Pulpit rhetoric and the conscience : the Gunpowder Plot sermons of Lancelot Andrewes.
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Johnston, Neil Barclay.
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Sermons were the dominant form of literature during the seventeenth century; thus, their role in shaping many aspects of England’s literary, social, and political history warrants more thorough exploration. Too often, in an effort to highlight dynamics of power struggles at various political and ideological levels, we tend to ignore the power of the individual conscience to rise above the immediate context’s power struggle. Lancelot Andrewes’ sermons were among the most frequently printed in that period, and this study opens the door of exploration slightly wider by considering the role that conscience plays in a portion of his state-mandated sermons. The modern era’s relationship to the conscience differs considerably from the Renaissance and the Reformation understanding, and thus, I provide an overview of how the conscience worked in that period. Further, to provide a context for the development of his conscience, two other aspects of his work are examined: his treatment of the Decalogue, and his private devotions. These two works display both a public and a private expression of Andrewes’ convictions, illuminating crucial commitments to theological and moral tenets. This significant background material supplies what is lacking in the sermons themselves: historical antecedents for the apparent exaltation of the king and the state ground these expressions in gratitude and obedience to God. Moreover, as is seen from the shift in emphasis that Andrewes’ rhetoric takes in these ten sermons, they are much more than anti-Catholic and pro-English propaganda. They are, in fact, sacred epideictic efforts that use the politically ordained occasion for spiritual ends: to give praise to God for the Gunpowder Plot deliverance, to rebuke the treasonous act and the traitors who plotted it, and to issue a renewed call to obedience.