Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 31, John Huss's Reception by the Council

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[John Huss relates with what horror and rage he was greeted by the Council.]


I, Master John Huss, in hope, servant of Christ, and ardently desiring that believers in Christ may not, when I shall have ceased to live, find in my death an opportunity for scandal, and look on me as an obstinate heretic, do take to witness Jesus Christ, for the sake of whose word I have wished to die; and I leave in writing the remembrance of these things for the friends of truth.

I had often declared, both in private, in public, and before the Council, that I would consent to an inquiry, and would submit myself to instruction, abjuration, and punishment, if it was demonstrated to me that I had written, taught, or disseminated, any thing contrary to the truth. But fifty doctors, who stated that they were deputed by the Council, having been frequently corrected by me, and even in public, for having falsely extracted articles from my works, refused me any private explanation, and declared that they would not confer with me, saying You ought to submit yourself to the decision of the Council. And the Council mocked when, in the public audience, I quoted the words of Christ and the holy doctors; at one time they reproached me with misunderstanding them, and, at another, the doctors insulted me.[2]. . . .

An English doctor, who had already said to me in private, that Wycliffe had wished to annihilate all science, and had filled his books and his logic with errors, began to discourse on the multiplication of the body of Christ in the consecrated host, and, as his arguments were weak, he was told to be silent; then he cried out: “This man deceives the Council; take care that the Council be not led into error as it was by Berenger.” When he was silent, another discussed noisily concerning the created and common essence. All began to clamour against him. I then demanded that he might be heard, and said to him, “You argue well; I will answer you most willingly.” He also broke down, and he added in a sullen voice: “This man is a heretic.” The Seignior Wenceslaus Duba, John de Chlum, and Peter the notary, valiant champions and friends of the truth, know what clamours, what unworthy raillery and blasphemies were poured upon me in this assembly. Stunned by so much noise, I said, “I thought there was to be found in this Council more decency, more piety, and more discipline.” All then began to listen, for the Emperor had commanded silence to be observed.

The cardinal who presided said to me—“You spoke more humbly in your prison.” I answered—“It is true; for then no one clamoured against me, and now they are all vociferous.” He added—“Will you submit to an investigation?” “I consent to it,” replied I, “within the limits which I have fixed.” “Take this for the result of the inquiry,” resumed the cardinal, “that the doctors have declared the articles extracted from your books to be errors, which you ought to efface, in abjuring those already testified against you by witnesses.” The Emperor afterwards said—“This will soon be committed to writing for you, and you will answer it.” “Let that be done at the next audience,” said the cardinal; and the sitting closed. God knows how many trials I have suffered since![3]

  1. Hist. et Monum. Johann. Huss, Epist. xv.
  2. John Huss alludes here to a discussion, not very intelligible, on the community of the essence in the Divine Persons. We give it in the original: Quidam autem cardinalis supremus concilii, et a concilio deputatus in publica audientia, accepta una charta, dixit: Ecce unus magister sacræ theologiæ præsentavit mihi argumentum istud, dicatis ad illud. Erat autem argumentum de essentia communi, quam concessi esse in divinis. Postea ipso deficiente, quamvis reputaretur doctor theologiæ valentissimus, dixi sibi de essentia communi creata, quæ est primum esse creatum communicatum singulis creaturis: ex qua ipse volebat probare remanentiam panis materialis, sed notabiliter ad metam nescientiæ argumenti reductus obmutuit.
  3. For the detailed account of this second audience, consult The Reformers before the Reformation, vol. ii, book iv. chap. 4.