It seems to me that “Fire and Brimstone” texts like Stimulus Conscious Minor and The Adulterous Falmouth Squire were the beginning of a tradition that has spanned to our generation. As this was during the time of the Lollards, the religious status quo was coming under some serious heat from the public and the Church was having to quell a situation that was threatening to spread doubt and (God forbid) discussion amongst members of the religious community. What was this new idea of a religion to include the laymen? What are the benefits of having a bible written in English that everyone who read English could understand? This was a time when the Catholic Church needed a serious push and revamping. Enter “fire and brimstone” texts. These texts were clearly meant to instill some level of fear in their readers. Their target audience is those who might have been waning in their faith and about what religious doctrine they were going to follow. With texts like Stimulus Conscious Minor and The Adulterous Falmouth Squire, those who had a solid foundation in the catholic tradition would probably have been scared away from Lollards and anyone else that the Catholic Church denounced.
We see this use of “fire and brimstone” texts throughout history when Christianity needs a bit of boost in popularity. We see it with Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century with his infamous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and that helped lead to the age of Enlightenment and the First Great Awakening. “Fire and Brimstone” sermons are still used today. I can remember sitting in church and listening to sermons on the dangers of hell and what might happen if we stray too far from the “Word.”
It makes me wonder if members of the church get together and decide that membership has been down lately, so we need to spice it up a bit. You know, scare the word of God into them. I think it certainly works. For people who have a sense of religion, one of these sermons is enough to send you home crying, wiping the dust off of your bible and praying for forgiveness. I think that they’re jarring on purpose. No one is going to be conflicted after a talk about God’s mercy. Everyone wants to hear that message. That’s why Church is always packed on Christmas and Easter. But if you can convince a person that they are going to end up condemned to hell as a result of their adulterous affairs or that they are going to roast in purgatory because they haven’t done enough good deeds on Earth, well, then you have a dedicated congregation.