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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at the name of Jesus every \nee should how, of
things in heaven, and things in earth; and things
under the earth; and that every tongue should con-
fess Jesus Christ to be Lord to the glory of God
the Father. And that 1 hoped, that in the dis-
pensaiioji of the fulness of limes, he might gather


together in one. all things in CaursT, both which
are in heaven, and which are on earthy (Sfc.

Such passages as these I mentioned in this
manner, hoping that thfey would be fulfilled.
The people of the house seemed surprised, and
asked me if I believed so; I answered, "That
sometimes I could not help hoping that it might
be so." I could hardly have imagined among
friends that any danger could have arisen from
my expressing a hope that the Scriptures were

However these false friends told a minister,
whom for a number of years I had esteemed as
my best and most intimate friend, that I was
turned heretic, and believed the doctrine of the
Unioersal Restoration^ and desired him to con-
vince me. Some time after he met with me in
the street, and in a very abrupt manner told me,
that he had wanted to see me for some time, that
he might give me a piece of his mind; that he
had been informed by such a person, that I was
inclined to the doctrine of the Universal Restor-
ation, and then, instead of using any argument
to convince me, or takincr any metiiod for my re-
covery, added this laconic speech, " If you em-
brace this sentiment, I shall no longer own yen
for a brother." And he has hitherto been as
good as his word, having never writen nor spok-
en to me from that day to this, and when I have
since offered to shake hands with him, he refus-
ed; and yet he v/as one whom i esteemed above
any other on earth, as a hearty, sincere, long-tri-
ed, and faithful friend. If my intimate friend
treated me in such a manner, what had I not to
expect from my open and avov.ed enemies ?


I now foresaw the storm, and I determined to
prepare for it, not by denying what I had said,
but by examining and determining for myself,
whether the sentiment was according to script-
ure or not. If I found that it was not, I was
determined to retract, but if it was, to hold it
fast, let the consequences be what they might. I
had now no time to lose. I expected in a short
time to be called to an account, and examined
respecting this doctrine, and obliged either to
defend or deny it ; I was already too well persua-
ded that it was true, to do the latter without hes-
itation, and yet not sufficiently for the former.
For this purpose, I shut myself up chiefly in my
chamber, read the Scriptures, and prayed to
God to lead me into all truth, and not suffer me
to embrace any error; and I think that with an
upright mind, I laid myself open to believe what-
ever the Lord had revealed. It would be too
long to tell all the teachings I had on this head;
let it suffice, in short, to say, that I became so
well persuaded of the truth of the Universal
Resio7'ation. that I was determined never to denv
it, let it cost me ever so much, though all my
numerous friends should forsake me, as I ex-
pected they would, and though I should be driv-
en from men, and obliged to dwell in caves or
dens of the earth, and feed on wild roots and
vegetables, and suffer the loss of all things,
friends, wealth, fame, health, character, and even
life itself The truth appeared to me more val-
uable than all things, and as I had found it, I
was determined never to part with it, let what
would be offered in exchangre.


I had now formed my resolution, and was de-
termined how to act when the trial came. Hith-
erto I had said nothing about the Restoration in
public, and little in private; but I preached up
the death of Christ, and salvation for mankind
through him, without restriction. This free man-
ner of preaching gave offence to some, who
came to hear me no more. On the evening of
the 22d of January, 1731, a number of the mem-
bers of the church, who had heard that I held
the doctrine of the Restoration^ met me at a
friend's house, to ask me the question. Whether
I did or not? I acknowledged that I did, but did
not wish to trouble any body with my sentiments.
They desired me neither to preach them in public,
nor to converse of them in private. I told them that
if they would prevent people from asking me, I
would say nothing upon the matter; but if peo-
ple asked me concerning my sentiments, I could
not deny them, and if they wished to know the
reasons, I must inform them. And thus the
matter was to rest; but some that were present
wished to know the foundation of my sentiments,
others opposed it, not wishing to hear any thing
in its favor. At length it was agreed that I might
read the passages of Scripture upon which I judg-
ed the doctrine of the Restoration to be founded,
but must not add a single word of explanation
on my part, and on their parts they were not to
ask any questions, or make the least opposition,
for if they did, I insisted upon the liberty of de-

