In this article, based on a lecture at the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage at Regent Park College in Oxford in 2011, Robin Parry in detail describes the life and theology of the important Universal Baptist preacher and abolitionist Elhanan Winchester.
From the introduction:
“Baptists are not known for their universalism. With a few notable exceptions it is fair to say that Baptists have maintained the traditional mainstream rejection of universalism. And it has always been thus; or, perhaps more accurately, it has mostly been thus. When we look back to the eighteenth century we find that, in fact, universalism became quite a dividing issue within the Baptist movement, both in Britain and in America. We discover several Baptist ministers embracing universalism and several Baptist churches becoming overtly universalist in sentiment. The movement towards universalism was eventually diverted out of the Baptist mainstream. In America the universalist congregations moved to set up their own independent denomination and thus effectively flushed themselves out of the Baptist movement—although, to be more precise, the move was a combination both of jumping after being pushed. In Britain universalist congregations were almost all associated with the General Assembly, a prominent part of eighteenth-century Baptist life, but during the nineteenth century it faded in significance and the future Baptist movement was to flow from the New Connexion of General Baptists and the Particulars, both streams of which explicitly resisted universalism. Thus the Baptists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were, with only a few exceptions, non-universalists. And the exceptions that we do find, such as Rev. Samuel Cox (1826–93) 2 —author of Salvator Mundi; Or Is Christ the Saviour of All Men? (1877) and The Larger Hope (1883)—do not appear to have drawn inspiration from their universalist Baptist predecessors. Thus it was that the universalist stirrings within the eighteenth-century Baptist movement ceased to trouble the waters of subsequent Baptist life. But the story is interesting and worth being told. This paper does not aim to tell it but rather to offer a window on it through the story of one of its most significant figures, Elhanan Winchester (1751–97). Winchester served as a universalist preacher in Baptist contexts in both America and Britain. As such he provides an interesting case study through which we can gain some insight into this transatlantic controversy.”
Download the article here (pdf).
Thanks to Robin Parry for letting me post his article.
A shorter version of the article can be found in All Shall be Well.