Posted by: Democratic Thinker | January 23, 2014

Weekly Story: Knowles Shaw and the Universalists

Weekly Story

Knowles Shaw—evangelist and author of many hymns—talks to two young Universalists and their companions.

Sowing in the morning, Sowing seeds of kindness; Sowing in the noontide, And the dewy eves: Waiting for the harvest, And the time of reaping, We shall come rejoicing, Bringing in the sheaves.

Two Young Men, Universalists, Approaced.


HE [Knowles Shaw] rather avoided than provoked controversy, preferring to win by kindness than conquer by force. An instance of this occurred at Humboldt, Kansas, during one of his meetings there. Two young men, Universalists, approached him on the street, and said:

“We have heard, sir, that you are an able and bold defender of the Christian faith. Will you tell us what you think of hell? Is there such a place, where the wicked are tormented in fire forever and ever? We are very anxious to have that question settled, and we hope you will be able to give us some light upon it.”

Shaw fixed his eyes on the ground for a moment, as in deep thought, and then looking up, replied: “I shall preach to-night, in Young’s Hall, on Bridge Street, and as there may be others whose thoughts are turned in the same direction as yours, if you will come I will give my views on that subject, so that all may have the benefit of them.”

This pleased them, and they soon spread the report that Knowles Shaw was going to tell what he thought about hell that night; and the result was not only every seat, but all the standing-room, was occupied.

He took as his theme the “Christian Life,” and until nearly the close of the discourse did not make the slightest allusion to the subject that had brought so many there. At length he said: “Two young men accosted me on the street to-day and asked my opinion concerning hell. I promised to give it to-night, and, as they are here, I will proceed to do so. Within a few years past the angel of death has visited my family three times, taking one of my beloved children at each visit. I thought perhaps that the climate in which I lived had something to do with this fatality, and began to ask myself, May I not find a healthier region than where I now reside? I thought of my only daughter, her weakly constitution, her lack of vital force, and wondered if I could not find a more congenial climate, where she might be longer spared to me than I feared she would where we dwelt. I heard of Kansas, its broad prairies, its pure and healthful atmosphere. I asked every one I saw that had been there about its climate, water, and especially about its society; and the reports I heard were so favorable that I finally resolved to go. After I started, my anxiety increased, and I did not close my inquiries until I reached here. Now, why all that interest, all those inquiries? Simply because the thought of going there had taken full possession of my mind.

“About sixteen years ago I became dissatisfied with this world, its short-lived and fading pleasures, and raised the question, Is there not a better world than this? I was told that there was; that the name of that land was Heaven; that its capital was the New Jerusalem, whose streets were paved with gold; that its walls were jasper, and its gates pearl; that the river of life flowed through it; that it was a healthful clime; no sickness nor sorrow there; that its society was pure, composed of the best that the earth had ever known; and that I should be happy forever if I could enter there. The testimony was good; it came from the Son of God; Jesus had left the courts of glory, and came all the way to this sinful world of ours to tell us of his Father’s house, with its many mansions; and then went back, after sealing the testimony with his blood, to prepare a place for us. I believed the testimony; and having a desire to better my condition, I started with a genuine ticket, stamped with, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ I have been traveling in that direction ever since, making inquiries of the Book of God all the way. The nearer I get the clearer are the directions; and I am so fully persuaded that it is the best country to which a man can journey that I am constantly telling others all I know about it, and trying to get them to go with me to share its joys. As to that other country, about which those young men are so anxious to hear, I must say that I have heard of it, but the reports were so very unfavorable that I concluded it was not as good a country, and perhaps much worse than this; and as I never thought of emigrating unless it were to a better country, and to better my condition, I have thought but little about it, as I have not the least intention or desire to go there. I have therefore determined to spend my time in setting forth the glories of the better country, of heaven. We want you all to go with us; we want bold and true soldiers; hell-scared ones don’t amount to much, unless you can manage to keep them scared all the way.” The answer was satisfactory—there was no reason for wishing to hear more about hell.

—William Baxter, Life of Knowles Shaw (1879).



Related posts:


Songbooks by Knowles Shaw.