106. CERTAIN LETTERS RELATING TO THE CASE OF JOHN HUSS
How grievously this death of John Huss was taken among the nobles of Bohemia and of Moravia, hereafter (Christ willing) shall appear by their letters which they sent unto the council, and by the letters of Sigismund, the king of Romans, written unto them; wherein he laboureth, all that he can, to purge and excuse himself of Huss's death. Albeit he was not altogether free from that cruel fact, and innocent from that blood; yet, notwithstanding, he pretendeth in words so to wipe away that blot from him, that the greatest part of that crime seemeth to rest upon the bloody prelates of that council, as the words of the king do purport in form as followeth:
"In the mean time as we were about the coasts of Rhine, John Huss went to Constance, and there was arrested, as it is not to you unknown; who if he had first resorted unto us, and had gone with us up to the council, perhaps it had been otherwise with him; and God knoweth what grief and sorrow it was to our heart, to see it so to fall out, as with no words can be well expressed. Whereof all the Bohemians, which were there present, can bear us witness, seeing and beholding how careful and solicitous we were in labouring for him: insomuch that we many times with anger and fury departed out of the council; and not only out of the council, but also went out of the city of Constance taking his part, unto such time as the rulers of the council, sending unto us, said, that if we would not permit them to prosecute that which right required in the council, what should they then do in the place? Whereupon thus we thought with ourselves, that here was nothing else for us more to do, nor yet to speak in this case, forasmuch as the whole council otherwise had been dissolved. Where is to be noted, moreover, that in Constance the same time there was not one clerk, or two, but there were ambassadors from all kings and princes in Christendom, especially, since the time that (Petrus de Luna giving over) all those kings and princes which took his part, came to us; so that whatsoever good was to be done, it was now to be passed in this present council," &c. Ex Regist. Imp. Sigismund. ad Nobiles, &c.
By this it may appear that the emperor, as partly ashamed and sorry of that which was, would gladly have cleared himself thereof, and have washed his hands with Pilate; yet he could not so clear himself, but that a great portion of that murder remained in him to be noted, and well worthy of reprehension, as may appear by his last words spoken in the council to John Huss, whereof John Huss, in his epistles, complaineth, writing to certain of his friends in Bohemia, in his 33rd epistle, as by his words here following may appear:
"I desire you yet again, for the love of God, that the lords of Bohemia, joining together, will desire the king for a final audience to be given me. Forasmuch as he alone said to me in the council, that they should give me audience shortly, and that I should answer for myself briefly in writing; it will be to his great confusion, if he shall not perform that which he hath spoken. But I fear that word of his will be as firm and sure as the other was concerning my safe-conduct granted by him. Certain there were in Bohemia, which willed me to beware of his safe-conduct; and other said, "He will surely give you to your enemies;" and the Lord Mikest Dwakie told me, before Master Jessenitz, saying, "Master, know it for certain you shall be condemned." And this I suppose he spake, knowing before the intention of the king. I hoped well that he had been well affected toward the law of God and the truth, and had therein good intelligence; now I conceive that he is not greatly skilful, nor so prudently circumspect in himself. He condemned me before mine enemies did, who, if it had pleased him, might have kept the moderation of Pilate, the Gentile, which said, I find no cause in this man; or, at least, if he had said but thus, Behold, I have given him his safe-conduct safely to return, and if he will not abide the decision of the council, I will send him home to the king of Bohemia with your sentence and attestations, that he with his clergy may judge him. But now I hear, by the relation of Henry Leffi, and of others, that he will ordain for me sufficient audience, and if I will not submit myself to the judgment of the council, he will send me safe the contrary way," &c.
This John Huss, being in prison, wrote divers treatises, as of the Commandments, of the Lord's Prayer, of Mortal Sin, of Matrimony, of the Knowledge and Love of God, of Three Enemies of Mankind, the World, and Flesh, and the Devil; of Penance, of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, of the Sufficiency of the Law of God to rule the Church, &c. He wrote also divers epistles and letters to the lords, and to his friends of Bohemia, and in his writings did foreshow many things before to come, touching the reformation of the church; and seemeth in the prison to have had divers prophetical revelations showed to him of God. Certain of which his letters and predictions I thought here underneath to insert, in such sort, as neither in reciting all I will overcharge the volume too much, nor yet in reciting of none will I be so brief, but that the reader may have some taste and take some profit of the Christian writings and doings of this blessed man; first beginning with the letter of the Lord Clum, concerning the safe-conduct of John Huss.
A letter of the Lord John de Clum, concerning the safe-conduct of John Huss.
"To all and singular that shall see and hear these presents, I, John de Clum, do it to understand how Master John Huss, bachelor of divinity, under the safe-conduct and protection of the renowned prince and lord, Sigismund of Romans, semper Augustus, and king of Hungary, &c., my gracious lord, and under the protection, defence, and safeguard of the holy empire of Rome, having the letters patent of the said my lord, king of Romans, &c., came unto Constance, to render full account of his faith, in public audience, to all that would require the same. This, the said Master John Huss, in this imperial city of Constance, under the safe-conduct of the said my lord, king of Romans, hath been and yet is detained. And although the pope, with the cardinals, have been seriously required by solemn ambassadors of the said my lord, king of Romans, &c., in the king's name and behalf, that the said Master John Huss should be set at liberty, and be restored unto me; yet, notwithstanding, they have, and yet do refuse hitherto to set him at liberty, to the great contempt and derogation of the safe-conduct of the king, and of the safeguard and protection of the empire, or imperial majesty. Wherefore I, John, aforesaid, in the name of the king, do here publish and make it known, that the apprehending and detaining of the said Master John Huss was done wholly against the will of the forenamed king of Romans, my lord, seeing it is done in the contempt of the safe-conduct of his subjects, and of the protection of the empire, because that the said my lord was then absent far from Constance, and if he had been there present, would never have permitted the same. And when he shall come, it is to be doubted of no man, but that he, for this great injury and contempt of this safe-conduct done to him and to the empire, will grievously be molested for the same.
