Bad quotations bear false witness

Unitarian Universalist minister and historian Peter Hughes, in a recent online article of, exposes the false origins of two favored passages: the “not hell, but hope” passage from Universalist pioneer John Murray and the “love alike” quotation from Francis David. I’ve wondered about the alleged Murray passage for at least five years. Why would the newly arrived Murray be making the “go out” charge? Why would Murray, the cagey preacher, play his cards so plainly? Didn’t make sense, but it wasn’t until a trip to Murray Grove that I got the truth. (Hughes tells it.)

Now we should retire these texts, especially in worship and promotional pieces. That’ll hurt; each is punchy and inspiring. I don’t read Latin to delve into David and I have read some Murray: he wasn’t the master of the quip. We should read their works — and others who have brought us to this day — but read them for what they are, and not for who we would have them be. Their heritage and our integrity depend on this.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. As one of the people who discovered the source of the Murray quote, I wish that Hughes has mentioned that the discovery was done by several of us on the UUHS (Historical Society) email list. And of course, this took place almost two years ago. Now the discovery of the David quote is pretty new.

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