THE NETHERLANDS BEFORE THE WAR WITH SPAIN
THE GUILDS, THE TOWNS, THE STATE, EDUCATION RELIGION, AND MORALS
IN the preceding chapter I have attempted a brief sketch of the rapid advance made by the Netherlanders in the industrial pursuits and in the arts, down to the middle of the sixteenth century. The important question now arises, What was the effect of this material prosperity and devotion to art on the love of liberty and the religious spirit which we should look for in this people, as an inheritance from their Germanic ancestors?
This question is of interest from many points of view. Thoughtful men in all ages have been more or less inclined to accept their civilization under protest. So much is said of its enervating influence, and such stress is laid upon the virtues of the early heroes who lodged in huts and devoured raw flesh for food, that men have sometimes asked, is it not better that we should return to a state of nature if we wish to keep bright the flame of liberty? In its religious aspect the subject is still more important. Many of the English Puritans were as intolerant as any of their opponents, looked down on art, suspected, if they did not despise, refinement of manners, and seemed bent on weeding joy and beauty out of life, as if their seeds had been implanted by the arch-enemy of man. These men, in many respects such