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abroad all sorts of accusations (most of them | opinion unless, he was confronted by argu-
This most reasonable demand was refused. Forty-four articles of accusation, all A strong disposition was also evinced to decharging Huss with teaching doctrines con- prive him altogether of a public trial, but trary to those of the Church, were present this was found to be more than even the ed. The greater part of these he clearly iniquity of the Council could compass. showed were false; others, misrepresenta- Huss was brought before the Council tions or exaggerations of his real opinions; three timesi; namely, on the 5th, 7th, and and that the rest were not heresies at all, 8th of June, 1415, and each time was treatinasmuch as they had never been condemned ed with the grossest injustice and cruelty. by Pope or General Council, and were in har- On the first occasion, the MS. of his treatmony both with Scripture and reason. But ise on the “ Church” was presented to him, there was one heresy of heresies of which and he was asked whether the opinions conHuss was guilty, which would have made tained in it were his? Huss avowed them, orthodoxy itself heterodox. He did not and his readiness to defend them ; but also acknowledge the Pope and the Cardinals, his readiness to retract everything which even with the Council to boot, to constitute should be proved contrary to Scripture. the Church; and like Luther in the next Here he distinctly anticipates the Lutheran century, appealed to the Scripture as the dilemma propounded at Worms. This was ultimate and supreme authority in matters met by the no doubt sincere outcry, that the of faith. He accordingly refused through question was not what the Scriptures said, out the entire struggle to abandon any but whether he would retract doctrines
which the Church, as represented by the specifically those on which (as already said) Council, declared to be erroneous. Huss, his “heresies” really depended, namely, began to make a confession of his faith. His the opinions he had so often expressed at confession was not wanted, he was told; Prague, touching the Pope and Cardinals, but simply that he should answer to the and the invectives in which he had indulged questions put to him, of which that one against the vices of the clergy. He could queștion just mentioned, was the principal, not deny these charges, and if these could and admitted of but one answer. He again make him guilty, he could not deny bis attempted to enter upon an explanation guilt. He might indeed have been willing and defence of his opinions, but was met to apologise for occasional needless intemwith rude sliouts of derision; and the tu- perance of language, but he could not say mult became so great that Huss was com- that his allegations were false.
The one pelled to say (and it was the only thing like alternative was once more put before him, rebuke which all his wrongs extorted from of unconditional submission to the Council, him), that “ he had expected more courtesy or to be condemned as a heretic. He in and moderation from such an assembly.”- vain implored once more that he might Nevertheless, he defended himself with so enter into a full exposition of his opinions. much address that he demolished the first He was told that he must retract and abjure charge against him. But fighting thus single- the doctrines contained in the forty-four handed (for, as already said, he had been articles, and swear to believe and teach the denied an advocate), and in so mortal a contrary. Huss then gave the noble anstruggle, it is no wonder that his strength swer" that he could not abjure those docfailed; he was conducted, exhausted and trines which he had never affirmed, and as fainting, to his prison. One day of respite to others which he did believe, he would was granted to him, when he was again to not deny the truth against his conscience, be brought into the arena like the early until their falsehood was clearly proved to martyrs, to face the lions,” or as St. Paul him.” Here again he was pleading as Lumight have said, “ to fight with wild beasts ther pleaded, that nothing can justify a at Ephesus.”
man's saying anything against his conOn the 7th he was accused of holding science. opinions contrary to the docrine of transub- In vain he was admonished ; in vain all stantiation, that old and approved test of sorts of menaces and blandishment were orthodoxy, and trap for catching heretics; exhausted upon him in turn. He was inthat grim Moloch of superstition, which flexible; his truly adamantine temper would brought' more of the Reformers to the stake neither bend nor break. He was taken than all their other heterodoxies put to- back to his prison, and as he left the gether. Huss easily refuted this charge, as Council, told them, “God must judge bein fact he never dreamt of questioning this tween him and them.” doctrine, any more than did Luther when At this last appearance before the Counhe began to preach against indulgences. cil, finding himself brow-beaten and bullied Other charges were brought forward, of on all hands, and utterly hopeless of obtainwhich Huss demanded the proof. Instead ing a hearing, in reply to the charges made of giving it, the Council pressed him with against him, Huss last contented himself the only alternative, absolute submission to with reiterating what he had on a previous its decrees. On this day, the Emperor occasion urged, " a solemn appeal to Christ Sigismund consummated his own shame, by against the Council.” This of course moved declaring that though he had given Huss a only the scorn and derision of this Christian safe-conduct, yet being now informed by assembly; on which he renewed and justithe Fathers of the Council that such a doc-fied it. “Behold,” he said, “ O Christ, how ument given to a heretic was, ipso facto, thy Council condems what Thou hast prenull and void, he would no longer charge scribed and practised. Yes,” he continued, himself with his safety. Well might Huss turning to the Council, “ I have maintained, say with David and with Strafford, “ Put and still maintain, that there can be no not your trust in princes." From that mo- surer appeal than to Jesus Christ; for He ment he saw his fate ; but with that same can be neither corrupted by bribes, nor debeautiful patience for which he was distin- ceived by false witnesses, nor cozened by guished, he began to express his thanks to any artifice." the Emperor for the protection that had He remained yet a month in his dungeon, hitherto been granted him.