"Given at Constance, in the day of the nativity of the Lord, 1414."
In this instrument above prefixed, note, gentle reader, three things.
First, the goodness of this gentle lord, John de Clum, being so fervent and zealous in the cause of John Huss, or rather in the cause of Christ.
Secondly, the safe-conduct granted unto the said John Huss, under the faith and protection of the emperor, and of the empire.
Thirdly, here is to be seen the contempt and rebellion of these proud prelates, in disobeying the authority of their high magistrate, who, contrary to his safe-conduct given, and the mind of the emperor, did arrest and imprison this good man, before the coming of the said emperor, and before that John Huss was heard. Let us now, as we have promised, adjoin some of the epistles of this godly man.
"Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ, that you, being delivered from sin, may walk in his grace, and may grow in all modesty and virtue, and after this may enjoy eternal life.
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you, which walk after the law of God, that you cast not away the care of the salvation of your souls, when you, hearing the word of God, are premonished wisely to understand that you be not deceived by false apostles, which do not reprehend the sins of men, but rather do extenuate and diminish them; which flatter the priests, and do not show to the people their offences; which magnify themselves, boast their own works, and marvellously extol their own worthiness, but follow not Christ in his humility, in poverty, in the cross, and other manifold afflictions. Of whom our merciful Saviour did premonish us before, saying, False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And when he had forewarned his well-beloved disciples, he said unto them, Beware and take heed of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves: ye shall know them by their fruits. And truth it is, that the faithful of Christ have much need diligently to beware and take heed unto themselves. For as our Saviour himself doth say, the elect also, if it were possible, shall be brought into error. Wherefore, my well-beloved, be circumspect and watchful, that ye be not circumvented with the crafty trains of the devil. And the more circumspect ye ought to be, for that antichrist laboureth the more to trouble you. The last judgment is near at hand; death shall swallow up many; but to the elect children of God, the kingdom of God draweth near, because for them he gave his own body. Fear not death; love together one another; persevere in understanding the good-will of God without ceasing. Let the terrible and hor.rible day of judgment be always before your eyes, that you sin not; and also the joy of eternal life, whereunto you must endeavour. Furthermore, let the passion of our Saviour be never out of your minds; that you may bear with him, and for him gladly, whatsoever shall be laid upon you. For if you shall consider well in your mind his cross and afflictions, nothing shall be grievous unto you, and patiently you shall give place to tribulations, cursings, rebukes, stripes, and prisonment, and shall not doubt to give your lives moreover for his holy truth, if need require. Know ye, well-beloved, that antichrist, being stirred up against you, deviseth divers persecutions. And many he hath not hurt, no not the least hair of their heads, as by mine own example I can testify, although he hath been vehemently incensed against me. Wherefore, I desire you all, with your prayers to make intercession for me to the Lord, to give me intelligence, sufferance, patience, and constancy, that I never swerve from his Divine verity. He hath brought me now to Constance. In all my journey, openly and manifestly, I have not feared to utter my name as becometh the servant of God. In no place I kept myself secret, nor used any dissimulation. But never did I find in any place more pestilent and manifest enemies than at Constance. Which enemies neither should I have had there, had it not been for certain of our own Bohemians, hypocrites and deceivers, who for benefits received, and stirred up with covetousness, with boasting and bragging have persuaded the people that I went about to seduce them out of the right way; but I am in good hope, that through the mercy of our God, and by your prayers, I shall persist strongly in the immutable verity of God, unto the last breath. Finally, I would not have you ignorant, that whereas every one here is put in his office, I only as an outcast am neglected, &c. I commend you to the merciful Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, and the Son of the immaculate Virgin Mary, which hath redeemed us by his most bitter death, without all our merits, from eternal pains, from the thraldom of the devil, and from sin.
"From Constance, the year of our Lord 1415."
Another letter of John Huss, to his benefactors.
"My gracious benefactors and defenders of the truth, I exhort you by the bowels of Jesus Christ, that now ye, setting aside the vanities of this present world, will give your service to the eternal King, Christ the Lord. Trust not in princes, nor in the sons of men, in whom there is no health. For the sons of men are dissemblers and deceitful. To-day they are, to-morrow they perish, but God remaineth for ever. Who hath his servants, not for any need he hath of them, but for their own profit; unto whom he performeth that which he promiseth, and fulfilleth that which he purposeth to give. He casteth off no faithful servant from him, for he saith, Where I am, there also shall my servant be. And the Lord maketh every servant of his to be the lord of all his possession, giving himself unto him, and, with himself, all things; that without all tediousness, fear, and without all defect, he may possess all things, rejoicing with all saints in joy infinite. O happy is that servant, whom, when the Lord shall come, he shall find watching! Happy is the servant, which shall receive that King of glory with joy! Wherefore, well-beloved lords and benefactors, serve you that King in fear; which shall bring you, as I trust, now to Bohemia at this present by his grace in health, and hereafter, to eternal life of glory. Fare you well, for I think that this is the last letter that I shall write to you; who to-morrow, as I suppose, shall be purged in hope of Jesus Christ, through bitter death for my sins. The things that happened to me this night I am not able to write. Sigismund hath done all things with me deceitfully, God forgive him, and only for your sakes. You also heard the sentence which he awarded against me. I pray you have no suspicion of faithful Vitus."
