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Universalism

murray, church, doctrine, potter, mankind, america, time, john and salvation

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UNIVERSALISM. Universalism is a be lief in the final triumph of good over evil in the universe. As applied to the human economy, it is a belief that God is pledged by His good ness and omnipotence to put an end to sin and ultimately tosave the whole family of i mankind. Or, as more commonly stated in later years, Universalism is the doctrine that the destiny of mankind is progress onward and upward forever; that always before man is a i chance to develop and that always in man is a power to unfold, always a time and a place in which to grow and always in man a power to respond to the opportunity. Universalists claim that they find this teaching in early Chris tianity, that it is the essential doctrine of Jesus and Paul and that it was advocated by notable writers of the Early Church, the most notable advocate being Origen. From the time of the Protestant Reformation to the close of the 18th century there appear many eminent theologians who either directly or by implication taught the doctrine. Special emphasis is laid by some writers on the fact that of the six great schools of Christian theology in the early centuries, four very positively taught the final salvation of all souls, one taught annihilation of the wicked and only one taught endless misery.

The organization of a church and denomina tion with the name Universalist had its begin ning in the United States and its first advo cate was the Rev. John Murray, who came to this country from England and landed on the coast of New Jersey at a place now called Good Luck, in September 1770. The story of Mr. Murray's arrival and work in America has much of romance about it, or perhaps of Providence. The substance of those early years may well be recorded here.

Mr. Murray was brought up as a strict Cal vinist and from early years was connected with the Methodists, having been made a class leader by John Wesley. Later he united with Whit field's Tabernacle in London. He was a devout student of the Scriptures and during this period rather peculiar circumstances made him ac quainted with the Rev. James Relly; who was preaching Universalism in London. A young Methodist woman had become a convert to Mr. Rely. Mr. Murray was given the task of reclaiming her to Methodism. In the conversa tion the young woman got the better of the argument and Mr. Murray was led to investigate for himself the views of Mr. Relly, with the result that finally he became a thorough con vert to Universalism. In the midst of this re ligious investigation, Mr. Murray's wife, to whom he had been married but a short time, died. Disturbed by religious problems and broken-hearted by his sorrow, Mr. Murray sailed for America, against the advice of his friends, in order that he might lose himself in the New World. As the ship in which he was sailing approached New York, it was driven by a storm over a sandbar into Barnegat Bay. The

ship was too heavily laden to cross the bar at the mouth of the bay and proceed on its journey. so a part of the cargo was put on board another vessel and Mr. Murray was sent on shore to obtain food to provision the small sloop. In the search for food he met a man named Thomas Potter, who had built a church nearby his house, in which he hoped to hear some time the gospel of the final salvation of all men, the doctrine which he believed. As Murray interviewed Potter, some voice told Potter, so he says, that here was the man who would preach the gospel which Potter had longed to hear and this proved to be the fact. It was, however, only after long persuasion and after repeatedly saying that he had come to America to escape from himself and religious work, that Murray consented to preach the next Sunday. When the service was over Potter exclaimed: ttAt last has come the man and the gospel for which I have been longing' This was the beginning of John Murray's work in America as a Universalist minister. He preached many times at Good Luck, then in New York and at length in New England and finally he estab lished what is known as "The Independent Christian Church)) at Gloucester, Mass. This was the first organized Universalist church in America. Gradually, however, other preach ers, from Virginia to Maine, began to preach the doctrine that God would save all men and before the end of the century there was at least one congregation in nearly all of the leading cities of the Atlantic Coast. By his travels Mr. Murray made friends for himself and his cause, and, among others, he had close association with prominent Revolutionary leaders and served the cause of the Revolution as the chaplain of the Rhode Island brigade. The early advocates of Universalism came out from the existing denominations and brought with them some thing of the peculiarities which marked the churches from which they came. John Mur ray was evangelical in all points save that of the final salvation of mankind. His argument was that the sacrifice of Jesus paid the debt of sin for all mankind and that in the death of Jesus all men would be saved. Sharp con troversies arose very soon between men who had come from other denominations and grad ually there followed new arguments for the salvation of mankind; and of all the men who led the early church controversies the Rev. Hosea Ballou stands out with especial promi nence. Other prominent early Universalist preachers were Elhanan Winchester, George Richards, Walter Ferris, Sylvanus Cobb, De Benneville, Noah Parker, B. Streeter and Caleb Rich. They were all vigorous and individual istic thinkers, some agreed with one another only on the doctrine that somehow, somewhere, sometime, all souls would be saved.

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