Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine Of the Christian
Church During Its First Five-Hundred Years
by J.W. Hanson - 1899
Chapter 1 - The Earliest Creeds
Chapter 2 - Early Christianity-A
Chapter 3 - Origin of Endless Punishment
Chapter 4 - Doctrines of Mitigation
Chapter 5 - Two Kindred Topics
Chapter 6 - The Apostles' Immediate
Chapter 7 - The Gnostic Sects
- The Sibylline Oracles
Chapter 9 - Pantaenus and Clement
Chapter 10 - Origen
Chapter 11 - Origen-Continued
Chapter 12 - The Eulogists of Origen
Chapter 13 - A Third Century Group
Chapter 14 - Minor Authorities
Chapter 15 - Gregory Nazianzen
Chapter 16 - Theodore of Mopsuestia
and the Nestorians
Chapter 17 - A Notable Family
Chapter 18 - Additional Authorities
Chapter 19 - The Deterioration
of Christian Thought
Chapter 20 - Augustine--Deterioration
Chapter 21 - Unsuccessful Attempts
to Suppress Universalism
Chapter 22 - The Eclipse of Universalism
Chapter 23 - Summary of Conclusions
UNIVERSALISM IN THE
of this book is to present some of the evidence of the prevalence in the
early centuries of the Christian church, of the doctrine of the final holiness
of all mankind. The author has endeavored to give the language of the early
Christians, rather than to paraphrase their words, or state their sentiments
in his own language. He has also somewhat copiously quoted the statements
of modern scholars, historians and critics, of all sides of opinion, instead
of condensing them with his own pen. (web ed. note: I have made an attempt
to simplify some of the original vocabulary in this book using MS Bookshelf.
For the original version please go to the books link on Tentmaker).
The large number
of extracts which this course necessitates gives his pages a somewhat mosaic
appearance, but he has preferred to sacrifice mere literary form to what
seems larger utility.
He has aimed to present
indisputable proofs that the doctrine of Universal Salvation was the prevalent
sentiment of the primitive Christian church. He believes his investigation
has been somewhat thorough, for he has endeavored to consult not only all
the fathers themselves, but the most distinguished modern writers who have
considered the subject.
The first form of
his manuscript contained a thousand ample notes, with citations of original
Greek and Latin, but such an array was thought by prudent friends too formidable
to attract the average reader, as well as too voluminous, and he has therefore
retained only a fraction of the notes he had prepared.
of Christians in the first few centuries should predispose us to believe
in their truthfulness, inasmuch as they were nearest to the divine Fountain
of our religion. The doctrine of Universal Salvation was nowhere taught
until they frequently taught it. Where could they have obtained it but
from the source whence they claim to have derived it--the New Testament?
believes that the following pages show that Universal Restitution was the
faith of the early Christians for at least the First Five Hundred Years
of the Christian Era.
J.W. Hanson Chicago,
writings of the Christian Fathers, of the first four or five centuries
of the Christian Era, abound in evidences of the prevalence of the doctrine
of universal salvation during those years. This important fact in the history
of Christian eschatology was first brought out prominently in a volume,
very valuable, and for its time very thorough: Hosea Ballou's "Ancient
History of Universalism," (Boston, 1828, 1842, 1872). Dr. Ballou's work
has well been called "light in a dark place," but the quotations he makes
are but a fraction of what subsequent researches have discovered. Referring
to Dr. Ballou's third edition with "Notes" by the Rev. A. St. John Chambre,
A. M. and T. J. Sawyer, D.D. (1872), T. B. Thayer, D.D., observes in the
Universalist Quarterly, April, 1872: "As regards the additions to the work
by the editors, we must say that they are not as numerous nor as extensive
as we had hoped they might be. It would seem as if the studies of our own
scholars for more than forty years since the first edition, and the many
new and elaborate works on the history of the church and its doctrines
by eminent theologians and critics, should have furnished more witnesses
to the truth, and larger extracts from the early literature of the church,
than are found in the 'Notes.' With the exception of three or four of them
no important addition is made to the contents of the work. If the Notes
are to be considered as final, or the last gleanings of the field, it shows
how thoroughly Dr. Ballou did his work, notwithstanding the poverty of
his resources, and the many and great disadvantages attending his first
efforts. But we cannot help thinking that something remains still to be
said respecting some of the apostolic fathers and Chrysostom, Augustine
and others; as well as concerning the gnostic sects, the report of whose
opinions, it must be remembered, comes to us mostly from their enemies,
or at least those not friendly to them." The want here indicated this volume
aims to supply.
Dr. Ballou's work
was followed in 1878 by Dr. Edward Beecher's "History of the Doctrine of
Future Retribution," a most truthful and candid volume, which adds much
valuable material to that contained in Dr. Ballou's work. About the same
time Canon Farrar published "Eternal Hope" (1878), and "Mercy and Judgment"
(1881), containing additional testimony showing that many of the Christian
writers in the centuries immediately following our Lord and his apostles,
were Universalists. In addition to these a contribution to the literature
of the subject was made by the Rev. Thomas Allin, a clergyman of the English
Episcopal Church, in a work entitled "Universalism Asserted." Mr. Allin
was led to his study of the patristic literature by finding a copy of Dr.
Ballou's work in the British Museum. Incited by its contents he microscopically
searched the fathers, and found many valuable statements that incontestably
prove that the most and the best of the successors of the apostles frequently
taught the doctrine of universal salvation. The defects of Mr. Allen's
very scholarly work, from this writer's standpoint are, that he writes
as an Episcopalian, merely from the view-point of the Nicene creed, to
show by the example of the early Church father's
writers that one can remain
an Episcopalian and cherish the hope of universal salvation; and that he
regards the doctrine as only a hope, and not a distinct teaching of the
Christian religion. Meanwhile, the fact of the early prevalence of the
doctrine has been brought out incidentally in such works as the "Dictionary
of Christian Biography," Farrar's "Lives of the Fathers," and other books,
the prominent statements and facts in all which will be found in these
pages, which show that the most and best and ablest of the early fathers
found the deliverance of all mankind from sin and sorrow specifically revealed
in the Christian Scriptures. The author has not only quoted the words of
the fathers themselves, but he has studiously endeavored, instead of his
own words, to reproduce the language of historians, biographers, critics,
scholars, and other writers of all schools of thought, and to demonstrate
by these irrefragable testimonies that Universalism was the primitive Christianity.
index, and other references indicated by foot notes, will show the reader
that a large number of volumes has been consulted, and it is believed by
the author that no important work in the abundant literature of the theme
has been omitted.
The plan of
this work does not contemplate the presentation of the Scriptural evidence--which
to Universalists is demonstrative--that our Lord and his apostles taught
the final and universal prevalence of holiness and happiness. That work
is thoroughly done in a library of volumes in the literature of the Universalist
Church. Neither is it the purpose of the author of this book to write a
history of the doctrine; but his sole object is to show that those who
obtained their religion almost directly from the lips of its author, understood
it to teach the doctrine of universal salvation.
Not only are
ample citations given from the ancient Universalists themselves, but summaries
and collections of their opinions, and testimonials as to their scholarship
and saintliness, are presented from the most eminent authors who have written
of them. No equal number of the church's early saints has ever received
such glowing eulogies, from so many scholars and critics as the ancient
Universalists have extorted from such authors as Socrates, Neander, Mosheim,
Huet, Dorner, Dietelmaier, Beecher, Schaff, Plumptre, Bigg, Farrar, Bunsen,
Cave, Westcott, Robertson, Butler, Allen, De Pressense, Gieseler, Lardner,
Hagenbach, Blunt, and others, not professed Universalists. Their eulogies
found in these pages would alone justify the publication of this volume.
1 - The Earliest Creeds
Teaching of the Twelve Apostles
An examination of
the earliest Christian creeds and declarations of Christian opinion discloses
the fact that no formula of Christian belief for several centuries after
Christ contained anything incompatible with the broad faith of the Gospel--the
universal redemption of mankind from sin. The earliest of all the documents
pertaining to this subject is the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles." 1
This work was discovered in manuscript in the library of the Holy Sepulchre,
in Constantinopole, by Philotheos Bryennios, and published in 1875. It
was bound with Chrysostom's "Synopsis of the Works of the Old Testament,"
the "Epistle of Barnabas," A.D. 70-120--two epistles of Clement, and less
important works. The "Teaching" was quoted by Clement of Alexandria, by
Eusebius and by Athanasius, so that it must have been recognized as early
as A.D. 200. It was undoubtedly composed between A.D. 120 and 160. An American
edition of the Greek text and an English translation were published in
New York in 1884, with notes by Roswell D. Hitchcock and Francis Brown,
professors in Union Theological Seminary, New York, from which we quote.
It is entirely silent on the duration of punishment. It describes the two
ways of life and death, in its sixteen chapters, and indicates the rewards
and the penalties of the good way and of the evil way as any Universalist
would do--as Origen and Basil did. God is thanked for giving spiritual
food and drink and "aeonian life." The last chapter exhorts Christians
to watch against the terrors and judgments that shall come "when the earth
shall be given unto his (the world's deceiver's) hands. Then all created
men shall come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble
and perish. But they that endure in their faith shall be saved from this
curse. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of
an opening in heaven; then the sign of the trumpet's sound; and, thirdly
the resurrection from the dead, yet not of all, but as it hath been said:
'The Lord will come and all his saints with him. Then shall the world see
the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.'" This resurrection must be
regarded as a moral one, as it is not "of all the dead," but of the saints
only. There is not a whisper in this ancient document of endless punishment,
and its testimony, therefore, is that that dogma was not in the second
century regarded as a part of "the teaching of the apostles." When describing
the endlessness of being it uses the word athanasias, but describes
the glory of Christ, as do the Scriptures, as for ages (cis tous aionas).
In Chapter 11 occurs this language: "Every sin shall be forgiven, but this
sin shall not be forgiven" (the sin of an apostle asking money for his
services); but that form of expression is clearly in accordance with the
Scriptural method of adding force to an affirmative by a negative, and
versa, as in the word (Matt. 18:22): "Not until seven times, but until
seventy times seven." In fine, the "Teaching" shows throughout that the
most ancient doctrine of the church, after the apostles, was in perfect
harmony with universal salvation. Cyprian, A.D. 250, in a letter to his
son Magnus, tells us that in addition to the baptismal formula converts
were asked, "Dost thou believe in the remission of sins and eternal life
through the holy church?"
The Apostles' Creed
Creed," so called, the oldest existing authorized declaration of Christian
faith in the shape of a creed was probably in existence in various modified
forms for a century or so before the beginning of the Fourth Century, when
it took its present shape, possible between A.D. 250 and 350. It is first
found in Rufinus, who wrote at the end of the Fourth and the beginning
of the Fifth Century. No indirect reference is made to it before these
dates by Justin Martyr, Clement, Origen, the historian Eusebius, or any
of their contemporaries, all whom make declarations of Christian belief,
nor is there any hint in preceding literature that any such document existed.
Individual declarations of faith were made, however, quite unlike the pseudo
Apostles' Creed, by Irenieus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Gregory Thaumaturgus,
us that it was "probably inspired of various confessions of faith used
by the primitive church in the baptismal service. Mosheim declared: "All
who have any knowledge of antiquity confess unanimously that the opinion
(that the apostles composed the Apostles' Creed) is a mistake, and has
no foundation. 3"
"the Holy Catholic Church," "the communion of Saints," "the forgiveness
of sins," were added after A.D. 250. "He descended into hell" was later
than the compilation of the original creed--as late as A.D. 359. The document
is here given. The portion in Roman type was probably adopted in the earlier
part or middle of the Second Century4 and was in Greek; the
Italic portion was added later by the Roman Church, and was in Latin:
in God the Father Almighty (maker of heaven and earth) and it Jesus
Christ his only son our Lord, who was (conceived) by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified (dead)
and buried, (He descended into hell). The third day he arose again
from the dead; he ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of
(God) the Father (Almighty). From thence he shall come to
judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy (Catholic)
Church; (the communion of saints) the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection
of the body; (and the life everlasting)5. Amen."
It will be
seen that not a word is here uttered of the duration of punishment. The
later form speaks of "aionian life," but does not refer to aionian death,
or punishment. It is incredible that this declaration of faith, made at
a time when the world was ignorant of what constituted the Christian belief,
and which was made for the purpose of informing the world, should not convey
a hint of so vital a doctrine as that of endless punishment, if at that
time that dogma was a tenet of the church.
The Oldest Credal Statement
credal statement by the Church of Rome says that Christ "shall come to
judge the quick and the dead," and announces belief in the resurrection
of the body. The oldest of the Greek constitutions declares belief in the
"resurrection of the flesh, remission of sins, and the aionian life." And
the Alexandrian statement speaks of "the life," but there is not a word
of everlasting death or punishment in any of them. And this is all that
the most ancient creeds contain on the subject.6
In an earlier
form of the Apostle's Creed, Irenæus, A.D. 180, says that the judge,
at the final judgment, will cast the wicked into aionian fire. It is supposed
that he used the word aionian, for the Greek in which he wrote has perished,
and the Latin translation reads, "ignem aeternum."
As Origen uses
the same word, and expressly says it denotes limited duration, Irenæus's
testimony does not help the doctrine of endless punishment, nor can it
be quoted to reinforce that of universal salvation. Dr. Beecher thinks
that Irenæus taught "a final restitution of all things to unity and
order by the annihilation of all the finally impenitent"7 --a
born about A.D. 160, though his personal belief was fearfully partialistic,
could not assert that his pagan-born doctrine was generally accepted by
Christians, and when he formed a creed for general acceptance he entirely
omitted his gruesome theology. It will be seen that Tertullian's creed
like that of Irenæus is one of the earlier forms of the so-called
Apostles' Creed: 8 " We believe in only one God, omnipotent,
maker of the world, and his son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary,
crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised from the dead the third day, received
into the heavens, now sitting at the right hand of the Father, and who
shall come to judge the living and the dead, through the resurrection of
the flesh." Tertullian did not put his private belief into his creed, and
at that time he had not discovered that worst of dogmas relating to man,
total depravity. If fact, he states the opposite. He says: "There is a
portion of God in the soul. In the worst there is something good, and in
the best something bad." Neander says that Tertullian "held original goodness
to be permanent."
The Nicene Creed
The next oldest
creed, the first declaration authorized by a consensus of the whole church,
was the Nicene, A.D. 325; completed in 381 at Constantinopole. Its sole
reference to the future world is in these words: "I look for the resurrection
of the dead, and the life of the world (æon) to come." It does not
contain a syllable referring to endless punishment, though the doctrine
was then professed by a portion of the church, and was insisted upon by
some, though it was not generally enough held to be stated as the average
was the influence of the Greek fathers, who had learned Christianity in
their native tongue, in the language in which it was announced, and so
little had Tertullian's cruel ideas prevailed, that it was not even attempted
to make the horrid sentiment a part of the creed of the church. Moreover,
Gregory Nazianzen presided over the council in Constantinople, in which
the Nicean creed was finally shaped--the Niceo-Constantinopolitan creed--and
as he was a Universalist, and as the clause, "I believe in the life of
the world to come," was added by Gregory of Nyssa, an "unflinching advocate
of extreme Universalism, and the very flower of orthodoxy," it must be
apparent that the consensus of Christian sentiment was not yet anti-Universalistic.
General Sentiment in
the Fourth Century
This the general
sentiment in the church from 325 A.D. to 381 A.D. demanded that the life
beyond the grave must be stated, and as there is no hint of the existence
of a world of torment, how can the conclusion be escaped that Christian
faith did not then include the thought of endless woe? Would a council,
composed even in part of believers in endless torment, permit a Universalist
to preside, and another to shape its creed, and not even attempt to give
to that idea? Is not the Nicene creed a witness, in what it does not say,
to the broader faith that must have been the religion of the century that
It is historical
(See Socrates's Ecclesiastical History) that the four great General Councils
held in the first four centuries--those at Nice, Constantinople, Ephesus,
and Chalcedon--gave expression to no condemnation of universal restoration,
though, as will be shown, the doctrine had been prevalent all along.
In the Nicene
creed adopted A.D. 325, by three hundred and twenty to two hundred and
eighteen bishops, the only reference to the future world is where it is
said that Christ "will come again to judge the living and the dead." This
is the original form, subsequently changed. A.D. 341 the assembled bishops
at Antioch made a declaration of faith in which these words occur: "The
Lord Jesus Christ will come again with glory and power to judge the living
and the dead." A.D. 346 the bishops presented a declaration to the Emperor
Constans affirming that Jesus Christ "shall come at the consummation of
the ages, to judge the living and the dead, and render to every one according
to his works." The synod at Rimini, A.D. 359, affirmed that Christ "descended
into the lower parts of the earth, and disposed matters there, at the sight
of whom the door-keepers trembled--and at the last day he will come in
his Father's glory to render to every one according to his deeds." This
declaration opens the gates of mercy by recognizing the proclamation of
the Gospel to the dead, and, as it was believed that when Christ preached
in Hades the doors were opened and all those in ward were released, the
words recited at Rimini that he "disposed matters there," are very significant.
and Constantinopolitan creeds, printed in one, will exhibit the nature
of the changes made at Constantinople, and will show that the "life to
come" and not the post-mortem woe of sinners, was the chief though with
the early Christians. (The Nicene is here printed in Roman type, and the
Constantinopolitan in Italic.)
in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of (heaven and earth, and)
all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only
begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds,) only
begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of
Light, very God of Very God, begotten not made; being of one substance
with the Father, by whom all things were made, [transposed to the beginning]
the things in heaven and things in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation
came down (from heaven) and was incarnate (of the Holy Ghost
and the Virgin Mary) and made man (and was crucified for us under
Pontius Pilate), and suffered (and was buried), and rose again
the third day (according to the Scriptures), who ascended into heaven
(and sitteth on the right hand of the Father) and cometh again (in
glory) to judge quick and dead (of whose kingdom there shall be
no end). And in the Holy Ghost, (the Lord and giver of life, who
proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son, together is
worshipped and glorified; who spake by the prophets; in one holy Catholic,
Apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
and we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world
to come.)" 9
This last clause
was not in the original Nicene creed, but was added in the Constantinopolitan.
The literal rendering of the Greek is "the life of the age about to come."
The first Christians,
it will be seen, said in their creeds, "I believe in the æonian life;"
later, they modified the phrase "æonian life," to "the life of the
coming æon," showing that the phrases are equivalent. But not a word
of endless punishment. "The life of the age to come" was the first Christian
creed, and later, Origen himself declares his belief in æonian punishment,
and in æonian life beyond. How, then, could æonian punishment
have been regarded as endless?
of opinion that existed among the early Christians are easily accounted
for, when we remember that they had been Jews or Heathens, who had brought
from their previous religious associations all sorts of ideas, and were
disposed to retain them and reconcile them with their new religion. Faith
in Christ, and the acceptance of his teachings, could not at once eradicate
the old opinions, which, in some cases, remained long, and caused honest
Christians to differ from each other. As will be shown, while the Sibylline
Oracles predisposed some of the fathers of Universalism, Philo gave others
a tendency to the doctrine of annihilation, and Enoch to endless punishment.
Statements of the Early
Thus the credal
declarations of the Christian church for almost four hundred years are
entirely void of the gruesome doctrine with which they afterwards blazed
for more than a thousand years. The early creeds contain no hint of it,
and no whisper of condemnation of the doctrine of universal restoration
as taught by Clement, Origen, the Gregories, Basil the Great, and multitudes
besides. Discussions and declarations on the Trinity, and contests over
(Of the same substance, nature, or essence) and homoiousion (of
like substance) engrossed the energy of disputants, and filled libraries
with volumes, but the doctrine of the great fathers remained unchallenged.
Neither the Concilium Nicæum, A.D. 325, nor the Concilium Constantinopolitanum,
A.D. 381, nor the Concilium Chalcedonenese, A.D. 451, muttered a syllable
of the doctrine of man's final woe. The reluctance of all the ancient formularies
of faith concerning endless punishment at the same time that the great
fathers were proclaiming universal salvation, as appeared later on in these
pages, is strong evidence that the former doctrine was not then accepted.
It is apparent that the early Christian church did not dogmatize on man's
final destiny. It was engrossed in getting established among men the great
truth of God's universal Fatherhood, as revealed in the incarnation, "God
in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." Some taught endless punishment
for a portion of mankind; others, the annihilation of the wicked; others
had no definite opinion on human destiny; but the larger part, especially
from Clement of Alexandria on for three hundred years, taught universal
salvation. It is insupposable that endless punishment was a doctrine of
the early church, when it is seen that not one of the early creeds embodied
1----. - 2 Text-book
of Christian Doctrine: Gieseler's Text Book: Neander.
3 Murdoch's Mosheim
Inst., Eccl. Hist. - 4 Bunsen's Hippolytus and His Age.
5 Aionian, the
original of "everlasting."
6 The Apostles'
Creed at first omitted the Fatherhood of God, and in its later forms did
not mention God's love for men, his reign, repentance, or the new life.
Athanase Coquerel the Younger, First Hist. Transformations of Christianity,
7 History, Doct.
Fut. Ret., pp. 108-205. - 8 See Lamson's Church of the First
9 Hort's Two
Dissertations, pp. 106, 138-147.
11 The germ of
all the earlier declarations of faith had been formulated even before A.D.
150. The reader can here consult the original Greek of the earliest declaration
of faith as given in Harnack's Outlines of the History of Dogma, Funk &
Wagnall's edition of 1893 pp. 44,45:
Chapter 2 - Early Christianity,
A Cheerful Religion
Darkness at the Advent
When our Lord announced
his religion this world was in a condition of unutterable corruption, wretchedness
and gloom. Slavery, poverty, vice that the pen is unwilling to name, almost
universally prevailed, and even religion partook of the general degradation.1
Decadence, depopulation, insecurity of property, person and life, according
to Taine, were everywhere. Philosophy taught that it would be better for
man never to have been created. In the first century Rome held supreme
sway. 2 Nations had been destroyed by scores, and the civilized
world had lost half of its population by the sword. In the first century
forty out of seventy years were years of famine, accompanied by plague
and pestilence. There were universal depression and deepest melancholy.
When men were thus overcome with the gloom and horror of error and sin,
into their night of darkness came the religion of Christ. Its announcements
were all of hope and cheer. Its language was, "Come unto me, all ye who
labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." "Rejoice in the Lord
always; again I will say, rejoice." "We rejoice with joy unspeakable and
full of glory." Men were invited to accept the tidings of great joy. John,
the herald of Jesus, was a recluse, mortifying body and spirit, but Jesus
said, "John come neither eating nor drinking, but the Son of Man came eating
and drinking." He forbade all anxiety and care among his followers, and
exhorted all to be as trustful as are the lilies of the field and the fowls
of the air. Says Matthew Arnold, "Christ professed to bring in happiness.
All the words that belong to his mission, Gospel, kingdom of God, Savior,
grace, peace, living water, bread of life, are overflowing of promise and
joy." And his cheerful, joyful religion at once won its way by its messages
of peace and tranquillity, and for a while its converts were everywhere
characterized by their joyfulness and cheerfulness. Haweis writes: "The
three first centuries of the Christian church are almost idyllic in their
simplicity, sincerity and purity. There is less admixture of evil, less
intrusion of the world, the flesh, and the devil, more simple-hearted goodness,
earnestness and reality to be found in the space between Nero and Constantine
that in any other three centuries from A.D. 100 to A.D. 1800." 3
De Pressense calls the early era of the church its "blessed childhood,
all calmness and simplicity."4 Cave, in "Lives of the Fathers,"
states: "The noblest portion of church history the most considerable age
of the church, the years from Eusebius to Basil the Great."
"Sweetness and Light".
was everywhere at first, a religion of "sweetness and light." The Greek
fathers exemplified all these qualities, and Clement and Origen were ideals
of its perfect spirit. But from Augustine downward the Latin reaction,
prompted by the tendency of men in all ages to escape the exactions laid
upon the soul by thought, and who flee to external authority to avoid the
demands of reason, was away from the genius of Christianity, until Augustinianism
ripened into Popery, and the beautiful system of the Greek fathers was
succeeded by the nightmare of the theology of the medieval centuries, and
later of Calvinism and Puritanism.5 Had the church followed
the prevailing spirit of the ante-Nicene Fathers it would have conserved
the best thought of Greece, the divine ideals of Plato, and joined them
to the true interpretation of Christianity, and we may venture to declare
that it would thus have continued the career of progress that had rendered
the first three centuries so marvelous in their character; a progress that
would have continued with accelerated speed, and Christendom would have
widened its borders and deepened its sway immeasurably. With the prevalence
of the Latin language the East and the West grew apart, and the latter,
more and more discarding reason, and controlled, by the iron inflexibility
of a semi-pagan secular government, gave Roman Catholicism its opportunity.
of the ascetic religions of the Asiatic countries, especially Buddhism,
contaminated Christianity, resulting later in celibacy, monasteries, convents,
hermits, and all the worser elements of Catholicism in the Middle Ages.6
At the first contact Christianity absorbed more than it modified, till
in the later ages the alien force became supreme. In fact, orientalism
was already beginning to mar the beautiful simplicity of Christianity when
John wrote his Gospel to counteract it. Schaff, in his "History of the
Christian Church," remarks:
All the earliest
forms of (Christian) asceticism (extreme self-denial) appear in the third
century. The first two Christian hermits were not till Paul of Thebes,
A.D. 250, and Anthony of Egypt, A.D. 270, appeared. Asceticism was in existence
long before Christ. Jews, Nazarites, Essenes, Therapeutæ, Persians,
Indians, Buddhists, all originated this Oriental heathenism. The religion
of the Chinese, Buddhism, Brahmanism, the religion of Zoroaster and of
the Egyptians, more or less leavened Christianity in its earliest stages.
So did Greek and Roman paganism with which the apostles and their followers
came into direct contact.
of substitutional atonement, resurrection of the body, native depravity,
and endless punishment, are not listed in the earliest creeds or formulas.7
The earliest Christians (Allen: Christian Thought) taught that man is the
image of God, and that the in-dwelling Deity will lead him to holiness.
the center of Greek culture and Christian thought, "more thoroughly Greek
than Athens it its days of renown," the theological atmosphere was more
nearly akin to that of the Universalist church of the present day than
to that of any other branch of the Christian church during the last fifteen
Wonderful Progress of
Christianity at First
progress made during the first three centuries by the simple, pure and
cheerful faith of early Christianity shows us what its growth might have
been made had not the gloomy spirit of Tertullian, reinforced by the "dark
shadow of Augustine," transformed it. As early as the beginning of the
second century the heathen Pliny, the chief administrator of Bithynia,
reported to the emperor that his province was so filled with Christians
that the worship of the heathen deities had nearly ceased. And they were
not only of the poor and despised, but of all conditions of life--omnis
ordinis. Milner thinks that Asia Minor was at this time quite thoroughly
evangelized. As early as the close of the Second Century there were not
only many converts from the humbler ranks, but "the main strength of Christianity
lay in the middle, perhaps in the merchant's classes." Gibbon says the
Christians were not one-twentieth part of the Roman Empire, till Constantine
gave them the sanction of his authority, but Robertson estimates them at
one-fifth of the whole, and in some districts as the majority.9
Origen: "Against Celsus" says: "At the present day (A.D. 240) not only
rich men, but persons of rank, and delicate and high-born ladies, receive
the teachers of Christianity; and the religion of Christ is better known
than the teachings of the best philosophers." And Arnobius testifies that
Christians included orators, grammarians, persuasive and eloquent speakers
and writers, lawyers, physicians, and philosophers. And it was precisely
their bright and cheerful views of life and death, of God's universal fatherhood
and man's universal brotherhood--the divinity of its ethical principles
and the purity of its professors, that account for the wonderful progress
of Christianity during the three centuries that followed our Lord's death.
The pessimism of the oriental religions; the corruption and folly of the
Greek and Roman mythology; the unutterable wickedness of the mass of mankind,
and the universal depression of society invited its advance, and gave way
before it. Justin Martyr wrote that in his time prayers and thanksgivings
were offered in "the name of the Crucified, among every race of men, Greek
or barbarian." Tertullian states that all races and tribes, even to farthest
Britain, had heard the news of salvation. He declared: "We are but of yesterday,
and lo we fill the whole empire--your cities, your islands, your fortresses,
your municipalities, your councils, nay even the camp, the tribune, the
decory, the palace, the senate, the forum."10 Chrysostom testifies
that "the isles of Britain in the heard of the ocean had been converted."
mystical word of the Alexandrian fathers, as of the New Testament, was
FATHER. This word, as now, unlocked all mysteries, solved all problems,
and explained all the mysteries of time and eternity. Holding God as Father,
punishment was held to be remedial, and therefore restorative, and final
recovery from sin universal. It was only when the Father was lost sight
of in the judge and tyrant, under the destructive reign of Augustinianism,
the Deity was hated, and that Catholics transferred to Mary, and later,
Protestants gave to Jesus that supreme love that is due alone to the Universal
Father. For centuries in Christendom after the Alexandrine form of Christianity
had waned, the Fatherhood of God was a lost truth, and most of the worst
errors of the modern creeds are due to that single fact, more than to all
It was during
those happy years more than in any subsequent three centuries, that, as
Jerome observed, "the blood of Christ was yet warm in the breasts of Christians."
Says the accurate historian, Cave, in his "Primitive Christianity:" "Here
he will find a piety active and zealous, shining through the blackest clouds
of malice and cruelty; afflicted innocence triumphant, notwithstanding
all the powerful or politic attempts of men or devils; a patience unconquerable
under the biggest temptations; a charity truly catholic and unlimited;
a simplicity and upright carriage in all transactions; a sobriety and temperance
remarkable to the admiration of their enemies; and, in short, he will see
the divine and holy precepts of the Christian religion drawn down into
action, and the most excellent genius and spirit of the Gospel breathing
in the hearts and lives of these good old Christians."
Christianity, a Greek
says Milman, "was almost from the first a Greek religion. Its primal records
were all written in Greek language; it was proclaimed with the greatest
rapidity and success among nations either of Greek descent, or those which
had been Grecized by the conquest of Alexander. In their form of government
the Grecian churches were a federation of republics." At the first, art,
literature, life, were Greek, cheerful, sunny, serene. The Latin type of
character was sullen, gloomy, characterized, says Milman, by "adherence
to legal form; severe subordination to authority. The Roman Empire extended
over Europe by a universal code, and by subordination to a spiritual Cæsar
as absolute as he was in civil obedience. Thus the original simplicity
of the Christian system was entirely subverted; its pure democracy became
a spiritual despotism. The presbyters developed into bishops, the bishop
of Rome became pope, and Christendom reflected Rome." But during the first
three centuries this change had not taken place. "It is there, therefore,
among the Alexandrine fathers that we are to look to find Christianity
in its pristine purity. The language, organization, writers, and Scriptures
of the church in the first centuries were all Greek. The Gospels were everywhere
read in Greek, the commercial and literary language of the Empire. The
books were in Greek, and even in Gaul and Rome Greek was the liturgical
language. The Octavius of Minucius Felix, and Novatian on the Trinity,
were the earliest known works of Latin Christian literature.11
An Impressive Thought
The Greek Fathers
derived their Universalism directly and solely from the Greek Scriptures.
Nothing to suggest the doctrine existed in Greek or Latin literature, mythology,
or theology; all current thought on matters of eschatology was utterly
opposed to any such view of human destiny. And, furthermore, the unutterable
wickedness, degradation and woe that filled the world would have inclined
the early Christians to the most pessimistic view of the future consistent
with the teachings of the religion they had espoused. To know that, in
those dreadful times, they derived the divine optimism of universal deliverance
from sin and sorrow from the teachings of Christ and his apostles, should
predispose every modern to agree with them. On this point Allin, in "Universalism
Asserted," eloquently says:
was born into a world of whose moral rottenness few have or can have any
idea. Even the sober historians of the later Roman Empire have their pages
tainted with scenes impossible to translate. Lusts the foulest, debauchery
to us happily inconceivable, raged on every side. To assert even faintly
the final redemption of all this rottenness, whose depths we dare not try
to sound, required the firmest faith in the larger hope, as an essential
part of the Gospel. But this is not all; in a peculiar sense the church
was militant in the early centuries. It was engaged in, at times, a struggle,
for life or death, with a relentless persecution. Thus it must have seemed
in that age almost an act of treason to the cross to teach that, though
dying unrepentant, the bitter persecutor, or the pursuiants of abominable
lusts, should yet in the ages to come find salvation. Such considerations
help us to see the extreme weight attaching even to the very least expression
in the fathers which involves sympathy with the larger hope, especially
so when we consider that the idea of mercy was then but little known, and
that truth, as we conceive it, was not then esteemed a duty. As the vices
of the early centuries were great, so were their punishments cruel. The
early fathers wrote when the wild beasts of the arena tore alike the innocent
and the guilty, limb from limb, amid the applause even of gently-nurtured
women; they wrote when the cross, with its living burden of agony, was
a common sight, and evoked no protest. They wrote when every minister of
justice was a torturer, and almost every criminal court a petty inquisition;
when every household of the better class, even among Christians, swarmed
with slaves liable to torture, to scourging, to mutilation, at the whim
of a master or the frown of a mistress. Let all these facts be fully weighed,
and a conviction arises irresistibly, that, in such an age, no idea of
Universalism could have originated unless inspired from above. If, now,
when criminals are shielded from suffering with almost morbid care, men,
the best of men, think with very little concern of the unutterable woe
of the lost, how, I ask, could Universalism have arisen of itself in an
age like that of the fathers? Consider further. The larger hope is not,
we are informed, in the Bible; it is not, we know, in the heart of man
naturally; still less was it there in days such as those we have described,
when mercy was unknown, when the dearest interest of the church forbade
its avowal. But it is found in many, very many, ancient fathers, and often,
in the very broadest form, embracing every fallen spirit. Where, then,
did they find it? Whence did they import this idea? Can we doubt that the
fathers could only have drawn it, as their writings testify, from the Bible
Testimony of the Catacombs
side-light is cast on the opinions of the early Christians by the inscriptions
and emblems on the monuments in the Roman Catacombs.12 It is
well known that from the end of the First to the end of the Fourth Century
the early Christians buried their dead, probably with the knowledge and
consent of the pagan authorities, in subterranean galleries excavated in
the soft rock (tufa) that underlies Rome. These ancient cemeteries
were first uncovered A.D. 1578. Already sixty excavations have been made
extending five hundred and eighty-seven miles. More than six, some estimates
say eight, million bodies are known to have been buried between A.D. 72
and A.D. 410. Eleven thousand epitaphs and inscriptions have been found;
few dates are between A.D. 72 and 100; the most are from A.D. 150 to A.D.
410. The galleries are from three to five feet wide and eight feet high,
and the niches for bodies are five tiers deep, one above another, each
silent tenant in a separate cell. At the entrance of each cell is a tile
or slab of marble, once securely cemented and inscribed with name, epitaph,
or emblem. 13 Haweis beautifully says in his "Conquering Cross:"
"The public life of the early Christian was persecution above ground; his
private life was prayer underground." The emblems and inscriptions are
most suggestive. The principal device, scratched on slabs, carved on utensils
and rings, and seen almost everywhere, is the Good Shepherd, surrounded
by his flock and carrying a lamb. But most striking of all, he is found
with a goat on his shoulder; which teaches us that even the wicked were
at the early date regarded as the objects of the Savior's concern, after
departing from this life.13
has preserved this truth in his immortal verse:14
"He saves the sheep,
the goats he doth not save!"
So rang Tertullian's sentence
on the side
of that unpitying Phrygian
sect which cried,--
"Him can no fount of fresh
Whose sins once washed by
the baptismal wave!"
So spake the fierce Tertullian.
But she sighed,
The infant Church,--of love
she felt the tide
Stream on her from her Lord's
yet recent grave,
And then she smiled, and
in the Catacombs,
With eyes suffused but heart
On those walls subterranean,
where she hid
Her head in ignominy, death
She her Good Shepherd's
hasty image drew
And on his shoulders not
a lamb, a kid!
This picture is
a "distinct protest" against the un-Christian sentiment then already creeping
into the church from Paganism.
in the Catacombs is the anchor, emblem of that hope which separated Christianity
from Paganism. Another symbol is the fish, which plays a prominent part
in Christian symbolry. It is curious and instructive to account for this
symbol. It is used as a written code of Christ. The word is a sort of acrostic
of the name and office of our Lord.
Early Funeral Emblems
The Greek word
fish, in capitals (IXOYE) would be a secret cypher that would stand for
our Lord's name, when men dared not write or speak it; and the word or
the picture of a fish meant to the Christian the name of his Savior; and
he wore as a charm a fish cut in ivory, or mother-of-pearl, on his neck
living, and bore to his grave to be exhumed centuries after his death an
effigy of a fish to signify his faith. These and the vine, the sheep, the
dove, the ark, the palm and other emblems in the Catacombs express only
hope, faith, cheerful confidence. The horrid inventions of Augustine, the
cruel monstrosities of Angelo and Dante, and the abominations of the medieval
theology were all unthought of then, and have no hint in the Catacombs.
Stll more instructive
are the inscriptions. As De Rossi observes, the most ancient inscriptions
differ from those of Pagans "more by what they do not say than by what
they do say." While the Pagans denote the rank or social position of their
dead as clarissima femine, or lady of senatorial rank, Christian
inscriptions are destitute of all mention of distinctions. Only the name
and some expression of endearment and confidence are inscribed. Says Northcote:
"They proceed upon the assumption that there is an incessant interchange
of kindly offices between this world and the next, between the living and
the dead." Mankind is a brotherhood, and not a word can be found to show
any thought of the mutilation of the great fraternity, and the consignment
of any portion of it to final despair. Such are these among the inscriptions:
"Paxtecum, Urania;" "Peace with thee, Urania;" "Semper in D.
vivas, dulcis anima;" "Always in God mayest thou live, sweet soul;"
"Mayest thou live in the Lord, and pray for us." They had "emigrated,"
had been "translated," "born into eternity," but not a word is found expressive
of doubt or fear, horror and gloom, such as in subsequent generations formed
the staple of the literature of death and the grave, and rendered the Christian
graveyard, up to the beginning of the seventeenth century, a horrible place.
The first Christians regarded the grave as the doorway into a better world,
and expressed only hope and trust in their emblems and inscriptions.
additional examples of epitaphs: "Irene in Pace." "Here lies Marcia put
to rest in a dream of peace." "Victorina dormit," "Victoria sleeps;"
"Zoticus hic ad dormiendum," "Zoticus laid here to sleep; "Raptus
eterne domus," "Snatched home eternally." "In Christ; Alexander is
not dead but lives beyond the stars, and his body rests in this tomb."
Contrast these with the tone of heathen funeral inscriptions. In general
the pagan epitaphs were like that which Sophocles expresses in OEdipus,
"Happiest beyond compare
Never to taste of life;
Happiest in order next,
Being born, with quickest
Thither again to turn,
From whence we came."
"In a Roman
monument which I had occasion to publish not long since, a father (Calus
Sextus by name,) is represented bidding farewell to his daughter, and two
words--'Vale AEternam,' farewell forever--give an expressive utterance
to the feeling of blank and hopeless severance with which Greeks and Romans
were burdened when the reality of death was before their eyes." (Mariott,
p. 186.) Death was a cheerful event in the eyes of the early Christians.
It was called birth. Anchors, harps, palms, crowns, surrounded the grave.
They discarded lamentations and extravagant grief. The prayers for the
dead were thanksgiving for God's goodness. (Schaff, Hist. Christ. Church,
Vol. 1. p. 342.) Their language is such as could not have been used by
them had they entertained the views that prevailed from the Sixth to the
Eighteenth Century, among the majority of Christians; and their remains
all testify to the cheerfulness of early Christianity.
Cheerful Faith of the
of the church live in their voluminous works; the lower orders are only
represented by these simple records, from which, with scarcely an exception,
sorrow and complaint are banished; the boast of suffering, or an appeal
to the revengeful passions is nowhere to be found. One expresses faith,
another hope, a third charity. The genius of primitive Christianity--to
believe, to love and to suffer--has never been better illustrated. These
'sermons in stones' are addressed to the heart and not to the head--to
the feelings rather than to the taste. In all the pictures and scriptures
of our Lord's history no reference is ever found to his sufferings or death.
No gloomy subjects occur in the cycle of Christian art." (Maitland.) Chrysostom
says: "For this cause, too, the place itself is called a cemetery; that
you may know that the dead laid there are not dead, but at rest and asleep.
For before the coming of Christ death used to be called death, and not
only so, but Hades, but after his coming and dying for the life of the
world, death came to be called death no longer, but sleep and repose."
The word cemeteries, dormitories, shows us that death was regarded as a
state of peace and rest, and thus a condition of hope. If fact, "in this
favorable world, 15 now for the first time applied to the tomb,
there is manifest a sense of hope and immortality, the result of a new
religion. A star had arisen on the borders of the grave, dispelling the
horror of darkness which had hitherto reigned there; the prospect beyond
was now cleared up, and so dazzling was the view of an 'eternal city sculptured
in the sky,' that numbers were found eager to rush through the gate of
martyrdom, for the hope of entering its starry portals." 16
Says Ruskin: "Not a cross as a symbol in the Catacombs. The earliest certain
Latin cross is on the tomb of the Empress Galla Placidia, A.D. 451. No
picture of the crucifixion till the Ninth Century, nor any portable crucifix
till long after. To the early Christians Christ was living, the one agonized
hour was lost in the thought of his glory and triumph. The fall of theology
and Christian thought dates from the error of dwelling upon his death instead
of his life." 17 Farrar adds: "The symbols of the Catacombs,
like every other indication of early teaching, show the glad, bright, loving
character of the Christian faith. It was a religion of joy and not of gloom,
of life and not of death, of tenderness not of severity. We see in them
as in the acts of the apostles, that the keynotes of the music of the Christian
life were 'exultation' and 'simplicity.' And how far superior in beauty
and significance were these early Christian symbols to the meaninglessness
and pagan broken columns and broken rose-buds and skulls and weeping women
and inverted torches of our cemeteries. We find in the Catacombs neither
the cross of the fifth and sixth centuries nor the crucifixes of the twelfth,
nor the torches and martyrdoms of the seventeenth, nor the skeletons of
the fifteenth, not the symbols of mourning and death's heads of the eighteenth.
Instead of these the symbols of beauty, hope and peace." 18
Dean Stanley's Testimony
From A.D. 70,
the date of the fall of Jerusalem, to about A.D. 150, there is very little
Christian literature. It is only when Justin Martyr, who was executed A.D.
166, that there is any considerable literature of the church. The fathers
before Justin are "shadows, formless phantoms, whose writings are uncertain
and only partially genuine." Speaking of the scarcity of literature pertaining
to those times and the changes experienced by Christianity, says Dean Stanley:
"No other change equally momentous has even since affected its features,
yet none has ever been so silent and secret. The stream in that most critical
moment of its passage from the everlasting hills to the plain below is
lost to our view at the very point where we are most anxious to watch it.
We may hear its struggles under the overarching rocks; we may catch its
spray on the boughs that overlap its course, but the torrent itself we
see not or see only by imperfect glimpses. A fragment here, an allegory
there; romances of unknown authorship; a handful of letters of which the
genuineness of every portion is contested inch by inch; the summary explanation
of a Roman magistrate; the pleadings of two or three Christian apologists;
customs and opinions in the very act of change; last, but not least, the
faded paintings, the broken sculptures, the rude epitaphs in the darkness
of the Catacombs--these are the scanty, though attractive materials out
of which the likeness of the early church must be produced, as it was working
its way, in the literal sense of the word, underground, under camp and
palace, under senate and forum."19
eighty years between Paul's latest epistle and the first of the writings
of the Christian fathers. Besides the writings of Tacitus and Pliny, the
long haitus is filled only by the emblems and inscriptions of the Catacombs.
What an eloquent story they tell of the cheerfulness of primitive Christianity!20
1 Martial, Juvenal,
Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius, and other heathen writers, describe the well-nigh
universal depravity and depression of the so-called civilized world. In
Corinth the Acrocorinthus was occupied by a temple to the goddess of lust.
2 Uhlhorn's Conflict
of Christianity and Paganism. - 3 Conquering Cross. Forewords.
4 Early Years
of the Christian Church. - 5 Allen's Continuity of Christian
6 Milman's Latin
Christianity. - 7 Shedd's History of Christian Doctrine.
8 The early Christians
never transferred the rigidity of the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday. Both Saturday
and Sunday were observed religiously till towards the end of the second
centurty--then Sunday alone was kept. Fasting and even kneeling in prayer
was forbidden on Sunday with the early Christians. Ancient Christian writers
always mean Saturday by the word "Sabbath."
9 The Emperor
Maximin in one of his edicts says that "Almost all had abandoned the worship
of their ancestory for the new faith."
summus et vestra omnes implevimus urbes, insulas, castella, municipia,
conciliabula, castra ipsa, tribus, decurias, palatium, senatum, forum.
Apol. c. XXXVII. Moshein, however, thinks that the "African orator,
who is inclined to exaggerate, "rhetoricates" a little here. The primitive
Christians exulted at the wonderful progress and diffusion of the Gospel.
11 Milman's Latin
Christianity. "The breadth of the best Greek Fathers, such as Origen, or
Clement of Alexandria, is a thousand times superior to the dry, harsh narrowness
of the Latins." Athanase Coquerel the Younger, First His. Trans. of Christianity,
12 Cutts, Turning
Points of Church History - 13 See DeRossi, Northcote, Withrow,
etc., on the Catacombs.
14 A suggestive
thought in this connection is, that our Lord (Matt. 25:33), calls those
on his left hand "kidlings," "little kids," a term for tenderness and regard.
Church and the Catacombs. - 16 Maitland. - 17 Bible
of Amiens. - 18 Lives of the Fathers.
Hours of Thought, p. 155. "In the cycle of Christian emblems the death
of Christ holds no place; it was not till six centuries after his death
that artists began to venture upon the representation of Christ crucified.
The crucifix dates only from the end of the Seventeenth Century."--Athanase
3 - Origin of Endless Punishment
When our Lord spoke,
the doctrine of unending torment was believed by many of those who listened
to his words, and they stated it in terms and employed others, entirely
differently, in describing the duration of punishment, from the terms afterward
used by those who taught universal salvation and annihilation, and so gave
to the terms in question the sense of unlimited duration.
the Pharisees, according to Josephus, regarded the penalty of sin as torment
without end, and they stated the doctrine in unambiguous terms. They called
it eirgmos aidios (eternal imprisonment) and timorion adialeipton
(endless torment), while our Lord called the punishment of sin aionion
kolasin (age-long chastisement).
Meaning of Scriptural
of Josephus is used by the profane Greeks, but is never found in the New
Testament connected with punishment. Josephus, writing in Greek to Jews,
frequently employs the word that our Lord used to define the duration of
punishment (aionios), but he applies it to things that had ended
or that will end.1 Can it be doubted that our Lord placed his
ban on the doctrine that the Jews had derived from the heathen by never
using their terms describing it, and that he taught a limited punishment
by employing words to define it that only meant limited duration in contemporaneous
literature? Josephus used the word aionos with its current meaning
of limited duration. He applies it to the imprisonment of John the Tyrant;
to Herod's reputation; to the glory acquired by soldiers; to the fame of
an army as a "happy life and aionian glory." He used the words as
do the Scriptures to denote limited duration, but when he would describe
endless duration he uses different terms. Of the doctrine of the Pharisees
that wicked spirits are to be kept in an eternal imprisonment (eirgmon
aidion). The Pharisees say all souls are incorruptible, but while those
of good men are removed into other bodies those of bad men are subject
to eternal punishment" (aidios timoria). Elsewhere he says that
the Essenes, "allot to bad souls a dark, tempestuous place, full of never-ceasing
torment (timoria adialeipton), where they suffer a deathless torment"
(athanaton timorion). Aidion and athanaton are his
favorite terms for duration, and timoria (torment) for punishment.
Philo's Use of the Words
was contemporary with Christ, generally used aidion to denote endless,
and aionian temporary duration. He uses the exact phraseology of
Matt. 25:46, precisely as Christ used it: "It is better not to promise
than not to give prompt assistance, for no blame follows in the former
case, but in the latter there is dissatisfaction from the weaker class,
and a deep hatred and æonian punishment (chastisement) from such
as are more powerful." Here we have the precise terms employed by our Lord,
which show that aionian did not mean endless but did mean limited
duration in the time of Christ. Philo adopts athanaton, ateleuteton
or aidion to denote endless, and aionian temporary duration.
