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ancestors for rehgion, their zealous striving after virtue
and respectabihty, with the corruption of our own times,
we shall perceive clearly that not only have the character
and morals of the people grown worse, but also that
scarcely any other period has been so hostile to all religion,

1 Niedner, Zeitschr., xxxvi, 349. - Dollinger, ii. 290,


righteousness, morality, modesty and respectability as
ours. Do not the people themselves, terrified at their
own vices, yet without wanting to become better, com-
plain everywhere that sin, crime, and scandals of all
sorts have reached the highest pitch, that all restraints
of shame and godfearingness have been rent asunder,
and that the nation is plunging headlong into the
lowest depths of degradation ? ' Our Catholic forbears,
said Hofmann, had abundantly provided for the needs
of the Church, but all that they had given for the
endowment of teachers, students, and all persons
needing help, was now used for quite other purposes.
In honest simphcity they had clung to their superstition
— for as such Hofmann held the Cathohc faith — now,
however, after the reappearance of the light, each one
wanted to make a true religion for himself, and whatever
came into his head must be regarded by others as the
standard of truth. And so, one after another, acri-
monious pamphlets were poured forth in which the
writers strove reciprocally to murder each other's
good name and honour with poisoned arrows. ' Theo-
logians and preachers themselves disseminate the seed
of discord, they are the firebrands of hatred and con-
fusion ; they themselves, trusting in the ignorance of the
people and the protection of the great, are tearing the
Church in pieces, and, if an ambassador from God does
not come to put a restraint on their unbridled passions,
they will bring theology to the ground. The common
populace, incapable of forming an opinion, look up
perplexedly at all these numerous sign-posts to heaven,
the one pointing this way, the other that, and do not
know which road to take ; they are confounded by the

din of so many different voices. Hence arise divisions

98 iiisroKv OF riiK (;krmax people

ainoiig tho people, \vliicli mostly end in bitterness and
hostility,' Again llofmann repeats it: 'The result of
the theologians' dissensions and of their method of
proeedure is that tliey bring on themselves the utmost
contempt, forfeit all respect and esteem, and at the
same time bring their doctrine, which is judged accord-
ing to their morals, into disrepute. Thus there arises
gradually not merely contempt of, but hatred towards,
religion ; wild licentiousness spreads among the people,
godlessness and epicurean irrehgiousness increase, and
atheism stands at the door. What thinlc you, then,
how far removed are we from complete barbarism ? ' ^

John Kuno, pastor at Salzwedel, acknowledged in
1579 that, ' Vice of all sorts is now so common that it
is committed without any shame, nay, people even
boast of it in sodomitish fashion ; the coarsest, the
most indecent sins have become virtues, yea verily, the
worst iniquities are now thought too slight, people
must needs invent fresh ones every day, and hence it
comes that so many new diseases have sprung up.
As regards adultery, for instance, is it not the actual
truth that this sin is now allowed to go unpunished ?
Who regards common whoredom any longer as
a sin ?

' As for what is thought about gluttony and drunken-
ness, what need is there to speak ? It has come to this,
that this vice is treated as virtue, respectabihty, and
other honourable practices should be treated, viz.
rewarded with the highest posts and the best salaries.
To such a degree has the world changed and bhnded
its eyes that now, as through a dark glass, it sees

' De barharie imminenle (Francof. 1578), A 8 sqq., B 5-8. Dollinger,
Eeforrnaiion, ii. 615 if.


shame as honour, vice as virtue, disreputableness as
respectabiUty/ i

A few years later another Protestant preacher
complained that abominable sins were now everywhere
rampant among young and old. Disobedience among
the young was especially common and was growing
daily worse. The Breslau professor and pastor, Isaiah
Heidenreich, in 1581, divided his co-religionists in two
classes : the self-satisfied, bad Christians who boasted
that they needed no Bible, no sermons, and no church,
they had enough hght from nature which they guided
themselves by ; and those who hear God's word indeed,
but whose lives are wilful and devilish. Church-going,
hke the Word of God, had become so distasteful to the
Lutherans, that there were numbers of fathers and
mothers in the land who, with their households, had not
been inside a church for a long time. ' All our energies
are directed towards covetousness, pride, drinking,
lying and cheating.' '^

The pastor Joshua Loner, a zealous champion of
Calvinism, announced in 1582 that 'God would not
any longer be able to withhold His wrath, but that He
would soon give this scandalous world its dismissal,
for, alas, it was daily seen and experienced that the
damnable contempt and persecution of the pure Word
of God, gruesome blasphemy, scandalous, sodomitish
immorahty, together with every other kind of sin and
wickedness, were gaining ground terribly ; the Christian
faith had grown very meagre and decrepit, love had
grown cold, had frozen to ice in the hearts of men, and
burgher faith and fidelity were also quite rare. Germany,
before all other lands, had been blessed by God with the

' DoUingor, ii. 525. - Ibid. ii. 538.

