Going back a little we find several authors whose works in part have escaped the ravages of time and the destructive hostility of opponents. We have found ourselves a hundred times wishing, while pursuing these enquiries, that the literature of the first five centuries could have been printed and scattered to the world's ends, instead of having been limited, as it was, of course, before the invention of printing, to a few manuscripts so easily destroyed by the bigoted opponents of our faith into whose hands they fell. We should have many fold more testimonies than have survived to tell the story of primitive belief.
Marcellus of Ancyra, A.D. 315, quoted by Eusebius, says: "For what else do the words mean, 'until the times of the restitution' (Acts 3:21), but that the apostle designed to point out that time in which all things partake of that perfect restoration."
Titus of Bostra, A.D. 338-378. The editor of his works says that Titus was "the most learned among the bishops of his age, and a most famous champion of the truth." Tillemont unwillingly admits that "he seems to have followed the dangerous error ascribed to Origen, that the pains of the damned, and even those of the demons themselves, will not be eternal."1 Certainly Titus's own language justifies this excellent suspicion. He says:
"Thus the mystery was completed by the Savior in order that, perfection being completed through all things, and in all things, by Christ, all universally shall be made one through Christ and in Christ." He says again: "The very abyss of torment is indeed the place of chastisement, but it is not eternal (aionion) nor did it exist in the original constitution of nature. It was afterwards, as a remedy for sinners, that it might cure them. And the punishments are holy, as they are remedial and beneficial in their effect on transgressors; for they are inflicted, not to preserve them in their wickedness, but to make them cease from their wickedness. The anguish of their suffering compels them to break off their vices. If death were an evil, blame would rightfully fall on him who appointed it." 2
Ambrose of Milan, A.D. 340-398, says: "What then hinders our believing that he who is beaten small as the dust is not annihilated, but is changed for the better; so that, instead of an earthly man, he is made a spiritual man, and our believing that he who is destroyed, is so destroyed that all taint is removed, and there remains but what is pure and clean. And in God's saying of the adversaries of Jerusalem, 'They shall be as though they were not," you are to understand they shall exist substantially, and as converted, but shall not exist as enemies. God gave death, not as a penalty, but as a remedy; death was given for a remedy as the end of evils." "How shall the sinner exist in the future, seeing the place of sin cannot be of long continuance?" 3 Because God's image is that of the one God, it like Him starts from one, and is diffused to infinity. And, once again, from an infinite number all things return into one as into their end, because God is both beginning and end of all things.4 How then, shall (all things) be subject to Christ? In this very way in which the Lord Himself said. "Take my yoke upon you,' for it is not the untamed who bear the yoke, but the humble and gentle, so that in Jesus's name every knee shall bend. Is this subjection of Christ not completed? Not at all. Because the subjection of Christ consists not in few, but in all. Christ will be subject to God in us by means of the obedience of all; when vices having been cast away, and sin reduced to submission, one spirit of all people, in one sentiment, shall with one accord begin to cleave to God, then God will be all in all, when all then shall have believed and done the will of God, Christ will be all and in all; and when Christ shall be all in all, God will be all in all.5 At present he is over all by his power, but it is necessary that he be in all by their free will:6 So the Son of man came to save that which was lost, that is, all, for, 'As in Adam all died, so, too, in Christ shall all be made alive.'" 7 "For, if the guilty die, who have been unwilling to leave the path of sin, even against their will they still gain, not of nature but of fault, that they may sin no more." "Death is not bitter; but to the sinner it is bitter, and yet life is more bitter, for it is a deadlier thing to live in sin than to die in sin, because the sinner as long as he lives increases in sin, but if he dies he ceases to sin." 8
Cave says that Ambrose quotes and adapts many of the writings of the Greek Fathers, particularly Origen; and Jerome declares that Ambrose was indebted to Didymus for the most of his de Spiritu Sanctu. Both these, it will be noted, were Universalists. Augustine tells us that every day after his morning devotions Ambrose studied the Scriptures, chiefly by the aid of the Greek commentators, and especially of Origen and Hippolytus, and of Didymus and Basil. 9 Three of these at least were Universalists. "Perhaps his most original book is 'On the Blessing of Death," in which he takes a singularly mild view of the punishment of the wicked, expresses his belief in a purifying fire, and argues that whatever the punishment be, it is a state distinctly preferable to a sinful life. His eschatology was deeply influenced by the larger hopes of Origen."10
The language of Ambrose in his comments on Ps. 118, is as follows: "Dives in the Gospel, although a sinner, is pressed with penal agonies, that he may escape the sooner." 11 Again: "Those who do not come to the first, but are reserved for the second resurrection, shall be burned till they fill up the times between the first and second resurrection, or should they not have done so, will remain longer in punishment."
