|The following is from the "Universalist's Book of Reference", written by Rev. E. E. Guild in 1853. It describes the views of many Universalists, at the time it was written, but not the views of all Universalists.
"Universalists do not believe in a hell." -- That we do not believe in an endless hell is very true. But we believe in all the hell taught in the Bible. We also believe that there is no hell taught in the Bible but what is destined to be destroyed.
"Universalists do not believe in a devil." -- It is true we do not believe in the personal existence of an all-powerful evil spirit, such as is believed in by our Limitarian friends, and by them called the devil. Yet we believe in all the devil and devils taught in the Bible. If there are any worse devils than wicked men, the lusts and passions of men, and the spirit of wickedness, we profess to be entirely ignorant of their existence. Nor can we find the existence of any worse ones taught in the Bible. We know of the existence of no devil that is not destined to be destroyed.
"Universalists do not believe in the atonement." -- That we do not believe in the doctrine of atonement as it is taught in the creeds and commandments of men, we have no disposition to deny. At the same time we profess to believe in it as it is taught in the Bible. The difference between us and our opposers is, we believe it was to reconcile man to God that Jesus died upon the cross; they, that it was to reconcile God to man.
"Universalists do not believe in any punishment for sin." -- So far from this being true, we are the only people on earth who believe that God will in very deed render to every man according to his deeds. We are the only people who do not provide some way for the sinner to escape the just punishment of his sins. We teach that the punishment of sin is certain and sure, and absolutely unescapable and unavoidable.
"Universalists believe that sinners will go to heaven and be saved in their sins." -- Not so. We teach that sin is a cause, and misery the effect; that sin and misery are inseparably connected, and that so long as a man is sinful he must be miserable, and there is no escape. The reason why we believe in the eventual salvation of all men is, because we believe that all men will be saved from their sins, not in them.
"Universalists do not believe in the new birth." -- This is a very great mistake. It is true we do not see anything very miraculous or mysterious in the new birth, nor do we regard it as a radical change of human nature; but yet we profess to believe in it just as it is taught in the Bible.
"Universalism is a very ancient doctrine. It was preached by the serpent in the garden of Eden." -- That Universalism is a very ancient doctrine we admit; but that it was taught by the serpent we deny. Do our opponents really think that the serpent taught the doctrine of the final holiness and happiness of all mankind? If they do, let them put their finger on the language used by the serpent in which this sentiment is taught. They cannot do it. We think our opposers are justly obnoxious to the same charge that they bring against us. The serpent taught that punishment for sin was not certain -- that some way of escape would be provided. Our opposers teach the same. We teach that punishment for sin is certain and sure, and that there is no way of escape.
Universalism is a very new doctrine. It never was heard of until quite recently." -- We are unable to comprehend how any doctrine can be both old and new at the same time. Besides, this assertion is contrary to facts. History proves that Universalism has been held and advocated in the Christian church from the first establishment of Christianity down to the present time. If it be objected that Universalists, as a distinct denomination, were not known until within one hundred years, this objection bears equally against all Protestant denominations. For all Protestant sects have originated since the era of the Reformation.
Universalists do not believe that man is a free agent." -- If, when you say man is a free agent, you mean that he possesses a self-determining power which enables him to act contrary to his choice; or, if you mean that a man may have one motive to do a thing, and ten thousand motives, each of which are equally as strong as the other, to do the opposite of that thing, and that he can follow the impulse of that one motive directly contrary to the impulse of the ten thousand; we frankly confess we believe in no such thing. But if, when you say man is a free agent, you mean that he is free to act according to his choice, we agree with you. We prefer the term moral agent, however, to that of free agent; and we believe that man is a moral agent in the sense that he is, and will be, rewarded for his virtues and punished for his vices. This certainly is all that any reasonable man can possibly require.
"Universalism is a very licentious doctrine. -- This assertion comes directly in contact with facts. In point of
moral character we are willing to compare our churches and societies with the same number of churches and
societies of any other denomination whatever. Indeed, it is admitted by those of our opposers who have had any
opportunity for observing that in such a comparison we would by no means suffer. The following extract is taken
from the "Olive Branch," of July, 1843, a Protestant Methodist paper, edited by Rev. T. F. Norris, and which has
an extensive circulation. "We should be happy to see what we think erroneous in the creed of Universalists refuted
and put down, but we never will be a party to an attack on the morals and characters of a class of men, who
as far as we know, stand as high on these points as ANY of their more Orthodox neighbors.
The following extract is from an October (1843) number of that widely-circulated journal, the "New World," published in New York. "It seems to us that the Universalists, in whatever light we may regard their points of doctrine, excel other sects in their benevolence, their philanthropy, and their respect for that law which has commanded us to render good for evil. They endeavor to entice mankind into purity of life, by considerations of love and kindness; they use no threats, and cast from them the bonds of fear. And, so far as our information extends, the professing members of their creed observe a strictness of conduct, and a righteousness of living, which others would do well to emulate, instead of maligning a belief which certainly reposes with entire confidence on Godís mercy to his creatures."
Dwight, in his "Travels in the North of Germany," after stating the fact that Universalism is the prevailing belief in Germany, says of the Christian character of the Germans, "I have never seen any Christians who seemed to me to have a deeper sense of the odiousness of sin in the sight of God, or whose hearts beat with more ardent gratitude towards our Saviour, for the great redemption he has made for fallen man. I know of no examples of humility greater than those exhibited by some of these gentlemen, or more elevated views of the character of God than they discover in their conversation. We must look in vain for brighter examples of piety than they exhibit. They certainly manifest a greater spirit of love, for those who differ from them, than is found in most of our sects, and they are unwilling to shut the gates of heaven against all who do not believe in every article of their creeds. In this charity and love the Protestant inhabitants of most countries would do well to imitate them." P. 423.
Such is the testimony of our religious opposers in reference to the tendency of our doctrine, and its influence upon those who believe it. Nor does it appear that the vicious are disposed to take advantage of our doctrine, and to screen themselves under it. If we examine the criminal record of our country, we shall find that Universalists do not furnish even their proportion of criminals in proportion to their numbers compared with other denominations. The state prisons at New York, at Auburn, and at Cincinnati, Ohio, have each of them been examined at different times, and it was ascertained that for one believer in Universalism there were two or three hundred believers in endless misery confined within their walls.