Another letter to the Lord John de Clum.
"Most gracious benefactor in Christ Jesus, dearly beloved, yet I rejoice not a little, that, by the grace of God, I may write unto your honour. By your letter, which I received yesterday, I understand, first, how the iniquity of the great strumpet, that is, of the malignant congregation, (whereof mention is made in the Apocalypse,) is detected, and shall be more detected. With the which strumpet the kings of the earth do commit fornication, fornicating spiritually from Christ, and, as is there said, sliding back from the truth, and consenting to the lies of antichrist, through his seduction, and through fear, or through hope of confederacy, for getting of worldly honour. Secondly, I perceived by your letter how the enemies of the truth begin now to be troubled. Thirdly, I perceived the settled constancy of your charity, wherewith you profess the truth bodily. Fourthly, with joy I perceived that you mind now to give over the vanity and painful service of this present world, and to serve the Lord Jesus Christ quietly at home. Whom to serve is to reign, as Gregory saith. Whom he that serveth faithfully, hath Jesus Christ himself in the kingdom of heaven to minister unto him, as he himself saith, Blessed is that servant, whom, when the Lord shall come, he shall find waking, and so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he rising shall gird himself, and shall minister to him. This do not the kings of the world to their servants; whom only they do love so long as they are profitable and necessary for their commodities," &c.
Another epistle of John Huss, wherein he declareth why God suffereth not his to perish, bringing divers examples, wherewith he doth comfort and confirm both himself and other.
"The Lord God be with you. Many causes there were, well-beloved in God, my dear friends, which moved me to think that those letters were the last, which before I sent unto you, looking that same time for instant death. But now, understanding the same to be deferred, I take it for great comfort unto me, that I have some leisure more to talk with you by letters? and therefore I write again to you, to declare and testify at least my gratitude and mindful duty toward you. And as touching death, God doth know why he doth defer it both to me, and to my well-beloved brother Master Jerome, who I trust will die holily and without blame; and do know also that he doth and suffereth now more valiantly than I myself, a wretched sinner., God hath given us a long time, that we might call to memory our sins the better, and repent for the same more fervently. He hath granted us time, that our long and great temptation should put away our grievous sins, and bring the more consolation. He hath given us time, wherein we should remember the horrible rebukes of our merciful King and Lord Jesus, and should ponder his cruel death, and so more patiently might learn to bear our afflictions. And, moreover, that we might keep in remembrance, how that the joys of the life to come are not given after the joys of this world immediately, but through many tribulations the saints have entered into the kingdom of heaven. For some of them have been cut and chopped all to pieces, some their eyes bored through, some sod, some roasted, some flayed alive, some buried quick, stoned, crucified, ground betwixt millstones, drawn and haled hither and thither unto execution, drowned in waters, strangled and hanged, torn in pieces, vexed with rebukes before their death, pined in prisons, and afflicted in bonds. And who is able to recite all the torments and sufferings of the holy saints, which they suffered under the Old and New Testament for the verity of God; namely, those which at any time rebuked the malice of the priests, or have preached against their wickedness? And it will be a marvel, if any man now also shall escape unpunished, whosoever dare boldly resist the wickedness and perversity, especially of those priests, which can abide no correction. And I am glad that they are compelled now to read my books, in the which their malice is somewhat described; and I know they have read the same more exactly and willingly, than the holy gospel, seeking therein to find out errors. Given at Constance upon Thursday, the 28th day of June, A. D. 1415."
Another letter of John Huss, wherein he rehearseth what injuries he received of the council, and of the deputies.
"If my letter be not yet sent to Bohemia, keep it and send it not, for hurt may come thereof, &c.
"Item, If the king do ask, who ought to be my judge, since that the council neither did call me, nor did cite me, neither was I ever accused before the council, and yet the council hath imprisoned me, and hath appointed their proctor against me.
"Item, I desire you, right noble and gracious Lord John, if audience shall be given me, that the king will be there present himself, and that I may have a place appointed near unto him, that he may hear me well, and understand what I say; and that you also, with Lord Henry, and with Lord Wencelate and other more, if you may, will be present, and hear what the Lord Jesus Christ, my procurator and advocate, and most gracious judge, will put in my mouth to speak; that whether I live or die, you may be true and upright witnesses with me, lest lying lips shall say hereafter that I swerved away from the truth which I have preached.
"Item, Know you that before witnesses and notaries in prison, I desired the commissioners that they would depute unto me a proctor and an advocate, who promised so to do, and afterward would not perform it. Wherefore I have committed myself to the Lord Jesus Chrst, that he will be my procurator and advocate, and judge of my cause.
"Item, Know you, that they have, as I suppose, no other quarrel against me, but only this, that I stood against the pope's bull, which Pope John sent down to Bohemia, to sanctify war with the sign of the cross and full remission of sins, to all them which would take the holy cross, to fight for the patrimony of the Romish Church against Ladislaus king of Naples, and they have mine own writing which was read against me, and I do acknowledge it to be mine. Secondly, they have also against me, that I have continued so long in excommunication, and yet did take upon me to minister in the church and say mass. Thirdly, they have against me, because I did appeal from the pope to Christ; for they read my appeal before me, the which, with a willing mind, smiling, I confessed before them all to be mine. Fourthly, because I left a certain letter behind me, which was read in the church of Bethlehem, the which letter my adversaries have very evil-favouredly translated, and sinisterly expounded, in the which I did write that I went out with a safe-conduct. Whereunto you yourselves can say and bear me record, that I in my going out had no safe-conduct of the pope, neither yet did I know whether you should go out with me when I wrote that letter.
