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ambassadors strenuously supported the claim of his clergy to a vote, and it was allowed, though, we must admit, upon reasoning devoid of all force, and proceeding upon the grossest errors of fact; as, that Britain consisted of three kingdoms, Ireland of four; that the dominion of Man and the Orkneys was equal to, if not greater, than that of France; and that in England there were 52,000 parishes, richly endowed, while France had only 6000.
It is impossible to dismiss the subject of this famous Council, the most important, except that of Trent, ever held in the Catholic Church, without noting that, if its labours had the important result of terminating the Great Schism by deposing Benedict and John, inducing Gregory to resign, and filling the Holy See with Martin V., its proceedings were deserving of every reprobation, from the contempt of all justice, and even of common humanity, which they displayed. The treatment of John was oppressive and cruel in the highest degree; his election to the Papacy admitted of no doubt; and, according to the principles of the Romish Church, even if a Council had the power of deposing, it could only be exercised in the case of heresy, and of heresy he never was accused. The charges of immoral conduct were no sooner made against him than they were abandoned, and his long imprisonment, attended with every kind of harshness, could, after his implicit submission, have but one motive, the fear of his renewing
· L'Enfant, Con. Const. L.
the claim which his lawful election gave him to the pontifical chair, and the desire, if not to wear out his life, at least to destroy all remains of energy, the distinguishing virtue of his character.
But the treatment of John was the least part of the crimes committed by these cruel and unprincipled men. Their rage was still more fiercely pointed to the Reformers, impotent against the dead, but effectual against the living. Condemning Wycliffe's doctrines as heretical, they ordered his remains to be dug up from the tomb in which they had reposed at Lutterworth, to be cast into the fire, and the ashes to be scattered on the river, with the vain hope of thus for ever extirpating all memory of the great Reformer. They then summoned his faithful disciple, John Huss, to appear before them, and the Emperor gave him a safe-conduct, in which he trusted. No sooner did he reach Constance, than the Council had him seized, denying that the Pope had his safety, but conscious all the while that they never would have acknowledged the authority of any competitor for the Popedom to do any act whatever. He was repeatedly required to recant his doctrines, which he avowed to be those of Wycliffe, whose books he acknowledged having read with delight, and with whose soul he admitted that he had oftentimes wished his own might be. All offers of mercy on such terms he rejected firmly but meekly; and when asked by a deputation of the body if he believed himself more wise than the whole Council, his memorable reply
showed how well he had profited by his master's teaching: “For God's sake,” said he, “send the meanest person in it to convince me by arguments out of the Scripture; to him will I submit my judgment; much more to the whole Council.”—“See,” said the bishops, “how obstinate he is !” and they left him in his dungeon. Before the assembly itself he maintained the same steady course; and when condemned to the flames, only prayed, saying, “ Oh, my God, out of that infinite mercy of thine which no tongue can express, avenge not my wrongs !” At the stake he continued cheerful to the last, and rejected the Duke of Bavaria's entreaties that he should abjure, declaring that all the doctrines he had preached were agreeable to God's word, and that he would seal his faith in them with his blood. While the crackling of the flames was heard, his voice, also, raised in hymns, reached the bystanders, and his prayers and praises only ceased when he fell down suffocated by the smoke as well as tortured by the heat. The duke superintended the bloody work of the executioner, who tore the body in pieces, flung the fragments upon a newly kindled fire, and thrust the heart into it, that it might be the more certainly consumed. His highness then caused the clothes to be
burned, and the whole ashes collected to July, 1415.
be cast into the Rhine, “that nothing might remain on earth of so execrable a heretic.” The execution of John Huss was followed by that
"L'Enfant, Concil. Const., lib. iii.
of his disciple Jerome of Prague, a younger man, and of less authority, of less inflexible courage also, but of far superior talents. For a moment his resolution gave way, and he was prevailed Sept. 3, upon to abjure the doctrines which he was 1415. accused of having held. This obtained his liberation, but on his way to Bohemia the Duke of Bavaria's troops seized him upon some new charge, and he was brought back to Constance. Repenting of his temporary weakness, he now appeared before the Council, and defended himself with an eloquence and a force of argument which astonished his hearers. Among these was the celebrated Poggio Bracciolini, of Florence, who does not hesitate to rank his defence with the masterpieces of ancient rhetoric. Although exhausted and enfeebled by a year's confinement in a dark and loathsome dungeon, the admirable spirit and readiness of his retorts on all who assailed him—the learning which he copiously poured forth, as if his time had been passed in consulting all authors——the energy with which he could either press home his reasonings, or rouse indignation
—his versatile skill in moving at will either laughter or pity-left on the whole audience a profound impression, which was still further deepened by a voice sweet, clear, and commanding, as well as by the most graceful and appropriate action. It is not to be wondered at if even his enemies would fain have won him back to their Church, and for a while relented, or seemed to relent, desirous of once more obtaining from him
a disavowal of heresy. How hopeless this was, he plainly showed by launching forth in praise of Huss, and asserting that, like him, his only quarrel was with the abuses of the Church, and the scandal which her priesthood brought upon the religion of Christ. Like his predecessor and master, he went to the stake resigned, and even triumphant, rising superior to the torments inflicted upon him, and happy in dying for the truth.' It would be pleasing could we venture to hope that in these barbarous scenes the representatives of Henry and of the Anglican Church bore no part. But the proceedings at Constance were only a close imitation of those in London two years before, and the sentence was executed on Cobham two years after with the same savage cruelty as upon Huss and Jerome. There is nothing, therefore, to show that the bigotry of priests, when armed with secular power, varies in its aspect according to the character of the people whom it holds in spiritual subjection.
The good understanding which, as we have seen, subsisted between Henry and the Church, and which he took every pains to strengthen, gave him important facilities in making his preparations for the campaign which he was now resolved upon, beside the benefit of the subsidies which he derived from their bounty. The influence of the clergy was exerted among the barons and other landowners, who were thus encouraged to · Poggii Epist., ad Leon. Aretinum. Ep. Edit. Torullio, I. ii.
2 Several years before, as early as 1408, a clergyman had been burnt in Scotland with equal cruelty for the Wycliffe heresy. Ford. Scot. Cr., ii. 441.