A Brief Introduction to the life and Legacy of John Calvin

On November 1, 1533, theological controversy erupted once again in connection with All Saints Day. But instead of Germany, this drama occurred in Paris, France.

Sixteen years and a day earlier, the well-intentioned and at the time somewhat naïve monk, Martin Luther, had nailed his 95 Theses or questions to the door of the Wittenberg chapel. With that document, Luther had hoped to combat the idea that men and women could earn salvation through good works or even through the purchase of a piece of paper called an indulgence. Sadly for him and Christendom, the Pope rejected Luther’s calls for reform. After a meandering series of accusations, book burnings, and councils, the Catholic Church excommunicated Luther, forcing the monk to retreat into Germany for the purpose of creating a church that would once again champion the historic faith of Jesus and the apostles which declared salvation to be by grace alone through faith alone.

A Quick Biography

By 1533, Luther’s reformation had taken hold of Germany and parts of Switzerland. But little of Luther’s light had penetrated the spiritual darkness that had enveloped the nation of France. John Calvin would later note, he  grew up, “obstinately devoted to the superstitions of Popery.” He began college intent on becoming an officer of the Catholic Church. But as he progressed in his studies, Calvin’s father directed the young scholar away from the church and into law for to quote Calvin the profession “commonly raised those who followed it to wealth.” After turning his back on theology, Calvin somewhat ironically came into contact with the writings of Luther and other reformer’s books which had just begun to eke across the French boarder. While reading, Calvin experienced a sudden conversion which would reshape his life. Calvin wrote, “Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein.” Though he finished his legal studies and excelled at that profession, the doctrines of grace had captured his heart.

Because he maintained a stringent academic regime which began around 6AM and ended about midnight, Calvin quickly earned the reputation of being an expert in both reformed and biblical theology. When his friend Nicolas Chop decided to educate academics in Paris on the errors of works salvation in the middle of an All-Saints Day speech, he asked Calvin for help. While the extent of Calvin’s involvement in the speech remains debated by scholars, its poor reception could not be questioned. Much like Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517, Calvin’s and Chop’s calls for reform in 1533 were forcefully opposed by the Catholic Church. A few days after the speech’s conclusion, officers were sent to arrest Calvin. But he got wind of the plot and a using a blanket rope escaped out of high window. He scurried off to southern France.

A few months later on October 18, 1534, posters appeared all over France including outside the door of king Francis the 1st’s bedroom, denouncing “the horrible, great, and unbearable abuse of the papal mass.” The king was not amused and responded to the documents with swift persecution, burning 32 protestants at the stake. Grasping that France had no stomach for the Reformed faith, Calvin fled his homeland and headed to Italy, seeking to begin a private life of study and reflection. After some time, he decided to relocate to the city of Basle.

But before he could get to his destination, international politics interrupted his travels and forced him to spend an unexpected night in Geneva. What appeared to be simply another mundane night in Calvin’s life was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of the loud, headstrong, and somewhat flamboyant protestant preacher, William Farel. For the next hour or so, Farel begged the young reformer of 26 years to lead the Genevan church. Calvin politely declined, saying, “My heart was set upon devoting myself to private studies.” Farel was not to be put off. Calvin reports what happened next. “Upon this, Farel, immediately strained every nerve to detain me.” Before all was said and done, Farel would call down a curse on the young Calvin, proclaiming, “You are following only your own wishes, and I declare, in the name of God Almighty, that if you do not assist us in this work of the Lord, the Lord will punish you for seeking your own interest rather than his.” The threat struck home. Calvin said, “I was so stricken with terror, that I desisted from the journey which I had undertaken.”

Though Farel undoubtedly overstated his case and would continue to make brash decisions such as marrying a sixteen-year-old girl in his fifties, God had ordained this expression of Farel’s audacity for the benefit of the Genevan church and for all of Christendom.

God would use Calvin’s presence in Geneva to stabilize and preserve the faith once delivered for all. While Luther deserves credit for rediscovering and popularizing the gospel, Calvin’s should be celebrated for preserving the faith that Luther unearthed from the destructive rays of societal chaos, political egotism, and doctrinal confusion. Calvin proves important to the church today because his books, sermons, and tracts have provided Christians with a great understanding of theology, preaching, and pastoral ministry.

