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COMPREHENDING THE SUBSTANCE OF SEVERA
Br ELHANAN WINCHESTER.
FULLY TO STATE, AND FAIRLY TO ANSWER THE MOST COM--
AGAINST IT FROM THE
BELLOWS FALLS, VT.
To this Edition is prefixed, a brief account of the means and
his LIFE during four years.
FOR SEPTEMBER, 1788.
"OUR Author, with great candour and extensive knowledge of the subject, dicsusses the doctrine of eternal punishments. He thinks that there will be a period when every sinner will be restored to the Divine favour. This doctrine is perfectly consistent with the benevolence of the Deity. It is supported by many wise and good men; nor is there any reason to suppose that it will be perverted to serve the purposes of vice and immorality. Mr. WINCHESTER, in his defence of it, shews much charity, much humanity, and no little share of learning. The fifth Dialogue alone, which relates to the design and tendency of punishment, might furnish some little foundation for a differeuce of opinion; but in in a question so greatly above human attainment, the mind would be lost in the inquiry, and not greatly benefitted by the dis cussion. The question of the Universal Restoration, must be examined as Mr. WINCHESTER has done, by the word of God, as revealed at different times, and particularly in the Gospel."
N. B. A considerable part of the fifth Dialogue, being printed in the Lectures on the Prophecies, is left out of this edition, and the remaining part is inclo» sed in the fourth dialogue.
ASI now present my Friends and the Public with a
new edition of the Dialogues on the UNIVERSAL RESTORATION, which by many has been long desired, perhaps it may be acceptable to some for me to give a brief account how I came first to the knowledge of this part of the counsel of God, which I have not shunned freely to declare, both by word and writing, as I have found opportunity and necessity.
I think it was in the beginning of the year 1778, being in Southcarolina, upon the River Pee Dee, where I was at that time Minister, that I called to see a friend, who first put into my hands that valuable book written by Paul Siegvolk, and which is called The Everlasting Gospel, of which I have lately published a new edition. I was desired to tell what it meant to hold forth, as my friend could not tell by any means what to make of it on the account of the singularity and strangeness of the sentiments therein contained; although the language is very plain and clear, and by no means dark, mystical, or obscure.
I opened the book as I was desired, and dipping into it here and there, for half an hour perhaps, was very soon able to tell what the Author aimed at, viz. that there would be a final end of sin and misery, and that all fallen creatures would be restored by Jesus Christ to a state of holiness and happiness, after such as were rebellious had suffer in proportion to their crimes. I had never seen any thing of the sort be
fore in all my life; and I seemed struck with several ideas that I glanced over, such as the inconsistency and impossibility of both good and evil always existing in the universe and especially his observations upon the word eternal or everlasting, shewing that it was used for what never had a beginning, and would never have an end, as the being and perfections of God; and that it was also applied to things which had a beginning, but should never have an end, as the being and happiness of the righteous; and, that it was also frequently used to express things, times and seasons which had both beginning and end; which he therefore called periodical eternities, and gave a great number of instances of this sort, which could not be denied; and he contended that the everlasting punishanent threatened to the wicked, did not belong to the first nor to the second, but to the third class of these durations.
But as I was only desired to tell what the author maeant, when I had satisfied my friend in that respect, I laid the book down, and I believe we both concluded it to be a pleasant ingenious hypothesis, but had no serious thoughts of its being true; and for my part, I determined not to trouble myself about it, or to think any thing more of the matter. And as the book had been sent a considerable distance for my friend to read, I suppose it was soon after sent back; for I saw it no more, nor heard any thing farther about it.The following summer I went a journey into Virginia, and happening to mention the subject to a minister there he told me that a few years before, it had been a subject of controversy in the public papers, between a clergyman, who defended, and a gentleman of the law, who denied the proper endless eternity of punishment; and he told me that this gentleman who denied it, had advanced, that the translators of the Bible had rendered the very same Greek word, by very different English words, sometimes rendering it forever, and sometimes world; and that if they had ways uniformly rendered it by one English word, it
would have been evident to all readers, that no argue ment for endless misery, could have been drawn therefrom. I was told also while I was in Virginia, that a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, bad a few years before, given out that he had some wonderful thing to make known to bis hearers, which he would preach upon some Sunday, but did not mention when. This raised the public curiosity, and great pumbers attended his place of worship in hopes of hearing what this wonderful thing might be ; but for a considerable time the matter was undiscorered. But at last he gave out, that on the next Sunday he would open this great secret. Vast numbers of people flocked to hear what it could be : When he came to declare what it was, behold ! it was a wonderful piece of news indeed, such as had never been heard before in any pulpit in Virginia. It was nothing short of the doctrine of the Restoration. I think, to the best of my remembrance, they told me, that he opened and enlarged upon it for two Sundays, and never preached any more, being immediately after seized with sickness, which terminated in his death. And this was generally esteemed as a judgment that fell upon him for daring to preach such a wicked, false, and dangerous opinion: and that God cut him off from the land of the living, to testify his displeasure against him; and to terrify others from daring to follow his example, or believe his sentiments. But perhaps this might have been some worthy, learned, pious man, who had long concealed this grand truth in his heart, and had derived much satisfaction therefrom, and longed to proslaim it to others, for their good. And at last, notwithstanding the opposition that he might expect, resolved so to do; and accordingly was enabled, just before his time came to depart out of this world, to bear a faithful testimony to this most grand and important of all God's purposes. And having performed his duty, his master called him to receive his reward, and gave him the glorious plaudi