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BRIEF MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.
Hosea Ballou was born in the town of Richmond, N. H., April 30, 1771. The circumstances which induced his youthful connexion with the Calvinistic church of which his father was pastor, and his subsequent advances in religious knowledge, are stated in the following auto-biographical sketch :
" As to the doctrine of Calvinism, in which my honoured father was a believer, and which doctrine he preached until nearly the end of his public labours, my acquaintance with its various tenets, while quite a youth, was by no means very limited. Owing to the pious endeavours of a parent, whose affections for his children rendered him extremely anxious for their spiritual welfare, and to an early desire of my own to understand the doctrine of Christianity correct. ly, I was well acquainted with the most common arguments which were used in support of predestination, election, reprobation, the fall
the penal sufferings of Christ for the elect, the justice of re. probation, and many other particulars, such as regard the moral agency of man and his inability. to regenerate himself, the sovereignty and irresistibility of regenerating grace, &c. &c. When I
my nineteenth year, there was what was termed a reformation in the vicinity where I lived, and many of my young friends and acquaintances professed religion and joined the Baptist church, of which my father was pastor. At this time I became more specially attentive to the subject of religion, and thought it my duty to become a professor, and to join the church, which I did, in the sincerity of my heart, in the month of January, 1789, From that period to the present I have been a constant student of the science of divinity. But owing to the strongly rooted prejudices which had so early taken possession of my mind, and to circumstances. which necessarily limited my means, in youth, of acquiring knowledge, my progress has been but small,
At the time I joined the Baptist church, there were in Richmond and Warwick, a few individuals, who called themselves Universalists, and who occasionally heard Br. Caleb Rich hold forth that doctrine. There was also an elderly gentleman by the name of Ballou, a distant relation of my father, who also occasionally preached the same doctrine. These individuals frequently attended the Baptist meetings, and being of my acquaintance, we often conversed on the question, whether all mankind would alike be made partakers of the salvation of God. In those conversations I frequently found that my Calvinistic tenets could be managed either to result in Universal Salvation, or to compel me to acknowledge the partiality of the divine favour. This gave me no small inquietude of mind; as I was always unable to derive satisfaction from sentiments which I could not defend. That which more than any thing else contributed to turn my thoughts seriously towards the belief of Universal Salvation, was the ardent desires, with which I found myself exercised, that sinners might be brought to repentance and salvation. I found it utterly impossible to bring the feelings of my heart to conform to the doctrine of eternal reprobation; and I was compelled to allow, either that such feelings were sinful, or that my heavenly Father, in giving them to me, had imparted an evidence in favour of the salvation of all men, the force of which I found no means to resist. As yet I was, like young converts in general, very little acquainted with the Scriptures. But the trials which I was then undergoing led me to examine the written word, to satisfy myself on the great question which had such weight on my mind. On reading the Bible, there would now and then, here and there, a passage appear to favour the doctrine of universal, and impartial grace. But all the prejudices of my early education, in those things, were arrayed against my making any advances. But in the spring following my union with the Baptist church, I left Richmond, my native place, and went with my brother Stephen, next older to myself, who joined the church a short time after me, to Hartford, in N. Y. then called Westfield, where we spent the summer. In this town there was a Baptist church and congregation, enjoying the pastoral labours of Elder Brown, on whose ministry we attended. My brother was apprehensive that my mind was inclined to Universalism; and told me that he had a desire that I should converse with Elder Brown on the subject, by which means he hoped I should become fully convinced that the doctrine was false, and be more settled in the belief in which I had made profession. It must be here understood that I
by no means, at that time settled in my faith. There was, at
my brother's request, a conference appointed, after public service, on the Sabbath, for Elder Brown to convince me that I ought to give no heed to the doctrine which laboured in my mind. Accordingly we met. The Elder requested me to turn to some passage of scripture which appeared to me favourable to Universalism; promising to do his endeavours to show me the error of applying it in favour of such a doctrine. I well remember the apparent confidence which this man manifested when he took his seat, and called on me to find some scripture, that in the least favoured so dangerous an error. 1 opened to the 5th chapter of Romans. I had read this chapter with much attention, and was tolerably acquainted with its several parts and their relation to each other. I directed him to the 18th verse; and told him that I was unable to understand the passage, if it agreed with the doctrine of the eternal reprobation of any of the human family. He immediately began, in his way, to speak very loudly, and nothing to the subject. When he would stop, I had only to in.
