A couple of days ago, I was complaining about not being able to find Hosea Ballou’s A Treatise on Atonement online. So I have started typing out the text of the third edition of the Treatise; and I have put the first chapter, and portions of the last chapter, online here.
You see, I discovered that typing in Hosea Ballou’s words proved to be meditative. As I type, I can almost hear the cadences of his speech; for Ballou is no scholar, nor is he a polished writer, but he writes in the manner in which rural New England preachers must have spoken two centuries ago. As I type, I can feel some inkling of his passion for the doctrine of universal salvation; and as he demolishes the arguments of an imaginary opponent, I can feel some of his pity for the old Calvinists who thought most of humanity would be damned to an eternity of torment in hell.
And somehow, it feels like an important thing to do. I was preaching in another church this year, and I just happened to mention that I am a Universalist who believes that no one will be damned. After the sermon, a woman came up to chat with me. She said she was from another denomination where she was taught that she would very likely go to hell; but she knew in her heart that a God of love wouldn’t send everyone to hell. She wanted to know more about Universalism. Since there are no Universalist books in print on the subject, I referred her to If God Is Love, a book by Gulley and Mulholland, two evangelical Quaker pastors. We Unitarian Universalists are inheritors of the Universalist name, and we think we have moved beyond the necessity of disproving Calvinist doctrines of hell and damnation. Yet there are many people out there for whom Universalism is still a saving message. It seems to me it remains our responsibility to make available the doctrine of universal salvation to those who need to hear it. I suppose it would be best to write a popular book like Gulley and Mulholland; since that is not something I’m able to do, at least I can put Ballou’s Treatise online.
It will probably take me a year or more to complete this project. If you’d like to help type, let me know via email (address on menu at left). I’ll mail you photocopies of pages for you to type, and then you send the electronic text back to me.