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Church of England Magazine.
JUNE 1, 1822.
MEMOIRS OF THE REFORMERS.
JEROME OF PRAGUE.
Of all moral themes, none has been more carefully or more frequently handled than friendship. A succession of ethical writers have defined its nature, descanted on its properties, detailed its qualifications, and lauded its advantages. The acute Bacon, the elegant Addison, the profound Johnson, the critical Blair, have given animated descriptions of its value, and laid down rules for its preservation. But it may be asked, with becoming deference to such great authorities, Is there not a radical defect in all their lucubrations on this interesting subject? Have they been sufficiently scriptural in their views of its nature? Have they regarded it as one of the sweetest privileges of the people of God? Have they considered that reciprocation of kindness, that interchange of exhortation, instruction, comfort, or reproof, which exists between two affectionate Christians, deeply humbled with a sense of their personal infirmities, and earnestly desiring each other's salvation, as illustrating the doctrine of the communion of saints in the sweetest and most affecting manner? Indispensable as is the duty of public worship, and important the obligation of general interest in the concerns of the church, is there not something peculiarly gracious in the promise of the Saviour: "If two
shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven?" Did he not sanction religious friendship by his own example? Have we not a warrant for the exercise of sympathy and affection towards certain individuals, in that particular regard which he vouchsafed to John, and the happy family of Bethany? In truth, that quality which in all ages has been dignified by the sacred name of friendship, though at times exhibiting instances of great disinterestedness, has been corrupt in its base, deficient in its constitution, and precarious in its enjoyment, in proportion as the parties concerned have been lacking in divine illumination, or in that love which is a fruit of the Spirit of Jehovah. The difference between the sparkling of polished ore and the lustre of a jewel of the first water, is not greater than is the contrast between a worldly and a religious intercourse. Little do nominal Christians suspect that their friendships more nearly resemble the partiality of a Damon to a Pythias, than the affection of a David to a Jonathan.
Our merciful Redeemer knew that sanctified hearts would be alive to the impressions of a generous amity; and that congeniality of sentiment would find solace and gather strength in the exercise of
mutual offices of kindness. Hence he sent out his disciples by two and two; that they might counsel and comfort each other; and that when their sensibilities were wounded, or their spirits oppressed, they might bear one another's burden, and so fulfil the law of their Master. In this world believers shall have tribulation; and it is one of the most pleasing acts of friendship, to alleviate affliction by sympathy, to drink of the same cup, to support a weary brother in his pilgrimage, to soothe him by expressions of cordiality, and to point him to another and a better state, where affection will be unalloyed, and happiness consummated. Such was the intercourse which existed between the venerable Huss and a pious layman named Jerome. Companions and co-martyrs, members of the same university, believers in the same Gospel, they took sweet counsel together, and walked in the house of God as friends."-"They were lovely in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided."
The youth of Jerome was marked by a thirst for information, and a diligence in the prosecution of study. His abilities were of the first order, and he excelled in the graces of elocution. Having graduated in his native university, he visited those of Paris, Cologne, and Heidelburg, by each of which he was welcomed with the degree of master of arts. Passing over to England, he attained a competent knowledge of its language, spent some time at Oxford, cultivated the acquaintance of Wickliffe, translated many of his writings into the Bohemian tongue, and took back others with him to the continent. He then became fellowlabourer with Huss in propagating the opinions of a divine whom they both so much admired. Engaged in the same work, the sentiments of the two friends agreeably coalesced, while there was a sufficient difference in their characters to
vary their style as teachers. Huss was grave, and spoke as one having authority; Jerome was energetic and copious. Huss was mild and suasive; Jerome was warm and hasty. Huss was remarkable for his devotional manner; Jerome for his striking matter.
When Huss was about to set out for Constance, his friend exhorted him to steadfastness, and encouraged him boldly to maintain the truths which they had mutually believed and preached. He promised to repair to his assistance, in case he should be hard pressed. No sooner did he hear of the illtreatment which the Rector of his university experienced from the Council, than he fulfilled his engagement, though that amiable prisoner wrote earnestly and affectionately to dissuade him from a step which would be both dangerous and unprofitable. He arrived at Constance on the 4th of April 1415; but hearing of the injustice and tyranny of the leading ecclesiastics in the Council, of the improbability of being admitted to an interview with the accused, and of his own liability to seizure, he thought it prudent to retire the next day to Uberlingen, an imperial city on the bank of the Lake of Constance. It is said, that in his anxiety to escape, he left his sword behind him at the inn. He must have felt however, on perceiving his loss, that he stood in need of that sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; and that though his divine Master had forewarned his disciples of approaching trials, by saying, "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one;' it was also written, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal."
