Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Preliminary notice

Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment  (1846) 


The Letters of John Huss were collected by his friend, Peter Maldoniewitz, the notary, and it was the great Reformer of the sixteenth century, Martin Luther, who first published them, rendering justice to the faith, doctrines, and noble character of their author. Luther at first translated into Latin four letters, written by Huss in Bohemia, and published them in 1536, together with those which the nobles of Bohemia and Moravia had addressed to the Council of Constance. Wittemberg was the place where he published them, on the occasion of a general council being convoked by Paul III.[1] He joined to these letters a preface, of which the following is an extract:—“My object in publishing these letters,” said Luther, “is, if God should permit the council to assemble, to warn such persons as might be present to beware of following the example of the Council of Constance, in which the truth was exposed to such lengthened and such violent attacks; nevertheless, it triumphs now, and, holding erect its victorious head, shews forth that guilty assembly in its true colours. Undoubtedly, God has sufficiently manifested in that council how he resists the proud, and confounds the haughty, by their own imaginations, without paying any consideration to outward dignity.”[2]

The following year, Luther published a complete edition of the letters of John Huss, and prefixed to it a preface which we subjoin, and in which he enumerates, with great power, the principal claims of Huss to the esteem and admiration of posterity. This preface also contains some interesting and curious details; and Luther even narrates in it the strong impression produced on himself in his youth, at first reading, by chance, some of the writings of that Christian whom he had been taught to execrate as a dreadful heretic. Luther is supposed to have drawn up the summary of contents which are found at the head of most of the letters of John Huss, in the collection of his works,[3] and we have most carefully preserved them.

The letters of John Huss are divided into two series, each of which refers to a different period of his life: the first is that of his interdiction and exile from Prague in the years 1410 and 1411; the second comprehends the period which elapsed from his departure from the council till his death.

  1. This council, which was first convoked at Mantua for the year 1537, then at Vicenza, did not open until 1542, in the city of Trent.
  2. The several editions of this Preface, which will be found at the end of the volume (Note A), present numerous variations. We have considered it best to follow the first edition, which was most kindly communicated to us by M. Frederic Monod, one of the clergymen of the Reformed Church at Paris.
  3. Hist. et Monum. Johan. Hus, vol. i. Nuremberg, 1715.