“Fifteen Reasons for Preaching Universalism” (1858)
Boston: “printed for the author,” 1858.
Whereunto I am ordained a preacher. I Tim. ii. 7.
The first question which will naturally arise here is, whereunto was the apostle Paul, who is the author of our text, ordained a preacher: To what end or purpose was he sent, or what was he to preach? To answer this important question, we have only to refer to the context in which he explains the matter himself, and explicitly shows whereunto he was ordained a preacher, namely, that he might proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. For Timothy, to whom he was writing, this epistle whence our text is chosen, is his own son in the Gospel, and destined to become a preacher himself. Paul therefore manifested considerable solicitude on the subject, that Timothy should be every way worthy, and well qualified to discharge the important duties which should devolve upon him in the high and holy calling of a minister of the Gospel. To this end he instructs him fully in the objects of his mission, and in the will and character of God, “whom to know is life eternal.” — “I exhort therefore (said be) first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thank., be made for all men.”
And what reason does he assign for this? “Because (adds he,) God will have all men to be saved,” which is the best reason in the world which he could have assigned, why we should pray for the salvation of all mankind, because it is the will of God that all should be saved. Otherwise it is a sin to pray for all, unless we believe that all will be saved, or that it is the will or purpose of God to save all, we pray without faith, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin we are told, and without faith it is impossible to please God.
“For (continues the apostle) there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Then follow the words of our text, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher.” To which lie adds, “and an apostle, I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not; a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”
Whence to my comprehension nothing can be plainer, than that Paul considered himself ordained a preacher to proclaim Universal Salvation, which is the glad tidings contained in the Gospel. Otherwise he certainly would have said something about that awful place of punishment which is supposed to exist somewhere, and he would have exhorted Timothy to have preached it, and to have warned the people against it. Whereas it is a fact well authenticated, and almost too well known to repeat it here, that he never used the word hell in any of his writings or discourses, so far as we have any record.
His silence on this subject is ominous of the fact that he knew nothing of such a place, or that lie did not consider it profitable to preach it, or worthy to be proclaimed, for he says that he had kept back nothing that was profitable for the people to hear, and had shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. It was no part of his ministry it seems to strengthen the pillars of Partialism, for he never in any portion of his epistles, held forth the God of the universe, as a partial, but always as a universal Saviour, and hence he suffered reproach as a preacher of Universalism. “Therefore (said he to Timothy) we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men.” Now had he proclaimed Christ not as a universal, but as a partial and limited Saviour — had he limited the Holy One of Israel in regard either to His power or His disposition to save all, and at the same time flattered the vanity of the self-righteous, he would piety. escaped reproach, and been extolled to the skies for his piety.
But to proclaim a universal Saviour, and an impartial God to make Christ the Saviour of sinners, was intolerable to the notions of those who wished and expected to be exalted above their neighbors, and whose vanity was wounded by the idea of all being saved and made heirs of heaven. Nor is this Pharisaical spirit extinct yet, and for this cause all who now view God as an impartial being, and Christ as a universal Saviour, must like the early Christians endure reproach for entertaining such liberal views. But must we shrink from our duty to God, and foster human pride, merely for the sake of a little fleeting popularity? Forbid it heaven — forbid it every thing that is praiseworthy and noble. Let us do our duty and — honor God, by — proclaiming Him as He is held forth in His word, as our heavenly Father, who loves all His children alike, (and we are all His,) and as a proof of His affection, will save all from sin, and make them holy and happy.
But we call attention again to the words immediately preceding our text, containing an epitome or summary of the teachings of the apostle. “There is one God,” — not a triune God, or a plurality of Gods as taught by some, but one God the creator and preserver of the universe, the kind benefactor and friend of the human race, — “and one Mediator between God and men,” — not two Mediators as some would each, but one Mediator — “the man Christ Jesus,” — not the God Christ Jesus, but the man Christ Jesus — “who gave himself a ransom for all,” — not a ransom for a chosen few, the elect, but the whole human race — to be testified in due time,” viz: to be made manifest in God s own good time, and when it shall please Him to do so. Were ever words more comprehensive and plain? And to what do they amount, but clear and positive statement or declaration of the fact, of its being the intention of God to save and bless all?
