Huss, John

, a celebrated divine and martyr, was born at a town in Bohemia, called Hussenitz, about 1376, and liberally educated in the university of Prague. Here he took the degree of B. A. in 1393, and that of master in 1395; and we find him, in 1400, in orders, and a minister of a church in that city. About this time the writings of our countryman Wickliffe had spread themselves among the Bohemians, which was owing to the following circumstance: Queen Anne, the wife of Richard II. of England, was daughter to the emperor Charles IV. and sister to Wenceslaus king of Bohemia, and Sigismund emperor of Germany. She was a princess of great piety, virtue, and knowledge, nor could she endure the implicit service and devotion of the Romish church. Her death happened in 1394, and her funeral was attended by all the nobility of England. She had patronized Wickliffe, and after her death, several of Wickliffe’s books were carried by her attendants into Bohemia, and were the means of promoting the reformation there. They had also been carried into the same country by Peter Payne, an Englishman, one of his disciples, and principal of Edmund-hall. Fox men* tions another person, a young nobleman of Bohemia, who had studied some time at Oxford, and carried home with him several of Wickliffe’s tracts. They were particularly read by the students at Prague, among the chief of whom | was Huss; who, being much taken with Wickliffe’s notions, began to preach and write with great zeal against the superstitions and errors of the church of Rome. He succeeded so far, that the sale of indulgences gradually decreased among the Bohemians; and the pope’s party declared, that there would soon be an end of religion, if measures were not taken to oppose the restless endeavours of the Hussites. With a view, therefore, of preventing this danger, Subinco, the archbishop of Prague, issued forth two mandates in 1408; one, addressed to the members of the university, by which they were ordered to bring together all Wickliffe’s writings, that such as were found no contain any thing erroneous or heretical might be burnt; the other, to all curates and ministers, commanding them to teach the people, that, after the consecration of the elements in the holy Sacrament, there remained nothing but the real body and blood of Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine. Hjiss, whose credit and authority in the university were very great, as well for his piety and learning, as on account of considerable services he had done, found no difficulty in persuading many of its members of the unreasonableness and absurdity of these mandates: the first being, as he said, a plain encroachment upon the liberties and privileges of the university, whose members had an indisputable right to possess, and to read all sorts of books; the second, inculcating a most abominable error. Upon this foundation they appealed to Gregory XII. and the archbishop Subinco was summoned to Rome. But, on acquainting the pope that the heretical notions of WicklifTe were gaining ground apace in Bohemia, through the zeal of some preachers who had read his books, a bull was granted him for the suppression of all such notions in his province. By virtue of this bull, Subinco condemned the writings of Wickliffe, and proceeded against four doctors, who bad not complied with his mandate in bringing in their copies. Huss and others, who were involved in this sentence, protested against this projcedure of the archbishop, and appealed from him a second time, in June 1410. The matter was then brought before John XXIII. who ordered Huss, accused of many errors and heresies, to appear in person at the court of Rome, and gave a special commission to cardinal Colonna to cite him. Huss, however, under the protection and countenance of Wenceslaus king of Bohemia, did riot appear, but | sent three deputies to excuse his absence, and to answe’r all which should be alledged against him. Colonna paid no regard to the deputies, nor to any defence they could make; but. declared Huss guilty of contumacy to the court of Rome, and excommunicated him for it. Upon this the deputies appealed from the cardinal to the pope, who commissioned four other cardinals to examine into the affair. These commissaries not only confirmed all that Colonna had done, but extended the excommunication, which was limited to Huss, to his friends and followers: they also declared him an Heresiarch, and pronounced an interdict against him.