Calvin the Theologian

Calvin wrote and wrote. Through his hundreds of books, he gifted the church a library of accessible volumes that have helped Christians understand the important doctrines of the faith.  By hand and sometimes by dictation, Calvin created commentaries on most of the New Testament. He died before he could get to 2 and 3 John and Revelation. He also published a catechism, sermons, and most famously his Institutes of Christian Religion. Though few have read this book that rivals the size of the Old Testament in its entirety, the volume continues to inform Christian thought for Calvin methodically discussed a host of Christian doctrines. He touched upon everything from the Lord’s Supper to Guardian Angels, to natural revelation to prayer. Perhaps most famously, he solidified the protestant church’s understanding of the fallenness of man, the saving power of Grace, and the providence of God.

After reading the Scriptures, Calvin concluded that men and women entered the world broken by original sin. When Adam sinned both he and all his descendants became sinners. Calvin writes, “the whole man is overwhelmed – as by a deluge – from head to foot, so that no part is immune from sin and all that proceeds from him is to be imputed as sin (ICR, 2.1.9).” Because men and women were chained to sin, they could not choose anything good. By necessity, evil people with corrupt wills would want and would choose evil. Calvin writes, “The mind of man has been so completely estranged from God’s righteousness that it conceives, desires, and undertakes, only that which is impious, perverted, foul, impure, and infamous.” As Augustine and Luther, Calvin denied that men and women had the willful freedom to choose good. Sin served like a weighted anchor upon the soul directing people towards evil. According to Calvin, people legitimately choose to do evil apart from coercion as it was all they would ever want to choose.

When God saved a sinner, he accomplished the feat through the gracious opening of the sinner’s eyes to the realities of sin and to the glories of Christ. Once aware of the truth of the gospel, men and women can do nothing but believe. It is the necessary response to the saving power of God. Just as a woman with a foreclosure notice on her front door will undoubtedly cash a check for a billion dollars, the enlighten soul willingly repents and believes when exposed to the saving grace of Jesus. In other words, people do not so much choose God as God chooses them. Calvin writes, “For no man makes himself a sheep but is made one by heavenly grace.” In other words, men and women repent and believe according to God’s grace, his irresistible grace. Calvin concludes, “To sum up: by free adoption God makes those whom he wills to be his sons; the intrinsic cause of this is himself, for he is content with his own secret good pleasure.”

This doctrine has left Calvin open to the charge of hyper-Calvinism or fatalism, a type of let go and let God mentality. Proponents of this thinking say that since God has already determined the future, they do not have to evangelize, love others, or do anything to advance the gospel. God is going to save whom he is going to save. Though some churches have taught hyper-Calvinism, Calvin did not teach this doctrine.

He believed God’s providential plans occurred through our willing hearts. In other words, God does all that he desires and so do we. When God ordains events, he does so in ways consistent with our wills. While God ordained that Joseph would be sold into slavery so that he could ultimately save his family, God did not make Joseph’s brothers go against their natural desires to toss Joseph into a pit. God worked through their evil wills to accomplish his divine plan which was good.

The doctrine of providence should not lead people to fatalistic despair or laziness. Human actions were and are still meaningful. Providence does not erase human responsibility. Rather it should fill our hearts with hope. After noting that you or I could die from a host of causes ranging from a snakebite, to a fall, to an animal attack,  to a hail storm, to a falling shingle, or to a mugging, Calvin writes of the Christian, “it comforts him to know that he has been received into God’s safekeeping and entrusted to the care of his angels, and that neither water, nor fire, nor iron can harm him except in so far as it pleases God as governor to give them occasion.” If God reigns, we have no reason to fear for God does good for us.  

Calvin The Preacher

Though Calvin loved theology, he did not think it the discipline of scholars. He wanted it to reside in the hearts of everyday people. To accomplish this goal, Calvin preached, a lot. During his life, John Calvin preached more than 2000 sermons, devoting 65 sermons to the gospels, 159 sermons to Job, and 200 sermons to Deuteronomy. When Calvin returned to Geneva after having been exiled because he got mad at the City Council and locked them out of the church on Easter Sunday, Calvin returned to the Psalm that he was preaching when he had left the city, picking up at the very verse he had left off years before. Geneva contained three churches and the pastoral staff consisting of four additional preachers and three associates that worked along-side of Calvin. The men would preach at least twenty sermons a week in the various churches. Calvin preached twice on Sunday and then every weekday on alternating weeks. His Sunday sermons featured expositions from the New Testament or the Psalms. On weekdays, he would preach through the Old Testament.