But the caviller is ever ready to object and say, “Even admitting the fact, what is the use of preaching it ? If all mankind are destined to be made the recipients of holiness and happiness, where is the necessity, sense or propriety of ordaining preachers, and sending them forth to proclaim what will be any how?”
As this question is one which is propounded often, puzzles many, and is deemed of importance by all, I propose to answer it at length, and thus to show the necessity for preaching the doctrine, and the duty of the preacher while engaged in the ministry of universal reconciliation.
The objection itself proceeds upon the supposition that man is more perfect than his Maker — that the preacher is better than the God who sends him to speak His praise. Hence the speaker is often heard to say that he himself would save all if he could — not one of Adam’s race should be lost.
“Yes,” in the fulness of his heart he exclaims, “God knows that if I had the power, or if I had my way, I would take in the whole human family in the plan of salvation, and a ransomed universe would be the glorious result.”
Thus you perceive that the preacher; instead of praising God, is praising himself. Instead of preaching Christ and his undying love for sinners, he is magnifying his own love for them, and making it to be far greater than that of God’s immutable love. According to this view of the case, as set forth by Partialism, God is a monster of cruelty, ready to pour forth the storm of His indignation upon the devoted head of the poor benighted sinner, in a stream of never ceasing wrath and fury — but the preacher, good soul, steps in to rescue man out of the hands of his Maker, and save him from never ending punishment; snatches him as a brand from the burning. Under these circumstances, to whom I ask, is the credit of salvation due? Not to God, but to the preacher. Hence the preacher according to this notion, is exalted above God. – What an absurdity. And what makes the absurdity the more glaring is the fact, that these same preachers of Partialism, in the next breath represent God to be love. Then in effect they preach to save man from the wrath of that very Being whose very nature and essence is love, which is like saving men from drowning on dry land, or curing a sound and healthy man.
The use of preaching, according to Partialism, is to save men from the wrath of God, when in fact there is no wrath in Him, for He is not a being of wrath. If lie were, then vain were all preaching, for no one could appease His wrath; for He is immutable and no one could change His wrath into love. “He is of one mind, who can turn him?” Such a malignant being as Partialism would hold Him forth to the world, would delight in acts of cruelty, and none would be able to pluck His victims out of his hands; for “His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure.” According to Partialism, the use of preaching is to save man from that very hell which God created for him. What would we think of the sanity of the man who would do everything in his power to prevent his family from moving into and living in the house he had built for them?
The use of preaching then, is not to save men from the power of an angry, cruel God — not from a wrathful Being, for there is no such God in the universe. Nor from an awful place of punishment in the future state, for no such place exists, excepting in the disordered imaginations of men. But the use of preaching is to save men from their sins, by subduing their hearts, by proclaiming the mercy, love and goodness of God, and thus drawing them to God by the silken cords of love. So long as God is held forth as an angry, cruel, wrathful, revengeful Being, men are hardened in their hearts, and driven away from Him, but when He is represented in His true character, clothed in the habiliments of love, mercy, and goodness, they are melted in their feelings and affections, and made to flock to the standard of the Cross, and bow to the mild sceptre of king Jesus.
The use of preaching then it appears to me, to be, to proclaim in glowing language —
“In thoughts that breathe and words that burn,”
the goodness of God our heavenly Father, for we are informed that it is an overpowering sense of “the goodness of God that leadeth men to repentance.” By such kind of preaching men are saved — effectually saved — enjoy a present salvation from their sins, which is the salvation they need, and which will endure. But a salvation which is the result of fear of future punishment, and is not the effect of love, will last only so long as the fright lasts, and is not worth having, for it is but a poor salvation at best.
