Joseph Priestley.

A general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) online

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efcape a profecution. The king wifhcd to prevent
it,- and expuftulated with h m in private ; but his
teply to the king was as follows : ' i ever was a
*' dutiful fubjett to your majefly, and I hope ever
" will be. Next to G )d I profefs obedience to
*' my king, but as to the fpiritual dominion of the
*' pope, I could never fee on what foundation it
" is claimed, nor can I pay him any obedience.
" As fure as God's word is true, to me it is fully
*' evident, that he is the great Antichrift foretold
*rin holy writ." This bold anfwer fhocked the
king fo much, that he left him to his fate. In his
examination before the archbifhop, he behaved
with equal lirmnefs ; and on the fubjeft of the
Lord's fupper would only fay, that the elements
contained the body and blood of Chrift under the
fimilitude of bread and wine. Perceiving that he

G g 3 gained


gained nothing by his manly addrefs to his judges,
he faid, aloud !.o the pcrfons prefent : *' So thefo
♦' are your guides, good people, for the mofl fla-
*' grant tranfgreffions ot God's nioral law was I
** never once called in queflion by them. I have
*' cxprefTed fome diflike to their arbitrary appoint-
^' rnents and traditions, and 1 am treated with un-
^' paralleled fevcrity. But let them remember the
"denunciations of Chrift againft the Pharifees.
*' All fhall be fulfilled." This threw the court in-
to fome confufion ; but the archbifliop keeping to
the fubjeft of the eucharift, afked him whether, af-
ter the words of confecration, there remained any
material bread. He replied, *' the fcriptures make
*' no mention of the word 7natcriaL I believe
^' that Chrift's body remains in the form ot bread."
When he was told that their do£lrine was the de-
termination of the church and holy doQors, he re-
plied, " I know none holier than Chrift, and the
^' apoftles, and this determination is furely none
<« of theirs. It is plainly againft fcripture. I be-
*' lieve the fcriptures, and all that is founded upon
" them, but in your idle determinations I have
♦' no belief."

Thro' the whole of his examination he behaved
with equal fpirit. When the cenfure of the church
was pronounced, he faid, " You may condemn my
^' body. My foul you cannot hurt;" and after a


Sec.X. the christian church. 4,71

proper addrefs to the people, he fell on his knees,
and begged God to forgive his enemies. He was
then fent to the tower. While his adverfaries
feemed to be irrefolute about wnat they fhould do
with him, he made his efcape ; and flying to
Wales continued ihere four years. He was then,
however, apprehended, on the idle pretence of
having encouraged the affembling of twenty thou-
fand men in St. Giles's fields, with a view to de-
throne the king ; and then both as a traitor, and
a heretic, he was burned alive, being (ufpcnded
with an iron chain, and fire put under him at Ty-
burn, a punifhment which he bore with the greatefl
fortitude. This was in a. d. 1414. See his Lt/e
ly Mr. Gilpin.

In the eighth feflion of the council of Conftance
forty-eight articles of the opinions of WicklifFe
were condemned, and he himfelf being alfo con-
demned as an obllinate heretic, his bones were or°
dered to be dug up and thrown away.




OJ John Hus and Jercme of Prague^


HE fteps of Wickliffe were followed
with equal zeal and ability by John Hus, a native
of Huffinets, a village in Bohemia, from which he
had his name. When the difciples of WickHflPe
were perfecuted in England, many of them left the
country, and fome of them went as far as Bohe-
mia, where many of the Waldenfes, and perfons
of fimiiar principles, had taken refuge before.
Alio a Bohemian nobleman, who had ftudied at
Oxford, and a great admirer of him, brought the
books of WicklifFe to Bohemia. Thefe were read
by many perfons, and among others by John Hus,
then a young pried, a man of great genius, and a
fluent fpeaker, a mailer of arts in the univerfity
of Prague, and preacher in a church which had
been endowed by a rich citizen of the place. He
had alfo a great advantage in being confefTor to
Sophia, the wife of Wincellas king of Bohemia,
and in having a great afcendancy over her. He
openly preached the do6lrines of WicklifFe, and
on all occalion enlarged in his praife. But before
this time it is faid that Bohemia, and even Auftria,
was full of Lollards, there being no fewer than



eighty thoufand, and many of them fealed their
teftimony againft the corruptions of the church of
Rome with their blood.

