Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Universalist Church

UNIVERSALIST CHURCH, a religious body in the United States of America, especially in the New England States, which has for its distinguishing tenet the doctrine of the final salvation of all souls from sin through Christ. The pioneers of Universalism in America were Dr George De Benneville, who taught from 1741 principally in Pennsylvania; Dr Charles Chauncy, of the First Church, Boston (notably in The Salvation of All Men, published in 1784); Dr Joseph Huntington, of Coventry, Conn, (whose Calvinism Improved was published after his death in 1796); John Murray, Elhanan Winchester, Caleb Rich, and, very specially, Hosea Ballou. Murray is, however, regarded as "the father of Universalism in America." In 1750 James Relly had avowed himself a Universalist, basing his belief on a theory quite peculiar; Murray, who had preached as a Methodist in England and Ireland, was Relly's most distinguished convert. In 1770 he came to America, and, under circumstances so strange that most Universalists regard them as providential, overcoming a deep reluctance, he preached at Good Luck, New Jersey, and organized a society, "The Independent Christian Church," at Gloucester, Massachusetts. Hosea Ballou—a convert from the Calvinist Baptists—took up the cause in 1790, and published the work that is regarded by Universalists as epoch-making, A Treatise on Atonement. The number of ministers increased, and societies were formed. These in due time became the constituents of larger organizations, till a "New England convention" saw occasion, in 1803, to adopt a "profession of faith," which in three short articles avowed belief in the Bible as making known in a Divine revelation the nature of God, the mission of Christ, the final holiness of all souls, and the necessity of good works. In 1866 a general convention, composed of delegates from the State conventions, was incorporated. It has jurisdiction throughout the United States and Canada. It has a "Murray fund" of about $135,000. Under the auspices of the Universalist Church are the "woman's centenary association," the "Universalist historical society," several organized charities, four colleges, three theological schools, and five academies,—the total value of the schools, including endowments, being hardly less than 3 million dollars. It publishes eight periodicals. The Year Book for 1887 gives the following summary:—1 general convention; 22 State conventions; 945 parishes, 38,429 families; 696 churches, 35,550 members; 634 Sunday schools, 51,871 members; 789 church edifices; value above indebtedness, $7,493,927; 673 clergymen in fellowship and 120 licensed lay preachers.