We concluded our preceding article with the remark that, in spite of the papal bulls that were hurled at him, John Huss continued to preach and to condemn the Church. 

Finally, a general council was convened for Nov. 1, 1414, at Constance. This council was convened by the emperor Sigismund. Sigismund was the heir to the Bohemian crown and he was anxious to clear the country from all accusations of heresy. Huss and his followers had been put under the ban. Besides, the emperor was also desirous to heal the Great or Papal Schism. He, therefore, convened this council. He invited John Huss to attend and promised him safe conduct to and from the council. And John Huss was apparently eager to attend the meeting. From the sermons which he took along it is evident that he purposed to convert the assembled fathers to his own principal doctrine. And provided with sufficient testimonies concerning his orthodoxy, and after having made his will as if he had divined his death, he started on his journey on Oct. 11, 1414. He arrived in Constance on Nov. 3. He was ready to testify for the principles he prized above everything else and, if need be, to die for them. This council of Constance had been convened, we repeat, by the emperor, Sigismund to clear the land of Bohemia of heresy and to heal the Papal Schism. 

In the beginning of his stay in Constance Huss was at liberty, living in the home of a widow. After a few weeks, however, his opponents succeeded in imprisoning him, on the strength of a rumor that he intended to flee. He was finally cast into the dungeon of the Dominican monastery. Sigismund appeared to be greatly angered because of the abuse of his promise of safe-conduct to the Bohemian reformer, but finally accommodated himself to the circumstances when he was told that, should he insist on his promise of safe-conduct, the council would be dissolved. Shortly afterwards Huss was imprisoned in the castle of the archbishop of Constance where he remained seventy-three days. Here he was separated from his friends, chained day and night, poorly fed, and tortured by disease. The promise of safe conduct had been repudiated and the fate of John Huss was thereby sealed. 

And now follows a description of the trial and condemnation of John Huss as set forth in the new Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia: “On June 5 he was tried for the first time, and for that purpose was transferred to the Franciscan monastery, where he spent the last week of his life. He acknowledged the writings on the Church against Palecz and-Stanislaus of Znain as his own, and declared himself willing to recant, if errors should be proven to him. Huss conceded his veneration of Wycliffe, and said that he could only wish his soul might some time attain unto that place where Wycliffe’s was. On the other hand, he denied having’ defended Wycliffe’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, or the forty-five articles; he had only opposed their summary condemnation. The king admonished him to deliver himself up to the mercy of the council, as he did not desire to protect a heretic. At the last trial, on June 8, there were read to him thirty-nine sentences, twenty-six of which had been excerpted from his book on the Church, seven from his treatise against Palecz, and six from that against Stanislaus. Almost all of his articles may be traced back to Wycliffe. The danger of some of these doctrines as regards worldly power was explained to the emperor to incite him against Huss. The latter declared himself willing to submit if he could be convinced of errors. He desired only a fairer trial and more time to explain the reasons for his views. If his reasons and Bible texts did not suffice, he would be glad to be instructed. This declaration was considered an unconditional surrender, and he was asked to confess (1) that he had erred in the theses which he had hitherto maintained; (2) that he renounced them for the future; (3) that he recanted them; and (4) that he declared the opposite of these sentences. He asked to be exempted from recanting doctrines which he had never taught; others, which the assembly considered erroneous, he was willing to revoke; to act differently would be against his conscience. These words found no favorable reception. After the trial on June 8, several other attempts were made to induce him to recant, but he resisted all of them. The attitude of Sigismund was due to political considerations—he looked upon the return of Huss to his country as dangerous, and thought the terror of execution would not be without effect. Huss no longer hoped for life, indeed martyrdom responded to an inner desire of his being. 

