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of Hus actually attempted to carry out this precept. From these ideal heights Hus descends to more matter-of-fact suggestions. He considered the present system of the appointment of bishops and priests as a necessary evil, but thought that strict subjection of the clergy to the secular power would act as a beneficial control, and check the sins and especially the simony prevalent among the clergy. “As every king,” he writes, “has of God power over his kingdom that he may truly and justly rule his kingdom, and as the priests are in the kingdom, the king must guide them in the path of truth and justice; and he would not guide them in the path of truth and justice did he allow them, like negligent servants, to incur the wrath of the Highest of Kings; he would not thus fulfil the duties of his royal office.”
I must reluctantly refrain from dwelling longer on the treatise O Svatokupectvi, to which I have perhaps already devoted too much space. It is, however, impossible, I think, to exaggerate the importance of this treatise. The positions of the contending parties, of the king and his court, of the opulent and simoniac clergy, and of the church-reformers, with whom was the great mass of the people, appear very clearly. We understand the true causes of the prolonged struggle in Prague which was delineated in the previous chapters. I may here mention that I entirely agree with a remark made some years ago by the late Rev. A. H. Wratislaw, who wrote: “The treatise on simony would well bear translation into English as a whole."
That Hus was thoroughly aware of the importance of his book, of its boldness, and of the danger to which it might expose him, is proved by its closing words. “I have written these leaflets," he tells us, “knowing that I should obtain through them neither praise nor kindness nor bodily advantage either from avaricious priests nor from others who are laymen, for I demand no such things from them, desiring only God's reward and salvation. And if blame and torment befall me, I have placed it before my mind that
1 The first priests of the brethren were chosen in this manner. believed that God's will could be ascertained by the drawing of lots. See my History of Bohemian Literature (2nd edition, pp. 208–211).
it is better to suffer death for the truth than to obtain by flattery earthly reward. Thus also St. Paul said: 'If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.'1 Understand then: if I had by flattery pleased the people, I should not have been a servant of God—therefore I avoid flattery that I may not imperil the souls of others and my own by flattery. Openly and simply have I set down my speech, that I may as far as is in my power crush and weed out simony. Deign Thou to be helpful to me in this cause, oh, merciful Saviour." I am not, I hope, prejudiced as being a countryman of Hus if I venture to state that, according to my opinion, few sublimer words have ever been written by the pen
of man. To the year 1413 belongs also another of Hus's most valuable Bohemian works. It may be stated generally that the treatise on Simony, the Postilla to which I shall now refer, and the Letters are the most precious of Hus's works written in his own language. It is in them that we find the true Hus, not in the scholastic and sometimes sophistical controversies with Stokes, Palec, and others, The Postilla, finished by Hus on October 28, 1413, was not actually the last even of his Bohemian works. It was, however, the last of his more extensive and striking writings and was therefore afterwards greatly venerated as his “testament
testament” or “last will." A particular veneration for the Holy Scriptures was characteristic of Hus as of Matthew of Janov and all Bohemian church-reformers. The Bible was, however, very little known to the Bohemian people, and its study was by no means encouraged by the priests. The Postilla is a collection of sermons on the gospel for every Sunday and more important holy days of the year. Hus writes in his introduction: “I resolved for the glory of God, and for the salvation of the faithful Bohemians, who wish to know and to fulfil God's will, briefly to expound with God's help the gospel for all the Sundays of the year. I desire that those who read or listen be saved, that they may beware of sin, love God above all things, love one another, increase in virtue and pray to the Lord God for me, sinner." Hus then alludes to the ignorance of the Bible that was
i Galatians i. 10,
general among the Bohemians. “As the people," he writes, "generally have no gospel written in Bohemian, and it is difficult to understand an exposition without a foundation (previous knowledge), therefore will I always place the gospel first (at the beginning) of the exposition.” The Bohemians thus became acquainted with at least a small part of the Holy Scriptures, which was read out to them in their own language.
Hus in this work, and indeed generally when he is not writing according to the scholastic method, shows a lightness of touch and a sometimes almost playful manner which render the Postilla very attractive. Since the Bohemians have obtained at least a certain amount of religious liberty, the book has been frequently published. It is very difficult to give short extracts from a book such as the Postilla, but I think that a quotation from the exposition of the gospel for Palm Sunday will give an idea of the interest and value of the book. After quoting the gospel of the day,3 Hus writes: “Our gracious Saviour, approaching Jerusalem for our salvation, as to-day, showed great humility, great mercy; and entering the temple he showed humility, mercy, and justice. Humility because though being the Lord and King of the whole world he rode simply on an ass, to condemn worldly pride. Mercy he showed because, coming to Jerusalem and knowing what would befall its people both in spirit and in body, he cried bitterly till he sobbed, and unable to finish his speech said: 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if thou hadst known, even thou '-he did not through tears finish his speech, but cried:
“In the temple also he showed mercy when the blind and lame came up to him, and he healed them. Justice he showed when with a whip he drove the priests and merchants out of the temple, saying to them: 'It is written. My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.'