I. The use of preaching Universalism then, in the first place, is to reveal God in his true character, as a Being whose very nature and essence is love, as the chiefest among ten thousand and one altogether lovely. As loving all his intelligent creatures alike, and intending to confer equal privileges and blessings upon all; and thus inducing them to love Him in return, and so fulfil the first and greatest commandment — to love the Lord thy God with all their hearts, mind, and strength, which they never can do, so long as they believe in a wrathful, cruel God. They may dread Him but cannot love Him. being angry with the wicked every day, but such expressions
True, the Scriptures speak of the wrath of God, and of His are not to be taken in a literal sense, for a Being cannot be both love and hatred at the same time. He must be either one or the other. It is never said He is Anger, but it is said “God is Love.” When, therefore, it is said that God is angry with the wicked, we are to understand that His displeasure is manifested towards wickedness. He hates sin, while He loves the sinner. The evidence of this id abundant from the fact, that He so loved the world while it was yet lying in wickedness, that He sent His Son into the world to save sinners, because of His great love for them. Christ’s coming then was the effect of God’s love to sinners, and not the cause of it. He loved them before Christ came. He always did love them, and always will, for He is unchangeable, and can no more cease to love, than the sun can cease to shine, or He himself cease to exist. And the effect of His love will be to confer happiness upon all, for love always seeks the good of the object beloved.’ The use of preaching is, that men may understand this truth, in order to love God.
II. In the next place.~ the use of preaching Universalism is, to mend flie morals of mankind, and surely they want mending, when we see so much wickedness practiced around us, destroying the peace of whole communities. We do not expect by our preaching to alter the condition of man in the future state, for we believe, at least I do, that the condition of man there, is fixed, and was so from the beginning, fixed happiness, as a gift, and not as a reward, and that, there a glorious destiny awaits him there, where there shall be more trouble, sorrow, nor sin. But in this state, we can preaching, demonstrate to men the folly of sin, and the dom of pursuing an upright course of conduct, even were re no other world than this, for “Wisdom’s ways are ways pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” While the ways folly and sin are hedged in by briars and thorns. “The ~ of the transgressor is hard.” I. Again. The use of preaching Universalism is, to instuct mankind on the great and important duties of religion. is manifest that they greatly need instruction on this mcntous subject, for there is none on which they display such vast amount of ignorance. Men are to be saved from ignoice as well as from sin; and the way to be saved from sin by dispelling the clouds of darkness hovering over men’s ads, produced by lack of information. “My people” (says Almighty) “are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” There, He promised them that He would send them pastors after His own heart, who should feed them with knowledge and understanding. The preacher then is a teacher of religion. And the essential qualification which he should possess is, that he ould be “apt to teach” — that is, qualified to instruct. Christ mself was called a teacher sent from God,. and Paul terms himself a teacher of the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light.
IV. The use of preaching Universalism is, because it is true, and truth is always beneficial. It always exerts a salutary fluence on mankind, so far as it is received and believed, for emancipates the mind of man from the thraldom of ignorance, error, and superstition. It dissipates our doubts and fears, which vanish before it like mists before the effulgent rays of the morning sun, and by its cheering tendency our hearts are made to rejoice in God, “with joy unspeakable and [—-] of glory,” firmly relying upon Him for protection and support, both in time and eternity. Truth is to the mind hat good wholesome food is to the body, while error is to the mind what poison is to the body. The use of preaching the truth then, is to administer the antidote to the poison of error, which by its pernicious effects has cramped the energies of the mind, dwarfed its powers, and sown the seeds of its destruction.
“Oh would mankind but make fair truth their guide,
And force the helm from prejudice and pride,
Were once these maxims fixed, that God is our friend,
Virtue our good, and happiness our end,
How soon must reason o’er the world prevail,
And error, fraud and superstition fail.”
V. The use of preaching Universalism is, because of its restraining influence. I know that the opposite is charged against it, and that it is represented by its enemies, as being very licentious in its tendency. But the charge is false, and groundless. It is restraining in its influence from the fact, that it teaches the certainty of punishment. Now, it is a fixed maxim of law, one that has received the sanction of the wise, the learned and the good, in all ages and dispensations of the world, that “the certainty of punishment more than its severity, deters from crime.” Other systems of faith hold out -the hope of a way to escape the just demerits of sin, but Universalists contend, that justice never can be cheated of its due — but so sure as sin violates the law of God, they must suffer the penalty due to transgression. And as a proof that this is according to the teachings of the Scriptures, they quote those passages which say, that “Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not be unpunished” — “God will by no means clear the guilty” — and “He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he liath done, and there is no respect of persons.”
