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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cause sentence against an evil work is not exe-
cuted speedily, therefore is the heart of the sons
of men fully set in them to do evil." Eccl. viii.
1 1 . There is no doubt but if the awful punish-

16*



186



DIALOGUES ON THE



ments of tlie future state were made visible to
our senses, by any means, they would prove at
powerful restraint to sin; yet God has not
thought fit to restrain it by those, and perhaps
many other possible ways. Wherefore 1 have a
right to doubt the premises; for if the strongest
possible restraints were laid upon sin, it might
not be so consistent with a state of probation, as
those reasonable restraints which God hath
thought fit to lay upon it.

2. But it may be questioned, whether there
is not something in the idea of limited, yet cer-
tain punishment, so just, equitable, reasonable
and evident, that it is much more calculated to
produce belief, and consequently more effectual I j
to destroy false hopes of escaping it, and also to j
check that daring presumption, which rises out
of the idea of endless misery^ than can be found :
in the contrary doctrine. Endless 'punishmentl
seems to shock tender minds at least. I heard'
of a little boy, to whom his mother constantly
kept preaching damnation without end, for every,
sin; one day after she had been discoursing withi
him in that manner, he went to work, but sooni
xeturned back, suddenly opened the door, andi
with an air of surprise, cried out; *'Why, moth-
er, the law says, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a\
tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot; but t
you say, ten thousand for one, and that punish-
ment shall never end." I have heard of num-
bers that had no better excuse for sinning greed -
ily, than this, viz. that there was no hopes of 1
their being saved; that, therefore, they were de -
termined to sin as much as possible, since it i
^oiild make no difference. I have i"«ason to say, ,



UNIVERSAL RESTORATION, 187

from what I know of mankind, that more persons
refuse to beheve in Divine Revelation because
it is commonly thought to contain the doctrine of
endless misery, than from any other cause: And
numbers have embraced it immediately upon be-
ing fairly convinced that it was not necessary to
understand it in that light. And a very sensible
Deist once said to an acquaintance of mine,
who believed and preached the universal doc-
trine — "Had I been acquainted with your sys-
tem, thirty years ago, I should have been a zeal-
ous Christian; and as great a friend to Revela-
' tion, as I have been an enemy." — "And pray
why not now, Doctor ?" "Because I am ashamed,
having so long been fighting against, to receive
it now."

3. Though damnation has been commonly un-
derstood to be endless, for many ages; yet it
has not (as far as we can judge) prevented evil
at all, or very little; but 1 have mentioned be-
fore, how very strict those people live, who re-
ceive and hold the system of limited punishments ;
w-'hether it is that endless damnation is too unnatur-
al to be believed, and that limited 'punishments, be-
ing more reasonable, seem more certain; or
tvhether it be that by considering they shall be
punished, either without end, or not at all; and
3very one thinking that endless punishment is
b- Tiore than they deserve, but is only reserved for
jome greater sinners, and therefore they have
lothing to fear from it, I shall not pretend to de-
ermine; but certain it is, that where the idea of
e-bndless misery prevails, it has not prevented in-
it quity, in the measure that might have been ex-
av, 3ected, on the supposition of its being the truth

>fG0D.



188 DIALOGUES ON THE

4. The great number of Heathens, that die
without ever being favored with the light of the
gospel, and certainly without ever hearing of
endless misery; the many that die in a state of
infancy and childhood; together with the instan-
ces of idiots, and persons born deaf; all con-
vince me more than any logical arguments that
God has many ways of instructing and reclaim-

. ing his creatures, in another state that we are at
present unacquainted with.

5. It is not so much the intention of God,
merely to restrain sin as to shew it in all its
dreadful deformity, punish it according to its
deserts and finally, to shew the superabounding
of his grace, in overcoming and totally destoying it
out of his creation; which shall be accomplished
when HE that sitteth upon the throne shall
make all things new ; "And there shall be no
more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither
shall there be any more pain; for the former
things are passed away." Rev. xxi. 4.

