A Mini Biography of John Huss

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe, edited by Harold J. Chadwick, Alachua, Florida 2001. 436 pages. Reviewed by Philip McDuffie

John Huss was born in Hussenitz, Bohemia, in 1372 (73). He received his education from the University of Prague. It was there that he studied theology. It was also there that John Huss was ordained as a priest and a preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in 1402. Seven years after his ordination, he was made rector of the University of Prague (73). John Huss, however, would be known as far more than a theologian, priest, preacher, and rector. He would go on to be known as a martyr. One who willingly gave his life for the name of Christ Jesus. One who revered the Gospel of Christ so much so that he was willing to shed his blood for the sake of the Christ whom had His blood shed.

There is so much to look into in regards to this man’s remarkable life and God glorifying death. Since this is so, this paper will examine the events that led to the persecution, and the persecution itself. This paper will seek to reveal the persecution event from the multiple viewpoints of those who witnessed it. After examining all this, there will be a focus on the activity of God after the persecution event. Then lastly, this paper will end with me writing about how this persecution event impacted me specifically, and also a comparison between the persecution of John Huss and the persecution of believers today.

There are multiple events that led to the persecution of John Huss. One event was the life of the reformer John Wycliffe. John Wycliffe faced opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, but he was never martyred for the doctrines that he preached. Wycliffe breathed his last in the year 1384. Although this reformer had past away, his teachings on the Scripture continued impacting people mightily. One man that Wycliffe’s teachings just so happened to impact was John Huss. John Huss, by God’s grace, had the teachings of Wycliffe. These doctrines that the Roman Catholic Church abhorred, John Huss delighted in. Huss believed that the Pope did not carry the supreme authority, but rather that the Scriptures carried the supreme authority. He rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation. He rejected the notion that only the noble could have a copy of the Bible. He believed that Christians should have their own Bible that they could study and read. In short, Huss believed that the Roman Catholic Church was corrupt and that it needed a reformation. These beliefs alone would not have attracted a great deal of attention, but when these beliefs are preached and taught to the public, one can be sure that it will attract a great deal of attention. This is exactly what happened.

The more and more Huss became confident in the Scriptures and the teachings of Wycliffe, the more he opposed the foolishness of the papacy. Huss, now known by the multitude, was summoned to stand in Rome. Huss sent representatives to stand in his place. This made the papacy furious and ultimately led the excommunication of Huss and all of his friends and followers. Since he was excommunicated, he went back to Hussenitz and labored in preaching and writing the same biblical doctrines that he had fallen so in love with. While he was in his hometown, he was invited to attend the Counsel of Constance. An emperor named Sigismund guaranteed Huss that he would be safe in the midst of being in the grasp of the Roman Catholic Church (75). This was not so.

Huss arrived in Constance and was arrested. There were repeals made saying that this could not happen because of what Sigismund had guaranteed Huss, but Sigismund, cowardly, did not seek to rescue Huss from the evil papacy. The counsel then moved to try Huss. They read bits of his doctrine and made false accusations regarding this man of God. As Huss made his appeal to the great judge, Christ Jesus the Lord, people began mocking him. They became incredibly indignant and sentenced him to be burned. They placed priestly robes on him as they mocked him. Then the stripped them from him. They went on to place a paper crown on his that said, “A ringleader of the heretics” (77). In all that they did to Huss, Huss faithfully represented Christ. They then committed his soul to hell, but Huss looked into the heavens and committed his soul to Jesus. They placed him on a stake, and then wrapped him in chains. They then set him on fire and Huss was faithful unto death. He was taken into the heavens as he sang a hymn to the praise of God’s glory.

This man of God could no longer use his oratory to preach with great boldness the wonderful doctrines that he gave his life for. Huss could no longer pick up a pen, dip it in ink, and seek to expound the Scriptures for the common man to see. He could no longer be filled with great anguish over the state of the papacy and seek to argue why he believed that they were corrupt. Although he could no longer do these things, Huss’ martyrdom was not in vain. God used Huss mightily even after his death. As John Foxe says, “In death, Huss was more of a threat to the papacy then in life” (77).

The persecution of John Huss has impacted me greatly. Here is a man that seems to have the utmost confidence in the Word of God. In a day and age where the majority of people are acknowledging the Pope as having the supreme authority, Huss looked at the Scriptures and proclaimed that the Scriptures have the ultimate authority. In a time where most people believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, Huss refused to acknowledge such a doctrine as being Scriptural, and taught what was true regarding the Lord’s Supper. Even as I am writing this write now, all I am thinking about, in regards to Huss, is Galatians 1:10. It is there that Paul writes, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). Huss knew that every word that came out of his mouth pertaining to the papacy was going to lead to disapproval with the papacy. He knew that every word that he wrote refuting the doctrines that the papacy holds so dearly too was going to lead to disapproval with the papacy. He knew that the more he resisted the beast of the Roman Catholic Church, then the more and more he was going to face the resistance of the Roman Catholic Church. Even though Huss knew all this, he did not budge. He knew that he must obey God rather than men; even if it cost him his very life. It did cost him his life, and I for one, am delighted to call this man a brother of mine in Christ.

The last topic that I really want to address is how the persecution of John Huss differs from the persecution of believers today. As I read this account of persecution, I was struck by the very fact that Huss was placed on a stake and burned alive for doctrinal reasons. Huss was not killed in the name of Allah. He was not killed because he simply followed Christ. He was killed because he stood up to an institution (the Roman Catholic Church) that was incredibly corrupt. Satan, through this institution, was masquerading as an angel of light. This institution murdered Huss in the name of Christ because Huss opposed their traditions and simply clung to the Scriptures. This fact alone amazed me.

The reason for such amazement is because believers in our day are put to death by hostile governments or radicals of other religions. Believers are not murdered by people in the name of Christ over doctrinal differences regarding Christ like Huss was. It is interesting to see the different activities of Satan as one looks at the persecution of Huss, and the persecution of believers today. Either way, the blood of our brothers and sisters was not, and is not, being poured out in vain. This is evident all throughout history. Throughout history there are two truths that are ever so apparent. The first truth being that the gates of hell will oppose the church. The second truth being that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. All glory be to God.

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