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Familists (făm´ĬlĬsts), religious community founded in Friesland in the 16th cent. by Hendrik Niclaes. Niclaes, a merchant of Münster and originally a Roman Catholic, claimed to have been chosen prophet and prepared by special outpouring of the "spirit of the true love of Jesus Christ." His teachings combined elements of German mysticism with Anabaptist doctrines and the ethic of religious perfection. Making Emden his headquarters, he spread his beliefs, traveling much, particularly in Flanders and England. At Emden was first established (c.1540) the Family of Love, as his community was called. It held that the divine spirit of love within it placed it above Bible, creeds, liturgy, and law. However, since no specific form of worship was prescribed, many of its members remained in the Roman communion. They were, however, bound together into a hierarchical communistic organization. In 1560, Niclaes had to leave Emden, and he escaped to England. There his movement gained adherents although its emotionalism was frowned upon by the orthodox. There was some government procedure against them under Elizabeth I and James I. Although the sect died out in the 17th cent., it strongly influenced similar radical groups.

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