6. As the doctrine of the final Restoration
has been shewn in itself not to have the least
tendency to licentiousness, but directly the re-
verse; and as far as I can learn, by history, or my
own observation, those who have believed it, in
the rrianner here laid down, as perfectly consist-
ent with a future state of rewards and punish-
ments, have been particularly careful to depart
from iniquity of every kind ; yet if any should
be so lost to all that is good, as to pervert this
truth (revealed for contrary purposes) to their
own destruction, they alone must bear the blame,
the loss and the punishment. The Scriptures ol
truth have been perverted ; yet that is no argu



UNIVERSAL RESTORATION. 189

ment against Divine Revelation. The Gospel
of the Grace of God, has been abused ; but
should it never be preached on that account ?
Some in the apostles' days, turned the Grace of
God itself into wantonness and lasciviousness,
(see Jude, 4 ;) and others pretended that those
holy men encouraged sin, by proclaiming salva-
tion to sinners, through grace, or faith in Christ;
of which St. Paul complains, Rom. iii. 8. " We
be slanderously reported, and some affirm that
we say, let us do evil, that good may come;
whose damnation is just." The holy apostle
abhored, and constantly denied this horrid conse-
quence, which some perverse minds pretended to
draw from his doctrine; he declared that the
damnation of such was just, who did sin that
grace might abound, or who affirmed that the
doctrine led thereto, or that the apostles taught
or practised any such things; nevertheless (not
as fools, but as wise) they did not think tit to
lay the gospel aside, and refuse to preacb'salva-
tion through Christ any more on that account.
The self same reasoning applies to the present
case.

Friend. I must confess that you have so far pre-
vailed as to silence this great objection; for cer-
tainly the belief of the Restoration seems, by
your account of it, consistent with a state of
grace, and the knowledge and practice of relig-
ion. • But though you have obviated several ob-
jections, there is one you have not yet touched,
which is very considerable, and I am doubtful
that it will be difficult, if not impossible for you
to answer fairly ; it may be thus expressed, God
has abounded towards us in all wisdom; one in-



i90 DIALOGUES ON THE

stance is his hanging out the threatenings of the
severest punishments to prevent his creatures
from sinning while in this world; but to tell them
at the same time, that if they should sin, he
means to save them, is not prudent; because
that lessens, if not destroys the force of his
threatening. He told Adam that if he did eat
he should surely die; but did not tell him (at
the same time) that if he should eat his case
would not be remediless; this were to take down
with one hand what he had set up with the oth-
er. After the threatening failed of the effect, he
told him so, and not before, this was prudent-
ly done; so after his threatenings fail of effect in
this state, is the time to reveal his design of sav-
ing daring sinners. We may therefore be sure
that he has not done it yet, and that we miscon-
strue those texts which seem to contain such a
revelation. The next state is the only state to
preach the doctrine, and reveal the doctrine.
If you preach it here, it will be unnecessary
to preach it in hell ; for obstinate sinners will
carry it in their heads thither.

Minister. As specious and plausible as this
objection seems, I doubt not of being able to
answer it fairly, without evading the natural force
of it in the least. — The first thing that I shall no-
tice in this objection, is the very different and
contrary manner in which you apply those words
(y{ the apostle from his first evident intention.
He hath abounded towards us in all ivisdom and
prudence having made known unto iis the mystery
of his will according to his good pleasure,, which A-e
hath purposed in himself , that in the dispensation
of the fulness of times lie might gather together in



UNIVERSAL RESTOnATION. 191

one all things in Christj both which are in Heaven,
and which are on earth, even in him. Ephes. i. 8,
9, 10. God hath judged it to be the height of
heavenly wisdom and prudence to make known
to his saints, his glorious purpose, finally to re-
head all things in Christ; and we ought not to
presume to be more wise and prudent than he.
There is no doubt but God hath revealed this
great truth more immediately to his saints and
faithful ones for their consolation, than for the
benefit of the finally impenitent.

It is of amazing, I had almost said of infinite
use to the people of God, to have this divine
counsel declared to them in the present time.

The knowledge of this truth entirely removes
all hard thoughts of God from the minds of those
who receive it, as I can testify by experience;
for since I have believed in the doctrine of the
universal Restoration, I have never had one hard
thought of God abiding for one minute in my mind
that I remember, and never expect to have any
more while I continue to believe it firmly.

The belief of the Restoration is of great use in
supporting good people under their sorrows and
rials here; the idea that evil shall be destroyed,
and all things restored to their primitive glory is
the most consolatory of all other ideas. As this
doctrine tends to remove the greatest difficul-
ties from the plan of Providence, and also from
divine Revelation, it is evident that the knowl-
5dge of it must be of the greatest use to all that
love their great Creator. And, therefore, if the
evelation of it answered no other purpose in
:his life, but for the happiness, joy, and satisfac-
:ion of such as love God, we might be sure that



1 92 I> iALO GUES ON THE

he hath made it known, and that we .rightly un-
derstand those passages that hold it forth; for sines
"the secret of the Lord is with them that fear
him, and he will show them his covenant," Psal.
XXV. 14, and "The Lord God will do nothing,
but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the
prophets," Amos. iii. 7, there is all the reason to
conclude, that if God ever intended to restore
mankind hereafter, he would not fail to reveal it
to his chosen and faithful servants. And this he
hath done, if I can understand the meaning of
words.

It is true that God did not inform our first pa-
rents before they sinned that he had provided a
remedy; but not long did he delay after the fall
to reveal to them, that the seed of the woman
should bruise the serpent's head;Gen. iii. I5,&this
one text contains in miniature all that I believe
respecting the Restoration of mankind; for ii
the serpent's head is finally to be bruised, his
power and influence over mankind, must be en-
tirely destroyed; and then what shall prevent
their return to God.

Besides, it is impossible to read the Scrip-
tures attentively, and not perceive that Gcdf
very frequently mixes promises of mercies
among his severest threatenings of judgement;
and yet he doth not throw down with one hand,
what he builds up with the other.

Your object seems to suppose that the doc-
trine of the Restoration supercedes and sets^
aside those punishments which God has threat-j
ened to inflict upon the impenitent; or else howv
does the preaching of this doctrine weaken the
force of the threatenings.'' 5ut this is a very^



Ui\IVERSAL RESTORATION. 193

false idea; for we acknowledge that the threat-
enings shall be fislfilled, and not that the diso-
bedient shall escape unpunished. There ii< a
great deal of difference between these two ideas,
though you would intimate them to be the same,
and that we contradict God by assuring the
wicked that they shall escape the just judgement
of God, But we only declare that an end shall
finally come to their punishment, and that when
they shall be sufficiently humbled a dispensation
of mercy shall succeed that of judgement. Let
me ask you, has not God threatened mankind
with death on the account of sin? "Dust thou
art and unto dust thou shalt return." Gen. iii. 19.
Well, tell me, is this threatening either weak-
ened or destroyed by the knowledge of the great
doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.? Did
not God threaten the children of Isreal with
dreadful judgements to prevent their sinning, and
that they should be dispersed among all nations?
But will you say that he either weakened or de-
stroyed the force of his threatenings, because he
promised them at the same time that at least he
would return their captivity, and restore them as
at the first, and do better unto them, than at
beginning.

The laws of this country condemn criminals
o death; would it be thought that I should weak-
ken or destroy the force of the penal statutes,
by saying, that the execution of their law could
Duly be felt for a certain time, beyond which it

ould not endure? Is not every malefactor un-
3er the sentence of death supposed to know

his? And yet will any presume to say, that
;he3e laws arc entirely weakened, and their force
17



194 DIALOGUES ON THE

destroyed because they do not condemn trans-
gressors to endless punishments? But, if it be
allowed that torments, which are but momenta-
ry have a considerable influence in restraining
many vices, there cannot be the smallest reason
to fear that the doctrine of just retribution ac-
cording to the deeds done in the body, will
open the door to vice and immorality, but on
the contrary. But this objection is so near akint
to the last which you proposed, that it hardly de-
serves a distinct consideration; for if the doctrine
of the Restoration does not lead men to commit
isin (as I am sure it has no such tendency) then
no harm can be apprehended from its being
known in this state. And whereas you argue,
that as it would not be proper for the present
state, we may be sure that God hath not reveal-
ed it; and therefore is highly proper for men to
to know in the present state. You will please
therefore to notice that the universal doctrine, so
far from tending to render the divine threatenings
useless or vain, weakening their force, or setting
them aside, operates in the direct contrary man-
ner. I as much believe as you or any other man
can do, that all the threatenings will be fulfilled
upon the finally impenitent; but dare not carry
the matter so far as to set aside the gracious
promises of God, with which the Scriptures ap-
pear to me to abound, in favor of the final re-
covery of all at last.

