The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/A Fruitful and Christian Exhortation of the Bohemians, to Kings and Princes, to stir them up to the zeal of the Gospel

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This proclamation was signed by 5 Hussite leaders, although there seem to be only four at the end of this document, because the last one, "Samssmolich", consists in fact of two misinterpreted signatures: Savis, Smolich. Of these five leaders, only Procopius and Conrad have been identified with certainty.

3093125The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, Volume 3 — A Fruitful and Christian Exhortation of the Bohemians, to Kings and Princes, to stir them up to the zeal of the GospelJohn Foxe

A Fruitful and Christian Exhortation of the Bohemians, to Kings and Princes, to stir them up to the zeal of the Gospel.

May the Almighty God the Father, by his well-beloved Son Jesus Christ, by his Holy Spirit, open the understanding both of you and of all Christians, and enlighten your hearts with the light of his doctrine of righteousness, and make you to continue therein surely established to the end! This we desire of you for your salvation, all ye honourable, wise, and honest noble men; and all the commonalty, yea rich and poor, hear and consider with diligent heed the words of this present letter, which is sent unto you from the country of the Bohemians.

The pope and prelates, by their letters, stirred them to fight.It is manifest and well known to you and many other cities, kings, princes, and lords, that now a certain number of years there hath been great discord betwixt us and you; and there have been some who have moved you by letters, and provoked you to make war against us, and to destroy us. And, as well on your part as on ours, many men, as well noble as unnoble, have foolishly lost their lives. Yet never hitherto have ye in any part understood our faith by our own confession, neither whether we be able to prove the same out of the Scriptures, yea or no; and yet, in the mean time, kings, princes, lords, and cities, have sustained great damage. And hereof we greatly marvel that you do so much trust and believe the pope and his priests, who give you drink full of poison, and such comfort as no man can understand, in that they say that they will give you forgiveness of all your sins,[1] and great grace and pardon, to this end, that you should war upon us and destroy us: whereas their graces and pardons are none other than great lies, and a great seducing of the body and soul of all them that believe them, and put their trust in them. This we would prove unto them, and overcome them by the holy Scripture; and we would suffer, that whosoever is desirous to hear, the same should hear it. The pope seduceth the world with vain promises of things which he cannot give.For the pope and all his priests herein deal with you, as the devil would have done with our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Luke writeth [chap. iv.]. That he brought him upon a high hill, and showed unto him, in the twinkling of an eye, all the kingdoms that are in the compass of the earth, and said unto him, 'I will give thee,' &c. So the devil deceiveth the pope and all the priests, with the riches of the world, and worldly power; and they think they can give grace and pardon when they will; and they themselves shall never find favour before Almighty God, except they repent and make amends, because of their great deceiving of Christendom. And how can they give that to others, which they themselves have not? So did the devil, who was rich in promising, and poor in giving. The devil and the pope rich in promising, and poor in giving.And like as the devil is not ashamed to tell a lie, so all they are not ashamed to speak that which shall never be found true, nor be proved by the holy Scriptures; because for no cause they stir up kings, princes, lords, and cities, to make war against us, not to the end that christian faith should thereby be defended, but because they fear that their secret vices and heresies shall be disclosed and made manifest. For if they had a true cause, and a godly love to the christian faith, they would then take the books of the holy Scripture, and would come unto us, and overcome us with the weapons of God's word: and that is our chief desire. For so did the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to the Pagans and Jews, and brought them from their infidelity to the true faith of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this they did in the spirit of meekness, as the apostle Paul writeth in Galatians vi. 'Brethren, if any man be grieved,' &c. So ought they also to do, if they perceived that they were just and we unjust. And if we would not abide instruction, then they might take to them kings, princes, lords, and imperial cities, and resist us according to the commandments of the holy Scripture. False pretences of the papists. Huss and Jerome, by wrongful violence, put to death.But this is the subtle defence of all the bishops and priests, that they say that Master Huss and Jerome, who were burnt at Constance, were overcome by the holy father the pope, and by the whole council. For ye must understand that they were not overcome by the Holy Ghost, but unjustly, with wrongful violence, which God may yet hereafter grievously punish in all them that gave their counsel and aid thereto. And they say, it ought not to be suffered, that we should be heard in confessing our faith.[2] How may that be proved by the holy Scripture, since Christ heard the devil, as it is written in Matt. iv.? and they are not better than Christ, nor we worse than the devil. If they be just and have the truth with them (as they say they have), and we be unrighteous, why do they fear, since the truth ought not be afraid of falsehood, as Esdras writeth in his second book, chap. iii. Zerubabel declared that truth is of all things the most mighty, and overcometh all things. For Christ is the truth [John xiv.], 'I am the way, the truth,' &c.; and the devil is the father of lies, [John viii.]; 'He is a liar from the beginning, and never abode in the truth, and there is no truth in him.' Therefore, if the pope and his priests have the truth, let them overcome us with the word of God. But if they have lies, then they cannot long abide in all their presumption. A just and godly request of the Bohemians.Wherefore, we exhort and beseech all the imperial cities, all kings, princes, noble men, rich and poor, for God's sake and for his righteousness, that one of them write hereof to another, and that there may be some means made, how we may commune with you safely and friendly, at some such place as shall be fit both for you and us; and bring with you your bishops and teachers, and let them and our teachers fight together with the word of God, and let us hear them, and let not the one overcome the other by violence or false subtlety, but only by the word of God. And if your bishops and teachers have better proofs of their faith out of the holy Scripture, than we, and our faith be found untrue, we will receive penance and satisfaction, according to the gospel; but if your bishops and teachers be overcome of ours by the holy Scripture, then do ye repent and hearken to us, and hold with us. And if your bishops and teachers will cease from their spiritual pride, and repent and make satisfaction, then we will help you according to our power, and will compel them, either to join with us, or else we will expel them out of Christendom. And if your bishops and teachers will say, that it is not lawful for laymen to hear such reasoning, or to be present at it; that may you understand to tend to no other end, but that they fear they should be overcome and put to shame in the sight of you. Wherefore the pope's clergy will abide ne conference with the laity.For, if they knew that they should overcome therein, out of doubt they would desire that every man should hear it; and thereby their glory should become the greater, and their fame and praises should be increased upon the earth. And if your bishops and teachers counsel you to come to no hearing with us, then do it, whether they will or no; and suffer not yourselves, at any time, to be so foolishly seduced with their foolish pardons, but tarry at home in your houses with your wives and children. And let the pope of Rome come to us with all his cardinals and bishops, and with all his priests, with his own person and power, to war with us, and let themselves deserve the absolution of sins, grace, and pardon, which they preach to you (for they have great need of forgiveness of sins, grace and pardon), and, by the grace of God, we will give them pardon enough as they shall need. The pope's pretensed excuse detected.But their subtle excuse is this; they say, that it belongeth not to priests to fight with bodily weapons: and true it is, that belongeth not to them; but it belongeth as little to them to stir up, to counsel, and to fortify others thereto. For Paul saith in Romans i., and Galatians v., detected, that all that do such things are worthy of everlasting death.

