Universalists claim that the salvation of all men was taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles. It was also taught and defended by several of the most eminent Christian fathers; such as Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, &c. In the third and fourth centuries, this doctrine prevailed extensively, and, for aught which appears to the contrary, was then accounted orthodox. It was at length condemned, however, by the fifth general council, A. D.553; after which, we find few traces of it through the dark ages, so called.

It revived at the period of the reformation, and since that time has found many able and fearless advocates; -- in Switzerland, Petitpierre and Lavater; in Germany, Seigvolk, Everhard, Steinbart, and Semler; in Scotland, Purves, Douglass, and T. S. Smith; in England, Coppin, Jeremy White, Dr. H. More, Dr. T. Burnet, Whiston, Hartley, Bishop Newton, Stonehouse, Barbauld, Lindsey, Priestley, Belsham, Carpenter, Relly, Vidler, Scarlett, and many others.

At the present day, Universalism prevails more extensively than elsewhere in England, Germany, and the United States.

In England, the Unitarian divines, generally, believe in the final salvation of all men. Dr. Lant Carpenter says, "Most of us, however, believe that a period will come to each individual, when punishment shall have done its work -- when the awful sufferings with which the gospel threatens the impenitent and disobedient, will have humbled the stubborn, purified the polluted, and eradicated malignity, impiety, hypocrisy, and every evil disposition; that a period will come (which it may be the unspeakable bliss of those who enter the joy of their Lord to accelerate, which, at least, it will be their delight to anticipate,) when he who 'must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet,' 'shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power.' 'The LAST ENEMY, death, shall be DESTROYED.' 'Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,' 'who wills that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth,' -- that truth which sanctifies the heart, -- that knowledge which is life eternal, -- and God shall be ALL IN ALL."

In Germany, nearly every theologian is a believer in the final salvation of all men. Speaking of Professor Tholuck, Professor Sears says, "The most painful disclosures remain yet to be made. This distinguished and excellent man, in common with the great majority of the Evangelical divines of Germany, though he professes to have serious doubts, and is cautious in avowing the sentiment, believes that all men and fallen spirits will finally be saved." Mr. Dwight, in his recent publication, says, "The doctrine of the eternity of future punishments is almost universally rejected. I have seen but one person in Germany who believed it, and but one other whose mind was wavering on this subject." Universalism may, therefore, be considered the prevailing religion in Germany.

In the United States, Universalism was little known until about the middle of the last century; and afterwards it found but few advocates during several years. Dr. George de Benneville, of Germantown, Penn., Rev. Richard Clarke, of Charleston, S. C., and Jonathan Mayhew, D. D., of Boston, were, perhaps, the only individuals who publicly preached the doctrine before the arrival of Rev. John Murray, in 1770. Mr. Murray labored almost alone until 1780, when Rev. Elhanan Winchester, a popular Baptist preacher, embraced Universalism, though on different principles. About ten years afterwards, Rev. Hosea Ballou embraced the same doctrine, but on principles different from those advocated by Mr. Murray or Mr. Winchester. To the efforts of these three men is to be attributed much of the success which attended the denomination in its infancy. Although they differed widely from each other in their views of punishment, yet they labored together in harmony and love, for the advancement of the cause which was dear to all their hearts. The seed which they sowed has since produced an abundant harvest.

The ministry of the Universalist denomination in the United States, hitherto, has been provided for, not so much by the means of schools, as by the unaided, but irresistible influence of the gospel of Christ. This has furnished the denomination with its most successful preachers. It has turned them from other sects and doctrines, and brought them out from forests and fields, and from secular pursuits of almost every kind, and driven them, with inadequate literary preparation, to the work of disseminating the truth. This state of things has been unavoidable, and the effect of it is visible. It has made the ministry of the Universalist denomination very different from that of any other sect in the country; studious of the Scriptures, confident in the truth of their distinguishing doctrine, zealous, firm, industrious; depending more on the truths communicated for their success, than on the manner in which they are stated. It has had the effect, also, to give the ministry a polemic character -- the natural result of unwavering faith in the doctrine believed, and of an introduction into the desk without scholastic training. But the attention of the denomination, in various parts of the country, has of late been turned to the education of the ministry; and conventions and associations have adopted resolves requiring candidates to pass examinations in certain branches of literature. The same motives have governed many in their effort to establish literary and theological institutions. The desire to have the ministry respectable for literary acquirements, is universal.

