Edmund Alexander De Schweinitz.

The history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr online

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given religious liberty a home ; now they furnished its battle
ground. For two centuries, until the ojDening of the Thirty
Years' War, the conflict was kept up. Then Rome tri-
umphed again, and the land of the Czechs, a second time,
lay helpless at her proud feet.

In 1347 Charles the First, of the house of Luxemburg
into which the Bohemian crown had passed by marriage,
ascended the throne, and eight years later, in 1355, became
Emperor of Germany, assuming the title of Charles the
Fourth, by which he is generally known. However unequal
he may have been to the duties of this position, and however
little he may have understood the times in which he lived,
Bohemia was the object of his love and the end of his
ambition. Under his guidance it entered a golden age. Its
bounds were extended ; its agricultural and commercial pros-
perity was furthered ; and its capital enlarged to a metropolis
which rivaled Paris.^

Three of his undertakings were particularly important.
In 1344, while he was still Margrave, he emancipated the
Bohemian Church from the control of the archbishopric of
Mayence by the creation of the archbishopric of Prague ; in
1347, he organized, in the same city, the Slavonian Monasteiy
of Emmaus ; and, in 1348, founded the University of Prague,
which soon became one of the most illustrious in Europe.

^ The origin of Prague is unknown. It is ascribed to Libusa, a distin-
guished princess of tlie mythical period of Bohemian History. The city
is situated on both banks of the Moldau, in a basin-shaped valley, on whose
slopes the buildings rise in tiers, giving to the town something of oriental
splendor. That part of it which stands on the right bank is called the
Altstadt (Old Town) and the Neustadt (New Town); the part on the left bank
the Kleinseite (Small Side). A massive stone bridge and a chain bridge
connect the two parts. Charles the Fourth built the Neustadt and the stone
bridge, enlarged the Kleinseite, began the palace of the Hradschin, which
stands on that side, and erected a number of churches.


These enterprises were meant to advance Romanism, but God
overruled them for the spread of the Gospel of His Son.
The archbishopric re-invested the Church with a national
character. Ernst of Pardubitz, its first incumbent, a man of
apostolic ways, originated diocesan synods, which caused the
Christian life of Bohemia to revive.^ The Convent of Em-
maus, where the Slavonian ritual, although in a Romish form,
and the Czech vernacular had been re-introduced, gave to such
life something of an evangelical tendency. This tendency
grew to be a power in the University, which sent forth John
Hus, ordained to wake religious liberty from its sleep.

Three illustrious forerunners prepared the way for his

Between the years 1340 and 1360 there flourished, at
Vienna and other places in Austria, a distinguished preacher
named Conrad of Waldhausen.^ The jubilee proclaimed by
Clement the Sixth, in 1350, brought him to Rome. There
his eyes were opened. He saw the danger of such pilgrimages
and the evil of selling indulgences. Multitudes, from every
part of Europe, came swarming into the city, paid the price
of absolution without a thought of repentance, and imme-
diately, amidst the abominations of the papal capital, fell into
deeper sin. On his return to Austria he set forth the scrip-
tural conditions of forgiveness with words of power and an
earnest heart. Charles the Fourth invited him to Bohemia,
whither he was drawing other celebrities. Waldhausen
accepted the invitation, settled at Leitmeritz, either in 1360
or 1362, and labored with great success. After a time he

1 Lechler, II. p. 114.

^ Palacky's Vorlaufer, p. 1, &c.; Neander, VI. p. 240, &c.; Krummel, p.
57, &c. Since the publication of Cochlaeus' Hist, of the Hussites, in 1549,
Conrad in all works that treat of him, down to recent times, has received
the family name of Stekna. This is an error. John von Stekna was a
Cistercian monk and priest, who flourished at Prague, after Conrad's death,
as incumbent of the Bethlehem Chapel, and in other capacities. The error
originated in the omission, by Cochlaeus, of a comma between Conrad's
and Stekna's name, as Palacky has shown. Waldhausen was the name of
the village in which Conrad was born.


began occasionally to preach at Prague. There his congrega-
tions grew so large that no building could hold them, and
they were forced to assemble in a market place. In 1364 he
was appointed incumbent of the Thein Church, the most
important in the capital.^ He preached in German. His
bearing was calm, his thoughts were set forth with great
clearness, his language was plain but forcible and eloquent.
With a boldness that came from God and feared neither man
nor devil, he exposed the vices of the times and called sinners
to repentance. The result was wonderful. Women who had
been leaders of extravagant and immodest fashions laid aside
their costly robes, glittering with gold and pearls, and devoted
themselves to works of charity ; usurers, fattening on unright-
eous gains, made restitution ; notorious libertines set an
example of holy living.