and during that time various formule of The last and final hearing, was on June abjuration were proposed to him. Several the 8th. The charges were now more Cardinals visited him, and plied him with
promises and threats by turns. It was still shaved, or rather to unshave him, — not a in vain, and on the 1st of July Huss sent to little puzzled these sacerdotal barbers. One the Council his final resolution, that he proposed this, and another that. Huss neither could nor would abjure any of his quietly said to the Emperor, “ Strange, opinions until his errors were demonstrated that though they are all equally cruel, they from the Scriptures. His execution was cannot agree even in their cruelty.” At fixed for the 6th of July. But before that last they decided, (it is said, but it is to be hour arrived one other trial, prolonged and hoped falsely,) to cut with scissors a portion ignominious almost beyond example, awaited of the scalp. They had now, as they him. Every ingredient that could add bit- deemed, deprived him of all' ecciesiastic terness to that cup was infused into it. This symbols of honour and privilege, and nothwas the public ceremony of his formal deg. ing remained but to hand him over to the radation. It is not possible to read the secular arm ; but their childish malice sud
account of that scene without wondering denly recollected that one thing was still • at the majestic patience of the man, or omitted. A large paper cap, painted with
without horror and indignation against the grotesque figures of devils, and inscribed perpetrators of the iniquity, and at the sys- with the word “ HÆRESIARCHA,” was tem which made such things possible. The placed on his head. When Huss saw it he only thing that at all mitigates the feeling said, “ Our Lord wore a crown of thorns is contempt for many of the childish forms for my sake, why should I not wear this of spitetul mummery in which their malice light, though ignominious cap for His ?” embodied itself. He was commanded to The bishops in putting it on said, “ We deassume the priestly vestments; he obeyed. liver thy body to the flames, and thy soul He then ascended a lofty scaffold, prepared to the devil.” Huss, lifting his eyes, replied, for the occasion, and made that remarkable " Into thy hands, O Jesus Christ, I comand noble confession to the people : “ The mend my soul which thou hast redeemed.” Bishops bid me confess that I am in error. After this, he was led to the place of exIf I could comply, with but the loss of the ecution, just beyond the gate of Gottlieben, honour of a mortal man, they might perhaps where carcases were usually flayed, and bave persuaded me to yield to them. But where much carrion had been recently I stand here, face to face with Almighty strewn about, in order to add to the ignomGod. and I cannot do this without dishonour iny of the punishment. On his way, Huss to Him or without the stings of my own had seen his more immortal part, — his conscience. ... How could I lift my eyes books, already burning. It only moved to Heaven, how face those whom I have a smile, perhaps, at the childishness, pertaught, if I were thus to act ? Am I to haps at the futility, of the malice of his enecast into doubt so many souls by my exam- mies. On arriving at the pile, his counte
nance we are told lighted up with animaHe was interrupted, and commanded to tion. With a loud and clear voice he recited descend from the scaffold. The several the 31st, and 81st Psalms, and prayed for priestly vestments were then successively some time. Atter one more vain attempt taken from him by as many bishops, each to extract a retractation from him, the fire of whom, as he took his part of the holy was lighted. The fuel had only been piled finery, (too holy för John Huss to wear,) up to his knees, and when burnt down, the addressed the poor victim by some too upper part of his body was found unconcharacteristic speech of orthodox irony or sumed, and hanging on the stake by the malice. The one who took the chalice from chain; the flames were again kindled, and him out-heroded the rest : “O thou accursed the heart of the refractory heretic having Judas,” said he,“ because thou hast aban- been torn from his body, and beaten and doned the council of peace, and conspired broken with clubs, was separately burnt. with the Jews, we take from thee this cup But happily, of this supplementary martyrof salvation.” Huss undauntedly replied, dom, Huss knew nothing; He seems to “But I trust in God the Father of all, and have been suffocated, rather than burnt, in our Lord Jesus Christ, for whose name's shortly after the fire was kindled, and just sake I am suffering all this, that He will after he had uttered with a loud voice his not take from me the cup of His salvation. last words, “ Jesus Christ, Son of the Living On the contrary I have a firm persuasion God, have mercy on me!”. that I shall drink it to-day in His kingdom.” The ashes were carefully collected and At length came the obliteration of the ton- cast into the Rhine, whence, (as Fuller said sure, and how to manage this, – that is, (as of those of Wickliffe, cast into the Avon,) one may say,) to shave a man already they have been carried into the “main
ocean," and so are an “emblem of his doc- Thus perished this man, after as terrible trine, diffused throughout the world.” and prolonged a fight with the principali
