John’s Prophecy Fred’s Dream and Marty’s Pen

FredericksDream2Now for the “rest of the story”, which is not widely known.

The executioners undressed Hus 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 Hus 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 to-day with gladness.”  There upon the fire was kindled with John Wycliffe’s own manuscripts used as kindling for the fire. With uplifted voice Hus sang, “Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me.” Among his dying words he proclaimed, “In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” His ashes were gathered and cast into the nearby Rhine River.

On the morning of 31 Oct 1517, the very day on which Luther would nail his 95 Theses to the church door, Frederick of Saxony had a dream.

He told it to his brother, and fortunately it was recorded by many of the chroniclers of the time.

Here it is in Frederick’s own words: Having gone to bed last night, fatigued and out of spirits, I fell asleep shortly after my prayer, and slept calmly for about two hours and a half; I then awoke, and continued awake to midnight, all sorts of thoughts passing through my mind. Among other things, I thought how I was to observe the Feast of All Saints. I prayed for the poor souls in purgatory; and supplicated God to guide me, my counsels, and my people according to truth.

I again fell asleep, and then dreamed that Almighty God sent me a monk, who was a true son of the Apostle Paul. All the saints accompanied him by order of God, in order to bear testimony before me, and to declare that he did not come to contrive any plot, but that all that he did was according to the will of God.

They asked me to have the goodness graciously to permit him to write something on the door of the church of the Castle of Wittenberg. This I granted through my chancellor. Thereupon the monk went to the church, and began to write in such large characters that I could read the writing at Schweinitz. The pen which he used was so large that its end reached as far as Rome, where it pierced the ears of a lion that was crouching there, and caused the triple crown upon the head of the pope to shake. All the cardinals and princes, running hastily up, tried to prevent it from falling. You and I, brother, wished also to assist, and I stretched out my arm; — but at this moment I awoke, with my arm in the air, quite amazed, and very much enraged at the monk, for not managing his pen better. I recollected myself a little; it was only a dream.

I was still half asleep, and once more closed my eyes. The dream returned. The lion, still annoyed by the pen, began to roar with all his might, so much so that the whole city of Rome, and all the States of the Holy Empire, ran to see what the matter was. The pope requested them to oppose this monk, and applied particularly to me, on account of his being in my country. I again awoke, repeated the Lord’s prayer, entreated God to preserve his Holiness, and once more fell asleep.

Then I dreamed that all the princes of the Empire, and we among them, hastened to Rome, and strove, one after another, to break the pen; but the more we tried the stiffer it became, sounding as if it had been made of iron. We at length desisted.

I then asked the monk (for I was sometimes at Rome, and sometimes at Wittenberg) where he got this pen, and why it was so strong.

“The pen,” replied he, “belonged to an old goose of Bohemia, a hundred years old. I got it from one of my old schoolmasters.  As to its strength, it is owing to the impossibility of depriving it of its pith or marrow; and I am quite astonished at it myself.”  Suddenly I heard a loud noise — a large number of other pens had sprung out of the long pen of the monk. I awoke a third time; it was daylight.

That inspired dream was given to Prince Frederick before the 95 Theses were even tacked to the church door. At first he would have had no idea what it meant, but the meaning would become clear soon enough. It must have had a profound influence on him to help defend Luther against the pope and the emperor. Note the amazingly clever reference to John Huss in the last paragraph of the dream (in bold face type).

What was a “pen” in those days? It was not a ball-point pen nor even a fountain pen. It referred to a goose-quill pen. So in the dream, when Frederick was told that the amazing pen came from an old goose, that would not be surprising. Of course it came from a goose, like all pens. But the “old goose of Bohemia, a hundred years old” is an unmistakable reference to John Huss. And the pen is an excellent way to symbolize the truth of Huss’s writings, for it was his writings that stirred Luther to action. Moreover, the dream ties directly to the “hundred year prophecy” of Huss, referring to Martin Luther, which also used the goose symbolism for Huss. It is not clear whether Frederick ever figured out that the goose was Huss, but he certainly would learn that the monk was Martin Luther. This dream may even reveal why Huss had the name “Goose” at all, for the pen is mightier than the sword.

From The History of Protestantism, I:263,265 , quoted in Ogden Kraut, 95 Theses (Genola, UT: Pioneer Publishers, 1975 ), pp. 154-156.

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