Such success excited the jealousy of the mendicant friars,
whose churches were almost deserted. But when Conrad, to
use his own figure, drew the bow of God's Word against these
monks themselves, their envy was turned into hate bitter as
gall. And yet his arrows told, for they came with the force
of truth. He directed them against the hypocrisy, simony
and degenerate ways of the various orders. He said that if
their founders were to come back to earth in order to resus-
citate first principles, they would be stoned ; that the monks,
instead of assuming voluntary poverty and humbly walking
in love, manifested insatiable avarice, inordinate pride, and
selfishness in its worst forms ; that their appeals for alms
were morally wrong, because alms ought to be given to the
poor; that the idolatry which they practised with relics was
abominable ; that holiness deserved more reverence than the

Smarting under sharp truths such as these, the Dominicans,
Franciscans, Augustines and others, forgot their own inces-
sant quarrels, and made common cause against Waldhausen.

^ The Thein Church stands in the Altstadt, on the Grosser Ring, opposite
the Council House. It is famous in the history of the Hussites and the


But his popularity was so great that they did not venture
to attack him openly until the Vicar General of the Domini-
cans had arrived at Prague. His presence gave them courage
to lay twenty-four articles of accusation before the Arch-
bishop (1364). These charges Conrad triumphantly refuted,
in the presence of many witnesses, and prepared a written
defence of his course for Duke Rudolph, who urgently re-
quested that he should come back to Vienna. But he pre-
ferred Bohemia, and continued his victorious career until
1369, when he died, on the eighth of December, beloved by
the people and blessed of God.

Although he did not directly attack the dogmas of the
Romish Church, he taught the necessity of a living Chris-
tianity, of a renewal of the heart, and of saving faith in
Christ. In view of such principles he deserves to be counted
as the first forerunner of Hus.

The second was Milic, of Kremsier, in Moravia.^ His
early life is shrouded in obscurity. He took orders about
1350, and subsequently became an arch-deacon and a canon
of St. Vitus.^ At the same time he filled a responsible post
in the imperial chancellor's office, and owned an estate which
brought him a considerable income, in addition to his many
emoluments. But neither honors nor wealth could satisfy
him. He longed to serve the Lord in poverty and lowliness.
Hence, in 1363, he resigned all his lucrative and high posi-
tions. The Archbishop reasoned with hira. "In what better
work could you engage," he said, " than helping your poor
Archbishop to feed the flock which has been committed to his
care ?" But Milic remained firm, and retired to Bischof
Teinitz, where he began to labor as a preacher of the people.

^ Neander, VI. pp. 228, &c.; Palacky's Vorliiufer, pp. 18, &c.; Czerwenka,
I. Chap. III.; Knimmel, pp. 62, &c. There is no authority for the name
John, which is commonly given him.

2 This cathedral was begun in 1344 and stands within the enclosure of
the Hradschin, the celebrated palace of the Bohemian kings, built by
Charles the Fourth, in 1353, rebuilt by Ferdinand the First in 1541, but
not completed until 1756.


His stay in this village was short. The incumbent had a
pleasant garden which, Milic feared, might tempt him to
idleness. Hastening back to Prague, he gained access to
various pulpits. At first his congregations were small and
his Moravian dialect excited ridicule. But he persevered,
until he found acceptance. In course of time he became as
famous an orator as Waldhausen. His style, however, was
wholly different. It was mystical, excited the imagination,
and glowed with figures borrowed from the Apocalypse.

The biblical studies in which Milic diligently engaged, led
him to the conclusion that Antichrist would appear between
the years 1365 and 1367, and that, therefore, the end of the
world was at hand. This view he set forth in his work De
Antichristo, and urged from the pulpit, pointing, in the way
of proof, to the degeneracy of the age. His denunciations
were bold and terrific. He spared no one, from the Arch-
bishop to the lowest monk, from the Emperor to the meanest
peasant. On one occasion he publicly reproved the Emperor
by name. But Charles recognized his motives and honored
his zeal. Nor could his enemies, although their number
increased, prevail against him. It is true that they induced
the new Archbishop to order his arrest; but he was soon set
at liberty. Milic himself, however, grew discouraged, es-
pecially in view of the imwillingness of the Bohemians to
accept his apocalyptical theory, relinquished his work, and
went to Rome to consult the Pope.

