Front Page Titles (by Subject) Part VI.—: Letters Written from the Franciscan Friary ( June 5, 1415— July 6, 1415) - The Letters of John Hus
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Part VI.—: Letters Written from the Franciscan Friary ( June 5, 1415— July 6, 1415) - 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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Letters Written from the Franciscan Friary
On the flight of John, as Mladenowic informs us, ‘the keys of the prison in which the Master was detained were handed over to the King, and he could now with honour have released him.’ Sigismund, who had overcome all his scruples concerning the safe-conduct, preferred to deliver Hus to the Bishop of Constance, upon whom, on the flight of the Pope, the care of a prisoner of the Inquisition would naturally fall. According to the statement of Hus in the lastletter, the bishop—and the cardinals also, at first—had already refused the charge. Probably that accomplished timeserver was waiting to see how the land lay and what action Sigismund would take now that he was free to act. But on receiving Sigismund’s command he delayed no longer. The Bishop, we read, fearing an attempt at release, ‘for the prison of the Blackfriars was outside the walls and the guards were few and careless, that same night took Hus, fettered in a boat, to his own castle of Gottlieben’—a few hours in fact after the last letter was written (March 24). The precaution of the Bishop—who provided for the boat a guard of a hundred and seventy armed men—shows that he expected some attempt at release, perhaps with the connivance of Sigismund. Possibly if the last letter of Hus had been despatched earlier something might have been done. As it was Hus was safely imprisoned in the west wing of Gottlieben, and the opportunity lost for ever. ‘There he lay in fetters in an airy tower.’ He could walk about all day, but ‘at night was handcuffed on his bed to the wall,’ to a block still preserved in the Museum at Constance. The ‘airy tower’ was a welcome change after the latrines. But at Gottlieben Hus missed the gaoler Robert, who had formed the link with his friends outside. Not a single letter or document written from Gottlieben has been preserved for us. So far as news from Hus is concerned, the months of his second imprisonment are a sheer blank.
The months of silence were, however, big with momentous issues both for Hus and the Church. But at these great issues we may only lightly glance. The course of the fugitive Pope was soon run. Within a few weeks John was deposed ‘as unworthy, useless, and harmful, a chosen vessel of all sins.’ The papal arms were removed from his dwelling, and he himself, after solemnly agreeing to his own deposition, was sent ‘with only a cook’ to Gottlieben, and confined in the east tower. So for two days Pope John, convicted, according to the Council, on fifty-four charges, was a fellow prisoner with John Hus. History contains few instances of greater contrast, certainly none more ironical in its final issue. The Council had condemned the Pope for the foulest of crimes. According to their own showing, whatever be its worth, John XXIII. was a monster scarcely fit to live. His punishment was a trifling term of imprisonment and a later reward. Hus, on the contrary, was acknowledged even by his enemies to be a man illustrious for his purity of life. But he had dared to follow one who thought for himself. His very virtues but made it the more needful that he should be burnt. Revolt against its system was the one crime for which the mediæval Church had no pardons to sell.
With the outbreak of the struggle between John and the Council, the trial of Hus, as we have seen, had been suspended. But after the deposition of the Pope there was once more leisure for the heretic. In fact, as soon as it was plain that the Pope’s flight would prove his undoing, the Council returned to its task. On April 6 a new Commission was appointed, with D’Ailli at the head, to examine the heresies of Wyclif and Hus. But D’Ailli was too busy to give the needed attention, so on the 17th the matter was transferred to another committee of four, one from each of the four nations. On May 4 they brought in an interim report. Wyclif was condemned on no less than two hundred and sixty different counts, though the main stress was laid on the famous forty-five articles. Wyclif’s writings were ordered to be burnt, ‘his bones to be dug up and cast out of the consecrated ground, provided they could be identified from those of Christians buried near’ (Hardt iv. 142-57).
The greater involves the less, and the condemnation of Wyclif practically sealed the fate of Hus, though for technical reasons connected with the absence of a pope, formal condemnation was allowed to stand over. In the ordinary course of events nothing further would have been heard of the prisoner at Gottlieben. Hus would have been left to rot in his dungeon, until his spirit was broken, or the time convenient for an auto da fé. But the friends of Hus were resolved to give publicity to the trial and secure the public hearing that Sigismund had promised. A week after the Commission had brought in its report, the Czechs and Poles showed how little they understood the procedure of the Inquisition by handing in a protest, drawn up by Peter Mladenowic, against the imprisonment of Hus without proper trial. They enlarged once more on the safe-conduct (May 13). The Council replied (May 16) that as far back as 1411 Hus had been tried and condemned. As for his pretended safe-conduct, it was only obtained by his friends fifteen days after his arrest. The Czechs, still unconscious of the real drift of events, twice again presented their petitions, urging for Hus a speedy public hearing, putting in the discredited certificates of the Bishop of Nazareth, though “Bishop Sup-with-the-devil,” as he was called from his famous meal with Hus, had already retracted, and slipped away home in disguise. Hus, they further pleaded, ‘should be released from his chains, and put into the care of some bishop, that he might recruit his strength’ and so prepare for his trial. In Bohemia the mutterings of the coming storm could already be heard. Two assemblies in May, at Brünn and Prague, of the nobles of Bohemia and Moravia despatched to Sigismund, as the heir to the throne, a warning ‘strengthened by two hundred and fifty seals,’ to release ‘the beloved master and Christian preacher’ from further imprisonment, and send him back to Bohemia after first granting him a public hearing. To please Sigismund this last was finally granted. Such a public hearing or trial was in reality an unheard-of act of grace on the part of the Inquisition, only wrung out by political necessities. That august court made a rule of keeping their trials absolutely secret. That there should be no mistake as to the real meaning of this concession, the Council had already sent (Whitsunday, May 19) a deputation of eight delegates, with D’Ailli at the head, to inform Hus of the thirty articles which had been proved against him. We shall find a reference to this deputation in one of the later letters (see p. 216). A fortnight later (June 5), for the convenience of this trial, Hus was brought back in chains from Gottlieben to Constance early in the morning, and lodged in a tower adjoining the Franciscan convent to await his final trial, Pope John doubtless looking on with interest at the heresiarch’s departure.
On arriving at the Franciscan convent Hus found opportunity for resuming his correspondence with his friends. If the date that von Hardt gives for his transference from Gottlieben be correct (June 5; see Hardt, iv. 306), one letter at least1 would appear to have been despatched that very morning. Hus, we note, is still sanguine as to the effects of a public audience, though his letter shows that he contemplates other issues with resignation. One little detail of this third imprisonment is not without interest. Hus tells us (p. 218) that for the first time for some months his food was good and plentiful.
To John of Chlum
My dear friend in Christ, still arrange for all the nobles to have access to the King and Council; and get the King and Council to do as they have both already stated “in the hearing that is to take place you will have a brief written statement and to this you shall reply.” They can drive both Sigismund and the Council to this by telling them that by God’s help I will make a plain statement of the truth. I would rather that my body be consumed by fire than that I should thus be kept basely out of sight by them, in order that all Christendom may know the last words I have spoken. I beg my friends the nobles for God’s sake to act by showing to the end their diligence and constancy. My hope in the Lord is always firm.
Lord John, my most trusty and gracious supporter, may God be your reward! I beg you not to leave until you see the end reached. Would that you might see me being led to the flames rather than so craftily smothered here! I still cherish the hope that God Almighty is able to snatch me from their hands through the merits of the saints. Let me have the hint if to-morrow I am to be brought up for a hearing. Greet all my friends in Bohemia,1 beseeching them to pray God on my behalf. If I am to remain a prisoner, let them pray that I may await death without failing of heart. Exhort the masters to stand firm in the truth; also our special friends, the virgin Petra2 and all her household and Master Jesenicz,3 urging him to marry. Beg my friend Girzik4 and the rector5 to rest content, though I have not been able to do enough for them in return for their service; please let them give my greetings to my friends of either sex. I know not who will repay those who have advanced money, except the Lord Jesus Christ, for whose sake they have advanced it. Yet I should like some of the richer people to club together and pay the poorer ones. But I am afraid that the proverb will be fulfilled in some cases: “Co s očí, to z mysli” (“Out of sight, out of mind”).6
Later in the day, though probably still early in the morning, Hus was brought up for the long-expected public audience. A congregation of the Council had been summoned to meet in the refectory of the Franciscan convent. The intention was to satisfy Sigismund by a public condemnation, but in the absence of Hus himself. So the psalm customary for an inquiry into heresy (Psalm l.) was read, and the thirty articles against him formally presented. An attempt was then made to deprive Hus of the grace of recantation, by the putting in of the letter which he had left at Prague (supra, p. 147). There only remained the formal reading of a sentence already determined. This crafty plan was frustrated. Before it could be carried through Mladenowic stirred up Chlum and Duba to hasten to Sigismund. The Emperor despatched Lewes, the Count Palatine, and the burgrave Frederick of Nuremberg, with orders that nothing should be done until Hus himself was present; while the friends of Hus, to prevent inaccurate or mutilated excerpts, put in genuine copies of his works, on the condition that they should be restored to them—a precaution that, as we learn from the following letter of Hus, was not needless. So Hus had at length his desire, and stood before his enemies. Very different was the reality to his dreams. Instead of an oration before a listening senate, he was met, when he attempted to explain, with angry shouts: ‘Have done with your sophistries!’ ‘Say yes or no!’ If he remained silent, they clamoured that he consented. As the tumult grew the trial was adjourned until the 7th, and Hus removed in the custody of the Bishop of Riga. ‘Do not fear for me,’ he said, as he grasped the hands of his friends. ‘We do not fear,’ they answered. ‘I know you do not,’ he added. As Mladenowic and Chlum watched him mount the steps of the tower adjoining the convent, they saw him ‘smile, as if in gladness after his mockery, and hold out a hand as if blessing the people.’ That same night, as if to reassure them of his constancy, Hus wrote to his friends in Constance. It is remarkable that Hus already clearly discerned the real issue on which he would be condemned (see infra, p. 208, n 1). Another letter was written the following day to his unfailing friend John of Chlum, as well as a third to Peter Mladenowic.
To his Friends staying on in Constance
God Almighty gave me to-day a stout and courageous heart. Two articles are now struck out. I hope, by God’s grace, more will be struck out. They were all crying out against me like the Jews against Jesus. They have not yet reached the main point at issue—to wit, that I should confess that all the articles can be found in my little books.1 You made a mistake in putting in the tract Against a Secret Adversary, along with the treatise On the Church. Put in nothing except the Treatises against Stanislaus and Palecz. The nobles did well to demand that my manuscript should be restored to them; for some cried out, “Let it be burnt,” especially Michael the Pleader, whose voice I detected. I feel I have not in the whole company of the clergy a single friend except “the Father”2 and a Polish doctor with whom I am not acquainted. I am indebted to the Bishop of Leitomischl for a good turn, though he said no more than, “A co sem tobě učinil?” (“And what have I done for you?”). I am very pleased that you have collected the articles; it is well to publish and re-issue them in that form, etc. The leading men of the Council said that I should have another public hearing. They did not wish to hear my disquisition3 on the Church. Give my greetings to the faithful nobles and friends of the truth. Pray God for me; for there is much need. I fancy they will not admit in my favour the opinion of St. Augustine concerning the Church and its members, both predestined and foreknown, and concerning evil prelates.4 Oh, that a hearing might be granted to me in order to reply to the arguments with which they intend to attack the articles that appear in my little books! I imagine that many who cry me down would be put to silence. His will be done, as it is in heaven!
From the conclusion of the following letter to Chlum we see that Hus had heard before he left Gottlieben of the arrest and imprisonment of Jerome of Prague. On hearing at Prague of the rupture between John and the Council, Jerome had hastened to Constance, in spite of the wish of Hus to the contrary (p. 182). There, on April 4, he posted a notice on the gates affirming the orthodoxy of Hus. This done, he deemed it wiser to withdraw to Ueberlingen, whence he wrote to the Council asking for a safe-conduct. On April 7 he once more returned to Constance, and affixed another address to Sigismund and the Council on the doors of the Cathedral. He had come, he said, of his own free will to answer all accusations of heresy. But two days later he changed his mind, and slipped away from the city, in his haste leaving his sword behind him in his lodgings in the St. Paulgasse. He fled towards Bohemia, but at Hirsau was betrayed into an argument, in which he called the Council a synagogue of Satan. This led to his arrest (April 24). On the discovery from his papers of his identity he was forwarded to Constance loaded with chains. He arrived on May 23, and was taken at once to the Franciscan convent, ‘patiently carrying in his hand his iron fetters and long chain.’ There he was examined in a somewhat tumultuous congregation of the Council, and afterwards carried by night to a dungeon in the cemetery of St. Paul, and chained hand and foot ‘to a bench too high to sit on.’ For two days he was left to starve on a scanty supply of bread and water, until Peter Mladenowic found his prison and bribed the gaoler to give him better food. The darkness and foul surroundings soon brought on a sickness, from which with difficulty he recovered, only to find that in the interval his friend and leader, John Hus, had been burnt at the stake. The two men were destined never to meet.
To John of Chlum
To-morrow morning at ten o’clock1 I have to make my reply: first, as to whether I am willing to state that each of the articles taken from my books is erroneous, and that I abjure them and preach the opposite; secondly, whether I will confess that I preached those articles which have been proved against me by witnesses;1 thirdly, that I abjure them. If God in His grace would bring Sigismund to the hearing, I should be glad for him to hear the words which the gracious Saviour will put into my mouth. If they would give me pen and paper, I should make reply, I trust, by God’s grace as follows: “I, John Hus, a servant of Christ in hope, refuse to state that any one of the articles taken from my book is erroneous, lest I condemn the opinion of the holy doctors, and especially of the blessed Augustine. Secondly, I refuse to confess that I asserted, preached, and held the articles with which I have been charged by false witnesses. Thirdly, I refuse to abjure, lest I commit perjury.”
For God’s sake look after the letters carefully, and see that they are carried with like caution to Bohemia, lest grave dangers result to individuals. If by any chance I am not able to write any more to your dear lordship, I entreat you and all my friends to remember me, and to pray that God may grant constancy to me, together with my beloved brother in Christ, Master Jerome, because I imagine he also will suffer death, as I have gathered from the commissioners of the Council.
On the following letter Luther (Ep. Piiss. G. 1) comments: ‘A beautiful instance of that spiritual experience of which the apostle Paul speaks—“Strength is made strong in weakness.” ’
This letter, without date, is attributed by Palackẏ to June 5, presumably early in the morning. But the audience that day was too hurried to well fulfil the conditions of the last clause. We think it is better to take it as written with a view to the adjourned audience. In the effects of this audience, after his former experience, Hus has ceased to have much confidence.
