Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 100. THE ENTRY OF THE STORY OF THE BOHEMIANS.

100. THE ENTRY OF THE STORY OF THE BOHEMIANS.

I declared a little before, how, by the occasion of Queen Anne, who was a Bohemian, and married to King Richard the Second, the Bohemians, coming thereby to the knowledge of Wickliff's books here in England, began first to taste and savour Christ's gospel, till at length, by the preaching of John Huss, they increased more and more in knowledge, insomuch that Pope Alexander the Fifth, hearing thereof, began at last to stir coals, and directeth his bull to the archbishop of Swinco, requiring him to look to the matter, and to provide that no person in churches, schools, or other places, should maintain that doctrine; citing also John Huss to appear before him. To whom the said John answering again, declared that mandate or bull of the pope utterly to repugn against the manifest examples and doings both of Christ and of his apostles, and to be prejudicial to the liberty of the gospel, in binding the word of God not to have free recourse; and, therefore, from this mandate of the pope, he appealed to the same pope better advised. But, while he was prosecuting his appeal, Pope Alexander died, as is aforesaid.

After whom succeeded Pope John the Twenty-third, who also, playing his part here in this matter like a pope, sought by all means possible how to repress and keep under the Bohemians, first beginning to work his malice upon the aforesaid John Huss, their preacher, who at the same time preaching at Prague in the temple of Bethlehem, because he seemed rather willing to teach the gospel of Christ than the traditions of bishops, was therefore accused of certain to the forenamed Pope John the Twenty-third for a heretic. The bishop committted the whole matter unto Cardinal de Columna; who, when he had heard the accusation, he appointed a day to John Huss, that he should appear in the court of Rome: which thing once done, Wenceslaus, king of the Romans, and of Bohemia, at the request specially of his wife Sophia, and of the whole nobility of Bohemia, as also at the earnest suit and desire of the town and university of Prague, sent his ambassadors to Rome, to desire the bishop to quit and clearly deliver John Huss from that sentence and judgment; and that if the bishop did suspect the kingdom of Bohemia to be infected with any heretical or false doctrine, he should send his ambassadors, the which might correct and amend the same, if there be any error or fault in them; and that all this should be done at the only cost and charges of the king of Bohemia; and to promise in his name, that he would aid and assist the bishop's legates with all his power and authority, to punish all such as should be taken or found in any erroneous doctrine. In the mean season, also, John Huss, before his day appointed, sent his lawful and meek procurators unto the court of Rome, and with most firm and strong reasons did prove his innocency; whereupon he trusted so, that he thought he should have easily obtained that he should not have been compelled, by reason of the great danger, to appear the day appointed. But when the Cardinal de Columna, unto whose will and judgment the whole matter was committed, would not admit any defence or excuse, John Huss's procurators appealed unto the high bishop: yet, notwithstanding, this last refuge did not so much prevail with Cardinal de Columna, but that he would openly excommunicate John Huss as an obstinate heretic, because he came not at his day appointed unto Rome. Notwithstanding, forasmuch as his procurators had appealed unto the high bishop, they had other judges appointed unto them, as Cardinal Aquileianus and Cardinal Venetus, with certain others; the which judges, after they had prolonged and deferred the matter for the space of a year and a half, at last returned to the sentence and judgment of Cardinal de Columna, and, confirming the same, commanded John Huss's procurators that they should leave off to defend him any more, for they would suffer it no longer: whereupon, when his procurators would not cease their instant suit, certain of them were cast into prison, and grievously punished; the others, leaving their business undone, returned into Bohemia.

Illustration -- John Huss preaching

The Bohemians, notwithstanding, little cared for all this; but continuing still, as they grew more in knowledge, so the less they regarded the pope, complaining daily against him and the archbishop for stopping the word of God and the gospel of Christ to be preached, saying, that by their indulgences, and other practices of the court of Rome, and of the bishop's consistory, they sought their own profit, and not the glory of Jesus Christ; that they plucked from the sheep of Christ the wool and milk, and did not feed them, either with the word of God, or with good examples. Teaching, moreover, and affirming, that the commandments of the pope and prelates are not to be obeyed, but so far as they follow the doctrine and life of Christ and of his apostles; and that laymen ought to judge the works of prelates, as Paul judged the works of Peter in correcting him, Gal. ii. Furthermore, they had amongst them certain notes and observations, whereby they might discern how far, and wherein, they might obey their prelates; they derided also and scorned the pope's jurisdiction, because of the schism that was then in the church, when there were three popes together, one striving against another for the papacy.