"Item, If audience may be given to me, and that after the same audience the king would suffer me not to be returned again into prison, but that I may have your counsels and others my friends; and if it may please God that I may say something to my sovereign lord the king, for the behalf of Christianity, and for his own profit," &c.
Another letter of John Huss, wherein he confirmeth the Bohemians, and describeth the wickedness of that council.
"John Huss, in hope the servant of God, to all the faithful in Bohemia which love the Lord, greeting, through the grace of God. It cometh in my mind, wherein I must needs admonish you that be the faithful and beloved of the Lord, how that the council of Constance, being full of pride, avarice, and all abomination, hath condemned my books written in the Bohemian tongue for heretical, which books they never saw, nor ever heard them read. And if they had heard them, yet could they not unstand the same, being some Italians, some Frenchmen, some Britons, some Spaniards, Germans, with other people of other nations more; unless, peradventure, John, bishop of Litomysl, understood them, which was present in that council, and certain other Bohemians and priests which are against me, and labour all they may how to deprave both the verity of God, and the honesty of our country of Bohemia; which I judge, in the hope of God, to be a godly land, right well given to the true knowledge of the faith, for that it doth so greatly desire the word of God, and honest manners. And if you were here at Constance, ye should see the grievous abomination of this council, which they call so holy, and such as cannot err. Of the which council I have heard it by the Switzers reported, that the city of Constance is not able in thirty years to be purged of those abominations in that council committed. And all be offended almost with that council, being sore grieved to behold such execrable things perpetrated in the same.
"When I stood first to answer before mine adversaries, seeing all things there done with no order, and hearing them also outrageously crying out, I said plainly unto them, that I looked for more honest behaviour, and better order and discipline in that council. Then the chief cardinal answered, 'Sayest thou so? But in the Tower thou spakest more modestly.' To whom said I, 'In the Tower no man cried out against me, whereas now all do rage against me.' My faithful and beloved in Christ, be not afraid with their sentence in condemning my books. They shall be scattered hither and thither abroad, like light butterflies, and their statutes shall endure as spiders' webs. They went about to shake my constancy from the verity of Christ; but they could not overcome the virtue of God in me. They would not reason with the Scriptures against me, as divers honourable lords can witness with me, which being ready to suffer contumely for the truth of God, took my part stoutly; namely, Lord Wencelate de Duba, and Lord John de Clum; for they were let in by King Sigismund into the council. And when I said, that I was desirous to be instructed, if I did in any thing err; then they heard the chief cardinal answer again, Because thou wouldst be informed, there is no remedy but that thou must first revoke thy doctrine, according to the determination of fifty bachelors of divinity appointed.' O high instruction!
"After like manner St. Katherine also should have denied and revoked the verity of God and faith in Christ, because the fifty masters likewise did withstand her; which, notwithstanding, that good virgin would never do, standing in her faith unto death: but she did win those her masters unto Christ, when I cannot win these my masters by any means. These things I thought good to write unto you, that you might know how they have overcome me, with no grounded Scripture, nor with any reason; but only did essay with terrors and deceits to persuade me to revoke and to abjure. But our merciful God, whose law I have magnified, was and is with me, and I trust, so will continue, and will keep me in his grace unto death. Written at Constance after the feast of John Baptist, in prison and in bonds, daily looking for death; although, for the secret judgments of God, I dare not say whether this be my last epistle; for now also Almighty God is able to deliver me."
Another letter of John Huss, wherein he comforteth his friends, and willeth them not to be troubled for the condemning of his books; and also declareth the wickedness of the clergy.
"Master John Huss, in hope the servant of God, to all the faithful which love him and his statutes, wisheth the truth and grace of God.
"Beloved, I thought it needful to warn that you should not fear or be discouraged because the adversaries have decreed that my books shall be burnt. Remember how the Israelites burned the preachings of the prophet Jeremiah, and yet they could not avoid the things that were prophesied of in them. For after they were burnt, the Lord commanded to write the same prophecy again, and that larger; which was also done. For Jeremiah sitting in prison spake, and Baruch which was ready at his hand wrote. This is written either in the thirty-fifth or forty-fifth chapter of the vision of Jeremiah. It is also written in the books of the Maccabees, that the wicked did burn the law of God, and killed them that had the same. Again, under the New Testament, they burned the saints, with the books of the law of God. The cardinals condemned and committed to fire certain of St. Gregory's books, and had burnt them all if they had not been preserved of God by the means of Peter, Gregory's minister. Having these things before your eyes, take heed lest through fear you omit to read my books, and deliver them to the adversaries to be burnt. Remember the sayings of our merciful Saviour, by which he forewarneth us, Matthew xxiv., There shall be (saith he) before the day of judgment great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning until this day, neither shall be afterwards: so that even the elect of God should be deceived, if it were possible. But for their sakes those days shall be shortened. When you remember these things (beloved) be not afraid, for I trust in God that that school of antichrist shall be afraid of you, and suffer you to be inquiet, neither shall the council of Constance extend to Bohemia. For I think, that many of them which are of the council shall die before they shall get from you my books. And they shall depart from the council and be scattered abroad, throughout the parts of the word, like storks, and then they shall know when winter cometh what they did in summer. Consider that they have judged their head, the pope, worthy of death, for many horrible facts that he hath done. Go to now; answer to this, you preachers, which preach that the pope is the god of the earth; that he may, as the lawyers say, make sale of the holy things; that he is the head of the whole church in verity well governing the same; that he is the heart