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

. (page 47 of 64)
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 47 of 64)
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Word of God to find this little passage. Depart from me,
Satan, and tempt me no longer ! " Overwhelmed with
mortification the Jesuits left.

Not long after he was summoned to the scaffold. He bade
his friends farewell, and turning to his servant said, with
reference to a recent dream of which he had told him : " Now
I go in the garment of righteousness; thus arrayed I will
appear before God in whom I have hoped." With manly
steps he came upon the scaffold, and while walking across it
stroked his silvered locks and venerable beard, saying :
"Thou old gray head of mine, thou art highly honored;
thou wilt be decorated with the martyr-crown." Thereupon
he prayed for the Church, for his country, for his enemies,
and committed his own soul to Christ. From afar, with
furious gesticulations, the two Jesuits whom he had discom-
fited, bent their angry eyes upon him. The sword fell and
Budowa's grand career was closed. It has been strikingly

"2 Tim. 1: 12; 4: 8.



summed up in these words : " Budowa was the last Bohemian,
as Brutus was the last Roman.'"^

The third one to suffer was Baron Christopher Harant, a
learned man, distinguished writer and noted traveler. He
deemed his condemnation grossly unjust and did not die wil-
lingly. Although he had been a Director, he had discouraged
the extreme measures of his colleagues and advised them to
submit to Ferdinand ; and although he had subsequently,
under Frederick, been induced, through the force of circum-
stances, to undertake the management of the royal exchequer,
he had discharged the duties of this office with singular im-
partiality, making no distinction between Protestants and
Catholics. He told Rosacius that he had been involved in
the Revolution to no greater extent than many Romanists
who went scot-free. Nevertheless he resigned himself into
the hands of the Lord and said that His holy will should be
done. His instructions to his wife he had committed to
writing. These instructions he solemnly reiterated, through
Rosacius, when called to the scaffold : beseeching her to be
true to the Protestant faith, to guard their children against
the influences of the Jesuits and have them educated by
Evangelical teachers, to remember that his only comfort in
death was the atonement of Christ, to meet him in heaven,
and meanwhile to lead a righteous and benevolent life, treat-
ing her vassals more leniently than she had done. On leav-
ing his apartment he prayed : " In Thee, O Lord, have I
trusted from my youth ; let me never be confounded." His
last words were : " Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Son of the
living God, have mercy upon me and receive my soul ! "
The wishes with which he passed from earth were, in every
particular, grossly disregarded. His wife, Salomena, married
a Romanist, renounced the Protestant religion, persecuted her
husband's brethren in the faith and committed her children
into the keeping of the Jesuits.

The next on the death-list was Caspar Kaplir von Sulewicz,

" Pelzel's Bohm. u. Miihr. Gelehrte, III. p. 84.


a venerable sire of eighty-six years, who seems to have be-
longed to the Brethren's Unity. He received Rosacius with
weeping eyes, but undaunted spirit. " How often," he said,
" have I miserable old man called upon God, that He should
show mercy and take me out of this life ; but my prayer was
not fulfilled, because He has set me apart to be a spectacle to
the world and a sacrifice unto himself. His will be done!
My death will be shameful in the eyes of the world, but in
His sight glorious and precious, since it is for His honor and
truth that I must suiFer." He begged that the Supper of
the Lord might be administered, in order to the strengthen-
ing of his faith and hope ; confessed his sins, especially those
of his youth ; and praised God that he had been brought to
know a better and holier life.

The sentiments which he expressed in regard to his public
career were noble and manly. He said that he had served
four emperors in succession ; that the part which he had
recently played had been forced upon him and his compeers ;
that he had not sought riches or honor, but solely the deliv-
erance of the Evangelical faith from unjust oppression ; that
self-defence had become a necessity ; that it was better for
the states to imperil their lives than to submit in silence to
gross wrongs and betray their posterity. " We have been
outwardly conquered," he added. " I recognize this as the
will of God. He has chosen me and my beloved associates
in order that His truth may, in these last days, be honored
through our blood and our inner constancy shine the more
brightly. And although, after sentence had been pronounced
upon us, my flesh began to tremble, I am now, through God's
grace, no longer afraid to die." He further said that his
aunt had given him a hint of Liechtenstein's willingness to
spare his life, if he would only plead for mercy ; but that he had
declined, saying, that he would seek God's grace, not the grace
of an earthly ]irinee ; that to sue for pardon would be equiva-
lent to acknowledging his guilt, which he was unwilling to do ;
that in any case he would rather die than languish in prison.
This conversation with Rosacius took place on Saturday


