Jerome Of Prague

, so called from the place of his birth, where he is held to be a Protestant martyr. It does not appear in what year he was born, but it is certain that he was neither a monk nor an ecclesiastic: but that, being endowed with excellent natural parts, he had a learned education, and studied at Paris, Heidelberg, Cologne, and perhaps at Oxford. The degree of M. A. was conferred on him in the three first-mentioned universities, and he commenced D. D. in 1396. He began to publish the doctrine of the Hussites in 1408, and it is said he had a greater hare of learning and eloquence than John Huss himself. In the mean time, the council of Constance kept a watchful eye over him; and, looking upon him as a dangerous person, cited him before them April 17, 1415, to give an account of Jiis faith. In pursuance of the citation, he went to Constance, in order to defend the doctrine of Huss, as he had promised; but, on his arrival, April 24, finding his master Huss in prison, he withdrew immediately to Uberlingen, whence he sent to the emperor for a safe conduct, which was refused. The council, very artfully, were willing to grant him a safe-conduct to come to Constance, but not for his return to Bohemia. Upon this he caused to be fixed upon all the churches of Constance, and upon the gates of the cardinal’s house, a paper, declaring that | he was ready to come to Constance, to give an account of his faith, and to answer, not only in private and under the seal, hut in full council, all the calumnies of his accusers, offering to suffer the punishment due to heretics, it he should be convinced of any errors; for which reason he had desired a safe-conduct both from the emperor and the council; but that if, notwithstanding such a pass, any violence should be done to him, by imprisonment or otherwise, all the world might be a witness of the injustice of the council. No notice being taken of this declaration, he resolved to return into his own country: but the council dispatched a safe-conduct to him, importing, that as they had the extirpation of heresy above all things at heart, they summoned him to appear in the space of fifteen days, to be heard in the first session that should be held after his arrival; that for this purpose they had sent him, by those presents, a safe-conduct so far as to secure him from any violence, but they did not mean to exempt him from justice, as far as it depended upon the council, and as the catholic faith required. This pass and summons came to his hands, yet he was arrested in his way homewards, April 25, and put into the hands of the prince of Sultzbach; and, as he had not answered the citation of April 17, he was cited again May 2, and the prince of Sultzbach, sending to Constance in pursuance of an order of the council, he arrived there on the 23d, bound in chains. Upon his examination, he denied receiving of the citation, and protested his ignorance of it. He was afterwards carried to a tower of St. Paul’s church, there fastened to a post, and his hands tied to his neck with the same chains. He continued in this posture two days, without receiving any kind of nourishment; upon which he fell dangerously ill, and desired a confessor might be allowed, which being granted, he obtained a little more liberty. On July 19, he was interrogated afresh, when he explained himself upon the subject of the Eucharist to the following effect: That, in the sacrament of the altar, the particular substance of that piece of bread which is there, is transubstantiated into the body of Christ, but that the universal substance of bread remains.*


It is not easy for a person, unskilled in logic, to comprehend the meaning of this visionary distinction, It is enough to observe, that, accord­ ing to the doctrine of the schools, universals have a proper and real existence of their own, independent of, and in the nature of things prior to the exis-


tence of the individuals, whose genera and species they constituted. But those universals are now well known to be nothing else but abstract ideas, existing only in the mind, which is their sole creator.

Thus, with John | Huss, he maintained the “universalia ex parte rei.” It is true, on a third examination, Sept. 11, he retracted this opinion, and approved the condemnation of Wickliff and John Huss; but, on May 26, 1416, he condemned that recantation in these terms: “I am not ashamed to confess here publicly my weakness, Yes, with horror, I confess my base cowardice It was only the dread of the punishment by fire, which drew me to consent, against my conscience, to the condemnation of the doctrine of Wickliff and John Huss.” This was decisive, and accordingly, in the 21st session, sentence was passed on him; in pursuance of which, he was delivered to the secular arm, May 30. As the executioner led him to the stake, Jerome, with great steadiness, testified his perseverance in his faith, by repeating his creed with aloud voice, and singing litanies and a hymn to the blessed Virgin; and, being burnt to death, his ashes, like those of Huss, were thrown into the Rhine.

In common with many of the early martyrs, his consistency has been attacked by the Romish writers; but one of their number, the celebrated Poggio Bracciolini, in a letter he wrote to Leonard Aretin, has delineated his character in language of the highest admiration. Poggio was present at the council when Jerome made his defence, and immediately wrote the letter we speak of, which has been translated by Mr. Gilpin with an elegance corresponding to the fervent glow of the original. We shall transcribe only one passage which respects the eloquence of this martyr, and the impression it made on the liberal and learned Poggio: “His voice was sweet, distinct, and full; his action every way the most proper, either to express indignation, or to raise pity: though he made no affected application to the passions of his audience. Firm and intrepid, he stood before the council collected in himself; and not only contemning, but seeming even desirous of death. The greatest character in ancient story could not possibly go beyond him. If there is any justice in history, this man will be admired by all posterity I speak not of his errors: let these rest with him. What I admired was his learning, his eloquence, and amazing acuteness. God knows whether these things were not the ground-work of | his ruin.” After giving an account of his death, Poggio adds, "Thus died this prodigious man. The epithet is not extravagant. I was myself an eye-witness of his whole behaviour. Whatever his life may have been, his death, without doubt, is a lesson of philosophy. 7 ' Of his recantation it may be remarked, that like Cranmer, and a few others, who in their first terror offered to exchange principles for life, they became afterwards, and almost immediately afterwards, more confident in the goodness of their cause, and more willing to suffer in defence of it. 1

1 Cave. Freheri Theatrum. Life by Gilpin. Shepherd’s Life of Poggio.