Coming back on the train from Milton Keynes on Wednesday this week I read a sermon preached by Elhanan Winchester in 1782.
Don't switch off yet.
Winchester was a Baptist pastor who provoked some powerful indivudals in his church (First Baptist Church Philadelphia) because of his Christian universalism. This powerful minority took control of the building and dismissed him in 1781. Winchester and his supporters set up the Society of Universal Baptists and met in the Hall of the University of Pennsylvania. I just love the idea of universalist Baptists! How funny is that!
This sermon entitled "The Outcasts Comforted" from 1782 was preached to his congregation of universalist Baptists (sorry - I just had to say it again).
It is really fabulous. His gentle spirit, his pastoral concern, his strong biblical faith, his evangelical zeal and his passion for the God of the gospels comes across so clear. He also makes a pretty good case (given the space limits of a sermon) for the compatibility of universalism with orthodox evangelical faith. It is funny how his arguments anticipate arguments of later generations.
It made me think that if one was to follow the universalist road Winchester is a good role model to have.
(And, even more in his favour, is that he preached out of London from 1787-1794. A man of some taste perhaps?)