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which his name and fate threw around Lu- but honest parents, who seem to have done ther, so his history itself is full of deepest all they could for his education. and most tragical interest. In the vast cat- He was first sent to the school of his naalogue of martyrs there is hardly a victim tive village, and afterwards to another of whose fate awakens such unmingled admira- somewhat higher order, in a neig!bouring tion for the unflinching fortitude and constan- town. He was noted from his boyhood for cy with which he adhered to what he deemed the acuteness and vigour of his intellect, and truth, and suffered for it; or which inspires made good in his youth all the promise of such vivid, and, indeed, exquisitely painful his childhood. He was sent to the Universympathy, as we read the story. 'Exposed, sity of Prague at an early age ; and in the single-handed, to the concentrated enmity of dearth of authentic details, writers have the whole Roman Church and hierarchy, as garnished this event with some idle tradiembodied in the cruel Council of Constance, tions. There is an absurd story, for exam-to Pope and Cardinals, Emperor and Prin- ple, which L'Enfant gravely relates from ces; feeling that the whole might of prescrip- an old author, that “when his mother took tion, both of the present and the past, was him to Prague to enter him at the univeragainst him; doubtless often tempted to ask sity, she took a goose and a cake with her himsel as Luther sometimes did, and as Huss as a present to the rector, and that by chance was still more likely to do in that earlier and the goose flew away, an accident which the
" Whether it was possible that poor woman looked upon as an evil omen, he alone should be right, and all the rest of and fell down on her knees to recommend the world wrong;” troubled with those tre- her son to the Divine Protection” (the tumors of heart which such a possibility could telary “goose,” we may suppose, having left not but awaken, he yet held on his way its namesake), “ and went on her way with though darker and darker at every step- great heaviness of heart, that half her obundaunted. Such was the mastery which lation to the rector was gone.” the truth had over him, so gloriously impe- “ He lived in times," says the same bistorious was conscience, so profound his rever- rian, “ that were very favourable to the imence for Scripture, and so resolute was he, provement of his various talents," a propolike Luther, to yield obedience to that alone, sition which it is somewhat difficult to acthat he was proof alike against shame and cede to, considering that the shadow of the ignominy, cajolery and adulation, promises “ dark ages" still lay upon them, and the and threats, and at last sealed his testimony crepusculum of a better time was just beginby enduring death in the most appalling of ning to glimmer. But it may be conceded all shapes. This last proof of heroism, in- (and this is probably what is meant,) that it deed, many men have given, both before was a period of literary and intellectual acand after him. But very few, if any, ever tivity as compared with the preceding cenpassed such an ordeal of absolute abandon- turies; and his proximity to Prague cerment to the “ cruel mockings” and wrongs tainly ensured him the advantages of one of a hostile world, with so majestic a pa- of the first universities in Europe. tience as he did. Huss before the Council Of his academic career we know little or of Constance is one of the sublimest pic- nothing, except that it was honourable and tures in the whole gallery of history. successful. Certain dates preserved in the
ancient memoir of him by an unknown auIt is not my intention to give a full ac- thor, prefixed to the folio edition of his count of his life ; but a slight sketch of its works, inform us that in 1393 be became principal events is necessary for compre- M.A. and B.D.; three years after was orhending the significance of the closing dained priest, and began to preach ; in scenes of it. It will not occupy much 1400 was appointed to that function in the space, for the records of his early years are chapel of Bethlehem, at Prague, where he unusually meagre.
became the favourite court preacher of SoHe was born about 1370, at Hassinez, phia, the Queen of Wenceslaus. In 1401, a village of Bohemia, not far from Prague. he was elected Dean of the Faculty of DiHuss is the Bohemian name for a “goose,” vinity and Confessor to the Queen; and and this furnishes both Huss and his ene- some time after, Rector of the. University. mies more than once with some rather clum- In 1405 he had already become famous sy pleasantry. It is hard to say whether for his sermons at Bethlehem, preached in he or they are more ponderously witty in his native tongue, in which he insisted on availing themselves of it; he for the en- forgotten evangelical verities, and inveighed hancement of his humility, and they as a energetically against the corruptions of the term of reproach. He was born of lowly Church and the vices of the clergy. It was in the nature of things that this should expose that the university honours and rewards him to the hatred of the Church. He had were almost monopolised by the Germans ; been equally fearless, indeed, against the and, as the native students increased in vices of the laity; but King Wenceslaus numbers, this naturally occasioned much sarcastically told the clergy, it was only chagrin and discontent. They sought to when he began to attack similar vices in redress this wrong, and were successful, the Church that he became so obnoxious to principally through the efforts of Huss and them.
