Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MURRAY, John, clergyman, born in Alton, Hampshire, England, 10 December, 1741 ; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 3 September, 1815. He removed with his parents in his eleventh year to Cork, Ireland. Under the influence of George Whitefield and the Wesleys he became a convert to Methodism, and was an occasional preacher in that connection. He returned to England in 1760, adopted the doctrines of Universalism as taught by James Relly, and was excommunicated at Whitefield's tabernacle in London. He emigrated to this country in 1770, and preached in Newport, Rhode Island, Boston, Massachusetts, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and several other New England cities, in some of which his peculiar doctrines subjected him to opposition and occasionally to violence. At Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he settled in the latter part of 1774, he was suspected of being a disguised spy of the British government, and a vote was passed by the town authorities ordering him to leave, but by the exertions of his friends he was permitted to remain and to preach. He was chaplain to the Rhode Island brigade that was encamped before Boston in 1775, and was on intimate terms with several of its officers, including Nathanael Greene and James Varnum, who united in petitioning Washington to permit him to remain in that capacity, when the rest of the chaplains urged his removal. This connection was soon severed by Murray's delicate health. After a severe illness he returned to Gloucester and established a Universalist society. In 1783 he was plaintiff in an action to recover property belonging to persons of his denomination which had been appropriated to the expenses of the original parish of Gloucester on the ground that the Universalists were not legally vested with civil and corporate powers. The decision of the court in his favor established an important principle in the constitution of religious societies. He participated in the proceedings of the first Universalist convention, which met at Oxford, Massachusetts, in 1785, and adopted the name of Independent Christian Universalists. For many years afterward he was a delegate to similar meetings. He made a brief visit to England in 1788, and from 1793 until his death was in charge of a society in Boston. From his activity in disseminating his opinions he is styled the "father of Universalism in America," but his doctrines differed essentially from those that are now recognized by that denomination. He accepted the doctrine of the Trinity, and believed in God as one "indivisible first cause," in a personal devil, and orders of angels. His fundamental doctrine as a Universalist was that Christ literally put away the sin of the whole world, but he distinguished between universal salvation and universal redemption by fixing degrees of punishment that were to be inflicted before the final judgment, after which all the world, he believed, would be saved. His publications include "Letters and Sketches " (3 vols., Boston, 1812) and an "Autobiography" (1813, with a continuation by his wife, 1816 ; 8th ed., with additions, 1860" 9th ed., with notes by Reverend George L. Demorest, 1870).--His wife, Judith Sargent, author, born in Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in 1751; died in Natchez, Mississippi, 6 June, 1820, was a sister of Governor Winthrop Sargent, and after the death of her first husband, whose name was Stevens, married Mr. Murray in 1788. She possessed literary ability, contributed to the " Massachusetts Magazine " and the "Boston Weekly Magazine" under the pen-name of "Constantia," and edited the " Repository and Gleaner" (3 vols., Boston, 1798)and her husband's autobiography (1816).
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