H 2


true knowledge of Christ, but the people had grown sick
and weary of the holy evangel/ ^

* Things grow worse and worse/ it says in a pamphlet
of the Breslau pastor, Sigmiiiid Siievus, which appeared
in 1584. ' So that we are forced to say :

Bold confidence in sin and shame
With young and old gains ground each day,

Good everywhere has a bad name
And with great crash doth fall away.'

* Here and there, there are still some pious hearts/
says John Schuw^ardt in his funeral sermon of 1586,^
' but scarcely distinguishable among the crowed of others,
and if the Lord had not left us this small remnant we
had been long ago hke unto Sodom and Gomorrha ;
for there is no soundness besides from the sole of the foot
to the crow^n of the head. Ah me, if men's hearts stood
open and one could see into them through a httle window,
it is much to be feared that a great many could be
found, not only among mean and base persons, but
also among the high and distinguished ones, who would
gladly go back to the papacy in the vain hope of better
days, and who would say Amen to the song of the
Jesuits.' ' If we w^ent further and began to take stock
of the clergy and the laity, we should find more than
enough to complain of in all corners of the land. And
even if we allow with our prophet Jeremiah : "Go to,
the multitude and the populace are without understand-
ing, therefore it is no wonder that they act unrighteously ;
but the shepherds and the mighty ones will love the way
of the Lord and seek to follow his truth,'' we cannot
overlook w^hat he says elsewhere, viz. that even the

' Dollinger, ii. 311-312.

•^ Joh. Schuwardt, Traivrige Klagrede iiber den Todssfall ....
Augusti Herzogen zu Sachsen, 1586.


shepherds and the mighty ones have broken the yoke
and torn the ropes. Robbery and theft have long been
so common that nobody is afraid of the gallows. We
sit, as it were, in the Bohemian forest or on tinder and
firewood, so that no one is safe for an honr. In our
gardens we can keep nothing, in the fields all is fair prey.
In the barns, if one has but threshed for a day, there
are those who come fast enough to carry off the spoils.
At night scarcely anyone can sleep in safety. By day
it is impossible to be sufficiently on the watch. With
the rich there is nothing but covetousness and usury,
selfishness, overreaching, fraud, hypocrisy, falsity,
absence of love, pity and help to the needy and the
wretched. With the poor nothing but lying, ingratitude,
laziness, defiance, and insolence. Alas, alas, there is
not a single beggar scamp who fears God and lives in
humihty or has a good word for anybody. Those who
are clothed by charity in the winter perpetrate the
worst injuries on their benefactors in the summer.
Alas, my heart bleeds within me at the sight of so
much iniquity. Who nowadays helps another and
enables him to earn a living ? ' ' God's threats and
punishments frighten no one, make no one tremble,
the people have brazen foreheads and hearts of stone.'

The young go to ruin in their earliest bloom, said an
Ansbach superintendent in 1589. Another preacher the
following year said : ' The German fig-tree does not
improve in the least, on the contrary, it grows worse and
worse ; from year to year, from week to week, blight
and insects of all sorts gather on it, and its noxiousness
cries aloud to heaven.' ^

* One finds nowadays many people belonging to the

' Dollinger, ii. 583, G13 note.

102 lllSlom' OF I'llK CKKMAX PEOPLK

papacy,' preached the Meissei\ su]-)erintcndcnt Gregory
IStrigeniciiis, ' who from youth up have been accustomed
to the papal rehgion, and who will not adopt our religion
because there are so many bad people amongst us who
lead wicked and scandalous lives. When they are
admonished that they ought to forsake the popish
abominations and become evangelical, or, as they are
wont to call it, Lutheran, they begin to abuse this
doctrine most fiercely : " Wliat, am I too to become
a Lutheran rascal without morality and honour, without
faith, love, and truth ? Where can you find worse
scoundrels than among these same Lutherans ? You
find all sorts of superstition and sorcery among them,
vou hear abominable blasphemy, so much so that it
would be no w^onder if the earth w^ere to open and swallow
up such godless blasphemers. Contempt of preaching
is rampant among them ; there is no order among them
in all classes ; they live in anger, envy, hatred and ill-
will, whoredom, adultery, debauchery, robbing, usury,
lying and cheating, gluttony and drunkenness by day
and by night : if this were the true rehgion of which they
boast, they would behave very differently. The fruits
are not good, how then can the religion be the right one ? "
And so they are frightened away from the new religion
by the scandalous lives of those who profess it.' ^

