Chapter 8: An Account of the Persecutions in Bohemia Under the Papacy (1/15)

The Roman pontiffs having usurped a power over several churches were particularly severe on the Bohemians, which occasioned them to send two ministers and four lay-brothers to Rome, in the year 977, to obtain redress of the pope. After some delay, their request was granted, and their grievances redressed. Two things in particular they were permitted to do, viz., to have divine service performed in their own language, and to give the cup to the laity in the Sacrament.

The disputes, however, soon broke out again, the succeeding popes exerting their whole power to impose on the minds of the Bohemians; and the latter, with great spirit, aiming to preserve their religious liberties.

In A.D. 1375, some zealous friends of the Gospel applied to Charles, king of Bohemia, to call an ecumenical Council, for an inquiry into the abuses that had crept into the Church, and to make a full and thorough reformation. The king, not knowing how to proceed, sent to the pope for directions how to act; but the pontiff was so incensed at this affair that his only reply was, “Severely punish those rash and profane heretics.” The monarch, accordingly banished every one who had been concerned in the application, and, to oblige the pope, laid a great number of additional restraints upon the religious liberties of the people.

The victims of persecution, however, were not so numerous in Bohemia, until after the burning of John Huss and Jerome of Prague. These two eminent reformers were condemned and executed at the instigation of the pope and his emissaries, as the reader will perceive by the following short sketches of their lives.

Persecution of John Huss

John Huss was born at Hussenitz, a village in Bohemia, about the year 1380. His parents gave him the best education their circumstances would admit; and having acquired a tolerable knowledge of the classics at a private school, he was removed to the university of Prague, where he soon gave strong proofs of his mental powers, and was remarkable for his diligence and application to study.

In 1398, Huss commenced bachelor of divinity, and was after successively chosen pastor of the Church of Bethlehem, in Prague, and dean and rector of the university. In these stations he discharged his duties with great fidelity; and became, at length, so conspicuous for his preaching, which was in conformity with the doctrines of Wickliffe, that it was not likely he could long escape the notice of the pope and his adherents, against whom he inveighed with no small degree of asperity.

The English reformist, Wickliffe, had so kindled the light of reformation, that it began to illumine the darkest corners of popery and ignorance. His doctrines spread into Bohemia, and were well received by great numbers of people, but by none so particularly as John Huss, and his zealous friend and fellow martyr, Jerome of Prague.

The archbishop of Prague, finding the reformists daily increasing, issued a decree to suppress the further spreading of Wickliffe’s writings: but this had an effect quite different to what he expected, for it stimulated the friends of those doctrines to greater zeal, and almost the whole university united to propagate them.

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 8

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