To Peter Mladenowic
I dare not rashly say with St. Peter that I shall never be offended in Christ, although all should be offended,1 seeing that I have incomparably less zeal and courage than he. For Christ has never plainly called me blessed like Peter,2 nor has He promised me so many gifts: the attack too is fiercer, more bewildering, and carried on by more numerous foes. Therefore what I say is that, having hope in Christ Jesus, I intend, so long as I shall hear His message,3 to cleave to the truth with your help and that of the saints, even unto death. If Baron John [of Chlum] incurs loss by reason of his expectations about myself, make it up to him, dear Peter, pending your return, so far as concerns the master of the Mint and his wife, who boldly pledged their credit,4 and also as regards my other friends, known to the rector who read with me.1 If I have a horse left with a car, it ought to go to Baron John. Master Martin, however, if he is alive—or, at any rate, Master Christian, in whom I have complete confidence2 —will make you a payment from the four guineas—I wish I could say ten guineas! But no sum of money, be assured, can adequately repay your fervent, steadfast, loyal love of the truth and the kind offices and considerations you have shown me in my troubles. May God be your exceeding reward, for I have naught to reward you with. If I ever should live in Prague again, I should like you to share everything with me as freely as my own brother; but the possibility of my return to Prague depends entirely upon the grace of God. I desire it not, if it is not the will of our Father Who is in heaven. My travelling breviary,3 which I bequeathed to Master Martin, will pass into the possession4 of some one of the friends still with me. Dispose of my books according to the instructions I gave to Master Martin,5 and accept any of Wyclif’s works you care to have. At present my chief distress is over our brethren, who, I imagine, will suffer persecution unless the Lord lay bare His arm; and I fear that many may be offended. Please, now as ever, give my affectionate greetings to all the Bohemian and Polish nobles, together with my thanks—and especially Baron Wenzel, etc., whom I desire to see present at the hearing of my case. Farewell in Christ Jesus.
On the 7th Hus was again brought before the Council. The friary was surrounded by the town guard, and at an early hour the Council assembled for Mass. While the ritual was proceeding the sun was eclipsed, to the consternation of all. An hour later, about 8 a.m., Hus was brought before the court. This time Sigismund was present, so better order was maintained and more freedom given to the accused. Hus was first charged with holding Wyclif’s doctrine of remanence. This he denied. D’Ailli then went off into an argument to prove that Hus as a Realist was driven into remanence. Hus listened in patience, but when an Englishman took up the same tale he burst out: ‘This is the logic of school-lads.’ But another Englishman had the courage to declare: ‘Hus is right. What have these quibbles to do with a matter of faith?’
Zabarella then pointed out the number and standing of the witnesses against him. Hus replied that his witnesses were God and his conscience. ‘We cannot,’ retorted D’Ailli, ‘give our verdict according to your conscience, but according to the evidence.’ Hus had maintained that he was accused by his enemies, one of the few pleas to which the Inquisition ever attached importance. To this D’Ailli now turned: ‘You say that you suspect Palecz. Palecz has behaved with the greatest kindness. He has extracted the articles in a milder way than they are contained in your book. You go so far as to call the Chancellor of Paris your enemy, than whom you cannot find in all Christendom a more renowned doctor.’
One by one the old controversies and disputes were brought into court: the forty-five articles, the burning of the books, the expulsion of the Germans, and the rest. The day ended with some plain advice from Sigismund. He owned that he had given Hus a safe-conduct. As regards those who claimed that this was ultra vires, he was not careful to answer in the matter: ‘for I have told them that I will not defend any heretic who is obstinately determined to stick to his heresy. So I counsel you to fling yourself wholly on the grace of the Council; the quicker the better, lest you fall into a worse plight.’ Hus was then removed to the prison (Mladenowic’s Relatio in Doc. 276-85).
That same evening Hus wrote to his friends, giving a vivid account of the day’s proceedings.
To his Friends staying on in Constance
I, Master John Hus, in hope a servant of Jesus Christ, earnestly desiring that Christ’s faithful ones may take no occasion of scandal after my decease through deeming me an obstinate heretic, as they call me, do hereby write these words as a memorial to the firends of the truth, calling Christ Jesus to witness, for Whose law I have been longing to die: First, in very many private hearings, and subsequently in public hearings before the Council, I declared that I was willing to submit myself to guidance and control, to recantation and to punishment, if I were convinced that I had written, taught, or in my reply stated aught that had been contrary to the truth. Furthermore, fifty doctors, commissioned, according to their own statement, by the Council, after being frequently censured by me for false extracts from the articles, and that too in a public hearing before the Council, declined to give me any instruction in private, nay, declined to confer with me, saying, “You have to abide by the Council’s decision”;2 while the Council, on my quoting, in a public hearing, the words of Christ or of the holy doctors, either derided me or said they could not understand me, and the doctors stated that I was bringing in irrelevant arguments. However, one of the cardinals, prominent in the Council and a member of the Commission,3 said in the public hearing of my case, holding a paper in his hands: “Here is an argument propounded by a master of theology:1 reply to it.” It was the argument about the common essence which, I maintained, is present in the elements. He afterwards broke down, though reputed to be a most learned doctor of theology, so I went on to give him an account of the common created essence which is the first created esse, imparted to each several creature, and from which he wished to prove the remanence of the material bread. However, he soon came to the end of his tether and was reduced to silence. Then at once an English doctor2 rose to carry on the discussion, but he broke down in the same way. He was followed by another English doctor, who in a private hearing had remarked to me that Wyclif wanted to destroy all learning,3 and that in each of his books and in his logical reasoning he laid down erroneous positions. He rose to his feet and began to discuss the multiplication of the body of Christ in the host; and broke down in his argument. When told to be quiet, he shouted out, “This fellow is cleverly deceiving the Council; have a care lest the Council be deceived as it was by Berengarius.”4 When he had finished, a man began a noisy speech on the created common esse; but the crowd shouted him down. I stood up, however, and asked that he might be heard, while I said to him, “Stick to your argument; I should like to answer you.” But he broke down like the others, and muttered in a temper, “It’s heresy.” What a clamour, what hootings, hissings, and blasphemy arose against me in that assembly, is well known to Barons Wenzel de Duba and John of Chlum and Peter his secretary, brave soldiers and lovers of God’s truth that they are. Though I was often overwhelmed by the loud uproar, I said at last, “I thought that in this Council there would be greater reverence, piety, and discipline.” Whereupon Sigismund ordered silence, and they all began to listen. But the Cardinal who presided over the Council1 said, “You talked more humbly at the castle.”2 “Yes,” said I, “because no one was shouting at me then, but here every one is crying me down.” He answered, “This is what the Council wants to know: do you wish to stand by your request for instruction?” “Yes,” said I “most certainly, according to my protests.” He replied, “Take this for the instruction you want: the doctors declare that the articles extracted from your books are erroneous: you ought to withdraw them and abjure the views charged against you by witnesses.” Sigismund, however, said, “You shall have a written statement shortly, and you will reply to that.” The Cardinal said: “This will take place at the next hearing.” The Council then adjourned. God knows what temptations I suffered after it was all over.
After a night of sleepless pain, ‘toothache, vomiting, headache, and stone,’ Hus was brought up for his final hearing. Sigismund once more was present. Thirty-nine articles extracted from his De Ecclesia and other works were presented against him, and read aloud by an English delegate. Then Hus was allowed to make his limitations and exceptions. But one work, as Hus tells us (infra, p. 218), was not in evidence. Other charges were also introduced: his sermons to the laity against scandalous priests, and especially his celebration of the sacraments while still under excommunication. When Hus owned to this last, Zabarella made a sign to the notary that special record should be made. On the whole the trial was kept well in hand, in spite of the temptation of side issues. One interlude, however, is historical. Hus was defending the famous tenet of Wyclif: ‘If a pope, bishop, or prelate is in mortal sin, then he is not a pope, bishop, or prelate.’ He added incautiously that it applied to temporal rulers; ‘a king in mortal sin is not really a king in the sight of God.’ Sigismund was leaning at that moment out of one of the windows telling Frederick of Nuremberg ‘that in all Christendom there was not a greater heretic than Hus.’ The Council saw their opportunity. ‘Call the King,’ shouted the prelates; ‘bring him here, for this matter concerns him.’ ‘John Hus,’ said Sigismund with dignity, when Hus had repeated his statement, ‘no one lives without sin.’ ‘It is not enough for you,’ said D’Ailli, ‘that you try by your writings and teachings to decry and overthrow the spiritual estate, you now wish to hurl down the throne and royal power.’ Hus tried to turn the tide by asking, ‘If John XXIII. was truly Pope, why was he deposed?’ ‘Baldassarre,’ answered Sigismund, ‘was truly Pope, but was deposed from the Papacy on account of his notorious crimes.’ Hus then fell back on a fine distinction between ‘quoad meritum’ and ‘quoad officium,’ and the arguments drifted off to the stock illustrations of Judas and Pope Joan (cf. supra, p. 125, n. 2).
At length D’Ailli summed up the decision of the Council. Hus must publicly recant and abjure. ‘I am prepared,’ answered Hus, ‘to obey the Council, and to be taught; but I beseech you in the name of God, do not lay snares of damnation for me by compelling me to tell a lie, and abjure articles I never held.’ As he spoke of his conscience, many mocked. ‘Did your conscience,’ they cried, ‘ever teach you that you had erred?’ ‘A fat priest, sitting in the window in a splendid garment, called out that he ought not to be allowed to abjure. If he retract he will not mean it.’ But Sigismund pleaded with Hus, and asked wherein lay his difficulty in retracting errors that on his own showing he was unwilling to hold. ‘That, my lord king,’ answered Hus, ‘is not what they mean by abjuring.’ After a further warning from Sigismund, ‘I stand,’ replied Hus, ‘at the judgment seat of God, who will judge us all according to our merits.’
As he was led back ‘in chains’ to prison, Chlum managed to grasp his hand, ‘though now rejected by all,’ a matter which gave Hus much comfort (see p. 221). Sigismund on his part addressed the assembly: ‘One only of the charges proved against Hus would suffice for his condemnation. If, therefore, he be unwilling to adjure and preach against his errors, let him be burnt, or do with him according to your laws. . . . Wherever his disciples be found, let the bishops tear them up root and branch. Make an end therefore of his secret disciples. I have to go away soon, so begin with that fellow what’s his name?’ ‘Jerome,’ they shouted. ‘Yes, Jerome. I was a boy when this sect first started in Bohemia. See what it has grown into now’ (Doc. 308-15).
This speech, duly reported by the listening Chlum and Mladenowic, cost Sigismund years of warfare and the crown of Bohemia. This hounding on of the Council to the breach of his own safe-conduct was never forgiven.
The same night Hus wrote as follows to his friends in Constance. He realised clearly now that there was but one issue. A second letter, also without date, was written while the memory of Chlum’s warm grasp of the hand was still fresh.
To his Friends in Constance
I am very glad that the Occultus is hidden!1 I have had more good food during these days than all the time from Easter to last Sunday.2 I thought there would be more order and dignity in the Council.3 A blessing for ever on my Lord John! Would that I knew how Barbatus1 is faring; he would not take the advice of his friends. They have my book,2 so I am in no need at the present of that paper. Keep a copy of the first articles with my proofs attached3 for the sake of proving any of them, should there be need; attest them with your signature where I have put a cross,4 especially this article: “Whatever a virtuous man doth, he doth virtuously.”5
At this moment I am racked with toothache, and I suffered agonies in my cell with vomiting, hemorrhage, headache, and stone. These are the penalties I pay for my sins, and the tokens of God’s love to me.
Since they have only condemned the treatises,6 please qualify my last Czech letter which I sent off to-day,7 that God’s people may not suppose that all my books have been condemned, as I imagined when I wrote my letter of yesterday. I would like to be assured that no letter written in prison shall be made public to any one, because it is not yet finally settled what God will do with me! I am afraid that a letter of mine hath been forwarded by the hands of Ulrich.8 For God’s sake I beg you to look well after the letters and also your words and doings. What a comfort your letters and my own have been to me! I trust by God’s grace they will be used for men’s good. So long as I know that you and the nobles are in Constance, I am comforted even supposing that I am now to be led forth to death. I verily think that God sent you as angels to cheer me in my weakness and misery in the midst of my sore trials; how great they have been, are, and are yet to be, God omnipotent knoweth Who is my mercy and refuge, my helper and my deliverer: in Him have I trusted.1
I was asked to-day by two persons who were sent to the prison, whether I had any more books of my own composition. I said, “Yes.” They replied, “Where?” I said, “In Bohemia.” They then inquired whether I had them here. My answer was, “No, not one, although I brought a Bible and other things in addition to the Sentences.”2 And now I have heard that my clerk John has left.3 They said, “Have you no other conclusions to offer?” I replied, “No,” which is true. “Do you wish to abjure and recant?” said they. “Come to the Council,” was my reply; “you will hear me there, as I have to stand before it and make my reply to it. Why do you trouble me? Have you come to cheer the prisoner or disturb him?” Whereupon after some further speech they withdrew.
Look after the books. I do not know if you have them. Tell Master Jesenicz that the notary has unfairly altered my deposition as to the gloss of the edict, as indeed you heard; for I stated this publicly in the Council.1
To the Same
I love the counsel of the Lord more than gold and topazes;3 therefore I hope by the mercy of Jesus Christ that He will grant me His Spirit, to the end that I may stand firm in the truth; for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.4 The Lord Almighty be the eternal reward of my nobles, who steadfastly, stoutly, and faithfully stand on the side of justice. God will grant them to understand aright the truth in the kingdom of Bohemia. But to pursue the truth they must return to Bohemia laying aside all vainglory to follow a King that cannot die, a Man of sorrows but yet a King of glory Who hath the gift of eternal life.
How delightful it was to shake hands with 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. I shall not perchance have much further speech with you. So greet all the faithful Bohemians when you see them. Palecz came to see me in prison when I was very ill. The greeting he gave me before the Commissioners1 was this: “Since the birth of Christ, there hath not arisen a more dangerous heretic than yourself, excepting Wyclif.” He went on to say, “Every one that hath heard you preach is infected with this heresy of yours that the substance of the material bread remains in the sacrament of the altar.” “Oh! master,” said I, “what a dreadful greeting this is, and what a dreadful sin you are guilty of! I shall die or be burnt, if perchance I rise from my sick bed. What reward then will be given you in Bohemia?” and so on. Perhaps I ought not to have written this; it may look as if I hated him sorely. These words are ever in my heart: Put not your trust in princes, etc.;2 and again: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm.3 For God’s sake be careful while you are here and when you return. Carry no letters. Forward books by friends sparingly.
