Universalism: A Very Ancient Doctrine – A Sermon by Lemuel Haynes

February 28, 2014 | by Pastor Jim Harrison

Below, you will find the text of a sermon entitled Universal Salvation: A Very Ancient Doctrine.  It was a sermon well-known in its day, going through many editions on both sides of the Atlantic.

The circumstances behind the production of this sermon may be of interest.  On a particular Lord’s Day, Rev. Haynes was scheduled to be away from his own church in order to preach at another fellowship not far away.  On that Lord’s Day morning, it was made known to him that the man who had been invited to preach in his stead was Hosea Ballou, a notorious Universalist.  Those from his own church, as well as those from the church in which he was committed to preach that morning, insisted that he return home, so that he might witness what was said by Ballou.  He did so, and after Ballou’s address, was invited to speak to the congregation, if he so wished.  Haynes rose to the pulpit, and, having composed the address in his mind while he was listen to Ballou’s sermon, he spoke forth a version of what you will read below.

I call several things to your attention as you read this sermon.  First, you will note that Haynes is very exact as to his dates concerning not only the age of the earth, but, more particularly, the dates in which certain biblical events occurred, including the Fall.  It is almost certain that Haynes has accepted Archbishop James Ussher’s chronology of the history of the world.  The dating does not affect his arguments, but is an interesting historical point.  Second, I have updated some of the formatting from the original publication of 1805, from which the text has come.  Third, most of the language and grammar, though over 200 years old, is readily understandable.  There is one word, however, “superannuated”, which is no longer, to say the least, in everyday usage.  I have, therefore, defined it in the body of the text.  Finally, I have also removed two short verses of poetry for no other reason that I could not seem to get them formatted properly in the blog post.  If anyone wants to see them, I’ll be happy to get them to  you.

Special thanks to Thabiti Anyabwile for providing me with pdf images of the original publication.

A

SERMON

ON

UNIVERSAL SALVATION

A VERY ANCIENT DOCTRINE:  WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF

ITS AUTHOR

˜˜

BY LEMUEL HAYNES, A. M.

˜˜

GENESIS 3:4

And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die.

    THE holy Scriptures are a peculiar fund of instruction.  They inform us of the origin of creation; of the primitive state of man; of his fall or apostasy from God.  It appears that he was placed in the garden of Eden, with full liberty to regale himself with the delicious fruits that were to be found, except what grew on one tree—if he eat of that, that he should surely die, was the declaration of the Most High.

Happy were the human pair amidst this delightful Paradise, until a certain preacher, in his journey, came that way, and disturbed their peace and tranquility, by endeavoring to reverse the prohibition of the Almighty, as in our text, “Ye shall not surely die.”

We may attend: To the character of the preacher; to the doctrines inculcated; to the hearer addressed; to the medium or instrument of the preaching.

I.   As to the preacher, I would observe he has many names given him in the sacred writings, the most common is the devil.  That it was he that disturbed the felicity of our first parents, is evident from 2 Cor. 11:3, and many other passages of Scripture.

He was once an angel of light, and knew better than to preach such doctrine; he did violence to his own reason.

But to be a little more particular, let it be observed,

1.   He is an old preacher.  He lived above 1,700 years before Abraham; above 2,430 years before Moses; 4,004 years before Christ.  It is now 5,809 years since he commenced preaching.  By this time he must have acquired great skill in the art.

2. He is a very cunning, artful preacher.–When Elymas the sorcerer came to turn away the people from the faith, he is said to be full of all subtlety, and a child of the devil, not only because he was an enemy to all righteousness, but on account of his carnal cunning and craftiness.

3.  He is a very laborious, unwearied preacher.  He has been in the ministry almost 6,000 years; and yet his zeal has not in the least abated.  The apostle Peter compares him to a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour.  When God inquired of this persevering preacher, (Job 2:2), “From whence camest thou?  He answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”  He is far from being circumscribed within the narrow limits of a parish, state, or continental lines; but his haunt and travel is very large and extensive.

