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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were preaching on the indulgences and encouraging the people
to buy them, three young mechanics, each in a different church
and, no doubt, according to previous agreement, publicly pro-
tested against what was said, exclaiming : " Priest, thou
liest! We have heard better things from Master Hus; the
indulgences are a fraud !" The offenders were instantly
seized and beaten, hurried to the Council House and stretched
on the rack, brought before the magistrates and condemned
to death. When Hus heard of this occurrence he presented

* This is the testimony of a Koman Catholic, Berger, p. 77. The address
of Hus is found in Hist, et Mon., I. pp. 215-235.


himself, at the head of two thousand students, before their
judges and begged that the lives of the young men might
be spared. He said, that he did not approve of their course,
but that it was the outgrowth of his teachings and that he
alone must bear the blame. Meantime the whole city became
profoundly agitated. A mob gathered around the Council
House, so that the magistrates were alarmed and begged Hus
to pacify the people, promising to grant his request. But
scarcely had he induced the multitude to disperse when they
ordered the immediate execution of the culprits. They were
led to death under a strong guard. When the people dis-
covered this breach of faith they again rushed together from
every side, blocking the way and rendering an advance im-
possible. Thereupon the offenders were summarily beheaded
in the street. A great cry of rage burst from the multitude.
Many pressed forward exclaiming: " We are ready to do and
suffer what these have done and suffered !" Women dipped
their handkerchiefs in the blood of the slain. A company
of students headed by a Master arrived, seized their bodies
and reverently bore them to the Bethlehem Chapel, where
Hus buried them the next day, with all the rites of the
Church. In his funeral discourse he extolled the young men
as martyrs.

The stand which he took against the papal indulgences
was a turning point in the history of the Bohemian Reforma-
tion. A number of his friends deserted him, as he had
anticipated, and some of them, notably Stanislaus of Znaim
and Palec, became his most embittered enemies. But among
the nobility and the lower classes he gained new su})porters.
Wenzel himself, although the three young men had been
executed in consequence of his own edict, was indignant that
it had been so literally understood, and allowed Hus to pursue
his way unhindered.

Stanislaus and Palec, together with six other Doctors of the
University, made two attempts to subdue him, but failed.
He was too completely armed with the weapons of truth and
used them with too much skill. Then the clergy of Prague


came to their aid. Through the instruraentality of Michael
of Deutschbrod, later known as Michael de Causis,^ who had
defrauded the King, fled to Rome and there become a fit
associate and tool of John the Twenty-third, they once more
appealed to this Pope, denounced Hus as a "son of iniquity,"
and pitifully called for protection from the fierce wolves that
had invaded the flock .^

John the Twenty-third hastened to the rescue. Hus was
again excommunicated, and in the severest form known to
the papacy. No man was to associate with him ; no man was
to give him food or drink ; no man was to grant him a place
where he might rest his head ; wherever he staid, religious
services were to cease; in case of his death, he was not to
receive Christian burial.^ At the same time, the interdict at
Prague was renewed. Subsequent decrees commanded the
faithful to seize his person and lay the Bethlehem Chapel even
with the ground. An attempt to take him was actually made,
on the second of October, 1412, while he was preaching, by a
large body of armed men, mostly Germans, but the firm atti-
tude of the congregation prevented this outrage. Nor would
the Bohemian portion of the citizens permit the razing of the
Chapel, proposed by the Germans. Over against such ex-
periences Hus prepared an appeal from the papal tribunal to
Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge, which document he read
from the pulpit and publicly posted.^ Meantime the interdict
was so strictly observed at Prague, that Wenzel begged him

^ John the Twenty-third appointed him Procurator de causis fidei, hence
this name.

* Supplicatio cleri facta papae contra M. J. Hus, Palacky's Documenta,
p. 460.

5 Petri Cardinalis S. Angeli mandata de M. J. Hus excommunicatione,
Palacky's Documenta, pp. 461-464.

« Hist, et Mon., I. p. 22, etc. Palacky's Documenta, pp. 464-466. Ac-
cording to the sermon which Hus preached on the second Sunday after
Easter, it would appear that he left Prague for a short time immediately
after the attempt to seize him, prepared his appeal while absent, and read
it after his return. (Hus Predigten, Part I. p. 56.) Krummel is the only
authority that notices this point. It seems to be obscure.


to retire from the city for a time, promising to use every effort
to bring about a speedy pacification. Hus obeyed and left
Prague in December.

