Of the circumstances of English Protestantism explored in the 1620s, 30s, and 40s, the reckoning of heroism requires from authors the greatest engagement with the past, with the circumstance of time. Overshadowed by their sense of an Elizabethan heyday for the honor of Protestant aggression, these writers struggle against the suspicion of their own belatedness, decadence, and paralysis. Far from collapsing under the pressure of the Elizabethan ethos, however, Caroline Protestants respond to the past of their own faith with an acute skepticism toward its myths and with richly inventive revisions of the heroic pomp and circumstance of faith. For heroic circumstance, they understand, comprises the various means – practical, ceremonial, or imaginative – through which the advocates of a church secure its singular elevation and, therefore, its warrant as the best of all possible churches.
Insofar as heroism comprises the means of ecclesiastical elevation, the warrant of tradition, and the claims of superiority, it dovetails with all the other circumstances of Protestant faith. Most clearly, the constructions of heroism contribute to, and depend on, the inner and outer conditions of worship – the circumstances of thought and place to be discussed in the third chapter. But as Guibbory has shown, presuppositions about ceremony are entangled with rival notions of how the social domain should be ordered and framed.