“The Conversion of John Murray” from The Life of Murray

I had heard much of Mr. Relly; he was a conscientious and zealous preacher in the city of London. He had, through many revolving years, continued faithful to the ministry committed to him, and he was the theme of every religious sect. He appeared, as he was represented to me, highly erroneous; and my indignation against him, as has already been seen, was very strong. I had frequently been solicited to hear him, merely that I might be an ear witness of what was termed his blasphemies; but, I arrogantly said, I would not be a murderer of time. Thus I passed on for a number of years, hearing all manner of evil said of Mr. Relly, and believing all I heard, while every day augmented the inveterate hatred which I bore the man and his adherents. 

When a worshipping brother or sister, belonging to the communion, which I considered as honoured by the approbation of Deity was, by this deceiver, drawn from the paths of rectitude, the anguish of my spirit was indescribable: and I was ready to say, the secular arm ought to interpose to prevent the perdition of souls. I recollect one instance in particular, which pierced me to the soul. 

A young lady of irreproachable life, remarkable for piety, and highly respected by the tabernacle congregation and church, of which I was a devout member, had been ensnared; to my great astonishment, she had been induced to hear, and having heard, she had embraced the pernicious errors of this detestable babbler; she was become a believer, a firm, and unwavering believer of universal redemption! Horrible! most horrible! So high an opinion was entertained of my talents, having myself been a teacher among the Methodists, and such was my standing in Mr. Whitefield’s church, that I was deemed adequate to reclaiming this wanderer, and I was strongly urged to the pursuit. The poor deluded young woman was abundantly worthy of our most arduous efforts. He that converteth the sinner form the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. 

Thus I thought, thus I said; and swelled with a high idea of my own importance, I went, accompanied by two or three of my Christian brethren, to see, converse with, and if need were, to admonish this simple, weak, but, as we heretofore believed, meritorious female. Fully persuaded that I could easily convince her of her errors, I entertained no doubt respecting the result of my undertaking. The young lady received us with much kindness and condescension, while, as I glanced my eye upon her fine countenance, beaming with intelligence, mingling pity and contempt grew in my bosom. After the first ceremonies, we sat for some time silent; at length I drew up a heavy sigh, and uttered a pathetic sentiment, relative to the deplorable condition of those who live and die in unbelief; and I concluded a violent declamation, by pronouncing with great earnestness, He that believeth not shall be damned.

”And pray, sir,” said the young lady, with great sweetness, ”Pray, sir, what is the unbeliever damned for not believing?”

What is he damned for not believing? Why, he is damned for not believing.

”But, my dear sir,” she asked, ”what was that, which he did not believe, for which he was damned?”

Why, for not believing in Jesus Christ, to be sure.

”Do you mean to say that unbelievers are damned for not believing there was such a person as Jesus Christ.”

No, I do not; a man may believe there was such a person, and yet be damned.

”What then, sir, must he believe, in order to avoid damnation?”

Why, he must believe that Jesus Christ is a complete Saviour.

“Well, suppose he were to believe, that Jesus Christ was the complete Saviour of others, would this belief save him?”

No, he must believe that Jesus Christ is his complete Saviour; every individual must believe for himself that Jesus Christ is his complete Saviour.

“Why, sir, is Jesus Christ the Saviour of any unbelievers?”

No, madam.

”Why, then, should any unbeliever believe, that Jesus Christ is his Saviour, if he is not his Saviour?”

I say he is not the Saviour of any one, until he believes.

“Then, if Jesus be not the Saviour of the unbeliever, until he believes, the unbeliever is called upon to believe a lie. It appears to me, sir, that Jesus is the complete Saviour of unbelievers; and that unbelievers are called upon to believe the truth; and that, by believing they are saved in their own apprehension, saved from all those dreadful fears which are consequent upon a state of conscious condemnation.”

No, madam; you are dreadfully, I trust not fatally, misled. Jesus never was, not never will be, the Saviour of any unbeliever.

“Do you think Jesus is your Saviour, sir?”

I hope he is.

“Were you always a believer sir?”

No, madam.

“Then you were once an unbeliever; that is, you once believed that Jesus Christ was not your Saviour. Now, as you say, he never was, nor never will be, the Saviour of any unbeliever; as you were once an unbeliever, he never can be your Saviour.”

He never was my Saviour till I believed.

“Did he never die for you, till you believed, sir?”

Here I was extremely embarrassed, and most devoutly wished myself out of her habitation; I sighed bitterly, expressed deep commiseration for those souls who had nothing but head-knowledge; drew out my watch, discovered it was late; and, recollecting an engagement, observed it was time to take leave.