Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 41, To John Cardinal

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LETTER XLI.[1]

 

TO JOHN CARDINAL.

 

[John Huss replies to the Father, that is to say, to the Cardinal,[2] clearly establishing, that it is better to die for the truth than to depart from it, though only a nail’s breadth, even under the false pretext of the good of the Church,]

 

May the Almighty God, sovereignly good and wise, deign to bestow on my Father eternal life, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Reverend Father, I am most grateful for your benevolent and paternal interest. I dare not submit myself to the Council in the limits that you trace out to me; whether because I should be obliged to condemn many truths that they term fraudulent; or because I should be obliged to perjure myself by abjuring and confessing that I had held errors, by which I have greatly scandalized the people of God, who have heard me say the contrary in my preaching.

If, then, in the Book of the Maccabees, it is written of Eleazar, a man of the ancient law, that he refused to lie, by confessing that he had eaten meats prohibited by the ancient law, for fear of acting thus against God, and leaving a bad example to posterity; how should I, a priest of the new law, although unworthy, through the terror of pain of a short duration, consent gravely to transgress the law of God, by keeping back from the truth, by perjuring myself, and, lastly, by offending my neighbour?

Truly, it is more advantageous to die than to fall into the hands of God by flying from a momentary evil, and perhaps afterwards to fall into the fire, and into eternal opprobrium. Therefore, since I have appealed to Jesus Christ, to the Judge sovereignly just and powerful, confiding to him my cause, I am resolved to adhere to his decision, and to his holy and sacred sentence, knowing that he will judge all men, not according to false witnesses, or to the errors of councils, but according to the truth, and their own merits.

 

 
  1. Hist. et Monum. Johann. Huss, Epist. xxxix.
  2. Luther erroneously believed that the person whom John Huss only designates under the name of Father, for fear of compromising him, was the Cardinal of Osti. J. Lenfant has clearly demonstrated that the person, to whom John Huss gives this name, was a monk called John Cardinal. (See the History of the Council of Constance, book iii.)

    The following is the form of revocation he invited John Huss to sign, and which Luther has inserted in the collection of John Huss’s letters, under the number xxxviii.

    “I, the undersigned, besides the protest which I have already made, and do here repeat, again protest, that although many things which I have never thought of have been imputed to me; nevertheless, for all the things which I am accused of, whether extracted from my works, or obtained from the deposition of witnesses, I humbly submit myself to the mercy, judgment, explanation, and correction of the Holy Council General, in order to abjure, revoke, and retract them. I will submit to penance, and will do all that the Holy Council shall decide in its mercy for my salvation, throwing myself on its indulgence, and recommending myself to it with entire discretion.”