Front Page Titles (by Subject) Hus's Final Declaration ( July 1, 1415) - The Letters of John Hus
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Hus’s Final Declaration ( July 1, 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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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.
A DOUBTFUL LETTER OF HUS
We have deemed it best, following the example of Palackẏ, to print the following letter in an Appendix rather than to incorporate it in the main text. The letter itself is not found in any manuscript, nor is it printed in the Epistolæ Piissimæ. We are entirely dependent for it upon the Nuremberg edition of 1558 (Monumenta, i. 59). It is true that there is also a Czech copy of it, first printed in 1564, but the Czech copy, according to Palackẏ (Doc. 149 n.), is a mere translation from the Latin, and is in no sense an original of Hus. But the most suspicious circumstance is the internal evidence. The letter contains an exhortation to communion in both kinds. Now historians are agreed that this was a matter upon which Hus had formed no very definite ideas before his imprisonment at Constance (see supra, pp. 170, 177, 248). That clause therefore certainly must be an interpolation. But the rest of the letter is a mere patchwork, which could easily have been compiled from the other letters of Hus.1 Moreover, it is evident from the absence of all allusions that this letter was not written during Hus’s stay in Constance, or from his prison. This therefore rules out a later date. The letter seems to us either a pious fraud in the interest of the Calixtine party, or else to be too seriously interpolated for us now to discover the original kernel. Of the two, we incline to the former opinion. But the reader shall judge the matter for himself.
To a certain Priest
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with thee!
Brother beloved, be diligent in preaching the gospel and do the work of a good evangelist; neglect not thy calling, and labour as a happy warrior of Christ. First of all, live a godly and holy life; next, let thy teaching be faithful and true; be an example unto others in good works, lest thou be rebuked in a sermon; correct sin and commend well-doing. Unto those who live evil lives, threaten eternal penalties; but to those who are faithful and live godly lives, hold out eternal bliss. Preach unremittingly and yet at no great length, and profitably, with a prudent understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Never make hesitating and doubtful statements, lest thou be rebuked by thine adversaries, who rejoice to disparage their neighbours and hurl insults at God’s ministers. Give exhortation to the confession of faith and the communion in either kind of the body and blood of Christ, that those who have truly repented of their sins may the oftener on that account present themselves for communion. Moreover, I urge thee not to meet strangers at taverns, lest thou hold converse with men; for the more a preacher holds aloof from converse with the world, the more acceptable he is. Nevertheless, refuse not such help as thou canst render to others. Preach in season and out of season, so far as in thee lieth, against luxury: for that is the fiercest beast that devoureth man, for whom the man Christ Jesus suffered. Wherefore, brother beloved, I counsel thee to flee fornication: for it will conceal itself, where thou wouldest do good. By all means flee young women, lest thou put trust in their religious zeal; for St. Augustine saith: “The more religious people are, the more inclined are they to luxury; and under the cloak of religion lurks the craft and poison of fornication.” Dearly beloved, know this, that the conversation of such subverteth many who could not be deceived or defiled by the conversation of the world. On no account permit women to enter thy house; nor converse too frequently with them, as it seemeth to be a stumbling-block. Next, whatever thou doest, fear God and keep His commandments; so shalt thou walk uprightly and not perish; thou shalt subdue the flesh, despise the world, vanquish Satan, put on God, find life, confirm others, and crown thyself with a crown of glory, which the Righteous Judge will give thee. Amen.
TABLE OF HARMONY BETWEEN THE NUMBERING OF THE LETTERS IN THIS EDITION AND THOSE OF PALACKẎ AND THE NUREMBERG FOLIO; ALSO A TABLE OF THE DATES IN THIS EDITION AND PALACHY
Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.
[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.
[1 ]The reader may compare the letter with pp. 149, 275, and other places.