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DIFFERENT VIEWS AMONG UNIVERSALISTS.
Our opponents are apt to reproach us on account of the diversity of forms in which our doctrine has been held by different classes of universalists; but if this circumstance makes against its truth, what shall we say of christianity itself, which has existed under a thousand varient modifications ? True it is, that in nearly all ages of the church, men of eminent learning and piety have discovered, that the bible most clearly teaches the final salvation of all mankind, and having found this, they have employed their ingenuity in devising modes, by which they could harmonize it with their peculiar notions of the atonement. It is thus that hypothetical theories have been formed, in order to account for obvious bible facts.
Origen, so distinguished a luminary of the church in the third century, and many after him, whose minds were bewildered with the Platonic mystieism of a triplicated deity, and who supposed that as sin is directed against an infinite Being, it is therefore infinite, and being infinite, it must demerit an infinitude of punishment—these, I say, sought out a method by which the damned may be restored, consonantly with these (as they supposed them) fundamental principles; but this is not to take place until long ages of suffering have been endured, and that of the most terrible kind. This scheme, in our country, is usually termed Winchesterian, from an eminently amiable and gifted divine, (formerly of the Calvinistic baptist communion,) who was indefatigable in its promulgation, both in England and America.
The learned and venerable Tillotson, a prelate of the English church, took a different view from the preceding; he supposed endless suffering to be actually threatened in the bible, but as universal salvation is also most clearly taught therein, he accounted for the paradox by supposing, that the former is not designed to be inflicted, but only to act as a means of terrifying and reforming wicked mea; he cites the case of Jonah's denunciation against Ninevah as an illustration of his hypothesis. “ Yet forty days, and Ninevah shall be overthrown." (iii. 4.) But the menaced calamity was averted by the repentance of the inhabitants, and as
this result could not but have been foreseen, the learned prelate supposes that Jehovah merely employed the threatening for that especial end.
Mr. Huntington, a very celebrated congregational clergyman, of Connecticut, advocated universal salvation on Calvinistic principles : he supposed that Christ, as the federal head of all mankind, offered himself, and was accepted by divine justice, as their substitute; and, therefore, that all the denunciations of the divine law against sin were executed upon Christ in the sinner's stead. Divine justice being thus fully satisfied, has no further claim upon men, and grace can accomplish its benevolent purpose in rescuing them from the dominion of sin and death, and exalting them to a glory and felicity far surpassing that from which they fell. In this way as sin hath abounded, grace shall much more abound.
Mr. Huntington's views, which were drawn up and vindicated by himself with much copiousness and ability, were published after his death (agreeably to an injunction in his will) under the title of “ CALVINISM IMPROVED." In the preface to the work, he states, that he had entertained these sentiments for fourteen years ; but as a congregational minister (although he had advanced nothing expressly contrary thereto in all that time, he had deemed it prudent to abstain from an open avowal of them. Such were the bigotry and intolerance of the times !
Somewhat similar to this scheme is that of Mr. Relly, of London: he supposed an indissoluble union to subsist between Christ and the human family, in consequence of which, they are esteemed righteous for his sake, and he guilty for their's'; they are adorned and beautified with his grace and purity, and he is abased and degraded for their sins, until infinite justice is satisfied, and both shall then be perfected and blessed forevermore. Mr. Relly's doctrine was the form of universalism advocated by John Murray, the earliest universalist preacher in America-a man of undoubted genius and lively turn of mind, whose biography is singularly eventful and instructive.
With the peculiar views of the universalists of Germany, I am not acquainted; they exist in such number that an American orthodox divine (President Dwight of Yale Colledge) who visited the country, reports that he fell in with but one learned man who professed a belief in the eternity of hell torments, and even he was
not quite clear that the bible taught the doctrine! But as to the particular form (or, for aught I know, forms,) in which the ulti mate restitution of all men is held in Germany, I cannot assert with any confidence; the divine before referred to affirms, that they maintain it on philosophical rather than scriptural grounds. Nevertheless, his testimony concerning the general rectitude of their character, and the extent and depth of their erudition, is in a very high degree honorable to them. He concedes also, that their attainments in biblical literature very considerably exceed those of the theologians in all other parts of christendom; and the same, I believe, is conceded by every body entitled to a judgment about it.
I know of but two classes of believers in universal salvation at the present day-one of which, for distinction sake, are termed restorationists; their belief is, that impenitent persons shall be punished in the future state, and that their punishment shall be proportioned, in duration and intensity, to the degrees of turpitude in the parties. They mostly agree that this suffering will be moral in its nature, not physical—and they consequently reject the notion of a local hell. They hold punishment to be corrective and disciplinary, and that it will infallibly eventuate in the good of the subjects; yet, they do not maintain (as their opposers are apt to report) that the damned are to be saved by virtue of these penal inflictions, but, on the contrary, they hold salvation to be of grace, a free gift, and therefore, exclusive of both works and sufferings.
