The teachings of John Wycliffe made their way down to Bohemia (Czech Republic) and greatly influenced a man by the name of Jan Hus. Born in 1372, he became the preacher of Bethlehem Chapel in Prague and the rector of the University of Prague.
Though he embraced much of Wycliffe’s teachings, he didn’t agree with all of, still holding onto transubstantiation. However, he became quite critical of the church especially in the area of indulgences, saying there was no need for them as God forgave freely all those who repented. He also expressed his doubts over purgatory and its existence.
The Pope, who was selling mass amounts of indulgences, took this as a direct attack on the Church itself and excommunicated Hus, threatening Prague itself with an interdict (closure of all means of grace and the Mass). Hus retired and moved to southern Bohemia under the safeguard of friendly nobles.
He locked horns over the nature of the church with the Catholics in Bohemia, stating that the church consisted of all the elect that were predestined by God by his free grace and Christ alone was its head, not the Pope. He also came to the understanding of preaching being the main duty of the ministry and not the administration of the sacraments.
In 1414, Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance to defend his views. He was hesitant to go, but was promised a guarantee of safe conduct so he could attend and not be harmed. This was of no avail, however, because as soon as he arrived he was immediately imprisoned. He was kept for 6 months in squalid detention, suffering from headaches, fever, bleeding and vomiting.
In 1415, he was brought to trial, yet he was not allowed to defend himself. Instead he was bullied and berated for three days, as they tried to get the sick reformer to renounce his heresies. They condemned him to death and humiliated him by stripping off his priestly garments and then placing a hat on his head covered in pictures of devils, saying they commit his soul to Satan. He responded: “And I commit myself to my most gracious Lord Jesus.”
He was burnt at the stake on the 6th of July 1415. Dying with courage, he refused a last minute pardon with the words: “I shall die with joy today in the faith of the Gospel I have preached.”
Tomorrow we look at Martin Luther.