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Luther's advent, far from putting a check on the
disturbing forces, had served rather to aggravate
the general condition of things in all directions. * The
religious revolution and the modus operandi of the
founders of the new reHgious system, with their utter
absence of respect for all ecclesiastical rights, all
church possessions, all freedom of conscience, caused

' Written by the Editor.


general anarchy and demoralisation among the
people/ ^

While Luther was combating the power hitherto
exercised by the Church, he was undermining those
very moral forces which might have been the most
efficient factors in opposing the approaching collapse.
By handing over, as he did, rehgion and Church to the
power of the princes, he secularised both together, and
delivered up the religious life of the nation to the
arbitrary caprice of courts already corrupt and de-
generate. The princes could not possibly become
theologians in one day, even had it been only pure
interest in rehgion that had driven them to accept
the new doctrines. But this was not the case. Their
object had been first and foremost to extend the political
power and the possessions which the revolution had
thrown into their hands, and all they cared for was to
consmne in growing pomp, good living, and enjoyment
the wealth of means which church plmider had procured
them. While many new-religionist preachers were
suffering the pangs of hunger, the princes hved amid
drinking and carousing, did boundless homage to the
pleasures of the dance and the chase, and held feasts and
banquetings the luxury of which was out of all propor-
tion to the position of the entertainers. Not a few of
the new-rehgionist princes, by their immoral manner of
hfe, set the people the worst possible example. From
their daily overloaded tables, from their state apartments
hung mth indecent pictures, went forth the rehgious
decretals, the Church ordinances, the suspensions of

^ Janssen, An meine Kritiker, 177, where very remarkable utterances
of the strictly Protestant historian Droysen are quoted in proof of the


preachers, the prison sentences, yea, even the death
sentences, issued against those who did not think
exactly as they did concerning faith and justification.
The sumptuous Hving, the luxury, and the trafiic in
mistresses carried on by the princes were as much as
possible imitated by the nobles.^ The sense of justice,
the love of pubhc and private charity, all rehgiousness
and morality were inevitably choked. With no rehgious
ideal to keep it pure and exalted the olden-time sense of
knightly chivahy degenerated into a coarse taste for
hunting and fighting, the chaste courtship of the nobles
into low paramourship, the keen spirit of adventure
into politico-religious brawls, swagger, and venality.
For the terrible demorahsation and depravity of the
higher classes, the Memoirs of the knight Hans von
Schweinichen are as convincing a testimony as is a
publication of Leonard Thurneissen zum Thurn, house-
physician to the Elector of Brandenburg, for the same
conditions in the burgher classes.-

There is no question here of exceptional cases ; all
contemporaries unanimously make the same statements.
The writings and letters of the founders of the new
Church system overflow with complaints concerning
the general and growing depravity and demorahsation
of the country. Quite openly they all acknowledge that
it was only after the introduction of the new doctrine
that this unhallowed change took place, and that
the condition of things was nowhere so bad as among
those who called themselves evangelical. Thus in 1556
the Protestant theologian Andreas Musculus wrote :

' See present work, vol. xv. pp. 332-353.

2 Janssen, ' Zur Sittengeschichte des 16ten Jahrhunderts,' in the
KallioUk, new aeries, xxxi. 41-40.


* If anyone wants to see a great crowd of rascals, insolent
folk, cheats, financiers, usurers, &c., let him go into one
of the to\\Tis where the Evangel is preached : he will
find them there in plenty. For it is indeed true that
nowhere, not even among pagans, Jews and Turks, are
there more good-for-nothing, disreputable people than
among the EvangeHcals, in the midst of whom the
devil has verily been let loose.' ^ Similar complaints
abound concerning the peasant class and the whole
country populace. There set in also among these a
senseless craze for fine clothes, boundless extravagance,
drunkenness, and love of enjoyment. In the narrow
limits of their humbler means this rapidly led to pauper-
ism, misery, and all those crimes into which a mob of
penniless desperadoes is wont to fall. Whole troops of
beggars and vagabonds swarmed about the land and
made town and village unsafe. Eagged and tattered
hawkers carried scandalous popular Hterature, calendars,
newspapers, lampoons, caricatures, into the most out-
lying villages and hamlets. A proletariat such as
mediaeval times had never known spread itself over
all the German provinces.

