The Hussites

The burning of John Hus at the Council of Constance. From Ulrich Richenthal's Das Concilium: SO zu Constantz gehalten ist worden, des jars MCCCCXIII (Augsburg, 1536), a "modernization" of the original edition of 1483.

The Hussites were a heretical group who saw themselves as devoutly orthodox Christians. They were followers of John Hus (Jan Hus) who was declared a heretic and executed in 1418 C.E. He promoted the reading of the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible by lay people in the common language because he felt that lay people had the ability to interpret the scriptures for themselves. He also condemned the immorality of the priesthood. He wanted to raise clerical ethical standards in order to address the financial abuses and sexual immorality which continued to plague the church. He also supported giving all Christians full communion. At this time, only the priests were allowed to receive wine during communion. He was also opposed to the papal selling of indulgences. Hus' main view was that the Bible and the scriptures took precedence over Church leaders and councils. This questioned the Church's authority. Essentially Hus felt that the heads of the Church needed a higher sense of morality and that the Bible itself was where the people should find their religion. At his trial he insisted that he would obey the Church completely, on the condition that the leaders could prove his statements erroneous. This statement condemned him in itself because he trusted his own ability to reason rather than the authority of the Church. The few surviving members of the Hussites either had to leave their homeland or reconcile with the Church. Some went to Poland under exile and others went underground. They remained underground until a small group resettled in Saxony on the estates of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinsendorf in 1722 C.E., and here a denomination was reorganized and entered a period of missionary endeavor. Hus' influence did not only extend to the Hussites, but was also important for the Protestant Reformation




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