of the church in quickening the same spiritually; that be is the well-spring from which floweth all virtue and goodness; that he is the sun of the holy church; that he is the safe refuge to which every Christian man ought to fly for succour. Behold, now that head is cut off with the sword, now the god of the earth is bound, now his sins are declared openly, now that well-spring is dried up, that sun darkened, that heart is plucked out and thrown away, lest that any man should seek succour thereat. The council hath condemned that head, and that for this offence, because he took money for indulgences, bishoprics, and other such like. But they condemned him by order of judgment which were themselves the buyers and sellers of the same merchandise. There was present John, bishop of Lytomysl, who went twice about to buy the bishopric of Prague, but others prevented him. O wicked men, why did they not first cast out the beam out of their own eyes? These men have accursed and condemned the seller, but they themselves, which were the buyers and consenters to the bargain, are without danger. What shall I say, that they do use this manner of buying and selling at home in their own countries? For at Constance there is one bishop that bought, and another which sold, and the pope, for allowing of both their facts, took bribes on both sides. It came so to pass in Bohemia also, as you know. I would that in that council God had said, He that amongst you is without sin, let him give the sentence against Pope John; then surely they had gone all out of the council house, one after another. Why did they bow the knee to him always, before this his fall, kiss his feet, and call him the most holy father. seeing they saw apparently before that he was a heretic, that he was a man-killer, that he was a wicked snner, all which things now they have found in him? Why did the cardinals choose him to be pope. knowing before that he had killed the holy father? Why suffered they him to meddle with holy things, in bearing the office of the popedom? for to this end they are his counsellors, that they should admonish him of that which is right. Are not they themselves as guilty of these faults as he, seeing that they accounted these things vices in him, and were partakers of some of them themselves? Why durst no man lay aught to his charge before he had fled from Constance, but as soon as the secular power, by the sufferance of God, laid hold upon him, then, and never before, they conspired all together that he should not live any longer? Surely, even at this day, is the malice, the abomination, and filthiness of antichrist revealed in the pope and others of this council.
"Now the faithful servants of God may understand what our Saviour Christ meant by this saying, When you shall see the abomination of desolation, which is spoken of by Daniel, &c.; whoso can understand it, &c. Surely these he great abominations, pride, covetousness, simony, sitting in a solitary place, that is to say, in a dignity void of goodness, of humility, and other virtues; as we do now clearly see in those that are constituted in any office and dignity. Oh how acceptable a thing should it be, if time would suffer me, to disclose their wicked acts, which are now apparent, that the faithful servants of God might know them! I trust in God that he will send after me those that shall be more valiant, and there are alive at this day, that shall make more manifest the malice of antichrist, and shall give their lives to the death for the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall give both to you and me the joys of life everlasting. This epistle was written upon St. John Baptist's day, in prison, and in cold irons, I having this meditation with myself, that John was beheaded in his prison and bonds, for the word of God."
Another letter of John Huss.
"John Huss, in hope the servant of God, to all the faithful at Bohemia, which love the Lord, wisheth to stand and die in the grace of God, and at last to attain unto eternal life.
"Ye that bear rule over other and be rich, and ye also that be poor, well-beloved and faithful in God, I beseech you, and admonish you all, that ye will be obedient unto God, make much of his word, and, gladly hearing the same, will humbly perform that which ye hear. I beseech you, stick fast to the verity of God's word, which I have written and preached unto you out of his law, and the sermons of his saints. Also I desire you, if any man, either in public sermon or in private talk, heard of me any thing, or have read any thing written by me, which is against the verity of God, that he do not follow the same. Albeit I do not find my conscience guilty that I ever have spoken or written any such thing amongst you.
I desire you, moreover, if any man at any time have noted any levity either in my talk or in my conditions, that he do not follow the same, but pray to God for me, to pardon me that sin of lightness. I pray you that ye will love your priests and ministers, which be of honest behaviour, to prefer and honour them before others; namely, such priests as travail in the word of God. I pray you, take heed to yourselves, and beware of malicious and deceitful men, and especially of these wicked priests of whom our Saviour doth speak, that they are under sheep's clothing, and inwardly are ravening wolves. I pray such as be rulers and superiors, to behave themselves gently towards their poor inferiors, and to rule them justly. I beseech the citizens, that they will walk every man in his degree and vocation with an upright conscience. The artificers also I beseech, that they will exercise their occupations diligently, and use them with the fear of God. I beseech the servants, that they will serve their masters faithfully. And likewise the schoolmasters I beseech, that they, living honestly, will bring up their scholars virtuously, and teach them faithfully, first to learn to fear God; then for the glory of God and the public utility of the commonwealth, and their own health, and not for avarice or for worldly honour, to employ their minds to honest arts. I beseech the students of the university and all schools, in all honest things to obey their masters, and to follow them, and that with all diligence they will study to be profitable both to the setting forth of the glory of God, and to the soul's health, as well of themselves, as of other men. Together I beseech and pray you all, that you will yield most hearty thanks to the right honourable lords, the Lord Wencelate de Duba, Lord John de Clum, Lord Henry Lumlovio, Lord Vilem Zagecio, Lord Nicholas, and other lords of Bohemia, of Moravia, and Poland; that their diligence towards me may be grateful to all good men; because that they, like valiant champions of God's truth, have oftentimes set themselves against the whole council for my deliverance, contending and standing against the same to the uttermost of their power;; but especially Lord Wencelate de Duba, and Lord John de Clum.