In one place occurs this sentence concerning the wicked: "to live always
dying, and to undergo, as it were, an immortal and interminable death."2
Stephens, in his valuable "Thesaurus," quotes from a Jewish work: "These
they called aionios, hearing that they had performed the sacred rites for
three entire generations." 3 This shows conclusively that the
expression "three generations" was then one full equivalent of aionian.
these eminent scholars were Jews who wrote in Greek, and who certainly
knew the meaning of the words they employed, and they give to the aeonian
words the sense of indefinite duration, to be determined in any case by
the scope of the subject. Had our Lord intended to indoctrinate the doctrine
of the Pharisees, he would have used the terms by which they described
it. But his word defining the duration of punishment was aionian,
while their words are aidion, adialeipton, and
Instead of saying with Philo and Josephus, thanaton athanaton, deathless
or immortal death; eirgmon aidion, eternal imprisonment; aidion
timorion, eternal torment; and thanaton ateleuteton, interminable
death, he used aionion kolasin, an adjective in universal use for
limited duration, and a noun denoting suffering producing improvement.
The word by which our Lord describes punishment is the word kolasin,
which is thus defined: "Chastisement, punishment." "The trimming of the
luxuriant branches of a tree or vine to improve it and make it fruitful."
"The act of clipping or pruning--restriction, restraint, reproof, check,
chastisement." "The kind of punishment which tends to the improvement of
the criminal is what the Greek philosopher called kolasis or chastisement."
"Pruning, checking, punishment, chastisement, correction." "Do we want
to know what was uppermost in the minds of those who formed the word for
punishment? The Latin poena or punio, to punish, the root
in Sanscrit, which means to cleanse, to purify, tells us that the Latin
derivation was originally formed, not to express mere striking or torture,
but cleansing. correcting, delivering from the stain of sin."
That it had this meaning in Greek usage, see Plato: "For the natural or
accidental evils of others no one gets angry, or admonishes, or teaches,
or punishes (kolazei) them, but we pity those afflicted with such
misfortune for if, O Socrates, if you will consider what is the design
of punishing (kolazein) the wicked, this of itself will show you
that men think virtue something that may be acquired; for no one punishes
(kolazei) the wicked,
looking to the past only
simply for the wrong he has done--that is, no one does this thing who does
not act like a wild beast; desiring only revenge, without thought. Hence,
he who seeks to punish (kolazein) with reason does not punish for
the sake of the past wrong deed, but for the sake of the future, that neither
the man himself who is punished may do wrong again, nor any other who has
seen him chastised. And he who entertains this thought must believe that
virtue may be taught, and he punishes (kolazei) for the purpose
of deterring from wickedness?" 5
Use of Gehenna
So of the place
of punishment (gehenna) the Jews at the time of Christ never understood
it to denote endless punishment. The reader of Farrar's "Mercy and Judgment,"
and "Eternal Hope," and Windet's "De Vita functorum statu," will find any
number of statements from the Talmudic and other Jewish authorities, affirming
in the most explicit language that Gehenna was understood by the
people to whom our Lord addressed the word as a place or condition of temporary
duration. They employed such terms as these "The wicked shall be judged
in Gehenna until the righteous say concerning them, 'We have seen
enough.'"5 "Gehenna is nothing but a day in which the
impious will be burned." "After the last judgment Gehenna exists
no longer." "There will hereafter be no
quotations might be multiplied indefinitely to demonstrate that the Jews
to whom our Lord spoke regarded Gehenna as of limited duration,
as did the Christian Fathers. Origen in his reply to Celsus (VI, xxv) gives
an exposition of
Gehenna, explaining its usage in his day. He says
it is an analogy of the well-known valley of the Son of Hinnom, and signifies
the fire of purification. Now observe: Christ carefully avoided the words
in which his auditors expressed endless punishment (aidios, timoria
and used terms they did not use with that meaning (aionios kolasis),
and employed the term which by universal consent among the Jews has no
such meaning (Gehenna); and as his immediate followers and the earliest
of the Fathers pursued exactly the same course, is it not demonstrated
that they intended to be understood as he was understood?7
in a letter concerning Canon Farrar's sermons, says: "There were two words
which the Evangelists might have used--kolasis, timoria.
Of these, the first carries with it, by the definition of the greatest
of Greek ethical writers, the idea of a reformatory process, (Aristotle,
Rhet. I, x, 10-17). It is inflicted 'for the sake of him who suffers it.'
The second, on the other hand, describes a penalty purely vindictive or
retributive. St. Matthew chose--if we believe that our Lord spoke Greek,
he himself chose--the former word, and not the latter."
All the evidence
conclusively shows that the terms defining punishment--"everlasting," "eternal,"
"Gehenna," etc., in the Scriptures teach its limited duration, and were
so regarded by sacred and profane authors, and that those outside of the
Bible who taught unending torment always employed other words than those
used by or Lord and his disciples.
concedes that the great prominence given to "hell-fire" in Christian preaching
is a modern innovation. He says: "There is more 'blood-theology' and 'hell-fire,'
that is, the vivid setting-forth of everlasting torment to terrify the
soul, in one sermon of Jonathan Edwards, or one harangue at a modern 'revival,'
than can be found in the whole body of sermons and epistles through all
the dark ages put together. Set beside more modern dispensations the Catholic
position of this period (middle ages) is surprisingly merciful and mild."3
Whence Came the Doctrine?
Of Heathen Origin
When we ask
the question: Where did those in the primitive Christian church who taught
endless punishment find it, if not in the Bible?--we are met by these facts:--1.
The New Testament was not in existence, as the canon had not been arranged.
2. The Old Testament did not contain the doctrine. 3. The Pagan and Jewish
religions, the latter corrupted by heathen additions, taught it (Hagenbach,
I, First Period; Clark's Foreign Theol. Lib. I, new series.) Westcott tells
us: "The written Gospel of the first period of the apostolic age was the
Old Testament, interpreted by the vivid recollection of the Savior's ministry.
The knowledge of the teachings of Christ to the close of the Second Century,
were generally derived from tradition, and not from writings. The Old Testament
was still the great store-house from which Christian teachers derived the
sources of consolation and conviction."
9 Hence the false ideas
must have been brought by converts from Judaism or Paganism. The immediate
followers of our Lord's apostles do not explicitly treat matters of eschatology.
It was the age of apologetics and not of contentions.10 The
new revelation of the Divine Fatherhood through the Son occupied the chief
attention of Christians, and the efforts seem to have been almost exclusively
devoted to establish the truth of the Incarnation, "God in Christ reconciling
the world unto himself." We may reasonably conclude that if this great
truth had been kept constantly in the foreground, uncorrupted by pagan
error and human invention, there would have been none of those false conceptions
of God that gave rise to the horrors of medieval times,--and no occasion
in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries for the rebirth of original
Christianity in the form of Universalism. The first Christians, however,
naturally brought heathen additions into their new faith, so that very
early the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked, or their endless
torment, began to be avowed. Here and there these doctrines appeared from
the very first, but the early writers generally either state the great
truths that legitimately result in universal good, or in unmistakable terms
avow the doctrine as a revealed truth of the Christian Scriptures. "Numbers
flocked into the church who brought their heathen ways with them." (Third
Century, "Neoplatonism," by C. Bigg, D.D., London: 1895, p. 160.)
At first Christianity
was as a bit of leaven buried in foreign elements, modifying and being
modified. The early Christians had individual opinions and idiosyncrasies,
which at first their new faith did not eradicate; they still retained some
of their former errors. This accounts for their different views of the
future world. At the time of our Lord's advent Judaism had been greatly
corrupted. During the captivity 11 Chaldæan, Persian and
Egyptian doctrines, and other oriental ideas had tinged the Mosaic religion,
and in Alexandria, especially, there was a great mixture of borrowed opinions
and systems of faith, it being supposed that no one form alone was complete
and sufficient, but that each system possessed a portion of the perfect
truth. "The prevailing tone of mind was from a variety of sources," and
Christianity did not escape the influence.
The Apocryphal Book of
More than a
century before the birth of Christ 12 appeared the apocryphal
Book of Enoch, which contains, so far as is known, the earliest statement
extant of the doctrine of endless punishment in any work of Jewish origin.
It became very popular during the early Christian centuries, and modified,
it may be safely supposed, the views of Tatian, Minucius Felix, Tertullian,
and their followers. It is referred to or quoted from by Barnabas, Justin,
Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome,
Hilary, Epiphanius, Augustine, and others. Jude quotes from it in verses
14 and 15, and refers to it in verse 6, on which account some of the fathers
considered Jude apocryphal; but it is probable that Jude quotes Enoch as
Paul quotes the heathen poets, not to endorse its doctrine, but to illustrate
a point, as writers nowadays quote fables and legends. Cave, in the "Lives
of the Fathers," attributes the prevalence of the doctrine of fallen angels
to a perversion of the account (Gen. 6:1-4) of "the sons of God and the
daughters of men." He refers the prevalence of the doctrine to "the authority
of the 'Book of Enoch,' (highly valued by many in those days) wherein this
story is related, as appears from the fragments of it still in existence."
The entire work is now accessible through modern discovery.
A little later
than Enoch appeared the Book of Ezra, advocating the same doctrine. These
two books were popular among the Jews before the time of Christ, and it
is supposed, as the Old Testament is silent on the subject, that the corrupt
traditions of the Pharisees, of which our Lord warned his disciples to
beware, 13 were obtained in part from these books, or from the
Egyptian and Pagan sources whence they were derived. At any rate, though
the Old Testament does not contain the doctrine, 14 Josephus,
as has been seen, assures us that the Pharisees of his time accepted and
taught it. Of course they must have obtained the doctrine from uninspired
sources. As these and possibly other similar books had already corrupted
the faith of the Jews, they seem later to have infused their virus into
the faith of some of the early Christians. Nothing is better established
in history than that the doctrine of endless punishment, as held by the
Christian church in medieval times, was of Egyptian origin, 15
and that for purposes of state it and its accessories were adopted by the
Greeks and Romans. Montesquieu states that "Romulus, Tatius and Numa enslaved
the gods to politics," and made religion for the state.
Catholic Hell Copied
from Heathen Sources
know that the heathen hell was early copied by the Catholic church, and
that almost its entire details afterwards entered into the creeds of Catholic
and Protestant churches up to a century ago. Any reader may see this who
will consult Pagan literature 16 and writers on the opinions
of the ancients. And not only this, but the heathen writers declare that
the doctrine was invented to awe and control the multitude. Polybius writes:
"Since the multitude is ever fickle there is no other way to keep them
in order but by fear of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors
seem to me to have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into
the popular belief these notions of the gods and of the infernal regions."
Seneca says: "Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the
darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment seat, etc.,
are all a fable." Livy declares that Numa invented the doctrine, "a most
effective means of governing an ignorant and barbarous populace." Strabo
writes: "The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the
gods are said to inflict upon offenders, for it is impossible to govern
the crowd of women and all the common rabble by philosophical reasoning:
these things the legislators used as scarecrows to terrify the childish
multitude." Similar language is found in Dionysius Halicarnassus, Plato,
and other writers. History records nothing more distinctly than that the
Greek and Roman Pagans borrowed of the Egyptians, and that some of the
early Christians unconsciously absorbed, or thoroughly appropriated, the
doctrines of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans concerning post-mortem
punishment, and gradually corrupted the "simplicity that is in Christ"
by the inventions of antiquity, as from the same sources the Jews at the
time of Christ had already corrupted their religion. 18 What
more natural than that the small reservoir of Christian truth should be
contaminated by the opinions that converts from all these sources brought
with them into their new religion at first, and later that the Roman Catholic
priests and Pagan legislators should seize them as engines of power by
which to control the world?
the effect of the sudden increase of Pagans into the early Christian church:
"The, at first, gradual entrance and soon rapid invasion of an idolatrous
multitude into the bosom of Christianity was not effected without detriment
to the truth. The Christianity of Jesus was too lofty, too pure, for this
multitude escaped from the degrading cults of Olympus. The Pagans were
not able to enter en masse into the church without bringing to it
their habits, their tastes, and some of their ideas."19 Milman
and Neander think20 that old Jewish prejudices could not be
exterminated in the proselytes of the infant church, and that latent Judaism
lurked in it and was continued into the darker ages. Chrysostom complains
that the Christians of his time (the Fourth Century) were "half Jews."
Enfield 21 declares that converts from the schools of Pagan
philosophy interwove their old errors with the simple truths of Christianity
until "heathen and Christian doctrines were still more intimately blended
and both were almost entirely lost in the thick clouds of ignorance and
barbarism which covered the earth. The fathers of the church departed from
the simplicity of the apostolic church and corrupted the purity of the
Christian faith." Hagenbach reminds us that 22 "There were two
errors which the newborn Christianity had to guard against if it was not
to lose its peculiar religious features, and disappear in one of the already
existing religions: against a relapse into Judaism on the one side, and
against a mixture with Paganism and speculations borrowed from it, and
a mythologizing tendency on the other." The Sibylline Oracles, advocating
universal restoration; Philo, who taught annihilation, and Enoch and Ezra,
who taught endless punishment, were all read by the early Christians, and
no doubt exerted an influence in forming early opinions.
Early Christianity Adulterated
Review concedes that "upon a full inspection it will be seen that the corruption
of Christianity was itself the effect of the debased state of the human
mind, of which the vices of the government were the great and primary cause."
"That the Christian religion suffered much from the influence of the Gentile
philosophy is unquestionable."23 Dr. Middleton, in a famous
"Letter from Rome," shows that from the pantheon down to heathen temples,
shrines and altars were taken by the early church, and so used that Pagans
could employ them as well as Christians, and retain their old superstitions
and errors while professing Christianity. In other words, that much of
Paganism, after the First Century or two, remained in and corrupted Christianity.
Mosheim writes that "no one objected (in the Fifth Century) to Christians
retaining the opinions of their Pagan ancestors;" and Tytler describes
the confusion that resulted from the mixture of Pagan philosophy with the
plain and simple doctrines of the Christian religion, from which the church
in its infant state "suffered in a most essential manner." The Rev. T.
B. Thayer, D. D., 24 thinks that the faith of the early Christian
church "of the orthodox party was one-half Christian, one-quarter Jewish,
and one-quarter Pagan; while that of the gnostic party was about one-quarter
Christian and three-quarters philosophical Paganism." The purpose of many
of the fathers seems to have been to bridge the abyss between Paganism
and Christianity, and, for the sake of proselytes, to tolerate Pagan doctrine.
Says Merivale: In the Fifth Century, Paganism was assimilated, not abolished,
and Christendom has suffered from it more or less even since. The church
was content to make terms with what survived of Paganism, content to lose
even more than it gained in an unholy alliance with superstition and idolatry;
enticing, no doubt, many of the vulgar, and some even of the more intelligent,
to a nominal acceptance of the Christian faith, but conniving at the surrender
by the great mass of its own baptized members of the highest and purest
of their spiritual acquisitions." 25 It is difficult to learn
just how much surrounding influences affected ancient or modern Christians,
for, as Schaff says (Hist. Apos. Ch. p. 23): "The theological views of
the Greek Fathers were modified to a considerable extent by Platonism;
those of the medieval schoolmen, by the logic and dialectics of Aristotle;
those of the latter times by the system of Descartes, Spinoza, Bacon, Locke,
Leibnitz, Kant, Fries, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Few scientific divines
can absolutely emancipate themselves from the influence of the philosophy
and public opinion of their age, and when they do they have commonly their
own philosophy, etc."
Original Greek New Testament
That the Old
Testament does not teach even post-mortem punishment is universally conceded
by scholars, as has been seen; and that the Egyptians, and Greek and Roman
Pagans did, is shown already. That the doctrine was early in the Christian
church, is equally evident. As the early Christians did not obtain it from
the Old Testament, which does not contain it, and as it was already a Pagan
doctrine, where could they have procured it except from heathen sources?
And as Universalism was nowhere taught, and as the first Universalist Christians
after the apostles were Greeks, perfectly familiar with the language of
the New Testament, where else could they have found their faith than where
they declare they found it, in the New Testament? How can it be supposed
that the Latins were correct in claiming that the Greek Scriptures teach
a doctrine that the Greeks themselves did not find therein? And how can
the Greek fathers in the primitive church mistake when they understand
our Lord and his apostles to teach universal restoration? "It may be well
to note here, that after the third century the descent of the church into
errors of doctrine and practice grew more rapid. The worship of Jesus,
of Mary, of saints, or relics, etc., followed each other. Mary was called
'the Mother of God,' 'the Queen of Heaven.' As God began to be represented
more stern, implacable, cruel, the people worshiped Jesus to induce him
to placate his Father's wrath; and then as the Son was held up as the severe
judge of sinners and the executioner of the Father's vengeance, men prayed
Mary to calm the anger of her God-child; and when she became unfeeling
or lacked influence, they turned to Joseph and other saints, and to martyrs,
to intercede with their cold, implacable superiors. Thus theology became
more hard and merciless--hell was intensified, and enlarged, and eternalized--heaven
shrunk, and receded, and lost its compassion--woman (despite the deification
of Mary) was regarded as weak and despicable--the Agape were abolished
and the Eucharist deified, and its cup withheld from the people--and woman
deemed too impure to touch it! As among the heathen Romans, faith and reverence
decreased as their gods were multiplied, so here, as objects of worship
were increased, familiarity bred only sensuality, and sensuous worship
drove out virtue and true piety, until, in the language of Mrs. Jameson's
"Legends of the Madonna," (Int. p. xxxi): One of the paintings in the Vatican
represents Giulia Farnese (a noted impure woman and mistress of the pope!)
in the character of the Madonna, and Pope Alexander VI. (the drunken, unchaste,
beastly!) kneeling at her feet in the character of a devoted worshiper!
Under the influence of the Medici, the churches of Florence were filled
with pictures of the Virgin in which the only thing aimed at was a cheap,
gaudy, ornamented beauty. Savonarola thundered from his pulpit in the garden
of S. Marco against these impieties." 26
1 See my "Aion-Aionious,"
pp. 109-14; also Josephus, "Antiq." and "Jewish Wars."
2 "De Præmiis"
and "Poenis" Tom. II, pp. 19-20. Mangey's edition. Dollinger quoted
by Beecher. Philo was learned in Greek philosophy, and especially reverenced
Plato. His use of Greek is of the highest authority.
3 "Solom. Parab."
- 4 Donnegan, Grotius, Liddel, Max Muller, Beecher, Hist. Doc.
Fut. Ret. pp. 73-75.
5 The important
passage may be found more fully quoted in "Aion-Aionios."
6 Targum of Jonathan
on Isaiah, xvi: 24. See also "Aion-Aionious" and "Bible Hell."
7 Farrar's "Mercy
and Judgment." pp. 380-381, where quotations are given from the Fourth
Century, asserting that punishment must be limited because aionian
correction (aionian kolasin), as in Matt. xxv: 46, must be terminable.
Hist. in its Three Great Periods." pp. 257-8. - 9 Introduction
to Gospels. p. 181
10 The opinions
of the Jews were modified at first by the captivity in Egypt fifteen centuries
before Christ, and later by the Babylonian captivity, ending four hundred
years before Christ, so that many of them, the Pharisees especially, no
longer held the simple doctrines of Moses.
History of the Christian Church, vol. 1. pp. 38-39.
12 The Book of
Enoch, translated from the Ethiopian, with Introduction and Notes. By Rev.
George H. Schodde.
13 Mark vii:
13; Matthew xvi: 6, 12; Luke xxi, 1; Mark viii, 15.
14 Milman Hist.
Jews; Warburton's Divine Legation; Jahn, Archaeology.
Leland's Necessity of Divine Revelation.
16 Virgil's æneid.
Apollodorus, Hesiod, Herodotus, Plutarch, Diodorus Siculus, etc.
17 II Cor. 11:3.
18 Milman's Gibbon,
Murdock's Mosheim, Enfield's Hist. Philos., Universalist Expositor, 1853.
First Historical Transformations of Christianity.
20 See Conybeare's
"Paul," Vol. I, Chapters 14,15. - 21 See also Priestley's "Corruptions
22 Hist. Doct.
I Sec. 22. -
Causes of the Corruption of Christianity; also Casaubon and Blunt's "Vestiges."
24 Hist. Doct.
Endelss Punishment, pp. 192-193. - 25 Early Church History,
Quartarly, January 1883.
4 - Doctrines of "Mitigation"and of "Reserve"
There was no controversy
among Christians over the duration of the punishment of the wicked for
at least three hundred years after the death of Christ. Scriptural terms
were used with their Scriptural meanings, and while it is not probable
that universal restoration was reasonably or dogmatically announced, it
is equally probable that the endless duration of punishment was not taught
until the heathen corruptions had adulterated Christian truth. God's fatherhood
and boundless love, and the work of Christ in man's behalf were dwelt upon,
accompanied by the announcement of the fearful consequences of sin; but
when those consequences, through Pagan influences, came to be regarded
as endless in duration, then the antidotal truth of universal salvation
assumed prominence through Clement, Origen, and other Alexandrine fathers.
Even when some of the early Christians had so far been overcome by heathen
error as to accept the dogma of endless torment for the wicked, they had
no hard words for those who believed in universal restoration, and did
not even oppose their views. The doctrines of Prayer for the Dead, and
of Christ Preaching to those in Hades, and of Mitigation (relief, alleviation,
etc.) were humane teachings of the primitive Christians that were subsequently
of Mitigation was, that for some good deed on earth, the damned in hell
would occasionally be let out on a respite or furlough, and have cessation
of torment. This doctrine of mitigation was quite general among the fathers
when they came to advocate the Pagan dogma. In fact, endless punishment
in all its enormity, destitute of all benevolent features, was not fully
developed until Protestantism was born, and prayers for the dead, mitigation
of the condition of the "lost," and other softening features were repudiated.1
It was taught
that the worst sinners--Judas himself, even--had furloughs from hell for
good deeds done on Earth. Matthew Arnold embodies one of the legends in
his poem of St. Brandon. The saint once met, on an iceberg on the ocean,
the soul of Judas Iscariot, released from hell for awhile, who explains
his respite. He had once given a cloak to a leper in Joppa, and so he says--
"Once every year, when carols
On earth the Christmas night's
Arising from the sinner's
I journey to these healing
"I stand with ice my burning
With silence calm by burning
O Brandon, to this hour
That Joppan leper's ease
for Protestantism to discard all the softening features that Catholicism
had added to the bequest of heathenism into Christianity, and to give the
world the unmitigated horror that Protestantism taught from the Sixteenth
to the Nineteenth Century.
The Doctrine of "Reserve"
We cannot read
the early church literature understandingly unless we constantly bear in
mind the early fathers' doctrine of "O Economy," or "Reserve."2
Plato distinctly taught it,3 and says that error may be used
as a medicine. He justifies the use of the "medicinal lie." The resort
of the early fathers to the esoteric is no doubt derived from Plato. Origen
almost quotes him when he says that sometimes fictitious threats are necessary
to secure obedience, as when Solon had purposely given imperfect laws.
Many, in and out of the church, held that the wise possessor of truth might
hold it in secret. when its impartation to the ignorant would seem to be
fraught with danger, and that error might be properly substituted. The
object was to save "Christians of the simpler sort" from waters too deep
for them. It is possible to defend the practice if it be taken to represent
the method of a skillful teacher, who will not confuse the learner with
principles beyond his comprehension. 4 Gieseler remarks that
"the Alexandrians regarded a certain accommodation as necessary, which
ventures to make use even of falsehood for the attainment of a good end;
nay, which was even obliged to do so." Neander declares that "the Orientals,
according to their theology of economy, allowed themselves many liberties
not to be reconciled with the strict laws of truthfulness."
Some of the
fathers who had achieved a faith in Universalism, were influenced by the
mischievous notion that it was to be held esoterically, cherished in secret,
or only communicated to the chosen few,--withheld from the multitude, who
would not appreciate it, and even that the opposite error would, with some
sinners, be more beneficial than the truth. Clement of Alexandria admits
that he does not write or speak certain truths. Origen claims that there
are doctrines not to be communicated to the ignorant. Clement says: "They
are not in reality liars who use evasiveness 6 because of the
provision of salvation." Origen said that "all that might be said on this
theme is not expedient to explain now, or to all. For the mass need no
further teaching on account of those who hardly through the fear of æonian
punishment restrain their recklessness." The reader of the this early literature
sees this opinion frequently, and unquestionably it caused many to hold
out threats to the multitude in order to restrain them; threats that they
did not themselves believe would be executed.8
The gross and
carnal interpretation given to parts of the Gospel, causing some, as Origen
said, to "believe of God what would not be believed of the cruelest of
mankind," caused him to dwell upon the duty of reserve, which he does in
many of his homilies. He says that he can not fully express himself on
the mystery of eternal punishment in an undisguised statement.9
The reserve advocated and practiced by Origen and the Alexandrians was,
says Bigg, "the screen of an esoteric belief." Beecher reminds his readers
that while it was common with Pagan philosophers to teach false doctrines
to the masses with the mistaken idea that they were needful, "the fathers
of the Christian church did not escape the infection of the leprosy of
pious fraud;" and he quotes Neander to show that Chrysostom was guilty
of it, and also Gregory Nazianzen, Athanasius, and Basil the Great. The
prevalence of this fraus pia in the early centuries is well known
to scholars. After saying that the Sibylline Oracles were probably forged
by a gnostic, Mosheim says: "I cannot yet take upon me to acquit the most
strictly orthodox from all participation in this species of criminality;
for it appears from evidence superior to all exception that a pernicious
maxim was current, namely, that those who made it their business to deceive
with a view of promoting the cause of truth, were deserving rather of commendation
What Was Held as to Doctrine
It seems to
have been held that "faith, the foundation of Christian knowledge, was
fitted only for the rude mass, the animal men, who were incapable of higher
things. Far above these were the privileged natures, the men of intellect,
or spiritual men, whose vocation was not to believe but to know."10
historians class as esoteric believers, Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzen;
and Beecher names Athanasius and Basil the Great as in the same category;
and Beecher remarks: "We cannot fully understand such a proclamation of
future endless punishment as has been described, while it was not believed,
until we consider the influence of Plato on the age. Socrates is introduced
as saying in Grote's Plato: 'It is indispensable that this fiction should
be circulated and accredited as the fundamental, consecrated, unquestioned
creed of the whole city, from which the feeling of harmony and brotherhood
among the citizens springs." Such principles, as a leprosy, had corrupted
the whole community, and especially the leaders. In the Roman Empire pagan
magistrates and priests appealed to retribution in Tartarus, of which they
had no belief, to affect the masses. This does not excuse, but it explains
the preaching of eternal punishment by men who did not believe it. They
dared not entrust the truth to the masses, and so held it in reserve--to
deter men from sin."
was the confession of a belief in universal salvation in the church's first
and best three centuries, there is ample reason the believe that it was
the secret belief of more than gave expression to it, and that many a one
who proclaimed a partial salvation, in his secret "heart of heart" agreed
with the greatest of the church's fathers during the first four hundred
years of our era, that Christ would achieve a universal triumph, and that
God would ultimately reign in all hearts.
Modern Theologians Equivocal
There can be
no doubt that many of the fathers threatened severer penalties than they
believed would be visited on sinners, impelled to utter them because they
considered them to be more remedial with the masses than the truth itself.
So that we may believe that some of the early writers who seem to teach
endless punishment did not believe it. Others, we know, who accepted universal
restoration employed, for the sake of deterring sinners, threats that are
inconsistent, literally interpreted, with that doctrine. This disposition
to conceal the truth has influenced many a modern theologian. In Sermon
XXXV, on the eternity of hell torments, Arch-bishop Tillotson, while he
argues for the endless duration of punishment, suggests that the Judge
has the right to omit inflicting it if he shall see it inconsistent with
righteousness or goodness to make sinners miserable forever, and Burnet
urges: "Whatever your opinion is within yourself, and in your breast, concerning
these punishments, whether they are eternal or not, yet always with the
people, and when you preach to the people, use the received doctrine and
the received words in the sense in which the people receive them." It is
certainly allowable to think that many an ancient timid teacher discovered
the truth without daring to entrust it to the mass of mankind.
Even Lying Defended
of Alexandria proposed making Synesius of Cyrene, bishop. The latter said:
"The philosophical intelligence, in short, while it beholds the truth,
admits the necessity of lying. Light corresponds to truth, but the eye
is dull of vision; it can not without injury gaze on the infinite light.
As twilight is more comfortable for the eye, so, I hold, is falsehood for
the common run of people. The truth can only be harmful for those who are
unable to gaze on the reality. If the laws of the priesthood permit me
to hold this position, then I can accept consecration, keeping my philosophy
to myself at home, and preaching fables out of doors."11
1 Christian History
in Three Great Periods. pp. 257,8. - 2 Bigg's Platonists of
Alexandria. p. 58.
3 Grote's Plato,
Vol. III, xxxii. pp. 56, 7. - 4 J.H. Newman, Arians; Apologia
Pro Vita Sua
5 Allin, Univ.
Asserted, shows at length the prevalence of the doctrine of "reserve" among
the early Christians.
6 Stromata. -
Against Celsus I, vii; and on Romans ii.
8 "St. Basil
distinguishes in Christianity between what is openly proclaimed and which
are kept secret." Max Muller, Theosophy of Psychology, Lect. xiv.
9 Ag. Cels. De
10 Dean Mansell's
Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. Introduction, p. 10.
by C. Bigg, D.D. London: 1895, p. 339.
5 - Two Kindred Topics
Gospel Preached to the Dead
The early Christian
church almost, if not quite, universally believed that Christ made proclamation
of the Gospel to the dead in Hades. Says Huidekoper: "In the Second and
Third Centuries every branch and division of Christians believed that Christ
preached to the departed." 1 Dietelmaier declares2
this doctrine was believed by all Christians. Of course, if souls were
placed where their doom was irretrievable salvation would not be offered
to them; whence it follows that the early Christians believed in post-mortem
probation. Allin says that "some writers teach that the apostles also preached
in Hades. Some say that the Blessed Virgin did the same. Some even say
that Simeon went before Christ to Hades." All these testimonies go to show
that the earliest of the fathers did not regard the grave as the dead-line
which the love of God could not cross, but that the door of mercy is open
hereafter as here. "The platonic doctrine of a separate state, where the
spirits of the departed are purified, and on which the later doctrine of
purgatory was founded, was approved by all the expositors of Christianity
who were of the Alexandrian school, as was the custom of performing religious
services at the tombs of the dead. Nor was there much difference between
them and Tertullian in these particulars."
In the early ages
of the church great stress was laid on I Pet. 3:19,
"He (Christ) went and preached
unto the spirits in prison." That this doctrine was prevalent as late as
Augustine's day is evident from the fact that the doctrine is anathemitised
in his list of heresies--number 79. And even as late as the Ninth Century
it was condemned by Pope Boniface VI. It was believed that our Lord not
only proclaimed the Gospel to all the dead but that he liberated them all.
How could it be possible for a Christian to entertain the thought that
all the wicked who died before the advent of our Lord were released from
bondage, and that any who died after his advent would suffer endless woe?
Eusebius says: "Christ, caring for the salvation of all opened a way of
return to life for the dead bound in the chains of death." Athanasius:
"The devil cast out of Hades, sees all the fettered beings led forth by
the courage of the Savior." 3 Origen on I Kings 28:32, "Jesus
descended into Hades, and the prophets before him, and they proclaimed
beforehand the coming of Christ." Didymus observes "In the liberation of
all no one remains a captive; at the time of the Lord's passion he alone
(Satan) was injured, who lost all the captives he was keeping." Cyril of
Alexandria: "And wandering down even to Hades he has emptied the dark,
secret, invisible treasures." Gregory of Nazianzus: "Until Christ loosed
by his blood all who groaned under Tartarian chains." Jerome on Jonah 2:6,
"Our Lord was shut up in aeonian bars in order that he might set free all
who had been shut up."
might be multiplied, demonstrating that the early church regarded the conquest
by Christ of the departed as universal. He set free from bonds all the
dead in Hades. If the primitive Christians believed that all the wicked
of all the æons preceding the death of Christ were released, how
can we suppose them to have regarded the wicked subsequent to his death
as destined to suffer interminable torments? Clement of Alexandria is explicit
in declaring that the Gospel was preached to all, both Jews and Gentiles,
in Hades;--that "the sole cause of the Lord's descent to the underworld
was to preach the gospel." (Strom. VI.) Origen says: "Not only while Jesus
was in the body did he win over not a few only, but when he became a soul,
without the covering of the body, he dwelt among those souls (in Hades)
which were without bodily covering, converting such of them as were fit
The Gospel of Nicodemus
About a century
after the death of John appeared the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, valuable
as setting forth current eschatology. It describes the effect of Christ's
preaching in Hades: "When Jesus arrived in Hades, the gates burst open,
and taking Adam by the hand Jesus said, "Come all with me, as many as have
died through the tree which he touched, for behold I raise you all up through
the tree of the cross.'" This book shows conclusively that the Christians
of that date did not regard æonian punishment as interminable, inasmuch
as those who had been sentenced to that condition were released. "If Christ
preached to dead men who were once disobedient, then Scripture shows us
that the moment of death does not necessarily involve a final and hopeless
torment for every sinful soul. Of all the blunt weapons of ignorant controversy
employed against those to whom has been revealed the possibility of a larger
hope than is left to mankind by Augustine or by Calvin, the bluntest is
the charge that such a hope renders null the necessity for the work of
Christ. We thus rescue the work of redemption from the appearance of having
failed to achieve its end for the vast majority of those for whom Christ
died. In these passages, as has been truly said, 'we may see an expansive
paraphrase and exuberant variation of the original Pauline theme of the
universalism of the evangelic embassy of Christ, and of his sovereignty
over the world;' and especially of the passage in the Philippians 2:9-11,
where all they that are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, are
counted as classes of the subjects of the exalted Redeemer."5 And
Alford observes: "The inference every intelligent reader will draw from
the fact here announced: it is not purgatory; it is not universal restitution;
but it is one which throws blessed light on one of the darkest perplexities
of divine justice." Timotheus II., patriarch of the Nestorians, wrote that
"by the prayers of the saints the souls of sinners may pass from Gehenna
to Paradise," (Asseman. IV. p. 344). See Prof. Plumptre's "Spirits in Prison,"
p. 141; Dict. Christ. Biog. Art. Eschatology, etc. Says Uhlhorn (Book I,
ch. 3): "For deceased persons their relatives brought gifts on the anniversary
of their death, a beautiful custom which vividly exhibited the connection
between the church above and the church below."
"One fact stands
out very clearly from the passages of the early literature, viz.: that
all sects and divisions of the Christians in the second and third centuries
united in the belief that Christ went down into Hades, or the Underworld,
after his death on the cross, and remained there until his resurrection.
Of course it was natural that the question should come up, What did he
do there? As he came down from earth to preach the Gospel to, and save,
the living, it was easy to infer that he went down into Hades to preach
the same glad tidings there, and show the way of salvation to those who
had died before his advent." 6
Prayers for the Dead
It need not
here be claimed that the doctrine that Christ literally preached to the
dead in Hades is true, or that such is the teaching of
I Pet. 3:19, but it is perfectly
apparent that if the primitive Christians held to the doctrine they could
not have believed that the condition of the soul is fixed at death. That
is comparatively a modern doctrine.
There can be
no doubt that the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is a corruption of the
Scriptural doctrine of the disciplinary character of all God's punishments.
Purgatory was never heard of in the earlier centuries.7 It is
first fully stated by Pope Gregory the First, 'its inventor,' at the close
of the Sixth Century, "For some light faults we must believe that there
is before judgment a purgatorial fire." This theory is a perversion of
the idea held anciently, that all God's punishments are purgative; what
the Catholic regards as true of the errors of the good is just as true
of the sins of the worst,-- indeed, of all. The word rendered punishment
in Matt. 25:46, (kolasin) implies all this.
Condition of the Dead
That the condition
of the dead was not regarded as unalterably fixed is evident from the fact
that prayers for the dead were customary anciently, and that, too, before
the doctrine of purgatory was formulated. The living believed--and so should
we believe--that the dead have migrated to another country, where the good
offices of supervisors on earth avail. Perpetua begged for the help of
her brother, child of a Pagan father, who had died unbaptized. In Tertullian
the widow prays for the soul of her departed husband. Repentance by the
dead is conceded by Clement, and the prayers of the good on earth help
The dogma of
the purificatory character of future punishment did not degenerate into
the doctrine of punishment for believers only, until the Fourth Century;
nor did that error crystallize into the Catholic purgatory until later.
Hagenbach says: "Comparing Gregory's doctrine with the earlier, and more
spiritual notions concerning the effectiveness of the purifying fire of
the intermediate state, we may adopt the statement of Schmidt that the
belief in a lasting desire of perfection, which death itself cannot quench,
degenerated into a belief in purgatory."
in Prison," London, p. 25) has a valuable statement: "In every form; from
the solemn liturgies which embodied the belief of her profoundest thinkers
and truest worshippers, to the simple words of hope and love which were
traced over the graves of the poor, her voice (the church of the first
ages) went up without a doubt or misgiving, in prayers for the souls of
the departed;" showing that they could not have regarded their condition
as unalterably fixed at death. Prof. Plumptre quotes from Lee's "Christian
Doctrine of Prayer for the Departed," to show the early Christians' belief
that intercessions for the dead would be of avail to them. Even Augustine
accepted the doctrine. He prayed after his mother's death, that her sins
might be forgiven, and that his father might also receive pardon. ("Confessions,"
doctrine of a separate state where the spirits of the departed are purified,
and on which the later doctrine of purgatory was founded, was approved
by all the expositors of Christianity who were of the Alexandrian school,
as was the custom of performing religious services at the tombs of the
dead. Uhlhorn gives similar testimony: "For deceased persons their relatives
brought gifts on the anniversary of their death, a beautiful custom, which
vividly exhibited the connection between the church above and the church
below." Origen's tenet of Catharsis of Purification was absorbed by the
growing belief in purgatory. 9
Let the reader
reflect, (1) that the Primitive Christians so distrusted the effect of
the truth on the popular mind that they withheld it, and only cherished
it esoterically, and held up terrors for effect, in which they had no faith;
(2) that they prayed for the wicked dead that they might be released from
suffering; (3) that they universally held that Christ preached the Gospel
to sinners in Hades; (4) that the earliest creeds are entirely silent as
to the idea that the wicked dead were in irretrievable and endless torment;
(5) that the terms used by some who are accused of teaching endless torment
were precisely those employed by those acknowledged to have been Universalists;
(6) that the first Christians were the happiest of people and infused a
wonderful cheerfulness into a world of sorrow and gloom; (7) that there
is not a shade of darkness nor a note of despair in any one of the thousands
of epitaphs in the Catacombs; (8) that the doctrine of universal redemption
was first made prominent by those to whom Greek was their native tongue,
and that they declared that they derived it from the Greek Scriptures,
while endless punishment was first taught by Africans and Latins, who derived
it from a foreign tongue of which the great teacher of it confesses he
was ignorant. (See " Augustine" later on.) Let the reader give to these
considerations their full and proper weight, and it will be impossible
to believe that the fathers regarded the impenitent as consigned at death
to hopeless and endless woe.
the emphatic language of Clement and Origen and other ancient Christians
declarative of universal holiness, Dr. Bigg, in his valuable book, "The
Christian Platonists of Alexandria," frequently quoted in these pages,
remarks (pp. 292-3): "Neither Clement not Origen is, properly speaking,
a Universalist. Nor is Universalism the logical result of their principles."
The reasons he gives are two: (1) They believed in the freedom of the will;
and (2) they did not deny the eternity of punishment, because the soul
that has sinned beyond a certain point can never become what it might have
To which it
is only necessary to say (1) that Universalists generally accept the freedom
of the will, and (2) no soul that has sinned, as all have sinned, can ever
become what it might have been, so the Dr. Bigg's premises would necessitate
Universalism, but universal condemnation!
And, as if
to contradict his own words, Dr. Bigg adds in the very next paragraph:
"The hope of a general restitution of all souls through suffering to purity
and blessedness, lingered on in the East for some time;" and the last words
in his book are these: "It is the teaching of St. Paul,--Then cometh the
end, when he shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father.
Then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things
under him, that God may be all in all." And these are the last words of
his last note: "At the end all will be one because the Father's will is
all in all and all in each. Each will fill the place which the mystery
of the economy assigns to him."
It would be
interesting to learn what sort of monstrosity Dr. Bigg has constructed,
and labeled with the word which he declares could not be applied to Clement
1 An excellent
resume of the opinions of the fathers on Christ's descent into Hades, and
preaching the gospel to the dead, is Huidekoper's "The Belief of the First
Three Centuries Concerning Christ's Mission to the Underworld;" also Huidekoper's
"Indirect Testimony to the Gospels;" also Dean Plumptre's "Spirits in Prison."
2 Historia Dogmatis
do Descensu Christi ad Inferos. J. A. Dietelmaier.
3 De Passione
et Cruce Domin. Migne, XXVIII, 186-240. - 4 Carm. XXXV, v. 9
- 5 Farrar's "Early Days of Christianity." ch. vii. - 6
7 Archs. Usher
and Wake, quoted by Farrar, "Mercy and Judgment."
8 That these
ideas were general in the primitive church, see Nitzsch, "Christian Doctrine,"
Sec. III; Dorner, "System of Christian Doctrine," Vol. IV (Eschatology).
Also Vaughan's "Causes of the Corruption of Christianity," p. 319.
by C. Bigg, p. 334.
6 - The Apostles' Immediate Successors
The First Christians not
Explicit in Eschatological Matters
As we read the writings
of the immediate successors of the apostles, we discover that matters of
eschatology do not occupy their thought. They dwell on the advent of our
Lord, and expand on its blessings to the world; they give the proofs of
his divinity, and appeal to men to accept his religion. Most of the surviving
documents of the First Century are exhorting. It was an apologetic, not
an age for controversy. A very partisan author, anxious to show that the
doctrine of endless punishment was bequeathed to their immediate successors
by the apostles, concedes this. He says that the first Christians "touched
but lightly and incidentally on points of doctrine," but gave "the doctrines
of Christianity in the very words of Scripture, giving us often no certain
clue to their interpretations of the language."1 The first
Christians were converted Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, differing in
their theologies, and only agreeing in accepting Christ and Christianity;
their ideas of our Lord's teaching concerning human destiny and on other
subjects were tinged by their preceding preferences.
Their doctrines on
many points were colored by Jewish and Pagan errors, until their minds
were clarified, when the more systematic teachers came,--Clement, Origen
and others, who eliminated the errors Christian converts had brought with
them from former associations, and presented Christianity as Christ taught
it. The measures of meal were more or less impure until the leaven of genuine
Christianity transformed them. But it is conceded that there is little
left of this apostolic age, out of the New Testament, to tell us what their
ideas of human destiny were.
It is probable,
however, that the Pharisaic notion of a partial resurrection and the annihilation
of the wicked was held by some, and the heathen ideas of endless punishment
by others. We know that even while the apostles lived some of the early
Christians had accepted new, or retained ancient errors, for which they
were reprimanded by the apostles. "False teachers" and "philosophy and
vain deceit" were alleged of them, and it is the testimony of scholars
that errors abounded among them, errors that Christianity did not at first
exorcise. But the questions concerning human destiny were not at all raised
at first. True views and false ones undoubtedly prevailed, brought into
the new communion from former associations. And it is conceded that while
very little literature on this subject remains, there is enough to show
that they differed, at first, and until wiser teachers systematized our
religion, and sifted out the wheat from the chaff.
Views of Clement of Rome
The first of
the apostolic fathers was Clement of Rome, who was bishop A.D. 85. Eusebius
and Origin thought he was Paul's fellow laborer. His famous (first) epistle
of fifty-nine chapters in about the length of Mark's Gospel. He appeals
to the destruction of the cities of the plains to illustrate the divine
punishment, but gives no hint of the idea of endless woe, though he devotes
three chapters to the resurrection. He has been thought to have held to
a partial resurrection, for he asks: "Do we then deem it any great and
wonderful thing for the maker of all things to raise up again those who
have proudly served him in the assurance of a good faith?" But this does
not prove he held to the annihilation of the wicked, for Theophilus and
Origen use similar language. He says: "Let us reflect how free from wrath
he is towards all his creatures." God "does good to all, but most
abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to his compassions," etc. God
is "the all-merciful and beneficent Father." Neander affirms that he had
the "Pauline spirit," with love as the motive, and A. St. J. Chambre, D.D.,2
thinks "he probably believed in the salvation of all men," and Allin3
refers to Rufinus and says, "from which we may, I think, infer, that Clement,
with other fathers, was a believer in the larger hope." It cannot be said
that he has left anything positive in relation to the subject, though it
is probable that Chambre and Allin have correctly characterized him. He
wrote a Greek epistle to the Corinthians which was lost for centuries,
but was often quoted by subsequent writers, and whose contents were therefore
only known in fragments. It was probably written before John's Gospel.
It was at length found complete, bound with the Alexandrian codex. It was
read in church before and at the time of Eusebius, and even as late as
the Fifth Century.
Polycarp, a Destructionist
bishop of the church in Smyrna, A.D. 108-117. He is thought to have been
John's disciple. Irenæus tells us that he and Ignatius were friends
of Peter and John, and related what they had told them. His only surviving
epistle contains this passage: To Christ "all things are made subject,
both that are in heaven and that are on earth; whom every living creature
shall worship; who shall come to judge the quick and the dead; whose blood
God shall require of them that believe not in him." He also says in the
same chapter: "He who raised up Christ from the dead, will also raise us
up if we do his will," implying that the resurrection depended, as he thought,
on conduct in this life. It seems probable that he was one of those who
held to the Pharisaic doctrine of a partial resurrection. And yet this
is only the most probable uncertainty. There is nothing decisive in his
language. When the proconsul Statius Quadratus wrote to Polycarp, threatening
him with burning, the saint replied "Thou threatenest me with a fire that
burns for an hour, and is presently extinct, but art ignorant, alas! of
the fire of aionian condemnation, and the judgment to come, reserved
for the wicked in the other world." After Polycarp there was no literature,
that has descended to us, for several years, except a few quotations in
later writings, which, however, contain nothing bearing on our theme, from
Papias, Quadratus, Agrippa, Castor, etc.
of Polycarp" purports to be a letter from the church of Smyrna reciting
the particulars of his death. But though it is the earliest of the Martyria,
it is supposed to have a much later date than it alleges, and much has
been interpolated by its transcribers. Eusebius omits much of it. It speaks
of the fire that is "aionion punishment," and it is probable that
the writer gave these terms the same sense that is given them by the Scriptures,
Origen, Gregory and other Universalist writings and authors.
the doctrine of endless punishment very strongly. He was a philosophical
Platonist more than a Christian. He was a heathen convert and repeats the
heathen doctrines in language unknown to the New Testament though common
enough in heathen works. He calls punishment "death through punishment
in immortality," 4 terms used by Josephus and the Pagans, but
never found in the New Testament. His "Diatessaron," a collection of the
Gospels, is of real value in determining the existence of the Gospels in
the Second Century.
Barnabas's "Way of Death"
of Barnabas was written by an Alexandrian Gnostic, probably about A.D.
70 to 120, not, as has been claimed, by Paul's companion, and yet some
of the best authorities think the author of the Epistle was the friend
of Paul. Though often quoted by the ancients, the first four and a half
chapters of the Epistle were only known in a Latin version until the entire
Greek was discovered and published in 1863. It is the only Christian composition
written while the New Testament was being written, except the "Wisdom of
Solomon." It is of small essential value, and sheds but little light on
eschatology. The first perfect manuscript was found with the Sinaitic manuscript
of Tischendorf, a translation of which is given by Samuel Sharpe. (Williams
& Norgate, London, 1880.) It was the first document after the New Testament
to apply aionios to punishment; but there is nothing in the connection
to show that it was used in any other than its Scriptural sense, indefinite
duration. It is quoted by Origen on Cont. Cels., and by Clement of Alexandria.