In the feventeenth century the Waldenff s vvere
allowed to fettle on the Saltz, the Lawn, and the
Eger in Bohemia : nor was popery ellubLlhed in
that country till the fourteenth century, and then
not by the confent of the people, but by the powef
and artifice of Charles IV. Two of his chaplains
endeavoured to perfuade him to curb the pope^
and reform the church ; but both of them were
banilhed. One of them, whofe name was Jano-
vius, and who had ftudied at Paris, being a man
offenfe, learning, and piety, was a great friend of
reformation, and both preached and wrote againfl
the corruptions of the times. Before he died he
faid, *' At prefent the fury of the enemies of truth
*' prevails againft us, but it will not he fo always.
*' Men will arife without fwords or power, and
" againft them they will never be able to prevail."
Rcbinfon, p. 479.

Hus was preceded by John Mllicius, a native
of Moravia, a canon and preacher in Prague. He
contended for the communion in bodi kind's, was
a popular preacher, and a man of an auftere life.
He died in a. d. 1374, and left fermons and other
works. L' Enfant' s Bafic, p. 14.

Gg 5 ^n


In this ftate of things the minds of great num-
bers would be well prepared for the preaching of
fuch a man as John Hus. In a. d. 1408 and
1409 he diftinguifhed himfelffo much by his de-
clamation againll the two popes, who then divided
the obedience of the Chriftian world, and againft
the church of Rome itfelf, that the aichbifhop of
Prague declared him a fchifmatic, and forbad his
preaching. He alfo ordered all the books of Wick-
lifFe to be burned. But Hus having now acquired
a great fhare of popularity, being re6lor of the
univerfity, and having got much credit by afTert-
ing the privileges of native Bohemians in it againft
the Germans, he paid no regard to the fentence of
the archbifhop, or to the bulls of pope Alexander
V, which had been procured to fupport them.

The followers of Hus continually increafing,
the affair was carried before John XXIII, who
had fucceeded Alexander ; andhe fummoned Hus
to appear before him at Bologna ; but being fup-
ported by the queen, by the king himfelf, and by
the univerfity, he excufed himfelf. He, however,
fent three perfons to appear for him ; and the king,
by whofe interpofition Hus had made his peace
with the archbifiiop, requefted that the pope would
content himfelf with fending legates into his coun-
, try to corre6l any abufes they might find there;
fufBciently intimating that there were none. Hus,



however, not appearing in perfon, according to
the citation, was declared to be contumacious,
and as fuch was excommunicated by the cardinal
Colonna, to whom had been committed the cog-
nifance of the affair. An appeal being made from
the fentence of the cardinal, the pope again fum-
moned him to appear before himfelf, and appoint-
ed four commiflaries to hear the caufe.

It does not appear that Hus paid any regard
to thefe meafures of the pope. For in the begin-
ning oflhe year a. d. 1411, he not only excom-
municated him, but laid the city of Prague under
an irterdift, while he ftiould be in it, excepting
one particular church. This being the caufe of
much diiTention and even fome bloodfhed in the
city, Hus retired from it to Huffinetz, the place
of his nativity, and there publifhed an appeal from
the fentence of the pope to the holy trinity. At
the fame time he addrelTed himfelf to the cardinals,
propofing to give an account of his faith before the
members of ihe univeriity, and all the clergy, and
laid he would fubmit to their fentence, tho', in
confequence ot it, he fhould be condemned to the
flames. In this abfence from Prague he preached
in feveral towns and villages, followed by great
crouds of people, and then hepubifhed a treatife
to fhew that the books of heretics ought not to be



John XXIII having pablifhed fome violent
bulls againft Ladiflas, Kus, who had returned to
Prague, took the opportunity to declaim againft his
€ondu6l:, as exciting Chriflians to fhed the blood
of one another, and alfo againft indulgences, and
crufades in general, and challenged the dodors to
difpufe with him on the power of the pope with
iefpe6l to fuch crufades. On this a new champion
on the part of Has appeared, viz. Jerome of Prague.
He was neither a clergyman, nor a monk, but
having ftudied in feveral of the rnoft celebrated
univerfities of Europe, and taken the degrees of
bachelor and mafter in theology ; he had been in-
vited by the king of Poland to regulate the uni-
verfity of Cracow. Thence he had gone into Hun-
gary, where he was accufed of herefy ; and going
thence to Vienna, had been put in prifon, but was
delivered at the requeft of the univerfity of Prague.
He now made a long harangue in fupport of the
thefts of Hus. By this time the friends of Hu4
being very numerous, and one provocation pro-
ducino- another, fome of them infulted thofe who
were preaching the papal indulgences; and on their
Calling the pope Antichrift, three of them were
apprehended by order of the fenate, and beheaded
in the night, their friends honouring them as mar-,
ty rs.