Experience of God's blessing, where the pope hath cursed.And if ye will not determine to do any other thing than to fight against us, then will we take the Lord to our help, and his truth, and we will defend it to the death, and we will not be afraid for the excommunication or curse of the pope, or his cardinals, or of the bishops; because we know that the pope is not where the God, as he maketh himself, that he can curse and excommunicate when he will, or bless when he will; who hath now these many years cursed and excommunicated us, and yet, notwithstanding, God and his gracious blessing have been our help. Objection.But, peradventure, ye will say, that though we see that bishops and priests be evil and wicked, yet we cannot lack them; for who should baptize our children, who should hear confessions, and minister the holy sacraments? and then also we should be within the excommunication of the pope, and of his bishops. Answer.Well-beloved! ye need to take no care for these matters. The excommunicating of the pope hurteth you nothing. Fear ye the excommunicating of God, and the Lord will provide for those things well enough. If ye would banish evil bishops and priests, ye should have good priests who should baptize your children, hear confessions, and minister the holy mysteries; because when the devil is banished, then place is made for the Holy Ghost: so when ill bishops and priests shall be banished, then place shall be made for good priests and bishops. Also, your bishops and priests say, that we are miscreants and heretics, and that we believe not on purgatory, nor upon the Virgin Mary, nor upon the saints; wherein they say ill, for we will prove, by the holy Scripture, that we know better, by God's grace, how we ought to believe upon purgatory, and upon Mary, the mother of our Lord, and upon his well-beloved saints, than they can tell us. The pope's false accusation answered.Also they say, that we will not be obedient unto the pope. Truly, when he shall become holy and just, then know well that we ought to be obedient to him in all things, and not before. They say, also, that we destroy God's holy service, in that we destroy monasteries, banishing thence the wicked monks and nuns. Truly we did it, thinking once that they were holy, that they did the reverend service of God; but after that we well perceived and considered their life and works, then we perceived that they were false lowly hypocrites, and wicked builders on high, and sellers of pardons and masses for the dead, and such as devoured in themselves the sins of the people. And whereas they said that they rise at midnight when other men sleep, and pray for the sins of the people—forasmuch as their selling of their prayers and masses for the dead for gifts, is no better than hypocrisy and heresy; therefore, if we do speak against them and destroy their monasteries, we do not therein destroy the service of God, but rather the service of the devil, and the schools of heretics: and if ye knew them as we know them, ye would as diligently destroy them as we do. For Christ our Lord did not ordain any such order, and therefore it must needs come to pass that shortly it shall be destroyed; as our Lord saith in the Gospel of St. Matthew [chap. xv.], 'Every plant which my Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.' We desire you also, that ye would diligently consider the articles here written, wherein your bishops and priests are guilty.