Calvin valued expository preaching because he believed it to be the method by which God saved and sanctified the lost. He said, “Faith needs the Word as much as fruit needs the living root of the tree.” The preaching of the Word also sustained Christians after conversion. Calvin wrote, “The…Word is the basis whereby faith is supported and sustained…take away the Word and no faith will remain.” Calvin firmly believed the success of the church and the success of all the Reformation reforms would rise and fall with the preaching of the word. If a local church lost the citadel of biblical preaching every other ministry would fall in short order. To remain, a church must preach the word.

Understanding the importance of preaching, Calvin reserved the pulpit for qualified men. To get a church in Geneva or one of its country parishes, a man had to possess a godly character, knowledge of the Scriptures, and be a competent speaker. Calvin concluded, “There are two things required [of us preachers], first that we provide a good explanation to the faithful of that which is required of salvation, and then we add as much vehemence as appropriate, so that the doctrine touches and enlivens the hearts.” The sermon was supposed to be the means whereby the fallen heart connected with the Holy Spirit. This experience in-turn would result in spiritual transformation. It was the means by which pastors moved people to obey Christ through the power of the Spirit.  

Calvin passed on the core tenants of the Reformation through expository preaching. He taught scores of succeeding generations of Christians the means and methods of faithful, gospel exposition.

Calvin the Counselor

Lastly, Calvin gave the church a legacy of pastoral care that demanded that those who studied theology and preached the sermons regularly step out of the pulpit and into the lives of their congregation. To help the people of Geneva live out what they heard preached, Calvin ordered his fellow pastors to join him in spending time in the homes of their congregation. He wrote, “It is not enough for a pastor in God’s church to preach and to cast his words into the air, he must practice private admonitions.” Calvin and his fellow pastors visited every church member at least four times during the year to discuss theology, to pray for them, and to verify their church attendance.

If the visits revealed sin’s in the church members life, the pastors would call their counselee to repentance. For example when Calvin discovered through the visitation process that the sailor Jacque Verna was soliciting his daughter-in-law for unwholesome favors, he ordered him to stop and when he learned a mother was beating and burning her step-daughter he reported her to the local magistrates. Calvin and his fellow pastor also provided for the poor, counseled with those in jail, and care for the sick. If someone was bedridden for three days, a pastor would visit them to, “console them according to the Word of God.” When the plague hit Geneva in between 1542-44, the pastor’s struggled in assessing the situation. But before the plague left, two of Geneva’s pastors would die from the plague after catching germs from the sick people they had visited. According to Calvin, the faithful pastor was to know the scriptures well, was to love the pulpit, and was to invest in the lives of his congregation.

Conclusion

Calvin’s theological legacy is both complex and rich. Regardless of whether you agree with his conclusions, modern church members should appreciate Calvin’s faithfulness. Through his theological writings, his preaching, and his pastoral counsel, he provided future generations of Christians with the tools they needed to both understand and pass on the fundamentals of the Christian faith to future generations. The Faith once delivered for all that Luther discovered and popularized, Calvin institutionalized. When he died on May 27, 1564, he left behind a legacy of faithfulness worthy of our remembrance.

Did the Reformation Destroy the ‘Church?’

Catholics, academics, and some protestants view the Reformation launched by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517 as being a less than helpful historical development. Prior to the posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Chapel, seemingly one unified Christian church existed. Our Christian friends in the East who assemble under the banner of the Greek Orthodox Church take issue with this Western view of church history. Almost five hundred years before the Reformation, they broke with the Bishop of Rome on July 16, 1054. But the great schism did not destroy the unity of the Western Churches. Luther and the second generation of Reformers deserve the credit or the blame for that development. Baptists have a president, Methodists have bishops, and Presbyterians have presbyters in part because Luther walked off the field and refused to play with the historic and unifying expression of Christendom, the Roman Catholic Church.


Did Luther and Sola Scriptures Destroy the Church?


But is this truly what happened? Did Luther’s quest for a purer church destroy “The Church,” dividing that which God has always intended to be unified?


Those who view the Reformation to be primarily schismatic in nature, point to the most famous line of the Reformation. At the Diet of Worms in 1521, the representative of Pope Leo X demanded that Luther recant of his errors and his teaching. His errors included such things as Thesis 36 which stated, “Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.” Luther asked for an adjournment of the meeting to form his response. When he returned to the hall the following day, he replied:


I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

Here I Stand

Protestants champion Luther’s statement because it encapsulates the idea of Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. Instead of looking to Rome for truth, protestants can scan the Bible and discern God’s truth through plain reason. Luther had shifted the authority of the church from the Pope’s throne to the pew. Protestants rejoiced.

