Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 11, To the Hearers of the Word of God at Prague

For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to the People of Prague (December 1412) (1).

LETTER XI.

TO THE SAME.

[John Huss justifies himself, by the example of Christ, for having quitted Bethlehem.]

Dearly beloved, the birth-day of the Son of God is near at hand; purify, therefore, your dwelling, and let it be clean of all sin; listen attentively and piously, according to your opportunity, to the Word of God, and pay no attention to the evil-doers who forbid you to meet at Bethlehem. They have endeavoured to lead you astray on account of me, and now they no longer have that motive. As for those who declare that I took to flight, I can reply, that I acted of my own free will, in order to obey the Divine Word, and follow the example of him who has said—“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against it. And if you are persecuted in one city, flee to another.” And when the Jews sought to put him to death before his hour was come, he often withdrew himself from their hands. St John, in fact, has written—“Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, unto a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.” But the Jews sought for him, and often asked amongst themselves—“Why comes he not on a feast day?” For the priests and Pharisees had ordered whoever should discover his retreat, to inform them of it, in order that he might be followed. It is not, therefore, surprising that, in compliance with such an example, I should have withdrawn, and that the priests should ask where I am.

Learn then, dearly-beloved, that it is through the example and recommendation of Christ that I removed to a distance from you, through fear of being to the wicked an occasion of eternal condemnation, and to the good a cause of sadness and mourning. I fled, in order that impious priests might not prohibit the preaching of the word of God, and that you might not be deprived, on my account, of the Divine truth, for which, by the grace of God, I am ready to die. Know also, dearly beloved, that it was necessary that Christ should suffer within the period prescribed by his Father. Be assured, that whatever God may have determined in relation to me, his will shall be done; and should he deem me worthy to die for his name, he will summon me to martyrdom; but if, on the contrary, my life is to be prolonged for the preaching of his word, in like manner that is also in his will.

Undoubtedly, some of your priests desire my return to Prague, and would willingly see me there again, in order to their chanting the offices and the mass being dispensed with: it is they whom the holy preaching of the Gospel offends, on account of their avarice, their pride, and their adulteries. But you, who love God’s word, and who make every effort to unite yourselves to him, would be well pleased to see me, and would gladly have me amongst you in a spirit of charity, like one of your dear friends. For my part, I long to behold you again, in order to be able to announce to you God’s word; for the principal care of the ministers of the Church ought to be to announce, in all sincerity and with fruit, the gospel of Christ, in order that the people may be acquainted with the will of God, may avoid many evils, and be led into the right path for living irreproachably. Woe, then, to such priests as neglect the word of God! Woe to them who, when they can announce it, live nevertheless in effeminacy and idleness! Woe to them who prevent the word of God from being preached and listened to!

Happy, on the other hand, are they who attend to it, who guard it in their hearts, and who preserve it in themselves by good works. Christ has blessed them, saying,—“Happy are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.” May Christ, blessed for evermore, augment for us all this great happiness! Amen.