The other class (usually termed modern, and by some, reproachfully, ultra universalists,) maintain that all the punishment for sin is experienced in this life; for an infinitely benevolent Being (they affirm) can have no motive for punishing, aside from amending the subject, or deterring others from sinning, and for neither of these objects can it be necessary to prolong the punishment beyond the term of our present existence: for the history of some of the deepest offenders proves (as they think) that long periods of penal suffering cannot be required for subduing the sinner, (as their brethren of the Winchesterian or restorationist order seem to suppose.) Mary Magdalene, out of whom seven evil spirits were cast, and whose sins are emphatically said to have been many was nevertheless subdued within the term of her mortal life, ana
brought to wash the Savior's feet with her penitential tears. But a look from Jesus was sufficient to cause Peter, whilst in the act of denying him with cursing, to go out and weep bitterly.There is ground for believing that even the traitor Judas broke his heart with poignant sorrow for the betrayal of his master. "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest,” was all that the persecuting zealot, Saul, needed to soften him down into a disposition to inquire, “Lord, what would'st thou have me to do ?” Ages of suffering were not required for the subdual of the expiring thief, etc. These, and numerous kindred cases, sufficiently establish the fact, that the manifestations of divine goodness to the minds of sinners are all-powerful in conquering their enmity, and engaging their affections; and that for this object but a little time is necessary.
Amongst modern universalists there are those, who think that although there will be no positive suffering for sin endured in eternity, yet that the sinner will, on account of his wickedness in time, sustain an eternal loss; for we are progressive beings, (say they,) and it is not reasonable that those who, in this life, have neglected the improvement of their moral nature, should, in eternity, be admitted to equal happiness, or advanced to equal excellence with those who have : to expect this (they affirm) is to expect in contrariety to present experience, for all moral attain. ment among men is the result of effort—of guarding and striving against our evil propensities, and sedulously cultivating those habits and principles which form the basis of virtuous character. In the spiritual state, therefore, they contend) although we are fully warranted in the belief that all will be brought to a knowledge and enjoyment of God, yet this no more implies that all shall be exalted and felicitated in an equal degree, than the fact that some are here brought to know and enjoy God proves that they are equal in purity and felicity to the angels of heaven. The following comparison will afford some illustration of their views on this head.
James and William were brothers; their father, being on the eve of a long absence from home, divided his estate equally between them, telling them that on their faithful improvement of their respective shares during his absence, their well-being should entirely depend; but that on his return he would bestow upon each a sum of money that should be an ample competency for
them during the residue of their lives: this was to be a free donation, and irrespective of their merits or demerits. Well, James went to work upon his portion of the estate, determined to advance it to the highest degree of improvement. William, on the contrary, was indolent, neglectful of his affairs, and his portion of the property got into disorder and dilapidation. On the father's return, at the end of ten years, he found James to be already in wealthy circumstances in consequence of his industry and sobriety; whilst William, poor fellow! was in rags, and in debt, presenting a picture of squalid poverty. This posture of things, however, did not prevent the fulfilling of his original intentions, and he accordingly presented each of his sons the sum of twenty thousand dollars. James remonstrated, urging that as he was the more deserving by his good conduct, he was entitled to a larger sum than William, who, indeed, was not deserving of any, having been so improvident for himself, and so prodigal of what he had already received. “ But remember, my son,” replied the father, " that the money I am now bestowing is not given on the ground of reward, but of grace exclusively. Shall I prove evil to William, poor fellow ! because he has been evil to himself? Have not his indolence and prodigality already sufficiently punished him during the past ten years ? He has suffered from want—from the embarrassments of debt-from innumerable mortifications and humiliations—whilst, on the other hand, have you not enjoyed plenty, and ease, and honor, and self-approval ? And even now, although I give to him an equal sum as to yourself, yet see you not that you are fully as much in advance of him in your circumstances as before ? for you have your portion of the estate I gave you on leaving, highly improved, and capable of itself of yielding you a handsome maintenance; whereas, William's portion is not in a condition to yield him anything !"
In this comparison, the soul, or moral nature of man, is considered as an estate left to his cultivation and care by his heavenly Father, who is supposed to be absent. On man's management of this estate entirely depends his present moral enjoyment; if neglected, it will soon be overrun with the weeds of error and sin, and instead of bearing the fruits of peace, joy, hope, love, etc., it will produce the thorns and briars of remorse, misery, and despair. But in his infinite goodness, God has promised immortal life, and