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he was cited to appear before the weak and unprincipled $binko, archbishop of Prague, in whose presence he “ gave a reason of the hope that was in him, with meekness and fear.”
Rome however, desired, as always, not reason and truth, but implicit submission; and because this was not given by this son of the gospel, both he and the city which favoured the cause of its brightest ornament, were placed under the interdict of the church. Such, again, was the excitement caused by this most unrighteous decree, that Huss deemed it prudent once more to retire to his former sanctuary of repose, where, as before, he employed his time in writing and preaching for “ the defence of the gospel.” Soon again, however, he was drawn from his retirement to active open conflict with the patrons of Romish corruption. On the 30th October 1413, the Emperor Sigismund, in concurrence with Pope John XXIII., published an edict, convoking à general council to be held at Constance. On the part of the emperor, this council was convened for the purpose of taking measures for healing the disgraceful divisions of the church; while the pope acquiesced in it for the double object of establishing his claims to the chair of St Peter, and of putting down the growing Hussite heresy, Huss was therefore summoned to appear before this motley and confused assembly, many of whose members were thirsting for his blood.
The imminent peril to which obedience to this summons exposed the reformer, was manifest to all eyes. His friends trembled for his safety. He himself had melancholy presentiments of coming trials, but his bold heart quailed not. He spared, indeed, no pains which christian prudence could suggest to secure, as far as possible, his safety. He applied for, and received, a safe conduct from the emperor, and then he set out for Constance, uttering these words of faith-“ I confide altogether in the all-powerful God my Saviour; and trust, through your prayers, he will give me boldness to face all temptations, and, if necessary, a cruel death.” Henceforth he is almost a solitary believer amid ungodly and wicked men. Christian brethren are not permitted to come near to strengthen him ; but his soul, on that account, listens all the more closely to that secret voice of peace which speaks the truth in his heart, from what God is heard speaking in his word. There is the Comforter, too, dwelling within him, fulfilling the precious promise of the Lord Jesus ; " He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you. He shall take of mine, and shall show it'unto you.”
On his arrival in Constance, early in November, Huss took up his residence with a poor widow ; but though, like her of Sarepta with the prophet, she proyided the reformer a lodging, she could not ensure him an asylum. John XXIII. at first received him graciously, and for a short time Huss possessed considerable liberty to speak and act as a minister of God. But it was only the ominous calm that precedes the thunder storm. Stephen Paletz, one of his own disciples, but who had some time before turned traitor to the truth, now appeared at Constance to lay a charge of heresy against his generous and confiding master. It was not difficult to fan the flame which had long smouldered in the bosom of the priesthood against the reformer; and, roused by the efforts of this apostate, it soon raged with such fury, that nothing could
quench it but the blood of the servant of Christ. On the twenty-sixth day after Huss's arrival, while sitting in familiar conversation with his friends, he was arrested as a prisoner, and dragged before the pope and cardinals. « Behold! we have thee now," cried some of these ravening wolves, " and thou shalt not escape till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."
The friends of the reformer were filled with righteous indignation at the base treachery of the Romanists. John de Chlum, a Bohemian nobleman, and to the last a most faithful and devoted friend of Huss, complained in bitterness of spirit against the perfidious arrestment. • The priests," he exclaimed, « have allured a most holy and innocent man, by lying representations, into the most infamous snares." Huss was thus thrown into prison by the pope and cardinals, without the knowledge of the emperor, who had not yet reached Constance. But immediately on his arrival, though at first indignant at the violation of his safe conduct, he was so beset with perverse reasonings against keeping faith with heretics, that, in spite of the voice of conscience and the appeals of suffering innocence, his deliberate pledge was broken, and the man of God given up to the rage of his persecutors.
From that evil hour nothing stopped the enemies of truth from leading their victim to the sacrifice. Commissioners were appointed by the pope to interrogate Huss. They laid to his charge things that he knew not. “I besought them,” says the good man, “ to allow me an advocate.” To this they at first agreed, but afterwards they refused. I therefore place my confidence in our Saviour Jesus Christ. May he be my advocate and my judge." It is written, “ He will regard the prayer of the destitute;" and the supplication of this mourner of Zion was answered by the presence with bim of the great Peacemaker, giving him songs in the night. So manifestly did he " suffer as a Christian,” that his keepers were touched at the sight of his patience in tribulations, and often when his persecutors would enter his cell, for the purpose of harassing him by some new stratagem for his ruin, they would find these rude and uneducated guards listening eagerly to his instructions in the gospel, and Huss himself far more concerned about the perils which threatened their souls, than with the dangers which menaced his own life.
