« PredošláPokračovať »
is not because of vain censures and antichristian fulminations that the evangelical truth should be concealed. ...” Wiche's letter gives evidence of his surprising knowledge of the state of affairs in Bohemia and of his acquaintance with the names of the men who were playing a prominent part in the Bohemian reform movement. Thus he sends at the end of his letter greetings to all faithful lovers of God's law and particularly to Hus's " helper in evangelical work, Jacobellus." This refers to the famed Master Jacob, or Jacobellus of Stribro (in German, Mies), who played a great part in the Hussite movement during the last years of the life of Hus and after his death.
A letter from so distant a country as England naturally was received with great enthusiasm by the congregation of Bethlehem. It cannot be better described than in the words of Hus contained in the letter which he wrote in answer to that of Wiche.1 Your letter,” he wrote, which descended on us as from the Father of Light, strongly inflamed the minds of the brethren in Christ; for it contains so much sweetness, power, strength, and consolation that if by Antichrist all other writings were swept away into a chasm, it would for the faithful in Christ be sufficient to obtain salvation. While revolving in my mind the pith of your letter and its vigour I said before many men while preaching--and I think about ten thousand people must have been present-- Behold, dearest brethren, what interest the faithful preachers of Christ in foreign parts take in your salvation, they who are ready to pour out their hearts, if they can but maintain you in the law of the Lord Christ,' and I added: ‘Behold our dearest brother Richard, the fellow-labourer of Master John Wycliffe in his evangelical work, has written to you so comforting a letter that, if I had no other Scripture, I should risk my life for this message of Christ, and would do so with His help.' The faithful in Christ were so inflamed by your message that they begged me to translate it for them into the language of our country.” In a later part of the letter Hus begs Wiche to pray for him, and rejoices that through
Palacky, Documenta, pp. 12–14. The letter is also printed by Höfler.
his (Wiche's) efforts Bohemia had already received so much good from blessed (benedicta) England. Interesting though Hus's letter is, it is too long to quote in its entirety, but I may notice a passage in which he refers to the great strength which the movement for church-reform had already acquired in Bohemia. He writes: “Know, dearest brother, that our people will hear nothing but Holy Scripture, particularly the evangels and epistles, and whenever in a city or town, cottage or castle, a preacher of holy truth appears, the people flock together, despising the evilly-disposed clergy." It is evident that these ten thousand people mentioned by Hus could not find room in the Bethlehem chapel; no doubt many, as had formerly been the case during the sermons of Milic, assembled near the doors of the church, trying as far as possible to catch the preacher's words.
On the next occasion on which Hus came into contact with Englishmen, they met as adversaries, not as allies. But before dealing with this incident, I must return to the litigation between Hus and the archbishop, which was still pursuing its weary course. The reasons are not far to seek. Pope John XXIII., to whose mind Hus's austere views must have appeared even more objectionable than absurd, naturally wished at almost any price to silence a preacher of unwelcome truths. He was not, however, an entirely free agent. Though the luxurious and free living clergy of Bohemia instigated him by word and gift to accelerate the procedure against the Bohemian reformer, the cunning diavolo cardinale knew that he couldn't risk to offend King Venceslas. The election of Pope Alexander V. had not, as had been thought, ended the schism. Benedict XIII, and Gregory XII. still had many adherents, and among those of the last-named pontiff still remained Sigismund, King of the Romans and King of Hungary, brother of King Venceslas and, as the latter was childless, heir to the Bohemian throne. In 1410 Venceslas had by the death of the Count Palatine Rupert been freed from a rival claimant to the crown of Germany, but his own treacherous younger brother Sigismund had been chosen as king by some of the German electors. Others had chosen Jodocus
of Moravia, a cousin of Venceslas, as their ruler. It appears probable that after the death of Rupert Venceslas would again have been universally recognised as King of the Romans had it not been that the protection which he afforded to Hus was generally known. The ecclesiastical electors thus became his natural enemies. It appeared possible for a moment that he would play the part which a century later the Elector of Saxony played with regard to Luther. The weaknesses and follies of Venceslas, which even those who know how greatly the king has been maligned must regretfully admit, prevented him from ever playing such a part.
The Christian world was thus in the strange position of having at the same time three popes and three Kings of the Romans. Of these Sigismund and the former diavolo cardinale, now Pope John XXIII., were by far the most important, and it must be admitted that never have two men of baser character claimed to rule over the Christian world. While thus the political situation obliged John XXIII. to work cautiously at the undoing of Hus, the latter also considered it his duty to continue the negotiations with the Holy See. He had begun these negotiations on the advice of the King and Queen of Bohemia, and considering himself, as he did to the end of his life, a true member of the Catholic Church, he believed that he had the right of placing his views before the papal court.
