Jan Hus was a priest, preacher; and professor at Prague University in Bohemia when one of the popes excommunicated him in 1411, which started a riot among his supporters. The entire city of Prague was then excommunicated. This meant that its churches were closed and burial on church grounds refused. Many people then turned against him, as the cause of their troubles.
Hus was invited to the Council of Constance to discuss the problems in Bohemia. His friends warned him that to attend the council would mean certain death. But the Emperor of Germany, Sigismund, and the Catholic Church, promised him safe conduct, so he went. When he got there, he was arrested and burnt at the stake.
Jan Hus (John Huss) was of humble birth, born in Husinee, a town in southern Bohemia. His mother was a poor widow but she gained him a charity scholarship to attend Prague University.
Hus was universally esteemed for his blameless life and gentle deportment. He was a sincere adherent of the Roman Catholic Church. To him, the Roman Church was the Bride of Christ and the pope His representative on Earth.
He became the administrator of Prague University and priest for the king. He became the pride of the Czech people and his name was renowned throughout Europe.
A friend of Jan Hus, Jerome, brought him the writings of John Wycliffe from England. Jerome had studied there at Oxford, along with other Czechs, after a Bohemian princess married the King of England.
Soon thereafter, two pictures began circulating together in Bohemia: one of Christ meekly riding on an ass into Jerusalem, followed by His disciples depicted barefoot with threadbare garments; and one of the pope in a procession wearing rich robes and three crowns, upon a magnificently wardrobed horse, preceded by trumpeters and followed by dazzlingly arrayed cardinals.
Hus began to study the Bible to determine for himself what to make of all this. He was deeply troubled by simony, which he defined as “the conscious intent to buy or sell anything spiritual.” This would include a priest or bishop who bought or bribed his way into his office, and a layman who offered money in exchange for church services.
He declared that a bishop who knew about a simoniac and did nothing was an accessory after the fact. He was convinced that “there are very few priests who do not have a simoniacal ordination.” He came to the conclusion that “These priests are drunks whose bellies growl with great drinking and are gluttons whose stomachs are overfilled until their double chins hang down.”
Council of Constance
Jan Hus appeared before the Church Council at Constance. There stood the emperor, many princes, cardinals, bishops, priests, and an immense crowd of spectators, from all parts of Christendom. After being arrested, he spoke to this vast and brilliant assembly:
“I determined, of my own free will, to appear before this council, under the public protection and faith of the emperor present here.”
Sigismund turned deep red in the face as he realized all present knew he had betrayed a sacred trust.
Hus refused to recant his writings, aimed at reforming his church. Instead he testified, “God is my witness that the principle intention of my preaching and of all my other acts or writings was solely that I might turn men from sin. And in that truth of the Gospel, I am willing gladly to die today.”
His vestments were removed from him, one by one, and each bishop present pronouncing a curse on him as part of the ceremony. They put a cap on his head; on which were painted frightful pictures of demons, and on the front of it the words “Archheretic.”
Hus said, “Most joyfully will I wear this crown of shame for Thy sake, O Jesus, who for me didst wear a crown of thorns.”
His persecutors declared, “Now we devote thy soul to the devil.” He was tied to the stake and as the flames kindled around him he began to sing a familiar hymn. Even his enemies noted his heroic bearing. He uttered no cry of pain.
His followers, the “Hussites”, later known as the Moravians, were incensed at the violation of his safe-conduct, and founded a national Czech church, which survived repeated attempts to suppress them. Year after year, vastly outnumbered defenders heavily defeated huge invading armies of Germans, ordered to assail them by the pope. The Czech people as a whole were excommunicated, a key event leading to the Reformation.
These military defeats were mysterious. One mighty force of Germans broke and fled without a battle. The soldiers claimed an unseen terror had befallen them just before they were to attack. The pope offered the next army sent to attack the Czechs papal honors, full forgiveness of any heinous crime, and a rich reward in heaven if they would kill the people in Bohemia. This army mysteriously fled the battlefield soon after the fighting began.
Both of these attacks by enormous armies, sent forth by the most powerful men in Europe, fled before the defenders of a small, feeble nation. Both times, they left an immense booty behind, which the Czechs scooped up. This was seen as a manifestation of divine power. God supernaturally terrified a brave, warlike army, fully equipped and trained for battle.
Jerome of Prague
Jerome, the colleague of Jan Hus, was arrested and charged with heresy against the Roman Catholic Church. At his trial he pronounced:
“You condemned John Wycliffe and John Huss, not for having shaken the doctrine of the church, but simply because they branded with reprobation the scandals proceeding from the clergy—their pomp, their pride, and all the vices of the bishops and priests.”
Jerome was a tall, black-bearded, hotheaded, adventurer who had traveled to Jerusalem, Paris, Lithuania, Heidelberg, Cologne, Vienna, Russia, and Hungary before he began his studies at Oxford. He won respect as one of the most able scholars of his day, which enabled him to address large crowds. Everywhere he went, Jerome created a commotion with his fiery condemnation of the corruption within the Catholic Church. He too, was burned at the stake.
My primary source for this article is the book The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White