Page:Balthasar Hübmaier.djvu/39

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Anabaptists and the Reformation

of apostolic precedent, professed principles of non-resistance, avoidance of oaths, non-payment of taxes, community of goods, — doctrines that might easily be supposed, even by the sincere among their contemporaries, in their application to involve the entire subversion of the existing civil and social and religious order. That men should shrink from a revolutionary programme so comprehensive and radical need surprise nobody. The surprising thing would be if these Anabaptist vagaries had found any favour in the sixteenth century. They barely find tolerance now, to say nothing of favour.

But, worse than all, the Reformation coincided with a time of great social changes and deep social unrest. Many things had helped to bring about the decay of feudalism and the decline of the knights and lesser nobles, but the invention of gunpowder had dealt the final blow. In the last analysis, social and political supremacy, in the case of any order, rests on force. So long as the mailed knight on his mailed horse was the invincible force, to him fell honours and wealth, lands and power. But the arquebus and cannon changed all this. Knighthood had to give place to manhood. The meanest