Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 7, To the people of Bohemia

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LETTER VII.

 

TO THE PEOPLE OF BOHEMIA.

 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, so that, being delivered from sin, you may walk in grace, increase in modesty and virtue, and enjoy, after this life, life eternal! My well-beloved, I conjure you all who live according to God’s law, disdain not to occupy yourselves with the salvation of souls: be careful, when listening to the word of God, that you are not deceived by false apostles, who do not condemn sins, but who excuse them: they flatter the priests: they do not shew to the people their transgressions: they glorify themselves, extol their works, and exalt their own virtue; but they deign not to imitate Jesus Christ in his humility, in his poverty, in his cross, in his sufferings. It is of them our merciful Saviour has said—“False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and deceive many.” And to warn his elect against them, he has said to them, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves; ye shall know them by their fruits.” And truly the followers of Christ have the greatest need to be prudent and careful; for the Saviour has said, “insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.” Watch, therefore, my beloved, through fear of falling into the snares of Satan. It is necessary you should be the more circumspect in proportion as Antichrist places in your way greater obstacles. The last judgment is nigh, death will swallow up many, but the kingdom of God is waiting for his elect, since for them he delivered up his body. Fear not death; love one another; and endeavour, without ceasing, to understand the will of God. Let the terrible and formidable day of judgment be present ever before your eyes, for fear that you may sin; think also of the joys of eternal life, to which all your efforts should be directed; think also of the passion of our Saviour, that you may bear with humility all things with him and for him; for if you bear in mind his sufferings and his cross, nothing will appear too rigorous for you; you will accept, without murmurings, tribulations, calumnies, outrages, chains; and, should it be required, you will not hesitate to lay down your life for the holy truth. Know, dearly-beloved, that Antichrist has recourse, in his rage against you, to divers persecutions; but he has been powerless against a great number; he has not been able even to remove a single hair from their heads ; learn to know him by my example, although he is violently irritated against me. Wherefore, I conjure you all to intercede for me in your prayers at the throne of God, that he may grant me wisdom, mildness, patience, as well as strength, to keep always in the heavenly truth. It is that which has already conducted me to Constance; and during the whole journey I have publicly and openly declared my name, as became a servant of God. Nowhere did I conceal myself; but in no place have I found more dangerous or declared enemies than in this city; and I should not have had them for adversaries, if some Bohemian impostors, for the money which they had received, and seduced by avarice, had not persuaded them that I mislead the people from the good way. But I have good hope, by the mercy of our Saviour and your prayers, that I shall persevere until death in the immutable truth of our Heavenly Father.

Know, lastly, that every one here has his duty assigned him; I alone am neglected. It is the Pope who has regulated every thing here. I recommend myself to our sweet Lord Jesus Christ, to the true God, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, who ransomed us by a bitter death, and not through our merits, from eternal punishment, from the power of the devil and sin.

On Saint Fabin’s eve (January 19), written at Constance, 1415.