You ought to know for a fact that I have had a struggle not to disclose my dreams;4 for I dreamt of the Pope’s flight before it took place; and after telling Lord John, he said that very night, “You will see him again.” I dreamt too of Master Jerome’s imprisonment, though not in its actual form; of my own imprisonments also, where I should be taken and how they were disclosed, although not in their actual form. I have often had apparitions of hosts of serpents with heads at their tails, but not one was able to bite me; and many other visions. I am telling you of these, not because I suppose myself to be a prophet and am puffed up, but to show you that I suffered temptation both of body and mind and what I have been most afraid of, to wit, that I might transgress the command of Jesus Christ. The words of Master Jerome came to my mind: “If I come to the Council, methinks I shall never return.” Andrew the Pole, a worthy tailor, said to me also when bidding me farewell:1 “God be with you; I think you will not come back.” Beloved in God, faithful and loyal knight, my Lord John [Chlum], the King of heaven—not of Hungary—grant you an everlasting reward for your loyalty and the toils you undertake on my behalf!
From June 8 until the final scene Hus remained in prison at the Franciscan convent. As his letters show, every day he expected that it would prove to be his last. He little anticipated the four weeks’ respite, if such a name may be attached to the prolongation of his trials, cooped up in a narrow cell amid the sweltering heat of a June that drove Sigismund and others to seek a cooler retreat in the fields. This month’s grace was not as a rule granted to the victims of the Inquisition, unless indeed they were condemned to linger out the remnant of their days in some lonely cell. But Sigismund and the Council were both anxious to obtain a professed penitent, whom they could send back to Bohemia reduced by his recantation to powerlessness. To obtain this end they exhausted, as the Letters of Hus show us, the resources of casuistry. Learned doctors and others plied him with all manner of ingenious illustrations, while great ‘Fathers’ of the Council went out of their way to offer him convenient ‘baskets’ (p. 240), in which, as Paul, he might be ‘let down’ over the wall. But to all their blandishments Hus stood firm.
The student should understand clearly, what Sigismund had shown that he for one did not see (p. 218), the real point at issue between Hus and the Council, the ground on which he was executed. Hus was a martyr not so much to his convictions of the untruth of current beliefs, as because of his fidelity to conscience. As regards his heresies, he was, as he repeatedly told the Council, willing to abjure. Without the individuality of Wyclif, he was also without Wyclif’s clear conception of the value of the individual judgment. He expressly yielded himself, not once nor twice only, to the teaching of the Church. But he could not acknowledge that he recanted heresies which he had always stoutly disclaimed, and which the Council had attributed to him along with doctrines to which he confessed. ‘Serene Prince,’ said Hus to Sigismund, ‘I do not want to cling to any error, and I am perfectly willing to submit to the determination of the Council. But I may not offend God and my conscience by saying that I hold heresies that I have never held.’ For Hus truth was supreme: ‘I have said that I would not for a chapel full of gold recede from the truth.’ ‘I know,’ he had written in 1412, ‘that the truth stands and is mighty for ever, and abides eternally, with whom there is no respect of persons.’ Throughout his letters his chief anxiety is ‘lest liars should say that I have slipped back from the truth I preached.’ Few scenes in history are more touching or ennobling than the fidelity with which Hus refused to swerve from absolute truth even to save his life. He realised that it was better that he should burn than confess that he had ever held doctrines which his soul abhorred, as, for instance, the monstrous article alleged against him by a nameless doctor ‘that he had stated that he was the fourth person in the Trinity!’ (Doc. 318). To Sigismund and worldlings of that ilk recantation of such a charge seemed a bagatelle; the falser the charge the easier to recant. But Hus thought otherwise. To Sigismund the breach of a safe-conduct was a mere matter of expediency; to Hus a falsehood, however great its purchasing power, was a strain upon the soul that no mere “authority” could either sanction or pardon (p. 89).
Hus “followed the gleam” to the end, not counting the cost. It is this emphasis by Hus of the great modern idea that the foundations of truth lie, not so much in unreasoning authority, as in the appeal which it makes to man’s consciousness and conscience—the two are often one—that gives to the last letters of Hus their undying value, and marks at the same time the rise of a new age. As Bishop Creighton well points out: “A new spirit had arisen in Christendom when a man felt that his life and character had been so definitely built up round opinions which the Church condemned, that it was easier for him to die than to resign the truths which made him what he was.”1 But of the truth of our estimate of the value and importance of these last letters the reader can judge for himself.
The letters of this last month for the most part are without date, nor are we anxious to date them. They are letters that deal with the great eternal principles and struggles of the soul. With these the time element has little concern.
The following letter is dated by Palackẏ as written before the trial. The whole tone of the letter, especially clause two, leads us to attribute it to the three weeks between the trial and the final scene, when Hus was visited by deputation after deputation anxious to overcome what they deemed the scruples of an overnice conscience. Luther’s comment to this epistle prefixed in the Epistolæ Piissimæ is most just: ‘Hus fights another battle between the flesh and the spirit over the confession of truth, a fight worthy of the knowledge of pious men.’
To his Friends staying on in Constance
I still urge you for God’s sake not to let any one get a look at my letters, nor let them be made public, because I am afraid of the risk to individuals. Be careful both in word and in action. Veit, if he is to remain here, ought to be very careful.2 I have, further, rejoiced greatly at the news that my gracious lord hath arrived.3 Our Saviour restored Lazarus to life after he had lain four days in the grave. He preserved Jonah for three days in the fish, and sent him forth again to his preaching. He rescued Daniel from the lions’ den to write his prophecies. He saved the three children from the flames in the fiery furnace. He delivered Susannah when already sentenced and going forth to death.1 Would He not therefore be able likewise to liberate me, poor John Hus, from prison and from death if it should be for His glory, the welfare of the faithful, and my greater good? His power is not shortened, Who by the angel released Peter from prison, when the chains fell off from his hands on the eve of his being brought forth to death in Jerusalem. His will ever be done! I pray that it may be fulfilled in me for His glory and for my sins.
One of the doctors said to me that, whatever I did, I should submit to the Council, though my whole case was good and in order, and added, “If the Council told you, ‘You have only one eye,’ although you have two, you ought to agree with the Council that it is so.” To which I replied, “If the whole world told me so, as long as I have the use of my reason, I could not say so without resisting my conscience.” But after some further talk he withdrew his remark, and said, “You are right; I did not give you a very good illustration.”
The Lord is with me as a mighty warrior. “The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?” At these times I often sing to Him the response, Lord, I suffer violence; answer Thou for me.2 I know not what I shall say to my enemies. The Lord be with you.
To Henry Skopek de Duba
To the generous Lord Henry of Duba, my faithful and beloved lord. I commend you, my dear lord, to God. Fear Him as the Lord Almighty, love Him as the Father most holy, ever aim at Him in mind, works, and desire. For His sake carefully abstain from sin, do all the good you can, and be not afraid of the adversities of this world. For He is a Master that surely rewardeth wrongdoing, Who will not cause His faithful servant to be in need, will not weary him nor spoil him; but the more he serves, the more will He enrich him, strengthen him, and make him a better man. He cannot forsake His servant, nor will He leave Him outside; for He said, “Where I am, there will My servant be also.”2 He doth not dismiss a faithful servant even if He requires him not, nor can his goods and sustenance be cut off. He hath served His servant before His servant served Him, seeing that for His servant’s sake He suffered a shameful and cruel death after enduring insults, shame, buffeting, scourging, and spitting. Oh, how wretched is that servant who doth not dare for such a Master to risk his good name and possessions, or even to suffer shame! He knoweth not that he will most surely lose what he so miserably desires to keep, and a greater good withal; for in this life he will keep men’s goodwill, paltry, slight, and fickle, but when he departs this life he will incur the hatred of all, both men and devils and angels, and thus, by reason of his poor-spirited service, he will lose eternal joy and grace.
To a Friend
[Forward this letter on parchment to Lord Henry Skopek, because it was in memory of him that I kept it by me in prison, and composed those verses in my leisure moments.]
Lord Henry,1 faithful friend in God, remember the good you have learnt from me and observe it, that you may presently attain to the heavenly joy. Remember that I said, “I hope God will send further trials to me.” I am writing the letters on the Sunday before the Feast of St. Vitus, in expectation of death.
The following letter is of great interest historically, as throwing light upon the way in which Hus himself regarded the matter of the safe-conduct. But his reflections after the event are not altogether fair to Sigismund’s intentions, and the statement concerning Lord Mikess Diwoky is hard to understand.
To his Bohemian Friends
I am very pleased about Peter.2 I do not keep his letters, but destroy them at once. Big sheets3 should not be sent to me, for I am afraid of the risk to the messenger and other persons. I beg you for God’s sake to get all the nobles to petition Sigismund in a body for a final hearing, because he was the only one in the Council to say that at the next hearing I should be allowed to reply briefly in writing. His confusion will be great if that promise is unfulfilled.1 But methinks his word is as little to be trusted as in the matter of the safe-conduct. They told me in Bohemia to beware of that safe-conduct. Others said, “He will hand you over to your enemies.” Lord Mikess Diwoky2 remarked to me in the presence of Master Jesenicz, “Master, you may take it for certain that you will be condemned.” I imagine he knew the King’s intentions. I thought that God’s law and truth would be his wisdom, only I fancy he has not much wisdom. He passed judgment upon me before my enemies did. If he had only held to the method of the Gentile Pilate who, on hearing the charges, said, “I find no fault in this man,”3 or, at least, if he had said, “I gave him a safe-conduct; if he doth not wish to abide by the decision of the Council, I will send him back to the King of Bohemia with your verdict and findings, in order that his Majesty, along with his clergy, may pass judgment on him”! Indeed, he sent word to me by Lord Henry Lefl4 and others that he desired to arrange a satisfactory hearing for me, and if I did not accept the judgment he would send me back again in safety.
To all the People of Bohemia5
Master John Hus, a servant of God in hope, to all the faithful Bohemians who love and will love God, praying that God may grant them to live and die in His grace and dwell for ever in the heavenly joy. Amen.
Faithful and beloved of God, lords and ladies, rich and poor! I entreat you and exhort you to love God, to spread abroad His word, and to hear and observe it more willingly. I entreat you to hold fast the truth of God, which I have written and preached to you from the Holy Scriptures and the utterances of His saints. I entreat you also, if any have heard in my preaching or private conversation that which is opposed to God’s truth, or if I have ever written anything of that kind—I trust God that it is not so—not to hold to it. I entreat you, if any have noticed frivolity in my words or actions, not to imitate it, but to pray God that it may please Him to pardon me.1 I entreat you to love and commend and cultivate priests of good life—especially those that are earnest students of Holy Writ. I entreat you to beware of deceitful men, and particularly of wicked priests, of whom the Saviour saith that they are in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.2 I entreat you to be kind to the poor and to rule them justly. I entreat all citizens to be righteous in their business dealings. I entreat all artisans faithfully to follow their craft and take delight in it. I entreat all servants to be faithful servants of their masters and mistresses. I entreat masters to live a good life and faithfully to instruct their scholars, especially that they may love God and learn to give themselves to knowledge, in order to promote His honour, the welfare of the state, and their own salvation, but not for the sake of avarice or the praise of man. I entreat students of letters and other scholars to obey their masters in things good, to imitate them, and diligently apply themselves to letters for the sake of God’s honour and their own salvation and that of other men. I entreat all the people to give thanks to Baron Wenzel of Duba, otherwise of Leštna, Baron John of Chlum, Lord Henry of Plumlow,1 Lord William Zajiic,2 Lord Myssa,3 and the other nobles in Bohemia and Moravia, and the faithful nobles of the kingdom of Poland, and ever gratefully to remember their zeal in having often resisted, as God’s brave defenders and helpers of His truth, the whole of the Council, telling them what they ought to do, and making replies with a view to my liberty, more especially Baron Wenzel of Duba and Baron John of Chlum. Give credence to them, whatever their account of the proceedings shall be; for they were present at the Council when I pleaded my cause, for several days. They know which of the Bohemians trumped up disgraceful charges against me, and how many those charges were, how the whole Council shouted against me, and how I replied to the questions which were put to me. I entreat you also to make supplication on behalf of his Majesty the King of Rome and Bohemia, of your Queen4 and nobles, that the God of love may abide with them in grace, both now and hereafter in eternal joy.
I write this letter to you in prison, bound with chains and expecting on the morrow the sentence of death, yet fully trusting in God that I shall not swerve from His truth nor swear denial of the errors, whereof I have been charged by false witnesses. What grace God hath shown me, and how He helps me in the midst of strange temptations, you will know when by His mercy we meet in joy in His presence. Of Master Jerome, my beloved friend, I hear nothing1 except that he too, like myself, is in a noisome prison waiting for death, and that on account of his faith which he showed so earnestly to the Bohemians. The Bohemians are our fiercest enemies,2 and have put us under the power and custody of other adversaries: pray for them, I beseech you. Also I entreat you, especially people of Prague, to support the chapel at Bethlehem, so far as God shall permit His holy word to be preached there. It is on account of that chapel that the devil hath blazed forth with anger, and it is against it that he hath aroused parish priests and cathedral clergy; in truth he felt that his kingdom was being overthrown in that place. I trust that God will preserve that chapel as long as it is His pleasure,3 and cause greater good to be done there by others than by me, His unprofitable servant. I entreat this too of you, that ye love one another, defend good men from violent oppression, and give every one an opportunity of hearing the truth. I am writing this with the help of a good angel4 on Monday night before St. Vitus’s Day.5
To Henry Skopek de Duba1
God be with you, my dear lord! Your notes reached me on Wednesday before St. Vitus’s Day.2 I looked at them with a happy heart, although in prison, bound with chains and expecting my death-sentence. I entreat you, dear lord, live as the law of God commands and observe what you have heard from my lips: if there hath been aught of wrong therein, spurn it. Nevertheless I trust, by the Saviour’s mercy, you have learnt nothing from me that hath been contrary to His holy will. I cannot write at length; but in a few words I counsel you to keep in your heart God’s counsels, to be kind to the poor, to abstain from pride, to lead a chaste life, and to remember these words: “What thou art, what thou wert, what thou wilt be, ever ponder: ponder too the matter, the place, the subject, the ‘why,’ the ‘how,’ the ‘when’ of thy words.”3 Dear lord, remember me, and give my greeting to your wife and family and all my friends; for you will never methinks look upon my face again, as I am every moment expecting the sentence of death. Sent off on Thursday before St. Vitus’s Day. God be with you, dear Bohemians, and with me a sinner; it is for His holy law that I suffer.
To Master Martin, his Disciple1
Master Martin, my dear disciple and brother in Christ! Live according to Christ’s gospel and put on diligence that you may preach the word of God. I beg you, for God’s sake, love not a fine garment Alas! I loved and wore one, thus giving no example of humility to the people I preached to. Delight to read the Bible, and especially the New Testament; and where you do not understand, refer at once to the commentators when you have them at hand. Beware of talking with women, and especially be careful in hearing their confessions, lest you be caught in the snare of wantonness; for I trust you have been preserved a chaste virgin2 unto God. Do not be afraid to die for Christ, if you would live with Christ. For He Himself saith: Fear ye not them that kill the body and are not able to kill the soul.3 If they shall charge you with complicity in my heresy,4 say, “I hope my master was a good Christian; but as to what he wrote and taught by way of protest in the schools, I did not understand it all, nor did I read it through.” I think you will find things are as I say; but I hope by the mercy of God and by the help of good men that they will let you depart in peace, though Palecz and his party are striving to get a summons against all my adherents.5 Be assured that the Lord still lives, Who will be able to keep you all steadfast in His grace and to put to death and destroy in hell the enemies of the truth.
