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THE COUNCIL OF CONSTANCE.-JOHN HUSS. 399.
specting the Council of Basle was equally true as to that of Constance, that it was not so much directed by the Holy Ghost as by the passions of men. The influence that lawyers were now exercising in social affairs-their habits of arrangement, of business, and intrigue, is strikingly manifested in the management of these assemblages; their arts had passed to the clergy, and even in part to the people. But how vast was the change that had occurred in the papacy from the voluntary abdication of Celestine to the compulsory abdication of John! To this council, also, came John Huss, under a safe-conduct from the Emperor Sigismund. Scarcely, however, had he arrived when and he was imprisoned, this treachery being excused from the necessity of conceding it to the reforming party. On June 5th, A.D. 1416, Huss was brought in chains before the council. It was declared unlawful to keep faith with a heretic. His countrymen, the Bohemian lords present, protested against such a perfidy, and loudly demanded his release. Articles of accusation, derived from his works, were presented. He avowed himself ready to defend his opinions. The uproar was so great that the council temporarily adjourned. Two days after the trial was resumed. It was ushered in by an eclipse of the sun, said to have been total at Prague. No one of the bloodthirsty ecclesiastics laid to heart the solemn monition that, after his moment of greatest darkness was over, the sun shone forth with recovered effulgence again. The emperor was present, with all the fathers. The first accusation entered on related to transubstantiation. On this and on succeeding occasions the emperor took part in the discussions, among other things observing that, in his opinion, the prisoner was worthy of death. After a lengthy inquiry into his alleged errors, a form of recantation was prepared for Huss. With a modest firmness he declined it, concluding his noble answer with the words, “I appeal to Christ Jesus, the one all- powerful and all-just Judge. To him I commend my cause, of who will judge every man, not according to false witnesses and erring councils, but according to truth and man’s desert.” On July 1st the council met in full session. Thirty articles against Huss were read. Among other things, they alleged that he believed the material bread to be unchanged after the consecration. In his extremity the prisoner looked steadfastly at the traitor Sigismund, and solemnly exclaimed, “Freely came I here under the safe-conduct of the emperor.” The conscience-stricken monarch blushed. Huss was then made to kneel down and receive his sentence. It condemned his writings and his body to the flames. He was then degraded and despoiled of his orders. Some of the bishops mocked at him; some, more merciful, implored him to recant. They cut his hair in the form of a cross, and set upon his head a high paper crown on which devils were painted. ” We devote thy soul to the devils.
400 MARTYRDOM OF JEROME OF PRAGUE.
in hell.” “And I commend my soul to the most merciful Lord Christ Jesus.” He was then led forth. They passed by the bishop’s palace, where Huss’s books were burning. As they tied him with a piece of chain to his stake, the painted crown fell off, but the soldiers replaced it. “Let him and his devils be burned together.” As the flames closed over him, he chanted psalms and prayed to the Redeemer. Can that be true which requires for its support the murder of a true man? So acted, without a dissenting voice, the Council of Constance. It feared the spread of heresy, but it did not fear, perhaps did not consider that higher tribunal to whose inexorable verdict councils, and popes, and emperors must submit-posterity. It asserted itself to be under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It took profit by a shameful perfidy. It was a conclave of murderers. It stifled the voice of an earnest man, solemnly protesting against a doctrine now derided by all Europe. The revolution it was compassing it inaugurated in blood, not alone that of, John Huss, but also of Jerome of Prague. These martyrs were also, no common men. Poggio Bracciolini, an eye-witness, says, in a letter to Leonardo Aretino, speaking of the eloquence of Jerome, “When I consider what his choice of words was, what his elocution, what his reasoning, what his countenance, his voice, his action. I must affirm, however much we may admire the ancients, that in such a cause no one could have approached nearer to the model of their eloquence.” John XXIII. was compelled to abdicate. Gregory XII. died. Some time after, Benedict XIII. followed him. The council had elected Martin V., and in him found a master who soon put an end to its attempts. It had deposed one pope and elected another; it had cemented the dominant creed with blood; it had authorized the dreadful doctrine that a difference in religious opinion justifies the breaking of plighted faith between man and man; it had attempted to perpetuate its own power by enacting that councils should be held every five years; but it had not accomplished its great object-ecclesiastical reform. In a room attached to the Cathedral of Basle, with its roof of green and party-colored tiles, the modern traveler reads on a piece of paper this inscription: “The room of the council, where the famous Council of Basil was assembled. In this room Pope Eugene IV. was dethroned, and replaced by Felix V., Duc of Savoie and Cardinal of Repaile. The council began 1431, and lasted 1448.” That chamber, with its floor of little red earthen flags and its oaken ceiling, witnessed great events. The democratic influence pervading the Church showed no symptoms of abatement. The fate of Huss had been avenged in blood and fire by the Bohemian sword. Eugenius IV., now pontiff, was afraid that negotiations would be entered upon with the Hussite chiefs. Such a treaty,
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