evening. The next day Kaplir partook of the Holy Com-
munion. His soul was abundantly nourished. " I am recon-
ciled to my God ; I have peace through Christ ; I fear no
man. Full of confidence I say with the Psalmist: 'My
flesh and my heart faileth ; but God is the strength of my
heart, and my portion for ever!'" Such was his joyous
confession. He committed his grand-children to Rosacius
and laid upon him a patriarchal blessing : " The Lord,
through His glory, protect you," he said, "and preserve the
Church from being utterly trampled down by the Babylonian
beast !"

In the morning of the day of execution he expressed his
firm assurance of forgiveness through the merits of Jesus, his
resignation to the divine will, and his desire to depart and be
with Christ. He directed his servants to draw a white shirt
of the finest texture over his ordinary dress — remarking to
Lippach, " Behold my wedding garment ! " — and to throw
around him a half-satin cloak. When called he exclaimed :
" In the name of God ! I have waited long ! " Then he
prayed for strength to reach the place of execution. Totter-
ing in spite of the support of his servants, he slowly and
painfully made his way to the balcony. At the stairs leading
down to the scaifold he stopped and begged one of the attend-
ing clergymen to help him, sO that he might not fall and give
his enemies occasion to mock. The clergyman took his hand
and, praying aloud, led him forward. With great difficulty
Kaplir fell upon his knees, sending word to the executioner
to strike immediately. But his aged body sank together, so
that it was impossible to deal the blow. When Rosacius saw
that he called to him in a loud voice and said : " Noble lord,
you have committed your soul to Christ ; now offer to Him
your hoary head also and lift it up to heaven." " In the
name of God," replied Kaplir ; and collecting all his strength
he raised his head, crying, " Lord Jesus, into Thy hands I
commend my spirit !" In the next instant was heard the
swoop of the sword. The sire was at rest.

The fifth victim was Procop Dworzecky. His comment


on the sentence Avas : " And does the Emperor expect to reap
any advantage by taking off my head ? Very well. So be
it." The next day he said to the attending clergyman : " I
have been in conflict, all night long, with the old Adam ;
but, thanks to God, through His aid I have overcome at
last." He added that the Emperor could kill his body only,
not his soul ; sent a message to his wife and son to remain
true to the Evangelical faith ; and then broke out into this
impassioned prayer : " Oh, Almighty God ! To Thee have I
committed my soul ; keep it and be gracious ; endow Thy
servant with power, so that I may not, through fear, give the
enemy occasion to mock. Hast Thou not upheld the holy
martyrs? I firmly believe that Thou wilt uphold me." When
summoned he said : " I thank my God, who calls me to him-
self; to Him I have lived; in Him I will die. My Saviour
died and rose again, that He might be Lord both of the dead
and living. Therefore I know that my soul will bear away
the victory ; that my body will rise ; and that it will be like
unto His glorious body." On passing the balcony he
stopped and addressed the judges. "Tell your Emperor," he
began, " that we are forced to submit to his unrighteous
iudgment now; but that hereafter he will have to undergo,
before the throne of God, a heavier and a righteous judg-
ment." Here he was interrupted by the drums which began
to beat so furiously that he could say no more. In removing
his doublet he found a small purse containing a Hungarian
ducat. He presented both to the clergyman, saying : " Here
are my last earthly possessions ; to me they are useless ; I
make them over to you." He took off also a gold medal
struck in memory of Frederick's coronation and requested
that it might be given to him in case he should regain the
throne. Then kneeling he cried : " Lord Jesus, have mercy
upon me and receive my soul ! " When he had thus spoken
his head fell.

