Familists, Familia Charitatis, Family of Love

Familists, Familia Charitatis, Family of Love a sect founded in the 16th century by Henry Nicholas, a native of Munster, in Westphalia, who, after residing for some time in Holland, went to England in the latter part of the reign of Edward VI, and there established (1552) his familia charitatis, or Huis des Liefde (Strype's Cranmer, 2:410). His doctrines have often been confounded with those of David Joris SEE JORIS, which they resemble in many respects, and generally with those of the Anabaptists. His followers however, published a Confession of Faith in 1575 (given in Strype, Annals, 2:577), and soon after an Apology, in which they attempt to prove the identity of their doctrines with those of the evangelical Confessions. The characteristic feature of this sect was a tendency to mystic contemplation, and the belief that, through love, man could become absolutely absorbed in and identified with God, in a subjective sense. Nicholas represented himself as the apostle of this "service of Love," and it is said went so far as to claim superiority over Christ, on the ground that Moses only preached hope, Christ faith, but he preached love. The sect was accused of denying the divinity of Christ, and of even rejecting the divinity of God himself, in its higher attributes, by maintaining that man would, in this life, become identified with God. They, on the contrary, maaintained in their Apology their belief in the three general Christian creeds, and particthlarly in the satisfaction rendered by Christ, while they merely claimed to emulate the state of life exhibited by him. As they looked upon themselves as perfect, they could not acknowledge the need of forgiveness, and stated in their Apology that they tried with all the heart to believe and keep the commandments, leaving the rest to God, as the power of so doing could only come from him. They distinguished themselves from the Anabaptists by their recognition of infant baptism, and by their indifference as to the external part of the established worship, which the Anabaptists assailed with especial violence. Nicholas, who at first kept proselyting quietly, came out more boldly during the reign of Elizabeth, and announced himself as a prophet appointed by the Lord, and anointed by the Holy Spirit. He is said to have been an uneducated man, yet appears to have succeeded in gaining the ear of several theologians and persons of high rank. In 1580 Elizabeth issued a proclamation against the sect, and directed an inquiry to be made into their practices. They seem to have attracted considerable attention at that period, and accusations of all kinds were brought forward against them. Their books were ordered to be burnt in October, 1580. In 1604 they presented a petition to James I, to clear themselves from the imputations laid against them. From this time their numbers diminished, but they were not extinct even as late as 1645. King James I, in his Βασιλικὸν δῶρον, calls them infamem anabaptistarum sectam, quae familia amoris vocatur. A person named Etherington was made to recant as a Familist in 1627; but he does not appear to have held precisely the same doctrine as the older Familists. See a curious book by J.R. (John Rogers), entitled The Displaying of an horrible Sect naming themselves the Family of Love (Lond. 1579); and Knewstub, Confutatios of monstroays and horrible Heresies taught by H.N. etc. (Lond. 1579); Mosheim, Church History, c. 16, § 3, part 2, § 25; Collier, Ecclesiastes Hist. of England, 6:609; 7:311; Hardwick, Reformation, chapter 5.

 
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