Huss Before the Council of Constance
This section comprises the chapters 18 through 23 and completes volume I. They are listed below. To go directly to any particular chapter click on the link to that chapter. Otherwise you can scroll down as you read chapter by chapter.
- Chapter 18 – The Communion of the Cup at Constance
- Chapter 19 – The Pope Deposed
- Chapter 20 – Huss Examined in Prison
- Chapter 21 – Huss’ First and Second Audience before the Council
- Chapter 22 – Huss’ Third Audience Before the Council
- Chapter 23 – Huss’ Third Audience Before the Council Continued
The Communion of the Cup The Bohemians at Constance
It was in this tenth session of the council (May 14th) that a new subject was presented for discussion. This was the use of the cup in the eucharist, a practice long discontinued by the church, but now revived at Prague. This practice, or communion in both kinds, as it was called, had prevailed in the Greek church from the earliest times; and the intimate relations which had subsisted between that church and the churches of Bohemia had not been without their influence in introducing it anew in the city of Prague. The Bohemians, moreover, had not all forgotten their traditions of a Slavonic Bible, and religious services celebrated in their national language. Even when the Latin practice had become prevalent under Charles IV, in the fourteenth century, and the communion in both kinds was no longer publicly allowed, there were still those who sought the enjoyment of their Christian liberty in the secrecy of private dwellings, and in the depths of forests.
As the Bible became more known and read, the minds of men were led to ponder over the original institution of the sacrament. The difference between the ancient original, and the modern corrupted practice, could not escape their notice. Discussion necessarily arose, and a doctrine so palpably appealing to the senses as the use of the cup could not fail to make a deep impression upon the minds of the multitude. The result was, that wherever the Bohemian reformation triumphed, there was a disposition favorable to arguments for the restoration of the cup.
We have already seen that the practice did not originate with Huss. We find no reference made to it in connection with his name, previous to his arrival at Constance. He may have considered it a matter of minor importance, or, without having made a careful examination of it, may have silently acquiesced in the prevalent opinions. Doubtless it would not have been wise to have made the claims of a mere outward rite the basis of an appeal which could be enforced only by a living apprehension of the spiritual truths of the gospel. Huss was already a prisoner at Constance, when the doctrine of the cup began to be discussed at Prague. Two of his friends, both of them doctors, and numbered among his adherents, were the leaders of the new movement. As to Jacobel, the most noted of these, we scarcely need the testimony of one who was afterward a pope, that he was a man of the highest eminence for learning and integrity. He was a zealous defender of evangelical views, and an uncompromising enemy of ecclesiastical corruption. He sought the purity of the church, and carefully studied its original constitution. His views and feelings led him strongly to sympathize with Huss, and his study of the Bible opened his eyes more and more clearly to the prevalent errors of the times. After the departure of Huss for Constance, he seems to have succeeded, in great measure, to his position in the esteem and regard of the people. He was curate of the parish of St. Michael, in the city of Prague, and was also connected with the university. Scarcely had Huss left the city, when Jacobel, undeterred by fear of consequences, began to propose and defend the use of the cup. The subject, if we are to believe Æneas Sylvius, was first brought to his notice by Peter of Dresden. This man seems to have cultivated the acquaintance of Jacobel, as one of spirit kindred to his own. He seized a fitting occasion to speak to him on the subject of the use of the cup, and expressed his surprise that a man of his learning and devotion had not detected the error that had so long prevailed in the church. He pointed out the inconsistency between the present practice of the church and the original institution of the sacrament, quoting the language of Christ, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” The attention of Jacobel was at once arrested. He determined, therefore, to investigate the subject. He found the early traditions of the church and the authority of the fathers altogether on the side of the original form of the ordinance. His resolution was quickly formed, and he immediately took measures to secure the restoration of the cup in the eucharist. His influence was great among his own congregation, and his popularity might have secured the adoption by them of his own views without tedious discussion. He chose, however, to bring the subject in the first place before the university, and according to the customs of the day proposed theses upon the subject, which he was prepared to maintain and defend (March 25). Meanwhile one of his colleagues came over to his views, which he no longer hesitated to present to the people from the pulpit (March 29). It was not long before he ventured on the introduction of the cup, a measure which the mass of the people readily approved, and which was applauded highly by a great majority of the members of the university. It was from the clergy that the opposition with which he had to contend sprang. Jacobel was driven out from his own church, but the doors of the St. Martin’s church were opened to him, and he was here received with a hearty welcome. He continued, therefore, to publish and defend his views, in spite of all the obstacles thrown in his way.
The next step, therefore, against him was to attempt to write him down. The doctors were urged to attack him with the pen; but Jacobel did not fail to answer them in a triumphant manner. The controversy soon attracted the attention of the nation. All Bohemia was interested in it. Conrad, the archbishop of Prague, attempted to smother the flame by excommunicating its author. But Jacobel was not thus to be silenced. He only preached with renewed energy in contempt of the sentence launched against him. Supported by the people, he continued his labors under the very eye of the archbishop. The clergy, driven to desperation, had but one resource left. They determined to apply at once to the authority of the council. It was a countryman of Huss, and one of his bitterest adversaries, John, bishop of Leitomischel, who was charged with the commission of denouncing the heresy of Jacobel.
The controversy that now arose was one that the council could not compose. First the pen, and then the sword, were called into requisition; but pen and sword both proved powerless to suppress the popular conviction in favor of a rite so clearly established by scriptural authority and ancient precedent as the use of the cup. In this controversy Jacobel proved himself a man of fearless spirit and superior ability. He maintained his theses, not only from scripture, but by copious references to the fathers, the scholastics, some of the popes, and the canon law. From all these he drew the conclusion that the administration of the sacrament to all Christians, under the form of bread and wine, is the word, the law, the truth, the ordinance, and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, his apostles, and the primitive church—a practice never to be annulled or changed by any custom, however ancient, of the Roman church, nor by the constitution or decree of any pope or council.
The first reply to Jacobel was anonymous, and seems to have been written at Constance. Its tone indicates that matters had not yet proceeded to an open rupture. It is addressed to Jacobel personally, and in it he is styled brother, and eloquent preacher of the word of God. Jacobel is reproved for his disregard of ecclesiastical authority, and his innovation upon the sacred rites of the church. The applause which he met is incidentally referred to, and in a manner to show that the immense majority were ranged upon his side. His contempt for the archbishop’s excommunication is then noticed, and an attempt is made to refute his argument in his own defense—the argument drawn from that commission of Christ, “Go ye into all the world,” etc.
Other subjects, besides the one of the cup, are drawn into controversy. Jacobel is reproached for having taught that tithes are merely alms, that may be withdrawn by the secular power from an unworthy clergy. His conduct in preaching beyond his own limits, going from church to church throughout Bohemia, and thus spreading his views, is charged as highly reprehensible. He seems to have strongly insisted on reducing the clergy to the simplicity, if not poverty, of their early state, that, avoiding pomp, avarice, and luxury, they may more freely preach the word of God. His antagonist paradoxically maintains the present condition of the church to be superior to that of its primitive state, molded to a more ornate, devout, and honorable form, and that the wealth and power of the clergy were necessary and useful to the restraint of popular vice and error. His argument against the communion of the laity, under the form of the cup, shows ingenuity, if not sophistry. The multitudes in the desert were fed with bread alone. Christ at Emmaus broke the bread, but nothing is said of the wine. Had he wished that all should commune under both forms, he would have invited his own mother, as well as the seventy disciples, to be present at the institution of the ordinance. The only argument that even seemed to bear directly upon the subject, was the practice under the Old Testament, enjoined by the law, that the priests should drink the wine and the honey presented in offerings, and to none but the Levites was this allowed.
It was not by such shallow reasonings and incongruous citations, as these that Jacobel was to be driven from a position so impregnably fortified as his own, by the plain language of scripture. His antagonist can meet him here only by the unsustained assertion, that the passage on which he relied was addressed solely to the apostles and their successors; and his interpretation of this passage, in reference to spiritual eating and drinking, places him in a position where consistency would require him to go yet further. A Quaker’s argument would have left him entirely indefensible in observing any outward form of the ordinance whatever. But, abandoning the ground of scripture, and almost altogether neglecting the argument from the writings of the fathers, he enlarges on the inconvenience that would result from allowing the cup to the laity. He maintains, that caution requires to avoid the incongruity and the great guilt that are in danger of being incurred, from spilling the blood of Christ upon the robes of the women, or suffering it to wet the beards of the men, or fall to the ground. He cites the decree of Pope Pius, that if a drop of the consecrated wine should by negligence be spilt upon the earth, or upon a cloak, the sin should be expiated by forty days of prayer and fasting, with abstinence from the mass for the same space of time. If the drop has fallen upon a stone, the stone is to be rasped, and the fragments deposited with the sacred relics. If it fell upon a cloak, the cloak was to be burned. If upon the sod, it was to be licked up with the tongue, and the sod laid away in the sacred repository. From all this Jacobel’s antagonist infers, that if a layman should spill a drop of the consecrated wine upon his beard or garment, he ought with his beard and garment to be burned up and thrust to the bottom of hell, unless he should repent. The reason given against the administration of the cup to the sick at a distance is the danger of the fall of man or beast.
If, then, the sick may commune under one form only, why not all, he asks. The danger of the wine turning to vinegar; the difficulty of many persons in drinking or even enduring the smell of wine; the great size of the vessels that would be necessary if all were to commune; the difficulty of raising the vessel in time of war, when thousands were to partake, are subjects successively noticed; and, to conclude all, it is maintained that the flesh of Christ necessarily includes the blood, so that the laity and clergy do in reality receive the same, that is, Christ, and one no less or more than the other.
The writer then proceeds to sustain his positions by the authority of the Roman church—an authority necessarily binding upon the consciences of all. He cites the language of St. Augustine, “I would not believe the gospel if the authority of the Catholic church did not induce me thereto,” and then maintains that as the Catholic and Roman church has established the form of communion, the question is thereby finally settled.
In this reply to Jacobel, we find by incidental allusions that he had allowed or authorized other changes at Prague which were regarded in the light of innovations, and as revolutionary if not heretical in their nature. He had taught that the parishioner is not bound to confess to his parish priest, or receive the communion at his hands only; but in case he is unworthy or vicious, another may be applied to. He refused to recognize the authority of the pope as superior to that of the parish priest in the matter of absolution, or even in some other respects. Popular songs had been introduced, which were sung in the streets, the markets, and the churches—some of them, we are given to understand, far from complimentary to the character of the prelates, and these Jacobel refused his influence to suppress. On these accounts also, his antagonist reproves him, closing his treatise however, in language which shows a high esteem for Jacobel as his brother, asking pardon for anything improper, wrong, or displeasing which be may have uttered, and expressing his willingness to be corrected in whatever fault be may have fallen.
This anonymous letter to Jacobel was soon followed by a treatise quite similar in character from the pen of his townsman, Andrew Broda, residing at the time at Constance. The similarity is indeed so striking that we can have no hesitation in ascribing both to the same source, though the latter treatise is more harsh and severe.
Jacobel does not suffer Broda’s treatise to pass in silence. He commences his reply by protesting, as he declares he had formerly done in the university when the subject was brought before it, that in this most important matter, as in every other, be had no intention to say, write, or maintain anything presumptuously in opposition to the holy Catholic church of Jesus Christ, or against the true Christian faith and the perfect law of God, and if anything of this sort should escape him, through ignorance, inadvertence, or the imperfection to which he confesses himself subject, be revokes and retracts it, subjecting himself to the correction of those to whom it belongs to restore the erring. He refers to the numerous treatises in which he had already defended the use of the cup, and in which he had sustained himself by the authority of scripture and of holy men, and then proceeds to refute the arguments of Broda, seriatim. This he does in a manner most complete and triumphant. He adverts to Broda’s false glosses of the authorities which he had cited, whether from scripture or the fathers, exposing his gross perversions of their original meaning, and detecting not only the weakness of his opponent’s arguments, but the dishonest reasoning and sophistry by which the author himself could scarcely have been deceived. Broda had objected to Jacobel that he refused to receive the authority of eminent doctors, but the latter has manifestly the advantage when he exposes his opponent as rejecting the authority of those whose words he could not pervert. Broda, relying upon pontifical decrees and decisions, had held that the pope, with cardinals, prelates, and bishops, could not err. Jacobel boldly avowed an opposite belief. He triumphantly appealed to their avarice and simony, as well as other vices, which plainly showed that they entered not by the door into the sheepfold. Such a church as the one called the Roman, made up of such materials, Jacobel boldly asserted, might err in life and doctrine, calling evil good, and light darkness. He even cites papal authority from the decretals to sustain him in his position. Broda had demanded of Jacobel that he should with him give faith to the legends of the church, but Jacobel, without absolutely rejecting them as false, everywhere manifests his decided preference for the authority of scripture. His opponent asks him when the church first began to depart from the purity of its early practice, and for how long a time the use of the cup had prevailed in the primitive church. “Why,” answers Jacobel, “does the doctor put such a question to me, when by reason of the malice with which he pursues me he would not receive or believe the truth if I should utter it?” He then refers Broda to the scriptures for an answer. “When the abomination of desolation was first to be seen in the holy place; when iniquity began to abound, and the love of many to wax cold throughout the whole church; when impious men, true to their nature, began to pollute the sanctuary; when fraud and forgery found their way into the church, then this sacrifice was taken away from the people, and the cup was withheld.”
Broda had called him a disciple of Antichrist, because he would not obey the commands of those who occupied Moses’ seat. Jacobel replies that he had never refused to receive their commands when accordant with the gospel, but “to our scribes and Pharisees, commanding what is opposed to God’s law,” he had never allowed that obedience was due. In such a case their excommunication was frivolous and vain. The seeming curse, humbly endured by the innocent, would be changed to a blessing. Here he cites the example of Chrysostom, who, though excommunicated and banished, was afterwards recalled, against the will of his superiors, and who, while thus pretendedly excommunicated, did not cease to preach to the people. “Why then,” he asks, “should not I imitate these holy men in preaching and ministering to the people, notwithstanding my pretended excommunication?”
Broda had charged Jacobel with disturbing the peace of the church. To this Jacobel replies, that to observe the law of the gospel to the saving of souls and the glory of God, is not to sin against charity, while Christ himself, in saying “I came not to bring peace, but a sword,” showed that the peace of wicked men ought to be disturbed. It was better, he maintained, that offenses should arise than that the truth should be betrayed.
The silence of Broda on the corruptions of the church, or the gentleness with which he treats them, is not paused over by Jacobel in silence. He maintains that his opponent is, on these grounds, in danger of being himself suspected of simony. As to confessing in cases by law reserved, Jacobel maintains that this had rarely been done, but, in cases of necessity, he could not refuse those who, like some of the priests themselves, had been pursued by hatred, because they had zealously congregated to hear the preaching of the word of God.
Throughout the whole argument of Jacobel we are struck by the reverence with which he bows to the simple authority of the scriptures. He indeed refers to the eminent names in the history of the church, whose views upon the matter in dispute manifestly coincided with his own. But he does not forget that even Peter and Paul were once at variance; and the name of Thomas Aquinas is no authority with one who openly points out his gross departure on other subjects from the plain doctrines of the gospel. Laudable practices there well might be, instituted for the church, to promote or facilitate the observance of evangelical truth, but never could these be suffered to preponderate over the authority of Christ’s express commandments. Here was, in reality, the turning point of the whole controversy. Jacobel had assumed the true Protestant ground. Broda’s position was utterly indefensible, unless the authority of the pope and of the Romish church was allowed to supersede the express commands of the author of Christianity himself.
Nor did the evident aim of Broda to bring in to the aid of his arguments the power of the secular arm escape the notice of Jacobel. He showed that the restraint which Broda spoke of, quoting from Augustine, was but another name for the adoption of violent measures on the part of the civil power to suppress hated opinions. Jacobel commits his cause to the Supreme Judge, who alone could not err, while he vindicates the language of St. Augustine from the sense in which it was employed.
The conclusion of Jacobel’s defense displays a deep consciousness of the rectitude of his purpose, the danger which he incurred, and the unspeakable importance of that cause in which the individual was but a humble instrument of the divine glory.
“I am fully aware,” he says, “that by what I have done I have laid myself open to the malicious assaults of many, who, stung by envy, will taunt where they cannot argue.”
“I know that I am thrusting my hand into the fires of hatreds, but I here attest that, according to my ability in this matter of faith, I preach and defend the ministrations of the cup to the laity, and I exhort others to do the same to the end that the kingdom of lust and of Antichrist may to some extent be purged, and the spirit of fervor and devotion, so long extinct among Christian nations, may be revived; and that some may be moved to that holy zeal of God for the edification and restoration of the house of God, that will cry out, ‘Do good in thy good pleasure, O Lord, to Zion, that the walls of Jerusalem may be built!’ I beseech each reader, therefore, to prove these or whatsoever other of my words, and hold them each even to the end, and I desire to be corrected by any such, if I have said anything at variance with the truth, or anything not accordant with the rule of charity.
“I therefore request all to whom this present writing shall come, piously and charitably to interpret and accept it for God’s sake. And whether I have lapsed in word, assertion, opinion, or superfluity of words, or possibly in too excessive and severe reprehension of the doctor, or in any words of a satirical turn employed for rebuke, so as to excite passion, or in my zeal, if perchance not according to knowledge, or by unfit expression of truths, for all these, I say, I ask pardon.
“And I subject myself to the correction of him who is Lord of all, and of his creature whom he would have deputed for this purpose.
“But if in these writings there be that which is fit and useful, for this be praise and glory to God forever and ever. Amen.”
The discussion upon the subject was kept up between the advocates and the opponents of the utraque. The adherents of Huss were divided in opinion. The subject was one which the practical nature of his mind had never led him closely to investigate. The more palpable and gross corruptions of the church, which had a more direct and obvious bearing upon morals and religion, had absorbed his attention. But circumstances had now arisen in which it was no longer permitted him to remain silent. His opinion was requested. What it would be, could scarce have been to his friends a matter of doubt. The respect of Huss for the scriptures, as the sole and supreme authority for the truth of doctrine, was not inferior to that of Jacobel. He, too, would decide each question by the law of Christ as laid down in the written word. Throughout his trial, his appeal was constantly made to its divine authority, and all he asked was to be convicted of his error from the sacred page, or be absolved on the ground of conformity to its doctrines. The answer of Huss to the question proposed was an approval of Jacobel’s doctrine. He was not blind to the danger which he incurred by expressing this approval. Yet he shrunk not from that fidelity to his convictions which was so eminently characteristic of him. From his prison at Gottlieben his voice was heard; and those of his adherents who had withheld their approval from what they regarded as an innovation of Jacobel, no longer withstood it. The doctrine of the use of the cup prevailed by an overwhelming majority. The voice of the university was almost unanimously in its favor. The absence at Constance of the most virulent opponents of Huss allowed it greater harmony and unanimity in its decisions. What support and sympathy Jacobel received from this quarter may be judged from the manner in which he speaks of it in his defense. “The members of our university,” said he, “do not strut about in a remarkable and sumptuous costume, in order to set off their dignity the more. They are not of the class of whom our Lord speak, as loving the first places at feasts and synagogues, in order to be saluted at public places and to hear themselves called, Master! Is it not a disgrace to the church, as St. Jerome says, to preach Jesus Christ, poor, crucified, in want of everything, with bodies loaded with fat, with well-fed faces and vermilion lip? If we are in the apostles’ places, it is not merely in order to preach their doctrines, but to imitate their mode of life.”
Intelligence of the state of things at Prague had reached Constance, and begun to excite alarm. Broda’s interposition had proved of no avail. It had only given occasion for a triumphant refutation, which made the adherents of the old doctrine feel how untenable was their position. The teachings of Jacobel, already possessed of a stronghold in the university, were spreading more widely every day throughout Bohemia. It was at this period, when the approval of the new doctrine on the part of Huss was strongly suspected but could not be proved, that Broda found a powerful ally in a fellow-country man and a former antagonist of Huss. John the Iron, as he was not inappropriately called, bishop of Leitomischel, denounced the innovation of Jacobel before the council. Personal hostility undoubtedly embittered him against Huss and Jacobel. His election as bishop was opposed by Wenzel and a large body of the reformers, as well as by Conrad, archbishop of Prague. The council of Constance, however, decided in his favor; and the energies of the soldier, the general, and the bishop, all which characters he had sustained, broke out in virulence against the Bohemian reformers. Although without any authority as yet for the assertion, he sought to implicate Huss in the recent transactions at Prague by ascribing to him the origin of the innovations. To aggravate the odium against the reformers, he represented the wine for the communion—the blood of Christ, as he called it—as carried about in flasks all over the kingdom, and exposed to innumerable hazards.
The denunciations of the bishop could not be passed over in silence. They excited a deep feeling of indignation on the part of the Bohemians in Constance, who regarded the charge as utterly unwarranted, and slanderous to their nation. It did not escape their notice that its natural effect would be to aggravate the difficulties of Huss’ position, and excite a stronger prejudice against him in the minds of his judges. They were aware of the severity and hardships to which he was subjected in his prison at Gottlieben. They knew that the process against him was already commenced, and was urged forward by the bitterest malice. It was therefore with affectionate solicitude for his welfare, as well as indignation at his unjust treatment and apprehension excited by the denunciation of the bishop, that, in the afterpart of the day (May 14, 1415) on which the latter had made his charges, they insisted that Huss should at once be set free, or at least that his imprisonment should be lightened, and a public audience be allowed him. They also manifested their dissatisfaction at the defamatory reports to which the bishop had given utterance to such a degree that he felt called upon to make some reply.
