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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Libertines (2)

A religious sect which arose in the year 1525, whose principal tenets were, that the Deity was the sole operating cause in the mind of man, and the immediate author of all human actions; that, consequently, the distinctions of good and evil, which had been established with regard to those actions, were false and groundless, and that men could not, properly speaking, commit sin; that religion consisted in the union of the spirit, or rational soul, with the Supreme Being; that all those who had attained this happy union, by sublime contemplation and elevation of mind, were then allowed to indulge, without exception or restraint, their appetites or passions; that all their actions and pursuits were then perfectly innocent; and that, after the death of the body, they were to be united to the Deity. They likewise said that Jesus Christ was nothing but a mere je ne scai quoi, composed of the spirit of God and the opinion of men. These maxims occasioned their being called Libertines, and the word has been used in an ill sense ever since. This sect spread principally in Holland and Brabant.

Their leaders were one Quintin, a Picard, Pockesius, Ruffius, and another, called Chopin, who joined with Quintin, and became his disciple. They obtained footing in France through the favour and protection of Margaret, queen of Navarre, and sister to Francis I. and found patrons in several of the reformed churches. Libertines of Geneva were a cabal of rakes rather than of fanatics; for they made no pretence to any religious system, but pleaded only for the liberty of leading voluptuous and immoral lives. This cabal was composed of a certain number of licentious citizens, who could not bear the severe discipline of Calvin. There were also among them several who were not only notorious for their dissolute and scandalous manner of living, but also for their atheistical impiety and contempt of all religion. To this odious class belonged one Gruet, who denied the divinity of the Christian religion, the immortality of the soul, the difference between moral good and evil, and rejected with disdain the doctrines that are held most sacred among Christians; for which impieties he was at last brought before the civil tribunal in the year 1550, and condemned to death.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Libertines (2)'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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