I. The sentiment by which Universalists are distinguished, is this : that at last every individual of the human race shall become holy and happy. This does not comprise the whole of their faith, but, merely that feature of it which is peculiar to them and by which they are distinguished from the rest of the world.
II. Universalists are not infidels. It is sometimes very indiscreetly said, that Universalism is but a species of infidelity, that Universalists are not Christians and cannot be so considered. We shall have no lengthened argument on this point, but, we desire one question settled touching this matter. If the doctrine of Jesus concerning the resurrection of the dead is not true, how is the doctrine of Universalism to be established? It evidently cannot be.
If the doctrine of Jesus concerning a future life fails, what becomes of Universalism? It is gone like a dream. Why, then, should Universalism be called infidelity?
If it cannot rest unless it rest on Christianity, is it not a very singular kind of infidelity?
It is just such infidelity as Jesus taught when He said the dead shall become as the angels of God in heaven, neither shall they die any more, but shall be the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
It is such infidelity a Paul cherished when he said, "God will have all men to be saved," -- "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." "God shall be all in all;" such is the infidelity of Universalism.
It is the infidelity the angels were infected with when they came down and sung, "Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, and good will to men."
It is just such infidelity as distinguished the patriarch Abraham when he trusted in God's promise that all the nations of the earth should be blessed in his seed, Christ.
Finally, it is the same infidelity that made the apostles so obnoxious wherever they preached and caused the people to say, "those who have turned the world upside down, are come hither also."
III. An attempt has been recently made to distinguish Universalists only by a disbelief in future punishment. Such an attempt is unjustifiable. They agree in the great doctrine of the final holiness and happiness of all men and they leave every man to form his own opinion in regard to the times and seasons when this great event shall transpire.
There has been some discussion, within a few years past, on the appellation Universalist. The question seems to have been, whether this word ought to be applied to all who believe in the eventual restoration of all mankind, or only to a particular class of them.
On this subject we have never had but one opinion, and that opinion we have frequently expressed, viz. that all persons, who truly believe in the eventual salvation of all mankind by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, are Universalists. This is the rule laid down in the "Modern History of Universalism."
For instance, Richard Coppin and Jeremy White, who both flourished in the time of Cromwell, are put down in that work as Universalists, although they differed much in opinion on minor points, the latter being a Trinitarian and a believer in future punishment, the former discarding that doctrine. So also Archbishop Tillotson and Dr. T. Burnet are put down as Universalists, who were both believers in future punishment. The same may be said of the Chevalier Ramsay and many others.
The rule which we prescribed to ourselves in the compilation of that work, we still adhere to, and always shall. All persons are Universalists who truly believe in the salvation of all mankind through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It makes no difference what are the individual's views concerning punishment, if he holds the doctrine above described.
There are some Universalists who hold to punishment after death, nevertheless, we are glad to hail them as Universalists. They agree with us in our views of the great consummation, -- all punishment, in their view, is disciplinary, and they denounce punishment, either in this world or the next, having any other object, as cruel and unjust.
Certain persons have endeavored to give a very narrow signification to the word Universalist, as signifying only those who do not hold to punishment beyond the grave, but, they have repeatedly been told, by Universalists of both classes, that such a restricted sense of the word could not be admitted.
We wish it distinctly understood, that Universalists admit of no distinction in the denomination, on account of difference of opinion on the subject of punishment. They are al one, -- they all go for one thing, and may God to all eternity preserve them one. Amen.
IV. Although Universalists do not believe in the authority of man-made creeds, it became necessary, in the year 1803, for them to make a public declaration of their sentiments.
The Supreme Court of New Hampshire had decreed, that Congregationalists and Universalists, in law, were one and the same denomination, and that, Universalists were therefore liable to be taxed to the support of Congregational parishes.
To meet this extraordinary state of things, the General Convention of Universalists, in the session at Strafford, VT., to show that Universalists differed widely from Congregationalists in their religious views. This committee, consisting of Z. Streeter, G. Richards, H. Ballou, W. Ferriss, And, Z. Lathe, reported at the session in Winchester, NH., the following year. On this committee were persons who believed in future punishment, and those who did not, but a majority, we think, of the former. They endeavored to frame their articles of faith in such a way, as that both classes of Universalists might cordially unite in them. The articles were drawn by the venerated Ferriss, himself a believer in future punishment, and were in the following words:
Such then, in brief, are the sentiments of Universalists. But, lest some of our readers should object to the brevity of the above Profession, we shall introduce in this place a form of faith, designed to express the general sentiments of Universalists, drawn up several years since, by Rev. Dolphus Skinner, of Utica, NY., and first published in connection with his "Letters to Aikin & Lansing," Utica, NY., 1833.
- 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 mankind.
- We believe 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 family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
- We believe, that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected; and that believers ought to maintain order, and practice good works, for these things are good and profitable unto men.
But still, we desire that it should be remembered, that the distinguishing feature of their faith, IS THE EVENTUAL HOLINESS AND HAPPINESS OF ALL MEN. God has willed the salvation of all men; and has sent His Son to accomplish the transcendently great and glorious work. He has made a full revelation of Himself, and of the mission of His Son, and of His purpose to save all mankind, in his divine word, the true sense of which Universalists implicitly follow. The glory of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ, as manifested in the final holiness and happiness of all men, is the central sun of Universalism. This, with them, is the all-absorbing topic; the crowning excellence of revealed religion; the richest glory of God; the highest honor of Christ; the fullest joy of the saints; the sweetest answer to prayer; the strongest motive to praise; the most potent charm of Christian faith; a fountain of consolation in life; a holy triumph in death; the joy of angels, and of the spirits of just men made perfect. Such is the doctrine of the ULTIMATE SALVATION OF ALL THE HUMAN RACE.