Item description for John Huss: His Life, Teachings and Death After Five Hundred Years by David S. Schaff...
PREFACE domain, so far as human judgment goes, the criterion of a Christian profession is daily conduct-a criterion expressed in the maxim, often quoted by Huss By their fruits ye shall know them. Some will be attracted to Huss chiefly by the fidelity to conviction which he maintained even in the presence of a horrible death others by those principles which he defined with more or less clearness and which were opposed to the systein built up during the Middle Ages and abhorred by the churchmen and theologians of Husss own age. From whatever standpoint he may be regarded, as a heretic or as an advocate of forgotten Scriptural truth, as a contumacious rebel against constituted church authority or as an advocate of the just rights of conscience, the fix-hundredth anniversary of his death at Constance, July 6, 1415, will again call attention to his personality and his teachings a a , as is hoped, promote the study of the foundations of church authority in such an irenic spirit that the cause of the mutual recognition of Christians, one of the other, may be advanced...
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Old fashioned history at its best Oct 30, 2008
John Huss (Jan Hus, 1373-1415) was an influential and charismatic preacher living in interesting times. Prague, with its university founded by Charles IV, was still the centre of gravity within the Holy Roman Empire. Bohemia was a prosperous country, with social tensions between an influx of migrating German-speaking merchants, and the native population. The Catholic Church in Western Europe was in deep crisis, being at the time ruled by two - and for some years even three - popes. And Hus was about to play a central role in Church Reformation
Schaff tells the story of John Huss very well. This is old fashioned, delicious narrative history. Being a Lutheran professor of Church History, he does not excuse himself for being frankly biased in favor of Huss. He gives a sound analysis of Wyclif's theology that decisively influenced Hus, and provides an excellent last chapter on the enormous inspiration that Huss has been to Luther and the fascinating parallels of the lives of both men. But what makes this book such a pleasure to read, is the cascade of funny anecdotes which colors the major players of this period: pope John XXIII, king Wenzel of Bohemia, and emperor Sigismund. The way Schaff achieves at evocating the spirit of the Concile of Constance (1414-1418) is absolutely superb.
Of Wenzel, Schaff writes that « his lack of decision and habitual indolence won for him the title « The Lazy ». He had a passion for hunting dogs. His first wife, Joanna, so it was rumored, died from the bite of a monster dog which teh king kept in his bedroom and which flew at her throat as she arose one night from bed ». On John XXIII, Shaff says: « With the popes of the pornocracy 904-431 and Alexander VI, he takes the palm for combining with his papal functions the basest iniquity known to human nature. He sold sacred offices to children, disposed of the head of Saint John the Baptist for fifty thousand ducats, committed adultery with his brother's wife and violated nuns and other virgins, and was guilty of sodomy ». etc.
I read this together with Derek Sayer's « The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History» which gives an excellent account of Hus's legacy in the wave of nationalism that swept through the Czech lands in de 19th and 20th century. I also liked Howard Kaminsky's « A History of the Hussite Revolution», which give an in depth treatment to the theology of Jan Hus and his followers.