Amy G. Tan
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A puritan pastor-author in the 1630s
Tailoring the presentation of theological content
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Chapter 8 first clarifies Bernard’s position in parish, regional, and national controversies regarding the Sabbath and the communion table which came to a head in the 1630s. I show that Bernard’s approach, both in his own parish and within the regional puritan network, was to do as much as possible to maintain his longstanding puritan theological-pastoral programme: yet when pressed he would remain (at least minimally) conformable to the national church. During this time, he was composing Threefold Treatise of the Sabbath, a text for which he probably sought license in the 1630s but which would not appear until 1641 with the breakdown of Laudian licensing. I show how the finally published version of the work performed significant theological and rhetorical gymnastics to construct a view of Sabbath observance that conformed to the national church and yet fit within a puritan vision for godly observance. Then, I turn to demonstrate that Bernard made similar theological and rhetorical moves in another work, also published in 1641, addressing the fraught issue of Christ’s descent into Hell. In both publications, I suggest, Bernard’s creative presentations of content echoed his concurrent parish efforts to find an elusive harmony between his own theological and religious goals, on the one hand, and his commitment to the national church, on the other.

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