The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Scholars in 1800s Knew Early Church was Universalist?


While reading Wesley’s book on Universalism, he states that all of the authorities on the Church Fathers and/or the early Church say that it was mostly Universalist. I’ve read Beecher and it indeed seems he believes that to be true. And Wesley did, obviously. Can anyone give references to confirm that?


This author refers to Beecher and Ballou as “authorities” prior to Wesley:

“To examine Universal Salvation during the first 500 years of Christianity, the works of three scholars are indisputably the finest: Hosea Ballou II’s Ancient History of Universalism (1842), Edward Beecher’s History of Opinions on the Scriptural Doctrine of Retribution (1878), and John Wesley Hanson’s Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Church for its First 500 Years (1899). I have used all these resources but have broadened Universalist history to include 20 th Century discoveries and scholarship pertinent to Universalist Christianity.”

Those writings are from 119 to 176 years old. Since then other “authorities” have written on the subject.


“Renowned patristic historian J.N.D. Kelly unequivocally stated; “As regards the fate of the wicked…, the general view [of the early church fathers] was that their punishment would be eternal, without any possibility of remission. As Basil put it, in hell the sinful soul is completely cut off from the Holy Spirit, and is therefore incapable of repentance; while Chrysostom pointed out that neither the bodies of the damned, which will become immortal, nor their souls will know any end of their sufferings. Neither time nor friendship nor hope nor expectation of death, not even the spectacle of other unhappy souls sharing their lot, will alleviate their pains. Yet Basil has to confess that most ordinary Christians have been beguiled by the Devil into believing, against the manifest evidence of Scripture, that there will be a time-limit…The influence of Origen is clearly visible here, but by the fifth century the stern doctrine that sinners will have no second chance after this life and that the fir which will devour them will never be extinguished was everywhere paramount.” (Early Christian Doctrines; pp.483-484).”

“You can download a free PDF version of Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrine book at this link; thanks to Internet Archive.”