Elhanan Winchester.

The universal restoration. Exhibited in four dialogues between a minister and his friend ... chiefly designed fully to state, and fairly to answer the most common objections that are brought against it, from the Scriptures online

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Online LibraryElhanan WinchesterThe universal restoration. Exhibited in four dialogues between a minister and his friend ... chiefly designed fully to state, and fairly to answer the most common objections that are brought against it, from the Scriptures → online text (page 1 of 20)
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From the Critical Review, for September, 1788.

" Our Author, with great candor and extensive knowledge
of the subject, discusses the doctrine of eternal punish-
ments. He thinks that there will be a period when every
sinner will be restored to the Divine favor. This doctrine
is perfectly consistent with the benevolence of the Deity.
It is supported by many wise and good men ; nor is there
any reason to suppose that it will be perverted to serve the
purposes of vice and immorality. Mr. Winchester, in
his defence of it, shews much charity, much humanity, and
no little share of learning. The fifth Dialogue alone, which
relates to the design and tendency of puuishmentj might
furnish some little foundation for a difference of opinion;
but in a question so greatly above human attainment, the
mind would be lost in the inquiry, and not greatly benefit-
ted by the discussion. The question of the Universal Res-
toration, must be examined as Mr. Winchester has done,
by the word of God, as revealed at different times, and
particularly in the Gospel."

N. B. A considerable part of the fifth Dialogue, being
printed in the Lectures on the Prophecies, is left out of ,
this edition, and the remaining part is enclosed in the A
fourth Dialogue. \' •' '

HOAjpl & At WOOD "i



As I now present my Friends and the Public
with a new edition of the Dialogues on the Uni-
versal Restoratig.v, which by many has been
long desired, perhaps it may be acceptable to
some for me to give a brief account how I came
tirst to the knowledge of this part of the counsel
of God, which I have not shunned freely to de-
clare, both by word and writing, as I have found
opportunity and necessity.

I think it was in the beginning of the year
1778, being in South-Carolina, upon the river
Pee Dee, where I was at that time minister,
I that I called to see a friend, who first put into
my hands that valuable book written by Paul
Siegvolky and which is called The Everlasting
Gospel, of which I have lately published a new
edition. I was desired to tell what it meant to
hold forth, as my friend could not tell by any
means what to make of it on account of the
singularity and strangeness of the sentiments
therein contained; although the language is
very plain and clear, and by no means dark,
mystical or obscure.

I opened the book as I was desired, and dip-
ping into it here and there, for a half an hour
perhaps, was very soon able to tell what the Au-
thor aimed at, viz. that there would be a final


end of sin and misery, and that all fallen crea-
tures would be restored by Jesus Christ to a
state of holiness and happiness, after such as
were rebellious had suffered in proportion to
their crimes. I had never seen any thing of the
sort before in all my life ; and I seemed struck
with several ideas that I glanced over, such
as the inconsistency and impossibility of both
good and evil always existing in the uni-
verse : and especially his observations upon
the word eternal or everlastings shewing that it
was used for v/hat never had a beginning, and
Would never have an end, as the being and per-
fections of God; and that it was also applied
to things which had a beginning, but should
never have an end, as the being and happiness
of the righteous ; and, that it was also frequent-
ly used to express things, times and seasons
which had both beginning and end; which he
therefore called periodical eternities, and gave a
great number of instances of this sort, which
could not be denied; and he contended that
the everlasting punishment threatened to the
wicked, did not belong to the first nor to the
second, but to the third class of these durations.
But as I was only desired to tell what the au-
thor meant, when I had satisfied my friend in
that respect, I laid the book down, and I believe
we both concluded it to be a pleasant, ingenious
hypothesis, but had no serious thoughts of its
being true; and for my part, I determined not to
trouble myself about it, or to think any more of
the matter. And as the book had been sent a
considerable distance for my friend to read, I
suppose it was soon afler sent back ; for I saw it no