It is chiefly remarkable for standing alone among writings contemporary
with the New Testament. The phrase, eis ton aiona, "to the age,"
mistranslated in the New Testament "forever" (though correctly rendered
in the margin of the Revision), is employed by Barnabas and applied to
the rewards of goodness and the evil consequences of ill doing. He says,
"The way of the Black one is an age-lasting way of death and punishment,"
but the description accompanying shows that the Way and its results are
confined to this life, for he precedes it by disclaiming all questions
of eschatology. He says: "If I should write to you about things that are
future you would not understand." And when he speaks of God he says: "He
is Lord from ages and to ages, but he (Satan) is prince of the present
of wickedness." Long duration but not strict eternity seems to have been
in his mind when he referred to the consequences of wickedness. This is
confirmed by the following language: "He that chooseth those (evil) things
will be destroyed together with his works. For the sake of this there will
be a resurrection, for the sake of this a repayment. The day is at hand
in which all things will perish together with the evil one. The Lord is
at hand and his reward." Barnabas probably held the Scriptural view of
punishment, long-lasting but limited, though he employs timoria
(torment) instead of kolasis (correction) for punishment.
The Shepherd or Pastor
In the middle
of the Second Century, say A.D. 141 to 156, a book entitled the "Shepherd,"
or "Pastor of Hermas," was read in the churches, and was regarded as almost
equal to the Scriptures. The author was commissioned to write it by Clemens
Romanus. Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius and Athanasius
quote from it, and rank it among the sacred writings. Clement says it is
"divinely expressed," and Origin calls it "divinely inspired." Irenæus
designates the book as "The Scripture." According to Rothe, Hefele, and
the editors of Bib. Max. Patrum, Hermas teaches the possibility of repentance
after death, but seems to imply the annihilation of the wicked. Farrar
says that the parable of the tower "certainly taught a possible improvement
after death: for a possibility of repentance and so of being built into
the tower is granted to some of the rejected stones." The "Pastor" does
not avow Universalism, but he is much further from the eschatology of the
church for the last fifteen centuries, than from universal restoration.
Only fragments of this work were preserved for a long time, and they were
in a Latin translation, until 1859, when one-fourth of the original Greek
was discovered. This, with the fragments previously possessed, and the
æthiopic version, give us the full text of this ancient document.
The book is a sort of Ante-Nicene Pilgrim's Progress--an incoherent imitation
of Revelation.5 The theology of the "Shepherd" can be gauged
from his language: "Put on, therefore, gladness, that hath always favor
before God, and is acceptable to him, and delight thyself in it; for every
man that is glad doeth the things that are good, but thinketh good thoughts,
despising grief." How different this sentiment from that which prevailed
later, when saints mortified body and soul, and made religion the deification
of melancholy and despair.
Of some fifteen
epistles ascribed to Ignatius, it has been settled by modern scholarship
that seven are genuine. There are passages in these that seem to indicate
that he believed in the annihilation of the wicked. He was probably a convert
from heathenism who had not gotten rid of his former opinions. He says:
"It would have been better for them to love that they might rise." If he
believed in a partial resurrection he could not have used words that denote
endless consequences to sin any more than did Origen, for if annihilation
followed those consequences, they must be limited. When Ignatius and Barnabas
speak of "eternal" punishment or death, we might perhaps suppose that they
regarded the punishment of sin as endless, did we not find that Origen
and other Universalists used the same terms, and did we not know that the
Scriptures do the same. To find aionion attached to punishment proves
nothing of its duration. In his Epist. ad Trall., he says that Christ descended
into Hades and cleft the aionion barrier.
Ignatius Probably a Destructionist
It seems on
the whole probable that while Ignatius did not dogmatize on human destiny,
he regarded the resurrection as conditional. But here, as elsewhere, the
student should remember that the pernicious doctrine of "reserve" or "oeconomy"
continually controlled the minds of the early Christian teachers, so that
they not only withheld their real views of the future, lest ignorant people
should take advantage of God's goodness, but threatened consequences of
sin to sinners, in order to supply the inducements that they thought the
masses of people required to deter them from sin. Dr. Ballou thinks that
this father held that the wicked "will not be raised from the dead, but
exist hereafter as incorporeal spirits." He was martyred A.D. 107.
Justin Martyr's Views
A.D. 89-166, is the first scholar produced by the Church, and the first
conspicuous father the authenticity of whose writings is not disputed.
His surviving works are his two Apologies, and his Dialogue with Trypho.
It is difficult to ascertain his exact views. Cave says: "Justin Martyr
maintains that the souls of good men are not received into heaven until
the resurrection and that the souls of the wicked are thrust into a worse
condition, where they expect the judgment of the great day." Justin himself
says that "the punishment is age-long chastisement (aionion kolasin)
and not for a thousand years as Plato says, "(in Phoedra). "It is unlimited;
men are chastised for an unlimited period, and the kingdom is aionion
and the chastening fire (kolasis puros) aionion, too. "God
delays the destruction of the world, which will cause wicked angels and
demons and men to cease to exist, in order to their repentance. Some which
appeared worthy of God never die, others are punished as long as God wills
them to exist and be punished. Souls both die and are punished." He calls
the fire of punishment unquenchable (asbeston). He sometimes seems
to have taught a pseudo-Universalism, that is, the salvation of all who
should be permitted to be immortal; at other times endless punishment.
Again he favors universal salvation. He not only condemned those who forbade
the reading of the Sibylline Oracles, but commended the book. His language
is, "We not only read them without fear, but offer them for inspection,
knowing that they will appear well-pleasing to all." As the Oracles distinctly
advocate universal salvation, it is not easy to believe that Justin discarded
their teachings. And yet he says: "If the death of wicked men had ended
in insensibility," it would have been a "god-send" to them. Instead, he
says, death is followed by aionion punishment. If he used the word
as Origen did, the two statements are reconcilable with each other. Justin
taught a "general and everlasting resurrection and judgment. Body and soul
are to be raised and the wicked with the devil and his angels, and demons,
sent to Gehenna. 6 Christ has declared that Satan and his host,
together with those men who follow him, shall be sent into fire, and punished
for an endless period.7" But it may be that he speaks rhetorically,
and not literally. It is the general opinion, however, that he regarded
punishment as limited, to be followed by annihilation. He himself says:
"The soul, therefore, partakes of life, because God wills it should live;
and, accordingly, it will not partake of life whenever God shall will that
it should not live." And yet he says that bodies are consumed in the fire,
and at the same time remain immortal.
a heathen philosopher before his conversion, and his Christianity is of
a mongrel type. He wore a pagan philosopher's robe, or pallium, after his
conversion, calls himself a Platonist, and always seems half a heathen.
His effort appears to be to fuse Christianity and Paganism, and it is not
easy to harmonize his statements. His Pagan idiosyncrasies colored his
Christianity. But, as Farrar says, the theology of the first one or two
centuries had not been crystallized, the "language was fluid and untechnical,
and great stress should not be laid on the expressions of the earliest
fathers. He nowhere calls punishment endless, but aionion; and yet
it can not be proved that he was at all aware of the true philosophic meaning
of aionios as a word expressive of quality, and exclusive of--or
rather the absolute antithesis to--time. He says that demons and wicked
men will be punished for a boundless age (aperanto aiona), but in
some passages he seems to be at least uncertain whether God may not will
that evil souls should cease to exist." 8 When Justin says that
transgressors are to remain deathless (athanata) while devoured
by the worm and fire, may he not mean that they cannot die while thus exposed?
So, too, when he used the word aionios, and says the sinner must
undergo punishment during that period, why not read literally "for ages,
and not as Plato said, for a thousand years only?"
these terms are found unexplained, as in Justin Martyr, they should be
read in the bright light cast upon them by the interpretations of Clement
and Origen, who employ them as forcibly as does Justin, but who explain
them--"eternal fire" and "everlasting punishment"--as in perfect harmony
with the great fact of universal restoration. Doctor Farrar regards Justin
Martyr as holding "views more or less analogous to Universalism. " 9
We cannot do
better here than to quote H. Ballou, 2d D.D.:
turns on the construction of a single passage. Justin had argued that souls
are not, in their own nature, immortal, since they were created, or begotten;
and whatever thus begins to exist, may come to an end. 'But, still, I do
not say that souls wholly die; for that would truly be good fortune to
the bad. What then? The souls of the pious dwell in a certain better place;
but those of the unjust and wicked, in a worse place, expecting the time
of judgment. Thus, those who are judged of God to be worthy, die no more;
but the others are punished as long as God shall will that they should
exist and be punished. For, whatever is, or ever shall be, subsequent to
God, has a corruptible nature, and is such as may be abolished and cease
to exist. God alone is unbegotten and incorruptible, and, therefore, he
is God; but everything else, subsequent to him, is begotten and corruptible.
For this reason, souls both die and are punished." 10
Punishment Not Endless
to Diognetus.--This letter was long ascribed to Justin Martyr, but it is
now generally regarded as anonymous. It was written not far from A.D. 100,
perhaps by Marcion, possibly by Justin Martyr. It is a beautiful composition,
full of the most apostolic spirit. It has very little belonging to our
theme, except that at the close of Chapter 10 it speaks of "those who shall
be condemned to the aionion fire which shall chastise those who
are committed to it even unto an end," 11 (mechri telous).
Even if aionion usually meant endless, it is limited here by the
word "unto" which has the force of until, as does
aidios in Jude
6,--"aidios chains under darkness, unto (or until) the judgment
of the great day." Such a limited chastisement, it would seem, could only
be believed in by one who regarded God as Diognetus's correspondent did,
as one who "still is, was always, and ever will be kind and good, and free
passage shows us that at the beginning of the Second Century Christians
dwelt upon the severity of the penalties of sin, but supplemented them
by restoration wherever they had occasion to refer to the ultimate outcome.
A few years later (as will appear further on) when Christianity was systematized
by Clement and Origen, this was fully shown, and explains the obscurities,
and sometimes the apparent incongruities of earlier writers. The lovely
spirit and sublime ethics of this epistle foreshadow the Christian theology
so soon to be fully developed by Clement and Origen. Bunsen thinks (Hipp.
and His Age, I, pp. 170, 171) the letter "indisputably, after Scripture,
the finest monument we know of sound Christian feeling, noble courage,
and manly eloquence."
(A.D. 120, died 202) was a friend of Ignatius, and says that in his youth
he saw Polycarp, who was contemporary with John. He had known several who
had personally listened to the apostles. His principle work, "Against Heresies,"
was written A.D., 182 to 188. No complete copy of it exists in the original
Greek: only a Latin translation is extant, though a part of the first book
is found in Greek in the abundant quotations from it in the writings of
Hippolytus and Epiphanius. Its authority is weakened by the wretched Latin
in which most of it stands. One fact, however, is irrefutable: he did not
regard Universalism as among the heresies of his times, for he nowhere
condemns it, though the doctrine is contained in the "Sibylline Oracles,"
then in general use, and though he mentions the doctrine without disapproval
in his description of the theology of the Carpocratians.
has been quoted as teaching that the Apostles' creed was meant to indoctrinate
endless punishment, because in a paraphrase of that document he says that
the Judge, at the final judgment, will cast the wicked into "eternal" fire.
But the terms he uses are "ignem aeternum" (aionion pur.)
As just stated, though he reprehends the Carpocratians for teaching the
transmigration of souls, he declares without protest that they explain
the text "until thou pay the uttermost farthing," as instilling the idea
that "all souls are saved." Irenæus says: "God drove Adam out of
Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, in compassion for
him, that he might not remain a transgressor always, and that the sin in
which he was involved might not be immortal, nor be without end and incurable.
He prevented further transgression by the interposition of death, and by
causing sin to cease by the dissolution of the flesh that man ceasing to
live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God."
The Creed or Irenæus
states the creed of the church in his day, A.D. 160, as a belief in "one
God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and the sea, and all
things that are in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became
incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit who proclaimed through
the prophets the dispensation of God, and the advents, and the birth from
a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the
ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord,
and his manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father 'to gather
all things in one," (Eph. 1:10) and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole
human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior,
and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, 'every knee should
bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth,
and that every tongue should confess to him,' (Phil. 2:10,11) and that
he should execute just judgment towards all; that he may send 'spiritual
wickedness,' (Eph. 6:12) and the angels who transgressed and became apostates,
together with the ungodly and unrighteous, and wicked and profane among
men, into aionion fire; and may in the exercise of his grace, confer
immortality upon the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept his commandments,
and have persevered in his love, some from the beginning, and others from
their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory."
must not forget that the use of the phrase, aionion fire, does not
give any color to the idea that Irenæus taught endless punishment,
for Origen, Clement, Gregory Nyssen, and other Universalists conveyed their
ideas of punishment by the use of the same terms, and held that salvation
is beyond, and even by means of the aionion fire and punishment.
Probably a Universalist
that the opinions of Irenaeus are doubtful from his (Schaff's) orthodox
standpoint and says: 12 "In the fourth Pfaffian fragment ascribed
to him (Stieren I, 889) he says that 'Christ will come at the end of time
to destroy all evil----and to reconcile all things-- from Col. 1:20--that
there may be an end of all impurity.' This passage, like
I Cor. 15:28, and Col. 1:20,
looks toward universal restoration rather than annihilation," but good,
orthodox Dr. Schaff admits that it, like the Pauline passages, allows an
interpretation consistent with eternal punishment. (See the long note in
Stieren.) Dr. Beecher writes that Irenæus "taught a final restitution
of all things to unity and order by the annihilation of all the finally
impenitent. The inference from this is plain. He did not understand aionios
in the sense of eternal; but in the sense claimed by Prof. Lewis, that
is, 'pertaining to the world to come,'" not endless. Irenæus thought
"that man should not last forever as a sinner and that the sin which was
in him might not be immortal and infinite and incurable."
"The eternal decree of redemption, is, to Irenæus, throughout, an
act of God's love. The atonement, is, according to him, a satisfaction
paid, not to God, but to the Devil, under whose power the human mind and
body were lying. But the Devil himself only serves God's purpose, for nothing
can resist to the last, the Almighty power of divine love, which works
not by constraint (the Devil's way) but by persuasion.13 The
different statements of Irenæus are hard to reconcile with each other,
but a fair inference from his language seems to be that he hovered between
the doctrines of annihilation and endless punishment, and yet learned not
a little hopefully to that of restoration. He certainly says that death
ends sin, which forecloses all idea of endless torments. It is probable
that the fathers differed, as their successors have since differed, according
to antecedent and surrounding influences, and their own idiosyncrasies.
writers up to date, all assert future punishment, seven apply the word
rendered everlasting (aionios) to it; three, certainly did not regard
it as endless, two holding to annihilation and one to universal restoration.
Remembering, however, the doctrine of Reserve, we can by no means be certain
that the heathen words used denoting absolute endlessness were not used
"pedagogically" (instructively), to deter sinners from sin.
A.D. 131, addressed an Apology to the Emperor Adrian, a fragment of which
survives, but there is no word in it relating to the final condition of
Homilies, once thought to have been written by Clement of Rome, but properly
entitled by Baur "Pseudo Clementine," the work of some Gnostic Christian--teach
the final triumph of good. One passage speaks of the destruction of the
wicked by the punishment of fire, "punished with aionion fire,"
but this is more than canceled by other passages in which it is clearly
taught that the Devil is but a temporal evil, a servant of good, and agent
of God, who, with all his evil works, are finally to be transformed into
good. On the one hand, the Devil is not properly an evil, but a God-serving
being; on the other, there is a final transformation of the Devil, of the
evil into good. The sentiments of the sermons and dissertations seem, however,
It is an important
consideration not always realized, when studying the opinions that prevailed
in the primitive church, that the earliest copies of the Gospels were not
in existence until A.D. 60; that the first Epistle written by Paul--1st
Thessalonians--was not written till A.D. 52; that the New Testament canon
was not completed until A.D. 170; that for a long time the only Christian
Bible was the Old Testament; 14 that the account of the judgment
in Matt. 25 is never referred to in the writings of the apostolic fathers,
who probably never saw or heard of it till towards the end of the Second
Century; and, therefore, when considering the opinions of the fathers for
at least a century and a half, we must in all cases interpret them by the
Old Testament, which scholars of all churches concede does not reveal the
doctrine of endless woe. Probably not a single Christian writer heretofore
quoted ever saw a copy of the Gospels.
Athenagoras and Theophilus
wrote an "Apology," about A.D. 178, and a "Treatise on the Resurrection."
He was a scholar and a philosopher, and made great efforts to convert the
heathen to Christianity. He declared that there shall be a judgment, the
award of which shall be distributed according to conduct; but he nowhere
refers to the duration of punishment. He was, however, the head of the
Catechetical school in Alexandria, before Pantænus, and must have
shared the Universalist views of Pantænus, Clement and Origen, his
(A.D. 180). This author has left a "Treatise" in behalf of Christianity,
addressed to Autolycus, a learned heathen. He uses current language on
the subject of punishment, but says: "Just as a vessel, which, after it
has been made, has some flaw, is remade or remodeled, that it may become
new and right, so it comes to man by death. For, in some way or other he
is broken up, that he may come forth in the resurrection whole, I mean
spotless, and righteous, and immortal."
writers were "orthodox," but there were at the same time Gnostic Christians,
none of whose writings remain except in quotations contained in orthodox
authors, with the exception of a few fragments. They seem to have mixed
Christianity with Orientalism. But they have been so misrepresented by
their opponents that it is very difficult to arrive at their real opinions
on all subjects. Happily they speak distinctly on human destiny.
1 Dr. Alvah Hovey, State
of the Impenitent Dead, pp. 131, 2. - 2 Anc. Hist. Univ., Note.
3 Univer. Assorted, p. 105.
- 4----. - 5 Bunsen, Hipp. and His Age, Vol. I, p. 182 - 6 Apol. 1, 8.
7 But Gregory Nyssen the
Universalist par excellence, says that Gehenna is a purifying agency. So
8 Lives of the Fathers,
p. 112. - 9 Eternal Hope, p. 84. - 10 Univer. Quar., July, 1846, pp. 299,
11 Migne, II, p. 1184. -
12 Vol. I, p. 490. - 13 Longfellow gives expression to the same thought:
"It is Lucifer, Son of Mystery
And since God suffers him
He, too, is God's minister
And labors for some good
By us not understood."
14 Westcott Int. to Gospels,
7 - Three Gnostic Sects
Three Gnostic sects flourished
nearly simultaneously in the Second Century, all which accepted universal
salvation: the Basilidians, the Valentinians, and the Carpocratians.
were followers of Basilides, who lived about A.D. 117-138. He was a Gnostic
Christian and an Egyptian philosopher. He wrote an alleged Gospel--exegetical
rather than historical--no trace of which remains. As some of his theories
did not agree with those generally advocated by Christians, he and his
followers were regarded as heretics and their writings were destroyed,
though no evidence exists to show that their view of human destiny was
obnoxious. Greek philosophy and Christian faith are mingled in the electicism
of the Basilidians. Basilides taught that man's universal redemption will
result from the birth and death of Christ. According to the "Dictionary
of Christian Biography," 1 Hippolytus gives an exposition of
the mystic Christian sect. Basilides himself was a sincere Christian, and
"the first Gnostic teacher who has left an individual, personal stamp upon
the age." 2 He accepted the entire Gospel narrative, and taught
that the wicked will be condemned to migrate into the bodies of men or
animals until purified, when they will be saved with all the rest of mankind.
He did not pretend that his ideas of transmigration were obtained from
the Scriptures but affirmed that he derived them from philosophy. He held
that the doctrines of Christianity have a two-fold character--one phrase
simple, popular, obtained from the plain reading of the New Testament;
the other sublime, secret, mysteriously imparted to favored ones. His system
was a sort of Egyptian reincarnation grafted on Christianity, an Oriental
mysticism endeavoring to stand on a Christian foundation, and thus solve
the problem of human destiny. Man and nature are represented as struggling
upwards. "The restoration of all things that in the beginning were established
in the seed of the universe shall be restored in their own season."
charges the Basilidians with immortality, but Clement, who knew them better,
denies it, and defends them. 3
were followers of Carpocrates, a Platonic philosopher, who incorporated
some of the elements of the Christian religion into his system of philosophy.
The sect flourished in Egypt and vicinity early in the Second Century.
Like the Basilidians they called themselves Gnostics, and taught a somewhat
similar set of theories. Irenæus says that the Carpocratians explained
the text: "Thou shalt not go out thence until thou hast paid the uttermost
farthing," as teaching "that no one can escape from the power of those
angels who made the world, but that he must pass from body to body until
he has experience of every kind of action which can be practiced in this
world, and when nothing is wanting longer to him, then his liberated soul
should soar upwards to that God who is above the angels, the makers of
the world. In this way all souls are saved," etc. But while Irenæus
calls the Carpocratians a heretical sect, and denounces some of their tenets,
he had no hard words for their doctrine of man's final destiny.
(A.D. 130) taught that all souls will be finally admitted to the realms
of bliss. They denied the resurrection of the body. Their doctrines were
widely disseminated in Asia, Africa and Europe, after the death of their
Egyptian founder, Valentine. They resembled the teachings of Basilides
in efforts to solve the problem of human destiny philosophically. Valentine
flourished, in Rome from A.D. 129 to 132. A devout Christian, and a man
of the highest genius, he was never accused of anything worse than heresy.
He was "a pioneer in Christian theology." His was an attempt to show, in
dramatic form, how "the work of universal redemption is going on to the
ever-increasing glory of the ineffable and unfathomable Father, and the
ever-increasing blessedness of souls." There was a germ of truth in the
hybrid Christian theogony and Hellenic philosophizing that made up Valentinianism.
It was a struggle after the only view of human destiny that can satisfy
the human heart.
sects were bitterly opposed by the "orthodox" fathers in some of their
tenets, but their Universalism was never condemned.
Phases of Gnosticism
It would be
interesting to give an exposition of the Gnosticism that for some of the
earlier centuries agitated the Christian Church; it will suffice for our
purpose here to say that its manifold phases were attempts to reach satisfactory
conclusions on the great subjects of man's relations to his Maker, to his
fellow-men, to himself, and to the universe--to solve the problems of time
and eternity. The Gnostic philosophers in the church show the results of
blending the Oriental, the Jewish, and the Platonic philosophies with the
new religion. "Gnosticism, 4 was a philosophy of religion,"
and Christian Gnosticism was an effort to explain the new revelation philosophically.
But there were Gnostics and Gnostics. Some of the Christian Fathers used
the term reproachfully, and others appropriated it as one of honor. Gnosis,
knowledge, philosophy applied to religion, was deemed all-important by
Clement, Origen, and the most prominent of the Fathers. Mere Gnostics were
only Pagan philosophers, but Christian Gnostics were those who accepted
Christ as the author of a new and divine revelation, and interpreted it
by those principles that had long predated the religion of Jesus. "The
Gnostics were the first regular commentators on the New Testament. The
Gnostics were also the first practitioners of the higher criticism. It
(Gnosticism) may be regarded as a half-way house, though which many Pagans,
like Ambrosius or St. Augustine, found their way into the church." ("Neoplatonism,
by Rev. Dr. Charles Bigg.) The Valentinians, Basilidians, Carpocratians,
Manichæans, Marcionites and others were Christian Gnostics; but Clement,
Origen and the great Alexandrians and their associates were Gnostic Christians.
In fact, the Gnostic theories sought a solution of the problem of evil;
to answer the question, "Can the world as we know it have been made by
God?" "Cease," says Basilides,
6 "from idle and curious variety,
and let us rather discuss the opinions which even barbarians have held
on the subject of good and evil. I will say anything rather than admit
Providence is wicked." Valentinus declared, "I dare not affirm that God
is the author of all this." Tertullian says that Marcion, like many men
of our time, and especially the heretics, "is bewildered by the question
of evil." The generally accepted Gnostic view was that while the good would
at death ascend to dwell with the Father, the wicked would pass through
transformations until purified.
Allen: "Gnosticism is a genuine and legitimate outgrowth of the same general
movement of thought that shaped the Christian dogma. Quite evidently it
regarded itself as the true interpreter of the Gospel." Baur quotes a German
writer as giving a full exposition of one of the latest attempts "to bring
back Gnosticism to a greater harmony with the spirit of Christianity."
sophia (wisdom), as the type of mankind, falls, rises,
and is united to the eternal Good. Baur says that Gnosticism declares that
"either through conversion and amendment, or through utter annihilation,
evil is to disappear, and the final goal of the whole world process is
to be reached, viz., the purification of the universe from all that is
unworthy and perverted." Harnack says that Gnosticism "aimed at the winning
of a world-religion. The Gnostics were the theologians of the First Century;
they were the first to transform Christianity into a system of doctrines
(dogmas). They essayed to conquer Christianity for Hellenic culture and
Hellenic culture from Christianity."7
the so-called "orthodox" Christians on many points, the three great Gnostic
sects of the Second Century were in full agreement with Clement and Origen
and the Alexandrine school, and probably with the great majority of Christians,
in their views on human destiny. They taught the ultimate holiness and
happiness of the human family, and it is noteworthy that though all the
Gnostics advocated the final salvation of all souls, and though the orthodox
fathers savagely attacked them on many points, they never reckoned their
Universalism as a fault. This doctrine was not obnoxious to either orthodox
or heterodox in the early centuries.
1 Vol. I, pp.
271, 2. - 2 Bunsen's Hipp. and His Age, Vol. I, p. 107.
3 T he standard
authorities on the subject of Gnosticism are Neander, Baur, Matter, Bigg,
Mansel (Gnostic Heresies).
4 Baur, Ch. Hist.
First Three Cent., I, pp. 184-200. Baring Gould's Lost and Hostile Gospels,
5 Mansel, Baur,
etc. - 6 Stieren's Irenæus V, 901-3. Clem. Strom. IV,
7 Outlines of
the Hist. of Dogma, pp. 58,9.
8 - The Sibylline Oracles
The oldest Christian document
since the New Testament, explicitly avowing the doctrine of universal restoration,
is the "Sibylline Oracles."1 Different portions of this composition
were written at different dates, from 181 B.C. to 267 A.D. The portion
expressing universal salvation was written by an Alexandrine Christian,
about A.D. 80, and the "Oracles" were in general circulation from A.D.
100 onward, and are referred to with great consideration for many centuries
The Righteous Pray for
the destruction of the world, which Sibyl prophesies, and the consignments
of the wicked to aionion torment, such as our Lord teaches in Matt.
25:46, the blessed inhabitants of heaven are represented as being made
wretched by the thought of the sufferings of the lost, and as beseeching
God with united voice to release them. God consents to their request, and
delivers them from their torment and bestows happiness upon them. The "Oracles"
declare: "The omnipotent, incorruptible God shall confer another favor
on his worshipers, when they shall ask him. He shall save mankind from
the pernicious fire and immortal (athanaton) agonies. Having gathered
them and safely secured them from the unwearied flame, he shall send them,
for his people's sake, into another and æonian life with the immortals
on the Elysian plain, where flow perpetually the long dark waves of the
deep sea of Acheron." 2
of the wicked are here described in the strongest possible terms; they
are "eternal," (aionion), "immortal" (athanaton), and yet
it is declared that at the request of the righteous, God will deliver them
from those torments.
The Sibyl anticipates
the poet Whittier:
"Still thy love, O Christ
Yearns to reach those souls
Through all depths of sin
Drops the plummet of thy
Never yet abyss was found
Deeper than that cross could
Deep below as high above
Sweeps the circle of God's
the same sentiment:
"What if (a) spirit redeemed,
amid the host
Of chanting angels, in some
Of the eternal anthem heard
Of its lost darling.
Would it not long to leave
the bliss of heaven
Bearing a little water in
To moisten those poor lips
that plead in vain
With him we call Our Father?"
document was quoted by Athenagoras, Theophilus, Justin Martyr, Lactantius,
Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, and Augustine. Clement calls the
author "the prophetess."
As late as the Middle Ages
the "Oracles" was well known, and its author was ranked with David. When
Thomas of Celano composed the great Hymn of the Judgment, he said:
"Dies Iræ, dies illa,
Solvet saeclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sibylla,"--
"the dreadful day of wrath
shall dissolve the world into ashes, as David and the Sibyl testify."
The best scholars
concede the Universalism of the "Oracles." Says Musardus,3 the
"Oracles" teach "that the damned shall be liberated after they shall have
endured infernal punishments for many ages, which was an error of
Origen." And Opsopoeus adds 4 "that the 'Oracles' teach
that the wicked suffering in hell (Gehenna) after a certain period, and
through atonements of griefs, would be released from punishments, which
was the opinion of Origen," etc. Hades, and all things and persons are
cast into unquenchable fire for purification; that is, the fire is unquenchable
until it has accomplished its purpose of purification. Gehenna itself,
as Origen afterwards insisted, purifies and surrenders its prisoners. The
wicked are to suffer "immortal" agonies and then be saved.
The Oracles are Early
remarks of the "Oracles:" "They stand alone as an attempt to embrace all
history, even it its details, in one great, theocratic view, and to regard
the kingdoms of the world as destined to from provinces in a future Kingdom
While the views
of retribution are not elevated, and represent the punishment of the wicked
as in literal fire, and not a moral discipline, such as Origen taught,
they clearly teach universal salvation beyond all æonian, even athanaton
suffering. A noted writer 5 declares: "The doctrine of Universalism
is brought forward in more than one passage of this piece;" though elsewhere
Dr. Deane misstates, inconsistently enough, the language of the Sibyl,
thus: "God, hearkening to the prayers of the saints, shall save some from
the pains of hell." He mistranslates anthropois into "some" instead
of "mankind," the meaning of the word, in order to show that Sibyl "does
not, like Origen, believe in universal salvation." And yet he is forced
at add: "This notion of the salvation of any is opposed to the sentiment
elsewhere expressed where in picturing the torments of hell the writer
asserts that there is no place for repentance or any mercy or hope." But
Dr. Deane forgets that the acknowledged Universalists of the early church
employed equally strong terms concerning the duration of punishment. The
use of the terms signifying endless torment employed by the Sibyl, as by
Origen and others, did not preclude the idea of the ultimate salvation
of those thus punished. Origen taught that the most stubborn sins will
be "extinguished" by the "eternal fire," just as Sibyl says the wicked
perish in "immortal" fire and are subsequently saved.
Sir John Floyer's Blunder
In line with
Deane's strange contradictions may be mentioned another of the many curiosities
of criticism. An English prose version of the Sibyl's Homeric hexameters
was made in 1713 by Sir John Floyer.6 He denies that the "Oracles"
teach universal salvation at all, but it order to sustain his position
he omits to translate one word, and mistranslates another! He renders the
entire passage thus: "The Almighty and incorruptible God shall grant this
also to the righteous when they shall pray to him; that he will preserve
them (literally save mankind, anthropois sosai) from the pernicious
fire and everlasting gnashing of teeth; and this will he do when he gathers
the faithful from the eternal fire, placing them in another region, he
shall send them by his own angels into another life, which will be eternal
to them that are immortal, in the Elysian fields," etc.
It is only
by rendering the words denoting "save mankind," "deliver them," that he
makes his point. A correct rendering coincides with the declarations of
most scholars, that universal salvation is taught in this unique document.
The Sibyl declares
that the just and the unjust pass through "unquenchable fire," and that
all things, even Hades, are to be purified by the divine fire. And after
the unjust have been released from Hades, they are committed to Gehenna,
and then at the desire of the righteous, they are to be removed thence
to "a life eternal for immortals."
(B. II, vv: 211-250-340).
Civ. Dei. B., XVIII) cited the famous acronym on the Savior's name as a
proof that the Sibyl foretold the coming of Jesus. And it is curious
to note that in his "City of God," when stating that certain "merciful
doctors" denied the eternity of punishment, he gives the same reasons they
assign for their belief that the Sibyl names. He quotes the "merciful doctors"
as saying that Christians in this world possess the disposition to forgive
their enemies, they will not lay aside those traits at death, but will
pity, forgive, and pray for the wicked. The redeemed will unite in this
prayer and will not God feel pity, and answer the prayer in which all the
saved unite? Augustine presents these unanswerable objections, and devotes
many pages to a very feeble reply to them.
So fully did
the Christians of the First Century recognize the "Oracles," and appeal
to them, that they were frequently styled the Sibylists. Celsus applied
the word to them, and Origen, though he accepted the Sibyl's teachings
concerning destiny, objected that the term was not justly applied. This
he does in "Ag. Cels." V. 61. Clement of Alexandria not only calls the
Sibyl a prophetess, but her "Oracles" a saving hymn.
cited fifty passages from the Sibyl in his evidences of Christianity.
No book, not
even the New Testament, exerted a wider influence on the first centuries
of the church, than the "Sibylline Oracles."
Quite a literature
of the subject exists in the periodical publications of the past few years,
but there are very few references to the Universalism of the "Oracles."
The "Edinburgh Review" (July, 1867) is an exception. It states that the
"Oracles" declare "the Origenist belief of a universal restoration (V.
33) of all men, even to the unjust, and the devils themselves." The "Oracles"
are specially valuable in showing the opinions of the first Christians
after the apostles, and, as they aim to convert Pagans to Christ, and employ
this doctrine as one of the weapons, it must at that time have been considered
a prominent Christian tenet, and the candid student is forced to conclude
that they give expression to the prevalent opinion of those days on the
subject of human destiny.
must not fail to observe that the "Sibylline Oracles" explicitly state
the deliverance of the damned from the torments of hell. They repeatedly
call the suffering everlasting, even "immortal," yet declare that it shell
end in the restoration of the lost.
2 B. VIII. ii,
verses 195-340 Ed. Opsopoei, Paris: 1667.
3 Historia Deorum
Fatidicorum, Vaturn Sibyllorum, etc., p. 184: (1675.) Dicit damnatos liberandos
postquam poenas infernales per aliquot secula erunt perpessi, qui
Origenis fuit error.
4 Notes (p. 27)
to Bib. Orac (Paris:1607). "Impii gehennæ supplicio addicti post
certi temporis metas et peccatorum per dolores expiationem, ex poenis
liberentur. Quæ sententia fuit Origenis, etc."
5 William J.
Deane, Pseudepigrapha, p. 329.
6 "The Sibylline
Oracles, Translated from the Best Greek Copies and Compared with the Sacred
9 - PANTAENUS AND CLEMENT
There is nothing
known to exist from the pen of Pantænus, but we learn from Eusebius
that his distinguished scholar and teacher was at the head of the Catechetical
school in Alexandria as early as A.D. 100-120. Tradition asserts that it
was founded by the apostles. 1 Jerome says, "a Marco Evangelista
sempher ecclesiastici fuere doctores." It had been up to the time of Pantænus
a school of proselytes, but he made it a theological seminary, and so was
the real founder of the Catechetical institution.2
Pantænus, the "Sicilian
was a convert from Stoicism, and is described by Clement, Jerome, and others
as a man of superior learning and abilities. Clement calls him "that Sicilian
bee gathering the spoil of the flowers of the prophetic and apostolic meadow;"
"the deepest Gnostic," by which he means "the deepest philosophical Christian,
the man who best understood and practiced Scripture." It could not be otherwise
than that the teacher of Clement cherished the religious views with which
his great disciple was graduated, for of Pantænus, Clement says:
"I know what is the weakness of these reflections, if I compare them with
the gifted and gracious teaching I was privileged to hear." Some of his
writings are alluded to, but though nothing remains, yet in Clement, who
was inspired by him, he gave to the church a priceless legacy.
A.D. 189 Pantænus
went on a missionary tour to India, and Eusebius says that while there
he found the seeds of the Christian faith that had been sown by previous
missionaries, and that he brought home with him the Gospel of Matthew,
in Hebrew, that had been carried to India by Bartholomew. May it not be
that some of the precepts of Buddhism resembling those of Christ, which
the best Oriental scholars admit are of later origin than Buddha, were
caught from the teachings of early Christian missionaries? Pantænus
was martyred A.D. 216.
of Clement, Origen and their successors must, beyond question, have been
taught by their great predecessor, Pantaenus, and there is every reason
to believe that the Alexandrine school had never known any contrary teaching,
from its foundation.
The Alexandrine School
Alexandria and its Famous
At this time
Alexandria was the second city in the world, with a population of 600,000;
its great library contained from 400,000 to 700,000 volumes; at one time
14,000 students are said to have been assembled; and it was the center
of the world's learning, culture, thought; the seekers for truth and knowledge
from all regions sought inspiration at its shrines, and it was most of
all in its interest to us, not only the radiating center of Christian influence,
but its teachers and school made universal salvation the theme of Christian
"To those old
Christians, a being who was not seeking after every single creature, and
trying to raise him, could not be a being of absolute righteousness, power,
love; could not be a being worthy of respect or admiration, even of philosophic
speculation. The Alexandrian Christians expounded and corroborated Christianity,
and adapted it to all classes and conditions of men, and made the best,
perhaps the only, attempt yet made by man to proclaim a true world-philosophy
embracing the whole phenomena of humanity, capable of being understood
and appreciated by every human being from the highest to the lowest." The
result was, "they were enabled to produce, in the lives of millions, generation
after generation, a more immense moral improvement than the world had ever
seen before. Their disciples did actually become righteous and good men,
just in proportion as they were true to the lessons they learnt. They did
for centuries work a distinct and perceptible deliverance on the earth."
was founded by Alexander the Great, 332 B.C., and it speedily became a
great city. After two centuries, however, it declined, until B.C. 30 when
Augustine made in an imperial city. In 196 A.D. its municipality, which
had been lost for two centuries, was restored, from this time on it resumed
its old prosperity, which continued until internal dissensions weakened
it, and A.D. 640, after a siege of fourteen months, it was taken by the
Arabs under Amru, and among other disasters the great library was destroyed.
This library contained the precious manuscripts of Origen and multitudes
of others that might shed great light on our theme. Abulpharagius relates
that John the Grammarian, a famous itinerant philosopher, begged Amru to
give him the library. Amru forwarded the request to Omar, who replied that
if the books contained the same doctrines as the Koran they were not needed;
if contrary to it they ought not to be preserved, and they were therefore
ordered to be burnt. Accordingly they were distributed among the 4,000
public baths of the city, where they furnished the fuel for six months!
continued to decline until the discovery of the route to the East in 1497
ruined its commerce, and it sank to a population of 6,000. But the opening
of the Mahmoudieh canal in 1820 has increased its prosperity, and it is
now one of the most important cities of the world. In 1871 it had a population
of 219,602. At the time of Christ, and for two hundred years after, Alexandria
was at the height of its greatness. From the time of Ptolemy Soter (306-285
B.C.), the books, scholars and learning of the world were centered in this
great city. The religions and philosophies of the world met here and created
an intense life of thought. Jews, Christians, Pagans were gathered and
met in intellectual conflict as nowhere else. It was here that Clement,
Origen, and their followers exerted their best influence, and that Christianity
preserved its purity for centuries.
of Africa was then crowded with rich and populous cities, and formed with
Egypt the granary of the world. In no part of the empire had Christianity
taken more deep and permanent root. Africa, rather than Rome, was the parent
of Latin Christianity. Tertullian was at this period the chief representative
of African Christianity, still later Cyprian, and later still Augustine.
To us, preoccupied with the modern insignificance of the Egyptian town,
it requires an effort of the mind to realize that Alexandria was once the
second largest city in the world, and the second greatest patriarchy of
the church, the church of Clement, Origen, Athanasius and Cyril. It gives
us a kind of mental shock when we recall that the land of Tertullian, Cyprian
and Augustine is the modern Tunis and Algiers."
Alexandria the Christian
"The seat and
center of Christianity during the first three centuries was Alexandria.
West of Alexandria the influence of the Latins, Tertullian, Cyprian, Minucius
Felix and Augustine prevailed, and their type of Christianity was warped
and developed by the influence of Roman law. Maine says that in going from
East to West theological speculation passed from Greek metaphysics to Roman
law. The genius of Augustine, thus controlled, gave rise to Calvinism.
The gloomy and precise Tertullian, the vigorous and austere Cyprian, bishop
of Carthage, and Augustine, the gloomiest and most materialistic of theologians,
who may almost be said to have invented the hell of the Middle Ages, contributed
the forces that later adulterated the genuine Christian faith. Even yet
the Greek population of the Eastern church, who read the Greek Gospels
as we read the English, are like the Greek fathers of the first ages of
the church; they know nothing of the doctrine invented by the Latin theologians."
(Stanley's Eastern Church, p.49.)
"In such a
city as Alexandria--with its museum, its libraries, its lectures, its schools
of philosophy, its splendid synagogue, its avowed atheists, its deep-thinking
Oriental mystics--the Gospel would have been powerless if it had been unable
to produce teachers who were capable of meeting Pagan philosophers and
Jewish Philoists on their own ground. Such thinkers would refuse their
attention to men who could not understand their reasonings, sympathize
with their perplexities, refute their fundamental arguments, and meet them
in the spirit of Christian courtesy. 4 Different instruments
are needed for different ends. Where Clement of Rome might have been useless,
Clement of Alexandria became deeply influential. Where a Tertullian would
only have aroused contempt and indignation, an Origen won leading Pagans
to the faith of Christ. From Alexandria came the refutation of Celsus;
from Alexandria the defeat of Arius. It was the cradle of Christian theology.5
"There can be no doubt that the wonderful advance of Christianity among
the cultivated, during the First and Second Centuries, was made by the
remarkable men who founded and maintained the Alexandrian school of Christian
thought. While the common people heard gladly the simple story of the Gospel,
the world's scholars were attracted and won by the consummate learning
and genius of Clement and Origen, and their assistants." "Pagan thinkers
would have paid attention to Clement when he spoke of Plato as truly noble
and half-inspired; they would have looked on the African father as an ignorant
railer, who had nothing better to say of Socrates than that he was 'the
Attic buffoon," of Aristotle than 'miserum Aristotelem!' Such arguments
as Tertullian's: It is credible because it is absurd, it is certain because
it is impossible, would have been regarded as worse than useless in reasoning
with philosophers." The Alexandrine Universalists met philosophers and
scholars on their own ground and conquered them with their own weapons.
Under God, the agency that gave Christianity its standing and wonderful
progress during the first three centuries, was the Catechetical school
of Alexandria, and the saintly scholars and Christian philosophers who
immortalized the famous city that was the scene of their labors. They met
and surpassed the apostles of culture, and proved at the very beginning
that Christianity is no less the religion of the wise and learned than
of the unlettered and simple. The Universalist Church has never sufficiently
recalled and celebrated the great labors and marvelous successes of the
founders in the primitive years of Christianity.
The Alexandrine Teachers
"Those who are truly
called the fathers and founders of the Christian church were not the simpleminded
fishermen of Galilee, but men who had received the highest education which
could be obtained at the time, that is Greek education. In Alexandria,
at the time the very center of the world, it had either to vanquish the
world or to vanish. Christianity came no doubt from the small room in the
house of Mary, where many were gathered together praying, but as early
as the Second Century it became a very different Christianity in the Catechetical
school of Alexandria. What Clement had most at heart was not the
letter but the spirit, not the historical events, but their deeper meaning
in universal history." 6
Max Muller's Words
out the fact that the Alexandrine "current of Christian thought was never
entirely lost, but rose to the surface again and again at the most critical
periods in the history of the Christian religion. Unchecked by the Council
of Nicæa, A.D. 325, that ancient stream of philosophical and religious
thought flows on, and we can hear the distant echoes of Alexandria in the
writings of St. Basil (A.D. 329-379), Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 332-395),
Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 328-389), as well as in the works of St. Augustine
of the history of those times cannot help deploring the subsequent substitutions
of Latin Augustinianism and its long train of errors and evils from Greek
Alexandrianism, nor can the Christian student avoid wishing that the Alexandrine
Christians could have been permitted to transmit their beneficent principles
uncorrupted. How different would have been the Middle Ages! How far beyond
its present condition would be the Christendom of today!
Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens,
Clemens Alexandrinus, or Clement of Alexandria--born A.D. 150, died A.D.
220--was reared in heathenism. Before his conversion to Christianity he
had been thoroughly educated in Hellenic literature and philosophy. It
is uncertain whether he was born in Athens of Alexandria. He became a Christian
early in his adult years; was presbyter in the church in Alexandria, and
in 189 he succeeded Pantænus as president of the celebrated Catechetical
school in Alexandria. During the persecution by Septimius Severus in 202
he fled, and was in Jerusalem in 211. He never returned to Alexandria,
but died about 220. This is all that is known of his life.
He was the
father of the Alexandrine Christian Philosophy, or ancient Philosophical
Christianity. Many of his works have perished; the principle ones that
survive are his "Exhortation to the Heathen," the "Teacher," or "Pedagogue,"
and "Stromata," or "Miscellanies," literally "Tapestries," or freely translated
It is the verdict
of scholars that Clement's "Stromata" is the greatest of all the Christian
apologies except Origen's. It starts "from the essential affinity between
man and God, (and) goes on to show how, in Christianity, we have the complete
restoration of the normal relation between the creature and the Creator."
of the Greek philosophers, and especially of Plato, on the Alexandrine
fathers, is conceded. 8 Clement held that the true Gnostic was
the perfect Christian. The Alexandrine fathers had no hostility to the
word Gnostic, properly understood; to them it signified the Christian who
brings reason and philosophy to bear on his faith, in contradistinction
from the ignorant believer. Irenæus had declared "genuine gnosis,"
or Gnosticism, to be "the doctrine of the apostles," insisting on "the
plenary use of Scripture, admitting neither addition nor curtailment, and
the reading of Scripture, and legitimate and diligent preaching, according
to the word of God." And Justin had bequeathed to the Alexandrine school
the central truth that the Divine Word is in the germ in every human being.
This great fact was never lost sight of, but was more and more developed
by the three great teachers--Pantænus, Clement and Origen.
philosophy of Epicureanism, that happiness is the highest good and can
best be procured in a well-regulated enjoyment of the pleasures of life;
the Pantheistic system of Stoicism, that one should live within himself,
superior to the accidents of time; the logical Aristotelianism, and the
Platonism that regarded the universe as the work of a Supreme Spirit, in
which man is a permanent individuality possessing a spark of the divinity
that would ultimately purify him and elevate him to a higher life; and
that virtue would accelerate and sin retard his upward progress--these
different systems all had their devotees, but the noblest of all, the Platonic,
was most influential with the Alexandrine fathers, though, like Clement,
they exercised a wise and rational variety, in adopting the best features
of each system. This Clement claimed to do, He says: "And by philosophy
I mean not the Stoic, nor the Platonic, nor the Epicurean, nor that of
Aristotle; but whatever any of these sects had said that was fit and just,
that taught righteousness with a divine and religious knowledge, this I
call mixed philosophy."9
speculation he solved by philosophy, but his theology he derived from the
Scriptures. He was not, therefore, a mere philosopher, but one who used
philosophy as a help to the interpretation of the religion of Christ. He
says; "We wait for no human testimony, but bring proof of what we assert
from the Word of the Lord, which is the most trustworthy, or, rather, the
Greek mind of Clement, with his great imagination, vast learning and research,
splendid ability, and divine spirit, could scarcely misinterpret or misunderstand
the New Testament Scriptures, written as they were in his mother tongue,
and it is not difficult to believe with Bunsen, that in this seat and center
of Christian culture and Christian learning, he became "the first Christian
philosopher of the history of mankind. He believed in a universal plan
of a divine education of the human race. This is the grand position occupied
by Clemens, the Alexandrian, in the history of the church and of mankind
and the key to his doctrine about God and his word, Christ and his spirit,
God and man. A profound respect for the piety and holiness of Clemens is
as universal in the ancient church as for his learning and eloquence. I
rejoice to find that Reinkins, a Roman Catholic, expressed his regret,
not to say indignation, that this holy man and writer, the object of the
unmixed admiration of the ancient Christian, should have been struck out
of the catalogue of saints by Benedict XIV." 10
A Transition Period
wrote Christian doctrine was passing from oral tradition to written definition,
and he asserts when setting forth the Christian religion, that he is "reproducing
an original, unwritten tradition," which he learned from a disciple of
the apostles. This had been communicated by the Lord to the apostles, Peter
and James and John and Paul, and handed down from father to son till, at
length, Clement set forth accurately in writing, what had been before delivered
orally. We can, therefore, scarcely hope to find unadulterated Christianity
anywhere out of the New Testament, if not in the writings of Clement. Max
Muller (Theosophy or Psychological Religion, Preface, p. xiv) declares
that Clement, having been born in the middle of the Second Century, may
possibly have known Papias, or some of his friends who knew the apostles,
and therefore he was most competent to represent the teachings of Christ.
Farrar writes: "There can be no doubt that after the date of the Clementine
Recognitions, and unceasingly during the close of the third and during
the fourth and following centuries, the abstract idea of endlessness was
deliberately faced, and from imperfect acquaintance with the meaning and
history of the word aionios it was used by many writers as though
it were identical in meaning with aidios or endless." Which is to
say that ignorance of the real meaning of the word on the part of those
who were not familiar with Greek, subverted the current belief in universal
restoration, cherished, as we shall directly show, by Clement and the Alexandrine
the works of Clement, only a few of which we quote, will sufficiently establish
the fact that he taught universal restoration. "For all things are ordered
both universally and in particular by the Lord of the universe, with a
view to the salvation of the universe. But needful corrections, by the
goodness of the great, overseeing judge, through the attendant angels,
through various prior judgments, through the final judgment, compel even
those who have become more callous to repent." "So he saves all; but some
he converts by penalties, others who follow him of their own will, and
in accordance with the worthiness of his honor, that every knee may be
bent to him of celestial, terrestrial and infernal things (Phil. 2:10),
that is angels, men, and souls who before his advent migrated from this
mortal life." "For there are partial corrections (padeiai) which
are called chastisements (kolasis), which many of us who have been
in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord's people. But as children
are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence.
But God does not punish (timoria) for punishment (timoria)
is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are
chastised collectively and individually." 11
passage is very instructive in the light it sheds on the usage of Greek
words. The word from which "corrections" is rendered is the same as that
in Hebrews 12:9, "correction" "chastening" (paideia); "chastisement"
is from kolasis, translated punishment in Matt. 25:46, and "punishment"
is timoria, with which Josephus defined punishment, but a word our
Lord never employs, and which Clement declares that God never influcts.
This agrees with the uniform contention of Universalist scholars.
nature is not angry but is at the farthest from it, for it is an excellent
ruse to frighten in order that we may not sin. Nothing is hated by God."
So that even if aionios meant endless duration, Clement would argue
that it was used as instruction--to restrain the sinner. It should be said,
however, that Clement rarely uses
aionion in connection with suffering.
that punishment in Hades is remedial and restorative, and that punished
souls are cleansed by fire. The fire is spiritual, purifying13
the soul. "God's punishments are saving and disciplinary (in Hades) leading
to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of the
sinner, (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11, etc.,) and especially since souls, although
darkened by passions, when released from their bodies, are able to perceive
more clearly because of their being no longer obstructed by the paltry
He again defines
the important word kolasis our Lord uses in Matt. 25:46, and shows
how it differs from the wholly different word timoria used by Josephus
and the Greek writers who believed in irremediable suffering. He says:
"He (God) chastises the disobedient, for chastisement (kolasis)
is for the good and advantage of him who is punished, for it is the amendment
of one who resists; I will not grant that he wishes to take vengeance.
Vengeance (timoria) is a requital of evil sent for the interest
of the avenger. He (God) would not desire to avenge himself on us who teaches
us to pray for those who despitefully use us (Matt. 5:44). 15
Therefore the good God punishes for these three causes: First, that he
who is punished (paidenomenos) may become better than his former
self; then that those who are capable of being saved by examples may be
drawn back, being admonished; and thirdly, that he who is injured may not
readily be despised, and be apt to receive injury. And there are two methods
of correction, the instructive and the punitive, 16 which we
have called the disciplinary."
reader of the translations of the Greek fathers is misled by the indiscriminate
rendering of different Greek words into "punish." Timoria should
always be translated "vengeance," or "torment;" kolasis, "punishment,"
and paideia "chastisement," or "correction."
"If in this
life there are so many ways for purification and repentance, how much more
should there be after death! The purification of souls, when separated
from the body, will be easier. We can set no limits to the agency of the
Redeemer; to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, is his work, and so will
he continue to operate after this life." 17
Clement did not deem
it well to express himself more fully and frequently respecting this point
of doctrine, because he considered it a part of the Gnostic or esoteric
knowledge which it might not be well for the unenlightened to hear lest
it should result in the injury of the ignorant; hence he says: "As to the
rest I am silent and praise the Lord." He "fears to set down in writing
what he would not venture to read aloud." He thinks this knowledge not
useful for all, and that the fear of hell may keep sinners from sin. And
yet he can not resist declaring: "And how is he Savior and Lord and not
Savior and Lord of all? But he (Christ) is the Savior of those who have
believed, because of their wishing to know, and of those who have not believed
he is Lord, until by being brought to confess him they shall receive the
proper and well-adapted blessing for themselves which comes by him."
of the day of grace through eternity is also expressed in the "Exhortation
to the Heathen" (ix): "For great is the grace of his promise, 'if today
we hear his voice.' And that today is lengthened out day by day, while
it is called today. And to the end the today and the instruction continue;
and then the true today, the never ending day of God, extends over eternity."
His reference to the resurrection shows that he regarded it as deliverance
from the ills of this state of being. Before the final state of perfection
the purifying fire which makes wise will separate errors from the soul;
the purgating punishment will heal and cure.
Bishop of Jerusalem, wrote to Origen on the death of Clement, says Eusebius,
"for we know these blessed fathers who have gone before us and with whom
we shall shortly be, I mean Pantænus, truly blessed and my master;
and the sacred Clement, who was my master and profitable to me."
This passage would indicate
the fraternity of feeling between these three, and seems to show that there
was no suspicion of the heresy of the others on the part of Alexander.
Further words of Clement
shows that the perversion of the truth so long taught, that the coming
of Christ placated the Father, had no place in primitive Christianity.
He says: God is good on his own account, and just also on ours, and he
is just because he is good, for before he became Creator he was God. He
was good. And therefore he wished to be Creator and Father. And the nature
of that love was the source of righteousness; the cause too of his lightning
up his sun, and sending down his own son. The feeling of anger (if it is
proper to call his admonition anger) is full of love to man, God condescending
to emotion on man's account, etc. (Paed. I, 10. Strom. I, 27.)
that God is never angry; he hates sin with unlimited hatred, but loves
the sinner with illimitable love. His omnipotence is directed by omniscience
and can and will overcome all evil and transform it to good. His threats
and punishments have but one purpose, and that the good of the punished.
Hereafter those who have here remained hardened will be chastened until
converted. Man's freedom will never be lost, and ultimately it will be
converted in the last and wickedest sinner.
Fire is an
emblem of the divine punishments which purify the bad.18 "Punishment
is, in its operation, like medicine; it dissolves the hard heart, purges
away the filth of uncleanness, and reduces the swellings of pride and haughtiness;
thus restoring its subject to a sound and healthful state."
"The Lord is
the propitiation, not only for our sins, that is of the faithful, but also
for the whole world (I John 2:2); therefore he truly saves all, converting
some by punishments, and others by gaining their free will, so that he
has the high honor that unto him every knee should bow, angels, men and
the souls of those who died before his advent."
That the foregoing
passage from Clement distinctly state the sublime sentiments we have supposed
them to express, will fully appear from those who have made the most careful
study of his opinions, and whose interpretations are unprejudiced and just.
Says one of the most thoughtful of modern writers, the candid Hagenbach:
of Clement, in particular, abound with passages referring to the love and
mercy of God. He loves men because they are kindred with God. God's love
follows men, seeks them out, as the bird the young that has fallen from
its nest." 19
Tertullian, denied original depravity, and held that "man now stands in
the same relation to the tempter in which Adam stood before the Fall."
Clement's doctrine of the Resurrection was like that of Paul; it is not
a mere rising from death, but a standing up higher, in a greater fullness
of life, and a better life, as the word anastasis properly signifies.
Allen in his
valuable work, "Continuity of Christian Thought," epitomizes the teachings
of Clement in language that describes the Universalistic contention. "The
judgment is not conceived as the final one of the universe in some remote
future, but as a present, continuous element in the process of human education.
The purpose of the judgment, as of all the divine penalties, is always
remedial. Judgment enters into the work of redemption as a constructive
factor. God does not teach in order that he may finally judge, but he judges
in order that he may teach. The censures, the punishments, the judgments
of God are a necessary element of the educational process in the life of
humanity, and the motive which underlies them is goodness and love. The
idea of life as an education under the immediate superintendence of a Divine
instructor who is God himself indwelling in the world, constitutes the
central truth in Clement's theology. There is no necessity that God should
be reconciled with humanity, for there is no schism in the divine nature
between love and justice which needs to be overcome before love can go
forth in free and full forgiveness. The idea that justice and love are
distinct attributes of God, differing widely in their operation, is regarded
by Clement as having its origin in a mistaken conception of their nature.
Justice and love are in reality the same attribute, or, to speak from the
point of view which distinguishes them, God is most loving when he is most
just, and most just when he is most loving.
God works all things up
to what is better.
Clement would not tolerate
the thought that any soul would continue forever to resist the force of
redeeming love. Somehow and somewhere in the long run of ages, that love
must prove weightier than sin and death, and vindicate its power in one
Bigg on Clement
One of the
best modern statements of the views of the Alexandrine fathers is given
by Bigg in Christian Platonists, pp. 75,89,112: Clement regarded the object
of kolasis as "threefold; amendment, example, and protection of
the weak. Strom. 1:26,168; 4:24,154; 6:12,99. The distinction between
and timoria, Strom. 4:14, 153; Paed. 1:8, 70, the latter is the
rendering of evil for evil and this is not the desire of God. Both kolasis
and timoria are spoken in Strom. 5:14, 90, but this is not to be
pressed, for in Strom. 6:14, 109, the distinction between the words is
dropped and both signify purgatorial chastisement. Fear he has handled
in the truly Christian spirit. It is not the fear of the slave who hates
his master; it is a reverence of a child for its father, of a citizen for
the good magistrate. Tertullian, an African and a lawyer, dwells with fierce
satisfaction on terrible visions of torment. The cultivated Greek shrinks
not only from the idea of retribution which it implies. He is never tired
of repeating that justice is but another name for mercy. Chastisement is
not to be dreaded but to be embraced." Here or hereafter God's desire is
not vengeance but correction. Though Clement's view of man's destiny is
called restorationism (apokatastasis) it was "not as the restitution
of that which was lost at the Fall, but as the crown and consummation of
the destiny of man leading to a righteousness such as Adam never knew,
and to heights of glory and power as yet unscaled and undreamed. His books
are in many ways the most valuable monument of the early church; the more
precious to all intelligent students because he lived, not like Origen,
in the full stream of events, but it a quiet backwater where primitive
thoughts and habits lingered longer than elsewhere." "Clement had no enemies
in life or in death." The great effort of Clement and Origen seems to have
been to reconcile the revelation of God in Christ with the older revelation
of God in nature.
Says De Pressense:
"That which strikes us in Clement is his serenity. We feel that he himself
enjoys that deep and abiding peace which he urges the Corinthians to seek.
It is impressed on every page he writes, while his thoughts flow on like
a broad and quiet stream, never swelling into a full impetuous tide. We
feel that this man has a great love for Jesus Christ." Compare, contrast
rather, his serenity and peacefulness with the stormy tempestuousness of
Tertullian, his "narrow and passionate realism," and we see a demonstration
of the power and beauty of the Restorationist faith.
Frederick Denison Maurice's
Maurice declares: 20 "I do not know where we shall look for
a purer or a truer man that this Clemens of Alexandria. He seems to me
that one of the old fathers whom we should all have reverenced most as
a teacher, and loved best as a friend."
"Alexandria, the birthplace of Gnosticism, is also the birthplace of Christian
theology, which in fact in its earliest forms, aimed at being nothing but
a Christian Gnosticism. Among the fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen
stand nearest to the Gnostics. They rank gnosis (knowledge) above
(faith), and place the two in such an deep-rooted relation to one another
that neither can exist without the other. Thus they adopt the same point
of view as the Gnostics. It is their aim, by drawing into their service
all that the philosophy of the age could contribute, to interpret Christianity
in its historical connection, and to take up its subject-matter into their
thinking consciousness." 21
A candid historian
observes: "Clemens may, perhaps, be esteemed the most profoundly learned
of the fathers of the church. A keen desire for information had prompted
him to explore the regions of universal knowledge, to dive into the mysteries
of Paganism, and to dwell upon the abtruser doctrines of Holy Writ. His
works are richly stored and diversified with illustrations and extracts
from the poets and philosophers with whose sentiments he was familiarly
acquainted. He lays open the curiosities of history, the secrets of varied
superstitions, and the fantasies of speculative wanderers, at the same
time that he develops the cast of opinions and peculiarities of discipline
which distinguished the members of the Christian state."22
"It is manifest throughout his works that Clement thought all the punishments
that God inflicts upon men are remedial. Of this kind he reckons the torments
which the damned in hell suffer. Clemens was of the same opinion as his
scholar Origen, who everywhere teaches that all the punishments of those
in hell are purgatorial, that they are not endless, but will at length
cease when the damned are sufficiently purified by the fire." 23
Clement's views, and shows that the great Alexandrian really anticipated
substantially the thought for which our church has contended for a century:
very few of the Christian fathers whose fundamental conceptions are better
suited to correct the narrowness, the rigidity and the formalism of Latin
theology. It is his lofty and wholesome doctrine that man is made in the
image of God; that man's will is free; that he is redeemed from sin by
a divine education and a corrective discipline; that fear and punishment
are but remedial instruments in man's training; that Justice is but another
aspect of perfect Love; that the physical world is good and not evil; that
Christ is a Living not a Dead Christ; that all mankind from one great brotherhood
in him; that salvation is an ethical process, not an external reward; that
the atonement was not the pacification of wrath, but the revelation of
God's eternal mercy. That judgment is a continuous process, not a single
sentence; that God works all things up to what is better; that souls may
be purified beyond the grave."
that Clement declares: "Punishment, as Plato taught, is remedial, and souls
are benefited by it by being amended. Far from being incompatible with
God's goodness it is a striking proof of it. For punishment is for the
good and benefit of him who is punished. It is the bringing back to righteousness
of that which departed from it." 24
It may be stated
that neither original sin, depravity, infant guilt and damnation, election,
vicarious atonement, and endless punishment as the penalty of human sin,
in fact, "none of the individual doctrines or tenets which have so long
been the object of dislike and reprehension to the modern theological mind
formed any designated part in Greek
They were abhorrent to Clement, Origen, and their associates.
The views held
by Clement and taught by his predecessor, Pantænus, and, as seems
apparent, by Anathegoras and his predecessors beck to the apostles themselves,
and by their successor Origen, and, as will appear on subsequent pages
by others down to Didymus, (A.D. 395), the last president of the greatest
theological school of the Second and Third Centuries, were substantially
those taught by the Universalist church of today, so far as they included
the character of God, the nature and final destiny of mankind, the effect
of the resurrection, the judgment, the nature and end of punishment, and
other related themes. In fact Clement stands on the subject of God's purpose
and plan, and man's ultimate destiny, as substantially a representative
of the Universalist church of the Nineteenth Century, as well as a type
of ancient scholarship.
1 Robertson Hist.
Ch., Vol. I, p. 90. Bingham, Vol. III, x, 5; Neander Hist., Ch. ii, 227;
Mosheim Com. I, p. 263; Butler's Lives of the Saints VII pp. 55-59.
2 Similar institutions
were in Antioch, Athens, Edessa, Nisibis and Cæsarea.
Alexandria and Her Schools.
4 Matter's Hist.
de l'Ecole d'Alexandrie; Kingsley's Alexandria and Her Schools.
5 Farrar's Lives
of the Fathers, I, pp. 262, 263.
6 Max Muller,
Theosophy or Psychological Religion, Lecture XIII.
7 The edition
of Clemens used in preparing this work is Bibliotheca Sacra Patrum Ecclesiæ
Græcorum, Pars. III. Titi Flaui Clementis Alexandrini Opera Omnia
Tom. I, IV. Recognouit Reinholdus Klotz. Lipsiæ, Sumptibus, E. B.
Schwickertl, I, 182. Also Migne's Patrologue.
8 Norton's Statement
of Reasons, pp. 94, 95; Cudworth; Brucker.
to which early Christians appealed to the Pagan philosophies may be gauged
from the fact that in Origen thirty-five allusions are made to the Stoics,
six to the Epicureans, fifteen to the Platonists, and six to the Phytagoreans;
it Tertullian five to the Stoics and five to the Epicureans; in Clement
of Alexandria, repeatedly. Huidekoper's Inderect Testomony to the Gospels.
9 Strom. i: 7.
- 10 Hipp. and His Age, I.
11 Strom, VII,
ii; Pedag. I, 8; on I John ii, 2; Comments on sed etiam pro toto mundo,
etc. ("Proinde universos quidem salvat, sed alios per supplicia convertens,
alios autem spontanea, assequentes, voluntate, et cum honoris dignitate
(Phil. ii: 10) ut omne genu flectatur ei, cælestium, terrestrium
et infernorum; hoc est angeli, homines, et animæ quæ ante adventum
ejus de hac vita migravere temporali.") Strom. VII, 16.
12 Paed I, viii.
- 13 Strom. VII, vi. - 14 VI, vi; VII, xvi;
VI, xiv; VII, ii. - 15 Poedag. I, viii. - 16
Strom. IV, xxiv.
17 Quoted by
Neander. - 18-----. - 19 Christian Doct., Period I, Sec.
20 Lectures on
the Ecc. Hist. of the First and Second Centuries, pp. 230-239.
21 Church Hist.
First Three Centuries. - 22 Hist. Christ. Church, Second and
Third Centuries, Jeremie, p. 38.
23 Hom. VI.,
4, in Exod. Qui salvus fit per ignem salvus fit, ut, si quid forte de specie
plumbi habuerit admixtum, id ignis decoquat et resolvat, ut efficiantur
omnes aurum purum.
24 Church of
the First Three Centuries, p. 158. - 25 Continuity of Christian
Thought, p. 19.
10 - Origen
Early Opposition to Origen
was born of Christian parents, in Alexandria, A.D. 185. He was early taught
the Christian religion, and when a mere boy could recite long passages
of Scripture from memory. During the persecution by Septimus Severus, A.D.
202, his father, Leonides, was imprisoned, and the son wrote to him not
to deny Christ out of tenderness for his family, and was only prevented
from surrendering himself to voluntary martyrdom by his mother, who hid
his clothes. Leonides died a martyr. In the year 203, then but eighteen
years of age, Origen was appointed to the presidency of the theological
school in Alexandria, a position left vacant by the flight of Clement from
heathen persecution. He made himself proficient in the various branches
of learning, traveled in the Orient and acquired the Hebrew language for
the purpose of translating the Scriptures. His fame extended in all directions.
He won eminent heathens to Christianity, and his instructions were sought
by people of all lands. He renounced all but the barest necessities of
life, rarely eating flesh, never drinking wine, slept on the naked floor,
and devoted the greater part of the night to prayer and study. Eusebius
says that he would not live upon the bounty of those who would have been
glad to maintain him while he was at work for the world's good, and so
he disposed of his valuable library to one who would allow him the daily
pittance of four obols (silver coins); and rigidly acted on our Lord's
precept not to have "two coats, or wear shoes, and to have no anxiety for
the morrow."1 Origen is even said to have mutilated himself
(though this is disputed) from an erroneous construction of the Savior's
command (Matt. 19:12), and to guard himself from slander that might proceed
from his association with female students. This act he lamented in later
years. If done it was from the purest motives, and was an act of great
self-sacrifice, for, as it was forbidden by canonical law, it debarred
him from clerical promotion. He was ordained presbyter A.D. 228, by two
bishops outside his diocese, and this irregular act performed by others
than his own diocesan gave grounds to Demetrius of Alexandria, in whose
jurisdiction he lived, to manifest the envy he had already felt at the
growing reputation of the young scholar; and in two councils composed and
controlled by Demetrius, A.D. 231 and 232, Origen was deposed. 2
of the church authorities condemned the action. In this persecution Origen
proved himself as grand in spirit as in mind. To his friends he said: "We
must pity them rather that hate them (his enemies), pray for them rather
than curse them, for we were made for blessing, not for cursing." Origen
went to Palestine A.D. 230, opened a school in Cæsarea, and enjoyed
a continually increasing fame. The persecutions under Maximinus in 235,
drove him away. He went to Cappadocia, then to Greece, and finally back
to Palestine. Defamed at home he was honored abroad, but was at length
called back to Alexandria, where his pupil Dionysius had succeeded Demetrius
as bishop. But soon after, during the persecution under Decius, he was
tortured and condemned to die at the stake, but he lingered, and at length
died of his injuries and sufferings, a true martyr, in Tyre, A.D. 253 or
254, at the age of sixty-nine. His grave was known down to the Middle Ages.
Professor Schaff on Origen
Schaff declares: "It is impossible to deny a respectful sympathy to this
extraordinary man, who, with all his brilliant talents, and a host of enthusiastic
friends and admirers, was driven from his country, stripped of his sacred
office, excommunicated from a part of the church, then thrown into a dungeon,
loaded with chains, racked by torture, doomed to drag his aged frame and
dislocated limbs in pain and poverty, and long after his death to have
his memory branded, his name anathematized, and his salvation denied; but
who, nevertheless, did more than all his enemies combined to advance the
cause of sacred learning, to refute and convert heathens and heretics,
and to make the church respected in the eyes of the world. Origen was the
greatest scholar of his age, and the most learned and gracious of all the
ante-Nicene fathers. Even heathens and heretics admired or feared his brilliant
talents. His knowledge embraced all departments of the linguistics, philosophy
and theology of his day. With this he united profound and fertile thought,
keen penetration, and glowing imagination. As a true divine he consecrated
all his studies by prayer, and turned them, according to his best conventions,
to the service of truth and piety."3
in prison, his feet in the stocks, his constant theme was: "I can do all
things through Christ who strengtheneth me." His last thought was for his
brethren. "He has left the memory of one of the greatest theologians and
greatest saints the church has ever possessed. One of his own words strikes
the key-note of his life: 'Love,' he says again and again, "is an agony,
a passion;' 'Caritas est passio." To love the truth so as to suffer
for it in the world and in the church; to love mankind with a tender sympathy;
to extend the arms of compassion ever more widely, so as to over-pass all
barriers of dogmatic difference under the far-reaching impulse of this
pitying love; to realize that the essence of love is sacrifice, and to
make self the unreserved and willing victim, such was the creed, such was
the life of Origen."4
in letters now lost, the sufferings he endured without the martyrdom he
so longed for, and yet in terms of patience and Christian forgiveness.
Persecuted by Pagans for his Christian fidelity, and by Christians for
heresy, driven from home and country, and after his death his morals questioned,
his memory branded, his name anathematized, and even his salvation denied.
There is not a character in the annals of Christendom more unjustly treated.
how Origen bore in his old age, as in his youth, fearful sufferings for
his fidelity to his Master, and carried the scars of persecution into his
grave. No nobler witness to the truth is found in the records of Christian
fidelity. And, as though the terrible persecutions he suffered during life
were not enough, he has for fifteen hundred years borne condemnation, reproach,
and denunciation from professing Christians who were unworthy to loosen
his shoe latchets. Most of those who decried him during his lifetime, and
for a century later, were men whose characters were of an inferior, and
some of a very low order; but the candid Nicephorus, a hundred and fifty
years after his death, wrote that he was "held in great glory in all the
of all Christian apologists and exegetes, and the first man in Christendom
since Paul, was a distinctive Universalist. He could not have misunderstood
or misrepresented the teachings of his Master. The language of the New
Testament was his mother tongue. He derived the teachings of Christ from
Christ himself in a direct line through his teacher Clement; and he placed
the defense of Christianity on Universalistic grounds. When Celsus, in
his "True Discourse," the first great assault on Christianity, objected
to Christianity on the ground that it taught punishment by fire, Origen
replied that the threatened fire possessed a disciplinary, purifying quality
that will consume in the sinner whatever evil material it can find to consume.
Gehenna Denotes a Purifying
that Gehenna is an analogue of the Valley of Hinnom and means a purifying
fire6 but suggests that it is not prudent to go further, showing
that the idea of "reserve" controlled him from saying what might not be
discreet. That God's fire is not material, but spiritual remorse ending
in reformation, Origen teaches in many passages. He repeatedly speaks of
aionion (mistranslated in the New Testament "everlasting,"
"eternal") and then elaborately states and defends as Christian doctrine
universal salvation beyond all aionion suffering and sin. Says the
candid historian Robertson: "The great object of this eminent teacher was
to harmonize Christianity with philosophy. He sought to combine in a Christian
scheme the fragmentary truths scattered throughout other systems, to establish
the Gospel in a form which should not present obstacles to the conversion
of Jews, of Gnostics, and of cultivated heathens; and his errors arose
from a too eager pursuit of this idea.7"
of his broad faith on his spirit and treatment of others, is in strong
contrast to the bitter and cruel disposition exhibited by some of the early
Christians towards heretics, such as Tertullian and Augustine. In reply
to the charge that Christians of different creeds were in enmity, he said,
"Such of us as follow the doctrines of Jesus, and endeavor to be conformed
to his precepts, in our thoughts, words and actions; being reviled, we
bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed. we entreat. Nor do
we say injurious things of those who think differently of us. They who
consider the words of our Lord, Blessed are the peaceable, and Blessed
are the meek, who will not hate those who corrupt the Christian religion,
nor give contemptuous reproach
to those who are in error."
When a young
teacher his zeal and firmness vindicated his name Adamantius, man of steel
or adamant. Says De Pressense: "The example of Origen was of much force
in sustaining the courage of his disciples. He might be seen constantly
in the prison of the pious captives carrying to them the consolation they
needed. He stood by them till the last moment of triumph came, and gave
them the parting kiss of peace on the very threshold of the arena or at
the foot of the stake." One day he was carried to the temple of Serapis,
and palms were placed in his hands to lay on the altar of the Egyptian
god. Brandishing the boughs, he exclaimed, "Here are the triumphal palms,
not of the idol, but of Christ." In a work of Origen's now only existing
in a Latin translation is the characteristic thought: "The fields of the
angels are our hearts; each one of them therefore out of the field which
he cultivates, offers first fruits to God. If I should be able to produce
today some choice interpretation, worthy to be presented to the Supreme
High Priest, so that out of all those thinks which we speak and teach,
there should be somewhat considerable which may please the great High Priest,
it might possibly happen that the angel who presides over the church, out
of all our words, might choose something, and offer it as a kind of first
fruits to the Lord, out of the small field of my heart. But I know I do
not deserve it; nor am I conscious to myself that any interpretation is
discovered by me which the angel who cultivates us should judge worthy
to offer to the Lord, as first fruits, or first born."8
His Critics are his Eulogists
are his eulogists. Gieseler remarks: "To the wide extended influence of
his writings it is to be attributed, that, in the midst of these furious
controversies (in the Fifth Century) there remained any freedom of theological
speculation whatever." Bunsen: "Origen's death is the real end of free
Christianity and, in particular, of free intellectual theology." Schaff
says: "Origen is father of the scientific and critical investigation of
Scripture." Jerome says he wrote more than other men can read. Epiphanius,
an opponent, states the number of his works as six thousand. His books
that survive are mostly in Latin, more or less mutilated by translators.
that his life is worthy of being recorded from "his tender infancy." Even
when a child "he was wholly borne away by the desire of becoming a martyr,"
and so divine a spirit did he show, and such devotedness to his religion,
even as a child, that his father, frequently, "when standing over his sleeping
boy, would uncover his breast, and as a shrine consecrated by the Divine
Spirit, reverently kiss the breast of his favorite offspring. As his doctrine
so was his life; and as his life, so also was his doctrine." His Bishop,
Demetrius, praised him highly, till "seeing him doing well, great and illustrious
and celebrated by all, was overcome by human infirmity," and maligned him
throughout the church.
followed as teacher in the Alexandrine school by his pupil Heraclas, who
in turn was succeeded by Dionysius, another pupil, so that from Pantænus,
to Clemens, Origen, Heraclas and Dionysius, to Didymus, from say A.D. 160
to A.D. 390, more than two centuries, the teaching in Alexandria, the very
center of Christian learning, was Universalistic.
of such a spirit, scholar, saint, philosopher, must have been a martyrdom,
and illustrate the power of his sublime faith, not only to sustain in the
terrific trials through which he passed, but to preserve the spirit he
always manifested--akin to that which cried on the cross, "Father, forgive
them, they know not what they do."
The Death of Origen
The death of
Origen marks an epoch in Christianity, and signalizes the beginning of
a period of decadence. The republicanism of Christianity began to give
way before the monarchical tendencies that ripened with Constantine (A.D.
313) and the Nicean council (A.D. 325). Clement and Origen represented
freedom of thought, and a rational creed founded on the Bible, but the
evil change that Christianity was soon to experience, was fairly seen,
says Bunsen, about the time of Origen's death. "Origen, who had made a
last attempt to preserve liberty of thought along with a rational belief
in historical facts based upon the historical records, had failed in his
gigantic efforts; he died of a broken heart rather than of the wounds inflicted
by his heathen torturers. His followers retained only his mystical scholasticism,
without possessing either his genius or his learning, his great and wide
heart, or his free, truth-speaking spirit. More and more the teachers became
bishops, and the bishops absolute governors, the majority of whom strove
to establish as law their speculations upon Christianity.
mind and vast sympathy, and his intense tendency to generalization, caused
Origen to entertain hospitality in his philosophical system many ideas
that now are seen inconsistent and illogical; but his fantastic, allegorical
interpretation of Scripture, his whimsies concerning pre-existence, and
his disposition to include all themes and theories in his system, did not
swerve him from the truths and facts of Christian revelation. His defects
were but as spots on the sun. And his erratic notions were by no means
in excess of those of the average theologian of his times.
A Christian Philosopher
philosophy as necessary to Christianity as is geometry to philosophy; but
that all things essential to salvation are plainly taught in the Scriptures,
within the comprehension of the ordinary mind. "Origen was the prince of
schoolmen and scholars, as subtle as Aquinas, as learned as Routh or Tischendorf.
He is a man of one book, in a sense. The Bible, its text, its exposition,
furnished him with the motive for incessant toil." (Neoplatonism, by C.
Bigg, D.D., London, 1895, p. 163.) The truths taught in the Bible may be
made by philosophers themes on which the mind may indefinitely wander;
and those competent will find interior, spiritual, concealed meanings not
seen on the surface. Yet he constantly taught "that such natural attraction
and similarities exists between Christianity and human reason, that not
only the grounds, but also the forms, of all Christian doctrines may be
explained by the dictates of philosophy. That it is vastly important to
the honor and advantage of Christianity that all its doctrines be traced
back to the sources of all truth, or be shown to flow from the principles
of philosophy; and consequently that a Christian theologian should exert
his ingenuity and his industry primarily to demonstrate the harmony between
religion and reason, and to show that there is nothing taught it the Scriptures
but what is founded in reason."
A Bible Universalist
He held to
the "most scrupulous Biblicism and the most conscientious regard for the
rule of faith, united with the philosophy of religion." He "was the
most influential theologian in the Oriental church, the father of theological
science, the author of ecclesiastical dogmatics. An orthodox traditionalist,
a strong Biblical theologian, a keen idealistic philosopher who translated
the content of faith into ideas, completed the structure of the world that
is within, and finally let nothing pass save knowledge of God and of self,
in closest union, which exalts us above the world, and conducts unto edification.
Life is a discipline, a conflict under the permission and leading of God,
which will end with the conquest and destruction of evil. According to
Origen, all spirits will, in the form of their individual lives, be finally
rescued and glorified (apokatastasis)."
9 Mosheim considered
these fatal errors, while we should regard them as valuable principles.
The famous historian assures us the Origen was entirely ignorant of the
doctrine of Christ's substitutional sacrifice. He had no faith in the idea
that Christ suffered in man's stead, but taught that he died in man's behalf.
The Works of Origen
The known works
of Origen consist of brief "Notes on Scripture," only a few fragments of
which are left; his "Commentaries," many of which are in Migne's collection;
his "Contra Celsum," or "Against Celsus," which is complete and in the
original Greek; "Stromata," only three fragments of which survive in a
Latin translation; a fragment on the "Resurrection;" practical "Essays
and Letters," but two of the latter remaining, and "Of Principles," "De
Principiis," or nearly all the original Greek of this great work has perished.
The Latin translation by Rufinus is very loose and inaccurate. It is frequently
a mere paraphrase. Jerome, whose translation is better than that of Rufinus,
accuses the latter of unfaithfulness in his translation, and made a new
version, only small portions of which have come down to modern times, so
that we cannot accurately judge of the character of this great work. A
comparison of the Greek of Origen's "Against Celsus" with the Latin version
of Rufinus exhibits great discrepancies. Indeed, Rufinus confesses that
he had so "smoothed and corrected" as to leave "nothing which could appear
conflicting with our belief." He claimed, however, that he had done so
because "his (Origen's) books had been corrupted by heretics and malicious
persons," and accordingly he had suppressed or enlarged the text to what
he taught Origen ought to have said! And having acknowledged so much he
enjoins all by their "belief in the kingdom to come, by the mystery of
the resurrection from the dead, and by the everlasting fire prepared for
the devil and his angels" to make no further alterations! He reiterates
his confession elsewhere, and says he has translated nothing that seems
to him to contradict Origen's other opinions, but has passed it by, as
"interpolated and forged." For the sake of "brevity," he says he has sometimes
Says De Pressense:
"Celsus collected in his quiver all the objections possible to be made,
and there is scarcely one missing of all the arrows which in subsequent
times have been aimed against the supernatural in Christianity." To every
point made by Celsus, Origen made a triumphant reply, anticipating, in
fact, modern objections, and "gave to Christian antiquity its most complete
apology. Many centuries were to elapse before the church could present
to the world any other defense of her faith comparable to this noble book."
"It remains the masterpiece of ancient apology, for solidity of basis,
vigor of argument, and breadth of eloquent exposition. The apologists of
every age were to find in it an inexhaustible mine, as well as incomparable
model of that royal, moral method inaugurated by St. Paul and St. John."
of his manner may be given in his reference to the attack of Celsus on
the miracles of Christ. Celsus dares not deny them, only a hundred years
after Christ, and says: "Be it so, we accept the facts as genuine," and
then proceeds to rank them with the tricks of Egyptian sorcerers, and asks:
"Did anyone ever look upon those impostors as divinely aided, who for hire
healed the sick and wrought wonderful works?" If Jesus did work miracles
it was through sorcery, and deserves therefore the greater contempt." In
reply Origin insists on the miracles, but places the higher evidence of
Christianity on a moral basis. He says: "Show me the magician who calls
upon the spectators of his prodigies to reform their life, or who teaches
his admirers the fear of God, and seeks to persuade them to act as those
who must appear before him as their judge. The magicians do nothing of
the sort, either because they are incapable of it, or because they have
no such desire. Themselves charged with crimes the most shameful and infamous,
how should they attempt the reformation of the morals of others? The miracles
of Christ, on the contrary, all bear the impress of his own holiness, and
he ever uses them as a means of winning to the cause of goodness and truth
those who witness them. Thus he presented his own life as the perfect model,
not only to his immediate disciples, but to all men. He taught his disciples
to make known to those who heard them, the perfect will of God; and he
revealed to mankind, far more by his life and works than by his miracles,
the secret of that holiness by which it is possible in all things to please
God. If such was the life of Jesus, how can he be compared to mere charlatans,
and why may we not believe that he was indeed God manifested in the flesh
for the salvation of our race?" 10
Cave says: "Celsus was an Epicurean philosopher contemporary with Lucian,
the witty atheist, a man of wit and parts, and had all the advantages which
learning, philosophy, and eloquence could add to him; but a severe and
incurable enemy to the Christian religion, against which he wrote a book
entitled 'The True Discourse," wherein he attempted Christianity with all
the arts of insinuation, all the wicked reflections, bitter slanders, plausible
reasons, whereunto a man of parts and malice was capable to assault it.
To this Origen returns a full and solid answer, in eight books; wherein,
as he had the better cause, so he managed it with that strength of reason,
clearness of argument, and convincing evidence of truth, that were there
nothing else to testify the abilities of this great man, this book alone
were enough to do it."
The Final Answer to Skepticism
that Origen "not only answered all the objections that had ever been brought,
but had supplied in anticipation answers to all that ever could be brought
against Christianity." Celsus, the ablest of all the assailants of Christianity,
wrote his "True Discourse" about a century before Origen's time. It is
the fountain whence the enemies of Christianity have obtained the materials
for their attacks on the Christian religion. In garbled texts, confounds
the different heresies with the accepted form of Christianity, and employs
the keenest logic, the bitterest sarcasm, and all the weapons of the most
accomplished and unscrupulous controversy, and exhausts learning, argument,
irony, slander, and all the skilled resources of one of the ablest of men
in his assault on the new religion. Origen's reply, written A.D., 249,
proceeds on the ground already established by Clement: the essential relation
between God and man; the universal operation of God's grace; the preparation
for the Gospel by Paganism; the residence of the genius of divinity in
each human soul; the resurrection of the soul rather than of the body,
and the remedial power of all the divine punishments. He triumphantly meets
Celsus on every point, argument with argument, denouncement with denouncement,
satire with satire, and through all breathes a supreme and lofty spirit,
immeasurably superior to that of his opponent. He leaves nothing of the
great skeptic's unanswered.
Among the points
made by Celsus and thoroughly disposed of by Origen were some that have
in recent years been presented: that there is nothing new in Christian
teaching; that the pretended miracles were not by the supernatural act
of God; that the prophecies were misapplied and unfulfilled; that Christ
borrowed from Plato, etc.
The First of Christian
The first system
of Christian theology ever framed--let it never be forgotten--was published
by Origen, A.D. 230, and it declared universal restoration as the issue
of the divine government; so that this eminent Universalist has the grand
pre-eminence of being not only the founder of scientific Christian theology,
but also the first great defender of the Christian religion against its
assailants. "De Principiis" is a profound book, a fundamental and essential
element of which is the doctrine of the universal restoration of all fallen
beings to their original holiness and union with God.
learned production was the "Hexapla." He was twenty-eight years on this
great Biblical work. The first form was the "Tetrapla," containing in four
columns the "Septuagint," and the texts of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion.
This he enlarged into "Hexapla" with the Hebrew text in both Hebrew and
Greek letters. Many of the books of the Bible had two additional columns,
and some a seventh Greek version. This was the "Octapla." This immense
monument of learning and industry consisted of fifty volumes. It was never
transcribed, and perished, probably destroyed by the Arabs in the destruction
of the Alexandrian Library.11
of medium height, but of such vigor and physical endurance that he acquired
the title Adamantius, the man of steel, or adamant. But he constantly wore
a demeanor of gentleness and majesty, of kindliness and saintliness, that
won all with whom he came in contact.
Quotation of Origen's
The following statements
from the pen of Origen, and summary of his views by eminent authors of
different creeds, will show the great scholar's ideas of human destiny.
Many more than are here given might be presented, but enough are quoted
to demonstrate beyond a peradventure that the great philosopher and divine,
the equally great scholar and saint, was a Universalist. There is no little
difficulty in reaching Origen's opinions on some topics--happily not on
man's final destiny--in consequence of most of his works existing only
in Latin translations confessedly inaccurate. He complained of perversions
while living, and warned against misconstruction. 12 But no
believer in endless punishment can claim the sanction of his great name.
Origen's Exact Words
"The end of the world, then, and the final consummation will take place
when everyone shall be subjected to punishment for his sins; a time which
God alone knows, when he will bestow on each one what he deserves. We think,
indeed, that the goodness of God, through his Christ, may recall all his
creatures to one end, even his enemies being conquered and subdued. For
thus says Holy Scripture, 'The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou at my right
hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.' And if the meaning of
the prophet be less clear, we may ascertain it from the apostle Paul, who
speaks more openly, thus: 'For Christ must reign until he has put all enemies
under his feet.' But even if that unreserved declaration of the apostle
do not sufficiently inform us what is meant by 'enemies being placed under
his feet,' listen to what he says in the following words: "For all things
must be put under him.' What, then, is this 'putting under' by which all
things must be made subject to Christ? I am of opinion that it is this
very subjection by which we also which to be subject to him, by which the
apostles also were subject, and all the saints who have been followers
of Christ. For the word 'subjection,' by which we are subject to Christ,
indicates that the salvation which proceeds from him belongs to his subjects,
agreeably to the declaration of David, 'Shall not my soul be subject unto
God? From him cometh my salvation.'" "Seeing, then, that such is
the end, when all enemies will be subdued to Christ, when death--the last
enemy--shall be destroyed, and when the kingdom shall be delivered up by
Christ (to whom all things are subject) to God the Father; let us, I say,
from such an end as this, contemplate the beginnings of things." "The apostolic
teaching is that the soul, having a substance and life of its own, shall,
after its departure from the world, be rewarded according to its deserts,
beings destined to obtain either an inheritance of eternal life and blessedness,
if its actions shall have procured this for it, or to be delivered up to
eternal fire and punishments, if the guilt of its crimes shall have brought
it down to this." De Prin. I, vi: 1, 2.
Origen, in the original Greek of which the Latin translation only exists,
here used "aionion" (inaccurately rendered everlasting and eternal
in the New Testament) in the sense of limited duration; and fire, as an
emblem of purification, for he says:
hearest of the wrath of God, believe not that this wrath and indignation
are passions of God; they are condescensions of language designed to convert
and improve the child. So God is described as angry, and says that he is
indignant, in order that thou mayest convert and be improved, while in
fact he is not angry." 13
condemns those who cherish unworthy thoughts of God, regarding him, he
says, as possessing a disposition that would be a slander on a wicked savage.
He insists that the purpose of all punishment, by a good God, must be remedial.
Meaning of Aionios
that aionios as applied to punishment does not mean endless, he
says that the sin that is not forgiven in the æon or the æon
to come, would be in some one of the æons following. His argument
that age (undoubtedly
aion in the original, of which, unfortunately,
we have only the Latin translation) is limited, is quite complete in "De
Principiis." This word is an age (saeculum, aion) and a conclusion
of many ages (seculorum). He concludes his argument by referring
to the time when, beyond "an age and ages, perhaps even more than ages
of ages," that period will come, viz., when all things are no longer in
an age, but when God is all in all.15
He quotes the
Scripture phrase "Forever and ever and beyond" (in saeculum et in saeculum
et edhuc, forever and further), and insists that evil, being a negation,
cannot be eternal.
Dr. Bigg sums
up Origen's views: "Slowly yet certainly the blessed change must come,
the purifying fire must eat up the dross and leave the pure gold. One by
one we shall enter into rest, never to stray again. Then when death, the
last enemy, is destroyed, when the tale of his children is complete, Christ
will 'drink wine in the kingdom of his Father.' This is the end, when 'all
shall be one, as Christ and the Father are one,' when 'God shall be all
dogmatizes; rests largely on general principles; says that "justice and
goodness are in their highest manifestations identical; that God does not
punish, but has made man so that in virtue only can he find peace and happiness,
because he has made him like himself; that suffering is not a tax upon
sin, but the wholesome reaction by which the diseased soul struggles to
cast out the poison of its disease; that, therefore, if we have done wrong
it is good to suffer, because the anguish of returning health will cease
when health is restored, and cannot cease till then. Again, that evil is
against the plan of God, is created not by him but by ourselves; is therefore,
properly speaking, a negation, and as such cannot be eternal. These are,
in the main, Greek thoughts, their chief source is the Gorgias of Plato;
but his final appeal is always to Scripture."
Leontius as saying that Origen argued from the fact that aionion
means finite duration, the limited duration of future punishment. Origen's
argument for the terminability of punishment was based on the meaning of
this word aionios. 16 Surely he, a Platonist in his knowledge
of Greek, should know its signification.
Origen on the Purifying
On I Cor. 3:2,
he says (Ag. Cels. V. xv.): The fire that will consume the world at the
last day is a purifying fire, which all must pass through, though it will
impart no pain to the good. In expressing eternity Origen does not depend
upon aion, but qualifies the word by an adjective, thus:---ton
apeiron aiona. Barnabas, Hermas, "Sibylline Oracles," Justin Martyr,
Polycarp, Theophilus and Irenæus all apply the word aionios
to punishment, but two of these taught annihilation, and one universal
salvation beyond aionion punishment.
God is a "Consuming
Fire," Origen thinks, because he "does indeed consume and utterly destroy;
that he consumes evil thoughts, wicked actions, and sinful desires when
they find their way into the minds of believers." He teaches that "God's
consuming fire works with the good as with the evil, annihilating that
which harms his children. This fire is one that each one kindles; the fuel
and food is each one's sins." 18 "What is the meaning of eternal
fire?" he asks: "When the soul has gathered together a multitude of evil
works, and an abundance of sins against itself, at a suitable time all
that assembly of evils boils up to punishment, and is set on fire to chastisement,"
etc. Just as physicians employ drugs, and sometimes "the evil has to be
burned out by fire, how much more is it to be understood that God our Physician,
desiring to remove the defects of our souls, should apply the punishment
of fire." "Our God is a 'consuming fire' in the sense in which we have
taken the word; and thus he enters in as a 'refiner's fire' to refine the
rational nature, which has been filled with the lead of wickedness, and
to free it from the other impure materials which adulterate the natural
gold or silver, so to speak, of the soul." Towards the conclusion of his
reply to Celsus, Origen has the following passage: "The Stoics, indeed
hold that when the strongest of the elements prevails all things shall
be turned into fire. But our belief is that the Word shall prevail over
the entire rational creation, and change every soul into his own perfection;
in which state every one, by the mere exercise of his power, will choose
what he desires, and obtain what he chooses. For although, in the diseases
and wounds of the body, there are some which no medical skill can cure,
yet we hold that in the mind there is no evil so strong that it may not
be overcome by the Supreme Word and God. For stronger than all the evils
in the soul is the Word, and the healing power that dwells in him; and
this healing he applies, according to the will of God, to every man. The
consummation of all things is the destruction of evil, although as to the
question whether it shall be so destroyed that it can never anywhere rise
again, it is beyond our present purpose to say. Many things are said obscurely
in the prophecies on the total destruction of evil, and the restoration
to righteousness of every soul; but it will be enough for our present purpose
to quote the following passage from Zephaniah," etc. (Ag. Cels. VIII. 1xxii.)
interprets "fire" in the Bible not only as a symbol of the sinner's suffering
but of his purification. The "consuming fire" is a "refiner's fire." It
consumes the sins, and refines and purifies the sinner. It burns the sinner's
works, "hay wood and stubble," that result from wickedness. The torture
is real, the purification sure; fire is a symbol of God's service, certain,
but salutary discipline. God's "wrath" is apparent, not real. There is
no passion on his part. What we call wrath is another name for his disciplinary
process. God would not tell us to put away anger, wrath (Origen says) and
then be guilty himself of what he prohibits of us. He declares that the
punishment which is said to be by fire is understood to be applied with
the object of healing, as taught by Isaiah, etc. (13:16; 47:14,15; 10:17).
The "eternal fire" is curative.
Origen on Gehenna
its fires have the same signification: "We find that what was termed 'Gehenna'
or 'the Valley of Ennom,' was included in the lot of the tribe of Benjamin,
in which Jerusalem also was situated. And seeking to ascertain what might
be the inference from the heavenly Jerusalem belonging to the lot of Benjamin,
and the Valley of Ennom, we find a certain confirmation of what is said
regarding the place of punishment, intended from the purification of such
souls as are to be purified by torments, agreeably to the same,--'the Lord
cometh like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap; and he shall sit as
a refiner and purifies of silver and of gold.'" Ag. Cels., VI. xxvi.
Views of "Foolish Christians"
In reply to
the charge of Celsus that Christians teach that sinners will be burnt up
by the fires of judgment, Origen replies that such thoughts had been entertained
by certain foolish Christians, who were unable to see distinctly the sense
of each particular passage, or unwilling to devote the necessary labor
to the investigation of Scripture. And perhaps, as it is appropriate to
children that some things should be addressed to them in a manner befitting
their infantile condition, to convert them, so such ideas as Celsus refers
to are taught." But he adds that "those who require the administration
of punishment by fire" experience it "with a view to an end which is suitable
for God to bring upon those who have been created in his image." In reply
to the charge of Celsus that Christians teach that God will act the part
of a cook in burning men, Origen says,--"not like a cook but like a God
who is a benefactor of those who stand in need of discipline of fire."
V. xv, xvi.
that sinners who are "incurable" are converted by the threat of punishment.
"As to the punishments threatened against the ungodly, these will come
upon them after they have refused all remedies, and have been, as we may
say, visited with an incurable malady of sinfulness. Such is our doctrine
of punishment; and the instruction of this doctrine turns many away from
Eusebius in their "Apology for Origen" quote these words from him: "We
are to understand that God, our physician, in order to remove those disorders
which our souls contract from various sins and abominations, uses that
painful mode of cure, and brings those torments of fire upon such as have
lost the health of the soul, just as an earthly physician in extreme cases
subjects his patients to searing or burning abnormal tissues."
always makes salvation depend on the consenting will; hence he says, (De
Prin. II, i:2), "God the Father of all things, in order to ensure the salvation
of all his creatures through the indescribable plan of his Word and wisdom,
so arranged each of these, that every spirit, whether soul or rational
existence, however called, should not be compelled by force, against the
liberty of his own will, to any other course than to which the motives
of his own mind led him."
that in the final estate of universal human happiness there will be differing
degrees of blessedness. After quoting I Thess. 4:15-17, he says: "A diversity
of translation and a different glory will be given to every one according
to the merits of his actions; and every one will be in that order which
the merits of his work have procured for him."
