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from the ashes of its former destruction, it has found for itself a new mode of existence and defence when the older has failed it.
In Europe, the doctrine has been received by some sects of the Anabaptists, and to a considerable extent by the English Unitarians; and has also received countenance from several minor parties of theologians in various communions.
The first person who publicly taught this sentiment in the United States was Dr. George De Benneville, who, after having suffered various evils in Europe on account of his tenets, came to America about 1741, and preached occasionally until his death, in 1793. His residence was in Berks county, Pennsylvania ; and his field of ministerial labor in the western part of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
During the latter part of the labors of De Benneville, i. e., subse. quent to 1754, it is supposed that Richard Clarke, rector of St. Philips, Charleston, S. C., preached the doctrine of universal restoration. He was connected with this church until 1759, when he returned to England. He was considered a man of talents and industry, and published several works, which, however, do not seem to have secured for him a very lasting fame.
The only work in defence of the sentiment which had been published in America before 1770, was an edition of Seigvolk's Everlasting Gospel. This was issued from a press in Germantown, Pa., in 1753. Who the publisher was is not known; probably, however, one of the Mennonites, whose principal congregation was at Ger. mantown, and who were, in a certain sense, Restorationists.
The treatise was probably written early in the 17th century, but the author, at this time, is utterly unknown; history not having deigned so much as to notice him.
This is about all that can be said of the existence of Universalism under any of its forms in this country prior to 1770. Perhaps other traces of it might be found, but it was a subject very little thought of among the people. There was too little of a disposition to change among the puritanic fathers of those days to admit of an apostacy which the easier morals of later days have rendered feasible, and have, in fact, produced.
In the year 1770 John Murray, who had for some time been a preacher of universal restoration in England, landed at a place called Cranberry Inlet, in New Jersey, and preached his first sermon in America in a chapel built by one Mr. Potter, an inhabitant of that place. Mr. Murray soon visited New-York and Philadelphia, and some other towns in the vicinity; and in 1772 made his first tour to New-England, and preached in Newport and Providence. He went south, however, to spend the winter, but returned again in the spring; and, preaching at various places on his way, arrived at Boston Oct. 26, 1773, where he proclaimed his new doctrine in what was called the Factory, in Tremont-street. He pushed forward in this journey as far as Portsmouth, New-Hampshire.
Having passed the ensuing winter in the south, he came back to New-England in the spring of 1774; and after spending the major part of the time, until autumn, in Boston, he, in November of the same year, visited the town of Gloucester, when, with considerable opposition, he publicly taught his sentiments until he was appointed a chaplain in the army, then quartered at Cambridge. Ill health in a short time compelled him to leave the field, and he returned to Gloucester, and there remained afterward as a public teacher of universal restoration until his removal to Boston in 1793, where he died in the year 1815. Under his auspices the first Restorationist society in America was formed in Gloucester, on the 1st of January, 1779; and the first church belonging to this sect was erected in the same place in 1780.
While the changes named in this sketch were passing over Mr. Murray, others rose up to engage in defending the same doctrine of ultimate restoration. Nearly at the time of Mr. Murray's arrival in this country, Adam Streeter, a minister of the Baptist Church, apostatized from that faith, and commenced preaching Restorationism. Caleb Rich, also, about 1771, after being expelled from the Baptist church in Warwick, Mass., commenced publishing the same doctrine; and his preaching soon after, in the town of Jaffrey, N. H., resulted in proselyting to the faith Thomas Barnes, who soon became himself a preacher of the same gospel. Mr. Rich was ordained by Mr. Streeter about 1780. Of the ordination of Mr. Barnes we have no account. These men, though they came into the field after Mr. Murray, were not indebted to him for their doctrine, as the two former, at least, had not heard of him when they began their public labors.
Another principal pillar in the edifice was Elhanan Winchester. He was, at first, a free-will Baptist, and preached their doctrine in Brookline, Mass. In the autumn of 1774, he went to South Carolina, and did not visit New England again until 1779. During his residence in South Carolina he procured and read Seigvolk's Everlasting Gospel, which so far undermined his orthodoxy as to lead him to a partial faith in the doctrine of the author. He does not appear to have been fully converted, however, until the latter part of January, 1781, when, after having read “Stonehouse on the Restitution of All Things,” and spent a month in secret research, he declared himself to his friends a confirmed believer in the universal salvation of men.