On the sixteenth of the month, two days later, the opportunity was given. The bishop presented a written answer. The substance of it is the expression of his zeal against the followers of Wickliffe and Huss. This, he declares, and no wish to defame the Bohemian nation, is the motive by which he is impelled. Of the abuses which he declares had prevailed in connection with the communion of the cup, all is narrowed down to one or two specifications, and these narrated to him on the authority of others, in all probability with gross exaggerations. At the worst, they could fairly be regarded only as exceptional cases, noticeable for their very singularity. But besides the reply of the bishop, an apology for the council, drawn up by its order, was also read. To its false statements, as well as the misrepresentations of the bishop, the Bohemians felt constrained to reply. The apology denied that Huss had received his safe-conduct until fifteen days after reaching Constance, and expressed astonishment that the Bohemians should speak of Huss as innocent when he had already been condemned and excommunicated by the pope on the ground of contumacy, became, his life endangered, Huss chose to appear at Rome only by his procurators! For this cause, and for venturing to “harangue” after his arrival at Constance, he was to be considered an arch-heretic, in utter violation of the principle that a man is to be accounted innocent until tried and found guilty. The Bohemians asked a delay of two days to prepare their answer. The request was granted, although the council refused to set Huss at liberty. This confirmed their apprehensions in his behalf, and the question in regard to the cup at once subsided, in their view, into one of secondary importance. They were wise enough, moreover, not to wish to entangle the main subject in new difficulties, and their reply turns, therefore, chiefly upon this alone. They declare first, in regard to the assertion that they had been ill-informed as to several matters which had been made grounds of complaint, that they wish to make a more full and clear statement of the case; not to retort the charge upon the members of the council, but to enable them to discern and judge the real state of things. The Bohemians first propose to correct the error of the council in saying that they had been ill-informed in regard to the safe-conduct, and that it had been secured for Huss by his friends and partisans fifteen days after his arrival in Constance. To this the Bohemian nobles answer specially John de Chlum, whom this point principally concerned—that on the very day of Huss’ arrest, the pope had asked, in the presence of a great number of his cardinals, whether Huss was provided with a safe-conduct from the emperor. To this Chlum had replied, “Most holy father, know that he has one.” And when the question was repeated, the same answer was given. No one, however, asked to have the safe-conduct exhibited. On each of the two following days, Chlum had complained to the pope that Huss was detained in violation of the safe-conduct, at the same time exhibiting it to the view of many persons. And, in confirmation of his statement, he refers to the testimony of many lords, bishops, soldiers, officials, and eminent persons of the city of Constance, who themselves, on that occasion, saw the document and heard it read. John de Chlum, therefore, was prepared, under any penalty whatsoever, and against all denial from any source, to prove and manifest, in the clearest manner, the truth of his assertions. The Bohemian nobles, moreover, refer, in confirmation of their statement, to the many princes and nobles attendant upon Sigismund’s court, who were present when and where the safe-conduct was given by the royal mandate. Hence the fathers of the council might perceive that not the Bohemian nobles had been ill-informed, but rather those persons who had carried to the fathers such false reports, and who really do injustice to Sigismund and his chancellors as well as the Bohemian nobility, as if the safe-conduct had been surreptitiously obtained. They therefore urge that the fathers of the council would no more give ear to such unfounded reports, undeserving of credit, but hear both sides, and let the truth be manifest.
They then proceed to consider the assertion that Huss was already condemned. The mockery of all the forms of justice, by which the court appointed for his trial had proceeded to sentence him unheard, is exposed to a just reprehension. The facts of the case are simply and clearly stated. As to the citation, the Bohemian nobles profess to know nothing except by common fame. But as to his non-appearance personally, they declare that it was solely owing to the danger which he thereby incurred. His procurators, who had appeared for him at Rome, had been shamefully treated. As to his excommunication, they knew from his own lips that he did not meet it in a spirit of contumacy, but endured it under appeal. The evidence in regard to this, which they are prepared to exhibit, is perfectly conclusive. As to Huss having preached in Constance after his arrival in the city, as his enemies had reported of him, the Bohemians answer—and especially John de Chlum, here present with Huss, and who resided with him from the time of his first arrival in Constance—that he never had preached, or, from the time of his arrival up to the day of his imprisonment, had even set foot beyond his own lodgings.
The fathers of the council had professed not to understand what the Bohemians meant by the toleration and courtesy shown to heretics condemned by the Pisan council. They were in doubt whether reference was had to the contending or schismatic popes, or to others, but asserted that even heretics, coming to the council on the business of union, were to be tolerated and respected. The Bohemians reply, that whichever was meant, all they ask is that Master John Huss may enjoy the same freedom which they enjoyed. Coming to the council as he did, of his own accord, and no way compelled, only to declare his faith, and in whatsoever respect he might be shown to have strayed from the word of God and the unity of the church, to be reconciled and restored; and that this was not only his motive, but that of his favorers and adherents, who composed, in fact, a majority of the Bohemian nation. He had desired also to purge the realm from the infamy attached to it by false reports.
The Bohemians close their reply by thanks to the council for their favorable answer to their principal request, that the matters concerning Huss should be expedited—a request in which the whole kingdom of Bohemia is united with them.
But the papal question was one which seemed to the council most important at the present juncture, and it was to this that their attention was now directed.
The Pope Deposed
The judicial deposition of a pope by the assembled representatives of Christendom stands upon the page of history as a recorded fact. Yet a large number of those assembled at Constance had regarded the proposal to sit in judgment upon John XXIII as something sacrilegious. To them he was the Lord’s anointed, and the theory of papal infallibility was exalted by them into a doctrine of faith. But the force of circumstances was too strong for any theory which would absolutely block the progress of the council. The interests of Christendom, or at least of the bishops and prelates, absolutely required that the scandal of schism should no longer be endured. It was a nuisance to be abated. It was a standing text for heresy. It was a grievance to the nations; and, what was more perhaps in the eyes of the emperor, so long as it continued, Europe had reason to tremble for fear of Moslem invasion.
It was on the sixteenth of May, at two o’clock in the afternoon, that the commission for procuring testimony against the pontiff, in order to his deposition, held their first session. They met in the episcopal palace, attended by the proper officers of their court. Nearly forty witnesses were summoned before them, and sworn to give true evidence. John XXIII was, moreover, cited to see and bear the testimony which should convict him of the crimes with which he stood charged. These crimes were recited in language shockingly plain. His profligate course in the alienation and plunder of ecclesiastical property, and his scandalous life and morals, stained with simony and almost every vice, were to be the subject of investigation. And yet even this statement of his crimes was too lenient. Truth, however, would not consent to anything less, and decency could tolerate no more.
But John XXIII had no disposition to hear or see the testimony to be produced against him. The commission for examining witnesses therefore proceeded in his absence. The testimony of thirty-seven persons was taken, some of them holding distinguished places in the church, and all of them men of note. Ten of the number were bishops. One was the grand master of Rhodes, and several were officers of the apostolic chamber, and even secretaries of John XXIII.
The list of accusations was composed of sixty-six articles, all attested and proved. The conclusion of all was that John XXIII was stiff-necked, stubborn, a hardened and incorrigible sinner, and a favorer of schism, and as such, as well as on other accounts, was entirely unworthy to hold the office of the pontificate. The Vienna manuscript list of the articles closes with the just reflection, “What judgment must be formed of the cardinals who elected John XXIII, acquainted as they were with his simony and his infamy in other respects! After having sworn to elect the best man among them, what must they themselves have been, if they have judged that among them all there was none better than he who has been proved by so many witnesses to have been simoniacal, a traitor, a homicide, guilty of rape, arson, and incest, the debaucher of members of religious orders, and a man guilty of a sin more grievous still than these!” Who can deny the justness of the inference? What invectives of Huss could be so severe as a simple statement of the facts attested before the commission?
In fact, several of the articles in the list of impeachment were suppressed by the council. At least fourteen of the most odious and scandalous charges which had been reported as proved, in the assembly held on the twenty-fourth of May, were not produced in the public session subsequent. These suppressed articles were mostly specifications of fact, in regard to which witnesses could not be mistaken. They recited the reckless, undutiful, lying, and licentious conduct of this pontiff’s youth, precocious in almost every kind of depravity; his course as the principal minister and agent of simony for Boniface IX, by means of which he amassed the immense wealth that secured him a cardinalate; his proceedings as legate of Bologna, in subjecting that city and church to tyrannical extortions and violence, as well as unheard-of cruelties, massacring, torturing, and driving into exile many of its citizens; his actual sale of several parochial churches and many ecclesiastical benefices to lay persons, who took possession of them, and placed priests over them according to their own caprice; his conferring an important office upon a bastard son of the king of Cyprus, aged only five years, revoking the grant only on condition that the king should be reimbursed the amount of the purchase-money he had paid, that he should himself receive six thousand florins, and the son of the king an annual pension of two thousand, besides an office that brought in a revenue of ten thousand more; his poisoning his predecessor, Alexander V, as well as his physician, in order to open the way to his own election as pontiff; his acts of fornication, adultery, incest, and sins of the most abominable impurity, that cried to heaven for vengeance; his sale of unlawful dispensations for enormous sums; his bargaining away, alienating, and spending the revenues and tribute due to the Roman church; his sale of the sacred relics of John the Baptist, in the convent of St. Sylvester, for fifteen thousand ducats, and which he would have given up if he had not been miraculously detected, while those who complained of the proceeding had been banished or imprisoned; and his maintaining. stubbornly, before reputable persons, that there was no future life or resurrection, and that the souls of men perish with their bodies, like brutes.
Such were, in substance—as decently expressed as possible—some of the suppressed articles. Of those not suppressed, and which were made the ground of his deposition, there were, in all, fifty-four; but of these it must suffice to give a few as specimens. In these his course is recited mainly from his elevation to the pontificate. It was maintained that “he is universally regarded as an oppressor of the poor, a perverter of justice, the supporter of iniquity, the defender of simonists, the bond of vice, the enemy of all virtue, the mirror of infamy as well as a slave of lasciviousness; that he pays no heed to the public consistories, is always plunged in sleep or in his pleasures, and that all who know him speak of him as a “devil incarnate”; that from the date of his pontificate he has been guilty of the most scandalous and reckless simony, disposing at his caprice of the property of the church, selling the same, benefice to several persons at once, and forbidding the courts to hear parties complaining, or to render them justice; that he had spurned the fraternal exhortations of the cardinals, and the remonstrances of others, urging him to desist from his course; that he had sent a layman, a merchant of Florence, into the dioceses of Cambray, Tournay, Liege, and Utrecht, empowered to collect tithes, and excommunicate such as refused to obey him, thus amassing prodigious sums of money; that after having exhausted the revenue of the patrimony of St. Peter, he had invented new impost, or increased those already established, in a most oppressive manner, and had finally given up the capital, in spite of his own promise, to plunder and pillage, filling city and country with robbery, murder, and sacrilege, leaving the women exposed to a brutal soldiery, and many persons of the court to assassination, plunder, the gallies, or perpetual imprisonment; that his criminal and hateful life had provoked universal complaint, yet when the emperor Sigismund had remonstrated with him and secured the promise of reform, he had violated that promise, falling back into all his former excesses. The list of charges then recites the duplicity and falsehood of which he had been guilty after his arrival at Constance, and the utter disregard which he had shown to his own engagements. On such grounds as these, evidently sufficient without including the suppressed articles, the council resolved to proceed with the steps necessary to the final sentence—the solemn deposition of John XXIII.
The eleventh session was opened in solemn form on the twenty-fifth of May. The Cardinal de Vivieres presided; and the emperor, with all the cardinals then in the city, the princes, envoys, and ambassadors; was present. The commission for hearing witnesses on the subjects of accusation against the pontiff were called upon for their report. It was read seriatim, each charge accompanied by a mention of the number and quality of the witnesses by whom it was proved. The report was approved by the council, and five cardinals were named to notify the pope of what had been done by the council in its present session.
The cardinals departed at once for Ratolfcell, where the pope was residing. As he had already been suspended, and had laid aside the insignia of his dignity, their greeting was not as usual with the kissing of his feet, but only of his mouth and hands. Some authorities intimate that, but for the presence of other members of the council, the cardinals would have rendered him the usual homage. He received the proceedings of the council with every mark of profound submission. He saw himself in their hands, and knew all further resistance was hopeless and could but aggravate the conditions of his treatment. Undoubtedly he hoped, by an assumed contrition and acquiescence, to soften the resentments which his conduct had excited. To the communication of the cardinals he did not trust himself—whether from fear or prudence or exhaustion—to reply orally. He sent in to them a document drawn up by his own hand, and which the cardinals bore back with them to the council. In this reply he assumes the most penitent and submissive airs, showing himself still, in this most desperate condition of his affairs, the consummate actor that he was. He declares “his purpose to submit himself absolutely to the orders and decisions of the council;” expresses his readiness to cede his office, whether at Constance or any other place which the fathers shall be pleased to appoint; far from opposing the sentence which the council should pronounce against him, promises that he will ratify it by all means in his power, and in whatever form should be prescribed; but yet prays the council, “by the bowels of divine mercy, to spare his honor, his person and estates, as far as may be, without prejudice to the union of the church.”
It was on the twenty-sixth of May that the cardinals, who had returned from Ratolfcell, reported to the council the success of their mission, and the favorable answer of the pontiff. A new commission was then appointed, consisting of two bishops and two abbots accompanied by notaries, to lay before him the articles and grounds of his deposition, in order that he might reply to them if he saw fit. They were also to inform him that the sentence of his deposition would be read on the day following, which he might be privileged to hear if he chose. But John XXIII had heard enough already. Manifesting toward the commission the same spirit of resignation as upon a former occasion, he declined even the reading of the articles of accusation which had been presented for reply, declaring that he did not need to see them, inasmuch as he held the council to be infallible, and would not recede from the act of submission which he had put into the hands of the cardinals. He only begged them to spare his honor and his fortune, and present the emperor with a letter which he had written him containing the same request.
This letter is valuable as another illustration of the character of its author. He wears the mask to the last, with the same easy and well assumed impudence. He calls the emperor, in his address, his dear son, assuming still the authority of pope. After passing an eulogy upon his prudence and other virtues, especially the clemency and generosity with which he had pardoned the most grievous offences, he reminds him of their former friendship, and urges the claims upon the emperor which his devoted service and fidelity had imposed.
But Sigismund was not the dupe of this artful and tardy humiliation. It was the result of the extreme measures which had overtaken its author, and had been preceded by a course of conduct on his part which exposed it only to contempt. He had spread his accusations of the bad faith of the emperor all over Europe. He had employed all his resources to defeat the cherished purpose of Sigismund in giving peace to the church. Yet, with a kind of scrupulous honesty, the council resolved to pay him back a fair price for his submission. He was informed that, in consideration of it, the sentence of his deposition, which was to have taken place on the twenty-seventh of Maya would be deferred until the twenty-ninth, and that its severity would be somewhat relaxed. John XXIII received the announcement with the best possible grace, but his condition now was anything but enviable. He was a prisoner at Ratolfcell, under the charge of four guards appointed by the council, each of these a member of it and representing one of the four nations. Frederic, the duke of Austria, had been forced, as the price of his restoration to favor, to take the pontiff into custody and deliver him over to the council. Accompanied by members whose fidelity could be relied upon, and who were to see that the task was faithfully executed, be had arrested the pontiff, and brought him as far as Ratolfcell. Unwilling himself probably to appear in Constance with his prisoner, he sent word to the council that John XXIII refused to proceed further, and would only submit to the necessity of force. The council, therefore, averse to harsh measures which might possibly react against themselves, permitted him to remain at Ratolfcell. It was here that the deputations of the council had met him, and it was from this place, under the custody of his guards, that his letters of submission were dated. Their true value was probably accurately appreciated by the council, when, in consideration of them, they deferred for two days the sentence of his deposition.
In his imprisonment, John XXIII seems to have sunk into almost abject despair. Those were gloomy days to him in which he awaited the pronouncing of his sentence. He was carefully guarded by day and by night. His old servants, with the exception of his cook, were all removed, and new ones appointed. Eight members of the council, two from each nation, were appointed, by their presence and society, to relieve the tedium and solitude of his imprisonment, a humane regard which was not shown in the case of Huss; yet the trembling pontiff could have scarcely appreciated such consideration, as be gave up into their hands “the ring of the fisherman” and the insignia of his office.
On the twenty-ninth of May the twelfth session of the council was held. The emperor, with all the cardinals, princes, and ambassadors, was present. The passage of scripture read was one appropriately significant: “Now is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is cast out.” After the usual preparatory ceremonies, the late deputies to the pope made their report. They stated that the articles of his indictment had been presented to him, and he had been informed that if he had any opposition to offer he might be at liberty to do so; to which he made reply, that he had done much for the union and welfare of the church, even offering to cede his office. He readily acknowledged that he had basely abandoned the council, and now he would rather—saving the welfare of his soul—have died on the very day of his flight, than have done a thing so reprehensible. Against the sentence of the council he had nothing to offer in his own defense; but, according to the tenor of a writing which he bad drawn up, and now placed in the hands of the cardinals deputed to visit him, desired and promised, standing in their presence, to conform himself to every ordinance, deliberation, and decision of the said holy council, ratifying every process issued by it against himself, and asserting that to the articles against him be had no other answer to make. The council he declared to be most holy, infallible, and a continuation of the Pisan, promising that neither at Bologna, nor at any other place where he might be present in person, would he speak a word against it. Let the sentence, he said, when pronounced, be presented to him, and he would receive it with head bared, and with all respect, and would, as far as lay in his power, ratify, confirm, approve, and acknowledge it. In fact, all that had been done by the council against him he did at once and from that moment ratify, approve, and confirm, promising never at any period to oppose it.
After this report was given in, Martin Porrée, bishop of Arras, arose and read the sentence of deposition. Three bishops and the patriarch of Antioch ascended the platform with him, and took their places by his side. The sentence of a deposed pope deserves to be given entire. It was as follows: “In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen. The most holy general council of Constance, in the Holy Spirit lawfully convened, invoking the name of Christ, and having the fear of God only before their eyes, having examined the articles drawn up and presented in this case against the lord pope, John XXIII, together with the evidence sustaining them, his voluntary submission, with the entire process of this cause, doth, after mature deliberation upon the same, pronounce, decree, and declare, by this definitive sentence, produced in writing, that the clandestine withdrawal of the aforesaid lord pope, John XXIII, from Constance, and from this sacred council—his departing by night, at a suspicious hour, in an unbecoming and disguised garb—was unlawful, and to the church of God and to the said council notoriously scandalous, tending to disturb and obstruct the peace and union of the church itself, an encouragement to its protracted schism, inconsistent with the vow, promise, and oath given by Pope John to God, the church, and this holy council; that Pope John himself is a notorious simonist, squandering the goods and disregarding the rights, not only of the Roman, but of other churches—a perverse administrator of the spiritualities as well as temporalities of the church by his shameful life and detestable conduct, grossly scandalizing Christian people, both before and since his accession to the papacy, even down to the present time; that, after proper and kindly admonitions again and frequently repeated, he has pertinaciously persevered in his aforesaid wickedness, thereby rendering himself notoriously incorrigible; and that he, on account of the aforesaid and other crimes set forth in the process of the said cause against him, ought, as unworthy, useless, injurious, to be deprived and deposed from the papacy, and its entire administration, both spiritual and temporal; and the said holy council doth remove, deprive, and depose him, declaring all Christians, of what state, condition, or dignity soever, absolved from all obedience, fidelity, or oath of allegiance; forbidding all the faithful from receiving naming, adhering to, or obeying him, thus deposed, any longer as pope. The said holy council also makes good, from certain knowledge and plenitude of power, each and every defect in this preceding sentence; and condemns him by this same sentence to stay and remain in some good and fitting place, under the safe custody of the emperor Sigismund, the most devoted champion and defender of the Catholic church, as long as in the view of the said holy general council the welfare and the union of the church of God shall require. Other fitting penalties to be inflicted for the said crimes and enormities, according to canonical sanction, the said council reserves, to be declared and inflicted at its own good pleasure, as the rigor of justice or the measure of mercy shall require.”
Such was the sentence that invaded the sanctuary of infallibility, and dragged down “the Lord’s anointed” from his throne. It was the deliberate and well-weighed act of representative Christendom, urged on by the most catholic emperor Sigismund, and sanctioned by the ablest, wisest, and best men whom the council could boast among its members. When the sentence had been read, the president of the council, Cardinal John, bishop of Ostia, arose and asked if anyone then present, great or small, rich or poor, had anything to say against the aforesaid definitive sentence, or against its being pronounced. If any such were present, he invited them to arise and declare their views in the name of the council, allowing them full liberty of expression: and in case no one arose, each was to be considered as consenting to the sentence. Not a voice was heard. If any still felt an attachment to the unfortunate pontiff, they were unwilling to testify it before the council in this hour of his desperate fortunes. John XXIII had not a John de Chlum to stand by him to the last, and, at the risk of all things earthly, vindicate his innocence. He, at least, fell unpitied and unwept. No prayers like those which commended the imprisoned Huss to the care of Heaven, were breathed forth with sighs and tears in his behalf. He fell as a criminal, Huss as a martyr.
After the momentary silence—more eloquent than words—which ratified the judgment of the council by a tacit but unanimous consent, the several presidents of the nations arose, and in their behalf responded their placet to the sentence that had been read. The presiding cardinal answered in behalf of the college of cardinals. The vote was taken thus by the whole council. At this moment the cardinal of Florence arose. He was the youngest member of the college of cardinals, a man of great ability and daring. He had ventured on a previous occasion to set himself as the organ of the will of the college, against the whole council, omitting the reading of a portion of one of the decrees of that body—a portion exceedingly important as bearing upon the pope and cardinals—on his own authority. The council had resented the proceeding, and now, when Zabarella arose with a written document in his hand, and asked permission to read it, their former jealousies and suspicions were reawakened. He was greeted from every side by an almost unanimous shout “Non placeret.” He was thus forced to resume his seat, and silently acquiesce in what had been done. Doubtless his purpose was to present in some form a protest, but such was the state of feeling in the council that he was not allowed to proceed. Whatever it might have been, it could scarcely, from such a source, have had any influence to change the result.
