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PLAIN GUIDE TO UNIVERSALISM.
WHO ARE UNIVERSALISTS ?
I. UNIVERSALISTS are those who believe in the eventual holiness and happiness of all the human race, as revealed to the world in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
They are supposed by some to be of a very recent origin ; but it is well known, that there have been Universalists in almost every age, since the word of God was revealed to the children of men.
II. Even in the Old Testament we find very distinct traces of the doctrine of Universalism. The promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the prophecies of David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and several other of the prophets, distinctly foretell the approach of the time, when sin shall be finished, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“ Jesus Christ not only revealed God in the specific character of a Father, and declared the love of God to the world, even to the evil and to the unthankful, as the cause of his own mission, and laid down other distinguishing principles of Universalism ; but he also professed, explicitly, to be the Saviour of the world, not a part merely ; asserted, that he would actually draw all men unto him ; and maintained, that all who shall be raised from the dead will be equal unto the angels, and be the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. * * * * St. Paul taught a gathering of
all things unto Christ, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, a universal reconciliation to God, through the blood of the cross ; that God had included all in unbelief, in order to have mercy upon all ;.that of him, and through him, and to him, are all things ; that Christ must reign until all things are subdued unto him ; till all be made alive in him, so that, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, God shall be ALL IN ALL" - (Universalist Expositor, Vol. IV. pp. 185, 186.)
LII. We find distinct traces of Universalism in the Christian church immediately after the age of the apostles, especially among the different sects of the Gnostics ; and it is worthy of remark, that a belief in the final salvation of all men was not made a subject either of objection or reproach, for two or three hundred years after the death of the Saviour. There are very few works belonging to this period, • that are extant. "We find a distinct traoe of Universalism in the Sybylline · Oracles, that appeared about A:-D. 140 or 150. Clement,, of Alexandria, the president of the renowned Catechetical School in that city, held the doctrine of Universalisin. He was the most learned and illustrious of all the Christian fathers before Origen. Origen, as is well known, was a decided Universalist, and taught and defended this doctrine in almost all his works. He was born A..D. 185. It does not seem, that during hiş life, any objections were made to him by his contemporaries on account of his believing in the salvation of all mankind. Immediately after Origen's day, we perceive, that many of the fathers maintained the doctrine of Universalism. Marcellus, Bishop of Ancyra, åppears to have been a Universalist, and also Titus, Bishop of Bostra, who maintained (A. D. 364), that the torments of hell are remedial, and salutary in their effects upon transgressors. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was a decided Universalist, A. D. 380. He believed, that all punishment would be remedial, and that, in the end, all mankind, and even the Devil himself, will be subdued and purified. One of his favorite proofs
of Universalism, was 1 Cor. 15th chapter. Gregory Nazianzen, or Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, was .probably a Universalist, .He was promoted (A. D. 378) to the Archbishopric of Constantinople. Next come the Origenists, a sect who were distinguished by that appellation. They were the warm admirers of Origen, and doubtless believed in the final happiness of all men ;
but their early opponents, who pursued them with much zeal, did not object to their faith in this particular, although they sought every means to make them odious. It was not until many years afterwards, that Universalism was considered a matter of objection and reproach. The famous Jerome, in the early part of his life, was a Universalist; but, at a later period, he was led by a theological and personal quarrel, to take sides against this doctrine. Evagrius, à native of Pontus, but a scholar of Basil the Great, and of Gregory Nazianzen, is said by the ancients to have taught, with Didymius, the doctrine of Universal salvation. Diodorus, Bishop of Tarsus, in Cilicia, was a Universalist(A. D. 378). - The wicked,”? he says,
66 are to suffer, not eternal torment, (for that would render their immortality of no avail,) but a punishment proportioned in length to the amount of their guilt ; after which they are to enjoy a happiness without 'end.” Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia (A. D. 392), renowned as one of the ablest theologians and critics of his time, was a Universalist, as is asserted by the ancients. About the same time flourished Fabius Manus Victorinus, who was converted to Christianity about A. D. 350; he also was a Universalist. He maintained, that “ Christ will regenerate all things ; through him all things will be purged, and return into eternal life. And when the Son shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, all things will be God; that is,” he adds, “ all things will still exist, but God will exist in them, and they will be full of him.” Universalism spread wide in the church about this period.
Among the Gnostics it was extensively received, and
the Manichæans, a very powerful sect, held that sentiment. Till the year 390, or rather 394, the doctrine of. Universalism was never impeached in the Christian world, either by orthodox or heretic. Among the heretics (that is, such as were so regarded for other reasons) we find broad traces of it from the beginning. Of the orthodox Fathers, notwithstanding some of. them seem to leave the matter in doubt, yet from the year 140 of 150 onward, they, show us many evidences, that the sentiment prevailed. That doctrine prevailed most in the east-. ern church, and in those places near the Holy Land, where the influence of the teachings of Christ and his apostles may be supposed to have been the most strongly felt. In the western or Latin church, there were indeed instances of persons who defended it; but the influence of the pagan philosophy was here more powerfully felt.
In the year 394. a quarrel broke out in the East, -between the Origenists, and their opponents, in which some of the latter attacked, for the first time, the particular tenet of the ultimate salvation of the Devil, but did not at first object to the final salvation of all men ; and, in 399, some of the councils, that were convened against the Origenists, condemned expressly the dọctrine, of the, salvation of the Devil and his angels, though they passed by the kindred belief of the salvation of all mankind, without a censure. Soon, however, the doctrine of the final salvation of all men was condemned, but still it continued to prevail; and it finally became necessary, in the Fifth General Council, which was opened at Constantinople, May 4th, 553, to pass a formal condemnation and anathema. At the close of this anathema the council decreed, "Whoever says or thinks that the torments of the demons and of impious men are temporal, so that they will, at length, come to an end, or whoever holds a restoration either of the demons, or of the impious, let him be anathema." Thus we see, that for at least four hundred years after the beginning of the Christian era, the doctrine of Universalism was scarcely objected to in the church.
For further information on this subject, I refer the reader to that very valuable work, now rarely to be. found in the market, "The Ancient History of Universalism," by Rev. Hosea Ballou 2d, and also to his abridged history in the "Universalist Expositor," (Vol. IV. pp. 184-209,) to which I confess myself much indebted.
IV. The doctrine of Universalism being thus con= demned and put down by the, highest ecclesiastical authority, it continued to meet with less and less favor. The church, too, was. fast sinking into ignorance and vice;.and soon almost every feature of primitive Christianity was, obliterated and lost. Of course, but slight traces of it can be seen, until the light of the glorious REFORMATION broke upon the world.
No sooner did men begin again to: think for themselves, and to throw off the shackles of ecclesiastical despotism, than we discover anew indications of the doc-. trine of Universalism, It was embraced by the Anabaptists of Germany, who were cruelly persecuted on account of their faith; and who were condemned, in the famous Augustin Confession, among other things, for believing in the eventual restoration of all men to, holiness and happiness. When the Reformation took its rise in England, Universalism came up with it, and it: .'was defended with great. zeal by the Anabaptists in that kingdom; so much so, that it was judged necessary, in forming the XLII Articles of the English Church, to introduce a special condemnation of Universalism, which may be found in the 42d Article. These arti cles afterwards were reduced to XXXIX, and the condemnation of Universalism was omitted. In 1648 parliament passed a statute, denouncing the punishment of. death upon those who denied the doctrine of a future judgment; or if they held to the final salvation of all men, they should be seized and imprisoned until they . gave sufficient sureties, that they would teach said doctrine no more. Still there were not wanting those who defended this doctrine, even under so great peril, among