As the voluminous accounts of martyr- ties, and powers of this world,” close leagued dom scarcely present us with any scene with those of " darkness," as ever was fought that reminds us more strongly of our blessed by martyr or confessor; - the more terrible Lord in the hall of Pilate and amidst the that it was fought by him alone, the first of soldiers of Herod: so, there is none in the long and illustrious procession of mar which the example of the great Master has tyrs of Reformation who were destined, with been more completely copied by the disci- " the unresistable might of weakness,” (as ple. The patience, dignity, and fortitude Milton has it,) " to shake the Powers of of a Christian were marvellously displayed Darkness, and scorn the fiery rage of the in the whole deportment of the martyr. He Old Red Dragon.” Huss trod his dark path “ partook of the sufferings of Christ” and alone, unsupported by the example of that s the glory of Christ rested on him.” It “cloud of witnesses wbo
gave courage to was something wonderful, that, as he was his successors : by himself was he to hush of too high and hardy a spirit to quail under the doubts which could not but assail any the accumulated wrongs and cruelties of his man who undertook to assert his opinions persecutors, this very spirit did not betray against the voice of all prescription, armed him into momentary passion or irritation : with all power; and this, too, amidst imthat after being so fiercely chased he did prisonment, sickness, “ cruel mockings,”and not at last turn on the hunters, and resent, every form of wrong. In a word, he drank with unseemly defiance, the insufferable the cup of martyrdom drop by drop, with indignities heaped upon him. Luther would every conceivable ingredient of bitterness in certainly have raged like a lion in the toils; it
, — involving in all probability, a sum of Huss was led as “ a lamb to the slaughter.” suffering of which, after all, the last brief
But this is only half his praise ; he was fiery agony was the least part. To the deep inflexible as gentle. Neither the open vio- shadows which often rested on his soul, lence of the Council, nor the artful inter- amidst his prison solitude, there are some rogatories with which he was plied in prison; touching allusions in his letters; he there neither threats and intimidations, nor prom- speaks of the dark forebodings which ises and cajolery ; nor, what was hardest troubled him, and of the terrible dreams to resist of all, the earnest importunities of which sometimes haunted his sleep.* friendly voices, could warp his steadfast As we read the tragic story, it is impossispirit. And this inflexibility, conjoined ble not to feel our indignation kindle against with such meekness and patience, give to the corrupt Church which burned him, or the character and conduct of Huss, an air murmuring with those souls beneath the alof moral sublimity which the world has tar, “ How long, O Lord, how long ?” rarely seen equalled. Even the page of L'Enfant, the copious chronicler of the While it is true that John Huss was a Council of Constance, one of the most hon- pioneer of the Reformation, it is also true est and laborious, but also one of the dullest, that the Reformation he sought was not of of historians, lights up with a glimmer of doctrine so much as of morals and of governanimation, and is ruffled with something ment. He pleaded, quite justly, that he was like energy and pathos, when he comes to not guilty of the heresies of which his enedepict the closing scenes of the life of the mies accused him: he was, as already said, great Bohemian Reformer. *
burned for very different reasons.
orthodox on transubstantiation, believed in *One of the most touching and noble appeals the intercession of saints, worshipped the made to the Reformer is that of John de Chium; Virgin Mother, held by purgatory and prayan appeal which, though it must h:
we cost Huss a
ers for the dead; and, though he thought pang to part with such a friend, must have sounded in his ears, had he needed such a stimulus, like a the cup ought to be given to the laity, did was about to separate from the martyr for the last and characteristic symbol of his followers.) trumpet. When every hope was lost, and De Chlum not make even that, (which was the bond time, he addressed him in these words:
“My beloved Master, - I am unlettered, and con. an essential point. In inveighing against sequently unfit to counsel one so enliglitened as the monstrous evils of the great Schism, you. Nevertheless, if you are secretly conscious of any one of those errors which have been publicly imputed to you, I do entreat you not to feel any was his witness, how ready he had ever been, and shame in retracting it; but if, on the contrary, you still was, to retract on oath, and with his whole are convinced of your innocence, I am so far from heart, from the moment he should be convicted of advising you to say anything against your con- any error by evidence from Holy Scripture. science, that I exhort you rather to endure every *Especially in letters xxiii, xxxii, luss, Oper. In form of torture than to renounce anything that you one, he speaks of a dream in which frightful serpents hold to be true.” Huss replied with tears, that God seemed to be crawling about him.