Urban the Fifth filled the papal chair and was about to
transfer his court from Avignon, where his predecessors had
lived for more than half a century, to its proper seat (1367).
While awaiting his arrival, Milic was, as he says, moved by
the Spirit to announce, through a poster affixed to the door of
St. Peter's, that he would preach on the coming of Antichrist.
For this bold act he was cast into prison. But Urban, as
soon as he had reached the city, set him free and punished his
persecutors. The consultations in which he now engaged
with the Pope and various ecclesiastics led him to recognize
the propriety of giving less prominence to his prophetical


views, but encouraged him to return to Prague and resume
his activity in other respects.

On the death of Waldhausen, he was appointed his suc-
cessor in the Thein Church. In order to reach the German
population he began to study their language, and persevered
until he could preach in it with fluency. He delivered daily
sermons, besides attending to his pastoral duties, visiting the
poor, and instructing students in theology. The most notable
instance of his success in reformmg the morals of Prague
was the breaking up of a whole block of brothels, which had
long been infamously known as " Little Venice." More than
one hundred of their inmates repented in a body. The houses
were torn down, and a chapel and home erected, in which the
penitents found an asylum. Their number increased by
accessions from the country. There were often as many as
three hundred women in this retreat, which received the name
of " Jerusalem." Near by stood a house that Milic had
converted into a Seminary for his students, who assisted him
in his work.

His growing fame and widespread influence incited his
enemies to renewed activity. The mendicant friars, in par-
ticular, opposed him. Twelve articles of accusation were
sent to Gregory the Eleventh, which aroused his utmost
displeasure. He wrote to the Emperor, to the Archbishop,
and to several Bishops in Moravia, Silesia and Poland,
condemning the entire course which Milic was pursuing.
Milic hastened to Avignon, where the papal court had again
been established, in order to defend himself, and succeeded in
refuting the charges that had been brought against him.
While waiting for the final decision of the Pope, he fell ill
and died, on the twenty-ninth of June, 1374.

His solemn protest against the vices of the age, his earnest
call for the convocation of a General Council that the Church
might be reformed, his eloquent plea for the preaching of the
pure Gospel that the spiritual kingdom of Christ might
spread, constituted him the second forerunner of John Hus.
"In Milic that religious thought and feeling which have


always distinguished the Bohemians, found its embodiment,"
says Palacky in substance. " He stirred the spirit of the
people to its depths, and first caused it to rise in those waves
which, at a later time and with the co-operation of new
elements, grew to be the billows of a great storm,"*

The last precursor of Hus was Matthias von Janow,^ the
son of a Bohemian Knight, and an enthusiastic pupil of Milic.
In 1381, he was appointed a prebendary of the Cathedral at
Prague and a father confessor. Distinguished for his learning
which he acquired at the Universities of Prague and Paris —
whence his title of "Parisian Master" — converted, while
searching the Scriptures, from a vicious life to the service
of God, he used both his knowledge and his experience in
bravely promoting the Truth. He was a writer and not a
preacher. The collection of his works, composed between the
years 1388 and 1392 and entitled De regulis Veteris et Novi
Testamenti, exercised an unprecedented influence in its day.^

His position is bold and evangelical. He bewails the
worldliness of the clergy and their neglect of the Bible,
rebukes their pride and hierarchical pretensions, and disap-
proves of monastic orders as well as of that wide distinction
between the ministry and the laity which conflicts with the
scriptural idea of a universal priesthood. He protests against
the worship of pictures, the invocation of saints, and the
idolatry practiced with relics. He urges that the Gospel
shall be preached in the vernacular, that Christians shall
receive the Lord's Supper daily, and that the cup shall be
given to the laity, although he does not consider this
absolutely essential. He asserts that Antichrist is already in
the world, in the form of the hierarchy which has become