Accordingly I took the Bible, and read many
passages in the Old and New Testaments, which
I judged to contain the doctrine; and the very


reading of them convinced several of the com-
pany of the truth of the Restoration. There
was nothing farther took place at that time: We
parted with mutual agreement; I was not to
preach it in the pulpit, nor to introduce it in
conversation, but I would not be obliged to deny
it, v^hen asked, nor to refuse to vindicate it, if
opposed; and on their parts they were not to
speak of it to my prejudice, but to endeavor as
much as possible, to keep the matter close, and
so we parted. — But notwithstanding all the pains
that could be taken, the matter got abroad, and
several came to discourse ^vith me on my princi-
ples, to v/hom I gave such reasons as I was able
for what I believed. A little after this time, I
met with another copy of the Everlasting Gospdy
which I then read through with attention for the
first time, and found much satisfaction; the ar-
guments and Scripture proofs therein contained,
seemed to me suincient to convince all that would
read with candor and attention.

I still continued to act only on the defensive,
not preaching upon the subject, nor going about
to private houses to make interest in my favor
but if any came to me and wished me to dis-
course upon it, I Vt^ouid not refuse; and thus a
number were convinced of its truth, while others
violently opposed it. And thus matters contin-
ued until the latter end of March. Having
heard that the German Baptists in Germantown,
about 8 miles from Philidelphia, held the doc-
trine of the Restoration, I had appointed to spend
the first Sunday in April with them; and this
engagement had been made sometime: Just as
I was ready to go out of the city on Saturday, I


found that some of the members of the Church
had privately sent into the country, and collect-
ed a number of the ablest ministers, who were
arrived in the city on purpose to debate. I gave
them the liberty of my pulpit as they pleased for
the next day, and went out of the city to go to
Gerniantown : and took that opportunity to go
and visit thai ancient, venerable, and excellent
man, Dr. Geotge De Benneville, who received
me in the most kind, open, and friendly manner;
and his conversation was most highly edifying to
me. Afterwards I went to Germantown, and
lodged there all night, ready to preach the next
day. As soon as my enemies in Philidelphia
found that I was gone out of the city, thej
spread a report that I had fled to avoid an inter-
view with these ministers, who had come on pur-
pose to convince me. Nothing could have been
more false, than such a report, for I had been
•engaged to go to Germantown, on that day, for
several weeks beforehand: I knew nothing of
these ministers being sent for until they came
to town; and I had no fear but I should be able,
by God's assistance, to defend the cause before
them; and besides, I had appointed to return on
Monday, and did return accordingly. The
whole church met, both my friends and my op-
posers, and these ministers met with them. I
was called to attend a funeral at that time, and
was at the house of mourning, when a messen-
ger was sent in haste, to desire my immediate
attendance at the meeting without any delay. I
found that those who were my enemies in the
assembly, had been greatly vaunting over my
friends, because I was not present. They said


I had absconded merely to avoid a debate, in
which I was sure to be confuted, as here was an
opportunity that might never present itself a-
gain ; — and seven wise, able, and learned
ministers had assembled on purpose to dispute
with me, but that I had gone, 8c lefl my adherents
in the lurch, from a consciousness that I was
not able to defend my cause; — with abundance
more to the same purpose."* My friends, on the
other hand, told them, that I was afraid of noth-
ing but sin, and that they doubted not of my be-
ing able and willing to dispute with any one of
the gentlemen, or all of them, one by one, if
they chose it. O, no; they replied, they knew
better than that, I was gone out of the way on
purpose, where I could not be found. My friends
told tkem, that if there was a vote past in the
assembly that I should dispute with any one,
they would engage that I would be among them
in a few minutes. It was accordingly unanim-
ously voted, that I should dispute with the Rev.
Mr. BoggSj upon my sentiments, in the presence
of these ministers, and of the whole assembly,^''
But when in a few minutes I came in, and took
my place, what different countenances appeared
in the congregation.^ All my friends v/ere high-
ly pleased, and the others were as much con-
founded and disappointed, at seeing me come
in so cheefully and quickly, after they had made
themselves so sure, that I would not come. But
surely, I might have been looked upon with pity;
alone to answer for my self, no one to support
me; while my antagonists were seven of the
ablest ministers that could be obtained.