Whatsoever they shall report unto you, give credit unto them, for they were in the council when I there answered many. They know who they were of Bohemia, and how many false and slanderous things they brought in against me, and that council cried out against me, and how I also answered to all things whereof I was demanded. I beseech you also, that you will pray for the king of Romans, and for your king, and for his wife your queen, that God of his mercy would abide with them and with you, both now and henceforth in everlasting life. Amen.
"This epistle I have written to you out of prison and in bonds, looking the next day after the writing hereof for the sentence of the council upon my death; having a full trust that He will not leave me, neither suffer me to deny his truth and to revoke the errors, which false witnesses maliciously have devised against me. How mercifully the Lord God hath dealt with me, and was with me in marvellous temptations, ye shall know when hereafter by the help of Christ we shall all meet together in the joy of the world to come. As concerning Master Jerome, my dearly beloved brother and fellow, I hear no other but that he is remaining in strait bonds, looking for death as I do; and that for the faith which he valiantly maintained amongst the Bohemians, our cruel enemies of Bohemia have given us into the power and hands of other enemies, and into bonds. I beseech you, pray to God for them.
"Moreover, I beseech you, namely you of Prague, that ye will love the temple of Bethlehem, and provide so long as God shall permit, that the word of God may be preached in the same. For, because of that place the devil is angry, and against the same place he hath stirred up priests and canons, perceiving that in that place his kingdom should be disturbed and diminished. I trust in God that he will keep that holy church so long as it shall please him, and in the same shall give greater increase of his word by other, than he hath done by me a weak vessel. I beseech you also, that ye will love one another, and, withholding no man from the hearing of God's word, ye will provide and take care that good men be not oppressed by any force and violence. Written at Constance, the year of Lord 1415."
Another right godly letter of John Huss to a certain priest, admonishing him of his office, and exhorting him to be faithful; worthy to be read of all ministers.
"The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. My dear brother, be diligent in preaching the gospel, and do the work of a good evangelist; neglect not your vocation; labour like a blessed soldier of Christ. First, live godly and holily. Secondly, teach faithfully and truly. Thirdly, be an example to others in well doing, that you be not reprehended in your sayings; correct vice and set forth virtue. To evil livers threaten eternal punishment; but to those that be faithful and godly, set forth the comforts of eternal joy. Preach continually, but be short and fruitful, prudently understanding and discreetly dispensing the Holy Scriptures. Never affirm or maintain those things that be uncertain and doubtful, lest that your adversaries take hold upon you, which rejoice in depraving their brethren, whereby they may bring the ministers of God into contempt. Exhort men to the confession of their faith, and to the communion of both kinds, both of the body and blood of Christ, whereby such as do repent earnestly of their sins, may the more often come to the holy communion. And I warn you that you enter into no taverns with guests, and be not a common company-keeper. For the more a preacher keepeth him from the company of men, the more he is regarded. Albeit, deny not yet your help and diligence, wheresoever you may profit others. Against fleshly lust preach continually all that ever you can; for that is the raging beast, which devoureth men, for whom the flesh of Christ did suffer. Wherefore, my heartily beloved, I beseech you to fly fornication; for where a man would most profit and do good, there this vice useth most to lurk. In any case fly the company of young women, and believe not their devotion; for St. Austin saith, the more devout she is, the more proclive to wantonness; and under the pretence of religion the snare and venom of fornication lurketh. And this know, my well-beloved, that the conversation with them subverteth many,whom the conversation of this world could never blemish nor beguile. Admit no women into your house, for what cause soever it be, and have not much talk with them otherwise, for avoiding of offence. Finally, howsoever you do, fear God and keep his precepts; so shall you walk wisely, and shall not perish; so shall you subdue the flesh, contemn the world, and overcome the devil; so shall you put on God, find life, and confirm others, and shall crown yourself with the crown of glory, the which the just Judge shall give you. Amen."
This letter of John Huss containeth a confession of the infirmity of man's flesh, how weak it is, and repugnant against the spirit; wherein he also exhorteth to persevere constantly in the truth.
"Health be to you from Jesus Christ, &c. My dear friend, know that Paletz came to me to persuade me that I should not fear the shame of abjuration, but consider the good which thereof will come. To whom I said, that the shame of condemnation and burning is greater than to abjure; and why should I fear then that shame? But I pray you tell me plainly your mind; presuppose that such articles were laid to you, which you knew yourself not to be true, what would you do in that case? would you abjure? Who answered, The case is sore, and began to weep. Many other things he spake which I did reprehend. Michael de Causis was sometimes before in the prison with the deputies; and when I was with the deputies, thus I heard him speak unto the keepers, We, by the grace of God, will burn this heretic shortly, for whose cause I have spent many florins. But yet understand that I write not this to the intent to revenge me of him, for that I have committed to God, and pray to God for him with all my heart.
"Yet I exhort you again, to be circumspect about our letters; for Michael hath taken such order, that none shall be suffered to come into the prison; no, nor yet the keepers' wives are permitted to come to me. O holy God, how largely doth antichrist extend his power and cruelty! But I trust that his power shall be shortened, and his iniquity shall be detected more and more amongst the faithful people.
"Almighty God shall confirm the hearts of his faithful, whom he hath chosen before the constitution of the world, that they may receive the eternal crown of glory. And let antichrist rage so much as he will, yet he shall not prevail against Christ, which shall destroy him with the spirit of his mouth, as the apostle saith; and then shall the creature be delivered out of servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God, as saith the apostle in the words following: We also within ourselves do groan, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.
"I am greatly comforted in those words of our Saviour, Happy be you when men shall hate you, and shall separate you, and shall rebuke you, and shall cast out your name as execrable, for the Son of man. Rejoice and be glad, for behold, great is your reward in heaven, Luke vi. O worthy, yea, O most worthy consolation, which not to understand, but to practise in time of tribulation, is a hard lesson!
