by Michael Wilson
John Hus was born in a peasant family in southern Bohemia sometime between 1369 and 1373. Being very poor as a child, John hoped to avoid poverty by studying to become a member of the clergy. By 1396 he had earned his Master of Arts from the University of Prague and began teaching at the university shortly thereafter; then, in 1401, John Hus became dean of philosophical studies.
Because of Wycliffe’s influence, Hus began emphasizing the Bible as the ultimate authority within the Church and the importance of Biblical preaching. Hus instructed people to always obey God rather than man. He also taught the importance of personal piety and purity.
Preaching the Word
Hus emphasized the importance of Biblical preaching and the Bible as the ultimate authority.
Despite his sincere efforts, Hus was not appreciated by the other clergy. He condemned their extravagant and sometimes immoral lifestyles. The first conflict came when the archbishop of Prague ordered John Hus to stop preaching and to burn all the manuscripts of John Wycliffe’s writings. Hus refused to comply with the order, but was able to go on preaching without interruption because of his popularity with the people and the queen.
Obeying God Rather Than Men
To deflate the situation, John Hus left Prague for the countryside in 1412. While there, he wrote feverishly and composed numerous treatises. The most important one was The Church in which Hus argued that Christ alone, not the pope, is head of the Church.
Hus instructed people to always obey God rather than man and taught the importance of personal piety and purity.
Persecuted for the Righteousness’ Sake
Hus had not taught or even believed the entire list, but he still refused to recant. The Council of Constance officially denounced Hus as a heretic, having already condemned the teachings of John Wycliffe and, therefore, Hus. On July 6, 1415, John Hus was defrocked of his priesthood and handed over to the secular authorities to be burned at the stake.
Just before the executioners lit the fire, Duke Louis and the imperial marshal asked Hus to recant one last time. He responded with, “God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I have never thought or preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. I am willing gladly to die today.” And with that, the fire was lit which would end the life of Catholic priest John Hus. However, it would not end his influence.
“I have never thought or preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. I am willing gladly to die today.”
From Hus to Luther to Wesley
From a Wesleyan perspective, Hus also had a substantial impact. The followers of John Hus in Moravia would eventually become known as Moravians. Later in history, Moravian missionaries would make their mark on both John and Charles Wesley.
Despite being an influential reformer, it is important to recognize that Hus remained a devout Catholic; he continued to hold to doctrines like transubstantiation and the intercession of the saints. While most of Hus’ followers eventually joined the Protestant Reformation, it was a process that would take another century to complete. Hus’ life and legacy demonstrates that the Reformation took shape in many ways and in many places.
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