Christendom quaked. The democratization of the church’s authority threatened to destroy all authoritative claims. Any man or woman with access to the Bible could reason himself or herself to a variety of doctrines that may have no relation to the doctrines proposed by other Christians. Essentially Luther and the Reformers who followed the pugnacious monk had turned theology into a subjective experience that seemingly undermined the idea of truth, leaving no place for cultural much less spiritual unity. Interpretive anarchy reigned.


What Did Luther Really Do?

Though Luther and those in the Reformed camp turned the world upside down, they were not seeking to create a new church, modeling a theological paradigm of unending evolution and progress. The Reformers were inherently theological conservationists who wished to lead the Church back to the historic, apostolic faith. Luther had said his 95 Theses aligned, “with what is in the Holy Scriptures…and then what is in…the writings of the church fathers.”

Luther had not advocated for theological anarchy. He and those who followed him believed that the Holy Spirit that had inspired the New Testament text, converted the lost and sustained the church as the caretaker and protector of the evangelical witness. Christians were free to interpret the text according to their own conscience as long as that conscience aligned with the Scriptures and the testimony of the historic church that affirmed the apostolic witness. Theologian Kevin Vanhoozer correctly noted that for the Reformers, “Tradition was not the Word of God; it is the testimony to that Word.” Luther took issue with the Pope not because the Vatican championed tradition. He took issue with Rome because it advocated for theological positions that ran counter to the Scriptures and the testimony of the historic apostolic faith. Vanhoozer helpfully describes what Luther did, writing,

Protestantism is not the virus that divides and attacks the body; it is the antibodies that set to work attacking the body’s infection (e.g. late medieval Roman Catholicism).

Luther had not protested the authoritative nature of apostolic tradition as taught in the Scriptures. He protested against the commands of the Pope because the Pontiff, “distorts the Holy Scriptures.” He was not an theological anarchist. He was theological purest, Sola Scriptura.

Why Is the Church Fractured?

The church lacks unity not because the reformers protested the authority of Rome but because men and women of every age refuse to acknowledge the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition of the Church as Rome has done. The ancient church father Irenaeus whom Luther knew well described schismatics as follows:

When we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they [the schismatics] object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth.

The unity of the church fractures when men and women walk away from the apostolic witness of the Scriptures preferring new sources of authority ranging from prophetic dreams, to religious traditions, to personal feelings. Regardless of their claims, the new traditions always produce schism.

Luther did not infect the church with schism. He reintroduced the church to the cure for division, the gospel once delivered for all and attested to be all true believers. May we be wise stewards of the cure.

John Huss: A Name Martin Luther Thought All Christians Should Know

John-Huss-BlogOn Oct 31, 1517, the monk, Martin Luther turned the world upside down with a few shift taps on the door of the Wittenberg Chapel. Luther hoped his 95 Theses, 95 concerns, about the state of the Catholic Church would lead the church to reexamine her doctrine of indulgences, pieces of paper that promised forgiveness from sin in exchange for a fee. Luther wrote,

Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

He continued noting, “Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.”

Luther hoped his document would spur the erring church to return to the teachings of the primitive, apostolic church. But instead of taking on a few misguided theologians, Luther found himself challenging the essence of Catholicism. In 1520, Pope Leo X condemned the German preacher of salvation alone through faith alone, by grace alone in accordance with the Scriptures alone as being, “the slave of a depraved mind…a stone of stumbling…a heretic.” The Reformation swung into full gear. The church would never be the same.

Martin Luther’s Connection To Huss

A year earlier in 1519, Luther still believed the Catholic Church could be rescued. He traveled to the city of Leipzig to debate the well-known and revered catholic theologian Johann Eck. As they debated the “primacy of the Pope.” Eck shifted the discussion to the Council of Constance and accused Luther of “espousing the pestilent errors of John Huss which troubled the Catholic Church during the 1400’s.”

As a young scholar, Luther had read some of Huss’s sermon. Though he knew Huss was a heretic, the young Luther confessed he, “was filled with astonishment difficult to describe, as I sought out for what reason so great a man – a doctor, so worthy of veneration, and so powerful in expounding the Scripture – had been burned to death.” But Luther refused to utter his thoughts about the Bohemian heretic for fear, “that the heavens would fall me.”

The German told Eck, “I repulse the charge of Bohemianism.” And then as all good discussions do, the debate broke for lunch.

During the lunch break, Luther went to the library at Leipzig and read the charges against Huss. When Luther returned to the debate Hall, he returned a Hussite, a friend of the heretic.  Luther would later declare,

I have hitherto taught and held all the opinions of Jan Hus unawares…In short, we are all Hussites without knowing it.

