Thus far I have followed the great current of events, and spoken of the men who were most influential in directing it. I have considered the great theological schools of the early centuries, and made prominent the names of those who chiefly gave character to them, as Irenaeus, Origen, Diodorus of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Augustine. I have spoken of councils and of men prominent in them, as Gregory of Nyssa.
But there are others of the fathers, who believed in universal restoration, whose names deserve mention in a history of opinions.
Clement of Alexandria.
Among these is Clement of Alexandria, who preceded Origen as the president of the Catechetical School of Alexandria. He was the teacher of Origen, and imparted to him those principles which imply universal restoration. These Origen more fully developed in his system of theology. Clement taught that all punishment is remedial, and that God uses means to reform and purify man after death. In proof of this, he appeals to the statement of Peter that Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison, which almost all the fathers understood to be a literal fact. He also taught that these means will be effectual. As quoted by Neander, he says: “If in this life there are so many ways of purification and repentance, how much more should there be after death! The purification of souls when separated from the body will be easier. We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer; to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, is his work; and so will he continue to operate after life.” That he held that thus all will be saved is conceded by other eminent orthodox scholars. Daille says: “Clement was of the same opinion as his scholar Origen, who everywhere teaches that all the punishments of those in hell are purgatorial; that they are not endless, but will at length cease, when the damned are sufficiently purified in the fire.”
Archbishop Potter, the learned editor of the works of Clement, regards him as teaching not only the salvation of all men, but even of the devil himself, inasmuch as “he taught that the devil can repent, and even the most heinous sins are purged away by punishments after death.” The testimony of these two scholars is taken from Ballou’s “History of Ancient Universalism,” page 52. It is given there more fully.
Though Clement generally goes no further than to state principles from which universal restoration results, yet in one or two passages he explicitly declares the salvation of all men.
Of him Dr. Schaff says: “He sprang either from Athens or from Alexandria, and was brought up in heathenism. He was versed in all the branches of Hellenic literature, and in all the existing systems of philosophy; but in these he found nothing to satisfy his thirst for truth. In his adult years, therefore, he embraced the Christian religion, and by long journeys east and west he sought the most distinguished teachers, “who preserved the tradition of pure, saving doctrine, and implanted that genuine apostolic seed in the hearts of their pupils. . . . In A.D. 189 he succeeded Pantaenus as president of the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Here he labored benignly some twelve years for the conversion of heathens and the education of the Christians” (vol. i., pp. 498, 499).
He says also: “Clement was the father of the Alexandrian Christian philosophy. He united thorough Biblical and Hellenic learning with genius and speculative thought. He rose, in many points, far above the prejudices of his age, to more free and spiritual views.”
He complains, however, that his system, as a whole, was not logical and consistent and purely Christian, but introduced Stoic, Platonic, and Philonic ingredients, not in harmony with Christianity. In this, however, he was not peculiar. No eminent father, and very few, if any, modern orthodox divines, can be mentioned who have not introduced into their systems the elements of some foreign philosophy, or who are not involved in some form of self-contradiction.
Didymus of Alexandria.
This great man was born in the year 309. He became eminent against great discouragements. In the fourth year of his age he entirely lost his sight. Yet, as Dr. Schaff says, “by extraordinary industry he gained comprehensive and thorough knowledge in philosophy, rehtoric, and mathematics.” He became a devoted Christian, and for nearly sixty years labored as president of the Theological School of Alexandria. He was, as Dr. Schaff says, “a faithful follower of Origen.” Of his belief in universal restoration, evidence may be found in his work on the Trinity (iii., 10), and in his notes on 1 Peter iii., 22, and i., 12. Here he teaches the salvation of sinning angels, and of all rational beings. The passages are too long to quote. There would be more evidence had not his works been expurgated or destroyed, after his condemnation as a universalist, by the General Council of Constantinople. Jerome, Rufinus, and Photius regarded him as undeniably such.
Such being his character and his theology, how was he regarded by the orthodox men of his age? Dr. Schaff shall reply. He says, “Athanasius nominated him teacher in the Theological School. Even men like Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius, and Isidore, sat at his feet with admiration” (ii., 922).
