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As so often occurs under similar circumstances, the members of the Bethlehem community gradually and perhaps unconsciously assumed an attitude of aloofness and apartness which could not fail to cause displeasure in the narrow atmosphere of a mediæval city. The followers of Hus specially incurred the dislike of the German inhabitants of Prague. Some of these men had indeed at first welcomed the teaching of Waldhauser and Milic, but at the beginning of the fifteenth century racial discord became more intense in Prague. The Bohemians were greatly irritated by the depredations and cruelties which the German soldiers, sent into the country by Venceslas's antagonist, Rupert of the Palatinate, committed. Hus shared the general feeling of his countrymen, and in a passage in one of his sermons that has already been quoted spoke strongly against the Germans. Though Hus always declared that he preferred a good German to a bad Bohemian, he also expressed himself strongly with regard to the attitude of the German members of the university who were suspected of favouring Rupert of the Palatinate. “The Germans," he writes, “who are in Bohemia should go to their king (Venceslas) and swear that they will be faithful to him and to the country, but this will only come to pass when a serpent warms itself on the ice.
" 2 Another subject of national discord was the troublous state of affairs at the university. Though the foundations of German universities such as that of Vienna had considerably reduced the number of German students, their preponderance, founded on the artificial system of voting by “nations,” still continued. It had indeed become even more onerous, for since the foundation of the University of Cracow the Germans had secured a majority in the Polish “nation” at Prague. A very vast amount of ecclesiastical patronage was in the gift of the university, and the youthful Bohemian students of theology, mostly penniless young men, naturally feared that they would have little hope of obtaining
1 Vyklad desatera bozieho prikazani (Exposition of the Ten Commandments! chap. xxxviii. p. 100, of Erben's edition.
* A proverbial locution.
preferment from a university which was in the hands of the Germans. The great intellectual advance of the Bohemian nation at the beginning of the fifteenth century rendered it yet more sensitive to the slight which consisted in its exclusion from the most important offices of the church and the university. There is no doubt that in this matter also Hus was in sympathy with his countrymen. Certain concessions were indeed made. Thus, after prolonged discussion, an agreement was made in 1384, according to which, of the twelve collegiate seats at the Carolinum college, ten should always be conferred on Bohemians, while the other two should be open to them as well as to the members of the three other" nations.” A similar rule was also established in the college of King Venceslas. These slight concessions, which changed little in the general organisation of the university, may have deferred, but did not prevent the conflict that broke out at the time of Hus, and which will shortly be mentioned.
It is noteworthy that Hus was on good terms with his ecclesiastical superiors during the first years of his priesthood. His strong national feeling did not offend those members of the clergy who belonged to the ancient Bohemian nobility. The nobles of the country were, partly from a feeling of opposition to the German townsmen, generally friendly to the Bohemian people. It is also an error to state, as has frequently been done, that the acquaintance with the works of Wycliffe suddenly turned Hus from a devoted servant of the Church of Rome into a virulent enemy of that church. The only undoubted change in the nature of Hus was that which occurred at the time of his ordination as a priest. He abandoned at that time the very harmless frivolities in which he had previously indulged. Always a pious man, he now became a very fervent Christian and a very diligent student of theology. Hus's alienation from the Church of Rome was a gradual one, founded on personal experiences as well as on the study of books, Wycliffe's among others. The learned Dr. Schwab, in his Johannes
· Tomek, Deje University Prazské (History of the University of Prague), p. 112.
Gerson, in which he incidentally gives an interesting account of the early studies of Hus, points out that he devoted much time to the study of the sentences of Peter Lombard 1 and of Gratian's Decretum. In the latter work Hus found many statements, such as that the primate had only been founded by the Emperor Constantine, and that equality had formerly existed between priests and bishops, which were entirely contrary to the teaching of the church in his time. Of Wycliffe's works, also, Hus was an enthusiastic student. The writings of the English divine had from their first appearance attracted great attention at the University of Prague. Hus studied them carefully and transferred to his own writings many ideas contained in them, though, as already mentioned, it is always necessary to inquire whether the views expressed by both writers are not derived from a common earlier source. It is a proof of the great interest in Wycliffe's writings which Hus showed at this period that we find among his earliest works a Bohemian translation of the Trialogus of the English divine.