VI. The use of preaching Universalism is, because of its reforming power. Men may be restrained from sill by the fear of punishment, and still have the disposition to sin as strong as ever, implanted in them. Such men are not reformed, for the heart has not been touched. Universalism not only restrains men from slnmng, but it penetrates beneath the surface, reaches the innermost recesses of the heart, purifies that mountain, destroys the love of sin, and inclines them to the practice of holiness from the love of holiness. “How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein.” “He that hath his faith purifieth himself even as God is pure.” What but he teachings of Universalism, which breathes the spirit of divine love, can accomplish this noble work in the soul? The fear of hell can never destroy the love of sin; or render the eart cold and indifferent to its tempting power. It requires lie love of God, awakened in the affections of man, to accomplish this object, so devdutly to be desired. May we not therefore, reasonably expect that the proclamation of Universalism, which is a message of pardon, peace, and love, from God to man, will bring all the wandering children of humanity, home [of] their Father, humbled and penitent.
VII.;The use of preaching Universalism is, because it forms the basis of all philanthropic effort. The basis of all philanthropic effort is love — and the same may be emphatically said of Universalism. The good therefore of the suffering and polited masses, requires, nay, imperatively demands, that Universalism should be preached. What other system of religion holds forth such encouragement to the fallen of our race, to rise from the lowest state of degradation and misery, and merge into the light, liberty and glory of the gospel of Christ for it sets forth the principle of a universal brotherhood in man, and God as the Father of all. The time was when this great principle was ignored, or neary lost sight of, namely, during the dark ages; but as Universalism spreads and increases, the principle of a universal brotherhood, becomes more and more to be recognized, and philanthropic efforts are and more abound in the land. Hence the necessity for increased effort in behalf of Universalism, “that the tears woes of this world may be submerged in the healing tide Liat shall flow from the fonfltaiI1 of benevolence and peace.”
VIII. The use of preaching Universalism is, to harmonize reason with the teachings of revelation. These are God’s two witnesses to the truth. According to Partialism, these witnesses contradict each other, and thus the testimony is made void and of none effect. Reason teaches that a good God revere could inflict endless misery on any creature which He has made. It revolts at such an idea, and gives a flat denial to it. If, therefore, as is contended by Partialism, the Scriptures contain any such doctrine, it is plain that reason and revelation do not agree in their testimony, and that they contradict each other. The object of Universalism is to show that the Scriptures do not contradict the teachings of reason, but that they both reveal God in the character of a kind and indulgent Father, who is “good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works.” Thus the tendency of Universalism is to drive out scepticism and infidelity from among the people, and cause them to rely more and more on the teachings of the Bible, seeing they are not contradicted by reason.
IX. The use of preaching Universalism is, to harmonize the Scriptures with themselves. It is evident that Universalism and the doctrine of endless punishment cannot both be true. ~ne or the other must be false. And yet it is admitted on all hands, that there are a great many passages of Scripture which do seem to favor the doctrine of Universal Salvation. As for instance, where it said, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” “As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life,” &c Now if these passages, and the like, do prove Universal Salvation, then of course the other doctrine falls to the ground. The object of preaching-Universalism is, to show in regard to all those passages which are supposed to teach the doctrine of endless misery, that when fairly interpreted, and properly understood, they teach no such thing. Thus by the teachings of Universalism, the Scriptures are made to harmonize.
X. The use of preaching Universalism is, to harmonize the Attributes of God. According to Partialism the attributes of God clash with and are made to make war upon one another. For it is said, that “a God all mercy is a God unjust.” Then [—] not reverse it, and say, “a God all justice is a God unmerciful.” The fact is, that God is perfect in His nature, and His attributes are infinite. He is all justice and mercy th[—] for justice does not demand any thing that mercy does bt grant, or mercy demand aught that justice does not yield. Justice, it is true, requires punishment for disobedience, but only requires adequate punishment — so much as may be necessary for the good of the individual punished, and mercy does not object to this. A good parent punishes his children he does wrong, because justice demands it, and mercy too, — for in mercy to the child he chastises it, to save it from continuing in sin and misery. Thus here, “Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each her.”