Over and besides this, at the same time John Huss did propound publicly, and by the notaries caused to be written, three doubtful questions, the tenor whereof followeth here word for word, and is this: "Forasmuch," saith he, "as it is good for men being in doubt to ask counsel, whereby all dubitation is removed, they may be able more firmly to adhere to the truth; three doubts arise here to be solved: The first doubt is, Whether we ought to believe in the pope? The second, Whether it be possible for any man to be saved, which confesseth not with his mouth unto a mortal priest? The third doubt is, Whether any of the doctors do hold or say, that some of Pharaoh's host being drowned in the Red Sea, and of the Sodomites being subverted, be saved?

As concerning the first, he did hold negatively, alleging the saying of Bede upon this place of the apostle, To him that believeth upon him which justifieth the wicked, his faith is imputed to righteousness, Rom. iv. Upon this place saith Bede, Aliud est credere in Deum, aliud credere Deo, aliud credere Deum, &c. "The second doubt," saith he, "the master of the sentences doth answer in these words, 'What is then to be holden or said herein? Certes, that without the confession of the mouth, and assoiling of the outward pain, sins be forgiven through contrition and humility of the heart,'" &c. For the third doubt he brought in the words of St. Jerome upon the prophet Nahum, speaking of the Egyptians destroyed in the sea, and of the Sodomites destroyed with fire, and of the Israelites destroyed in the desert. "Know you," saith Jerome, "that God, therefore, punished them for their sins here temporally, because they should not be punished hereafter perpetually; and therefore, because they were here punished, they should not be punished hereafter, for else the Scripture should lie, which is not to be granted." These three questions belike John Huss did bring in, to declare how the doctors do not agree in all things, neither with the Church of Rome, neither are to be followed in all points of all men.

It followeth, moreover, after the death of the archbishop Swinco abovementioned, that one named Conrad was placed by the pope there to be chief general, which Conrad, conferring with the divines and doctors of the university of Prague, required their advices and counsels, what way they might best take to assuage the dissension and discords between the clergy and the people whereupon a certain council was devised to be holden after this sort and manner, as followeth

"1. First, That all doctors and masters of the university of Prague should be assembled in the court of the archbishop, and that, in his presence, every doctor and master should swear, not to hold or maintain any of the forty-five articles of John Wickliff before condemned.

"2. Item, Concerning the seven sacraments of the church, the keys and censures of the church, the manners, rites, ceremonies, customs, and liberties of the church, concerning also the worshipping of relics and indulgences, the orders and religions of the church, that every one shall swear that he doth hold, believe, and maintain, and will maintain, as doth the Church of Rome, and no otherwise, of which Church of Rome the pope is the head, and the college of cardinals is the body, who are the true and manifest successors of blessed St. Peter, prince of the apostles, and of the college of the other apostles of Christ.

"3. Item, That every one shall swear, that in every catholic matter, belonging to the church, he will stand to the determination of the apostolical see, and that he will obey the prelates in all manner of things, wheresoever the thing, which is pure good, is not forbidden, or that which is mere ill, is not commanded; but is mean and indifferent between both: which mean or indifferent thing, yet, notwithstanding, by circumstances of time, place, or person, may be either good or evil.

"4. Item, That every one shall swear and confess by his oath, that the opinions of Wickliff and others, touching the seven sacraments of the church, and other things above notified, being contrary to the said Church of Rome, be false.

"5. Item, That an oath be required of them all, that none of them shall hold, defend, or maintain any of the forty-five articles of John Wickliff aforesaid, or in any other matter catholic, and especially of the seven sacraments and other articles above specified, but only as doth the Church of Rome, and no otherwise.

