Murray, Nicholas, Dd
Murray, Nicholas, D.D.
an eminent Presbyterian divine, was born in Armagh County, Ireland, December 25, 1802. Both his parents and all his relatives were Roman Catholics, and trained up their families in that belief. His father dying while he was quite young, he lived with an aunt, and at eight years of age was sent from home to attend a village school, where his proficiency in the rudiments of an English education were such that in his twelfth year he was apprenticed as a merchant's clerk. In 1815 he emigrated to America, where he entered the publishing house of Harper and Brothers, New York. in 1820 he was converted, and became a member of the Old Brick Church, then under the pastoral care of the venerable Gardiner Spring, D.D. His pastor, attracted by Murray's intellectual superiority, soon suggested his studying for the ministry. This at first was not encouraged by Murray; but in 1821 he commenced to make preparation, though still in the employ of the Harpers, and, after due fitting for a higher course of study, entered Williams College, Massachusetts; there graduated in 1826, and then accepted an agency from the American Tract Society in Washington County, N.Y., which arrangement lasted for some time. Of his services at this period, Dr. Aydelotte says: "He was indefatigable in application to the duties of his office, perfectly methodical, of rare prudence, always kind, and yet ever firm and faithful to his convictions and the interests of the society... The labors of the board were exceedingly lightened; indeed he left them little to do beyond approving his proceedings and measures." Dr. Aydelotte also speaks of his frequent manifestations of an antiRomish spirit. He next entered Princeton Theological Seminary, where he remained until he graduated. He was licensed in 1829, and began his labors at Norristown, Pennsylvania; but afterwards accepted a commission from the Board of Domestic Missions for the valley of Wyoming, Pennsylvania, where he labored until he was ordained and installed pastor of the united congregation of Wilkesbarre and Kingston. His remarkable pulpit talents and his high promise attracted attention, and in 1833 he was given and accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church, Elizabethtown, N.J., and there he continued to perform his life-work, declining calls to New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Natchez, and rejecting offers of two theological professorships. During this time, with persistent and untiring industry, he wrote much for the press, among which was a series of articles for The New York Observer, over the signature of "Kirwan," constituting those famous letters to bishop Hughes, the Roman Catholic prelate, noted as a polemic, which have made the name of "Kirwan," the nom-de-plume under which Murray wrote, a household word throughout the whole Protestant world, his writings having been translated into nearly all the living languages of the day. They present the history of the writer's progress from Romanism to Protestantism, and examine the reasons for not adhering to the Church of Rome. Luminous and sound in their expositions of truth, they not only uncover the evils of the Romish system, but present a perfectly impregnable defence of Protestantism. The vivacious style, the genial humor, biting sarcasm, anecdotes, incidents, illustration, argument, and appeals, are blended so harmoniously that they obtained a hold on the people at large, instead of being confined to the theological student, and thus enjoyed a circulation unparalleled in religious literature. Bishop Hughes essayed to reply to the series, but broke down in the attempt, and never resumed the effort. SEE HUGHES. Dr. Murray died at Elizabethtown, N.J., February 4, 1861. His writings are, Notes, Historical and Biographical, concerning Elizabethtown, N.J., its eminent Men, Churches, and Ministers (1844): — Letters to Bishop Hughes by Kirwan (1847-48); these have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Tamul: — The Decline of Popery, and its Causes, pamphlet: — Romanism at Rome — Letters to the Chief Justice R. Tanzey (1852): — Men and Things as I saw them in Europe (1851-53): — Parish and other Pencillings (1857): — The Happy Home (1858); a delineation of the moral training which is essential in a home: Thoughts on Preachers and Preaching, a work which tends to elevate the standard both of preaching and hearing: — American Principles on National Prosperity, a Thanksgiving sermon preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Elizabethtown, November 23, 1854: — Dr. Murray's Dying Legacy to the People of his beloved Charge — Things Unseen and Eternal (1861). He also published many occasional sermons and addresses, and in early life contributed to The New York Literary and Theological Journal, The Christian Advocate, and other periodicals. Dr. Murray's intellect was decidedly of a marked character — clear, comprehensive, logical, and eminently practical. His style was luminous, simple, and in the highest degree sententious. He reasoned with great power and admirable clearness. His influence pervaded the entire Presbyterian Church, and was felt especially in her various judicatories and boards, and in the theological seminary at Princeton, which he cherished with a filial affection. In 1849 he was elected moderator of the General Assembly, one of the highest honors in the gift of the Church. As a man, his winning manner, rich stores of varied information, inexhaustible fund of pertinent and striking anecdotes, and ability to accommodate himself to every variety of character, made him the master-spirit of the social circle. In person Dr. Murray was a model of manly vigor; of middle height, broad chest and shoulders, with a round, ruddy face, a broad, high forehead, and benevolent, pleasant expression of countenance, his appearance was at once attractive and commanding. As a pastor he was always at work, ready at every call; in the chamber of sickness, in the homes of the poor, among the young — everywhere he was found, and always a welcome guest. His preparations for the pulpit were made with the greatest care, his sermons being completed as if for the press, and often far in advance of the time when they were to be delivered. His funeral was attended with every demonstration of respect and affection that could be paid to a national character. His remains were laid in the yard adjoining the church, in the midst of his children and his beloved flock. The Presbytery of which he was a member thus gave expression to its estimate of him whom they had come to look upon as its "father." "His name, his character, and his works are already on record, wide as the limits of the Church at home and abroad. His greatness was not in one grace or one idea, but in the breadth of his heart and in the scope of his powers. He was a preacher and a pastor, a presbyter and a citizen, the patron of education, the ready advocate of benevolence, and the dreaded antagonist of popery. An author of wide fame, a writer for the weekly press — all of these, with an untold correspondence, literary, fraternal, and advisory. Few men had more calls outside of his pastoral and presbyterial duties; still he was a model pastor and presbyter, always in advance in his pulpit preparation — frequent in his pastoral visitations — abounding in his visits to the sick and the poor — ever ready to help his brethren — meeting calls abroad, and side issues of benevolence. He had time for every good work, and for every duty and occasion he was competent." See Wilson, Presb. Hist. Almanac, 1862, page 105; Reverend Samuel A. Clark. Hist. of St. John's Church, Elizabethtown, N.J., page 387, 388; Prot. Episc. Quar. Rev. and Church Reg. April 1855, page 315; Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.; Princeton Rev. January 1863; Meth. Qu. Rev. July 1863, page 527; 1861, page 517; Harper's Weekly, February 23, 1861; Presbyterian Reunion Memorial, volume 1837-71 (N.Y. 1870), pages 172-178; Memoirs of the Reverend Nich. Murray, D.D., by Samuel Irenmeus Prime (Harpers, 12mo).