Instead of the ' purer and more enHghtened ' worship
of God which the Fathers of the church-revolution had
promised, the land abounded with rehgious indifference ;
wantonness, mockery of sacred things, blasphemy, and
sacrilege were rife among all classes. In very truth
nothing was any longer held sacred. The Protestant
sects derided each other in just as immoderate and
undignified a way as they one and all derided the papacy.
The loftiest mysteries of Christianity were discussed in
alehouses, and cursing and blaspheming were as frequent

' Arnold, i. 755-756.


as praying was rare. ' All the beerhouses now are full
of useless preachers/ ^\Tote Caspar von Schwenckf eld ;
' they think if they can only get up a quarrel about
God's work, contradict, oppose, brawl, wrangle, shout,
drink, and carry on all sorts of wantonness, it is all well
with Christendom ; they are for ever talking about
God, and they say they stand by the Word of God.' ^

Those who had remained in the bonds of the Church
were very soon also involved in the general ruin and all
the conditions of their hfe poisoned. Contemporaries
innumerable declare emphatically that it was pre-
eminently the cries of the Protestants which led the
Cathohcs astray. ' Through your carnal teaching and
your stinking example,' Wizel exclaimed to the new
rehgionists in 1538, ' you have drawn the papists into
equal Hcentiousness.'

And thus a condition of moral and religious anarchy
without a parallel spread over the different parts of the
empire. Any good that still remained — and there
was undoubtedly some left, especially among the women
in famihes— was almost lost to sight amid the destruc-
tive and disintegrating influences which held theit
pernicious course in all departments of life.- That in

' Wcyermann, Neue Nachrichten, 517. To the Duke of Liegn tz
Schwenckfeld wrote concerning Luther, among other tilings, that he
(Luther) had let loose from their chains a pack of mad, senseless people
for whom, as for the whole community, it would have been better if
he had left them chained up, as they now did and could do much more
mischief than before; I.e. 519-520.

- The following remarks on the mixture of good and evil in human
life were found by me among Janssen's papers : ' In every age of history
the preservative and destructive forces exist side by side ; different
epochs are only distinguished by the preponderance of one or other of
these sets of forces. When the destructive forces are in the ascendant
they annihilate also whatever of good human life exhibits at the same time.
On the whole we find history always depicting evil as greatly preponderant,


s]^itc of all its deterioration the German nation still
retained more good elements than later history can

and \vc have to seek for the good in results \vliich outlive the age and
conteni|K)rai-y writers. When, however, destructive forces rule they
suppress these workings of good so that after generations have no means
of knowing and appreciating this good. So was it in Germany after the
Chmch schism and the revolution.' Cf. also vol. xi. 14-lG. Steinhausen
{Gcsch. d€3 deulschen Briefes) draws attention to much good still existing
at this period ; see especially for the contents of correspondence in the
sixteenth century, i. 166 £f. of the above-mentioned book, where letters
from women who had an insight into family hfe testify to much that was
excellent. True, the shady side is also here : ' hatred and rancour are
apparent. With the modern idea of closer intercourse, modern gossip
and tittle-tattle also come in' (p. 176 flF.). At p. 178 ff.. Steinhausen
treats of marriage, which, he tells us, among the better-to-do middle
classes was as a rule a pure matter of business : ' marriages were
entirely arranged ' (p. 180) ; at p. 181 he says : ' The whole affair has an
imsympathetic ring about it. The great inclination to matrimony points
indeed to love of Ufe and to constitutional vigour, but the whole mode
of contracting marriages has the stamp of cold-bloodedness and odious
calculation.' Vol. ii. p. 92 ff. he says: ' Among German women in 1600
want of culture is on the whole manifest, but there was more naturalness
and moral healthiness in the female than in the male world, and also
more family love.' ' But the ancients were not only natural, racy of
the soil, pious : the joy to live had never been unknown to them.
What we miss in tliis altogether deplorable century (the seventeenth
century), true, genuine humour, was still found amongst the women.'
P. 98 : ' In the higher and the highest circles also, although the influence
of new fashions is far stronger A\ith women, we find in the main the same
conditions.' P. 100: ' As little as the princesses were the introducers of
or instigators to immorality and extravagance, so little also were they
the devotees of foreign fashions. It was they alone who kept up among
the courtlings the old family life (which in its simplicity often seemed
sordid), the national originaUty, solidity, and naturalness of character.'
See also Steinhausen, KuUurstudien (Berlin, 1893), p. 68 ff., where he
justly says : ' The tremendous social upheaval which took place in the
sixteenth century touched women, in its immediate effects, the least of all.
The year 1500 saw the biirgher class to all intents and purposes dominating.
Then came the change. The upper circles — the chief imitators of the
vicious customs of the neighbour country — now gave the tone to society
and the court became the ideal. The women only, so far as was possible,
retained throughout the burgher mode of thought. The chief reason
of this is that they still lived as before in the family and for the family,


