Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 6, To the believers in Prague
TO THE BELIEVERS IN PRAGUE.
John Huss, a servant of Jesus Christ in hope, to all those who love God, who confess his law, in expectation of the Saviour, with whom they desire to live for all eternity!
Grace be with you, and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself as a victim for our sins, to deliver us from this world of affliction, and from eternal damnation, according to the will of God the Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever!
Dearly beloved,—Having learned your zeal and your progress in the word of God, I render thanks unto the Lord, that he has deigned to enlighten you to such a point that, perceiving the frauds of antichrist and his ministers, you may not allow yourselves to be turned away from the truth.
I feel a lively confidence that his mercy will crown the work of regeneration commenced in you, and that he will not permit you to turn aside from the truth, whence many diverge through fear of danger, apprehending man, a weak sinner as he is, more than the all-powerful God, who has power both to kill and bring to life; to destroy and to save; to preserve his faithful believers in the midst of grave and numerous perils; and to give them in exchange for a brief space of suffering an eternal life of inexpressible happiness. Wherefore, beloved, do not let yourselves be borne down by terror; and do not be frightened if the Lord should tempt some of you, by allowing the ministers of antichrist to exercise their tyranny over you. God himself has said to his servant, (Prov. iii.), “Be not afraid of sudden fear, nor of the power of the wicked falling upon thee; for the Lord will be at thy side, and will keep thy foot, that thou be not taken.” And he has also said, by the mouth of his prophet David, “I am with him in his day of trial: I will deliver him.”
Knowing that, dearly beloved, consider, with St James, that it is fortunate for you to fall into various temptations; because the trial of your faith worketh in you patience, and that contributes to render you perfect and entire, failing in nothing.
St James also says,—“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him.” Remain steadfast, therefore, in the truth, and act in every thing like true children of God. Have full confidence; for Christ has overcome, and you will overcome also. Remember always Him who suffered so much at the hands of sinners; relax not in your good resolution; but, laying down together the whole burden of your sins, rush to the combat with your eyes fixed steadfastly on Jesus, who established our faith, and who, for a glorious object, despising shame, suffered the ignominy of the cross, and is now seated on the right hand of God.
The Creator, the King, the Sovereign Master of the world, without being forced to it by his Divine nature, humbled himself, notwithstanding his perfection, to our nature. He came to the assistance of us, wretched sinners, and supported hunger, and thirst, and cold, and heat, and fatigue, and want of sleep; he suffered, whilst instructing us, sorrow, and grave affronts from the priests and scribes, to such a point that they called him a blasphemer, and declared him to be possessed of a devil, averring that he was not God, whom they excommunicated as a heretic, whom they drove out of their city, and crucified like one accursed.
If, then, Christ supported such things from the priests—he who healed all kinds of diseases, without any earthly recompense, by his word alone; who cast out devils, raised the dead, and taught the word of God; who never did injury to any one; who committed no sin, and who endured every thing from his enemies, because he discovered their wickedness;—if he supported such things, why should we be astonished that the ministers of antichrist, who are more avaricious, more debauched, more cruel, and more cunning than the Pharisees, now persecute the servants of God, overwhelm them with insult, excommunicate, imprison, and kill them?
Remember what our Lord and our King said:—“If the world hate you, know that it hated me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as being of it; but because you are not of the world, and because I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember what I say unto you; the servant is not greater than his master: if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they have not known Him who sent me.”
Remember also the prophecy of our Divine Saviour, which declares that his elect will suffer persecution from the world, that is, from the wicked, who know neither God the Father, nor our Lord Jesus; for although they confess with their lips that they know God, yet they deny him by their reprobate actions. It is of them that St Paul spoke to Titus, when he declared that their works are avarice, simony, debauchery, and contempt of the word of God, placing human traditions above the word of God, and performing no work of humility, charity, temperance, and Christian love.
Therefore is it, that the wicked will not cease to persecute the saints as long as the war lasts between Christ and antichrist; for St Paul has told us, that all who desire to live purely in Christ shall suffer persecution, but the wicked shall advance in the path of perdition, always deceived, and deceiving others.
St Paul teaches us by these words, that all pious men will suffer persecution for Christ’s sake; the wicked will be seduced, and will seduce others, and their heart will swell with malice for their own destruction. It is of them that our Saviour has spoken in these words:—“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. They shall scourge you; the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death; and ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” This persecution shall last till the day of judgment.
The Lord spoke in this way to his disciples, in order that they might, if possible, escape from such evils. He elevated their understanding, that they might be prudent, and might be able to recognise, by their works, the devouring wolves whose voracity would swallow up the whole world.