The next year the pope published another
bull againft the errors of WicklifFe, and the HuCr
fites, ordering the books of the former to be burii^
ed, and citing Hus, and all his partifans to appear
zX Rome in nine months. To this citation Um
paid no regard, but continued to declaim as viOf
Jently as ever againft the abufeg of the church
pf Rome., Tivo years after this, viz;, m a. b«
^414» the pope iffued another citation, but Hu$
replied, that the pope being only a pried like him-
felf, he had no authority to judge him. On the
other hand, he fixed up in his church of Bethlehem,
a writing in which he accufed the clergy of fix er-
rors, viz. I . their aiTerting ^hat in the celebration of
the eucharift they created their creator ; 2. their
believing in the virgin, the pope and the faints; 3^
their pretending that whenever they pleafe they
can remit the punilhment and the guilt of fin; 4,
that fuperiors are to be obeyed whether their
commands are juft or unjufl: ; 5. that every ex-
communication, jufl; or unjufl, binds the perfon
excommunicated. The 6th related to fimony.

The pope gaining nothing by thefe citations
wrote to the king, to engage him to ufe every
means in his power to extirpate the dodrine of
Hus in his dominions ; bat this prince paid na
moir^ regard to thisrequifition than Hus himfeif.



The council of Conftance being now aflem-
bled, Hus was glad of the opportunity, which he
flattered himfelf it would afford him, of juflitying
himfelf, and fpreadinghis principles ; but he form-
fid a very wrong judgment of the fpirit of that af-
fembly, and the temper and power of his advcrfa-
ries. He had, however, the precaution to get a
fafe conduQ: from the emperor Sigifmond, which
fhould have enfured his fafety, both in goincr thi-
ther, during his flay, and till his return. Truft-
ing to this, he fet out for Conflance with great
confidence ; publifbing in all the places he went
through, that he went to juflify himfelf from the
accufations that had been brought againft him,
Winceflas, for his greater fecurity, fent with him
three Bohemian lords, and they arrived at Con-
ftance Nov. 3, A. D. 1414. But notwithftanding
his fafe conduct, and the remonflrance of the empe-
ror, he was prefently after his arrival ordered to
be taken into cuftody, and eight articles of accufa-
tion brought againft him ; i. his having tought
that the laity ought to communicate in both kinds;
2. thai; in the facrament of the altar the bread
remains bread after confecration ; 3. that pricfts
in a ftate of mortal lin cannot adminifler the facra-
ments, but that laymen in a ftate of grace may do
it ; 4. that by the church is not to be underftood
the pope and the clergy ; that the church cannot



hold temporal poffeffions, and that the lay lords
may take them from it ; 5. that Conflantine and
the other princes did wrong in endowing the
church ; 6. that all priefls are equal in authority,
and that ordinations, and cafes referved to the
popes and the bifhops, are the effe6l of ambition ;
7. that the church has not the power of the keys,
when the pope, and the cardinals, and all the cler-
gy are in a ftate of mortal fin. Lallly, he was
charged v/ith defpifing excommunication, having
always performed divine fervice during his jour-

For his defence againfl thefe accufations, he
was not allowed to have any advocate, this being
a privilege never granted to any perfon accufed of
hcrefy. He was not, however, difcouraged, and
his mind was fo much at eafe, that during his con-
finement he compofed feveral treatifes. It wa^
evidently with reluctance that the emperor aban-
doned him ; but when the commiflTaries appointed
to try Hus applied to him, he faid, that, as it was
a cafe oi herefy, they were at full liberty, willing
to have it fuppofed that, in this cafe, he had no
power to give a fafe conduct. But of this Hus
ought to have been apprized in time, that if he
had come, it might have been underftood that it
was at his own rifque. The Bohemian nobility
faw the cafe in this light, and made eameft re-



monftrances againfl his imprifonment; but the
clergy having him now in their power, and hav«
ing the confent of the emperor, would hear no
reafon. He continued two months a prifoner with
the Dominicans, and then was transferred to the

In the fifth feflion of the council, in which the
decree of a council held in Rome, to punifh all
thofe who did not burn the books of Wickliffe
was confirmed, commiiTaries were named to judge
in the affiir of Hus ; and they omitted nothing to
induce him to retradl his errors. But, tho' inpri-
fon and fick, he replied to all their charges, and
till he had a public audience of the emperor, which
he was made to believe he fliouid have, he was put
into the cuilody of the bifliop of Conllance, by
whofe order he was confined in the fortrefs of Got-
ieben beyond the Rhine.