It may cause surprise in many minds to hear that Jerome, the most learned of all the fathers, unless we except Origen, was also a universal restorationist. Yet he has expressly taught that doctrine. On Gal. v. 22, speaking of joy as a fruit of the Spirit, he says: “It should be considered that after love comes joy. For he who loves any one always rejoices in his felicity. And if he shall see him deceived by any error, or to have fallen on the slippery places of sins, he will grieve indeed, and hasten to rescue him. But he will not be able to turn his joy into sorrow, knowing that no rational creature before God will perish forever.” Gieseler quotes this last sentence (vol. i., p. 212) as decided proof that Jerome held to the salvation of all, and that belief in the doctrine was general in the West. Nor is this the only passage in which Jerome advances these views.
On Eph. iv. 13 he says: “The question should arise, Who those are of whom he says that they all shall come in the unity of the faith? Does he mean all men, or all the saints, or all rational beings? He appears to me to be speaking of all men.” Other passages might be quoted in which these views are more fully developed. To be sure, in another place in this epistle he rejects as heretical the idea that all rational creatures shall be changed into angels, and that, at the restitution of the world, every creature shall become just what he was when first created. This he understood as implying that Satan would be restored to his old position as head of the universe. But these ideas are not essential to the system of universal restoration. And his general views as to universal salvation, just stated, he has nowhere retracted.
On Eph. iv. 10 he says: “The Son of God therefore descended into the lower parts of the earth, and ascended above all heavens, that he might not only fulfill the law and prophets, but also other secret dispensations which he alone understands with the Father. For we cannot understand how the blood of Christ benefited the angels, and those who were in the infernal regions (in inferno), and yet we cannot but know that it did benefit them. He descended to those in the infernal regions (inferos), and ascended to heaven that he might fill those who were in those regions, according as they were able to receive him. From which we should learn that, before Christ descended and ascended, all were empty and needed his fullness.”
On Gal. iv. 1 he says “that heir who is a child who in nothing differs from a servant though he be Lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time fixed by his father, signifies the whole human race, even to the coming of Christ, and, that I may express myself more fully, even to the consummation of the world. For as all in Adam though not yet born die, so even all those who were born before the coming of Christ are made alive. And so it comes to pass that we were servants under the law in our fathers, and they shall be saved by grace in their sons. The coming of Christ is regarded as designed for the perfection of the human race. For as soon as he has come and we all have grown up to a perfect man the tutor and schoolmaster depart.” This agrees with what he says on Eph. iv. 4, “one hope of your calling,” he says:
“The question is raised how there is one hope of our calling when with the Father are different mansions. To which we reply that the one hope of our calling is the kingdom of heaven, which is as it were one house of God the Father, and that in this house are various mansions, for there is one glory of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars, or certainly the following idea is indicated more accurately and acutely, that, in the end and consummation of the universe, all things are to be restored into their original harmonious state, and we all shall be made one body and be united once more into a perfect man, and the prayer of our Saviour shall be fulfilled, that all may be one” (John xvii. 21).
These passages may be the ones referred to by Neander when he says that “from the want of a logical systematizing mind, Jerome, in making use of Origen in his Biblical commentaries, adopted several of his expositions which were of such a kind as to agree neither with his own other views of the faith, nor with the dominant Church, without deeming it necessary to utter a word of warning, until his attention had been directed by others to this opposition of views.”
But, even then, he did not retract these views, but only other views that Origen did not teach, namely, that all rational creatures shall be changed into angels, and that at the restitution of all things each being shall be what he was at first, e.g., Satan the head of the created universe.
The truth probably is that Jerome, so far as these passages were concerned, always continued to believe with Origen. His comment on Gal. v. 22, which has been quoted, clearly intimates it. But he was afraid of Epiphanius and sensitive as to his reputation for orthodoxy. He therefore repudiated certain things falsely charged by Epiphanius on Origen, to satisfy him, and left the passages exhibiting his real sentiments unaltered.