He also shewed them by what signs they might know false prophets, the latter not agreeing with the true prophets, either in the explanation of the Holy Scriptures, or in their works. There are false Christs, calling themselves the chief disciples of Christ, and yet who prove themselves, by their works, to be his greatest adversaries. These will seek, by every means, to smother and suppress the Word of God; for it condemns their insolence, pride, avarice, simony, and other evil works.
They have made an irruption into the churches and places of worship, to prevent the Word of God being preached there; but Jesus Christ has not permitted them to bring their criminal undertaking to a prosperous end. I understand that they intend destroying the chapel of Bethlehem, and that they interdict sermons in the other places where the Word of God is taught. But I feel a firm confidence that God will not permit them to succeed. They wanted to entwine the simple bird in the snare of citations and anathemas; and they have already set their ambush even for some of you. But if that bird, which is a mere domestic fowl, whose flight is circumscribed, and far from lofty, has broken through their nets, how much more will other birds, that soar aloft as they announce the Word of God, despise such ineffectual wiles. They have thrown their nets, and displayed their anathemas, like the image of a bird of prey, to cast terror all around; they have flung about their fiery darts from the quiver of antichrist, in order to prohibit the Word of God and His worship; but the more they strove to disguise their real nature, the more they rendered it visible; and in seeking to stretch forth their traditions like nets, they broke them to pieces; in their anxiety to gain the peace of the world, they destroyed not only it, but, at the same time, the spiritual peace; and in their attempts to injure others, they wounded themselves most.
What happened to the priests of the Jews has befallen them; for they have lost that which they were endeavouring to retain, and have fallen into what they were striving to avoid. They hoped to succeed in stifling and putting down the truth, which always conquers; and they were ignorant that its very essence and characteristic consisted in this, that the more attempts were made to dim its lustre, the more it shone brightly forth—the greater the endeavour to suppress it, the more it soared aloft.
Pontiffs and priests, the scribes and Pharisees, Herod and Pilate, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, formerly condemned the Truth; they crucified it and buried it; but it rose from the tomb and conquered them all, sending forth in its stead twelve preachers of the Word.
This same Truth, instead of acting feebly and inefficiently, has sent to Prague mighty eagles, surpassing all other birds, by their piercing sight, and which, by the grace of God, fly aloft in the air, and win over others to Jesus Christ, who will strengthen all those who are faithful to Him. He has said— “I will be always with you, even unto the end of the world.” If, then, God, the most powerful and just of defenders, is with us, what evil work can prevail against us? What fear, what death, can separate us from Him? In what shall we be the worse, if, for His sake, we were to lose our friends, the honours of the world, or even our miserable life itself? We shall, at last, be delivered from our load of misery; we shall receive a hundredfold riches infinitely more precious, friends more dear, delight more perfect, of which death cannot despoil us; for he who dies for Christ will surely partake the triumph: he is freed from all misery of every kind, and enjoys eternal bliss, to which our Lord Jesus Christ deigns to conduct us all!
Beloved brethren, and sisters no less dear to me, I write you this letter, that you may remain fervent in the truth, which you have acknowledged, and that you may not pay less attention than before to the Word of God, on account of the cruel threats of his enemies; for God is faithful to you, and will both strengthen you and keep you from evil.
In fine, I beseech you, dearly beloved, to pray for those who, with the grace of God, announce the truth; pray for me also, that I may write and preach still more against the malice of hell, and that God may accord me in this combat that support which is so necessary in order properly to defend his Word. You know that I do not hesitate to expose this miserable body to the peril of death for God’s truth, being well aware that nothing will be wanting to us in his Word, and that his Gospel must be propagated more and more every day. Moreover, I desire to live for those who suffer violence, and who have need of the preaching of the Word, in order that the malice of antichrist may be laid open, and the good not be made its victims. I preach, therefore, in other places, and I officiate for those of whom I speak, being convinced that God's will must be accomplished in me, whether I suffer or die by antichrist. But should I proceed to Prague, I am certain that snares will be there laid for me, and that you will be persecuted by my adversaries, who serve not God, but prevent others from serving him. We pray to God for them, however, that, if any of the elect should happen to be amongst them, they may be converted to the truth. May God accord you full understanding of these things which I write you; may he grant you perseverance; and may your heart be worthy of all these blessings, through the merits of Jesus Christ, who suffered for us the most cruel and ignominious death, leaving us his example, that we may suffer the same, according to his holy will. Amen.
- Huss alludes here to his own name, which, in Bohemia, signifies “goose.”