more, nor heard any thing farther about it. The
following summer I went a journey into Virgin-
ia, and happening to mention the subject to a
minister there, he told me that a few years be-
fore, it had been a subject of controversy in the
puplic papers, between a clergyman who defend-
ed, and a gentleman of the law, who denied the
proper endless eternity of punishment ; and he
told me that this gentleman who denied it, had
advanced, that the translators of the Bible had
rendered the very same Greek word, by very
different English words, sometimes rendering it
forever, and sometimes world; and that if they
had uniformly rendered it by one English word,
it would have been evident to all readers, that no
argument for endless misery^ could have been
drawn therefrom. I was told also while I was
in Virginia, that a clergyman of the Episcopal
Church, had a few years before, given out that
he had some wonderful thing to make known to
his hearers, which he would preach upon some
Sunday,. but did no mention when. This raised
the public curiosity, and great numbers attended
his place of worship in hopes of hearing what
this wonderful thing might be ; but for a consid-
erable time the matter was undiscovered. But
at last he gave out, that on the next Sunday he
would open this great secret. Vast numbers of
reople flocked to hear what it could be. When
he came t) declare what it was, behold ! it was
a wonderful piece of news indeed, such as had
never been heard before in any pulpit in Vir-
ginia. It was nothing short of the doctrine of
the Restoration. I think, to the best of my re-
membrance, they told me, that he opened and



enlarged upon it for two Sundays, and never
preached any more, being immediately after
seized with sickness, which terminated in his
death. And this was generally esteemed as a
judgment that fell upon him for daring to preach
such a wicked, false, and dangerous opinion ;
and that God cut him off from the land of the
living, to testify his displeasure against him ; and
to terrify others from daring to follow his exam-
ple, or believe his sentiments. But perhaps this
might have been some vv'ortliy, learned, pious
man, v/ho had long concealed this grand truth in
his heart, and had derived much satisfaction
therefrom, and longed to proclaim it to others,
for their good. — And, at last, notv*dthstanding
the opposition that he might expect, resolved so
to do ; and accordingly was enabled, just before
his time came to depart out of this v/orld, to
bear a faithful testimony to this most grand and"
important of all God's purposes. And having
performed his duty, his master called him to re-
ceive his reward, and gavehim the glorious plau-
dit of, '^ \Yell done, thou good and faithful ser-
vant ; — enter thou into tiie joy of thy Lord."

As for the vain judgm^its of men, they are
not to be regarded. " For they know not the
thoughts of the Lord neither understand they
his counsel." '^ But the souls of the righteous
are in the hand of God, and there shall no tor-
ment touch them. In the sight of the unwise
they seemed to die ; and their departure is taken
for misery. And their going fi-om us to be ut-
ter destruction ; but they are in peace. For
though they be punished in the «i^ht of men, yet
is their hop« full of immortality. And having


been a little chastised, they shall be greatly re-
warded ; for God proved them, and tbuad them
worthy for himself. As gold in the furnace hath
he tried them, and hath received them as a burnt-
oifering. And in the time of their visitation,
they shall shine, and run to and fro, like sparks
among the stubble. They shall judge the na-
tions, and have dominion over the people, and
their Lord shall reign for ever. They that put
their trust in him shall understand the truth ; and
such as be faithful in love shall abide with him ;
for grace and mercy is to his saints, and he hath
care for his elect." '' But though the righteous
be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest."

^I am apt to think, therefore, that this minister
was one of uncommon faith and love, and as he
believed God, so he loved mankind, and wished
them to knovv^ the amazing riches of their Re-
deemer's love towards them ; and when he had
openly delivered this testimony, he was called to
his rest.

Indeed, if the enemies of this doctrine had
been true prophets, I should have died and gone
to hell long ago ; for no sooner was it known I
iiad embraced it, but some gave out that I would
not live a year ; but I have already lived eleven.
One of my old friends desired me to take par-
:icular notice of what he said, which he express-
ed in these words, "Mind what I tell you. In six
months from this time, you will turn Deist, and
leny all revealed religion ; and in twelve months

ou will turn Atheist, deny the being of God,
md abandon yourself to all kinds of open wick-
idness," Blessed be God, this has also proved
alse. And they generally seemed to agree to


prophesy certain damnation to me whenever I
should depart out of this world. But I trust
this is equally false, — " For I know whom I have
believed, (or trusted) and am persuaded that he
is able to keep that which I have committed un-
to him against that day."