All this time, utterly regardless of what was doing at Rome, Huss continued to preach and write with great zeal against the errors and superstitions of that church, and in defence of Wickliffe and his doctrines. His discourses were pointed directly against the pope, the cardinals, and the clergy of that party; and at the same time he published writings, to shew the lawfulness of exposing the vices of ecclesiastics. In 1413, the religious tumults and seditions were become so violent, that Subinco applied to Wenceslaus to appease them. Wenceslaus banished Huss from Prague; but still the disorders continued. Then the archbishop had recourse to the emperor Sigismond, who promised him to come into Bohemia, and assist in settling the affairs of the church; but, before Sigismond could be prepared for the journey, Subinco died in Hungary. About this time bulls were published by John XXIil. at Prague against Ladislaus king of Naples; in which a crusade was proclaimed against that prince, and indulgences promised to all who would go to the war. This furnished Huss, who had returned to Prague upon the death of Subinco, with a favourable occasion of preaching against indulgences and crusades, and of refuting these bulls: and the people were so affected and inflamed with his preaching, that they declared pope John to be Antichrist. Upon this, some of the ringleaders among the Hussites were seized and imprisoned; which, however, was not consented to" by the people, who were prepared to resist, till the magistrate had promised that no harm should happen to the prisoners; but the Hussites discovering that these persons had been executed in prison, took up arms, rescued their bodies, and interred them honourably, as martyrs, in the church of Bethlehem, which | was Huss’s church. Huss, says Mr. Gilpin, discovered on this occasion a true Christian spirit The late riot had given him great concern; and he had now so much weight with the people as to restrain them from attempting any farther violence, whereas, at the sound of a bell, he could have been surrounded with thousands, who might have laughed at the police of the city.

Matters were in this state at Prague and in Bohemia, till the council of Constance was called where it was agreed between the pope and the emperor, that Huss should appear and give an account of himself and his doctrine. The emperor promised him security against any danger, and that nothing should be attempted against his person; upon which he set out, after declaring publicly, that he was going to the council of Constance, to answer the accusations that were formed against him and challenging all people who had any thing to except to his life and convey sation, to do it without delay. He made the same declaration in all the towns through which he passed, and arrived at Constance, Nov. 3, 1414. Here he was accused in form, and a list of his heretical tenets laid before the pope and the prelates of the council. He was summoned to appear the twenty-sixth day after his arrival; and declared himself ready to be examined, and to be corrected by them, if he should be found to have taught any doctrine worthy of censure. The cardinals soon after withdrew to deliberate upon the most proper method of proceeding against Huss; and the result of their deliberations was, that he should be imprisoned. This accordingly was done, notwithstanding the emperor’s parole for his security; nor were all his prince’s endeavours afterwards sufficient to release him, though he exerted himself to the utmost. Huss was removed from prison to prison for six; months, suffering great hardships from those who had the care of him; and at last was condemned of heresy by the council in his absence, and without a hearing, for maintaining that the Eucharist ought to be administered to the people in both kinds. The emperor, in the mean time, complained heavily of the contempt that was shewn to himself, and of the usage that w is employed towards Huss; insisting, that Huss ought to be allowed a fair and public hearing. In pretended compliance with this, he was on the 5th and 7th of June 1415, brought before the council, and permitted to say what he could in behalf of himself | and his doctrines; but every thing was carried on with noise and tumult, and Huss soon given to understand that they were not disposed to hear any thing from him but a recantation of his errors; which, however, he absolutely refused, and was ordered back to prison. On July 6, he was brought again before the council, where he was condemned of heresy, and ordered to be burnt. The ceremony of his execution was this he was first stripped of hi& iacerdotal vestments by bishops nominated for that purpose; next he was formally deprived of his university-degrees; then he had a paper-crown put upon his head, painted round with devils, and the word heresiarch inscribed in great letters; then he was delivered over to the magistrate, who burnt him alive, after having first burnt his books at the door of the church. He died with great firmness and resolution; and his ashes were afterwards gathered up and thrown into the Rhine. His writings, which are very numerous and learned, were collected into a body and published, 1558, in two volumes folio, under this title, “Joannis Hussi Opera, quse extant.” To preserve his memory, it is said that the 7th of July was, for many years, held sacred among the Bohemians. In some places large fires were lighted in the evening of that day upon the mountains, to preserve the memory of his sufferings; round which the country people would assemble and sing hymns. Huss, although a martyr for the opinions of Wickliffe, did not imbibe the whole of them. He was in most points a strenuous Calvinist, if we may anticipate the epithet, but neither he nor Jerora of Prague denied the real presence in the eucharist, and transubstantiation. It is said that at his execution he asked the excutioner, “Are you going to burn a goose?” (the meaning of Huss in the Bohemian language) “In one century you will have a swan you can neither roast nor boil.” This was afterwards interpreted to mean Luther, who had a swan for his arms. Much of Huss’s writings are in Fox, Gilpin, and other ecclesiastical writers. 1


Gilpin’s Life. Cave Freheri Theatrum, &c. See an engraving of his death, —Gent Mag. vol. LIX. p. 1002.