Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 47, To his Friends at Prague

For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to the faithful Bohemians (24 June 1415).



[He encourages and exhorts them not to be frightened on account of the Council having delivered his writings to the flames. He reminds them of the corrupted morals of that assembly, and of the condemnation of Pope John.]

I ought to warn you, my well-beloved, not to let yourselves be alarmed by the sentence of those who have condemned my books to be burned. Remember that the Israelites burned the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, without, nevertheless, being able to avoid the lot which he predicted for them. God even commanded, after the destruction by fire of this prophecy, that a new and more extended one should be written, which was done; for Jeremiah dictated it in his prison, and Baruch wrote, as it is written in chapter xxxvi. or xiv. of Jeremiah. It is also written in the Book of Maccabees, that impious men burned the law of God, and killed all those who were the depositaries of it. Under the new alliance they burned the saints with the books of the divine law. The Cardinals condemned and delivered to the flames many books of St Gregory, and would have burned them all, if they had not been preserved by his servant Peter. Two Councils of priests condemned St Chrysostom as a heretic; but God made their lie manifest after the death of him who was surnamed St John of the Golden Mouth.

Knowing, therefore, these things, let not fear prevent you from reading my books, and do not deliver them up to my enemies to be burned. Remember that the Lord has said, Before the day of judgment there shall be a great desolation, such as has not been witnessed since the beginning of the world to this day; and such, if it were possible, the elect themselves might be led astray; but on account of them these days shall be shortened. Think of that, my well-beloved, and be firm. This Council of Constance will not extend to Bohemia; many of those who compose it will die before they have succeeded in forcing my books from you. The majority will be dispersed on every side like storks; and they will discover, on the approach of winter, what they shall have done in summer.[2] Consider that they have declared the Pope, their chief, worthy of death for his enormous crimes. Courage, and reply to these preachers who teach that the Pope is God on earth; that he can sell the sacraments, as the canonists declare; that he is the head of the Church in administering it purely; that he is the heart of the Church in vivifying it spiritually; that he is the source whence springs all virtue and all good; that he is the sun of the holy Church, the certain asylum, where it is important that all Christians should find refuge. Behold! already this head is, as it were, severed by the sword; already this terrestrial god is enchained; already his sins are laid bare; this never-failing source is dried up—this divine sun is dimmed—this heart has been torn and branded with reprobation, that no one should seek an asylum in it. The Council has condemned its chief, its own head, for having sold indulgences, bishopricks, and other things. But among those who have condemned him are to be found a great number of purchasers, who have, in their turn, engaged also in this unworthy traffic. There was amongst them the bishop, John Litomissel, who twice wished to buy the bishoprick of Prague; but others had the advantage over him. O! corrupt men! Why have they not, first of all, torn the beam from their own eyes; since it is written in their own law: “Whoever shall purchase a dignity with money shall be deprived of it.” Sellers, therefore, and buyers, and whosoever shall interfere in this shameful contract, be ye condemned, as St Peter condemned Simon, who wished to buy from him the virtue of the Holy Ghost.

They have anathematized the seller and condemned him, and they themselves are the purchasers; they have affixed their hands to this pact, and they remain unpunished! What do I say? They traffic in this merchandise even in their very dwellings! There is in Constance one bishop who has bought, another who has sold, and the Pope, for having approved of the bargain, has received money from the two parties. * * If God had said to the members of this Council, “Let him amongst you who is without sin pronounce the sentence of Pope John,” undoubtedly they would have withdrawn one after the other. Why did they formerly bend their knees before him? Why did they kiss his feet? Why did they term him most holy, when they saw in him a homicide, a heretic, and a hardened sinner? For in this manner did they already speak of him in public. Why did the Cardinals elect him Pope, knowing that he had caused the death of his predecessor?[3] Why did they suffer him, since his accession to that office, to traffic in holy things? Do they not form his Council, to remind him of what is just? and are they not as much to blame as he for these crimes, since they tolerated in him vices which were common to them all? Why did no one dare resist him before his flight from Constance? They all feared him then, as their very holy father; but when, with the permission of God, the secular power laid hold of him, then they conspired and resolved that he should not escape death.

Truly, already have the malice, abomination, and turpitude of antichrist been revealed in the Pope and other members of this Council. The faithful servants of God may now understand these words of the Saviour, who has said, “When you shall behold the abomination of desolation foretold by the prophet Daniel,” &c. Truly, the supreme abomination is pride, avarice, and simony in deserted places,—that is, in dignities, where neither goodness nor humility, nor any virtue, is now to be found, as we now witness in those who are high in honour and places. Oh! how much I desire to unveil all the iniquities that I am acquainted with, in order that the faithful servants of God may keep on their guard against them! But I hope that God will send after me more vigorous champions; and there are now already those who will better expose all the cunning tricks of antichrist, and who will expose themselves to death for the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give unto you and me eternal beatitude!

I write this letter on the day of St John the Baptist, in prison and in chains, and I bear in mind that St John was beheaded in prison for the word of God.

  1. Hist. et Monum. Johann. Huss, Epist. xiii.
  2. John Huss was burned to death in the month of July.
  3. See the Reformers before the Reformation, vol. i., book i.