The Amrbosiaster is by an unknown author, anciently erroneously supposed to be Ambrose, as it was bound with the works of this father. On I Cor. 15:28, the Ambrosiaster says: "This is implied in the Savior's subjecting himself to the Father; this is involved in God's being all in all, namely, when every creature thinks one and the same thing, so that every tongue of celestials, terrestials, and infernals shall confess God as the great One from whom all things are derived." This sentiment he avows in other passages.
Serapion, the companion of Athanasius, A.D. 346, says of evil: "It is of itself nothing, nor can it in itself exist, or exist always; but it is in process of vanishing, and by vanishing proved to be unable to exist."12
Macarius Magnes, A.D. 370, says that death was ordained at the first, "in order that, by the dissolution of the body, all the sin proceeding from the connection (of soul and body) should be totally destroyed."13
Marius Victorinus, A.D. 360, was born in Africa, and was a famous persuader, whose writings abound with expressions of the faith of Universalism. On I Cor. 15:28, he says: "All things shall be rendered spiritual at the consummation of the world. At the consummation all things shall be one.14 Therefore all things converted to him shall become one, i.e., spiritual; through the Son all things shall be made one, for all things are by him, for all things that exist are one, though they be different. For the body of the entire universe is not like a mere heap, which becomes a body, only by the contact of its particles; but it is a body chiefly in its several parts being closely and mutually bound together--it forms a continuous chain. For the chain is this, God: Jesus: the Spirit: the intellect: the soul: the angelic host: and lastly, all subordinate bodily existences." On Eph. 1:4, "The the mystery was completed by the Savior in order that, perfection having been completed throughout all things, and in all things by Christ, all universally should be made one through Christ and in Christ. And because he (Christ) is the life, he is that by whom all things have been made, for all things cleansed by him return into eternal life."
Hilary, Bishop of Poictiers, (died, A.D. 368), is said by Jerome to have translated nearly 40,000 lines of Origen. On Luke 15:4, he says: "This one sheep (lost) is man, and by one man the entire race is to be understood; the ninety and nine are the heavenly angels and by us (mankind) who are all one, the number of the heavenly church is to be filled up. And therefore it is that every creature awaits the revelation of the sons of God." On Psalm. 69:32,33: "Even the abode of hell is to praise God." Also, "'As thou hast given him power over all flesh in order that he should give eternal life to all that thou hast given him,' so the Father gave all things, and the Son accepted all things, and honored by the Father was to honor the Father, and to employ the power received in giving eternity of life to all flesh. Now this is life eternal that they may know thee."15
John Cassian, A.D. 390-440. This celebrated man was educated in the monastery in Bethlehem, and was the founder of two monasteries in Marseilles. He wrote much, and drew the fire of Augustine, whose doctrines he strenuously assailed. Neander declares of him, that his views of the divine love extended to all men, "which wills the salvation of all, and refers everything to this; even subordinating the punishment of the wicked to this simple end.16 Ueberweg says Cassian "could not admit that God would save only a portion of the human race, and that Christ died only for the elect." Hagenbach states that the erroneous idea that God "would save only a few" is in the opinion of Cassian ingene sacrilegium, a great sacrilege or blasphemy. Neander, in his "History of Dogmas," remarks: "The practically Christian guided him in treating the doctrines of faith; he admitted nothing which was not suited to satisfy thoroughly the religious wants of men. The idea of divine justice in the determination of man's lot after the first transgression did not predominate in Cassian's writings as in Augustine's, but the idea of a disciplinary divine love, by the leadings of which men are to be led to repentance. He appeals also to the mysteriousness of God's ways, not as concerns predestination, but the variety of the leadings by which God leads different individuals to salvation. In no