Loveland, Samuel

Samuel LovelandSamuel Chapman Loveland (August 25, 1787-April 8, 1858) was a Universalist minister, scholar, educator and pioneer religious journalist. Many of the ministers he trained went on to become teachers and editors. His unquestioned loyalty and commitment to the denomination allowed him to take active part in the Restorationist controversy while remaining on good terms with both sides. He had the moral authority to bring the crisis to a close, not by any specific action, but through the esteem in which he was held, especially by his former students.

Born in Gilsum, a small town near Keene, New Hampshire, Samuel was the son of Israel and Sally (Chapman) Loveland. When he was about seven, his parents were converted to Universalism by the preaching of Elhanan Winchester. His formal education was typical for children of New England farm families, common school followed by one term at an academy.

As part of a private program in preparation for the ministry, with the aid of books borrowed from a neighbor, Loveland learned to read Latin and Greek. He then set himself the task of reading the New Testament in Greek. At first, he later recalled, it took him half a day to decipher one verse. Persevering, he discovered that a remarkable aptitude for languages. Later in life he claimed a reading knowledge of eleven ancient and modern languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon. In 1828 he published a Greek lexicon of New Testament, for which he received an M.A. from Middlebury College, the first honorary degree awarded to a Universalist minister.

Loveland was accepted into fellowship as a Universalist preacher in 1812. He began preaching in the area around his home in southern New Hampshire and was ordained at the General Convention in 1814. His first settlement was in Barnard, Vermont, 1816-19. In 1817 he married Eunice Stow, whose tailoring business income made his largely unremunerated rural ministry possible. The couple had nine children, of whom one, Elhanan Winchester Loveland, became a Universalist minister.

In 1819 Loveland was called to serve the Universalist society of Reading, Vermont; he did so for 23 years. In Reading he established a “theological and classical school.” He prepared young men for careers in law and medicine as well as the Universalist ministry. Over the years he trained a dozen Universalist ministers, including William S. Balch, Orestes Brownson, Thomas J. Sawyer and Otis A. Skinner. He taught Greek, Latin, modern languages, history and mathematics as well as theology and moral philosophy. Believing in physical education as well as intellectual culture, he took his students on long walks in the hilly countryside and got them to help him on his farm.

In 1820 Loveland began publishing a bimonthly magazine, the Christian Repository. Only two Universalist periodicals preceded it, Hosea Ballou‘s Universalist Magazine and Elias Smith’s short-lived Herald of Life and Immortality, both begun in Boston the year before. Loveland intended his magazine to address “the destitute situation of many societies” in northern New England by providing a forum for the sharing of denominational news, apologetic strategies, sermons and Biblical scholarship. He impressed upon his ministerial students the importance of religious journalism. Seven of his students went on to edit Universalist periodicals.

In the first issue of the Christian Repository, Loveland made it clear that he would accept contributions from Universalists who did not share his theological views, and thus did not necessarily endorse all the ideas presented. “Each writer must consider himself accountable to the public for the ideas which he advances.” He reserved the right to criticize submissions that seemed to him to “disagree with the truth, and with themselves,” but he hoped the magazine would not be dominated by theological debate.

Loveland was no stranger to theological debate. A restorationist, he believed some form of discipline in the afterlife was necessary to make souls fit for salvation. He had defended his beliefs against both non-Universalists and “no-future-punishment” Universalists. The key concept in his theology was the Law of God, epitomized by the commandments to love God and one’s neighbor. No one could be considered saved “till he has the law of God written in his heart.” As this did not always happen in life, there must be some “future judgment” or “future accountability,” (terms he preferred to “punishment”), both to complete the fulfillment of the law and to reconcile the demands of mercy and justice. “Any punishment that is calculated to lead to love and obedience, is easily seen to be consistent with the requisitions of the divine law. The law may not only approve of such punishment, but . . . absolutely require it.”

Loveland was torn between his desire to proclaim his beliefs and his awareness that the issue could tear the denomination apart. Of his no-future-punishment colleagues he wrote, “I cannot profess to believe all their ideas. I must, therefore, preach differently or not at all; but not for contention, not for divisions, not for disfellowship.”

In the October, 1822, issue of the Christian Repository, Loveland expressed reservations about the controversy deteriorating into “mere strife,” and determined to bring the future punishment discussion to a close. Still, in the next issue he printed the articles—soon known as the “Appeal and Declaration”—which became the storm center of the Restorationist controversy. “It is better to open and investigate a difficulty,” he explained, “than attempt to smother what has already reached the public ear.”

