“Progress of Universalism in North and South Carolina” (1827)

  • Reprinted in Universalist Magazine 11 August 1827, from the contemporary newspaper The Liberalist (Wilmington, N. C.)
  • It is highly probable, that many of the Carolinians, so noted for their philanthropic and benevolent feelings, have, long prior to the preaching of the doctrine among them, believed in the final salvation of all men. But such has been the predominant influence of the preachers of the system of endless of misery, and so highly dangerous has it been to popularity, reputation and interest, to dissent from the prevailing doctrines of the day, that even those who believed the doctrines of the gospel, were more safe from the anathemas of the superstitious devotee, in the reputed character of Deist or Infidel, than they would have been in that of the Universalist. Hence it has happened, that borne down by public opinion and popular prejudice, Universalists have rather preferred to endure the stigma thus unjustly cast upon them, than to hazard the experiment of a public declaration of their real sentiments, and a vindication of them from reason and the word of God. The clergy in these states have nevertheless had the address and cunning to keep the people generally ignorant of all doctrines but their own, [and even those, they are incapable of explaining,] and causing them to view a departure from those doctrines as treason against God and their own souls, and the inevitable cause of endless damnation. And such has been the power of this bigoted and ignorant race of beings, over the human mind, so completely have they debarred any thing like investigation or inquiry, that even at this late period, there are thousands of parsons in these states, that have scarcely heard of a Universalist, and take it for granted, that every person, professing to believe the scriptures, professes also, in their belief in the notion of an interminable punishment. Yet, notwithstanding, there have been some better informed, who have ventured to thing for themselves, who have whispered their thoughts to others, and by which means the doctrine of Universal Salvation is found scattered here and there, as a “little leaven,” which we trust will finally leaven the whole lump.
    The first account, I have been able to obtain, of the preaching of the doctrine in these parts, is of a man by the name of John Stansel, of Johnstone county, N. C. some thirty years ago. Said an elderly Baptist minister, from whom I received this account, “Mr. Stansel had been a preacher in some other denomination, [Universalist Magazine editor's note: "As the copy of the Liberalist which we received was in this place impaired, we were obliged to supply what we thought was the sense."] but finally changed his sentiments and became a Universalist; or rather, what was called in those days, a Hell Redemptionist. I often conversed with him on the subject; heard him preach several times; and had one public controversy with him. I confess his arguments, many of them, were powerful; some of them almost staggered my faith; and still I think that there is much in the scriptures, that looks mightily like his doctrine. He was a strong man, well acquainted with the Bible, and a good preacher; and maintained, to the day of his death, an unblemished character. He died firm in the belief of the doctrine he had taught, and regretted only, that he could leave no one behind him, to follow up the work.”
    It seems there was also another preacher of the doctrine, perhaps about the same time, still lower down in North Carolina; but that he was a Universalist, or Hell Redemptionist preacher, and that his name was Tatum, is all that I have been able to gather respecting him. In addition of these, is Rev. E. Lynch, a veteran in the cause, who has for many years, been engaged in exhibiting to his brethren, the gracious and glorious promises of the gospel; the tokens and expressions of God’s universal love and good will to man. His residence is near Newberry Court House, S. C. in which vicinity he preaches. Some three or four years since, a Mr. Coil, a foreign preacher of the same doctrine, passed through South Carolina, and preached a few sermons at Union Court House and elsewhere. With regard to the preaching of the above named persons, though it had not the effect to create powerful excitement nor to raise up Societies and Churches of our order, yet no doubt, it has been as seed sown in the ground, which has yielded its increase. It has prepared the way, though gradually, for more extensive operations, and the establishment of the system on a more permanent basis. For either from this or some other cause, it is probable there is not a county or district in the two states, in which, there are not some Universalists, boldly declaring themselves as such.
    In the winter of 1824 and 5, Br. Abner Kneeland, then of Philadelphia, in compliance with a previous request, visited Wilmington, N. C. where he preached several sermons, created considerable excitement with respect to the doctrine, and also on his return, preached twice or thrice in the counties of Dulpin and Edgecomb. From this time, the state of N. Carolina was destitute of a Universalist preacher until May, 20th, 1826. The Universalists of Wilmington having previously written to Rev. Hosea Ballou of Boston, Mass. on the subject, the writer of this notice accepted the invitation, and arrived in Wilmington on the above day. He commenced his labors in Wilmington, and continued to labor there and in Dulpin, Onslow, and Fayetteville, with considerable success until the following August. After returning from Massachusetts in January of 1827, he recommenced his labors and extended them to the counties of Sampson and Jones. In the course of the present summer, there have been established in those counties, five very respectable societies, which have united themselves into a body, by the name of the Southern Convention of Universalists. The work has spread into adjacent country, and nothing is wanting but good and competent preachers, to raise up, in a short time, other bodies of the same description. On the 3d day of February, 1827, was published the first number of the Liberalist, a semi-monthly paper, devoted to the cause of Universalism. Its beginning was small, but its patronage has had a rapid increase; — its subscription list has been augmented in the ratio of one subscriber per day, since the publication of the first number; and we have every reason to believe it has been instrumental of much good to the cause of truth. From the 2d day of June, 1827, we may fairly date the permainent [sic] establishment of our order as a body in North Carolina, that being the day on which the Southern Convention was organized. The example of the North has taken effect on the South Carolinians: they are now engaged in forming societies to unite with the Southern Convention, by this means, to strengthen each other’s hands, and we hope soon to see the truth as it is in Jesus, prevailing in these states, over ignorance, error, bigotry, and superstition. The minds of the people are ripe for a complete religious revolution. It requires but the well directed energes [sic] of competent men to effect the work. May God grant that they may be raised up on every hand, that Zion may lengthen her cords and strengthen her stakes, and in the brightness of her rising, absorb every inferior light.
    Editor of the Liberalist