Sunday, March 09, 2014

Elhanan Winchester's Belief In Future Temporary Punishment

Winchester was Benjamin Rush's theological guru. The old school Universalists like Winchester were nonetheless hardcore in their belief in future prospective punishment for the "unsaved." As this source notes:
Among the early Universalists in America the doctrine of a limited term of punishment for the wicked in the future was not questioned. John Murray inherited the doctrine from his spiritual father, James Relly. Elhanan Winchester was of the same mind, and was even ready to suggest a matter of fifty thousand years as a possible limit.
The same source goes on to describe the "official doctrine" of one of the earliest "official" Universalist Churches in America:
As early as 1791, when the Philadelphia Convention was asked to define the position of the Universalist Church upon the question of future punishment, it made answer in this wise: 
"Unbelievers do die in their sins; such will not be purged of their sins or unbelief by death, but necessarily must appear in the next state under all the darkness, fear, and torment and conscious guilt, which is the natural consequence of unbelief in the truth. What may be the duration or degree of this state of unbelief and misery, we know not. But this we know, that it hath one uniform and invariable end; namely, the good of the creature."
That last part -- "the good of the creature" -- is telling. As per the Enlightenment custom, the God of the universalists was not unlike the God of the unitarians in the sense that benevolence was His defining attribute. Eternal punishment doesn't "fit" the "good of the creature" understanding.

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