By Parnell McCarter


God used Prof. John Murray to re-acquaint many American Presbyterians with a sounder form of Scottish Presbyterianism that our American forefathers to a great extent abandoned in the great American frontier.  He advocated a sounder form of worship, whole-heartedly embracing that which God has commanded (like singing of the inspired psalms and Christian Sabbath observance), while abandoning that which God has not commanded (like Christmas observance and uninspired hymnody in public worship).  He promoted thorough reformed Christian education and scholarship.  And he rejected the liberalizing and secularizing tendencies so prevalent during the twentieth century.


Yet while we should honor and respect the many valuable contributions Prof. John Murray made in promoting the reformed faith in America, we should not be blind to his errors which have had detrimental effect (see article at http://www.puritans.net/news/heresy022707.htm ).  Three chief errors include:


1.  His disagreement with the doctrine of the Covenant of Works as taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  He wrote:

“The Adamic administration is, therefore, construed as an administration in which God, by a special act of providence, established for man the provision whereby he might pass from the status of contingency to one of confirmed and indefectible holiness and blessedness, that is, from posse peccare and posse non peccare to non posse peccare. The way instituted was that of ‘an intensified and concentrated probation’, the alternative issues being dependent upon the issues of obedience or disobedience (cf. G. Vos: Biblical Theology, 22f).  This administration has often been denoted ‘The Covenant of Works’. There are two observations. (1) The term is not felicitous, for the reason that the elements of grace entering into the administration are not properly provided for by the term ‘works’. (2) It is not designated a covenant in Scripture. Hosea 6:7 may be interpreted otherwise and does not provide the basis for such a construction of the Adamic economy. Besides, Scripture always uses the term covenant, when applied to God’s administration to men, in reference to a provision that is redemptive or closely related to redemptive design. Covenant in Scripture denotes the oath-bound confirmation of promise and involves a security which the Adamic economy did not bestow.”  (see http://www.the-highway.com/adamic-admin_Murray.html)


2.  His disagreement with the visible versus invisible church distinction as taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith.   John Murray wrote in his article “The Church: Its Distinction in Terms of ‘Visible’ and ‘Invisible’ Invalid”: “Strictly speaking, it is not proper to speak of the ‘visible church.’ According to Scripture we should speak of ‘the church’ and conceive of it as that visible entity that exists and functions in accord with the institution of Christ as its Head.” (In John Murray, The Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), pp. 231-236.)  (See http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2007/01/05/the-church-its-definition-in-terms-of-visible-and-invisible-valid/ for a critique of this.)


3. His improper treatment of the free offer of the gospel (see http://www.puritans.net/news/wellmeantofferdebate120707.htm )


Such disagreements with the sound doctrine summarized in the Westminster Standards were presaged by his departure from the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland on erroneous grounds, as documented at http://www.puritans.net/news/sabbathpublictransport042605.htm and http://www.puritans.net/news/fpcsna101507.htm .  He left a church that fully subscribed to the doctrines of the Westminster Standards and he never returned during his lifetime.