It now only remained to carry the sentence into execution. So far as the council itself was concerned, there was no delay. The archbishop of Riga, the keeper of the seal and arms of John XXIII, presented them to the council. It was then demanded by Henry de Piro, the procurator of the council, that the seal should be broken and the armorial bearings effaced. This was done on the instant, with unanimous consent, by the hands of Arnold, the goldsmith of the pope. Five cardinals were at the same time appointed to notify John of his deposition. They were instructed to urge him to acquiesce in his sentence with a good grace, and to threaten him with more severe treatment if he offered any resistance. The council knew how to manage their prisoner. They could take the measure of his hopes and fears, but Huss, they were soon to find, was not a man of the same stamp.
Nothing more was done at this session except to take some precautionary measures in regard to the election of a new pope. The council resolved and decreed that no steps should be taken towards such an election without their advice and consent, or, in case they should be, they were to be accounted null and void. It was forbidden to recognize as pope any person who might be elected in such a case, under the severest penalties. All customs, statutes, or privileges interfering with this decision, were pronounced invalid. Thus the democratic principle in the council, under the lead of men like Gentian and Gerson, triumphed. The monarch of the church was deposed, and the oligarchy of the cardinals at the same time suspended from the exercise of their authority as electors of the ecclesiastical sovereign.
A decree also was passed forbidding the reelection of either of the three contendents for the papacy, and a commission appointed to summon and secure the attendance of the absent prelates. The last was a wise and necessary measure. The council was in danger of dissolution, and coercion was necessary to keep it together after the deposition of the pope, and in the expected absence of the emperor on his journey to Spain, where he was to take steps for reducing Benedict, the most refractory of the popes.
John XXIII awaited in his prison at Ratolfcell the announcement of his sentence. On the thirty-first of May, the cardinals deputed to make it discharged their commission. They presented his sentence to him in writing, and asked whether it met with his approval, or whether he had anything to say against it. He took the, to him, dismal document from their hands, and read it in silence. He promised them a reply within the space of a few hours. Early in the afternoon he sent for them to receive his answer. It was the answer of one reduced to submit to the mast humiliating terms, yet true to his habitual hypocrisy, striving to gloss his answer with the fairest show of repentance and sincerity. “The tyrant of Bologna,” “the poisoner of Alexander V,” “the incarnate devil,” gave his full confirmation to the sentence, acknowledged himself deposed from the papacy, and ratified his expressed purpose to submit to the council’s decisions, by a long and tedious document subscribed by his own hand. The most overbearing of tyrants had become the most abject of slaves.
Huss at Gottlieben Prison Examination
The case of John XXIII was now disposed of, and the council was ready to proceed with the trial of Huss. In his prison at Gottlieben the Bohemian reformer, conscious of his innocence, had somewhat impatiently awaited the hour when he might declare and vindicate his faith before the assembled council. For more than two months he had been removed from nearly all communication with his friends at Constance. He was closely confined, and his treatment was such as might have been expected from the harsh, stern character of the man to whom he was given in custody. During the day he was only allowed to move the length of the chain attached to his feet. By night, his arms were made fast to the wall. Well might his Bohemian friends earnestly remonstrate, and seek to have his trial expedited.
But even in his prison, Huss was a watchful observer of the remarkable events that were transpiring around him. He investigated and approved the doctrine of Jacobel in regard to the cup, and exhorted his friends to acquiesce in the seeming innovation, which only restored to its simple completeness a sacrament which had been mutilated during the corrupt ages of the church. He did not neglect, moreover, to make use of the sentence against John XXIII to confirm, in this hour of trial, the faith and devotion of his disciples at Prague. The unveiled crimes of that wretch whose excommunications had been launched against him, were a more than sufficient justification for his own course and language. “Courage,” says he, “you can now give an answer to those preachers who declare that the pope is God on earth; that he can sell the sacraments, as the Canonists assert; that he is the head and heart of the church by vivifying it spiritually; that he is the fountain from which all virtue and excellence issue; that he is the sun of the Holy Ghost, and sure asylum where all Christians ought to find refuge! Behold! already is this head severed as it were with the sword; already is this terrestrial God bound in chains; already are his sins unveiled, the gushing fountain is dried up, the heavenly sun is dimmed, the heart is torn out, that no one may again seek an asylum there.”
Huss then adverts to the cruelty of his persecutors, as well as to the corruption of his judges. In a tone of indignant invective, he exclaims, “The council has condemned its chief—its proper head—for having sold indulgences, bishopricks, in fact, everything; and yet among those who have condemned him are many bishops who are themselves guilty of the shameful traffic! … O profligate men! why did you not first pull out the beam from your own eye… They have declared the seller to be accursed, and have condemned him, and yet themselves are the purchasers. They are the other party in the compact, and yet they remain unpunished.”
This language of Huss is fully sustained, nay, is far exceeded in keenness and sting of invective, by men who were members of the council, or who carefully and anxiously observed it from a distance. Gerson himself, in his treatise written at a later period, handles the council if possible more severely. Clemengis describes those assembled, but “not truly in Christ’s name,” to seek the peace and unity of the church, as “carnal, for the most part bent on their pleasures, not to say their lusts.” “These carnal sons of the church do not only have no care or apprehension of spiritual things, but they even persecute those who walk after the Spirit, as has been the case from the days of just Abel, and will be to the end of time. These are the men who fly together to the church merely to seize upon temporalities, who lead in the church a secular life; conspire, covet, plunder, rejoice in preeminence, not in profiting others; oppress and rob their subjects; glory in the honor of promotion; riot in pomp, pride, and luxury; who count gain godliness, sneer at such as wish to live holily, chastely, innocently, spiritually, calling them hypocrites… Of such men the church is full this day, and scarcely, in whole chapters or universities, can you find any others… Are men like these, the ones to exert themselves for a reformation of the church—men who would account such a reformation the greatest calamity to themselves?” Such was the language of one of the ablest and best men of his day. And yet even this scarcely equals in severity that of Niem, former secretary of John XXIII, and present as a personal attendant upon the sessions of the council. He speaks of the prelates as pastors that feed themselves and scatter the flock. He lays bare the rottenness of the church, from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, from the plain tonsure of the priest to the tiara of the pope. Well might Huss, supported by such testimony, and with a keener sense of spiritual parity and corruption than even these men possessed, declare, “Such are those spiritual princes, who declare themselves, forsooth, to be the true vicars and apostles of Christ, who give themselves the appellation of ‘holy church, and the most sacred and infallible council’; which, however, proved itself fallible enough when they adored John XXIII, and bent the knee before him, kissing his feet and calling him the ‘Most Holy,’ whereas, all the time they knew him to be a homicide, a man of most flagitious life, stained with simony, and a heretic, as their judgment declares… May God forgive them, for with such knowledge of the man, they named him pope! … And now Christendom is without a head on earth—possesses Jesus Christ alone as chief to direct it, as the heart to give it life, as the fountain to water it with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, as the always sufficient refuge, to which I have recourse in my misfortunes, firmly believing that there I shall always find direction, assistance, and plenteous vivification, and that God will fill me with an ineffable joy in delivering me from my sins and from a wretched existence. Happy then are they who, in observing his law, perceive and detest the vain pomp, avarice, and hypocrisy of the Savior’s enemies, and patiently wait for the coming of the Sovereign Judge and his angels.”
It is difficult for us to withhold our sympathies from this prisoner at Gottlieben, calm in conscious innocence, and firm in an integrity of purpose which all his misfortunes were insufficient to crash. There he is, within those cold, damp walls, a helpless victim in the hands of his foes, and his doom predetermined. Sharing now, as he had not at first, the well-grounded fears of his friends, his mind is fully made up to meet the worst. Not a word, implying doubt or fear, escapes his lips. Not a sentence of bravado drops from his pen. He is at peace with himself and God. Not even the harshness of his treatment provokes a single utterance inconsistent with his habitual gentleness and charity. He cherishes no resentments. Without a single trace of obstinacy—willing ever to listen to argument, inviting correction if he has erred—he is yet true to his convictions, resolved sooner to perish himself than sacrifice one iota of the truth. All his letters from this Patmos of his exile breathe a noble Christian spirit. Christ is his “sufficient refuge,” to which he has recourse in his misfortunes. He cannot expose the iniquity of his persecutors, but, like his Master, he at the same time exclaims, “May God forgive them.” If, in some of his previous acts and writings, violent or bitter expressions had been provoked by the zeal of his indignation, no trace of them is any longer to be found. Barely has even a martyr faith won more signal triumph than when, in the castle of Gottlieben, a patient endurance was crowned with grateful hope and even joy. “This declaration of our Savior,” says he, “is to me a great source of consolation; ‘Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.’”
It would be difficult to find anywhere more clear and decisive evidences of a simple love of truth for its own sake than were exhibited by Huss. His was not the self-importance of a leader, or the pride of a champion. He possessed, indeed, a clear and strong intellect, a fearless spirit, a fervid and powerful eloquence, but his estimate of himself was always humble. His own life, in his esteem, was nothing by the side of that cause to which he was willing to devote it.
Such was the man who, the moment John XXIII was deposed, claimed the attention of the council. Scarcely was the sentence pronounced, when his case was brought before them. His bitter enemy, Michael De Causis, had not been idle. While Huss was in prison, new grounds of accusation against him were sought out. The former list, however it may have been modified, was now prefaced with the charge of heresy in the use of the cup. It was inferred that, inasmuch as the adherents of Huss at Prague had adopted this innovation, he was therefore its author. Many of the council may have supposed the inference just, and perfectly conclusive. Causis himself, however, must have known its falsehood. But the deign of the measure was manifest. It was intended to prejudice the council, and poison the minds of his judges against the prisoner. Undoubtedly it did have this effect, although its falseness was subsequently detected. The other articles, the character of which will soon be noticed, were drawn up with great care and skill, and betray the malice in which they originated.
The friends of Huss were aware of what was going on. They saw the skilful web of accusation which the cunning art of his enemies was weaving to entrap him. Nor on their part were they idle. Again and again they had remonstrated against the injustice of Huss’ imprisonment. On this day (May 31) they again appeared, still more solicitous in their petitions that Huss might be enlarged, and a hearing be granted him. The emperor was absent at the opening of the congregation, when their petition was read, and consequently did not hear it. The Bohemians, therefore, as the assembly broke up, gave a copy of it into his hands for his private inspection. It was the production of the Bohemian nobility present in Constance, and was signed by them in behalf of their countrymen. It was a candid and manly plea for the reformer. It sets forth, first, the fact that their former communications had been treated with neglect; that in vain they had requested the fathers of the council to consider the lame and impotent charges against Huss the productions of malice and envy on the part of his jealous rivals; that the reformer himself, in all his acts, scholastic and ecclesiastical, and especially in his preaching, had made, and was wont to make, protestations of his readiness to yield to the truth whenever convinced of it. It was hence fair to be inferred, in regard to his intentions, that he neither would nor did wish, in his books, treatises, instructions, and public preaching, to write, speak, or maintain anything which he clearly knew to be erroneous, scandalous, seditious, offensive to pious ears, or heretical, as the malice of his enemies had charged; but that his grand aim and purpose had been, in all respects, to conform himself to the teaching of gospel truth, and the holy doctors who had commented on the Sacred Scriptures. And if, in any respect, he should be found in fault, or by others ill-understood, he wished from these sources to be corrected, directed, informed, and enlightened, and by no means to defend or sustain any article contrary to the most holy Roman church and to Catholic faith.
“Wherefore,” the Bohemian nobles proceed, “since, Right Reverend Fathers, notwithstanding all this, his bitter foes, impelled by great hatred, extract isolated and disconnected passages from his books, rejecting the qualifications or the intent of them, or at least overlooking them, not adverting to the distinctions proper to be observed, and then put together against him articles which are false and framed artfully to this end, that, despite all charity, they may depose him from his office and put him to death, in violation of the safe-conduct openly granted him by the emperor to secure him against all these intrusions of his enemies which produce in Bohemia these disquietudes and contentions which the emperor so greatly desires to see composed; therefore the said nobles and barons do petition that the preceding matters, and the dishonor from them resulting to the said kingdom and its people being considered, you would on your part interfere, and appoint method and process by which the said Master John Huss may, by men enlightened and masters of Holy Scripture, who are here present and shall be deputed for this purpose, be carefully heard upon all the articles charged against him, so that his own meaning and that of the doctors may be declared along with the distinctions proper to be made, in which matters his accusers are inconsistent with themselves. Thus, also, let the deposition of witnesses be heard, many of whom are, and long have been, his most bitter enemies, whose wanton instigation would lead to his condemnation, though held a captive and unheard; since from such methods your majesty may be more clearly informed in regard to the truth, while he is ever ready to submit himself to the decision of the most holy council. For you have been informed, through the plausible lies and tricks of his slanderers, that Master John Huss has obstinately persisted for a long time in articles of a most dangerous character, which representation you will then be able to understand clearly the falsehood of.”
In proof of this the Bohemians adduce the public testimonial of the bishop of Nazareth, inquisitor at Prague, which we have already seen. They then petition the fathers of the council, that inasmuch as Huss had not been condemned or even convicted, he might be released from the chains and fetters by which he was grievously deprived of his freedom, and placed in the hands of bishops or commissioners of the council specially deputed for the purpose, that he might have opportunity to recover strength, and might more carefully be examined by the said commissioners. And, for greater security, the barons and nobles pledged themselves that Huss should not be allowed to escape from the hands of the commissioners until the final issue of the affair.
The paper of the Bohemians was read and discussed by the fathers of the council. Yet, moderate and even humble as the request was, there was no disposition to grant it. But in Sigismund’s bosom there was found the policy of a ruler, if not the justice. Such a request from such a source was entitled to respect, and doubtless the emperor felt more than suspicious of the interested motives of the enemies of Huss. It was not without a strenuous effort on his part that the portion of the request which asked for a public audience of the reformer was granted. John de Chlum at once hastened to announce the welcome intelligence to the prisoner. “Today,” be writes, “the king, assembled with the deputies of all the nations, spoke of your case, and contended for a public audience. It was finally and definitely resolved that it should be allowed you. Your friends are also insisting on your removal to some more airy place, that you may be refreshed and restored to strength.”
The answer of the council, as read by the patriarch of Antioch, deserves to be given. It was, that as to the first point, the protestation of Huss, the future would show whether it was true and reliable. As to the assertion that the adversaries of Huss had improperly and wickedly cited isolated passages from his books, this was to be shown in the issue of the cause. If it was found that Huss had been unjustly accused, then his enemies would be overwhelmed with lasting disgrace. But in regard to sureties, the deputies of the council could not, with a safe conscience, receive them, even though a thousand were given in behalf of a man in whom, on no condition, faith was to be reposed; but to this they would attend, that on the fifth of the next month (June) Huss should be brought to Constance, that he should have full and free opportunity of speaking before the council itself, and that they would hear him affectionately and kindly. How well their promise was kept will be manifest in the sequel.
Meanwhile Huss patiently endured the martyrdom of his cruel imprisonment. Oppressed with chains, and his health giving way under the severity of his prison life, his purpose was still unshaken to witness, if occasion should demand it, a good confession. In the weakness of the flesh, the spirit triumphed. His noble friend Chlum did not forget to exhort him, “In God’s name, and for the sake of the truth, take good care not to desert the holy cause through any fear of losing this wretched life; for it is for your great benefit that God visits you by this trial.” But a mightier than man was his counselor. The greatness of the cause in which he was engaged filled his thoughts. He ardently anticipated his trial, in the hope of an opportunity to vindicate the claims of truth. Though at times disheartened by the malice of his enemies that threatened to crush him unheard, he seems yet to have cherished the hope that some, at least, would be found in the council to respond in approval of his views. In default of this, he could not believe that the assembled representatives of Christendom would unite in opposing the testimony of scripture, or rejecting it as the test and standard of doctrine. How sadly he was to be disappointed in all this, we shall soon have occasion to observe.
All the anxieties of Huss for his own person were lost in his deeper anxiety for the interests of a pure and scriptural Christianity. His musings by day and even his dreams by night constantly presented to his view that Savior whose example, unworthy as he was, he gloried to imitate. It is not surprising that in his prison he should have been visited by visions and dreams which one might easily be led to regard as prophetic. One of these, that which concerned the vain attempts of the priests to efface the paintings and inscriptions on the walls of Bethlehem chapel, has been already referred to. There were others of which he makes mention in his letters, but to which he declares, himself, that he attached slight importance.
“Occupy your thoughts with your defense, rather than with visions,” said John de Chlum, in a gentle reproof, which attested his own good sense and his anxiety for his friend. He deeply and sadly felt the danger which impended over Huss, and could not bear the thought that such a life should be risked by any neglect of preparation, or any over-confidence of the final result. Jerome was already in prison, and of his deliverance there was little prospect. It was too much that Huss also should be lost to future service, in the cause of which he and Jerome were the ablest champions.
Huss did not altogether neglect preparation for his own defense, but how oppressively discouraging were the circumstances in which it was to be made! His imprisonment, his harsh treatment, his failing health, his severe pain in his teeth, as well as other bodily ailments, which cost him so many sleepless nights, his exclusion from the society of his friends, his ignorance of the various methods of his enemies to prejudice his cause, his inability to divine what new changes would be made in the articles of his accusation, or what new articles might be framed, and the depressing conviction that his prosecutors, who had free access to the minds of the members of the council, would spare no effort to secure his condemnation; all conspired to dishearten him, and overwhelm him with foreboding. From time to time his trial had been deferred, and even in his prison Paletz and Causis, who accompanied the judicial committee appointed to visit him, had insulted even his helplessness and misfortunes. They were bent, moreover, on depriving him of the privilege of a public audience. They knew the power of his eloquence, and they did not wish to have the experiment of it tried upon the council. He had been denied an advocate. They would also have him condemned unheard. But here they were defeated by the more just, if not manly and honorable, policy of Sigismund.
By one of those strange series of events which characterize the processes of this world, even as providential retributions, Huss was not to leave his prison at Gottlieben until his great antagonist, John XXIII, now deposed from the papacy, was immured in the same walls. The ex-pontiff had received, with every mark of contrite submission, the announcement of his deposition. For this well-played farce the Jesuit Maimbourg does not hesitate to enroll him among the noblest martyrs of the church, and for his self-sacrificing spirit place him in merit by the side of St. Peter himself. How much he deserves such eulogy, the hypocrisy, simony, and corruptions of his life might enable anyone unversed in Jesuit casuistry to judge. He merely cried “quarter” when the knife was at his throat. The threat of the council, that further obstinacy should be met with severer penalties, was hung in terrorem over his head. The report of his submission reached the council on the first day of June, and, in considerate appreciation of his ostentatious humility, the holy fathers determined on placing him in closer and safer custody. On the third day of June, therefore, he was removed by their order from Ratolfcell to Gottlieben, occupying a cell in the same prison where Huss was confined. It is doubtful whether the two men met. It is enough that they now found themselves in this strange juxtaposition. The last time that they had stood face to face, the proud, tyrannical, and hypocritical pontiff had seemed to occupy a position superior to any earthly tribunal. Soon his selfish policy marked Huss as a scapegoat for his own sin. Denied the luxury of exulting over his victim, he spread his complaint of the emperor over Europe, and howled forth his rage that the policy rather than the justice of Sigismund had snatched the victim from his tiger claws. Now the tiger himself was caged, and Huss might, if he had chosen, have enjoyed the disgrace of his foe. His own turn for exultation had come. But he chose rather to see in this event the demonstration of the futility of his own excommunication, a demonstration which was not to lose its effect upon the Bohemian nation.
Moralists might discover an important lesson in the contrast presented by these two men confined in the same fortress. One was the coward tyrant of Christendom, taking counsel of his fears, and adopting in regard to himself language, if true, as degrading as it was submissive. The other, weak and exposed as he was to the inveterate malice of his foes, had no terms to offer but those of submission to the supremacy of truth alone, a supremacy which his foes also must finally acknowledge. One had alienated all the friends he ever had. The other had not only bound his former friends closer to him by his steadfast integrity, but had won the hearts of his jailers to sympathy, compassion, and admiration. There, in one cell, might be seen the ex-pontiff, on whose head rested a weight of crime that could scarce have found its parallel in the lives of the Herods and the Neros, crushed by infamy as well as by chains, a whining supplicant, cringing to lick the hand that inflicted his blows, stripped of all his honors, and his name made the by-word of reproach. Here, in another, was the victim of bigoted and jealous malice, and yet, with an integrity and purity of character on which his bitterest enemies could not fix a stain, awaiting in the calm consciousness of his innocence the assaults of calumny, sustained by strength and grace imparted from above, turning his prison-cell into a Bethel, and, with faith in God exultant in every prospect, whether of acquittal or of death. One of these prisoners humbles himself before men; the other before God only. One represents Barabbas, the other, in his patient endurance of injustice, calumny, and scorn, reminds us of the example of his divine Master.
The ex-pontiff had few if any to commiserate his fate. The name of Huss will be respected and honored while truth has honors for her martyrs.
The spectacle of the dethroned tyrant of Christendom excited wonder, but not pity. A chronicle of the time introduces him uttering the lament:
“I who but late was seated on a throne, Must now in bitterness lament my fall; In my high place of power I ruled alone, My feet the kiss of homage had from all. Now to the lowest deep of shame I’m hurled, A victim to the penalty of crime, The laughing-stock and scandal of the world, Gazed at in scorn, the wonder of my time. Once every land its gold laid at my feet, Now wealth delights not, not a friend remains. From me, cast down so low from my high seat, Let those be warned whom glory false sustains.”
