Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults

John Murray and the Deacon

From John Murray, Letters and Sketches of Sermons, (Boston, 1812), as quoted in David B. Parke's book, The Epic of Unitarianism.

John Murray, a Methodist preacher from England, is often credited with being the founding father of Universalism in America. In his memoirs, Murray recounts the following story of his encounter with a deacon.

Deacon: I have heard much of you, and have come many miles to see and converse with you. Will you be so obliging as to permit me to ask a few questions?

Murray: Readily, Sir.

Deacon: I have heard—but I do not pay much regard to slanderous reports; nothing of that sort is to be depended upon— But I have heard— Excuse me, Sir, I really hope you will not be angry, but indeed, Sir, I have heard, I have been told, that you preached Universal Salvation, that is, that all mankind will be saved.

Murray: Well, Sir, as you seem to be an honest man, I will freely own to you, that God hath told me, "That he sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."

Deacon: Aye, the believing world.

Murray: No, Sir; the world are never called believers, nor believers the world.

(Aside to audience) The Deacon then proceeded to mention a variety of scriptures that proved, as the poor man believed, the damnation of the greatest part of the world, and I answered him from the same scriptures: At last, I mention that very obnoxious text, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive."

Deacon: Aye, Sir, all that believe.

Murray: No, Sir, all who died in Adam.

Deacon: But, how can they be made alive in Christ without believing?

Murray: As well as they could die in Adam without believing. There are a very great multitude among mankind, who do not believe they died in Adam; and as they do not believe they died in Adam, then they did not die in Adam.

Deacon: O yes, Sir, they died in Adam, whether they believe it or not.

Murray: How can they, Sir, die in Adam without believing they did?

Deacon: Because the word of God declares, "they died in Adam," and that must be true whether they believe it or not.

Murray: But, Sir, the same word of God says, all shall be made alive in Christ; and yet you say it is only those who believe, that shall be made alive!

(Concluding, to the audience) This silenced the old gentleman, and thus ended our conversation; but another and another succeeded, until half past two o'clock, when I proceeded to a more public delivery of my testimony.