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Challenged in Belief

Make three copies of this story and highlight the appropriate parts for each of the actors. Although there is gender differentiation in the characters, the character's gender does not need to match the actor's gender.

Parts:

Old John Murray (the Narrator)

Young John Murray

Young Lady

Two or three Christian brethren (optional)

The scene opens with the Old John Murray standing behind a small table set for tea with two chairs.

Old John Murray:

Many people call me the founder of Universalism here in the United States. That is a mighty thing to say about a simple preacher like myself so I will let other people say it. What I can say about myself is that I was not always such a true believer in universal salvation which is the corner stone of our faith. Once upon a time I was a firm and devout Methodist believing that salvation only could come through my profession that Christ Jesus was my savior. Let me tell you a story about a time when I was still a young man in England and a young woman caused me to start to doubt my Methodist beliefs.

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 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 the 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 our most arduous efforts. — He that converteth the sinner from the errors 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, to 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.

Old John Murray moves to the front of the table leaving room for the other actors to enter.

Young John Murray (with his Christian brethren) enters on one side and the Young Lady enters from the other. The Young John Murray watches the Young Lady with a cautious look. The Young Lady looks kind and welcoming as she pours tea and then sits motioning for Young John Murray to sit. Young John Murray sits and his Christian brethren stand behind him.

Old John Murray (cont.):

The young lady received us with much condescension and kindness, 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, (Young John Murray sighs loudly and starts pretend to talk adamantly) and uttered a pathetic sentiment relative to the deplorable condition of those who live and die in unbelief, and concluded a violent declamation, by pronouncing with great earnestness,

Young John Murray:

He that believeth not shall be damned!

Old John Murray exits.

Young Lady (with great sweetness):

And pray, Sir, what is the unbeliever damned for not believing?

Young John Murray:

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

Young Lady:

But, my dear Sir, I asked what was that, which he did not believe, for which he was damned?

Young John Murray:

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

Young Lady:

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

Young John Murray:

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

Young Lady:

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

Young John Murray:

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

Young Lady:

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

Young John Murray:

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

Young Lady:

Why, Sir, is Jesus Christ the Saviour of any unbeliever?

Young John Murray:

No, Madam.

Young Lady:

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

Young John Murray:

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

Young Lady (sips some tea and then speaks):

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 unbelief, upon a state of conscious condemnation.

Young John Murray:

No, Madam, you are dreadfully, I trust not fatally, misled. Jesus never was, nor never will be the Saviour of any unbeliever.

Young Lady:

Do you think he is your Saviour, Sir?

Young John Murray:

I hope he is.

Young Lady:

Were you always a believer, Sir?

John Murray:

No, Madam.

Young Lady:

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.

John Murray:

He never was my Saviour till I believed.

Young Lady:

Did he never die for you till you believed, Sir?

Old John Murray re-enters and stands at the front of the table.

Old John Murray:

Here I was extremely embarrassed, and most devoutly wished myself out of her habitation. I sighed bitterly, (Young John Murray sighs bitterly and pretends to talk in a dejected manner) expressed deep commiseration for those deluded 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.

Young John Murray and the Young Lady stand up. Young John Murray continues to look dejected. The Young Lady graciously shakes everyone's hands and thanks them for coming (silently).

Old John Murray (while the above described action goes on):

I was extremely mortified, the young lady observed my confusion, but was too generous to pursue her triumph. I arose to depart, the company arose, she urged us to tarry, addressing each of us in the language of kindness, her countenance seemed to wear a resemblance to the heaven, which she contemplated, it was stamped by benignity, and when we bid her adieu, she enriched us by her good wishes.

After saying good bye to the Young Lady Young John Murray departs with his Christian brethren. The Young Lady then departs as well, leaving Old John Murray on the stage alone.

Old John Murray (cont.):

I suspected that my religious brethren saw she had the advantage of me, and I felt that her remarks were indeed unanswerable; my pride hurt, and I determined to ascertain the exact sentiments of my associates respecting this interview. I saw, and it was with extreme chagrin, that the event of this visit had depreciated me in the opinion of my companions; but I could do no more than censure and condemn, solemnly observing, it was better to avoid conversing with any of those apostates, and it would be judicious never to associate with them upon any occasion. From this period I, myself, carefully avoided every Universalist, and most cordially did I hate them.

But of course that was not the end of the story. That young lady had sewn the seeds of doubt. Over the following months I could not get this conversation out of my mind. I talked it over endlessly with my wife and even picked up and read a pamphlet written by one of those heretical Universalist preachers. This got me to questioning my own minister and the tenets of my own faith. I began to see all the contradictions that were hidden from me before that conversation with the young lady. So finally I went to hear one of those Universalist preachers and that an experience! I remember writing to a friend shortly afterwards that "I was humbled, I was confounded, I saw clearly, that I had been all my life expecting good fruit from corrupt trees, grapes on thorns, and figs on thistles, I suspected myself, I had lost my standing, I was unsettled, perturbed and wretched." That started a long and fateful journey that included embracing and preaching the gospel of universal salvation, losing a wife, loss of faith, debtors prison, a decision to start over again in America and getting ship wrecked off the coast of New Jersey - only to get called back to preaching the good news of a loving god by a farmer. But those are all stories for another time.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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