The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2

II. Multiple Background of Bohemian Reforms

During the latter half of the fourteenth century the kingdom of Bohemia occupied a place among the nations of Europe, somewhat comparable to her geographical position in the heart of the continent. Her population was, in the main, Slavic, and her capital was a residence of the German emperor. Her university at Prague, though hut recently founded, was, one of the largest and most flourishing—indeed, almost the only one—in that section of Europe. 9” Her churches, cloisters, and palaces kindled admiration and surprise in the stranger, and through her connection with the German Empire, her influence was widely felt. 10 Here a reformation, based on the prophecies, began more than a century before Luther, which, to human view, was quenched in blood-not, however, without leaving behind it most important results. From these persecuted Bohemians later sprang the Moravian missionaries as spiritual descendants. PFF2 105.3


Like Moravia, Bohemia had probably received the Christian faith from the West in the time of Charlemagne. However, because of the unfamiliarity of the Western missionaries with the Slavic tongue, Christianity was completely established by teachers from Greece, and the Eastern ritual was practiced in the national church in Bohemia until in 1079 Gregory VII forbade the use of the mother tongue in public worship.” 11 Although the extent of Greek influence is a matter of dispute among historians, such usages as preaching in the vernacular, marriage of the clergy, and communion in both kinds died very slowly. 12 This should be kept in mind, as it was the seed from which the later Reformers, such as Huss, sprang. PFF2 106.1

During the period following the bull of Gregory VII, when the Papacy became more and more predominant in Bohemia, a new spiritual element was introduced by the Waldenses, 13 who fled from their homelands and found a foothold here, and spread themselves in small colonies all over the Slavic countries, keeping the evangelical message alive until the time of Huss.” 14 PFF2 106.2


Rieger says that the Reformer Chytraeus, during a trip through Bohemia in 1569, was told by the Bohemian Brethren that they were called Waldensians and Picards, 15 their spiritual ancestry being traced first through the Greeks, then the Waldensians, then the Wyclifites—and of course, Huss. The Wyclifite movement, at the time of Wyclif, was purely English in scope. But it was soon destined to acquire European significance. Some sparks of fire were blown halfway across Europe to remote Bohemia, and there quickened latent embers of reform into active flame. 16 PFF2 107.1

Thus it was that the sacred fire passed from Oxford to Prague, as Huss was influenced by the works of Wyclif. But in its inception the Bohemian movement was independent, and eminently a national one, as no Wyclifite writings had, as yet, made any impress on Bohemia. And, as has been noted, Huss had several spiritual forerunners-Milicz of Kremsier, Konrad of Waldhausen, Thomas of Stitny, John of Stekno, and Matthias of Janow. 17 Many of the Bohemians espoused the teachings of Huss, including his views on the antipapal prophecies. But, as Comenius expressed it, many sealed their testimony with their own blood as the Antichrist sought to exterminate them. 18 The story is a dreadful one. But from their ashes sprang the later Moravian missionaries. 19 PFF2 107.2