It was also this interest in the works of Wycliffe which was the cause, or perhaps the pretext, of the first theological controversy in which Hus became involved. It was, however, as yet only the university and particularly its German magisters, not the Church of Rome, that attacked him. A German master of theology, John Hübner, in 1403 brought to the notice of the chapter of Praguethe archbishopric was then vacant -- twenty-one " articles” derived from the works of Wycliffe which he declared to be heretical. It should be remarked that Hübner's “ articles
»2 contained many statements that were not derived from Wycliffe, as will be obvious to all who have even a slight acquaintance with the writings of the English divine. None the less these articles, as well as twentyfour others condemned by the synod of London, were by John
1 Dr. J. B. Schwab, Johannes Gerson. That Hus had written an extensive commentary on the sentences of Peter Lombard--a fact that of course confirms Dr. Schwab's statement-was not known at the time his book appeared.
* They are printed by Palacky, Documenta, pp. 451-455. One of the statements attributed to Wycliffe runs thus: Deus debet obedire diabolo.”
Kbel and Venceslas of Bechin, canons of the chapter of Prague, brought to the notice of Walter Harasser, a German of the Bavarian "nation ” who had just succeeded Hus as rector of the university. A general meeting of the members of the university, presided over by the rector, Walter Harasser, took place on May 28th, 1403, in the great hall of the Carolinum college. The debate was a stormy one. Some of the masters who were acquainted with the writings of Wycliffe rightly declared that the articles attributed to him statements that he had never made. Master Nicholas of Litomysl addressed Hübner the informer in these words: Thou hast falsely and unjustly drawn from these books (ie. Wycliffe's) statements that are not contained in them.” Hus exclaimed that the falsifiers should be executed, as were those who falsified victuals, alluding to the recent occurrence that two men had suffered the death-penalty for that offence. Stephen Palec, then an adherent of Hus, but one of those whom intimidation and even meaner reasons afterwards brought over to the Roman party, threw one of Wycliffe's books on the table and said to the assembled masters:
Let who will stand up and speak against any word contained in this book! I will defend it!' Several other masters spoke in the same sense. The majority of the assembly, however, was of a contrary opinion. A statement was drawn up and passed by majority declaring that l' no one should teach, repeat, or affirm these articles either privately or publicly." | To prevent the quarrel from becoming yet more envenomed, no decree declaring the articles to be heretical was passed. Some years afterwards, at a meeting of the members of the Bohemian nation, who were almost all favourable to the cause of church-reform, the former judgment was attenuated. On the proposal of Hus it was declared that “no master or scholar of the Bohemian nation should defend the articles in any false, erroneous, or heretical sense."| This restriction may be said to have rendered the whole prohibition illusory.
These academical discussions appear at this time to have attracted little attention beyond the precincts of the university. Public opinion in Prague became calmer after the election of a
new archbishop. The choice fell on Zbynek Zajic of Hasenburg, a member of one of the oldest families of the Bohemian nobility, Though long nominally a priest, he had hitherto devoted himself exclusively to politics and to military matters. A very distinguished soldier, he did not endeavour to conceal his distaste—it was really perhaps contempt-for abstruse theological controversy. Zajic was on the whole a well-meaning man, who did not claim to be a scholar, but was far less illiterate than was stated by his opponents when he was very reluctantly dragged into the turmoil of theological controversy. Zajic, a man of common sense if not of learning, perceived that the real danger to the Bohemian church lay in the terrible immorality and dishonesty of the clergy. It also could not escape his notice that the accusation of holding heretical opinions was often levelled against virtuous and zealous priests by their less worthy colleagues. The exemplary life of Hus and the eloquence of which he had given proof in his sermons at the Bethlehem chapel attracted the attention of the new archbishop. Disregarding the attacks of which Hus had been the subject, Zbynek showed great favour to the pious and eloquent preacher. As Hus afterwards recalled to the archbishop's memory," he ordered him," whenever he noticed any irregularity with regard to the government of the church, to bring such irregularity to the archbishop's knowledge either in person or in the case of absence by means of a letter.” Honestly striving to improve the moral conduct of the clergy of his archbishopric, Zbynek determined on instituting frequent meetings or synods in which all matters of discipline could be discussed. He appointed Hus preacher to the synod. Some of his synodal sermons have been preserved, and it cannot be denied that in them he attacked the morals and general behaviour of the Bohemian priesthood in a very strong though doubtlessly justifiable manner. These attacks did not at this period deprive
* In a letter addressed by Hus to the archbishop in July 1408, he reminded him that “ in principio vestri regiminis mihi pro regula Pat. Vra. instituerat ut quotienscunque aliquem defectum erga regimen conspicerem, mox personaliter, aut in absentia per literam defectum hujusmodi nuntiarem." (Palacky, Documenta, p. 3.)