Neither of the prisoners was to remain at Gottlieben. Even within stone walls and carefully guarded, the ex-pontiff was in too immediate proximity to the council. He was soon detected in his old business of intrigue. There was some danger lest the party in his favor might be revived. At least it was not to be doubted that, inspirited by his countenance, his partisans might be ready at the first opportunity to obstruct its further proceedings. He was accordingly committed by the emperor to the charge of the elector, and by him conveyed first to Heidelberg, and afterward to Manheim, to be kept in closer custody.
Before the removal of Huss to Constance, his friends sought the opportunity of obtaining his views in regard to the doctrine of the communion of the cup. On the very day (May 31), therefore, on which it was determined that a public trial should be granted him, the Bohemians requested him, through their common friend John de Chlum, to give a clear and full statement of his views on this disputed question, together with the reasons by which they were supported. “We have to ask,” writes the Bohemian nobleman, “of you, most beloved, that you will give us in writing your deliberate and argumentative opinion on the subject of the communion of the cup, if such shall seem good to you, that it may be shown at the proper time to our friends. For on this subject the minds of the brethren have been somewhat divided, and many have been disturbed.”
Huss at once complied with this request of the Bohemians. In his reply to Chlum, he says, “As to the sacrament of the cup, you have in writing what I wrote when in Constance, with the reasons that led me to adopt the views there presented. And I know not that I can say anything more in regard to this sacrament, except that it is sustained by the gospel and by Paul’s epistles, and was observed in the primitive church. If it may be, seek at least permission to have it administered to those who ask for it in a devotional spirit.”
The friends and the enemies of Huss now felt alike that the critical moment was at hand. On the first day of June, the former presented to the council a document which they had drawn up, showing that Huss had come to Constance, provided with a safe-conduct, in order to render reasons of his faith on every point upon which he should be called in question, and by no means with the intent obstinately to defend everything, but, if he should be better informed, resolved, in such case, to recant and change his views.
It was on this same day that the commission of the council visited Huss in his prison at Gottlieben. Notwithstanding the engagement of the council and the emperor that Huss should be heard, there were those who persisted in opposing the audience that had been promised him, and to further their plans, the calumnious report was spread abroad that a sedition was to burst forth upon his. arrival. Nothing could be more improbable, although the idea may possibly have entered the heads of some of the more hot-headed partisans of the reformer. Paletz and Causis accompanied the commission. In the secret interrogatories that took place, all means were tried, even to insult and threats, to shake the constancy of Huss. His friends, who knew of what materials the deputation was composed, were not without disquietude in their apprehension of the result. But Huss, debilitated and weakened as he was by sickness and severe imprisonment, was not to be awed by terror any more than seduced by promises. It was the wish of his friends that he should refuse to answer any question put to him thus in private. They saw no security for him but in a prudent reserve, or even absolute silence. They knew the violence of his adversaries, and were fearful of its effect upon a frame already so enfeebled by a long and harsh imprisonment. But, worn and enfeebled as Huss was, the spirit within him that was to brave the fires of martyrdom, was still unsubdued. True to the calm constancy of his life, he did not suffer himself to be intimidated, nor to use, as he justly might have done, any severe language. In one of his letters he depicts the troublesome and annoying nature of the inquisition to which he was subjected, a harshness of proceeding which might well have provoked angry retort. “Let my friends,” said he, “be under no alarm on the score of my answers. I firmly hope that what I have said under the roof will yet be preached upon the house-tops. Every one of the articles has been presented to me separately, and the question has been asked whether I persisted in desiring to defend it. My answer was, that I would not do so, but would await the decision of the council. God is my witness that no reply has seemed to me more suitable, since I had already given it under my own hand that I did not wish to maintain anything obstinately, but was willing to receive instruction of any one. Michael de Causis stood, by, with a paper in his hand, urging the patriarch to use force to make me reply to his questions. The bishops then came in and interrogated in their turn… God has permitted Causis and Paletz to rise up against me for my sins. The one examined and remarked upon all my letters, and the other brought up conversations that had taken place between us many years back… The patriarch would insist upon it that I was exceedingly rich, and an archbishop even named the very sum I possess, namely, 70,000 florins… Oh! certainly my sufferings today were great! One of the bishops said to me ‘You have established a new law’; and another, ‘You have preached up all these articles.’ My answer simply was, ‘Why do you overwhelm me with outrage?’”
Berthold Wildungen, one of the deputation who visited Huss, has himself given an account of this interview, which, in the main, agrees with that of Huss, omitting, however, its most odious features. The number of articles submitted to Huss was thirty. His declining to defend them, and offering to submit to the correction of the council, was afterward used against him in the public audience. It is evident that he saw the futility of any private defense which he might offer, and preferred that the council, instead of the deputation, should be the judge of his views. Certainly no intention to submit his convictions, without argument or instruction of his error, could ever have entered his mind. He was not disposed to allow the council, any more than the pope, to usurp to themselves the authority of the word of God. He merely referred himself, as he felt in duty bound, to the decisions of the council, based, as he had the right to demand that they should be, upon the plain doctrine of the sacred Scriptures. His friends were disquieted at the report perversely spread abroad by his enemies, in regard to his submission. They feared that he had already offered some sort of retraction. But this was not the case. “I never promised,” he says, in a letter written a few days later, “to submit myself to the council except conditionally; and at several different audiences—as already previously in public—I have protested that, as to the demand that I should retract, I desired to submit myself to the instruction, direction, and justice of the council, whenever I could be made to see that I had written, taught, or maintained anything opposed to truth.” This protestation was repeatedly made by Huss, from the time when he left Prague for Constance up to the conclusion of his trial. As the articles were now read to him, he gave the sense in which they were held, sometimes denying the one presented to be the expression of his views, or pointing out the perversion to which another had been subjected. To prevent any misstatements or alterations, Huss reduced his replies to writing.
Among the most influential opponents of Huss were those members of the council who represented in its sessions the university of Paris and the royal court of France. Of these men, Gerson was the acknowledged leader. Cardinal D’Ailly, his former instructor, sympathized with him on most of the controverted questions of the day, and from their position, as well as the remark which the former of these men afterward made—namely, that had Huss been properly defended he would have escaped—it is to be presumed that their influence against the reformer was decisive of his fate. And yet, to the observer of passing events, not initiated into a full knowledge of the secret currents of influence combining with, or counterworking one another beneath the surface, such violent hostility as those men manifested toward Huss is quite inexplicable. In many points they agreed with the Bohemian reformer. They had no more respect for the papal power, and. would have paid no more regard to its excommunication, than Huss himself. Their exposures of the iniquity and corruption of the Roman court are as horrid and startling as any that were ever heard within the walls of Bethlehem chapel at Prague. It might have been supposed that these men, alike able, learned, and indignant at the gross corruptions of the church, sanctioned and exemplified in the lives of her own dignitaries, would have welcomed in Huss a brother reformer. But calumny had already poisoned their minds against him. Rivals and enemies had represented him to them as a heretic. His partial endorsement of the views of Wickliffe had in their eyes identified him with that hated Englishman. A strong party, resolved to glut their vengeance upon the latter, even at the price of robbing his grave and insulting his bones, thirsted for some living victim, and swept strong minds around them along in the tide of their own sympathies. To all this, however, must be added the fact, the weight of which at this day we are scarcely able to appreciate, that scholastic differences aggravated the animosity of the Paris deputation against Huss. The latter belonged to the school of the Realists, while the former were the avowed and leading champions of the school of the Nominalists. For full two centuries from the days of Roscelin and Abelard, France had been a battlefield for these contending parties. At times the result of the conflict seemed doubtful. Abelard, who was a Nominalist, with all his noted ability, fell before the unrelenting assaults of his powerful adversary, Bernard, and was branded as a heretic. But his views survived, and continued to spread until they had made the university of Paris their strongest fortress. In vain had popes and councils attempted to stay the tide of opinion. Abelard’s bones rested quietly in their grave, but over his helpless dust the battle was fought which more than avenged him. The Nominalists gained at last the supremacy, but the hard-fought battle had left behind it deep scars, and bleeding wounds that refused to be healed. Alienation and bitter hostility still were cherished in the minds of the opposing parties. They who triumphed—and Gerson among them—doubtless remembered the humiliation of past defeats, and it was no unimportant object in their esteem that a general council for the reformation of the church should lend its sanction. to the views which they maintained. Several of them, therefore, reproved in Huss the Realist as much at least as the heterodox preacher. Scholastic feuds were carried into the theological arena, and even men whose general integrity we are bound to respect were blinded, in the heat and strife of party feelings, to the nature of their acts. In the person of Huss, Realism was virtually triumphant at Prague; and when he stood before his judges, their prejudices were already aroused, and his case was really prejudged.
In regard to Huss, we have no evidence that he reciprocated the strong antipathies or party feelings of his antagonists. His philosophy was never made prominent, while his course was shaped simply by his sense of duty and his theological convictions. The cause of a pure Christianity excited in him a deeper interest than the dialectics or disputations of the schools. His philosophy did not obstruct—it may perhaps have promoted—the practical bearing of his words. His soul was too full of the great truths of scripture to have room left there for the play of passions which are roused by scholastic partisanship.
It was in such circumstances as these that Huss appeared before the council—a combination of opposing influences arrayed against him, from the conspiring antagonism of which little was left him to hope. Prejudice had built up, as it were, between him and the conscience of the council, an impenetrable wall of granite, from which argument, appeal, and remonstrance alike recoiled. This was manifest in the first steps of the process taken by the council against the reformer.
First and Second Audience of Huss before the Council
It was on the fifth of June, 1415, that Huss was removed from the prison at Gottlieben, where he had remained for more than two months, and brought to Constance. But even here he was not permitted to meet his friend, Jerome. The latter was confined in the tower of St. Paul’s Cemetery, while the former was placed in the monastery of the Franciscans, where he was to remain, for the greater part of the time loaded with irons, till the hour of his martyrdom. Well does the annalist add, as he notes the period of this the last imprisonment of Huss, that “he was to take leave of his cell, not of his constancy; of his life, but not of his faith.”
The council, however, contemning even the forms of justice, did not wait for his appearance before they proceeded to take measures that were meant to be decisive of his fate. Several hours before his arrival at Constance, and not only in his absence but in that of the emperor, the fathers of the council, with the cardinals and bishops, assembled in public congregation. The place selected for the assembly was the monastery of the Franciscans, in which Huss was to be confined. Articles were produced and read, accompanied with the alleged proofs, which were said to have been selected from his books and treatises. The object of such a proceeding, so strangely at variance with the course which they were virtually pledged to pursue, was sufficiently obvious. If the council’s condemnation of Huss’ doctrines could not thus be secured, a full opportunity at least was allowed his enemies to ply their arts of slanderous invective and false crimination. But among those present at the council, there was one indignant spectator of this grossly unjust proceeding. The good notary, Peter Maldoniewitz, the one who, two weeks before, on the arrest of Jerome, had discovered the secret prison in which he was confined, and offered him consolation, sympathy, and kindness, was present in his official character, and gathered, from what he heard, that the doctrines of Huss would speedily be condemned, perhaps before his arrival. He therefore hastened to inform his friends and countrymen, Chlum and Duba, of what the council proposed to do. On receiving this intelligence, these men promptly communicated it to the emperor. Sigismund shared to some extent the indignation of the Bohemian nobles. He dispatched, on the instant, the elector Louis of Bavaria and Frederic burgrave of Nuremberg to the assembled members, seriously enjoining upon them not to determine anything in the cause of Huss until they had heard him, and heard him, moreover, with calmness and impartiality. He directed them also to send him whatever erroneous articles they might detect, giving them to understand that he on his part would submit them to the judgment of good and learned men.
Such a message was far from acceptable to the council. They bore it ill, that having deposed a pope, their own supremacy should not be fully acknowledged by the emperor. With the first part of his command they were forced to acquiesce, and gave orders to have Huss brought before them, but on the second point they met the emperor’s demand by an absolute refusal. They declined to send him the erroneous articles. To this they were impelled as well probably by their fear of the result if the matter was to be left in his hands, as by their restiveness under his assumed control. Meanwhile Duba and Chlum, taught by experience to distrust the fair dealing of the council, handed to the princes whom the emperor had sent, the several volumes of the writings of Huss, from which the articles objected against him had been extracted. By a reference to these, the bad faith of his adversaries might the more readily be detected, or, if the extracts were correct, they might be verified.
Huss, now removed from Gottlieben, was brought in the course of the day for the first time before the council. The elector and the burgrave, having handed in the volumes of his writings, withdrew, and left Huss alone in the midst of his enemies. Exasperated as they were by the obstacles thrown in their way by the emperor, they were not in the best mood for hearing a man whose case they had already prejudged. The books of Huss were presented to him. He was asked if he acknowledged them as his. He replied that he did, promising at the same time to correct whatever error could be pointed out in them. “I will rectify,” said he, “any mistaken proposition which any man among you can point out, with the most hearty good-will.”
The reading of the articles charged as erroneous was then commenced. After one had been read, and Huss had shown a disposition to reply to it, the true spirit of the assembly broke forth. He had scarcely uttered the first word, when there arose throughout the whole assembly such clamor and disturbance that the hearing of him was altogether out of the question. The scene was renewed as the council proceeded from article to article. If the notary Maldoniewitz is to be believed—and he was present at the scene, gazing upon it with anxious interest—the proceedings of the assembly were characterized rather by the ferocity of wild beasts than the grave deportment and thoughtful attention of Christian doctors, assembled to discuss and decide the gravest questions. At length, as the storm lulled somewhat, the voice of Huss was heard appealing to the Sacred Scriptures. This was too much for the patience of the council. “That is not the question,” was the outcry which burst forth from every side. Some uttered accusations against the prisoner, while others laughed him to scorn. Any attempt which he could make to secure a hearing was perfectly futile. He ceased for a moment, and his enemies began to enjoy their triumph. “He is dumb,” cried they, “it is evident that he has taught the heretical proposition contained in the article.” “All,” said Luther, in describing the scene in his own energetic language, “all worked themselves into rage like wild boars; the bristles of their back stood on end; they bent their brows and gnashed their teeth against John Huss.”
But, in the midst of all the taunts and insults that were heaped upon him, Huss was not depressed or dismayed. “There were given to me,” he says, “boldness and presence of mind.” Two of the articles charged against him were stricken out. There was not evidence to sustain them. “The same fate,” writes Huss, at the close of the day, “is augured for many of the others.” One of those probably which were dropped was the one that concerned the doctrine of the cup. The council readily perceived that, whatever might be the views of Huss upon the subject, he was not the originator of the innovation at Prague, and if he was condemned for them, the sentence might strike further than they desired. Huss justly complained of the confusion and clamor of the occasion. Causis insisted that his books should be burned. Yet there were men more favorably inclined. Huss speaks well of the cardinal, Bishop of Ostia, who usually presided over the deliberations of the council. He was the son of a poor peasant of Brogni. A swineherd in his youth, he was never ashamed of his origin. By his merit he had risen to high station, and in his elevation preserved a sympathy for the poor and unfortunate. Huss speaks of him as father, and commends the kindness which he experienced at his hands. One of the Polish doctors also showed himself friendly. Even the Bishop of Leitomischel, who had denounced Jacobel, seemed somewhat softened in feeling toward Huss.
But his friends were few in number, and their voices were drowned in the clamors of this judicial mob. No order was preserved. The members of the council cried out against Huss, while they interrupted one another at the top of their voice. “I supposed,” cried the prisoner, “that there had been more fairness, kindness, and order in the council.” Upon this the Cardinal of Ostia addressed Huss: “When we saw you in the tower, you spoke in a more modest manner.” “With good reason,” replied Huss, “for there no one vociferated against me, and now all do.” “They tried,” says Huss, in speaking of the scene at a later period, “to frighten me from my constancy in the truth of Christ; but they could not vanquish the strength of God in me. They would not deal with me on the ground of the authority of the Sacred Scriptures, as those noble lords, Duba and Chlum, prepared as they were to incur infamy for the truth of God while they stood firmly by my side, can testify.” These men had been authorized by the emperor to be present with Huss on his trial. With what indignation must they have heard the reply to Huss when he asked to be instructed in what respects he had erred. “As you ask to be informed,” said the presiding cardinal, “you must first recant your doctrine, according to the prescript of the fifty masters in Sacred Scripture.”
As the clamor continued and increased, and the eyes of Huss, gazing over the assembly, met only enemies where he had hoped to find impartial judges, he was forced to express his surprise. “I anticipated,” said he, “a different reception, and had imagined that I should obtain a hearing. I am unable to make myself audible over so great a noise; and I am silent because I am forced to it. I would willingly speak were I listened to.” The more moderate members of the council were disgusted. The agitation and confusion were too great for calm deliberation. A fair audience of Huss was utterly impossible in the circumstances. Those who were anxious for the reputation of the council urged an adjournment, insisting that the case should be deferred to another occasion. Their views prevailed, and the council stood adjourned to the seventh of June.
The next day upon which the council met (June 7) was ushered in by a solar eclipse. The sun’s disc was almost wholly obscured, and the superstition of the age regarded it as a strange omen. It was not till the eclipse had wholly passed away, and at about one o’clock in the afternoon, that the council reassembled in the hall of the Franciscan monastery, where they had met before. Sigismund took good care to be present. The Bohemian noblemen had given him an account of what had taken place at the first audience, and conjured him to be present at the second sitting, to preserve order.
Huss was led into the assembly loaded with chains, and attended by a numerous body of soldiers. He was placed directly in front of the emperor, whose imperial word had been pledged for his security. The feelings of Sigismund on such an occasion were scarcely to be envied. He came now, undoubtedly, in the hope of saving the prisoner from condemnation, and restraining the excessive zeal of his prosecutors. He persuaded himself, in all probability, that his influence with the council, and with the prisoner also, would be decisive. But he had failed rightly to estimate the strength of religious conviction on the part of one, or of prejudice and venomous hostility on the part of the other. Little did he realize, while he exulted over the deposition of a pope, that in the hands of the council he was himself to become the blind instrument of his own infamy.
The two bitter enemies of Huss, Paletz and Causis, had neglected nothing which could contribute to secure his condemnation. The presence of the emperor only incited them to redouble their efforts. Apprehension of the shame of defeat, if their victim was suffered to escape them, aggravated the bitterness of their zeal. The audience opened with the reading of the articles of accusation. They were fitly presented, as they had been mainly drawn up by Causis. In the first of these he sought to identify the cause of Huss with that of Wickliffe, and thus overwhelm it in the same obloquy. “John Huss,” said he, “has taught in the Bethlehem chapel, and in other places in the city of Prague, many errors among the people, some of them drawn from the books of Wickliffe, some of his own getting up, and he has diligently defended them, with extreme obstinacy. In the first place, he has taught that after the consecration and the pronunciation of the words in the Lord’s supper, the material bread still remains, and this is proved by the testimony of several witnesses.” The names of four of them, Protiva, Pecklo, Benesius, and Broda, were specified.
To this charge Huss replied, with a solemn adjuration, that he had never taught such a doctrine. “Only this,” he would confess, “that when the archbishop of Prague had wholly prohibited the use of that expression, bread, he could not approve this mandate of the archbishop, inasmuch as Christ in the sixth chapter of John had spoken of himself eleven times as the bread of angels that came down from heaven to give life to the world, but that he never had spoken of material bread.”
Upon this Huss was addressed by the Cardinal of Cambray, who belonged to the school of the French theologians, and who like them was embittered against the Realism of Huss on philosophical grounds. Holding a paper in his hand, which he said he had received the day before, he addressed the prisoner: “John Huss, do you hold that universals are derived from particulars?” This was a test question of philosophy. Huss replied to it in the affirmative, strengthening himself with the remark, that thus St. Anselm and others had believed. “It follows, then,” replied the cardinal, “that after the consecration, the material substance of the bread remains. And this point I thus prove: because after the consecration, while the bread is changed and substantiated into the body of Christ, as you now say, either the wonted substance of the material bread remains there, or it does not. If it remains, the charge is true; if not, then it follows that at the cessation of the particular the universal itself ceases.”
By such reasoning this “hammer of heretics,” as he was proud in his day to be called, attempted to smite down Huss, and force him either to renounce his philosophy, or admit that the material bread remained after consecration. His passions as a partisan had thrown him into the strange attitude of a champion of orthodoxy, contending as a philosophical polemic. The fate of Huss was made to hinge upon the syllogisms and the technicalities of the schools. It is scarcely possible to conceive the more than odium theologicum which, at that period, characterized the feelings mutually of the Nominalists and Realists. This bitterness had continued through centuries, the heirloom of successive generations. These contending sects carried their fury so far as to charge each other with the “sin against the Holy Ghost.” It is worthy of note that the Nominalists, in their subsequent letter to Louis, king of France, do not pretend to deny that Huss fell a victim to the resentment of their sect. Undoubtedly this article of accusation which Causis had drawn up, and of the falsehood of which he could scarcely have failed to be aware, had been introduced by a malignant ingenuity, and with the purpose to array against Huss the philosophical prejudices of the whole French deputation. It gave an opportunity to bring to bear upon him all the arts of their scholasticism, and the rigor of an inflexible and pitiless logic. It placed him directly in conflict with the ablest and most disciplined intellects of Europe, and left him at the mercy of all the sophistical snares with which they might endeavor to entrap him.
But Huss, believing as he did in the doctrine of transubstantiation, was prepared by his own belief with an unanswerable reply. In this case, he admitted that the universal ceases, inasmuch as transubstantiation is a miracle, the substance disappearing in this case, though remaining in every other.