instance, however, can divine grace operate independently of the free self determination of man; as the husbandman must do his part, but all this avails nothing without the divine blessing, so man must do his part, yet this profits nothing without divine grace." To which T. B. Thayer, D.D., adds in the "Universalist Quarterly": "It is a fact worth noting in the connection, that Cassianus went to Constantinople in A.D. 403, where he listened to the celebrated Chrysostom, by whom he was ordained as Deacon. Speaking of Chrysostom, Neander says that but for the necessity of opposing those who made too light of sin and its retributions and would gladly reason away the doctrine of eternal punishment, 'his mild and amiable spirit might not otherwise be altogether disinclined to the doctrine of universal restoration, with which he must have become acquainted at an earlier period, from being a disciple of Diodorus of Tarsus.'
This justifies the remark of Neander that we may perhaps 'discern in these traits of Cassianus the spirit of the great Chrysostom, with whom he long lived in the capacity of deacon, and whose disciple he delighted to call himself.'"
Theodoret, the Blessed, was born A.D. 387, and died 458. He was ordained Bishop of Cyrus in Syria, 420. He was a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and was also a student of eloquence and sacred literature of Chrysostom. Dr. Schaff calls his continuation of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History most valuable. Neander, Murdoch, and Mosheim rank him high in learning, eloquence and goodness. He illustrates one of the many contradictions of the assertions of merely sectarian scholars. Though Dr. Shedd says that "the only exception to the belief in the eternity of future punishment in the ancient church appears in the Alexandrian school," yet, Theodoret, Theodore, Diodore and others were all of the Antiochan school. Dr. Orello Cone first called the attention of our church to this father, who is not even mentioned by Dr. Ballou, in his "Ancient History of Universalism," and we quote from his article, copied in part form "The New York Christian Ambassador" into "The Universalist Quarterly," April, 1866. Dr. Cone says that Theodoret regarded the resurrection as the elevation and quickening of man's entire nature. "He gives this higher spiritual view of the resurrection (anastasis) in his commentary on Eph. 1:10, 'For through the dispensation or incarnation of Christ the nature of men arises,' anista, or is resurrected, 'and puts on incorruption.' He does not say the bodies of men, but the nature (phusis) is resurrected."
Theodoret says, on "Gathering all things in Christ:" "And the visible creation shall be liberated from corruption, and shall attain incorruption, and the inhabitants of the invisible worlds shall live in perpetual joy, for grief and sadness and groaning shall be done away." On the universal atonement:--"Teaching that he would free from the power of death not only his own body, but at the same time the entire nature of the human race, he presently adds: 'And I, if I be lifted from the earth will draw all men unto me;' For I will not suffer what I have undertaken to raise the body only, but I will fully accomplish the resurrection to all men. He has paid the debt for us, and blotted out the handwriting that was against us, and having done these things, he quickened together with himself the entire nature of men."
He formed his Christian system on Theodore's, and on that of Diodore of Tarsus, both Universalists. Allin says, he "was perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most learned teacher of his age; uniting to a noble intellect a character and accomplishments equally noble." He published a defense of Diodore and Theodore, unfortunately lost. On I Cor. 15:28, Theodoret says: "But in the future life corruption ceasing and immortality being present, the passions have no place, and these being removed, no kind of sin is committed. So from that time God is all in all, when all, freed from sin, and turned to him, shall have no inclination to evil." On Eph. 1:23, he says: "In the present life God is in all, for his nature is without limits, but is not all in all. But in the coming life, when mortality is at an end and immortality granted, and sin has no longer any place, God will be all in all.17 For the Lord, who loves man, punishes medicinally, that he may check the course of impiety."
