The Reformation prepared the world for a very troubled time. We in the latter part of the twentieth century seem to face similar turbulence, and a major new movement toward biblical precepts would be a Godsend. What can we do to help bring it about?
There are always lessons from the Church’s past, not merely for the ecclesiastical elite but for parish clergymen, teachers, and eager laymen. One great example from the Reformation that has been somewhat overlooked is the extent to which the Reformers capitalized upon the new medium of printing. Luther and his allies might never have caught the attention and support of the masses had they not been able to distribute voluminous amounts of literature pleading their cause. By spreading their arguments in the vernacular far and wide, the Reformers got the jump on the establishment. They satisfied the thirst of newly literate millions while loyal churchmen dragged their feet.
Gutenberg invented movable type in the mid-fifteenth century, and “printing spread with extraordinary rapidity,” according to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, which is not given to overstatement. “By 1500 more than 1,700 presses in almost 300 towns had produced one or more books. It is estimated that almost 40,000 editions were published during the fifteenth century, comprising somewhere between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000 volumes … mainly liturgical, theological and legal works.…”
It is reasonable to assume that all this literature encouraged the masses to think for themselves and thus paved the way for the Reformation. Rousing sermons, such as the famous message by Girolamo Savonarola, “On the Renovation of the Church,” delivered in Florence on January 13, 1495, ...1
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