Recriminations, investigations and disciplinary actions followed. Loveland felt himself in an awkward position. He had not signed the Appeal and Declaration and strenuously disagreed with the Declaration’s assertion that restorationism and no-future-punishment Universalism were incompatible. Yet he could not disassociate himself from the articles without standing accused—at least in his own mind—of deserting his fellow restorationists in their time of trouble. “If there is any guilt or blame in this thing,” he wrote “I am one of the aggressors as well as they. And if they are called to suffering on this account, let me have my share.”

On the whole, however, Universalists understood that Loveland, whatever his doctrinal views, was guilty of no “breach of fellowship,” the main charge leveled against the subscribers to the Appeal and Declaration. The eventual cessation of hostilities was partly due to the esteem in which Loveland was held, by Universalists of all parties.

In 1824 Loveland, his students, and another Vermont minister, Robert Bartlett, founded the New Hampshire Association (later the Merrimack River Association) to serve Universalists in southwestern New Hampshire and eastern Vermont. Over the next few years this group functioned as an informal Restorationist gathering and was attended by Appeal and Declaration signers Charles Hudson, Edward Turner, and Paul Dean.

In 1834 Loveland’s offer to write a commentary on New Testament was rudely rebuffed by the editor of the New Haven Examiner who wrote, “S. C. Loveland . . . who for some years past has been endeavoring to make himself notorious . . . very modestly offers to write a Commentary on the New Testament for the Universalists. . . We consider him unqualified in every respect for the undertaking. His peculiar views of doctrine are at variance with the great body of Universalists.”

In response, Loveland’s former pupil Dolphus Skinner wrote that while he had always blamed the Restorationists for the controversy, if they were treated as Loveland had been, “we shall cease to wonder at, or blame them.” According to Adin Ballou, writing much later, this incident “closed forever the ultra Universalist policy of making its peculiar ism the orthodoxy of the sect. From that day to this, Restorationism within the denomination has breathed freely.”

Loveland served in the Vermont state legislature, 1824-25 and 1827-28. (He did not, as is sometimes claimed, serve as Lt. Governor.) In 1824 he made a celebrated speech nominating his Universalist colleague Robert Bartlett as chaplain. Despite opposition from the orthodox, Bartlett was selected. When Bartlett, who had meanwhile joined the legislature himself, declined the honor, Loveland succeeded in getting another Universalist minister, John E. Palmer, elected chaplain. This official recognition of their clergymen by the legislature enhanced the respectability of Universalists in the state. Loveland served as Vermont councilor (state senator), 1831-33, assistant judge of Windsor County, 1832-33, and town clerk of Reading, 1833-35. In 1834 he ran for Congress on the Anti-Masonic ticket; he came in second with 25 percent of the vote.

After he left Reading, Loveland worked to build up struggling Universalist societies in Weston, Vermont, 1842-50, and Clarendon, Vermont, 1850-57; and South Hartford, New York, 1857. On his death he left a library of 1700 books to Canton Theological School.

There are research notes on Loveland by Mary Grace Canfield in the Unitarian Universalist minister files and a few letters to Edward Turner in the Edward Turner collection, both at Andover-Harvard Theological Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are also a few sermons, pamphlets etc. in the Lamont Library, also at Harvard. Other libraries with the microprint Shaw-Shoemaker Collection Early American Imprints will have available a number of Loveland sermons and lectures. In addition to the articles and sermons printed in the Christian Repository and in other religious newspapers, Loveland wrote A correspondence by letters, between Samuel C. Loveland, preacher of the doctrine of universal salvation, and Rev. Joseph Laberee, pastor of the Congregational Church and Society in Jericho, Vermont (1818), Six Lectures on Important Subjects (1819), and a Greek lexicon of the New Testament (1828).

There is no full-length biography of Loveland, or even a biographical sketch devoted entirely to him. Various bits of information were gleaned from Adin Ballou, “The Restorationist Secession,” The Universalist (25 Feb 1871); John G. Adams, Fifty Notable Years: Views of the Ministry of Christian Universalism during the Last Half Century (1883); Richard Eddy, Universalism in America (1884-86); Holmes Slade, The Life and Labors of the late William Stevens Balch (1888); Gilbert A. Davis, History of Reading, Windsor County, Vermont, vol. 2 (1903); Edith Fox Macdonald, Rebellion in the Mountains: The Story of Universalism and Unitarianism in Vermont (1976); and Russell E. Miller, The Larger Hope, vol. 1 (1979).

Article by Lynn Gordon Hughes
Posted August 7, 2002