In the chronological list of his works detailed in the letter to Giovanni di ser Buccio da Spoleto dated 1 February 1405, Salutati indicated De seculo et religione as his first effort. The book, which was completed in 1381 or 1382 at the very latest, can be linked to a rich medieval genre of ascetic literature with a chiefly monastic imprint, and it was very widely circulated.
It is an impassioned exhortation to enter into cloistered life and an obsessive tirade against the world and earthly life, and against philosophers who give the world unwarranted dignity. Salutatiís condemnation does not ignore the Church or its highest ministers, deriding preachers and castigating cardinals. Even when contemplating his beloved Florence, he apocalyptically dreams of its downfall, although he cannot refrain from praising the beauty she reveals when viewed from the surrounding hillsides.
The text imitates the schemata of the scholastic disputatio, adopts a style that is essentially foreign to the precepts of ancient authors and systematically turns to etymology and fictional debate as well as biblical and Christian sources. From a rhetorical standpoint, these aspects distance this work from the renewal of contemporary Florentine culture.