Upon this an English doctor interposed. He wished to present a new edition of the cardinal’s argument, and prove, from what Huss admitted, that material bread remains after consecration, thus condemning him by inference—a course of all others most unmanly and odious. But Huss treated it as a puerility with which even the boys in school were familiar, and at once answered it. Another English doctor now proposed to prove that material bread remains after consecration, inasmuch as it is not annihilated. To this Huss replied that, although not annihilated, it yet ceased to be bread in particular, by its transubstantiation into the body of Christ.
Here another Englishman interrupted him, by saying, “In my view, Huss seems to speak in the same subtle way that Wickliffe did. For the latter granted all that the former does, but held also that material bread remains after consecration, in the sacrament of the altar. Moreover, that whole chapter, Firmater credimus, he perverted so as to confirm his erroneous opinion.” To this Huss replied, denying that he had spoken anything but with sincerity and from conviction. “Was then,” asked the Englishman, “was that body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died, rose again, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, wholly and truly present in the sacrament of the altar?” This was the vital question, at least in the view of every Englishman. Wickliffe’s denial of the doctrine of transubstantiation was the head and front, theoretically at least, of his offending. But Huss candidly and manfully disavowed the views which the English reformer held upon this point. Upon this the minds of some of the English members of the council became somewhat softened toward him. They had, with their characteristic common sense, little sympathy with the subtle and scholastic distinctions of the French doctors. If Huss was to be proved guilty of rejecting the doctrine in question, they wished the proof to be such that a plain man could understand it. Probably few of them could fairly comprehend the technicalities of the Nominalist philosophy, or, if they did, some at least must have regarded it with aversion: “What use,” exclaimed one, “of all this disputation about universals, which has nothing to do with faith? This man, as far as I can see, has correct views in regard to the sacrament of the altar.”
All the English doctors did not share this opinion. The present charge was a vital one in their view, and the smoke of Huss’ funeral-pile would be far more grateful incense to their nostrils if he could be burned as a disciple of their old enemy, Wickliffe. Unwilling even yet to give up the point, Doctor John Stokes returned to the charge. “I saw,” said he, “at Prague a certain treatise ascribed to this John Huss, in which it was distinctly stated that after consecration the material bread remains in the sacrament.” “With all due respect,” replied Huss, calmly conscious of his innocence of the charge brought against him, “With all due respect, this is not the case.”
Unable by these methods to substantiate anything against the prisoner, on this charge at least, they returned to the various testimony which had been sworn against him. John Protiva, parish priest of St. Clement at Prague, added to his testimony that Huss had, when the authority of St. Gregory was adduced against him, spoken of that holy man as a jester or a wag. To this Huss replied, that in this matter injustice was done him. He had ever accounted Gregory a most holy doctor of the church.
Upon this the ardor of the prosecution somewhat abated. The course of his enemies was perhaps producing something of a recoil of feeling in favor of the prisoner. The false charge, and Cardinal D’Ailly’s absurd attempt to prove it upon Huss by inference, were enough upon reflection to excite sympathy among the more moderate members of the council.
At this moment, when the heat of the dispute had somewhat subsided, the cardinal of Florence came adroitly to the rescue of a bad cause. “You know,” said he to Huss, “that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word must be established. But now, as you perceive, there are almost twenty men, of great credit and authority, some of whom heard you themselves, while others testify from common fame and the reports of persons who did hear you, whose testimony bears against you. All give such decisive evidence of the truth of what they testify, that we can not disbelieve them. How you can defend your cause against so many, and such eminent and reliable men, I can not see.” The aim of the cardinal in this assumed tone of moderation was obvious. He wished to persuade Huss to an unconditional recantation, at once, probably, to dispose of the whole matter, and, out of regard for the emperor and the Bohemians, to save the prisoner’s life. But Huss was not to be thus entrapped into a violation of his convictions. “I call,” replied he, “I call God and my own conscience to witness, that I never have taught, or even thought of teaching, as these men have dared to testify in regard to what they never heard. And even though there were many more arrayed against me, I make more account of the witness of the Lord my God, and of my own conscience, than I do of the judgments of all my adversaries, which I regard as nothing.”
It was a noble reply, worthy of the man and of the occasion. But the fathers of the council could not appreciate the spirit in which it was uttered. Undoubtedly the cardinal of Florence spoke the feelings of the more moderate portion of the council, when he rejoined, “We cannot decide according to your conscience, but we must of necessity be satisfied with the most clear and reliable testimony of these witnesses. Nor do they assert these things against you as you say, impelled by some grudge or malice, but fortify their testimony with the reasons alleged for it, savoring in no respect of malice, and in regard to which there is no room left for doubt. As to your saying that Master Stephen Paletz is suspected of sinister designs by you, and that be has craftily selected those articles from your books, which will hereafter be brought forward, you seem to me in this matter to do him injustice. In my opinion, he has proceeded in this matter in such good faith, that he has presented the objectionable matter in milder language than you employed in your books. I hear moreover, that other excellent men are likewise suspected by you, and you have asserted as much in regard to the chancellor of Paris (Gerson), than whom there is not another person in Christendom more eminent in merit.”
The reply of Huss is not given, but the language of the cardinal was obviously as much addressed to the assembly as it was to the prisoner. “Should I live,” says Huss, in one of his letters, “I will reply to the chancellor of Paris; if I die, God will answer for me at the day of judgment.”
The result as to the first article seems to have been, that it was, however reluctantly, abandoned.
The article was next read in which Huss was charged with obstinately teaching and defending the erroneous articles of Wickliffe, in Bohemia. The malice in the drawing up of this charge is manifest at a glance. “I never have taught,” said Huss the errors of Wickliffe or of any other man. If Wickliffe scattered abroad the seeds of error in England, let Englishmen themselves look after it.”
In proof of this charge, however, it was adduced in evidence, that he had resisted the execution of the sentence against Wickliffe’s doctrines, which was first passed in the council at Rome, and afterward published at Prague by Archbishop Sbynco, upon the advice of several of the most learned doctors. “Because,” replied Huss, “they were condemned in such terms as these, viz: that not one of them was accordant with Catholic faith or doctrine, but was either heretical, or erroneous, or scandalous,” and besides, for conscience’ sake he could not consent to such a sweeping assertion, and especially in view of Wickliffe’s doctrine that Pope Sylvester and Constantine erred in endowing the church; and again, that a pope or priest, in mortal sin, could not consecrate or baptize. “This article,” said Huss, “I have qualified, so as to say that such a one, because he is then in mortal sin, and is an unworthy minister of the sacraments of God, consecrates and baptizes unworthily.”
Hereupon the accusers of Huss, with their witnesses, insisted that this article of Wickliffe was adopted and expressed by Huss in so many words, in his book against Paletz. “Verily,” replied Huss, “I refuse not to die, if you will not find it there, qualified just as I have said.”
The book was brought. Upon opening to the passage, they found it written precisely as Huss had stated. Again he added, that he had not dared to agree with those who condemned the doctrines of Wickliffe in a lump, on account of that article of his that tithes are purely alms.
Upon this point the cardinal of Florence chose to make a stand. The voluntary bestowal of tithes was a sore doctrine to the prelates. Huss was met by the following syllogism:
“Alms must be voluntarily given, without debt or obligation; tithes are not given voluntarily, but from debt and obligation; therefore they are not alms.” Huss replied by denying the major proposition, sustaining himself by a reference to Christ’s word, in the twenty-fifth of Matthew, where the rich are obliged to give under pain of everlasting condemnation. Yet these gifts were alms so that alms are given with debt and obligation. Here he was interrupted by an English bishop. “If,” said he, “all of us are under obligation to the performance of the six works of mercy there recited, it follows that the poor who have nothing to give must be condemned.” To this Huss replied, that he had spoken specifically of the rich, and of those who possessed the means of charity, and had said that they were under obligation to bestow alms under penalty of condemnation. Proceeding then to speak of the minor proposition of the cardinal’s syllogism, by showing that tithes were at first freely given, and afterward were required by authority, he was cut short by the refusal of the council to hear more upon the point.
He then proceeded to state other reasons why he could not with a clear conscience give his consent to the wholesale condemnation of Wickliffe’s articles, asserting, moreover, that none should be condemned until the reasons of such condemnation, drawn from Holy Scripture, were first adduced. “And of this same opinion,” said Huss, “were many others, both doctors and masters of the university of Prague. For when Sbynco, the archbishop, had commanded that all the books of Wickliffe, gathered up throughout the whole city of Prague, should be brought to him, I myself, on handing to him some of Wickliffe’s books, asked him to detect and note down any error that they might contain, that I might publicly acknowledge it. But the archbishop, without designating so much as one, cast all the books that were brought him, together with mine, into the fire. And yet he had received no command to this effect. By artful means he had unfairly obtained, through the bishop of Sarepta, a bull from Alexander V, requiring that the books of Wickliffe, on the ground of their many errors, not one of which was mentioned, should be withdrawn from general circulation. Relying upon the authority of this bull, the archbishop imagined that he could easily bring the king and nobles of Bohemia to give their assent to the condemnation of Wickliffe. But in this matter he was mistaken. Nevertheless he did not fail to call together certain theologians, to whom he committed the business of examining the books of Wickliffe, and judging them according to the canons. These theologians with one consent condemned them to be burned. Upon the report of this proceeding, the doctors, masters, and scholars of the university unanimously (those theologians excepted who pronounced the condemnation) petitioned the king for a stay of proceedings. The king granted the request, and sent a deputation to the archbishop to inquire into the matter. To this deputation the archbishop promised that he would not proceed further without the king’s decree. Upon this, notwithstanding his fixed purpose to burn the books of Wickliffe on the following day, the matter was passed over, and for the time deferred.
“Meanwhile Alexander V died. The archbishop, fearing lest the bull which he had received of him would prove no longer serviceable, called his adherents together, shut fast the gates of his court, and committed Wickliffe’s books to the flames. To this act of injustice he added, moreover, one still more outrageous. On the authority of Alexander’s bull, he published an edict forbidding any man longer, under pain of excommunication, to preach in the chapels. Upon this I appealed to the pope, and upon his death to John XXIII who succeeded him, and after my case had been pending for nearly two years, and my advocates were not admitted to a hearing in my defense, I appealed to Christ the Sovereign Judge.”
Here Huss paused. The question was put to him whether he had received absolution from the Roman pontiff. He replied that he had not. He was then asked whether it was lawful for him to appeal to Christ. “Truly,” answered Huss, “I do here affirm, in the presence of you all, that there is no appeal more just or final than that which is made to Christ; for appeal in the legal sense is nothing more than to implore the aid of a higher judge for relief from the decision of an inferior. But what judge is there above Christ? Who can discern more in accordance with the rules of justice and equity than he whom no deceit can draw into error? and who can more promptly aid the wretched and the wronged?”
With a devout and serious spirit Huss had uttered these words, the spirit in which his whole defense was conducted, but their utterance brought down upon him at once the jeers and mockery of the whole council.
Another article against Huss was then read. It was to the effect that, in order to confirm the allegiance of the simple and unlettered crowd among whom he preached, to the doctrines of Wickliffe, he had ventured to relate what occurred in England, when many monks and learned men had assembled in a certain church to dispute against Wickliffe. “They were unable,” Huss was charged with saying, “to convict him of error, when suddenly the doors of the church were burst open by lightning, and the enemies of Wickliffe scarce escaped without harm.” It was added, moreover, that he had said “that he wished his soul might be where Wickliffe’s was.” To this Huss answered, “that some twelve years before the theological works of Wickliffe had been introduced into Bohemia, and after the perusal of some of his philosophical writings, he had said that they afforded him great satisfaction, and that when he was convinced of the stainless life of Wickliffe, he had said that he hoped that Wickliffe was saved; yet, though he doubted that he might be condemned, he would that his soul might be where John Wickliffe was.” The utterance of these words was another signal for the outburst of jeers and derision from the grave fathers of the council.
Another article was then read. Huss was charged in this with advising the people to resist, if necessary, the assaults of their enemies by force of arms, after the example of Moses, and that on the day following this advice, public handbills were widely circulated, to the purport that each should be armed effectually with the sword, and that brother should not spare brother or nearest kindred.
To this Huss replied, “that the whole of it was a false accusation of his enemies. But he had admonished the people, while preaching from the words of the apostle in regard to the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, that they should all arm themselves with these in the defense of gospel truth, and, to avoid all chance of calumny, he had carefully added, not with the material sword, but with that which is the word of God. But as to the public intimations, or the sword of Moses, there was no truth in it.”
The next article changed—as supported by testimony—that many scandals had sprung up from the doctrine of Huss. At first he had sown discord between the ecclesiastical and political authorities, which resulted in the persecution and spoliation of the bishops and the clergy; and, moreover, he had, by the discord introduced into the university of Prague, effected its ruin.
The reply of Huss was a brief statement of facts:
“None of these things,” said he, “has taken place by any fault of mine. The dissension between the ecclesiastical and political authorities was a prior occurrence. Pope Gregory XII promised, upon his election, that he would lay down the pontificate when the voice of the cardinals should demand it. He was elected on this condition. In opposition to Wenzel, king of Bohemia, also king of the Romans, he bestowed the imperial title upon Robert, duke of Bavaria. A few years after this, when Gregory refused at the instance of the cardinals to lay down his office, they sent letters to the king of Bohemia, urging him, in common with them, to refuse obedience to Gregory. They encouraged him, moreover, to expect that by the authority of a new pontiff he might be able to recover the imperial dignity. Swayed by these motives, the king yielded to the urgency of the cardinals, and refused obedience to both Gregory and Benedict. In this matter the Archbishop Sbynco, along with the clergy, was opposed to the king; and many of the priesthood, on this account relinquishing the duties of their office, left the city. Among these was the archbishop himself, who first tore open the sepulchre of St. Wenceslaus, and, in opposition to the will of the king, burned the books of Wickliffe. As a consequence, the king readily allowed some of the goods of these persons, who had thus fled of their own accord, to be plundered.”
This simple statement of unquestionable facts was a sufficient exculpation of Huss. But to defeat the favorable impression, an individual named Nason, a member of the council, rose and declared that “the clergy refused the performance of the divine offices, not because they were unwilling to swear obedience to the king, but because they were stripped of their property and their privileges.”
The cardinal of Cambray volunteered his confirmation of what Nason had said. “It is proper that I should here state,” he remarked, “what has just been recalled to my mind. In the same year in which these things took place, I was at a certain time just setting out upon my journey from Rome, when several Bohemian prelates met me. I asked them what news they brought from Bohemia. ‘A most disgraceful transaction has happened there,’ said they. ‘The entire clergy have been stripped of their privileges, and shamefully treated.’”
Huss still affirmed that the case was as he had stated it. To the other portion of the article, accusing him of the ruin of the university of Prague, he replied by maintaining that the German nation had not left from any fault of his. “The founder of the university, Charles IV, had granted to the Bohemians three votes, and to the German nation one; and when his son, the present king, restored this principle of its founder, the Germans were aggrieved, and of their own accord left the city, binding themselves by oaths and the severest penalties never to return. I admit, I confess, that I approved, from patriotic motives, this proceeding of the king, to obey which I was in duty bound. And that you need not imagine I misrepresent the facts of the case, here is Albert Warentrapp present, who was at that time dean of the faculty of arts, and who upon his departure from the city, took the same oath that was taken by the other Germans. He, if he is willing to state the truth, will easily clear me of this suspicion.”
Warentrapp was about to speak, but the council was indisposed to hear him. Nason, however, was more readily listened to. “I am,” said he, “sufficiently acquainted with this matter. At the time when these things took place, I was in the court of the king, where I saw the masters of the three nations, Germans, Bavarians, Saxons, and Silesians, with whom the Polish was reckoned, come as supplicants to petition that the right of suffrage which they had exercised might not be taken from them. The king promised that he would see to it that their request should be granted. But John Huss, with Jerome and others, persuaded the king otherwise, and this too, although at first he was much provoked against them, had charged them with the disturbances that had taken place, and had even threatened to let the flames solve the matter for them. Be assured therefore, most reverend fathers, that the king of Bohemia never really favored these men, whose audacity is such that they would not hesitate to meet me with a base reception, though lately, to a high degree, enjoying the royal confidence.”
Paletz did not fail to seize upon an occasion so favorable to add the weight of his testimony. “Yes,” said he, “most reverend fathers, not only learned men of other notions, but of Bohemia itself, have been driven out by John Huss and his counsels, some of whom are yet in exile in Moravia.” “How,” asked Huss, “can this be true, when I was not at Prague at the time when those men you speak of left?” Their banishment had in fact occurred after he had withdrawn from Prague.
But the council had now grown weary, and it was time to adjourn. Huss was left to the charge of the archbishop of Riga, to whom Jerome also had been committed. As they were leading him away, the cardinal of Cambray called him back. “John Huss,” said he, in the hearing of Sigismund, “when you were first brought before us, I heard you say that unless you had chosen to come to Constance of your own accord, neither the king nor the emperor could have forced you to do so.” The object of this remark was obvious. To prejudice the emperor against Huss was to rob the prisoner of his last hope of justice. The plan of the cardinal was as unmanly as it was unjust. Huss did not deny the statement. “With all respect, most reverend father,” said he, “I confess that I used such language. For unless I had chosen to come, there are princes enough in Bohemia, who regard me with the most kindly feelings, who could with the greatest ease have kept me in some secret and safe place, to prevent my being forced to come here, even against the will of the king and of the emperor.”
At these words the countenance of the cardinal changed. “Observe,” said he, indignantly, “observe, I pray you, the presumption of this man.” The remark was not lost upon those to whom it was addressed. A murmur of passionate comments arose. But the brave Chlum was not the man to leave Huss undefended. “John Huss,” said he, “has spoken the truth. I agree with what he has said; for even I, humble as my power and position are in Bohemia, could easily have defended him for a whole year, against the power of both these kings. How much more could more powerful lords with their more strongly fortified castles have done it!”
The cardinal was not prepared for this. “Let us pass these things over,” said he. “I urge and advise you to do what you promised when you were in the castle—submit yourself to the sentence of the council. If you do this, you will best consult your safety and standing.”
The course which the cardinal advised was such, doubtless, as would tend to propitiate the council. It was easy to perceive that such a solution of the matter would afford great relief, even to men who thirsted for the blood of Huss, but felt some hesitation to commit a deed the consequences of which might be disastrous. Sigismund snatched at this solution. If the prisoner would but admit the virtual supremacy of the council in all matters of faith; if he would conciliate their offended dignity by submission, Sigismund would feel strong enough to rescue him from the hands of his foes. With this view he sought himself to enforce upon Huss the advice of the cardinal. To give it more force, or to satisfy his own conscience, he volunteered a refutation of some of the false reports that had been circulated in regard to the safe-conduct. “Although,” said he, ” there are those who say that you received letters of public faith from us, through your friends and patrons, only after you had been fifteen days under arrest, yet we can prove, by the testimony of many princes and persons of distinction, that you received these letters from us before you left Prague, by the hands of those lords, Wenceslaus de Duba and John De Chlum, to whose loyal care we committed you, that you might suffer no injustice, but that the privilege of speaking and answering before the council, in regard to your faith and doctrine, might be fully secured to you. And this, as you see, the most reverend lord cardinals and bishops have so allowed that we are much obliged to them, although there are some who say that we have no right to afford protection or countenance to one who is a heretic, or is even suspected of being such. Now, therefore, we give you the same advice as the lord cardinal, that you defend nothing with obstinacy; but in all those things adduced against you, on credible testimony, that you submit yourself to the authority of this most holy council, with a becoming obedience. If you pursue this course, we will see to it that for our own sake, and that of our brother and the whole kingdom of Bohemia, you be discharged by the council itself, with good grace, and fitting penance and satisfaction. Otherwise, the leaders of the council shall have what they determine in regard to you; for we surely will never countenance your errors and stubbornness. Yea, with our own hands we will make ready the fire for you, sooner than suffer you to persist in that stubbornness which you have hitherto shown. It is our advice that you choose to abide by the judgment of the council.”
Huss replied briefly to this address of the emperor, by expressing his deep gratitude for the clemency which he had shown in regard to the safe-conduct.
Here he was reminded that he had said nothing in regard to the charge of obstinacy. At the instance of Chlum, he then added, “I call God to witness, most indulgent emperor, that I never conceived the purpose of defending anything with extreme stubbornness, and that I came here of my own accord with this intent, that if any one could give me better instruction, I would unhesitatingly change my views.” Upon this the soldiers led Huss forth to take him to his prison, and the assembly dispersed.
The language in which Sigismund addressed Huss decisively refutes the false allegations made in the council in regard to the safe-conduct. It was, however, a mistake of the emperor to suppose that Huss received the safe-conduct previously to his leaving Prague. It was expedited on the eighteenth of October, and on the third of November Huss reached Constance. The document, as we have seen, met him on his way, at Nuremberg. The emperor supposed it had been received by him at Prague; and to all intents and purposes it was as valid as it would have been if he had received it there. The false pretense of the council was thus refuted.
In regard to the clemency which Sigismund asserted had been shown to Huss by the council, we readily perceive that here also he labored under a misapprehension. He had probably taken but little pains to inform himself of the treatment of the prisoner, and his views in regard to what an innocent man might claim of the council were evidently of the crudest kind. If calumny, hard usage, derision, and insult were clemency, then, as the “tender mercies of the wicked,” they were “cruel” indeed.
