Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 3, To Master Martin and to Master Nicolas of Myliezyn

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LETTER III.

 

TO MASTER MARTIN AND TO MASTER NICOLAS OF MYLIEZYN.

 

[He consults them on the subject of the interdiction pronounced against him from the pulpit.[1]]

 

May peace be with you, that peace that is not given with the world, with the flesh, and the devil. The Lord has said:—“You shall have tribulations in the world; but if you persevere in well doing, who can do you harm?” I burn with an ardent zeal for the gospel; and my soul is sad, for I know not what to resolve on. I have meditated on these evangelic words of our Saviour (John, chap. x.):—“The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep.”

I have also meditated on these words from St Matthew, (chap. x.):—“But when they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another.” Of these two precepts, so different to each other, which ought I to follow? I know not.

I have meditated on the letter of St Augustin, to an illustrious bishop, who consulted him in a like case. Augustin thus terminates his answer:—“He who takes to flight, and does not deprive, in so doing, his church of the evangelical ministry, does what the Lord has commanded him; but he who, in his flight, takes away spiritual food from the flock of Jesus Christ, is an hireling, who, when he sees the wolf approaching, fleeth, because he careth not for his sheep. It is because thou hast consulted me, well-beloved brother, that I write thee these things, which appear to me to be according to both truth and charity; but I invite thee not to follow my counsel, if thou findest a better. What can be more advisable, in such an extremity, than to offer up prayers to God to have pity on us, after the example of some holy men, who have obtained by their prayer, not to abandon the Church of God, and who have persevered in their good resolutions, even in the very teeth of their enemies?” Such is the opinion of St Augustin.

Inform me, then, if you acquiesce in these words; for although the necessary aliment of God’s Word is not wanting to my flock, my conscience reproaches me with my absence, as a scandalous act.

I fear, on the other hand, that my presence during the term of my interdiction might be the means of tearing this food away from my flock, and of depriving them of the Holy Communion and other advantages, which concern Salvation. Therefore, let us pray humbly to Almighty God, that he may deign to reveal to us what I ought to do in the present circumstance, in order that I may dwell in the right way. The advice that the blessed St Augustin expresses in his letter, is wise: he establishes in fact, that in circumstances where we may be anxious for ourselves alone, flight is permitted, and he cites on the point the example of St Athanasius; but should the whole flock be exposed, we must resign ourselves to our lot, in order to do what may prove most useful to the Church.

 

 
  1. He also asks his friends whether he ought to quit his church; and it is probable that he wrote this letter before leaving Prague.