John Murray commemorated

Universalist pioneer and minister John Murray died this day in 1815. While known in his own day as Father Murray, and honored for his early leadership, his own theological views were largely disregarded in his own lifetime.

His works, formerly hard to find, have been brought to light again by scanning projects. His Letters and Sketches of Sermons are particularly noteworthy.

His autobiography, finished by his wife Judith Murray, was often cited as an influential spiritual classic.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. I was under the impression that some scholars consider the autobiography to be more of a saintly “icon” created by Judith, than an accurate history of John’s life. But then again, a parallel thing could be said for the 4 Biblical Gospels.

  2. The later (1869) version I read of Murray’s autobiography had a very clear authorial voice for the first part – you could feel a real person behind the writing, especially in regard to his clearly conflicted feelings towards his pious domineering father.

    It then had a shorter second section written by Judith to wrap things up, which was much less interesting.

    It also had a big chunk of smugly superior ‘damning by faint praise’ in the intro:

    “Mr. Murray’s peculiar opinions were not of a character to secure a permanent hold of the public mind, or largely to affect a thinking people. They are sufficiently outlined by Mrs. Murray, in her last chapter. They were shared
    among preachers, as she concedes, at the time of her husband’s death, only by Rev. John Tyler, Episcopal minister in Norwich, Conn., and Rev. Edward Mitchell, of the city of New York. It is probable that no living man or woman now entertains them, in their wholeness. But the doctrine of the Father’s universal love, the universality of Christian salvation, and the harmony of holiness and happiness, which he preached, has leavened the religious mind of the age. It has compelled recognition and respect where it has not found hospitality ; and while a large and growing body of Christians hold it fast as their watchword and confidence, it is modifying the opinions and softening the feeling of great numbers who do not profess faith in it. Mr. Murray found in the country two or three separated preachers of the Universal Restoration ; in 1813, just before his death, the records name forty ministers as in the fellowship of the denomination of Universalists. Of the forty, there survives only the venerable Russell Streeter. The rest have departed ; but the number of preachers of the universal efficacy of the mission of Christ has increased to five hundred and ninety-two. These, with various success, continue to proclaim the glad tidings of universal grace ; and the recent evidences of generous zeal in the eudowment of educational institutions, and in contributions for missionary work, warrant large confidence in the future of this branch of the church of Christ. We indulge the fervent hope that the Centenary of American Universalism will witness a liberal offering, in testimony of thanksgiving for the inspiration which called John Murray to be the apostle of truth, and has breathed upon the land through his colleagues and successors. “

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