From Uberlingen he demanded of the Emperor a safe-conduct; but Sigismond, doubtful how far the rights of the Council might clash with his own, and his permission be thus dishonoured, as had been
the case with respect to Huss, was disinclined to interfere. He then applied to the Council. "This," observes Fuller, " by no means could be obtained. Liberty they would freely give him to come, but not to depart; and on the same terms the wolf will grant free conduct to the lamb, to come to his den, but-vestigia nulla retrorsum *." He accordingly posted up a paper at Constance to this effect: I, Jerome of Prague, Master of Arts of the university of Paris, Cologne, Heidelburg, and Prague, by these my letters do notify to the Sovereign and the Council, and to all others, that because of many crafty slanderers, backbiters, and accusers, I am ready of mine own free will to come unto Constance, there to declare openly before all the Council the purity and sincerity of my faith and my innocence. But this I will not do secretly, or before any particular person. Wherefore, if there be any of my slanderers, of what nation soever, that will charge me with error or heresy, let them come forth openly before the Council, and in their own names object against me, and I will be ready to answer them. And if I shall be found guilty of any error or heresy, I will not refuse openly to suffer such punishment as shall be meet for a heretic. Wherefore, I humbly desire a safe-conduct as before. But if, seeing I offer such equal terms, before any fault be proved against me, I shall be arrested, imprisoned, or have any violence done to me, that then it may be manifest to all the world, that this Council doth not proceed according to the rules of equity and justice, the rather seeing that I am come hither freely and of my own accord, &c. +"
Of this honest declaration the Council took no notice. Obtaining, therefore, a certificate of its publication from the Bohemian nobility,
* Abel redivivus, p. 25.
+ Clarke's Marrow, p. 127.-Cochlaus ~Opera Huss. L. 2. fol. 343. 354.
he began his journey homeward, but was stopt at Hirschau, a small town in the principality of Sulzbach. Some writers, as Maimbourg and Reichenthal, report, that he provoked his apprehension by some indiscreet expressions used at á clerical entertainment in that place to which he was invited, having in the heat of argument called the Council the school of the devil, and the synagogue of Satan; but this is doubted by the more impartial Lenfant. However this be, he was brought back with every circumstance of insult, the Council glorying in his arrest, and affecting to consider his flight as a presumption of guilt, while the Elector Palatine, meeting him at the gates, rode before him; Jerome being handcuffed and led through the streets by a long chain to a prison, whence he was conducted after a few days to a convent of the Minorites, for examination. Here he met with the same treatment as his friend Huss. Every mean art was resorted to, with intent to ensnare and intimidate him, by the browbeating and clamorous assembly. Many vexatious charges were brought against him by the Chancellor Gerson of the university of Paris, and the Rectors of the collegiate bodies of Cologne and Heidelburg. When allowed a hearing, he endeavoured to rebut their charges, by showing how disingenuously they had seized on some propositions which he might have advanced, through the license which was notoriously granted to scholastic disputants in defending or opposing a given thesis. The latter in particular accused him with having given an impious idea of the Trinity, because he had illustrated the co-essentiality of the three divine Persons by an image drawn from the element of water existing in three different states, of fluid, snow, and ice; an illustration which was doubtless used by Jerome with all the harmlessness of a modern Hutchinsonian. To all the charges he replied, that, so far as the alle
gations were founded in truth, he was ready to defend his opinions. But he was not allowed a fair hearing. A general clamour was raised in the assembly. They cried out, Away with him! away with him! To the fire! to the fire!" Astonished at this indecency in a court of such reverence and dignity, the prisoner could only wait till the uproar had somewhat subsided, and then looking round upon his judges with an air indicative at once of reproof and resignation, he said with a loud voice, "Since nothing but my blood will satisfy you, the will of God be done!"
He was conveyed from the court to a dungeon, where he was scarcely seated ere a friend addressed him through the grated window: "Fear not, Jerome, to suffer death for that truth which during your life you have so well defended." Lifting up his head, and looking towards the aperture from whence the voice proceeded, he replied, "I have indeed defended it according to my ability; and I trust the Lord will enable me to undergo martyrdom for its sake." A guard coming up at the instant, drove away the man from the window; but the affair probably served as an excuse for greater severity; for, soon after, the Archbishop of Riga ordered him to be removed to a strong tower in St. Paul's church, where he was fastened to a post, with his hands cruelly chained to his neck, and his feet placed in the stocks. In this painful posture he was kept ten days, without any aliment but bread and water. His confinement occasioning a dangerous illness, he solicited the indulgence of a confessor, through whose representation he obtained some mitigation of his sufferings.