What did Luther find in the Library of Leipzig?

Let’s take a look.

Who is John Huss?

John Huss entered the world in 1373 in Bohemia, modern day Czechoslovakia. Though born to a family of modest means, Huss reached the University of Prague in 1390 and paid for his education by singing. While earning his bachelor’s and master’s degree, Huss came into contact with the writings of the Oxford Professor and heretic, John Wycliffe, who had died when Huss was twelve years old. While Huss downplayed his connection to the English reformer, who advocated for purity in the church and for salvation apart from works, Huss was undoubtedly changed by his studies of Wycliffe and most importantly his studies of the Scriptures.

Commenting on his life prior to salvation, Huss wrote, “before receiving the priesthood, I lost much time in playing at chess, and through this game often suffered myself to be provoked, as well as provoked others to anger.” He also lamented his earlier fascination with fancy clothes, stating, “Alas I, too, had gowns and robes with wings, and hood with white fur; for they had so hemmed in the master’s degree with their regulations that no one could obtain the degree unless he possessed such apparel.” By the time he became a priest in 1401 and the preacher of Bethlehem chapel in 1402, Huss has embrace Jesus as his savior. For the remainder of his life, Huss gave up chess and embraced the faithful proclamation of the gospel, seeking the salvation of his hearers.

As he preached the gospel, Huss morphed into the great heretic whose name Luther feared to verbalize.

What was his crime?

John’s Huss’s Crime: The Gospel of Purity

He taught that Christians should follow Christ. He believed only those who looked to Christ for salvation through the cross as revealed in the Scriptures and who worked out their faith with fear and trembling in accordance with the Scriptures should be considered followers of Jesus. Huss wrote, “No place, or human election, make a person a member of the holy universal church.” He denied the church’s ability to sell and grant salvation to people apart from Jesus. Moreover, he believed church attendance did not save unrepentant sinners. He wrote, ”

Similarly as it does not follow that, because of ordure or sore is in the body of a man, therefore it is part of the body, so it does not follow that because a reprobate is in Christ’s mystical body of the church, therefore he is part of it.

Hus, JohannesMen and women could only secure the blessing of salvation when they “adhere firmly and without wavering to the truth spoken of by God.” Huss would write, “Again the minister of the church, the vicar of Christ is not able to absolve or to bind, to forgive sins or to retain them, unless God has done this previously.” Those who professed Christ would of necessity live holy lives as their savior was holy. Huss wrote, “If anyone is predestinated to eternal life, it necessarily follows that he is predestinated unto righteousness, and if he follows life eternal, he has also followed righteousness.” Huss’s common understanding of salvation, sanctification, and personal holiness appeared to be uncontentious.

After his famous lunch, Luther told Eck, “Among the articles of John Hus, I find many which are plainly Christian and evangelical, which the universal church cannot condemn.” Given the biblical and sensible nature of Huss’s teachings, Luther asked Eck if the court records had been corrupted because Luther could not imagine the church fathers would condemn such gospel truth. Eck affirmed the truthfulness of the condemnation. So why did the preaching of Huss strike such a nerve?

Why Was Huss Killed?

Huss incurred the hatred of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church of the 1400’s was filled with corruption. In his sermon on John 15:27, Huss noted that,

As layman walk with their canes to the churches, so these clerics go to the beer-hall with canes, and when they return they can hardly walk, much less talk, and least of all, do they know what is demanded of the priestly office…When the blood becomes heated, they talk of women and acts of lust in most wanton language…They ought to be like dogs to be turned out of the house of God, where they give such reproach and scandal to the hearts of simple layman.

During Huss’s trial at Constance, 1072 church officials showed up surround by troops and musicians and, women. Seven hundred women officially registered as prostitutes for the event. Huss condemned the decadence he observe and wrote,

He is Peter who is not known to go about in processions, ornaments with gems or silks, not clad in gold or carried about with soldiers surrounded by bustling servant. Without such things, Peter believed he was able to fulfill sufficiently the salutary commandment: If thou lovest me , feed my sheep.

In March of 1414, the council that condemned Huss condemned Pope John XXIII who had called the council. The church prelates removed the errant Pope from office because he sold church offices, slept with his brother’s wife, issued spurious and false commands, committed adultery with nuns, and engaged in sodomy. Huss rightfully noted that the “official church does not make the priest…the place does not sanctify the man, but the man the place. Not every priest is holy; but every holy person is a priest.”