1 felt, however, that inward composure, from
a consciousness of having acted uprightly and
eincerely in the whole ati'air, that even caused
my countenance to appear easy and cheerful.

The vote was then publicly read, and I stood
up, and declared my readiness to comply with
what was required. The worthy gentleman who
was chosen to dispute with me, then rose up,
and said these words, " I am not prepared to dis-
pute with Mr. Winchester J I have heard that he
says that it would take six weeks to canvass all
the arguments fairly on both sides; and I sup-
pose he has been studying upon the subject for
a week or more, and 1 have not studied it at all;
and therefore I must beg to be excused."

When I found that he, and all the rest wholly
declined disputing with me, I begged liberty to
speak for two hours upon my sentiments, and
lay them fairly open, and the ground upon which
I maintained them. But this was denied me; I
then desired them to give me one hour for this
purpose; but this was also refused. One of
the ministers got up, and said, that their busi-
ness Avas not to debate with me but to ask me,
whether I believed the Restoration of bad men
and angels finally, to a state of holiness and hap-
piness, &c.

But if they did not come to dispute with me,
why was the vote passed by their party, as well
as by my friends, that I should dispute with
them.? This speaks for itself The ministers in-
sisted upon putting the question to me, do you
believe tne doctrine of the Universal Restoration!
My friends objected to my answering the ques-
tion, unless I might be allowed to vindicate my


sentiments. But I said, that I did not fear anj
use that could be made of my words ; that I had
always freely confessed what my thoughts were
when asked ; and, therefore, 1 told them, that I
did heartily believe the General Hestoraiion, and
was willing to defend it. The gentleman that
was chosen to dispute with me, then asked me^
whether I thought it strange, considering my
change of sentiments, that there should be suck
a noise and uproar made upon the occasion, &€v
I told him that I did not think it strange at all ;
and gave him a little history of the affair, and
how the matter came abroad, through the treacli-
ery of some, whom i had esteemed as my friends;
that when I mentioned it to them I was not fully
persuaded of it myself, and perhaps never might
have been, if I had not been opposed and threat-
ened ; that I never had intended to trouble the
people with my sentiments, but was willing to
live and die with them, if they could bear with
me \ but that I could not use so much deceit, as
to deny what I believed, when asked by any one;
that I never had yet done so, and by the grace
of God never would, let the consequences be
what they might. What I said was in presence
of all my accusers, and none of them could con-
tradict me, nor had aught to lay to my charge,
except in this matter of the gospel of my Sav-
iour. My discourse took such an effect upon
him, that he then publicly declared, that my be-
haviour in the whole affair had been as became
a man and a Christian^ and that no one could
accuse me of any improper conduct. I stood
some time, and as none appeared to have any
thing farther to say to me, I took my leave and


went out. He accompanied me to the door, and
told me that he would write to me upon the sub-
ject ; but whatever was the reason, he never did,
nor have we spoken together since.

The ministers then advised the people to get
another minister ; but my friends being numer-
ous, insisted it should be fairly determined by
the subscribers at large ; but this the other par-
ty would not agree to. Several very fair offers
were made by my friends to them, but they re-
fused them all ; and finally, by force they kept
us out of the house, and deprived us of our part
of the property, which was at last confirmed to
them by law, though I think unjustly, as we
were the majority at first ; but they took uncom-
mon pains in carrying about a protest against me
to every member of the church, both in the city
and in the country, and threatening all with ex-
communication who would not sign it ; by which
some were intimidated, and by these and other
means they strengthened their party. But on
the other hand, I took no pains, either to prose-
lyte people to believe my sentiments or to make
my party strong. But I believe near an hun-
dred of the members suffered themslevs to be ex-
communicated rather than to sign the protest a-
gainst me, and the doctrine that I preached.
When we were deprived of our house of wor-
ship, the Trustees ef the University gave us the
liberty of their Hall; where we worshipped God
for about four years, until we purchased a place
for ourselves. But to return. After this meet-
ing of the ministers, the whole affair was open,
and I found myself obliged to vindicate the doc-
trine which they had condemned unheard, not



