The letters of John Hus/Letter 17, To the People of Prague

For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to the People of Prague, November 1412 (1).

XVII. To the Same.

(Without date: early in October 1412)

Master John Hus, a servant of Jesus Christ in hope, to all that love God and confess His law, looking for the appearing of the Saviour, with whom they yearn to live for ever: grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins, to deliver us from this troublesome world and from eternal damnation according to the will of God the Father, to Whom be glory for ever.[1] Amen.

Beloved, I thank God on hearing of your desire for God’s word and your faithful progress therein; and I pray that it may please Him to give you a perfect understanding that you may recognise the wiles and deceits of Antichrist and his ministers and not suffer yourselves to be drawn away from God’s truth.

I trust that in His mercy He will fulfil the good work that has been begun in you and will not allow you to stray from His truth. Many have forsaken it in fear of danger, being in terror of miserable man rather than of Almighty God, Who hath the power to kill and make alive, to destroy and to save, and to preserve His faithful ones in divers sore perils, and to grant unto them the eternal life with joy unspeakable in return for a little momentary suffering.

Therefore, dear friends, be not afraid or disturbed with terror because the Lord tries some of you by suffering the ministers of Antichrist to frighten you with their tyranny. For God Himself, in Proverbs, third chapter, saith to one of His servants: Be not afraid of sudden fear, nor of the power of the wicked falling upon thee. For the Lord will be at thy side, etc.[2] And by His prophet David He saith:[3] I am with him in tribulation: I will deliver him and glorify him, etc.

Knowing this, dear friends, count it all joy—as St. James saith—when you shall fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience, and patience hath a perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing. And afterward he saith: 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.[4] Stand, therefore, firmly in the truth which you know; do all things, whatsoever you do, as sons of God. Have confidence, because Christ hath conquered and you too will conquer. Remember Him Who endured many persecutions at the hands of sinners that you fail not in your good desires; and, at the same time, laying aside every weight of sin, let us run to constant battle, considering Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who having joy set before him endured the shame of the cross, despising confusion and sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God.[5]

Seeing that the Creator, the King and Lord of all the world, not being constrained by the necessity of His divinity, did humble Himself by His humanity, He, albeit without sin, faithfully ministered to us sinners, bearing hunger, thirst, cold, heat, watchings, weakness, toils in teaching, and suffered dreadful insults at the hands of the bishops,[6] priests, and scribes, so that they called Him gluttonous, winebibber, possessed of a devil,[7] and a blasphemer, saying: This man is not of God.[8] Branding Him with heresy, they excommuicated Him, and leading Him outside the city, they crucified Him as a malefactor.

If, therefore, Christ suffered such things at the hands of the priests, He that healed all sicknesses by His word, and Who without money and without price,[9] cast out devils, raised the dead, taught them the law of God, hurt no man in anything, and did no sin, except only that He exposed their wickedness, why do we wonder if to-day the ministers of Antichrist, who are more greedy, luxurious, cruel and crafty than the Pharisees, persecute God’s servants, insult, curse, excommunicate, imprison, and kill them?[10]

You will remember that our King and Lord said: If the world hate you, know ye that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.[11]

Mark! You have the prophecy of our Saviour that His elect will suffer persecution of the world—that is, of wicked men who know not God the Father and the Lord Jesus in truth. For though with their mouth they profess that they know God, yet by their evil works they deny him, as St. Paul saith to Titus:[12] Whose works are manifest,[13] greed, simony, pride, luxury, the forsaking and despising of God’s word; who set also the traditions of men above every word of God, caring naught for humility, poverty, temperance, and the love of Christ.

Therefore the evil shall not cease to persecute the good so long as the war of Christ and Antichrist shall last in this world. For St. Paul saith: All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, erring and driving into error.[14]

St. Paul means by these words that all the godly shall suffer persecution for Christ’s sake. But evil men shall err and seduce others, and so shall fulfil their desires in evil-doing to their own destruction. Therefore, the Saviour prophesied of these in the words: Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men. For they will deliver you up in councils and they will scourge you in their synagogues. . . . The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son, and the children shall rise up against father and mother and shall put them to death. And they shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake; but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another.[15] But this persecution shall last till the day of judgment.

Therefore He saith further: Amen, I say to you, you shall not finish all the cities of Israel till the son of man come. The disciple is not above the master, nor the servant above his lord. If they have called the goodman of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? Therefore fear them not.[16]

These words the Lord spake to His disciples that they might be able to escape such snares, cheering their minds that they might be wise and recognise by their works the ravening wolves that would swallow up the whole world in their greed.

Besides, He taught them how false prophets are recognised—namely, by the fact that they do not agree with the true prophets either in their writings[17] or in their works. Thus, there are false Christs who assert that they are Christ’s chief disciples, while in their works they are His chief foes and adversaries. Therefore in all possible ways they attempt to crush God’s word, because it reproves their contumacy, pride, greed, luxury, simony, and other evil works.