Jerome of Prague. Huss admitted that the He gave great offence, also, to a large provisional management was reasonable portion of the Bohemian clergy by the part enough, as long as the foreign element in he took in the great Papal Schism; strong- the university was so preponderant. But ly advocating the rejection of the claims of when that was no longer the case, “ It is Gregory XII.
just,” said he, “ that we should have three But his sermons were not the only cause votes, and that you
Germans should be conof the fierce hatred which followed him from tent with one.” The Germans, however, this time to his death. Strange to say, there as might be expected, were by no means were other reasons for the odium attached content. On the contrary, so exasperated to him, perhaps as potent, or nearly as po- were they, that they agreed, should the tent, as any of his imputed religious errors, alteration take place, they would leave the though they had nothing to do with religion. university en masse ; and, it is further said, Enthusiastically beloved by a large party resolved that if any were obstinate enough of his countrymen, there was of course always to refuse taking a part in this exodus, he a large part of the Romish Church, who, for should expiate his guilt by the loss of two the very same causes, were bitterly opposed of his fingers! a curious illustration of the to him; but, had he had no other enemies, it old saying as to the “humanising effects of is pretty certain he might have remained polite learning," and not less of the strength safe in Bohemia (supposing it had been of national hatred. Be this as it may, the possible for him to evade the summons to Germans, (who doubtless thought, from Constance), as Luther in Saxony under the their numbers, that their secession would protection of Frederick. Of course, he had leave the university as “ frightful a solitude" the dominant church party also against him, as Tertullian says the Roman Empire out of Bohemia ; but their hatred was greatly would have been if all the Christians had strengthened by the extraneous causes to gone out of it,) carried out their threat. which we have just adverted, and which it is And if their numbers had been as great as necessary to bear in mind in order to under- some accounts make them, no doubt the stand his true position. The first is, the vacuum would have been all but complete. part he took in asserting certain rights of But the figures generally given are clearly his countrymen to a just share in the gov- fabulous, as is indicated by the enormous ernment of the University of Prague, and differences in the several accounts found in by which he exposed himself to the ha- different writers. As reported in L'Entred of Germany. The remembrance of fant, one writer says the students were that quarrel, in which the Germans were 44,000, which is about as probable as that worsted (and as they alleged, perhaps truly there were at one time 30,000 students at alleged), through the instrumentality of Oxford. Another, a little more modestly, Huss, inspired them with a lifelong hatred says 40,000; a third computes the roll at of him. Having such important results, the 36,000; a fourth comes down to 24,000; quarrel may justify a few words of expla- Æneas Sylvius reduces it to 5,000, which nation.
Count Krasinski thinks may have been the The University of Prague was founded truth, though he hardly assigns any suffiin the year 1347, by the Emperor Charles cient reason for preferring it to that of othIV. It was modelled on the statutes of the er writers who fixed it at 2000! In other universities of chief note in Europe, as Par- words, we know little about the matter. is and Bologna, where, in questions involv- The secession of the foreign students ing university honours and emoluments, took place in 1409, and, led to the establishthree votes were given to the native, and ment of the University of Leipsic. one vote to the foreign, members. But as, The seceding Germans spread and kept during the infancy of the University of alive among their countrymen, a vivid and Prague, there was a much larger number of lasting hatred of Huss, which formed an apstudents from various parts of the German- preciable element in the grand total of enic Empire than from Bohemia, this propor- mities combined against him in the Council tion was reversed. The consequence was of Constance.
