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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Hussites

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A party of reformers, the followers of John Huss.

John Huss, from whom the Hussites take their name, was born in a little village in Gohemia, called Huss, and lived at Prague in the highest reputation, both on account of the sanctity of his manners and the purity of his doctrine. He was distinguished by his uncommon erudition and eloquence; and performed at the same time the functions of professor of divinity in the university, and of ordinary pastor in the church of that city. He adopted the sentiments of Wickliffe and the Waldenses; and, in the year 1407, began openly to oppose and preach against divers errors in doctrine, as well as corruptions in point of discipline, then reigning in the church. Huss likewise endeavoured to the utmost of his power to withdraw the university of Prague from the jurisdiction of Gregory XII. whom the king of Bohemia had hitherto acknowledged as the true and lawful head of the church. This occasioned a violent quarrel between the incensed archbishop of Prague and the zealous reformer, which the latter inflamed and augmented from day to day, by his pathetic exclamations against the court of Rome, and the corruption that prevailed among the sacerdotal order. There were other circumstances that contributed to inflame the resentment of the clergy against him. He adopted the philosophical opinions of the Realists, and vehemently opposed and even persecuted the Nominalists, whose number and influence were considerable in the university of Prague.

He also multiplied the number of his enemies in the year 1408, by procuring, through his own credit, a sentence in favour of the Bohemians, who disputed with the Germans concerning the number of suffrages which their respective nations were entitled to in all matters that were carried by election in this university. In consequence of a decree obtained in favour of the former, which restored them to their constitutional right of three suffrages usurped by the latter, the Germans withdrew from Prague, and in the year 1409 founded a new academy at Leipsic. This event no sooner happened, than Huss began to inveigh, with greater freedom than he had done before, against the vices and corruptions of the clergy; and to recommend in a public manner the writings and opinions of Wickliffe, as far as they related to the papal hierarchy, the despotism of the court of Rome, and the corruption of the clergy. Hence an accusation was brought against him in the year 1410, before the tribunal of John XXIII. by whom he was solemnly expelled from the communion of the church. Notwithstanding this sentence of excommunication, he proceeded to expose the Romish church with a fortitude and zeal that were almost universally applauded.

This eminent man, whose piety was equally sincere and fervent, though his zeal was perhaps too violent, and his prudence not always circumspect, was summoned to appear before the council of Constance. Secured, as he thought, from the rage of his enemies, by the safe conduct granted him by the emperor Sigismund for his journey to Constance, his residence in that place, and his return to his own country, John Huss obeyed the order of the council, and appeared before it to demonstrate his innocence, and to prove that the charge of his having deserted the church of Rome was entirely groundless. However, his enemies so far prevailed, that, by the most scandalous breach of public faith, he was cast into prison declared a heretic, because he refused to plead guilty against the dictates of his conscience, in obedience to the council, and burnt alive in 1415; a punishment which he endured with unparalleled magnanimity and resolution. When he came to the place of execution, he fell on his knees, sang portions of psalms, looked steadfastly towards heaven, and repeated these words: "Into thy hands, O Lord, do I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O most good and faithful God. Lord Jesus Christ, assist and help me, that with a firm and present mind, by thy most powerful grace I may undergo this most cruel and ignominious death, to which I am condemned for preaching the truth of thy most holy Gospel."

When the chain was put upon him at the stake, he said with a smiling countenance, "My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why should I be ashamed of this old rusty one?" When the faggots were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was officious enough to desire him to abjure. "No, " says Huss, "I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood." He said to the executioner, "Are you going to burn a goose? In one century you will have a swan you can neither roast nor boil." If he were prophetic, he must have meant Luther, who had a swan for his arms. The fire was then applied to the faggots; when the martyr sang a hymn with so loud and cheerful a voice, that he was heard through all the cracklings of the combustibles and the noise of the multitude. At last his voice was cut short, after he had uttered. "Jesus Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me." and he was consumed in a most miserable manner. The duke of Bavaria ordered the executioner to throw all the martyr's clothes into the flames: after which his ashes were carefully collected, and cast into the Rhine.

But the cause in which this eminent man was engaged did not die with him. His disciples adhered to their master's doctrines after his death, which broke out into an open war. John Ziska, a Bohemian knight, in 1420, put himself at the head of the Hussites, who were now become a very considerable party, and threw off the despotic yoke of Sigismund, who had treated their brethren in the most barbarous manner. Ziska was succeeded by Procophus in the year 1424. Acts of barbarity were committed on both sides; for notwithstanding the irreconcileable opposition between the religious sentiments of the contending parties, they both agreed in this one horrible principle, that it was innocent and lawful to persecute and extirpate with fire and sword the enemies of the true religion; and such they reciprocally appeared to each other. These commotions in a great measure subsided by the interference of the council of Basil, in the year 1433. The Hussites, who were divided into two parties, viz. the Calixtines and the Taborites, spread over all Bohemia, and Hungary, and even Silesia and Polland; and there are, it is said, some remains of them still subsisting in those parts. Broughton's Dict. Middleton's Evan. Biog. vol. 1: Mosheim's Ecc. Hist.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Hussites'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/h/hussites.html. 1802.

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