King Venceslas was greatly irritated because Archbishop Zbynek had by order of the pope caused the decree pronouncing the ban against Hus to be read publicly in the churches of Prague. The king's principle during the protracted disputes had been to maintain that the Bohemian Church should settle its own differences within the country, and that the intervention of foreigners should be eliminated as far as possible. To this principle Venceslas adhered
1 Dr. Flajshans (Mistr Jan Hus) hardly exaggerates when he writes, Sigismund was cruel and sensual, perjured and frivolous, rapacious and dissolute, fierce and pusillanimous, a bye-word and object of horror to the Bohemians, hated and despised by the Germans, a warning to all rulers. His companion John XXIII., lewd and murderous, a simonist and an infidel, was a true comrade for Sigismund in all evil deed3, a warning lesson to all future popes.”
with a tenacity that was rare with him. He had shortly after the burning of Wycliffe's works requested the archbishop to refund the value of these books to those who had been deprived of them. Archbishop Zbynek had tacitly ignored the royal command, and this incurred the wrath of the ever-irritable king. Venceslas now decreed that certain estates and houses in Prague belonging to the archbishop and other prelates who had taken part in the burning of Wycliffe's books should be confiscated, and their revenue employed to indemnify those who had been deprived of their books. The carrying out of this order was entrusted to the magistrates of the towns of Prague. Recent changes in the constitution of these municipalities had given the national party a majority in them, and the king's orders were immediately obeyed. The archbishop, who had again retired to his castle of Roudnice on May 2, 1411, sent a letter to the city magistrates, protesting strongly against these confiscations, and stating that the citizens had forcibly possessed themselves of church property. A term of three days was given them within which they were to restore the confiscated property to the church. As no notice was taken of this letter the archbishop pronounced the sentence of excommunication on all the magistrates and town-officials--fifty persons in all-who had taken part in the execution of the royal order. As all these persons belonged to the national or reform party, no notice was taken of the archbishop's decree. Zbynek then had recourse to an extreme step which he had already taken once two years before. He proclaimed the interdict over the town of Prague and its immediate neighbourhood. As two years previously, this measure failed to cause the panic which in mediæval times was generally connected with the interdict; perhaps its short duration prevented its producing the usual effect. Hus and the other priests favourable to church-reform continued to hold religious services and to preach as usual. The disputations at the university proceeded in the usual manner. It is a proof of the slight importance which was attached to the interdict on this occasion that we find Hus and his friends occupied in drawing up the regulations for a college of
students that was to be founded in connection with the Bethlehem chapel. A college for students had in 1397 been founded by Queen Hedwiga of Poland, but of the curators whom she had then appointed only Kriz-known to us as the founder of the Bethlehem chapel-was then alive. He also was of a very advanced age and he did not live to hear of the bitter, but glorious death of his old friend Hus. The latter advised Kriz to take the necessary steps to render possible the continuation of this richly endowed foundation, which was then housed in the “Jerusalem ” buildings sanctified by the memory of Milic. It was arranged that eleven students of theology, belonging to the Bohemian nationality, should there receive a free education. The college naturally became a centre for the friends of church-reform, and it was understood that the preachers of the Bethlehem chapel should be chosen from its members. Venceslas Kriz, son of the founder of Bethlehem, appears to have nominated the first scholars of the reorganised college. We find among them the name of Peter of Mladenovic, the disciple and biographer of Hus, whose account of the last sufferings and death of his master has been translated into many languages and read by countless people to whom the name of Mladenovic is unknown.
While the more pious and enthusiastic priests drew closer to Hus and closer to each other, some more worldly members of the clergy of Prague began to desert Husmoften to become afterwards his most venomous enemies. Some of these men had during the disputations at the university gladly taken part in the defence of Wycliffe's teaching, and had even upheld some opinions that Hus, never an unconditional adherent of Wycliffe, had not sanctioned. These men were, however, strongly oppose to all innovations that might limit the liberty, or rather licence, of the clergy of Prague. Besides the spy Protiva, always an opponent of Hus, Stanislas of Znoymo and Stephen Palec, formerly a friend of the Bohemian reformer, now became his bitter enemies. Palec stated in a letter that the writings of Wycliffe were indeed
· Printed in the late Rev. A. H. Wratislaw's John Hus, p. 181.