It may be as well to add that there was remote insular seclusion went forth the inprobably also another adventitious cause of fuence which gave the chief impulse to the hostility to Huss. He was in philosophy a Bohemian Reformer. It makes good the “Realist.” Now between the Realists and quaint words of Fuller in his " Church Histheir opponents, the Nominalists, the dis- tory of England,” when speaking of the putes were equally unintelligible and inter- posthumous dishonour put on Wickliffe's minable, and turned upon refinements of ashes: :-" They were cast into the Swift, a abstraction so extremely subtle that (one neighbouring brook, running hard by. would imagine) they could never stir in a Thus this brook hath conveyed his ashes single human bosom the faintest breath of into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into passion! But this would be to credit hu- the narrow seas, then into the Main Ocean. man nature with far more good sense than And thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emit can claim. Whatever men can wrangle blem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed about, be it the idlest phantasm of the most all the world over." crazy dreamer, that they can also fight But that his doctrine should have been about; and indeed often with an energy of conveyed to Bohemia would have seemed passion in inverse proportion to the impor- as little likely as that any particle of his tance or clearness of the point in dispute. dust should reach it, in default of that “ seaAccordingly, these two metaphysical sects port on the coast of Bohemia,” which Shakoften sought to decide by blows what they speare has created there in spite of geogracould not decide by reason : and shed blood phy, Yet so it was; and by one of those and even sacrificed lives for the question, incidents by which the Providence of God whether an abstract name (as man, for ex- in the course of its ordinary working easily ample) represented any one man in partic- brings the strangest things to pass, and ular, or man in general. In short, they binds the most distant things together. made more than one university of Europe a Our Richard the Second's queen was Anne sort of metaphysical Donnybrook, where of Bohemia, daughter of the Emperor the combatants fought with about as intelli- Charles IV. After her husband's death she gent understanding of what they were fight- returned to Bohemia, and some of her ing for, and also with as much passion and retinue took many of the writings of Wickobstinacy as any Irish “ factions” whatso- liffe with them. Certain Bohemians, it is
Now it has been surmised that the said, had sojourned for some time at Oxfact that Huss was a Realist, and conse- ford, among whom was Jerome of Prague : quently hated by the opposite faction of while others add, that two English Lollards the Nominalists, made him obnoxious to found their way to Prague, and were entermany of his judges at Constance. It is cer- tained for some time at the house of John tainly not a little mournful, as well as curi- Huss, and that from them he got to know ous, that in this and other cases, the for- the works of Wickliffe. However that may tunes of Truth and Humanity should often be, and whatever the mode, it is certain be imperilled by considerations which have that he became well acquainted with severnothing in the world to do with either the al of those works, and that they produced a one or the other; that a man like John strong effect on his opinions. At his chapel Huss may be made a martyr for religion, in of Bethlehem, he often spoke in terms of a great measure because national animosi- eulogy of the great English Reformer, and ties have set two communities by the ears, prayed that when he died his soul might be and opposite sects are blindly engaged in with that of Wickliffe, wheresoever that a night-battle about an incomprehensible might be! dogma of metaphysics. *
There is a tradition that the two English Another fact which undoubtedly had Wickliffites asked Huss to allow them to much more to do with his fate, as really ex- paint the hall of his house, and that on his ercising.a powerful influence over his theo- granting the request they depicted, on one logical opinions and exposing him to the side, Christ's lowly entry into Jerusalem, rançour of Rome, was his attachment to the and on the other, in strong contrast with it, writings of Wickliffe. It is an interesting a splendid procession of the Pope and his circumstance to Englishmen, that from our cardinals, in all the pomp and glitter of
pontifical pageantry. It is said these pic
tures excited much curiosity; that many *One subtle question, particularly respecting transubstantiation, seems to have been designed to en
came to see them, and went away divided trap Huss through his Realist creed. It challenged in opinion about their propriety. But the him to maintain the Universal a parte Rei, and
had generality of ecclesiastics understood the like to have given him some trouble. - L'Enfant, vol. i. p. 324.
