Yesterday’s post has the story of how the great Universalist Hosea Ballou did a preaching tour of the New Bedford region in May, 1820 — including an anecdote of how Rev. Le Baron of Mattapoisett unsuccessfully tried to keep Ballou from preaching. Never one to miss out on provoking a good controversy, Ballou wrote a letter to Le Baron the next day, which apparently had some kind of wider distribution. This letter is probably the first Universalist tract ever written in the New Bedford area.
Ballou’s letter contains one almost poetic passage, which could almost be a proto-eco-universalist prayer. I added snippets from elsewhere in the letter to make conclusion for it, and here it is:
Does not the sun shine universally,
and the moon likewise?
Do not the clouds give rain to all,
and the fruits of the earth grow
for the benefit of all?
Is not the vital air for the life of all;
and are not all equally entitled to the waters?
All people, every person,
and the whole world are universal.
This testimony, I believe, is Universalism.
For those of you who love to watch early 19th C. Universalists picking fights, I’ve included the full text of the letter below.
From Life of Rev. Hosea Ballou by Thomas Whittemore, Boston: James M. Usher, 1854, vol II., pp. 103-105:
[p. 103] ‘SECTION X.— LETTER TO REV. MR. LE BARON.
‘The following is the letter to Rev. Mr. Le Baron: it is eminently worthy of preservation in this place.
‘ “Rochester, May 19, 1820.
‘ “Rev. Sir: When you met me yesterday before the meetinghouse door, to forbid me going into the house, you gave as the reason of so doing that I was a Universalist, and that ‘Universalism is subversive of Christianity.’ Having meditated upon the subject with due caution, I feel that it can be no violation of the strictest rules of propriety to call on you, in this way, to point out to me wherein Universalism is subversive of Christianity. With a view to present you with what appears to me necessary to be done in this case, I will state to you what I think Universalism is, and then you will be so kind as either to show me that what I state is not Universalism, or else show that it is subversive of Christianity.
‘ “The promises which God made to the fathers, in which it is positively stated that in the seed of Abraham, which is Christ, all the nations, all the families, and all the kindreds of the earth, shall be blessed, I humbly conceive are of universal import; but, if you can show that they are not, and that any of the human family are excluded from the promises; or, on the other hand, if you can prove that these promises are subversive of Christianity, you will maintain your assertion. David says, ‘The Lord is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.’ Will you, reverend sir, undertake to prove that this is subversive of Christianity? or, will you undertake to show that it is not universal? All God’s works, it appears to me, must comprehend the universe; and if he is good to all, and if his tender mercies are over all, I cannot see why this is not Universalism. It is declared, by the inspired writers of the New Testament, that the mediator gave himself a ransom for all men, that he by the grace of God tasted death for every man, and that he is the propitiation for the sins [p. 104] of the whole world. This well-attested testimony, I believe, is Universalism; but, if you think not, be so good as to show that all men, every man, and the whole world, come short of being universal; or, on the other hand, endeavor to show that this testimony is subversive of Christianity.
‘ “St. Paul says, that God our Saviour ‘will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.’ This is what I view to be Universalism; but, if you think otherwise, I will thank you to point out wherein it is not so; or, on the other hand, show that God’s will to save all men is subversive of Christianity. To the Romans, St. Paul says, ‘Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ It appears to me that this testimony, both in regard to the guilt of mankind, and in regard to the free grace by which all are justified, is evidently universal; but, if you think otherwise, be so good as to point it out; or, on the other hand, show that this universal justification is subversive of Christianity. This author furthermore says to the Romans, ‘Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.’ Will you, dear sir, endeavor to show that this is not Universalism ? Or, will you attempt to prove that it is subversive of Christianity? To the Ephesians the apostle speaks as follows: ‘Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of time he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.’ To the Colossians he says: ‘For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and (having made peace through the blood of his cross) by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.’ These several testimonies appear to me to comprehend universal reconciliation to God, through Jesus Christ; but, if you [p. 105] can show the contrary, or if you can prove that these passages are subversive of Christianity, you will maintain your assertion. This inspired apostle further says to the Corinthians: ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ If all men die in Adam, and if all men are made alive in Christ, this appears to be universal; but, if you can show that it is not, or if you can prove that it is subversive of Christianity, I must on my part acknowledge that you maintain the ground which you have taken. We read in Revelations thus: ‘And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I, saying, Blessing and honor, and glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ Reverend sir, is this anything less than universal, or does it subvert Christianity ?
‘ “Now let us turn our thoughts to the providence of our Heavenly Father. Does not the sun shine universally, and the moon likewise? Do not the clouds give rain to all, and the fruits of the earth grow for the benefit of all? Is not the vital air for the life of all; and are not all equally entitled to the waters?
‘ “This, reverend sir, in my view, is Universalism; but, if you can show that it is not, or if you can prove that the universal, impartial goodness of God, in his providence, is subversive of Christianity, you will maintain the assertion which lay as the cause in your mind why you ought to forbid me to preach in the meeting-house, where I was invited to preach by the proprietors, who built and own the house.
‘ “I humbly entreat you, reverend sir, not to be offended because I have, in this way, called on you to maintain your assertion; but condescend either to grant my request, or be so candid as to say that it is out of your power so to do. And may God’s universal, impartial grace forever abide in both our hearts, prevail everywhere, and finally be the theme of universal praise!
‘ “Your most humble fellow-servant in Christ,
‘ “HOSEA BALLOU.
‘ “Rev. Lemuel Le Baron.” ‘