LIBERTINES, TIIE, or SPIRITUALISTS. an odious and pernicious sect that sprang up in the 16th c. in the reformed church of France. They arose in Flanders. Calvin mentions Coppin of Lille, who first attempted to introduce the doctrines of the Free Spirit in his native city in 1529. Quintiu and a priest named Focques or Pockesius became the leaders in France in 1534. They are said to have made 4,000 proselytes in France alone, and not only among the lower classes, but also among the higher and learned. They obtained the favor and protection of Margaret. queen of Navarre, sister to Francis I., and found patrons in several of the reformed churches. They called themselves Libertines and SpiriMil brethren and sisters. They themselves published no account of their tenets, but, so far as they can be ascertained from the writings of Cal vin, their doctrine is about as follows: That the Deity is the sole operating cause in the mind of man, and the immediate author of all human actions; that consequently the distinction of good and evil with regard to these actions is false and groundless, and that men cannot, properly speaking, commit sin; that religion consists in the union of the spirit or rational soul with the Supreme Being: that all those who have attained this happy union, by sublime contemplation and elevation of mind, are then allowed to indulge, without exception or restraint, their appetites and passions; that all their actions and pursuits are then perfectly innocent; and that after the death of the body, they will be united to the Deity. Their system was pantheistic and antinomian.
From being a mere dogma, it degenerated in,10 open and avowed 'sensualism. Calvin sternly denounced their principles, and it was because of his efforts that this sect left France. took refuge in Belgium, and at last entirely disappeared. In Geneva they made an insurrection May 15, 1555, when their principal leaders were exiled or imprisoned. Dr. Mosheim considers these Libertines or Spirituals as a remnant of the ancient Beghards or Brethren of the Free Spirit. This name in England was given to the early Anabaptists about the middle of the 16th century.