WHAT WOULD JOHN HUS SAY TO THE CHURCH TODAY?
By: Frank G. Tunstall, D. Min.
The Lord had His hand on a young man who was born in a small hamlet in Southern Bohemia about 1370 A.D. (modern Czechcloslavokia). John Hus was destined to become a revolutionary. His parents were poor, and his mother vowed him to the priesthood when he was a boy. At the age of 17, he left home for college and earned a Master’s degree three years later at the University of Prague.
History remembers John Hus as an ordinary student and not a revolutionary at all in his university years. As a pupil he had the hope of becoming a priest quickly, he wrote, “in order to secure a good living, and dress, and be held in the esteem of men.”While growing up, he had been timid and afraid “to preach the truth plainly and openly.”
The transformation came in his soul when he was about thirty years old. “When I was young in years and reason,” he wrote, “I too belonged to the foolish sect. But when the Lord gave me the knowledge of Scripture, I discharged that kind of stupidity from my foolish mind.”
The Bible, to John Hus, had become a revolutionary book.
The Bible had been translated into English by an English revolutionary named John Wycliffe. The Roman Catholic church of Hus’ day did not want the Bible in English, and certainly did not want Wycliffe’s views to influence the church in Bohemia. But Hus began to read John Wycliffe’s teaching, and he found the boldness to begin to argue that Wycliffe was right, according to the Bible. One of those ideas was that the Bible was the final authority and not the church of Rome. That alone made Wycliffe a true rebel. And to add that the Bible should be translated into the languages of the people, like English, German, French, Spanish and even Latin, could get a man burned at the stake.
Hus became pastor of Bethlehem Temple in Prague in 1402. Under the influence of Wycliffe and in the face of the known danger, Hus too began to preach doctrines revolutionary for his time. Thoughts like the Bible is the sole authority for man’s salvation, and the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. He was also bold enough to teach the pope was fallible. Even the queen went to Bethlehem Chapel to hear him preach. The common people loved Hus and believed what he was saying. His crowds climbed to 3,000 people.
But the pope in Rome, the cardinals and the bishops saw him as a growing threat.
Hus had about a dozen years to preach his doctrines. He was arrested, and his trial came at the Council of Constance in 1415. Hus was denounced as an unredeemable heretic and was booted out of the priesthood. As part of the ceremony of defrocking Hus, a paper crown with three devils painted on it, fighting for Hus’ soul, was placed on Hus’ head. The church then committed Hus’ soul to the devil. Hus responded by committing his soul to Jesus Christ.
Hus was tied to a stake with ropes and a rusty chain. Bundles of wood mixed with straw were stacked to his chin. The chief executioner, Duke Ludwig, gave him a last chance to repent.
While taking his last breaths, Hus refused to recant.
The stake was set ablaze, and Hus died singing a common Christian chant: “Christ, Thou Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me.”
His ashes were thrown into the Rhine River.
John Hus was a man ahead of his time. His legacy lives on because His revolutionary ideas, while heretical at the time, came to be widely followed in the years ahead. Burning him at the stake made him a martyr, and his influence only grew as the man who gave his life for people to have the Bible in their language.
A hundred years after Hus, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Church in Germany and the Protestant Reformation began.
Bibles are plentiful today; the supply is actually galore. Worldwide, the Bible is the world’s best-selling book. Most of us have several.
I am confident the Lord has thousands of followers who are Bible readers. A close friend of mine told me recently that for over 20 years he has been reading the Bible through every year.
But please think about it. To what extent could history be repeating itself? Is it possible in the 21st century that Biblical illiteracy is spreading with Bibles in abundance – just by simply ignoring the greatest book ever written?
Here are two questions that can spark soul searching.
1) How much difference do you think there is in not having a Bible, and the Bibles people do have but growing dusty on the shelf, unnoticed and unread? And, 2) If John Hus could speak to the Lord’s church today, what do you think he would say?