The purpose of this book is to present some of the evidence of the prevalence in the early centuries of the Christian church, of the doctrine of the final holiness of all mankind. The author has endeavored to give the language of the early Christians, rather than to paraphrase their words, or state their sentiments in his own language. He has also somewhat copiously quoted the statements of modern scholars, historians and critics, of all sides of opinion, instead of condensing them with his own pen.
(web ed. note: I have made an attempt to simplify some of the original vocabulary in this book using MS Bookshelf. For the original version go here).
The large number of extracts which this course necessitates gives his pages a somewhat mosaic appearance, but he has preferred to sacrifice mere literary form to what seems larger utility.
He has aimed to present indisputable proofs that the doctrine of Universal Salvation was the prevalent sentiment of the primitive Christian church. He believes his investigation has been somewhat thorough, for he has endeavored to consult not only all the fathers themselves, but the most distinguished modern writers who have considered the subject.
The first form of his manuscript contained a thousand ample notes, with citations of original Greek and Latin, but such an array was thought by prudent friends too formidable to attract the average reader, as well as too voluminous, and he has therefore retained only a fraction of the notes he had prepared.
The opinions of Christians in the first few centuries should predispose us to believe in their truthfulness, inasmuch as they were nearest to the divine Fountain of our religion. The doctrine of Universal Salvation was nowhere taught until they frequently taught it. Where could they have obtained it but from the source whence they claim to have derived it--the New Testament?
The author believes that the following pages show that Universal Restitution was the faith of the early Christians for at least the First Five Hundred Years of the Christian Era.J.W. Hanson.Chicago, October 1899
The surviving writings of the Christian Fathers, of the first four or five centuries of the Christian Era, abound in evidences of the prevalence of the doctrine of universal salvation during those years. This important fact in the history of Christian eschatology was first brought out prominently in a volume, very valuable, and for its time very thorough: Hosea Ballou's "Ancient History of Universalism," (Boston, 1828, 1842, 1872). Dr. Ballou's work has well been called "light in a dark place," but the quotations he makes are but a fraction of what subsequent researches have discovered. Referring to Dr. Ballou's third edition with "Notes" by the Rev. A. St. John Chambre, A. M. and T. J. Sawyer, D.D. (1872), T. B. Thayer, D.D., observes in the Universalist Quarterly, April, 1872: "As regards the additions to the work by the editors, we must say that they are not as numerous nor as extensive as we had hoped they might be. It would seem as if the studies of our own scholars for more than forty years since the first edition, and the many new and elaborate works on the history of the church and its doctrines by eminent theologians and critics, should have furnished more witnesses to the truth, and larger extracts from the early literature of the church, than are found in the 'Notes.' With the exception of three or four of them no important addition is made to the contents of the work. If the Notes are to be considered as final, or the last gleanings of the field, it shows how thoroughly Dr. Ballou did his work, notwithstanding the poverty of his resources, and the many and great disadvantages attending his first efforts. But we cannot help thinking that something remains still to be said respecting some of the apostolic fathers and Chrysostom, Augustine and others; as well as concerning the gnostic sects, the report of whose opinions, it must be remembered, comes to us mostly from their enemies, or at least those not friendly to them." The want here indicated this volume aims to supply.
Dr. Ballou's work was followed in 1878 by Dr. Edward Beecher's "History of the Doctrine of Future Retribution," a most truthful and candid volume, which adds much valuable material to that contained in Dr. Ballou's work. About the same time Canon Farrar published "Eternal Hope" (1878), and "Mercy and Judgment" (1881), containing additional testimony showing that many of the Christian writers in the centuries immediately following our Lord and his apostles, were Universalists. In addition to these a contribution to the literature of the subject was made by the Rev. Thomas Allin, a clergyman of the English Episcopal Church, in a work entitled "Universalism Asserted." Mr. Allin was led to his study of the patristic literature by finding a copy of Dr. Ballou's work in the British Museum. Incited by its contents he microscopically searched the fathers, and found many valuable statements that incontestably prove that the most and the best of the successors of the apostles frequently taught the doctrine of universal salvation. The defects of Mr. Allen's very scholarly work, from this writer's standpoint are, that he writes as an Episcopalian, merely from the view-point of the Nicene creed, to show by the example of the early Church father's
writers that one can remain an Episcopalian and cherish the hope of universal salvation; and that he regards the doctrine as only a hope, and not a distinct teaching of the Christian religion. Meanwhile, the fact of the early prevalence of the doctrine has been brought out incidentally in such works as the "Dictionary of Christian Biography," Farrar's "Lives of the Fathers," and other books, the prominent statements and facts in all which will be found in these pages, which show that the most and best and ablest of the early fathers found the deliverance of all mankind from sin and sorrow specifically revealed in the Christian Scriptures. The author has not only quoted the words of the fathers themselves, but he has studiously endeavored, instead of his own words, to reproduce the language of historians, biographers, critics, scholars, and other writers of all schools of thought, and to demonstrate by these irrefragable testimonies that Universalism was the primitive Christianity.
The quotations, index, and other references indicated by foot notes, will show the reader that a large number of volumes has been consulted, and it is believed by the author that no important work in the abundant literature of the theme has been omitted.
The plan of this work does not contemplate the presentation of the Scriptural evidence--which to Universalists is demonstrative--that our Lord and his apostles taught the final and universal prevalence of holiness and happiness. That work is thoroughly done in a library of volumes in the literature of the Universalist Church. Neither is it the purpose of the author of this book to write a history of the doctrine; but his sole object is to show that those who obtained their religion almost directly from the lips of its author, understood it to teach the doctrine of universal salvation.
Not only are ample citations given from the ancient Universalists themselves, but summaries and collections of their opinions, and testimonials as to their scholarship and saintliness, are presented from the most eminent authors who have written of them. No equal number of the church's early saints has ever received such glowing eulogies, from so many scholars and critics as the ancient Universalists have extorted from such authors as Socrates, Neander, Mosheim, Huet, Dorner, Dietelmaier, Beecher, Schaff, Plumptre, Bigg, Farrar, Bunsen, Cave, Westcott, Robertson, Butler, Allen, De Pressense, Gieseler, Lardner, Hagenbach, Blunt, and others, not professed Universalists. Their eulogies found in these pages would alone justify the publication of this volume.
Chapter 1--The Earliest Creeds - Contents
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