Reformation Biographies (02): John Huss
Reformation Biographies (02): John Huss
Proverbs 4:18-19 - But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.
Faithfulness to One’s Calling Results in Much Fruit
In our reflections on John Wycliffe’s life (last week) we saw a man gifted and faithful, placed in the center of an influential academic context (Oxford University) who used that post to call a corrupt Church to account by his writings, teachings and training men. It was not, however, in Wycliffe’s position at Oxford that his most lasting work was done. Only when he was removed from Oxford and retired as a parish priest in the little village of Lutterworth did his work of translating the Scriptures into English begin. The men he sent out, armed with Scripture shaped an underground reformation before the Reformation in England.
But it was not limited to England. Many students had come from Prague and studied under Wycliffe at Oxford. They made copies of all Wycliffe’s work and circulated it in Prague.
John 12:24 NAS95 - “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Faithfulness to One’s Calling May Result in Much Persecution
A Czech priest named John Huss (1369 – 6 July 1415) was greatly influenced by the work of Wycliffe. He even translated one of Wycliffe’s works into Czech and distributed it. Like Wycliffe he preached against the abuses of the Church (immorality and excessive wealth in the face of life and death poverty). Huss believed that Christ (not the pope) was Head of the Church. He denounced the sale of indulgences. He rejected the practice of withholding the chalice from the laity. He practiced and defended leading the liturgy in the Czech language and helped the people sing in their language. Like Wycliffe he came under fire from the corrupt leadership of the Church, who were simply protecting their turf. After some political processes finally was summoned to the Council of Constance (1414). He was given confirmation of safe passage there and back by Sigismund of Hungary, heir to the throne of the Bohemian crown, held by King Wenceslaus. Later Sigismund betrayed him after being persuaded by the bishops that he was not bound by promises to a heretic.
He was placed in a home for about a month and then on December 8 (1414) placed in a dungeon and from that point forward treated as guilty and not permitted an advocate to defend him. He was tried (June 5-8, 1415) and condemned on July 6. He said, “God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.” He was burned at the stake while singing Psalms and praying for the forgiveness of his persecutors. His ashes were thrown in the Rhine.
Faithfulness to One’s Calling Will Result in Much Glory
The bitter example of the corrupt persecution of this righteous man has produced some sweet fruit. Not only was Luther greatly influenced by Huss’s example, he and his defenders learned that bishops and cardinals who will not hear the Word of God will not keep there promises of safe passage. So Luther was “kidnapped” away from his tribunal at Worms for his own safety. And in the Church Calendars of Lutherans, Anglicans and Reformed Huss’s courage and suffering is a source of strength and annually remembered. Even Rome has mildly recanted. In 1999 Pope John Paul II "deep regret for the cruel death inflicted" on Huss. The martyr’s blood is the seed of the church.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more