.. is a man of this era who (being elderly) was asked to retire. he had made a sizeable sum of money in his lifetime and his friends wondered when he would give the chance to younger workers to accumulate their fortunes. The elderly man rejected this suggestion because he wished to earn money as long as he could. this man felt that he could serve God as long as he continued answering his calling.
If he retired, he would no longer be fulfilling that calling, thus, he decided not to retire. In some people the following of their calling preceded all other pursuits in life. The goal of these people was to earn as much money as possible and often this meant that they would not take time out to enjoy life (for to do so would mean to divert from one’s calling). To followers of Luther, the earning of money was an end in itself, through earning money one could find happiness by pleasing God (through following the calling). Luther has caused man to be dominated by the making of money.
through following the calling the ultimate purpose of our lives is to work hard and earn money. This principle, while difficult for people not influenced by capitalism to understand, is easy for capitalists to comprehend. The earning of money as long as it is done legally is the result and the expression of virtue and proficiency in a calling; and this virtue and proficiency are goals of Luther’s ethic. Although today this idea is not that important to us (one’s duty in a calling) it is the fundamental basis of capitalism. Luther’s Impact on the Social Classes Late in March of 1526, several years before the Hanseatic cities of Lubeck and Luneberg became Protestant, the burgomaster and council of the former sent the burgomaster and council of the latter a copy of a letter from a Lubeck merchant in London, calling attention to the danger that faced persons who brought Lutheran books to the Steelyard. The letter from London points to the seriousness of the situation by stating that “a certain knight, Thomas More,” had arrested eight persons in the Steelyard for having Lutheran books in their possession.
This and many other similar instances illustrate the fact that merchants played an important part in spreading the ideas of Luther to European commercial centers. Accordingly, one of the most fruitful areas of study with respect to the rapid spread of Luther’s ideas is the interest of the merchants and other urban classes in Germany, especially in the free imperial cities. Although scholars have analyzed various aspects of city life at the close of the Middle Ages in great detail, they have done relatively little by way of explaining why representatives of the different urban classes (especially the middle classes) embraced Luther’s ideas from its very beginnings. Because there were a lot of differences among the German cities with respect to their political, constitutional, religious, social and cultural developments, historians have found it advisable to begin a study of the reception of Luther’s ideas by the various urban classes by examining the free imperial cities which had much in common. More than fifty (of 85) cities recognized the Reformation in the sixteenth century and more than half of these accepted and retained Protestantism. To arrive at an understanding of why the dissatisfied social groups of the cities so readily accepted the Reformation, one must evaluate their positive heritage. This consisted of three important elements: first, the medieval ideals, attitudes and experiences of the free members of urban communes who had worked out a method of government among themselves and with their feudal lords; second, the practical, late-medieval mysticism with its emphasis on inner spirituality and ethics; third, humanism, which many educated townsmen embraced as a culture reflecting their urban interests and giving them a social status they had lacked during the height of feudal chivalry.
The society of the medieval German city was not divided into classes in the modern sense of the term. Luther and his contemporaries spoke of the various urban groups as “estates,” each having its special interests and duties but all contributing to the general welfare of the community. To speak of a capitalist class or of a proletariate, for example, would lead to a complete misunderstanding of social conditions in late-medieval German cities. The citizens of the earliest communes were free persons who had banded together to seek independence from their feudal lords, often bishops. To retain their independence, the citizens and the city councils of many communes instituted the annual oath which persisted into the sixteenth century.
Furthermore, citizenship was obtained by swearing an oath to maintain the general welfare. Although it is impossible to connect the Reformation world of thought with any particular social class, as many historians point out, there is an indirect connection with bourgeois growth in the cities, and it will prove helpful to the readers of this paper to examine the interests of the various groups within the cities. In the typical imperial city, leadership soon fell into the hands of the patricians, usually wealthy landowners or merchants who devoted their time and talents, with little or no remuneration, to the welfare of their fellow citizens. it was natural that those who carried the chief burdens of government should constitute smaller councils within the larger ones and then perpetuate themselves and their families in office and social status. That the movement from ordinary citizenship to the patrician class was relatively easy, however, can be seen by the situation in Nuremberg, where in 1511 only 57 honorable families had been represented among the hundred and eighty listed in 1390.
In Augsburg, some of the new patricians came from the artisan class, including the Fuggers and Hochstetters. After 1500, however when the medieval cities started to decline, the status of the patricians became much less flexible. BIBLIOGRAPHYAtkinson, James. Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1968).Richard L.
DeMolen. The Meaning of the Reformation. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974).Arthur Dickens, Martin Luther and the Reformation. (London: Oxford University Press, 1967).Richard Marius, Luther. (New York: Erdicott Press, 1973).Olin, John C.
Luther, Erasmus and the Reformation. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1969).Parsons, Talcott. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947).Thompson, Craig. Christian Humanism and the Reformation. (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1965).Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1958).