Gregory the Great says that the Roman church refused to acknowledge Theodoret's History because he praised Theodore of Mopsuestia, and insisted that he was a great doctor in the church. Theodoret says that Theodore was "the teacher of all the churches, and the opponent of all the sects of heresy," so that in his opinion Universalism was not heretical.
Evagrius Ponticus, A.D. 390. The works of this eminent saint and scholar were destroyed by the Fifth General Council that condemned him--though not as a Universalist--a hundred and fifty years after his death. The council anathematized him with Didymus. It is most apparent that the great multitude of Christians must have accepted views which were so generally advocated and unchallenged during those early years, by the best and greatest of the fathers. Evagrius is said by Jerome in his epistle to Ctesiphon against the Pelagrians, to have been an Origenist. He wrote three books, the "Saint" or "Gnostic," the "Monk," and the "Refutation."
Cyril of Alexandria (A.D. 412) says: "Traversing the lowest recesses of the infernal regions, after that he (Christ) had preached to the spirits there, he led forth the captives in his strength." 18 "Now when sin has been destroyed, how should it be but that death too, should wholly perish?" "Through Christ has been saved the holy multitude of the fathers, nay, the whole human race altogether, which was earlier in time (than Christ's death) for he died for all, and the death of all was done away in him." 19
Rufinus, A.D. 345-410, wrote an elaborate defense of Origen, and in the preface to "De Principiis" he declares that he excised from that work of Origen all that was "conflicting with our (the accepted Christian) belief." As the work still abounds in expressions of Universalism, not only his sympathy with that belief, but also the fact that it was then the prevailing Christian belief can not be questioned. Huet says that he taught the temporary duration of punishment. 20
Dr. Ballou quotes Domitian, Bishop of Galatia, as probably a Universalist (A.D. 546), who is reported by Facundus to have written a book in which he declares that those who condemned Origen have "condemned all the saints who were before him, and who have been after him."21
Diodore, Bishop of Tarsus, from A.D. 378 to 394, was of the Antiochan or Syrian school. He opposed Origen on some subjects, but agreed with his Universalism. He says: "For the wicked there are punishments, not perpetual, however, lest the immortality prepared for them should be a disadvantage, but they are to be purified for a brief period according to the amount of malice in their works. They shall therefore suffer punishment for a short space, but immortal blessedness having no end awaits them, the penalties to be inflicted for their many and grave sins are very far surpassed by the magnitude of the mercy to be showed them. The resurrection, therefore, is regarded as a blessing not only to the good, but also to the evil."22 The same authority affirms that many Nestorian bishops taught the same doctrine. The "Dictionary of Christian Biography" observes: "Diodorus of Tarsus taught that the penalty of sin is not perpetual, but issues in the blessedness of immortality, and (he) was followed by Stephanus, Bishop of Edessa, and Salomo of Bassora, and Isaac of Nineveh." "Even those who are tortured in Gehenna are under the discipline of the divine charity." "And they were followed in their turn by Georgius of Arbela, and Ebed Jesu of Soba." Diodore contended that God's mercy would punish the wicked less than their sins deserved, inasmuch as his mercy gave the good more than they deserved. He denied that Deity would bestow immortality for the purpose of prolonging and perpetuating suffering. Diodore and Theodore, the first, Chrysostom's teacher, and the second his fellow-student, were really the pioneers in teaching Scripture by help of history, criticism and linguistics.23 They may be regarded as the forerunners of modern interpretation. Like so many others of the ancient writings Diodore's works have perished, and we have only a few quotations from them, contained in the works of others. But we have enough to qualify him to occupy an honorable place among the Universalists of the Fourth Century.