show, is evidenced by the fact that it passed through
the storms of the sixteenth and even of the seventeenth
century without becoming completely disintegrated.^
How far this disintegration had proceeded is seen from the
startling — at times certainly exaggerated — complaints
of contemporaries.

' We cannot, alas, deny,' says a document (inter-
larded with Bible texts) of the Constance Council of
February 5, 1544, ' that Germany is altogether sunk
in all manner of terrible sins and vices, that the Hfe
of the towns and burghers is greatly polluted, that
all civil discipline is at an end. Honour and riches
are misused for vainglorious ends, for pomp, pride,
superfluity, arrogance, not to speak of worse vices.
Those who have embraced the Word of God, remain in
their old skins. We are keen enough about retaining
our traditions, our freedom, our position, and we
consult seriously over these matters ; but how to
estabhsh in our midst Christian morality, godhness, and
piety, this is of little moment to us. It is to be feared
that God has finally resolved to punish Germany with

the princess like the merchant's wife. Hence the contrast between them
and French women. German women were not intellectual, they had no
crowds of admirers, but neither were they coquettish and frivolous ; they
were not natural in the sense approved of in salons, but natural and
domestic as family life made them ; they did not rule, but they influenced.
Tills state of things lasted on till, towards the end of the century [tlio
seventeenth century], women too succumbed to the aggression of modern
times, and countless instances of indiscretion and immorality among the
burgher class also show a melancholy and corrupt condition of womankind.'
' See Schmid in the Histor. Jahrb., xvii. 97. The latter remarks,
moreover, that by Janssen's exposition in vols. vii. and viii. the beUef in
the exclusively beneficial results of the Reformation, in a thorougii-
going improvement in all dc|)artin(^nts of life, especially in schools and
education, effected by it, is finally demolished. The materials collected
in such an overwhelming mass cannot be ignored, and protestations from
the opposite side will not restore the picture that has been destroyed.


blood, and since it lias drunk itself full Avith foreign
blood and all sorts of iniquity, and still persists in so
doing, it must now be dro\\aied in this alien blood and
be destroyed in its own wickedness/ i

Luther appears to have been very deeply distressed
because the new doctrine preached by him did not
bring forth the fruits he had promised to the world.
Abeady in 1523 he had compared his own neighbour-
hood with Sodom and Gomorrha. ' All the world/ he
said, * is given up to eating, drinking, profligacy, and
all manner of vices/ ' We have become a shame
and a laughing-stock to all other nations,' he says
two years later ; * we behave like scandalous, disgusting
brutes, thmking all day and night of nothing else but
how we can fill ourselves with drink and get rid of
all our reason and wisdom/ ' Germany from beginning
to end leads a downright swinish existence, and if you
were to paint her rightly you would paint her hke a
hog/ ^ As time goes on Luther's wails grow more
and more bitter. After the new evangel had been
preached for ten years he wrote : ' There is no disciphne
and no pmiishment ; insubordination of all sorts,
both among peasants and nobles, is at its height, so
much so that if a word of reproach is spoken, they
become all the worse, and behave still more defiantly
and wickedly, for they know right well that they will
not be pmiished. We have pretty well come to the days
of which the Prophet Amos says : " It is a time when
a wise man shall hold his peace." For if anyone
speaks against them they behave straightway as if they

' Stadtarchiv zii Franhfurt-am-Main. See vol. iii. 574, note 2.
- Collected Works, Erlangen edition, xxviii. 420; xxxvi. 411, 300,
Frankfort edition, x. 86 ; viii. 295, 294.