I think that Dr. Ballou is correct also in supposing (p. 229) that in finally resorting to a modified form of future eternal punishment for the devil and his angels, and persistent assailants of Christianity, and malignant blasphemers, leaving all others to be saved by purgation through suffering, temporary, but long-continued if necessary, he was simply interposing a shield against his assailants, while notwithstanding in his heart he believed with Origen. There is nothing in his theory of morals, or in his actual course in controversies, to forbid this view. Of him Dr. Schaff says: “With all his gifts, he was not free from faults, as glaring as his virtues are shining, which disturb our due esteem and admiration. He lacked depth of mind and character, delicate sense of truth, and firm and strong convictions. He allowed himself inconsistencies of every kind, especially in his treatment of Origen, and, through solicitude for his own reputation of orthodoxy, he was unjust to that great teacher to whom he owed so much” (ii., 971).
Probably it will surprise many more to hear that the learned Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history, was a universal restorationist. But it is not strange. He was an admirer of Origen, and taught with him in the seminary at Cesarea, and with Pamphilus published a labored defense of him in six books, five of which have been unfortunately lost; yet Dr. Ballou dares not claim him, and things that we cannot decide what his opinions were.
But Eusebius clearly sets them forth, “De Ecc. Theol.” (Migne vi., p. 1030). There, speaking on 1 Cor. xv. 28, he says, in effect, that “if the subjection of the Son to the father means union with him, then the subjection of all to the Son means union with him.” He then thus proceeds: “As the apostle when he said all shall be subjected to the Son did not mean union of essence, but obedience flowing from free-will, together with the honor and glory which all give him as the Saviour, and King of all, in the same way his subjection to the Father means nothing else than the glory, and honor, and veneration, and exaltation, and voluntary subjection, which he is to give to God the Father, when he has made all worthy of his paternal Godhead. For, so long as they are not worthy of this, he, anticipating the future as a common Saviour of all, administers a kingdom restorative of the imperfect and curative of those who need healing.”
The nerve of the argument of Origen, on the same passage, is this: As the same word is used to denote the voluntary subjection of the Son to the Father, that is used to denote the subjection of all things to Christ, it follows that this subjection to Christ is voluntary and not forced. Nor is the word adapted to express a forced subjection. Hence, all will be finally brought to a voluntary subjection to Christ. Eusebius reasons on essentially the same principle. If the subjection of the Son to the Father means voluntary union with him, then the subjection of all to the Son implies voluntary union with him, and if so all will be ultimately restored from sin to holiness, by him, as he more fully states.
He states (p. 1031) the same principle and its results in a still more striking manner: “Christ is to subject all things to himself. We ought to conceive of this as such a salutary subjection as that by which the Son will be subjected to him, who subjects all to him. We ought to believe that he will effect a subjection ineffable, indescribable, and befitting him alone, when he shall present to God, even the Father, those subjected to himself, collecting them like a heavenly choir ascribing to him glory and honor and salvation and majesty, who is the source and cause of all good things.”
This illustrious man was Bishop of Cyprus, A.D. 423-447, and, as Dr. Schaff says (vol. ii., Section 162), “was formed upon the writings of Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia,” those great teachers of universal restoration. He also published a defense of them, which is lost. It is not wonderful, then, that he should adopt their views. That he did may be seen in his comment on the celebrated passage 1 Cor. xv. 28:
“That God may be all in all. Now, by nature, God is everywhere, for he has a nature that cannot be circumscribed, and in him we live and move and have our being, as says the divine apostle. But he is not in all by complacency. For he is pleased with those who fear him and hope in his mercy. And yet, even in these, he is not all. For no one is free from pollution (Ps. cxlii. 2, and cxxx. 3). But in the future life, corruption ceasing, and immortality being conferred, the passions have no place, and these being removed, no kind of sin is committed. So from that time God is all in all, when all freed from sin and turned to him shall have no inclination to evil.”
We see here the view of Theodore of Mopsuestia as to the two states of man. In the first he sins, and learns the evil of sin. In the second he is raised above it, perfected, and established. In his tenth oration on “Providence” he twice refers to the cessation of the passions in a future state, and repeatedly extends the saving effects of the works of Christ to the whole human race. In his comments on Ephesians i. 10 and Hebrews ii. 9, are similar views. On Ephesians i. 10, he extends salvation and joy to the whole creation. In the Nestorian controversies, Theodoret suffered much persecution. His “Ecclesiastical History,” in the judgment of Dr. Schaff, is the most valuable continuation of that of Eusebius. He also wrote commentaries and theological works. As a bishop, he had no ambition but to perform the duties of his office irreproachably, and especially to take care of the poor. He did not aim to accumulate wealth. He purchased books, but, beyond this, he devoted the revenues of his see to the public good.