“The condemnation took place on July 6 in the presence of the solemn assembly of the council in the cathedral. After the performance of high mass and liturgy, Huss was led into the church. The bishop of Lodi delivered an oration on the duty of eradicating heresy; then some theses of Huss and Wycliffe and a report of his trial were read. He protested loudly several times, and when his appeal to Christ was rejected as a condemnable heresy, he exclaimed, ‘O God and Lord, now the council condemns even thine own act and thine own law as heresy, since thou thyself didst lay thy cause before thy Father as the just judge, as an example for us, whenever we are sorely oppressed.’ An Italian prelate pronounced the sentence of condemnation upon Huss and his writings. Again he protested loudly, saying that even at this hour he did not wish anything but to be convinced from Holy Scripture. He fell upon his knees and with a low voice asked God to forgive all his enemies. Then followed his degradation—he was enrobed in priestly vestments and again asked to recant; again he refused. With curses his ornaments were taken from him, his priestly tonsure was destroyed, and the sentence was pronounced that the Church had deprived him of all rights and delivered him to the secular powers. Then a high paper hat was put uponhis head, with the inscription Haeresiarcha. Thus Huss was led away to the stake under a strong guard of armed men. At the place of execution he knelt down, spread out his hands, and prayed aloud. Some of the people asked that a confessor should be given him, but a bigoted priest exclaimed, a heretic should neither be heard nor given a confessor. The executioners undressed Huss and tied his hands behind his back with ropes, and his neck with a chain to a stake around which wood and straw had been piled up so that it covered him to the neck. Still at the last moment, the imperial marshal, Von Pappenheim, in the presence of the Count Palatine, asked him to save his life by a recantation, but Huss declined with the words ‘God is my witness that I have never taught that of which I have been accused by false witnesses. In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached I will die today with gladness.’ Thereupon the fire was kindled. With uplifted voice Huss sang, ‘Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me.’ When he started this for the third time and continued who art born of Mary the virgin,’ the wind blew the flame into his face; he still moved lips and head, and then died of suffocation. His clothes were thrown into the fire, his ashes gathered and cast into the near-by Rhine.” —end of quote. 

The Czech people, who had loved John Huss in his lifetime as their prophet and apostle, now adored him as their saint and martyr. The principles which he had held and advocated would surely strike deep roots. The end of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, as exercising a strangle hold upon the consciences of the people of God, was in sight. It is true that a hundred years must yet elapse before the dawn of the Reformation, when the Lord raised up Martin Luther to nail the ninety-five theses to the church door of Wittenberg. But the fundamental weakness of the Church had become fully apparent in the trial and condemnation of the Bohemian reformer. Huss laid all emphasis upon the Scriptures and the Word as the only authoritative rule for doctrine and life, and he insisted that he be tried and examined upon the basis of the truth of God’s Word. This had merely evoked from the Roman Catholic hierarchy scorn and ridicule. The seeds of the Reformation which Wycliffe and Huss had sown would surely assert themselves. The pope at Rome and his priestly hierarchy did not rule in the Name of Christ because they ignored His Word and trampled it under foot. The Church, as consisting of the elect people of the living God, cannot be destroyed and would surely be delivered out of the shackles of Rome. 


The name sacrament is given to seven sacred Christian rites in the Roman Catholic and Eastern churches, and to two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, in the Protestant Churches. The word sacrament is not derived from the Scriptures. However, this is not the only word which we use that is not derived from the Holy Scriptures. Words such as providence and Trinityare not Scriptural terms either. The word sacrament is derived from the Latin word sacramentum. The Greek word musterion, mystery, used in the Eastern Church to designate these rites, is taken from the New Testament, and contains a reference to the hidden virtue behind the outward symbol. The Latin wordsacramentum means something that is consecrated, more particularly an oath, especially a military oath of allegiance to the standard; and also the sum of money deposited in court by the plaintiff and defendant previous to the trial of a case, and kept in some sacred place. The term was applied to Christian rites in the time of Tertullian, one of the early Church Fathers. 

Regarding the etymology and the classical and patristic usage of the word “sacramentum” Hodge, in his Outlines on Theology, writes as follows, page 588: “1st. It is derived from sacro, are, to make sacred, dedicate to gods or sacred uses. 2nd. In its classical usage it signified—(1) That by which a person binds himself to another to perform any thing. (2) Thence a sum deposited with the courts as pledge, and which, if forfeited, was devoted to sacred uses. (3) Also an oath, especially a soldier’s oath of faithful consecration to his country’s service. —Ainsworth’s ‘Dic.’ 3rd. The Fathers used this word in a conventional sense as equivalent to the Greek musterion, a mystery, i.e., something unknown until revealed, and hence an emblem, a type, a rite having some latent spiritual meaning known only to the initiated, or instructed. The Greek fathers applied the term musterion to the Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, inasmuch as these rites had a spiritual significance, and were thus a form of revelation of divine truth. The Latin fathers use the word ‘sacramentum’ as a Latin word, in its own proper sense, for any thing sacred in itself, or having the power of binding, or consecrating men, and in addition they used it as the equivalent of the Greek wordmusterion, i.e., in the entirely different sense of a revealed truth, or a sign or symbol revealing a truth otherwise hidden. This fact has given to the usage of this word “sacramentum,” in the scholastic theology, an injurious latitude and indefiniteness of meaning . . . .” —end of quote.