Chapter 8: More About the Council

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 11
BUT the idle, often worse than useless lives of many of the priests and monks were not the only evils against which John Huss believed God was calling him to lift up his voice. He loved his Bible, and the words of the Lord Jesus when, on the night of His betrayal with "his own" gathered around Himself, He said, as He took the cup and gave thanks, "Drink ye all of it" (Matt. 26:2727And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; (Matthew 26:27)), had made a deep impression upon him. For quite a long time the teaching of Rome had been that only the priests should drink of the cup. The more Huss thought and prayed about it, the more clearly he saw that the priests were wrong, and in his sermons began to tell the people that ALL who really trusted for salvation in the finished work of Christ ought to be allowed to remember His death by doing what would give joy to His heart.
Many listened to and believed the words of the man who had, they felt, been taught of God the truth he pressed upon them, and some wished to obey their Lord and Savior. He made many friends among the nobles of Bohemia, and alike in the baron's hall and the peasant's hut his strong, fearless words were repeated and talked over. But though the preacher had warm and devoted friends, he had also bitter enemies, who hated the light that exposed their deeds of darkness, and they made up their minds, if possible, to put a stop to his preaching. They called him a heretic, brought false charges against him, and at last he was required to appear before the Council, still holding its sittings at Constance, and give an account of his views and his teaching.
He went, the emperor having given him "a safe conduct," or written promise that no harm should happen to him during his stay in the city; his word, however, was quickly broken, and instead of being allowed, like other priests, to be present at the meetings of the council, Huss was thrown into a dark and cheerless dungeon. For some time his friends did not know where he was, and during the first weeks of his imprisonment he must often have suffered greatly from the want of fresh air and proper food.
But his faith in God did not fail, nor his service cease. If he could not speak as he had been used to do to large numbers of his countrymen and women, he could and did tell the good news to his jailers. They soon learned to love their prisoner, so unlike any who had ever been committed to their keeping, and more than one was won for Christ through his teaching. Though there was but little light in his prison, he made good use of all he could get, and spent much of his time in writing. Many of his letters are still preserved, and in more than one he speaks of the many small services rendered to him by the soldiers whose duty it was to guard him and prevent his escape, especially one named Robert; and tell how, fearing that they might forget what they had heard from him, he had copied for the use of those who were able to read several portions of scripture, to which he had added some very simple explanations.
Days grew into weeks, and weeks into months, and Huss still remained a prisoner, though for a time he was deprived of the custody of his kind and friendly guards.
On one occasion the governor of the prison in which Huss was at the time confined, being called away, carried the key to the emperor, but other things filled the mind and occupied the attention of the careless and ease-loving sovereign; he had not a thought to spare for the captive in his dungeon, and Huss was left for many hours without food or water.
At last a day came when he was brought before the council to hear the charges against him.
for whom a throne had been placed. He was surrounded by princes and nobles, but he looked anxious and unhappy, and when the prisoner, under a strong guard of soldiers, was brought in, those who were near enough to observe could not help seeing how the emperor blushed, and even trembled, in the presence of the man with whom he had so cruelly broken faith.
Quite a number of the prisoner's friends were there as well, among them some who had traveled all the way from Bohemia to be present at the trial, feeling sure that if Huss was allowed a fair hearing he would be able to clear himself from the charges brought against him by his enemies, and be at once released from prison.
What must have been their surprise and disappointment when they found that each time he tried to answer a question, or say that he held and had taught nothing contrary to the teaching of scripture, his voice could not be heard, as it was completely drowned by the loud talking or angry shouts of those who did not wish to hear what he had to say. One who loved Huss stood so near to the chief clerk that he was able to look over his shoulder as he unfolded a paper and read to his horror that the prisoner was to be given up to the will of his enemies, and though he had not even been tried was condemned to be BURNT ALIVE.
After a long and weary time, during which Huss was not once suffered to speak for himself, the emperor rose from his gilded seat and the assembly broke up. Huss, after being ordered to appear on the following day, was again taken to prison.
The treatment Huss had received on the first day of his so-called trial was, with some additions, repeated on the second.
and he was told to mount a small platform that had been put up during the previous night; this done, the clothes he wore to show that he was a priest were, one by one, with words of scorn and mockery, taken from him. He looked sad and had aged greatly during the months of his imprisonment, but was calm, and did not attempt to speak. When all was over, he was again led back to prison.
During the short time that passed between the sentence and the day fixed for carrying it out, his friends, among whom were some of the richest and most powerful nobles of Bohemia, spared neither trouble nor money to obtain justice for the condemned man, but all their efforts proved in vain. Some even talked of taking him by force from the soldiers who were to lead him to the place of burning, but in some way the prisoner in his cell heard of their intention, and wrote, begging them not to take up arms, but be content that he should suffer the will of God.
Large sums of money were offered to those who were thought likely to have influence with the monarch, to induce him to order another trial, in which Huss might have a fair hearing; but though the gifts were generally accepted, nothing was done. Many of the priests, who were among his most bitter enemies, and of whom the emperor seemed greatly afraid, did all in their power to hurry on the day of his death.
It came at last. Great crowds lined the streets, all anxious to get a glimpse of the prisoner as, surrounded by a strong guard of soldiers, he passed on his way to the place of burning. Those who saw him can never forget his calm and even cheerful bearing. He was not allowed to address the people, though many thought he would gladly have done so, but was able to say a few words of affectionate farewell to the guards who had been his keepers. He thanked them for the kindness he had received from them, and begged them not to forget what they had learned from him, for he had taught nothing contrary to the word of God, either to them or others.
The fagots were already piled, and as they bound him to the stake his calmness never for a moment gave way. His lips moved as if in silent prayer, and now and then parted with a smile; his eyes had a far-away look in them, as if he beheld that "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
He died, as only a Christian and a truly brave man can die, but his death was used by God in bringing many out of the darkness of Rome into the light of the glorious gospel. They call us Hussites, but we are Christians, who love our Bibles, and cannot, dare not, return to the darkness and bondage from which we have been delivered. We may be called upon to suffer, or even to die for our faith, but we know it is for the love of Christ we bear the scorn and reproach, the hunger and the thirst, and "if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us." (2 Tim. 2:1212If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: (2 Timothy 2:12).)
Our pastor was silent, and for a time no one spoke. I was almost ready to cry, as I remembered my own want of faith and courage to do what I knew to be right. Oh! how I longed to be brave and true as Huss had been, but Greta would be so angry, and I did not want to offend my friend. Soon after Christmas she Would return to Prague, and then it would be so much easier. I had yet to learn that "the fear of man bringeth a snare.”