The King kept his word. First he consulted the College
of Twelve Elders, the highest body of advisers in the realm,
and at their suggestion a Provincial Synod was convened in
February, 1413, which, however, failed to restore peace.
Next he appointed a commission which was as unsuccessful,
owing chiefly to the intractableness of Palec and Stanislaus.
Thereupon, in great wrath, he banished both these leaders,
together with two other prominent Professors of theology.
This measure put an end to the disputes but not to the two
parties. Both at the Synod and before the commission Hus
was represented by John of Jesenic.



Hus in Voluntary Exile devotes himself to Literai'y Lohors.
A. D. 1412-1414.

Hus at Kozi Hradek and Krakowec. — His Literary Labors in the Bohemian
tongue. — His Latin Works. — His Views on the Bible. — Summary of
his Doctrines. — Natural State of Man. — Predestination. — Faith and
Justification. — The Church. — Its Head and the Power of the Keys. —
The Papacy. — Eights of the Laity. — The Word and Sacraments. —
The Virgin Mary and the Saints. — Purgatory. — Obedience.

Hus spent a year and seven months in voluntary exile.
His first retreat was Kozi Hradek, the castle of Baron John
von Austi, on the Luzuik, near Austi -^ his second, after
Baron von Austi's death, Krakowec, the seat of Baron Henry
von Lazan. He devoted himself, in part, to preaching in
villages, forests and fields, whither the peasantry streamed
from all sides to hear him, but chiefly to literary labors. The
majority of his Bohemian and Latin works were produced in
this period.

Of the former he wrote fifteen, several of which have
never been translated.^ The most important are his Postil
and a Treatise on Simony. His merits as a Bohemian writer
can not be overestimated. What Luther did for the German
language, and Calvin for the French, Hus accomplished
for the Czech. Each was the father of his native tongue in

^ This castle was situated in the immediate neighborhood of the town of
Tabor, the celebrated centre of the Taborites. Anna von Mochow, Baron
Austi's widow, became one of the most ardent supporters of the Hussite

^ The Bohemian works of Hus, entitled Mistra Jana Husi Spisy Ceske,
&c., were published for the first time by K. J. Erben, Prague, 1865-1868.


its modern form. Hus purified the Czech, fixed etymological
and syntactical rules, and invented a new system of orthogra-
phy distinguished for its precision and simplicity. This
system was adopted by the Bohemian Brethren, who brought
it into general use in the sixteenth century, since which time
it has remained the acknowledged standard. He also revised
the Bohemian Bible translated by an unknown hand, in the
fourteenth century, and composed many hymns which mostly
appeared in the Hymnals of the Brethren.^

His Latin works comprise theological treatises, academical
discourses and polemical writings.* The most celebrated of
them is the Treatise on the Church, with its two supplements,
the one a reply to Palec, the other a refutation of Stanislaus.^
Nearly one-half of these works are reformatory in their
character, and afford a clear insight into the doctrinal system
of Hus.

His views with regard to the Holy Scriptures are of primary
importance. In all questions of Christian faith and life — so
he teaches — the Bible is the only infallible norm. Hence
there is but one proof which can be acknowledged as sufficient
in the case of such doctrines as are essential to salvation:
namely, " Thus say the Holy Scriptures, either directly or
indirectly.'"' This position, however, does not require us to

3 The German Hymn Book of the Renewed Church (edition of 1778)
contains two hymns, Nos. 857 and 1124, ascribed to Hus. The latter, found
also in the new edition of 1875 (No. 809), is called a translation, by Luther,
of the Latin hymn given in Hist, et Mon., II. p. 520. But it is not a
translation ; scarcely a paraphrase. In the same way the so-called English
version (Liturgy and Hymns, Am. ed., 1877, No. 637) differs greatly both
from the Latin and the German. Hus composed the hymn in prison, on
receiving his last communion.

* Many of them are found in Hist, et Mon.; Krummel, p. 304, &c., counts
up seventeen ; Palacky in his Hofler, p. 38, says, that not nearly all the
Latin writings of Hus are contained in that collection, and that a number
which are ascribed to him belong to Matthias von Jano^. Hofler in his
second vol. adduces several that had not previously been pablished.

^ Tractatus de Ecclesia, His. et Mon., I. pp. 243-365.