4.  He is a heterogeneous preacher, if I may so express myself.  He makes use of a Bible when he holds forth as in his sermon to our Savior, (Matt. 4:6).  He mixes truth with error, in order to make it go well, or to carry his point.

5.  He is a presumptuous preacher.  Notwithstanding God had declared in the most plain and positive terms, “Thou shalt surely die”, or, “in dying thou shat die”, yet this audacious wretch had the impudence to confront omnipotence, and says, “Ye shall not surely die.”

6. He is a successful preacher.  He draws a great number after him.  No preacher can command hearers like him.  He was successful with our first parents, in the old world.  Noah once preached to those spirits who are now in the prison of hell; and told them from God that they should surely die; but this preacher came along and declared the contrary, ye shall not surely die.  The greater part, it seems, believed him and went to destruction.  So it was with Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot preached to them; the substance of which was, “Up, get ye out of this place, for the Lord will destroy this city” (Gen. 19:14).  But this old declaimer told them no danger, no danger, “ye shall not surely die.”  To which they generally gave heed, and Lot seemed to them as one who mocked; they believed the universal preacher, and were consumed.  Agreeably to the declaration of the apostle Jude, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

 

II. Let us attend to the doctrine inculcated by this preacher, “Ye shall not surely die.”  Bold assertion! without a single argument to support it.  The death contained in the threatening was doubtless eternal death, as nothing but this would express God’s feelings towards sin, or render an infinite atonement necessary.  To suppose it to be spiritual death, is to blend crime and punishment together; to suppose temporal death to be the curse of the law, then believers are not delivered from it, according to Gal. 3:13.  What Satan meant to preach, was that there is no hell, and that the wages of sin is not death, but eternal life.

 

III.  We shall now take notice of the hearer addressed by the preacher.  This we have in the text.  “And the serpent said unto the woman,” etc.  That Eve had not so much experience as Adam, is evident: and so was not equally able to withstand temptation.  This doubtless was the reason why the devil chose her, with whom he might hope to be successful.  Doubtless he took a time when she was separated from her husband.

That this preacher has had the greatest success in the dark and ignorant parts of the earth, is evident:  his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness.  He is a great enemy to light.  St. Paul gives us some account of him in his day, (2 Tim. 3:6).  “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women, laden with sin; led away with divers lusts.”  The same apostle observes, (Rom. 16:17-18).  “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the simple.”    

 

    IV.  The instrument or medium made use of by the preacher will now be considered.  This we have in the text:  “And the serpent said,” etc.  But how came the devil to preach through the serpent?

1.  To save his own character, and the better to carry his point.  Had the devil come to our first parents personally and unmasked, they would have more easily seen the deception.  The reality of a future punishment is at times so clearly impressed on the human mind, that even Satan is constrained to own that there is a hell; although at other times he denies it.  He does not wish to have it known that he is a liar; therefore he conceals himself that he may the better accomplish his designs, and save his own character.

2.  The devil is an enemy to all good, to all happiness and excellence.  He is opposed to the felicity of the brutes.  He took delight in tormenting the swine.  The serpent, before he set up preaching Universal Salvation, was a cunning, beautiful, and happy creature; but now his glory is departed; for “the Lord said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field, upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.”  There is therefore a kind of duplicate cunning in the matter, Satan gets the preacher and the hearer also.

3.  Another reason why Satan employs instruments in his service is, because his empire is large and he cannot be everywhere himself.

4.  He has a large number at his command, that love and approve of his work, delight in building up his kingdom, and stand ready to go at his call.

 

INFERENCES

   1.   The devil is not dead, but still lives; and is able to preach as well as ever, “Ye shall not surely die.”

2.  Universal salvation is no new-fangled scheme, but can boast of great antiquity.

3.  See a reason why it ought to be rejected, because it is an ancient, devilish doctrine.

4.  See one reason why it is that Satan is such an enemy to the Bible, and to all who preach the Gospel, because of that injunction, “And he said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

   5.  See whence it was that Satan exerted himself so much to convince our first parents that there was no hell; because the denunciation of the Almighty was true, and he was afraid they would continue in the belief if it.  Was there no truth in future punishment, or was it only a temporary evil, Satan would not be so busy, in trying to convince men that there is none.  It is his nature and his element to lie.  “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it.”

6.  We infer that ministers should not be proud of their preaching.  If they preach the true Gospel, they only, in substance, repeat Christ’s sermons:  if they preach “ye shall not surely die,” they only make use of the devil’s old notes, that he delivered almost six thousand years ago.

7.  It is probable that the doctrine of Universal Salvation will still prevail, since this preacher is yet alive, and not in the least superannuated (ineffective); and every effort against him only enrages him more and more, and excites him to new inventions and exertions to build up his cause.

 

To close the subject:  As the author of the foregoing discourse has confined himself wholly to the character of Satan, he trusts no one will feel himself personally injured by this short sermon:  But should any imbibe a degree of friendship for this aged divine, and think that I have not treated this Universal Preacher with that respect and veneration which he justly deserves, let them be so kind as to point it out, and I will most cheerfully retract; for it has ever been a maxim with me,  “Render unto all their dues.”

4 Comments

  1. So, if Pastor Harrison goes on a trip somewhere, some heretic might preach at his pulpit in his absence?

    Kidding aside, it is interesting how some churches run things as it pertains to keeping preachers in a certain area for a limited period of time and when they are absent, putting who knows who there.

    Haynes’ interpretation that universalism was what the devil was speaking of in the garden is an interesting and simple interpretation.

  2. Jim Harrison

    Trust me. When I’m away I know who will be standing in the pulpit in my absence. lol

    That’s the puzzling thing about Haynes’ story. I don’t understand how a man can leave his church to minister elsewhere, and not know what’s going on back home. I’ve spoken to Thabiti Anyawilbe about it, and he was as baffled as I. I’m sure it has something to do with the polity of congregational churches at the time.

    I’ve ordered a book through inter-library loan entitled, “An Entertaining Controversy”, by William Fay, which, published in 1807, is entirely about this episode in Haynes’ ministry. Perhaps it will shed some light on how that could happen.

  3. Keep us updated, but I do know in the Lutheran Church, visting preachers can be placed by the local Bishop. Other churches, like PCUSA, purposely change pastors of a home church every few years. This seems like how Red Mills itself was in the 1800s.

  4. Jim Harrison

    Hey Craig. In certain churches, such as the Lutheran, and even the Methodist, the church hierarchy does make pastoral assignments. The churches Haynes served, however, were Congregational churches. As the name implies, they are churches in which ultimate authority lies with the congregation. One of the problems that arises from a purely congregational form of church polity is the diminishment of the role of the Elders. The pastor, often comes to be viewed as an employee who is to be controlled by the congregation, and inevitably, that means that he is controlled by certain powerful individuals or groups within the congregation.

    I fear that in the case of both the PCUSA and Red Mills, you are mistaken. In both cases, pastors are chosen by the congregation. In the case of Presbyterian churches, whether PCUSA or other denominations, there would certainly be input from the Presbytery, but ultimately it is the congregation which chooses and calls its pastor.

    As for Red Mills, it is and has always been, a baptist church, one of the distinctives of which is local church autonomy. This is why you will rarely hear Baptists speaking in terms of “denomination”. Rather, they are “associations”. This has always been the case. When RMBC was founded, there wasn’t yet a Southern Baptist or Northern Baptist Convention. There were simply Baptist churches in fellowship with other Baptist churches of like faith, such as the Philadelphia Baptist Association, which encompassed churches from NY down into the Carolinas. That which bound them together was not organizational, but doctrinal. The all adhered to the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, which was a slightly revised edition of the London Baptist Confession of 1689. So an organization which might assign pastors to churches did not even exist in the Baptist world, and, in any case, no baptist church would ever give that kind of authority to an entity outside of the local congregation.

    That being said, RMBC did seem to go through pastors pretty regularly. My predecessor was here for 35 years, I’ve been here for 21 years, and prior to that, most of the pastors going back to the early days only lasted a few years, at the most. I have not yet been able to determine why.

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