I commend my brethren to you; treat them as you know how, dear friend. I trust you will give my greetings to the holy Petra with Duora and her family, and to all the friends belonging to the Bethlehem, Katherine called Hus, a holy virgin, I hope, Girzik1 the rector, the lady of Zderaz, Michael of Prachaticz, Maurice Kačer, and all the friends of the truth, Ješkonissa, Gregory, and all the masters, Jesenicz, Kuba, the two Simons, Nicholas and Hawlik.2 Whoever hath the books, or is to have them, must be careful with them. Greet the doctors my beloved brethren in Christ, the shoemakers, the tailors, and the book-writers also, asking them to be zealous for Christ’s gospel and to be ‘lowly wise’ and not to use their own glosses, but those of the doctors of the Church. Ask without fail Lord Henry Lefl to give a guinea to James, the book-writer, as he promised to him. Greet Matthew, once a member at the Bethlehem, and Matthew Chudy, especially that he may pray for me a sinner, and the faithful John Vitlin. If you think proper, apprentice the sons of my brother to a craft, for I fear they would not guard an ecclesiastical calling as they ought, should they take to it. Make such repayment as you can to my creditors, who have my bond. Should they wish to let me off for God’s sake and out of love to me, God will give them the more. Hold fast whatever good you learnt from me. If you saw anything unseemly in me, cast it from you and pray God that it may please Him to spare me. “Ponder always what you are, what you were, what you will be” (supra, p. 234.) Mourn the past, mend the present, beware of the future—I am speaking of sins. May the God of all grace strengthen you in His grace with all the brethren named above and the others likewise, and may He bring you to glory, in which, I trust, we shall all rejoice together by His mercy, before thirty years have passed away. Farewell evermore, my dear brother in Christ Jesus, with all who love the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Written in prison on Sunday after the Feast of St. Vitus.
The two following letters of Hus introduce us to a most interesting episode in these last dark days, and show us some of the influences brought to bear upon the Reformer to induce him to be false to himself, and to recant. Every artifice of casuistry was employed to bring out this result; and leaders of the Council added their persuasions. Among these leaders was one whose name we do not know, but whom Hus here calls the “Father.” Of his kindly feelings towards the Reformer Hus has already told us; he was the only one in all the Council upon whose sympathies Hus could count (p. 208). In the following letter the “Father” tried to persuade Hus to yield to the Council’s demands. The letter is without date, and is anonymous, though several copies of it have been preserved for us. Unfortunately not even Mladenowic has added in the margin the name of the writer. Luther in the Epist. Piissimæ identified “Pater” with John Cardinalis, whom he mistakenly took to be John de Bronhiaco (p. 216 n.), Cardinal of Ostia, the president of the Council. That this cannot be “Pater” seems to me clear from the first sentence of his letter on p. 240. If we are to look among the cardinals I should incline to Zabarella, who at the Council on June 8 had promised Hus that he would send ‘a form of abjuration sufficiently guarded’ (Doc. 309). The legal reference in the last clause of his second letter is suitable to one who was the pre-eminent canonist of the Council; while his rank would account for his desire to be anonymous. But any identification is at the best a mere guess, and Zabarella’s after conduct does not lend weight to the surmise.
The “Father’s” first letter took the shape of a form of recantation, which Hus was to fill up and sign. Hus in his reply points out his real difficulty. Though not very clearly put, there is no note of faltering.
The “Father” to Master John Hus
A form suggested by the “Father” to John Hus for giving in his submission to the decision of the Council, abjuring and recanting.
I being so and so, etc. Over and above the declarations made by me, which I desire to be understood as repeated, I declare anew that although much is laid to my charge which never entered my mind; none the less in the matter of all the charges brought forward, whether raised against myself or extracted from my books or even the depositions of witnesses, I hereby submit myself humbly to the merciful appointment, decision, and correction of the most holy General Council, to abjure, to revoke, to recant, to undergo merciful penance, and to do all things and several that the said most holy Council in its mercy and grace shall deem fit to ordain for my salvation, commending myself to the same with the utmost devotion.
Master John Hus to the “Father”
May the Father Almighty, most wise and most loving, be pleased to grant to my “Father,” highly esteemed for Christ Jesus’s sake, the everlasting life of glory.
Reverend Father, I am truly grateful for your pious and fatherly kindness. I dare not submit myself to the Council in the terms you have suggested, because thereby I should have to condemn many truths which, as I have heard from their own lips, they call “scandalous,” and also because I should be guilty of perjury if I abjured and confessed that I have held erroneous views; and thereby I should greatly scandalise God’s people who have heard the contrary in my preaching. If then the holy Eleazar, who lived under the old law, and of whom we read in Maccabees,1 refused to make a lying confession that he had eaten flesh forbidden by the law so as not to act against God’s will and to leave an evil example to his descendants, how could I, a priest of the new law, albeit unworthy, for fear of a penalty which will soon be over, be guilty of the more grievous sin of breaking God’s law? In the first place, I should err from the truth, in the second I should commit perjury, and thirdly I should be a stumbling-block to my neighbours. Assuredly it is fitting for me rather to die than to flee a momentary penalty to fall into the Lord’s hand and afterwards, perchance, into everlasting fire and shame. And because I have appealed to Christ Jesus,2 the most potent and just of all judges, committing my cause to Him, therefore I stand by His judgment and sentence, knowing that He will judge every man not on false and erroneous evidence but on the true facts and merits of the case.
The “Father” was not satisfied with this reply, or with the appeal with which the letter had concluded. Probably he did not discern the real difficulty of Hus from his reply. At any rate, he would make one more effort. His next letter is a most interesting piece of casuistry and special pleading. The last sentences would seem to indicate sympathy with the life and spirit of Hus. If so, they rule out Zabarella, or for that matter any cardinal.
Hus in his reply was uncompromising in his rejection of the ‘basket’ which the “Father” offered for his escape. With this reply the incident closed, and the “Father” left Hus to his fate. But he was still pestered by others eager to prove their powers of argument, among them, we learn with interest, by an old Augustinian monk, the delegate from Luther’s university, Erfurt. ‘No theologian,’ cried the enthusiastic chronicler, ‘was able to overcome Hus in argument save that old father alone.’
The “Father” to Master John Hus
In the first place, my most dearly beloved brother, do not be moved by the fact that thou condemnest certain truths; for judgment is not passed by thee, but by those who are thy elders—yea, and our elders1 at the present time. Take heed to this word: “Lean not on thine own understanding.” There are many intellectual2 and conscientious men in the Council. Listen to the law of thy mother. So much for the first point.
Item, in the second place, as to perjury. If that were perjury, it would not recoil on thee, but on those who compel it.
Item, so far as thou art concerned, there are no heresies if thou cease from obstinacy. Augustine, Origen, the master of the Sentences, and others erred, but joyously came back. Several times I have believed that I understood aright some things wherein I was mistaken; when admonished, I came back with gladness.
Item, I write briefly, for I address one that understandeth. Thou wilt not swerve from the truth, but thou wilt draw nigh to it, and so be not worse off, but better. Thou wilt not be a stumbling-block, but a builder up. Eleazar the Jew had glory; the Jewess with her seven sons and the eight martyrs had more glory.3 None the less Paul was let down in a basket4 to gain greater blessings. The Lord Jesus, the Judge to whom thou hast appealed, grants thee release from thy appeal5 in these words: Still greater conflicts shall be given thee for the faith of Christ.
Master John Hus to the “Father”
The Council hath often made all these demands of me; but it is for the reason that they involve my recantation, abjuring, and the undergoing of penance, in which case I should have to give up many truths. Secondly, I should be forced to abjure, and so be a perjurer by admitting the errors which have been falsely laid to my charge. Thirdly, I should be a stumbling-block to many of God’s people to whom I have preached; for which cause it were fitting that a millstone were hanged about my neck and I be cast into the depths of the sea.1 Fourthly, if I took this course in my wish to escape a brief confusion and punishment, I should fall into the deepest confusion and punishment of all, unless I humbly repented before death. Therefore for my comfort I have bethought me of the seven Maccabean martyrs, who desired rather to be cut into pieces than to eat flesh contrary to the law of the Lord.2 I recall too the holy Eleazar, who, as it is written, refused only to say that he had eaten flesh forbidden by law, lest he should offer a bad example to posterity, but rather endured martyrdom. How, then, with the holy men and women of the gospel before my eyes, who gave themselves up to martyrdom rather than consent to sin, could I, who have preached on patience and constancy for so many years, be guilty of many falsehoods and of perjury, and so scandalise the children of God? Far be it from me; for Christ the Lord will abundantly reward me, by granting me strength to endure in this present life and glory in that which is to come.
The next letter of Hus is remarkable for the boldness with which Hus asserted his position, and the strong sarcasms it contains upon the actions of the Council in their treatment of Pope John. The reader will remember that Hus had attempted a diversion on this matter at his trial (see p. 217), and had been frustrated by Sigismund. Nor does Hus forget to expose the logical inconsistency of Palecz and Stanislaus. From first to last the letter contains no note of doubt or hesitation. Hus has faced the issues and decided. At one time he was willing to leave himself in the hands of the Council. Now he is convinced that the Council is not a trustworthy guide. In other respects the reader will note the growing decision and firmness of tone of his letters as the end draws nigh.
The letter is undated; nevertheless it contains some evidence of time. The ‘last copy of the articles,’ to which Hus refers on p. 244, were ‘the articles read against the doctrine and person of Hus on June 18 in public congregation,’ a copy of which, with Hus’s corrections in writing, has been preserved for us by Mladenowic (Doc. 225-33). Another mark of time will be found in the reference in the last paragraph to the decree of the Council forbidding the cup. This fatal decree, which deluged Bohemia with blood, was formally passed on June 15, 1415.
To his Friends in Constance
Most gracious lords, faithful zealots for the truth, my comforters in the truth, sent of God to my aid like angels! I cannot write fully of all the gratitude I feel for your constancy and the kindly offices you have shown to me a sinner, yet a servant in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ; but I pray that Jesus Christ Himself, our loving Creator, Redeemer, and Saviour, may reward you in this present life and grant to you Himself as the best recompense in that which is to come. Therefore I exhort you by His mercy to give heed to His gospel and especially to His most holy commands. My noble Baron Wenzel [Duba], take to yourself a wife,1 live holy in matrimony, and forsake the vanities of this world. And you, Baron John [Chlum], now that you have left the service of earthly kings,2 abide at home with your wife and children in the service of God; for you see how the wheel of the world’s vanity turns, now lifting a man up and anon setting him down, while it gives but a brief solace to the man it lifts up, for thereafter ensues the eternal punishment in fire and darkness.
You know now the manner of life of these spiritual folk, who assert that they are the true and evident vicars of Christ and His apostles, proclaiming themselves the Holy Church and the most Holy Council which cannot err; though indeed they did err when at the first they offered homage on bended knees to John XXIII., kissing his feet, and calling him most holy, when they knew he was ‘a shameful homicide, a Sodomite, a simoniac and a heretic,’ as indeed they afterwards phrased it in their condemnation of him.3 Now they have cut off the Church’s head, they have torn out the Church’s heart, they have drained the Church’s unfailing spring, they have made utterly to fail the all-sufficient unfailing refuge of the Church to which every Christian should flee. What becomes then of the opinion of Master Stanislaus of happy memory (God be merciful to him), of Palecz, and his fellow doctors, who laid down1 through Stanislaus that the Pope is the head of the Church, its all-sufficient ruler, its life-giving heart, its unfailing spring overflowing with authority, the channel by which all power descends to subordinates, the unfailing refuge which meets the needs of every Christian and to which every Christian should flee? Even now, believing Christendom exists without a Pope, that paragon of virtue! seeing that it has Christ Jesus as its Head to direct it best of all, Christ Jesus as its Heart to give life to it, the life of grace, Christ Jesus as its Fount, watering it with the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, Christ Jesus as its Channel, wherein flows all the rivers of His graces, Christ Jesus as its all-satisfying and unfailing Refuge, to which in my misery I run back with the steadfast hope that He will not fail me in direction, in renewal, and succour, but will deliver me from my sins and this present evil world and reward me with unending joy.
Moreover, the Council has erred three times or more by making wrong extracts from my books, by rejecting some of the articles whose meaning they have wrested and confused, and finally by curtailing some of them in the last copy of the articles, as will be clear to all who see the books and articles in question.2 Therefore I plainly conclude along with yourselves, that not everything that the Council doth, saith, or pronounces is approved of Christ, the truthful Judge. Blessed then are those who keep the gospel, and recognise, flee, and reject the pomp, the avarice, the hypocrisy and the craft of Antichrist and his ministers, while they look with patience for the coming of the righteous Judge.
I beseech you by the tender mercies of Jesus Christ to flee all evil-living priests, but to love those that are good according to their works; and as much as lieth in you, together with all the faithful, suffer not the barons and lords to oppress them: it was for this that God did set you over others. I imagine there will arise a great persecution in Bohemia against those who faithfully serve God, unless God lay bare His arm through the secular lords whom He hath enlightened by His gospel more fully than the lords spiritual. What madness to condemn as error the gospel of Christ and that epistle of Paul which he saith he received not of man but of Christ,1 aye, and to condemn the very act of Christ with the acts of His holy apostles and the other saints! I mean the communion of the sacrament of the cup2 of our Lord, instituted for all adult3 believers. They actually call it an error that believing laymen should be permitted to drink of the Lord’s cup, and if any priest should give them the cup to drink, he is, forsooth, to be dubbed erroneous; and if he doth not cease the practice, he must be condemned as a heretic!4 St. Paul thus saith to all believers: As often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of our Lord until Hecome1 —that is, until the Judgment Day, when He will come; and lo! it is now said that the custom of the Roman Church is the very opposite of this!
In the following letter Hus defines more clearly than he had done for the “Father” his real difficulty in accepting the Council’s ‘basket’ of escape. The end of the letter shows the peace of soul in which Hus was now living. On the same day he wrote a letter to Hawlik, the priest of the Bethlehem, in which he defined very clearly his views as to the decree of the Council withholding the cup. Hawlik, it would seem, was one of those to whom Chlum had referred, who had been disturbed by the matter (p. 169), and had not hesitated to attack Jakoubek
(see p. 177).