" After again referring to the gospel of the day, Hus continues: “Behold this is what, word by word, the pope, the bishop, the parish priest
1 I have used the edition published by Dr. Flajshans, who has modernised the Bohemian of Hus. * Pp. 121-127 of Dr. Flajshans's edition.
3 St. Matthew xxi.
must read to-day when they stand at the church gates in procession, that is, in the ordered march of the deacons and the rest of the people. And I know not how the pope could well read out this, if he can read, or a bishop; for there are many popes, archbishops, cardinals, bishops, canons, and parish priests who know not how to read in books. How also could (such a one) wish to read (the gospel) when everything (contained in it) would be against him ? Christ on an ass and he on a large white stallion or horse, with a golden bit, the bit, girths and harness adorned with gold and precious stones; coloured tassels float from his hat down to the ground, and the caparison which covers his steed trails to the earth; before him they drive an ass or mule, which carries the body of Christ 1 and sometimes feeds on the grass in the fields; meanwhile they heed not Christ but kneel before the pope. They carry a baldachin over him, call him the most holy, throng round him begging for prebends and kissing his feet, if the mercenaries clad in armour, who with silver clubs drive away the poor, permit it. And he (the pope) sits on his war-horse smiling that he has so much praise. And our dear, tranquil, meek Redeemer rides onward on his mule weeping bitterly.” Hus gives here a very striking sketch of the appearance and surroundings of a great warriorpriest of his time. If we remember that the reigning pope of the time was the diavolo cardinale, the contrast between the haughtiness of the pope and the meekness of Jesus Christ contained in this passage has a touch of very bitter though perhaps unintentional irony. Here, as ever, Hus expresses the craving for the return to the simplicity of the primitive church, which was the ideal of most noble minds of his time. The ideal may have been delusory and unattainable; it was certainly noble.
He who attempts to outline the life of Hus must allude to all those of his works that are important, or characteristic of the writer. I cannot, therefore, omit the strange little book entitled, Writings against the Priest-Kitchenmaster. The work, written, as
1 Opulent priests at this period were in the habit of having the sacrament carried before them in the manner described here.
the title indicates, in a popular manner, met with great favour, and has been mentioned oftener than it deserves. Written in 1414, it was first printed in 1509, at an earlier period than almost any other work of Hus.' It certainly gives evidence of the occasional smallness of a great mind. It appears that Hus, during his exile, perhaps while a guest at the castle of one of the Bohemian nobles, met a priest-kitchenmaster” (or steward of the kitchen), who is otherwise unknown to us. The man, who had given up his ecclesiastical rank to take a situation in a kitchen, affronted Hus, stating that “he was worse than any devil.” Hus bore down on the unfortunate cook with all the weight of his scholastic skill. He advances fifteen arguments to prove that he was not worse than the devil, one of them being that the devil had sinned for 6005 years, while he (Hus) had not sinned for fifty years, not having as yet attained that age. Incidentally--and this is the only real interest of the book—Hus shows how largely the priests then occupied secular offices. “The priests," he writes, now strive to obtain a hold on all worldly offices, where they smell money. We find priests as burgraves, priests at the register offices, priests as judges, priests as estate agents, priests as cooks, priests as writers, and if the beadle's work were not so hard and so ill-paid, we would find priests as beadles also.” Hus then somewhat uncharitably reminds his adversary of the proverb that there is no shorter walk than that from the kitchen to the beer-cellar.
Of the Latin writings of Hus that belong to this period, the most important is the treatise De Ecclesia. It was the principal cause or rather pretext of his condemnation at Constance. The book is an abridgment of the work of Wycliffe that bears the same name, and its last chapters are also largely grounded on Wycliffe's treatise De Potestate Papae. It is not only certain that Hus differed from Wycliffe on several dogmatic subjects—being nearer to the teaching of the Roman Church than the English reformer was-but we have also no proof that he considered all the statements con
· Printed in Erben's Husi Sebrane spisy ceske (Hus's selected Bohemian works), vol. iii. pp. 241-254.