Today in Church History, 6th July 1415

church history

Today in Church History, 6th July 1415

John Huss was burned alive when he refused to recant.

John Huss (1368-1415) was a Czech reformer who came from peasant parents in southern Bohemia, a small town called Husinetz. He studied theology at the University of Prague where he was introduced to the writings of John Wyclif (1320-1384) an English reformer. Upon his graduation, he was ordained at Bethlehem Chapel, where he adopted and immediately began preaching and teaching that Christ is the head of the church and not the pope as Wyclif had taught for many years.

On the walls of Bethlehem Chapel, were paintings contrasting the behaviour of the popes and Christ. The pope rode on a horse; Christ walked barefoot. Jesus washed the disciple's feet; the pope preferred to have his feet kissed. Huss was a fiery preacher and many people supported him.

The archbishop of Prague grew restless with these teachings and excommunicated him.

As a result, a great popular tumult erupted.

During his ex-communication, he wrote his major work, On the Church. He wrote against papal authority & indulgences. He proposed a Bible translation in Czech, congregational singing (congregations didn't sing in the century leading up to the reformation), and the preaching of the Bible. For these views, he was condemned at the Council of Constance, where he had hoped to present his views to the assembled authorities, but upon his arrival, he found himself, instead, a victim of the Inquisition. If he had confessed and recanted his teachings he'd have been imprisoned for life, instead of the stake. He refused to recant. He said, "I have said that I would not, for a chapel full of gold, recede from the truth. I know that the truth stands and is mighty forever, and abides eternally, with whom there is no respect of persons."

Hus was imprisoned for eight months before the day of his burning. He wrote this prayer in one of his letters; "O most holy Christ draw me, weak as I am, after Thyself, for if Thou dost not draw us we cannot follow Thee. Strengthen my spirit, that it may be willing. If the flesh is weak, let thy grace precede us; come between and follow, for without Thee we cannot go for Thy sake to cruel death. Give me a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, a perfect love, that for Thy sake I may lay down my life with patience and Joy amen."

Finally, 6th July 1515, the day of his burning came. He was taken from his cell and dressed in priestly garments, of which he was then stripped one by one. He was tied to a stake and asked one last time to recant. When he refused, he was burned alive. His dying prayer was this; "Lord Jesus, it is for thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies." He literally died for the headship of Jesus Christ over His church. The many followers of Hus struggled against the Roman Church, an underground independent church Unitas Fratrum or Unity of the Brotherhood thrived, until the coming of Martin Luther, it remained a root in dry ground. It was a promise of better things to come.


Solomon Mbuthia

Mbuthia S. Muigai is the pastor at Hope City Bible Church. He loves to disciple young adults, train pastors in rural Kenya, defend the Christian Faith and reach out to the lost with the powerful gospel of Christ Jesus. Mbuthia is married to Annabel and they have two sons, Nathan and Neilan