Rev. Joseph Stephens

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Rev. Joseph Stephens, whose parents are unknown, was born at North Carolina, about 1761.1 He died at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2 May 1847, in his 86th year.2,1

Joseph married Hannah Cook, daughter of Abiel Cook and Mary Thompson.3,2

Initially, Rev. Stephens was a baptist, serving as pastor at the baptist church of Freehold, but became a Universalist:
One new preacher, Rev. Joseph Stephens, pastor of the church at Shiloh, N. J., was in attendance. Mr. Stephens came to New Jersey in 1789 from Caswell County, N. C; and from the first of January in that year until April 3, 1793, was pastor of the Baptist church at Upper Freehold. On the last-named date he was " granted a letter of recommendation and dismission." July 22, the same year, the church at Upper Freehold "suspended him from Communion on accusations against him prior to the convention of the church ; and receiving a letter from him, when met, in which he declares his sentiments in favor of universal salvation," the suspension was to remain in force until he gives satisfaction"; and a "committee to wait upon Mr. Stephens to admonish him and cite him to attend upon the church at our next meet ing of business," was duly appointed. How long he remained at Shiloh, or continued to preach as a Universalist, we have not been able to learn. Many years after the close of his pastorate at Upper Freehold he taught school in that neighborhood. He died at Philadelphia, May 2, 1847, in the eighty-sixth year of his age.

In 1837 Mr. Stephens published a book designed to show the reader how to obtain wealth and be happy.1 In the closing part of the work, having spoken of the gospel as "unsearchable riches," he adds : —

"The great object of the Saviour upon his entering on the grand work of our redemption was to bruise the head of the serpent (see Gen. iii. 15). The bruise referred to must be considered mortal, from which he never was to recover. But prior to his dissolution he will be at the head of the rise and fall of empires ; his works of darkness will be known and practised through every part of the habitable globe. He has had great success in opposing the moral government of God. He has exceedingly corrupted the minds of the more wealthy part of creation, and stimulated his tens of thousands by fair promises, to rebel against their rightful Lord and Sovereign. But let us remember that the grand object of the Saviour's mission was to destroy the works of the devil (see 1 John iii. 8). ' For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.'

"What are we to understand by the works of the devil? Answer: All manner of works which may consist in thought, word, or deed opposed to the moral government of God.

"By what means are the works of the devil to be destroyed? Answer : By the word of God, which is contained in the Old and New Testaments. It is compared to a hammer which demolishes, or breaks into pieces ; to fire which consumes, to the wind more violent than a tornado, and to water, which allays thirst and purifies the heart. Sometimes the works of the devil are destroyed by judgments.

"Are there no other means employed to demolish the devil's temple ? Yes. As the devil has a great number of ministers in his service who are continually propagating lies, so it behooved the great Saviour of the world to nominate and qualify men to oppose and refute them out of the sacred writings. . . .

"But is it possible to destroy the devil ; is he not an infinite being ? Answer : I presume not, as that which is infinite cannot be destroyed. Notwithstanding he is said to be the prince of the power of the air, yet his influence is exceedingly limited ; he can't go beyond his chain. The devil will be permitted to rule in the hearts of the disobedient a certain period unknown ; but he will finally fall a victim with all his principalities and powers by the power of the destroying angel of the everlasting covenant. . . .

"A great part of the Christian world cannot believe that the object Christ had in view was to destroy the devil, because they read that a great fire was prepared for both him and his angels. How do they know but what this great fire spoken of was originally designed to destroy him ? It is very strange that Christians should be opposed to his destruction, when it is their daily prayer that his kingdom might be destroyed, and why not the king with it?" (Pages 151-155.)

After adducing citations from the Scriptures showing the purpose of God and the mission of Christ, he adds: —

"From the foregoing investigations of positive declarations spoken by our blessed Redeemer and his apostles, we learn this undeniable truth, that the great object our Saviour had in view was to save all for whom he gave his life a ransom from sin, connected with all its dangerous consequences. But we do not see as yet this great object accomplished ; still we are to believe that the great Saviour will accomplish the great and necessary work. And as this great salvation is to be brought about through the means which our Lord has devised and appointed, all the faithful heralds of the cross should arise and put on the armor of light." (p. 158).

1 The Great Workshop ; or, the Way to Amass Wealth and be Happy. Connected with the Way to Keep and Appropriate it, both " in a Temporal and Moral Sense, by Joseph Stephens. Philadelphia, 1837. 18mo. 214 pages.2,4

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Hannah Cook b. 30 Mar 1778
This person was last edited on26 Jul 2015


  1. [S2015] Richard Eddy, Universalism in America: A History (2 vols., Boston, Massachusetts: Universalist Publishing, 1884), 1:435, further cited as Eddy, Universalism in America.
  2. [S1994] William Nelson, New Jersey Biographical and Genealogical Notes From the Volumes of the New Jersey Archives with Additions and Supplements (1916; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1973), 77, further cited as Nelson, New Jersey Biographical and Genealogical Notes.
  3. [S80] George H. Cook, Notes for a Genealogy of the Family of Ellis Cook, of Southampton, L.I., N. Y. (New Brunswick, New Jersey: p.p., [1886]), 18, further cited as Cook, Notes for Ellis Cook.
  4. [S2015] Eddy, Universalism in America, 1:435-437.