Six dreary months had Huss now languished within his gloomy and damp prison, but the time of his fiery trial and promised redemption at last drew nigh. Thrice was he summoned before the priestly assembly of church dignitaries. They were powerful only in assertion and authority, the Reformer was mighty in meekness, and in the scriptures. His persecutors pressed propositions on him, which they affirmed, without proof, were drawn from his writings, and which he denied they anywhere contained. Yet because he would not violate his conscience by consenting to this falsehood, in fact, and because he would not receive the most glaring errors of the church as truth on her authority alone, without any reference to the scriptures—he was judged a transgressor. Their fury was unbounded. “ All,” said Luther a century after, “ worked themselves into a rage like bears, they bent their brows and gnashed on John Huss with their teeth.” Still knowing the tumult his fall would cause throughout Bohemia, they were afraid to strike the last blow. Hence they employed every means to save their authority, by wiling
him into a recantation. But the reformer had before poured out this prayer to his Lord, “ O divine Jesus draw me after thyself, strengthen my spirit that I may be ready and determined,” and now to all the entreaties urged on him to abjure, he replied, “How could I then raise my face to heaven, or endure the looks of the crowds of men I have instructed. No! no! Never shall it be said that I preferred the safety of this miserable body, now destined to death, to the eternal salvation of those precious souls whom I have taught in the pure doctrines of the gospel.” Thus, stedfast in the faith, and not fearing “ them who can kill the body," he was, on the 6th July 1414, condemned to be burned. After his sentence he was stripped of his priest's dress, and had placed on his head a mock pyramidal crown, on which were painted frightful figures of demons, and also this inscription; THE ARCH-HERETIC. “I wear," said he meekly, “ with joy this crown of opprobrium for the love of Him who bore the crown of thorns.” The place of martyrdom to which Huss was led, was an adjoining meadow without the gate of Gotleben. On arriving at the scene of his sufferings, the holy man kneeled down reciting some of the penitential psalms, and imploring forgiveness for his enemies. On hearing him pray in such fervour and love, the multitude observed, “ We are ignorant of this man's crime, but he offers up to God inost excellent prayers.”
This was a truthful testimony to the strength of Huss's inward christian life. His outward creed, now that he was near his end, united a considerable amount of Romish clay to the pure gold of scripture truth, and it has been sometimes felt difficult to account for even priestly bigotry finding cause of accusation against him. But however tinged his mode of expression might be with the shadows of the morning dawn, he was in heart a child of the light. He held the Head, he was a true disciple of the word, and he faithfully resisted the intrusion of any creature within the domain of conscience. This accounts sufficiently, at once for his eminent growth in the christian life, for his great usefulness as a harbinger of the Reformation, and also for the unrelenting bitterness of persecution with which he was dragged to the flames by those who hate the light, neither come to the light. The cause in which he suffered was glorious, and the spirit he displayed in his last moments, proved that a great cause found in him a noble victim. Having been led to the place of execution, his body was bound to the stake, and the faggots piled around him. “My brethren,” said he to his guards, " learn that I firmly believe in my Saviour, it is for his name's sake I suffer, and this very day I shall go to reign with him for ever.” “I call God to witness,” cried he in the ears of all, “ that I have never taught what false witnesses have laid to my charge; my sermons and writings have all been sincerely designed to rescue souls from the tyranny of sin, and therefore with my blood I most joyfully confirm that holy truth which I have taught.” And then lifting up his eyes to heaven, he prayed “ Jesus, thou Son of the living God, have pity on me.” As these words are uttered the fatal pile is lighted, and the wind raises it into a cloud of flame, all around the suffering servant of God. The smoke ascends, the faggots crackle. There are faintings of heart felt by the few friends of the reformer, and there are half uttered imprecations heard from his many foes. In the midst of all, his own voice rises in melting tones to the heavens, singing a hymn of praise to God his Saviour. At last his head droops, his lips move as if in prayer--and now he has fallen asleep. The ashes of the martyr of the Lamb are cast into the Rhine, but his ransomed spirit on the same day takes its place beside the altar on high, the soul of one who has been slain for the testimony of Jesus.
TO THE ELDERS OF THE UNITED SECESSION CHURCH.