1 Palacky, IV. p. 173.

2 Neander, VI. p. 252, &c.; Palacky's Vorlaufer, p. 47, &c.; Krummel,
Chap. V.

^ This collection was divided into five books, each book containing a
number of treatises. It exists in manuscript only and is very rare, except-
ing one treatise, on The Abomination in the Holy Place, which essay was
printed along with the works of Hus to whom it was incorrectly ascribed.


wholly secularized ; predicts the renewal of the Church in its
primitive purity and dignity ; defines it to be a living
organism whose members ought all to work together,
including the Pope, who must direct the bishops in the
proper discharge of their duties, but not exalt himself above
them and seek his own ends through the agency of princes
and kings ; and finds a chief cause of its corruption in its
many decretals, which usurp the place of the Scriptures.
Finally, he sets forth the immediate relation of the soul to
Christ, the necessity of faith, and the insufficiency of works
when separated from faith/

Some of these views Janow was forced to recant, at the
Diocesan Synod of 1389.^ But this seems to have been a
mere form, for we find them still more fully developed in his
later writings. He died in the prime of manhood, on the
thirtieth of November, 1394. But the truths which he
promulgated were a trumpet-blast that announced the coming
Reformer and the dawn of a new epoch. Indeed, if we may
trust tradition, he appears to have looked even beyond the
days of Hus and to have foretold the rise of the Brethren's
Church. " We find it also recorded," says the History of
the Bohemian Persecution, " that this Parisian, his death
approaching, amongst others gave this comfort to his friends:
The rage of the enemies of truth hath now prevailed against
us ; but this shall not be always ; for an ignoble people shall
arise without sword or power, over whom they shall not be
able to prevail."^

^ Czerwenka, I. p. 50.

* Docuruenta Hus, pp. 699 and 700, where the retraction is given in full
and the penance set forth, namely, suspension, for half a year, from min-
isterial functions outside of his own church.

^ History of the Bohemian Persecution, London, 1650, Chap. VII. 5, p.
19, the quaint English version of the Hist. Persecutionum.



A. D. 1369-1415.


The Beginning of the Bohemian Reformation as inauguraied
by Hus. J. i). 1369-1411.

Birth and Education of Hus. — His moral Character. — A Professor in the
University of Prague. — Magnitude of the University. — State of Latin
Christendom. — The Philosophical and Theological tendencies of Hus.
— His Friends and Coadjutors. — Incumbent of the Bethlehem Chapel. —
Hus as a Pastor and Preacher. — Appointed Synodical Preacher. —
Condemnation of Wycliffe's articles in the University. — Beginning of
the Reformation. — The miracle at Wilsnak. — The Keformatory Labors
of Hus and the Opposition they evoked. — The Reformation strengthened
by the State of the Country and Empire. — Exodus of the Germans
from the University. — The Reformation about to die a natural Death.

Four years after the death of the last of his forerunners
John Hus himself appeared on tlie stage of history. Through
his instrumentality the new ideas, to which his age was giving
birth, were developed into a national reformation that proved
to be the harbinger of the General Reformation. In bringing
this about he opened the way, on the one hand, for the coming
of the Unitas Fratrum whicli was founded by his followers
and inherited his principles, and, on the other, led Bohemia
and Moravia out of the darkness of the Middle Ages a century
before it began to disappear from other countries.

In the southern part of Bohemia on the Planitz, not far
from the Bavarian frontier, stands a small market-town called


Husinec. It constituted, originally, one of twenty-four vil-
lages which belonged jointly to the royal exchequer and the
Castle of Hus, built, in 1341, by the Barons of Janowic. In
that town John Hus was born on the sixth of July, 1369.i
He took his name from the Castle.^ His family name is not
known. Although his parents ranked no higher than peasants,
they were in good circumstances. His early years are shrouded
in obsciirity.^

He studied at the University of Prague and took his first
degree in 1393. In 1396 he was constituted a Master of
Arts. His talents were not brilliant but his diligence never
flagged. He devoted himself to his books with the patience
of a student and the tenacity of a Czech. Such perseverance
had its reward. He became a man of comprehensive learning,
and slowly but surely made his way to the side of the greatest
celebrities of his age.^ His moral character was blameless.
It was never aspersed even by his bitterest enemies. They
were constrained to recognize the purity of his heart and the
holiness of his life. In other respects, however, he is stig-
matized by some modern writers of the Romish school, who
call him " a vain declaimer, a plotter, a proud Czech, a fanatic,
a revolutionist, an ignorant fellow, as rude and bold as a
peasant."^ While such denunciations recoil upon their authors,
there may be some truth in the charges of Palacky. He asserts
that Hus was rash, obstinate, greedy of popularity and am-
bitious to win a martyr's crown. ^ Tradition has it, that on

' Gillett, Croeger and other Moravian writers, give the year 1373, but
1369 is adopted by all the best modern authorities.

