UU Minute #95

Hosea Ballou, part 2

In the late 1780s, when Hosea Ballou was about 18 or 19 years old, living on his family’s farm in Richmond, New Hampshire, nearby, in Warwick, Massachusetts, Caleb Rich was preaching universalism. Occasionally some cohorts of Caleb Rich came to Richmond and visited Hosea’s church just for the purpose of raising embarrassing questions. “How could a good God be responsible for endless suffering in hell of creatures of his own making?” And what about Romans 5, verse 18:
“Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Rom 5:18 KJV)
All men, it said in Ballou’s King James version -- all people, to use an updated translation. What’s up with that?

These universalists were starting to get a following in Richmond. The Calvinists resisted, but some substantial Baptists were won over, including a whole family of Ballous – cousins of Hosea.

Hosea went to the Bible to find the refutations that would confound these wrong-headed universalists once and for all. Instead, he found himself forced to yield more and more ground.
“Could it be that his father missed important passages in the Bible? Is the doctrine of ‘election’ true? Is the great majority of humanity doomed to endless suffering? Hosea himself would be happy to have everybody saved; did the Creator feel less kindly toward persons? It was a lonely journey, with no guide except his Bible with its many and often confusing teachings, and his own sense of right. At last the clouds rolled away. Although there remained parts of the Bible that raised questions for which he found no answers, he could no longer doubt the doctrine of universal salvation.” (Clinton Scott, These Live Tomorrow)

NEXT: Hosea Ballou, part 3 .

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