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Art . II . Discourses an UniversalRcstitntion , delivered to the Society of Protestant Dissenters in Lewins Mead , Bristol . By John Prior Estlin , LLu D . 8 vo . pp . 211 . Longman and Co . 1813 . Whilst the subject and the arguments of this work were under
discussion in our last volume , we thought it scarcely decorous to bring the Discourses under our . own review : they are too important however to be passed over , though after the investigation which they have undergone , we may content ourselves with a cursory notice .
The Discourses are the familiar addresses of an aged pastor to his flock , on a topic of supreme importance , to which his attention and zeal have been lately directed ; hence they discover a confidence and urgency of manner which viewed in any other light would be scarcely pleasing , but to the same circumstance must be attributed
the simplicity , pathos and eloquence with which so many passages in them abound . Dr . Estlin was brought over to the doctrine of Universal Restitution by his friend the late much-lamented and reverend Rochemont Barbauld * , whose almost unceasing remonstrances forced him to
re-consider the subject and to contemplate it in all its bearings and connexions ( p . 71 . ) His zeal , indeed , points him out as a new convert : but , at the same time , the hypothesis which he asserts is so beautiful and cheering , reflects so much glory on the universal Father and sheds such beams of
comfort and joy upon the condition of the children of men , that it seems impossible that any one should hold it with indifference . 4 Passion is reason , transport temper here . ' There may be enthusiasm , but it is surely an amiable , nay more , a noble enthusiasm in the preacher ' s estimate of his favourite doctrine ( p . 203 ) .
" Jt appears to me be a part of the plan of divine providencc , the whole of which is founded in infinite wisdom , that the doctrine of final salvation should at this period of the Christian Church be revived ) « . T particularly adapted to the cure of those moral disorders which prevuil in the world y
* For ah account of Mr . Barbauld from a pen capable of doing" justice to the subject , see M . Renos . Vol . lii . pp , 706—709 .
Universal happiness must be allowed to lie the best proof of infinite love , and what sentiment is so powerful in the excitement of practical benevolence as the persuasion that the author of ail things is the Father and the Friend of his reasonable
creatures ? Were this conviction generally and deeply felt , there \ yould be little bigotry , persecution or war . It is a consolatory fact that the doctrine at least of eternal torment * has been losing ground since the Reformation . The Reformers inherited
it from the Church of Rome , and might assert it with the more vehemence and apply it the more largely in order to shew their opposition to purgatory , a state of remedial pain : but Dr . Estlin suggests ( p . 50 . note ) that the most convincing evidence we have of even Calvin ' s
habitual belief of it is his burning Servetus ! The tremendous doctrine is certainly not contained in the Articles of the Church of England : it was asserted in the Forty-two Articles , settled in the reign of Edward the
Sixth , but was happily rejected when the number of Articles was reduced to Thirty-nine ( p . 16 , . 17 ) . In the Athanasian Creed it may indeed be implied , but it would be unjust to determine the faith of the National
Church from a formulary , of which all its enlightened and liberal members have long been ashamed . The most zealous advocates of the doctrine are to be found amongst the Methodists ; but the zeal of most of them has of late cooled upon this point , and not a few of them embrace the
opinion of final happiness to all . On what other supposition , can they maintain the ultimate triumphs of divine grace , the efficacy of the cross of Christ , and the fulfilment of the prophecy , that in the Messiah shall * all the families of the earth be blessed' !
Dr . Estlin wonders and grieves that the advocates of destruction or annihilation ( the words differ , but the thing is the same , ) should have been chiefly Unitarians : but surely this doctrine is infinitely preferable to that of eternal pains and penalties . We remember the time when our
escape from the scheme of the Assembly ' s Catechism to this moderate system , filled us with inexpressible joy : we had landed upon solid ground , after being lozig vexed upon a sea
54 Review . ~ -+ Estliri s Discoures on Universal Restitution .
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1815, page 54, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1756/page/54/