^ Not Huss, but Hus, is therefore the correct way of spelling his name.
It lias been adopted by German and ought to be adopted by English writers.

3 The details given by Becker, Die Bohm. Reform, u. Miirt. J. Hus u. H.
V. Prag, 1858, and found in Croeger, I. p. 18, &c., are without historic

* Berger, p. 79, Note 2, asserts that the learning of Hus was not extra-
ordinary, but merely such as was common among all scholars of his day.
In what estimation Berger's testimony is to be held, will appear later.

^ Helfert, Hofler and Friedrich.

^ Palacky, IV. p. 215. In Note 218, he adds: "That Hus, at an early
period of his life, dwelt upon the possibility of his suffering martyrdom, is


reading an account of the cruel execution of St. Lawrence,
who was roasted alive in an iron chair, he thrust his own
hand into the fire in order to test his ability to endure such
torments. Greatness and faults are inseparable. We must
not expect the record of Hus to be spotless. In his inter-
course with others he was modest and kind. A spirit of
melancholy gave tone to his whole bearing. It seemed as
though he could not forget the degeneracy of the Church and
the evil of the times in which he lived. He was a tall man,
with a thin, pale, sad face.

Two years after he received the Master's degree, he was
called to a professorship in the University (1398.)

This school, next to that of Paris, after which it was
modeled, constituted the most distinguished seat of learning
on the Continent of Europe. It formed a state within the
state. It enjoyed peculiar privileges and extraordinary im-
munities. It grew to be a Bohemian republic of letters with
an authority second only to that of the king. It was pervaded
by a literary spirit, active, keen, thorough, delighting in
disputations on the grandest scale. It embraced four faculties,
one for theology, one for law, one for medicine, and one for
philosophy ; and was divided into four nations, the Bohemian,
the Bavarian, the Polish, and the Saxon. Its teachers and
students far outnumbered those of modern universities how-
ever large.*

A school such as this inspired Hus with enthusiasm. He
became one of its lights. In 1401 he was elected Dean of the
Philosophical Faculty, and in 1402 Rector of the University.

evident from various passages of his Bohemian works which bring out his
individuality in sharper lines than his Latin writings."

' Some authorities give fabulous figures. It is said that, about 1408, there
were 200 Doctors and Masters, 500 Bachelors, and more than 30,000 students.
Others assert that there were never more than 4000 students, and only 2,500,
about 1408. (Lechler, II. p. 153.) But this estimate is incorrect; for we
have data which show that in that year, there were 64 Doctors and Masters
and 150 Bachelors belonging to the Bohemian nation alone. Palacky
thinks there must have been more than 7,000 students. (Palacky, IV.
p. 183.)


Dire confusion reigned throughout Latin Christendom. For
more than twenty years the Church had been rent by a dis-
graceful schism. Two popes, each claiming to be Christ's
vicar upon earth, the one at Rome, the other at Avignon, were
hurling anathemas at each other.^ This was a gross scandal
that called forth protests from the University of Paris, than
which no literary seat exercised a higher authority. Peter
D'Ailly, John of Gerson, Nicholas of Clemanges and others,
scrutinously investigated the claims set up by the popes, asserted
the supremacy of a General Council, and, in ringing tones,
proclaimed the necessity of reform. Nor did the University
of Oxford remain silent. Wycliffe was dead, but his writings
were exercising a widely spread influence.^ They found their
way to Bohemia through Bohemian students who studied at
Oxford, and soon began to play an important part in the
theological history of that country.^

Charles the Fourth died in 1378, and was succeeded by
Wenzel, his oldest son. He was an incompetent ruler. The
sceptre fell from his weak grasp into the hands of unworthy
favorites who governed in his name. Although not without
good qualities, he acted, for the most part, in the words of
Palacky, like a spoiled child, offending his nobles, maltreating
the clergy, quarreling with his brother Sigismund, and giving

Online LibraryEdmund Alexander De SchweinitzThe history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr → online text (page 4 of 64)