To his Friends in Constance
This is my final intention in the name of Jesus Christ: I refuse to confess that the articles which have been extracted in their proper sense are erroneous, and I refuse to abjure those which have been laid to my charge by false witnesses, because to abjure them is to confess that I held an error or errors; nor will I depart from them and hold the opposite. For God knows I never preached those errors, which they have concocted by withdrawing many truths and introducing falsehoods. If I were convinced that any of my articles were contrary to the truth, I would most gladly amend and revoke them, and teach and preach the opposite; but I think there is none of them contrary to the gospel of Christ and the teachings of the doctors of the Church, although called ‘scandalous’ and ‘erroneous’ by those they displease. Therefore, whatever false meaning be contained of my set purpose in any article whatsoever, I abhor it, and submit myself to the correction of my almighty and supreme Master, trusting that of His infinite mercy He will cleanse me from secret sins. I return thanks to all the barons of the kingdom of Bohemia, to knights and retainers, and especially to King Wenzel and to the Queen, for having shown me affection, and having piously entreated me, and for having earnestly striven for my release. I thank Sigismund too for all the kindness he hath shown me.1 I thank all the Bohemian and Polish lords for having loyally and steadfastly stood out for the truth and my liberty,2 and I yearn for the salvation of them all, both now in grace and hereafter in glory everlasting. May the God of all grace bring you alive in bodily and spiritual health to Bohemia, that there you may serve Christ as King and attain to the life of glory. Greet all my friends, whose names I cannot write down; for if I should write some names and omit others, I might be deemed a respecter of persons, and those whose names I omitted might suppose I had forgotten them or loved them not as I ought. Written in prison, in chains, on Friday before the feast of St. John Baptist.
in hope a servant of Jesus Christ, from the hope of Whom the devil could never, and will never, separate me, guided as I am by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
To Gallus (Hawlik1 ), Preacher in the Bethlehem
My beloved brother, Master2 Gallus, preacher of Christ’s word, do not oppose the sacrament of the Lord’s cup, which was instituted of Christ both of Himself and through His apostles. For there is no Scripture against it; but only a custom which hath grown up, as I think, through negligence. Only we ought not to follow custom, but the example and truth of Christ. Now3 the Council, on the plea of custom, hath condemned as an error the communion of the cup so far as the laity are concerned, and he who practises it must be punished as a heretic, unless he come to his senses. What a piece of wickedness, to condemn after all these years Christ’s institution as an error! I beg you for God’s sake cease your attack on Master Jakoubek,4 lest there be a schism among the faithful to the delight of the devil. Also, dear friend, prepare to suffer for the eating of the bread and the communion of the cup, and take a brave stand on Christ’s truth, laying aside all unlawful fears and comforting the other brethren in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will, I think, give you the arguments for the communion of the cup, which I wrote in Constance.5 Greet Christ’s faithful ones. Written in chains on the eve of the ten thousand soldier-martyrs (militum.1 )
In these last days the thoughts of Hus turned once more to his old friend and comrade in past struggles, Christian Prachaticz. Christian unfortunately, as the reader will remember, had somewhat fallen away. We feel the shadow of this fall cast over this last brief letter of Hus to one who had been at one period his closest correspondent.
(See supra, p. 196, n. 1.)
To Master Christian
Master Christian, my master and particular benefactor, take your stand on Christ’s truth and cling to the faithful. Do not be afraid; for the Lord will shortly grant you a defence and increase the number of Christ’s faithful ones. Be kind to the poor, as you have ever been. You have, I hope, kept your chastity and fled avarice; continue to flee it, and for your own sake do not be a pluralist. Ever hold fast the Church, that the faithful may flock to you as to a kind father. Greet affectionately Master Jakoubek and all friends of the truth. Written in chains, in expectation of being burnt.
Luther’s comment on the following beautiful letter will be, we think, the verdict of all its readers. ‘Read this,’ he wrote, ‘and you will rejoice.’ In no letter does Hus rise to serener heights of resignation and conviction. The last paragraph is especially beautiful, and in the copy which I have used of the Epistolæ Piissimæ they have been underlined by one who, long ago, gained comfort from them.
The Council evidently had not yet given up all hopes of procuring a recantation. Palecz, we note, is somewhat softening towards his old friend, but Michael is as relentless as ever. But the issue had passed from their hands.
To his Friends at Constance
Dear friends, I must tell you of what Palecz said when urging me not to trouble about the confusion of abjuring, but to consider the good that would come of it. I replied, “It is a greater confusion to be condemned and burnt than to abjure; how, then, can I be afraid of the confusion? But give me your own ideas; how would you act if you knew as a fact that you did not hold the errors ascribed to you? Would you be willing to abjure?” He replied, “It is a difficulty,” and began to weep. We discussed many other plans which I objected to. Michael, poor fellow, was several times at my prison with the deputies. When I was engaged with the deputies he said to the gaolers: “By God’s grace we shall soon burn this heretic who has cost me many a florin.” Understand that in writing this I do not yearn for vengeance on him; this I have left with God. I am praying for him with all my heart.
Once more I urge you to be careful with the letters. Michael hath arranged that no one is to be allowed in the prison; the gaolers’ wives are not allowed admission. O holy God, how widely hath Antichrist extended his cruel power! but I think it will be cut short, and his iniquity further stripped bare among the faithful people. God Almighty will strengthen the hearts of His faithful ones whom He hath chosen before the foundation of the world that they may receive an incorruptible crown. Let Antichrist rage as he will, he shall not prevail against Christ, Who shall slay him with the breath of His mouth,1 as saith the apostle. And then the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God, saith the apostle, adding, We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.2
I am greatly comforted by that saying of our Lord: Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you and shall reproach you and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake. Be glad in that day and rejoice; for behold your reward is great in heaven.1 A good greeting, nay, the best of all, yet difficult—I do not mean to understand, but—to live up to fully; for it bids us rejoice in those tribulations. It was a rule observed along with the other apostles by James, who saith: Count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience, and patience hath a perfect work.2 Verily, it is a difficult thing to rejoice with tranquillity, and to count it all joy in the midst of divers temptations. It is easy to quote and expound the words, but difficult to carry them out when that most patient and brave Soldier, although He knew He would rise again on the third day and overcome His foes by His death and redeem the elect from damnation, was yet after the last supper troubled in spirit, and said: My soul is sorrowful even unto death.3 Of Whom the gospel saith that He began to fear and to be heavy and sad; nay, being in an agony He was strengthened by an angel, and his sweat became as drops of blood trickling down upon the ground.4 Yet He, though thus troubled, said to His faithful ones: Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid; let it not be troubled5 because of my short absence nor let it be afraid of the cruelty of them that rage; for you will have Me for ever, and will overcome the cruelty of them that rage. Therefore, the soldiers of Christ looking to their leader, the King of glory, fought a great fight. They passed through fire and water, yet were saved alive, and received from the Lord God the crown of life, of which James in the canonical epistle saith: Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved he shall receive the crown of life which God hath promised to them that love him.1 That crown, I verily trust, the Lord will make me to share along with you also, warm-hearted zealots for the truth, and with all who steadfastly love the Lord Jesus, Who suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. It behoved Him to suffer, as He Himself saith; and it behoves us to suffer, that the members may suffer with the Head, Who saith: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.2
O loving Christ,3 draw me, a weakling, after Thyself; for if Thou drawest me not, I cannot follow Thee. Grant me a brave spirit that it may be ready. If the flesh is weak, let Thy grace prevent, come in the middle, and follow; for without Thee I can do nothing, and, especially, for Thy sake I cannot go to a cruel death. Grant me a ready spirit, a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love, that for Thy sake I may lay down my life with patience and joy. Amen.
Written in prison in chains on the eve of St. John Baptist, who was beheaded in prison and in chains, because he reproved iniquity; may it please him to pray for me unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
To the Faithful Bohemians1
Master John Hus, a servant of God in hope, to all the faithful who love and will love God and His law, praying that they may dwell in the truth, grow in the divine grace, and bravely persevere even unto death.
Beloved, I exhort you not to be terrified, neither shaken with fear, because they (my enemies) have ordered my books to be burnt. Remember that the prophecies of the holy Jeremiah, which he wrote at God’s command, were burnt, and yet the Jews did not escape the fate he had foretold; for after that they had been burnt, God bade him write the same words, and add to them besides many like words. Which he did: for he dictated them as he lay in prison, and the holy Baruch, who was his scribe, wrote them in a book. You will find it written in Jeremiah the 35th or 45th chapter.2 In the books of the Maccabees also it is written that sacred writings were burnt, and those who had them in their possession suffered torture.3 Afterwards, in the times of the New Testament, holy men were burnt, together with the books of God’s law. Cardinals, moreover, condemned and burnt the books of St. Gregory entitled the Morals, and would have destroyed them all had not God preserved them by means of Gregory’s only loyal disciple, Peter.4 St. John Chrysostom was condemned on the charge of heresy by two Councils,1 but God in His mercy after St. John’s death revealed their falsehood.2 Keep these examples before you, that you may not under stress of fear give up reading what I have written and hand over your books to be burnt by them. Remember what the merciful Saviour said to us by way of warning in Matt. xxiv., that before the Judgment Day shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect: but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened.3 Holding these things in your memory, beloved, press bravely on; for I trust God that the school of Antichrist shall tremble before you and suffer you to enjoy quietness, and that the Council of Constance shall not come to Bohemia, for methinks many members of the Council will die before they wrest the books from your hands, and they will be scattered abroad from that Council over the earth, like storks; and when winter comes they will discover what they achieved in the summer.4 Ponder the fact that they condemned their own head on the charge of heresy. Come now, make reply, ye preachers who proclaim that the Pope is God on earth and cannot sin or be guilty of sinning (as the Canonists assert);1 that the Pope is the head of the Holy Church Universal, ruling it with an all-sufficient power: is the heart of the Church, giving to it spiritual life: is the fountain from which all power and goodness permeates: is the sun of the Holy Church, and the unfailing refuge to which every Christian should flee. But lo! your head is now cut off, God on earth is bound, his sins are openly declared, the fountain has run dry, the sun is darkened, the heart is torn out, the refuge is a fugitive from Constance and is rejected, so that none can flee to him!2 The Council condemned him for heresy because he sold indulgences, bishoprics, and benefices; and he was condemned by these very men, many of whom bought these things from him, while others did good trade by selling them over again. John, Bishop of Leitomischl,3 was there, who twice attempted to buy the see of Prague, but he was outbid by others. Oh! why have they not first cast the beam out of their own eye? Indeed, their own law hath the provision: Whoso hath gained an office by money, let him be deprived of it.4 Therefore, let seller and buyer and money-lender and broker be condemned before the world! St. Peter condemned and uttered a curse on Simon, because he had desired to purchase the virtue of the Holy Ghost with money.1 These men have condemned and uttered a curse on the seller, while the buyers and money-lenders get off scot-free and carry on their sales privately. There is the Bishop of Constance,2 who buys, and the other person who has sold to him; and the Pope received money for absolving them! The same thing happens, as I know, in Bohemia and Moravia. Would that the Lord Jesus had said in the Council, ‘He that is without the sin of simony, let him condemn Pope John’! Methinks they would have all gone out of doors one after another!3 Why did they adore him with bended knees, kiss his feet, and call him most holy Father, when they knew he was a ‘heretic, a homicide, and a Sodomite,’4 all of which sins afterwards came to light? Why did the Cardinals elect him as Pope, when they knew he was so shameful a homicide as to have slain the most holy Father?5 Why did they suffer him to practise simony while performing the duties of a pope, when they were appointed his advisers for the purpose of giving him good counsel? Are not those to blame who themselves as well as he practised simony? Before he escaped from Constance, why had no one the courage to address him except as the most holy Father?6 To be sure, they were afraid of him then; but when the secular power seized him, by God’s permission or will, they at once conspired not to let him go free. Surely now the wickedness, iniquity, and baseness of Antichrist has been revealed in the Pope and his associates in the Council: now the faithful servants of God can understand the meaning of the Saviour’s words, When ye shall see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, . . . he that readeth, let him understand.1 Verily “a great abomination” is pride, avarice, and simony: “in a place apart”2 —that is, dignity which lacks modesty, love, and other virtues; and this is what we clearly mark in those who win office and dignity. Would that I were allowed to point out their wickedness, in order that the faithful servants of God might beware of them! Gladly would I do so; but I am trusting that God will raise up others after me, braver men than there are to-day, who shall better reveal the wickedness of Antichrist3 and lay down their lives for the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will grant eternal joy both to you and to me. Amen. I write this letter in prison, on the day of St. John Baptist, as I lie bound in chains, remembering that St. John also was beheaded in prison for the sake of God’s truth.
The following letter may be confidently dated on June 24 or 25, for at the close of the letter Hus refers to an intended expedition of Sigismund. The heat at Constance this June was so great that on June 22, according to Dacher (in Hardt), Sigismund left the city and encamped in a neighbouring field, transacting business in the open air. Two days later he rode with his court to Ueberlingen (June 25), returning on the 28th I am inclined to think that it is to this incident that Hus refers.1
The Reformer meanwhile, in his sweltering cell, prepared for the end. He requested a confessor, and desired Palecz. Face to face with death the hearts of both men softened. For some reason or other the request was refused, and a monk shrived him. According to Hus, this priest abstained from exacting formal proofs of penitence—i.e., in this case a confession of his heresy. Hus was so little acquainted with the methods of the Inquisition that he gives no indication in his letter of understanding how great an act of clemency, or neglect, was involved in a course so contrary to all the rules of the Inquisition. The letter is also interesting from its illustrations of the casuistry employed to induce Hus to recant or appear to recant. But the purpose of Hus was constant, and his remaining letters are in reality conscious farewells to his different circles of friends.
