This year marks 600 years since John Huss was burned at the stake. His remarkable life, along with his compatriot Jerome, are a compelling story of the power of God’s Word. For Seventh-day Adventists this is especially compelling as their story forms chapter six of The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White where she talks about their contribution as part of the “Great Controversy” drama between Christ and Satan. What stands out as their greatest contribution is there faithfulness to God’s Word.
Why did Ellen G. White see John Huss as significant? She gave three reasons.
First, the Bible was translated into the Czech language, but Gregory VII issued a bull forbidding public worship in the vernacular, especially with the Bible. This was during a time of great ignorance of the Bible. Instead Huss followed the maxim that “the precepts of Scripture” should “rule the conscience” as “the one infallible guide.”
Second, John Huss openly condemned corruption at that time that he saw within the Roman Catholic Church. “Huss thundered against the abominations which were tolerated in the name of religion,” noted White.
Third, John Huss had unflinching courage to face the Council of Constance and the emperor solely armed with the Word of God. On his way he reportedly said: “I have not quitted you to deny the divine truth, for which, with God’s assistance I am willing to die.”
Despite a promise of safe conduct by both the emperor and the church Huss went willingly to testify of his faith knowing that in all probability he would no return. He developed a theology of suffering that if Jesus suffered for him, then the least he could do was to suffer for his savior. After all, Huss believed, that suffering leads to purification.
Church leaders argued that “faith out not to be kept with heretics” as their justification for not honoring the pledge of safe conduct to the council. “During his long trial he firmly maintained the truth, and in the presence of the assembled dignitaries of church and state he uttered a solemn and faithful protest against the corruptions of the hierarchy. When required to choose whether he would recant his doctrines or suffer death, he accepted the martyr’s faith.”
Huss was then led to the place of execution. He was exhorted to save himself by renouncing his errors. “What errors,” he said, “shall I renounce? I know myself guilty of none. I call God to witness that all that I have written and preached has been with the view of rescuing souls from sin and perdition; and, therefore, most joyfully will I confirm with my blood that truth which I have written and preached.” And so his voice was silenced forever. Yet after six centuries his blood still speaks.