This is the first of the lectures in Paul Dean’s 1832 A Course of Lectures in Defence of the Final Restoration, an homage to celebrate the Universalist minister’s 240th birthday
The numbers in brackets are the beginning of the page in the original.
QUESTION STATED, AND ITS IMPORTANCE.
ACTS III. 20, 21.
AND HE SHALL SEND JESUS CHRIST, WHICH BEFORE WAS PREACHED UNTO YOU: WHOM THE HEAVEN MUST RECEIVE, UNTIL THE TIMES OF THE RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS, WHICH GOD HATH SPOKEN BY THE MOUTH OF ALL HIS HOLY PROPHETS SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN.
This evening we commence a course of lectures in defence of the Universal Restoration and Eternal Happiness of all Mankind, and of its salutary influence on the hearts and lives of the followers of Christ, as a doctrine of revelation.
In pursuing this subject we shall observe the following plain method: —1. State the question, and its importance; 2. answer some of  the most weighty objections frequently urged against its truth and moral tendency; and 3. exhibit the proofs of its being a christian sentiment, and worthy of all acceptation.
Though in departing from the usual and practical method of preaching observed in this desk, we shall for a few evenings seem to buckle on the armour of the controversialist, it is not because we delight in controversy, feel happy in its troubled atmosphere, or are animated by the hope of gathering laurels of victory on its disputed heights; but because a sense of duty has compelled us to publish and attempt to vindicate our views of this most interesting subject, and thus cast our mite into the treasury of divine truth for the satisfaction of friends, the honour of Christ, and the advancement of his kingdom in the world. And should it please God, in any degree, to make this humble effort the instrument of accomplishing these objects, to his name be the glory.
Nor do we come to this work with the least hostility of feeling towards any denomination of christians, or any bitterness of spirit to those who differ from us ever so widely in their religious opinions; and, therefore, we cheerfully pledge ourselves to observe the most scrupulous candour in relation both to the persons and sentiments of all whose opinions we may have occasion to mention. Just cause of the slightest  offence shall not be intentionally given to any person of christian feelings, or of any sentiments whatever, who may use the freedom to attend this discussion; so that no one may have occasion to fear that misrepresentation of his sentiments, or that gross personality and abuse which have too often degraded Christianity in the eyes of its enemies, and rendered controversy disgusting; when otherwise it might have been a powerful and successful auxiliary to the triumph and spread of sacred truth. Desiring the hearer to dismiss from his mind all prejudice for, as well as against, the doctrine we are about to advocate in these lectures, till after a patient and attentive hearing, (for he that hears with too strong a prepossession for, or against, hears to little advantage, and can never be an impartial judge,) we assure him that we shall not content ourselves by being merely candid, but shall speak under a deep sense of responsibility to the God of truth, for the correctness of the opinions we shall offer: and let him that heareth remember also his own high obligations, so to hear as to understand and judge according to truth.
We shall regard the scriptures as the only standard of revealed truth, and studiously seek their direction in all we utter; and while we speak according to the words of holy men that spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, let all the people say amen.
The passage of inspiration which we have placed at the head of this discourse, asserts that the restitution of all intelligent and fallen creatures to virtue, order, and eternal happiness, is a divine truth, purposed by Jehovah from eternity, and published more or less clearly by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began; and that times or dispensations for the beginning and completion of this most glorious work, have been set in the counsels of heaven; and also that the ever blessed Saviour, who had, according to the testimony of prophets and the preaching of apostles, began it by his ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, would, at the completion of those times, be again sent from thence to finish this most transcendent enterprise, which will forever remain the theme of admiration to saints and angels, and of glory to God and the Lamb.
But before we proceed to reduce these sentiments to a single question, we ask leave here to make a more general statement of what we conceive to be some of the first or fundamental principles of revelation; that the bearing of the question on those principles, may be the more easily seen and felt. They are these:
- The moral government of God is a most perfect plan, called in scripture his counsel, will, purpose, pleasure; according to which he works all things in the dispensations of revela-tion, for the accomplishment of the noblest of objects, i.e. the greatest good of the universe; in relation to which, he is said to see the end from the beginning.
- All moral and accountable beings were created and destined to serve and enjoy God forever, as their chief good; for God is love, and the Lord is good to all.
- Though all men were created holy, and for perfect happiness, yet they all having sinned and come short of glory no one can now be saved but by being restored to virtue; for without holiness no man can enjoy God or heaven.
- Therefore God being no respecter of persons, sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.
