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Christian Singers of Germany
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CHAPTER VI.
HYMNS OF THE REFORMATION.
A.D. 1520-1600.

Luther and his immediate friends were only the founders of the new German hymnology; it rapidly spread over a much wider field. The number of hymn-writers who suddenly sprang up at this time is indeed far too great to admit of any detailed account of them. It included not only clergymen and professors like those already mentioned, Erasmus Alber, whose secular writings especially his fables were also celebrated, and Nicholas Decius, a converted monk, whose German version of the "Gloria in excelsis,"

"All glory be to God on high,"

with its noble chorale, soon came into use all over Germany; it also included men of all ranks--princes, like the Margraves of Hesse and Brandenburg; soldiers and lawyers, like Reissner, who was at the siege of Rome, and Spengler, the town-clerk of Nuremberg; artisans, like Hans Sachs the shoemaker; and the unknown authors of those popular sacred songs which were on the lips of wandering craftsmen and maids at their work. But the ground-tones of this religious poetry were everywhere the same--on the doctrinal side a joyful assertion of God's free grace and goodwill towards men, as shown in our Lord Jesus Christ; and on the experimental side an ardent expression of hope in God for the future, and acceptance of His will in the present. These men felt that He had suffered a great new light of Truth to dawn on the world, and so though it might bring much conflict it filled them also with a new life and courage, and with a confident anticipation of a better future, which found its expression even in the services for the dying and the dead. Thus these hymns have a certain manliness, breadth, and fervour about them, which pre-eminently adapted them for use in the church as the common voice of praise and prayer.

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