He came to see that the religion of Rome was iniquitous in doctrine as well as in practice. He wrote a work entitled On the Church, in which he stated that the true “Catholic Church” (i.e. the true universal Church of Christ) is the assembly of all God’s elect. In it he wrote, “It is, therefore, plain which faith is the foundation of the church – the faith with which the church is built upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, for it is that by which the church confesses that ‘Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God’. For Peter spoke for all the faithful, when he said: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’.” This is biblical doctrine.
In another work, The Six Errors, he wrote of the priests’ error in boasting that they made Christ’s body in the mass; the error of Papists confessing, “I believe in the pope and the saints”, whereas they should believe in God only; the error that priests could remit the guilt and punishment of sin; the error of implicit obedience demanded by ecclesiastical superiors to all their commands; the error of making no distinction between a valid and an invalid excommunication; and the error of simony.
Not only were these teachings of his not Roman Catholic teachings, they were an attack on Roman Catholic teachings.
He also attacked the Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgences, saying, “God alone possesses the power to forgive sins in an absolute manner”, and, “The absolution of Jesus Christ ought to precede that of the priest; or, in other words, the priest who absolves and condemns ought to be certain that the case in question is one which Jesus Christ Himself has already absolved or condemned.” Huss was slowly seeing through many of the Papacy’s lying doctrines. As the above quotation shows, he still believed that priests could be ministers of Christ, and even that the pope of Rome could at times be a Christian. This is shown by these words of his: “If the Pope uses his power according to God’s commands, he cannot be resisted without resisting God Himself; but if he abuses his power by enjoining what is contrary to the Divine law, then it is a duty to resist him as should be done to the pale horse of the Apocalypse, to the dragon, to the beast, and to the Leviathan.” Although what Huss said about resisting the pope can hardly be called Popish doctrine, the fact remains that at this time he still viewed the institution of the Papacy as being of God.
But as his knowledge of the Scriptures grew, he condemned more and more Popish doctrines, and upheld biblical truth. He denied that there was any merit to be earned by abstinences. He condemned the superstitious veneration of relics, bowing before images, or worshipping the dead. He wrote a treatise called The Abomination of Monks, and then in another treatise he called the pope and his court the members of Antichrist. These were the teachings of Roman Catholicism that he was condemning, and Huss was therefore certainly not a Roman Catholic anymore. He was converted, he was a Christian, not a Papist; but he still held to other Roman Catholic teachings, for his knowledge of the Scriptures grew little by little. Apart from Wycliffe’s writings, he had no one to teach him. It was God’s Holy Spirit who gradually opened his eyes to one Romish error after another, just as He does for all who are converted from Romanism.
Huss Appears Before the Council of Constance
When the Roman Catholic Council of Constance was held, Huss was summoned to appear before it to answer charges against him; and he went. This shows that he still saw the institution of the Papacy as being something God could use, if it was reformed. In this he greatly erred, but considering how alone he was, how utterly unassisted by any true Christian, we should rather marvel that he had already made as much progress as he had. He was certainly not a Roman Catholic, but he was still confused about the nature of the Papacy.
When he arrived at the Council Huss was arrested, despite having the assurance of a safe conduct from the emperor himself. As far as the Romish ecclesiastics were concerned, Huss was a heretic. In the damp and unhygienic prison, he fell gravely ill with a raging fever and almost died. Later he was moved to a castle prison, where he was heavily loaded with chains.
From prison he wrote many letters. In one he said: “The Lord delivered Jonah from the whale’s belly, Daniel from the lions’ den, the three children from the fiery furnace… and He can deliver me, if expedient, for the glory of His name and for the preaching of His word. But if a death precious in the Lord’s sight should fall to me, the Lord’s name be blessed.”
He also wrote: “I am trusting that God will raise up others after me, braver men than there are today, who shall better reveal the wickedness of Antichrist and lay down their lives for the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ”.
When he appeared before his judges in June 1415, they accused him of various doctrines, some of which he held, but others were false accusations and misrepresentations of his teachings. Yet when he asked to be permitted to reply, he was drowned out by the loud derisive shouts and accusations of those priestly wolves in sheep’s clothing who were present in the hall. They would not let him speak.