^ " Hoc dicit Scriptura Sacra explicite vel implicite.' Hist, et Mon.,
I. p. 364.


reject the doctrinal explanations of the fathers, or the decrees
of Councils, or the laws of the Church, provided that such
explanations, decrees and laws agree with the Word of God,
or are deduced from the same either explicitly or by implica-
tion. For even that which is merely implied may be accepted,
if it be not contraiy to the explicit instructions of the sacred
volume. Hence what the fathers, the Councils and the
Church teach, constitutes, as long as it is in harmony with
the Scriptures, merely the old truth in a new dress.^ At the
same time, however, the Bible remains the only source of truth.
This is the fundamental position of Hus to which he always
returns and from which he investigates the doctrines of the

Those relating to God and His attributes, to the creation,
preservation and government of the world, to the Trinity, to
the person and work of Christ, and to the Holy Ghost and
His operations, he accepts in their authorized form. With
regard to others he differs, more or less decidedly, from the
views of the- Church, Krummel says, that the reformatory
tenets of Hus led him back to the side of Augustine from
whose position the Church of the Middle Ages had lapsed f
Lechler, that, like an ellipse, these tenets contained two foci,
the one of which was the law of Christ, that is, God's Word,
the other, the true Church.^"

A brief summary of the views of Hus will serve to prepare
the way for a correct understanding of the doctrines of the
Brethren who, in many instances, followed him closely.^^

■f Krummel, pp. 360-368.

* His views with regard to the authority of the Scriptures are set forth
fully in De sufficientia Legis Christi, Hist, et Mon., I. p. 55, &c., which
treatise he prepared as a part of his defence before the Council of Constance.

9 Krummel, p. 376.

1" Lechler, II. p. 233.

" Authorities for this summary are the Tractatus de Ecclesia and other
theological writings of Hus in the Hist, et Mon.; Lechler, II. pp. 233-270 ;
Czerwenka, I. pp. 89-92; Schwabe's Reformat. Theologie des J. Hus;
Friedrich's Lehre des J. H.; and especially Krummel's excellent review in
his 15th, 16th and 17th chapters.


We begin with the natural state of man. " Man, on
account of sin is blind, impotent, full of error and exceedingly
poor. He is blind, because he does not properly recognize
God ; impotent, because he is unable to accomplish anything
in the way of his own salvation ; full of error, because he
does not walk in the holy laws of God, which are the way
of God ; and poor, because he has lost everything which he
possessed.'"^ He cannot fulfill the divine laws without pre-
venient grace.^^ In consequence of the fall, "Adam lost his
dominion over nature, met death and subjected all his pos-
terity, even the new Adam, to death. "^^ There is a difference
between original and actual sin. No personal guilt attaches
to the former, nevertheless in as much as all men fall into
actual sin, the human family is, by nature, lost, ruined and
depraved. ^^ The natural man can accomplish nothing really
good and virtuous.

Proceeding to the doctrines involving salvation, we find,
in the first place, that there are sayings of Hus which imply
predestination in its gross form ;^^ but on comparing them
with others relating to the same subject, his position becomes
milder and more scriptural. Thus he teaches that the grace
of God is universal ; that it is God's will that all men should
be saved ; that He does what He can, consistently with their
free will, to bring about their salvation ; that the lost are
condemned in consequence of their unbelief which makes them
unwilling to accept salvation, and that, hence, the fault is

»' Hus Predigten, II. p. 30.

'^ "Nisi praeveniens ejus adjuvet charitas." Com. Ps. 118, Hist, et
Mon , II. p. 433.

^* De Decimis, Hist, et Mon., I. p. 162.

'^ Com. Chap, iv of 1 Cor., Hist, et Men., II. p. 148. Hus uses the expres-
sive term, borrowed from Augustine, "massa perdita," or "massa perdi-

'^ For instance: "Christ loves His Church, which is His spouse, always
and will love her after the day of judgment, and in the same way He
hates every one who has been foreknown as lost (quemcunque praescitum),
and will hate him always after the day of judgment." De Ecclesia, Hist,
et Mon., I. p. 250.


altogether their own. He never speaks of a decree of repro-
bation, and unites predestination with the foreknowledge of

