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6
HUSS


against him, and was formerly considered the most important of his works, though it is mainly a transcript of Wycliffe's work of the same name.

During the year 1413 the arrangements for the meeting of a general council at Constance were agreed upon between Sigismund and Pope John XXIII. The objects originally contemplated had been the restoration of the unity of the church and its reform in head and members; but so great had become the prominence of Bohemian affairs that to these also a first place in the programme of the approaching oecumenicl assembly required to be assigned, and for their satisfactory settlement the presence of Huss was necessary. His attendance was accordingly requested, and the invitation was willingly accepted as giving him a long-wished-for opportunity both of publicly vindicating himself from charges which he felt to be grievous, and of loyally making confession for Christ. He set out from Bohemia on the 14th of October 1414, not, however, until he had carefully ordered all his private affairs, with a presentiment, which he did not conceal, that in all probability he was going to his death. The journey, which appears to have been undertaken with the usual passport, and under the protection of several powerful Bohemian friends (John of Chlum, Wenceslaus of Duba, Henry of Chlum) who accompanied him, was a very prosperous one; and at almost all the halting-places he was received with a consideration and enthusiastic sympathy which he had hardly expected to meet with anywhere in Germany. On the 3rd of November he arrived at Constance; shortly afterwards there was put into his hands the famous imperial ', ' safe conduct, ” the promise of which had been one of his inducements to quit the comparative security he had enjoyed in Bohemia. This safe conduct, which had been frequently printed, stated that Huss should, whatever judgment might be passed on him, be allowed to return freely to Bohemia. This by no means provided for his immunity from punishment. If faith to him had not been broken he would have been sent back to Bohemia to be punished by his sovereign, the king of Bohemia. The treachery of King Sigismund is undeniable, and was indeed admitted by the king himself. The safe conduct was probably indeed given by him to entice Huss to Constance. On the 4th of December the pope appointed a commission of three bishops to investigate the case against the heretic, and to procure witnesses; to the demand of Huss that he might be permitted to employ an agent in his defence a favourable answer was at first given, but afterwards even this concession to the forms of justice was denied. While the commission was engaged in the prosecution of its enquiries, the flight of Pope John XXIII. took place on the zoth of March, an event which furnished a pretext for the removal of Huss from the Dominican convent to a more secure and more severe place of confinement under the charge of the bishop of Constance at Gottlieben on the Rhine. On the 4th of May the temper of the council on the doctrinal questions in dispute was fully revealed in its unanimous condemnation of Wycliffe, especially of the so-called “forty-five articles” as erroneous, heretical, revolutionary. It was not, however, until the 5th of June that the case of Huss came up for hearing; the meeting, which was an exceptionally full one, took place in the refectory of the Franciscan cloister. Autograph copies of his work De Ecclesia and of the controversial tracts which he had written against Paletz and Stanislaus of Znaim having been acknowledged by him, the extracted propositions on which the prosecution based their charge of heresy were read; but as soon as the accused began to enter upon his defence, he was assailed by violent outcries, amidst which it was impossible for him to be heard, so that he was compelled to bring his speech to an abrupt close, which he did with the calm remark: “In such a council as this I had expected to find more propriety, piety and order.” It was found necessary to adjourn the sitting until the 7th of June, on which occasion the outward decencies were better observed, partly no doubt from the circumstance that Sigismund was present in person. The propositions which had been extracted from the De Ecclesia were again brought up, and the relations between Wycliiie and Huss were discussed, the object of the prosecution being to fasten upon the latter the charge of having entirely adopted the doctrinal system of the former, including especially a denial of the doctrine of transubstantiation. The accused repudiated the charge of having

the Catholic doctrine, while expressing hearty and respect for the memory of Wycliffe. Being to make an unqualified submission to the council, abandoned

admiration

next asked

he expressed himself as unable to do so, while stating his willingness to amend his teaching wherever it had been shown to be false. With this the proceedings of the day were brought to a close. On the Sth of June the propositions extracted from the De Ecclesia were again taken up with some fulness of detail; some of these he repudiated as incorrectly given, others he defended; but when asked to make a general recantation he steadfastly declined, on the ground that to do so would be a dishonest admission of previous guilt. Among the propositions he could heartily abjure was that relating to transubstantiation; among those he felt constrained unflinchingly to maintain was one which had given great offence, to the effect that Christ, not Peter, is the head of the church to whom ultimate appeal must be made. The council, however, showed itself inaccessible to all his arguments and explanations, and its final resolution, as announced by Pierre d'Ailly, was threefold: first, that Huss should humbly declare that he had erred in all the articles cited against him; secondly, that he should promise on oath neither to hold nor teach them in the future; thirdly, that he should publicly recant them. On his declining to make this submission he was removed from the bar. Sigismund himself gave it as his opinion that it had been clearly proved by many witnesses that the accused had taught many pernicious heresies, and that even should he recant he ought never to be allowed to preach or teach again or to return to Bohemia, but that should he refuse recantation there was no remedy but the stake. During the next four weeks no effort was spared to shake the determination of Huss; but he steadfastly refused to swerve from the path which conscience had once made clear. “ I write this, ” says he, in a letter to his friends at Prague, “in prison and in chains, expecting to-morrow to receive sentence of death, full of hope in God that I shall not swerve from the truth, nor abjure errors imputed to me by false witnesses.” The sentence he expected was pronounced on the 6th of July in the presence of Sigismund and a full sitting of the council; once and again he attempted to remonstrate, but in vain, and finally he betook himself to silent prayer. After he had undergone the ceremony of degradation with all the childish formalities usual on such occasions, his soul was formally consigned by all those present to the devil, while he himself with clasped hands and uplifted eyes reverently committed it to Christ. He was then handed over to the secular arm, and immediately led to the place of execution, the council meanwhile proceeding unconcernedly with the rest of its business for the day. Many incidents recorded in the histories make manifest the meekness, fortitude and even cheerfulness with which he went to his death. After he had been tied to the stake and the faggots had been piled, .he was for the last time urged to recant, but his only reply was: “God is my witness that I have never taught or preached that which false witnesses have testified against me. He knows that the great object of all my preaching and writing was to convert men from sin. In the truth of that gospel which hitherto I have written, taught and preached, I now* joyfully die.” The fire was then kindled, and his voice as it audibly prayed in the words of the “ Kyrie Eleison ” was soon stified in the smoke. When the flames had done their office, the ashes that were left and even the soil on which they lay were carefully removed and thrown into the Rhine. Not many words are needed to convey a tolerably adequate estimate of the character and Work of the “ pale thin man in mean attire, ” who in sickness and poverty thus completed the forty-sixth year of a busy life at the stake. The value of Huss as a scholar was formerly underrated. The publication of his S uper I V. S enlentiarum has proved that he was a man of profound learning, Yet his principal glory will always be founded on his