To his Bohemian Friends
I have been interviewed by many exhorters. They have pleaded at great length that I ought to abjure, and can do so lawfully by submitting my will to the Holy Church, which is represented by the Holy Council. But not one of them can satisfactorily meet the objection, when I put him in my own position, ‘How can a man consistently abjure when he hath never preached, held, or stated the heresy whereof he is charged, and how would he save his conscience if he is not by abjuring to admit that he held the heresy wrongly?’ Some said that to abjure did not carry with it this meaning, but only amounted to a renunciation of heresy, whether held or not; others that it merely meant a denial of the charges, whether they be true or false. My answer was, “Very well, I will swear that I never preached, held, or stated the errors whereof I am charged, and I never will preach, hold, or state them.” And at once they hark back to the old advice. Some argue that a man who submits himself to the Church wins merit by his humility when he confesses to guilt, though it be granted that he is innocent. In support of this argument one man brought forward the case of a saint in The Lives of the Fathers1 by whose bed some persons had placed a certain book. When admonished for the offence, he denied it, being holy and blameless. They then said, “You stole it, and hid it in your bed.” The book was discovered there, and he at once admitted his guilt. Another man proved his point by the case of a nun, who, wearing male attire, lived in a cloister, and who was charged with having begotten a son by a certain woman. She allowed ‘Yes’ to go, and kept the boy; but it afterwards came out that she was an innocent woman. Many other cases were brought forward. An Englishman said, ‘If I were in your place, I would abjure at the bidding of my conscience; for in England all the doctors—very good men, too—who have been suspected of holding Wyclif’s views abjure in a formula set them by order of the archbishop.’2
Finally, they came yesterday to the old position that I should hand myself over entirely to the grace of the Council. Palecz came at my request. I wanted to confess to him. I asked the commissioners, or rather my exhorters, to give me him or another confessor. I said, “Palecz is my chief opponent; I want to confess to him, or else you can give me another suitable man. For God’s sake oblige me.” They did so, and I confessed to a doctor—a monk—who listened to me in a gracious and right beautiful spirit. He absolved me, and gave me advice, but did not enjoin on me what the others advised.1
Palecz came and shed tears along with me, when I begged him to forgive me for any hard words I had used against him, and, in particular, for having called him in writing a fiction-monger.2 I also told him that he was the slédnik3 of the whole business, and he did not deny it; also how in a public hearing he had risen to his feet when I denied the articles of the witnesses, and said, “This fellow hath no fear of God.” This he denied: but he certainly said it. Perhaps you heard him. I reminded him too of what he said in prison before the commissioners:4 “Since the birth of Christ no heretic hath written more dangerous teaching against the Church, with the exception of Wyclif, than yourself—I mean you, John Hus.” He also said, “All who have been here to talk with him have been infected with that error concerning the sacrament of the altar.” He denied it, saying, ‘I did not say “All,” but “Many.” ’ But he certainly used these words. And then I rebuked him, saying, “Oh, sir, what a grievous wrong you do me in calling all my hearers heretics!” Afterwards he pleaded with me in the same way as the others. He is always harping on the great harm that had been done by me and my friends. He told me also that they had a letter addressed to Bohemia containing the news that I had composed while at Gottlieben,1 two verses about my chains to the tune “Buoh Wšemohúcí.”2
For God’s sake look after the letters. Do not give them to any clerk3 to carry. Let me have a hint if the nobles are to ride with Sigismund.4 In His mercy Christ Jesus ever keeps me to my former resolve.
To the Faithful Bohemians5
Master John Hus, a servant of God in hope, to all the faithful Bohemians who love and will love God, sendeth his earnest desires and unprofitable prayers that they may both live and die in the grace of God and dwell with God for ever.
Faithful and beloved in God! this likewise I have determined to write that you may know that the Council—proud, avaricious, and defiled with every crime—hath condemned my Czech books, which it hath never either seen nor heard read, and if it had listened with all its power, would never have understood (for there were present at the Council Frenchmen, Italians, Britons,6 Spaniards, Germans, and other people of different nationalities), unless perchance John Bishop of Leitomischl might have understood them; he was there with other Bohemian malignants, as well as the Chapters of Prague and the Wyschehrad,1 from which have proceeded the insults heaped upon God’s truth and upon our fatherland, Bohemia. Yet, placing my trust in God, I judge it to be a land of the purest faith, as I bethink me of its zeal for the divine word and for morality. I would that ye might see this Council, which is called the Most Holy Council, and incapable of error; in sooth you would gaze on a scene of foulness;2 for it is a common proverb among the Swiss,3 that a generation will not suffice to cleanse Constance from the sins which the Council have committed in that city; they have said, moreover, that the Council was an offence to the world, albeit others rejected it with loathing at the mere sight of its foul deeds. I tell you that as soon as I took my stand in the Council and saw there was no proper discipline there, I shouted out with a loud voice, amid general silence, “I thought there would be more reverence, piety, and discipline in this Council.”4 Then the presiding Cardinal5 said, “What do you say? You spoke more humbly in the castle.”6 “Yes,” I replied, “because there was no one there to shout me down; but here every one is crying out.” Therefore since the Council, owing to its irregular proceedings, hath done more harm than good, therefore, beloved of God, be not terrified by their verdict, which (I trust God) will do themselves no good. They will be scattered abroad like butterflies, and their decree will last as long as spiders’ webs. As for myself, they have striven to frighten me, but they could not overcome God’s power within me. They would not contend against me with the Scriptures, as those noble lords heard, who took a brave stand on the side of God’s truth, and were ready to suffer every shame, Bohemians, Moravians, and Poles, especially Baron Wenzel de Duba and Baron John of Chlum, for the latter were standing near. Sigismund brought them into the Council, and they heard me say, “If I have written anything wrong, I wish to be told of it.” Whereupon the presiding Cardinal said, “As you want information, take this: you should retract and obey the decision of fifty doctors of the church.” A wonderful piece of information! The virgin St. Catherine ought to have renounced the truth and faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, because fifty philosophers opposed her; but the beloved virgin was faithful even unto death, and won the masters to God, which I as a sinner cannot do.1 I am writing this to you that you may know that they did not get the better of me by any scripture passage or any arguments; but strove to do so by means of guile and threats so as to induce me to recant and abjure. But God in His mercy, Whose gospel I have spread abroad, was with me and is still; yea, and will be, I trust, to life’s end, and will keep me in His grace unto death. I write this on Wednesday after the Feast of St. John Baptist in prison, bound in chains and awaiting death. Yet by virtue of God’s hidden counsels I dare not say this in my last letter; for even now Almighty God can set me free.
The reference in the following letter to Jerome, and Hus’s comparison of his own weakness with Jerome’s strength, is interesting for many reasons. As often happens, the apparently stronger man proved the weaker. For Jerome lacked the moral conviction which made Hus a martyr. The strain of his sickness and imprisonment told also fatally upon the restless knighterrant. He grew fitful—‘now wishful to stand fast in his obstinacy, now desirous to be wholly convicted’—as we learn from an anonymous writer present at Constance (Doc. 596). The result was that on September 11 he read a paper before the Council, recanting his errors, and adding his ‘approval of the condemnation of both Wyclif and Hus.’ Fortunately Hus was not spared to receive this stab from his old friend.
The after career of Jerome must be briefly told. He retracted his recantation, and after a defence of his creed before the Council which charmed by its eloquence the fastidious taste of Poggio Bracciolini, was condemned and burnt (May 30, 1416). So in spite of lapse, Jerome and Hus were again one; in their death they were not divided
(see Age of Hus, pp. 333-44).
To the Same
God be with you! I had many reasons for suspecting that I was to die on the morrow after sending you my last letter. But I hear that my death is put off, so I am writing to you once more, kind and faithful friends in God, to assure you of my gratitude as long as I have opportunity. I always find it a solace to be able to converse with you by letter, and I tell you God knows why He delays my death and that of my dear brother, Master Jerome, who, I trust, will die holy and blameless and be of a braver spirit in meeting pain than I, a weak-kneed sinner. God hath granted us a long time that we may the better recall our sins and be able to do fitting penance for them. He hath granted us time that a continuous and great trial may destroy great sins and bring us comfort. He hath granted us time that we may remember the foul shame of our King, the merciful Lord Jesus, and meditate on His cruel death, and so bear our sufferings with the greater patience; and, besides this, that we may not suppose that we pass from a banquet in this world to one in the next, but may remember how the saints went through many pains before they entered in the heavenly kingdom. Some were cut in pieces, others impaled, others boiled, others roasted, others flayed alive, buried alive, stoned, crucified, crushed between millstones, drawn in opposite directions, drowned, burnt, suffocated by gags, torn asunder into pieces, and before death shamefully entreated and tortured with imprisonment, stripes, and chains. And who can recount all the sufferings which the saints in Old and New Testament times endured for the truth of God; but especially those who rebuked the wickedness of of priests and preached against them? It will be strange if any one now escapes punishment who shall bravely resist wickedness—in particular of the priests—which doth not suffer itself to be rebuked. But I rejoice that they were compelled to read my books, in which their wickedness was revealed. I know that they have perused these books more carefully than the Holy Scriptures in their desire to discover my errors.
Sent off on Thursday evening before St. Peter’s Eve. Amen.
The following farewell to his old University is remarkable for its close approximation to the position of Luther at Worms, and of Wyclif before him. At one time, as we have seen, Hus had been willing to trust the Council, provided the false charges were withdrawn (see p. 224). He had thence advanced to a belief in the general rottenness and untrustworthiness of the Council, as shown by its treatment of John, and its moral chaos (pp. 216, 218, 257, 263). He now demands that his arguments shall be overthrown by Scripture. Hus’s optimism as to the victory of the truth is emphatic. He sings with unfaltering note:
To the University of Prague
Worshipful masters, bachelors, and students of the University of Prague, dearly beloved in Christ Jesus! I exhort you in the name of the blessed Jesus to love one another, to root out schisms and to promote the honour of God before all things. Remember how I always sought to make the welfare of the University conduce to the honour of God, how I grieved over your disputes and secessions,1 and how I desired to unite together our glorious country; and lo! it hath turned with exceeding bitterness against me, as you see in the case of some of my dearest friends for whom I would have laid down my life; and it hath inflicted on me calumnies, curses, and finally an untimely death. Almighty God, forgive them, for they know not what they do;1 with all sincerity I pray that He may spare them. Moreover, dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, stand in the truth whereof you have knowledge; for it wins its way before all else and waxes strong even for evermore. Let me tell you I have not recanted nor abjured a single article. The Council desired me to declare the falsity of all of my books and each article taken from them. I refused to do so, unless they should be proved false by Scripture. I mean that whatever false interpretation should be found in any article whatever, I abhor it, and commend it to the correction of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who knows my real intention and will not interpret in a wrong sense which I do not intend. I exhort you in the Lord to abhor any false meaning you may be able to discover in any of these articles, but always to preserve the truth that is intended.
I, Master John Hus, in chains and in prison, now standing on the shore of this present life and expecting on the morrow a dreadful death, which will, I hope, purge away my sins, find no heresy in myself, and accept with all my heart any truth whatsoever that is worthy of belief.
Written on Thursday before St. Peter’s Eve.
I pray you to love the Bethlehem and put Gallus2 in my place; for I trust that the Lord is with him. Amen. I commend to you Peter Mladenowic, my fathful and loyal comforter and supporter.
The following letter, with its bitter sarcasms on Sigismund’s faith, is rightly sent to Duba and Chlum, the officials originally deputed by Sigismund to protect Hus, and see to the carrying out of the safe-conduct. We had already learned that Chlum had left the court (p. 243). We now see that in reality he had been dismissed. His plain speech was not welcome to the faithless monarch.
The letter is without date, and possibly should be put earlier in the month. The reference to Veit as well as to Sigismund’s advice at the Council would lead us to this. But if it be dated, with Palackẏ, at the close of the month, the reader will note that up to the very end, though firm in the day, Hus had severe struggles with himself when chained alone at night in the darkness of his cell.
To Barons Wenzel de Duba and John of Chlum
Most gracious benefactors and guardians of the truth, I exhort you by the tender mercies of Jesus Christ to lay aside at once the vanities of this world and fight for the eternal King, even Christ the Lord. Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men, in whom is no safety,1 for to-day the sons of men are liars and deceivers, and to-morrow they will perish; but God abideth for ever. He hath servants not because He is in need of them, but for their own welfare. What He promises to them, He holds to; what He pledges himself to grant, He fulfils; He deceives no man by a safe-conduct and dismisses no faithful servant; for He saith: Where I am, there shall My servant be also.2 Each of His servants He, their Master, maketh to be master of all that He hath, giving to that servant Himself, and with Himself all things so that he may possess all things without weariness or fear, nay, without any lack, and may rejoice with all the saints in unending joy. Oh, blessed is that servant whom his master when he cometh, findeth watching!1 Serve then, dear lords, with fear this King Who will, I trust, bring you now to Bohemia by His grace in good health, and afterwards to the everlasting life of glory. Farewell!
Methinks this is my last letter to you, for tomorrow I suppose I shall be cleansed from my sins in hope of Jesus Christ by a dreadful death. I cannot write of what I passed through last night. Sigismund hath acted deceitfully throughout. God spare him, and that only for your sakes; you yourselves heard the advice which he gave.2 I beg you to have no suspicion of the faithful Veit.3
On June 29th Hus wrote his last letters of farewell—three in number—to his dearest friends. There is in them no trace of struggle, only the peace of God. Hus had entered already the
Porte after stormie seas.
To John of Chlum
Most gracious benefactor, dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, I rejoice without measure that I can still, by the grace of God, write to your grace. I gathered from yesterday’s letter,4 firstly, how the iniquity of the great harlot—that is, of the blaspheming congregation, of which we read in the Apocalypse—is and shall be made bare, with which harlot the kings of the earth commit fornication.1 In the same place, likewise, it is written that they commit fornication spiritually, that they depart from Christ and His truth and consent to the falsehood of Antichrist, whether by being seduced or terrified, or by being led to hope in the confederacy for the winning of the world’s honour. Secondly, I gathered from the letter how that already the enemies of the truth are beginning to be troubled. Thirdly, I gathered the news of your grace’s fervent loyalty, whereby you boldly profess the truth, knowing the baseness of the great harlot. Fourthly, I rejoice to gather that you now desire to put an end to the vanities of this world and to its toilsome service and to fight for Jesus Christ at home. To serve Christ is to reign with Him, as Gregory saith: He that faithfully serves Him will have Christ in the fatherland of heaven as his minister. Christ Himself saith: Blessed is that servant, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Amen. I say unto you, that he will rise and gird himself, and will minister to him.2 The kings of this world do not act thus with their servants. They only care for them so long as they are useful and necessary to them. Not so Christ, the King of glory, Who hath to-day3 crowned the apostles Peter and Paul—Peter by crucifixion, Paul by beheading—and welcomed them into the kingdom of the heavenly fatherland. Peter was four times imprisoned and was led forth by an angel. Paul was thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, twice suffered shipwreck,4 for two years bound with chains and in divers ways afflicted; who saith in his epistle: We were pressed out of measure above our strength, so that we were weary even of life.1 They have now passed their trials and torments, and there remaineth for them infinite bliss and the life of quietness that knows no suffering. Now Peter and Paul reign with the King above, now they are with the choirs of angels, now they see the King in His beauty, now are they released from weariness and are full of bliss unspeakable. May those glorious martyrs, thus united with the King of glory, deign to intercede for us, that, strengthened by their help, we may be partakers in their glory, by patiently suffering whatever God Almighty shall ordain in this world for our greater good. Amen.
I beg you for God’s sake still keep on writing, if you can. I ask especially that greetings be conveyed to her Majesty the Queen,2 and that she be counselled to be loyal to the truth and not offended in me, as though I were a heretic. Convey my greetings to your wife also, whom I beg you to love in Christ Jesus; for I trust she is a daughter of God through her obedience to His commands. Greet all the friends of the truth for God’s sake.
