The Universalist World of 1866

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

Last month, we looked at the beliefs of the Universalist Church as presented to its new members in 1925. In contrast, also available in our archives, is a pamphlet published in Oxford, Ohio, delineating the beliefs of the Universalist Church in Newtown, Ohio in 1866. The pamphlet begins with a Preamble:

We, whose names hereunto annexed, believing in the Gospel of Christ, and desiring to employ all proper means for our advancement in the knowledge and grace of God, do hereby associate ourselves together in one body, as the Universalist Church. We acknowledge as Christians all who sincerely believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and who aim to regulate their lives by his precepts and spirit.

Following the Preamble was a Declaration of Faith:

While we claim for ourselves, what we concede to others, the right to private judgment in matters of belief, we agree in the following points in faith:

1. There is one God, who is love, of infinite wisdom, power and goodness, the Father and Friend of all souls, who sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world, and who by Him will accomplish that purpose.

2. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain special revelations from God, by his Holy Spirit of truth, which are the rule of Christian faith and practice.

3. All men are brethren, having a common Father and a common Saviour, and destined ultimately to a common home, they, therefore, owe each other the duties of justice and benevolence, which are enjoined in the Scriptures, and which cannot be blamelessly neglected.

4. Holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected; the common Father surely rewarding the obedient believer, and as certainly punishing the unbelieving transgressor.

Finally, a Covenant is presented as a guide to action by the committed Universalist.

We do hereby agree that while we retain our membership in this body, we will sincerely endeavor to lead quiet and peaceable lives; that we adorn the doctrines of God our Saviour in all things.

We will not necessarily absent ourselves from public worship, nor from the religious or business meetings of the church.

We will aid, by our sympathy and means, the extension of the Kingdom, or Religion, of Christ in the world.

We will do good as we have opportunity; and so far as in us lies will live peaceably with all men.

We will maintain good works, avoiding, if possible, all appearance of evil, that our Faith may be honored and God glorified in the world.

We pledge ourselves, as members of this Church, in case of any social or business difficulty, one with another, before resorting to the civil law, mutually to employ every effort among ourselves, by conference, reference, or otherwise, to bring about an adjustment of such difference upon Christian grounds and in the spirit of Christian forbearance, forgiveness and love.

Image: Universalist Church building in Newtown, Ohio.

Image courtesy of Mike Roberts.