But to return to my narrative:

Sometime after I returned back to South-Car-
olina, a physician with whom I had been ac-
quainted in Virginia, came to live in the parish
where I was minister; and among his books I
found the Everlasting Gospel by Paul Siegvolk ;
this was the second copy that had fell in my way,
and I read a little more therein, but as yet had
not the least thought that ever I should embrace
his sentiments; yet som^ of his arguments ap-
peared very conclusive, and I could not wholly
shake them off, but I concluded to let them alone,
and not investigate the matter; and therefore I
never gave the book even so much as one cur-
sory reading, till with great difficulty I procured
one in the city of Philidelphia, more than two
years afterwards.

In the year 1779, I found myself much stirred
up to exhort my fellow creatures to repent, be-
lieve, and obey the Gospel, and began to adopt
a more open and general method of preaching .
than I had used for some years before; having
been deemed one of the most consistent Calvin-
ists upon the continent, much upon the plan of
Dr. Gill, whom I esteemed almost as an oracle.
But now my heart being opened, and viewing
the worth of souls, I felt great compassion to-
v/ards them, and invited them with all my mi^ht
to fly for mercy to the arms of Christ, who died


for them, and who was willing to save them. I
was gradually led into this way of preaching,
without considering any thing about its consisten-
cy with strict Calvinism, but finding myself ever
happy and comfortable in my own mind, and that
this method of preaching was highly useful, 1
continued to go in the same course.

About this time I began to find uncommon
desires for the conversion and salvation of the
poor negroes, who were very numerous in that
part of the country; but whom none of my pred-
ecessors, that I could learn, had ever taken
pains to instruct in the principles of Christianity ;
neither had any single slave, either man, or wo-
man been baptised until that summer, in the
whole parish (which was very large) that I ever
heard of.

The prejudices which the slaves had against
Christianity, on account of the severities prac-
tised upon them by professing Christians, both
ministers and people, might be one principal
reason why they could not be brought to attend
to religious instruction. But they had no pre-
judice against me on this score, as I never had
any thing to do with. slavery, but on the contra-
ry condemned it; and this being pretty general-
ly known, operated so upon the minds of those
poor creatures, that they shewed a disposition to
attend my ministry, more than they had ever
shewed to any other. But still I never had ad-
dressed them in particular, and indeed had hard-
ly any hopes of doing them good. But one eve-
ning seeing a number of them at the door of
the house, where I was preaching, I found my-
self constrained as it were, to go to the door,


and tell them, that Jesus Christ loved them,
and died for them, as well as for us white people,
and that they might come and believe in him and
welcome. And I gave them as warm and press-
ing an invitation as I could, to comply with the
glorious gospel. This short discourse address-
ed immediately to them, took greater effect than
can be well imagined. There were about thirty
from one plantation in the neighborhood pres-
ent; (besides others) these returned home, and
did not even give sleep to their eyes, as they af -
terwards informed me, until they had settled '
every quarrel among themselves, and accordino-
to their form of marriage, had married every
man to the woman with whom he lived; had re-
stored whatever one had unjustly taken from an-
other; and determined from that time to seek
the Lord diligently. From that very evening;
they began constantly to pray to the Lord, and i
so continued; and he was fond of them. I con -
tinned to instruct them, and within three months .
from the first of June, I baptized more than thir-
ty blacks belonging to that plantation, besides as
many others, as in the whole made up one hun-
dred, of which sixty-three were men, and thirty-
seven were women, all which were born in Afri -
ca, or immediately descended from such as were
natives of that unhappy country.