This same preacher said openly : ' We see how the
world is falhng of! in all virtues and in all that is right
and Christian, and growing worse and worse. There
is no longer any disciphne, all sin and wickedness is
gaining the upper hand ; and one must not utter a
word of reproach, the people say they are free and may
do as they like. And the ill-advised teachers of our

' Strigeiiicius, Jonas, 189.


day have mightily helped on the evil by their cry of
" Only believe, only believe, even if you are an adulterer
it does not matter." ' ^

Even Bartholomew Ringwalt, a man of cheerful
and happy temperament, spoke in accents of desjjair
in 1597 of the condition of things : ' So long,' he said,

' As this world doth endui'e,
No hope there is of cure.
For even Cliristians are aware
How lamentable matters are,
And many in village and in town
All love of life have quite outgrown,
For goods and chattels little care.
Wish only in their graves they were.' '^

' Gluttony and drunkenness, epicurean, swinish living/
wrote at the same date a preacher who had oppor-
tunities of observation in the most different parts
of Germany, ' become more and more common in towns
and villages. People are worse than in the days of
Noah and Lot.' The same comparison occurs in a
pamphlet of the preacher Valerius Herberger at the
beginning of the sixteenth century : ' The world is in a
ferment ; the sediment is disgusting, the dregs of the
world stink worse than dregs of a tanyard, therefore
the last day must be at hand.' '^

A very natural explanation of this state of things
within the new Church was given in 1610 by the Witten-
berg professor Wolfgang Franz, when he reproached the
Lutheran preachers with thinking that they admirably
fulfilled their duties as pastors of souls if only they
bellowed to the ears of their flock the doctrine of justifi-
cation by faith alone. The result was that if one
examined into the lives of the different classes and

' Strigenicius, Jonas, Ml. - Hoffmann von Fallersleben, v.

=' Dollinger, ii. 29.3, 541.

101 TiisroKV OK 'PHI': cki^.man pkoplr

considcivd llioii' moral boliaviour one saw everywhere
gocUessness, sin and wickedness. ' And yet all these
are for ever crying out at the tops of their voices
about faith, faith, and nothing but faith.' ^

Because it is now preached that ' good works do not
lu'l}) to salvation,' wrote at the same date another
minister of the ' new evangel/ ' the multitude think
they have a perfect right to live just as they like, in
voluptuousness, sin and wickedness.' ' Immorahty,
filthy talk, whoredom, fleecing and grinding, false
swearing, fraud and other crimes and vices are now in
full swing among us evangehcals, and yet each of us
sets up for being a good Christian.' ^

* When nowadays,' said John Sommer of Zwickau,
^■^rotestant pastor at Osterweddingen, in 1614, * people of
an advanced age meet together, conversation generally
turns on the great change that has taken place in German
lands in manners and customs, rehgion, dress, in short,
in the whole of hfe, so that if people who died twenty
years ago were now to rise from the dead and behold
their posterity and descendants, they would not in the
least recognise them, but would think they must be
people of French, Spanish, Itahan, or other nationahty,
who yet were born in the Fatherland and perhaps never
left it. To many people it seems an extraordinary
thing that Germany should so rapidly have degenerated
in morals and in dress, and should go on deteriorating
from day to day.' He intended in his ' Ethnographia
Mundi ' to depict the new world of to-day in its creeds,

' Dbllinger, ii. 570.

