Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 13, To the Hearers of the Word of God at Prague

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LETTER XIII.

 

[He impresses on the believers of Prague the necessity of zeal, and of a desire to hear God’s Word, and recommends them not to renounce these things on account of the scandals arising from wicked preachers.]

 

I desire ardently, dearly-beloved, that you may be delivered by Jesus Christ from all your sins, and that, despising the vanities of this world, you may overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. I am anxious that, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, you may suffer all things with patience, with a view to salvation, and that you may persevere even unto the end in your trials and afflictions. That is what I demand for you, dearly-beloved, in my prayers; for God is my witness that I laboured for upwards of twelve years in the vineyard of the Lord, and that my greatest consolation in my ministry was to perceive your zeal in listening to the divine Word, and the serious repentance of a great number.

Wherefore, dearly-beloved, I conjure you, by the passion of Jesus Christ, to hold firmly to his Gospel, and so to conduct yourselves that it may bring forth fruit in all your actions. Be not shaken in your faith, and regard not those who, having placed only an uncertain foot in the path, have turned aside elsewhere, and have become the most violent enemies of God and of his disciples.

You know, dearly-beloved, that Christ’s disciples, who held converse with him, withdrew, and refused to follow him farther. Yet Christ came to separate men from one another, for he has said—“I have come to separate the son from his father, and the daughter from her mother.” And also—“You shall be delivered up to men, and persecuted for my name’s sake.” And in order that we may not be shaken by this abandonment of his disciples, or frightened by persecution or death, our Saviour added—“A hair of your heads shall not fall without the will of God.” If, then, a single hair cannot perish, how can believers themselves perish? Wherefore, dearly-beloved, preserve a real faith and a sure hope; remain steadfast in the love of God’s Word; listen with the most ardent affection to those whom the Saviour has sent you, in order that they may preach his Gospel with constancy, and resist the devouring wolves and false prophets of whom Christ has spoken, when he said—“False prophets will come, and will lead astray many.” Christ teaches believers to beware of them, and to recognise them by their works, which are avarice, simony, contempt of God’s Word, persecution of believers, calumny, zeal for human traditions, &c. These men, in fact, wear sheep’s clothing: they assume the externals of the Christian, and, as they are, within, devouring wolves, they rend and devour Christ’s flock. It is of such that Christ has said to his disciples:—“Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves; be, then, prudent as serpents, and simple as doves.” Let them be prudent, said he, that they may avoid, like serpents, to allow themselves to be crushed, and to permit the head of the Church of Christ to perish in them: let them be simple as doves, in order to suffer with patience the cruelty of the wolves. And we, dearly-beloved, already behold these wolves clearly before us; but let us not suffer them to lead us astray, and turn from the path by which we are striving to arrive at heavenly joys.

Preserve firmly faith, hope, charity, humility, mild ness, justice, modesty, temperance, sobriety, patience, and the other virtues, adorning yourselves with good morals and good works. Rejoice that you suffer persecution, for Christ has said—“Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for behold your reward is great in heaven.” Who, then, is there that possesses faith, hope, and charity, who will not support with patience, contempt, and ignominy, for the love of his Saviour, when he is well assured of receiving a hundredfold advantage in everlasting life?

In the expectation of these things, remember this saying of Christ, that “an affliction shall come such as never had been seen from the beginning of the world.” And why? the Apostle tells us—“that a time shall come when men will not receive the sound doctrines, but will listen to false teachers with greedy ears;” they will leave the truth and cling to fables. Thus is now accomplished the prophecy of St Paul, who declares, that all who desire to live purely in Christ will suffer persecution; and the impious will triumph in their ruin. Receive, therefore, dearly-beloved, the exhortation of St Peter; beware of allowing yourselves to be led astray with others, by the error of the wicked; do not permit your mode of life to be disturbed ; but increase in the grace of God, in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and pray that God may graciously accord happy success to my preach ing, wherever a want of it may be felt, in the towns and villages, fields and forests, in every place where I may be useful, in order that the word of God may not be stifled in my mouth; uphold and console each other under the protection of God the Father, of his well-beloved Son, and of the Holy Spirit, who can preserve you from all evil, and procure for you eternal joy. To him be praise and glory for ever and ever. Amen.