Friend. It must I think be confessed that if
the doctrine of the Restoration be true, it would
be matter of great joy and comfort for good
men to know it, for they have often great trouble
and anxiety of mind on the account of their



UNIVERSAL RESTORATION. 195

families, friends, neighbors, acquaintance, and
mankind in general; which sorrow would be
greatly relieved, could they have an idea of
the Restoration of all things in the manner
you hold it. But however true this may be, it
seems not to be plainly revealed in the Scrip-
ture, otherwise it would not be hidden from the
eyes of so many great and good men.

Minister. It is possible, that a subject may
be revealed in the plainest manner, and yet the
best of men may remain ignorant of it. For
instance, were not the sufferings, death and
resurrection of our Lord plainly revealed in the
Scriptures of the old Testament? And yet we
know that the apostles of our Saviour did not un-
derstand one of those prophecies. Nay, when
Jesus told them openly and expressly that he
must be delivered into the hands of men, and
that they should mock, scourge, and crucify
him, and that the third day he should rise again,
they did not comprehend his meaning; although
he spoke to them frequently and very plainly up-
on the subject, and said, "Let these sayings sink
down into your ears; for the son of man shall
be delivered into the hands of men. But they
understood not this saying, and it was hid from
them, that they perceived it not; and they fear-
ed to ask him of that saying." St. Luke ix.
44, 45. And in another place we read, "For
he taught his disciples, and said unto them, the
Son of man is delivered into the hands of men,
and they shall kill him; and after that he is kil-
led, he shall rise the third day." It is impossi-
ble that words should be more express, or less
liable to be misunderstood. "But (as the evangel-



196 DIALOGUES ON THE

ist immediately informs us) "they understood not
that saying, and were afraid to ask him." St,
Mark, ix. 31,32. And in the same chapter we
find, that after our Lord Jesus was transfigured
upon the mount in the presence of Peter, James,
and John, "As they came down from the moun-
tain he charged them that they should tell no man
what things they had seen, till the Son of man
were risen from the dead. And they kept that
saying with themselves, questioning one with an-
other what the rising from the dead should
mean." Ver. 9, 10. This was what Christ
taught them not only plainly, but also frequently.
See St. Matt. xvi.21. xvii. 9,22,23. xx. 17,
18, 19. xxvi. SI, 32. St. Mark, viii. 31. ix. 9, 10,
51, 32. X. 32,33,34. xiv. 27, 28. St. Luke,
ix. 21,22, 44,45. xviii. 31, 32,33,34.

Yet notwithstanding the plainness and fre-
quency of these predictions, and the pains which
Christ took to instil these ideas into them, they
never understood them at all until some time af^
ter they v.'ere fulfilled. For when they saw him
taken and delivered into the hands of men, and
treated exactly according to his own words often
repeated, they were entirely disappointed, and
all their hopes seemed to die within them. — And
when he was risen from the dead^ they would
not believe the testimony of those who had seen
him, and would hardly trust their own senses, so
ignorant were they of what he had told them.

St. John was the first of the disciples who be-
lieved that he was risen, for ijhus he writes,
^" Then went in also that other disciple, who
came first to the sepulchre, and he saw and be-
lieved. For as yet they knew not th« Scripture



UNIVERSAL RESTORATION. J97

that he must rise again from the dead." St.
John, XX. 8, 9. This instance is so much to my
purpose, and proves so evidently that a thing
may be plainly revealed, and expressed in the
clearest manner, and yet not be understood, that
1 hardly need mention any more. But I will
mention another, and that is, the calling of the
Gentiles. This was spoken of by the prophets,
in the clearest language; and Jesus after his
resurrection gave a full commission to his apos-
tles, which one would think it was impossible for
them to misunderstand.

*' All power is given unto me in heaven and
■in earth, go ye therefore and teach all nations,"
&c. St. Matt, xxviii, 18, 19. '^Go ye into all
the world and preach the gospel to every crea-
ture." St. Mark, xvi. 15.