"6. Item, That every ordinary in his diocese shall cause the said premises, contained in the first, second, third, and fourth articles aforesaid, to be published in his synods, and by his preachers to be declared to the people in the kingdom of Bohemia.

"7. Item, If any clerk, student, or layman shall withstand any of the premises, that the ordinary have authority, if he be convicted thereof, to correct him according to the old laws and canons, and that no man shall defend such a one by any means; for none but the ordinary hath power to correct such a man, because the archbishop is chancellor both of the kingdom and university of Prague.

"8. Item, That the songs lately forbidden, being odious, slanderous, and offensive to others' fame, be not sung either in streets, taverns, or any other place.

"9. Item, That Master John Huss shall not preach so long as he shall have no absolution of the court, neither shall hinder the preaching in Prague by his presence; that by this, his obedience to the apostolical see may be known.

"10. Item, That this council doth appear to be good and reasonable for the putting away of ill report and dissension that is in the kingdom of Bohemia.

"11. Item, If Master John Huss, with his accomplices, will perform this, which is contained in the four former articles, then we will be ready to say as they would wish us and have us, whensoever need shall require, that we do agree with them in matter of faith: otherwise, if they will not so do, we, in giving this testimony, should lie greatly unto our lord the king and to the whole world. And, moreover, we will be content to write for them to the court of Rome, and do the best we can for them, our honours saved."

This counsel and device being considered amongst the heads of the university of Prague, the aforesaid administrator, named Conrad, presented it to the king and to the barons of the realm, and also to the senate of Prague; whereof, as soon as word came to John Huss and his adherents, they likewise drew out other articles in manner and form of a counsel, as followeth:

"For the honour of God and the true preaching of his gospel, for the health of the people, and to avoid the sinister and false infamy of the kingdom of Bohemia, and of the marquesship of Moravia, and of the city and university of Prague, and for the reforming of peace and unity between the clergy and the scholars of the university:

"1. Let the right and just decreement of the princes, and of the king's council, be holden and stand in force, which, between the lord archbishop Swinco, on the one party, and between the rector and Master John Huss, on the other party, was made, proclaimed, sealed, and solemnly on both parts received and allowed, in the court of our sovereign lord the king.

"2. Item, That the kingdom of Bohemia remain in its former rites, liberties, and common customs, such as other kingdoms and lands do enjoy, that is, in all approbations, condemnations, and other acts concerning the holy mother universal church.

"3. Item, That Master John Huss (against whom the aforesaid Lord Swinco could object no crime before that council) may be present in the congregation of the clergy, and there whosoever will object to him either heresy or error, let him object; binding himself to suffer the like pain, if he do not prove it.

"4. Item, If no man will set himself on the contrary part against him, then let the commandment be made by our sovereign lord the king through all his cities; and, likewise, let it be ordained and proclaimed through all villages and towns, that Master John Huss is ready to render account of his faith; and therefore if any will object unto him any heresy or error, let him write his name in the chancery of the lord archbishop, and bring forth his probations openly before both the parties.

"5. Item, If none such shall be found to object, or which will write his name, then let them be called for, which caused to be noised and rumoured in the pope's court, that in the kingdom of Bohemia, in the city of Prague, and in the marquisdom of Moravia, many there be whose hearts be infected with heresy and error, that they may prove who they be; and if they be not able to prove it, let them be punished.

"6. Item, That commandment be directed to doctors of divinity and of the canon law, and to the chapter of cathedral churches, and that it be required of them all and of every one particularly, that they will bring forth his name, if they know any such to be a heretic or erroneous, and if they deny to know any such, then let them make recognition thereof, before the public notary, confirming the same with their seals.

"7. Item, These things thus done and premised, then that our sovereign lord the king, and also that the archbishop, will give commandment under pain, that no man shall call one another heretic or erroneous, unless he will stand to the probation of that heresy or error, as it becometh him.

"8. Item, After these things obtained, that our sovereign lord the king, with the consent of his barons, will then levy a subsidy, or collect of the clergy, and direct an honest embassy to the pope's court, with the which ambassadors let them also go upon their own proper charges or expenses for their purgation, which have caused this kingdom falsely and grievously to be defamed in the apostolical court.