The letters of Huss enable us to follow him from the public scene of audience to the solitude of his cell. Nothing that had hitherto been said or done had in the least shaken the strength of his convictions. He could but wonder at the ignorance, the incapacity, and prejudice that had been manifested on the part of the council. “Oh! if a hearing were granted me,” so he wrote, “in which I could reply to such arguments as they might bring against the articles contained in my treatises, then do I believe that many of those who cry out would be compelled to be dumb. As God in heaven wills, so let it be.” Such was the firm and yet submissive spirit of the man, confident of the justice of his cause, but humbled in the dust before God. Again he writes, “Let all the Bohemian knights apply to the emperor and the council, and demand that, as the emperor and council had promised, he might in the next audience be briefly allowed to state what he had to retract, and at the same time give his explanations.” Thus, if held to their own words, the emperor and the council would be forced to yield this privilege. “I will then,” says Huss, “speak out the truth without reserve; for rather would I be consumed by the fagots, than kept so miserably concealed by them; for then all Christendom would learn what I finally said.” Over-confident, perhaps, of the result of such an appeal, and anxious above all for a fair opportunity to state his own case, Huss was willing to lay down his life as a sacrifice to the cause of truth. To Chlum, whom he called his most trusty patron, he wrote, “May God be your rewarder. I desire that you should not leave this council till you have seen the end.” “Oh!” says he, “much would I prefer that you should see me led to the stake, than that I should be kept so treacherously in the dark. I still have hopes that Almighty God, through the merits of the saints, may deliver me out of their hands.” Here we see his evident anticipations of a fatal result of the trial, enlivened, however, with some faint hopes of escape, and the truly martyr faith which lifted him far above all human terrors. He felt that he was deeply wronged by the course which the council pursued, restraining him of the liberty of a full and free defense, and prejudging his case on the testimony of his bitter and relentless foes.
He begged his friends to let him know the hour at which, on the next morning, he should be led forth to trial. We can readily imagine the prayerful and meditative preparation to which previous hours would be devoted, while he sought from heaven a spirit of devotion to the cause of truth, and strength to sustain him in the hour of trial. He desired his friends, moreover, to pray for him, that if he must await death in the prison, he might endure with patience. He lamented that he had not been able to repay many of them for their services, and sent to request that they would be content, and excuse him on the ground of his want of ability. He knew not who was to repay those that had lent him money in Bohemia, unless it were the Master, Christ, on whose account they had lent it to him. Still he expresses the wish that some of the more wealthy would settle up his affairs and pay his poorer creditors. What a comment was this on that calumnious insult which had been offered him at Gottlieben, when an archbishop had named the value of his property as 70,000 florins, and the patriarch insisted that he was exceedingly rich! Base minds could not account for, or comprehend, the conduct of Huss without ascribing it to base motives.
What but the power of faith, what but the presence of his divine Master with him in his cell, could have sustained the spirit of the suffering Bohemian? He had no earthly resource upon which he might rely, or from which he could draw comfort and encouragement. The embittered malice of his adversaries had enlisted nearly the whole strength of the council upon their side. Skillfully had they appealed to old prejudices, and strongly had they bound together the conspiring elements of bigoted and partisan feeling. If there had been any whose secret sympathies were on the side of Huss, they were forced to conceal them. But if any, they were few in number. “They cry out, nearly all of them,” said Huss, “like the Jews against our Master, Christ.” Among the whole multitude of the clergy, he knew of but one friend, a Polish member, beside the one father who subsequently endeavored to effect a compromise between him and the council.
Third Audience of Huss before the Council Articles of Accusation
The third audience of Huss was held in the Franciscan monastery on June 8th. The emperor was present, and along with Huss appeared his constant friends, Duba, Chlum, and Peter the Notary.
Upon the appearance of the prisoner, thirty-nine articles were read, which were ostensibly selected from his writings. To these were appended the answers which he had given them at his private examination in prison. Most of these articles—twenty-six out of the whole number—were said to have been extracted from his book De Ecclesia. Those passages which had been fairly selected, Huss acknowledged. The others had been drawn up by Paletz in such a manner that he disclaimed all responsibility for them.
In his prison Huss was charged with having said that in case he should, while at Constance, be obliged with his mouth to retract any of his doctrines, it would be no retraction of the heart, inasmuch as what he had preached was the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ. The reply of Huss was, that this article was a tissue of falsehood, but that he had indeed written to his friends at Prague, exhorting them to pray to God in his behalf, and to remain steadfast in the doctrines of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as they could not but know that he had never taught the errors charged upon him by his enemies, nor must they be troubled if it should so happen that he should be crushed under the false testimony of his enemies.
They reproached him again for having written to Bohemia that the pope and emperor had granted him an honorable reception, and had sent two bishops to engage him in their interests. “It is a manifest falsehood,” said Huss, “for how could I have written to Bohemia that I had been well received of the pope and the emperor, when on my arrival at Constance I wrote back that it was not known where the emperor was, and when I had been three weeks in prison before he arrived? What great reason had I for writing back from my prison to Bohemia that I had been highly honored at Constance? It is plainly a sarcasm spread by my enemies, who think that I have been too highly honored by being imprisoned.”
The following articles are those which had been first presented to Huss in his prison, and which were now exhibited against him in the council. The order and arrangement of them had been somewhat changed, some things having been added and some struck out. Huss had drawn up a copy of them, with his answers to each, previous to his appearance before the council.
“I, John Huss, unworthy minister of Jesus Christ, master of arts, and bachelor of divinity, do confess that I have written a certain small treatise bearing the title, “Of the Church,” a copy of which was shown me, in the presence of notaries, by the three commissioners of the council; the patriarch of Constantinople, the bishop of Castile, and the bishop of Lebus, the which commissioners, in reproof of the said treatise, delivered unto me certain articles, saying that they were drawn out of the said treatise, and were written in the same. Of which articles, the first is:
“1. ‘There is but one holy Catholic church, which embraces all the predestinate.’ This proposition I confess to be mine, and it is confirmed by the comment of St. Augustine upon the Gospel of John.
“2. ‘St. Paul was never any member of the devil, although he did many things like those committed by the enemies of the church. And St. Peter in like manner fell into the horrible sin of perjury and denial of his Master, by the permission of God, that he might the more firmly and steadfastly rise again, and be confirmed!’ My answer is, this proposition is sufficiently proved in the book itself. For it is expedient that the predestinate should fall into such sins. Here it is plain that there are two ways of separating from the church. The first is not to perdition, as is the case with the elect. The other is to perdition, by which certain heretics are, by deadly sin, divided from the church. And yet, by the grace of God, they may return to the fold of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he says in John 10, ‘Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.’ The same thing is also proved by Augustine on John, and in his ninth diet on penitence.
“3. ‘No part or member of the church is ever entirely separated from the body, because the grace of predestination which binds it thereto does not fail.’ My answer is, this proposition is found in the book in these words: ‘As the reprobate of the church go forth out of the same, yet were they never members thereof, since no part of it may finally fall away, inasmuch as the grace of predestination which binds it thereto fails not.’ This is proved by the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the eighth chapter to the Romans. ‘All things work together for good to them that love God.’ And ‘Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.’ All which is more fully treated of in the book itself.
“4. ‘The predestinate, although not now in a state of grace, according to strict justice, is yet ever a member of the holy Catholic church.’ I answer, this is an error, if it is to be understood of everyone that is predestinate. For in the book at the beginning of the fifth chapter, speaking of the ways of belonging to the church, it stands written, ‘There are some in the church only by an inadequate faith, and others according to predestination, as Christians predestinate, now in sin, but who shall return into a state of grace.’
“5. ‘There is no place of dignity, nor any human election; nor any outward sign, that makes one a member of the holy Catholic church.’ Answer. This proposition is thus expressed in the book. ‘These sophistries will be detected by considering what it is to be in the church, and what it is to be a member or part of the church; and this membership is produced by predestination, which secures grace in the present and glory in the future world, and not by any place of dignity, any human election or outward sign. For the traitor Iscariot, notwithstanding his election by Christ, and the temporal gifts which were granted him for the office of an apostle, and notwithstanding his being reputed a true apostle of Christ by the people, yet never was a true disciple, but only a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as Augustine asserts.’
“6. ‘A reprobate man is never a member of holy mother church.’ Answer. This passage is contained in the book of the church, and it is there sustained at length by the thirty-sixth Psalm, the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and by St. Bernard, who says that the church of Jesus Christ is his own body, more plainly than that which he delivered up to death. Moreover, in the fifth chapter of my book I have said, ‘All will grant that the holy church is the Lord’s threshing floor, in which, according to faith, the good and bad, the predestinate and the reprobate, the chaff and the wheat, are found, according to the exposition of St. Augustine.’
“7. ‘Judas was never a true disciple of Jesus Christ.’ Answer. I do confess it. It is proved by the fifth article above laid down, and by Augustine on penitence, dist. fourth, where he treats of that passage in the second chapter of John’s first Epistle, ‘They went out from us, for they were not of us.’ ‘He knew,’ says he, ‘from the beginning who they were that believed on him, and who should betray him, and said, “Therefore I said to you before, no one cometh unto me, except it be given him of my Father; and after this many of his disciples left him.”’ These are called disciples in the language of the gospel, and yet they were not truly such, for they did not abide in his word, as he said, ‘If ye shall abide in my word, then are ye my disciples.’ Inasmuch as they did not persevere as true disciples of Jesus Christ, they are not, however they seem, truly sons of God. They are not such with him, who knows what they shall be, and discerns the evil from the good. Such is the language of St. Augustine. It is equally plain that Judas could not be a true disciple of Christ while he continued in his avarice. For the Savior himself had said, when Judas was present, as I suppose, ‘Unless a man shall renounce all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.’ Inasmuch, therefore, as Judas did not renounce all, according to the intent of Christ, and so follow him, because he was a thief and a traitor (John 6:12), it is plain from the words of Christ that Judas was not a true but a false disciple. For which reason, Augustine (upon John), showing how the sheep hear Christ, says, ‘But what hearers, suppose we, are sheep? Judas heard, but he was a wolf; he followed the shepherd, but, disguised in sheep’s clothing, sought to betray the shepherd.’
“8. ‘The body of the predestinate, whether in a state of grace or not, compose the holy church, which has neither spot nor wrinkle, but is pure and immaculate, and is called by Jesus Christ, his own.’ This article Huss acknowledged, and cited the words of his book in which they were contained. ‘The church, in the third place, is understood and taken for the whole body of the faithful, whether they be in a state of grace according to present righteousness or not. And this thus becomes an article of faith, concerning which Paul speaks in Ephesians 5, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it,” etc. What believer can doubt, let us ask, but that the church here signifies all the predestinate, of whom we must believe the Catholic church is composed—the spouse of Christ, finally to be presented holy and without spot. Whence that holy Catholic church is objectively an article of faith, in which we are bound firmly to believe, according to the symbol, ‘I believe the holy Catholic church,’ and of this church do Saints Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, and others speak.’
“9. ‘Peter never was, nor is he, the head of the holy Catholic church.’ Answer. This proposition is deduced from the words of my book as follows: ‘It is granted, indeed, that Peter, from the corner-stone of the church (a petra ecclesiæ) which is Christ, had humility, poverty, firmness of faith, and consequent blessedness, not that by those words of scripture, “Upon this rock (Petram) I will build my church,” Christ means to build his whole church militant upon the person of Peter; for on the Rock, which is Christ, from which Peter received his strength of faith, Christ would build his own church, since Christ is the head and foundation of the whole church, not Peter.’
“10. ‘If he who is called Christ’s vicar, follows Christ in his life, then is he his vicar; but if he walks in an opposite course, then is he Antichrist’s agent, contrary to Peter and to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the vicar of Judas Iscariot.’ Answer. The words of my book are, ‘If now he that is called Peter’s vicar walks in these aforesaid paths of purity and virtue, we believe that he is truly his, vicar, and chief pontiff of the church which he rules. But if he pursues opposite courses, then is he the agent of Antichrist, contrary to Peter and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Hence Bernard, in his letter to Pope Eugenius, writes, ‘Thou delightest and walkest in great pride and arrogance, and art surrounded by all various splendor. What benefit do the sheep receive? If I durst say it, these are rather the pastures of devils than of sheep. This was not the practice of Peter, neither did Paul grow thus wanton. In these matters you have succeeded not Peter, but Constantine.’ So speaks Bernard. Then follows in my book, ‘If in his morals he lives the reverse of Peter, and gloats on mammon, then is he the vicar of Judas Iscariot, who loved the wages of iniquity, selling his Lord and Master, Christ.’”
At the reading of this last clause, the bishops and doctors tossed their heads in proud derision, and exchanged looks with one another that expressed their feelings better than words.
“11. ‘All simonists, and priests of a dissolute life, do hold false opinions in regard to the seven sacraments, in regard to the keys and offices of the church, the censures, the rites and ceremonies, the worshipping of relics, indulgences, and the orders of the church.’ Answer. The words of my book are, ‘This abuse of power do they practice, who sell and buy and acquire, by simoniacal methods, the sacred orders of the church, making importunate exactions for the sacraments, living in avarice, lust, luxury, or whatsoever is shameful, and thus polluting the priesthood. For although in words they profess that they know God, yet in deeds they deny him, and consequently do not truly believe in God, and, as disobedient children, hold a false opinion of the sacraments of the church. And this is most evident, inasmuch as all such despise the name of God, according to that saying of Malachi, ‘Unto you, O priests, be it spoken, which do despise my name.’
“12. ‘The papal dignity was derived from the Roman emperors.’ Answer. My words are, ‘The preeminence and endowment of the pope emanated from the imperial power. And this is proved by the ninety-sixth “distinction,” for Constantine granted this privilege to the Roman pontiff, which was confirmed by other emperors, so that as Augustus was above other kings, so the Roman pontiff before other bishops should be called specially the father of the church, and this in regard to outward adornment and splendor and benefactions of the church. Notwithstanding which, the papal dignity has its source immediately in Christ in respect to the spiritual administration and rule of the church.’”
Here the reading was interrupted by the cardinal of Cambray. Turning to Huss, he said, “Yet in the time of Constantine the general council of Nice was held, in which the highest place was given to the bishop of Rome, although, for honor’s sake, ascribed to the emperor. Why, then, do not you, John Huss, say that the papal dignity was derived from the council instead of the emperor?” Huss replied, that he attributed the elevation of the popes to Constantine only so far as the donation of this emperor was concerned.
“13. ‘No one may reasonably affirm without revelation, either of himself or of any other, that he is the head of a particular church.’ Answer. I confess this to be in any book, where it immediately follows, ‘Although in a holy life he may hope and trust that he is a member of the holy Catholic church, the spouse of Christ; yet, according to the saying of the preacher, ‘No man knoweth whether he be worthy, and have deserved grace and favor, or hatred.’ And Luke 17, ‘When ye have done all ye can, say that ye are unprofitable servants.’
“14. ‘It ought not to be believed that the pope, whatsoever he be, may be the head of any particular church, unless he be predestinated and ordained of God.’ Answer. I admit it. And thus it is proved otherwise, a Christian must needs believe and confess a falsehood when saying that such or such a one is the chief of such a church, while the church may be deceived, as was the case in Agnes. The same thing also appears from St. Augustine.
“15. ‘The pope’s power is null and void, unless in life and morals he be conformed to Christ or to Peter.’ Answer. My words are, ‘That one who is thus a vicar is bound to discharge the part and fill the place of his superior, from whom he has received vicarious power; he should, therefore, be conformed in life and morals to him whose place he occupies. For, otherwise, the authority he claims is null and void, unless there be this conformity, and thus with it the authority of him who appoints.’”
And John Huss here added before the council in explanation, that he regarded the power of such a pope as did not reflect the life of Christ, frustrate and void, with regard to the merit and reward that should attend it, but not as respects the office itself. “But where,” asked several, “is this gloss in your book?” “In my treatise against Stephen Paletz you will find it,” replied Huss. Upon this the members of the council exchanged smiles of derision.
“16. ‘The pope is accounted most holy, not because he is the vicar of St. Peter, but because he has great revenues.’ Answer. In this my words have been perverted and mistaken; for thus I wrote, ‘He is not most holy because he is the vicar of Christ, or because he has large revenues, but if he be the follower of Jesus Christ in humility, gentleness, patience, labor, and above all, charity.’
“17. ‘The cardinals are not the manifest and true successors of the apostles of Jesus Christ, unless they live after the apostolic pattern, observing the commandments and counsels of Jesus Christ.’ Answer. It is so stated in my book, and the proof of it is this: ‘If they climb up any other way than by that first door, Jesus Christ, then are they thieves and robbers.’
Here the cardinal of Cambray interrupted the reading. “Behold,” said he, “in respect to this and other articles already read, he has written things in his book more detestable than anything which the articles contain. Truly, John Huss, you have not observed discretion in your preaching and in your writings. Should you not have adapted your sermons to your audience? For what need or use was there of preaching to the people against the cardinals when none of them were present? It had been better to have told them their faults to their face than scandalously proclaim them to the laity.” The cardinal did not presume to deny the truth of the article. His own writings as well as speeches had been as unsparing in regard to the whole Roman court as those of Huss. The whole charge was thus reduced by him virtually to one of imprudence. To this Huss replied, “Most reverend father, there were then present at my sermons priests and other learned men, and for their sake, and to bid them beware, my words were spoken.” “You do an evil thing,” said the cardinal, “for by this sort of sermons you tend to spread disturbance in the church.”
“18. ‘No heretic after ecclesiastical censure should be given up to the secular arm, to be subjected to capital punishment.’ Answer. My words are, ‘There should be shame for their cruel proceedings, specially as Jesus Christ, Bishop of both the Old and New Testaments, would not judge the disobedient by civil judgment, or put them to death. This is plain from the twelfth chapter of Luke, from the second and eighth of John in regard to the woman taken in adultery, and from Matthew 18, ‘If thy brother shall sin against thee,’ etc. So, therefore, I say that he who is a heretic ought first to be instructed kindly, justly, and humbly, from the Sacred Scriptures, and reasons drawn therefrom—the course pursued by Augustine and others who disputed with heretics. But if there are those who utterly refuse to desist from their errors after all suitable instruction has been given, then I say that they should be subjected to corporeal punishment.”
Even this degree of toleration, short of what is now universally demanded, was too far in advance of the age to be allowed. The good sense of Huss, and the kindly and humane spirit in him which had been cherished by the study of Christian truth, would not allow him to approve any harsh methods of dealing with. men charged with error. But this noble advance beyond the bigotry of his age was the occasion of a new charge of heresy. While Huss was stating his views, one of his books was taken up by his judges, who turned to a certain paragraph in which he inveighed against those who deliver over a heretic not yet convicted to the secular arm, saying, that “they are like the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees, who said, as they delivered over Christ to Pilate, ‘It is not lawful for us to put any one to death,’ and yet, according to Christ himself, who said, ‘Therefore he who betrayed me to thee hath the greater sin,’ they were greater murderers than Pilate himself.” The reading of this passage produced much commotion in the council. Indisputably true and just as the sentiment was, it seemed to be placing a bar between the bigots of the council and their destined victim. It was a picture of the very course which they intended to pursue, presented in an odious but true light. Turning to Huss, some asked, “Who are they that are like the Pharisees?” a question equivalent, doubtless, to that of the traitor asking at the last supper, Is it I? But Huss was at no loss for a reply; “All those,” said he, “who give up to the civil sword any innocent man, as the scribes and Pharisees did Christ.” “No, no!” cried they, “but you here speak of the doctors themselves.” Upon this the bishop of Cambray repeated his stale attempt to work upon the prejudices of the council. “Surely,” said he, “they who drew up the articles have proceeded with great gentleness, for his writings contain things more atrocious still.” Such was the expressive comment of one of the most enlightened and able cardinals of the church, on a doctrine which at the present day no man, unless steeped in inquisitorial bigotry, ventures to dispute.
“19. ‘The nobles of the world should constrain the priests to the observance of the law of Christ.’ Answer. My words are, ‘Those of our party, in the fourth place, do insist and preach that the church militant is composed of parts, according as Christ has ordained, viz., of the priests of Christ who truly keep his law, and of the nobles of the world, who should constrain to the observance of Christ’s ordinances, and of the common people also, ministering to each of these parts according to the law of Christ.’
“20. ‘Ecclesiastical obedience is an obedience invented by the priests of the church, without any express authority of the Sacred Scriptures.’ Answer. I confess to these words as written in my book. ‘It is to be remarked that obedience is threefold—spiritual, civil, and ecclesiastical. The spiritual is that which is due simply on the ground of the law of God, according to which the apostles lived, and all Christians are bound to live. The civil is that which is due to the laws of the state. The ecclesiastical is that which has been devised by the priests of the church without the express authority of scripture. The first kind of obedience wholly excludes from itself all evil, both on the part of him who commands and him who obeys; according to Deuteronomy 24, “Thou shalt do whatsoever the priests of the house of Levi shall teach you, according as I have commanded them.’
“21. ‘He that is excommunicated by the pope, yet who, declining the judgment of the pope and general council, appeals to Christ, is preserved safe from the harm of all excommunication.’ Answer. This proposition I do not acknowledge, but I did complain in my book of the many aggravated charges brought against me and mine, and that I had been refused an audience in the papal court. For when I had appealed from one pope to his successor, it was of no advantage to me, and to appeal from the pope to the council would be too tedious an affair, and attempting an uncertain security against the charge. For this reason I finally appealed to Jesus Christ, the Head of the church. For he is so much the more to be preferred to the pope in deciding causes, inasmuch as he cannot err, nor deny justice to him who asks it righteously, nor, in accordance with his own established law, can he condemn an innocent man.”
Here the cardinal of Cambray addressed Huss: “Would you be above Paul, who appealed to the emperor and not to Christ?” “And am I,” replied Huss, “though I were the first to do this thing, to be accounted a heretic? And yet Paul did not appeal to the emperor of his own motion, but through the revealed will of Christ who appeared to him and said, ‘Be thou firm and constant, for thou must needs go to Rome!’” Huss went on to repeat the substance of his views in regard to appealing to Christ, but his statements were met by the open derision of the council.