- Caspar Chcmlin, Siehen christliche Prediglen (Giossen, 1611), pp. 34, 38.
Chemlin was so incensed against the Catholics that he declared in his sermons
that in the Sacrament of the Altar they prayed to ' the incarnate, hellish
devil himself ' : p. 64.


its conduct, its manners and customs, its dress and its
morals, in short, in its whole Ufe, and it would not be his
fault if he only told of vice and iniquity ; he could not
write otherwise, for in the present state of the world
not virtue, but vices innumerable, had gained the
upper hand. ' So I could make no better show than I
have done. I have introduced, in my book, Ethicus,
who paints all vices in fine colours and covers them with
an attractive mantle, but that is not from any intention
or desire on my part to exonerate and defend vice, but
that I wished thereby to make it clear to everyone how the
present-day world lets wickedness go unpunished, and
champions it as laudable and right. ' ' What if Dedekindus
the theologian has described Grobianus as coarseness
itself ? Must he too be looked upon as a Grobianus ?
Why should people fall foul of John Fischart because in
the eighth chapter of his " Pantagruel " he has presented
in undoubtedly obscene language the drunken Litany of
all the " Bauchsbriider " ? Must he too be considered
an obscene person ? Is he to be regarded as a whore-
monger or a brothel-keeper because in the fifth chapter
he has described brothels as exactly as if he had been in
the habit of frequenting them ? And shall theologians
be denounced as devils because they have wTitten books
such as the " Jagteufel,'' "SaufteufeV " Spielteufel,''
'' Kleiderteufel/' and so forth, in short, a whole
Theatrum Diabolorum? No intelhgent person would
say this. Therefore, though I offer pretty coarse work
for sale, and not always fine yarn, I hope that my work
will not be taken as my own measure, but rather as that
of the present-day world, as it daily works and spins. ^ ^

' Ethnographia Mundi, BI. A. ii. 3-4. Concerning Souiiner, sec present
work, vol. xii. LGO, 207.


In a ilescriptioii of tlic conditions in the new Church,
written in 1()18. the Sangershausen superintendent
l\uuh)cliou8 acknowledges that ' nowadays the world
is nine times worse than in the time of Moses/ * For
when has there been greater and more outrageous
contempt of God and His ministers and His Holy Word ?
When was the sin of blasphemy ever so great as now ?
AVlien has there ever been more harlotry and debauchery
flaunting itself as virtue ? ' and so forth/

The accounts given by Protestant preachers and
theologians of the continuous dechne in morals and re-
hgion since the middle of the sixteenth century contain
no exaggerations. Against any assumption that they are
overdrawn stands the fact that these accounts proceed
from men who had the strongest interest and temptation
to paint things in a more favourable light and to hide
the true state of things from outsiders, above all, from
the opponents of the new Church.^ But there is no
lack also, in all Protestant districts, of other sources
which confirm these accounts of this general demoralisa-
tion of the new religionists, and present many crimes
still more clearly to sight than do the complaints of
the Protestant ' witness-preachers.' From these original
sources it conies out, indeed, that a very large portion
of the new-rehgionist preachers were themselves steeped
in corruption.

W^hat a demorahsing influence the new doctrine
had in Pomerania is borne witness to by all the chroniclers

^ Dollinger, ii. 549.

- ' The bitterest experience,' says Dollinger, ii. 693, ' that can befall
people who have devoted their whole lives, their undivided energies, to
one particular work, is, undoubtedly, to be forced themselves at last to pass
a condemnatory judgment on that which stands to all their collective
labours in the relation of effect to means. And in such a position the
reformers and their immediate successors found themselves placed.'


of this land. In full agreement with Thomas Kantzow,
the Stralsiind chronicler Berckmann says in 1558 :
' Things were, alas, worse than formerly in all classes and
professions, in all commerce, in all trade, in every depart-
ment of hfe : in short, all was corrupt and ruined
throughout the town/ i A Pomeranian church ordinance
which appeared five years later enjoined on the preachers
strict orders to exhort the people earnestly to penitence,
' because among us evangehcals godless living, self-
assurance, epicurean contempt of the Word of God and
the Sacraments was gaining ground so fearfully and all
godhness was dying out in men/ ^ Eleven years later
renewed complaints were made in synodal statutes of
the general insubordination and the bhnd godless love
of moral licentiousness. Hatred, envy, and hostility
were said to be gaining frightful ground in towns and
villages among all classes, high and low, among blood-
relations, brothers and sisters, so that it was terrible
and piteous to see.^ The Pomeranian chronicler
Joachim von Wedel wrote in 1604 : family ties are
completely loosened. ' All who behold the doings
of the world with evangelical hearts must think that
it is not men but devils with human forms and faces
who live in this manner, and it would be a wonder if
the world could last hke this for another year.' ^

' Berckmann' s Chronik von Stralsund, edited by Mohnike and
Zober, 152.

^ Balthasar's Sammlung zur pommerischen Kirchenhistorie, i. 130, 180 ff.
Richter, Kirchenordnungen, ii. 231.