"9. Item, In the mean season, for the presence of Master John Huss, no interdict ought to be made, as it was made of late, contrary to the order and determination of our holy mother church," &c.

As this matter was thus in altercation between the two parties, the one objecting, the other answering in articles as is aforesaid, in the mean time it happened by the occasion of Ladislaus, king of Naples, who had besieged the pope's towns and territories, that Pope John, raising up war against the said Ladislaus, gave full remission of sins to all them which would war of his side to defend the church. When this bull of the pope's indulgence was come to Prague, and there published, the King Wenceslaus, who then favoured that pope, gave commandment that no man should attempt any thing against the said pope's indulgences. But Huss, with his followers, not able to abide the impiety of those pardons, began manifestly to speak against them; of the which company were three certain artificers, who, hearing the priest preaching of these indulgences, did openly speak against them, and called the pope antichrist, which would set up the cross to fight against his even-christened. Wherefore they were brought before the senate, and committed to ward: but the people, joining themselves together in arms, came to the magistrates, requiring them to be let loose. The magistrates, with gentle words and fair promises, satisfied the people, so that every man returning home to his own house, the tumult was assuaged: but the captains, being in prison, were notwithstanding there beheaded, whose names were John, Martin, and Stascon. The death and martyrdom of these three being known unto the people, they took the bodies of them that were slain, and with great solemnity brought them unto the church of Bethlem: at whose funeral divers priests favouring that side, did sing on this wise; "These be the saints which, for the testament of God, gave their bodies," &c. And so their bodies were sumptuously interred in the church of Bethlem, John Huss preaching at the same funeral, much commending them for their constancy, and blessing God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which had hid the Way of his verity so from the prudent of this world, and had revealed it to the simple lay-people and inferior priests, which chose rather to please God than men.

Illustration -- John Huss preaching at the funeral of John, Martin, and Stascon

Thus the city of Prague was divided. The prelates, with the greatest part of the clergy, and most of the barons, which had any thing to lose, did hold with the pope, especially Stephen Paletz, being the the chiefest doer on that side. On the contrary part, the commons, with part of the clergy and students of the university, went with John Huss. Wenceslaus the king, fearing lest this would grow to a tumult, being moved by the doctors and prelates and council of his barons, thought best to remove John Huss out of the city, who had been excommunicated before by the pope. And further to cease this dissension risen in the church, he committed the matter to the disposition of the doctors and the clergy. They, consulting together among themselves, did set forth a decree, ratified and confirmed by the sentence of the king, containing the sum of eighteen articles for the maintenance of the pope and of the see of Rome, against the doctrine of Wickliff and John Huss. The names of the doctors of divinity were these: Stephen Paletz, Stanislaus de Znoyma, Petrus de Ikoyma, Johannes Heliæ, Andræas de Broda, Johannes Hildesen, Mattheus Monachus, Hermanus Heremita, Georgius Bota, Simon Wenda, &c. John Huss, thus departing out of Prague, went to his country, where he, being protected by the lord of the soil, continued preaching, to whom resorted a great concourse of people; neither yet was he so expelled out of Prague, but that sometimes he resorted to his church at Bethlem, and there also preached unto the people.

Moreover, against the said decree of the doctors, John Huss, with his company, replied again, and answered to their articles, with contrary articles again, as followeth:

"1. The foundation of the doctors, whereupon they found all their writings and counsels, is false, which foundation is this: whereas they say that part of the clergy in the kingdom of Bohemia is pestilent and erroneous, and holdeth falsely of the sacraments.

"2. The doctors hereby do defame the kingdom of Bohemia, and do raise up new discords.

"3. Let them show, therefore, those persons of the clergy, whom they call pestilent, and so let them verify their report, binding themselves to suffer the like pain, if they be not able to prove it.

"4. False it is that they say the pope and his cardinals to be the true and manifest successors of Peter and of the apostles, and that no other successors of Peter and of the apostles can be found upon the earth besides them: whereas no man knoweth whether he be worthy of hatred or of favour; and all bishops and priests be successors of Peter and of the apostles.