DEAR BRETHREN,—The standing of our Eldership is such, that the fact of being an elder is a strong presumptive evidence of intelligence and good character, and therefore promotes respectability and influence in general society. But excepting in this view, your office has little to render it attractive to a worldly eye. You are expected to expostulate with offenders, which in itself is no pleasant duty. You have to adjudicate on causes that may be intricate, disagreeable, and perplexing. You are called to visit the abodes of poverty and sickness, and may frequently find yourselves in circumstances where discretion is tried to the utmost in administering relief and counsel. Your own usefulness very mainly consists in exciting others to action; and when you exhort professing Christians to elevate the standard of their liberality and other virtues, you do them a kindness which is not always very highly appreciated, or very gratefully requited. · How comes it, then, that we find any persons willing to discharge such onerous obligations, with much loss of time, much personal inconvenience, and no temporal remuneration? They who suppose the question to be difficult of answer have not learned the happiness of doing good. The truest and loftiest bliss does not lie in mere ease or comfort. When a country is invaded, and all its liberties are threatened, the most enviable citizen is not he who shrinks from the contest, and shuts up himself and his stores in a sheltered hiding-place, but he who at any cost and hazard repels the invader, and secures to his nation a better independence than before-a freedom strengthened in its basis, and covered with glory. When a house is in flames, or a ship is perishing, we do not reckon him most privileged who recedes farthest from the catastrophe, and guards his goodly apparel against the possibility of harm from a spark of fire or a drop of spray. We reserve that estimate for him who extends help to the endangered, and by his self-denying efforts, restores the husband and parent to his wife and offspring-but for the triumph of generous humanity, a widow and orphans. In such cases we think that the happiest members of society are its benefactors; and if this opinion be just as regards the preservation of natural life and the advancement of its well-being, much more does it hold good of an eternal salvation and the diffusion of its blessings.
Look to the need of perishing souls! See what an awful or glorious futurity awaits them! Behold what sources of succour are presented in the expiation of Christ and the guidance of his spirit! Ponder the felicity of glorifying Christ in the advancement of a cause so dear to him--for which he died, arose, and reigns! If we should not reclaim his enemies, think of cheering his friends-of co-operating with the Redeemer in showing kindness to his redeemed. If we will think of recompense, let us not restrict the thought to filthy lucre-to the mammon of unrighteousness. Look onwards to that day when silver and gold shall prove corruptible things, and perish from the grasp of lamenting avarice; when he who sowed to the Spirit shall be reaping of the Spirit life everlasting ; when interest in Christ shall be tested by munificence to his people, and every act of friendship done to them shall be lauded by him, and requited as if it had been done to himself ; and even a cup of water given to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall in no' wise lose its reward.
I am far from saying that such considerations should have weight only with elders, and should promote satisfaction only with sacred office, and the fulfilment of its functions. Every Christian should be a philanthropist : in so far as he is not, he belies his christianity. All who are saints are priests unto God, and none are elevated to the priesthood for their own sake. They are, in that capacity, a gift from God to his church, and bound, in the entire measure of their means and opportunities, to promote its welfare. Whatever be our station, we sin against God and our own souls if we seek not to attain the utmost possible usefulness. But though the obligation devolves on you, in common with all Christians, to engage every talent in the Master's service, you are still distinguished from the great mass of christian society in the number of talents committed to your care. Rare and precious are the facilities you enjoy for serving your generation by the will of God. If the truth of this statement is not yet fully seen, I hope the time approaches when it will be unequivocally demonstrated. What mechanical resources were at the disposal of our progenitors, of which the benefit was lost to them from ignorance or inconsideration what stores of fuel, and metals, and steam power, that are only now coming into action and working their wonders! Physical energies are now on the stretch ; but the moral energies of society, to a lamentable extent, still slumber unemployed. What fearful disuse is there of intellectual and emotional capability! what absolute waste of thought and feeling on miserable trifles, which, duly engaged, might demolish the strongholds of error, and achieve another and better Reformation! If I were asked for the most remarkable example, I would mention Presbyterian churches. Such organization as they possess admits of almost indefinite efficiency in doing good; and who, looking at the disputes with which ecclesiastical courts have mostly occupied their time, can say or think for a moment that the innate excellence of the system has been adequately exemplified ? If I were asked for a yet more specific example within presbytery, I would point to sessions. They are by far the most important of all ecclesiastical councils ; their spiritual influence has only to be exercised to become immense, and all this is obscured by the little account which they too often make of their own functions and consequent disesteem into which they fall with others. To perform in some degree the duty of deacons, and make this an apology for slighting their own-such is the estimate which many have of the office of elders. But view the post as it ought to be NO. V. VOL. III.