While he lay thus in confinement, he was assailed with repeated admonitions for recantation. His enemies endeavoured to persuade him to this measure, that the cause of Popery might appear to triumph over incipient illumination, and
that the Gospellers might be confounded by the desertion of so signal a champion; his friends joining in their request, from a wish to preserve his valuable life; forgetting, it should seem, that awful declaration of the Lord Jesus, "Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. x. 33.) He long resisted their united importunity. But the power of darkness was permitted to prevail for a little hour. This excellent servant of his God, worn out with fasting, bonds, and imprisonment, lowered with sickness, beset with entreaty, and feeling some natural misgivings on hearing of the cruel martyrdom of his friend, accompanied with threats of similar vengeance to himself, began to qualify the expressions of Huss, then to equivocate, and at length, on the 23d of September, to own that the departed saint had been justly condemned. He solemnly retracted the errors they had been pleased to allege against him; and declared himself ready to undergo all the penalties inflicted by the canons upon heretics (one of which, be it remembered, is consignment to eternal punishment), if he ever relapsed into the same errors*! He read a paper to this effect before the Council, and subscribed it with his signature.
"Thus," observes Milner, was disgraced before all the world, and humbled in his own eyes, a man of most excellent morals, of superior parts, and of great learning and fortitude. Reader! this is an event memorable in the annals of human imbecility. Consider diligently the instruction it affords. The power and the mercy of God, in owning his fallen servant, and in afterwards restoring and supporting him, were magnified in this instance in a very striking manner +." While we admit the justice of this pious reflec
* Dupin, p. 124.-Bower, vol. vii. p. 194.-Lenfant, vol. i. p. 513.
+ Hist. of Church, vol. iv. p. 257.
tion, we cannot but feel a portion of Fuller's holy jealousy for the honour of religion, who exclaims, "Here let none tyrannically trample on the prostrate credit of a penitent sinner. Consider that he did not surrender the castle of his integrity at the first summons, but kept it a
full year, in many a furious assault;
till the constant battery of importunity made at last an unhappy breach in his soul. O there is more required to make a man valiant, than only to call another, coward! Had we been in Jerome's case, what we ought to have done we know; but what we should have done, God knows. And may we here remember the blessing which Jacob bequeathed as a legacy to one of his sons; Gad-a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last! Let none look too long on the intermediate falls and failings to which the best saints of God in this life are subject; but lift up their eyes to the ultimate and final victories of God's servants, who at last, through Christ, prove more than conquerors
But, we would ask, independent of the guilt of unfaithfulness, what did a genuine Christian ever gain by temporizing policy or worldly concession? Such an one brings distress on his own soul, dishonour on the community to which he belongs, and discouragement on a faithful ministry; and what is his reward for such great sacrifices? The secret contempt and distrust of the new party which he espouses, who despise him for his instability, and doubt his sincerity. Thus it proved with poor Jerome! His immediate temptation seems to have been a desire of liberty; but in the expectation of release he was disappointed. He was remanded to prison, where, with a heavy heart and burdened conscience, he had leisure to repent of his temporary weakness, and to be ashamed of the discredit thrown on the memory of his friend. Some suspectAbel redivivus, p. 27.
ed his motives; others doubted his profession: Paletz and Du Cassis, who were the chief managers against him, as they had been against Huss, were encouraged to draw up fresh counts of accusation, by the arrival of some Carmelite friars from Bohemia. There was, however, a more moderate party in the Council, who refused to sanction the proposal for a second trial. Some said, it was manifestly unjust, especially after the confession of the prisoner. Others declared, that it would discredit the Council, render their proceedings unpopular, and disgust the whole Bohemian nation. Among these were the Cardinals of Cambray and Florence, with some other dignitaries, who had been leading members of the commission on the late proceeding. The latter were justified in their opposition by a letter received from Bohemia, where the treatment of Huss had raised a great ferment. It was signed by more than fifty of the principal nobility, which, as given by the great historian of the Council, is valuable in the light both of a state paper and ecclesiastical document.
"We know not from what motive ye have condemned John Huss, bachelor of divinity and preacher of the Gospel. Ye have put him to a cruel and ignominious death, though convicted of no heresy. We wrote in his vindication to Sigismond, king of the Romans. This apology of ours ought to have · been communicated to your congregations; but we have been told that ye burnt it, in contempt of us. We protest therefore, with the heart as well as with the lips, that John Huss was a man very honest, just, and orthodox; that for many years he lived among us with godly and blameless manners; that during all those years he explained to us and to our dependents the Gospel, and the books of the Old and New Testament, according to the exposition of holy doctors approved by the Church; and that he has left