This middle class was increasingly suspicious of the economic activities of the Church. For instance, the Church had hitherto administered all charity, and had not, in the opinion of some, administered it well. So rich burghers, wishing to leave money for charity, took to leaving it to the town council to administer. In such ways as these, the Church’s authority was undermined from without, even while its own venality was undermining it from within.
The doctrine of Calvin, making work a virtue, emphasizing the hoarding of gains rather than their ostentatious expenditure, even permitting usury up to a point, was much better calculated to appeal to these small entrepreneurs than the rigidities of Catholicism, and it is no accident that it is the countries which embraced Protestantism which subsequently made the greatest social, economic and political advances. (224)