It will be remarked that this avowal was made in Philadelphia, to which place he returned, after visiting the north, in the year 1780. There is one thing of which Mr. Winchester was guilty, which is inexcusable in any man; the designed conversion of others to a sentiment which the speculator dares not venture himself upon, either because he lacks confidence in its truth, or fears the loss of reputation or wealth by a full and frank avowal. The author of the Modern History of Universalism, in relation to this affair, thus significantly expresses himself:-" Thus converting others, and half a convert himself
, he arrived at Philadelphia on the 7th of October,” (p. 341.) For a man to convert others with design, when he himself is but half a convert, is not only a strong indication of an imbecile mind, but it proves too fully that the guilty man places but slight value on the truth, and cares but little whether men are deceived by his efforts or not. Indeed, there is good evidence, (Mod. Hist. Univer., p. 343,) that after Mr. Winchester was fully convinced of the truth of the tenet that all will be saved, he wished to keep it close, and not to have it mentioned to his disadvantage; and
even then he pledged himself not to preach what he believed to be the gospel, nor to introduce it in private conversation, unless he was attacked or requested. Valiant defender of the truth, who, for the sake of a support and influence, would cloak his real sentiments, and not even mention them to his friends! Such a man deserves the scorn of every honest spirit !
Notwithstanding the care of Mr. Winchester and his friends, the thing was noised abroad; and, despite of his attempts at concealment, in April, 1781, he was obliged by the popular voice to avow his real sentiments, and he was, in consequence, excluded from the house he had possessed or retained by his duplicity. On the 22d of the same month he preached his doctrine "plainly for the first time,” in the hall of the Pennsylvania University; and he soon gathered round him a society somewhat respectable, as to its numbers and character. (Mod. Hist. Univers., pp. 348-9.) He remained with this congregation until 1787, when he sailed for England, where he remained until 1794. He fled from England to avoid the tyranny of his wife, who declared, both in word and practice, that “she must be a devil and govern." This needless and shameful flight only gives farther evidence of the weakness of the man's mind, and of an indecision of character which marked, but too legibly, his whole
Mr. Winchester, on his arrival in this country from England, commenced his public labors again principally in New-England, and continued to preach in various places for some time, though not with that success which had formerly marked his course. He closed his career, and his body was committed to the dust, in Hartford, Conn., in 1797.
In the year 1785 a Convention of Universalists was called. It met at Oxford, Mass., on the 14th of September of that year.* (Mod. Hist. Univers., p. 364.) Mr. Winchester was chosen moderator, and Daniel Fisk clerk. This convention decided that their sect should be called the “Independent Christian Universalists." They also adopted certain articles of agreement, styled the “ Charter of Compact.” In this charter they agree to receive Christ as their master, and his word and spirit as their guide; and after various other provisions and declarations, we find the following :“We will, as much as possible, avoid vain jangling and unnecessary disputation.” How fully and constantly the sect have adhered to this article, let the files of their Trumpet and Magazine, their Star in the East, their Religious Inquirer, and other papers, as well as the record of their endless controversies, testify. All will prove that there is no sect in the United States so entirely given up to "jangling" and "disputation" as these same Universalists.
The meeting at Oxford resulted in the establishment of the “General Convention of Universalists,” which, since that time, has held an annual session. This convention appears to have the general oversight of the societies, and provides for the prosperity of the cause ; while each society retains, within itself, all aụthority in its own special affairs. At the meeting of the convention, in 1803, the following profession of faith was adopted, viz. :
* It is a fact somewhat interesting, that while the Universalists were holding their jubilee in New-Haven, just fifty years after the convention at Oxford, the Methodists were occupying the Universalist church in Oxford with almost conslant meetings. A great revival, at that time, spread through the town; and many, who had long been Universalists, experienced religion, and became members of the church of Christ. Thus, like the new verdure, fresher and more vigorous, God causes the truth to spring up upon the very soil which the fires of error have desolated.
“ Art. 1. We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, contain a revelation of the character of God; and of the duty, interest, and final destination of all mankind.
"Art. 2. We believe that there is one God, whose nature is love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of grace, who will finally restore the whole human family to holiness and happiness.
Art. 3. We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practise good works; for these things are good and profitable unto all men.
It is, perhaps, unnecessary to particularize in this sketch the various doings of the convention from year to year, as they bear but very little relation to Universalism as a system of theology.