“22. ‘The deeds of an evil man are evil, of a virtuous man, virtuous.’ Answer. My words are, ‘It is further to be remarked, that human actions are directly divided into two classes, virtuous and vicious. This is evident inasmuch as, if a man is virtuous and performs any act, the act is virtuous; and if be is vicious, whatever he does is vicious. Because as vice, which is called crime, that is, mortal sin, infects universally the acts of its subject, that is, man, so virtue vivifies all the acts of the virtuous man, insomuch that, being in a state of grace, he is said to be prayerful and deserving, even while he sleeps, as in some way still working, as says Augustine, as well as Gregory and others. And this is evident from Luke 6, “If thine eye,” that is, thine intention, “is single,” undepraved by the blinding power of sin, “thy whole body,” that is, the sum of thy actions, “shall be full of light,” or pleasing to God. “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” And 2 Corinthians 10, “Do all things to the glory of God.” And 1 Corinthians, in the last chapter, “Let all your deeds be done in charity.” Whence the whole course of life, through charity, becomes virtuous, and, without charity, becomes vicious. And this may be proved from Deuteronomy 23, where God says to his people, that if they will keep his commandments, they shall be blessed in the house and in the field, going out and coming in, lying down and rising up. But if they will not keep them, they shall be cursed in all these things. The same thing is evident from Augustine upon the Psalm, where he infers that the good man glorifies God in whatever he does. And when Gregory says that the sleep of the saints is not without merit, how much more that action which proceeds from the purpose of the will, and which consequently is virtuous? On the other hand, in regard to him who is in a state of criminality, that holds good which took place under the law, whatever he shall touch shall be unclean. On this, moreover, that passage bears which was above cited from Malachi. Gregory the First, in ques., says, “We therefore pollute the bread when we unworthily approach the altar, and we drink the pure blood while ourselves steeped in impurity.” Augustine, upon Psalm 146, says, “If by the excess of voracity beyond the due bound of nature, you neglect to restrain yourself and choke yourself with drunkenness, however loudly your tongue may sound the praise of God’s grace, you life blasphemes against him.”’”
When this article had been read, the cardinal of Cambray rejoined, “But scripture says that ‘we all sin,’ and again, ‘If we shall say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’” “But,” said Huss, “scripture there speaks of venial sins, which do not exclude necessarily virtuous habits, but are tolerated along with them.” Here a certain master, an Englishman named William, interposed, “But these sins are not tolerated along with those habits by any principle morally good.” Huss cited again the passage from Augustine on the 146th Psalm. “But what,” cried they all at once, “has that to do with it?”
“23. ‘A priest of Christ living according to his law, having a knowledge of scripture and a gift for edifying the people, ought to preach, notwithstanding any pretended excommunication. And again, if a pope or other prelate commands a priest in such circumstances not to preach, he ought not to obey the command.’ Answer. My words are these: ‘Notwithstanding any pretended excommunication, whether threatened or inflicted, a Christian should keep the commandments of Christ.’ This is plain from the language of Peter and other apostles when they say, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ From this it follows, that a priest of Christ who lives according to his law, having fitness by knowledge of scripture, etc., ought to preach notwithstanding any pretended excommunication. This is evident, inasmuch as (Acts 5) priests are commanded to preach the word of God. We, I say, have been commanded of God to preach and testify to the people. This is evident also from many other passages from the Sacred Scriptures, and from the holy fathers which were cited in my book. The second part of the article follows in my book in these words: ‘From this it is plain, that for a priest to preach, and for the rich to give alms, are not matters of choice, but command. It is plain, moreover, that if a pope or other prelate should forbid a priest in such circumstances to preach, or a rich man to give alms, the subject of command should not obey.’”
Huss added, moreover, “In order that you may rightly understand me, a pretended excommunication, as I call it, is one that I regard as unjust and discordant to the rules to be observed, as well as opposed to the commands of God. A priest fitted to preach successfully, should not on account of it cease to preach, or be in fear of damnation.”
The members of the council then objected to him that he had called such an excommunication a benediction. “And in truth,” replied Huss, “I say the same thing now, that excommunication, by which any one is unjustly excommunicate, is a benediction to him in the sight of God, according to that language of the prophet, ‘I will curse your blessings,’ and again, ‘They shall curse, but thou shalt bless.’”
Upon this the cardinal of Florence, who kept a notary at his side to minute down whatever he should direct, said to Huss, “Yet there are canons which show that even an unjust excommunication is to be dreaded.” “It is true,” said Huss, “for I remember that there are laid down eight causes why excommunication should be dreaded.” “No more than that?” asked the cardinal. “It may well be that there are more,” answered Huss, and here the discussion on this point rested.
“24. ‘Everyone who receives by special commandment the office of preacher, and thus enters upon the priesthood, should keep the charge committed to him, notwithstanding a pretended excommunication.’ Answer. My words are these: ‘From what has been said, therefore, it is plain that whoever, by special command, shall take the office of preacher, and enter upon the priesthood, should obey the charge given him, notwithstanding a pretended excommunication.’ And again, ‘With no Catholic should it be suffered to be brought into question, that a man sufficiently instructed is bound to advise the ignorant, to teach those that are in doubt, to correct the lawless, to avenge the injured, as well as discharge other works of mercy. Since, moreover, he who is sufficiently provided to minister alms for the body is bound to do it, much more does this hold true (Matthew 25) with respect to spiritual alms.’
“25. ‘Ecclesiastical censures are such as are of Antichrist, which the clergy has devised to exalt itself and enslave the people; if the laity will not obey the clergy in their every wish, they multiply their avarice, protect malice, and prepare the way for Antichrist. But it is plain proof that these censures proceed from Antichrist, which in their processes are called fulminations, in which the clergy proceed especially against those who make bare the iniquity of Antichrist, usurping to themselves, to the highest degree, the ecclesiastical powers. These things are found in the last chapter of the book on the church.’ Answer. I deny the form of statement. Yet this subject is fully laid down in chapter 23.”
During the examination, members of the council—some of them at least—were busy in searching out, not only the passages referred to, but others of a confirmatory character. Some bearing upon the last article were discovered, undoubtedly pointed out by the more bitter enemies of Huss, which were regarded as still more paradoxical and offensive than what had been cited. These also were read, thus bringing out against Huss passages which he had no opportunity to verify or examine. “Surely,” exclaimed the cardinal of Cambray, as the passages were read, “these things are much more aggravated and scandalous than those recited in the articles.”
“26. ‘Interdict ought not to be imposed upon a people, inasmuch as Christ, the highest priest, neither on account of John the Baptist, nor for any injuries that were offered to himself, imposed an interdict.’ Answer. These are my words: ‘For I complain that for one priest’s sake an interdict is imposed, and thus all the good cease from praising God. But Christ, the highest priest, when that prophet, than whom a greater has not been born of women, was detained in prison, did not impose an interdict. Nor when Herod had beheaded him, nay when he himself was stripped, beaten, blasphemed by the soldiers, scribes, Pharisees, etc., not even then did he inflict his curse, but he prayed for them, just as he had taught his disciples to do in Matthew 5, and following out this doctrine, the first vicar of Christ said, 1 Peter 2, “In this are ye called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps, who, when he was cursed, cursed not again.” And Paul (Romans 12), pursuing the same thought, says, “Bless them that hate you.”’”
Numerous were the passages which had been selected from the writings of Huss, which were arraigned as objectionable. But the attention of the council was now directed to the articles extracted from the treatise against Paletz.
Third Audience Continued
From the treatise of Huss against Paletz seven articles were extracted, which were now exhibited (June 8), along with the others, against the prisoner.
1. “If pope, bishop, or prelate be in mortal sin, then is he no longer pope, bishop, or prelate.” Answer. “This article I acknowledge, and refer you to Saints Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, Gregory, Cyprian, and Bernard, who further say that he who is in a state of mortal sin is not a true Christian, much less pope or bishop. Of whom it is said, Amos 8, ‘They have reigned, yet not by me; they became princes, and I knew them not.’ But yet we grant that a wicked pope, bishop, or priest is an unworthy minister of the sacrament, through whom God baptizes, consecrates, or otherwise works to the benefit of the church. And this point is more largely handled in the book, with reference to the authority of the holy doctors. Yea, he who is in mortal sin is not worthily king before God, as is plain from 1 Kings 15, where God, by Samuel, declares to Saul, ‘Because thou hast rejected my word, I will reject thee from being king.’”
While this article was undergoing discussion, the emperor was standing in the recess of a window of the building, in conference with the Elector Palatine and the Burgrave of Nuremberg. Their conversation was in regard to Huss. The prejudices of the emperor had been already excited to an unusual degree, and he at length let fall the expression that there never was a more dangerous heretic. It was at this moment that Huss was speaking in regard to the unworthy king of Israel, and the occasion it afforded for confirming the prejudices of the emperor was one which the council was not willing to lose. He was therefore called, and Huss was bid to repeat what he had just said. He at once complied, making a slight correction. The emperor, to the disappointment of the enemies of Huss, quietly replied, “There is no man who lives without sin.” The Cardinal of Cambray, however, showed more excitement and passion. In an angry tone he cried out, “Was it not enough that, contemning the ecclesiastical state, you have tried to spread confusion through it by your writings and teachings? Now, it seems, you are attempting to cast down kings from their dignities.” Paletz, moreover, felt himself called upon to maintain his own ground. He began to cite authorities by which he would prove that Saul was still king even when he had heard the words of Samuel, and that on this ground David had forbidden any one to slay him—not on account of his personal holiness, for he had none, but on account of his anointing as king. Huss commenced his reply by quoting Cyprian as saying that he could by no means claim the Christian name who did not resemble Christ in his conduct. “But,” exclaimed Paletz, “see how he stultifies himself in saying what is nothing to the purpose. For even though anyone be not a true Christian, is he not therefore a true pope, bishop, or king, inasmuch as these are but the titles of offices, while Christian is a name implying moral worth? And so anyone may be a true pope, bishop, or king, even though he be not a true Christian.” But here again Paletz found himself going too far. The old doctrine of the church, which warranted the crusades, and added one of its most precious jewels to the crown of papal prerogative, was that an infidel king had no authority from God to reign, and that he might justly be deposed. How then could one not a Christian retain his office? But Huss was as ready to meet Paletz with the tongue as with the pen. An illustration of the matter occurred to him which he promptly used. “If, then,” said he, with admirable tact, and with a logic pertinent to the matter in hand, “If, then, John XXIII was true pope, why did you depose him from his office?” The question was one to embarrass the council, and the emperor came to its relief. “But the masters of the council,” said he, “did of late agree on this very point, that he was true pope, but on account of his notorious wickedness, by which he scandalized the holy church of God and wasted its energies, he was deposed from his office.” It would have been impolitic for Huss to argue with an emperor. And yet it would have been easy for him to have exposed the double edge of his argument, worthy of commendation in after days by Jesuit murderers of kings, as well as Puritan judges that passed sentence on an English monarch. John Gerson, at least, charged to secure from the council the condemnation of the regicide principles of John Petit, might well have listened uneasily to the imperial logic. But the authority of the speaker forbade all comment.
2. “The grace of predestination is the bond by which the body of the church and each of its members is indissolubly united to its head.” Answer. “I confess to this, that it is my doctrine, and it is proved by the text from Romans 8, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ And John 10, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of my Father’s hand.’ This connection of the body of the church with Christ its Head is spiritual, not carnal. I understand by the church the body of the predestinate.”
No reply seems to have been offered to this article. The doctrine which it contained is one on which the church of Rome, and in all probability the council, were divided. Any attempt at discussing it might have seriously affected the unanimity of the proceedings.
3. “If a pope is wicked, or, more, a reprobate, then, like the apostle Judas, he is a devil, a thief, and a son of perdition, not the head of the holy church militant, since he is not, in fact, a member of the militant church.” Answer. “My words are as follows: ‘If a pope is wicked, and especially if he be a reprobate, then is he, as Judas was, a devil, a thief, and a son of perdition. How, then, is he the head of the holy church militant, when he is not even a member of the holy church militant? For if he be a member of the holy church, then would he be a member of Christ, and if a member of Christ, then would he cleave to Christ through the grace of predestination and present righteousness, and he would be of one spirit with God, as the apostle reasons (1 Corinthians 6), where he says, ‘Know ye not your bodies are the members of Christ?’”
4. “A pope or prelate who is wicked or reprobate is not truly a pastor, but a thief and robber.” Answer. “The text of my book is as follows: ‘If he be wicked, then is he a hireling, of whom Christ says, “He is not the shepherd, neither are the sheep his; therefore, when he seeth the wolf coming, he fleeth, and leaveth the sheep.” And so indeed every wicked and reprobate one does; such a wicked and reprobate pope or prelate, therefore, is not a shepherd, but is truly a thief and robber,’ as is more fully shown in the book.”
Huss perceived the ease with which his enemies might pervert the meaning of his words, and thus renew against him the charge which had excited the anger of the Cardinal of Cambray. He therefore added the remark, “I limit all that I have said in regard to such persons to the question of their worthiness, and it is in this sense that they are not truly or properly popes or shepherds in the sight of God. But as it respects the mere office or standing among men, they are popes, pastors, priests.” Upon this, a monk who sat behind where Huss was standing, and who, clothed throughout in silk, could have little fancied the simplicity of the primitive pastors, arose to speak. “My masters,” said he, “see to it that Huss does not deceive himself and you by such glosses as these. For perhaps they are not in his book. For I lately had a dispute with him on those articles, in which I said myself that a wicked pope is not true pope as respects worthiness, but as respects office he is. He is now therefore making use of those glosses which he has heard from me. He does not draw them out of his own book.” “But,” said Huss, turning round to address the monk in person, “did you not hear that so it was read out of my book? And this very matter is clearly illustrated in the case of John XXIII, who may be seen as he was, whether true pope or true thief and robber.” But the point was a sore one to the council. They were forced into a position which the friends of the Duke of Burgundy could accept more readily than Gerson might like. The cardinals and bishops, turning one to another, as if to give mutual assurance, said that John XXIII was true pope, and treated Huss with derision.
5. “The pope is not, nor ought to be called Most Holy, even as respects office, for on this ground a king also might be called most holy. Even torturers, lictors, and devils might, for the same reason, be called most holy.” Answer. “My words are different. I spoke thus: ‘The objector must needs say that if anyone is most holy father, then he most holily observes thatpaternity, and if he is most wicked father, then he keeps that paternity. Likewise, if he is most holy bishop, he is best bishop; and when he says that pope is the name of office, then it follows that that man, a pope wicked and reprobate, is a most holy man, and consequently, as respects that office, is best. And since anyone cannot be best, as it respects office, unless he discharge that office in the best manner, it follows that a wicked and reprobate pope does not discharge the duties of his office in the best manner. For he cannot discharge them so, unless he is morally good. Matthew 12, ‘How can ye speak good, when ye yourselves are evil?’ And then it is added afterward, ‘And if by reason of his office the pope is called most holy, why, by reason of his office, should not the king be called most holy, since, according to Augustine, the king represents the Deity of Christ, as the priest does his humanity. And why should not judges, yea, executioners, etc., not be called holy, when they hold the office of ministering to the church of Jesus Christ?’ These, with many things beside to the same purpose, are to be found in the book. And I do not know,” added Huss, “the ground on which I should call the pope most holy, when of Christ only it is said, ‘Thou alone art holy; thou art Lord alone, etc.’; with great reason would I call Him Most Holy.”
To the remarks of Huss on this point, no reply appears to have been made by any member of the council.
6. “If a pope lives in a manner opposed to Christ, even though lawfully and canonically elected as it respects human choice, yet has he climbed up some other way than by Christ.” Answer. “The language I used is this: ‘If the pope lives in a manner opposed to Christ, in pride, avarice, etc., how is it that he does not climb up into the sheepfold by some other way than the humble door, the Lord Jesus Christ? And granting, as you say, that he might ascend by lawful election, which I call election made first of all by God, he would not stand in his office by the authority of the common human ordinance, so as to climb up some other way. Now, Judas Iscariot was orderly and lawfully elected to the office of bishop, as Christ says in John 6, and yet he climbed up some other way into the sheepfold, and was a thief, a devil, and a son of perdition. Did he not ascend up some other way when the Savior said of him, “He who eateth my bread shall lift up his heel against me?” The same thing is proved by the letter of Bernard to pope Eugenius.’”
Paletz hitherto seems for the most part to have listened quietly. But his equanimity was now disturbed. The old spirit of controversy was awakened anew, and the disputant and the persecutor were one. “See,” cried he, “see this madness and folly! For what can be more mad than to say Judas was elected by Christ, and yet climbed up some other way than by Christ?” “But yet,” replied Huss, “both are true. He was elected by Christ, and yet climbed up some other way, for he was a thief, a devil, and a son of perdition.” “But,” asked Paletz, “cannot one be orderly and lawfully elected to the papacy or the episcopate, and afterward lead an unchristian life? In such a case he would not climb up some other way.” “I say,” answered Huss, “that whoever enters upon the episcopate, or like offices, through simony, not with the purpose of laboring in the church of God, but of living in delicacy, pleasure, luxury, and pride, such a one climbs up some other way, and, according to the gospel, is a thief and a robber.”
7. “The condemnation of the forty-five articles of Wickliffe is unreasonable and .unjust, and the ground alleged for it is fictitious, viz., that none of them is catholic, but each of them is heretical, erroneous, or scandalous.” Answer. “In my book I wrote thus: ‘The forty-five articles of Wickliffe were condemned on the ground that no one of them was catholic, but each of them either heretical, or erroneous, or scandalous. O doctor! where is your proof? You feign a cause for the condemnation which you do not prove,’ and more in the treatise to the same effect.”
Then said the Cardinal of Cambray, “John Huss, you said that you would not defend any of Wickliffe’s errors; and now it is plain, from your books, that you have publicly advocated his articles.” “Most reverend father,” replied Huss, “I say the same thing now that I said before—that I will not defend the errors of John Wickliffe, or of any other man. But inasmuch as it seemed to me to be against conscience to consent to their unqualified condemnation without proof against them from scripture, on this account I “was not willing to consent to their condemnation; and because, moreover, the ground of it, which is of a complex nature, cannot be verified of each of them in its several parts.”
Six other articles charged against Huss were now adduced. They contained selections from his treatise against Stanislaus. They were as follows:
1. “The fact that the electors, or a majority of them, give their consent viva voce, according to the practiced usage, to the choice of any person, does not legitimately elect him, or prove that he is on this account the plain and true successor of Christ, or Peter’s vicar in the apostolic office, but only his more abundant labors to the proper good of the church, while he has from God a grace more eminent for this end.” Answer. “In my book it is as follows: ‘It stands in the power of unworthy electors to choose a woman to an ecclesiastical office, as is plain from the case of Agnes, called pope Joan, who occupied the papacy for two years and more. Yea, it is in their power to elect a robber, thief, or devil, and consequently they may elect Antichrist! And it is in their power to elect, through motives of love, avarice, or hatred, a person to whom God cannot grant approval. And thus it is plain that, not from the simple fact that the electors, or a majority of them, viva voce, give their assent to any person, according to human usage, is this person, on such grounds, legitimately elected, nor is he therefore the evident successor or vicar of the apostle Peter, or of any one else in ecclesiastical office. Therefore they who in a manner most accordant with scripture, yet without the direction of revelation, proceed to the matter of election, pronounce in favor of him that is elected only on probable grounds. Whence, whether the choice of the electors be good or ill, it is the works of the elected which we must credit, for according as anyone in a worthy manner promotes the welfare of the church, he has the grace from God, the more abundantly bestowed to this very end.’”
2. “A reprobate pope is not the head of the holy church of God.” Answer. “As I wrote in my book, ‘I should be glad to receive a satisfactory reason from the doctor, why that question is of an infidel nature, viz., if the pope is reprobate, how is he the head of the holy church? The truth cannot suffer by argument. Was it reasoning against the faith when Christ asked of the scribes and Pharisees, Matthew 12, “Ye generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak that which is good?” And now, behold, I ask the scribes, if the pope is reprobate and of viper brood, how is he the head of the holy church? Let the scribes and Pharisees answer—those, namely, who exercised a controlling influence in the council at Prague. For it is more possible that a reprobate should speak that which is good, since he may be at present in a state favoring it, than be the head of the holy church of God. Moreover, the Savior, John 5, in arguing with the Jews, asked, “How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and seek not the glory which cometh from God only?” And I, in like manner, ask, How can a pope, if he be reprobate, be the head of the church of God, while he receives glory from the world, and seeks not the glory that comes from God only? For it is more possible that a reprobate pope should believe, than that he should be the head of the church of God when he receives glory from the world.’”
3. “There is not a particle of evidence to make it appear that there should be but one head in spiritual matters, ruling over the church, yet ever conversant with the church militant.” Answer. “I confess it. For what a consequence is this! The king of Bohemia is the head of the Bohemian realm, therefore the pope is the head of the whole church militant. For Christ in spiritual matters is the head, ruling the church militant, much more necessarily than the emperor must needs rule in temporal matters. Inasmuch as Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father, must necessarily rule over the church militant as its supreme head, and there is no sign of evidence that there must be one head in spiritual matters ruling the church, who is ever to be conversant with the church militant, unless some infidel would heretically assert that the church militant should have here a permanently abiding city, nor seek one to come. And further, it is made plain in the book how illogical is the proof from analogy of a reprobate pope being the head of the church, to a reprobate king being the head of the Bohemian realm.”
4. “Christ would rule his church better by means of his true disciples scattered through the world, without such monstrous heads.” Answer. “In the book it is as follows: ‘And though the doctors say that the body of the church is sometimes headless (acephalous), we nevertheless truly believe Jesus Christ to be head over all his church, unfailingly ruling it, infusing into it energy and sensibility even to the day of judgment. Nor can the doctor give a reason why the church in the time of Agnes, for two years and five months, was without a head, living, in respect to many of the members of Christ in a state of grace; but for the same reason it might also be without a head for a long course of years, since Christ, without these monstrous heads, might better rule his church by means of his true disciples scattered throughout the world.’”