Mosheim and Robertson
expresses Origen's views: "As all divine punishments are remedial and useful,
so also that which divine justice has inflicted on corrupted souls, although
it is a great evil, is nevertheless designed for improvement in its tendency,
and should conduct them to blessedness. For the tiresome conflict of opposite
inclinations, the onsets of the passions, the pains and sorrows and other
evils arising from the connection of the mind with the body, and with a
perceptive soul, may and should excite the captive soul to long for the
recovery of its lost happiness, and lead it to concentrate all its energies
in order to escape from its misery. For God acts like a physician, who
employs harsh and bitter remedies, not only to cure the diseased, but also
to induce them to preserve their health and to avoid whatever might impair
historian Robertson gives an accurate statement of Origen's eschatology,
with references to his works, as follows: "All punishment, he holds, is
merely corrective and remedial, being ordained in order that all creatures
may be restored to their original perfection. At the resurrection all mankind
will have to pass through a fire; the purged spirits will enter into Paradise,
a place of training for the consummation; the wicked will remain in the
'fire,' which, however, is not described as material, but as a mental and
spiritual misery. The matter and food of it, he says, are our sins, which,
when swollen to the height, are inflamed to become our punishment; and
the outer darkness is the darkness of ignorance. But the condition of these
spirits is not without hope, although thousands of years may elapse before
their suffering shall have wrought its due effect on them. On the other
hand, those who are admitted into Paradise may abuse their free will, as
in the beginning, and may consequently be doomed to a renewal of their
sojourn in the flesh. Every reasonable creature-even Satan himself-may
be turned from evil to good, so as not to be excluded from salvation."
Robertson's doubt, expressed elsewhere in his history, whether Origen taught
the salvation of "devils," Origen's language is clear. He says: "But whether
any of these orders who act under the government of the Devil will in a
future world be converted to righteousness or whether persistent and deeply
rooted wickedness may be changed by the power of habit into nature, is
a result which you yourself, reader, may approve of;" but he goes on to
say that in the eternal and invisible worlds, "all those beings are arranged
according to a regular plan, in the order and degree of their merits; so
that some of them in the first, others in the second, some even in the
last times, after having undergone heavier and severer punishments, endured
for a lengthened period, and for many ages, so to speak, improved by this
stern method of training, and restored at first by the instruction of the
angels, and subsequently by the powers of a higher grade and thus advancing
through each stage to a better condition, reach even to that which is invisible
and eternal, having traveled through, by a kind of training, every single
office of the heavenly powers. From which, I think, this will appear to
follow as an inference that every rational nature may, in passing from
one order to another, go through each to all, and advance from all to each,
while made the subject of various degrees of proficiency and failure according
to its own actions and endeavors, put forth in the enjoyment of its power
of freedom of will." 22
The "Dictionary of Christian
Says the "Dictionary
of Christian Biography:" Origen "openly proclaims his belief that the goodness
of God, when each sinner shall have received the penalty of his sins, will,
through Christ, lead the whole universe to one end." "He is led to examine
into the nature of the fire which tries every man's work, and is the penalty
of evil, and he finds it in the mind itself--in the memory of evil. The
sinner's life lies before him as an open scroll, and he looks on it with
shame and anguish unspeakable. The Physician of our souls can use his own
processes of healing. The 'outer darkness' and Paradise are but different
stages in the education of the great school of souls, and their upward
and onward progress depends on their purity and love of truth. He who is
saved is saved as by fire, that if he has in him any mixture of lead the
fire may melt it out, so that all may be made as the pure gold. The more
the lead the greater will be the burning, so that even if there be but
little gold, that little will be purified. The fire of the last day, will,
it may be, be at once a punishment and a remedy, burning up the wood, hay,
stubble, according to each man's merits, yet all working to the destined
end of restoring man to the image of God, though, as yet, men must be treated
as children, and the terrors of the judgment rather than the final restoration
have to be brought before those who can be converted only by fears and
threats. Gehenna stands for the torments that cleanse the soul, but for
the many who are scarcely restrained by the fears of eternal torments,
it is not expedient to go far into that matter, hardly, indeed, to commit
our thoughts to writing, but to dwell on the certain and inevitable retribution
for all evil. God is indeed a consuming fire, but that which he consumes
is the evil that is in the souls of men, not the souls themselves." (Dr.
A. W. W. Dale.)
Translation of Origen's
Language on Universal Restoration
(Ante-Nicene Library, Edinburgh, 1872) thus renders Origen: "But as it
is in mockery that Celsus says we speak of 'God coming down like a torturer
bearing fire' and thus compels us unseasonably to investigate words of
deeper meaning, we shall make a few remarks. The divine Word says that
our 'God is a consuming fire' and that 'He draws rivers of fire before
him;' nay, that he even entereth in as 'a refiner's fire, and as a fuller's
herb' to purify his own people. But when he is said to be a 'consuming
fire' we inquire what are the things which are appropriate to be consumed
by God. And we assert that they are wickedness and the works which result
from it, and which, being figuratively called 'wood, hay, stubble,' God
consumes as a fire. The wicked man, accordingly, is said to build up on
the previously laid foundation of reason, 'wood, and hay, and stubble.'
If, then, any one can show that these words were differently understood
by the writer, and can prove that the wicked man literally builds up 'wood,
or hay, or stubble,' it is evident that the fire must be understood to
be material, and an object of sense. But if, on the contrary, the works
of the wicked man are spoken of figuratively, under the names of 'wood,
or hay, or stubble,' why does it not at once occur (to inquire) in what
sense the word 'fire' is to be taken, so that 'wood' of such a kind should
be consumed? For the Scripture says: "The fire shall try each man's work
of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon,
he shall receive a reward. If any man's work be burned, he shall suffer
loss.' But what work can be spoken of in these words as being 'burned,'
save all that result from wickedness?" Ag. Cels: IV. xiii; xciv.
One of the unaccountable
mysteries of religious thinking is that all Christians should not have
agreed with Origen on this point. "God is Love;" love, which from its nature
can only consume that which is harmful to its object,--Man, and not man
Again, "If then that
subjection be good and favorable by which the Son is said to be subject
to the Father, it is an extremely rational and logical inference to deduce
that the subjection also of enemies which is said to be made to the Son
of God, should be understood as being also remedial and useful; as if,
when the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfect restoration
of the whole of creation is signified, so also, when enemies are said to
be subjected to the Son of God, the salvation of the conquered and the
restoration of the lost is in that understood to consist. This subjection,
however, will be accomplished in certain ways, and after certain training,
and at certain times; for it is not to be imagined that the subjection
is to be brought about by the pressure of necessity (lest the whole world
should then appear to be subdued to God by force), but by word, reason
and doctrine; by a call to a better course of things; by the best systems
of training; by the employment also of suitable and appropriate threatenings,
which will justly impend over those who despise any care or attention to
their salvation and usefulness." (De Prin. III, v). "I am of opinion that
the expression by which God is said to be 'all in all,' means that he is
'all' in each individual person. Now he will be 'all' in each individual
in this way: when all which any rational understanding cleansed from the
dregs of every sort of vice, and with every cloud of wickedness completely
swept away, can either feel, or understand, or think, will be wholly God;
and when it will no longer behold or retain anything else than God, but
when God will be the measure and standard of all its movements, and thus
God will be 'all,' for there will no longer be any distinction of good
and evil, seeing evil nowhere exists; for God is all things, and to him
no evil is near. So, then, when the end has been restored to the beginning,
and the termination of things compared with their commencement, that condition
of things will be reestablished in which rational nature was placed, when
it had no need to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so
that, when all feeling of wickedness has been removed, and the individual
has been purified and cleansed, he who alone is the one good God becomes
to him 'all,' and that not in the case of a few individuals, or of a considerable
number, but he himself is 'all in all.' And when death shall no longer
anywhere exist, nor the sting of death, nor any evil at all, then verily
God will be 'all in all.'" Thus the final restoration of the moral universe
is not to be wrought in violation of the will of the creature: the work
of 'transforming and restoring all things, in whatever manner they are
made, to some useful aim, and to the common advantage of all," no "soul
or rational existence is compelled by force against the liberty of his
own will." (DePrin. III, vi.)
us see now what is the freedom of the creature, or the termination of its
bondage. When Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the
Father, then also those living things, when they shall have first been
made the kingdom of Christ, shall be delivered, along with the whole of
that kingdom, to the rule of the Father, that when God shall be all in
all, they also, since they are a part of all things, may have God in themselves,
as he is in all things." Origen regarded the application to punishment
of the word aionios, mistranslated everlasting, as in perfect harmony
with this view, saying that the punishment of sin, "though 'aionion,'
is not endless." He observes further: "The last enemy, moreover, who is
called death, is said on this account (that all may be one, without diversity)
to be destroyed that there may not be anything left of a mournful kind,
when death does not exist, nor anything that is adverse when there is no
enemy. The destruction of the last enemy, indeed, is to be understood not
as if its substance, which was formed by God, is to perish, but because
its mind and hostile will, which came not from God, but from itself, are
to be destroyed. Its destruction, therefore, will not be its non-existence,
but its ceasing to be an enemy, and (to be) death. And this result must
be understood as being brought about not suddenly, but slowly and gradually,
seeing that the process of amendment and correction will take place imperceptibly
in the individual instances during the lapse of countless and unmeasured
ages, some outstripping others, and tending by a swifter course towards
perfection, while others again follow close at hand, and some again a long
way behind; and thus, through the numerous and uncounted orders of progressive
beings who are being reconciled to God from a state of enmity, the last
enemy is finally reached, who is called death, so that he also may be destroyed
and no longer be an enemy. When, therefore, all rational souls shall have
been restored to a condition of this kind, then the nature of this body
of ours will undergo a change into the glory of the spiritual body."
In "Contra Celsum"
(B.VIII.), Origen says: "We assert that the Word, who is the Wisdom of
God, shall bring together all intelligent creatures, and convert them into
his own perfection, through the instrumentality of their free will and
of their own exertions. The Word is more powerful than all the diseases
of the soul, and he applies his remedies to each one according to the pleasure
of God--for the name of God is to be invoked by all, so that all shall
serve him with one consent."
Mercy and Justice Harmonious
that has wrought so much harm in modern theology, that justness and goodness
in God are different and hostile attributes was advocated, Origen says,
by "some" in his day, and he meets it admirably (De Prin. II, v:1-4), by
showing that the two attributes are identical in their purpose. "Justice
is goodness," he declares. "God confers benefits justly, and punishes with
kindness, since neither goodness without justice, nor justice without goodness,
can display the dignity of the divine nature."
Origen's Grand Statement
that God must be passionless because unchanging. Wrath, hatred, repentance,
are ascribed to him in the Bible because human infirmities require such
a presentation. Punishment results from sin as a legitimate consequence,
and is not God's direct work. In the Restitution God's wrath will not be
spoken of. God really has but one passion--Love. All he does illustrates
some phase of this divine emotion. He declares that with God the one fixed
point is the End, when God shall be all in all. All intelligent work has
a perfect end. Of Col. 1:20 and Heb. 2:19, he says: Christ is "the Great
High Priest, not only for man but for every rational creature." In his
Homilies on Ezekiel, he says: "If it had not been conductive to the conversion
of sinners to employ suffering, never would a compassionate and benevolent
God have inflicted punishment." Love, which "never faileth," will preserve
the whole creation from all possibility of further fall; and "God will
be all in all," forever.
to have been the first heathen author to name the Christian books, so that
they were well-known within a century of our Lord's death. We, undoubtedly,
have every objection, advanced by him against Christianity, preserved in
Origen's reply. He not only attacks our faith on minor points, but his
chief assaults are directed to show that the new religion is not a special
revelation; that its doctrines are not new; that it is not superior to
other religions; that its doctrines are unreasonable; that if God really
spoke to men, it would not be to one small nation, in an obscure corner;
that the miracles (though actual occurrences) were not wrought by divine
power; that Jesus was not divine, and did not rise from the dead; that
Christianity is an evolution. He took the same view as Renan, Strauss and
modern "Rationalists," charging the supposed appearance of Jesus after
his crucifixion to the imaginings of "a distracted woman," or to the delusions
of those who fancied what they desired to see.
selected the views of unauthorized Christians, as when he charged that
they worshipped Christ as God. Origen's reply proves that Christ was held
to be divine, but not Deity. He says: "Granted that there may be some individuals
among the multitude of believers who are not in entire agreement with us,
and who incautiously assert that the Savior is the most High God; we do
not hold with them, but rather believe him when he says: "The Father who
sent me is greater than I." Had Christians then held Christ to be God,
he could not have said this.
the father of "Rationalism," and Origen the exponent of a reverent and
rational Christian belief.
1 Eusebius Eccl. Hist. VI.
Butler's Lives of the Saints, Vol. IV, pp. 224-231, contains quite a full
sketch of Origen's life, though as he was not canonized he is only embalmed
in a foot note.
2 Demetrius is entitled
to a paragraph in order to show the kind of men who sometimes controlled
the scholarship and opinions of the period. When the patriarch Julian was
dying he dreamed that his successor would come next day, and bring him
a bunch of grapes. Next day this Demetrius came with his bunch of grapes,
an ignorant rustic, and he was soon after seated in the episcopal chair.
It was this ignoramus who tyrannically assumed control of ecclesiastical
affairs, censured Origen, and compelled bishops of his own appointing to
pass a sentence of degradation on Origen, which the legitimate presbyters
3 Hist. Christ. Church,
I, pp. 54-55. - 4 De Pressense' Martyrs and Apologists II, p. 340. -
5 Bayle, Dict. Hist. Art.
Origene. - 6 Cont. Cels. VI. 25.
7 Consult also, Mosheim,
Dorner and De Pressense. - 8 Homily XI in Numbers, in Migne.
9 Harnack's Outlines, pp.
10 Uhlhorn (B, II, c. ii)
says that in Celsus's attack "Every argument is to be found which has been
brought against Christianity up to the present day." "The True Word of
Celsus is to be found almost entire in the treatise which Origen wrote
in reply." Neoplatonism, by C. Bigg, D.D.
11 Kitto Cyclo; Davidson's
Biblical Criticism, Vol. I. - 12 De Principiis, Crombie's Translation.
Epist. ad Amicos.
13 In Jeremiah Hom. xviii:
6, Ag. Cels. IV. xxii. - 14 Selecta in Exodum: Also, De Prin. I, vi: 3.
15 De Prin. II. iii: 5.
16 Canon Farrar says in
Mercy and Judgment, p. 409, "For an exhaustive treatment of this word aionios
see Hanson's Aion Aionios."
17 Some of the texts Origen
quotes in proof of universal salvation: Luke 3:16;
I Cor. 3:15; Isa. 16:4;
12:1; 24:22; 46:14,15; Micah 7:9; Ezek. 16:53,55;
Jer. 25:15,16; Matt. 18:30;
John 10:16; Rom. 11:25,26; Rom. 11:32; I Pet. 3:18-21, etc.
18 De Prin. II, x: 3, 4.
I, i. Ag. Cels. iv, 13. - 19 Ag. Cels. VIII. xxxix. xl. - 20 Com. II, pp.
21 Hist. Christ. Church,
I, p. 114.
22 Origen held that meant
limited duration, and consequently that must mean limited. See De Prin.
I, vi: 3.
11 - Origen--Continued
The students, biographers
and critics of Origen of all schools of thought and theology mainly agree
in representing him as an explicit proclaimer of Universalism. Canon Westcott
styles him the great corrector of that Africanism which since Augustine
has dominated Western theology. He thus defines his views: "All future
punishments exactly answer to individual sinfulness, and, like punishments
on earth, they are directed to the amendment of the sufferers. Lighter
offenses can be chastised on earth; the heavier remain to be visited hereafter.
In every case the uttermost farthing must be paid, though final deliverance
Blunt on Origen
Blunt, in his
excellent work, describes the heathen mixtures and corruptions in manner,
custom, habit, conduct and life that began to prevail during the latter
part of the Third Century, as the influence of the great Alexandrine fathers
waned, and the Latinizing of the church began to assert itself.1
Dr. Bigg on Origen
come a time when man, completely subjected to Christ by the operation of
the Holy Ghost," says Bigg, epitomizing Origen, "shall in Christ be completely
subjected to the Father. But now," he adds, "the end is always like the
beginning. The manifold diversity of the world is to close in unity, it
must then have sprung from unity. His expansion of this theory is in fact
an elaborate commentary upon the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans
and the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Those,
he felt, were the two keys, the one to the eternity before, and other to
the eternity after. What the church cannot pardon, God may. The sin which
has no forgiveness in this æon or the æon to come, may be atoned
for in some one of the countless æons of the vast hereafter." This
exegesis serves to show us how primitive church treated the "unpardonable
sins." (Matt. 12:32). The sin against the Holy Ghost "shall not be forgiven
in this world (aion, age) nor in the world (aion, age) to
come." According to Origen, it may be in "some one of the countless æons
of the vast hereafter."
Schaff concedes that among those quickened and inspired to follow Origen
were Pamphilus, Eusebius of Cæsarea, Didymus of Alexandria, Athanasius,
Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzum, and Gregory of Nyssa; and among
the Latin fathers, Hilary and Jerome. And he feels obliged to add: "Gregory
of Nyssa and perhaps also Didymus, even adhered to Origen's doctrine of
the final salvation of all created intelligences."2
Bunsen on Origen
that Origen proves in "De Principiis," in favor of "the universality of
final salvation," the arguments of "nearly all the "Ante-Nicene fathers
before him." And Bunsen proceeds to show that the conviction that so broad
a faith would not enable hierarchs to control the people, inclined his
opponents to resort to the terrors of an indefinite, and thus, to their
apprehension, infinite and eternal punishment, which has vengeance and
not amendment for its end. "Away with Origen! What is to become of virtue,
and heaven, and--clerical power, if the fear of eternal punishment is not
forever kept before men's eyes as the prop of human and divine authority?"
So thought Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria in 230. Bunsen adds that Origen
taught that "the soul, having a substance and life of her own, will receive
her reward, according to her merits, either obtaining the inheritance of
eternal life and blessedness, or being delivered over to eternal death
and torments," after which comes the resurrection, the anastasis,
the rising into incorruption and glory, when "finally at the end of time,
God will be all in all; not by the destruction of the creature, but by
its gradual elevation into his divine being. This is life eternal, according
to Christ's own teaching." Of the grand faith in universal redemption,
Prof. Plumptre says: "It has been, and is, the creed of the great poets
whom we accept as the spokesmen of a nation's thoughts." 3
Origen Cruelly Treated
experienced by Origen is one of the abnormalities of history. The first
hostility to him, followed by his deposition and excommunication, A.D.
232, is conceded to have been in consequence of his opposition to the Episcopal
tendencies of Bishop Demetrius, and the envy of the bishop. His Universalism
was not in question. Lardner says that he was "not expelled from Alexandria
for heresy, but for envy." Bunsen says: "Demetrius induced a numerous synod
of Egyptian bishops to condemn as heretical Origen's opinion respecting
the universality of final salvation." But Bunsen seems to contradict his
own words by adding: "This opinion he had certainly stated so as even to
hold out a prospect of the conversion of Satan himself by the irresistible
power of the love of the Almighty," bet he was condemned "'not,' as says
St. Jerome, who was no friend to his theology, 'on account of novelty of
doctrine--not for heresy--but because they could not bear the glory of
his learning and eloquence.'" The opposition to Origen seems to have begun
in the petty anger of Demetrius, who was incensed because of Origen, a
layman, delivered discourses in the presence of bishops (Alexander and
Theoctistus), though at their request, and because he was ordained out
of his diocese. Demetrius continued his persecutions until he had degraded
Origen from the office of presbyter, though all the ecclesiastical authorities
in Palestine refused to recognize the validity of the sentence. His excommunication,
however, was disregarded by the bishops of Palestine, Arabia and Greece.
Going from Alexandria to Greece and Palestine, Origen was befriended by
Bishop Firmilian in Cappadocia for two years; and was also welcomed in
Nicomedia and Athens.4
"Everyone, with hardly an exception, adhered to Origen." And Doucin: "Provided
one had Origen on his side, he believed himself certain to have the truth."
That his opinions
were not obnoxious is proved by the fact that most of his friends and followers
were placed in charge of the most important churches. Says De Pressense:
"The Eastern church of the Third Century canceled, in fact, the sentence
passed upon Origen under the influence of the hierarchical party. At Alexandria
itself his disciples maintained the pre-eminence, and at the death of Demetrius,
Heraclas, who had been the most intimate friend and trusted disciple of
Origen, was raised to the Episcopal dignity by the free choice of the elders.
Heraclas died A.D. 249 and was succeeded by another disciple of Origen,
Dionysius of Alexandria. He was an diligent disciple of Origen, and with
his death the golden, peaceful days of the school of Alexandria were now
over. Dionysius was the last of its great masters." It is to be deplored
that none of the writings of Dionysius are known to exist.
Bishop of Cæsarea, expressed the most ardent friendship for Origen,
and offered him a refuge in Cæsarea, and a position as teacher. Firmilian,
Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, received Origen during Maximin's
persecution, and was always a fast friend. The majority of the Palestinian
bishops were friendly. Jerome mentions Trypho as a disciple of Origen.
He was author of several commentaries on the Old Testament. Hippolytus
is spoken of as "a disciple of Origen and Dionysius of Alexandria, 'the
Origen of the West'" attracted to Origen "by all the similarities of heart
His Universalism Never
The state of
opinion on the subject of universal salvation is shown by the fact that
through Ignatius, Irenænus, Hippolytus and others wrote against the
prevalent heresies of their times, Universalism is never named among them.
Some of the alleged errors of Origen were condemned, but his doctrine of
universal salvation, never. Methodius, who wrote A.D. 300; Pamphilus and
Eusebius, A.D. 310; Eustathius, A.D. 380; Epiphanius, A.D. 376 and 394;
Theophilus, A.D. 400-404, and Jerome, A.D. 400; all give lists of Origen's
errors, but none name his Universalism among them. Besides, some of those
who condemned his errors were Universalists, as the school of Antioch.
And many who were opponents of Origenism were mentioned by Origen's enemies
with honor notwithstanding they were Universalists, as Clement of Alexandria,
and Gregory of Nyssa.
Eusebius, A.D. 307-310, jointly wrote an Apology for Origen that contained
declarations from the ancient fathers endorsing his views of the Restitution.
This work, had it survived, would undoubtedly be an invaluable repository
of evidence to show the general prevalence of his views on the part of
those whose writings have not been preserved. All Christians must lament
with Lardner the loss of a work that would have told us so much of the
great Alexandrian. It seems to have been the fashion with the ancient Latin
theologians to burn the books they could not refute.
the eminent ancients who mention Origen with greatest honor and respect.
Some, like Augustine, do not accept his views, but all utter eulogistic
words, many adopt his sentiments, and Eusebius added a sixth book to the
production of Pamphilus, in consequence of the detractions against Origen.
While he had his opponents and defamers, the best and the most of his contemporaries
and immediate successors either accepted his doctrines or eulogized his
goodness and greatness.
lamented the misrepresentation of his views even during his lifetime. How
much more might he have said could he have foreseen what would be said
of him after his death.
who was martyred A.D. 294, and Eusebius, in their lost Apology for Origen,
which is mentioned by at least two writers who had seen it, gave many testimonies
of fathers preceding Origen, favoring Universalism,5 and Domitian,
Bishop of Ancyra, complains that those who condemn the restorationism of
Origen "anathematize all those saints who preceded and followed him," implying
the general prevalence of Universalism before and after the days of Origen.
Among the celebrated
contemporaries and immediate successors of Origen whose writings on the
question of man's final destiny do not survive, but who, from the relations
they sustained to this greatest of the Fathers, must have sympathized with
his belief in universal restoration, may be mentioned Alexander, Bishop
of Jerusalem (A.D. 216), a fellow student; Theoctistus, Bishop of Cæsarea
(A.D. 240-260); Heraclas, Bishop of Alexandria (A.D. 200-248); Ambrose
(A.D. 200-230); Firmilian, Bishop of Cæsarea (A.D. 200-270); Athenodore,
his brother (A.D. 210-270); all friends and adherents of Origen. They must
have cherished what was at the time the prevalent sentiment among Oriental
Christians--a belief in universal restoration--though we have no testimonies
On the unsupported
statement of Jerome, Origen is declared to have protested his orthodoxy
to the reigning Pope, Fabian, A.D. 246, and solicited re-admission to the
communion of the church. He is said to have laid the blame of the publication
of some of his unorthodox sentiments to the haste of his friend Ambrose.
But as Origen continued to teach Universalism all the rest of his life
the statement of Jerome must be rejected, or universal restoration was
not among the unorthodox doctrines. At the time Origen is said to have
written the letter, his pupil and friend, Dionysius, was Patriarch of Alexandria,
and he wrote to Pope Fabian and other bishops, it is probable, to effect
a reconciliation, to which Dionysius and most of the bishops would be favorable.
Besides, Origen is on record as classifying all bishops as of equal eminence,
except as goodness gave them superior rank, so that he could not have regarded
Fabian as pope. That the general sentiment during Origen's times and for
some time after was universalistic is thus made apparent. 6
Dr. Beecher's Testimony
says: "Two great facts stand out on the page of ecclesiastical history.
One, that the first system of Christian theology was composed and issued
by Origen in the year 230 after Christ, of which a fundamental and essential
element was the doctrine of the universal restoration of all fallen beings
to their original holiness and union with God. The second is, that after
the lapse of a little more than three centuries, in the year 544, this
doctrine was for the first time condemned and anathematized as heretical.
From and after this point (A.D. 553) the doctrine of eternal punishment
reigned with undisputed sway during the Middle Ages that preceded the Reformation.
What, then, was the state of facts as to the leading theological schools
of the Christian world, in the age of Origen, and some centuries after?
It was in brief this: There were at least six theological schools in the
church at large. Of these six schools, one, and only one, was decidedly
and earnestly in favor of the doctrine of future eternal punishment. One
was in favor of the annihilation of the wicked, two were in favor of the
doctrine of universal restoration on the principles of Origen, and two
in favor of universal restoration on the principles of Theodore of Mopsuestia.
It is also true that the prominent defenders of the doctrine of universal
restoration were decided believers in the divinity of Christ, in the Trinity,
in the incarnation and atonement, and in the great Christian doctrine of
regeneration; and were in piety, devotion, Christian activity, and missionary
enterprise, as well as in learning and intellectual power and attainments,
inferior to none in the best ages of the church, and were greatly superior
to those by whom, in after ages, they were condemned and anathematized.
From two theological schools there went forth an opposition to the doctrine
of eternal punishment, which had its ground in a deeper Christian interest;
inasmuch as the doctrine of a universal restoration was closely connected
with the entire dogmatic systems of both of these schools, namely that
of Origen (Alexandrian), and the school of Antioch." "Three at least of
the greatest of the ancient schools of Christian theology--the schools
of Alexandria, Antioch and Cæsarea--leaned on this subject to the
views of Origen, not in their details, but in their general hopefulness.
The fact that even these Origenistic fathers were able, with perfect honesty,
to use the current phraseology, shows that such phraseology was at least
capable of a different interpretation from that (now) commonly put upon
it." The school in Northern Africa favored the doctrine of endless punishment;
that in Asia Minor annihilation. The two in Alexandria and Cæsarea
were Universalistic of the school of Origen; those at Antioch and Edessa
were Universalistic of the school of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodore
of Tarsus. "Decidedly the most powerful minds (300 to 400 A.D.) adopted
the doctrine of universal restoration, and those who did not adopt it entered
into no controversy about it with those who did. In the African school
all this was reversed. From the very beginning they took strong ground
in favor of the doctrine of eternal punishment, as an essential part of
a great system of law of which God was the center." 7
It should be
noted, however, that the schools in Asia Minor and Northern Africa, where
annihilation and endless punishment were taught, were not strictly divinity
schools, but mere seminaries.
The one school
out of the six in Christendom that taught endless punishment was in Africa,
and the doctrine was derived by Latins from misunderstanding a foreign
language, through mis-translations of the original Greek Scriptures, and
was obtained by infusing the virus of Roman secularism into the simplicity
of Christianity. Maine in his "Ancient Law" attributes the difference between
Eastern and Western theology to this cause. The student of primitive Christianity
will see than Tertullian, Cyprian, Minucius Felix, down to Augustine, were
influenced by these causes, and created the theological travesty that ruled
the Christian world for dark and sorrowful centuries.
On this point
(that Origen's views were general) Neale observes: "In reading the works
of Origen, we are not to consider his doctrines and opinions as those of
one isolated doctor;--they are rather an embodiment of the doctrines handed
down in the Catechetical school of Alexandria. And this school was the
type, or model, according to which the mind of the Alexandrine church was
cast; the philosophy of Pantænus descended to Clemens,--and from
him it was caught by Origen." 8
facts it is easily seen that the heresies of which Origen was accused did
not touch the doctrine of universal restoration. They were for teaching
inequality between the persons of the Trinity, the pre-existence of the
human soul, denying the resurrection of the body, affirming that wicked
angels will not suffer endless punishment, and that all souls will be absorbed
into the Infinite Fountain whence they sprang, like drops falling into
the sea. This latter accusation was a perversion of his teaching that God
will be "all in all." Some of these doctrines are only found in alleged
quotations in the works of his opponents, as Jerome and others who wrote
against him. His language was sometimes misunderstood, and oftener ignorantly
or purposely perverted. Many quotations are from works of his not in existence.
Interpolations and alterations were made by his enemies in his works even
during his lifetime, as he complained. Epiphanius "attacked Origen in Jerusalem
after he was dead, and tried to make Bishop John denounce him. Failing
here he tried to compel Jerome, through fear for his reputation for orthodoxy,
to do the same, and succeeded so far as to disgrace Jerome forever for
his meanness, and cowardice, and double dealing. The Theophilus, Bishop
of Alexandria, came to his aid in anathematizing Origen. He called a synod
A.D. 399, in which he condemned Origen and anathematized all who should
read his works." "After this, Epiphanius died. But his followers pursued
the same work in his spirit, until Origen was condemned again by Justinian;"
this time for his Universalism, but, as will be seen hereafter, the church
did not sustain Justinian's attack.9
Dr. Pond's Misrepresentation
practices to which the odium theologicum has impelled good men,
is illustrated by Dr. Enoch Pond, professor in Bangor Theological Seminary.
Displeased with the wonderfully candid statements of Dr. Edward Beecher,
in his articles in "The Christian Union," afterwards contained in "History
of the Doctrine of Future Retribution," he reviewed the articles in the
same paper, and in order to convict Dr. Beecher of inaccuracy, Dr. Pond
quotes from Crombie's translation of Rufinus's Latin version instead of
from Crombie's rendering of the actual Greek of Origen, and this, too,
when not only does Rufinus confess that he has altered the sense but in
the very book (III) from which Dr. Pond quotes is Crombie's translation
of the Greek, and the following note from Crombie is at the beginning of
the chapter: "The whole of this chapter has been preserved in the original
Greek, which is literally translated in corresponding portions on
each page, so that the differences between Origen's own words and the amplifications
and alterations of the paraphrase of Rufinus may be at once patent to the
reader." It almost seems that there is a fatality attendant upon all hostile
critics who deal with Origen. The injustice he received in life seems to
have dogged his name in every age.
in which theological questions were settled and creeds established in those
days, is shown by Athanasius. He says that when the Emperor Constantius
at the council of Milan, A.D. 355, commanded the bishops to subscribe against
Athanasius and they replied that there was no ecclesiastical canon to that
effect, the Emperor said, "Whatever I will, let that be esteemed a canon."
Universalism in Good
Repute in the Fifth Century
A.D. 402, when
Epiphanius came for Cyprus to Constantinople with a synodical decree condemning
Origen's books without excommunicating Origen, he declined Chrysostom's
invitation to lodge at the Episcopal palace, as Chrysostom was a friend
and advocate of Origen. He urged that clergy of the city to sign the decree,
but, Socrates says, "many refused, among them Theotinus, Bishop of Scythia,
who said, 'I choose not, Epiphanius, to insult the memory of one who ended
his life piously long ago; not dare I be guilty of so impious an act, as
that of condemning what our predecessors by no means rejected; and specially
when I know of no evil doctrine contained in Origen's books.
Those who attempt to fix
a stigma on these writings are unconsciously casting a dishonor upon the
sacred volume whence their principles are drawn.' Such was the reply which
Theotinus, a prelate, eminent for his piety and rectitude of life, made
to Epiphanius." In the next chapter (xiii), Socrates states that only worthless
characters decried Origen. Among them he mentions Methodius, Eustathius,
Apollinaris and Theophilus, as "four revilers," whose "censure was his
commendation." Socrates was born about A.D. 380, and his book continues
Eusebius's history to A.D. 445, and he records what he received from those
who knew the facts. This makes it clear that while Origen's views were
rejected by some, they were in good repute by the most and the best, two
hundred years after his death.
admits that "some, nay, very many" (nonnulli, quam plurimi), pity
with human feeling, the everlasting punishment of the damned, and do not
believe that it is so." 10 The kind of people thus believing
are described by Doederlein, "The more highly distinguished in Christian
antiquity any one was for learning, so much the more did he cherish and
defend the hope of future torments sometime ending."
Different Opinions on
A.D. 200 three different opinions were held among Christians--endless punishment,
annihilation, and universal salvation; but, so far as the literature of
the times shows, the subject was never one of controversy, and the last-named
doctrine prevailed most, if the assertions of it in literature are any
test of its acceptance by the people. For a hundred and fifty years, A.D.
250 to 400, though Origen and his heresies on many points are frequently
attacked and condemned, there is scarcely a whisper on record against his
Universalism. On the other hand, to be called an Origenist was a high honor,
from 260 to 290. A.D. 300 on, the doctrine of endless punishment began
to be more explicitly stated, notably by Arnobius and Lactantius. And thenceforward
to 370, while some of the fathers taught endless punishment, and others
annihilation, the doctrine of most is not stated. One fact, however, is
conspicuous: though all kinds of heresy were attacked, Universalism was
not considered sufficiently heretical to entitle it to censure.11
1 Copious references
have already been made on this point.
2 "The theology
of Christendom and its character for the first three centuries was shaped
by three men. Ignatius, Irenæus and Cyprian gave its organization;
Clement and Origen its form of religious thought." British Quarterly Review,
3 Spirits in
Prison, p. 13. Dr. Ballou in his Ancient History of Universalism, p. 95,
note, gives at length references to the passages in Delarue's edition of
Origen in which the doctrine of universal salvation is expressed in Origen's
4 De Pressense
charges the acrimony of Demetrius to Origen's opposition to the encroachments
of the Episcopate and to his disapproval of the ambition of the hierarchy.
Martyrs and Apologists, p. 332.
5 Routh, Reliquiæ
Sacræ, iii, p. 498.
6 "At the close
of the Second Century the church in Alexandria was wealthy and numerous.
Demetrius, the bishop, gave the finishing stroke to the congregationalism
of the church by censuring Origen and by appointing suffragan bishops whom
he persuaded to pass a sentence upon Origen which the presbyters had refused
to sanction." Redepenning, as quoted by Bigg.
7 Hist. Doct.
Fut. Ret.- 8 Holv Eastern Church. p. 37.
9 Socrates, the
ecclesiastical historian, defends Origen from the attacks of his enemies,
and finding him sound on the co-eternity of Christ with God, will not hear
of any heresy in him. Eccl. Hist., b. vi, ch. xiii.
to Reuss "The doctrine of a general restoration of all rational creatures
has been recommended by very many of the greatest thinkers of the ancient
church and of modern times.
12 - The Eulogists of Origen
This chief Universalist of the
centuries immediately succeeding the apostles was, by general consent,
the most learned and saintly of all the Christian fathers. Historians,
scholars, critics, men of all shades of thought and opinion emulate one
another in exalting his name, and praising his character. This volume could
be filled with their eulogiums. Says one of the most judicious historians:
"If any man deserves to stand first in the catalogue of saints and martyrs,
and the be annually held up as an example to Christians, this is the man,
for except the apostles of Jesus Christ, and their companions, I know of
no one among all those enrolled and honored as saints who excel him in
virtue and holiness." 1
A discriminating critic
declares: "His work upon the text of Scripture alone would entitle Origen
to undying gratitude. There has been no truly great man in the church who
did not love him a little." 2 Bunsen remarks: "Origen's death
is the real end of free Christianity, and in particular, of free intellectual
The Tributes of Scholars
author of "The Martyrs and Apologists" truthfully observes: "Origen never
swerved from this Christian charitableness, and he remains the model of
the theologian persecuted by haughty bigotry. Gentle as Fenelon under hierarchical
anathemas, he maintained his convictions without faltering, and neither
retracted nor rebelled. We may well say with the candid Tillemont that
although such a man might hold heretical opinions he could not be a heretic,
since he was utterly free from that spirit which constitutes the guilt
of heresy." 4 Canon Westcott writes: "He examines with a reverence,
an insight, a grandeur of feeling never surpassed, the questions of the
inspiration and the interpretation of the Bible. The intellectual value
of the work may best be characterized by one fact: a single sentence taken
from it was quoted by Butler as containing the germ of his 'Analogy.' After
sixteen hundred years we have not yet made good the positions which he
marked out as belonging to the domain of Christian philosophy. His whole
life was 'one unbroken prayer' to use his own language of what an ideal
life should be."5 The sober historian Lardner records only a
candid appreciation of the man when he says: "He had the happiness of uniting
different accomplishments, being at once the greatest preacher and the
most learned and voluminous writer of the age; nor is it easy to say which
is most admirable, his learning or his virtue." 6 Plumptre vies
with Origen's other eulogists, and Farrar in all his remarkable books can
never say enough in his praise. A brief extract from him will suffice:
"The greatest of all the fathers, the most apostolic man since the days
of the apostles, the father who on every branch of study rendered to the
church the deepest and widest services--the immortal Origen. The first
writer, the profoundest thinker, the greatest educator, the most laborious
critic, the most honored preacher, the holiest confessor of his age. We
know no man in the whole Christian era, except St. Paul, who labored so
incessantly, and rendered to the church such immearsurable services. We
know of no man, except St. Paul, who had to suffer from such black and
bitter ingratitude. He, the converter of the heathen, the strengthener
of the martyrs, the profoundest of Christian teachers, the greatest and
most learned of the interpreters of Scripture--he to whom kings and bishops
and philosophers had been proud to listen--he who had refuted the ablest
of all the assailants of Christianity.--He who had founded the first school
of Biblical exegesis and Biblical linguistics--he who had done more for
the honor and the knowledge of the Oracles of God not only than all his
assailants (for that is not saying much), but than all the then bishops
and writers of the church put together--he who had known the Scriptures
from infancy, who had vainly tried to grasp in boyhood the crown of martyrdom,
who had been the honored teacher of saints, who had been all his life long
a confessor--he in the very errors of whose life was more of nobleness
than in the whole lives of his assailants,--who had lived a life more apostolic,
who did more and suffered more for the truth of Christ than any man after
the first century of our era, and whose accurately measurable services
stand all but unapproachable by all the centuries--I, for one, will never
mention the name of Origen without the love, and the admiration, and the
reverence due to one of the greatest and one of the best of the saints
A Catholic Eulogy
Catholics--in spite of the ban of pope and council--join the great army
of Origen's eulogists. Says the "Catholic World:"
cradle of Eastern genius at that time, became the Christian Thermopylæ,
and Origen the Christian Leonidas. It was he who headed the forces, and,
by the splendor of his genius, prepared in his school illustrations men
to lead on the van. He vindicated the truth from malicious slander, supported
it by facts, disengaged it from the deceptive arguments in which enemies
had obscured it, and held it up to view in all its natural beauty and attraction.
Heathens were delighted with his language, full of grace and charm, and
the intellectual literate of the age, who had been lost in the intricacies
of Aristotle, the obscurities of Plato, and the absurdities of Epicurus,
wondered at the young Christian philosopher."7
the hard words that most advocates of universal redemption who are past
middle life have received, Red. Edward Beecher, D.D., declares, in his
"History of the Doctrine of Future Retribution:" "An evil spirit was developed
at that time in putting down Origen which has ever since poisoned the church
of all denominations. It has been as a leprosy in all Christendom. Nor
is this all: measures were then resorted to for the suppression of error
which exerted a deadly hostility against all free investigation, from the
influence of which the church universal has not yet recovered."
Britannica, article Origen, (Prof. Adolf Harnack), voices the conclusions
of the scholarly world:
"Of all the
theologians of the ancient church, with the possible exception of Augustine,
Origen is the most distinguished and the most influential. He is the father
of the church's science; he is the founder of a theology which was brought
to perfection in the Forth and Fifth Centuries, and which still retained
the stamp of his genius when in the Sixth Century it disowned its author.
It was Origen who created the decree of the church and laid the foundations
of the scientific criticism of the Old and New Testaments. He could not
have been what he was unless two generations before him had labored at
the problem of finding an intellectual expression and a philosophic basis
for Christianity: (Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Pantænus, Clement.)
But their attempts, in comparison with his, are like a schoolboy's essays
beside the finished work of a master. By proclaiming the reconciliation
of science with the Christian faith, of the highest culture with the Gospel,
Origen did more than any other man to win the Old World to the Christian
religion. But he entered into no diplomatic compromises; it was his deepest
and most solemn conviction that the sacred oracles of Christendom embraced
all the ideals of antiquity. His character was as transparent as his life
was blameless; there are few church fathers whose biography leaves so pure
an impression on the reader. The atmosphere around him was a dangerous
one for a philosopher and theologian to breathe, but he kept his spiritual
health unimpaired and even his sense of truth suffered less injury than
was the case with most of his contemporaries. Orthodox theology has never,
in any of these confessions, ventured beyond the circle which the mind
of Origen first measured out."
Fourth Century Universalists
these eulogies, which might be multiplied indefinitely, by giving the high
authority of Max Muller: "Origen was as honest as a Christian as he was
as a philosopher, and it was this honesty which made Christianity victorious
in the Third Century, and will make it victorious again whenever it finds
supporters who are determined not to sacrifice their philosophical convictions
to their religious faith or their religious faith to their philosophical
convictions. If we consider the time in which he lived, and study the testimony
which his contemporaries bore of his character, we may well say of him,
as of others who have been misjudged by posterity:
'Denn wer den Besten seiner
Zeit genug gelebt,
Der hat genug gelebt fur
If any man
since the death of Paul should rank as the patron saint of the Universalist
church, it is the greatest and best of all the ancient fathers, Origen
Note.--It has been
asserted that Origen did not actually teach the ultimate salvation of all
souls, because he insisted that the human will is eternally free, and therefore
it is argued that he must have held that souls may repent and be saved,
and sin and fall forever. But this is not true, for Origen taught that
at some period in the future, love and holiness will be so absorbed by
all souls that, though, theoretically, they will be free, they will so
will that lapse will be impossible. Jerome, Justinian, Dr. Pond, and others
are explicitly confuted by the great scholar and saint. In his comments
on Romans 6:9,10, he says: "The apostle decides, by an absolute decision,
that now Christ dies no more, in order that those who live together with
him may be secure of the endlessness of their life. Free-will indeed remains,
but the power of the cross suffices for all orders, and all ages, past
and to come. And that free-will will not lead to sin, is plain, because
love never faileth, and when God is loved with all the heart, and soul,
and mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, where is the place
for sin?" In his great work "De Principiis," he declares: "The nature of
this body of ours will be changed into the glory of the spiritual body,
in which state we are to believe that it will remain always and immutably
by the will of the Creator," etc. Though Origen insisted that the human
will must forever be free, he did not admit that the soul could abuse its
freedom by continuing forever to lapse into sin.
1 Mosheim, Hist.
Com. in Christ, before Constantine, ii, p. 149. - 2 Christ.
Plat. of Alex., p. 303.
3 Hipp. and his
Age, pp. 285, 286. - 4 Bunsen, pp. 326, 327. - 5
Essays, pp. 236-252.
6 Cred. Gos.
Hist., Vol. II, p. 486. - 7 April, 1874. - 8 Theos.
or Psych. Rel. Lect. XIII.
13 - A Third Century Group
While we mourn
that so little of the literature of the early days of our religion remains,
the wonder is that we have so much, rather than so little. The persecutions
of Decius and Diocletian--especially of the latter--were most unrelenting
towards Christian books. 1 "The volumes which escaped from the
perils of those days were like brands snatched from the fire." "A little
dust--precious, indeed, as gold--in a few sepulchral urns, is all that
now remains." And later, the burning of the Alexandrine library by the
Arabs, the destructive persecutions of heretics, the ban of council, and
the curse of pope and priest, in the church's long eclipse, destroyed innumerable
volumes, so that there is ample reason to believe that, could we inspect
all that Clement, Origen and others wrote, in the original Greek, untampered
with, we should have pages where we now have sentences avowing Universalism.
Occasionally an ancient volume is yet found, accidentally buried, as was
the Philosophumena of Hippolytus, formerly attributed to Origen, discovered
by a learned Greek in a monastery on Mount Athos, in the year 1842. Of
the ten books contained in the volume, the second, the third, and the beginning
of the fourth are gone.
A.D. 220) enumerates and comments on thirty-two heresies, but universal
restoration is not named among them. 2 And yet, Clement of Alexandria,
and Origen--then living--were everywhere regarded as the great teachers
of the church, and their view of man's future destiny was generally prevalent,
according to Augustine, Jerome and others. It could not then have been
regarded as a "heresy" or Hippolytus would have named it. What a force
there is in fact that not one of those who wrote against the heresies of
their times ever named universal salvation as one of them! Hippolytus mentions
thirty-two. Epiphanius wrote his Panarion and epitomizes it in his Anacephalæosis
or Recapitulation, but not one of the heresy-hunters includes our faith
in his maledictions. Can there be stronger evidence than this fact that
the doctrine was not then heretical?
Dean Wordsworth's Error
It is curious
to notice how the mind of a theologian can be prejudiced. Dean Wordsworth
in his translation of Hippolytus gives the language of that contemporary
of Origen, to show that the former had no sympathy with the broad faith
of the latter. He quotes Hippolytus thus: "The coming threat of the judgment
of fire, and the dark and rayless aspect of tartarus, not radiated by the
voice of the Word, and the surge of the everflowing lake, generating fire,
and the eye of tartarean avenging angels ever fixed in calling down curses,"
etc. The Dean unwarrantably, because inaccurately, translates kolaston
"avenging," a meaning it does not possess. It is rendered punish, chastise,
correct, but never carries the sense of revenge. Furthermore, disregarding
the fact that the acknowledged Universalist fathers denounce the sinner
with words as intense as is the above language, which may be literally
fulfilled and yet restoration ensue beyond it all, the Dean renders the
very next paragraph thus: "You will have your body immortal and incorruptible,
together with your soul" (life). Now had Hippolytus intended to teach the
absolutely interminable duration of the "tartarean fire," would he not
have used these stronger terms, aphtharton and
which are never employed in the New Testament to teach limited duration,
and is not the fact that he used the weaker word to describe punishment,
evidence that he did not in this passage in the "Philosophumena" intend
to teach the sinner's endless torment?
Not less surprising
is the language of Dean Wordsworth, and his misreading of the facts of
history, when he comments on the harsh and bitter tone of Hippolytus, in
his treatment of heretics, in the "Philosophumena." Contrasting the unpleasantly
sharp temper of Hippolytus with the sweetness of Origen, Dean Wordsworth
of Origen with regard to future punishments is well known. The same feelings
which induced him to moderate the errors of heretics, beguiled him into
exercising his ingenuity in tampering with the declarations of Scripture
concerning the eternal duration of the future punishment of sin. Thus false
charity betrayed him into heresy." 3
This is a sad
reversal of cause and effect. Why not say that the sublime fact of God's
goodness resulting in universal salvation, created in Origen's heart that
generous charity and divine sweetness that caused him to look with pity
rather than with anger on human error, in imitation of the God he worshipped?
Theophilus of Antioch,
who wrote about A.D. 180, and was bishop of Antioch, speaks of aionian
torments, and aionian fire, but he must have used the terms as did Origen
and the other ancient Universalists, for he says: "For just as a vessel
which, after it has been made, has some flaw, is remade or remolded, that
it may become new and bright, so it comes to man by death. For in some
way or other he is broken up, that he may come forth in the resurrection
whole, I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal."4
Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was born in Carthage, Africa, about A.D.
160, and died A.D. 220. He had a fine Pagan education in Roman law and
rhetoric, but lived a heathen into mature manhood, and confesses that his
life had been one of vice and licentiousness.5 Converted to
Christianity he became in later years a elder. He lived a moral and religious
life after his conversion, but the heathen doctrines he retained rendered
his spirit harsh and bitter. About A.D. 202 he joined the Montanists, a
schismatic, ascetic sect. Those who sympathized with him were known as
Tertullianists as late as the Fifth Century. His abilities were great,
but, as Schaff says, he was the opposite of the equally genial, less vigorous,
but more learned and comprehensive Origen.
Advocates Endless Torment
was the first of the Africo-Latin writers who commanded the public ear,
and there is strong ground for supposing that since Tertullian quotes the
sacred writings perpetually and abundantly, the earliest of those many
Latin versions noticed by Augustine and on which Jerome grounded his vulgate,
were African. "Africa, not Rome, gave birth to Latin Christianity." A learned
writer states: "His own authority is small, he was not a sound divine,
became what was then considered unorthodox, and fell away into one of the
heresies of his times." 6 The fountain of Paganism in the heart
of Tertullian discharged its noxious waters into into the larger reservoir
in the mighty brain of Augustine, and thence in the Sixth Century it submerged
Christendom with a deluge that lasted for a thousand years,--now happily
subsiding, to give place to those primal Christian truths that were in
the hearts of Clement and Origen. Tertullian and Origen were as unlike
as the churches they represent,--the Latin and the Greek. Narrow, Pagan,
cruel, un-Christian, the dark path of the Tertullian-Augustine type of
Christianity through the centuries is strewn with the wrecks of ignorance
and sorrow. He retained his heathen notions and gave them a Christian label.
He makes the Underworld, like the heathen, divided by an impassable gulf
into two parts. The abode of the righteous is sinus Abrahae, that
of the wicked ignis or inferi. Tertullian was probably the
first of the fathers to assert that the torments of the lost will be of
equal duration with the happiness of the saved. "God will recompense his
worshipers with life eternal; and cast the profane into a fire equally
perpetual and unintermitted." 7
In Tertullian's Apology
are fifty arguments for the Christian religion, but not once does he state
that endless punishment was one of the doctrines of the church. He seems
to have been half-inclined to the truth, for he speaks of the sinner as
being able, after death, to pay "the uttermost farthing."
illustrates the effect of the doctrine he advocated in his almost infernal
exultations over the future torments of the enemies of the church. "How
I shall admire, how I shall laugh, how exult," he cries with fiendish glee,
"to see the torments of the wicked." "I shall then have a better chance
of hearing the actors of tragedy call louder in their own distress; of
seeing the actors more lively in the dissolving flame; of beholding the
charioteer glowing in his fiery chariot; of seeing their wrestlers tossing
on fiery waves instead of in their gymnasium," etc.8 Referring
to the "spectacles" he anticipates, he says: "Faith grants us to enjoy
them even now, by lively anticipation; but what shall the reality be of
those things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered
into the heart of man to conceive? They may well compensate, surely, the
circus and both amphitheatres and all the spectacles the world can offer."
No wonder DePressense says, "This joy in the anticipation of the doom of
the enemies of Christ is altogether alien to the spirit of the Gospel;
that mocking laugh, ringing across the abyss which opens to swallow up
the persecutors," etc. But why "alien," if a God of love ordained, and
the gentle Christ executes, the appalling doom? Was not Tertullian nearer
the mood a Christian should cultivate than are those who are shocked by
his description, if it is true? Max Muller calls attention to the fact
that Tertullian and the Latin fathers were obliged to cripple the Greek
Christian thought by being destitute of even words to express it. He has
to use two words, verbum and ratio, to express Logos. "Not
having Greek tools to work with," he says, "his verbal picture often becomes
Hase says that
Tertullian was a "gloomy, fiery character, who conquered for Christianity,
out of the Punic Latin, a literature in which ingenious rhetoric, a wild
imagination, a gross, sensuous perception of the ideal, profound feeling,
and a judical understanding struggled with each other."
Ambrose of Alexandria
Ambrose of Alexandria,
A.D. 180-250, was of a noble and wealthy family. Meeting Origen he accepted
Christianity as taught by the magister orientis, and urged and stimulated
his great teacher to write his many books, and used his fortune to further
them. Thus we owe generally, it is said, nearly all the exegetical works
of Origen to Ambrose's influence and money; and especially his commentary
on St. John. It was at his request also that Origen composed his greatest
work, the answer to Celsus. He left no writings of his own except some
letters, but his devotedness to Origen, and his agency in promoting the
publication of his works, should convince us that Origen's views are substantially
followers of Mani, were a considerable sect that had a following over a
large part of Christendom from A.D. 277 to 500. Eusebius is very bitter
in describing the sect and its founder. "He was a madman," and his "ism,
patched up of many faults and impious heresies, long since extinct." Socrates
calls it "a kind of heathenish Christianity," and says it is composed of
a union of Christianity with the doctrines of Empedocles and Pythagoras.
Lardner quotes the evident misrepresentations of Eusebius and Socrates
and exposes their inaccuracies.
A large amount of literature
was expended on some of their doctrines, but not on their denial of endless
torment. In fact, Didymus the Blind, as well as Augustine, seems to have
opposed their errors, though the "merciful doctor" gives them, as Lardner
says, "no hard names," while the father of Calvinism treats them with characteristic
severity, ignoring what he himself acknowledges elsewhere, that for eight
or nine years he accepted their tenets. Referring to the vile practices
and doctrines with which they are charged, Lardner says: "The thing is
altogether incredible, especially when related of people who by profession
were Christians; who believed that Jesus Christ was a perfect model of
all virtues; who acknowledged the reasonableness and excellence of the
precepts of the Gospel, and that the essence of religion lies in obeying
them." The consensus of ancient authorities proves the Manichæans
to have been an unpopular but reputable Christian sect.
Mani was a
Persian, a scholar, and a Christian. Beginning his debate with Archelaus,
he says: "I, brethren, am a disciple and an apostle of Jesus Christ;" and
he and his followers everywhere claim to be disciples of our Lord. Among
their dogmas, was one that denied endless existence to the devil, who was
then considered to be almost the fourth person in the popular Godhead,--they
repudiated the resurrection of the body and clearly taught universal restoration.
Lardner quotes Mani in his dispute with Archelaus, as saying: "All sorts
of souls will be saved, and the lost sheep will be brought back to the
fold." And after quoting their adversaries as stating that the Manichæans
taught the eternity of hell torments, Lardner says, quoting Beausobre:
"All which means no more than a lack of happiness, or a labor and task,
rather than a punishment. Indeed it is reasonable to think the Manichæans
should allow but very few, if any, souls to be lost and perish forever.
That could not be reckoned honorable to the Deity, considering how souls
were sent into matter."10 Lardner is certainly within bounds
when he says: "But it is doubtful whether they believed the eternity of
Prof. Shedd's Historical
way in which, as Wendell Phillips once said, "what passes for history,"
is written, may be seen in Professor William G. T. Shedd's "History of
Christian Doctrine." He says: "The punishment inflicted upon the lost was
regarded by the fathers of the ancient church, with very few exceptions,
as endless. The only exception to the belief in the eternity of future
punishment in the ancient church appears in the Alexandrine school. Their
denial of the doctrine sprang logically out of their anthropology. Clement
of Alexandria, and Origen, we have seen, asserted with great earnestness
the tenet of a complete and inalienable power in the human will to overcome
sin. The destiny of the soul is thus placed in the soul itself. The power
of free will cannot be lost, and if not exerted in this world, it still
can be in the next; and under the full light of the eternal world; and
under the stimulus of suffering there experienced, nothing is more probable
than that it will be exerted. The views of Origen were almost wholly confined
to this school. Faint traces of a belief in the remission of punishments
in the future world are visible in the writings of Didymus of Alexandria,
and in Gregory of Nyssa. With these exceptions, the ancient church held
that the everlasting destiny of the human soul is decided in this earthly
state."11 The reader who will turn to the sketches of Didymus
and Gregory will discover what Prof. Shedd denominates "faint traces,"
and in the multitudes of quotations from others of the fathers who were
not of the Alexandrine school, he will see how utterly inaccurate is this
religious historian. Numerous quotations flatly contradict his assertion.
The verbal resemblance of Dr. Shedd's language to that of Hagenbach, cannot
be wholly due to accident.12 Prof. Shedd, however, contradicts
what Schaff and Hagenbach declare to be the truth of history. He says that
the Alexandrine school was the only exception to a universal belief in
endless punishment, except the faint traces in Gregory of Nyssa; while
Hagenbach insists that Gregory is more explicit, and Neander affirms that
the school of Antioch as well as that of Alexandria, were Universalistic.
Furthermore, Prof. Shedd does not seem to have remembered the words he
had written with his own pen in his translation of Guerike's Church History:
is noticeable that the exegetico- grammatical school of Antioch, as well
as the allegorizing Alexandrian, adopted and maintained the doctrine of
restoration." Says Hagenbach, "Some faint traces of a belief in the final
remission of punishments in the world to come are to be found in those
writings of Didymus of Alexandria, which are yet extant. Gregory of Nyssa
speaks more distinctly upon this point, pointing out the corrective design
of the punishments inflicted upon the wicked." Hagenbach expressly places
Gregory and Didymus as differing, while Shedd makes them agree. But Neander
declares: "From two theological schools there went forth an opposition
to the doctrine of everlasting punishment, which had its ground in a deeper
Christian interest; inasmuch as the doctrine of a universal restoration
was closely connected with the entire dogmatic systems of both these schools,
namely, that of Origen, and the school of Antioch." 14
1 Wordsworth's St. Hippolytus
and the Church of Rome, p. 144.
2 Philosophumena or Refutation
3 Hippolytus followed up
at Rome the Alexandrine doctrine and position of Pantænus and Clemens,
and was the predecessor of Origen, etc. Bunsen.
4 Ad Autolicum, lib. II,
cap. 26, Vol. VI, Migne's Patrologiæ
5 De resur. carn., chap.
59. "Ego me scio neque alia carne adulteria commisso, neque nunc alia carne
ad continentian eniti."
6 Oxford Tracts for the
Times, No. XVII.
7 Apol., cap. 18.
8 Quid admirer? quid rideam?
ubi gaudeam, ubi exsultem, spectans tot et tantos, etc. De Spectaculis,
9 Euseb. Hist. Eccl. B.
10 Beausobre, Hist. de Manich.
I, 9, chs. 7-9. See the remarkable quotations concerning Mani in Lardner
11 Vol. II, pp. 414-416.
- 12 Hist. Doct. II, Sec. 142. Edin. Ed. 1884. - 13 P. 349, note. - 14
Vol. II, p. 676.
14 - Minor Authorities
Among the celebrated
fathers who have left no record of their views of human destiny, but who,
from their positions, and the relations they sustained, must, beyond all
rational doubt, have been Universalists, may be mentioned Athenodorus,
who was a student of Origen's, and a bishop in Pontus; Heraclas, a convert
of Origen's, his assistant and successor in the school at Alexandria, and
bishop of Alexandria; Firmilian, a scholar of Origen's, and bishop of Cæsarea;
and Palladius, bishop in Asia Minor.
though he wrote little, and is therefore not much known, was certainly
very conspicuous in his day. His theology may be gauged from the fact that
"he held Origen in such high honor that he sometimes invited him into his
own district for the benefit of the churches, and even journeyed to Judea
to visit him, spending long periods of time with him in order to improve
in his knowledge of theology." 1 He was a warm friend of Dionysius,
Cyprian, and Gregory Thaumaturgus, and was chosen president of the Council
by Eusebius "the great bishop of the doctrine. He says: "My guardian angel,
on our arrival to Cæsarea, handed us over to the care and tuition
of Origen, that leader of all, who speaks in undertones to God's dear prophets,
and suggests to them all their prophesy and their mystic and divine word,
has so honored this man Origen as a friend, as to appoint him to be their
interpreter." As Origen spoke, Gregory tells us he kindled a love "in my
heart I had not known before. This love induced me to give up country and
friends, the aims which I had proposed to myself, the study of law of which
I was proud. I had but one passion, one philosophy, and the god-like man
who directed me in the pursuit of it." He became bishop of Cæsarea,
and was regarded as the incarnation of the orthodoxy of his times. Almost
nothing of his writings has survived, but Rufinus, the apologist and defender
of Origen, gives a passage, says Allin, showing that he taught the divine
truth he learned from his master.
A.D. 250-309, was one of the greatest scholars of his times. He founded
the famous library of Cæsarea, which contained some of the most ancient
manuscripts of the New Testament, and also Origen's books in their original
Greek. Pamphilus wrote an "Apology" and defense of Origen, with whom he
was in full sympathy. Eusebius wrote the biography of Pamphilus in three
books. Unfortunately it has been lost, so that nothing survives of the
works of this eminent Christian writer and scholar. The esteem in which
he was held by Eusebius may be gauged from the fact that after his death
Eusebius, "the father of ecclesiastical history," changed his own name
to "Pamphilus's Eusebius." The "Apology" contained "very many testimonies
of fathers earlier than Origen in favor of restitution." 3 How
lamentable that these "testimonies" are lost! What light they would shed
on early opinion on the great theme of this book. As Origen was born about
ninety years after St. John's death, these very numerous "testimonies"
would carry back these doctrines very close, or altogether to the apostolic
the era of free Christian theology of the Eastern church ends." Pamphilus,
according to Eusebius, was "a man who excelled in every virtue through
his whole life whether by a renunciation and contempt of the world, by
distributing his substance among the needy, or by a disregard of worldly
expectations, and by a philosophical deportment and self-denial. But he
was chiefly distinguished above the rest of us by his sincere devotedness
to the sacred Scriptures, and by an tireless industry in what he proposed
to accomplish, by his great kindness and eagerness to serve all his relatives,
and all that approached him." He copied, for the great library in Cæsarea,
most of Origen's manuscripts, with his own hands.
probably born in Cæsarea. He was a friend of Origen, and fellow-teacher
with him in the Cæsarean school, and published with Pamphilus a glowing
defense of Origen in six books, of which five are lost. He also copied
and edited many of his works. Dr. Beecher, in his "History of Future Retribution,"
asserts the Universalism of Eusebius, though Dr. Ballou, in his "Ancient
History" does not quote them.
On I Cor. 15:28,
Eusebius says: "If the subjection of the Son to the Father means union
with him, then the subjection of all to the Son means union with him. Christ
is to subject all things to himself. We ought to conceive of this as such
a favorable subjection as that by which the Son will be subject to him
who subjects all to him." 4 Again on the second psalm: "The
Son breaking in pieces his enemies for the sake of remolding them as a
potter his own work, as Jer. 18:6, is to restore them once more to their
former state." Jerome distinctly says of Eusebius: "He, in the most evident
manner, acquiesced in Origen's tenets." His understanding of terms is seen
where he twice calls the fire that consumed two martyrs unquenchable" (asbesto
puri). Eusebius is as severe in describing the sinner's woes as Augustine
himself. He says: "Who those were (whose worm dieth not) he showed in the
beginning of the prophecy, 'I have nourished and brought up children and
they have set me at nought.' He spoke darkly then of those of the Jews
who set at nought the saving grace. Which end of the ungodly our Savior
himself also appoints in the Gospel, saying to those who shall stand on
the left hand, 'Go ye into the aionian fire, prepared from the devil and
his angels.' As then the fire is said to be aionion, se here 'unquenchable,'
one and the same substance encircling them according to the Scriptures."
In varied and
extensive learning, and as a theologian and writer, and most of all as
an historian, Eusebius was far before most of those of his times; and though
high in the confidence of his Emperor, Constantine, he did not make his
influence contribute to his own personal aggrandizement. He was so kind
toward the Arians, with whom he did not agree, that he was accused of Arianism
by such as could not see how one could differ from another without hating
him. Most of his writings have perished. Of course his name is chiefly
immortalized by his "Ecclesiastical History."
(A.D. 296-373). This great man was a student of Origen and speaks of him
with favor, defends him as orthodox, and quotes him as authority. He argues
for the possibility and pardon for even the sin against the Holy Ghost.
He says: "Christ captured over again the souls captured by the devil, for
that he promised in saying, 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto
me.'" On Ps. 68:18, "When, then, the whole creation shall meet the Son
in the clouds, and shall be subject to him, then, too, shall the Son himself
be subject to the Father, as being a faithful Apostle, and High Priest
of all creation, that God may be all in all."5 Athanasius nominated
Didymus the Blind as president of the Catechetical school of Alexandria,
where he presided sixty years, an acknowledged Universalist, which is certainly
evidence of the sympathies, if not of the real views of Athanasius. He
called Origen a "wonderful and most laborious man," and offers no condemnation
of his eschatology.
illustrations," the Blind, was born, it is supposed, in Alexandria, A.D.
309. He became entirely blind when four years of age, and learned to write
by using tablets of wood. He knew the Scriptures by heart, through hearing
them read. He died, universally esteemed, A.D. 395. He was held to be strictly
orthodox, though known to cherish the views of Origen on universal restoration.
After his death, in the councils of A.D. 553, 680, and 787, he was anathematized
for advocating Origen's "Abominable doctrine of the transmigration of souls,"
but nothing is said in condemnation of his pronounced Universalism.
Of the Descent
of Christ into Hades, he says,--as translated by Ambrose: "In the liberation
of all no one remains a captive; at the time of the Lord's passion, he
alone (the devil) was injured, who lost all the captives he was keeping."
Didymus argues the final remission of punishment, and universal salvation,
in comments on I Timothy and I Peter. He was condemned by name in the council
of Constantinople and his works ordered destroyed. Were they in existence
no doubt many extracts might be given. Jerome and Rufinus state that he
was an advocate of universal restoration. Yet he was honored by the best
Christians of his times. Schaff says: "Even men like Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius,
and Isadore sat at his feet with admiration." After Jerome turned against
Origen (See sketch of Jerome) he declares that Didymus defended Origen's
words as pious and Catholic, words that "all churches condemn."
And he adds: "In Didymus
we extol his great power of memory, and his purity of faith in the Trinity,
but on other points, as to which he unduly trusted Origen, we draw back
from him." Schaff declares him to have been a faithful follower of Origen.
Socrates calls him "the great bulwark of the true faith," and quotes Antony
as saying: "Didymus, let not the loss of your bodily eyes distress you;
for although you are deprived of such organs as confer a faculty of perception
common to gnats and flies, you should rather rejoice that you have eyes
such as angels see with, by which the Deity himself is discerned, and his
light comprehended." According to the great Jerome, he "surpassed all of
his day in knowledge of the Scriptures." He wrote voluminously, but very
He says: "For
although the Judge at times inflicts tortures and anguish on those who
merit them, yet he who more deeply scans the reasons of things, perceiving
the purpose of his goodness, who desires to amend the sinner, confesses
him to be good."
Again he says:
"As men, by giving up their sins, are made subject to him (Christ), so
too, the higher intelligences, freed by correction from their willful sins,
are made subject to him, on the completion of the dispensation ordered
for the salvation of all. God desires to destroy evil, therefore evil is
(one) of those things liable to destruction. Now that which is of those
things liable to destruction will be destroyed." He is said by Basnage
to have held to universal salvation.
These are samples
of a large number of extracts that might be made from the most celebrated
of the Alexandrine school, representing the type of theology that prevailed
in the East, during almost four hundred years. They are not from a few
isolated authorities but from the most eminent in the church, and those
who gave tone to theological thought, and shaped and gave expression to
public opinion. There can be no doubt that they are true exponents of the
doctrines of their day, and that man's universal deliverance from sin was
the generally accepted view of human destiny, prevalent in the Alexandrine
church from the death of the apostles to the end of the Fourth Century.
And in this connection it may be repeated that the Catechetical school
in Alexandria was taught by Anaxagoras, Pantænus, Origen, Clement,
Heraclas, Dionysius, Pierius, Theognostus, Peter Martyr, Arius and Didymus,
all Universalists, so far as is known. The last teacher in the Alexandrine
school was Didymus. After his day it was removed to Sida in Pamphylia,
and soon after it ceased to exist.7
Gieseler records that "the belief in the inalienable capability of improvement
in all rational beings, and the limited duration of future punishment,
was so general, even in the West, and among the opponents of Origen that,
whatever may be said of its not having risen without the influence of Origen's
school, it had become entirely independent of his system." So that doctrine
may be said to have prevailed all over Christendom, East and West, among
"orthodox" and heterodox alike.
Epiphanius, a narrow-minded,
credulous, violent-tempered, but sincere man, A.D. 310-404, was bishop
of Constantia in Cyprus, A.D. 367. He bitterly opposed Origen, and denounced
him for a multitude of errors, but he does not hint that his views of restoration
were objectionable to himself, or to the church, at the time he wrote.
He "began those miserable Origenistic controversies in which monkish fanaticism
combined with personal hatreds and jealousies to brand with heresy the
greatest theologian of the primitive church."8 To his personal
hatred and bitterness is due much, if not most, of the opposition to Origenism
that began in the latter part of the Fourth Century. In an indictment of
eighteen counts, published A.D. 380, we find what possibly may have been
the first intended censure of Universalism on record, though it will be
observed that its animosity is not against the salvation of all mankind,
but against the salvability of evil spirits. Epiphanius says: "That which
he strove to establish I know not whether to laugh at or grieve. Origen,
the renowned doctor, dared to teach that the devil is again to become what
he originally was--to return to his former dignity. Oh, wickedness! Who
is so mad and stupid as to believe that holy John Baptist, and Peter, and
John the Apostle and Evangelist, and that Isaiah also and Jeremiah, and
the rest of the prophets, are to become fellow-heirs with the devil in
the kingdom of Heaven!"9 The reader can here see the possible
origin of the familiar argument of recent times.
In his book
against heresies, "The Panarion," this "hammer of heretics" names eighty;
but universal salvation is not among them. The sixty-fourth is "Origenism,"
but, as is seen elsewhere in this volume, that stood for other dogmas of
Origen and not for his Universalism.
bishop of Tyre (A.D. 293). His writings, like so many of the works of the
early fathers, have been lost, but Epiphanius and Photius have preserved
extracts from his work on the resurrection. He says: "God, for this cause,
pronounced him (man) mortal, and clothed him with mortality, that man might
not be an undying evil, in order that by the dissolution of the body, sin
might be destroyed root and branch from beneath, that there might not be
left even the smallest particle of root, from which new shoots of sin might
break forth." Again, "Christ was crucified that he might be adored by all
created things equally, for 'unto him every knee shall bow,'" etc. Again:
"The Scriptures usually call 'destruction' the turning to the better at
some future time." Again: "The world shall be set on fire in order to purification
drift, as well as the definite statements of the minor authorities cited
in this chapter, show the dominant sentiment of the times.
1 Eusebius, VI:26.
- 2 Holy Eastern Church, I:84. Eusebius repeatedly speaks of
him in the loftiest terms.
3 Routh, Rel.
Sac., III, p. 498. Oxford ed., 1846. - 4 De Eccl. Theol., Migne,
Vol. XXIV, pp. 1030-33.
5 Sermon Major
de fide. Migne, vol. XXVI, pp. 1263-1294. - 6 De Spir. Sanct.,
7 Neander, Hist.
Christ. Dogmas, I, p. 265 (London, 1866), who cites Nieder (Kirchengeschichte),
for full description of the different theological schools.
8 Dict. Christ.
Biog., II, p. 150.
9 Epiph. Epist.
ad Johan. inter Hieron. Opp. IV, part. ii, in Ballou's Anc. Hist, p. 194.
- 10 De Resurr., VIII.
15 - Gregory Nazianzen
Bishop of Constantinople
Nazianzus, born A.D. 330, was one of the greatest orators of the ancient
church. Gibbon sarcastically says: "The title of Saint has been added to
his name, but the tenderness of his heart, and the elegance of his genius,
reflect a more pleasing luster on the memory of Gregory Nazianzen." The
child of a Christian mother, Nonna, he was instructed in youth in the elements
of religion. He enjoyed an early acquaintance with Basil, and in Alexandria
with Athanasius. With Basil his friendship was so strong that Gregory says
it was only one soul in two bodies. A.D. 361, he became presbyter (elder),
and in 379 he was called to the charge of the small, divided orthodox church
in Constantinople, which had been almost annihilated by the prevalence
of Arianism. He so strengthened and increased it, that the little chapel
became the splendid "Church of the Resurrection." A.D. 380 the Emperor
Theodosius deposed the Arian bishop, and transferred the cathedral to Gregory.
He was elected bishop of Constantinople in May, 381, and was president
of the Ecumenical council in Constantinople, while Gregory Nyssa added
the clauses to the Nicene creed. He resigned because of the hostility of
other bishops, and passed his remaining days in religious and literary
pursuits. He died A.D. 390 or 391. He was second to Chrysostom as an orator
in the Greek church. More than this, he was one of the purest and best
of men, and his was one of the five or six greatest names in the church's
first five hundred years. Prof. Schaff styles him "one of the champions
"God brings the dead to life as partakers of fire or light. But whether
even all shall hereafter partake of God, let it be elsewhere discussed."
Again he says: "I know also of a fire not cleansing but chastising, unless
anyone chooses even in this case to regard it more humanely, and creditably
to the Chastiser." This is a remarkable instance of the esoteric, and well
may Petavius say: "It is manifest that in this place St. Gregory is speaking
of the punishments of the damned, and doubted whether they would be eternal,
or rather to be estimated in accordance with the goodness of God, so as
at some time to be terminated." And Farrar well observes: "If this last
sentence had not been added the passage would have been always quoted as
a most decisive proof that this eminently great father and theologian held,
without any modification, the severest form of the doctrine of endless
The Penalties of Sin
us: "When you read in Scripture of God's being angry, or threatening a
sword against the wicked understand this rightly, and not wrongly, how
then are these metaphors used? Figuratively. In what way? With a view to
terrifying minds of the simpler sort."
He writes again: "A few
drops of blood renew the whole world, and become for all men that which
condensation is for milk, uniting and drawing us into one." Christ is "like
leaven for the entire mass, and having made that which was damned one with
himself, frees the whole from damnation." And yet Gregory describes the
penalties of sin in language as fearful as though he did not teach restoration
beyond it. He says: "That sentence after which is no appeal, no higher
judge, no defense through subsequent work, no oil from the wise virgins
or from those who sell, for the failing lamps; but one last fearful judgment,
even more just than formidable, yea, rather the more formidable because
it is also just; when thrones are set and the Ancient of Days sitteth,
books are open, and a stream of fire sweepeth and they who have done evil
to the resurrection of judgment (where) the torment will be, with the rest,
or rather above all the rest, to be cast off from God, and that shame in
the conscience which hath no end." 1
of Gregory shows us the kind of mind that leans to the larger hope, or,
perhaps, the disposition that the larger hope produces. Says Farrar: "Poet,
orator, theologian; a man as great theologically as he was personally winning
the sole man whom the church has suffered to share that title (Theologian)
with the Evangelist St. John, the most learned and the most eloquent bishop
in one of the most learned ages of the church, whom St. Basil called 'a
vessel of election, a deep well, a mouth of Christ;' whom Rudinus calls
'incomparable in life and doctrine." Gregory of Nazianzus deserved the
honor of sainthood if any man has ever done, being as he was, one of the
bravest men in an age of confessors, one of the holiest men in an age of
saints." "In questions of eschatology he seems more or less to have shared,
though with wavering language, in some of the views of Origen, which the
church has partly adopted and partially uncondemned--the view, especially,
that there shall be hereafter a probatory and purifying fire, and that
we may indulge a hope in the possible cessation, for many, if not for all,
of the punishments which await sin beyond the grave. He speaks indeed far
less openly than Gregory of Nyssa, of a belief in the final restoration
of all things, but even this belief lies involved in his remarks on the
prophecy of St. Paul, concerning the day when 'God shall be all in all.'"
and his congregation had been attacked in their church, while celebrating
our Lord's baptism, by the Arian rabble of Constantinople, in consequence
of the report that they were Tritheists, Gregory heard that Theodorus was
about to appeal for redness to Theodosius, whereupon the good man wrote
that while punishment might possibly prevent recurrence of such conduct,
it was better to give an example of long-suffering. "Let us," said he,
"overcome them by gentleness, and win them by piety; let their punishment
be found in their own consciences, not in our resentment. Dry not up the
fig-tree that may yet bear fruit." The Seventh General Council called him
"Father of Fathers."
That he regarded
punishment after death as limited, is sufficiently evident from his reference
to the heretical Novatians: "Let them, if they will, walk in our way and
in Christ's. If not, let them walk in their own way. Perchance there they
will be baptized with fire, with that last, that more laborious and longer
baptism, which devours the substance like hay, and consumes the lightness
of all evil." 3
"Gregory of Nazianzen did not venture to express his own doctrine so openly
(as Gregory Nyssen) but allows it sometimes to escape when he is speaking
of eternal punishment. The Antiochan school were led to this doctrine,
not by Origen but by their own thinkings and examinations of the Scripture.
They regarded the two-fold division of the development of the creature
as a general law of the universe. This led to the final result of universal
participation in the unchangeable divine life. Hence the was taught by
Diodorus of Tarsus, in his treatise on the Incarnation of God, and also
by Theodorus. He applied Matt. 5:26, to prove a rule of proportion, and
an end of punishment. God would not call the wicked to rise again if they
must endure punishment without amendment." 4
1 Orat. xi, Carm.
xxi, Orat. xlii; Migne, Vols. XXXVI, XXI. - 2 See Newman's Hist.
Essays, Vol. III.
3 Assemani Bibl.
Orient. Tom. III, p. 323.
4 Hist. Christ.
Dogmas, Vol. II. Hagenbach testifies to the same. Dogmas, Vol. I.
16 - Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Nestorians
Theodore of Mopsuestia
was born in Antioch, A.D. 350, and died 428 or 429. He ranked next to Origen
in the esteem of the ancient church. For nearly fifty years he maintained
the cause of the church in controversy with various classes of assailants,
and throughout his life his orthodoxy was regarded as unimpeachable. He
was bishop for thirty-six years, and died full of honors; but after he
had been in his grave a hundred and twenty-five years, the church had become
so corrupted by heathenism that it condemned him for heresy. He was anathematized
for Nestorianism, but his Universalism was not stigmatized. His great renown
and popularity must have caused his exalted views of God's character and
man's destiny to prevail more extensively among the masses than appears
in the surviving literature of his times.
His own words
are: "The wicked who have committed evil the whole period of their lives
shall be punished till they learn that, by continuing in sin, they only
continue in misery. And when, by this means, they shall have been brought
to fear God, and to regard him with good will, they shall obtain the enjoyment
of his grace. For he never would have said, 'until thou hast paid the uttermost
farthing,' unless we can be released from suffering after having suffered
adequately for sin; nor would he have said, 'he shall be beaten with many
stripes,' and again, 'he shall be beaten with few stripes,' unless the
punishment to be endured for sin will have an end." 1
Views Defined by Great
H. Plumptre writes: "Theodore of Mopsuestia teaches that in the world to
come those who have done evil all their life long will be made worthy of
the sweetness of the divine beauty." And in the course of a statement of
Theodore's doctrine, Prof. Swete observes 2 that Theodore teaches
that "the punishments of the condemned will indeed be in their nature eternal,
being such as belong to eternity and not to time, but both reason and Scripture
lead us to the conclusion that they will be remissible upon repentance.
'Where,' he asks, 'would be the benefit of a resurrection to such persons,
if they were raised only to be punished without end?' Moreover, Theodore's
fundamental conception of the mission and person of Christ tells him to
believe that there will be a final restoration of all creation."3
Theodore writes on Rom. 6:6, "All have the hope of rising with Christ,
so that the body having obtained immortality, thenceforward the predisposition
to evil should be removed. God summed up all things in Christ as though
making a concise renewal and restoration of the whole creation to him.
Now this will take place in a future age, when all mankind, and all powers
possessed of reason, look up to him as is right, and obtain mutual concord
and firm peace." 4
Author of Nestorian Declarations
said to have introduced universal restoration into the liturgy of the Nestorians,
of which sect he was one of the founders. His words were translated into
the Syriac, and constituted the office of devotion among that remarkable
people for centuries. His works were circulated all through Eastern Asia,
through which, says Neander, the Nestorians spread Christianity. This great
body of Christians exerted a mighty influence until they were nearly annihilated
by the merciless Tamerlane. He is still honored among the Nestorians as
confession of faith he says, after stating that Adam began the first and
mortal state, "But Christ the Lord began the second state. He in the future,
revealed from heaven, will restore us all into communion with himself.
For the apostle says: 'The first man was of the earth earthly, the second
man is the Lord from heaven,' that is, who is to appear hereafter thence,
that he may restore all to the likeness of himself."5
Dorner on Theodore
and evangelical Dorner becomes eulogistic when referring to this eminent
Universalist: "Theodore of Mopsuestia was the crown and climax of the school
of Antioch. The compass of his learning, his keen perception, and as we
must suppose also, the force of his personal character, joined with his
labors through many years as a teacher both of churches and of young and
talented disciples, and as a prolific writer, gained for him the title
of Magister Orientis." 6 He "was regarded with an appreciation
the more widely extended as he was the first Oriental theologian of his
time." Theodore held that evil was permitted by the Creator, in order that
it might become the source of good to each and all. He says:
"God knew that
men would sin in all ways, but permitted this result to come to pass, knowing
that it would ultimately be for their advantage. For since God created
man when he did not exist, and made him ruler of so extended a system,
and offered so great blessings for his enjoyment, it was impossible that
he should not have prevented the entrance of sin, if he had not known that
it would be ultimately for his advantage." He also says that God has demonstrated
that "the same result (that is seen in the example of Christ) shall be
effected in all his creatures." God has determined "that there should be
first a dispensation including evils, and that then they should be removed
and universal good take their place." He taught that Christ is an illustration
of universal humanity, which will ultimately achieve his status.
Unity in Diversity
It may be mentioned
that though Origen and Theodore were Universalists, they reached their
conclusions by different processes. Origen exalted the freedom of the will,
and taught that it could never be totally restricted, so that reformation
could never be excluded from any soul. He held to man's pre-existence,
and that his native sinfulness resulted from misconduct in a previous state
of being. He was also extremely mystical, and allegorized and spiritualized
the Scripture. Its literal meaning was in his eyes of secondary account.
Theodore, on the other hand, developed the grammatical and historical meaning
of the Word, and discarded Origen's mysticism and allegorizing, and his
doctrine of man's pre-existence, and instead of regarding man as absolutely
free, considered him as part of a divine plan to be ultimately guided by
God into holiness. Both were Universalists, but they pursued different
routes to the same divine goal. It is interesting to note the emphasis
the early Universalists placed upon different points. The Gnostics argued
universal salvation from the disciplinary process of transmigration; the
Sibylline Oracles from the prayers of the good who could not tolerate the
sufferings of the damned; Clemens Alexandrinus proved it from the remedial
influence of all God's punishments; Origen urged the foregoing, but added
the freedom of the will, which would ultimately embrace the good; Diodorus
put it on the ground that God's mercy exceeds all the desert of sin; Theodore
of Mopsuestia, that sin is an incidental part of human education, etc.
After the condemnation
of Origen, Theodore and Gregory, most of their works were destroyed by
their bigoted enemies. The loss to the world by the destruction of their
writings is irreparable. Some of Theodore's works are thought to exist
in Syriac, in the Nestorian literature. The future may recover some of
them, as the recent past has rescued the Sinaitic codex, the "Book of Enoch,"
and other ancient manuscripts.
of the Nestorians, largely composed by Theodore, breathe the spirit of
the universal Gospel. In the sacramental liturgy he introduces Col. 1:19,20,
to sustain the idea of universal restoration: "For it pleased the Father
that in him should all fullness 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."7
The creed of the
Nestorians never did, and does not in modern times, contain any recognition
of endless punishment. Mosheim says: "It is to the honor of this sect that,
of all the Christian residents of the East, they have preserved themselves
free from the numberless superstitions which have found their way into
the Greek and Latin churches."
A.D. 431, Nestorius
and his followers were ex-communicated from the orthodox church for holding
that Christ existed in two persons instead of two natures. They denied
the accusation, but their enemies prevailed. Nestorius refused to call
Mary "The Mother of God," but was willing to compromise between those who
held her to be such, and those who regarded her as "Mother of man," by
calling her "Mother of Christ." 8 The wonderful preservation
and Christian zeal of the Nestorians under the yoke of Islam is one of
the marvels of history.
The Nestorian Liturgies
The worse than
heathen Athanasian creed is not contained in any Nestorian ritual. Nor
is the so-called Apostles creed. But the Nicene is recognized. Among those
immortalized in the "Gezza" are Gregory, Basil, Theodore or Mopsuestia,
and Diodore, all Universalists. In the liturgy, said to be by Nestorius
himself, but in which Theodore probably had a hand, occurs this language:
"All the dead have slept in the hope of Thee, that by thy glorious resurrection
Thou wouldest raise them up in glory." 9
hands have corrupted the faith of Nestorius and Theodore. For example,
the "Jewel," written by Mar Abd Yeshua, A.D. 1298, says that the wicked
"shall remain on the earth" after the resurrection of the righteous, and
"shall be consumed with the fire of remorse. This is the true Hell whose
fire is not quenched and whose worm dieth not." But the earlier faith did
not contain these ideas. The litany in the Khudra, for Easter eve, has
these words: "O Thou Living One who descendest to the abode of the dead
and preached a good hope to the souls which were detained in Sheol, we
pray thee, O Lord, to have mercy upon us." "Blessed is the king who hath
descended into Sheol and hath raised us up, and who, by his resurrection,
hath given the promise of regeneration to the human race."
Dr. Beecher on Theodore
numerous testimonials to the educational, missionary and Christian zeal
of the Nestorians and other followers of Theodore, Beecher says that these
advocates of ancient Restorationism were "in all other respects Orthodox,"
and that their views did not prevent them "from establishing wide-spread
systems of education, from illuminating the Arabs, and through them the
dark churches who had sunk into midnight gloom." The Universalism of Theodore
was beneficial in its effects on himself and his followers. It did not
"cut the nerve of missionary enterprise."
It is then apparent
in the writings of the fathers, during the first centuries of the Christian
Era, that whatever views they entertained on human destiny,--whether they
taught endless punishment, the annihilation of the wicked, or universal
salvation, they use the word aionios to describe the duration of
punishment, showing that for half a millennium of years the word did not
possess the sense of endlessness. And it is noticeable that there is no
controversy on the apparent difference of opinion among them on the subject
of man's destiny. And it is probable that many of the writers who say nothing
explicit, held to the doctrine of universal restoration, as it is seen
that as soon as an author unmistakably accepts endless punishment he warmly
Character of Early Universalists
And can the
fact be otherwise than significant, that while Tertullian and other prominent
defenders of the doctrine of endless punishment were reared as heathen,
and even confess to have lived corrupt and vicious lives in their youth,
Origen, the Gregories, Basil the Great, Didymus, Theodore, Theodorus and
others were not only the greatest among the saints in their maturity, but
were reared from birth by Christian parents, and grew up "in the nature
and admonition of the Lord?"
pays this remarkable testimony: "I do not know an unworthy, low, or
mean character in any prominent, open, and avowed Restorationist of that
age of freedom of inquiry which was inaugurated by the Alexandrine school,
and defended by Origen. But besides this it is true that these ancient
believers in final restoration lived and toiled and suffered, in an atmosphere
of joy and hope, and were not loaded with a painful and crushing burden
of sorrow in view of the endless misery of innumerable multitudes. It may
not be true that these results were owing mainly to the doctrine of universal
restoration. It may be that their views of Christ and the Gospel, which
were decidedly Orthodox, exerted the main power to produce these results.
But one thing is true: the doctrine of universal restoration did not hinder
them. If not, then the inquiry will arise, Why should it now?" "In that
famous age of the church's story, the period embracing the Fourth and the
earlier years of the Fifth Century, Universalism seems to have been the
creed of the majority of Christians in East and West alike; perhaps even
of a large majority and in the roll of its teachers were most of the greatest
names of the greatest age of primitive Christianity. And this teaching,
be it noted, is strongest where the language of the New Testament was a
living tongue; i.e., in the great Greek fathers; it is strongest in the
church's greatest era, and declines as knowledge and purity decline. On
the other hand, endless penalty is most strongly taught precisely in
those quarters where the New Testament was less read in the original, and
also in the most corrupt ages of the church."10
1 Assemani Bib.
Orient. Tom. III. - 2 Dict. Christ. Biog. II, p. 194. - 3
Ibid. IV, p. 946.
4 "Omnia * *
* recapitulavit in Christo quasi quandam compendio-sam renovationem et
adintegrationem totius faciens creaturæ per eum * * * hoc autem in
futuro sæculo erit. quando homines cuncti necnon et rationabiles
virtutes ad illum inspiciant, ut fas exigit, et condordiam inter se pacemque
5 "The doctrine
of universal restoration in the Nestorian churches disappeared by a nearly
universal extermination of those churches." Beecher, Hist. Doc. Fut. Ret.,
6 Doct. and Per.
of Christ., Div. II, Vol. I, p. 50. - 7 Renaudot's Oriental
Liturgies, Vol. II, p. 610.
Hist. of Ch., pp. 2,3. Theodore wrote two works on Heresies in whic he
professes to condemn all the heresies of his times, but he does not mention
9 Badger's Nestorians
and their Rituals, Vol. II.; Gibbon, Chap. XLVII. Draper, Hist. Int. Dev.
Europe; Layard's Nineveh.
Asserted, p. 148.
declares that the opposition to the doctrine of endless punishment and
the advocacy of universal restoration has always been found in the church,
and that it has "a deep root in noble minds." His language is (Com. I.,
on Matt. 12:32)
17 - A Notable Family
The family group of which
Basil the Great, Macrina the Blessed, the distinguished bishop of Nyssa,
Gregory, and the less-known Peter of Sebaste were members, deserves a volume
rather than the few pages at our command. Three of the four were bishops
at one time. Macrina, her father and mother, her grandmother Macrina, and
three of her brothers were all canonized as saints in the ancient church.
We are not surprised that Butler, in his "Lives of the Fathers," should
say: "We admire to see a whole family of saints. This prodigy of grace,
under God, was owing to the example, prayers and exhortation of the elder
St. Macrina, which had this wonderful influence and effect." 1
"Macrina the Blessed."
Macrina was born
A.D. 327. By her intellectual ability, force of character, and earnest
piety she became the real head of the family, and largely shaped the lives
of her distinguished brothers. She early added the name Thecla to her baptismal
name, after the proto-martyr among Christian women. She was educated with
great care by her mother, under whose direction she committed to memory
large portions of the Bible, including the whole of the Psalms.
Her rare personal
beauty, great accomplishments and large fortune attracted many suitors;
Gregory says she surpassed in loveliness all of her age and country. She
was betrothed to a young advocate, who was inspired and stimulated by her
ambition and zeal, but was cut off by an early death. She thenceforth regarded
herself as a wife in the eyes of God, and confident of a reunion hereafter,
refused to listen to offers of marriage, saying that her betrothed was
living in a distant realm, and that the resurrection would reunite them.
A Saintly Woman
A.D. 349, when
she was thirty-two, her father died, and thereafter she devoted herself
to the care of her widowed mother and the family of nine children, and
large estates which were scattered through three provinces. Her rare executive
ability and personal devotedness to her mother and brothers and sisters
were phenomenal, descending to the most minute domestic offices.
After the death
of her father, and on the death of her brother Naucratius, A.D. 357, she
never left her home, a beautiful place in Annesi, near Neo-Cæsarea.
A.D. 355, on
the return of her brother Basil from Athens, full of conceit and the ambition
inspired by his secular learning, Macrina filled his mind and heart with
the love for a life of Christian service that animated herself, and he
located himself near his sister. In 355 she established a religious sisterhood
with her mother, and consecrated her life to retirement and religious meditation,
holy thoughts and exercises--as she said, "to the attainment of the angelical
life." The community consisted of herself, her mother, her female servants
and slaves, and soon devout women of rank joined them, and the community
became very prosperous.
Peter was made
Presbyter A.D. 371. Her mother died in 373 and her distinguished brother
in 379. Her own health had failed, when, some months after Basil's death,
her brother Gregory visited her. 2 He found her in an incurable
fever, stretched on planks on the ground, and, according to the ascetic
ideas then beginning to prevail, the planks barely covered with sackcloth.
Gregory relates what followed with great minuteness. He was overwhelmed
with grief at Basil's death. Macrina comforted him, and even rebuked him
for mourning like a heathen when he possessed the Christian's hope. He
described the persecutions he had experienced, whereupon she chided and
reminded him that he ought rather to thank his parents who had qualified
him to be worthy of such experiences. Gregory relates that she controlled
all evidences of suffering, and that her countenance continually wore a
Macrina's Religious Sentiments
gives us her exact sentiments in his own language on universal restoration,
in which she rises into a grand description of the purifying effects of
all future punishment, and the separation thereby of the evil from the
good in man, and the entire destruction of all evil. Her words tell us
their mutual views. On the "all in all" 3 of Paul she says:
"The Word seems
to me to lay down the doctrine of the perfect obliteration of wickedness,
for if God shall be in all things that are, obviously wickedness shall
not be in them." "For it is necessary that at some time evil should be
removed utterly and entirely from the realm of being. For since by its
very nature evil cannot exist apart from free choice, when all free choice
becomes in the power of God, shall not evil advance to utter annihilation
so that no receptacle for it at all shall be left?"
In this conversation
in which the sister sustains by far the leading part, the resurrection
(anastasis) and the restoration (apokatastasis) are regarded
as synonymous, as when Macrina declares that "the resurrection is only
the restoration of human nature to its pristine condition."4
On Phil. 2:10,
Macrina declares. "When the evil has been exterminated in the long cycles
of the æons nothing shall be left outside the boundaries of good,
but even from them shall be unanimously uttered the confession of the Lordship
of Christ." 5
She said: "The
process of healing shall be proportioned to the measure of evil in each
of us, and when the evil is purged and blotted out, there shall come in
each place to each immortality and life and honor."
Her Last Days
weariness of her brother she bade him rest. Revisiting her at the close
of the day she reviewed thankfully her past life and rejoiced that she
had never in her life refused any one who had asked a charity of her, and
had never been compelled to ask a charity for herself.
Gregory says, she consoled and cheered him as long as she could talk, and
when her voice failed she conversed with her hands and silent lips. Repeating
the sign of the cross to the latest moment she finished her life and her
prayers together. Her last words were in advocacy of the doctrine of universal
salvation, of which Gregory's writings are full.6
She was buried
by her brother in the grave of her parents, in the Chapel of the "Forty
Macrina a Representative
We have here
a most suggestive picture to contemplate. Macrina at the head of a sisterhood,
consisted of several hundred women of all grades, from her own rank down
to slaves. Their sole object was the cultivation of the religious life.
Can it be otherwise than that the views of human destiny she held were
dwelt upon by her in the religious exercises of the institution, and must
they not have been generally sympathized with by the devout in mates? And
can we doubt that those who had here retired from the world to cultivate
their religious natures, were representative in their views of human destiny
of the Christian community generally? The fact that Macrina and her brothers,
high functionaries in the church, express Universalism, not argumentatively
or disputingly, but as a matter uncontested, should persuade us that it
was the unchallenged sentiment of the time.
Cave, in his "Lives of the Fathers," questions Macrina's Universalism.
In his life of Gregory he says, after sketching Macrina's life: "She is
said by some to have been infected with Origen's opinions, but finding
it reported by no other than Nicephorus, I suppose he mistook her for her
grandmother, Macrina, auditor of St. Gregory, who had Origen for his tutor."
This is a specimen instance of the manner in which historians have read
history through theological spectacles, and written history in ink squeezed
from their creeds.
There is no
doubt that the elder Macrina was of the same faith as her granddaughter,
for she was a disciple of Gregory Thaumaturgus, who idolized Origen. On
the testimony of Gregory of Nyssa, "the blessed Macrina" lived a holy life
and died the death of a perfect Christian, molded, guided and sustained
by the influence and power of Universalism. And the careful reader of the
history of those early days can but feel that she represents the prevailing
religious faith of the three first and three best centuries of the church.
Basil the Great
Basil the Great
was born in Cæsarea, A.D. 329. His family were wealthy Christians.
