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The Burning of John Huss

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Huss was at length brought for the last time before his accuser. After a long examination, he was called on to recant. This he refused to do, without the least hesitation. The bishop of Lodi then preached a sermon, the text of which was, "Let the body of sin be destroyed," and applied it as justifying the destruction of heretics. After the close of the sermon judgment was pronounced. The council condemned Huss as being "obstinate and incorrigible," and fixed as his punishment, "That he should be degraded from the priesthood, his books publicly burned, and himself delivered to the civil power for execution."

Huss received the sentence without showing the least fear; and at the close of it, kneeled down with his eyes lifted toward heaven, and, with all a martyr's heroism exclaimed: "May thy infinite mercy, O God! pardon this injustice of my enemies.

Those appointed for the purpose by the council now stripped him of his priestly garments, degraded him, and put a paper mitre on his head, on which devils were painted with this inscription: "A ringleader of heretics." This mockery was born by the martyr with a resignation and dignity that triumphed over the ignominious garb he was compelled to wear.

The ceremony of degradation being over, the bishops delivered the prisoner to the emperor, who committed him to the care of the duke of Bavaria. His books were burned at the gate of the church; and he himself was led outside the city of Constance to the place of execution. When he had come there he fell on his knees, looked steadfastly toward heaven, and said, "Into thy hands, O Lord! do I commit my spirit."

When the fagots had been piled around Huss, the duke of Bavaria begged the doomed man, for the last time, to recant. "No," firmly replied the martyr, "I have never preached any false doctrine; and that which I have taught with my lips, I will now seal with my blood."

It is told of this heroic martyr that, when the fagots were lighted, he sang a hymn, with so loud a cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings of the wood, and the noise of the multitude. At length his voice was interrupted by the flames, which soon put an end to his life. This took place in July, 1415; the event was soon to be followed by another no less dreadful.

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2002 by Kevin W. Michael.
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