Even Dr. Pusey is compelled to admit the Universalism of Diodore of Tarsus, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. He says, quoting from Salomo of Bassora, 1222, some eight hundred years after their death: "The two writers use different arguments and have different theories. Theodorus rests his on Holy Scripture, 'Until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing,' and 'the many and few stripes,' and attributes the amendment of those who have done ill all their lives to the discovery of their mistake. Diodorus says that punishment must not be perpetual, lest the immortality prepared for them be useless to them; he twice repeats that punishment, though varied according to their deserts, would be for a short time. His ground was his conviction that since God's rewards so far exceed the deserts of the good, the like mercy would be shown to the evil." 24
Though somewhat later than the projected limits of this work, two or three authors may be named.
Macarius is said by Evagrius to have been ejected from his see, A.D. 552, for maintaining the opinions of Origen. Whether universal restitution was among them is uncertain.
Peter Chrysologus, A.D. 433, Bishop of Ravenna, in a sermon on the Good Shepherd, says the lost sheep represents "the whole human race lost in Adam," and that Christ "followed the one, seeks the one, in order that in the one he may restore all."
Stephan Bar-sudaili, Abbot of Edessa, in Mesopotamia, at the end of the Fifth Century, taught Universalism,--the termination of all punishments in the future world, and their purifying character. The fallen angels are to receive mercy, and all things are to be restored, so that God may be all in all.25 He was at the head of a monastery. Attacked as a heretic he left Edessa and repaired to Palestine, which in those days seems to have been the refuge of those who desired freedom of opinion. How many might have sympathized with him in Mesopotamia or in Palestine cannot be known.
Maximus, the Confessor. As late as the Seventh Century, in spite of the power of Roman tyranny and Pagan error, the truth survived. Maximus--A.D. 580-662--was secretary of the Emperor Heraclius, and confidential friend of Pope Martin I. He opposed the Emperor Constans II, in his attempts to control the religious convictions of his subjects, and was banished, A.D. 653, and died of ill treatment. He was both scholar and saint. Neander says:1 Tillemont, p. 671. Quoted by Lardner. Vol. III, p. 273.
"The fundamental ideas of Maximus seem to lead to the doctrine of a final universal restoration, which in fact is intimately connected also with the system of Gregory of Nyssa, to which he most closely adhered. Yet he was too much fettered by the church system of doctrine distinctly to express anything of the sort." Neander adds, that in his sayings "the reunion of all rational essences with God is established as the final end." "Him who wholly unites all things in the end of the ages, or in eternity." Ueberweg states that "Maximus taught that God had revealed himself through nature and by his Word. The incarnation of God in Christ was the culmination of revelation, and would therefore have taken place even if man had not fallen. The Universe will end in the union of all things with God."
Chapter 19--The Deterioration - Contents
Spirit of the Word - Covenant Eschatology - Introductory Note - New Stuff
Chapter 19--The Deterioration - Contents
Spirit of the Word - Covenant Eschatology
Chapter 1 - The Earliest Creeds
Chapter 2 - Early Christianity-A Cheerful Religion
Chapter 3 - Origin of Endless Punishment
Chapter 4 - Doctrines of Mitigation and Reserve
Chapter 5 - Two Kindred Topics
Chapter 6 - The Apostles' Immediate Successors
Chapter 7 - The Gnostic Sects
Chapter 8 - The Sibylline Oracles
Chapter 9 - Pantaenus and Clement
Chapter 10 - Origen
Chapter 11 - Origen-Continued
Chapter 12 - The Eulogists of Origen
Chapter 13 - A Third Century Group
Chapter 14 - Minor Authorities
Chapter 15 - Gregory Nazianzen
Chapter 16 - Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Nestorians
Chapter 17 - A Notable Family
Chapter 18 - Additional Authorities
Chapter 19 - The Deterioration of Christian Thought
Chapter 20 - Augustine--Deterioration Continued
Chapter 21 - Unsuccessful Attempts to Suppress Universalism
Chapter 22 - The Eclipse of Universalism
Chapter 23 - Summary of Conclusions