« PreviousContinue »
thought to desire, or been able to conceive. Hence he may be called emphatically, The Desire of all nations. For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,' I which are sin and its concomitant evils. And God has purposed in Christ not only to destroy evil, as far as evil reigns, but also to conser positive good as extensively, and even more abundantly : For where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so inight grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men unto condeinnation ; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.' 12
But I have remarked that the mere personal appearance of an individual, by the name of Jesus Christ, in whom God has no purpose of good for mankind, would not constitute the desire of all nations. Neither would the fact that Christ has undertaken a purpose of good for the human race, make bim, by a proper melonymy of speech, the desire of all nations, if that good purpose is ultimately to fail. It is a question then of infinite interest to man, whether the purpose which God bath purposed in Christ, will be actually and fully accomplished. Will Christ make an end of evil, and by his righteousness make all men partakers of the gift of life eternal, even as all men are partakers of condemnation by the earthly man? If not, then he is not in a proper sense the desire of all nations, since their desire shall not be satisfied in him.
But is it so with Jesus, that he shall fail ? Our desires are towards him. Our hopes are centered in him. Our desires are not for ourselves alone ; they are for our companions, our children, our parents, our friends, and our neighbors. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the spirit of this command, our desire is for our neighbors as for ourselves. Shall our desire in Cbrist be for ever unsatisfied ?
In one of the past Indian wars, a certain family of children, in the temporary absence of their parents, were seized by a borde of savages, and dragged into the bowling wilderness. The parents were immediately apprized of the distressing fact, and were overwhelmed with anguish. They turned their streaming eyes around, in search of means for their children's rescue. An officer, with a company of troops, came to the afflicted parents, and undertook to serve their wishes.
11 1 John iii. 8.
12 Rom. v. 18, 20, 21.
He went with his armed force to restore the captive children. The desire of the half distracted parents was turned to him ; the father went to bis assistance, the mother waited,-how tremblingly alive in anxiety! They engaged in combat with the savage captors of those loved children, but they failed, and fled back, scattered and wounded. The father ran to the waiting mother, and exclaimed, Our hope is lost! Our desire which was towards our kind captain and his host has failed!' O my God!' cried the swooning mother, “My children! my.children!'
Parents, are not your desires 'for yourselves and your children, for your and their eternal salvation from death and every evil
, turned towards the blessed Jesus? Have you any fears that be will fail ? But there are some, even Christians by profession, who at times seem not to turn their desires to Christ. The parents see their loved child on the bed of death, one who has made no profession of religion here ; and they watch with eagerness, saying, 'O that we might catch some word, some look, some whisper, from which we might draw a hope that our child shall not be lost forever!' Thus, their desire is turned towards some look, or whisper, of the frail dying child, and that for their child's eternal welfare! Lift up your
desires to Christ. And the question I repeat, Shall Christ fail?
Some have told us, that if our doctrine fails, we are lost. I grant that if our hope fails, if Christ, the desire of all nations, fails, we are lost, and all are lost. If he fails, the schemes of men can effect nothing : 'For other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. ?13 Such was the mind of Paul. Yet the consideration that there was no other foundation than Christ, and that if this foundation of his bope should fail, he must be lost, gave him no easiness. He knew that this foundation could not fail. The God of heaven declared by his prophet concerning Christ, that the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in bis hand,' and
he shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. '14 And the inspired apostle likewise testified, that Christ must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet, even until the last
13 1 Cor. ii. 11.
14 Isaiah liii. 10, 11.
enemy shall be destroyed ;15 and that the creature, or creation, which was made subject to vanity, shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.16 Then will the proper desire, the highest good, of all nations, which began to be realized when Christ Jesus came into the world, be actually, fully, and experimentally come.
Christian reader, in such hope you will find peace. And it was with reference to the doctrine of this hope, that the prophet said in the words before quoted, ' And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts. In that place, the temple then building, Jesus and his apostles taught this new covenant of grace, which is in very deed a covenant of peace. And this covenant itself the true believer finds to be a most glorious temple, a house not made with hands, in which he feels what John beard the voice from heaven say, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men.'
State of the Doctrine and Denomination of Universalists.
