The letters of John Hus/Letter 76, To the Faithful Bohemians

For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to the faithful Bohemians (26 June 1415).

LXXVI. To the Faithful Bohemians[1]

(June 26, 1415)

Master John Hus, a servant of God in hope, to all the faithful Bohemians who love and will love God, sendeth his earnest desires and unprofitable prayers that they may both live and die in the grace of God and dwell with God for ever.

Faithful and beloved in God! this likewise I have determined to write that you may know that the Council—proud, avaricious, and defiled with every crime—hath condemned my Czech books, which it hath never either seen nor heard read, and if it had listened with all its power, would never have understood (for there were present at the Council Frenchmen, Italians, Britons,[2] Spaniards, Germans, and other people of different nationalities), unless perchance John Bishop of Leitomischl might have understood them; he was there with other Bohemian malignants, as well as the Chapters of Prague and the "Wyschehrad,[3] from which have proceeded the insults heaped upon God’s truth and upon our fatherland, Bohemia. Yet, placing my trust in God, I judge it to be a land of the purest faith, as I bethink me of its zeal for the divine word and for morality. I would that ye might see this Council, which is called the Most Holy Council, and incapable of error; in sooth you would gaze on a scene of foulness;[4] for it is a common proverb among the Swiss,[5] that a generation will not suffice to cleanse Constance from the sins which the Council have committed in that city; they have said, moreover, that the Council was an offence to the world, albeit others rejected it with loathing at the mere sight of its foul deeds. I tell you that as soon as I took my stand in the Council and saw there was no proper discipline there, I shouted out with a loud voice, amid general silence, “I thought there would be more reverence, piety, and discipline in this Council.”[6] Then the presiding Cardinal[7] said, “What do you say? You spoke more humbly in the castle.”[8] “Yes,” I replied, “because there was no one there to shout me down; but here every one is crying out.” Therefore since the Council, owing to its irregular proceedings, hath done more harm than good, therefore, beloved of God, be not terrified by their verdict, which (I trust God) will do themselves no good. They will be scattered abroad like butterflies, and their decree will last as long as spiders’ webs. As for myself, they have striven to frighten me, but they could not overcome God’s power within me. They would not contend against me with the Scriptures, as those noble lords heard, who took a brave stand on the side of God's truth, and were ready to suffer every shame, Bohemians, Moravians, and Poles, especially Baron Wenzel de Duba and Baron John of Chlum, for the latter were standing near. Sigismund brought them into the Council, and they heard me say, “If I have written anything wrong, I wish to be told of it.” Whereupon the presiding Cardinal said, “As you want information, take this: you should retract and obey the decision of fifty doctors of the church.” A wonderful piece of information! The virgin St. Catherine ought to have renounced the truth and faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, because fifty philosophers opposed her; but the beloved virgin was faithful even unto death, and won the masters to God, which I as a sinner cannot do.[9] I am writing this to you that you may know that they did not get the better of me by any scripture passage or any arguments; but strove to do so by means of guile and threats so as to induce me to recant and abjure. But God in His mercy, Whose gospel I have spread abroad, was with me and is still; yea, and will be, I trust, to life’s end, and will keep me in His grace unto death. I write this on Wednesday after the Feast of St. John Baptist in prison, bound in chains and awaiting death. Yet by virtue of God’s hidden counsels I dare not say this in my last letter; for even now Almighty God can set me free.

  1. This letter is in Czech.
  2. Britanni. There were some Scots present, but whether Hus knew this and deliberately used the word is at least doubtful.
  3. The Wyschehrad, or original citadel of Prague, was practically a separate city with walls of its own (destroyed during the Hussite wars). In the time of Hus there was a great monastery there.
  4. For curious details of the public women attracted to Constance by the Council—of whom Dacher counted up over seven hundred—see Hardt, v. 50–52.
  5. Suabis. German Switzerland was a part of High Suabia. Another reading is Suevis.
  6. See pp. 216, 218.
  7. P. 216, n. 1.
  8. Gottlieben; see pp. 216, 204.
  9. Catherine of Alexandria at the age of eighteen, so the story ran, had obtained the highest place ‘in liberal arts.’ The Emperor Maximin promised great rewards to any philosopher who should win her back to heathenism. But she overcame them all. She was then broken on a “Catherine’s wheel,” and her body transported by angels to Mount Sinai. See Breviary for November 25, whence Hus would obtain his allusion.