Anne Bronte (1820 - 1849)
One of the three famous Bronte sisters, Anne is remembered for being the most pious. Before she died from tuberculosis at the tender age of 29, Anne admitted to a faith in universalism, as the following poem and letter testify.
A Word to The 'Elect'
You may rejoice to think yourselves secure;
You may be grateful for the gift divine -
That grace unsought, which made your black hearts pure,
And fits your earth-born souls in Heaven to shine.
But, is it sweet to look around, and view
Thousands excluded from that happiness
Which they deserved, at least, as much as you, -
Their faults not greater, nor their virtues less?
And, wherefore should you love your God the more,
Because to you alone his smiles are given;
Because he chose to pass the many o'er,
And only bring the favoured few to Heaven?
And, wherefore should your hearts more grateful prove,
Because for ALL the Saviour did not die?
Is yours the God of justice and of love?
And are your bosoms warm with charity?
Say, does your heart expand to all mankind?
And, would you ever to your neighbor do -
The weak, the strong, the enlightened, and the blind -
As you would have your neighbor do to you?
And, when you, looking on your fellow-men,
Behold them doomed to endless misery,
How can you talk of joy and rapture then? -
May God withhold such cruel joy from me!
That none deserve eternal bliss I know;
Unmerited the grace in mercy given:
But, none shall sink to everlasting woe,
That have not well deserved the wrath of Heaven.
And, oh! there lives within my heart
A hope, long nursed by me;
(And, should its cheering ray depart,
How dark my soul would be!)
That as in Adam all have died,
In Christ shall all men live;
And ever round his throne abide,
Eternal praise to give.
That even the wicked shall at last
Be fitted for the skies;
And, when their dreadful doom is past,
To life and light arise.
I ask not, how remote the day,
Nor what the sinners' woe,
Before their dross is purged away;
Enough for me, to know
That when the cup of wrath is drained,
The metal purified,
They'll cling to what they once disdained,
And live by Him that died.
--Anne Bronte (1843)
Haworth, 30th December 1848
to the Reverend David Thom
Ill health must plead my excuse for this long delay in acknowledging your flattering communication; but, believe me, I am not the less gratified at the pleasure you have derived from my own and my relatives' works, especially from the opinions they express. I have seen so little of controversial Theology that I was not aware the doctrine of Universal Salvation had so able and ardent an advocate as yourself; but I have cherished it from my very childhood - with a trembling hope at first, and afterwards with a firm and glad conviction of its truth. I drew it secretly from my own heart not from the word of God before I knew that any other held it. And since then it has ever been a source of true delight to me to find the same views either timidly suggested or boldly advocated by benevolent and thoughtful minds; and I now believe there are many more believers than professors in that consoling creed. Why good men should be so averse to admit it, I know not; - into their own hearts at least, however they might object to its promulgation among the bulk of mankind. But perhaps the world is not ripe for it yet. I have frequently thought that since it has pleased God to leave it in darkness so long respecting this particular truth, and often to use 'such doubtful language as to admit of such a general misconception thereupon, he must have some good reason for it. We see how liable men are to yield to the temptations of the passing hour; how little the dread of future punishment - how still less the promise of future reward can avail to make them forbear and wait; and if so many thousands rush into destruction with (as they suppose) the prospect of Eternal Death before their eyes, - what might not the consequence be, if that prospect were changed for one of a limited season of punishment, far distant and unseen, - however protracted and terrible it might be?
I thankfully cherish this belief; I honour those who hold it; and I would that all men had the same view of man's hopes and God's unbounded goodness as he has given to us, if it might be had with safety. But does not that if require some consideration? should we not remember the weak brother and the infatuated slave of satan, and beware of revealing these truths too hastily to those as yet unable to receive them? But in these suggestions I am perhaps condemning myself, for in my late novel, 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall', I have given as many hints in support of the doctrine as I could venture to introduce into a work of that description. They are however mere suggestions, and as such I trust you will receive them, believing that I am well aware how much may be said in favour of boldly disseminating God's truth and leaving that to work its way. Only let our zeal be tempered with discretion, and while we labour, let us humbly look to God who is able and certain to bring his great work to perfection in his own good time and manner.
Accept my best wishes on behalf of yourself and your important undertakings, and believe me to remain with sincere esteem.
The following may be Charlotte Bronte's view, as expressed through Helen in Jane Eyre in chapter six.
"She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she dislikes your cast of character, as Miss Scatcherd does mine; but how minutely you remember all she has done and said to you! What a singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your heart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings. Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting
off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the spirit will remain,--the impalpable principle of light and thought, pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it came it will return; perhaps again to be communicated to some being higher than man--perhaps to pass through gradations of glory, from the pale human soul to brighten to the seraph! Surely it will never, on the contrary, be suffered to degenerate from man to fiend? No; I cannot believe that: I hold another creed: which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a rest--a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last:
with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low: I live in calm, looking to the end."