Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/719

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its essence, incompatible with sacerdotalism. In his Nachfolgung des Sterbens Jesu Christi, printed in 1515, he denied, like Erasmus, the efficacy of external observances, condemning the doctrine as a kind of Judaism. In 1516, at Nürnberg, he preached a series of sermons warning against reliance on confession, for justification comes alone from the grace of God. These were greeted with immense applause; they were printed in both Latin and German and a Sodalitas Staupitiana was organised, embracing many of the leading citizens, among whom Albrecht Dürer was numbered. The next year at Munich he inculcated the same doctrines with equal success and he embodied his views in the work Von der Liebe Gottes, dedicated to the Duchess Kunigunda of Bavaria, of which four editions were speedily exhausted, showing the receptivity of the popular mind for anti-sacerdotal teachings. It was some time before Luther advanced as far as Staupitz had already done, and then it was largely through the study of the fourteenth century mystics and Staupitz’s work On the love of God.

There was no product of humanistic literature, however, which so aided in paving the way for the Reformation as the Narrenschiff, or Ship of Fools, the work of a layman, Sebastian Brant, chancellor (city clerk) of Strassburg. Countless editions and numerous translations of this work, first printed at Basel in 1494, showed how exactly it responded to the popular tendencies, and how wide and lasting was its influence. One of the foremost preachers of the day, Geiler von Kaisersberg, used its several chapters or sections as texts for a series of sermons at Strassburg, in 1498, and the opinions of the poet lost none of their significance in the expositions of the preacher. The work forms a singularly instructive document for the intellectual and moral history of the period. Brant satirises all the follies and weaknesses of man; those of the clergy are of course included and, though no special attention is devoted to them, the manner in which they are handled shows how completely the priesthood had forfeited popular respect. But the important feature of the work is the deep moral earnestness which pervades its jest and satire; man is exhorted never to lose sight of his salvation and the future life is represented as the goal to which his efforts are to be directed. With all this, the Church is never referred to as the means through which the pardon of sin and the grace of God are to be attained; confession is alluded to in passing once or twice, but not the intercession of the Virgin and saints and there is no intimation that the offices of the Church are essential. The lesson is taught that man deals directly with God and is responsible to Him alone. Most significant is the remark that many a mass is celebrated which had better have been left unsung for God does not accept a sacrifice sinfully offered in sin. Wisdom is the one thing for which man should strive,—wisdom being obedience to God and a virtuous life, while the examples cited are almost exclusively drawn from classic paganism—Hercules, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato,