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The Great Salvation Contemplated

James Relly (1722–1778) was a Welshman, Methodist minister and Universalist theologian. The central idea in Relly’s theology was that the atonement and justification must be understood in terms of humanity’s union with Christ. All have died and been made righteous in Christ’s death and resurrection.

This theology is presented in a mature and accessible form in Relly’s Epistles: Or, the Great Salvation Contemplated, from 1776. The book’s epistles are apparently written in response to quarrels in a congregation connected to Relly. Relly’s response portrays a mind that prioritizes peace and harmony over doctrinal purity. Like his younger contemporary, Elhanan Winchester, Relly seeks to mediate between Calvinism and Arminianism by posing a soteriological universalism. Relly does not state this belief dogmatically. Jesus Christ is the center of faith. But we can hope that Christ will eventually save all for whom he died, as all human beings come to realize that in him they have been reconciled to God once and for all.

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