From Destructiontionist to Restorationist:
The Religious Evolution of Rev. Adin Ballou
Adin Ballou was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island in 1803. He was a descendant of Maturin
Ballou, a Huguenot who was with Roger Williams at the time of the founding of Rhode Island.
Adin went to school about three months a year until he was fifteen and then went to Dean
Academy in Franklin for a few months.
In 1813, during a period referred to as the Second Great Awakening, Ballou's parents joined a
newly organized faith called the Christian Connexion. (The Spann book, Hopedale: Commune to
Company Town, uses this spelling. I've seen it elsewhere as "Connection.") A common argument
of the time involved the fate of sinners. Many rejected the idea of Hell, and questioned why God
would create billions of souls, while knowing that many (most?) of them were to suffer eternal
punishment. Some felt that all would be saved while members of the Christian Connexion
thought that, rather than being punished, the souls of the sinners would be destroyed. This view
became known as "Destructionism."
At the age of seventeen, engaged to Abby Sayles and with no particular career in mind, Ballou
began giving some thought to the ministry but was evidently not totally sold on the idea. One
night, however, he had a vision of his dead brother, Cyrus, saying, "God commands you to preach
the Gospel of Christ to your fellow man." Soon after, he preached a sermon at the local meeting-
house where his father was a deacon, and shortly later he became its minister.
Several years went by and Ballou became the defender of the local Destructionists. As he
debated the merits of the idea with the Universalists, he eventually became convinced that he was
wrong and they were right. This, of course, led to his dismissal by the Christian Connexion
congregation. Ballou joined the Universalists and spent a brief but somewhat lively period as a
once a month preacher in Bellingham.
In 1823, at the age of twenty, he became the Universalist minister in Milford. While he didn't
believe in eternal damnation, neither did he believe that the souls of the sinners were to be let off
easy. He felt there would be a time of punishment for those who deserved it, followed by salvation.
While in Milford, three weeks after the birth of their second child, Abby died. A year later Ballou
married Lucy Hunt.
Most Universalists of the time believed in universal salvation without punishment but as time
went on, Ballou became more vocal in his opinion that sinners would be punished before being
restored to their rightful place in Heaven. Those who held this view were referred to as
Restorationists. In 1830, Ballou began publishing The Independent Messenger, a Restorationist
weekly newspaper. Within a month, he was fired from the Milford church.
Before long, Ballou's Restorationism as well as his other liberal religious beliefs led to his
appointment as minister of the First Congregational (Unitarian) Church in Mendon. He remained
there until his move to Hopedale in 1842. During his time in Mendon in the 1830s, Ballou
gradually increased his interest in the various causes of the era. These included opposition to
smoking (after a successful struggle to give it up himself) and alcohol, promotion of moral reform,
women's rights, non-resistance, Practical Christian socialism and, above all, abolitionism. In
1841, these ideals became the basis for the formation of the Hopedale Community.
In The History of the Hopedale Community, writing of the year 1867, Ballou states, "The end of the
Community was now at hand. That consummation was hastened by the formation of what was
called The Hopedale Parish; a name which the organization still bears. The reason for this new
movement can be briefly stated and easily apprehended. With the advance of time the
disproportion between the number of Community members resident at Hopedale and non-
members had so greatly increased that the latter were largely in the majority. And yet they had no
voice whatever in the management of matters pertaining to the activities and institutions of
religion, in which they took more or less an interest, and for the maintenance of which they were
year by year asked to contribute. There was an inequality in this which arrested attention -- a
wrong which the common moral judgement recognized and affirmed ought to be righted.
"Measures were therefore initiated looking to some change in the administration of religious
affairs... These resulted in the organization on the 27th of October, 1867, of an association
bearing the before mentioned name, under a Constitution setting forth its origin, its relations to
the Community, its functions, and general mode of administration. This new body, which three
months later, with myself as Pastor, was admitted to "The Worcester Conference of
Congregational (Unitarian) and other Christian Societies," entered directly upon the execution of
its proper work, the responsibilities and duties of which were cheerfully transmitted to it by the
Community, and as cheerfully assumed on its part. The formal act of transmission took place at
the Annual Community Meeting held Jan. 8, 1868.
Ballou died in Hopedale on August 5, 1890.
Most of the above is a summary of Edward Spann's From Commune to Company Town, pp. 3-
9. The "end of the Community" paragraph, as stated, is from Ballou's The History of the
Hopedale Community, pp. 333 - 334.
Hopedale Community was founded upon Ballou’s Universalist beliefs about Christianity. He
believed that Jesus Christ had made it possible for people to live a good life on Earth and so this
community was instituted to be an example of this life. The Christian lifestyle at Hopedale was
more concerned with equality, love and sharing than it was about the dogmas of religion. In his
book, Practical Christian Socialism, Ballou outlines the principles of theology, righteousness and
I. Principles of Theological Truth
2. The mediatorial manifestation of God through Christ.
3. Divine revelations and inspirations given to men.
4. The immortal existence of human and angelic spirits.
5. The moral agency and religious obligation of mankind.
6. The certainty of a perfect divine retribution.
7. The necessity of man’s spiritual regeneration.
8. The final universal triumph of good over evil.
II. Principles of Personal Righteousness.
2. Self-denial for righteousness’ sake.
3. Justice to all beings.
4. Truth in all manifestations of mind.
5. Love in all spiritual relations.
6. Purity in all things.
7. Patience in all right aims and pursuits.
8. Unceasing progress towards perfection.
III. Principles of Social Order
2. The universal Brotherhood of Man.
3. The declared perfect love of God to Man.
4. The required perfect love of Man to God.
5. The required perfect love of Man to Man.
6. The required just reproof and disfellowship of evildoers.
7. The required non-resistance of evildoers with evil.
8. The designed unity of the righteous.
For much more on Ballou, click here to go to a biography on the Unitarian-Universalist site.
Adin Ballou Park Ballou Home Hopedale Community Menu HOME
Hopedale streets. In 1900 it was moved to 64 Dutcher Street, across from
the town park. The original house lot is now the site of Adin Ballou Park.
Ballou's house in Mendon: 1831 - 1842
on Hopedale Street between Freedom and Chapel streets.
Hopedale Unitarian Church. It served as the Practical Christian
Church until 1868, when it became the Unitarian Church.
This article is from Perry MacNevin's collection of
Hopedale history items. It appears to be from the
Milford Daily News. It seems likely that t was written by
Gordon Hopper, but it's also possible that it was done
by Peter Hackett.
Thanks to Rev. Patricia Hatch for sending this picture
of the Ballou home in Cumberland. It's from Adin
Ballou's Elaborate History of the Ballous in America.