had been shown how they might do even w^orse. How
could it be worse, when neither silence nor speaking
avails anything ? If one is silent they grow worse
from day to day ; if one speaks against them they
become even w^orse. Aiid so the poor and the wretched
must remain mihelped. It is all the fault of the
princes and the overlords, who have let things go so far
that now^ they can do nothing though they gladly would.
But there will come one who will drive off all such
dastardly gluttons. For it has gone too far, and the
sack must soon burst and the cord be snapped in two.' ^
' It 's just the same now everyw^here, for everybody —
peasant, burgher, nobleman — thinks only of heaping
up thalers, eating and drinking, and carrying on all
sorts of iniquity, just as if God were nothing whatever,
and nobody troubles himself about the poor Christ with
his beggar's staff, but tramples him under foot, till at
last, here in oui" midst, just as at Sodom and Gomorrha,
all obedience, disciphne, and honoiu: are disappearing
(because no amount of exhorting and preaching is of
any use), and things are so bad that they cannot go
on hke this for ever.' ^

In 1532 also Luther predicted the near approach of
the end of the world : * Who could imagine all the
wickedness that now goes on in all classes and in all
dealings ? What is the world but a huge, vast, raging sea
of iniquity and roguery, with a fair outside and decked
with fine colours, which one can never get to the bottom
of ? But it is now at its extremity of evil, which is a
sign that it cannot go on much longer and is near its
grave. For as the saying goes :

' Collected Works, Erlangcn edition, xxxix. 249-250.
- Ibid. Frankfort edition, xiv. 399.


Je alter jo karger,
Jo langcr jc iirgcr,'

and everybody grows so avaricious, that there is no
food or driiik to be had for many people, although
God has given enough for all/ ~

The widesj^read avarice and greed, combined with
abominable cheating, were lamented by Luther again in
the following year. This vice, he said, reigned among
the peasants as well as among the nobles. ' Everybody
heaps up money, drinks and eats, hes and cheats,
the one outdoes the other as much as he can.' ^

Among vices wliich did not develop and spread till
after the Reformation Luther includes (besides avarice,
thieving, usury, anger, envy, drunkemiess), blasphemy
and adultery, ' And yet they do not distress them-
selves one whit, but go on with their wickedness and
think it all roses.' ^ Nearly the whole female sex
was tainted with immorahty. ' Few are they, women
or girls, who think they can be joyous without being
immoral. In language they are bold and coarse,
in behaviour wild and wanton. . . . And what is
specially grievous is that the young girls are so bold
in their tall^: and conduct ; they curse and swear like
Landshneclits, not to speak of the coarse, offensive
words and sayings which they catch up from one
another.' •'

The worst fruits of his teaching Luther met with
among the rising generation. ' It is now, alas, one
of the commonest complaints everywhere that young
people are so disobedient, wicked, and self-willed

' Avarice grows with age : The longer the worse.

- Collected Works, Erlangen edition, xliii. 229.

•' Ibid. Frankfort edition, ii. 411. ^ Ibid. Frankfort edition, ii. 205.

' Ibid. Frankfort edition, vi. 401.


alike in all classes/ ' It 's pitiful to see how cliildren
are brought up nowadays ; there 's no disciphne, no
honour among them ; the parents allow them to
have their own way in everything, and keep them
in no sort of awe ; mothers do not look after their
daughters, they give in to them in everything, do
not punish them, teach them neither modesty nor
respectability/ ' It is a constant source of complaint,
and, alas, all too true, that the young of the present
day are so dissolute and unruly, and will not be guided.
How httle respect do they show their parents, their
teachers and masters ; they know nothing about
God's Word, about baptism, or about the Holy
Communion, they go on in dense ignorance, they
are wild and uneducated, and grow up in sin and
wickedness.' ^

' Good God ! ' exclaimed Luther in 1532, ' one sees
nowadays boys and girls of ten or twelve years old who
swear " Marter, Velten, Franzosen " (martyrdom, epilepsy,
venereal diseases), and other horrible oaths, and are
otherwise coarse and disgraceful in their language.' -
* But how can one wonder at such things when one sees
how the children are brought up. They are taught
nothing nowadays but sharp and cunning ways of getting
food ; parents think themselves free to do just as they hke
with their children, just as if there were no God who had
commanded them otherwise, and as if they themselves
were God and Lord over their offspring.' * Mark you
this, if children are not educated in learning and industry,
but are allowed to grow up mere pigs and gluttons,
where will our pastors, preachers, and other labourers

