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If we examine theological debates from 1603 to 1625, we find James I ruled over a better reformed church than did either his predecessor or his successor. If we consider ecclesiastical enforcement in the same period, we find James I ruled over a better conformed church. In fact, recent scholars have all but eliminated every possible point of contention that might have divided the Jacobean church, and still we know that James's was not an entirely reformed, quiet, nor contented religious settlement. When we analyze the rhetoric of religion in the early seventeenth century, then we find that James I ruled over a powderkeg.
Both the evidence for and the source of this problem can be found in the polemics of the early Stuart church. Without question, James I managed a religious settlement that was remarkable in this age for its theological consensus and non-confrontational policies. But it is also true that he did so while always tolerating and often encouraging an official rhetoric of scorn and contumely against papist and puritan subjects who placed themselves outside the generous bounds of that settlement. In the case of puritanism, this was particularly destabilizing: unlike papists, puritans were a distinctive phenomenon contained for the most part within the Church of England. The official language of the church was thus set against puritan experience.
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