To Wenzel de Duba
I am delighted to hear that Baron Wenzel intends to marry and flee the vanities of the world. And indeed it is a high time, for he hath for a long time ridden to and fro through the countries, broken lances, wearied his body, spent his money, and hurt his soul. It now, therefore, remains for him to throw these things aside and serve God quietly at home with his wife, and have servants of his own. It will be better1 to serve God at home and enjoy a happy life without sin and toil, waited on by others, than to be burdened ofttimes with heavy and grievous toils, to run risks of losing his life, and to watch the movements of others. Let this advice be repeated and brought home to one who hath done me so many kindnesses. God is still upholding the life of Hus by His might; yea, and will uphold it so long as He wills, against the proud, greedy, and in divers ways unconscionable Council, wherein the Lord knoweth them that are His.
Sent off on the day of SS. Peter and Paul, at the time of the evening meal.2
To his Friends in Bohemia3
God be with you! May it please Him to bestow upon you the eternal reward for the many kindnesses you have shown me, and still do show, although perhaps in the body I am already dead. Do not suffer Baron John of Chlum, faithful, steadfast knight that he is and my kind benefactor, to run any risk. I pray this for God’s sake, dear Master Peter, Superintendent of the Mint, and Mistress Anna!4 I entreat you also to live a good life and obey God, as I have often told you. Give thanks in my name to my gracious mistress the Queen for all the kindnesses she hath conferred on me. Greet your family and the other faithful friends, whose names I may not mention. I entreat you all to pray to God in my behalf; by His help we shall soon meet together in His gracious and holy presence. Amen. I write this in prison in fetters, which I am wearing, I trust, for the gospel of God, expecting every moment the sentence of death. For God’s sake, I pray you suffer not good priests to be oppressed.
Peter,1 dearest friend, keep my fur cloak in memory of me.
Lord Henry Lefl,2 live a good life with thy wife. My thanks to thee! God be thy reward!
Faithful friend, Master Lideři and Mistress Margaret, Masters Skuoček and Mikeška3 and others: may God grant you an eternal reward for your toils and the other kindness you have conferred on me.
Master Christian,4 faithful and beloved, God be with thee!
Master Martin,5 my disciple, remember those things which I taught thee.
Master Nicolas6 and Peter, the Queen’s chaplain, and the other masters and priests, be diligent students of God’s word.
Priest Gallus,1 preach the word of God.
Finally, I entreat you all to persevere in the truth of God.
On the feast day of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, about the time of the evening meal.2
The three letters written on June 29 are the last that Hus wrote. The month’s grace was evidently fruitless, and Sigismund was in a hurry to depart for Perpignan, there to meet, by agreement, Benedict XIII. and Ferdinand of Aragon, the chief supporter of the Spanish anti-pope, and arrange for the ending of the schism. This journey had twice already been postponed, and admitted of no further delay. For on June 15 the proctor of Gregory XII.—Charles di Malatesta—had arrived in Rome and commenced negotiations for Gregory’s abdication. On July 4 all arrangements were completed, and the Council summoned to listen to a bull of Gregory, convoking and then approving the Council and all its doings, and concluding with a proclamation of his own resignation. But before Sigismund could be allowed to depart from Constance the Council were resolute that he should appear as a consenting party to the death of Hus. It was determined, therefore, to bring matters to an issue. On July 1—two days after Hus’s last letter, and after Sigismund’s return from his short holiday at Ueberlingen—Hus was visited by a deputation of eight prelates, with Hus’s gaoler, the Archbishop of Riga, at their head, who endeavoured once more to persuade the Reformer that he could reasonably recant.
Hus replied by writing out with his own hand his final decision.
Hus’s Final Declaration
I, John Hus, in hope a priest of Jesus Christ, fearing to offend God, and fearing to fall into perjury, do hereby profess my unwillingness to abjure all or any of the articles produced against me by false witnesses. For God is my witness that I neither preached, affirmed, nor defended them, though they say that I did. Moreover, concerning the articles that they have extracted from my books, I say that I detest any false interpretation which any of them bears. But inasmuch as I fear to offend against the truth, or to gainsay the opinion of the doctors of the Church, I cannot abjure any one of them. And if it were possible that my voice could now reach the whole world, as at the Day of Judgment every lie and every sin that I have committed will be made manifest, then would I gladly abjure before all the world every falsehood and error which I either had thought of saying or actually said. I say I write this of my own free will and choice.
Written with my own hand, on the first day of July.1
Four days later the Council made another effort to bring about the desired recantation. A deputation of the leaders of the Council—D’Ailli, Zabarella, Simon Cramaud the Patriarch of Antioch, the Archbishops of Riga and Milan, together with two Englishmen, the illustrious Hallum of Salisbury, and Bubwith, the simoniacal Bishop of Bath, narrowed the issue to the recantation merely of the heresies extracted from articles Hus had recognised as his own. At one time this would have satisfied Hus; but now he refused, and referred them to his declaration of July 1. He dared not cause to stumble those whom he had taught. Later in the day Sigismund, influenced perhaps by some remnants of conscience, made one last effort to save him. He sent Chlum, Wenzel de Duba, and Lacembok, together with four bishops, to ask Hus for his final decision, whether he would persevere or recant. Hus was brought out of his cell to meet this deputation—a sidelight as we take it on his cramped confinement—doubtless wondering whether a new trial of his constancy awaited him in the defection of his dearest friends: ‘Master John,’ said honest Chlum, ‘we are laymen, and cannot advise you. Consider, however, and if you realise that you are guilty concerning any of the charges, do not be ashamed to receive instruction and recant. But if you do not feel guilty, do not force your conscience, nor lie before God, but rather stand fast to the death in the truth which you know.’
Hus replied with tears: ‘Sir John, know that if I was conscious that I had written or preached aught against the law, gospel, or Mother Church, I would gladly and humbly recant my errors. God is my witness. But I am anxious now as ever that they will show me Scriptures of greater weight and value than those which I have quoted in writing and teaching. If these shall be shown me, I am prepared and willing to recant.’ ‘Do you desire to be wiser than the whole Council?’ retorted a bishop. ‘Than the whole Council, no,’ replied Hus; ‘but give me a portion, however small, of the Council to teach me by Scriptures of greater weight and value, and I am ready to recant.’ ‘He is obstinate in his heresy,’ cried the bishops, and retired to make preparation for the final scene.
At six o’clock the next morning Hus was brought to the cathedral. While mass was sung he was kept waiting outside the door; this over, he was placed in the middle of the aisle on an elevated dais. Around him were placed the various robes needful for celebrating mass. But before taking his stand on this theatre of degradation Hus knelt down and prayed. The whole Council was there, with Sigismund, in his robes and diadem, on the throne. In the sight of all Hus stood alone while the Bishop of Lodi, the customary orator on big occasions, preached ‘a short, compendious, and laudable’ sermon on the danger of heresy and the duty of destroying it. The events of that day, said the preacher, would win for Sigismund immortal glory. ‘O King, a glorious triumph is awaiting you; to thee is due the everlasting crown and a victory to be sung through all time, for thou hast bound up the bleeding Church, removed a persistent schism, and uprooted the heretics. Do you not see how lasting will be your fame and glory? For what can be more acceptable to God than to uproot a schism and destroy the errors among the flock.’
But the day was not altogether without its stings for Sigismund. Hus, when he spoke, was not slow to remind him of his safe-conduct. Sigismund, it is said, blushed, an incident denied by some historians with as much warmth as if the blush were as discreditable to Sigismund as his falsehood.
Then the representatives of the nations read aloud the record of the trial and the sentence of the Council. When Hus attempted to reply and point out certain omitted limitations in his theses, D’Ailli ordered him to be silenced. ‘You shall answer all together later.’ ‘How can I possibly answer all together,’ retorted Hus, ‘since I cannot keep them all together in my mind.’ ‘Be silent,’ said Zabarella, ‘we have heard you quite enough.’ ‘I beseech you for God’s sake hear me,’ cried Hus, with clasped hands, ‘lest the bystanders believe that I ever held such errors; afterwards do with me as you list.’ We need not wonder at his indignation when we remember that one of the articles read out against him was that he had said that he was the fourth member in the Trinity. When the reading of the tissue of falsehood was completed and the sentence pronounced, Hus knelt once more in prayer: ‘Lord Jesus, pardon all my enemies for Thy great mercy’s sake, I beseech Thee, for Thou knowest that they have falsely accused me. Pardon them for Thy great mercy’s sake.’ But the bishops who stood near frowned and laughed.
After this he was clad by seven bishops in the full vestments of a celebrant. Once more the bishops urged him to recant. But Hus turned to the people and cried out: ‘These bishops here urge me to recant. I fear to do this lest I be a liar in the sight of God, and offend against my conscience and God’s truth.’ So he stepped down from the table, and the bishops began the ceremony of degradation; one by one his vestments were stripped off him. A dispute arose over his tonsure; should it be cut with scissors or a razor? ‘See,’ said Hus, turning to Sigismund, ‘these bishops cannot even agree in their blasphemy.’ A paper crown a yard high, with three demons painted on it ‘clawing his soul with their nails,’ and the words “Heresiarch,” was then fastened on his head. ‘The crown which my Redeemer wore,’ said Hus, ‘was heavier and more painful than this.’ ‘We commit thy soul to the devil,’ sang the priests, as they handed him over to the secular arm. ‘But he, with clasped hands and upturned eyes: I commit it to the most gracious Lord Jesus.’ By a strange oversight the Council forgot to add the crowning farce of these inquisition courts, the solemn adjuration to the secular arm to shed no blood. ‘Go, take him,’ said Sigismund, turning to Lewis, Count Palatine, the sword-bearer of the empire, who stood at Sigismund’s elbow, holding the golden orb and its cross in his hand. The count handed him over to the magistrates, who stripped him of his gown and hose, and led him out to die, escorted by a thousand armed men.
As he passed through the churchyard of the Cathedral, Hus saw a bonfire of his books. He laughed, and told the bystanders not to believe the lies circulated about him. The whole city was in the streets as Hus passed through their midst. But when the procession reached the gates the crowd found that they were forbidden to pass; there were fears lest the drawbridge should break down with their weight. On arriving about noon at the execution ground, familiarly known as “the Devil’s Place,” Hus kneeled and prayed ‘with a joyful countenance.’ The paper crown fell off, and he smiled. ‘Put it on again wrong way up,’ cried the mob, ‘that he may be burnt with the devils he has served.’ His hands were tied behind his back, and Hus fastened to the stake which had been driven into the ground over the spot where a dead mule belonging to one of the cardinals had been recently buried. ‘Turn him round towards the West,’ cried the crowd, ‘he is a heretic; he must not face the East.’ This done, a sooty pot-hook chain was wound round his neck, and two faggots placed under his feet. Burgher Reichental—the author of the famous illustrated Diary—offered to call a priest. ‘There is no need,’ replied Hus, ‘I have no mortal sin.’ But a priest ‘who was riding about in a vest of very red silk,’ was less merciful. ‘No confessor must be given him,’ he cried, ‘for he is a heretic.’ For the last time Lewis, Count Palatine, and the Marshal of the Empire, asked him if he would recant and save his life. Said Hus, ‘in a loud voice,’ ‘God is my witness that the evidence given against me is false. I have never thought nor preached save with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. In the truth of the gospel I have written, taught, and preached to-day I will gladly die.’ So they heaped the straw and wood around him, and poured pitch upon it. When the flames were lighted, ‘he sang twice, with a loud voice, “Christ, Thou Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me.” When he began the third clause, “Who was conceived of the Virgin Mary,” the wind blew the flames in his face. So, as he was praying, moving his lips and head, he died in the Lord.’1
The beadles piled up the fuel, ‘two or three cart-loads,’ ‘stirred the bones with sticks, split up the skull, and flung it back into the flames, together with his coat and shoes,’ which the Count Palatine bought from the executioner, for three times the usual fee ‘lest the Bohemians should keep them as relics.’ When the heart was found they ran a sharp stake through it and set it ablaze. As soon as all was over the ashes were heaped into a barrow, and tilted into the Rhine.
[1 ]Palackẏ gives three; but I have adopted a different order.
[1 ]In regno.
[2 ]Cf. p. 236.
[3 ]Who had left in March (p. 200).
[4 ]Cf. p. 151, where we learn that he was a scholar of Hus by name George. From p. 212 we learn that he had become a rector.
[5 ]i.e., Cardinalis.
[6 ]Ep. Piiss. G. 4: Tzo so-czy, to smyssli, which Luther (Ep. Piissimæ) and the Monumenta naturally left untranslated.
[1 ]The real issue on which he was condemned. See infra, p. 224.
[2 ]See p. 237.
[4 ]See Doc. 204, 226. In this latter passage Hus gives his references to Augustine, but very vaguely. They are really taken from Wyclif’s De Ecclesia, c. i.
[1 ]Many MSS. read hora sexta instead of horaxvi. Reckoning time ecclesiastically, hora sexta would be midnight. It is possible that time was not reckoned by Hus in this way, and that he intended ‘six a.m.,’ not at all an unusual hour for meetings.
[1 ]See previous letter, p. 208, n. 1.
[1 ]Matt. xxvi. 33.
[2 ]Matt. xvi. 17.
[3 ]Dum audivero formam, the exact sense of which seems doubtful.
[4 ]The master of the Mint from 1406-19 was Peter Swojšin Zmrzlík, whose wife, Anna of Frimburg, had much influence with Queen Sophia. It was at the house of this master of the Mint that the Bishop of Nazareth gave his famous certificate of orthodoxy to Hus (p. 143.) He was one of the arbitrators to whom the case of Hus was referred on July 6, 1411 (see p. 41), and in a popular song of 1418 (Doc. 692) is spoken of as one of the chief heretics.
[1 ]Plebanus meus scholaris—i.e., Girzik. See p. 206 n.
[2 ]In spite of his apparent relapse. See p. 196 n. and 200, n. 1.
[3 ]Viatious, a breviary adapted to the use of travellers.
[4 ]P.: cedet; perhaps read cedat.
[5 ]Cf. p. 151.
[1 ]Some historians have taken this letter to refer to the audience of June 5. But Sigismund was not present on that day (see p. 207).
[2 ]See p. 224.
[3 ]Peter D’Ailli of Cambray (Doc. 276).
[1 ]Magister sacræ theologiæ. M.S.T., S.T.P., and D.D. are almost interchangeable in the Middle Ages.
[2 ]From Hardt, v. 97, we read there were present in the Council ‘sixteen (English) masters in theology.’ Some of their names will be found in Hardt, v. 21-8. But it is impossible to identify the reference.
[3 ]This doctor was not without some justification for this remark. See my Age of Wyclif, p. 219.
[4 ]At the Synod of Rome in 1059 Berengarius was condemned for his disbelief in Transubstantiation, and fell upon his face and retracted. But on returning to Tours he once more preached his original ideas with increased vigour. Hus’s position and that of Berengarius were practically the same, as Hus recognises in Mon. i. 164. But his knowledge of Berengarius was probably wholly derived from Gratian’s Decretum, ed. Migne, p. 1754.
