Because of my respect for John Huss (John of Husinec), an early Czech Reformer, I read an article which The Antipas Chronicles had reblogged – thank you Meg! Written by Shaun Willcock of Bible Based Ministries, UK, 600 Years Later: Rome’s Revisionist Re-Working of John Huss’ Martyrdom shows that Rome seized the opportunity afforded by the commemoration of this anniversary to make a play for Christian unity, one of Pope Francis’ constant themes.
Huss was a Catholic priest who lived in the late 14th / early 15th century in that part of the Czech Republic once known as the Kingdom of Bohemia. Czechs and Germans resided there, and after his martyrdom the kingdom exploded in strife along ethnic and religious lines in the wars known as the Hussite Wars. It’s worthy of note that some of our Christian brethren chose to suffer rather than go to war. (The Pilgrim Church, page 143-145)
Huss was Rector of the University of Prague and Preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in that city. He was admired as a preacher and from all I can gather was well-loved. He got into trouble with Rome when he became a student of God’s Word in order to better fulfill his preaching responsibilities, and also came under the influence of the early English reformer, John Wycliffe.
Huss’s fellow priest, Jerome of Prague, had studied under Wycliffe at Oxford, and when Jerome returned to Bohemia he brought back some of Wycliffe’s works. Huss read them and agreed with some things, but believed that Wycliffe had gone too far in his desire for reform. However he was still influenced by Wycliffe for good, and by his growing understanding of the Bible and salvation by grace, towards reform. In The Pilgrim Church, E.H. Broadbent wrote about these things in this way:
One of the foreign students who listened to Wycliff in Oxford was Jerome of Prague. He returned to his own city full of zeal for the truths he had learned in England, and taught boldly that the Roman Church had fallen away from the doctrine of Christ and that every one who sought salvation must come back to the teachings of the gospel. Among many on whose hearts such words fell with power was Jan Hus (John Huss), theological doctor and preacher in Prague, and confessor to the Queen of Bohemia. His sincere faith and striking abilities, with his eloquence and charm of manner, worked mightily among people already prepared by the labors of the Waldenses who had been before him. (p. 143)
Recently I reread what another author had to say about Huss that is helpful in getting a better sense of his character and life. To introduce this, we need to realize that Bohemia was already divided into factions – pro-reform and establishment – before Huss’s death. Here’s what S. Harrison Thomson said about him in Czechoslovakia in European History:
Anything which either side to the dispute might do only aggravated the bitterness until, in late October 1412, Hus acceded to the king’s [King of Bohemia’s] suggestion that, in order to save Prague from the effects of an interdict, he should leave the city. Some of his most important works, Latin and Czech, were composed or completed while he was in exile from the capital at Kozi Hradek in southern Bohemia, notably the work on simony in Czech, and the Latin De ecclesia [The Church], his most systematic and impressive work. During his exile he preached generally in the native tongue, and a long-held conviction that the vernacular was an effective tool in the spread of the Gospel was further strengthened by the results of this ministry. It was during this time that he gave especial attention to the orthography of the Czech language, to bring order out of the disparate and confused practices then dominant. At the same time, like Luther a century later, he modeled his speech after the expressions of the common people, thus consolidating the vigor of a natural idiom with the loftier content of religious fervor. His Orthographic bohemica, written between 1406 and 1412, may be regarded as the foundation of modern Czech and Slovak, orthography. (p. 81)
But Huss’s greatest accomplishment wasn’t won by study, or even by all the ways in which the Lord Jesus Christ prepared him, but by the grace of God working in him to help him stand for the Lord – for truth against error – and to be given a crown of life.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
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Rumblings of Reformation: Jan Hus and the Hussite Rebellion