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The Larger Faith

The Larger Faith

A Short History of American Universalism

A Short History of American Universalism

Author: Charles A. Howe

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Covers the history of American Universalism from the first gatherings in 1793 of people who called themselves "Universalists," to the consolidation in 1961 with the American Unitarian Association to present-day Unitarian Universalism. Includes bibliography, appendices and an index.
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Chapter One: "Not Hell, But Hope" John Murray and the Rise of Universalism in America, 1770-1793

Chapter Two: "The Doctrine of Atonement Made Rational" A Transition in Theology and Leadership, 1794-1817

Chapter Three: "The Prominent Heresy of Our Times" Hosea Ballou and Universalist Growth, 1818-1845

Chapter Four: "To Begin a Better State of Things" Confronting the Problems of the Times, 1846-1869

Chapter Five: "No Doctrine Not Clearly Taught in the Bible" The Denomination Grows Conservative, 1870-1892

Chapter Six: "Improve the Property or Move Off the Premises" The Struggle Back to Liberalism, 1893-1918

Chapter Seven: "We Do Not Stand, We Move" The Search for a New Identity, 1919-1944

Chapter Eight: "A Circumscribed Universalism Is Unthinkable" A New Identity Emerging, 1945-1960

Chapter Nine: "A Bold, Fresh Enterprise of the Liberal Spirit" Universalism's Contribution to the Merged Movement, 1961-1993

When John Murray arrived in Oxford that September of 1793, it had been exactly twenty-three years since he arrived in the New World, having left England to start a new life for himself after a series of personal tragedies-excommunication from the Methodist Church, the deaths of his son and wife, and a term in debtor's prison. Murray, who had been a lay preacher before his expulsion from the church for his universalist ideas, had become thoroughly disenchanted with institutional religion and had determined never to preach again, but an amazing set of circumstances intervened.

First, the ship on which he had taken passage ran aground on a sandbar off the coast of New Jersey, and Murray went ashore to look for provisions. There he met a farmer named Thomas Potter, an uneducated but deeply religious man who had built a chapel on his property and invited itinerant ministers to preach there, hoping to hear a message that he could wholeheartedly accept. On learning that Murray had once done some preaching, Potter invited him to deliver a sermon the following Sunday. Murray at first refused but gave in to Potter's persistent urging and accepted, provided that the wind did not change first and blow the ship off the sandbar. Potter assured him that it would not, and indeed the wind held steady. Murray's sermon on universal grace, delivered to Potter and his neighbors on September 30, 1770, was evidently exactly the one Potter had long been waiting to hear, and its effect on Murray himself was likewise profound-by the time he had finished, his reservations about preaching were gone forever. Soon after the service was over, a sailor came from the ship with the news that the wind had just changed direction, and the ship was off the sandbar and ready to sail. Potter and Murray both regarded their chance meeting and the postponement of the wind's change as a sign of God's Providence-it was perhaps the only miracle in Universalist history! Murray sailed on to New York City, preached there to an enthusiastic congregation, and was soon traveling up and down the northeastern seaboard, sowing the seeds of Universalism wherever he went.

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