Upon this there was a shout, “Now, behold, he is turning prophet!” Members of the council took occasion to sneer at the prisoner, and ridicule his words.
Undisturbed by the interruption, Huss proceeded. “But I say that the church in the times of the apostles was infinitely better ruled than it is now. And where is the inconsistency, or indignity to Christ, in saying that he would rule the church better—without those monstrous heads that there were, but just now—through his own true disciples? And at present we have no such head at all, and yet Christ does not fail to rule his church.”
The argument of Huss was irrefutable by those to whom it was addressed. It was, therefore, treated with, not argument, but derision.
5. “Peter was not universal pastor or shepherd of the sheep of Christ; much less is the pope of Rome.” Answer. “Such was not the language which I employed. In my book it is as follows: ‘It is plain, in the second place, from the words of Christ, that he did not define the whole world to Peter for his jurisdiction, nor so much as a single province, and in like manner neither to the other apostles. Some of them, nevertheless, preached the gospel through many regions, others in more limited districts, passing from place to place. This was the case with Paul, who labored more than they all, and who visited in person, and converted many provinces. Whence to each of the apostles, or his vicar, as much people or territory was committed as they converted or confirmed in the Christian faith. So much might suffice, and there was no restriction of jurisdiction save from their own insufficiency.’”
6. “The apostles and faithful priests of the Lord have ably ruled the church in all things necessary to salvation, before the office of the pope was introduced.” “And so too might they possibly do still, even if there were no pope to the day of judgment,” said Huss.
Here again the cry was, on the part of the council, “Lo, he is turning prophet!”
But Huss calmly proceeded. “Yes, it is true,” said he, “that the apostles ably ruled the church before the introduction of the papacy, and assuredly to better purpose than it is ruled now. And their faithful followers might do the same. And, behold, now we have no pope, and perhaps this state of things may yet continue a year, or even more.”
This article disposed of, a certain Englishman, turning to Huss, addressed him thus: “John Huss,” said he, mixing a personal taunt with a skillfully devised accusation, “you pride yourself upon these writings, claiming to be their author, but these views are those of John Wickliffe, rather than yours.”
Thus closed the reading of the articles of accusation laid to the charge of Huss. A discussion now arose in the council in regard to the steps to be taken with the prisoner. At last the method of procedure to be pursued was resolved upon. Three positions were taken in regard to Huss. In the first place, he was to confess that he had erred; secondly, he was required to promise that he would never teach again the same doctrines; and thirdly, he should be required to recant the articles charged against him.
The Cardinal of Cambray now addressed Huss. “You have heard,” said he, “of how many atrocious crimes you are accused. It is your duty now to consider what course you will take. Two proposals are submitted to you by the council, one or the other of which you must accept. The first is, that you suppliantly give in your submission to the judgment and sentence of the council, and endure, without remonstrance, whatever shall be determined in regard to you by the common voice. If you shall take this course, we shall, out of regard to the honor of his most merciful majesty, the emperor here present, and his brother, the king of Bohemia, as well as for your own sake and your salvation, proceed toward you with all due kindness and humanity. But if you still purpose to defend some of these articles which have been laid before us, and demand a further audience, we will not deny you the privilege. But you should reflect that here are so many men, and of such learning, and have such strong and efficient arguments to urge against your articles, that I fear lest any further wish to defend them could be carried out only at your great inconvenience and danger. I say this to you by way of admonition, and not as a judge.”
Undoubtedly the cardinal spoke the policy of the council when he advised Huss to submit. There were some things in the prospect of burning such a man not altogether agreeable. It might not tend to quiet the troubles of Bohemia. It would be undoubtedly somewhat distasteful to the emperor. It would be more for the glory of the council to have a man like Huss acknowledge, to his own confusion, its orthodox supremacy and judicial infallibility. The show of moderation in the cardinal’s advice to Huss must, however, have appeared in the prisoner’s eyes as the bitterest irony. He could see, as well as the cardinal, that his enemies in the council were in the immense majority, and that it was useless to discuss further with men, “enlightened” as they were by the common interest they had in suppressing a dangerous assailant. His own apprehensions by this time must have taught him to prepare for submission to the council, or for martyrdom.
When the cardinal had given his advice, others seized the occasion to urge Huss to submission. Some of them, doubtless, were led to do this by a genuine sympathy for the prisoner, and a conviction that, with all his errors, as they viewed them, he was a man of honest intention and real ability. Many of the English deputation undoubtedly thirsted for his blood, and the taste already acquired by them in the execution of the writ de heretico comburendo, would have been gratified by another sacrifice that should testify their abhorrence of Wickliffe. But there were others who, in listening to Huss, must leave been disarmed of their prejudices. Gerson had been one of the bitterest in his invectives against him, but his voice was not heard again on his trial; he listened and reflected on what he heard: and it is a just comment on the change that must have been wrought in his feelings, that he afterward publicly declared that if Huss had been properly defended he would not have been condemned.
To these exhortations addressed to him, Huss was not indifferent. He had not the false pride that would lead him to a stubborn persistence in any doctrine or position which he could be convinced was false. In a submissive tone, and a manner corresponding to his words, he said, “Most reverend fathers, I have already said, repeatedly, that I came here freely, of my own choice, not to defend anything with stubbornness, but if in any point whatsoever my views were incorrect, to submit to be instructed with a cheerful readiness. I ask, therefore, that I may have further opportunity to declare my views, in behalf of which, unless I bring plain and sufficient proof, I will readily submit to your direction in all respects, as you require.” Upon this, some member of the council shouted, at the top of his voice, “Notice the sophistry of his words. Direction, he says, not correction or decision.” “Yes,” replied Huss, “as you wish it, direction, correction, or decision; I protest before God that I spoke in all sincerity of mind.”
“Well, then,” said the Cardinal of Cambray, mistranslating—perhaps intentionally—the language of Huss, “since you subject yourself to the instruction and favor of the council, this is the decree approved, first, by sixty doctors, of whom some have left, though their place has been supplied by others, and then by the whole council, without an opposing voice: first, that you confess that you have erred in those articles which have been alleged against you; then that you promise, on oath, not to think or teach any of those errors for the future; and finally, that you publicly recant all those articles.”
Many members of the council beside the cardinal, urged Huss to pursue this course. It remained to be seen what effect these various persuasions would have upon his mind. “Again, I say,” he replied, to the exhortations addressed him, “that I am ready to be instructed and set right by the council. But in the name of him who is the God of us all, I ask and beseech of you this one thing, that I may not be forced to that which, my conscience repugnant to it, I cannot do under peril of the loss of my soul—recant, by oath, all the articles charged against me. For I remember reading, in a book of Catholic authority, that to abjure is to renounce an error previously held. Since, then, many articles have been charged against me which it never entered my mind to hold or teach, how can I on oath renounce them? But in respect to those articles which are indeed mine, if anyone will instruct me to different conclusions, I will readily yield to your demand.”
What unprejudiced judge could fail to see and approve the justice of the prisoner’s request? With no show of stubbornness, with the humility of one who only sought to know the truth, he asks the least with which his conscience will allow him to be content.
But the emperor’s conscience was more elastic. Confident that, to save his life, a man might strain some points, he attempted to reason Huss out of his position; and the reasons of an emperor are equivalent to a command. A lion’s paw may at first rest upon its victim with a velvet pressure, but it only hides his bloody claws.
“How is it,” asked Sigismund, “that you cannot renounce these articles that are falsely charged against you, as you say? I should have no objection to renouncing all errors whatsoever. Neither does it thence directly follow that I have held any error.” The reply of Huss indicated good sense and conscientiousness, as well as respect for the emperor. “Most merciful emperor,” said he, “the word has a very different signification from that in which your majesty has used it.”
“In that case,” said the Cardinal Zabarella, of Florence, “a written form of abjuration shall be presented you, sufficiently mild and proper. You will then easily be able to consider whether you will adopt it or not.”
Without allowing Huss opportunity to reply, the emperor repeated the terms which had been laid down by the Cardinal of Cambray. “You have heard,” he said, “the two ways that have been presented to you for settling this matter: First, that you publicly renounce those errors of yours that have now been plainly condemned, and subscribe to the decision of the council; in which case you shall experience marks of favor. But if you persist in defending your opinions, the council will probably determine to proceed in your case according to the laws of heresy.”
“Most merciful emperor,” said Huss, “I refuse not my consent to anything whatsoever that the council shall decree concerning me. I only except this much, that I may not sin against God and my conscience, and say that I have professed and taught those errors which it never entered my mind to teach or profess. But I beseech of you, if it may be, that you will grant me the further privilege of declaring my views, that I may answer, so far as is proper, in respect to those points that have been objected against me, especially on the subject of ecclesiastical offices.”
Upon this, several of the council began anew to urge upon him to submit. It was the same story over and over again. They wished no further discussion. “You are of age,” said the emperor, somewhat provoked at the persistence of Huss in demanding to be heard further, “you can easily comprehend what I told you yesterday, and here again today. We are forced to believe testimony most worthy of our faith. For if scripture says, in the mouth of one or two witnesses every word shall be established, how much more by the testimony of so many men, and persons of such standing as those who have testified against you! If you are wise, therefore, you will accept the penance which the council shall impose, with a contrite heart, and renounce your evident errors, promising on oath that you will hereafter hold and teach the contrary. But if you will not, there are laws by which you will be judged by the council.” To enforce the intimation of severity contained in the last clause of the emperor’s words, an aged Polish bishop added, “The laws in regard to heretics are plain enough in defining the penalty which must be inflicted.”
Still Huss persisted in his former purpose. He could not recant conscientiously all the articles charged against him; for some he had never held. He wished to be heard further. This just request, which they were reluctant altogether to deny, irritated them, and they cried out that he was obstinate.
This exasperation of the feeling of the council permitted those who were implacable in their hostility, a further opportunity to exaggerate the dangerous character of Huss. A priest, in his silk cassock, and otherwise splendidly dressed, called out, “He should on no condition be allowed the privilege of recanting; for he wrote to his friends, that though his tongue might swear, he would still retain his mind unsworn. No credit is therefore to be allowed him.”
To this calumny Huss calmly replied, in language such as he had used before, that he was not conscious to himself of holding any error. “But,” said Paletz, “of what use is this your protest, asserting that you will defend no error, and especially Wickliffe, and yet you do defend him?” And with these words Paletz adduced nine articles of Wickliffe in testimony, and publicly read them. “When I and Master Stanislaus,” said he, “in the presence of Ernest, Duke of Austria, preached against these articles at Prague, Huss defended them, not only in his sermons, but in his published works, which, if you (turning to Huss) will not exhibit, we will.” To this the emperor assented.
“I have no objection,” said Huss, “to your presenting not these only, but also my other books.”
To one who had regarded merely his own safety, the course which Huss chose to pursue would doubtless seem unwise. It was evident that the council had beard enough for their own satisfaction. They had now sat for several hours, and had grown weary of the discussion. But the devotion of Huss to his own conscientious views of truth forbade his acquiescence in the proposal of submission. His life was a matter of inferior importance, in his esteem, to the establishment and spread of correct views of the doctrines which he taught. He moreover felt, undoubtedly, that he might justly claim of the council, and of the emperor in virtue of his promise, a full and patient hearing. His trial for heresy was, in fact, a trial for his life, and he should at least have the privilege of a full defense.
But his request to be further heard, instead of being granted with a lenient and judicious kindness, was met by the effort to bring up against him, and overwhelm him with, new charges. Not content with what had been drawn up—with at least some show of system—by the commission of the council, individuals came forward, each presenting some separate charge.
Among these new articles was one in which Huss was charged with having slanderously interpreted some sentence of the pope. Huss denied having made, or even seen it, till it had been shown him in prison by the commission. “Who was the author of it, then?” he was asked. Huss answered that he did not know, although he had heard that Master Jessenitz was the author. “But what,” they asked again, “are your views of the interpretation?” “How can I say,” replied Huss, “when, as I told you, I never saw it except so far as I have heard of it from you?”
With such a cross-fire of questions they persevered for some time in their efforts to embarrass Huss. It was persecution of the most cruel and severe kind. He had now been subjected for several hours to the ordeal of examination. He had passed the previous night with scarcely a moment’s rest from pain in his teeth. His health had suffered from his long imprisonment, and here he was, surrounded by a whole assembly embittered against him, in which he could scarce discern a single friendly face. It is surprising that he should have so far been able to command his faculties as to reply at all to the ensnaring questions addressed to him. Still his enemies persevered in trying to overwhelm him with accusations.
Another article was read, in which it was stated, in regard to the three men that had been beheaded at Prague, that they had been led by the doctrines of Huss to treat the pontifical letters with contempt, and that by Huss, with studied pomps and honors, they had been exalted and preferred in one of his public harangues to the rank of saints. Mason, a former courtier of Wenzel, of whom mention has been already made, arose and affirmed that the article was true, adding that he himself was present at the time when the king of Bohemia had given orders that these blasphemers should be punished.
“The statements,” said Huss, “are false, both that the king gave the command, and that I had them pompously borne to their burial, since, in fact, I was not present on the occasion. You are therefore at the same time doing injustice to the king and to myself.” Paletz arose to refute this statement of Huss, although careful not to give it a direct denial. “It was forbidden,” said he, “that anyone should speak against the pontifical bull. This was enjoined by the edict of the king. Those three men did speak against the pontifical bull. For this reason, by virtue of the royal edict, they were beheaded.”
The views which Huss really held upon the subject, he did not—nor, had he wished, was he able to—disguise. They are found fully stated in his book, “De Ecclesia“: “I suppose they had read the Prophet Daniel, where it is said, ‘They that understand among the people shall instruct many, yet they shall fall by the sword and by flame, by captivity and by spoil, many days… and many shall cleave unto them with flatteries.” And afterward, “How is this fulfilled in the case of these three laymen, who, not consenting to, but contradicting the falsehoods of Antichrist, exposed their lives, and many did cleave to them by flatteries, who, frightened by the threats of Antichrist, turned and fled, and went away backward.”
This passage could leave no doubt of the real views of Huss as to the papal bull, or the injustice of the execution of the three men. After its reading, there was silence for a short time, the members of the council exchanging looks of surprise. Paletz and Nason were among the first to speak, and prosecute the advantage they seemed to have gained. They stated that Huss, in his public address, had so inflamed the people against the magistracy, that a great multitude of the citizens openly opposed them, and went so far as to say that they, like the three that had been executed, were prepared to die for the truth, and this tumult had with difficulty been quieted by the gentleness of the king.
Several Englishmen now presented a copy of a letter which they said had been forged at Prague, purporting to have come from the University of Oxford, and stated that this had been read to the people at the suggestion of Huss, in order to commend John Wickliffe to the citizens. The letter was read in the council by the Englishman, who then turned to Huss and asked him whether he had publicly rehearsed it to the people.
Huss confessed that he had done it, inasmuch as it had been brought to Prague by two scholastics, under the seal of the university.
“Who were these scholastics?” they asked.
“That friend of mine,” said Huss, pointing to Paletz, who, unfortunately for himself, had in the matter been intimately associated with Huss, “That friend of mine knows one of them as well as I do. With the other I have no acquaintance whatever.”
“But where is he?” they asked again. “I have heard,” said Huss, “that he died on his return to England.” Paletz felt that silence on his part in regard to the other scholastic would be impolitic. “He was not an Englishman, but a Bohemian, and he brought with him a bit of Wickliffe’s tombstone, which these persons, who follow his doctrines, worship as though it were some sacred relic. It is plain, therefore, with what design this whole thing was executed, and that the entire responsibility rests upon Huss.”
Upon this, this Englishmen produced another letter, under the seal of the university, of a tenor directly opposite to that of the former; but this mode of proceeding, which brought forward no specific doctrine which Huss could explain, or in regard to which he could ask to be set right, could afford him little satisfaction. He was altogether too much exhausted, even had he been disposed, to defend himself. In regard to the contradictory letters of the University of Oxford, there can be but slight grounds for questioning them. Both probably were genuine, inconsistent as their contents were. There seems to be no doubt that, long after the death of Wickliffe, his views had a stronghold in the university. Archbishop Arundel affirms that Oxford was a vine that brought forth wild and sour grapes. Of these the fathers had eaten, and the children’s teeth had been set on edge. In consequence of this, the whole province of Canterbury was represented as tainted with novel and damnable Lollardism, to the intolerable and notorious scandal of the university. We can see nothing, therefore, improbable in supposing that, in some period when the views of Wickliffe were more than usually popular, his friends may have seized the occasion to employ the seal of the university to attest their public acceptance. There is other collateral evidence to support this conclusion. But however this may be, Huss at least did not design to make any reply to the accusation, whether it was that he felt too exhausted, and wished to reserve what little strength still remained for a more important object, or that he scorned to notice an imputation so inconsistent with his principles, or so injurious to his character, or possibly so weak and unimportant in itself.
After the Englishmen had finished, there was a general pause. Huss would have been more than mortal if he had been still ready to proceed after all the fatigue and assaults to which he had been subjected, and even his accusers, numerous as they were, seemed to have exhausted all their ammunition of accusation. The council were evidently at a loss what to do. They were not quite ready to take the final step. They paused, hesitating, on the brink of a decision the results of which might be such as their forecast would not choose to fathom.
At this fitting moment Paletz arose, and solemnly protested, in the presence of God and his imperial majesty, and the most reverend fathers, cardinals, bishops, etc., that “in this accusation against John Huss he had not been moved by any hatred or malice toward him, but only to be faithful to the oath which he took with his doctoral degree, that he would be the unrelenting antagonist of every error to the prejudice of the holy Catholic church.” As if to crown the suspicious solemnity of the act by the ludicrously horrid, his associate, the wretched villain Michael de Causis, arose, and went through the same form of solemn protest.
“But I,” said Huss, conscious of his integrity, and undoubtedly indignant at the sacrilegious villainy of Michael de Causis, “But I commend all this matter to the Judge in heaven, who will judge the cause of both parties with impartial justice.” Who does not feel that the prisoner occupied a far more enviable position than one at least of his accusers, whom we cannot, by any stretch of faith, acquit of perjury?
The Cardinal of Cambray, in a tone of affected moderation, addressed the council. “I cannot enough admire,” said he, “the gentleness and humanity of Master Paletz, which he has shown in laying down the articles against John Huss; for, certainly, there are things in his books more atrocious, as we have heard.” The cardinal might have understood what he called “gentleness” better, if he had but fully been acquainted with the facts of the former intimacy between Huss and Paletz. The last, undoubtedly, had sought merely to lay down such points as he could prove, and not be worsted in argument before the council by a former rival, with whose ability, in their past controversies, he had become fully acquainted. Paletz, probably, with all his animosity, merely sought the humiliation and not the life of Huss, and his general course and character were respectable by the side of his villain-associate. We can readily believe that his own partisan spirit had carried him away so far that he really believed himself sincere in his efforts.
The day was now drawing to a close. The council as well as the prisoner must by this time have been thoroughly exhausted. Further proceedings were deferred to the next day. The council adjourned, and Huss was given in charge of his keeper, the bishop of Riga, to be placed in prison and kept under guard.
One at least of his friends followed him. It was the faithful John de Chlum, who knew well how severely he had been tried, and how much he needed the sympathy and strength of friendly counsel. Few were the words that he could seize the opportunity of addressing to the poor, exhausted prisoner; but they were words of cheer, and Huss welcomed the consolation they afforded, so genial after the tempests that had assailed him, so needed in this the hour of his loneliness and desertion.
As the assembly broke up, the emperor gathered the more prominent officers and members of the council around him, and addressed them on the subject of the trial. “You have heard the many and aggravated charges against John Huss, sustained not only by strong testimony, but, moreover, also by his own confession, each of which, in my judgment, is deserving of death by fire. In case, however, he shall comply with what is required of him, let him be forbidden to teach, or preach, or reside in Bohemia. For it is by no means clear that if he should be again allowed to preach, and especially in Bohemia, but that, trusting in the graciousness and favor of his followers there, he may return to his former views. And, moreover, he may also scatter new errors abroad among the common people, in which case the last error would be worse than the first. I think, moreover, that his condemned articles should be sent to my brother the king of Bohemia, to Poland, and to other regions where the minds of men have become imbued with his doctrines, together with the edict that whoever shall continue to hold those views shall be punished by the combined power of the secular and spiritual arm. Thus this mischief may possibly be met, if the branches along with the root be torn up thoroughly. But let the bishops and other prelates who have labored in these regions to extirpate this heresy, be commended, by the unanimous suffrage of the council, to the kings and princes in whose allegiance they are. Finally, if any intimate friends of John Huss are found here at Constance, let them also be held in severe restraint, and especially his disciple Jerome.” “But,” said several, “it is our hope that when the master is punished, the disciple will show himself more pliable.”
The emperor could no longer be regarded by Huss with hope or confidence. He had taken the side of his enemies. There was much brought out on the trial to alienate his feelings from the prisoner. Undoubtedly, moreover, the emperor saw that the demonstrations of public feeling in the council were such as warned him against placing himself in its way. Instead, therefore, of struggling against the current—a vain effort that would only prejudice the success of his own favorite schemes—he determined to put himself at its head, and at once lead and control it. From his words it is obvious that he did not contemplate, notwithstanding the violence of some members of the council, the fatal issue of these proceedings. He did not expect that Huss would be put to death, but only silenced. Undoubtedly he hoped that by leading the current of feeling it would be in his power to interpose at the right moment, and adjust the whole matter according to the dictates of his imperial wisdom. He was but feebly aware, even yet, how strong and resistless—slave of his policy as he was—were the chains of influence in which he was himself bound. He had allowed the council to be hounded on after their victim, and it passed his power to call them back.
End of Section IV
End of Volume I