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Puritanism is a religious movement that began in England and spread to America where it greatly influenced social, political, and religious institutions. Puritan beliefs developed from the teachings of religious reformers, such as John Wycliffe and John Calvin. Wycliffe was a famous professor of philosophy at Oxford University during the 1300s. Calvin was a leader of the Reformation, the religious movement of the 1500s that gave rise to Protestantism. The Puritans considered the Bible as the true law of God that provided guidelines for church government. They wished to shape the Church of England to meet their ideals. They called for a less priestly church that emphasized preaching. Puritans believed that all Christian churches should be organized through councils called presbyteries or church courts rather than under bishops, as in the Church of England. Some Puritans believed that each congregation was a complete church in itself and should have total control of its own affairs. The Puritans emphasized Bible reading, prayer, and preaching in worship services. They simplified the ritual of the sacraments. They also wanted more personal and fewer prescribed prayers. The Puritans stressed grace, devotion, prayer, and self-examination to achieve religious virtue.


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