaded for a public hearing.1 In reply to his words, it was unanimously and finally decided that, whatever happens, you shall have a public hearing. Your friends will insist on this. They are also insisting that at any rate you be placed in a well-ventilated place, so that you may recover yourself and get fresh strength.
Therefore, for God’s sake and your own salvation and the furtherance of the truth, don’t yield a point through any fear of losing this miserable life, because it is surely for your great good that God has visited you with this His visitation. The Prague friends are very well, in particular Baron Skopek,2 who is greatly rejoiced that you have got what you have so long prayed for, persecution in behalf of the truth.
We urge you strongly to set down on this sheet of paper, if you think well, your grounds and final intentions respecting the communion of the cup, so that it can be shown at the proper time to your friends; for there is still a kind of split among the brethren, and many are troubled about this matter, and appeal to you and your judgment in reference to certain writings.1
Letters Written during the Imprisonment at the Blackfriars
In January, on his partial recovery from his first illness, Hus once more began his interrupted letters. They were passed out, in spite of the vigilance of Michael’s spies, by means of his Polish visitors, and by the connivance of his gaoler Robert, whom he had made his devoted servant—‘the faithful friend,’ ‘that good man,’ to whom Hus cautiously alludes in his Letters—for whose benefit he penned in prison several short tracts, still preserved for us in the Monumenta—The Lord’s Prayer, The Ten Commandments, On Marriage—‘which estate, please God, Robert is shortly about to enter’—and On Mortal Sin. A larger tract, compiled also at his gaoler’s request, was his Lord’s Supper,1 written for edification rather than controversy. ‘I beg of you,’ he writes, ‘not to trip me up if my quotations from the doctors are not exact, for I have no books, writing in prison.’ All his books, in fact, including his Vulgate and Peter Lombard’s Sentences, had been taken away from him. Hence the request in Letter XLI. But the absence of second-hand unacknowledged quotations is not altogether to the disadvantage of Hus’s prison tracts. They are pleasant reading, with little distinctive save their tenderness. Others than Robert the gaoler had been won over by the charm of their prisoner. Even the officials of the Pope seem to have been betrayed into kindness (infra, p. 176).
To these works we shall find frequent reference in the letters that follow. Unfortunately, save for No. XLIV., no manuscript of these letters now exists; we are entirely dependent on the early printed editions, especially the Epistolæ Piissimæ. The preservation of the originals would have been almost impossible. The circumstances under which they were written would be against their life. ‘Alas, alas!’ cried Hawlik, the priest of the Bethlehem, as he read the following letter to the congregation, and pointed to the torn scrap on which it was written—‘alas, alas! Hus is running out of paper’ (Doc. 255). Chlum also (p. 196) speaks of one of Hus’s letters as written on a ‘tattered three-cornered bit of paper.’ We understand this when we remember that Hus sometimes spent whole nights in writing letters or scribbling hexameters ‘to pass the time,’ to say nothing of formal answers to his enemies (infra, p. 206).
These prison letters are generally undated, and contain few indications of time. The student will understand that the order in which they are arranged is therefore to a large extent conjecture, and indicates merely whether in our opinion the letters come early or late in this first imprisonment. With one or two exceptions, we have seen little reason to question in this matter the judgment of Palackẏ. That Letters XLII.-V. were written in February 1415 is clear from a statement of Fillastre in his Diary, that that month was filled up with Inquisition matters, only to be broken off towards the close by the issue of the abdication of John (see Fillastre in Finke, op. cit. 166). Of the value of the letters themselves we need say little. They will appeal to every reader by their tenderness and true piety.
[1 ]This letter is written in Czech.
[2 ]Matt. xxiv. 11.
[3 ]Matt. vii. 15.
[4 ]Matt. xxiv. 24.
[1 ]Cf. p. 161, n. 2.
[1 ]In the case of an excommunicated person under an interdict this should have been done until the said person had been surrendered. This was expressly provided in the excommunication of Hus in July 1412. See Doc. 462. The usual translation ‘when I was present’ is ruled out by p. 163 (the request of John himself).
[2 ]Othmar, appointed by Pepin abbot of St. Gall, in 720, was forced to defend the independence of the monastery against the Bp. of Constance, and died a prisoner on an island near Constance, November 19, 759. Hence the allusion of Hus. For his life, see Pertz, Mon. Germ. ii. 40-58.
[1 ]Finke, Forschungen und Quellen zur Gesch. des Konstanzer Konzils, pp. 253-4.
[1 ]See supra, p. 168. But the date of this letter is very doubtful.
[2 ]i.e., Henry de Duba. The line of Duba was divided into two main divisions, the first of which was again subdivided into the family of Berka and the family of Skopek. Wenzel de Duba of Leštna belonged to the second main division (Benesovien). Henry’s castle was at Auscha. Henry, whose health at Constance gave Hus some concern (p. 176), died in 1417 without children, and was succeeded by his elder brother, Aleš of Drazic, who had been from 1404 the chamberlain of Bohemia, and was a great enemy of the Hussites. To Henry Skopek (Škopkon) de Duba, as one of the chief patrons of Hus, we find frequent reference in the Letters (infra, pp. 227, 229, 234).
[1 ]See for this matter p. 177, infra. The ‘writings’ are those of Jakoubek of Mies. It is curious that Chlum says nothing of the little tract of Hus, De Sanguine Christi sub specie vini (see Mon. i. 42-44). According to the inscription, this was written before Hus was cast into prison, and in it Hus had already summed up on the side of the Utraquists. It is possible the inscription is a mistake, and this is really the tract ‘set down on this sheet of paper.’ But see pp. 177 and 185.
[2 ]P.: amici præcipui. Perhaps we should read præcipue tristantur, ‘are especially grieved.’
[3 ]i.e., Sigismund’s refusal to release, or if the letter be assigned to a different date, to difficulties experienced in obtaining the transfer of Hus to the refectory.
[1 ]For these works, see Mon. i. 29-44.