The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


VIII. Lesser Lights Support Testimony of Major Witnesses

And now, for the record, brief allusion should be made concerning certain typical, less prominent characters who likewise testified in behalf of Conditionalism, and against eternal torment. Although not so well known, here are nine, for example, scattered over the century: CFF2 239.2

(1) JOHN PITTS, Anglican presbyter, wrote anonymously (but clearly identified), on the theme, The Holy Spirit the Author of Immortality, or Immortality a Peculiar Grace of the Gospel, no Natural Ingredient of the Soul: proved from the Holy Scriptures, and Fathers against Mr. Clark’s Bold Assertion of the Soul’s Natural Immortality .... By a Presbyter of the Church of England (1708). At the outset of the century he contends that man is “designed for immortality,” but “only as the condition of his obedience, and the reward of it.” CFF2 239.3

(2) JOHN JACKSON (fl. 1735-1747), Anglican rector of Roffington and master of Wigston’s Hospital in Leicester, made his contribution with A Dissertation on Matter and Spirit: with some Remarks on a Book (by A. Baxter) entitled, Enquiry into the Nature of the humane Soul (1735); and Belief of a Future State (1745). He explicitly denies the soul can “exist and act” without the body. CFF2 239.4

(3) JOHN LELAND (1691-1766), learned Nonconformist minister and writer on eschatology, constructively discussed A State of Future Rewards and Punishments (1764); and Discourses (four volumes, 1769). Volume four is on How Christ has abolished Death, and brought Life and Immortality to light—both soundly Conditionalist. CFF2 240.1

(4) DR. BENJAMIN DAWSON (1729-1814), Scottish philologist and divine, was educated at Kendal and Glasgow. He was first a Presbyterian minister of London, then became an Anglican rector in Suffolk. He issued several works in defense of the noted Conditionalists Archdeacon Blackburne and Bishop Law, including pertinent Remarks on ... the State of the Soul after Death (1765). CFF2 240.2

(5) JOHN ALEXANDER (fl. 1736-1765), Presbyterian minister and commentator, and reputedly one of the best Greek scholars of his day, published A Paraphrase upon the Fifteenth Chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1766), dealing with “Man’s Mortality.” Immortality is a “gift.” CFF2 240.3

(6) GEORGE CLARKE (fl. 1789-1792) wrote A Vindication of the Honor of God: in a Scriptural Refutation of the Doctrines of Eternal Misery, and Universal Salvation (1792). Here he effectively maintains the destruction of the wicked by fire, not endless punishing. Immortality is, according to Scripture, only for the penitent and obedient. CFF2 240.4

(7) WILLIAM KENRICK, of Dublin, issued The Grand Question Debated; or an Essay to prove that the Soul of Man is not, neither can it be, Immortal (1751). It too was a clear Conditionalist voice heard in Ireland. CFF2 240.5

(8) JOHN MARSOM (fl. 1794) effectively answered two critics, the first with The Universal Restoration of Mankind examined and proved to be a Doctrine Inconsistent with itself, ... and Subversive of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1794), 39 and the second with The Scripture Doctrine of Future Punishment Defended (1795). He flatly rejects the doctrine of never-ending misery and torment, maintaining that every unrepentant sinner will be “destroyed,” and that there will be no resurrection of such from the “second death.” CFF2 240.6

(9) JOHN TOTTIE (fl. 1772), canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and archdeacon of Worcester, in his Sermons, preached before the University of Oxford (1772), strongly opposes the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul. He rejects the position of the philosophers and stresses the resurrection as the gateway to immortality. 40 CFF2 241.1

Allusion should also be made to Goadby’s Bible (1759), in three volumes, published in London, for in the notes the editors advocate eternal life only in Christ and destruction for all the finally impenitent wicked. These are samples of a widespread rejection of Immortal-Soulism among the less-known clergy of various faiths. 41 So, notwithstanding the preponderant philosophical view of the immortality of the soul, the voice of Conditionalism was not only reverberating in Britain but echoing on the Continent. Even in North America an anonymous work appeared at the close of the century—Observations ... that the Soul is Inactive and Unconscious from Death to the Resurrection, derived from Scripture (New York: 1795. CFF2 241.2