"This rule St. James, with the other apostles, did well understand, which saith, Count it exceeding joy, my brethren, when ye shall fall into divers temptations, knowing that the probation of your faith worketh patience: let patience have her perfect work. For certainly it is a great matter for a man to rejoice in trouble, and to take it for joy to be in divers temptations. A light matter it is to speak it and to expound it, but a great matter to fulfil it. For why? our most patient and valiant champion himself, knowing that he should arise again the third day, overcoming his enemies by his death, and redeeming from damnation his elect, after his last supper was troubled in spirit, and said, My soul is heavy unto death. Of whom also the gospel saith, that he began to fear, to be sad and heavy; who being then in an agony, was confirmed of the angel, and his sweat was like the drops of blood falling upon the ground. And yet he notwithstanding, being so troubled, said to his disciples, Let not your hearts be troubled, neither fear the cruelty of them that persecute you, for you shall have me with you always, that you may overcome the tyranny of your persecutors. Whereupon those his soldiers, looking upon the Prince and King of glory, sustained great conflicts. They passed through fire and water, and were saved, and received the crown of the Lord God, of the which St. James, in his canonical Epistle, saith, Blessed is the man that suffereth temptation, for when he shall be proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him. Of this crown I trust stedfastly the Lord will make me partaker also with you, which be the fervent sealers of the truth, and with all them which stedfastly and constantly do love the Lord Jesus Christ, which suffered for us, leaving to us example that we should follow his steps. It behoved him to suffer, as he saith, and us also it behoved to suffer, that the members may suffer together with the Head. For he saith, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
"O most merciful Christ, draw us weak creatures after thee, for except thou shouldst draw us, we are not able to follow thee. Give us a strong spirit, that it may be ready, and although the flesh be feeble, yet let thy grace go before us, go with us, and follow us; for without thee we can do nothing, and much less enter into the cruel death, for thy sake. Give us that prompt and ready spirit, a bold heart, an upright faith, a firm hope, and perfect charity, that we may give our lives patiently and joyfully for thy name's sake. Amen. Written in prison and in bonds, in the Vigil of holy St. John the Baptist, who, being in prison and in bonds for the rebuking of wickedness, was beheaded."
Among divers other letters of John Huss, which he wrote to the great consolation of others, I thought also here to intermix another certain godlyletter, written out of England, by a faithful scholar of Wickliff, as appeareth, unto John Huss and the Bohemians, which, for the zealous affection therein contained, seemeth not unworthy to be read.
A letter of a scholar of Wickliff to John Huss,and to the Bohemians, dated from London.
"Greeting, and whatsoever can be devised more sweet, in the bowels of Christ Jesus. My dearly beloved in the Lord, whom I love in the truth, and not I only, but also all they that have the knowledge of the truth, which abideth in you, and shall be with you through the grace of God for evermore. I rejoiced above measure, when our beloved brethren came, and gave testimony unto us of your truth, and how you walked in the truth. I have heard, brethren, how sharply antichrist persecuteth you, in vexing the faithful servants of Christ with divers and strange kinds of afflictions. And surely no marvel if amongst you (since it is so almost all the world over) the law of Christ be too grievously impugned, and that red dragon, having so many heads, (of whom it is spoken in the Apocalypse,) have now vomited out of his mouth that great flood, by which he goeth about to swallow up the woman; but the most gracious God will deliver for ever his only and most faithful spouse. Let us therefore comfort ourselves in the Lord our God, and in his unmeasurable goodness, hoping strongly in him, which will not suffer those that love him to be unmercifully defrauded of any their purpose, if we, according to our duty, shall love him with all our heart; for adversity should by no means prevail over us, if there were no iniquity reigning in us. Let, therefore, no tribulation or sorrow for Christ's cause discourage us, knowing this for a surety, that whomsoever the Lord vouchsafeth to receive to be his children, those he scourgeth; for so the merciful Father will have them tried in this miserable life by persecutions, that afterwards he may spare them. For the gold that this high Artificer hath chosen, he purgeth and trieth in this fire, that he may afterwards lay it up in his pure treasury. For we see that the time we shall abide here is short and transitory; the life which we hope for after this, is blessed and everlasting. Therefore, whilst we have time, let us take pain that we may enter into that rest. What other thing do we see in this brittle life, than sorrow, heaviness, and sadness, and, that which is most grievous of all to the faithful, too much abusing and contempt of the law of the Lord? Let us therefore endeavour ourselves, as much as we may, to lay hold of the things that are eternal and abiding, despising in our minds all transitory and frail things. Let us consider the holy fellowship of our fathers that have gone before us. Let us consider the saints of the Old and New Testaments. Did they not pass through this sea of tribulation and persecution? were not some of them cut in pieces, other some stoned, and other of them killed with the sword? some others of them went about in pelts and goats' skins, as the apostle to the Hebrews witnesseth. Surely they all walked straightways, following the steps of Christ, which said, He that ministereth unto me, let him follow me wheresoever I go, &c. Therefore let us also, which have so noble examples given us of the saints that went before us, laying away, as much as in us lieth, the heavy burden and the yoke of sin which compasseth us about, run forward through patience to the battle that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon the author of faith, and Jesus the finisher of the same; who, seeing the joy that was set before him, suffered the pains of the cross, despising death. Let us call upon him, which suffered such reproach against himself of sinners, that we be not wearied, fainting in our hearts, but that we may heartily pray for help of the Lord, and may fight against his adversary antichrist; that we may love his law, and not be deceitful labourers, but that we may deal faithfully in all things, according to that which God hath vouchsafed to give us, and that we may labour diligently in the Lord's cause, under hope of an everlasting reward. Behold, therefore, brother Huss, most dearly beloved in Christ, although in face unknown to me, yet not in faith and love, for distance of places cannot separate those whom the love of Christ doth effectually knit together, be comforted in the grace which is given unto thee, labour like a good soldier of Christ Jesus, preach, be instant in word and in example, and call as many as thou canst to the way of truth; for the truth of the gospel is not to be kept in silence, because of the frivolous censures and thunderbolts of antichrist. And therefore, to the uttermost of thy power, strengthen thou and confirm the members of Christ, which are weakened by the devil; and, if the Lord will vouchsafe it, antichrist shall shortly come to an end. And there is one thing wherein I do greatly rejoice, that in your realm, and in other places, God hath stirred up the hearts of some men that they can gladly suffer, for the word of God, imprisonment, banishment, and death.
