THE LEGACY OF A MARTYR
Jan Hus is not the person most Lutherans picture when they think of the word “reform.” Thoughts most often travel to Martin Luther, father of the Lutheran Church. Hus, however, sparked reform in his homeland of Bohemia one hundred years before Martin Luther did the same in Germany. Hus’ convictions centered on following God’s truth, which was found only in the Scriptures—an idea that influenced Luther.
“I was struck with amazement as I read on, and was filled with an astonishment difficult to describe, as I sought out for what reason so great a man—a doctor, so worthy of veneration, and so powerful in expounding the Scriptures—had been burned to death.”
Luther writing about Hus in “Preface of Dr. Martin Luther, to the Letters of John Huss, Published by him in the year 1537,” as translated by Campbell Mackenzie in The Letters of John Huss, Written During his Exile and Imprisonment.
Many parallels are evident in the lives of Hus and Luther. They were both from poor, peasant families, bold preachers of the Gospel and popular with members of the nobility, condemned the immorality of the clergy and corrupt practices in the church, and each one worked on translating the Bible into his common language while in exile. Most of all, however, both Hus and Luther inspired reform movements that could not be stopped. Even after his death, Hus’ followers in Bohemia fought for their beliefs, which lead to the Hussite War.
“To-day [sic] you will roast a lean goose, but [a] hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing, whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for you.”
Statement of Jan Hus before his death as recorded by Poggius the Papist and translated in Beda Von Berchem, The Infallibility of the Pope at the Council of Constance: The Trial of Hus his Sentence and Death at the Stake in Two Letters by a Member of the Council Fra Poggius to his Friend and Brother in Christ Leohhard Nikolai.
Hus is an important man in the history of the Christian church and his life and ministry of reform should not go overlooked. July 6, 2015, marks the 600th anniversary of his death as a martyr of the Christian church. With this exhibit, CHI honors this “goose” who may have been “roasted,” but paved the way for another reformer to follow who would change the course of Western history.