XI. The use of preaching – Universalism is, to break the bonds of bigotry, and thus to make mankind more charitable, ore liberal and tolerant in their views of religion. “Whom e truth shall make free, shall be free indeed.” Surely this a grand undertaking, and if we can effect it to any extent, ‘ accomplish a great work for the amelioration of the condition of suffering humanity; for bigotry in religion has done ore to break the hearts of men, and destroy their peace of [—], and been the fruitful source of more crime and blooded, than any other cause, under the high canopy of heaven. Well was it expressed by Phillips, the great Irish orator, that Bigotry has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no heart to feel, head to understand. When she moves it is in wrath, when e pauses it is amid ruins. Her prayers are curses, her communion death. Her decalogue is written in the blood of the [—]” This is a graphic description of bigotry, and it is tie to the letter. Millions of lives have been sacrificed to satisfy its cruel nature. Then why not preach the doctrine at will effectually put it down, and destroy it?
XII. The use of preaching Universalism is, to make mankind more social and humane. It is sensibly felt that there already too much of the spirit of selfishness in the world. The evident tendency of Partialism is to increase the evil rather than to diminish it. Every thing is to be done to escape hell, and to get to heaven, no matter what becomes of others. Instead of laboring for the good of others, and the general welfare, our thoughts are to be wholly turned on ourselves, to take care of number one. But Universalism is eminently social and humane in its promptings and teachings, for it breathes the spirit of the Gospel — ” Peace on earth, and good will to men.” Its tendency is to make all men worship together, like brothers, in the beauty of holiness, divested of bigotry, prejudice, pride, and self-righteousness, or that narrow, illiberal, intolerant disposition inculcated by the teachings of Partialism, which would incline its adherents to say to others, “stand by thyself for I am holier than thou.”
XIII. The use of preaching Universalism is, to teach mankind the hardest lesson they ever were taught — the lesson of self-denial; to resist human nature, to return good for evil, instead of indulging in the spirit of retaliation and revenge. Herein Partialism fails, utterly fails to come up to the requirements of the Gospel, or to impart the lesson taught by Christ — the lesson of non-resistance – to overcome evil with good. For Partialism teaches that God himself will not do this, but will heap an endless unmitigated evil upon the head of the sinner because he has done evil. He will get angry with the weak creature man because he has done wrong, and wreak his vengeance on him throughout the wasteless ages of eternity. If God will act in this way, will not man be justified in following His example, and taking vengeance on his enemies? But such is not according to the teachings of the Gospel, for there we are taught the sublime lesson of overcoming evil with good, and conquering our enemies with love. It is a hard lesson for human nature to learn, but nevertheless it is the inculcation of the true policy, and a noble principle. Judaism required an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and blood for blood, but Christianity rose high above such selfish considerations, and inspired man with a nobler principle of action. Hear the great Teacher sent from heaven to instruct mankind in their duty: “Ye have heard it said, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy, but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despiteilly use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children r your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to y -se on the evil and on the good, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust. Be ye therefore perfect, even your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
XIV. The use of preaching Universalism is, to proclaim ie Gospel in its purity, unadulterated by error, and to vindicate the ways of God to man — to vindicate his character om the aspersions which have been thrown upon it by the cruel creeds and commandments of men. So long as the Gospel is mixed up with the God-dishonoring, heart rending dogma of endless misery, it is not preached in its purity, and God’s name is not magnified and made honorable. Such a actrine is but a heathen doctrine at best. It is neither part or parcel of the Gospel, and really cannot be made to mix with it. It will no more mix than oil and water, for the one we have seen, breathes the spirit of retaliation and revenge the spirit of injustice and cruelty; while the other breathes the spirit of love, of peace on earth and good will to men. he one is glad tidings, while the other is sad tidings.
XV. Last, but not least, — the use of preaching Universalism is, to administer the consolations of the Gospel. And scents sweet as angels use, it whispers peace, where Partialism, that doctrine is so full of heavenly consolation as this? It fails, utterly fails, to impart one straggling ray of hope, or according to this benign system of faith,
“Earth hath no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.”
In its all-sufficiency and fuliless, it affords
“A balm for every wound, A cordial for our fears.”
In short, a cure for all ills “to which flesh is heir.” Were this doctrine to prevail —
“No more would brutal rage disturb our peace,
But envy, hatred, war and discord cease,
Our own and others’ good each hour employ,
And all things smile with universal joy;
Fair virtue then with pure religion join’d,
Would regulate and bless the human mind,
And man he what his Maker first design’d.”