[1 ]John de Bronhiaco (Eubel s.v.), Cardinal of Ostia (June 2, 1405—February 16, 1426).
[2 ]In castro; at Gottlieben (see pp. 204 and 263).
[1 ]Occultus est occultus. The treatise Contra Occultum Adversarium, written February 10, 1412 (see Mon. i. 135 ff.). The dangerous point in this lay in its tenet that the King ought to punish bad priests.
[2 ]While at Gottlieben.
[3 ]Cf. pp. 216, 263.
[1 ]So Palackẏ (Doc. 108): cf. p. 199, n. 1. But MS. Mladenowic has ‘barbatus Hieronymus’—i.e., “bearded Jerome”; and to this the next clause leads me to incline (cf. also pp. 182, n. 1, and 233); Jerome’s beard was a constant source of trouble to him and made him a marked man.
[2 ]MS. of the De Ecclesia.
[3 ]Still extant, preserved by Mladenowic (see Doc. 204 ff.).
[5 ]See Doc. p. 214.
[6 ]De Ecclesia and the Treatises against Palecz and Stanislaus.
[7 ]This letter seems to be lost.
[8 ]Ulrich, of whom we know nothing, had done Hus a good turn on June 5 by informing Mladenowic of the design to hurry the trial (p. 207).
[1 ]Ps. xvii. 4; inexact.
[2 ]Peter Lombard’s Sentences, the great mediæval text-book of theology (see also p. 140, n. 2).
[3 ]Nothing is known of this ‘clericus Joannes,’ who, I imagine, had slipped back to Prague.
[1 ]At the trial of June 8 Hus was questioned as to a gloss upon the bull of February 2, 1413—the Lateran Council decree for the burning of the books of Wyclif. Hus stated that he had never seen it until it was shown him when in the Dominican prison. On being further questioned he confessed that he had heard that Jesenicz had written the gloss (Doc. 311). Jesenicz was now in Prague (supra, p. 206, n. 3).
[2 ]I judge the date from Chlum’s hand-shake; see infra and p. 218.
[3 ]Ps. cxviii. 127, Vulg.
[4 ]Matt. xxvi. 41.
[1 ]P. 174.
[2 ]Ps. cxlv. 2, Vulg.
[3 ]Jer. xvii. 5
[4 ]Cf. pp. 191-3. Chlum evidently was sceptical as to these dreams. Cf. his answer, p. 192 (second sentence).
[1 ]In Czech from this point to the end. In Mon. i. 68, Neander, and others, the passage is mistranslated by taking the “Lord John” to be Hus, thus ascribing the whole of this beautiful sentence to the tailor Andrew!
[1 ]Papacy (new ed.) ii. 46.
[2 ]He fell later on under suspicion. See p. 270.
[3 ]Possibly Chlum, to whom there is no letter since June 6.
[1 ]Cf. pp. 197, 226.
[2 ]Isa. xxxviii. 14.
[1 ]See next letter, with which it seems to have been enclosed. But part was written before (see p. 229). For Henry Skopek, see p. 169, n. 2. In the MS. a note, perhaps by Mladenowic, has been added that the enclosed song is composed in “dimeter trochaics, of which every two lines in succession rhyme with one another in the two last syllables.” The whole letter and song is in Czech.
[2 ]John xiv. 3.
[1 ]Manticam cum ephippio.
[1 ]The rest of the letter is in Czech.
[3 ]Sexterni = codices sex foliorum.
[1 ]For this promise of Sigismund, see Doc. 308.
[2 ]See p. 145, with which this statement seems a little contradictory, especially for one who was Sigismund’s own agent.
[3 ]John xix. 4.
[4 ]See p. 151.
[5 ]The whole letter is in Czech.
[1 ]Cf. supra, p. 150.
[2 ]Matt. vii. 15.
[1 ]P. 189.
[2 ]P. 200, n. 3.
[3 ]P. 200, n. 4.
[4 ]Wenzel and Sophia. Wenzel had refused to own his deposition as “King of Rome” (see p. 18).
[1 ]Cf. note on ‘barbatus’ on p. 219, n. 1.
[2 ]Cf. pp. 147, 165.
[3 ]Destroyed by the Jesuits in 1786. See also p. 79, supra.
[4 ]i.e., whoever at the Franciscan acted the part of gaoler Robert.
[5 ]The great Cathedral of Prague was dedicated to St. Vitus; hence the point. St. Veit’s Day was June 15, which that year fell on a Saturday. Vitus, with his nurse Crescentia and her husband Modestus, was one of the Sicilian martyrs under Diocletian. The cult was wide-spread. His arm was brought from Corbey to Prague at an early date, while Charles IV. in January 1356 secured the head from Pavia. At this town, next to Bohemia, lay the centre of his cult. (See Acta SS., June xv. 491-519; Pertz, Mon. Germ. ii. 576-85.)
[1 ]The letter is in Czech. Cf. Letters LXI. and LXII. to the same.
[2 ]i.e., June 12.
[3 ]See also next letter, p. 237. I do not know the source of this quotation.
[1 ]With this letter compare No. XXXV.
[2 ]Cf. Rev. xiv. 4.
[3 ]Matt. x. 28.
[4 ]De adhæsione.
[5 ]Cf. p. 222.
[1 ]Cf. pp. 151, 206. One of the “Simons” would be Simon Tissnow.
[2 ]Cf. p. 274, where they are again associated together. Nicholas I take to be Nicholas Miliczin (see p. 80). Hawlik or Gallus was at this time the preacher at the Bethlehem. Cf. pp. 248, 275. Michael of Prachaticz was a public notary (cf. Doc. 331 and passim).
[1 ]2 Macc. vi. 18 ff.
[2 ]P. 79.
[1 ]Proof that he was not John de Bronhiaco.
[3 ]2 Macc. vi. 17-vii.
[4 ]2 Cor. xi. 33.
[5 ]Dat vobis apostolos. See apostoli in Ducange, and note that the word was in use at the time of the Council for an appeal from the Pope to the Council.
[1 ]Matt. xviii. 6.
[2 ]Cf. p. 240, n. 3.
[1 ]See p. 272, where we find that by June 29 Wenzel Duba had determined on marriage. This is another factor in settling the date as after June 15.
[2 ]Chlum, it would appear, had left Sigismund’s court, though the Latin might be construed as an exhortation to leave (cf. infra, p. 269).
[3 ]Hus is quoting the words of the condemnation; see Hardt, iv. 196-208, 228-55. For the value of these charges see my Age of Hus, App. C. John was deposed on May 29.
[1 ]March 1413; see Doc. 507 ff.
[2 ]See Doc. 225-33.
[1 ]Gal. i. 1.
[2 ]Cf. pp. 169, 177, 248.
[3 ]This word should be noted. The later Hussites in their enthusiasm for the Eucharist fell back upon the custom of infantile communion, and their demand in this matter formed one of the difficulties of the Council of Basel.
[4 ]See the Council’s decree (June 15, 1415) in Hardt, iv. 334.
[1 ]1 Cor. xi. 26.
[1 ]It is difficult to know whether to take this as sarcasm or the kindliness of forgiveness.
[2 ]See p. 204. Doc. 550-55.
[1 ]See p. 177, and for Hawlik pp. 172, 236, 275.
[2 ]D. (dominus) which, like the old English “Sir,” was applied to priests. Cf. p. 187.
[3 ]Jam. But jam and nunc are interchangeable in mediæval Latin.
[4 ]See pp. 169, 177.
[5 ]See p. 170 and Mon. i. 42-4.
[1 ]For the legend of the ‘Ten Thousand Martyrs’ see Acta Sanctorum, June 22, vol. v. 151-62. The authority for this legend originally cited seems to have been Bede’s Martyrologium (Migne, vol. xciv. p. 954), but this work in its present form owes much to twelfth-century additions. June 22 is the Day of St. Alban and the two thousand British martyrs. I imagine the ‘Ten Thousand’ was due to continental rivalry. The ‘Ten Thousand’ were said to have been crucified on Mount Ararat under Marcus Aurelius. Their feast was celebrated at Cracow, Breslau, at Paris in the Church of the Celestines, and especially at Prague, in the treasury of which were many relics of these fabled heroes. Hence the allusion of Hus, for whom relics had a charm (see p. 85). Spanish writers crowned the absurdity by claiming that they were Spaniards.
[1 ]Cf. Luther’s famous hymn (trans. Carlyle):—
and remember that Luther had read this letter.
[2 ]Rom. viii. 21, 23.
[1 ]Luke vi. 22, 23.
[2 ]Jas. i. 2-3.
[3 ]Mark xiv. 34.
[4 ]Luke xxii. 43, 44.
[5 ]John xiv. 27.
[1 ]Jas. i. 12.
[2 ]Matt. xvi. 24.
[3 ]See p. 250.
[1 ]The letter is in Czech.
[2 ]Mladenowic has added in the margin: “Hus has no book; the reference is Jer. xxxvi.”
[3 ]2 Macc. vii.
[4 ]For this tale see John the Deacon’s Life of Gregory (iv. c. 69; in Migne, vol. xxv.), from whom it was taken by Platina (see his Life of Sabinianus) and adopted by Milman (ii. 310). There is no mention of it in the earliest Life of Gregory (by a monk of Whitby), and it is rightly rejected, so I take it, by Gregorovius (ii. 94). But Hus has changed the tale for his own purposes; it was not the ‘cardinals’ but the ‘people’ who tried to burn the books.
[1 ]The Synods of “the Oaks” and Constantinople.
[2 ]In 438, thirty-three years after his death in exile, the remains of the martyr were brought back to Constantinople.
[3 ]Matt. xxiv. 21-4.
[4 ]Hus’s views of the effects of his death on Bohemia were fully fulfilled.
[1 ]Most definitely asserted in Augustin Trionfo of Ancona, De Potestate Ecolesiastica, dedicated to John XXII., and in Alvaro Pelayo’s De Planotu Ecolesiæ (1332). But Hus, who was no canonist, was probably thinking of Palecz and Stanislaus (see p. 123). Niem (De Schismate, ed. Erler, p. 178) tells us that at this time it was publicly debated whether the Pope could not without simony sell benefices. Compare also Albert Engelschalk of Prague, Aureum Speculum Papæ (in Brown’s edition of Ortiun Gratius’s Fasciculus, ii. 63-101).
[2 ]Cf. pp. 203, 244.
[3 ]P. 83.
[4 ]See Gratian, II. C. 1, q. 1, c. 3, where, however, it is wrongly ascribed.
[1 ]Acts ix. 20.
[2 ]P. 162, n.
[3 ]John viii. 7-9.
[4 ]Cf. p.130, n. 1, and p. 243, n. 3.
[5 ]John was commonly accused of having poisoned Alexander V.; but the charge was not in the final official articles (Hardt, iv. 296 ff.).
[6 ]Hus would not hear in prison of the famous retort of Hallum, Bishop of Salisbury: ‘I ask that Pope John act worthily of his office’ (Hardt, iv. 1418).
[1 ]Matt. xxiv. 15.
[2 ]In looo deserto. Hus is quoting from memory.
[3 ]For the supposed prophecies of Hus concerning Luther, see my Age of Hus, App. B.
[1 ]It is to be noted that Hardt (iv. 344) dates the confessor incident as taking place on June 30, and this letter as the last of all. But this is an inference only, and is hardly possible. If correct, the journey of Sigismund would be his expedition to Perpignan (infra, p. 275).
[1 ]Vitæ Patrum, ed. Rosweyd in Migne lxxiii. 191.
[2 ]The Englishman was right. The leading Lollards at one time or another had all recanted, and forms of abjuration abound, which are a source of trouble to the historian. See my Age of Wyclif, p. 266, n. 1.
[1 ]See comment on p. 259.
[2 ]Fictor, as often in his Responsio ad Palecz, Mon. i. 255 ff.
[3 ]Arch-detective, chief spy.
[4 ]P. 174.
[1 ]In castro.
[2 ]“God omnipotent.” The poem seems lost. Whether the tune still exists I cannot say. See also p. 15 for Hus and his songs.
[3 ]Nulli clerico.
[4 ]See p. 259, n.
[5 ]This letter is in Czech.
[6 ]Britanni. There were some Scots present, but whether Hus knew this and deliberately used the word is at least doubtful.
[1 ]The Wyschehrad, or original citadel of Prague, was practically a separate city with walls of its own (destroyed during the Hussite wars). In the time of Hus there was a great monastery there.
[2 ]For curious details of the public women attracted to Constance by the Council—of whom Dacher counted up over seven hundred—see Hardt, v. 50-52.
[3 ]Suabis. German Switzerland was a part of High Suabia. Another reading is Suevis.
[4 ]See pp. 216, 218.
[5 ]P. 216, n. 1.
[6 ]Gottlieben; see pp. 216, 204.
[1 ]Catherine of Alexandria at the age of eighteen, so the story ran, had obtained the highest place ‘in liberal arts.’ The Emperor Maximin promised great rewards to any philosopher who should win her back to heathenism. But she overcame them all. She was then broken on a “Catherine’s wheel,” and her body transported by angels to Mount Sinai. See Breviary for November 25, whence Hus would obtain his allusion.
[1 ]Excessibus. The German secession to Leipzig had been laid, not unjustly, at his door (see p. 18). But perhaps the word should be translated “excesses” by an extension of classical use.
[1 ]Luke xxiii. 34.
[2 ]For Gallus (Hawlik) and his difficulties, see p. 248.
[1 ]Ps. cxlv. 3.
[2 ]John xii. 26.
[1 ]Luke xii. 43.
[2 ]P. 225.
[3 ]At the Council; see p. 213.
[4 ]A letter from Chlum now lost.
[1 ]Rev. xvii. 2; xviii. 3.
[2 ]Luke xii. 37.
[3 ]It was their feast day.
[4 ]Cor. xi. 25.
[1 ]2 Cor. i. 8.
[1 ]The rest of the letter, save the date, is in Czech.
[2 ]Ad cænam: the day at Constance would end at about 7.30 at this time, and the ‘cœna’ be at six at the latest.
[3 ]The letter is in Czech, with the exception of the sentence to Peter and the superscription.
[4 ]See p. 211, n. 4.
[2 ]P. 151, last paragraph.
[3 ]The son-in-law of Wenzel the pitch-maker, whose house from 1401 onwards had been a notable gathering-place of reformers (see Doc. 175).
[5 ]P. 149.
[6 ]Pp. 80, 236.
[1 ]P. 236 n.
[2 ]P. 273, n. 2.
[1 ]Not in Palackẏ: from Hardt, iv. 345. I see no reason to doubt its genuineness.
[1 ]For the various accounts of this trial and last scene, see my Age of Hus, p. 332.