The next to die was Baron Frederick von Bile (in German
Weiss), an upright and learned man, one of the Directors in
the time of the interregnum. He resigned himself wholly to


God and his last moments were distinguished by extraordinary

The seventh victim was another Director, Henry Otto von
Los ; under Frederick he had been connected with the
exchequer. He belonged to the Brethren's Church and was
a man of keen intellect and noble purposes. The sentence,
especially the quartering to which he was condemned, roused
his indignation and yet called forth implicit trust. " My
dear Emperor," he said, " strengthen your throne by shedding
our blood ; but remember, the day of judgment will reveal
what an account you will have to give to God. I have seen
barbarous peoples, but such barbarity — never ! To cut a
human body into four pieces ! Here to cast the head, there
the hands, and elsewhere the other members — what cruelty!
But let them send a portion of my body to Rome, another
portion to Spain, a third portion to Turkey, the rest across
the sea — I nevertheless believe that my Saviour will gather
and glorify them all ; and with these mine eyes will I see
Him, with these mine ears hear Him, with this my mouth
praise Him, with this heart of mine rejoice in Him forever."
Rosacius, after having attended Dworzecky to the scaffold,
entered the apartment of Los, who rose hastily from his chair
exclaiming : " Oh how glad I am that you have come, man
of God ! I sat on this chair," he continued, " lost in sad
thoughts because I was not permitted to see a priest of my
own Church and receive absolution and the sacrament at his
hands. I began to feel sorry and still regret, that I did not
accept both from you.^" Amidst such thoughts drowsiness
overcame me. I fell asleep and dreamt that the Saviour had
appeared to me and said, ' My grace is sufficient for thee, with
my blood I cleanse thee ; ' and that He had let a drop of
His blood fall into my heart. I awoke and sprang from my
seat wonderfully refreshed." Lifting up his hands to heaven

^^ Budowa and Los, from conscientious scruples, and believing that they
must set an example of consistency to the end, did not partake of the Lord's
Supper administered by the Lutheran ministers. All the rest, except
Dionys, received the sacrament.


he then gave praise like one inspired : " I thank Thee, Oh
blessed Jesus, that Thou hast deemed me worthy of such
abundant comfort, and that I have been made certain of Thy
blessed grace. Now I understand what it ' means, ' Believe
and thou hast eaten ;'^^ now I no longer fear death but die
with joy." On receiving the summons he begged Rosacius to
accompany him. Rosacius consented and said : " A moment
ago the Lord Jesus appeared to you in a dream ; in a few
moments more He will appear as He is seen by the saints in
His glory." Los replied: '* Yes, I am certain that, even
now. He is coming with his angels to meet and lead me to
the heavenly marriage, where I shall drink with Him the cup
of joy throughout eternity. Oh I know that death will not
separate me from Him!" All the way to the scaffold he
prayed silently ; when he had reached it he looked up and
exclaimed like Stephen of old : " Behold, I see the heavens
opened ! " As soon as he came to the fatal cloth, he fell
on his face and again prayed silently ; then rising he took off
his doublet, kneeled and cried aloud: "Into Thy hands.
Lord my God, I commit my spirit, have mercy upon me
through Jesus Christ and receive me, that I may behold Thy
Glory!" With these words he died. His body was not

He was followed by Dionys Czernin, the Catholic. When
Rosacius set forth eternal life through the merits of Jesus,
Czernin said : " Such is my faith also ; in this faith will I
die." He expected a pardon but was disappointed. A canon
of the Cathedral and a Jesuit went with him to the scaffold.
He paid no attention to their exhortations, refused their kiss
of peace, turned away from the crucifix which they held out,
and died as courageously as the rest.

The ninth victim was William Konechlumsky, aged seventy
years. Of the charge which brought about his condemnation
— that he had negotiated with the Margrave of Jiigerndorf
against the Emperor — he solemnly protested that he was
innocent, and rendered up his life with unshaken confidence.

21 " Crede et manducasti ; " the words of St. Augustine.


This aged confessor was followed by Bohnslaw vou
Michalowitz, a man of splendid talents, zealous for God,
deserving well of his country. He denied the justness of the
sentence, and maintained that the resort to arms on the part
of the Protestants had been the necessary result of a premedi-
tated plot on the part of the Catholics. " God knows," he
said, " that we wanted nothing except liberty of faith. Yes,
we will die ! God will acknowledge us as martyrs for His
own cause." His trust in divine grace never wavered and
his hope of everlasting life was both sure and steadfast. In
the early watches of the fatal morning he repeated the
promise of Christ, " Where I am, there shall my servant also
be,"-^ and expressed an intense longing to depart and be with
Him. When Bile was summoned, he exclaimed : " Why is
von Bile preferred before me in death, seeing that I have
always been preferred before him in life?" Clasping him in
his arms and kissing him, he immediately added : " Lead the
way, my brother, since so it pleases God, I will follow." But
when still others were called and no summons came to him,
he began to be seriously troubled. " What means this. Oh
my God !" he ejaculated. " Thou knowest that I am ready.
Hasten to take me." While he was yet speaking the clergy-
man, who was in attendance, saw the sheriff approaching and
said : "The glory for which you long is at hand." "Praised
be God !" replied the Baron, "earthly sorrows are at an end.
I hasten to Christ." He came forward to meet the officer
and died like a hero. Prior to decapitation his right hand
was cut off.