This is the name of an author who wrote commentaries on the epistles of Paul, of decided merit, and which are published in the works of Ambrose. His real name is unknown. Hence he derives his name from Ambrose. In the commentary on 1 Cor. xv. 28, he says: “This is implied in the Son’s subjecting himself to the Father; this is involved in God’s being all in all; namely, when every creature learns that Christ is their head, and that god the Father is the head of Christ. Then God the Father is all in all. This implies that every creature thinks one and the same thing, so that every tongue of celestials, terrestrials, and infernals, shall confess God as the great one from whom all things are derived.” These views he frequently repeats.
As to Ambrose himself he appears to have adopted the limited doctrine of eternal punishment put forth by Jerome. The devil and his angels, blasphemers, and stubborn infidels, shall be punished forever. The rest, in various ways and at various times, shall be purged and saved.
This beautiful and noble woman was the sister of Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great. She was engaged to be married to one whom she tenderly loved, and, as he died before their marriage, she lived, from fidelity to him, a single life, in religious retirement. She exercised a great and benign influence on her brothers, and Gregory of Nyssa, in one of his works, disclosed his system on final restoration, in which she fully agreed with him, through her. He introduces her as uttering his views, which were also her own. The prayer that she uttered in death has been handed down, and is heart-thrilling and sublime. Her Christian character was eminent, and her influence great, and she was canonized as a saint.
This learned and eminent man was a presbyter of Cesarea in Palestine. He was wealthy, and devoted his means to founding a theological school in Cesarea, in which Origen taught after he left Alexandria. He also established a valuable library there, and copied for it, with his own hand, the works of Origen, of whom he was an ardent admirer and follower. He wrote a defense of him in connection with Eusebius, his devoted friend. To this Eusebius added a sixth book. Of this work only the first volume is extant. So ardent was the love of Eusebius for Pamphilus that he added his name to his own, Eusebius Pamphilus. There is no reason to doubt that he believed in the doctrine of universal restoration, although so large a portion of his writings have perished that we cannot prove it by extracts.
Names Less Known.
In addition to those thus far characterized, there are two classes who deserve notice: one, of those who were believers in universal restoration, though not extensively known as such; the other, of those who in all probability were such. It will not be possible to give a detailed account of these two classes. But to complete the outline of the state of that system, and to give the shades of the picture, their names should be mentioned.
In the first class come Titus, Bishop of Bostra, who was eminent from 360 to 370, and probably earlier; Ambrosius, a convert of Origen in Alexandria, who aided him by his wealth to compose his works, and was his intimate friend; Evagrius Ponticus, Archdeacon of Constantinople, and anathematized by the Fifth General Council for having taught universal restoration; F. M. Victorinus, a converted rhetorician of Rome, 350 to 370 (he agreed with Gregory of Nyssa – he also defended the Trinity); Domitian, Bishop of Galatia, who briefly but powerfully defended Origen and universal restoration.
In the second class come the intimate friends, scholars, and admirers of Origen, who have not left on record a full expression of their views. In this class come the celebrated Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Noecesarea, a convert and a scholar of Origen, and his panegyrist, his brother, Athenodorus, who was also a student under Origen, and afterward a bishop in Pontus; Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem; Heraclas, Origen’s convert, and assistant and successor in the school of Alexandria, and Bishop of Alexandria; Firmilian, Bishop of Cesarea, a scholar of Origen, who afterward visited him in Palestine, and invited him into his own province to preach and teach; Palladius, a Bishop of Asia minor; and John, Bishop of Jerusalem, who defended Origen against Epiphanius. Because positive evidence cannot be obtained in written declarations, these are not stated decidedly to be universalists; and yet in every case moral and circumstantial evidence leaves no rational doubt of the fact.
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