The letters of John Hus/Letter 1, To Zbinek, Archbishop of Prague

I. To Zbinek, Archbishop of Prague

(Undated: June 30, 1408; Prague)

Most reverend father, your obedient servant in the faith and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ!

I very often remind myself how at the beginning of your rule your reverence (paternitas) laid it down as a regulation that whenever I noticed any laxity of discipline, I should report it at once, either personally or, failing this, by letter. It is in accordance with this regulation that I am now forced to make a statement to the effect that incestuous and criminal persons are escaping rigorous correction.[1] They go about without restraint like untamed bulls and runaway horses with outstretched necks, while humble priests who pluck away the thorns of sin and fulfil their duties under your rule in an excellent spirit, who shun avarice and give themselves freely for God’s sake to the work of preaching the gospel, are thrown into prison and suffer exile, as if they were heretics, for preaching this same gospel. Reverend father, where is the piety of preventing the preaching of the gospel—the first duty Christ enjoined on His disciples, when He said: Preach the gospel to every creature?[2] Where is the discretion of restraining from their toils diligent and faithful labourers? In very truth, I cannot think it is your grace, but the madness of others, that sows such seed. What poor priest will dare to attack crimes or to inveigh against vices? Truly the harvest is great, but the true labourers are few. Therefore, father, pray the Lord of the harvest that He may send faithful labourers into the harvest.[3] For it resteth with your grace to reap the entire harvest of the kingdom of Bohemia, to gather it into the Lord’s garner and to give an account for every sheaf in the day of death. But how can so large a multitude of sheaves be stored up by your grace in the Lord’s garner if you take away from the reapers their sickle, to wit, their power of speech, at the whim of indolent persons, who neither reap themselves nor suffer others to do so, when their crimes feel the lash of God’s word? Herein, alas! is the word of the apostle fulfilled: They will not endure sound doctrine, they will turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables and will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.[4] Verily this saying of the apostle’s will receive fulfilment, seeing that charity hath grown cold among the clergy, and iniquity hath abounded[5] among the people, because the clergy have failed in charity and given up preaching the gospel and faithful imitation of Christ. For which of us, alas! is following the life of Christ in poverty, chastity, humility, and diligent preaching? Woe, woe, woe! the apostle’s word is fulfilled: All seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.[6] Therefore, most reverend father, turn your eyes to the things of the spirit, love good men, mark the bad, do not be flattered by the vain and greedy, but delight in men of humble mind and lovers of poverty. Drive the lazy to work, do not hinder faithful toilers in the Lord’s harvest-field: for that may not be bound[7] which achieves the salvation of souls.[8] I would write at greater length; but I am hindered by the toils of preaching. The Lord Almighty direct the mind of your grace as regards the matters written above, that you may render due account at the fitting time to the Shepherd of shepherds.

  1. P.: absque rigo (sic) correctionis; read rigore.
  2. Mark xvi. 15.
  3. Matt. ix. 37, 38.
  4. 2 Tim. iv. 3, 4. Altered in order of clauses.
  5. Matt. xxiv. 12.
  6. Phil. ii. 21.
  7. P.: quod non est alligatum; for est read sit.
  8. P.: animorum (sic); read animarum.