The denomination of Universalists may be considered to have existed in America about fifty years; but the doctrine of the eventual restitution of all things, has been held in the Christian church from the first century. Several of the Christian Fathers avowed it, some of whom, particularly the renowned Origen, were distinguished by their devotedness to the sentiment, and by the learning and labor with which they defended it. ' Among the successors of the wonderful individual whom we have named, it is plainly traced for two or three hundred years, until the meeting of the Fifth General Council, A. D. 553, when it was formally condemned, and the believers and defenders of it anathematised and dispersed. 2 In the long and almost undisturbed darkness that preceded the Reformation, its light appeared dimly and unfrequently ; but on that illustrious event, which gave new lise to truth, boldness to thought, and encouragement to free inquiry, it burst forth, and was by many hailed with rapture. It found defenders among the Anabaptists, both of Germany and England; in the succeeding century it was asserted from the pulpit and the press, and two or three regular treatises appeared in its favor. Not long after this, in the church of England, individuals of the brightest talents, and most eminent characters professed and vindicated it; and at the commencement of the eighteenth century, its friends were found not only in the countries mentioned, but in Holland, Switzerland, France, Prussia, Italy, Ireland and Scotland.
15 1 Cor. xv. 25, 26.
16 Rom. viii. 20, 21. 1 Ancient Hist. Univ. chapters iii. iv. and v.
pp. 298, 299.
The Universalists arose as a distinct sect in England, and set up a separate worship, not far from the year 1760, under the ministry of James Relly. He published several works in support of bis sentiments, and gathered a congregation in London. 3 The celebrated Jolin Murray, who was indisputably the father of Universalism in America, had bis aliention first called to this doctrine by a work of that author, entiiled “The Union.' Prayerfully reading the Scriptures, he became convinced that God will at last save all mankind; and after remaining for a short time a member of Mr. Relly's congregation, be emigrated to America, the scene of bis future labors. He travelled and preached in several of the northern and middle States, encountering opposition on every hand; and within nine or ten years after his arrival, several societies were formed, and the worship of God begun, as the Father and Saviour of the whole human race.
Mr. Murray was obliged for several years to stand almost alone as a public desender of Universalism. In 1780, Rev. Elhanan Winchester, one of the most popular preachers of the Baptist denomination in the United States, avowed bis belief of the same doctrine, though on somewhat different principles from those on which Mr. Murray had embraced it. He was then in Philadelphia, where he was beloved and listened to by several highly distinguished gentlemen, who procured him a place for his congregation, and became his constant hearers; but in about six years, he went to London, where he preached until 1794, when he returned to America. At this time
Evans' Sketch, Modern Hist. Universalism, pp. 276–279.
there were not more than a dozen preachers of Universalism in the United States. The General Convention of Universalists had been formed at Oxford, Mass. in 1785; and, it is presumed, its meetings bad been held annually. In 1801, a list of the 'approved ministers and elders' was published attached to the circular of the Convention. There were then twenty-two. * With this number of preachers, the Universalist denomination in the United States commenced the nineteenth century. This was an average increase of less than one in a year, from Mr. Murray's arrival. The doctrine had not spread, at the time of which we speak, to a very considerable extent. There was an unfinished neeting-house in Philadelphia. In the city of New York there was a society, and perhaps a meeting-house. In Providence there were a few Universalists who maintained the form of a society. In Boston Mr. Murray resided as the pastor of the Universalists, who were in the possession of a house, purchased several years before of Dr. Mather's society. 5 In Gloucester, Mass. there was a society, and a small meeting-house, built in 1780; the first ever erected by the denomination in this country. There was a society at Portsmouth, N. H. of which Rev. George Richards was pastor, and which possessed a small house. The doctrine had extended but liule into the interior of this state. It was principally confined to Portsmouth in the south-east, and to the towns of Chesterfield, Richmond, Winchester and Langdon, in the south-west. In Vermont there were some Universalists in the neighborhood of Bennington, where the Convention had once held a session, and a few scattered in different places further north. Three or four preachers resided in the State, and were very assiduous in their itinerary labors. Massachusetts took the lead, at this time, as to the number of preachers and believers. The doctrine had prevailed somewhat in Suffolk, Essex, Bristol, and Norfolk counties, and slightly in Franklin, but in Worcester county more extensively than in any other. In the southern part, there were many Universalists, particularly in the towns of Milford, Grafton, Oxford, Chart ton, Sutton and Ward, and further north in Brookfield, Dana, Hardwick and Petersham. In Rhode Island the doctrine was hardly known, except in Providence. It had been preached
5 The same build
• See Modern Hist. Univ. p. 371, for their names. ing in which Rev. Mr. Streeter now officiates.