Abuse of popish religion in making priests, cardinals, &c.The first article is, That when your bishops will ordain priests, they do it not except he that is to be made priest have sufficient living, either of inheritance left him by his parents, or of benefices: whereas notwithstanding, Christ would that priests should be poor, forasmuch as it is enough for the scholar to be as his Master is, and for the servant to be as his Lord is; and the bishops will that they should be rich upon earth, which is unjust before the Lord.

The second article is, 'That bishops take money of such as are to be ordained; but St. Peter did therefore sharply rebuke Simon Magus, when he would have given him money, as it is written in Acts viii.

Abuse of popish religion in taking orders.The third article is, That they that come to be priests, enter into priesthood, popish not for God's service-sake, because they mean to preach and increase it among the christian people, so as the people may be edified and made better, but rather for an idle life, and that they may eat well and drink well, that they may be honoured and reverenced upon earth. For every one waiteth upon his priest as a thief and a robber, as John writeth, chap. x.

Popish excom-
munication abused.
The fourth article is, Of excommunication, which the pope and all his priests take to themselves, and therewith fetter and bind all christian people as they will; and they think that whosoever they excommunicate or curse, he is abused, accursed and excommunicated before God. And we will prove by the holy Scripture, that they themselves are excommunicated and accursed before God, because they keep not the commandment of the love of God, whereof the apostle writeth in 1 Cor. xvi., 'If any man loveth not our Lord Jesus Christ, he is excommunicated in the day of the coming of the Lord.' For they cannot excommunicate you, who are already bound and excommunicate before God and his saints; and, therefore, why fear ye their excommunication?

The pope's church poisoned with buying and selling their praying and singing, and all their doing for money.The fifth article is, That they take gifts to pray for the dead, and to say mass for their souls. This is a wickedness and heresy before the Lord, and all they that contribute to them to this end, do wickedly, for that hereby priests become merchants of prayers and of masses; and herewith is all the church of Rome poisoned and defiled. For if they would pray for the dead, and say mass for their souls, yet no man ought to hire them thereto, forasmuch as they ought to take no gifts, neither little nor great. And every one that taketh rewards to this end, to redeem souls out of purgatory, doth therewithal cast his own soul down into hell; and they that give any thing to that end, do altogether lose that which they give. And with such devilish subtlety the pope with all his priests have deceived, spoiled, and disherited kings, princes, lords, and knights, and good householders, and many others, of their lawful inheritances; because their ancestors and progenitors gave them to colleges, monasteries and churches, that they might make memorials of them, and sing or say prayers or masses for their souls, that they might be redeemed out of purgatory.[3] And, with such goods, bishops, canons, and monasteries have made themselves so rich, that now they fall at variance with cities and princes:[4] and whereas they should procure peace betwixt cities and rulers, there they are the first that begin war; and as long as they have such goods, they will never cease to be at strife with lords and cities, neither will they begin to teach you the true foundation of the truth. For they do as a dog, which as long as he holdeth a bone in his mouth and gnaweth it, so long he holdeth his peace, and cannot bark; even so, as long as they have this bone of pleasant riches, it will never be well in the world. Wherefore, ail kings, princes, and imperial cities would do a great work of godliness and mercy, if by them they were compelled to do this, as the dog is, when the bone is taken from him.