"5. Not the pope, but Christ only is the head; and not the cardinals, but all Christ's faithful people be the body of the catholic church; as all Holy Scripture and decrees of the holy fathers do testify and affirm.

"6. And as touching the pope, if he be a reprobate, it is plain that he is no head, no nor member also of the holy church of God, but of the devil and of his synagogue.

"7. The clergy of the gospellers, agreeing with the saying of St. Austin which they allege, and according to the sanctions of the fathers, and determinations of the holy mother church, do say and affirm laudably: that the condemnation and prohibition of the forty-five articles is unlawful, and unjust, and rashly done; and that not only because the doctors, but also all bishops and archbishops, in such great causes, namely, touching faith, as these articles do, have no authority at all.

"8. The second cause of the discord which they allege also is most false; seeing the faith of whole Christendom, concerning the Church of Rome, is divided in three parts by reason of three popes, which now together do reign; and the fourth part is neutral. Neither is it true, that we ought to stand in all things to the determination of the pope and of the cardinals, but so far forth as they do agree with the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testament, from whence the sanctions of the fathers, as is evident, did first spring.

"9. In the fourth article they burst out into a certain dotage, and are contrary to themselves; by reason that they doltishly have reprehended the gospellers, who in all their doings receive the Holy Scripture, which is the law of God, the way of truth and life, for their judge and measure: and afterwards they themselves do allege the Scripture, Deut. xvii., where all judges, both popes and cardinals, are taught to judge and discern between leper and leper, and in every ecclesiastical cause, only after the rule of God's law. And so are they contrary unto their second article, wherein they say, that in every catholic matter we must run to the pope; which is contrary to the foolish condemnation of the articles aforesaid.

"10. Consequently, like idiots they do most falsely allege for their purpose the canon, under the name and authority of Jerome, where they do apply the words of Jerome most impertinently to the pope of Rome, which he writeth to St. Austin, calling him a most blessed pope.

"11. By the which place of Jerome it is manifest that the first article of those doctors is false: forasmuch as by these words appeareth that others besides the bishop of Rome and his cardinals are called blessed popes, holding the faith and seat of Peter, and are successors of the apostles; as was Austin and other holy bishops more.

"12. Whereof it followeth moreover, that the Church of Rome is not that place, where the Lord did appoint the principal see of his whole church: for Christ, which was the head priest of all, did first sit in Jerusalem, and Peter did sit first in Antioch, and afterward in Rome. Also other popes did sit some in Bononia, some at Perugia, some at Avignon.

"13. Item, The aforesaid prelates are falsifiers of the Holy Scriptures and canons, and therefore are worthy to be punished; which affirm and say, that we must obey the pope in all things. For why? it is known that many popes have erred, and one pope was also a woman; to whom not only it was not lawful to give obedience, but also unlawful to communicate with them, as all rubrics and infinite canons do declare.

"14. Item, Their sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh articles do stand and are grounded upon untrue and false persuasions, and therefore are to be rejected and detested like the other before; seeing they do induce, not to peace and verity, but to dissension and falsity.

"15. It is manifest also to the laity, that this dissension among the clergy riseth for no other cause, but only for the preaching of the gospel, which reprehendeth such simoniacs, and such heretics in the church of God, as namely haunt the court of Rome, spreading out their branches abroad into all the world, who deserve to be removed and extirpate, not only of the clergy gospellers, but also of the secular power. And so these three vices, to wit, simony, luxury, and avarice, which is idol-worship, be the causes of all this dissension among the clergy in the kingdom of Bohemia, and not the other, which they falsely ascribe to the gospellers of Prague. These three vices being removed, peace and unity would soon be restored in the clergy.

"16. Moreover, their last article is too gross, and not only is without all law, but also without all colour of law: whereas they fondly and childishly do argue thus: that the processes made against Master John Huss ought to be obeyed, because, forsooth, the common sort of the clergy of Prague hath received them. By the same reason they may argue also, that we must obey the devil, for our first parents, Adam and Eve, obeyed him. Also our ancestors before us were pagans, wherefore we must obey them, and be also pagans.

