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The term has become an epithet without precise meaning. At one time it described a reform movement in the Church of England during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It sought to carry the English Reformation beyond the stage reached in the reign of Elizabeth I. In this sense the term was first applied to those who wished to "purify" the church from the remnants of "popery." Puritanism included representatives of a wide range of doctrines, from Presbyterians, independents, and separatists, through levellers and millenarians. Within English Puritan ranks there was much lively debate. Puritan literature of the seventeenth century was thus by definition polemic. 

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
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