The subtlety of the devil in making the church rich.And, therefore, ye noble men, kings, princes, lords, imperial cities, and all the commonalty, both rich and poor, if ye have been asleep, yet now awake and open your eyes, and behold the subtlety of the devil, how he hath blinded the church of Rome, and take again that which is yours, and not theirs. And if you will make a good memorial for your souls, then do as the wise man saith [Eccles. xix.], 'Lay up alms.' &c.

The sixth article is, That they are full of pride and of high mind; which is manifestly known by their long, costly, and superfluous garments, wherein they walk very unlike to Christ our Lord, who had a garment without a seam, and to the well-beloved John Baptist, who had a garment of camels' hair; and they will be honoured and worshipped; and they preach and say that priesthood ought to be honoured (and so it ought indeed to be); Popish priests with their long and sumptuous gowns, more like to the Pharisees htan Christ.

The Pope's church poisoned with covetousness and whoredome. The pope's church and monasteries poisoned with devilish envy.
but there are none that do so much slander and abase it, as they themselves, with their evil works and gay apparel, and with their evil words, wherein they pass all other men. St. Paul saith [1 Tim. iii.], 'Let the elders that govern well, be honoured with double honour; chiefly, they that labour in the word and doctrine of the Lord.' Consider what he saith, 'They that govern well.'

The seventh article is. That they are covetous, from the highest to the lowest and for covetousness they preach many foolish deeds and manifest lies, and sell the holy sacraments, which is a great heresy; for God commanded that they should give freely. St. Paul writeth [1 Tim. i.], 'Covetousness is the root of all mischief, whereunto many have been given; and, therefore, they are separated from the faith, and have denied the truth.'

The eighth article is. That they commonly are called 'Notorious whoremongers,' This is manifestly seen in their concubines and children, who walk with openly in all men's sight, and make many men's wives adulterous, or corrupt their daughters being virgins, and make them priests' harlots, and ribalds.

The ninth article is, That they are full of devilish envy; and especially in all monasteries they have great envy and hatred amongst themselves, because when any thing is given or disposed to one monastery or college, then there are others that hate it, and envy at it, and would more gladly have it themselves: like as among dogs, when any thing is given to the one and not to the other, which the other seeing, envieth his fellow, and the other likewise will rather devour all himself, than give any part to his fellow. Wherefore it were well that they were brought from that great sin of envy, by giving nothing unto them; and it were better that their possessions were taken from them, and that they should do that which the Lord spake to his disciples, saying, 'Go ye and preach the gospel to all men.'

The pope's church poisoned with idleness and belly-cheer.The tenth article is. That they are idle, and chiefly the bishops, canons, and other prelates, who will not labour diligently in the holy Scripture, wherewith they might cure the miseries of Christendom, whereto they have bound themselves; and they eat the bread thereof in idleness, because when other men watch and labour to maintain themselves and their little ones, then are they with their lemans; or else they walk in some city, carrying hawks on their fists; or else they sit at their good wine with their concubines, and there they sing and play the Lucians, and eat of the best: and therefore all that willingly bring and give to them, shall be made partners of that curse which is given them of God, because they eat their bread unjustly, whereof St. Paul writeth [2 Thess. iii.], 'He that laboureth not, let him not eat.'

Infamous for notorious lies.The eleventh article. That they are notorious liars; because, to the end that they may please men, they tell many tales and lies, which have no foundation nor proof in the holy Scripture. Of such writeth John in the Apocal. xxi.

Erreth in diminishing one part of sacrament.The twelfth article is, That they do not rightly give or minister to the people the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they give it not as God hath instituted it and commanded. This is a great and devilish sin, and too great malapertness. Herein we would overcome them, with the testimonies of the evangelists; I say, we would overcome the pope, and all his priests, with the authorities of Mark, Luke, and Paul [Rom. xiii.], and we would suffer that kings, princes, lords, and all that are willing to hear, should hear it.

The pope's church charged with partiality.The thirteenth article is, That they sit in spiritual judgment, and then, many times, they judge according to favour, and not according to the righteousness of God; that they take bribes, giving sentence for him, who, in God's sight, hath the wrongful cause. Woe be to such sentencers, as it is written in Isaiah v., 'Woe be to you that,' &c.