- Death having reigned from Adam to the coming of Christ, therefore, that he (Christ) might be the Saviour of all, dominion was given him over the dead in their separate state, as well as over the living in this and the resurrection state; for he is declared to be Lord, and Judge, and Saviour, of the dead and living; so that all will be judged, and all will be saved during the reign of the Messiah.
- The gospel is the only method of salvation for sinners; for by grace are ye saved, through Jesus Christ, the only name given whereby we must be saved.
- Death, therefore, being physical and per-taining to the body, can make no moral change in man; for whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s, to be rewarded if faithful, to be punished if impenitent, being under the same Lord, and subject to the same moral laws after as before death.
- So long as men continue in sin, or impenitency, so long they will continue to be punished according to their characters, as attested by their works; but when they exercise repentance toward God, he will, through the blood of Christ, grant them the remission of the sins that are past, and justify and save them by faith in Jesus.
- The means employed by Christ for the salvation of the world, i.e. faith and repentance, must finally and universally succeed, for the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; and he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
- The subjection of all things to Christ will be the same, in character and spirit, as will be the subjection of Christ to the Father in conjunction with his kingdom; therefore, when he resigns his kingdom, it will be perfect in its extent, and in the character of its subjects: and thus God will be all in all.
Now by adopting these principles in connexion with the text, which appears to be supported most clearly by the general voice of scrip-ture, we inevitably come to the conclusion of the universal restoration of all mankind to virtue and purity; and believing in the universal restoration, we necessarily arrive at the result of universal and eternal happiness, which is universal salvation. — None will be saved who are not first restored; and none that are or shall be restored will fail of salvation.
The text speaks of this great work as having times, i.e. periods or dispensations, set for its progress and completion; and elsewhere, the scriptures speak of its being finished in the fulness of times: so that we have no scriptural authority for supposing it will be performed for all men, individually or collectively, at death, or any specified time, short of the fulness of times.
The question, therefore, which we are now to discuss, is not whether any or all will be saved without genuine faith in Jesus Christ — whether any or all will be made happy without first being brought to feel a sincere and godly sorrow for sin, and an ardent thirst for holiness? This we have no reason to believe or expect.
Nor are we here to discuss the question whether all men, christian or pagan, saint or sinner, penitent or impenitent, will escape all guilt, remorse, and mental suffering for sin, in or at the article of temporal death, and be forever after equally and eternally happy? Neith-er reason nor scripture, justice nor equal mercy, offer us the least grounds for believing they will.
But this is the all important question, we ask you to consider and be able to answer, viz: — Whether all men will or will not, by the means of grace and the power of God, be brought to be true christians? Or in other words, Will all men, according to the scriptures, and consistently with the attributes, will, and government of God, be finally made pure and happy through Jesus Christ, or not?
Some we know think, or say they think, this to be a question of mere idle curiosity, while others esteem it an impious question which ought never to be started, especially in public; but from both these classes of Christians, we are, after serious deliberation, compelled respectfully, but widely, to differ.
Such, my brethren, is the importance of this subject, and such the deep and everlasting interest which we and the world have in its decision, that it becomes us reverently to pause — and seriously to consider, that if we may truly answer it in the affirmative, relative ourselves, it will present to our encouragement in duty, our comfort in affliction, and our hope in death, heaven — all that can constitute us happy. — But if we are compelled to answer it in the negative — O then! how will the scene be  changed! to paralize the last resolve to virtue, to cast off the last hope of affliction, and to add eternal despair to the pains and anguish of death, there will be presented to the soul the horrors of the worm that never dies! and the storm of vengeance that never ceases to rage! — On one side of this question is all that hope, and heaven, and eternity, can offer to our enjoyment; and on the other, all that fear, despair, and ever-enduring and ever-increasing wo can inflict. Equally so is it with every friend of ours, and with every individual of the human race; if therefore any one of the vast family of man be eternally lost, it must not only be the friend, parent, child, endeared to others by the ties of nature and mutual feelings, but it must be some one himself, to whom happiness is as dear as to ourselves — and whose aversion to sufferings is equal to our own. This thought should certainly cause us to take and feel a high interest in the true answer to the question, whether all will be finally virtuous and happy, or not, as well as whether we ourselves shall be saved or not. Yet in the examination of this question, let us endeavour to lay apart all selfish interest which we have in its answer, while we further examine, not only its general importance, its importance in connexion with the character of God, of Christ, of the Scriptures, and of the morality, comforts,  hopes, and devotion of mankind; but also the evidences and arguments for and against it: that if possible we may decide it impartially, according to the force of truth and evidence. The affirmative of this subject, sheds a peculiar lustre on the character of Deity. — It represents him as having wonderfully and fearfully created and made of one blood, all the nations of the earth, for the noblest object, as having extended over them a father’s tender and watchful care, and when they erred as children and became the miserable slaves of sin and death, he mercifully projected the scheme of redemption, which his grace and power shall, in due time, carry into the most complete execution. What can so much endear his government to his rational creatures, as for them to feel it is founded in infinite goodness, and administered for the eternal and equal happiness of all its subjects? What could so much endear him to them, as for them to know that he is love, and that all his administrations are equal and perfect goodness, resulting finally in their equal and everlasting welfare? Every man should be taught that God is the all-gracious author of his being, the wise disposer of his fortune, and the unchanging friend of his happiness; and of the peace and happiness of all others, no less than of their own; then will they seek his protection, and delight in his service; then will they be desirous  of imitating him, whom they are constrained equally to love and reverence for his goodness and greatness.