pictorial writing of these Wickliffite Mexi
cans too well, and it is said that the pictures against the violent measures of the Arch-
The ferment spread throughout Bohemia, Whatever the truth of these traditions, it and the country was divided into two great is certain that Wickliffe's writings were ex- parties, which in many places threatened, tensively circulated at Prague at tbis time, and indeed broke, the public peace. This as we shall presently see from the crusade led to a series of struggles between King of the Archbishop of Prague against them. Wenceslaus and the refractory Archbishop, Cochleus tells us that many of the “manu- into which we have not space to enter, but scripts were beautifully written and splen- which are amongst not the least memorable didly embossed and bound—bullis aureis or instructive of the contests between the tegumentisque preciosis ornata.” This not temporal and the spiritual powers during only shows the justice of Krasinski's re- the middle ages. We can only notice them mark, that they had been in the possession so far as they severally bear on the fate of of wealthy and therefore influential
Huss. The King, indolent and addicted to but it also shows how great value was put pleasure, is said to have cared very little upon jewels which were enshrined in such about the dispute, if the disputants would costly caskets. Several of the Reformer's but have left him alone; but if it went on writings Huss himself translated into his to civil war, he felt that he could not be native tongue, and took measures to circu- left alone. Huss also was a favourite with late them widely in Bohemia and Moravia. his queen, and to a certain extent with him
By such proceedings, and especially by self." He ordered the Archbishop to indemhis bold invectives against the enormous nify the folks whose books he had so sumcorruptions of the Church, Huss had formed marily burnt. The prelate refused; and a considerable party throughout Bohemia his estates were sequestrated. Soon after, intensely desirous of Retorm, and disposed a papal embassy arrived at Prague to anto accept him as their leader; not a little nounce the election of the infamous John influenced, doubtless, by the fact that he XXIII., afterwards deposed by the Council had been the champion of their national of Constance. The King thought it was a rights in the great university quarrel, a good opportunity to endeavour to obtain circumstance which, though it might oper- the repeal of the “bull” of John's predeate against him out of Bohemia, vastly cessor, and to secure the restitution of the strengthened his influence within it. privileges of the chapel of Bethlehem.
And now things were ripe for a conflict But the astute Archbishop sent back, with between Huss and the Church. In 1410 the embassy, emissaries of his own, who the Archbishop of Prague obtained a bull defeated the King's object. They procured from the Pope (Alexander V.), authorizing the Pope's sanction of the Archbishop's prohim to extirpate heresy in Bohemia, and as ceedings, and a citation for Huss to appear a means to that end, to burn the writings at Rome to plead to the charges of heresy of Wickliffe wherever they could be found, against him. The King declared that Huss and to prohibit preaching except in certain could not go “ without peril of his life,” specified buildings, from which chapels which no doubt the Pope and Archbishop were excluded; and therefore, (which was knew as well as he, or even better; and redoubtless the real object,) the chapel of fused to let him go. The Pope replied that Bethlehem, where Huss preached. After the appearance of Huss was indispensable, much opposition to the bull, it was at last and that the judges to try his cause were proclaimed.
already appointed. In short, the banquet On March 9th, 1410, Huss was cited be-was all prepared, and the Pope seemed to fore the Archbishop's Court on the charge say, “ Come, for all things are now ready.” of heresy. When he, and others similarly Thus backed by the papal authority, the charged with possessing portions of the Archbishop reiterated the excommunication writings of Wickliffe, asked the Archbishop of Huss, and claimed that his estates should what part of the Reformer's writings were be restored; the King would not comply heretical ? they were told that “all the with the last, and many of the clergy rewritings of that arch-heretic were hereti- fused to read out the first. Higher and cal,” and the Archbishop burnt them ac- higher soared hawk and falcon, in the hope cordingly wherever he could lay hands on to gain a vantage point for striking. The them. At the same time he forbade all Archbishop, nothing daunted, laid the terpreaching in chapels, and thus gagged rors of interdict on Prague. The King reHuss. The University of Prague protested, torted with equally vigorous measures ; but for the present protested in vain, banished many of the clergy who had been