' Quoted from Dollinger, lleformation, i. 341-342.
' Collected Works, Frankfort edition, vi. 441.


for the Word of God, for the Church and the ministry,
come from ? Everything would go to ruin — spiritual,
worldly, domestic, conjugal affairs — and the world
would become one huge pig-sty. Whose is the fault
of all this ? AVhose else but the criminal parents
who have children whom they might bring up for the
service of God, but whom they only teach the service
of the belly ? ' '

Not the parents only, but the preachers also, Luther
said in 1529, were heavily to blame for the way in which
young people were brought up. ' We do so earnestly
insist on having the catechism taught and learned,
because we see that many pastors and preachers are
very remiss in this respect and neglect both their office
and this teaching. Some of them think the catechism
beneath them ; others, however, from laziness and love
of their belhes, who behave just as if they were pastors
and preachers merely for the sake of these belhes, and
had nothing to do than to eat up their incomes, as they
used to do under the papacy. And although, nowadays,
they can find all that they have to teach and to preach,
so profusely, clearly, and simply put together in such
numbers of admirable books, they are not pious and
zealous enough to buy such books, or, if they already
possess them, to study them. Oh, they are indeed
scandalous gluttons and belly-servants, and they ought
rather to be sow-herds and cow-herds than pastors and
ministers of God.' -

As the plan was to carry everything through by
force, Luther thought also to effect a change in these
conditions by compulsion. When the Margrave George

' Collected Works, Erlangen edition, liv. 119-120.
^ Ibid. Erlangen edition, xxi. 26.


of Brandenburg complained of the irreverence and
laziness in the service of God which had set in among
old and yomig since the abohtion of the CathoHc faith,
Luther answered (September 14, 1531) : * The people,
who are accustomed to the old ways, must drink and
idle themselves out ; with time things will grow better.
It is also largely the fault of the preachers ; they must
be kept up to their work and driven, as St. Paul teaches ;
for the majority have only come into sudden freedom,
and they must be allowed to have their fling for a while.
It would be a good thing if your Princely Grace were to
enjoin on both pastors and parishioners, on the strength
of secular authority, that they must all teach and learn
the catechism, and also that since they wish to be con-
sidered and called Christians, they must be compelled
to learn and know that which a Christian ought to
know." 1

While Luther speaks here of the anarchy and demoral-
isation as transitory and accidental, he is forced in other
places to confess that : ' Had I foreseen all this abomina-
tion, I should never have begun to teach the evangel.'
' Who indeed would have set about to preach,' he said in
1538, ' had he known beforehand that so much disaster,
riotousness, offence, sacrilege, ingratitude, wickedness,
would be the result ? But now we are in the midst of
it, we must go through with it, and recognise that it
is not man's strength and doing but the Holy Spirit
Himself that can help us through ; or else wc shall not
be fit people for the work.' -

Such indeed was the anarchy that Luther often

' Do Wctto, iv. 307-308. See Collected Works, Erlangen edition, liv.

" Dollinger, i. 304-305.


declared tliat everytliing was topsy-turvy. Thus in
1530 he wrote : ' A prince is an emperor ; but he is also
a merchant and trader. Likewise a count is a prince,
a nobleman a count, a burgher a nobleman, a peasant a
burgher, a servant is lord, a maid is mistress, an appren-
tice is master ; everybody is what he wishes to be, does
what he likes, behaves as it pleases him. Whatever
sort of bounty or justice falls to the poor and needy
masses under this regime, it 's all right and fair, just as
it should be. Who could tell of all such iniquity, or
adequately describe it ? ' ^

Five years later comes the complaint : ' For to such
a pass has the world come nowadays that almost all
vices have grown into virtues. To be avaricious is to
be circumspect, to act prudently. And as with avarice,
so, too, all other sins and shortcomings are dressed
up as virtues. Murder and whoremongery are still
to a slight extent regarded as sinful ; but other sins
must ahnost all be labelled as though they were not

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