Sweetser’s Universalism Explained, part one

Universalism Explained,


Edwin C. Sweetser, D.D.

Pastor of the
Universalist Church of the Messiah,

Broad St. and Montgomery Ave.,

Philadelphia, Pa.


“To this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, epecially of them that believe.” I Tim 4:10 (Revised Version).

My purpose in the present sermon is to explain, as folly as I can within such limits, they system of doctrines held by the Universalist Church, and commonly known as Universalism. Observe, I say not merely the doctrine, but system of doctrines, known as Universalism; for Universalism is not, as many people seem to think, the single doctrine that all men will be finally saved. That is simply its principle distinguishing feature, just as the doctrine that immersion is the only true method of baptism is the distinguishing feature of the belief of the Baptists, or as the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession, so-called, is a distinguishing feature in the belief of the Episcopalian churches.

Baptist Christians believe a great deal more than their distinguishing doctrine. So do Episcopalians. So do Presbyterians. So do Universalists. Universalism, like Calvinism or Arminianism, is a great system of doctrines, each of which is related to all of the others. The doctrine that all men will be finally saved is simply one of those doctrines, and in order to be properly understood it must be taken in connection wth all the rest of them. It does not stand by itself, and cannot stand by itself, any more than a single part of the solar system — a single planet, for example — could remain in its place and pursue its true orbit if separated from its divinely ordered and natural relation to the sun and to the other planets.

And this analogy, by the way, may be used somewhat further. For as the sun is the central body of the whole solar system, from which all the rest of it has naturally proceeded, and to which all of the rest of it is organixally related, so all of the rest of the Universalist system proceeds from, and is related to, its doctrine in regard to God. “The Lord God is a Sun,” says the Bible; and such He is indeed, to the Universalist system. Its theology — that is to say, its doctrine in regard to God — is at the center of the whole of it. Whatsoever else it involves and proclaims, revolves around its conception of His nature and attributes, its idea of His character. All of the rest, so to speak, is planetary, — its doctine of punishment, of forgiveness, of the mission of Christ, of the future life, and of the ultimate state of mankind. Given the Universalist conception of God, all of the other doctrines of the Umiversalist system naturally follow therefrom, and harmoniously relate to it.

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