The letters of John Hus/Letter 26, To Master Christian of Prachaticz, Rector of the University of Prague

XXVI. To Master Christian of Prachaticz, Rector of the University of Prague.

(Without date: early 1413)

Worshipful rector, gracious master and father, I am greatly comforted by your letter, in which among other things you write: Whatever shall befall the just man, it shall not make him sad.[1] And again: All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.[2] From these words you infer that I am not broken, cast down, and saddened, but strengthened, uplifted, and gladdened by the tribulations of the moment and the absence of my friends. Very thankfully do I welcome this comfort, as I ponder the first sentence of the Scriptures you have quoted. For if I am just, nothing whatever shall make me so sad as to cause me to fall from the truth. But if I live godly in Christ and will so to do, then I must suffer persecution in Christ’s name. For if it behoved Christ to suffer and so to enter into His glory,[3] it must needs be that we poor creatures should bear a cross and so imitate Him in His sufferings.

I assure you, therefore, worshipful lord rector, that persecution would never make me weary, if only I did not feel my sins and the confusion of Christian people. For what harm can I suffer by the loss of this world’s riches, which are but dung?[4] Or by the withdrawal of the world’s favour, which makes us fall away from the path of Christ? Or by the attacks which, when humbly endured, cleanse and purify the sons of God, so that they shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father?[5] Or by the taking of my poor life, which is but death; for he that loses his life in this world puts death away and finds[6] his true life.

Yet men do not think of these things, being blinded by pride, fame, self-seeking, and greed; and some have been turned from the truth by fear, when there was nothing to fear. For bereft of patience, and thus of love and every virtue, they waste away in strange perplexity of mind, because they feel constrained on the one hand by their knowledge of the truth, on the other hand by the fear of losing their good name and risking their poor body even to death. I will risk my own, I trust, for the Lord Jesus, if in His mercy I have opportunity. I have no wish to live on in this evil world, if I cannot call myself and others to repentance according to God’s good pleasure. This is the burden of my prayer for you also, and I beseech you in Christ Jesus, with all your fellow-members of the University, to be prepared for a battle; for the reconnoitres of Antichrist have already begun, and the fight will soon follow. The Goose also must needs flap his wings against the wings of Behemoth, and against his tail, which always conceals the abomination of the beast Antichrist. Who is the tail? The prophet showeth in the words: The prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail; the aged and honourable, he is the head. The Lord shall destroy the head and the tail[7]—that is, the Pope[8] and his prophets, masters, doctors, priests, who under the false pretext of sanctity conceal the abomination of the beast. Pray, what greater abomination can there be than a harlot who should parade herself and offer herself publicly? Yes, there is the still greater abomination of the beast sitting in a place of honour and offering himself for worship to all comers, as though he were God: ready to sell whatever a man may wish to buy in matters spiritual.[9] Yea, he sells what he doth not possess. Woe be to me, then, if I shall not preach, weep, and write against such an abomination! Woe is me! See to it yourself also. To whom is there not woe? The flying eagle[10] cries: woe, woe, woe to the men that dwell upon the earth!

  1. Prov. xii. 21.
  2. 2 Tim. iii. 12.
  3. Luke xxiv. 46; xxiv. 26.
  4. Phil. iii. 8.
  5. Matt. xiii. 43.
  6. Matt. x. 39.
  7. Isa. ix. 15, 14. This is a favourite thought in the writings of the times: cf. Milicz, Anatomia Antichristi (in Mon. i. 362b.); also Sermones de Antichristo, ib. ii. 82 (both works wrongly attributed to Hus); cf. Wyclif, De Antichristo, l. i. c. ix. (in Op. Evang. iii. 34).
  8. Wyclif calls the Pope “caput Antichristi” in Polem. Works, i. 243, Trialogus, 424.
  9. The allusion in this strong language is of course to John XXIII.
  10. Rev. iv. 7. Cf. De Evangelica Perfectione, c. i., in Mon. i. 479a, in which we have a lengthy allegorical interpretation of the “flying eagle.”