On the fifth of June a. d. 1415 he was ex-
amined before the council, after having been
trought once more to the prifon of the Francifcans,
when he denied his having ever alTcrted that the
fubflance of material bread remained in th? cofl*
fecrated elements, or that he had maintained ^ny
of the errors of WickiifFe. He acknowledged,
however, his having laid that he ou^^ht not to have
been condemned unheard, and that he thought he
was faved, and willied that his foul might be with

him ;


him ; and that he agreed with him in the opinion
that Conflantine had done wrong in giving eftates
to the chujch, and that tythe was ahus, tho' the
people were under obhgation to pay them.

A^ his third audience his adverfaries, having
carefully perufedhis writings, extrafted from them
th'.rty-nine heads of accufation, among which were
the followmg. " Si:. Peter neither was, nor is, the
" head of the Cathohc church. The papal dignities
*' came from the emperors. Wicked priefts only
** profane the facraments. No heretic ought to be
•' pumfhed corporally. The appeal to Jefus Chrift
** makes the judgment of the pope and of the coun-
" cil of no efFeft. Interdi6ls are unlawful. A prieft
*' who lives according to the law of Chrifl ought to'
*' preach, notwithflanding any excommunicaiion
" whatever." Atter being long urged to confefs his
errors, and fubmit to the council, in which the ^
emperor joined his examiners, he perfifted ia
defending himfelf, and was remanded to prifon.

On the 6ih ol July Hus, being produced be^
fore a full council, folemnly appealed to the tri-
bunal of Jefus Chrift. This. was imputed to him
as a crime, and it was decreed that his books fhould
be burned, and himfelf degraded. While thefe
fentences were pronouncing, he was on his knees,
denying the obftinacy with which he was charged,
and praying for his judges and accufers. After
Vol. IV. H h bis


his degraflation, by taking off," one by one, his fa-
cerdotal habits, he was declared to be a layman,
and delivered over to the fecular pov/er, the con-
feqaence of which was his being ordered to be
burned alive. When they wf^re conducing him
to the place of execution, they led him by the
place where his books were burnmg. But nothing
they could d ) made any imprefTion on him. He
kept reciting pfilras all the way to the (lake ; and
to the lafl fliewed the greatefl fortitude and piety.
His enemies acknowledged that no philofopher
fufFered death with fo much firmnefs. After his
death his afhes were thrown into the river, to pre-
vent their being colleded, and preferved as relicks,
by his followers; but it is faid that in lieu of them,
they fcraped up the earth on which he had flood.

It does not appear that Hus denied any proper
article of the Cafholic faith, or that he recommend-
ed any of the writings of WickliiFe except thofe in
which he declaimed againft the corruptions of the
court of Rome. But he had made himfeifmany
and bitter enemies onfeveral accounts. He was a
Hrenuous Realijl, and zealous oppofer of the No-
minalijls, who were numerous at Prague, and the
virulence tvith which thefs two parties in the fchools
oppofed each other had no bounds. And the coun-
cil of Conflance v/as very much governed by Ger-
. fon, v<^ho was a Nominalift. Hus had alfo made



himfelf many enemies among the Germans, who
had moft influence in the council, by his conduct
with refpecl to the univerfity of Prague. MoJJieim,
Vol. 3. p. 228. 230.

As Hus held the real prcfcnce, and all the other
do6lrinal articles of the church of Rome, the true
motives for his condemnation mufl; have been his
refpefl for the memory of Wickliffe, whom he per-
fifted in maintaining to have been a holy man, and
his vehement declamations againft the corruptions
of the court of Rome, and of the clergy in general.
His fentiments on this fubje6l were not different
from thofe of many of the moft refpeflable members
of the council, but they had not addrefTed the com-
mon people on the fubjeft, fo as to endanger thd
tranquility of any flate, as Hus did.

The Flagellants were, in fa6l, more hoflile to
the church of Rome than Hus. They made no
account of any of its facraments, they denied the
real prefence and tranfubftantiation ; and with
refpeft to ecclefiaftical abufes of all kinds they
went beyond WicklifFe or Hus, befides holding
other opinions ftill more offenhve, if what is gene-
rally faid of them by Catholic writers be true. But
notwithdanding this the council pafTed no cenfurc
upon them, but endeavoured to gain them by
■ gentle meafures, efpecially by winning over Vin-
cent Fcrner who favoured them, and whofe preach-

H h 2 • inor


ing was always attended by great crouds of therh.
In reality they probably confidered them as a fet of
furious fanatics, who would only be driven to greater
exceffes by fe verity. They, therefore, wifely left
the evil to cure itfcif But this was not fo likely
to anfwer with the Huffites, whofe proceedings
we'-e more calm and rational, and therefore more
likely to produce ferious and permanent efFefts.
L'Enfant's Con/lance. Vol. 2. p. 90.

