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Were I disposed to flourish about honourable authority, as you have done, I could remind you that the Hebrews had no faith in endless wo, until their acquaintance with heathens, and I could show that this barbarous tenet has the same parentage with necromancy, witchcraft, idolatry and all the fooleries and mumery of Pagan temples. Honourable authority! yea honourable origin! might I exclaim, but this is foreign from our discussion.
2. The Sibyline Oracles. All your quotations respeeting these may be true, and yet they teach Universalism. The fact in relation to these oracles is: They are the pretended prophecies of ancient sibyls, which were supposed to be prophetessess of extraordinary inspiration among the Romans and Greeks; and their books were only consulted on emergencies, and by order of the government. The great veneration in which these were held among the vulgar, induced some zealots to fabricate, under the name of the sibyls, and in the form of ancient predictions, a narrative of the most striking events of what was then considered the Christian faith. This was sent out into the world to convert the heathens, by the pretended testimony of their own prophetesses. The plan was seized with avidity by orthodox Christians in general; and Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch and Clemens Alexandrinus, quote it as genuine, and urged its testimonies as indubitable evidence. What then, though these books were brought forth in iniquity,' they are valuable, inasmuch as they show the sentiments of the Christians at that time. They were forged, according to Cave, A. D. 180, to Ďu Pin
150, and to Lardner 169 or 190. In book 1. p. 212, Edit. Apropoei, Paris, 1607, we find the following, relative to mankind after the judgment, "The omnipotent incorruptible God, shall confer another favour on his worshippers, when they shall ask him he shall save mankind from the pernicious fire and immortal agonies. This will he do," &c. Here sir, is Universalism before Origen,
8. Clemens Alexandrinus, who was bishop of Alexandria, and teacher of Origen, was a Universalist. Daille, an orthodox writer says, "It is manifest, throughout his works, that Clemens thought all the punishments which God inflicts upon men are salutary, and executed by him only for the purpose of instruction and reformation. Of this kind he reckons the torments which the damned in hell will suffer. From which we discover, that Clemens was of the same opinion as his scholar Origen, who every where teaches, that all the punishments of those in hell are purgatorial, that they are not endless,' &c. Dalli De Usu Patrum. Lib. II. cap. IV. Archbishop Potter teaches the same respecting Clemens.
4. Sparks, in his Inquiry, page 351, says: "Universalism was a favourite tenet with the great and learned Origen; and it is frequently mentioned in the writings both of the earlier and later Christian fathers. Some avow it to be their faith, and others introduce such allusions as to show that it was a tenet common to many Christians at the time they wrote.'
Thus sir, I think I have shown to the satisfaction of all that Universalism did exist before the
days of Origen. And now, I desire to know from whence it was derived? Not from the Jews for they believed in endless misery; and not from the Heathens for they also believed this. It must therefore have been derived from the Savior and his apostles.
Respecting Origen's excommunication, I must offer a few words, though you have given no reply to what was said on this, in letter No. vIII. where I have shown that he was not excommunicated for heresy. Eusebius says, "Demetrius seeing him doing well, great and illustrious and celebrated among all, was overcome by human infirmity, and wrote against him to the bishops thoughout the world, and attempted to traduce what he had done as a most absurd act, (referring to his practical application of Matt. 19. 12.) Then as the most distinguished bishops of Palestine, and those of Cesarea and Jerusalem, judged Origen worthy of the first and highest honor, they ordained him to the presbytery by the imposition of hands. He advanced, therefore at this time to great reputation, and obtained a celebrity among all men, and no little renown for his virtue and wisdom: but Demetrius, though he had no other charge to urge than that act, which was done while but a boy, raised a violent accusation against him. He attempted, also, to involve those in his accusations, who had elevated him to the presbytery. Cruse's Eusebius pp. 226, 227.
Your quotation from Mosheim stating that Origen's excommunication met the approval the bishops, is unfair in the extreme; for the very next words which follow, Mosheim says, the
bishops of Achia, Palestine, Phonecia and Arabia declared their highest displeasure against it. Furthermore, in one year from this Demetrius died, and with him all opposition to Origen. And after this Origen was again appointed to explain the scriptures at Cesarea and the bishops of Palestine often sat under his instructions as though he were their master." Thus is it evident that Origen's sentiments were no cause of his excommunication. I will only add, many of the doctrines which you have attributed to him, it is doubtful whether he ever held; others he held only as speculative opinions, as some partialists do the opinion, that hell is in one of the comets, and that its torments consist in changes from extreme heat to extreme cold, caused by the comet coming near the sun and then flying off into the unknown regions of space.
Your concluding remarks respecting our order are exceedingly illiberal, unjust and uncandid. Your hackneyed charge about diversity of opinion has twice been thrown back upon your own cause. That relative to my violent treatment of Chauncy is wholly incorrect. So also is the one which declares that no man among us holds the same opinions for one month together. As it respects the changes of Universalism, I fearlessly assert that they have neither been as numerous or great within sixty-five years, as those of partialism. For the infidelity of Kneeland, I could find a dozen offsetts among partialists; but such things are not proof, and my Master has forbidden me to render railing for railing.
Your postscript contains but a lame apology for your false statement respecting Mr. Whittemore's
opinion about angels. You must have a treacherous memory indeed, if you had read his notes on the Parables with any degree of attention, not to know, that the Christian Spectator asserted what was absolutely false. The error into which you have fallen in this instance, should teach you caution in quoting the testimony of bigoted, sectarian partialists against Universalism.
Mr. Whittemore's work on the Parables is one of great merit and utility, and it should be in the hands of every biblical student; for it contains a vast fund of useful matter, respecting the manners, customs and laws of our Saviour's day, besides copious extracts from standard orthodox commentators, showing that his explanations have their sanction. Whether your 'surprise and disgust, will outweigh their testimony, is not for me to say. Having pointed out in this, and in letter No. VIII. numerous other false statements, I will add nothing further.
I am, &c.
OTIS A. SKINNER.
LETTER No. XIII.
To Rev. Otis A. Skinner:
Dear Sir-It is necessary that I should make some remarks on your eighth letter, and on that part of it in particular which relates to the term Gehenna. Every attentive reader must be aware that I have demonstrated the certainty of endless misery by the word