Nor is this sentiment less important to the character of Christ; it teaches that he came from heaven to be the compassionate friend and the all-sufficient Saviour of sinners, yea of a whole sinful and lost world — it teaches that he was impartial in his kindness, in his sympathy, and in his sufferings, having tasted death equally for every creature. So benignant was his whole ministry on earth, that no sinner could ever say he has neglected to warn me of the evil of sin on every proper occasion; that he ever neglected to sympathize in my sufferings, not only, but to relieve them by deeds of mercy and power such as man never did: or that he ever ceased by his words to pour the light of heaven on my benighted mind, or by the energies of his spirit, to wake up in my soul the emotions of peaceful gratitude, and to enliven and strengthen the latent and trembling hopes of heaven in my heart, whenever I sought him. So just, and good, and gracious was Jesus to all, that there is no one who has not occasion to say of him, he is the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. How differently would the character of our Lord have appeared had he come to call the righteous, but leave the sinner to perish — had he come to bless the  rich, but leave the poor to their destruction, or had he come to save the poor, but leave the rich to pass on the high way to eternal ruin! Certainly it must be for the honour of Christ that those whose duty and office it is to invite and persuade all men to come unto him and be saved, should feel authorized to say, unhesitatingly to say, to every and each of them, Jesus is really, and will prove himself to be your Saviour and Judge.
If it be found that the holy scriptures contain a clear expression of the restitution of all things, attested by the united witness of all the holy prophets, and confirmed by the authority of Jehovah, it must greatly enhance the value of that sacred book in the estimation of every truly benevolent soul, and offer an increased motive to every man to become thoroughly acquainted with the rich treasures it contains. It does, or does not contain a revelation of salvation for the whole world, and equally true is it that it does, or does not contain salvation for me or you, and of the way by which we are to attain its possession; for if it may not contain salvation for all, then it may not contain it for me or you. Then suppose we turn over its inspired pages, believing that they contain the awful record of eternal death for some the human race, and of course feeling that we are liable to meet therein our own doom to never ending perdition,  what, ask yourselves, what would be the anxiety and fearful suspense with which we should read? Could we read it with the same earnestness and hope, the same interest and love that we should do if we felt assured that as soon as we become truly acquainted with it, and felt the power and virtue of its heavenly truths, we should be blessed and made wise unto salvation? Would any one dig in a field for a treasure with as much faithfulness and perseverance upon uncertainty, as he would with the assurance, that by so doing, he should gain an invaluable treasure of wealth and happiness? Most certainly he could not. The bible will never be perused by all men, old and young, rich and poor, as it should be, and with the interest and feelings it ought, till they are invited thereto with affectionate concern by the ministers of the cross, and urged by the plenary assurance that they will find there that heavenly wisdom to guide them in duty, that rich solace in affliction and that blessed hope of immortality, which can no where else be found — those rewards for virtue, and those faithful warnings of evil; that blessed panoply of light, and holy armour of God; and those testimonies of Jesus, and life giving words of Jehovah, which open to the soul beyond the dispensations of time; the finished work of grace, the glories and joys of a paradise above, for themselves and  the world, no where else to be obtained but in this holy treasury of the Lord. When these views of the scriptures prevail, then will the books of infidelity be given up, the bible be read with the the purest delight, and the words of the Lord be sweet as in the days when Jesus spake, and they that heard were healed.