"17. But let this frivolous opinion go, this is certain truth, that the said processes, made against Master John Huss, by law, are none, forasmuch asthey were obtained, drawn, wrought, and executed, contrary to the commission of the pope, against the determination of the holy mother church, and a thousand other laws besides.

"18. Finally, whosoever wittingly and obstinately doth defend and execute, (the said process made,) or consenteth unto them, are all to be counted as blasphemers, excommunicate, and heretics, as hath been before written and exhibited to the lord general bishop Olomucense; and more shall be declared and proved, if audience may be given openly before all the doctors."

Tedious it were to recite all the bibble-babble of these doctors in this their long responsal. Whoso listeth to see the bottom of their profound writing and knowledge, may resort either to the history of Æneas Silvius, or else to Master Cochleus, in his first book, De Hist. Hussit.

Thus then Master John Huss, being driven out of Prague, as is before touched, by the motion of these doctors, and, moreover, being so excommunicate, that no mass nor other must be said there where he was present, the people began mightily to grudge and to cry out against the prelates and other popish priests, which were the workers thereof, accusing them to be simoniacs, covetous, whoremasters, adulterers, proud; sparing not to lay open their vices to their great ignominy and shame, and much craving reformation to be had of the clergy.

The king, seeing the inclination of the people, being also not ignorant of the wickedness of the clergy, under pretence to reform the church, began to require greater exactions upon such priests and men of the clergy, as were known and accused to be wicked livers. Whereupon they, on the other part, that favoured John Huss, taking that occasion present, complained of all, accused many, and spared none, whomsoever they knew to be of the catholic faction, or enemies to John Huss; by reason whereof the priests of the popish clergy were brought, such as were faulty, into great distress, and such as were not faulty, into great fear; insomuch that they were glad to fall in, at least not to fall out, with the Protestants, being afraid to displease them. By this means Master Huss began to take some more liberty unto him, and to preach in his church at Bethlem, and none did control him: by the same means the people also received some comfort, and the king much gain and money by that reason.

And thus the popish clergy, while they went about to persecute John Huss, were enwrapped themselves in great tribulation, and afflicted on every side, as well of laymen, as of learned men of the clergy, insomuch that women also and children were against them; and by the same reason wherewith they thought to entangle him, they were overthrown themselves. For the doctors, which before condemned this doctrine in John Huss for intolerable heresy, and cried out so much against him, for teaching that temporal lords might take away temporal livings from the clergy sinning habitualiter, that is, lying and continuing still in the custom of iniquity; now, when the king and the lords temporal began to amerce them, and bereave them of their temporalties for their transgressions, the said doctors did keep silence and durst speak never a word. Again, where the aforesaid doctors before could not abide in John Huss, that tithes were to be counted for pure alms, now coming to the Guildhall, they were feign to entreat for their temporal goods not to be taken from them; pleading the same temporalties .to be mere alms and devotion of good men, given unto the church.

And thus now did they themselves grant the thing, which before they did condemn. The more that the pope's clergy was pinched, the more grudge and hatred redounded to John Huss, although he was in no cause thereof, but only their own wicked deservings, for the which cause Stephen Paletz, and Andræas de Broda, being the chief champions of that faction, though they would not remedy the cause, yet, to ease their minds, wrote sharp and cruel letters to Master Huss. And, to help the matter forward, the pope also here must help at a pinch, who likewise writeth his letters to Wenceslaus, king of Bohemia, which was brother to Sigismund, emperor, for the suppressing of John Huss and of his doctrine. Which was in the fifth and last year of his popedom, A. D. 1414: the tenor of whose letters to King Wenceslaus in this wise proceedeth.

"John, bishop, servant of God's servants, to his well-beloved son in Christ, Wenceslaus, king of Romans and of Bohemia, greeting and apostolical benediction. Among other desires and delights of our heart, who, although unworthy, represent the room of Christ here in earth, this doth chiefly redound to our singular comfort, so often as we do hear of the brotherly entreaty of peace and of concord (by which concord kingdoms do increase, as contrary by discord they are diminished) which is between your honour and our well-beloved son in the Lord, Sigismund, your brother germain and cousin, for the noble king of the Romans, &c.