only in private but in the pulpit. According-
ly, on the 22d day of April, I preached a ser-
mon on Gen. iii. 15, in which I openly asserted
the doctrine of the Final and Universal Restor-
ation of all fallen intelligences. This was pub-
lished by particular desire, with a list of the
plainest scripture passages in favor of the doc-
trine; and a number of the most common andi
principal objections, fairly stated, and answered.!
This was my first appearance in the world as m
prose writer, which was what I never expected]
to be, and probably should never have been buti
for this occasion; still less a writer of contro-
versy, to which I had naturally a great aversion.

After I had preached this sermon, I had the
Chevalier Ramseifs Philosophical Principles of!
JSTatural and Revealed Religion put into my hands;
I read the same with great pleasure and advan-
tage, and I must acknowledge it to be a work
of great merit, and I have reason to bless God
that ever I had an opportunity of reading it. I
can heartily recommend it, as one of the best
works in our language; and I must say, that in
most things I fully agree with that very intelli-
gent author. On the fourth of January, 1782,
I preached the sermon called^ T/ie Outcasts
Comforted; from Isaiah Ixvi. 5, to my friends
who had been cast out, and excommunicated,
for believing this glorious doctrine. This was
soon after printed, and the next year it was re-
published in London, by the Rev. iVIr. Richard
Clark, and was the first of my works ever print-
ed here.

I have thus given a brief, plain and simple ac-
count of the means that have brought me to think
and write in the manner that 1 have done, and


which account may be considered as an historic-
al sketch of nearly four years of my life.

I have every year since printed and published
something which I judged might be useful to my
fellow creatures; but as my works are in the
hands of most of my friends, it is not necessary
to give a particular account of any of them
here, except this book of Dialogues on the Uni-
versal Restoration. I have had many discourses
with various persons upon this suUject and many
objections have been proposed to me, which I
lave endeavored to answer; and I can truly
say, that these discourses, their questions and my
mswers, their objections, and my solutions, form
he bulk of these dialogues. I have endeavor-
ed to give all the possible force to their objec-
ions, and if any of them are weak I can assure
he public, that I have not made them so (as
ome have iasinuated)merely that I might be a-
)le to ansv/er them, but the weakest of them have
)een proposed to me, and I have fairly set down
he most powerful that I ever heard, generally
n the very words in which they were addressed
o me, whether in conversation or by letter; and
. am willing, if stronger objections can be made,
o put them in the place of those things which I
lave set down, or add them to the number; and
. have in this new edition added a few, which I
lave heard since the work was first published,
md especially one which was sent me by a ven-
rable minister from America, and which I have
argely answered.

I have the satisfaction of knowing not only
hat these Dialogues have been well received,
ut that they have been the means of bringing


many persons to the belief of the truth of the
Universal Restoraiion, and have strengthened
and confirmed others, as will plainly appear from
the following extracts of letters, which I have re-
ceived from s&vera\ ministers in different parts
of the kingdom, since their publication.

Wisbich, October ^6 J 1788.
" Dear Sir —

'' I am persuaded your knowledge of the worldi^
and its inhabitants, hath long since taught you to
be familiar with the addresses of persons un-
known to you ; and I have formed that opinion
of you, that your candor will admit, and your
generous mind rejoice to hear, that a person
though unknown to you, is convinced that Godi
hath gracious designs towards universal man. I
am that person, sir. For sometime past I have
entertained doubts with respect to the eternity oj
hell torments. My doubts principally arose frora
the consideration of the vast disproportion be-
tween momentary crir/ies, committed in this short
lije and the suffering infinitude of punishment :
yet many difficulties lay in my way that I did not
know how to remove, and I continued thus em-
barrassed, until a short time since I had the hap-
piness to meet with your Dialogues on the Uni-
versal Restorationy which, I thank God, have
helped me^ much. My ardent prayer is, that
the truth may spread, that the word of the Lord
may run and be glorified.

