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REASONS FOR RENOUNCING UNIVERSALISM, ARISING FROM THE DIFFICULTIES THAT ATTEND
2 TIM. ii. 25,
IN MEEKNESS INSTRUCTING THOSE THAT OPPOSE THEMSELVES; IF
GOD PERADVENTURE WILL GIVE THEM REPENTANCE TO THE ACKNOWLEDGING OF THE TRUTH.
The preaching of Universalism is attended with great trial. Many are the objections to it, arising from the contradictions in the system, its bad practical tendency, the irrelevancy of testimony offered from Scripture in proof of it, the sophistical nature of a large part of the arguments urged in vindication of its claims, and the passages of the Bible which obr viously teach the contrary. These difficulties often appall even the most blinded advocate of this fearful delusion. I am very certain that, if those who lean upon the ministers of this error, and look for salvation without holiness of heart, because certain men assure them that all will be well in the life that is to come, could know the misgivings of a Universalist preacher, the objections that surround him, and the suspicions that he whispers to a confidential friend, they would feel that the risk was great in trusting such a doctrine.
The peril is fearful. There could not be a more e.oquent or impressive lecture upon Universalism, than a collection of the confessions of its advocates.
Before my mind was much disturbed in respect to the truth of Universalism, - before I seriously questioned the soundness of the arguments set forth in its defence, - I met with difficulties which made my ministry a painful one, and the support of my faith no easy task. I will name some of them.
I. DIFFICULTIES ARISING FROM THE DOCTRINES OF
Universalism in this country has had several fathers. Mr. Murray is the father of Universalism as it was; Mr. Ballou, the father of it as it is. Mr. Ballou informs us that he was led to adopt his views of religion by reading a Deistical book.
By denying future punishment and the divinity of Jesus Christ, he, in 1818, changed the whole fabric of Universalism; and has earned the title of originator of its present form and character.
Though Mr. Ballou is the author of modern Universalism, it was not through his influence that it has displaced the system of Murray. It is well known that Mr. Ballou is a man of little reading, and limited in his knowledge of books. He had, at the beginning of his public life, barely a common education. And though, after preaching several years, he began to study English grammar, any one who hears him will be convinced that he must have abandoned the attempt soon after the commencement. He had neither personal influence nor intellectual power enough to make his notions popular. Though he published them to the world, they met with little attention among his associates.
About this time, Walter Balfour professed conversion to Universalism. He adopted Mr. Ballou's sentiments, and carried them out with a bold hand. He went far beyond Mr. Ballou, and asserted such strange doctrines, and unheard-of notions, that he claims a place among the fathers of Universalism.
He professed to be a scholar. He talked about Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna, to such a degree, that his associates, unable to decide whether he was a learned man or a pretender, granted his claims, and shared his praise.
Mr. Balfour was brought up in the doctrines of the church of Scotland. He renounced them, however, and became a Haldanite, and as such came to this country, as a missionary, to enlighten the descendants of the Puritans in relation to the Bible, and to do the work of a missionary upon the soil of New England. He did not visit this country as a man of distinction. He was not, as Universalists represent, a popular Orthodox preacher. He was an open-communion Baptist, and the body of which he was a member, was feeble and almost unknown.
Soon after he reached this country, he introduced himself to the late Rev. Dr. Morse of Charlestown, and made known the purpose of his mission. Dr. Morse gave Mr. Balfour little encouragement. Soon after his arrival, Mr. Balfour changed his ground, and
avowed himself a Congregationalist. Still he failed to secure that position which he thought his talents ought to command. He soon left the Congregationalists, and announced himself a Baptist. But his standing among the Baptists was not what he wished; and he left them in a short time. He next became a Puritan Baptist, celebrated the communion every Sabbath, and washed his disciples' feet. Making a hurried descent through Unitarianism and Restorationism, he came down to Universalism; and was embraced by Universalists as one of the greatest and most learned of men.
Before he avowed himself to be a Universalist, Mr. Balfour addressed a series of anonymous letters to Rev. Prof. Stuart, professing to be in doubt upon some of the great doctrines of the gospel, and asking for light. These letters appearing in a Universalist print, endorsed by no responsible name, and bearing internal evidence that the writer was a confirmed Universalist, as no doubt he was, they received no attention from Prof. Stuart.
Indeed, no one supposed, at the time, that the writer expected any notice from the distinguished person whom he addressed ; the whole being evidently intended for effect. He then threw off his disguise, and addressed Prof. Stuart over his own name. But he commanded less attention, if possible, when known, than when engaged as an anonymous writer. All by whom he desired to be noticed, knew the man too well to waste upon him either intellect or ink. He gained his object, however. He came to Universalists as a mighty man; as one whom his former brethren dare not attack, and whom Prof. Stuart could not answer.
Claiming to be a learned man, as indeed he was, in comparison with his present associates, Mr. Balfour gave a new aspect to Universalism; and so changed it, that, when it came from his hands, it retained but little of the form it had received from Mr. Murray, the father of the system.
Mr. Balfour contended that no such place as hell ever existed. The being of Satan he expunged from the Bible. The immortality of the soul he denied. He taught that all punishment was limited to this life, that all consciousness ceased with the death of the body, and that men would know nothing after death, till the general resurrection, when they would be created over again.
When I began my public life, the views of Mr. Balfour were generally received by the sect to which I belonged. The divinity of Christ was a theme of ridicule. Future retribution was laughed at as a relic of heathenism. The immortality of the soul was a thing that existed only in the imagination. The Bible was allowed to be an inspired book, provided it taught Universalism ; while it was a common remark from the pulpit, that it would be unworthy of confidence if it contained any sentiment inconsistent with the salvation of all men.
I embraced the form of Universalism then prevalent. I was a Humanitarian. The immortality of the soul, the native depravity of man, the apostasy and the ruin of our race, the plenary inspiration of the Bible,