The preceding sketch shows that his grandmother Macrina, and his mother,
Emmelia, were canonized. His brothers, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter of Sebaste,
and his sister Macrina are all saints in both the Greek and the Roman churches.
His was a most lovable and loving spirit. His works abound in descriptions
of the beauties of nature, which is something rare in ancient literature,
outside the Bible. He resided for many years in a romantic locality, with
his mother and sister. A.D. 364, against his will, he was made presbyter,
and in 370 was elected bishop of Cæsarea. He died A.D. 379. He devoted
himself to the sick, and founded the splendid hospital Basilias, for lepers,
of whom he took care, not even neglecting to kiss them in defiance of contagion.
He stands in the highest group of pulpit orators, theologians, pastors,
and rulers, and most eminent writers and noble men of the church's first
five hundred years.
"The Lord's peace is co-extensive with all time. For all things shall be
subject to him, and all things shall acknowledge his empire; and when God
shall be all in all, those who now excite discord by revolts having been
pacified, shall praise God in peaceful concord." On the words in
Isaiah 1:24, "My anger will not cease, I will burn them," he says, "And
why is this? In order that I may purify."
Basil was "the
strenuous champion of orthodoxy in the East, the restorer of union to the
divided Oriental church, and the promoter of unity between the East and
the West." Theodoret styles him "one of the lights of the world." 7
quotable passages is this: "For we have often observed that it is the sins
which are consumed, not the very persons to whom the sins have befallen."
But there are passages to be found in Basil susceptible of sustaining the
doctrine of interminable punishment. This great theologian was infected
with the wretched idea prevalent in his day, that the wise could accept
truths not to be taught to the multitude. But the brother of, and co-laborer
with, Gregory of Nyssa, and the "Blessed Macrina," he could but have sympathized
with their awe inspiring faith.
alludes to Basil's views of destiny, but faintly suggests the truth when
he says: "For though his enemies, to serve their own ends by blasting his
reputation, did sometimes charge him with corrupting the Christian doctrine,
and entertaining impious and unorthodox sentiments, and that too in some
of the greater articles, yet the objection, when looked into, did quickly
vanish, himself solemnly professing upon this occasion, that however in
other respects he had enough to answer for, yet this was his glory and
triumph, that he had never entertained false notions of God, but had constantly
kept the faith pure and unviolated, as he had received it from his ancestors."
his sainted grandmother, Macrina, and his spiritual fathers, Origen and
Clemens Alexandrinus, we can understand his disclaimer.8
Basil's probable belief in the final restoration, he employs as severe
language in reference to the sinner's sufferings so do any of the fathers
who have left no record on the subject of man's final destiny. He says:
"With what body shall it endure those interminable and unendurable scourges,
where is the quenchless fire and the worm punishing deathlessly, and the
dark and horrible abyss of hell, and the bitter groans, and the vehement
wailing, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the evils have no
Eulogies of Basil
He is said
to have had learning the most ample, eloquence of the highest order, argumentative
powers unsurpassed, literary ability unequaled, "a style of writing admirable,
almost matchless, proper, clearly expressed, significant, soft, smooth
and easy, and yet persuasive and powerful;" as a philosopher as wise as
he was accomplished as a theologian. Erasmus gives him the pre-eminence
above Pericles, Isocrates and Demosthenes, and ranks him higher than Athanasius,
Nazianzen, Nyssen and Chrysostom. And Cave exhausts eulogy and praise in
describing his "moral and divine accomplishments," and closes his account
by saying: "Perhaps it is an instance hardly to be paralleled in any age,
for three brothers, all men of note and eminency, to be bishops at the
same time." 10 He might have added--and with a sister their
spirit can be seen in his reply to the emperor, when the latter threatened
him, should he not obey the sovereign's command. His noble answer compelled
the emperor to forego his purpose. Basil said he did not fear the emperor's
threats; confiscation could not harm one who only possessed a suit of plain
clothes and a few books; he could not be banished for he could not find
a home anywhere, as the earth was God's, and himself everywhere a stranger;
his frail body could endure but little torture, and death would be a favor,
as it would only conduct him to God, his eternal home.
The Mass of Christians
in one place, in a work attributed to him, "The mass of men (Christians)
say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished."11
If the work is not Basil's, the testimony as to the state of opinion at
that time is no less valuable: "The mass of men say that there is to be
an end of punishment."
He was born about
A.D. 335, and died 390. He was made bishop 372. From the time he was thirty-five
until his death, he, Didymus and Diodorus of Tarsus, were the unopposed
advocates of universal redemption. Most unique and valuable of all his
works was the biography of his sister, described in our sketch of Macrina.
His descriptions of her life, conversations and death are gems of early
Chrstian literature. They overflow with declarations of universal salvation.
devoted to the memory of Origen as his spiritual godfather, and teacher,
as were his saintly brother and sister. He has well been called "the flower
of orthodoxy." He declared that Christ "frees mankind from their wickedness,
healing the very inventor of wickedness." He asks: "What is then the scope
of St. Paul's argument in this place? That the nature of evil shall one
day be wholly exterminated, and divine, immortal goodness embrace within
itself all intelligent natures; so that of all who were made by God, not
one shall be exiled from his kingdom; when all the mixtures of evil that
like a corrupt matter is mingled in things, shall be dissolved, and consumed
in the furnace of purifying fire, and everything that had its origin from
God shall be restored to its pristine state of purity." "This is the end
of our hope, that nothing shall be left contrary to the good, but that
the divine life, penetrating all things, shall absolutely destroy death
from existing things, sin having been previously destroyed," etc.12
"For it is evident that God will in truth be 'in all' when there shall
be no evil in existence, when every created being is at harmony with itself,
and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; when every creature
shall have been made one body. Now the body of Christ, as I have often
said, is the whole of humanity." 13 On the Psalms, "Neither
is sin from eternity, not will it last to eternity. For that which did
not always exist shall not last forever."
demonstrates the fact that the word aionios did not have the meaning
of endless duration in his day. He distinctly says: "Whoever considers
the divine power will plainly perceive that it is able at length to restore
by means of the aionion purging and atoning sufferings, those who
have gone even to this extremity of wickedness." Thus "everlasting" punishment
will end in salvation, according to one of the greatest of the fathers
of the Fourth Century.
In his "Sermo
Catecheticus Magnus," a work of forty chapters, for the teaching of theological
learners, written to show the harmony of Christianity with the instincts
of the human heart, he asserts "the annihilation of evil, the restitution
of all things, and the final restoration of evil men and evil spirits to
the blessedness of union with God, so that he may be 'all in all,' embracing
all things endowed with sense and reason"--doctrines derived by him from
Origen. To save the credit of a doctor of the church of acknowledged orthodoxy,
it has been asserted from the time of Germanus of Constantinople, that
these passages were foisted in by heretical writers. But there is no foundation
for this assumption, and we may safely say that "the wish is father to
the thought," and that the final restitution of all things was distinctly
held and taught by him in his writings.
that "when death approaches to life, and darkness to light, and the corruptible
to the incorruptible, the inferior is done away with and reduced to non-existence,
and the thing purged is benefited, just as the dross is purged from gold
by fire. In the same way in the long circuits of time, when the evil of
nature which is now mingled and implanted in them has been taken away,
whensoever the restoration to their old condition of the things that now
lie in wickedness takes place, there will be a unanimous thanksgiving from
the whole creation, both of those who have been punished in the purification
and of those who have not at all needed purification.
that punishment will be administered in proportion to each one's corruptness.
Therefore to whom there is much corruption attached, with him it is necessary
that the purgatorial time which is to consume it should be great, and of
long duration; but to him in whom the wicked disposition has been already
in part subjected, a proportionate degree of that sharper and more vehement
punishment shall be forgiven. All evil, however, must at length be entirely
removed from everything, so that it shall no more exist. For such being
the nature of sin that it cannot exist without a corrupt motive, it must
of course be perfectly dissolved, and wholly destroyed, so that nothing
can remain a receptacle of it, when all motive and influence shall spring
from God alone," etc.
Perversion of Historians
in which historians and biographers have been guilty of suppression by
their prejudices or lack of perception to fact, is illustrated by Cave
in his "Lives of the Fathers," when, speaking of this most out-spoken Universalist,
he says, that on the occasion of the death of his sister Macrina, "he penned
his excellent book ('Life and Resurrection,') wherein if some later hand
have interspersed some few Origenian dogmata, it is no more than what they
have done to some few other of his tracts, to give his thoughts vent upon
those noble arguments." The "later" hands were impelled by altogether different
"dogmata," and suppressed or modified Origen's doctrines, as Rufinus confessed,
instead of inserting them in the works of their predecessors. If Gregory
has suffered at all at the hands of mutilators, it has been by those who
have minimized and not those who have magnified his Universalism. But this
aspersion originated with Germanus, bishop of Constantinople (A.D. 730),
in harmony with a favorite mode of opposition to Universalism. In Germanus's
Antapodotikos he endeavored to show that all the passages in Gregory which
treat of the apokatastasis were interpolated by heretics.14
This charge has often been echoed since. But the prejudiced Daille calls
it "the last resort of those who with a stupid and absurd persistance will
have it that the ancients wrote nothing different from the faith at present
received; for the whole of Gregory Nyssen's orations are so deeply permeated
with the perncious doctrine in question, than it can have been inserted
by none other that the author himself."15 The conduct of historians,
not only of those who were theologically warped, but of such as sought
to be impartial on the opinions of the early Christians on man's final
destiny, is something phenomenal. Even Lecky writes: "Origen, and his disciple
Gregory of Nyssa, in a somewhat hesitating manner, diverged from the prevailing
opinion (eternal torments) and strongly inclined to the belief in the ultimate
salvation of all.
But they were alone in their
opinion. With these two exceptions, all the fathers proclaimed the eternity
of torments." 16 It is shown in this volume that not only were
Diodore, Theodore, and others of the Antiochan school Universalists but
that for centuries four theological schools taught the doctrine. A most
singular fact in this connection is the Prof. Shedd, elsewhere in this
book, denies his own statement similar to Lecky's, as shown on a previous
page. This is the testimony of Dr. Schaff in his valuable history:
the doctrine of the final restoration of all things. The plan of redemption
is in his view absolutely universal, and embraces all spiritual beings.
Good is the only positive reality; evil is the negative, the non-existent,
and must finally abolish itself, because it is not of God. Unbelievers
must indeed pass through a second death, in order to be purged from the
filthiness of the flesh. But God does not give them up, for they are his
property, spiritual natures allied to him. His love, which draws pure souls
easily and without pain to itself, becomes a purifying fire to all who
cleave to the earthly, till the impure element is driven off. As all comes
forth from God, so must all return into him at last." "Universal salvation
(including Satan) was clearly taught by Gregory of Nyssa, a profound thinker
of the school of Origen."
In his comments
on the Psalms, Gregory says: "By which God shows that neither is sin from
eternity nor will it last to eternity. Wickedness being thus destroyed,
and its imprint being left in none, all shall be fashioned after Christ,
and in all that one character shall shine, which originally was imprinted
on our nature." "Sin, whose end is extinction, and a change to nothingness
from evil to a state of blessedness." On Ps. 57:1, "Sin is like a plant
on a house top, not rooted, not sown, not ploughed in the restoration to
goodness of all things, it passes away and vanishes. So not even a trace
of the evil which now abounds in us, shall remain, etc." If sin be not
cured here its cure will be effected hereafter. And God's threats are that
"through fear we may be trained to avoid evil; but by those who are more
intelligent it (the judgment) is believed to be a medicine," etc. "God
himself is not really seen in wrath." "The soul which is united to sin
must be set in the fire, so that that which is unnatural and vile may be
removed, consumed by the aionion fire."17 Thus the (aionion)
fire was regarded by Gregory as purifying. "If it (the soul) remains (in
the present life) the healing is accomplished in the life beyond." (Orat.
us: "There is no scholar of any weight in any school of theology who does
not now admit that two at least of the three great Cappadocians believed
in the final and universal restoration of human souls. And the remarkable
fact is that Gregory developed these views without in any way imperiling
his reputation for orthodoxy, and without the faintest reminder that he
was deviating from the strictest paths of Catholic opinion." Professor
Plumptre truthfully says: "His Universalism is as wide and unlimited as
that of Bishop Newton of Bristol."
Opinions in the Fourth
of Constantinople, A.D. 381, which perfected the Nicene Creed, was participated
in by the two Gregorys; Gregory Nazianzen presided and Gregory Nyssen added
the clauses to the Nicene creed that are in italics on a previous page
in this volume. They were both Universalists. Would any council, in ancient
or modern times, composed of believers in endless punishment, select an
avowed Universalist to preside over its deliberations, and guide its "doctrinal
transactions?" And can anyone consistently think that Gregory's Universalism
was unacceptable to the great council over which he presided?" Some of
the strongest statements of Gregory's views will be found in his enthusiastic
reports of Macrina's conversations, related in the preceding chapter, with
which, every reader will see, he was in the fullest sympathy. Besides the
works of Gregory named above, passages expressive of universal salvation
may be found in "Oratio de Mortuis," "De Perfectione Christiani," etc.
"By the days
of Gregory of Nyssa it (Universalism), aided by the unrivaled learning,
genius and piety of Origen, had prevailed, and had succeeded in leavening,
not the East alone, but much of the West. While the doctrine of annihilation
has practically disappeared, Universalism has established itself, has become
the prevailing opinion, even in quarters antagonistic to the school of
Alexandria. The church of North Africa, in the person of Augustine, enters
the field. The Greek tongue soon becomes unknown in the West, and the Greek
fathers forgotten. On the throne of Him whose name is Love is now
seated a stern Judge (a sort of Roman governor). The Father is lost in
the Magistrate." 18
candidly ascribes to Gregory "the blessed hope that God's justice and mercy
are not controlled by the power of evil, that sin is not everlasting, and
that in the world to come punishment will be corrective and not final,
will be ordered by a love and justice, the height and depths of which we
cannot here fathom or comprehend." 19
18 - Additional Authorities
Going back a little
we find several authors whose works in part have escaped the ravages of
time and the destructive hostility of opponents. We have found ourselves
a hundred times wishing, while pursuing these enquiries, that the literature
of the first five centuries could have been printed and scattered to the
world's ends, instead of having been limited, as it was, of course, before
the invention of printing, to a few manuscripts so easily destroyed by
the bigoted opponents of our faith into whose hands they fell. We should
have many fold more testimonies than have survived to tell the story of
1 The materials
of this sketch and of the article on Gregory Nyssen were chiefly procured
from "Our Holy Father Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa's Thoughts concerning the
Life of the Blessed Macrina, his Sister, to the Monk Olympius;" and "Dialogue
Concerning Life and Resurrection, with the Opinions of his Sister Macrina;"
Leipsic, 1858. The work is in Greek and German. Also from Migne's Patrologiæ,
2 Dict. Christ.
Biog. III, p. 780. - 3 ("all things in all men.") - 4
p. 154. Oehler's ed. Life and Resurrection.
5 Life and Resurrection,
p. 68. In this passage Macrina employs the word aionion in its proper sense
of ages. The German version translates it centuries (jahrhunderte).
6 Butler, "Lives
of the Saints," Vol. VII. pp. 260,261. This Catholic work does not make
the faintest allusion to Macrina's Universalism. And even our Dr. Ballou,
in his valuable Ancient History, while he mentions the grandmother, overlooks
the far more eminent granddaughter.
7 History of
the Church, p. 176. - 8 Lives of the Fathers, II, p. 451.- 9
Ep. XLVI, Classis I, ad virginem.
10 Cave, Lives
of the Fathers, II, 397. - 11 De Ascetics.
12 Life and Resurrection
and Letter to the Monk Olympius.
13 Cat. Orat.
ch. 26, Migne, Tract. Filius subjicietur,--on I Cor. xv:28--pasa he anthropine
phusis, "The whole of humanity."
14 Photius, Cod.,
233. - 15 De Usu Patrum, lib. II, cap. 4. - 16 Lecky's
Rationalism in Europe, I, p. 316.
17 On the Psalms
- 18 Allin, Univ. Asserted, p. 169. - 19 Essays on
Church and State.
Ancyra, A.D. 315, quoted by Eusebius, says: "For what else do the words
mean, 'until the times of the restitution' (Acts 3:21), but that the apostle
designed to point out that time in which all things partake of that perfect
Titus of Bostra,
A.D. 338-378. The editor of his works says that Titus was "the most learned
among the bishops of his age, and a most famous champion of the truth."
Tillemont unwillingly admits that "he seems to have followed the dangerous
error ascribed to Origen, that the pains of the damned, and even those
of the demons themselves, will not be eternal."1 Certainly Titus's
own language justifies this excellent suspicion. He says:
Words of Titus of Bostra
"Thus the mystery
was completed by the Savior in order that, perfection being completed through
all things, and in all things, by Christ, all universally shall be made
one through Christ and in Christ." He says again: "The very abyss of torment
is indeed the place of chastisement, but it is not eternal (aionion)
nor did it exist in the original constitution of nature. It was afterwards,
as a remedy for sinners, that it might cure them. And the punishments are
holy, as they are remedial and beneficial in their effect on transgressors;
for they are inflicted, not to preserve them in their wickedness, but to
make them cease from their wickedness. The anguish of their suffering compels
them to break off their vices. If death were an evil, blame would rightfully
fall on him who appointed it." 2
Ambrose of Milan
Ambrose of Milan,
A.D. 340-398, says: "What then hinders our believing that he who is beaten
small as the dust is not annihilated, but is changed for the better; so
that, instead of an earthly man, he is made a spiritual man, and our believing
that he who is destroyed, is so destroyed that all taint is removed, and
there remains but what is pure and clean. And in God's saying of the adversaries
of Jerusalem, 'They shall be as though they were not," you are to understand
they shall exist substantially, and as converted, but shall not exist as
enemies. God gave death, not as a penalty, but as a remedy; death was given
for a remedy as the end of evils." "How shall the sinner exist in the future,
seeing the place of sin cannot be of long continuance?" 3 Because
God's image is that of the one God, it like Him starts from one, and is
diffused to infinity. And, once again, from an infinite number all things
return into one as into their end, because God is both beginning and end
of all things.4 How then, shall (all things) be subject to Christ?
In this very way in which the Lord Himself said. "Take my yoke upon you,'
for it is not the untamed who bear the yoke, but the humble and gentle,
so that in Jesus's name every knee shall bend. Is this subjection of Christ
not completed? Not at all. Because the subjection of Christ consists not
in few, but in all. Christ will be subject to God in us by means of the
obedience of all; when vices having been cast away, and sin reduced to
submission, one spirit of all people, in one sentiment, shall with one
accord begin to cleave to God, then God will be all in all, when all then
shall have believed and done the will of God, Christ will be all and in
all; and when Christ shall be all in all, God will be all in all.5
At present he is over all by his power, but it is necessary that he be
in all by their free will:6 So the Son of man came to save that
which was lost, that is, all, for, 'As in Adam all died, so, too, in Christ
shall all be made alive.'" 7 "For, if the guilty die, who have
been unwilling to leave the path of sin, even against their will they still
gain, not of nature but of fault, that they may sin no more." "Death is
not bitter; but to the sinner it is bitter, and yet life is more bitter,
for it is a deadlier thing to live in sin than to die in sin, because the
sinner as long as he lives increases in sin, but if he dies he ceases to
Cave says that
Ambrose quotes and adapts many of the writings of the Greek Fathers, particularly
Origen; and Jerome declares that Ambrose was indebted to Didymus for the
most of his de Spiritu Sanctu. Both these, it will be noted, were
Universalists. Augustine tells us that every day after his morning devotions
Ambrose studied the Scriptures, chiefly by the aid of the Greek commentators,
and especially of Origen and Hippolytus, and of Didymus and Basil. 9
Three of these at least were Universalists. "Perhaps his most original
book is 'On the Blessing of Death," in which he takes a singularly mild
view of the punishment of the wicked, expresses his belief in a purifying
fire, and argues that whatever the punishment be, it is a state distinctly
preferable to a sinful life. His eschatology was deeply influenced by the
larger hopes of Origen."10
of Ambrose in his comments on Ps. 118, is as follows: "Dives in the Gospel,
although a sinner, is pressed with penal agonies, that he may escape the
sooner." 11 Again: "Those who do not come to the first, but
are reserved for the second resurrection, shall be burned till they fill
up the times between the first and second resurrection, or should they
not have done so, will remain longer in punishment."
is by an unknown author, anciently erroneously supposed to be Ambrose,
as it was bound with the works of this father. On I Cor. 15:28, the Ambrosiaster
says: "This is implied in the Savior's subjecting himself to the Father;
this is involved in God's being all in all, namely, when every creature
thinks one and the same thing, so that every tongue of celestials, terrestials,
and infernals shall confess God as the great One from whom all things are
derived." This sentiment he avows in other passages.
companion of Athanasius, A.D. 346, says of evil: "It is of itself nothing,
nor can it in itself exist, or exist always; but it is in process of vanishing,
and by vanishing proved to be unable to exist."12
A.D. 370, says that death was ordained at the first, "in order that, by
the dissolution of the body, all the sin proceeding from the connection
(of soul and body) should be totally destroyed."13
A.D. 360, was born in Africa, and was a famous persuader, whose writings
abound with expressions of the faith of Universalism. On I Cor. 15:28,
he says: "All things shall be rendered spiritual at the consummation of
the world. At the consummation all things shall be one.14 Therefore
all things converted to him shall become one, i.e., spiritual; through
the Son all things shall be made one, for all things are by him, for all
things that exist are one, though they be different. For the body of the
entire universe is not like a mere heap, which becomes a body, only by
the contact of its particles; but it is a body chiefly in its several parts
being closely and mutually bound together--it forms a continuous chain.
For the chain is this, God: Jesus: the Spirit: the intellect: the soul:
the angelic host: and lastly, all subordinate bodily existences." On Eph.
1:4, "The the mystery was completed by the Savior in order that, perfection
having been completed throughout all things, and in all things by Christ,
all universally should be made one through Christ and in Christ. And because
he (Christ) is the life, he is that by whom all things have been made,
for all things cleansed by him return into eternal life."
of Poictiers, (died, A.D. 368), is said by Jerome to have translated nearly
40,000 lines of Origen. On Luke 15:4, he says: "This one sheep (lost) is
man, and by one man the entire race is to be understood; the ninety and
nine are the heavenly angels and by us (mankind) who are all one, the number
of the heavenly church is to be filled up. And therefore it is that every
creature awaits the revelation of the sons of God." On Psalm. 69:32,33:
"Even the abode of hell is to praise God." Also, "'As thou hast given him
power over all flesh in order that he should give eternal life to all that
thou hast given him,' so the Father gave all things, and the Son accepted
all things, and honored by the Father was to honor the Father, and to employ
the power received in giving eternity of life to all flesh. Now this is
life eternal that they may know thee."15
A.D. 390-440. This celebrated man was educated in the monastery in Bethlehem,
and was the founder of two monasteries in Marseilles. He wrote much, and
drew the fire of Augustine, whose doctrines he strenuously assailed. Neander
declares of him, that his views of the divine love extended to all men,
"which wills the salvation of all, and refers everything to this; even
subordinating the punishment of the wicked to this simple end.16
Ueberweg says Cassian "could not admit that God would save only a portion
of the human race, and that Christ died only for the elect." Hagenbach
states that the erroneous idea that God "would save only a few" is in the
opinion of Cassian ingene sacrilegium, a great sacrilege or blasphemy.
Neander, in his "History of Dogmas," remarks: "The practically Christian
guided him in treating the doctrines of faith; he admitted nothing which
was not suited to satisfy thoroughly the religious wants of men. The idea
of divine justice in the determination of man's lot after the first transgression
did not predominate in Cassian's writings as in Augustine's, but the idea
of a disciplinary divine love, by the leadings of which men are to be led
to repentance. He appeals also to the mysteriousness of God's ways, not
as concerns predestination, but the variety of the leadings by which God
leads different individuals to salvation. In no instance, however, can
divine grace operate independently of the free self determination of man;
as the husbandman must do his part, but all this avails nothing without
the divine blessing, so man must do his part, yet this profits nothing
without divine grace." To which T. B. Thayer, D.D., adds in the "Universalist
Quarterly": "It is a fact worth noting in the connection, that Cassianus
went to Constantinople in A.D. 403, where he listened to the celebrated
Chrysostom, by whom he was ordained as Deacon. Speaking of Chrysostom,
Neander says that but for the necessity of opposing those who made too
light of sin and its retributions and would gladly reason away the doctrine
of eternal punishment, 'his mild and amiable spirit might not otherwise
be altogether disinclined to the doctrine of universal restoration, with
which he must have become acquainted at an earlier period, from being a
disciple of Diodorus of Tarsus.'
This justifies the
remark of Neander that we may perhaps 'discern in these traits of Cassianus
the spirit of the great Chrysostom, with whom he long lived in the capacity
of deacon, and whose disciple he delighted to call himself.'"
the Blessed, was born A.D. 387, and died 458. He was ordained Bishop of
Cyrus in Syria, 420. He was a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and was
also a student of eloquence and sacred literature of Chrysostom. Dr. Schaff
calls his continuation of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History most valuable.
Neander, Murdoch, and Mosheim rank him high in learning, eloquence and
goodness. He illustrates one of the many contradictions of the assertions
of merely sectarian scholars. Though Dr. Shedd says that "the only exception
to the belief in the eternity of future punishment in the ancient church
appears in the Alexandrian school," yet, Theodoret, Theodore, Diodore and
others were all of the Antiochan school. Dr. Orello Cone first called the
attention of our church to this father, who is not even mentioned by Dr.
Ballou, in his "Ancient History of Universalism," and we quote from his
article, copied in part form "The New York Christian Ambassador" into "The
Universalist Quarterly," April, 1866. Dr. Cone says that Theodoret regarded
the resurrection as the elevation and quickening of man's entire nature.
"He gives this higher spiritual view of the resurrection (anastasis)
in his commentary on Eph. 1:10, 'For through the dispensation or incarnation
of Christ the nature of men arises,' anista, or is resurrected,
'and puts on incorruption.' He does not say the bodies of men, but the
nature (phusis) is resurrected."
on "Gathering all things in Christ:" "And the visible creation shall be
liberated from corruption, and shall attain incorruption, and the inhabitants
of the invisible worlds shall live in perpetual joy, for grief and sadness
and groaning shall be done away." On the universal atonement:--"Teaching
that he would free from the power of death not only his own body, but at
the same time the entire nature of the human race, he presently adds: 'And
I, if I be lifted from the earth will draw all men unto me;' For I will
not suffer what I have undertaken to raise the body only, but I will fully
accomplish the resurrection to all men. He has paid the debt for us, and
blotted out the handwriting that was against us, and having done these
things, he quickened together with himself the entire nature of men."
He formed his
Christian system on Theodore's, and on that of Diodore of Tarsus, both
Universalists. Allin says, he "was perhaps the most famous, and certainly
the most learned teacher of his age; uniting to a noble intellect a character
and accomplishments equally noble." He published a defense of Diodore and
Theodore, unfortunately lost. On I Cor. 15:28, Theodoret says: "But in
the future life corruption ceasing and immortality being present, the passions
have no place, and these being removed, no kind of sin is committed. So
from that time God is all in all, when all, freed from sin, and turned
to him, shall have no inclination to evil." On Eph. 1:23, he says: "In
the present life God is in all, for his nature is without limits, but is
not all in all. But in the coming life, when mortality is at an end and
immortality granted, and sin has no longer any place, God will be all in
all.17 For the Lord, who loves man, punishes medicinally, that
he may check the course of impiety."
Works of Theodoret
Great says that the Roman church refused to acknowledge Theodoret's History
because he praised Theodore of Mopsuestia, and insisted that he was a great
doctor in the church. Theodoret says that Theodore was "the teacher of
all the churches, and the opponent of all the sects of heresy," so that
in his opinion Universalism was not heretical.
A.D. 390. The works of this eminent saint and scholar were destroyed by
the Fifth General Council that condemned him--though not as a Universalist--a
hundred and fifty years after his death. The council anathematized him
with Didymus. It is most apparent that the great multitude of Christians
must have accepted views which were so generally advocated and unchallenged
during those early years, by the best and greatest of the fathers. Evagrius
is said by Jerome in his epistle to Ctesiphon against the Pelagrians, to
have been an Origenist. He wrote three books, the "Saint" or "Gnostic,"
the "Monk," and the "Refutation."
Cyril of Alexandria
(A.D. 412) says: "Traversing the lowest recesses of the infernal regions,
after that he (Christ) had preached to the spirits there, he led forth
the captives in his strength." 18 "Now when sin has been destroyed,
how should it be but that death too, should wholly perish?" "Through Christ
has been saved the holy multitude of the fathers, nay, the whole human
race altogether, which was earlier in time (than Christ's death) for he
died for all, and the death of all was done away in him." 19
345-410, wrote an elaborate defense of Origen, and in the preface to "De
Principiis" he declares that he excised from that work of Origen all that
was "conflicting with our (the accepted Christian) belief." As the work
still abounds in expressions of Universalism, not only his sympathy with
that belief, but also the fact that it was then the prevailing Christian
belief can not be questioned. Huet says that he taught the temporary duration
of punishment. 20
quotes Domitian, Bishop of Galatia, as probably a Universalist (A.D. 546),
who is reported by Facundus to have written a book in which he declares
that those who condemned Origen have "condemned all the saints who were
before him, and who have been after him."21
Diodore of Tarsus
of Tarsus, from A.D. 378 to 394, was of the Antiochan or Syrian school.
He opposed Origen on some subjects, but agreed with his Universalism. He
says: "For the wicked there are punishments, not perpetual, however, lest
the immortality prepared for them should be a disadvantage, but they are
to be purified for a brief period according to the amount of malice in
their works. They shall therefore suffer punishment for a short space,
but immortal blessedness having no end awaits them, the penalties to be
inflicted for their many and grave sins are very far surpassed by the magnitude
of the mercy to be showed them. The resurrection, therefore, is regarded
as a blessing not only to the good, but also to the evil."22
The same authority affirms that many Nestorian bishops taught the same
doctrine. The "Dictionary of Christian Biography" observes: "Diodorus of
Tarsus taught that the penalty of sin is not perpetual, but issues in the
blessedness of immortality, and (he) was followed by Stephanus, Bishop
of Edessa, and Salomo of Bassora, and Isaac of Nineveh." "Even those who
are tortured in Gehenna are under the discipline of the divine charity."
"And they were followed in their turn by Georgius of Arbela, and Ebed Jesu
of Soba." Diodore contended that God's mercy would punish the wicked less
than their sins deserved, inasmuch as his mercy gave the good more than
they deserved. He denied that Deity would bestow immortality for the purpose
of prolonging and perpetuating suffering. Diodore and Theodore, the first,
Chrysostom's teacher, and the second his fellow-student, were really the
pioneers in teaching Scripture by help of history, criticism and linguistics.23
They may be regarded as the forerunners of modern interpretation. Like
so many others of the ancient writings Diodore's works have perished, and
we have only a few quotations from them, contained in the works of others.
But we have enough to qualify him to occupy an honorable place among the
Universalists of the Fourth Century.
Even Dr. Pusey
is compelled to admit the Universalism of Diodore of Tarsus, and Theodore
of Mopsuestia. He says, quoting from Salomo of Bassora, 1222, some eight
hundred years after their death: "The two writers use different arguments
and have different theories. Theodorus rests his on Holy Scripture, 'Until
thou hast paid the uttermost farthing,' and 'the many and few stripes,'
and attributes the amendment of those who have done ill all their lives
to the discovery of their mistake. Diodorus says that punishment must not
be perpetual, lest the immortality prepared for them be useless to them;
he twice repeats that punishment, though varied according to their deserts,
would be for a short time. His ground was his conviction that since God's
rewards so far exceed the deserts of the good, the like mercy would be
shown to the evil." 24
later than the projected limits of this work, two or three authors may
said by Evagrius to have been ejected from his see, A.D. 552, for maintaining
the opinions of Origen. Whether universal restitution was among them is
A.D. 433, Bishop of Ravenna, in a sermon on the Good Shepherd, says the
lost sheep represents "the whole human race lost in Adam," and that Christ
"followed the one, seeks the one, in order that in the one he may restore
Abbot of Edessa, in Mesopotamia, at the end of the Fifth Century, taught
Universalism,--the termination of all punishments in the future world,
and their purifying character. The fallen angels are to receive mercy,
and all things are to be restored, so that God may be all in all.25
He was at the head of a monastery. Attacked as a heretic he left Edessa
and repaired to Palestine, which in those days seems to have been the refuge
of those who desired freedom of opinion. How many might have sympathized
with him in Mesopotamia or in Palestine cannot be known.
Confessor. As late as the Seventh Century, in spite of the power of Roman
tyranny and Pagan error, the truth survived. Maximus--A.D. 580-662--was
secretary of the Emperor Heraclius, and confidential friend of Pope Martin
I. He opposed the Emperor Constans II, in his attempts to control the religious
convictions of his subjects, and was banished, A.D. 653, and died of ill
treatment. He was both scholar and saint. Neander says:
ideas of Maximus seem to lead to the doctrine of a final universal restoration,
which in fact is intimately connected also with the system of Gregory of
Nyssa, to which he most closely adhered. Yet he was too much fettered by
the church system of doctrine distinctly to express anything of the sort."
Neander adds, that in his sayings "the reunion of all rational essences
with God is established as the final end." "Him who wholly unites all things
in the end of the ages, or in eternity." Ueberweg states that "Maximus
taught that God had revealed himself through nature and by his Word. The
incarnation of God in Christ was the culmination of revelation, and would
therefore have taken place even if man had not fallen. The Universe will
end in the union of all things with God."
p. 671. Quoted by Lardner. Vol. III, p. 273.
2 Migne, Vol.
XVIII, p. 1118. Observe here that aionios is used in the sense of endless;
also that the word rendered "abyss" is the word translated "bottomless
pit" in Revelation.
3 On Ps. xxxvii.
- 4 Epis. Lib. I. - 5 De Fide. - 6 On
Ps. lxii. - 7 On Luke, xv. 3. - 8 Blessing of Death,
9 Conf. vi, 3,
Ep. xlvii, 1. - 10 Farrar: Lives of the Fathers, II, p. 144.
11 Ideo Dives
ille in Evangelio, licet peccator, poenalibus torquetur aerumnis,
ut citicus possit evadere.
12 Adv. Man.,
Ch. iv. - 13 Not. et Frag., xix. - 14 Adv. Arium,
lib. I: 25; Migne, viii, p. 1059.
15 De Trin. lib.
IX - 16 Hist. Christ Ch., ii:628. Hist. Christ. Dogmas, ii:377.-
18 Homilia. Pasch.
xx. Migne, lxxvii. - 19 Glaph. in Ex., lib. II. - 20
Origen. II, p. 160.
21 Anc. Hist.
Univ., p. 265. - 22 Assemani Bib. Orientalis, III, p. 324. -
Hist. Christ. Ch., I, p. 455. - 24 What is of Faith, p. 231.
- 25 Assemani Bibl. Orient., II,
19 - The Deterioration of Christian Thought
Transition of Christianity
The great transition
from the Christianity of the Apostles to the pseudo-Christianity of the
patriarchs and emperors--the transformation of Christianity to Churchianity--may
be said to have begun with Constantine, at the beginning of the Fourth
Century. Its relations to the temporal power experienced an entire change.
Heathenism surrendered to it. As the stones of the heathen temples were
rebuilt into Christian churches, so the Pagan principles held by the masses
modified and corrupted the religion of Christ; while the worldliness of
secular interests derived from the union of church and state, exerted a
debasing influence, and the Christianity of the Catacombs and of Origen
became the church of the popes, of the Inquisition, and of the Middle Ages.
of the Fourth Century generally contradict those of the Second, who were
in part witnesses, or reported credible evidence and plausible traditions,
whereas those later fathers were only critics, and most of them very indifferent
and biased ones. For they often proceed from systems, historical and doctrinal,
which strongly impair their qualifications for being judges." There seems
an entire change in the church after the Nicene Council. "The Anti-Nicene
age was the World against the Church; the Post-Nicene age is the history
of the World in the Church. As an antagonist the World was powerless; as
an ally it became dangerous and its influence disastrous." 1
"From the time
of Constantine," says Schaff, "church discipline declines; the whole Roman
world having become nominally Christian, and the host of hypocritical professors
multiplying beyond all control." It was during Constantine's reign that,
among other foreign corruptions, monasticism came into Christianity, from
the Hindoo religions and other sources, and gave rise to those ascetic
organizations so foreign to the spirit of the author of our religion, and
so productive of error and evil. Perhaps the deterioration of Christian
doctrine and life may be dated from the edict of Milan (A.D. 313), when
"unhappily, the church also entered on an altogether new career--that of
patronage and state protection. That which it was about to gain in material
power it would lose in moral force and independence." It is probable that
the beginning of the conventual life of women from which grew the nunneries
and convents that covered Christendom in the succeeding centuries, was
with Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who A.D. 331 closed
a pious life at the age of eighty years. She was accustomed to gather the
virgins of the church to eat, serving them with her own hands at a table
and praying in their company.
"Theophilus succeeded Timothy at Alexandria A.D. 385, and held the see
till 412. He was able, bold, crafty, unscrupulous, corrupt, ravenous, domineering.
In the first controversy between Jerome and Rufinus he had acted the credible
part of a mediator. His own inclinations were undoubtedly in favor of Origen;
he had even deposed a bishop named Paul for his hostility to that teacher,
but he now found it expedient to adopt a different line of conduct." Jerome
and Theophilus subsequently joined hands and united in a bitter and relentless
warfare against the great Alexandrian. There seems to have been very little
principle in the course they pursued.
331-420--was one of the ablest of the fathers of the century in which he
lived--"the most learned except Origen," up to his time. He wrote in Latin,
and was contemporary with Augustine, but did not accept all the Paganism
of the great corruptor of Christianity. He stood in line with his Oriental
predecessors. At first he was an enthusiastic partisan of Origen, but later,
when opposition to the great Alexandrian set in, he became an equally violent
component. Schaff says he was a great trimmer and time server, and at length
seemed to acquiesce in the growing influence of Augustinianism. Jerome
had "originally belonged, like the friend of his youth, Rufinus, and John,
Bishop of Jerusalem, to the warmest admirers of the great Alexandrian father.
But attacked as he now was, with protests from different sides, he began
out of anxiety for his own reputation for orthodoxy, to separate himself
with the utmost care from the heresies with which he was charged." One
of Origen's works, in the handwriting of Pamphilus, came into Jerome's
possession, who says, owning it, he "owns the wealth of Croesus; it is
signed, as it were, with the very blood of the martyr."
fourteen homilies of Origen on Jeremiah, and fourteen on Ezekiel, and quotes
Didymus as saying that Origen was the greatest teacher of the church since
St. Paul. During his residence in Rome Jerome highly praised Origen, but
soon after, when he found himself accused of heresy for so doing, he declared
that he had only read him as he had read other heretics. In a letter to
Vigilantius he says: "I praise him as an interpreter, not as a dogmatic
teacher; for his genius, not for his faith; as a philosopher, not as an
apostle. If you believe me, I was never an Origenist; if you do not believe
me, I have now ceased to be one."3 But when in Cæsarea
he borrowed the manuscript of Origen's Hexapla and examined it, and in
Alexandria he passed a month with the great Universalist, the blind Didymus.
It is curious
to notice, however, that Jerome does not oppose Origen's universal restoration,
but erroneously accuses him of advocating the universal equality of the
restored--of holding that Gabriel and the devil, Paul and Caiaphas, the
virgin and the prostitute, will be alike in the immortal world. The idea
of the universal restoration of mankind, stripped of pre-existence, universal
equality, the salvability of evil spirits, etc., does not seem to have
been much objected to in the days of Jerome, even by those who did not
Jerome's Politic Course
language is: "And though Origen declares that no rational being will be
lost, and gives penitence to the evil one, what is that to us who believe
that the evil one and his satellites, and all the wicked will perish eternally,
and that Christians, if they have been cut off in sin, shall after punishment
be saved." This, however, was after the cautious and politic churchman
had begun to hedge in order to conciliate the growing influence of Augustinianism.
And the words italicized above show that his endless punishment was very
the word rendered eternal in the Bible (aionios) in the sense of
limited duration, as that Jerusalem was burnt with aionian fire by Hadrian;
that Israel experienced aionion woe, etc. In his commentary on Isaiah his
think that the punishment of the wicked will one day, after many ages,
have an end, rely on these testimonies: Rom. 11:25; Gal. 3:22; Mic. 7:9;
Isa. 12:1; Ps. 30:20," which he quotes, and adds: "And this we ought to
leave to the knowledge of God alone, whose torments, no less than his compassion,
are in due measure, and who knows how and how long to punish. This only
let us say as suiting our human frailty, "Lord, rebuke me not in thy fury,
not chasten me with thine anger.'"4
Commenting on Isaiah
24, he says: "This seems to favor those friends of mine who grant the grace
of repentance to the devil and to demons after many ages, that they too
shall be visited after a time. Human frailty cannot know the judgment of
God, nor venture to form an opinion of the greatness and the measure of
his punishment." Jerome frequently exposes his sympathy with the doctrine
of restoration, as when he says: "Israel and all heretics, because they
had the works of Sodom and Gomorrah, are overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah,
that they may be set free like a brand snatched from the burning. And this
is the meaning of the prophet's words, 'Sodom shall be restored as of old,'
that he who by his vice is as an inhabitant of Sodom, after the works of
Sodom have been burnt in him, may be restored to his ancient state." 5
from this father, Allin says, in Universalism Asserted: "Nor are these
isolated instances; I have found nearly one hundred passages in his works
(and there are doubtless others) indicating Jerome's sympathy with Universalism.
Further, we should note that when towards the year 400 A.D., Jerome took
part with Epiphanius and the disreputable Theophilus against Origen (whom
he had hitherto extravagantly praised), he, as Huet points out, kept a
significant silence on the question of human restoration. 'Though you adduce,'
says Huet, six hundred testimonies, you thereby only prove that he changed
his opinion.' But did he ever change his opinion? And if so, how far? Thus
in his "Epis. ad Avit.,' where he goes at length into Origen's errors,
he says nothing of the larger hope; and when charged with Origenism he
refers time over to his commentaries on Ephesians, which teach the most
outspoken Universalism. As a specimen of his praise of Origen, he says,
in a letter to Paula that Origen was blamed, "not on account of the novelty
of his doctrines, not an account of heresy, as now mad dogs pretend, but
from jealousy," so that to call Origen a heretic is the part of a mad dog!
Note this, from the most orthodox Jerome."
A Miserable Story
Origen's "Homilies," which affirm Universalism continually, he said in
his preface, that Origen was only inferior to the Apostles--"alterum post
apostolum ecclesiarum magistrum." The manner in which he retracted these
sentiments, and became the detractor and enemy of the man to whom he had
admitted his indebtedness is disgraceful to his memory. Farrar accurately
calls the record of his behavior "a miserable story." Jerome's morbid dread
of being held to be heretical, led him, it is feared, to deny some of his
real opinions, and to violently attack those who held them, in order to
divert attention from himself. 6
A few if his
expressions are here given out of the many quotable. On Eph. 4:16, "In
the end of things, the whole body which had been dissipated and torn into
various parts shall be restored. Let us understand the whole number of
rational creatures under the figure of a single rational animal. Let us
imagine this animal to be torn so that no bone adheres to bone, nor nerve
to nerve. In the restitution of all things when Christ the true physician
shall have come to heal the body of the universal church every one shall
receive his proper place. What I mean is, the fallen angel will begin to
be that which he was created, and man who has been expelled from Paradise
will be once more restored to the tilling of Paradise. These things then
will take place universally." On Mic. 5:8, "Death shall come as a visitor
to the impious; it will not be perpetual; it will not annihilate them;
but will prolong its visit till the impiety which is in them shall be consumed."
On Eph. 4:13, he says, "The question should arise who those are of whom
he says that they all shall come into the unity of the faith? Does he mean
all men, or all the saints, or all rational beings? He appears to me to
be speaking of all men." On John 17:21, "In the end and consummation of
the Universe all are to be restored into their original harmonious state,
and we all shall be made one body and be united once more into a perfect
man, and the prayer of our Savior shall be fulfilled that all may be one."
In his dissertation on Jonah he says: "Most persons (plerique, very
many), regard the story of Jonah as teaching the ultimate forgiveness of
all rational creatures, even the devil." This shows us the prevalence of
the doctrine in the Fourth Century. His words are: "The apostate angels,
and the prince of this world, and Lucifer, the morning star, though now
ungovernable, licentiously wandering about, and plunging themselves into
the depths of sin, shall in the end, embrace the happy dominion of Christ
and his saints." Gieseler quotes the following sentence from Jerome's comments
on Gal. 5:22, "No rational creature before God will perish forever," and
from this language the historian not only classes Jerome as a Universalist,
but considers it proof that the doctrine was then prevalent in the West.
"The learned, the famous Jerome (A.D. 380-390), was at this time a Universalist
of Origen's school. He was, indeed, a Latin writer; but it may be more
proper to introduce him with the Greek fathers, since he completed his
theological education in the East, and there spent the larger part of his
manhood and old age. A follower of Origen, from whose works he borrowed
without reserve, he nevertheless modified his scheme of universal salvation
with little amendment. At a later period he was led, by a theological and
personal quarrel, to take sides against this doctrine." 7
A.D. 347-407, was born of Christian parentage in Antioch, and became the
golden-mouthed orator and one of the most celebrated of the fathers. He
was the intimate friend of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Diodore of Tarsus,
and a pupil of the latter for six years. He was no controversialist, his
works are chiefly expository and exhortive. His praise of his Universalist
friends, Theodore and Diodore, should predispose us to regard him as cherishing
their view of human destiny, notwithstanding his lurid descriptions of
the horrors of future torments.
In answer to
the question, "Whether hell fire have any end," Chrysostom says, "Christ
declares that it hath no end. Well," he adds, "I know that a chill comes
over you on hearing these things, but what am I to do? For this is God's
own command, that it hath no end Christ hath declared. Pail also saith,
in pointing out the eternity of punishment, that the sinner shall pay the
penalty of destruction, and that forever." 8 The reasonableness
of the apparently disproportioned penalty he feebly argues. A specimen
of the utter inadequacy of his argument is seen where he comments on the
language, "If any man's work be burned he shall suffer loss, but he himself
shall be saved, yet so as by fire." He says it means "that while the sinner's
works shall perish, he shall be preserved in fire for the purpose of torment."
And he gives the very details: "A river of fire, and a poisonous worm,
and darkness interminable, and undying tortures."
9 And yet
he asks with a significant emphasis that seems to preclude the thought
of the sinner's irremediable suffering: "Tell me on what account do you
mourn for him that is departed? Is it because he was wicked? But for that
very reason you ought to give thanks, because his evil works are put a
stop to." "God is equally to be praised when he chastises, and when he
frees from chastisement. For both spring from goodness. It is right, then,
to praise him equally both for placing Adam in Paradise, and for expelling
him; and to give thanks not alone for the kingdom, but for Gehenna as well.
Christ went to the utterly black and joyless portion of Hades, and turned
it into heaven, transferring all its wealth, the race of man, into his
Neander and Schaff
informs us that "Nitzsch includes Gregory Nazianzen and possibly Chrysostom
among Universalists, and says that Chrysostom praised Origen and Diodorus,
and that his comments on I. Cor. 15:28, looked toward an
ranks him among the "esoteric believers." Neander thinks he believed in
Universalism, but felt that the opposite doctrine was necessary to alarm
the multitude. On the words, "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,"
Chrysostom says: "What does this mean of 'things in heaven, on earth, and
under the earth?' It means the whole world, and angels, and men, and demons.
Or, it signifies both the holy and sinners." A pupil of Diodore, of Tarsus,
for six years, and a fellow-student with Theodore of Mopsuestia, both Universalists,
he cannot be regarded as otherwise than in sympathy with them on this theme
of themes. He must have been one of those esoteric believers elsewhere
described, for he says according to Neander, that he had found the doctrine
of endless punishment necessary to the welfare of sinners, and on that
account had preached it. The influence of the Alexandrians was waning,
and the heathen environment was leavening Christianity, which soon assumed
a phase wholly foreign to its primal purity.
1 Hipp. and his Age. - 2
Canon Freemantle in Dict. Christ. Biog. Vol. III., 1 Art. Hieronymus.