"Further, beloved, I know not what to write unto you, but I confess that I could wish to pour out my whole heart, if thereby I might comfort you in the law of the Lord. Also I salute, from the bottom of my heart, all the faithful lovers of the law of the Lord, and especially Jacobellus, your coadjutor in the gospel, requiring that he will pray untothe Lord for me in the universal church of Jesus Christ. And the God of peace, which hath raised from the dead the Shepherd of the sheep, the mighty Lord Jesus Christ, make you apt in all goodness, to do his will, working in you that which may be pleasant in his sight. All your friends salute you which have heard of your constancy; I would desire also to see your letters written back to us, for know ye that they shall greatly comfort us.
"At London, by your servant, desiring to be fellow with you in your labours, Ricus Wichewitze, priest unworthy."
The consolation of Master Jerome to Master Huss.
"My master, in those things which you have both written hitherto, and also preached, after the law of God, against the pride, avarice, and other inordinate vices of the priests, go forward, be constant and strong. And if I shall know that you are oppressed in the cause, and if need shall so require, of mine own accord I will follow after to help you, as much as I can."
By the life, acts, and letters of John Huss, hitherto rehearsed, it is evident and plain that he was condemned not for any error of doctrine, which they could well prove in him, who neither denied their popish transubstantiation, neither spake against the authority of the Church of Rome if it were well governed, nor yet the seven sacraments, and also said mass himself, and almost in all their popish opinions was a papist with them; but only of evil will was accused of his malicious adversaries, because he spake against the pomp, pride, and avarice, and other wicked enormities of the pope, cardinals, and prelates of the church, and because he could not abide the high dignities and livings of the church, and thought the doings of the pope to be antichrist-like. For this cause he procured so many enemies and false witnesses against him; who, straining and picking matter out of his books and writings, having no one just article of doctrine to lay unto him, yet they made him a heretic, whether he would or no, and brought him to his condemnation. This can hatred and malice do, where the charity of Christ hath no place. Which being so, as thy charity, good reader, may easily understand, in perusing the whole course of his story; I beseech thee then, what cause had John Cochleus to write his twelve books against John Huss and Hussites? In which books how bitterly and intemperately he misuseth his pen, by these few words in his sccond book thou mayst take a little taste; which words I thought here briefly to place in English, to the end that all Englishmen may judge thereby, with what spirit and truth these catholics be carried. His words be these: "I say, therefore, John Huss is neither to be counted holy nor blessed, but rather wicked and eternally wretched; insomuch that in the day of judgment, it shall be more easy, not only with the infidel pagans, Turks, Tartarians, and Jews, but also with the most sinful Sodomites, and the abominable Persians, which most filthily do lie with their daughters, sisters, or mothers; yea, and also with most impious Cain, killer of his own brother, with Thiestes, killer of his own mother, and the Lestrygones and other anthropophagi, which devour man's flesh; yea, more easy with those infamous murderers of infants, Pharaoh and Herod, than with him," &c. These be the words of Cochleus, whose railing books, although they deserve neither to be read nor answered, yet, if it please God, it were to be wished that the Lord would stir up some towardly young man, that hath so much leisure, to defend the simplicity of this John Huss, which cannot now answer for himself. In the mean time, something to satisfy or stay the reader's mind against this immoderate hyperbole of Cochleus, in like few words I will bring out John Huss to speak and to clear himself against this slander; whose words in his book I beseech the reader to note: "For in writing these things, I confess nothing else to have moved me hereunto, but only the love of our Lord Jesus crucified, whose prints and stripes, according to the measure of my weakness and vileness, I covet to bear in myself, beseeching him so to give me grace that I never seek to glory in myself or in any thing else, but only in his cross, and in the inestimable ignominy of his passion, which he suffered for me. And therefore, I write and speak these things, which, I do not doubt, will like all such as unfeignedly do love the Lord Christ crucified; and contrary, will mislike not a little all such as be of antichrist. Also again, I confess before the most merciful Lord Jesus Christ crucified, that these things which I do now write, and those that I have written before, neither I could have written, nor knew how, nor durst so have written, unless he by his inward unction had so commanded me. Neither yet do I write these things as of authority, to get me fame and name. For as St. Augustine and Jerome do say, that is only to be given to the Scriptures and writings of the apostles, evangelists, and prophets, and to the canonical Scriptures, which do abound in the fulness of the Spirit of Jesus. And whatsoever is there said, is full of verity and wholesome utility," &c. And here place also would require something to say to Æneas Sylvius, to Antoninus, and to Laziardus, which falsely impute articles to him which he never maintained. But because time suffereth not, I will proceed to the story of Master Jerome of Prague.