Cautionary tales of the judgements God visited upon flagrant and incorrigible sinners circulated widely in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: stories of sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, adulterers and other ungodly livers struck down suddenly by the avenging arm of the Almighty. Recycling older materials and incorporating new ingredients created a distinctive body of tales and stories which might legitimately be described as a corpus of Protestant legend and folklore. Recent folklorists have rejected the misguided persuasion of their predecessors that folklore was a pure distillation of the untainted spring waters of continuous oral tradition. Oral tradition filtered into the printed collections of God's judgements in a variety of ways. The notion that God actively intervened in human affairs to reward the good and discipline the wicked was by no means an innovation of the post-Reformation period, but such beliefs were bolstered by Calvinist theology.
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