•' Moser, Sammlung evangelisch-lutherischer und reformierter Kirchen-
ordnungen, i. 105. Cf. Dollingcr, ii. 665. Concerning religious conditions
in Mecklenburg see also Krabbe, (Jhytraeus, 249-252, note. Concerning
the terrible amount of cursing in Pomerania, see Spicker, A. Musculus, 184.

'' Haixsbuch, /kSl. Concerning the depravity in Prussia, see present
work, vol. vii. 305-312.

lOS msToijv OK Till-: (Jkkman people

On the conditions in Mecklenbnrg the church ordin-
ances and thi> chiirrh inspections in the second half
of the sixteenth century throw a most sinister hght.
All ahke speak of the increase of sin and vice of every
description. * Blasphemy/ says an inspectoral protocol
of 1558, ' is so inuversal that the common people revile
and slander God's sufferings and wounds, from the
highest of them down to the herds behind the cattle
and girls behind the swine, when they are driving them
out.' A pohce ordinance of 1562 enjoined the severest
punishments against cursers and blasphemers : im-
prisonment in the first instance, and in case of renewed
offences, the pillory or ' loss of certain hmbs.' Nineteen
years later, however, the inspectors again reported :
' Cursing and swearing are almost universal.' Con-
cerning other transgressions, an inspectoral protocol
of 1568 says : ' The sins of open adultery, whore-
mongery, and immorahty are so terribly in vogue
that worse examples can scarcely have been found in
Sodom and Gomorrha.' The incomes of the religious
houses which ' the squires had not yet taken possession
of,' were ' swallowed by the peasants in beer.' In
the same year the ducal attorney-general, Dr. Behm,
wrote : ' Murder has almost become a non-penal
offence ; bloodshed and adultery, owing to the bribery
and intervention of private persons, remain unpunished.'
Frequent complaints were raised against the many
inefficient and sinful preachers. ' Many members of
the clergy,' says an inspectoral protocol of 1568, ' are
extremely neghgent in their office and boundlessly
ignorant ; many of them only read printed postils
in church, and can scarcely even manage to do this ; they
are very careless in their mode of Hfe and give their


parishioners great offence by drinking and other
irregularities.' A poHce ordinance of 1572 gave leave
to the pastors in the country to brew beer for their
households, and moreover, ' for the sake of their office,
so that they might have less occasion to go into the
taverns, get drunk and shock their parishioners."
Duke Ulrich in 1578 accused the superintendent
of Giistrow of having within his circle appointed
ignorant, immoral pastors who were guilty of adultery,
drunkenness and other vices ; for the sake of a meagre
honorarium he had been wilhng to connive at this.
The conjugal lives of many of the preachers were
attended by evil circumstances ; in many cases, also,
the couples were minus the necessaries of existence. i
In the last quarter of the sixteenth century especially,
an appalhng number of wild, disreputable preachers
arose in Mecklenburg, and not a few of them led regular
vagabond hves.^ The people, both in the towns and
villages, says a chronicler in 1598, become ' more and
more coarse and savage.' ^

Reports on the conditions in the Brandenburg Mark
have a similar ring. ' There was good teaching at
that time in Brandenburg,' writes the chronicler
Treptow, ' but wicked living with blasphemy, oppression
of the poor by taxation by the rulers, and of one neigh-
bour by another. How our Lord God thought fit
to punish all this, you, our descendants, will know ;

• Boll, i. 342 ff., and Losker, 57 ff. Sec also Jahrbiicher des Vereins fur
mecklenhurgische Gesch. (1893), Iviii. 51 ff.

- So Lisch in Jahrhucher des Vereins fiir mecklenhurgische Gesch., xviii.

•■* Hederich, Schwerinische Chronik, Bl. A'. Testimonies of Rostock
theologians concerning the results of the Reformation at the end of tlic
sixteentli century liavc !)(^cn collected by Lesker in tlie Katholik (1892),
i. 325 ff.


and I wisli you hero with better times than we have
hved througli.' ^ Coneerning ' an abominable desecra-
tion of eorpses,' the Brandenburg inspectoral ordinance
of 1573 relates that: 'A great crowd of people or lewd
rabble go into the houses where the dead are lying and
drink tons of beer, and when they are thoroughly
tipsy, they carry on all sorts of iniquity, so that the
people of the house, who are already unhappy enough
and have scarcely enough to pay for the funeral, are
beyond measure distressed/ ~ In spite of all preaching
things became no better here. In 1600 the Elector
Joachim Frederick complained that ' adultery and

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