Love Under Fire


Chapter 6—Two Heroes Face Death

As early as the ninth century the people of Bohemia* had the Bible in their language and conducted public worship in their language. But Gregory VII was intent on enslaving the people, and the papacy issued an edict forbidding public worship in the Bohemian tongue. The pope declared that “it was pleasing to God that His worship be celebrated in an unknown language.”1 But Heaven had provided agencies to preserve the church. Many Waldenses and Albigenses, driven by persecution, came to Bohemia. They worked earnestly in secret. In this way they preserved the true faith. LF 44.1

Before the days of Huss there were people in Bohemia who condemned the corruption in the church. This stirred the fears of the hierarchy, and they began to persecute those who taught the gospel. After a time there was a decree that all who strayed from Rome's way of worship would be burned. But the Christians looked forward to the victory of their cause. As he died, one of them declared, “Someone will arise from among the common people, without sword or authority, and they will not be able to prevail against him.”2 Already there was one coming to prominence, whose testimony against Rome would stir the nations. LF 44.2

John Huss was born into a humble home. The death of his father left him an orphan at an early age. His pious mother, who believed that education and the fear of God were the most valuable possessions, made efforts to provide this heritage for her son. Huss studied at the provincial school, then left for the university at Prague, where he was admitted as a charity scholar. LF 44.3

At the university, Huss soon drew attention by his rapid progress. His gentle, winning conduct made everyone admire him. He was a sincere follower of the Roman Church who sought earnestly for the spiritual blessings it claims to give. After completing his college course, he entered the priesthood. Quickly gaining prominence, he became attached to the court of the king. He was also made professor and later rector [dean] of the university. The humble charity scholar had become the pride of his country, his name honored throughout Europe. LF 44.4

Jerome, who later became associated with Huss, had brought with him from England the writings of Wycliffe. The queen of England, a convert to Wycliffe's teachings, was a Bohemian princess. Through her influence the Reformer's works circulated widely in her native country. Huss was inclined to look favorably on Wycliffe's reforms. Already, though he did not know it, he had started on a path that would lead him far away from Rome. LF 44.5