The Hope Universal Restoration in the Wesleyan Doctrine

Benjamin Rush, an important proponent of heroi...
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My friends at the American Creation blog brought a book to my attention dealing with the rising tide of universalism (perhaps different then, but wholly different in today’s speech. You cannot use universalism today without the tendency to be associated with the yahoo’s, um, UU’s) first from Germany and then infusing the American Republic, notably influencing the Founders.

This is a letter written to Elhanan Winchester (here, as well) by one Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Founding Father.

Philadelphia, Nov. 12, 1791.

Dear Sir—

Accept my thanks for your long letter by the Pigou, and your valuable publications which accompanied it. Your letters to Mr. Taylor contain many new and striking ideas. Your funeral sermon for Mr. John Wesley does honor to the philanthropy of your universal principles. I admire and honor that great man above any man that has lived since the time of the Apostles: his writings will ere long revive in support of our doctrine—for if Christ died for all, as Mr. Wesley always taught, it will soon appear a necessary consequence that all shall be saved. But what shall I say to your fourth “volume of Lectures on the Prophecies? Accept my thanks over and over, for the instruction and entertainment I have derived from reading them. They are now in the hands of my dear friend, and old preceptor in medicine, Dr. Redman, who speaks in the highest terms of them, and calls you our Theological Newton. Go on, my dear sir, with your researches into the true meaning of the Scriptures.

The benev0lent spirit which has lately appeared in the world, in its governments—in its numerous philanthropic and humane societies—and even in public entertainments, remind me of the first efforts of a child to move its body or limbs. These efforts are strong, but irregular, and often in a contrary direction to that which is intended. Time and a few unsuccessful experiments soon bring these motions into a proper direction. The same will happen, I have no doubt, to the present kind, but irregular and convulsive impulses of the human heart. At present they lead men to admire and celebrate human lights, and human deliverers—but ere long, public admiration and praise will rise to him who is the true light of the world, and who only delivers from evils of every kind’ At present we wish liberty to the whole world—but the next touch of the celestial magnet upon the human heart will direct it into wishes for the salvation of all mankind.

Yours sincerely.

Benjamin Rush.

Several things – Rush and Winchester obviously saw in the Wesleys a hope for universal restoration (See Acts 3.21, especially in the NRSV) as well as hope that the then-current rise of democratically elected Governments which were on the rise as a sign of the restoration. Does the notion that Christ died for all necessarily lead to the conclusion that somehow, at some point, after purging, after a stint in the fires of hell, that all of Creation will finally be renewed?

Rush was on the forefront of democratizing power. I wonder how sociologists might see that – did democracy, even in the limited forms promised by the American spirit, give rise once again to the notion of  universal restoration which had long since disappeared from the Christian theological mix? It certainly gave rise to the notion of questioning long held doctrines. I mean, if a King could be overthrown, then nothing was left unchallenged.

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6 Replies to “The Hope Universal Restoration in the Wesleyan Doctrine”

  1. I myself would never never studied universalem. In fact, I avoided it as heresy. However, quite apart from any involvement in that way of thinking I came to see that indeed everyone is going to heaven, and that through Jesus Christ alone.

    Thus I wrote “The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.”

      1. Joel, I looked over what you’ve written looks like you come at the issue logically or historically (that is, postbiblically) while I come at it logically and biblically. The good news is that both point in the same direction – up!

        I hope my work is of value to you and others who believe in the goodness of God. It does not mean, however, that we should not repent. On the contrary, we must repent and live as morally as we know how if we are to please Him and avoid more wrath in the earth.

        1. I might would contend that my approach is anything but biblical, Mike.

          I do believe that people often take universal reconciliation as an excuse to do what they will, but that is far from the case.

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