3 Epist. xxxiii. Migne Vol.
XXII. - 4 Plumptre, Dict. Christ Biog. II, Art. "Eschatology."
5 Com. on Amos. - 6 He calls
Origen "that immortal intellect." - 7 Univ. Quar, May, 1838.
8 Hom. IX on I Cor. iii:
12-16. - 9 Hom. XI on I Cor. iv: 3. - 10 Sermon xxxiv; on Ps. cxlviii;
20 - Augustine--Deterioration Continued
was born in Tagaste, Numidia, November 13, 354, and died in 420. He was
the great fountain of error destined to adulterate Christianity, and change
its character for long ages. In disposition and spirit he was wholly unlike
the amiable and learned fathers who proclaimed an earlier and purer faith.
He fully developed that change in opinion which was destined to influence
Christianity for many centuries. He himself informs us that he spent his
youth in the brothels of Carthage after a mean, thieving boyhood.1
He cast off the mother of his illegitimate son, Adeodatus, whom he ought
to have married, as his sainted mother, Monica, urged him to do. It is
an interesting indication of the Latin type of piety to know that his mother
allowed him to live at home during his shameless life, but that when he
adopted the Manichæan heresy (A dualistic philosophy dividing the
world between good and evil principles) she forbade him her house. And
afterward, when he become " orthodox," though still living immorally, she
received him in her home. His life was destitute of the claims of that
paternal relation on which society rests, and which our Lord makes the
fundamental fact of his religion, Fatherhood. He transferred to God the
characteristics of semi-Pagan kings, and his theology was a mix born of
the Roman Code of Law and Pagan Mythology.
Augustine and Origen
between Origen's system and Augustine's is as that of light and darkness;
with the first, Fatherhood, Love, Hope, Joy, Salvation; with the other,
Vengeance, Punishment, Sin, Eternal Despair. With Origen God triumphs in
final unity; with Augustine man continues in endless rebellion, and God
is defeated, and an eternal dualism prevails. And the effect on the believer
was in the one case a pitying love and charity that gave the melting heart
that could not bear to think of even the devil unsaved, and that antedated
the poet's prayer,--
"Oh, wad ye tak a thought
and that believed the prayer
would be answered; and in the other a stony-hearted indifference to the
misery of mankind, which he called "one damned batch and mass of perdition."2
his theology with him from Manichæism when he became a Christian,
only he added perpetuity to the dualism that Mani made temporal. "The doctrine
of endless punishment assumed in the writings of Augustine a prominence
and rigidity which had no parallel in the earlier history if theology and
which savors of the teaching of Mohammed more than of Christ. 3
Hitherto, even in the West, it had been an open question whether the punishment
hereafter of sin unrepented of and not forsaken was to be endless. Augustine
has left on record the fact that some, indeed very many, still fell back
upon the mercy and love of God as a ground of hope for the ultimate restoration
of humanity. 4 He is the first writer to undertake a long and
elaborate defense of the doctrine of endless punishment, and to wage a
refutation against its impugners. He rallies the 'tender-hearted Christians,'
as he calls them, who cannot accept it." About 420 he speaks of his "merciful
brethren," 5 or party of pity, among the orthodox Christians,
who advocate the salvation of all, and he challenges them, like Origen,
to advocate also the redemption of the devil and his angels. Thus though
the virus of Roman Paganism was extending, the truth of the Gospel was
yet largely held. And it was the immense power Augustine came to wield
that so dominated the church that it afterwards stamped out the doctrine
of universal salvation.
Mistakes, and Ignorance
and insisted that the words defining the duration of punishment, in the
New Testament, teach its endlessness, and the claim set up by Augustine
is the one still held by the advocates of "the dying belief," that aeternus
in the Latin, and aionios in the original Greek, mean interminable
duration. It seems that a Spanish presbyter, Orosius, visited Augustine
in the year 413, and besought him for arguments to meet the position that
punishment is not to be without end, because aionios does not denote
eternal, but limited duration. Augustine replied that though aion
signifies limited as well as endless duration, the Greeks only used aionios
for endless, and he originated the argument so much resorted to even yet,
based in the fact that in Matt. 25:46, the same word is applied to "life,"
and to "punishment." The student of Greek need not be told that Augustine's
argument is incorrect, and he scarcely needs to be assured that Augustine
did not know Greek. This he confesses. He says he "hates Greek," and the
"grammar learning of the Greeks." 6 It is a deviation in the
history of criticism that generations of scholars should take their cue
in a matter of Greek definition from one who admits that he had "learned
almost nothing of Greek," and was "not competent to read and understand"
the language, and reject the position held by those who were born Greeks!
That such a man should contradict and subvert the teachings of such men
as Clement, Origen, the Gregories and others whose mother-tongue was Greek,
is passing strange. But his powerful influence, aided by civil arm, established
his doctrine till it came to rule the centuries. Augustine always quotes
the New Testament from the old Latin version, the Itala, from which the
Vulgate was formed, instead of the original Greek. See Preface to "Confessions."
It seems that the doctrine of Origen prevailed in Northeastern Spain at
this time, and that Jerome's translation of Origen's "Principiis" had circulated
with good effect, and that Augustine, to counteract the influence of Origen's
book, wrote in 415, a small work, "Against the Priscillianists and Origenists."
From about this time began the efforts of Augustine and his followers that
subsequently entirely changed the character of Christian theology.
Milman on Augustinianism
"The Augustinian theology coincided with the tendencies of the age towards
the growth of the strong clerical system; and the priestly system reconciled
Christendom with the Augustinian theology." And it was in the age of Augustine,
at the maturity of his powers, that the Latin church developed its theological
system, "differing at every point from the earlier Greek theology, starting
from different premises, and actuated throughout by another motive," 7
and from that time, for nearly fifteen centuries it held sway, and for
more than a thousand years the sentiment of Christendom was little more
or less than the echo of the voice of Augustine. "When Augustine appeared
the Greek tongue was dying out, the Greek spirit was waning, the Paganism
of Rome and its civil genius were combined, and a Roman emperor usurped
the throne of the God of love."8
that God had no kind purpose in punishing; that it would not be unjust
to torment all souls forever; a few are saved to illustrate God's mercy.
The majority "are predestined to eternal fire with the devil." He held,
however, that all punishments beyond the grave are not endless. He says,
"Non autem omnes veniunt in sempiternas poenas, quæ post illud
judicium sunt futuræ, qui post mortem sustinent temporales."9
Augustine Less Severe
Than Modern Orthodoxy
however, held the penalties of sin in a much milder form than do his degenerate
theological descendants in modern times. He teaches that the lost still
retain goodness,--too valuable to be destroyed, and on that account the
worst are not in absolute evil, but only in a lower degree of good. "Grief
for lost good in a state of punishment is a witness of a good nature. For
he who grieves for the lost peace for his nature, grieves for it by means
of some remains of peace, by which it is caused that nature should be friendly
to itself." He taught that while unbaptized children must be damned in
a Gehenna of fire, their torments would be light (levissima) compared
with the torment of other sinners, and that their condition would be far
preferable to non-existence, and so on the whole a blessing. In a limbus
infantum they would only receive a mitissima damnatio. He also
taught that death did not necessarily end probation, as is quite fully
shown under "Christ's Descent into Hades." Augustine's idea was reduced
to rhyme in the sixteenth century by the Rev. Michael Wigglesworth, of
Malden, Mass., who was the Puritan pastor of the church in that place.
A curious fact in the history of the parish is this,--that the church in
which these ridiculous sentiments were uttered became, in 1828, by vote
of the parish, Universalist, and is now the Universalist church in Malden.
The poem represents God as saying to non-elect infants:
"You sinners are, and
such a share, As sinners may expect,
Such you shall have, for
I do save, None but my own elect.
Yet to compare your sin
with theirs, Who lived a longer time,
I do confess yours is much
less, Though every sin's a crime. A crime it is, therefore in bliss
You may not hope to dwell,
But unto you I shall allow, The easiest room in hell!"
Augustine thought that
the cleansing fire might burn away pardonable sins between death and the
resurrection. He says: "I do not refute it, because, perhaps, it is true;"
and that the sins of the good may be eradicated by a similar process.
He was certainly
an example that might advantageously have been copied by opponents of Universalism
in very recent years. Though he said the church "detested" it, he kindly
added: "They who believe this, and yet are Catholics, seem to me to be
deceived by a certain human tenderness," and he urged Jerome to continue
to translate Origen for the benefit of the African church!11
Decadence and Deterioration
malign influences, however, the broad and generous theology of the East
soon passed away; the language in which it was expressed--the language
of Clement, Origen, Basil, the Gregories, became unknown among the Christians
of the West; the cruel doctrines of Augustine harmonized with the cruelty
of the barbarians and of Roman Paganism combined, and thus Africa smothered
the milder spirit of Christendom, and Augustine riveted the fetters that
were to confine the church for more than ten long centuries. "The triumph
of Latin theology was the death of rational exegesis."
this evil influence prevailed, some of the great Latin fathers rivaled
the immortal leaders in the Oriental church. Among these was Ambrose, of
whom Jerome says, "nearly all his books are full of Origenism," which Huet
repeats, while the "Dictionary of Christian Biography" tells us that he
teaches that "even to the wicked death is a gain." Thus the gracious, cordial
thought of Origen was still potent, even in the West, though a harder theology
was overcoming it.
"In proportion to the development of ecclesiastical orthodoxy into fixed
and systematic shape was the loss of individual freedom in respect to the
formulation of doctrines, and the increased peril of becoming heretical.
The more liberal tendency of former theologians, such as Origen, could
no longer be tolerated, and was at length condemned. But, notwithstanding
this external condemnation, the spirit of Origen continued to encourage
the chief theologians of the East, though it was kept within narrower limits.
The works of this great teacher were also made known in the West by Jerome
and Rufinus, and exerted an influence even upon his opponents." After Justinian
the Greek empire and influence contracted, and the Latin and Roman power
expanded. Latin became the language of Christianity, and Augustine's system
and followers used it as the instrument of molding Christianity into an
Africo-Romano heathenism. The Apostles' and Nicene creeds were disregarded,
and Arianism, Origenism, Pelagianism, Manichæism and other so-called
heresies were nearly or quite obliterated, and the Augustinian inventions
of original and inherited depravity, predestination, and endless hell torments,
became the theology of Christendom.
Schaff, "the Roman state, with its laws, institutions, and usages, was
still deeply rooted in heathenism. The Christianizing of the state amounted
therefore to a paganizing and secularizing of the church. The world overcame
the church as much as the church overcame the world, and the temporal gain
of Christianity was in many respects canceled by spiritual loss. The mass
of the Roman Empire was baptized only with water, not with the spirit and
fire of the Gospel, and it smuggled heathen practices and manners into
the sanctuary under a new name." The broad faith of the primitive Christians
paled and faded before the lurid terrors of Augustinianism. It vanished
in the Sixth Century, "crushed out," says Bigg, "by tyranny and the leaden
ignorance of the age." It remained in the East a while, was "widely diffused
among the monasteries of Egypt and Palestine," and only ceased when Augustinianism
and Catholicism and the power of Rome ushered in and fostered the darkness
of the Dark Ages. Says an accurate writer: "If Augustine had not been born
an African, and trained as a Manichee, nay, if he had only faced the labor
of learning Greek--a labor from which he confesses that he had shrunk--the
whole stream of Christian theology might have been purer and more sweet."
In no other
respect did Augustine differ more widely from Origen and the Alexandrians
that in his intolerant spirit. Even Tertullian conceded to all the right
of opinion. Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose, Athanasius and Augustine himself
in his earlier days, recorded the tolerance that Christianity demands.
But he afterwards came to advocate and defend the persecution of religious
opponents. Milman observes: "With shame and horror we hear from Augustine
himself that fatal premise which impiously arrayed cruelty in the garb
of Christian charity." 12 He was the first in the long line
of Christian persecutors, and illustrates the character of the theology
that swayed him in the wicked spirit that impelled him to advocate the
right to persecute Christians who differ from those in power. The dark
pages that bear the record of subsequent centuries are a damning witness
to the cruel spirit that influenced Christians, and the cruel theology
that propelled it. Augustine "was the first and ablest asserter of the
principle which led to Albigensian crusades, Spanish armadas, Netherland's
butcheries, St. Bartholomew massacres, the accursed infamies of the Inquisition,
the vile espionage, the hideous bale fires of Seville and Smithfield, the
racks, the gallows, the thumbscrews, the subterranean torture-chambers
used by churchly torturers."13 And George Sand well says that
the Roman church committed suicide the day she invented an implacable God
and eternal damnation.14
III, Chap. i-iii. - 2 Conspersio damnata, massa perditionis.
3 Allen, Cont.
cxii: "Frustra itaque nonulli, imo quam plurimi, æternam damnatorum
poenam et cruciatus sine intermissione perpetuos humano miserantur
affectu, atque ita futurum esse non credunt."
nostris. De Civ. Dei., xxi: 17.
autem linguæ non sit nobis tantus habitus, ut talium rerum libris
legendis et intelligendis ullo modo reperiamur idonei, (De Trin. lib III);
and, et ego quidem græcæ linguæ perparum assecutus sum,
et prope nihil. (Contra litteras Petiliani, lib II, xxxviii, 91. Migne,
Vol. XLIII.) Quid autem erat causæ cur græcas litteras oderam
quibus puerulus imbuebar ne nunc quidem mihi satis exploratum est: "But
what was the cause of my dislike of Greek literature, which I studied from
my boyhood, I cannot even now understand." Conf. I:13. This ignorance of
the original Scriptures was a poor outfit with which to furnish orthodox
critics for a thousand years. See Rosenmuller, Hist. Interp., iii, 40.
7 Latin Christ.
I. - 8 Allen, Cont. Christ Thought, p. 156. - 9 De
10 De Civ. Dei.
"non redarguo, quia forsitan verum est." - 11 Ep. 8. - 12
Latin Christianity, I, 127.
13 Farrar's Lives
of the Fathers.
14 " L' Eglise
Romaine s'est porte le dernier coup: elle a consomme son suicide le jour
on elle a fait Dieu implacable et la damnation eternelle." Spiridion.
21 - Unsuccessful Attempts to Suppress Universalism
Historians and writers
on the state of opinion in the early church have quite often erred in declaring
that an ecclesiastical council pronounced the doctrine of universal salvation
heretical, as early as the Sixth Century. Even so learned and accurate
a writer as our own Dr. Ballou, has fallen into this error, though his
editor, the Rev. A. St. John Chambre, D.D., subsequently corrected the
mistake in a brief note.
A.D. 399 a
council in Jerusalem condemned the Origenists, and all who held with them,
that the Son was in any way subordinate to the Father. In 401 a council
in Alexandria anathematized the writings of Origen, presumably for the
same reason as above. Certainly his views of human destiny were not mentioned.
In 544-6, a
condemnation of Origen's views of human salvation was attempted to be extorted
from a small, local council in Constantinople, by the emperor Justinian,
but his edict was not obeyed by the council. He issued an edict to Mennas,
patriarch of Constantinople, requiring him to assemble the bishops resident,
or casually present there, to condemn the doctrine of universal restoration.
Ranting ten anathemas, he especially urged Mennas to anathematize the doctrine
"that wicked men and devils will at length be discharged from their torments,
and re-established in their original state." 1 He wrote to Mennas
requiring him to frame a canon in these words:
or thinks that the torments of the demons and of impious men are temporal,
so that they will at length come to an end, or whoever holds to a restoration
either of the demons or of the impious, let him be anathema."
It is conceded
that the half-heathen emperor held to the idea of endless misery, for he
proceeds not only to defend, but to define the doctrine.2 He
does not merely say, "We believe in aionion kolasin," for that was
just what Origen himself taught. Nor does he say "the word aionion
has been misunderstood; it denotes endless duration," as he would have
said, had there been such a disagreement. But, writing in Greek, with all
the words of that abundant language from which to choose, he says: "The
holy church of Christ teaches an endless aeonian (ateleutetos
aionios) life to the righteous, and endless (ateleutetos) punishment
to the wicked." If he supposed aionios denoted endless duration,
he would not have added the stronger word to it. The fact that he qualified
it by ateleutetos, demonstrated that as late as the sixth century
the former word did not signify endless duration.
only to have consulted his contemporary, Olympiodorus, who wrote on this
very subject, to vindicate his language. In his commentary on the Meteorologica
of Aristotle, 8 he says: "Do not suppose that the soul is punished
for endless ages in Tartarus. Very properly the soul is not punished to
gratify the revenge of the divinity, but for the sake of healing. But we
say that the soul is punished for an
aeonian period, calling its
life, and its allotted period of punishment, its aeon." It will
be noticed that he not only denies endless punishment, and denies that
the doctrine can be expressed by aionios declares that punishment
is temporary and results in the sinner's improvement. Justinian not only
concedes that aionios requires a word denoting endlessness to give
it the sense of limitless duration, but he insists that the council shall
frame a canon containing a word that shall indisputably express the doctrine
of endless woe, while it shall condemn those who advocate universal salvation.
Now though the emperor exerted his great influence to foist his heathen
doctrine into the Church canons, he failed; for nothing resembling it appears
in the canons enacted by the synodical council.
The synod voted
fifteen canons, not one of which condemns universal restoration.
Home Synod Canons
The first canon
reads thus: "If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and
the monstrous restitution which follows from it, let him be anathema."
it will be readily seen, is not of universal salvation, but of a "monstrous"
restitution based on the soul's pre-existence. That this view is correct
appears from the fourteenth anathema:
says that there will be a single unity of all rational beings, their substances
and individualities being taken away together with their bodies, and also
that there will be an identity of recognition as also of persons, and that
in the fabulous restitution they will only be naked even as they had existed
in that præ-existence which they insanely introduced, let him be
will at once perceive that these canons do not describe any genuine form
of our faith, but only a distorted caricature which no doubt was thought
to represent the doctrine they opposed. But not one of the nine anathemas
ordered by Justinian was sanctioned by the council. They were laid before
the Home Synod, but the Synod did not endorse them. Fifteen canons were
passed, but the Synod refused to condemn universal salvation. Justinian
was unable to compel the bishops under his control to condemn the doctrine
he hated, but which they must have favored. The theory here condemned is
not that of universal salvation, but the "fabulous pre-existence of souls,
and the monstrous restitution that results from it."4
says Landon, declared that they adhered to the doctrines of Athanasius,
Basil and the Gregories. The doctrine of Theodore on the Sonship of Christ
was condemned, also the teachings of Theodoret. "Origen was not condemned."5
The Council Refused to
Even the influence
of Justinian and his servile, compliant bishop, and his disreputable queen,
failed to force the measure through. The action of this local Synod has
been incorrectly ascribed to the Fifth Ecumenical Council, nine years later,
which has also been inaccurately supposed to have condemned Universalism,
when it merely reprehended some of the erratic notions of "Origenism"--doctrines
that even Origen himself never accepted, but that were falsely ascribed
to him by ignorant or malicious opponents; doctrines that no more resemble
universal restoration, as taught by the Alexandrine fathers, than they
resemble Theosophy or Buddhism. So that, though the Home Synod was called
by the Emperor Justinian expressly to condemn Universalism, and was commanded
by imperial edict to anathematize it, and though it formulated fifteen
it refused to obey the Emperor, and did not say one word against the doctrine
the Emperor wished to anathematize. The local council came to no decision.
Justinian had just arbitrarily condemned the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia,
and Theodoret, and a terrible controversy and division ensued, and Theodorus,
of Cesaræa, declared that both himself and Pelagius, who had sought
the condemnation of Origen, ought to be burnt alive for their conduct.6
In the Fifth
General Council of 553 the name of Origen appears with others in the eleventh
canon, but the best scholars think that the insertion of his name is a
or not, there is not a word referring to his views of human destiny. His
name only appears among the names of the heretics, such as "Arius, Eunomius,
Macedonius, Apollinaris, Eutyches, Origen and other impious men, and all
other heretics who are condemned and anathematized by the Catholic and
Apostolical Church, etc." 7 The Fifth Ecumenical Council,
which was held nine years later than the local, neither condemned Origen
by name, nor anathematized his Universalism. The object of this council
was to condemn certain Nestorian doctrines; and Gregory of Nyssa, the most
explicit of Universalists, is referred to with honor by the council, and
as the denial of endless punishment by Origen, and his advocacy of Universalism
are not named, we cannot avoid the conviction that the council was controlled
by those who held, or at least did not repudiate Universalism.
exists among the authorities on this subject. The local council has been
confounded with the general. Hefele has disentangled the perplexities.
It was not
even at that late day--three centuries after his death--the Universalism
of Origen that caused the hatred of his opponents, but his opposition to
the Episcopizing policy of the church, his insisting on the triple sense
of the Word, etc., and the peculiar form of a mis-stated doctrine of the
Universalism not Condemned
for Five Centuries
Now, let the
reader remember that for more than five hundred years, during which Universalism
had prevailed, not a single treatise against it is known to have been written.
And with the exception of Augustine, no opposition appears to have been
aroused against it on the part of any eminent Christian writer. And not
only so, but A.D. 381, at the first great Ecumenical Council of Constantinople,
the intellectual leader was Gregory of Nyssa, who was only second to Origen
as an advocate of universal restoration. Thus his followers, not only,
but his opponents on other topics, accepted the great truth of the Gospel.
As Dr. Beecher pointedly observes: "It is also a striking fact that while
Origen lies under a load of contempt as a heretic, Gregory of Nyssa, who
taught the doctrine of the restoration of all things more fully even than
Origen, has been canonized, and stands high on the roll of eminent saints,
even in the orthodox Roman Catholic Church." Beecher's conclusion is, "That
the modern orthodox views as to the doctrine of eternal punishment, as
opposed to final restoration, were not fully developed and established
till the middle of the Sixth Century, and that then they were not established
by thorough argument, but by imperial authority." But the fact is that
they were not even then matured and established.
Professor Plumptre says in the "Dictionary of Christian Biography": "We
have no evidence that the belief in the total reconciliation of all which
prevailed in the fourth and fifth centuries was ever definitely condemned
by any council of the Church, and so far as Origen was named as coming
under the church's censure it was rather as if involved in the general
sentence passed upon the leaders of Nestorianism, than singled out for
special and characteristic errors. So the council of Constantinople, the
so-called Fifth General Council, A.D. 553, condemns Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius,
Apollinarius, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen in a lump, but does not specify
the errors of the last-named, as though they differed in kind from theirs,
and it is not till in the council of Constantinople, known as in Trullo
(A.D. 696) that we find an anathema which specifies somewhat cloudily the
guilt of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Origen, and Didymus, and Evagrius,
as consists in their 'inventing a mythology after the manner of the Greeks,
and inventing changes and migrations for our souls and bodies, and impiously
uttering drunken ravings as to the future life of the dead.' It deserves
to be noted that this ambiguous anathema pronounced by a council of no
authority, under the weak and vicious Emperor Justinian II, is the only
approach to a condemnation of the eschatology of Origen which the annals
of the church councils present."9
Now let the reader
recapitulate: (1) Origen during his life-time was never opposed for his
Universalism; (2) after his death Methodius, about A.D. 300, attacked his
views of the resurrection, creation and pre-existence, but said not a word
against his Universalism; (3) ten years later Pamphilus and Eusebius (A.D.
310) defended him against nine charges that had been brought against his
views, but his Universalism was not among them; (4) in 330 Marcellus of
Ancyra, a Universalist, opposed him for his views of the Trinity, and (5)
Eustathius for his teachings concerning the Witch of Endor, but limited
their arraignment to those items; (6) in 376 Epiphanius assailed his heresies,
but he did not name Universalism as among them, and in 394 he condemned
Origen's doctrine of the salvation of the Devil, but not of all mankind;
(7) in 399 and 401, his views of Christ's death to save the Devil were
attacked by Epiphanius, Jerome and Theophilus, and his advocacy of the
subordination of Christ to God was condemned, but not his teachings of
man's universal salvation; and (8) it was not till 544 and again in 553
that his enemies formulated attacks on that doctrine, and made a cat's-paw
of a half-heathen Emperor, and even then, though the latter framed a canon
for the synod, it was never adopted, and the council adjourned--owing,
it must have been, to the Universalistic sentiment in it--without a word
of condemnation of Origen's Universalism. With the exception of Augustine,
the doctrine which had been constantly advocated, often by the most eminent,
did not evoke a frown of opposition from any eminent scholar or saint.
The Ancient Councils
of these ancient synods and councils is well described by Gregory Nazianzen,
A.D. 382, in a letter to Procopius: "I am determined to avoid every assembly
of bishops. I have never seen a single instance in which a synod (church
council) did any good. Strife and ambition dominate them to an incredible
degree. From councils and synods I will keep myself at a distance, for
I have experienced that most of them, to speak with moderation, are not
worth much. I will not sit in the seat of synods, while geese and cranes
confused wrangle. Discord is there, and shameful things, hidden before,
are gathered into one meeting place of rivals." Milman tells us: "Nowhere
is Christianity less attractive, and if we look to the ordinary tone and
character of the proceedings, less authoritative than in the Councils of
the Church. It is in general a fierce collision of rival fact, neither
of which will yield, each of which is solemnly pledged against conviction.
Intrigue, injustice, violence, decisions on authority alone, and that the
authority of a turbulent majority, decisions by wild acclamation rather
than after sober inquiry, detract from the reverence, and impugn the judgments,
at least of the later councils. The close is almost invariably a terrible
anathema, in which it is impossible not to discern the tones of human hatred,
of arrogant triumph, of rejoicing at the damnation accursed against the
humiliated adversary." 10 Scenes of strife and even murder in
connection with ancient ecclesiastical councils were not uncommon.
There is no
evidence whatever to show that it was not entirely allowable for five hundred
years after Christ, to entertain the belief in universal salvation. Besides,
the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, had, as an active member, Eusebius, Origen's
apologist, a pronounced Universalist; the Council of Constantinople, A.D.
381, had as active members the two Gregories, Nazianzus and Nyssa, the
latter as outspoken a Universalist as Origen himself; the Council of Ephesus,
A.D. 431, declared that Gregory Nyssen's writings were the great bulwark
against heresy. The fact that the doctrine was and had been for centuries
prevalent, if not the prevailing sentiment, demonstrates that it must have
been regarded as a Christian doctrine by the members of these great councils,
or they would have come out against it.
the idea that the prevailing sentiment of Christendom was adverse to the
doctrine of universal restoration even as late as the middle of the Sixth
Century, when these great, heresy-hunting bodies met and dispersed without
condemning it, even at the dictation of a tyrannical Emperor, who expressly
demanded its condemnation.
and Gieseler say that the name of Origen was inserted fraudulently into
the declaration of the Fifth Council by forgery at a later date.
2. But if the condemnation was actually adopted it was of "Origenism,"
which was synonymous with other opinions. 3. "Origenism" could not
have meant Universalism, for several of the leaders of the council that
condemned Origenism held to universal restitution. 4. Besides, the
council eulogistically referred to the Gregories (Nazianzen and Nyssen)
who were Universalists as explicit as was Origen. Manifestly, if the Council
had meant Universalism by "Origenism," it would not have condemned as a
deadly heresy in Origen what Gregory of Nyssa advocated, and anathematized
the one, and glorified the other.
of the Truth
only commanded the council to suppress Universalism, but he arbitrarily
closed the schools in Athens, Alexandria and Antioch, and drove out the
great church centers that theological science that had been its glory.
He had "brought the whole empire under his sway and he wished in like manner
to settle finally the law and the dogmatics of the empire." To accomplish
this evil work he found an aid in Rome, in a "characterless Pope (Vigilius)
who, in gratifying the emperor covered himself with disgrace, and jeopardized
his position in the West." But he succeeded in inaugurating measures that
extinguished the broad faith of the greatest fathers of the church. "Henceforth,"
says Harnack, "there was no longer a theological science going back to
us that Justinian the great opponent of Universalism was positive, irritable,
apt to change his views, and accessible to the flatteries and influences
of those who surrounded him, yet besides, very opinionated in insisting
upon any view he happened at the time to hold, and prepared to enforce
compliance by the free employment of his despotic power," a "temporal pope."
12 The corrupt Bishop Theophilus, the vile Eudoxia and the equally
disreputable, though beautiful, crafty and unscrupulous Theodora, exercised
a malign influence on Justinian, the Emperor, and, thus was dictated the
action of the council described above.
Justinian and His Age
"The Emperor Justinian unites in himself the most opposite vices,--insatiable
greed and plundering and lavish extravagance, intense pride and contemptible
weakness, unmeasured ambition and dastardly cowardice. He is the devoted
slave of his Empress, whom, after she had ministered to the licentious
pleasures of the populace as a prostitute and also an actress in the most
immodest exhibitions, in defiance of decency, of honor, of the protests
of his friends, and of religion, he had made the partner of his throne.
In the Christian Emperor seemed to meet the crimes of those who won or
secured their empire by the assassination of all whom they feared, the
passion for public diversions without the accomplishments of Nero, the
brute strength of Commodus, or the dotage of Claudius." And he was the
champion of endless punishment in the Sixth Century!
described as an ascetic, a scholastic, and obstinate, "neither beloved
in his life, nor regretted at his death."
The age of
Justinian, says Lecky, that condemned Origen, is conceded to have been
the vilest of the Christian centuries. The doctrine of a hell of literal
fire and endless duration had begun to be an engine of tyranny in the hands
of an unscrupulous priesthood, and a tyrannical emperor, and moral degradation
had kept pace with the theological declination. "The universal verdict
of history is that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most
thoroughly base and despicable form that civilization has yet assumed."
Contrasted with the age of Origen it was as night to day. And the persons
who were most active and prominent in the condemnation of the great Alexandrian
were fit implements for the task. On this point the language of Farrar
in "Mercy and Judgment" is accurate: "Every fresh study of the original
authorities only leaves on my mind a deeper impression that even in the
Fifth Century Universalism as regards mankind was regarded as a perfectly
The Divine Light Eclipsed
Thus the record
of the times shows, and the testimony of the scholars who have made the
subject a careful study concedes, that though there were sporadic assaults
on the doctrine of universal restitution in the fourth and fifth centuries;
they were not successful in placing the ban of a single council upon it;
even to the middle of the Sixth Century. So far as history shows the impressive
fact which the great Alexandrians made prominent--the
"One divine event to
which the whole creation moves,"
had never been stigmatized by
any considerable portion of the Christian church for at least its first
half a millennium of years.
history of Christianity shows but too plainly that the continued influence
of Roman law and Pagan theology as incarnated in the mighty brain of Augustine,
came to dominate the Christian world, and at length almost obliterate the
faith once delivered to the saints--the faith that exerted so vast an influence
in the church's earliest and best centuries--and spread the pall of darkness
over Christendom, so that the light of the central fact of the Gospel was
scarcely seen for sad and cruel centuries.
Eccle. Hist., xvii: 27. Hefele, iv: 220.
2 Murdock's Mosheim
I, pp. 410-11; Gieseler, Hist. vi, p. 478. Also Hagenbach and Neander.
Cave's Historia Literaria.
3 Vol. 1, p.
282. Ideler's edition. - 4 Mansi IX, p. 395; Hefele, iv: 336.
- 5 Landon, pp. 177-8.
6 Landon, Manual
of Councils, London, 1846, p. 174.
7 The canon reads:
"Si quis non anathematizat Arium, Eunomium, Macedonium, Apollinarium, Nestorium,
Eutychen, Origenem cum impiis eorum conscriptis, et alios omnes hæreticos,
qui condemnati et anathematizati sunt a Catholica et Apostolica Ecclesia,"
declares that many of the church doctors agreed with Origen in advocating
the salvability of the devil.
9 Article Eschatology
p. 194; also Spirits in Prison, p. 41. - 10 Latin Christ. I,
11 Outlines Hist.
Dog., pp. 204, 8, 320, 323. - 12 Sozomen, Eccl. Hist.; Gibbon,
Decline and Fall.
22 - The Eclipse of Universalism
of Christian Universalism in the dark waters of Augustinian Christo-paganism,
after having been the prevailing theology of Christendom for centuries,
is one of the strange phenomena in the history of religious thought. This
volume explains, in part, this obscure phenomenon. History testifies that
at the close of what Hagenbach calls the second period, from A.D. 254 to
A.D. 730, the opinion in favor of endless punishment had become "more general."
Only a few belonging to the "Origenist humanity still dared to express
a glimmer of hope in favor of the damned. The doctrine of the restitution
of all things shared the fate of Origenism, and made its appearance in
after ages only in connection with other heretical notions."
Disappearance of the
the decadence and deterioration of the Alexandrine School and its doctrines
and methods, to the abandonment of its intense activity, to the relinquishment
of the great enthusiasm for humanity that characterized Clement, Origen
and their co-workers. He says: "Having no more Heathens to fight, they
began fighting each other; they became dogmatists they lost the knowledge
of God, of righteousness, and love, and peace. That Divine Logos, and theology
as a whole receded farther and farther aloft into abysmal heights, as it
became a mere dreary system of dead scientific terms, having no practical
bearing on their hearts and lives." In a word, their abandonment of the
principles of Clement and his school, left the field open to the more practical,
direct and methodical, though degraded and corrupt theories of Augustine
and his associates. This process continued till toward the middle of the
Seventh Century, when, as Kingsley observes: "In the year 640, the Alexandrians
who were tearing each other in pieces about some Jacobite and Melchite
controversy, to me incomprehensible in the midst of these Jacobite and
Melchite controversies and riots, appeared before the city the armies of
certain wild and unlettered Arab tribes. A short and fruitless struggle
followed; and strange to say, a few months swept away from the face of
the earth, not only the wealth, the commerce, the castles, and the liberty,
but the philosophy and the Christianity of Alexandria; crushed to powder,
by one fearful blow, all that had been built up by Alexander and the Ptolemies,
by Clement and the philosophers, and made void, to all appearance, nine
hundred years of human toil. The people, having no real hold on their hereditary
creed, accepted, by tens of thousands, that of the Mussulman invaders.
The Christian remnant became tributaries, and Alexandria dwindled from
that time forth into a petty seaport town." 1
Quartarly," January, 1878, attributes the decline and disappearance of
Universalism to an entire absence of argument on the part of its advocates;
and to regarding the doctrine as esoteric, instead of for all; in other
words, the undemocratic methods of those who accepted it. These factors,
no doubt, contributed, but they are not alone sufficient to account for
its disappearance. 2
It is not a
part of the plan of this work to follow its fate after its almost entire
disappearance for centuries. The combined efforts of Augustine and his
assistants and successors, or popes and emperors, of Paganism and Latin
secularism, of ignorant half-converted hordes of heathen barbarians, and
of a hierarchy that could not employ it in its ambitious schemes, at length
crystallized into the pseudo-Christianity that reigned like a nightmare
over Christendom, from the Seventh to the Fifteenth Century. Ignorance,
cruelty, oppression, were well-nigh universal, and the condition of mankind
reflected the views held by the church, of the character of God and of
man, of time and of eternity, of heaven and of hell. Perhaps the darkest
hour of the night of ages was just before the dawn of the Reformation.
The prevalent Christian thought was represented in literature and art,
and its best exponents of the sentiment of a thousand years are the works
of the great artist, Michael Angelo, and of the equally great poet, Dante.
They agree in spirit, and black and white, darkness and light, truth and
falsehood are not more opposite than is the theology of Dante and Angelo
contrasted with the cheerful simplicity, the divine purity of the primitive
Christian faith. "That was a dark night that fell upon Christianity when
its thought became Latinized. When Christianity came to be interpreted
by the divinely uninspired, unspiritual legal mind of Rome, the Gospel
went into a fearful eclipse. When the Greek thought of Christ gave way
to the Latin a night came upon the Christian world that has extended to
the present day. Then were born all those half-views, distorted views,
and false views of Christian doctrine and Christian life that have perverted
the Gospel, puzzled the human intellect and grieved the human heart through
all the long centuries from that day to this." 3
The Caricatures of Dante
Two great men
of genius of the first order, the marvelous artist, Michael Angelo, and
the equally great poet, Dante, on canvas and in verse, gathered at its
climax the nightmare of unbelief that had darkened the preceding centuries.
In Dante are "Christian heroes appearing in heathenish aspect, and heathenish
poets and thinkers half-warmed by the light of Christianity," a happy characterization
of the mixed product of truth and error that Dante describes, and that
passed for Christianity during the Sixteenth Century, and with modifications,
has since prevailed. The "Last Judgment" of Michael Angelo harmonizes with
the thought of the great poet. It is a Pagan reminiscence--a hideous heathen
dream. The meek and lowly Man of Nazareth who would not break the bruised
reed was travestied by a monstrous caricature. "An unclothed, broad-shouldered
hero, with arms upraised that could strike down a Hercules, distributing
blessings and curses, his hair fluttering like flames which the storm blows
back, and his angry countenance looking down on the condemned with frightful
eyes, as if he wished to hasten forward the destruction in which his word
has plunged them. The whole figure recalls the words of Dante, in which
he calls Christ 'Sommo Giove,'--the most-high Jupiter. This he is here;
not the suffering Son of Man, gentle as the moon, silent rather than speaking,
with the foreboding of his fate written in his sad eyes. Yet, if a Last
Judgment were to be painted, with everlasting condemnation, and Christ
as the judge who pronounces it, how could he appear otherwise than in such
terribleness? Such is Michael Angelo's Last Judgment. While we cherish
a feeling that at that day, whenever it occurs, the love of God will pardon
all sins as earthly error, the Roman sees alone anger and revenge, as proceeding
from the Supreme Being, when he comes in contact with humanity for the
last time. For the sinner is forever from henceforth to be condemned. It
is an echo of the old idea, often enough recurring in the Old Testament,
that the Divine Being is an angry and fearful power, which must be appeased,
instead of the Source of good alone, abolishing at last all evil as an
influence that has beguiled mankind. As we look, however, at the Last Judgment
on the wall of the Sistine Chapel, it is no longer a similitude to us,
but a monument of the imaginative spirit of a past age and of a strange
people, whose ideas are no longer ours. Dante created a new world for the
Romanic nations by remodeling the forms of heathen antiquity for his Christian
mythology." 4 Materialistic, gross, was the Christianity that
ruled and oppressed mankind for nearly a thousand years, and it is reflected
in the pages of Dante, and on the canvas of Angelo, and it reverberates
with ever decreasing echoes--thank God!--in the subsequent creeds of Christendom.
Almost the only gleam of light, that relieved while it intensified the
blackness of the darkness of Christendom during those dreadful centuries
was the worship of Mary.
Re-birth of Universalism
of Universalism after an eclipse of a millennium of years is as remarkable
as was its strange disappearance. No better illustration can be found than
the history of our faith gives, of the tenacity of life, the immortality,
of truth. It calls to mind the language of the German sage, Schopenhauer:
"Doubtless error can play its part, like owls in the night. But we should
sooner expect the owls to cause the terrified sun to retire to the East,
than to see the truth, once proclaimed, to be so repressed as that ancient
error might recover its lost ground, and re-establish itself there in peace."
To truth belong "God's eternal years," and her emergence after so long
a disappearance is an illustration of her immortal vitality. "Crushed to
earth" she has "risen again," and is fast being accepted by a regenerated
The Dawn of Truth
With the invention
of printing, the dawn of light in the Reformation,5 and the
increase of intelligence, our distinctive form of faith has not only grown
and extended, but its leavening power has modified the creeds of Christendom,
softening all harsh theories, and unfolding a "rose of dawn" in all Christian
lands. Though, like its author and revealer, it seemed to die, it was,
like him, to come forth to a new and glorious resurrection, for the views
held by the great saints and scholars in the first centuries of Christianity
were substantially those that are taught by the Universalist Church for
the current century, so far as they include the character of God, the nature
and final destiny of mankind, the resurrection, the judgment, the purpose
and end of punishment, and other related themes. On these subjects the
great Church fathers stand as representatives of the Universalism of to-day,
so that the progress of Christian ideas that the end of the present (19th)
century is witnessing, is not, as many think, towards something new, but
is towards the position of the early Christians seventeen hundred years
ago. It is a re-birth, a restoration of Christianity to its primitive purity.
As Max Muller has recently written: "If we want to be true and honest Christians,
we must go back to those earliest ante-Nicene authorities, the true fathers
of the church."6 This is being done by Christians in all branches
of the church. The Bible, which the hands of ignorance has overwritten
into a hideous reworked manuscripts, is being read with something of its
divine meaning, and as increasing light pours upon the sacred page, more
and more men are learning to spell its blessed messages correctly, as they
were spoken or written at the beginning--as the ante-Nicene fathers read
them--in harmony with man's intellectual, moral and affectional nature,
and with the character and attributes of the Universal Father.
1 Alexandria and her Schools.
- 2 Rev. S. S. Hebberd. - 3 Rev. S. Crane, D.D., in The Universalist.
4 Grimm's Michael Angelo.
5 "In Germany alone, in
six years from the promulgation of the ninety-five theses at Wittenberg,
the number of annual publications increased twelvefold." Rev. W. W. Ramsay,
Methodism and Literature, p. 232.
6 Paper read at the World's
Parliament of Religions, Chicago, September, 1893.
23 - Summary of Conclusions
A few of the many points established
in the foregoing pages may here be named:
the First Century the primitive Christians did not dwell on matters of
eschatology, but devoted their attention to apologetics; they were chiefly
anxious to establish the fact of Christ's advent, and of its blessings
to the world. Possibly the question of destiny was an open one, till Paganism
and Judaism introduced erroneous ideas, when the New Testament doctrine
of the apokatastasis was asserted, and universal restoration became
an accepted belief, as stated later by Clement and Origen, A.D. 180-230.
(2) The Catacombs
give us the views of the unlearned, as Clement and Origen state the doctrine
of scholars and teachers. Not a syllable is found hinting at the horrors
of Augustinianism, but the inscription on every monument harmonizes with
the Universalism of the early fathers.
declares that all punishment, however severe, is for purification; that
even the "torments of the damned" are curative. Origen explains even Gehenna
as signifying limited and curative punishment, and both, as all the other
ancient Universalists, declare that "everlasting" (aionion) punishment,
is in agreement with universal salvation. So that it is no proof that other
primitive Christians who are less explicit as to the final result, taught
endless punishment when they employ the same terms.
(4) Like our
Lord and his Apostles, the primitive Christians avoided the words with
which the Pagans and Jews defined endless punishment aidios or adialeipton
timoria (endless torment), a doctrine the latter believed, and knew
how to describe; but they, the early Christians, called punishment, as
did our Lord, kolasis aionios, discipline, chastisement, of indefinite,
(5) The early
Christians taught that Christ preached the Gospel to the dead, and for
that purpose descended into Hades. Many held that he released all who were
in ward. This shows that repentance beyond the grave, perpetual probation,
was then accepted, which precludes the modern error that the soul's destiny
is decided at death.
for the dead were universal in the early church, which would be absurd,
if their condition is unalterably fixed at the grave.
(7) The idea
that false threats were necessary to keep the common people in check, and
that the truth might be held esoterically, prevailed among the earlier
Christians, so that there can be no doubt that many who seem to teach endless
punishment, really held the broader views, as we know the most did, and
preached terrors instructively.
(8) The first
comparatively complete systematic statement of Christian doctrine ever
given to the world was by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 180, and universal
salvation was one of the tenets.
(9) The first
complete presentation of Christianity as a system was by Origen (A.D. 220)
and universal salvation was explicitly contained in it.
salvation was the prevailing doctrine in Christendom as long as Greek,
the language of the New Testament, was the language of Christendom.
was generally believed in the best centuries, the first three, when Christians
were most remarkable for simplicity, goodness and missionary zeal.
was least known when Greek, the language of the New Testament was least
known, and when Latin was the language of the Church in its darkest, most
ignorant, and corrupt ages.
(13) Not a
writer among those who describe the heresies of the first three hundred
years intimates that Universalism was then a heresy, though it was believed
by many, if not be a majority, and certainly by the greatest of the fathers.
(14) Not a
single creed for five hundred years expresses any idea contrary to universal
restoration, or in favor of endless punishment.
(15) With the
exception of the arguments of Augustine (A.D. 420), there is not an argument
known to have been framed against Universalism for at least four hundred
years after Christ, by any of the ancient fathers.
the councils that assembled in various parts of Christendom, anathematized
every kind of doctrine supposed to be heretical, no ecumenical council,
for more than five hundred years, condemned Universalism, though it had
been advocated in every century by the principal scholars and most revered
(17) As late
as A.D. 400, Jerome says "most people" (plerique). and Augustine
"very many" (quam plurimi), believed in Universalism, notwithstanding
that the tremendous influence of Augustine, and the mighty power of the
semi-pagan secular arm were arrayed against it.
(18) The principal
ancient Universalists were Christian born and reared, and were among the
most scholarly and saintly of all the ancient saints.
(19) The most
celebrated of the earlier advocates of endless punishment were heathen
born, and led corrupt lives in their youth. Tertullian one of the first,
and Augustine, the greatest of them, confess to having been among the vilest.
(20) The first
advocates of endless punishment, Minucius Felix, Tertullian and Augustine,
were Latins, ignorant of Greek, and less competent to interpret the meaning
of Greek Scriptures than were the Greek scholars.
(21) The first
advocates of Universalism, after the Apostles, were Greeks, in whose mother-tongue
the New Testament was written. They found their Universalism in the Greek
Bible. Who should be correct, they or the Latins?
(22) The Greek
Fathers announced the great truth of universal restoration in an age of
darkness, sin and corruption. There was nothing to suggest it to them in
the world's literature or religion. It was wholly contrary to everything
around them. Where else could they have found it, but where they say they
did, in the Gospel?
(23) All ecclesiastical
historians and the best Biblical critics and scholars agree to the prevalence
of Universalism in the earlier centuries.
(24) From the
days of Clement of Alexandria to those of Gregory of Nyssa and Theodore
of Mopsuestia (A.D. 180-428), the great theologians and teachers, almost
without exception, were Universalists. No equal number in the same centuries
were comparable to them for learning and goodness.
(25) The first
theological school in Christendom, that in Alexandria, taught Universalism
for more than two hundred years.
(26) In all
Christendom, from A.D. 170 to 430, there were six Christian schools. Of
these four, the only strictly theological schools, taught Universalism,
and but one endless punishment.
(27) The three
earliest Gnostic sects, the Basilidians, the Carpocratians and the Valentinians
(A.D. 117-132) are condemned by Christian writers, and their heresies pointed
out, but though they taught Universalism, that doctrine is never condemned
by those who oppose them. Irenaeus condemned the errors of the Carpocratians,
but does not reprehend their Universalism, though he ascribes the doctrine
(28) The first
defense of Christianity against Infidelity (Origen against Celsus) puts
the defense on Universalistic grounds. Celsus charged the Christians' God
with cruelty, because he punished with fire. Origen replied that God's
fire is curative; that he is a "Consuming Fire," because he consumes sin
and not the sinner.
the chief representative of Universalism in the ancient centuries, was
bitterly opposed and condemned for various heresies by ignorant and cruel
fanatics. He was accused of opposing Episcopacy (the system where bishops
are the chief clerics), believing in pre-existence, etc., but never was
condemned for his Universalism. The very council that anathematized "Origenism"
eulogized Gregory of Nyssa, who was explicitly a Universalist as was Origen.
Lists of his errors are given by Methodius, Pamphilus and Eusebius, Marcellus,
Eustathius and Jerome, but Universalism is not named by one of his opponents.
Fancy a list of Ballou's errors and his Universalism omitted; Hippolytus
(A.D. 320) names thirty-two known heresies, but Universalism is not mentioned
as among them. Epiphanius, "the hammer of heretics," describes eighty heresies,
but he does not mention universal salvation, though Gregory of Nyssa, an
outspoken Universalist, was, at the time he wrote, the most conspicuous
figure in Christendom.
a half-pagan emperor, who attempted to have Universalism officially condemned,
lived in the most corrupt epoch of the Christian centuries. He closed the
theological schools, and demanded the condemnation of Universalism by law;
but the doctrine was so prevalent in the church that the council refused
to obey his edict to suppress it. Lecky says the age of Justinian was "the
worst form civilization has assumed."
(31) The first
clear and definite statement of human destiny by any Christian writer after
the days of the Apostles, includes universal restoration, and that doctrine
was advocated by most of the greatest and best of the Christian Fathers
for the first five hundred years of the Christian Era.
In one word,
a careful study of the early history of the Christian religion, will show
that the doctrine of universal restoration was least prevalent in the darkest,
and prevailed most in the most enlightened, of the earliest centuries--that
it was the prevailing doctrine in the Primitive Christian Church.
Original article found at: http://www.members.cox.net/tmurr10/updwhole.html (originally posted at: http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Prevailing.html)