The name of John Theodore Sixtus, an influential citizen
of the AlMadt, was called next ; but when he reached the
scaffold he was pardoned.^^

Valentine Kochan, a citizen of the Neustadt and a learned

22 John 12: 26.

23 This pardon was secured through his nephew, Plateys, a canon of the
Cathedral. Sixtus was banished. The Hist. Persecutionum says : " While
we write this he is still standing, a living martyr, beneath the cross of
Christ." Cap. LXXI. He died at Dresden in 1653.


Master of Arts, who belonged to the Brethren's Unity, was
now summoned. In the course of his imprisonment he often
bewailed the unhappy diiferences among Bohemian Prot-
estants which had helped to bring about their overthrow.
His own faith was strong and his anticipations of coming
glory found frequent utterance in the words of St. Paul :
" Our conversation is in heaven ; from whence also we look
for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." ^* His wish to have
his son accompany him to the scaiFold that he might see him
die, was overruled by Rosacius. On the way he prayed
aloud; sang the eleventh verse of the sixteenth Psalm,
" Thou wilt shew me the path of life ; in Thy presence is
fullness of joy ; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for
evermore ;" and as he came out on the fatal platform repeated
the saying of Simeon, " Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant
depart in peace according to Thy word."^^ While on his
knees waiting for the stroke, he cried in Latin : " In manus
tuas oommendo spiritwn meum: redemisti me, Domine., Dens
veritatis.^' ^ These were his last words.

The thirteenth victim was Tobias Stoifek, a citizen of the
Neustadt. During the interregnum he had been a Director,
but, owing to frequent journeys, had taken no active part
in the Revolution. The time of his imprisonment he spent
in silent meditation and prayer. A man of gentle spirit and
tender sensibilities, he shed many tears at the prospect of an
ignominious death. But when the supreme moment arrived
he was strong and full of courage.

The illustrious Doctor John Jessen followed — a scholar, a
scientist and an orator, whose name and writings shed lustre
upon the University. His eflForts to win the Hungarians
over to the Revolution made him particularly obnoxious to
the court of Vienna, and his cruel sentence showed that the
Emperor entertained toward him feelings of the greatest

2* Phil. 3 : 20.
25 Luke 2 : 29.

=6 "Into Thine hand I commit my spirit, Thou hast redeemed me, O
Lord God of truth." Ps. 31 : 5.


bitterness. Prior to decapitation his tongue was to be cut out
and afterward his body to be quartered. " Shamefully and
barbarously do you treat us/' he said when this sentence had
been communicated ; " but know, there will come those who
will take the heads which you set up for a spectacle and give
them honorable burial."^ The Jesuits tried their utmost
to pervert him. In every instance they were discomfited.
He too, like Dworzecky, addressed the judges in the balcony,
boldly asserting that Frederick would yet reign over Bo-
hemia, but the drums forced him to desist.

And now the executioner came forward, in one hand a
knife, in the other a pair of pinchers, and told him to put
out his tongue. Jessen calmly obeyed. Seizing it with the
pinchers the man cut it off at the roots. Jessen fell on his
knees, a stream of blood pouring from his mouth. His lips
moved in prayer. The sound thereof was an inarticulate
moan. But it reached the mercy-seat. The next instant his
soul went home to God.

Jessen's body was not removed by the attendants, but
thrust into a sack and pushed aside. Later in the day it was
quartered without the walls. Its four portions were fastened
to four posts.