His views on faith and justification bring us, in the next
place, to a position which is evangelical in a surprising degree.^^
True faith works by love and endures to the end ; there is a
dead faith which even the devils have and tremble. The former
alone saves.^^ Faith "is a state of mind in which eternal life
begins in us and induces our understanding to assent to the
unseen but irrefutable truths which the inspired Scriptures
reveal in a divine way."'" " It is the foundation of the other
virtues with which the Church of Christ is in fellowship. "^^
Such faith alone justifies. "Through the law no one is justi-
fied, but through faith in Christ, because He removes from
us the way of iniquity through the law of grace."^^ " Jesus
Christ is the Mediator of our salvation,"^ " the ground of all
merit in the members of His Church."^ Krummel adds :
" The mode in which Hus represents the theory of justifica-
tion is, however, very diifereut from that of the later Re-
formers. He does not conceive justification to be a merely
objective occurrence, a judicial act of God, but, being con-
nected with faith, he looks upon it also as a subjective occur-
rence in man. Thus he says : ' If there is no time to do
good works, faith alone is sufficient, as is shown by the case
of the malefactor on the cross. But if there is time, then not
faith alone, and not works alone, but both together are neces-

" Ibid.

^* It is interesting to note, that while Krummel, following Schwabe, asserts
the position of Hus on the subject of justification to be " wholly Protestant,"
Lechler, following Friedrich (a Catholic), maintains that it is wholly Koman
Catholic !

^^ De Ecclesia, Hist, et Mon., I, p. 259.

^" Com. on Chap. I. of St. James, Hist, et Mon., II. p. 182.

21 De Ecclesia, Hist, et Mon., I. p. 259.

22 (1 pgj legem nemo justificatur, sed per fidem Christi, quia amovet viam
iniquitatis, et de lege gratiae." Com. Ps. xviii (xix), Hist, et Mon., II. p.

*^ Com. Chap, i, of 1 Corinthians, Hist, et Mon., II, p. 132.
2* Sermo, lb., p. 79.


sary for salvation and justification.' Justification and sancti-
fication, faith and love, he conceives to be one. Grace,
which produces faith, produces also in man a religious moral
regeneration, in the strength of which he loves God and man
with all his heart and, of necessity, performs good works."^^

In regard to the Church Hus expresses his views at great
length.^" The representation given in the twenty-fifth chapter
of St. Matthew shows,^ that the Church is the communion of
all men under Christ as their King. Hence it consists both
of sheep and of goats. The holy catholic or universal
Church, on the contrary, comprises those only who have been
predestinated unto everlasting life by the omniscient God.
It includes such as live on earth, such as are dead, and such
as are yet to be born ; all these are the sheep. Distinct from
them are the wicked who live in impenitence, whether they
are outwardly in fellowship with the true members or not ;
these are the goats.

The holy catholic Church is composed of three parts : the
militant, or the predestinated on earth ; the sleeping, or the
predestinated in purgatory; and the triumphant, or the saints
in their eternal rest. This is the only true Church, and no
human agency, but God alone, can make a man a member
of it. For there is a great difference between being of the
Church and in the Church. The predestinated are its mem-
bers, and Christ is its only head. He, too, constitutes its sole
foundation ; not Peter, nor the Popes. Christ is the rock
on which the Church is built ; Peter is the Church, which has
received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The power of
the keys is general and particular. In virtue of the former,
every Christian has the right to engage in spiritual work,
such as teaching, advising, warning and comforting ; in virtue

^^ Kruramel pp. 389 and 390. This was essentially the position of the
Brethren in the time of Bishop Luke of Prague.

^'^ Tractatus de Ecclesia, in 23 chapters.

^' "And before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate
them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats."
Matt XXV, 32.


of the latter, the clergy preach the word and administer the
sacraments. The whole system of the Romish papacy is
radically wrong. It rests upon the false assumption that
Christ made Peter pope. Christ never transferred His
authority to one apostle ; Peter never claimed the primacy.
A single man, mortal and fallible, cannot possibly govern
the Church scattered over the whole earth. This tendency
to centralization is dangerous. There ought to be national
churches, not one ecclesiastical government in the heart of

The laity have rights and privileges in the Church as well
as the clergy and the civil rulers. It is the duty of civil
rulers to help the laity to secure these rights, so that their
voice, too, may be heard in the management of ecclesiastical
affairs. Remembering the age in which he lived, this position
of Hus is very remarkable.

