The letters of John Hus/Letter 6, To Master Richard of England

VI. To Master Richard of England

(Undated: end of September 1410)

May the peace of Christ abound in your heart by the Holy Spirit given to you, my dear friend in Christ Jesus!

Your affectionate letter, which came down from above from the Father of lights,[1] powerfully kindles the soul of your brothers in Christ. It contains so much sweetness, efficacy, invigoration, and solace, that if every other writing were engulphed in the abyss of Antichrist, it would suffice of itself for the salvation of Christ’s faithful ones. Turning over in my mind its marrow and strength, I said in a large assembly of people, numbering, I suppose, nearly ten thousand, as I was preaching in public, “See, my beloved brothers, what a care for your salvation is shown by the faithful preachers of Christ in other countries; they yearn to pour out their whole soul, if only they can keep us in the gospel of Christ, even the Lord.” And I added, “Why, our dear brother Richard, partner[2] of Master John Wyclif in the toils of the gospel, hath written you a letter of so much cheer, that if I possessed no other writing, I should feel bound by it to offer myself for the gospel of Christ, even unto death. Yea, and this will I do, with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ’s faithful ones were fired with such ardour by the letter that they begged me to translate it into our mother tongue.[3]

What then I should write to you, dear friend, and the rest of the brothers, I know not. I have no skill to instruct those who are so much more learned than myself. Can I, the weaker, say aught to cheer the stronger in the warfare of Christ? What am I to say? Dear friend, you have anticipated the words of instruction. It only remains for me to seek and to seek again the help of your prayers. I am thankful that Bohemia has under the power of Jesus Christ received so much good from the blessed land of England through your labours; and I do not wonder that while to some it is a savour unto death, yet to others it is a savour unto joy, because for many it is a savour unto life eternal.[4] For the enemy of man had sown tares[5] so widely in our kingdom that scarcely a grain or two of wheat appeared. The whole of man’s field had been so filled with nettles that the way of salvation could with difficulty be found.

But now the people which walked in darkness have beheld the great light of Jesus Christ. The light of truth hath appeared to them that dwell in the region of the shadow of death,[6] and is eagerly welcomed under our Saviour’s power by the people, barons, knights, counts, and the common folk. If the community of the saints in England learn of this to its full measure, their hearts will dance for joy: give praise, O thou barren, that bearest not: sing forth praise, and make a joyful noise, thou that didst not travail with child: for many are the children of the desolate.[7]

I must tell you, dear brother, that the people will listen to nothing but the Holy Scriptures, especially the gospel and the epistles. Wherever in city or town, in village or castle, the preacher of the holy truth makes his appearance, the people flock together in crowds, despising the clergy who are not able to furnish it. As a result, Satan hath arisen: for now the tail of Behemoth[8] himself hath been set in motion, and it remains for the Lord Jesus Christ to bruise his head.[9] See, I have but gently touched his tail and he hath opened wide his mouth to swallow me down, and my brothers also. He is raging now. At one time he utters heresy with lying words: at another he fawns. Anon he fans the flame of censure and kindles the torch of a grim fulmination among the dioceses of the neighbouring[10] lands; at home he dare not touch my head. For the hour has not yet come; seeing that the Lord hath not yet, by me and my brothers, snatched from his maw those whom He hath predestined to the life of glory. Therefore He will give courage to the preachers of the gospel that they may wound Behemoth at least in his tail, until his head and all his members be utterly crushed.[11] It is for this we are praying with all our heart: it is for this we are labouring, even as your reverence hath written as only love can write: it is for this that we are bound humbly to endure death and not to fail with the Lord Almighty on our side, seeing that our gracious Lord saith: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him and glorify him.[12] O holy deliverance and glorification! look for Richard and his brothers, who have now endured many tribulations. Take me up also in my misery that I may be with my brothers who fearlessly confess Thy gospel in the midst of a wicked and adulterous generation.[13] Grant to us help in tribulation: for vain is the salvation of men.[14] May our hope be in Thee![15] May we be drawn to Thee by the threefold cord[16] that cannot be broken: for it hath been woven by the Lord Jesus Christ. May He, dear brother, grant to you and your helpers a life inviolate in glory, that you may be able to live a long while and bring back[17] the straying sheep to the way of truth.

I greatly rejoice with all who love the gospel that you have shown your loving-kindness by giving us healthful counsel. Our Lord the King and all his court, the Queen, barons, and common folk, are on the side of the word of Jesus Christ. The Church of Christ in Bohemia greets the Church of Christ in England, and yearns to share in its confession of the holy faith by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the glorious God be your reward for having ministered to our need by the example of your great labours. May yours be the peace that passeth all understanding![18] Amen.

  1. Jas. i. 17.
  2. See infra, p. 40.
  3. The translation is said still to exist in the Library of Prague.
  4. P.: Si aliis odor et mortem sed gaudium, quia multis odor in vitam æternam. Höfler: et in mortem. Read Si aliis odor ad mortem, sed aliis in gaudium, quia multis, etc. There is only one MS. From 2 Cor. ii. 16.
  5. Matt. xiii. 25.
  6. Isa. ix. 2.
  7. Isa. liv. 1 . Inexact. For deserti (P.) read desertæ.
  8. Job xl. 10–12.
  9. Gen. iii. 15.
  10. P.: jacentium H.: (cireum)jacentium.
  11. See infra, p. 119, n. 1.
  12. Ps. xc. (xci.) 15.
  13. Matt. xii. 39.
  14. Eccles. iv. 12.
  15. Ps. cvii. 13.Inexact.
  16. P.: redire; read with H.: reducere.
  17. Ps. lxi 8.
  18. Phil. iv. 7.