Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 50, To his Friends
TO THE SAME.
I have resolved, dear and faithful friends in our Lord, to make known to you in what manner the Council of Constance, swelled with so much pride and avarice, has condemned as heretical my books, written in the Bohemian tongue, without ever having seen or read them, and which it could not have understood, even when it had listened to the reading of them. For this Council is filled with Italians, French, Germans, Spaniards, and persons from all countries, and of every different language. They could not be understood but by Bishop John de Litomissel, by several Bohemians, my enemies, and by a few priests of Prague, who have first to calumniate the truth of God, and afterwards our Bohemia, which I hope is a country of a perfect faith, remarkable for its attachment to the Word of God, as well as for its good morals. And if you had been at Constance you would have witnessed the detestable abomination of this Council, which calls itself infallible and very holy; an abomination of which, many of the country of the Grisons have said, the city of Constance could not wash herself of in thirty years, and almost every body, supporting with great difficulty the great corruption, which is to be seen in it, is irritated against the Council. When I first appeared in the presence of this assembly to reply to my adversaries, seeing that every thing was done without order, and hearing a general clamour, I cried aloud, “I thought the Council had possessed more good breeding, charity, and discipline.” Then the first of the Cardinals answered, “Is it thus that thou speakest? Thy language was more modest in prison.” “Yes,” I replied, “for in prison no one vociferated against me; and now you are all vociferous.” It is thus this Council, which has done more evil than good, has acted towards me with inordinate violence. O my faithful friends, my well-beloved in God, suffer not yourselves to be alarmed at the sentence these men have delivered against my books. Like insects, they will disperse here and there, and there, like winged insects, their ordinances will endure as long as the spiders’ webs. They endeavoured to shake my perseverance in the Word of God, but they were not able to daunt the courage which God had armed me with. They refused to examine the Scriptures with me, although my words were supported by the testimonies of several noble Seigniors ready to suffer ignominy with me for the cause of truth, and who remained firm to my party, and especially Wenceslaus Duba and John of Chlum, introduced to the Council by the Emperor Sigismund himself.
Having said, that, if I had erred, I should be glad to be instructed of my errors: “Since you desire to be instructed,” replied the Grand Cardinal, “you must first of all abjure your doctrine, conformable to the sentence of the fifty doctors and interpreters of the Holy Scriptures.” An excellent advice! Therefore, St Catherine should renounce the Word of God and faith in Jesus, because fifty doctors opposed her! But this sublime virgin did not yield; she remained faithful unto death; she thus gained over her judges to Christ; but I cannot in the same manner persuade mine; it is wherefore I have thought fit to write to you, in order you might be informed they have not vanquished me neither by the Scriptures nor by reason, but tried me by terror and by lies to extort an abjuration from me. The God of mercy, whose justice I have glorified, was with me. He is still with me now, and I am confident he will remain with me unto the end.
Written the fourth day after the Festival of John the Baptist, in prison, in chains, and in the expectation of death; and yet I dare not say, on account of the hidden judgment of God, that this letter may be my last; for, even now, the Almighty God may effect my deliverance.
- ↑ Hist. et Monum. Johann. Huss, Epist. xii.