‘“But the holy catholic — that is, universal — church is the totality of the predestinate or all the predestinate, present, past and future”. This definition follows St Augustine, who shows how it is that one and the same church of the predestinate, starting at the beginning of the world, runs on to the apostles, and thence to the day of judgment’.
This was Jan Hus’ (c.1369–1415) definition of the church! And that definition was the first of 30 charges for which the Council of Constance in southern Germany burned him at the stake in 1415.
Of Hus’s De ecclesia (the church), from which this quotation is taken, historian David S. Schaff declared: ‘Hus’s treatise has a place of first importance among works on the church. Its treatment is clear, elaborate and professedly based on Scripture. It is the best known work on the subject, issued from Augustine to the Reformation period. It was the basis of charges in the most famous formal trial of a single individual in the history of the Christian church. It was cherished and used by a large section of the Bohemian people. It has had a permanent influence upon the development of the idea of the church’.
With 2015 being the 600th anniversary of the wicked execution of this great pre-Reformer, Pastor Angus Stewart spoke on ‘Jan Hus: his martyrdom and ecclesiology’, while illustrating his presentation with photos and slides.
An engaged audience in the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) in Ballymena, N. Ireland, learned about Hus, the most famous Czech in history. He was a man with heroic status in his native land, and further afield as a powerful preacher, beloved pastor, university professor, multiple author, Bible translator, church reformer and steadfast martyr.
In this commemorative lecture, many questions were answered: Why did a medieval church council, itself supposedly seeking the reformation of an admittedly corrupt church with three popes, cruelly execute a man noted on all sides for his godliness?
What did Hus believe? What was his doctrine of the church? Why was this theologian of conviction seen as a threat? What are the similarities between the Czech pre-Reformer Jan Hus and the German Reformer Martin Luther? Also, what are the lessons for today? A lively time of questions and answers followed the address.
This special Reformation Day lecture and PowerPoint presentation was and is of special interest to those of Czech or German extraction; or who have visited Prague or Constance; or who enjoy church history and the development of Christian doctrine; or who are encouraged by the testimony of the martyrs; or who love the truth of the church and desire church reformation.