The next movement of considerable importance was the formation of the “ Massachusetts Association of Universal Restorationists,” which took place in the year 1831, on the 16th of August, at Mendon, Mass. The convention was attended by Rev. Paul Dean, David Pickering, Charles Hudson, Adin Ballou, Lyman Maynard, Nathaniel Wright, Philemon R. Russel, Seth Chandler, and several laymen; and they unanimously adopted the following preamble and resolutions, viz. S
"Forasmuch as ere has been, of late years, a GREAT departure from the sentiments of the first Universalist preachers in this country by a majority of the General Convention, the leaders of which do now arrogate to themselves the name of Universalists; and whereas we believe with Murray, Winchester, Chauncey, and the ancient authors who have written upon this subject, that REGENERATION, A GENERAL JUDGMENT, FUTURE REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS, to be followed by the final restoration of all mankind to holiness and happiness, are fundamental articles of Christian faith, and that the modern sentiments of No Future accountability, connected with Materialism, are unfriendly to pure religion and subversive of the best interest of society; and whereas our adherence to the doctrines on which the General Convention was first established, instead of producing fair, manly controversy, has procured for us contumely, exclusion from ecclesiastical councils, and final expulsion, and this without proof of any offence on our part against the rules of the order or laws of Christ: it is therefore
“Resolved, That we hereby form ourselves into a religious community for the defence and promulgation of the doctrines of revelation in their original purity, and the promotion of our own improvement,-to be known by the name of the Massachusetts Association of Universal Restorationists.
* These articles of faith were drafted by Rev. Walter Ferris, who was a firm believer in the doctrine of limited future punishment. This fact is sufficiently indicative of the intention of the articles, and shows, most conclusively, that they who afterward denied the doctrine of limited future punishment, departed from the system agreed to by the General Convention of 1803.
"Resolved, That the annual meetings of this body be holden in Boston on the first Wednesday and following Thursday in January.
Signed, “Chas. Hudson, President.
“ Nath. WRIGHT, Secretary.” On the 17th of September, 1831, the Trumpet, the organ of the Ultra-Universalists, as they now very properly began to be denominated, came out with an article entitled “The New Sect,” in which sophistry and evasion were mingled with the bitterest reproaches against the Restoration Convention and the gentlemen composing it. This was replied to by Rev. Adin Ballou, in two articles of nearly seven columns of the Independent Messenger, a paper then printed at Mendon, and in the interest of the Restoration party. The warfare was carried on for some time with considerable zeal and skill, and with no little acrimony; until, tired of contention, the parties desisted from farther attempts upon each other's reputation.
The Restorationists, doubtless, had all of justice and right upon their side, and were perfectly consistent and praiseworthy in the formation of their association; while the members of the General Convention cannot be too much censured for their attempts to crush the system which they themselves formerly advocated, while, at the same time, they professed not to have departed from the principles of the Convention of 1803. At the present time the Universalist body is divided into two principal parties, viz. : the Ultra-Universalists, who, following Hosea Ballou, deny the doctrine of punishment after death, &c.; and the Universal Restorationists, who hold to a general judgment, and a limited punishment beyond the grave. The former class is much the most numerous, and includes the larger part of all the societies in America.
The latter community can lay claim to a morality and respectability in their communion of which the other class is generally devoid. It is a fact, too, somewhat interesting, that between the Restorationists and New-England Unitarians there is but a slight difference of sentiment; and both these bodies may, without any great revolution, in the course of a few years be made one.
Universalism has increased considerably in this country since its introduction by Murray. There is not, however, probably a very general organization of churches by this sect. The friends of the system, with some exceptions, are gathered into legal societies, in which the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper are not administered, nor any thing like church discipline executed. There are, however, in some of the principal towns and cities, churches organized, and the ordinances of the church are attended to.
Under such circumstances it is very difficult to determine the num.
* It is to this controversy that we are indebted for the means of determining who are Universalists, a question that has sometimes been difficult to solve. The General Convention held its annual session for 1831 in September, one month after the movement at Mendon. Hosea Ballou presided. The Convention was holden at Barre, Vt. Among other proceedings, the following resolution, drafted by 'Thos. Whittemore, was adopted :
Resolved, That we consider all persons to be Universalists who believe in the final reconciliation of all men to holiness and happiness.”
This was, doubtless, designed to conciliate the Restorationists, while it legitimarized Uliraism. Whatever it might have been designed for, it is invaluable; as it marks so legibly, and distinguishes so clearly, Universalists from all others.