But after all the sentiment under consideration is more immediately interesting to man as a moral, social, and devotional being. We cannot resist the persuasion that a morality founded on the principles above laid down, would be most pure and exalted; and therefore, most condusive to human happiness. The basis of morality, such as Jesus taught, is supreme love to God, and true benevolence to man; and the fruits thereof in the conduct of life, is the morality itself. Now as like produces like, will it not induce us to love God to know that he is good to us; and strengthen that love, to know that he is equally good to all as to us? And will it not also naturally produce in us a regard to the welfare of mankind to feel that they are all our brethren; responsible to the same moral government; bound to perform to us the same duties that we are to them; and with us destined to dwell forever in the blessed associations of celestial virtue and happiness? The very fact that God will ultimately deliver all from sin and suffering, proves that  he will not allow us, with impunity, to inflict on any creature of his, through revenge or malevolence, the least degree of unjust or unmerciful sufferings; and is thus happily adapted to restrain the vicious propensities of the sinful heart.
What then tends so naturally to awaken the best feelings of our nature, both towards God and man, and to restrain the bad propensities of the soul, must as it prevails, exert a commanding and heavenly influence on the moral intercourse of the world, till society on earth shall resemble the blessed society of heaven. But we know, and are sorry for it, that it is by many, whom we respect for their piety and virtue, strenuously objected to this sentiment, that were it to prevail it would have an intirely different effect on the moral feelings and conduct of men; which will be considered, and an answer attempted, in its proper place. And in the interim, should any of you, my hearers, wish to try the case for your own personal satisfaction, you may for the sake of such trial, suppose society to be divided into two great classes, one of whom you know will be converted to Christ and reign with him forever; the other will forever revile him and sink to endless perdition; then ask yourselves if you could as sincerely sympathize in the present sufferings of one as of the other of those clas-ses, extend the hand of relief as warmly to the one as the other, and feel as sacred obligations to seek the perpetual good of the one as of the other? And thus we are assured you will be able to decide for yourselves the relative influence of the two schemes, viz. partial and universal restoration; and give the decided preference to the one under consideration.
That this doctrine possesses a peculiar power when cordially embraced by a strong faith, to “smooth the rugged path to life along a vale of tears,” solace the mourner’s heart when riven by the loss of its dearest earthly joys, and to cheer and strengthen the departing trembling soul, with the all-sustaining hopes of heaven, will not, cannot be doubted. O my God! let us have its aid in misfortune’s gloomy hour; when bending over the sick, or waiting at the dying couch of kindred or of friends; then may its balmy spirit gently bedew us; but most of all when wearied and exhausted by sickness, we are called to tread the dark and gloomy valley, O then may its heavenly light shine about us, and drive from before us the soul-chilling gloom of death!
And lastly, strange as it may appear to some, we are constrained to view it of the highest importance to the exercise of true and elevated devotion. This is by far the most difficult of all christian duties to perform; so imperfect  are our views of our heavenly Father, so mistaken our apprehensions of happiness, and so selfish and alienated are our feelings to our fellow creatures by reason of sin, that we need much grace to aid us in giving ourselves wholly to the service of God, in the obedience of his word, and the cheerful and hearty performance of all that various good we are capable of doing to our fellow men, not only to the good but the evil, and all for the Lord’s sake. — Fear and dread of misery, here or hereafter, unassisted, can never produce it; with these, if they exist, must be united the truth that enlightens and the grace that saves the soul from sin. What therefore can so effectually assist us in this pure and heavenly exercise as a belief that God in his infinite mercy is in Christ, and will fully reconcile all things to himself in perfect bliss? We solemnly appeal to the believer in endless punishment, whether it be possible for him to feel as much devotion of heart when he prays for a sinner, feeling at the same time that that sinner will certainly go to perdition, as he does when he prays for one that he feels and hopes will be converted and made happy! Let us now conclude this lecture by placing before us for our imitation in spirit at least, the brightest example of devotion ever witnessed by or given to men — that exhibited by our Saviour at his death. A life of perfect virtue finished,  he presents himself an offering to God — in view of the awful sufferings of the cross — says, not my will but thine be done — and as the crimson, cleansing, pardoning tide flowed from his hands, his feet, his temples, his side, his heart, in a love to his bitterest enemies stronger than death, he said with his expiring breath, father forgive, my death will conquer, and the vilest shall yet love thee.
Before we advance the proofs of this doctrine to which we do sincerely attach such high importance, we shall out of respect to its opposers, notice and answer a few important objections. First, Some object to the truth of this sentiment, because they think God has limited salvation by his decree — which presupposes eternal personal election and reprobation. — On this subject we shall treat the next evening.