"And as we have cause to joy at the premises, so likewise again the heavy rumours which are here, do trouble and damp our minds. For we hear that in divers places under your dominion, there be certain which do follow and lean to the errors of that arch-heretic Wickliff, whose books have been long since condemned in the general Roman council, tobe erroneous, heretical, and swerving from the catholic faith. And furthermore, which is worst of all, the said persons, cleaving to the opinions of the heretics, (lest they should be corrected of their superior powers for their excess, to cover their naughtiness and stubbornness in despising the commandments of the apostolical seat,) do openly teach disobedience and contempt of the keys and ecclesiastical censure, to the subversion of the apostolical dignity, setting at naught the decrees of the holy fathers and canons. Wherefore we do exhort your worship, for the mercy of our God, as heartily as we may or can, that it would please you, as we desire and hope you will, so effectuously to show forth your regal power, both for the glory of God, and defence of the catholic faith, which you go about to defend, and for the conservation of your kingly name, state, and honour, for the prosperous and safe government of your kingdom and dominions, as it becometh a catholic prince: whereby this blot of heresy, which doth so lamentably and miserably spring and creep in those parts, and doth so infect the minds of mortal men, to the destruction of their souls, and doth sequester them from the congregation of the pure and catholic faith and truth, may be rooted out, &c.

"Given at Bononia, in the ides of June, in the fifth year of our popedom," &c.

In this epistle of Pope John above prefixed, forasmuch as mention is made of a certain council before holden at Rome (which was four years before) against the articles and books of John Wickliff, it shall not be impertinent, nor out of purpose, to repeat a certain merry history, and worthy otherwise to be noted, written by Nicholas Clemangis, of a certain spirit which ruled the popish councils: his words are these:

"The same pope called a council at Rome about four years before, at the earnest suit of divers men; and a mass of the Holy Ghost being said at the entrance into the said council, according to the accustomed manner, the council being set, and the said John sitting highest in a chair prepared for him for that purpose; behold, an ugly and dreadful owl, or, as the common proverb is, the evil sign of some mischance of death to follow, coming out of the back half of him, flew to and fro, with her evil-favoured voice, and standing upon the middle beam of the church, cast her staring eyes upon the pope sitting. The whole company began to marvel to see the night-crow, which is wont to abide no light, how he should, in the mid-day, come in the face of such a multitude; and judged, not without cause, that it was an ill-favoured token. 'For behold,' said they, (whispering one in another's ear,) 'the spirit appeareth in the shape of an owl.' And as they stood beholding one another, and advising the pope, scarcely could they keep their countenance from laughter. John himself, upon whom the owl stedfastly looked, blushing at the matter, began to sweat, and to fret and fume with himself, and not finding by what other means he might salve the matter, being so confused, dissolving the council, rose up and departed. After that there followed another session: in the which the owl again, after the manner aforesaid, although, as I believe, not called, was present, looking stedfastly upon the bishop; whom he beholding to be come again, was more ashamed than he was before, and justly, saying he could no longer abide the sight of her, and commanded that she should be driven away with bats and shoutings. But she, being afraid neither with their noise, neither with any thing else, would not away, until that, with the strokes of the sticks which were thrown at her, she fell down dead before them all. This I learned of a faithful friend, who at the same time came to Rome: the which thing I scarcely crediting for the rareness of the matter, he affirmed by his oath, that it was most certain and true; adding, moreover, that all there present were much offended, and did greatly deride that council called for such a purpose; and by little and little the council was dissolved, nothing done there, as he saith."

Illustration -- The Council disturbed by an Owl

Although it hath not been always seen that such spiritual doves have been present with popes and their councils, and governed them, yet their evil doctrine declareth no less. Read, gentle reader! the book of Clemangis, and thou shalt not think thy labour evil bestowed; for he hath both learnedly, truly, freely, and godly bewrayed the filthiness of antichrist, and his ministers, their wickedness, impiety, and cruelty, and the miserable state and face of the church, &c. And thus much for Pope John.

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