Christopher Kober, a citizen of the Kleinsdte, was the
fifteenth victim. In prison, he spoke of the glorious ex-
ample set by the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and
particularly by Hus and Jerome of Prague, and encouraged
his companions to stand fast and rejoice that they were
deemed worthy of a place in that noble army. When called
he said : " I am coming in the name of my God and am not
ashamed to suffer an ignominious death for the sake of His
honor. I know whom I have believed." With manly mien
and firm steps he crossed the scaffold. "Is it here," he
exclaimed, "that I am to die? I will not die but live,
and in the land of the living proclaim the wondrous works

^' This prediction was fulfilled in 1631, when the Elector of Saxony took


of God." Praying with great fervency he received the

Two burgomasters suffered next : the one John Schuhes,
of Kuttenberg ; the other Maximilian Hostlalek, of Saaz.
Both had been Directors during the interregnum ; and both
now yielded up their lives with a firm trust in Christ. The
head of Schultes was fastened to a post without the gate of
his town ; the head of Hostialek made a spectacle of in the
market place of Saaz.

And now came the turn of John Kutnaur, a councilor of
the Alistadt. He was but forty years of age — the youngest
but the bravest of all that suffered. To the Jesuits he
said : " We beg you, Fathers, do not try to confuse our
minds. The consolations which we enjoy, are sufficient."
But they persisted, until he sternly exclaimed : " Be silent !
We will not hear you ! Why do you trouble us and attempt
what is useless?" "They are as hard as a rock," said one
of them. " You are right," replied Kutnaur, " Christ the
rock can not be moved and upon Him we firmly rest." He
was condemned to be hung. " I do not know," he remarked
to his companions, " in what mode, whether by the neck, the
feet, or the ribs. This gives me no anxiety ; but I am pained
that my blood will not mingle with yours, dear fellow-
sufferers, and that we are not permitted to die together."
When summoned, those of his friends whose sentence had
been commuted to imprisonment thronged around him with
many tears. "Brethren," he said, "do not weep. Be men.
I am merely going before. The time is short; we will soon
meet again in heavenly glory." He walked to the scaffold
" with the courage of a lion," and while walking sang a
German hymn. With arms pinioned he was made to ascend
a ladder reaching to a beam which projected from a window
of the Council House. The noose having been adjusted
Kutnaur turned to the multitude and cried, in a voice so
clear and ringing that the drums and trumpets could not
altogether quench the words : " I am neither guilty of
treason, nor of murder, nor of any crime worthy of death. I


die because I have been true to my country and the Gospel.
God forgive all our enemies, for they know not what they do.
And Thou, Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me ; to Thee I
commend my soul." He ceased. The ladder was with-
drawn and his soul launched into eternity.

Kutnaur was followed by his father-in-law, Simon Sus-
sicky. When he heard the sound of the cannon he ex-
claimed : " Hark ! It is the signal of death. Let us obey
the summons and die ; let us yield to our enemies who can
not bear to see us live. But while we hope to suffer man-
fully, everlasting destruction awaits them, unless they repent."
He went singing to the scaflFold and was hanged beside
Kutnaur on the same beam. Their bodies swung close
together, face to face. " What hardened rebels these two
must have been," cried some with jeering laughter. " See,
even in death they are trying to hatch treason ! "

Nathaniel Wodniansky was condemned to suffer in the
same way. He showed himself strong in God. To the
Jesuits he said : " Under the pretext of rebellion you are
about to take our lives. But this does not satisfy you ; you
want our souls also. Would it not be better to let the shed-
ding of our blood content you? Sharp will be the sting
which we leave in your conscience." The day before the ex-
ecution his son John said to him : " My father, if life should
be offered you at the expense of your religion, forget not that
we are to serve Christ with faithfulness unto death." "My
son," replied Wodniansky, " I am glad to hear this admoni-
tion from your lips. But do you really imagine that I am in
danger of denying my faith ? By no means ! Therefore, I
exhort you, your brothers, your sisters, and your own children,
to follow in my footsteps, imitating that firm confidence of
which I will leave you an example." Not until he had
reached the scaffold was he told that he would be hanged on
a gallows erected in the middle of the Ring. As he was led
away he apostrophized the corpses of Kutnaur and Sussicky
still swinging from the beam : " Beloved associates, how sorry
I am to be separated from you and brought to a place even


more ignominious than yours." " If we suffer," said the
attending clergyman, "we shall also reign with Him."^
Accepting the promise which these words convey, he patiently
submitted to his doom.

Wenzel Gisbitsky, surnamed Masterowsky, a relative of
Plateys, fully expected to be pardoned. This expectation all
his companions shared, wishing him joy and commending to
him their wives and little ones. When he came to the scaffold

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 47 of 64)