Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 44, To a Friend
TO A FRIEND.
[An admirable confession of the infirmities of human nature. The latter does not struggle against evil only, for the flesh strives perpetually against the Spirit, and is not easily brought under its yoke. Reader, peruse this letter, and rejoice.]
Salutation to you, through Jesus Christ! Learn, very dear friend, that Paletz, in endeavouring to persuade me, told me that I ought not to dread the shame of an abjuration, but to think only of the good which would ensue from it. I answered, “The opprobrium of being condemned and burned is greater than that of sincerely abjuring. What shame should I fear, then, in abjuring? But tell me, Paletz, how wouldest thou act if thou wert assured that errors were falsely imputed to thee? Wouldest thou wish to abjure them?” “That, in fact, would be hard,” replied he; and he wept. We afterwards spoke of many things which I refuted.
“By the grace of God, we shall soon burn this heretic, on whom I have spent many florins.” Know, my friend that nevertheless I do not express in this letter a vow of vengeance: I leave it to God, and I pray for this man from the bottom of my heart., this miserable man, has appeared several times before my prison with the deputies of the Council, and whilst I was with them, said to the keepers,
I again exhort you to be prudent with my letters. Michael has forbidden that any person should be introduced into my prison, even the wives of my keepers. O Great God! how far does Antichrist extend his power and cruelty! but I trust that his reign will be cut short, and his iniquity laid bare, in the midst of a faithful people.
The Almighty God will strengthen the hearts of the faithful whom he has destined, from before the beginning of the world, to the crown of immortal glory. Though Antichrist shall exercise his fury as he pleases, nevertheless he shall not be able to prevail against Christ, who, according to the words of the Apostle, will destroy him by a single breath of his mouth; and the creature then shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and clothe itself, says the Apostle, with the glorious liberty of the sons of God! . . . . I am greatly consoled by these words of our Saviour, “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, 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, be hold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke vi.) An admirable consolation, though difficult, not to understand, but to receive well; for it invites us to delight in afflictions.
Saint James observed this rule, with the other Apostles. “Count it,” says he, “all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience; but let patience have her perfect work.” (St James, chap. i.) Truly it is difficult to rejoice thus with an unshaken heart, and to consider all trials as subjects for rejoicing: it is easy to say, but difficult to do it. He who was the most patient and the most intrepid, who knew that he should rise again the third day, should vanquish his enemies by his death, and redeem his elect from condemnation, was, nevertheless, troubled in mind after the Last Supper, and cried, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.” The Gospel informs us that he groaned and trembled; that an angel comforted him in his agony; and that his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. But, in his agony, he said to his disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled; for I shall be with you to the end of the world.”
And his valiant soldiers, their eyes fixed upon their Chief, the King of Glory, have endured a great combat. They have passed through fire and water, and have not perished; and have received from the Lord that crown, alluded to by St James, when he says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.” A glorious crown! which the Saviour will grant to me, I firmly hope, and to you also, fervent defenders of the truth, and to all those who persevere in the love of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has suffered for us, bequeathing us his example, that we might follow in his footsteps. It was necessary that he should suffer, as he himself has declared; and we, who are his members, must suffer with Him who is our Head; for he has said: “If any one will come with me, let him take up his cross and follow me!”
O Divine Jesus, draw us nigh unto thee, weak as we are; for, if thou dost not draw us nigh unto thee, we cannot follow thee. Fortify my spirit, that it may become strong and resolute. The flesh is weak; but let thy grace protect, assist, and save us; for without thee we can do nothing, and are, above all, incapable of facing, on thy account, a cruel death. Give me a determined mind, an intrepid heart, a pure faith, and perfect charity, that I may be enabled to lay down my life for thee, with patience and joy. Amen.
Written in prison and in irons, on the eve of the festival of St John the Baptist, who was decapitated for having risen up against the corruption of the wicked. May he pray for us to Jesus our Lord!
- Hist. et Monum. Johann. Huss, Epist. xxx.
- We remind the reader that the headings of the Letters being written by Luther, we have not in any way changed them.