Continued from Sweetser’s Universalism Explained, part four
That is what the Bible means by salvation, and it is what Universalists mean by the word. Just here is where their belief is much misunderstood by the majority of people who condemn and reject it. Salvation is supposed to mean salvation from everlasting punishment, which men are supposed to deserve on account of their sins; and Universalism is supposed to mean that all men will be saved from that terrible penalty, and that whether they repent or not, they will go to heaven when they die — which is equivalent to saying that they will be saved, or could be saved, in his sins. From their point of view, to talk of saving people in their sins is like talking of curing a sick man in his sickness. It is a contradiction in terms, for the true idea of salvation is salvation from sin. Sin is the very thing which men need to be saved from, and which God, in His infinite love for them, desires to save them from. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins,” said the angel who foretold Christ’s advent; and that is the salvation which Universalists believe in, — no salvation from everlasting punishment, which they do not believe that any person deserves, not salvation from any punishemnt which is actually deserved, but salvation from sin and from all imperfection, from everything which prevents men from being holy, like God.
Instead of believing that impenitent sinners will be saved from the punishment which they deserve for their sins, Universalists believe that no person who disobeys the commandments of God can escape from the penalty. They do not believe in salvation from punishment, either for impenitent sinners or for those who are penitent. On the contrary, they believe that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he alos reap,” and that inevitably measured out to him without any discount or subtraction. They believe that when a person sins, and that he cannot get release till he has paid the uttermost farthing. No man can break God’s laws with impunity. No man can break them and escape the consequences. It would not be for the sinner’s good to escape from the punishment which he really deserves. For punishment, under God’s government, is not a curse but a blessing to those who deserve it, but they need it; and that is why God sends it upon them. Not because He hates them, but because He loves them and desires to correct them, that they may know what an evil and bitter thing it is to forsake His ways, and take warning therefrom not to sin any more (Jer. 2:19) “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgest every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they verily, for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:6, 7,9, 10). That is the Universalist doctrine of punishment, — that it is an evidence not of God’s hatred, but of His love, for mankind, being one of the means which He has lovingly appointed to save them from the ways of sin.