Hosea Ballou (April 30, 1771 – June 7, 1852) was an American Universalist clergyman and theological writer.
Hosea Ballou was born in Richmond, New Hampshire, to a family of possibly Huguenot origin, but now believed more likely to be related to a Ballou who came to England with the Norman Conquest in 1066. The son of Maturin Ballou, a Baptist minister, he was self-educated, and devoted himself early on to the ministry. In 1789 he converted to Universalism, and in 1794 became a pastor of a congregation in Dana, Massachusetts. Ballou was also a high-ranking freemason, and he attained the position of Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire in 1811.
He preached at Barnard, Vermont and surrounding towns in 1801—1807; at Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1807—1815; at Salem, Massachusetts in 1815—1817; and as pastor of the Second Universalist Church in Boston from December 1817 until his death there.
He founded and edited The Universalist Magazine (1819—later called The Trumpet), and The Universalist Expositor (1831—later The Universalist Quarterly Review), and wrote about 10,000 sermons as well as many hymns, essays and polemic theological works. He is best known for Notes on the Parables (1804), A Treatise on Atonement (1805) and Examination of the Doctrine of a Future Retribution (1834). These works mark him as the principal American expositor of Universalism.
Ballou married Ruth Washburn; children included Maturin Murray Ballou.
Ballou has been called the "father of American Universalism," along with John Murray, who founded the first Universalist church in America. Ballou, sometimes called an "Ultra Universalist," differed from Murray in that he divested Universalism of every trace of Calvinism, and opposed legalism and trinitarian views. As he wrote, "Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit."
Ballou also preached that those forms of Chistianity that emphasized God as wrathful in turn hardened the hearts of their believers:
"It is well known, and will be acknowledged by every candid person, that the human heart is capable of becoming soft, or hard; kind, or unkind; merciful or unmerciful, by education and habit. On this principle we contend, that the infernal torments, which false religion has placed in the future world, and which ministers have, with an overflowing zeal, so constantly held up to the people, and urged with all their learning and eloquence, have tended so to harden the hearts of the professors of this religion, that they have exercised, toward their fellow creatures, a spirit of enmity, which but too well corresponds with the relentless cruelty of their doctrine, and the wrath which they have imagined to exist in our heavenly Father. By having such an example constantly before their eyes, they have become so transformed into its image, that, whenever they have had the power, they have actually executed a vengeance on men and women, which evinced that the cruelty of their doctrine had overcome the native kindness and compassion of the human heart."
Full article ▸