against the corruptions in the government resistance at Worms,— the absolute supremof the Church, and the vices of her ministers, acy of conscience, unless its errors be demhe had done little more than many others onstrated by clear proof from what both both before him and after him. Nay, at of them affirmed to be alone the ultimate auConstance itself almost equal freedom was thority in matters of faith, the Seripture. used. But, as Waddington justly observes, Though much more than this is required the offence of Huss consisted in this — that for a full and consistent system of religious the “ Bible," and not the “ Church,” was liberty, it was a large instalment of it; and the source of his reforming zeal.
for vindicating so much of the great charIt would have been well if the Reforma- ter of the “ Rights of Conscience," and ratition that Huss contemplated had includ- fying it with a martyr's seal, John Huss is ed dogma; for there could be no effectual entitled, to be held in lasting aud grateful reformation without it. Hence chiefly it was remembrance. that Luther's was more durable and effica- It has been seen that really Huss penetracious. Both reformers had their eyes first ted very imperfectly into the evils of Popery. opened by those moral enorunities which By some, however, the contrary would seem most readily struck the sense, and which to be assumed; for he has been represented, were the ne plus ultra of the recession of the not only as the precursor but the prophet of Church from Christian truth. Both spoke the Reformation ; and an appeal has been with almost equal vehemence against false made to certain medals, (supposed to have miracles, indulgences, and the vices of the been struck contemporaneously with his clergy. But Luther looked further, and saw death, or shortly after it,) inscribed with a deeper; and attacked, one after another, prediction that “after a hundred years his those corruptions of doctrine which were oppressors should answer to God and to him the secret roots of the evils in practice. So — • Centum revolutis annis Deo respondebitis little force is there in the modern and too et mihi.'” favourite notion, that dogma is of little or no L'Enfant has examined this matter with consequence, or that one set of dogmas is his usual fullness and fairness, and shown nearly as good as another! Looking at that there is no ground for supposing these men in general, as are their convictions (sup- medals to be anterior to the Lutherian Reposing these firm and sincere), such also formation, and that there is nothing in any will be their life, whether good or evil. The of the acknowledged remains of Fluss, which superstition which buries truth, and the show that he pretended to anything more scepticism which doubts whether there be than merely mortal presages as to i he future any, are in the end almost equally pernicious of the papacy. It is true there are expresto the morals of mankind; both alike tend sions which show that he felt convinced that to repress all that is noble and magnanimous the evils of the Church were so enormous in our nature. What we find true in pol that a time of Reformation must come; that itics, is certainly not less true in theology; a tree so rotten must fall. But they only and we all know what sort of patriot and prove that he saw what many a mind bestatesman he is likely to prove who believes tween Huss and Luther saw as clearly. Nor that it matters not what party-badge he is it possible to read many of the satires on wears or what political creed he professes; the clergy during the middle ages, without who doubts whether it be not wisest to let being convinced that those who have wrote the world jog on as it will, and to acquiesce and read them must have divined that a in any time-honoured abuse, or inveterate system, the corruptions of which were so corruption which it will give trouble and notorious, so odious, and so ridiculed, could involve sacrifice to extirpate. But there is not be very long maintained. It was a probthis difference in the two cases, that the ability on which any mind of more than modworld will tolerate in theology the character erate perspicuity might safely speculate ; just which it is too astute not to abhor in poli- as we may now confidently predict from the tics.
present symptoms and position of the Papacy It is in vain, however, to blame Huss for that it will, within a very short time, pernot going deeper or further. lle lived a haps in less than one brief year, be the subcentury before Luther; and neither he nor ject of startliny revolutions. There it stands, his contemporaries were prepared in the an anachronism in the world's history; with fifteenth century to receive or act upon all its errors stereotyped; stationary amidst views which were feasible only in the six- progress, and immutable amidst change; teenth. But to this high praise he is unques- showing in the late Encyclical that it does tionably entitled, that he asserted the very not in the slightest degree recede from assame maxim on which Luther justified his pirations and pretensions to which it is im