UU Minute #92

Elhanan Winchester, part 2

Elhanan Winchester, at age 30, ousted from First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, together with supporters, formed the Society of Universal Baptists. Now openly preaching universal restoration, he laid out the main points of his Universalist faith:
  1. "God is love."
  2. "God's design in making intelligent beings was to make them happy."
  3. "God's ultimate design cannot be eternally frustrated."
  4. "Christ died for all; and died not in vain."
  5. "Christ came to destroy the evil Principle, or Sin, out of the Universe, which he will finally effect; and then misery shall be no more."
In fall of 1786, the year he turned 35, he served as moderator of the Universalist convention in Oxford, Massachusetts, which laid the groundwork for what would become the Universalist denomination.

Elhanan’s most important book was, The Universal Restoration, Exhibited in Four Dialogues between a Minister and His Friend, published in 1788, when he was 37. Commonly called Dialogues on the Universal Restoration, the book had wide impact in both Britain and America. In it, Winchester presented the doctrine of restoration as more reasonable and more godly than the doctrine of endless punishment, and more apt to move a willing heart to repentance. He argued that, logically, no finite human creature is capable of sin meriting infinite punishment – and that traditional threats of infinite punishment do not restrain the commission of sinful acts. Nor does it accord with God's love or justice to create so many, only to condemn them.

As a preacher, Elhanan Winchester was the equal of John Murray. Since Winchester died at age 45, he was never a presiding elder of the new Universalist denomination. Nevertheless, the span of his travels and the persuasiveness of his Dialogues on the Universal Restoration make him a Universalist founder.

NEXT: Hosea Ballou, part 1

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