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MURRAY, JAMES (1732–1782), author of 'Sermons to Asses,' was descended from a respectable family at Fans, near Earlstown, Berwickshire, where it is believed he was born in 1732. He studied at the university of Edinburgh, and his certificate from Dr. Hamilton, the professor of divinity, is dated 28 April 1760. Shortly afterwards he went to Mouson, near Belford, Northumberland, as private tutor to the family of William Weddell, esq., and in 1761 he became assistant to John Sayers, minister of the Bondgate meetinghouse at Alnwick. Disagreements arose, and he was dismissed, but a large proportion of the congregation formed themselves into a separate community, built a chapel in Bailiifgate Square, and ordained him their minister. He was not ordained to the pastoral charge by any presbytery, as he held that every congregation was at liberty to adopt such modes of government as seemed most conducive to their religious improvement. In early life he was presented with the freedom of Kelso, for some services he had rendered to that town.

In 1764 Murray removed to Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he had numerous friends, many of whom belonged to the Silver Street meeting-house. His followers chose him to be their pastor, and built the High Bridge Chapel. There Murray laboured with great zeal during the remainder of his life. He was extremely active in opposing Sir George Saville's bill for the removal of certain catholic disabilities, and published 'News from the Pope to the Devil,' 1781, and 'Popery not Christianity,' an evening lecture, besides attacking the catholics in several papers which appeared in the 'Protestant Packet.' He was also strongly opposed to the American war, and delivered many political lectures condemnatory of the administration of Lord North. He died at Newcastle on 28 Jan. 1782. He married Sarah Weddell of Mouson (she died 1798), and left several children.

Thomas Bewick, the engraver, says Murray was 'a most cheerful, facetious, sensible, pleasant man a most agreeable companion, full of anecdote and information; keen in his remarks, though he carefully refrained from hurting the feelings of any of the company.' His best known work was 'Sermons to Asses' (anon.), London, 1768, 8vo. This satirical work he dedicated to 'the very excellent and reverend Messrs. G. W., J. W., W. R., and M. M.,' observing that 'there are no persons in Britain so worthy of a dedication of a work of this kind as yourselves.' The initials referred to George Whitfield, John Wesley, William Romaine, and Martin Madan [q. v.] To a similar category belongs 'Sermons to Doctors in Divinity,' being the second volume of 'Sermons to Asses;' 'Sermons to Men, Women, and Children, by the author of "Sermons to Asses,"' Newcastle, 1768, 8vo; and 'New Sermons to Asses,' London, 1773, 8vo, reprinted as 'Seven New Sermons to Asses,' 1796.

Murray's other works are: 1. 'The History of Religion, particularly of the different Denominations of Christians. By an Impartial Hand.' 2nd edit. 4 vols, London, 1764, 8vo. 2. 'Select Discourses upon several important Subjects,' Newcastle, 1765, 8vo, 2nd edit. 1768. 3. 'An Essay on Redemption by Jesus Christ,' Newcastle, 1768, 8vo. 4. 'Rudiments ot the English Tongue, or the Principles of English Grammar,' 2nd edit. Newcastle, 1771, 12mo. 5. 'A History of the Churches in England and Scotland, from from the Reformation to the present Time. By a Clergyman,’ 3 vols., Newcastle, 1771–2, 8vo. 6. ‘The Travels of the Imagination, a true Journey from Newcastle to London in a Stage Coach, with Observations upon the Metropolis. By J. M.,’ London, 1773, 8vo; 2nd edit., London, 1828, 8vo. 7. ‘ΕΙΚΩΝ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΗ, or the Character of Eglon, King of Moab, and his Ministry, wherein is demonstrated the Advantage of Christianity in the exercise of Civil Government,’ Newcastle, 1773. 8. ‘Lectures to Lords Spiritual, or an Advice to the Bishops concerning Religious Articles, Tithes, and Church Power. With a Discourse on Ridicule,’ London, 1774, 12mo. 9. ‘A grave Answer to Mr. [John] Wesley's calm Address to our American Colonies. By a Gentleman of Northumberland,’ 1775. 10. ‘Lectures upon the most remarkable Characters and Transactions recorded in the Book of Genesis,’ 2 vols. Newcastle, 1777, 12mo. 11. ‘The Magazine of Ants, or Pismire Journal,’ Newcastle, 1777, 8vo. 12. ‘Lectures on Genius,’ 2 vols. 1777, 8vo. 13. ‘Lectures upon the Book of the Revelation of John the Divine,’ 2 vols. Newcastle, 1778, 12mo. 14. ‘The New Maid of the Oaks, a Tragedy, as lately acted near Saratoga … By Ahab Salem,’ London, 1778, 8vo (cf. Baker, Biog. Dram. 1812, iii. 79). 15. ‘An Impartial History of the present War in America,’ 2 vols., Newcastle [1778], 8vo, and again [1780], 8vo. 16. ‘Sermons to Ministers of State,’ Newcastle, 1781, 12mo. 17. ‘Sermons for the General Fast Day,’ London, 1781, 8vo. 18. ‘The Fast, a Poem.’ 19. ‘A Course of Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind.’ This and the three following works were left in manuscript. 20. ‘Lectures on the Book of Job.’ 21. ‘A Journey through Cumberland and the Lakes.’ 22. ‘A Journey to Glasgow.’

In 1798 R. Smith, bookseller of Paisley, republished his ‘Sermons to Doctors in Divinity,’ ‘Lectures to Lords Spiritual,’ ‘An Evening Lecture delivered in 1780,’ and ‘An Address to the Archbishops and Bishops.’ William Hone republished the ‘Sermons to Asses,’ 1817, ‘Sermons to Doctors in Divinity,’ 1817, ‘Sermons to Ministers of State,’ 1817, ‘New Sermons to Asses,’ 1817, and ‘Lectures to Lords Spiritual,’ 1818. These he collected together in one volume, with a portrait of the author and an original sketch of his life. Murray was one of the principal editors of the ‘Freeman's Magazine, or the Constitutional Repository,’ Newcastle, 1774.

His portrait, prefixed to the ‘History of the American War,’ was painted by Van Cook, and engraved by Pollard. Though not a very good likeness, it is better than that given by Hone. There is also an engraved portrait prefixed to the second edition of ‘Travels of the Imagination.’

[Memoir prefixed to Travels of the Imagination, 1828; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, No. 7538; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1636; Mackenzie's Hist. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, i. 387; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 292, 3rd ser. vii. 479; Scots Mag. 1782, p. 111; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

T. C.