Bisbee’s Why I Am a Universalist, part three

This vision of the final consummation of good, which came to me as the revelation of the Holy Scriptures, confirmed by the moral and intellectual judgment, was perhaps the primal factor in determining my religious affections.

But, after all, this statement of what is really a great doctrine may be unsatisfactory, and so while it makes the real distinction between the Universalist and other Christian Churches, I need to say in further expression of the reason for my religious belief, that it does not stand in lonely grandeur sustained by its own intrinsic merit and attractiveness, but it is really the legitimate conclusion of a complete system of Christian theology. A conclusion, I may say, which has been recognized by those outside of our own communion. When the Rev. Reginald Campbell, the great preacher of the London City Temple, was in this country, he stated that he believed in universal salvation, because it is a “corollary of the Gospel.” And the Rev. Dr. Gordon, the distinguished Congregationalist of Boston, has printed the dictum, “If God shall succeed Universalist will be the final result.”

I need, however, if I would make you understand why I am a Universalist, to go still farther, and make a clear and simple statement of what Universalism is. And in this statement I desire you to note that I speak as a representative of my Church, and trust it may appear to you that while there are marked theological differences, yet the Universalist Church is a Christian Church, and worthy of a place with other branches in the body of Christ, and with others to contribute its full share in the redemption of man from sin and suffering and into holiness and happiness.

I early came to a sense, as no doubt you all have, of the supreme need of the world which found satisfaction alone in the Christian religion. I found that the theological, ethical and practical equipment of Universalism met not only my individual needs, but the needs of the world, and I therefore became a Universalist; the reason for which will further appear, as I tell you just what Universalism is. It is a sad fact that most of the differences between Churches grow out of a misunderstanding of their actual position, and therefore such occasions as this, when we can see each other as we are, are of vast worth to that cause to which we are all committed.

Together with others, the Universalist Church has suffered great misunderstanding, and I have been asked by conscientious Christians how it is possible that I, a believer, could be identified with such a sect! I therefore welcome this opportunity to make a plain statement of what Universalism is and what it stands for, as I said before, not with the design of converting you, but if possible to induce you to recognize it as one of the living branches of the Christian Church, bearing good fruit.

A little over one hundred years ago a Profession of Faith was adopted, known as the “Winchester Profession.” In 1899 this profession was summarized in an offical “Declaration of Principles,” which expresses briefly the standards of Universalism. Neither the original “Profession” nor the later “Declaration” is held as an exclusive “creed” but simply an expression of those vital things of our religion in which we are all agreed.

This declaration, which is the official statement of the belief of Universalists, is as follows:

The essential principles of the Universalist Faith are:

1. The Universal Fatherhood of God.

2. The spiritual authority and leadership of His Son Jesus Christ.

3. The trustworthiness of the Bible as containing a revelation from God.

4. The certainty of just retribution for sin.

5. The final harmony of all souls with God.

To which is added: “Neither this nor any other precise form of words is required as a condition of fellowship, provided always that the principles above stated be professed.”

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