The news of the execution of Hus excited the
greateft difturbance m Prague, where his difciples
honoured him as a martyr. The lords of Bohemia
^ and Moravia, to the number of fixty, wrote to the

council, complaining of their conduft in condemn-
ing Hus as a heretic, without proving him to have
been one ; and giving him the greateft encomium,
as a faithful minifter of the gofpel, irreproachable
in his doftrine, and morals. It had been well if
the friends of Hus had only afled in this manner.
But without confidering the • genuine fpirit of
Chriftianity, or following the doctrine and example
of their mafter, they affembled in arms, and not
only plundered the houfes of the archbifhop, and
the clergy, but put feveral perfons to death.
Not flopping here, and expeding that force would
be employed againft them, they formed themfelves
into a regular army, and gave the command to
John de Troxnow, commonly known by the name



of Zifca, which ligmfies one eyed, he having loll
the other in a battle, in the wars of the king
of Poland againft the Teutonic knights; and
who was at that time chamberlain to Winces-
las. But the events of this unchriftian and deft i act-
ive war will be related in the next period of thi?
hiftory. I return to the account of Jerome of

Jerome went to Conftance out of zeal to com-
fort and ferve his friend Hus, and arrived there
April 4th, A. D. 1415; but perceiving, by the
fituation in which he found things, that he could
not ferve him^ and might endanger himfelf; and
finding that he would not be allowed a public au-
dience before the council, he fled to Uberlingen,
whence he wrote to the emperor, and the lords of
Bohemia, ior a fafe condu6i:; which, after fome de-
lay, was granted, but artfully drawn, as it pro-
mifed him falety in going to the council, but ex-
preffed nolhing about his return. Having, how-
ever, no fufpicion of artifice, he returned, and fixed
a^vriting to all the churches and monafteries in
Coii lance ; fignif) ing his readinefs to attend the
council, in order to give an account of his faith,
and even undergo the punilhment of herefy if he
could be proved to be a heretic. No attention
being paid to what he had done, he fet out on his

H h 3 return


return to Bahemia, but was arrefted on the road,
and conduced to Conftance, as a prifoner.

Being examined with refpeft to his flight, and
his opinions, he anfvvered with grc^ modefty and
firmnefs ; and fome oi the examiners mentioning
the punifhment of fire, he faid he fubmitted to the
Vv'ill of God, if that was their pleafure. Being re*
ii^anded to prifon, he fell fick, and being over-
looked he continued in prifon till May the year
following; and in that interval Hus was executed.
The members of the council heanng of the difturb-
■ance occafioned by their proceedings with refpeft
to him, took great pains to induce him to recant,
and at length they fucceeded. In the prefence of
the council, he read a form of recantation that was
drawn up lor him, m which he condemned the
errors of WicklifTe and lias, and declared his be-
lief of the Catholic faith, on the fubjeds of the
power of the keys, the facraments, indulgences, re-
licks. &c. See. but notwitadanding this, he was flill
detained a prifoner, the fincerity of his recantation
bein-T^ fufpecled, and there being a difpoGtion in
the majority to find hun a heretic, and purilh hini
as fuch, after they had difgraced him.

Whether he was fully apprized of this or not,
does net appear. However, repenting of what he
had done, he requefled a public hearing, with a
;Yiev,-, as he faid, to explain his fcntiments 5 and



it was granted; after being warned that if he per-
fifled in his errors, he would be treated with the
greatefl rigour. To this he made no objeftion ;
and being permitted to fpeak, he began with com-
plaining of the injuftice of his judges, and palled
loan high encomium on Hus; laying that he came
to Conllance to fupport him, that he gloiied in
holding his fentiments, and that nothing but the
fear of death had been his motive for retracing
them. This retraftation he revoked, as the great-
eft crime with which his conlcience was burdened.
He declared his approbation ol the do6lrines
of Wickiiffe and Hus, excepting what Wick-
liffe had advanced concerning t/ie eucbarift,

Online LibraryJoseph PriestleyA general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) → online text (page 27 of 30)