A few years since, a small number separated from the denomination, and adopted the appellation of Restorationists. To prevent misapprehension, it may be repeated, that, although a few have thus seceded, yet a difference of opinion in regard to the duration of punishment has not disturbed the harmony of the denomination generally, nor is it regarded as sufficient cause for breach of fellowship, or alienation of heart and affection.

The Universalists quote the following texts of Scripture, among others, in support of their sentiments: -- Gen.22:18. Ps.22:27; 86:9. Isa.25:6, 7, 8; 45:23, 24. Jer.31:33, 34. Lam.3:31-33. John 12:32. Acts 3:31. Rom.5:18, 21; 8:33, 39; 11:25-36.1 Cor.15:22-28, and 51-57.2 Cor.5:18, 19. Gal.3:8. Eph.1:9, 10. Phil.2:9-11. Col.1:19, 29.1 Tim.2:1-6. Heb.8:10, 11. Rev.5:13; 21:3, 4.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -

We copy the following from the Trumpet and Universalist Magazine of June 4, 1836. It is by the Rev. HOSEA BALLOU, of Boston, in answer to the question, "Who are Universalists?"

"There seems to be an evident propriety in calling all who believe in the final holiness and happiness of all mankind, Universalists. There appears no good reason why those who believe in a limited punishment, in the future state, should have a less or a greater claim to be called Universalists, than those who entertain a hope that all sin and misery end when the functions of life cease in the mortal body. As they both agree in the belief that God is the Savior of all men, if this belief entitle one to the name of Universalist, of course it gives the other the same title. The Rev. John Murray was called a Universalist, and he called himself by this name, although he admitted there might be suffering hereafter, in consequence of blindness or unbelief. It is true, he did not allow that the sinner was punished for sin, either here or in the future world, in his own person, because he maintained that the whole penalty of the divine law, for the sin of the whole world, was suffered by the Lord Jesus, as the head of every man. He allowed, notwithstanding, that the natural consequences of sin would inevitably follow transgression, as we see is the case by every day's observation. So, likewise, was the Rev. Elhanan Winchester called a Universalist, and he called himself so, although his views respecting a state of retribution, and the sufferings to which the wicked in the world to come will be subjected, were widely different from those entertained by Mr. Murray. Mr. Winchester believed in a place of material fire and brimstone, where the wicked would endure a torment as intense as has been represented by those Christians who believe in endless misery. But, as he believed that all these sufferings will end, though they might continue for many thousand years, and that those miserable wretches will at last be subdued and reconciled to the divine government, and be happy, he was denominated a Universalist.

"The Rev. Dr. Huntington is ranked a Universalist, equally with those who have been named; but he believed in no punishment hereafter, being Calvinistic in his views of the demerit of sin, and of the atonement made by Christ.

"From the commencement of the denomination of Univeralists in this country, there has been a difference of opinion respecting the doctrine of rewards and punishments, among both the clergy and the laity belonging to the connection. But this difference was not considered, in those times, a good reason for a distinction of either name, denomination, or fellowship. All united in the cheering hope that, in the fulness of the dispensation of times, sin will be finished, transgression ended, and all moral intelligences reconciled to God, in true holiness and everlasting happiness. A view so grand and glorious, so full of comfort, of joy, and of peace, and so triumphant, was sufficiently powerful to draw together all who enjoyed it, and to hold them together as a denomination distinct from all those who hold the unmerciful doctrine of endless punishment.

"When the General Convention of the New England States, professing the doctrine of universal salvation, appointed a committee to draft articles of faith and a constitution, by which it might be known and distinguished from other religious sects, care was taken to appoint on that committee brethren whose views differed respecting the subject of a future state of rewards and punishments. The worthy and fondly-remembered brother Walter Ferriss, who penned that instrument, was a believer in future rewards and punishments; but he so wrote that confession of faith as to comprehend the full belief of universal salvation, without making any distinction between the belief of future punishment, or no future punishment. And it is well remembered that this circumstance was, at the time of accepting the report of the committee, viewed as one of its excellences.

"It seems improper to give so much weight to different opinions, which differ not in principle, but in circumstances only, as to constitute them walls of separation and disfellowship. If one believe that all misery ends with this mortal state, and another believe that it may continue twenty years after, and then come to an end, is there any real difference as to principle? All believe that our heavenly Father holds all times and seasons, and all events, in his own power, and that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. And, moreover, all believe that God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. This constitutes us all Universalists, and calls on us to keep the unity of the spirit, and to walk in the bonds of peace."

Top of Page
Top of Page