On Thursdays over the next two months we will run short biographies of eight key reformers. If you would like to reprint these in your church bulletin to help people in your congregation become familiar with these individuals as a lead in for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, go for it–no need to attribute it back to us; if you find them useful, then by all means use them. Last week was Wycliffe, and today John Huss:
“Even when you are in the devil’s hands, you are still in God’s care.”
JOHN HUSS (1369-1415) “Huss” means goose in Czech, and John Huss is fittingly known as the swan of the Reformation. Before being burned at the stake for teaching that salvation is by faith apart from works, he declared that while his particular goose may be cooked, a swan would rise from his ashes 100 years later to confront the Catholic Church.
Huss was born in poverty, but became a priest so that he could have an income. Later he found Wycliffe’s writings and through them was converted to Christ. He began preaching the gospel and soon became the most popular priest in Bohemia.
The Catholic Church abhorred his popularity as much as they detested the gospel which he preached. A Church Council had been called to settle the papal schism—three (!) different Popes had been duly elected, each anathematized the others—and the Council of Constance was supposed to undo this. Instead they condemned Huss for preaching the gospel.
Before burning him, they dressed him in his priestly robes, then stripped him naked, and placed a paper crown with mock flames and demons on his head. They burned him to death as he recited Psalm 51. One hundred years later, Luther would nail the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, and the Reformation would officially begin.