form him that what he had offered had no relation to the text I had eda
produced; and by showing him that the same all men who were under condemnation in the first member of the text, were under justification in the last, evidently confused his mind and immediate, ly turned it sour. He was no longer able to converse, with a right spirit
, and prudence dictated a discontinuance. My brother now grew more uneasy, and told me that he was sorry I had conversed with Elder Brown. “For," said he, “as he could by no means answer you, and as he manifested anger, you will think you had the best of the argument, and will feel encouraged to indulge favourable thoughts of Universalism." You cannot suppose that I now use the
very words which were used in conversation so long ago; I am caret my
ful only to give you the subject. As to this Elder Brown, I am far from wishing to represent him in an unfavourable light. I believe he was a worthy man. But it is a fact, that he was extremely ignorant of the subjcct, having had, as I presume, no acquaintance
with the views of Universalists, or with their manner of arguing.-ptist
I continued my researches with no small solicitude; and by reading lder
the Scriptures, and by conversing with those who opposed the doc
trine, before I returned the next fall, to Richmond, my mind was hat
quite settled in the consoling belief that God will finally have mercy the on all men. On my return I found that my brother, David Ballou, Ed
estion there if the
is some over twelve years advanced of mine, had not only openly professed Universal Salvation, but had commenced preaching 1
the doctrine. I spent most of my time with him until the fall before I was twenty-one, when I began to speak in public, believing and
preaching Universal Salvation, on the Calvinistic principles of atonement, and imputed righteousness.-Soon after it was known that I believed in the doctrine, I was excommunicated from the Church, and was honoured with a copy of the document, carefully stating that no fault was found in me, excepting that I believed that God would finally save all men.
I never read any thing on the doctrine of Universal Salvation before I believed it, the Bible excepted; nor did I know, that I now recollect, that there was any thing published in its vindication in the world. Nor had I ever heard a sermon on the subject, except when in boyhood I heard Br. Rich—but concerning the sermon I realised nothing
It was some time after I was a preacher of the doctrine, that I became acquainted with Relly's peculiar system; and if my memory serves me correctly, I had left the principles of Calvinism entirely, in relation to atonement, before I learned from Br. Murray the tenets which he received from Mr. Relly.
I had preached but a short time before my mind was entirely freed from all the perplexities of the doctrine of the trinity, and the common notion of atonement. But in making these advances, as I am disposed to call them, I had the assistance of no author, or writer.-As fast as those old doctrines were, by any means, rendered the subjects of inquiry, in my mind, they became exploded. But it would be difficult for me now to recall the particular incidents which suggested queries in my mind respecting them. It may be me here to state one circumstance, which, no doubt, had no small tendency to bring me on to the ground where I have for many years felt established. It was my reading some deistical writings. By this means I was led to see that it was utterly impossible to maintain Christianity as it had been generally believed in the church. This led me, of course, to examine the Scriptures, that I might determine the question, whether they did really teach that Jesus Christ died to reconcile an unchangeable God to his own creatures? You cannot suppose that I was long in finding that so far from teaching such absurdities, the Scriptures teach that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” The question respecting the trinity was, by the same means, as speedily settled. But I cannot say, for certainty, what year I became a Unitarian, but it was long before I wrote my Treatise on Atonement, the date of which you have.
Respecting the doctrine of a future state of retribution there was, in my youth, but little said. Universalists having obtained satisfac: