SOCIAL REVOLUTION AND CATHOLIC REACTION IN GERMANY.
THE most frequent and damaging charge levelled at Luther between 1520 and 1525 reproached him with being the apostle of revolution and anarchy, and predicted that his attacks on spiritual authority would develop into a campaign against civil order unless he were promptly suppressed. The indictment had been preferred in the Edict of Worms, it was echoed by the Nuncio two years later at Nürnberg, and it was the ground of the humanist revolt from his ranks. By his denunciations of Princes in 1523 and 1524 as being for the most part the greatest fools or the greatest rogues on earth, by his application of the text "He hath put down the mighty from their seats," and by his assertion of the principle that human authority might be resisted when its mandates conflicted with the Word of God, Luther had confirmed the suspicion. There was enough truth in it to give point to Murner's satire of Luther as the champion of the Bundschuh, the leader of those who proclaimed that, as Christ had freed them all, and all were children and heirs of one father, all should share alike, all be priests and gentlemen, and pay rents and respect to no man. The outbreak of the Peasants' War appeared to be an invincible corroboration of the charge, and from that day to this it has been almost a commonplace with Catholic historians that the Reformation was the parent of the revolt.
It has been no less a point of honour with Protestant writers, and especially with Germans, to vindicate both the man and the movement from the taint of revolution. The fact that the peasants adopted the Lutheran phrases about brotherly love and Christian liberty proves little, for in a theological age it is difficult to express any movement except in theological terms, and behind these common phrases there lay a radical divergence of aims and methods. The Gospel according to Luther may have contained a message for villeins and serfs, but it did not proclaim the worldly redemption they sought; and the motives of the peasants in 1525 were similar to those which had precipitated half-a-dozen local revolts before Luther appeared on the scene. Even