",Thus it is written, and thus it behooved
^Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead on
the third day; and that repentance and remission
of sins should be preached among all nations,
beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses
of these things." St. Luke, xxiv. 46, 47, 48.
^' Ye shall receive power after that the Holy
Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be wit-
nesses unto me both in Judea and in Samaria,
and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts
i. 8. But the apostles themselves, even after
the miraculous descent of the Holy Ghost upon
them, were without understanding, respecting
the calling of the Gentiles, until St. Peter was
taught it by a vision from heaven. See Acts, x.

And St. Paul speaks of this subject as a mys-
tery that was hid from ages and generations, and
particularly revealed to him, and not to the saint*

17*



198 DIALOGUES ON THE

in that day. See EphesLans, iii. 1-1 1 . Col. i.
^5,26,27.

Wherefore, when I consider that the apostles
themselves could not for a time see those things
to be revealed, which yet were most plainly, ful«
ly-j and frequently told them, I cannot wonder that
many great and good men now should not see
the general Redemption and final Restoration of
all things plainly revealed in the Scriptures,
though to me scarce any subject appears more
evident. It gives me now but little concern to
hear many say, that they cannot see the matter
plainly declared in the Bible, since I know that
things have been there that wise and good men
could not see; and what has happened in times
past may take place now; and if I c^n see for
myself this great truth made known, it is enough
for me. I am nOt to inquire, v/hat does this man
believe? Or, what shall the other do.? I must
believe what the Scripture appears to me to
teach, and do what I am there commanded, let
others believe or do as they may.

Friend. But I have heard some say of you,
^'How comes this man to know more than all the
world? Have there not been many great, wise,
and good men in all ages,that have never thought
of these things ? If this doctrine of the final
Restoration of all things had been true, surely
our wise, good and learned ministers would have
discovered it, and proclaimed it long ago. But
the doctrine of endless misery is a point in which
they seem generally to agree, however they dif-
fer in other matters, and therefore it must be
true, and this doctrine of the general Restora-



UNIVERSAL RESTORATION. 199

tion, which this man holds up, almost alone, must
be false."

Minister. I am very far from pretending to
be wiser than any that have gone before me; and
as for this doctrine of the Restoration it was not
only believed and preached by the apostles, but
many of the ancient fathers -who lived in the
first ages of Christianity, were bold witnesses
for this glorious truth. It is true that when the
church of Rome rose to supreme power, the
Popes and Councils endeavored to extirpate the
.merciful doctors (as those who believed the gen-
-eral Restoration, were called in derision) and
their adherents, but it was not until near the
-close of the seventh century, that they were
able to silence the witnesses for this truth. This,
(as well as many other precious truths) then lay
hid until the reformation when it began a little
to revive, and hath gradually increased ever
since. Several great authors have written upon
it; many hundreds and even thousands, have be-
lieved it, and found comfort and joy therein.
I^ay, there are many ministers who believe it
:now as firmly as I do, but do not choose to con-
fess or preach it, for various reasons; and great
numbers of private christians enjoy the comfort
and happiness of believing it secretly. But
put the case that I stood alone in this testimony,
yet if upon a fair examination, the Scriptures
hold forth this idea, and if all objections against
it may be fully answered; v/hy should my testi-
mony be refused on the account of its singularity ?
God has an absolute right to use what means or
instruments he pleases, to manifest his truth, and
to fulfil his purposes; and though I am nothing.



200 DIALOGUES ON THE

and in his sight am less than nothing, yet he is
able by the things that are not, to contbund and
bring to nought the things that are, that no flesh
should glory in his presence. 1 Cor. i. 28, 29.

I acknowledge that the generality of the minis-
ters in the present day profess to believe endless
misery, though they disagree in other points;
and indeed one reason why they fall out so
much about other doctrines, is, because they re-
ceive this as a first principle, as is very obvious;
for were those that believe that Christ died only
for a part of mankind, once to give up the idea of
endless misery, they would acknowledge the
universality of the love of God, and confess that
Jesus died for all in the fullest sense. And on
the other hand, if those who believe in general
redemption, were not so exceedingly tenacious
of the doctrine of endless misery, they would
not oppose the doctrine of election, nor hold 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 13 of 20)