To keep the lay people from complaining about their sinful lifestyles, the priests and church officials seldom preached the gospel. On his sermon on Matthew 21:43, Huss declared,

They shut up the kingdom of heaven to men. This they do by keeping back the Scriptures from the people so that they may not read or understand them, and know how men ought to live; that they may not know how to punish the priests for their sins, or through knowledge of the Scriptures may not insist that the priests become instructed in them. And again the priests keep the knowledge of the Scriptures from the people because the priests fear they will not receive the same amount of honor if the people are taught to read the Bible.

Because Huss opened up the Scriptures and exposed the warts of the Catholic Church, the leaders of the Bohemian church despised Huss. They regularly complained to the Popes and Cardinals about Huss’s preaching. As Luther, Huss never intended to defame the church and had no plans to split the church. Huss told his opponents that “The purpose of our side is that the clergy live honestly according to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, laying aside pomp, avarice and luxury.” Sadly, Huss pleas for reform, holiness, and biblical preaching fell on deaf ears.

In 1410, the Archbishop Zbyneck convinced the newly elected Pope Alexander V, one of three popes at the time,  to order the church and universities of Prague to burn John Wycliffe’s books, believing the British heretic to be the source of Huss’s faith. Huss refused to obey the papal bull and was promptly excommunicated. Huss appealed to the church court in Rome, hoping to convince the greater church community his gospel reform. The church officials imprisoned Huss’s messenger and excommunicated Huss for the second time in 1411.

Despite being commanded to repent, Huss kept preaching. He said “if a pope’s command is at variance with Christ’s commands or counsel or tends to any hurt of the church, then he ought boldly to resist it lest he become a partaker in crime by consent.”  Huss appealed the church’s decisions to God and kept ministering in good conscience, telling all that he had “committed [himself] to Christ alone (250).”  In 1412, Huss opposed Pope John XXIII’s sale of indulgences and was excommunicated for a third time.

Huss’s Trial and Death

In 1414, Huss secured the trial he had longed for since 1410. He hoped the gospel would win the day. But he was also prepared to suffer for the gospel and understood he could be rejected by the Council of Constance. As the Bohemian priest traveled to his end, he wrote, “it would be a strange thing at present to remain unpunished when attacking the perversity of the priests, who will not endure any blame.”

CouncilofConstanceDebatesthePope-5b44edb6c9e77c0037e7ed04And suffer, Huss did. Instead of receiving a hearing for his beliefs, Huss was imprisoned a few days after he arrived in Constance. When Huss was brought before the Council, the Council shouted down Huss’s voice down with a veracity that reminded Huss of how the Pharisees treated Christ as his trial. The leaders of the church allowed Huss to answer one question, will “you throw yourself entirely and totally on the grace and into the hands of the Council, that whatever the Council shall dictate to you.” Huss refused to recant the gospel to please the corrupt leaders of the Catholic Church. he told his friends,

I cannot do it without denying in many things the truth…I should afford a great scandal to the people of God who have listened to my sermons; and it would be better that a millstone were tied round my neck, and that I was plunged to the bottom of the sea…Our Savoir Jesus Christ will reward me fully, and bestow on me in my trials the assistance of patience.

On July 1414, Huss would lean brilliantly upon the Lord. The day opened with a reading of the chargers against Huss. Once again, the court prevented Huss from being able to answer the charges against him. Huss refused again refused to recant and prayed for Jesus to give him mercy. The Archbishop of Milan and the Bishop Constance then defrocked Huss removing his priestly clothes. The two church officials demanded that Huss repent. The Bohemian refused saying, “I do not fear this thing least I be found a liar in the eyes of the Lord and also lest I sin against my conscience and God’s truth.” After Huss’ hair was cut and a dunce cap was placed over his head, Huss walked to the stake. As the executioners pilled wood around, Huss sang the psalms. When the flames reached Huss’s body, he said, “Christ the Son of the living God have mercy upon me. As the flames reached his head Huss and claimed his life, Huss declared, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Though long dead, Huss continues to live on. Luther noted that the man the Catholic church had hoped to “obliterate forever” has continued to shine forth “which such glory that his cause and his teaching have to be praised before the whole world.” This generation should continue to glory in the testimony of Huss for the faith Huss preached, defended, and ultimately died for is the apostolic faith delivered once for all. Because men and women like Huss and Luther risked their lives for the gospel, we have access to the apostolic faith today. We are some of the “many children of the Lord” whom Huss hoped to reach through his death. Indeed, we are all Hussites.

To God be The Glory!