I was reading a post at Looking for Faith where its author quotes John Murray’s much-cited passage from his first sermon in America. You know the one — it is even in the gray hymnal:
Go out into the highways and byways of America, your new country. Give the people, blanketed with a decaying and crumbling Calvinism, something of your new vision. You may possess only a small light but uncover it, let it shine, use it in order to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men. Give them, not hell, but hope and courage. Do not push them deeper into their theological despair, but preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.
I’ve preached about this text more times than I care to remember. But one thing nags at me: where does this quotation come from? I mean, what primary source is there from which we can attribute this quotation. Or, what is the earliest secondary source we have.
I though with a more robust Google Books we might be able to pull back the veil, but no. Perhaps the answer lies in one of Murray’s manuscript sermon books, or in one of his rare printed works that not his autobiography. Or perhaps Judith Murray recorded it.
Does anyone have a clue? Not to boast, but if there were only a few people who knew the answer, I thought I would be one of them. The passage is one of the more endearing literary touchstones we have: I would like to know its provenance, even if it means we learn it isn’t from Murray at all.