The fourteenth article is, That they sit hearing confessions, and when there come to them usurers, raveners, and thieves, they take bribes of them of their ill-gotten goods, to spare them; and they willingly suffer them in cities and towns. And likewise of adulterers and other notorious whoremongers and whores: and they neither let nor stay them in their great sins; to the end that the Scripture may be fulfilled in them, which saith, 'Gifts and the love of money do draw to hell, and do blind the eyes of judges.'

The fifteenth article is, That they receive tithes of men, and will of right have them,[5] and preach and say that men are bound to give them tithes. And therein they say falsely; for they cannot prove by the New Testament, that our Lord Jesus Christ commanded it, and his disciples warned no man to do so, neither did themselves receive them. But although in the Old Testament it were commanded to give tithes, yet it cannot thereby be proved, that christian men are bound thereto; for this precept of the Old Testament had an end in the first year of our Lord Jesus Christ, like as the precept of circumcision. Wherefore, beloved! consider and see how your bishops seduce you and shut your eyes with things that have no proof. Christ saith [Luke xi.], 'Give alms of those things that remain;' but he said not, Give the tenth of the goods which ye possess, but give alms. But when they hear the word, they may say as the lawyer said to Christ, 'Master, when thou sayest so, thou givest offence,' [Ib.]

The pope's church charged with usury.The sixteenth article is. That they, in many places, lend money or goods to have treasure or usury, and have in cities and towns yearly payments and perpetual revenues, as great princes and lords; wherein they clo against the gospel, which saith, 'Do not ye possess gold nor silver.' And whereas they lend for gain and usury, against that speaketh the Lord [Deut. xxiv.], 'Lend not on usury to thy brother,' &c. Yea, honest, discreet, and well-beloved lords! all the aforesaid articles we will prove against the pope and all his priests, with many testimonies of the holy Scripture, which, for brevity's sake, we have not here mentioned. But note ye chiefly these four articles, for which we strive, and desire to defend them to the death.

The first article is. That all public and customable mortal sins ought to be forbidden and prohibited to all priests and laymen, according to the commandment of the holy Scripture.

The second article is. That riches[6] ought to be taken from the pope and all his priests, from the highest to the lowest; and they ought to be made poor, as the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ were, who had nothing of their own, neither possessions in this world, neither worldly power.

Men appointed, many preach, though the pope forbid them.
When the pope holdeth his council, let men look to their wives and daughters.
The third article is, That the word of God ought to be free for every man appointed and ordained thereto, to preach and read in all places whither they shall come, without resistance of any man, and without any inhibition of either spiritual or earthly power, openly or manifestly.

The fourth article is. That the body of our Lord Jesus Christ ought to be delivered to every Christian as our Lord hath ordained it, and as the holy evangelists have written. We have also understood that there shall be a council in Basil; wherefore let no man be exalted, but let them diligently keep their wives, their daughters, and their virgins, from bishops, priests, and monks. And do not think that there is made any holy assembly of bishops and priests for the common commodity and profit of Christendom; but only to this end, that they may hide their secret vices and heresies with the cloak of hypocrisy, and let and hinder the righteousness of God, which is much contrary to them. And for this cause, consider ye diligently, that they will not make a holy assembly, but the congregation of Satan. And take ye heed that it be not done as some did at Constance, who took money of bishops and prelates, and suffered them to sleep with their wives. Ye well-beloved and honest lords! if ye find any thing in these aforesaid articles or words written somewhat sharply, we did it not to offend or contemn you, but to the end that ye should diligently consider and devise, how Christendom is so ill kept and led by the priests of this present age. Our Lord Jesus Christ keep you both in body and soul, Amen. In the year of our Lord 1430.[7]

Procopius, Smahors, Conrad, Samssmolich; captains of Bohemia.

  1. Fair words do make fools fain.
  2. Christ heard the devil, but the pope will not hear men confess their faith.
  3. Fear of purgatory hath robbed almost all the whole world.
  4. So long as priests be rich, they will never be true teachers.
  5. He meaneth of claiming tithes by mere necessity of the old law, and not by the positive law of princes.
  6. He meaneth the immoderate riches, and temporal possessions.
  7. Ex vetustissinio codice manuscripto.