conspicuously busy in the execution of the not to repeat that the very name and fate Archb!shop's orders; seized (worse than of Huss probably proved a shield. Huss has all !) the treasures of the Chapter of been sometimes blamed for his rashness in Prague, and made the Estates of the Realm going to Constance. But, as L'Enfant has pass a law by which it was forbidden to shown in his History of the Council, he had carry certain causes before the ecclesiasti- little choice in the matter. When he re. cal courts. These measures of retaliation fused to go to Rome, he appealed to a gentouched what was more precious than doc- eral Council, and pledged himself to appear trine, and finished for the present the con- before it and abide by it; he went not only test between the temporal and spiritual with the consent of the King of Bohemia, powers; and the victory thus lay with the but by his command; and, though like Luthformer. The Archbishop agreed to sub- er on the way to Worms, he was not withmit the controversy to a court of arbitra- out forebodings and misgivings, he yet tion, which, on 3rd of July, 1411, decided seemed to be amply fortified by the imperial that the Archbishop was “to submit to the safe-conduct with which he was furnished. King, to revoke his interdict, to cancel the Perhaps we may also say, with Waddingproceedings he had commenced against ton, that he felt not only an “ intense conheresy, and to send to Rome a declaration viction of the truth of his doctrines,” but that in Bohemia there was no heresy.” confidence also “ in the integrity of the On the other hand, if the Archbishop com- Coupcil.” He certainly seems to have boped plied, the King was to restore his estates, that he might be able to disabuse it of its and was to bind himself to punish all here- impressions against him, and to reply satissies, - an easy task, since it seems the factorily to the charge of heresy. But though Archbishop was to declare at the same time hoping the best, he was prepared for the that in Bohemia there were none! And so worst, as is seen in that almost prophetic ended this notable passage of arms between letter of farewell to his friends, written just the King and his refractory priest.
before his departure for Constance, in which As the most illustrious of the successors he touchingly says, “Perhaps you will nevof John Huss, (who really achieved in the er see me at Prague any more.” cause of Reformation, what Huss only at- It was on the 11th of October, 1414, that tempted, and far more,) miraculously escap- Huss commenced his journey to Constance: ed martyrdom, so it is not a little remark- all through Bohemia, as was to be expected, able that Huss's most illustrious predecessor, his progress was a series of ovations. Nor Wickliffe, also escaped it. Both he and was he unfavorably received even in GermaLuther died in their beds, contrary to all ny itself. At Nuremburg especially, the human probability. And so perhaps might most Aattering attentions were paid him, Huss, could he have remained in Bohemia, and he was conducted into the town by a amidst the tens of thousands who loved, vast concourse of people. He arrived at and were ever ready to rally round him. He Constance, November 2nd, 1414.
He was refused, like Luther and Wickliffe, to obey still without bis safe-conduct; but it came the citation to appear at Rome; no doubt the next day, and was delivered by one of feeling with them that it was not a good for the three Bohemian nobles to whose care the health" of a Reformer to go there. All King Wenceslaus had committed him. It seemed to feel as by instinct that, go was couched in the most absolute and unewhere they might, to London, or Constance, quivocal terms.* No sooner had he arrived or Worms, they had better not repair to in Constance than those intrigues and machRome. Perhaps they felt like the fox in inations began which had his destruction the fable, who declined the invitation
for their object, and which were too fatally the lion's den, inasmuch as he had observed successful. His enemies, many of them from that the only footsteps in its vicinity were the party opposed to him in Bohemia, intowards it, and none from it : nulla vestigia flamed the minds of the people, spread retrorsum. If (as already said) Huss could
* It may be seen at large in L'Enfant, vol. i. p. have escaped the invitation to Constance
61. One sentence will suffice: if he had not severed himself from the thou- " Whom we have taken into our protection and sands of zealous and faithful friends among safe-guard, and into that of the empire, desiring his compatriots, — he might have remained and’entertain him kindly, turnishing him with all as safe in their protection, as Luther under necessaries for his despatch and security, whether that of the Elector of Saxony. Luther in- either from him or his, at coming in or going out,
be goes by land or water, without taking anything deed ran great risks in going to Worms, for any sort of duties whatsoever ; and to let him but still it was within the · fatherland,” and freely and securely pass, sojourn, stop, and repass,
for the honour aud respect of His Imperial Majeshe was surrounded by “ troops of friends," ty."