Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/722

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


conclusions, in the numberless associations, partly literary and artistic, partly religious, which existed throughout the Teutonic lands. In the Netherlands there were everywhere to be found “Chambers of Rhetoric,” exercising a powerful influence on public opinion, and these had long been hostile to the clergy whose vices were a favourite subject of their ballads and rondels, their moralities and farces. Less popular, but still dangerously influential, were the so-called Academies which sprang up all over Germany with the Revival of Learning, and which cherished tendencies adverse to the dogmas of the Church and to her practical use of those dogmas. In 1520, Aleander includes among the worst enemies of the papacy the grumbling race of grammarians and poets which swarmed everywhere throughout the land. There were also numerous more or less secret societies and associations, entertaining various opinions, but all heretical to a greater or less degree. These were partly the representatives of mysticism which, since the days of Master Eckart and Tauler, had never ceased to flourish in Germany; partly they were the survivors of Waldensianism, so pitilessly persecuted yet never suppressed. Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Bucer, and other leaders of the reform had received their early impressions in these associations, and the sudden outburst of Anabaptism shows how numerous were the dissidents from Rome who were not prepared to accept the limitations of the Lutheran creed. The Anabaptists, moreover, were but a portion of these Evangelicals, as they styled themselves; for adult baptism was not a feature of their original tenets, and when it was adopted as a doctrine it led to a division in their ranks. The influence of art as well as of literature in stimulating opposition to Rome is seen in the number of artists belonging to the Evangelical bodies. When, in 1524, the Lutherans, under the lead of Osiander, obtained control in Nürnberg, the heretics whom they arrested included Georg Pencz, Barthel and Sebald Behem, Ludwig Krug, and others. By Luther as well as by Rome Albrecht Dürer was accounted a heretic.

The combination of all these factors rendered an explosion inevitable, and Germany was predestined to be its scene. The ground was better prepared for it there than elsewhere, by the deeper moral and religious earnestness of the people and by the tendencies of the academies and associations with which society was honeycombed. In obedience to these influences the humanistic movement had not been pagan and aesthetic as in Italy, but had addressed itself to the higher emotions and had sought to train the conscience of the individual to recognise his direct responsibility to God and to his fellows. But more potent than all this were the forces arising from the political system of Germany and its relations with the Holy See. The Teutonic spirit of independence had early found expression in the Sachsenspiegel and Sächsische Weichbild—the laws and customs of Northern Germany—