My preaching was not only useful to the poor;
slaves, but also to great numbers of the white
people, of whom I baptized upon profession of
repentance and faith in Christ, about one hun-
dred and thirty-nine persons within the same
space. This was a summer of great success, and i
I shall remember that happy season with pleas-


ure while I live. This summer I received some
fartlier dawnings of the day of the general Res-
toration in my mind, for upon considering sever-
al Scriptures, such as these, '' He shall see of
the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by
his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify
many; for he shall bear their iniquities." Isai,
liii, 11. '' After this I beheld, and lo, a great
multitude, which no man could number, o£ all
nations, and kindreds, and tongues, stood before
the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with
white robes, and palms in their hands." Rev. vii.
9. I became fully persuaded that the number
of the finally saved would equal if not exceed
the number of the lost. And I was so forcibly
impressed with this new and very joyful discov-
ery, that I not only conversed in that strain pri-
vately, but boldly preached it in the congrega-
tion, which generally consisted of nearly a thou-
sand persons upon Sundays. Some of the people
to whom I had mentioned something respecting
the sentiment, thought that I was going at once to
declare myself in favor of the general Restora-
tion. But that was as yet far from being the
case; though some of the arguments which 1
had glanced upon in that book, the Everlasting
Gospel, would frequently present themselves to
ray mind in such a forcible manner that I could
scarcely withstand their evidence.

In the month of September I left; South-Car-
olina, on a visit to my friends in New-England,
intending however to return to my people again ;
but to prevent their being left destitute, I pro-
cured the Rev. Mr. Botsford to come and supply
them, upon this condition, that whenever I should


return, he should resign the congregation to me
again, if I required it. But he has remained
the constant Pastor ever since. I then travel-
led slow^ly through the continent, preached to
the people, and conversing with my friends to
vrhom sometimes in private I proposed some of
the arguments in favor of the general RestoratiGiij
which I had read in the Everlasting Gospel, on
purpose to see what answers they could give ;
and this I did especially to able ministers: but
to my surprise often found them quite at a stand,
not knowing what to say. And some were al-
most overpowered with even the weak manner
in which I was capable of holding forth the ar-
guments in favor of the Restoration. — And often-
times the answer that some of the greatest men
gave, were such as tended to increase my doubts
respecting endless misery, rather than to remove
them. I remember once, that I asked the Rev.
^lr.Manning,Vresident of Rhode -Island College,
and who was at that time one of my dearest
friends, what was the strongest argument that
he could use in favor of the doctrine of endless
fmsery"? He answered, that it was the nature of
God to lay the greatest possible restraint upon
sin, and therefore he had threatened it with end-
less punishment, as the highest restraint he could
possibly lay upon it. This argument is answer-
ed in the third dialogue. Thus after much seek-
ing I could find no satisfaction in the matter; but
still my doubts increased. Notwithstanding, I
withstood the doctrine of the Restoration with all
my might, and sometimes preached publicly a-
gainst it with all the force I could muster. Yet
there was something in its favor that gained grad-


uallj upon my mind, and sometimes brought me
to be almost willing to embrace it. I plainly saw
that it would reconcile almost, if not quite, all
difficulties of other systems; and I thought if I
should ever receive it, I should be able to preach
much easier, and more freely than ever, and with
far greater satisfaction, which by experience, I
have since found to be true. The ideas were
sometimes so transporting to me, even while I
professed to oppose the sentiment, that I have
been constrained to set them forth in the most
subhme manner that I was able; and sometimes
so as actually to bring them who heard me con-
verse upon the subject to believe and rejoice in
the Universal Restoration^ while I thought myself
an opposer of it, and only proposed the ar-
guments in its favor to see what effect they would
have on such who never heard them before.
And I was often carried away before I was a-
ware, even while I intended only to let my friends
hear what raiorht be said. I remember once,
while I was at my father's table in the year 1780,
that I mentioned the doctrine of the Restoration,
and finding that none in the company had ever
so much as heard of such a scheme, I began to
hold it forth, produced many arguments in its
favor, brought up many objections, answered
them in such a manner as astonished all present,
and I was amazed at myself, I spoke with so
much ease and readiness as I had hardly ever
experienced before on any occasion. — JVay, I
was so much animated with the subject that I
said, that I did not doubt but that in sixty years
time, that very doctrine would universally be
preached, and generallv embraced in that very



country, and would certainly preyail over ail

This discourse made a greater impression up-
on the minds of those v/ho heard it, and upon my
own also, than I intended; and though I after-
wards used the best arguments I could in favor
of the common opinion, yet I found them insuffi-
cient wholly to remove the effects of what I had
before said.