They have accordingly attacked certain places of worship and chapels[18] to prevent the word of God being preached in them; but Christ hath not suffered them to commit such a crime. I hear that they are now devising the destruction of the Bethlehem Chapel and are preventing preaching in other places of worship, where God’s word is wont to be taught; but I trust God that they will accomplish nothing. At first they laid their gins, their citations, and anathemas for the Goose, and now they are lying in wait for some of you; but since the Goose, a tame creature and a domestic fowl with no power to reach great heights in his flight, hath yet broken through their nets, we may the more confidently expect that other birds, which by God’s word and by their lives soar to high places, will break their traps in pieces. They spread out their nets and struck terror with their anathema as with a wooden toy-hawk and they shot their fiery bolt from Antichrist’s quiver, provided only they might hinder God’s word and worship. But the more they seek to conceal their true nature the oftener it betrays itself, and the more they strive to lay out their traditions like a net, the more they are broken through. In seeking to have the peace of the world, they lose both that and spiritual peace; in seeking to hurt others, they chiefly thwart themselves.

They suffer, therefore, the fate of the priests and high priests of the Jews, in that they lost what they tried to keep and fell into the pit they wished to escape in supposing that they could overcome and crush the truth, which always conquers. For its very property and nature is such that the more it is obscured, the more it shines forth, and the more it is laid low, the more it is raised up.

The high priests, priests, scribes, and Pharisees, the Herods, Pilate, and the people of Jerusalem condemned the Truth and gave Him to death and laid Him in the tomb; but He rose again, overcame them all, and gave in His own stead twelve other preachers. And it is this same Truth Who hath sent to Prague, in the place of one feeble, weakly Goose, falcons and eagles, which surpass all other birds in the keenness of their sight. These, by God’s grace, soar high and seize other birds for Christ Jesus, Who will strengthen these His servants and confirm all His faithful ones. For He saith: I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.[19] If then He, the true God, is with us, our mighty and righteous Defender, who in his malice[20] would be able to withstand us? What fear shall part us from Him? or what death? What shall we lose, if for His sake we lose wealth, friends, the world's honours, and our poor life? Surely at last we shall be delivered from this misery to receive wealth a hundred-fold more splendid, friends far dearer, and a joy more perfect. Death will not rob us of these things. For whoso dies for Christ, he is conqueror, and is delivered from all misery, and attains the eternal joy to which may it please our Saviour to bring us all.

This letter, dear brothers and sisters beloved, I write that you may be steadfast in the truth you have learnt and may have no fear of citations, and pay no less heed than before to the hearing of God’s word by reason of the cruel threats they utter. For God is faithful,[21] Who will confirm and guard you from evil.

Finally, beloved, I beseech you to pray for them who proclaim God’s truth with grace. Pray for me also that I too may write and preach in fuller measure against the malice of Antichrist, and that God may put me in the forefront of the battle, if needs be, to defend His truth. For be assured I shrink not from yielding up this poor body to peril or death for the sake of God’s truth, though I know that God’s word hath no need of us, nay, rather the truth of the gospel is spreading from day to day.

But I desire to live for the sake of those who suffer violence and need the preaching of God’s word, that the malice of Antichrist may be exposed in such wise that the godly can escape it. That is why I am preaching elsewhere and ministering to all such, knowing that the will of God is fulfilled in me, whether I die at the hands of Antichrist or on the bed of sickness. If I come to Prague, I am sure that my foes will be in wait for me and persecute you. For they do not serve God themselves, and they prevent others from serving Him. But let us pray God for them, that if there be any of the elect among them, they may be turned to the knowledge of the truth.

May God grant to you understanding in the things I write, and perseverance withal ! May it please Him to fulfil your desires with every blessing by the merits of Jesus Christ, who suffered for us a most shameful and cruel death, leaving us an example[22] that we should suffer in like manner according to His will. Amen.

  1. A paraphrase of Gal. i. 4–5.
  2. Prov. iii. 25–6.
  3. Ps. xc. 15.
  4. Jas. i. 2–4, 12.
  5. Heb. xii. 1–2.
  6. Episopis; the reader will note this.
  7. Matt. xi. 19, 18.
  8. John ix. 16.
  9. A paraphrase of Isa. lv. 1.
  10. A reference to the Three Martyrs, supra, p. 78.
  11. John xv. 18–21.
  12. Tit. i. 16. P. following Mon. reads: cum negant. Ut sanctus Paulus etc. This punctuation is manifestly wrong.
  13. Gal. v. 19.
  14. 2 Tim. iii. 12–13.
  15. Matt. x. 16–17, 21–3.
  16. Matt. x. 23–6.
  17. Scripturis. Either a loose use or false reading for scriptis, or else attracted, so to speak, by the preceding prophetis.
  18. Supra, p. 79. From the next paragraph we infer the date.
  19. Matt, xxviii. 20.
  20. P.: militia sua. Read with Mon., malitia sua, because of the sua. Otherwise ‘in this warfare’ would make a better reading.
  21. Heb. x. 23.
  22. 1 Pet. ii. 21.