Among the means of grace which have been appointed in
the Church, the Word and the Sacraments attract his special

As regards the former, its divine origin, power and suffi-
ciency, and the fact that it has been given for the salvation
of man, captivate his whole heart. He urges that it must be
absolutely free; that neither the Pope nor a Bishop, nor any
other man, has the right to prevent humble ministers from
preaching ; that papal or episcopal permission to proclaim the
Gospel need not be given to a Presbyter or Deacon; that
such priests as renounce this duty through fear of excommu-
nication, or such laymen as, constrained by the same fear,
desist from hearing the Word, betray Christ ; that an excom-
municated minister is not bound to relinquish preaching until
it has been fully established that there are sufficient grounds
for his excommunication.^ This last point Hus consistently
carried out in his own case.

^^ Defensio quorundam Art. J. Wicliff. In primo Actu. Determinatio
J. H., de Praedicatione et Auditione Verbi Dei, Hist, et Mon., I. pp.
139-146. As this title shows, the most of the above points were either
articles of Wycliffe defended by Hus, or deductions from such articles.


His conviction of the inestimable price of the Word and
of the transcendent importance of proclaiming it is further
shown by the interesting fact, which Lechler has pointed out,^
that the earliest letter extant from his hand urges upon the
Archbishop of Prague the necessity of providing for the
preaching of the Gospel, and that his last letter, written a
week before his death, closes with the solemn admonition,
addressed to Hawlik, his pupil, in charge of the Bethlehem
Chapel: "Preach the Word of God."

As concerns the sacraments, Hus recognizes seven of them,
namely. Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Penance, Confirmation,
Ordination, Marriage and Extreme Unction, and defines them
in the authorized way;^** but he protests against ascribing
efficacy to them as an opus operatum, and teaches that God,
not the priest, gives them efficacy, of which faith on the part
of the recipient is an absolute condition. Hence, in the ease
of the Lord's Supper, while he accepts the doctrine of tran-
substantiation, he sets forth the believer as the only worthy
partaker of this sacrament, who alone receives the essence
of it, that is, the grace of being united with the Lord Jesus
Christ f^ and, in the case of penance, ascribes the real power
to forgive iniquities exclusively to God, and looks upon
genuine contrition of heart and a sincere confession of sin as
essential. ^^

The views of Hus on the Virgin Mary and the saints are
undecided. Sometimes he teaches the Eomlsh doctrine and

29 Lechler, II. p. 234.

^" The scholastic divinity of tUe age in which Hus lived accepted seven
sacraments; they were not sanctioned by the Church until 1439, at the
Council of Florence. Lechler, II. pp. 248 and 249.

^1 "Rem sacramenti, quae est gratia, qua unitur Domino Jesu Christo.''
De Sacramento corporis et sanguinis Domini, Hist, et Mon., I. p. 51.
Also, De Corpore Christi in Sacramento Altaris," Hist, et Mon., II., pp.
511-512. After Hus had gone to Constance, Jacobellus of Mies began to
advocate the giving of the cup to the laity, and Hus approved of this
position, in several letters and in a treatise entitled : De Sanguine Christi
sub specie vini a Laicis sumendo. Hist, et Mon., I. pp. 52-54.

32 De Ecclesia, lb. I. p. 267.


then again seems to reject it; at all times, however, he warns
against the abuses to which the invocation of the Virgin and
the saints may lead, and, in particular, against the idolatry-
practiced with pictures and relics. Adoration, in the true
sense, is never to be given to a creature.^^

He believes also in the existence of purgatory and does
not condemn prayers for souls that are there undergoing
purification. The Bible, he says, gives no warrant for such
intercessions, but they naturally grow out of the communion
of saints. In this case too, however, he protests against the
evils which the usage produces, and denounces the sale of
masses for the dead and the avariciousness of the priests in
encouraging this practice. Nor does he fail to teach that
salvation can be gained on earth alone and that the surest
way to eternal life is to follow, in this life, the instructions of
Christ and the Apostles.^^ " But who knows of a single soul
that has been freed from purgatory by thirty masses ?"^^

Finally we find that Hus treats, with much force, of
obedience and brings it into connection with the papacy .^^
" Nothing," he says, '' constitutes a more essential part of
religion than the obedience which men owe to God."^'' But
there is a difference between true and false obedience. True
obedience is, to do the will of God ; false obedience, to do
what is contrary to the will of God. True obedience consists
in refusing to fulfill any command which is injurious to the
Church, or interferes with the worship of the Lord, or stands
in the way of one's own salvation. Even the Pope and his

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 6 of 64)