After spending about twelve months in the
most delightful manner, constantly journeying:
and preaching with great success, to vast multi-
tudes of people in my native country, 1 set off
with intention to return towards South- Carolina.
On the way I tarried some time at the Rev. Mr-
Samuel Waldo's, in Pawling's Precinct, State of
New-York, whose kind and friendly behaviour
towards me I remember with pleasure, and men-
tion with gratitude. I had a great deal of very
agreeable conversation v/ith him upon the mat-
ter, and he did not seem to oppose the ideas
hardly at all; but only gently cautioned me a-
galnst receiving any thing erroneous. He is a
man of most excellent spirit, and his family was
upon the whole the most delightful, agreeable
and happy family that I ever knew. While I
was at his house one of his children, then about
twenty years of age, seemed fully convinced of
the troth of the doctrine, by listening to our con-
versation, and was filled with great joy at the
idea. — Several religious men who were on a
journey, lodged at the house while I was there, ,
got a hint of the matter, and wished to hear all 1
that I could say in defence of it; I accordingly,
gave them some of the principal arguments in i


its favor, and obviated some of tha most capital
objections that could be brought against it; and
I afterwards overheard them wishing that they
had not been so curious as to have inquired sb
far into the subject, for they could not resist the
-arguments although they seemed resolved to treat
the sentiments as an error.

In this state of mind, half a convert to the
<io3trine of the Restoration, 1 arrived in the city
of PhiHdelphia, on the 7th of October, 1780.
I intended to have left the city in a few days,
and to have gone on towards South-Carolina,
but the Baptist Church being destitute of a min-
ister, they invited me to stop and preach with
^hem, to which I was at length persuaded, and
for sometime I was much followed, and there
were great additions to the church. The con-
gregations increased in such a manner, especi-
ally on Sunday evenings, that our place of wor-
ship, though large, would by no means contain
them; at length leave was asked by some of my
friends for me to preach in the church of St.
Paul, in that city, which was granted. This
was one of the largest houses of worship in
Philidelphia, and equal in bigness to most of the
churches in London. I think I preached there
about eighteen sermons, and generally to very
crowded audiences, frequently more than could
possibly get into the house; most of the clergy
of every denomination in the city, heard me
there, and many thousands of different people.
I am inclined to think, that I never preached to
so many before nor since as I did sometimes in
that house, and with almost universal approba-^


tion. But now the time of ray trouble and cast-
ing down came on, and thus it was.

Soon after I arrived in that city I had enquir-
ed of some friend for The Everlasting Gospel,
which I could not light on for some time, but
they lent me Mr. Stonehouse's book upon the
Restitution of all Things, which I had never
seen, nor heard of before; this very learned ,
work I read with great care, and his reasoning, '
arguments, and scripture proof seemed tome en-
tirely satisfactory.

The friends who procured me the works of
Mr. Stonehouse, were concerned at my having
an inclination to read any thing upon the sub-
ject; nevertheless, though there were several of
them with whom I conversed pretty freely upon
the matter, and who knew of my reading Mr.
Stonehouse's works, yeA they behaved in so
friendly a manner towards me, that they never
mentioned a word of it to any, until by other I
means it came to be known and talked of. ' |

In the house where I lodged, when I first '
came to the city, I had, in the freedom of con- j
versation, and with some appearance of joy,
expressed myself in general terms upon the sub-
ject, but always in the exact words of Scripture,
or in such a manner as this, viz: — That I could
not help hoping that God would finally bring eve-
ry knee to bow and every tongue to swear; and that

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Online LibraryElhanan WinchesterThe universal restoration. Exhibited in four dialogues between a minister and his friend ... chiefly designed fully to state, and fairly to answer the most common objections that are brought against it, from the Scriptures → online text (page 1 of 20)