*^ My good friend, Mr. F , shewed me

your letter to him, by which I see your readiness


;o serve the cause of our great Head, Christ Je-
sus, and your willingness to visit the country,
provided the way is open. Now^, Sir, 1 can on-
ly say, that my house and my heart, and my pul-
pit will be all open to receive you, provided you
will visit us in this part of the world.
'^ I remain, with the utmost respect,

" Dear Sir, your sincere friend,


'^Dear Sir—

" Though personally unknown, have taken
the liberty of addressing you with a few lines.
I was lately in London, and called to see you :
but was told you were out of town. Have for
some time had the pleasure of reading your Di-
alogues much to my satisfaction.

'' riie subject of Universal Restitution has for
many years engaged my thoughts at times, and
3ften appeared in an amiable light to my mind.
It is a subject that redounds to the everlasting
honor of God, and the everlasting felicity of
the rational creature, who, when delivered from
nfiisery, shall be fully sensible of the obligations
^ue to the Deliverer, and consequently, shall
naturally be engaged in the great and delightful
work of praising and honoring both the Author
and Accomplisher of the great salvation.

" My residence is at Lyndhurst, in the JVeiv
Forest Hants, where I am pastor over a little
Church of Genera,! Baptists, of which denom-
ination I am informed you are ; but be that as
it may, it is no small pleasure to me to find men,
of whatever denomination, vindicate the good-


ness of God, in the manner it is done by the doc-
trine of Universal Restoration.

" Should inclination or leisure ever favor your
coming this way, I know not who I shall be more
happy to see and enjoy. Permit me to subscribe

" Your affectionate brother,

" In the gospel of universal love,
" Lyndhurst, December 4, 1789."

''YorJc,March6, 1790.
" Rev. and Dear Sir —

" I hope you will excuse the freedorn I havet
taken in writing to you.

^^ I have for several years embraced your sen-
timents, and have often stood up in defence ojE

" I have frequently met with learned, and can-
did men, who have given me much satisfaction
in this important subject. When your Dialogues
were published, I procured and read them with
the greatest avidity, I. found the subject hand-
led much to my mind. The strongest objec-
tions raised in all their weight and importance
and answered clearly and candidly, i read the
book, over and over, V\dih fresh pleasure anc:
satisfaction. I studied the arguments, treasur-
ed them up in my memory, and determined tc
become a defender of this part of truth. M}
heart burnt in love to God and mankind. I founc
exalted views of God, raised exalted strains o:
gratitude and praise. It was one of the str*^ng-
est and most attracting views that ever I^ me<
with since I knev.* the Saviour's love. I soon


entered the field, and was obliged to prove my
armor against the strongest objections, i)acked
with prejudices almost of an invincible nature.
When I was hard put to it, I had recourse to
your Magazine, and from thence brought forth
new pieces of artillery. You will easily sup-
pose I had many trials from persons of differ-
ent dispositions. By persuading several of my
acquaintance, ministers of the Gospel, to read
over your book, I became an instrument of win-
ning them over to the truth.

'^ One of my brethren in the ministry protest-
ed much against our notions, and declared he
would never believe them. Knowing him to be
a sensible man, and one who might be wrought
upon by the force of truth properly stated, I
used several arguments to persuade him to read
the book. At length he consented, and said,
that he would do it to oblige me, but was deter-
mined not to believe it. I told him, it would sat-
isfy me, for him to give it a candid reading.

" When we met again, I began to inquire
what he thought of the book. He paused a lit-
tle, and then freely acknowledged the effect it
had had upon him ; he frankly declared that his
resolution was just the same, as though he had
resolved to look up to the heavens when the sun
shone at noon, and not to believe that it shone.
I have secretly engaged several and find when
they are sensible, candid men, they fall in with
your sentiments at once.

" I am acquainted with about half a. score of
ministers, who fi.rmly believe and heartily em-
brace the doctrine ; besides many private chris-
tians of different denominations. Most of us


ministers, who Ikli in with your sentiments, are
afraid of confessing them publicly for this tea-
son, our people would thrust us out of the syna-

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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 2 of 20)