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world, and if all things are gathered together in him, endless misery, cannot be the doctrine of Revelation, unless Revelation be contradictory. I remain very respectfully your obe't. s'vt. OTIS A. SKINNER.
LETTER No. VIII.
BALTIMORE, Dec. 18, 1834.
To Rev Otis A. Skinner:
DEAR SIR, I think it expedient to make a few historical remarks respecting the rise and progress of Universalism, for the purpose of enabling the reader to form a more comprehensive view of the subject under investigation.
Origen, a native of Alexandria, born in the year 185, was the first man who embraced and propagated the doctrine of a universal restoration, of whom any written account has been transmitted to us. This man, who may be considered the father of the Universalists, was one of the most extravagant fanatics that ever troubled the world. Every one, acquainted with the history of his times, must be aware that he was the first who denied the fire of hell to be real and literal. He strenuously maintained the doctrine of the transmigration of souls from one body to another; that Christ would die in a future world for the redemption of devils; that the sun, moon and stars, had rational souls, and that all bodies after the resurrection should be of a round figure. He understood those words of our Lord:
"some men make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" in a literal sense, and followed them to the letter, lest he should ever become guilty of any improprieties, arising from the propensities of the flesh. He was at length excommunicated from the christian church, by Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, as an egregious heretic. Such are some of the prominent features in the character of the man, who first propagated the heresy of Universalism. Some affirm, with great confidence, that the serpent in Paradise was the first preacher of Univers lism, where God said to our ancestors, "in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die"; the serpent said they should not die, but live, and become wise into the bargain. God has said by the mouth of the apostle Paul, that the adulterer shall not inherit the kingdom of God; but the Universalists say he shall, and will inherit that celestial world. Hence, the coincidence between the doctrine of the serpent, and that of Universalism is manifest.
The commencement of Universalism, as an organized sect, may be traced to England and to the days of Wesley and Whitfield.James Relly, a Whitfieldite preacher, dissatisfied with the Calvinistic doctrines of Whitfield, left his communion and gathered a congregation in London, to which he preached the future happiness of all men as the glory and essence of the gospel. This congregation is still in existence, and holds communion with four or five other congregations in England. This was the beginning of Universalism as a sect.
Among the followers of Relly was John
Murray, an Irishman by birth, and a Methodist by education. This man, after his conversion to Universalism, embarked for America, and in 1770 arrived in this country. He preached first at Cranberry, New Jersey, then in New York and Philadelphia, and soon after made his way into New England. In Gloucester, Mass. he found a few who were acquainted with the writings of Relly, and had embraced his faith; these he collected into a society, of which he was pastor. He died in Boston, 1815.
About the year 1780, Elhanan Winchester, a baptist minister in Philadelphia, began to preach the doctrine of a final restoration, and soon drew after him a considerable part of the congregation to a separate place of worship. Six years afterwards, he went to England and formed a congregation in London, which is now numbered among the Unitarian Churches of that country. He returned to the United States in 1794, and continued to itinerate till his death, which occurred in Hartford in 1797.
Murray and Winchester are generally acknowledged as the founders of Universalism in the United States. Of the two, Winchester was the more learned, and the more sincere; there is a spirit of sincerity and reverence for God and truth observable throughout his works, which I never apprehended in the works of any other Universalist.
Since the days of Winchester, several champions for Universalism have appeared, who have used all the sophistry they could command, in defence of the heresy under consideration. Among these may be ranked Dr.
Huntington, who wrote a posthumous book entitled "Calvinism Improved"; Dr. Chauncy, who published his "Salvation of all men"; Hosea Ballou, who published "Select Sermons, "Atonement," &c.; Mr. Balfour, who published his "first and second inquiry," "re ply to Stuart," &c.; and Mr. Whittemore who published notes on the parables, to teach the world their true signification. Of all these oracles of Universalism, it may be fearlessly stated, that no two of them agree on any point but one, viz: that the punishment of the wicked is not endless! Murray said in a letter to a friend, that according to Winchester's doctrine, every man must finally be his own saviour. If I must suffer as much, in my own person, as will satisfy divine justice, how is, or how can Jesus Christ be, my Saviour? Winchester believed the doctrine of future punishment. Some of the leading heresiarchs of the present day deny that there is any punishment in a future state of existence. Some deny the doctrine of the Trinity, the divinity and sacrificial death of Christ. These sentiments may be found in Mr. Ballou's works. Mr. Whittemore denies the existence of good and evil angels; and Mr. Balfour the immortality of the soul. And according to the "Christian Spectator" (vol. v. No. II. for 1833,) the great mass of the Universalists deny nearly all the essential doctrines of Christianity, and hold an assemblage of not mere. ly negative errors, but an accumulation of positive falsehoods, including nearly all the general principles of enmity and opposition to the kingdom of Christ. Such is the history of the rise and progress of Universalism, and if
the reader is desirous of further information on the subject, I refer him to Murray's life, Mod. Hist. of Universalism, "Christian Spectator," and the authors already mentioned.
Having made these preliminary remarks, I shall proceed to a farther investigation of the term Gehenna. As we agree respecting the derivation of this word, nothing remains to be examined but its use in the New Testament. In my fourth letter I stated that it related to future punishment in all the twelve places where it occurred in the New Testament. And in proof of this application of the word, I cited the Targums, Josephus, and Parkhurst; and showed that the passages of scripture, where it occurred, required this application of the word. All these proofs, I consider remain in their full force, unaffected by any thing you have said in reply. I did think you had something more plausibe to urge in favour of your opinion, but I find nothing that has the appearance of argument. You say the Targums were written at the close of the third century. Dr. Clarke says two of them were written about the time of Christ; consequently, they show evidently, how the Jews of our Saviour's time understood the word Gehenna.
I was not a little surprised to find you assert that my quotation from Josephus was universally considered the work of some Cl.ristian writer, of the second or third century.This is an assertion without the least shadow of proof, and must, consequently, go for nothing. But, if the quotation in question was written by a christian, of that age, as you assert, it would answer my purpose much bet